Below is a link to my summary of learning. Please ignore the cat peanut gallery. He was entirely unimpressed he didn’t get to be in the video and voiced his disapproval vehemently.
My journey of learning this semester started somewhat trepidatiously. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from an online class, let alone a technology class. I’d never taken an online class before, so luckily I came in with no expectations about how it was going to be run.
But, I wasn’t feeling any better after the first class.
I hadn’t participated in a debate since I was in high school. I had a vague idea of how one was supposed to be run, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to even start to delve into my topic of openness and sharing. I didn’t know what to think about my topic just yet either. Looking over the topics, I knew there were some that appealed to my knowledge base more than others, but this class is about expanding horizons, not staying within my known boundaries. So, I picked a topic I was completely ambivalent about. Something about which I had no fixed opinion. I felt like this would challenge me to learn about something I hadn’t previously even considered. To me, that’s the purpose of grad classes: to tackle subjects beyond our current knowledge and to learn to care about them.
After the second class, and the first debate, I was feeling a bit better, though that first debate really set the bar high. The debate centred around whether or not technology enhances learning in the classroom and what a debate to start with. It really helped give a preview of all of the forthcoming debates. It also previewed just how contentious and intertwined all of the debates actually are. It is hard to separate just one out as a singular topic.
As well, the second class really taught me how to successfully multitask for a couple of hours. It was overwhelming for the first half hour or so trying to keep up with who was talking on the screen — even after I mastered the speaker screen — trying to match names to blogs and then trying to keep on top of the chat to the side. It was a lot of information to work on at once. I hadn’t ever experienced this kind of overload before. Previously, i was able to tune one thing out or stop a task to focus on the others. This was a new experience for me. It took a bit of missing one thing or another, but I think I’ve got it now.
That week also ushered in my first experience writing a real blog post. Sure I’d written an introduction one the week before, but this time there was a purpose and content to it. I navigated through wordpress with the help of the Google Plus community and the internet. I learned how to insert pictures, how to offset quotations, how to “pingback” to other blogs… All of this was unknown to me prior to starting the class. I was already acquiring new skills!
It was also interesting to read others’ thoughts about what they made of the debate, and not surprisingly, not everyone had the same opinion. Reading people’s blogs felt more natural and unforced rather than the alternative I hear so much about in other online classes: posting on forums. It allowed people to say what they wanted to say without worrying about making sure they were still on the same topic or someone had already written about that. I also liked seeing how people set up their blogs, and what neat little things they did to make their blogs unique…
I finally felt settled into the class and felt like I could do this.
The first debate really started me thinking about what my group and I were going to do for our own debate. The concept of openness and sharing in the classroom still daunted me, but I had an idea of perhaps where I would want to start researching. I had heard, recently, of so many issues of parents and oversharing that I knew I could draw some information from there. But I still had a few weeks! I could relax a bit and enjoy the upcoming debates.
The second and third debates were on the same nights. Again, though they were different topics, the same issues kept reappearing.
There was a definitive theme developing to the debates: teacher training and funding.
Most of the discussion in the debates centred around whether teachers have the knowledge, the understanding, or the will to carry out technology in a meaningful way in the classroom.
Tied to teacher knowledge is the idea of where exactly teachers are going to get that knowledge. From whom do they get the knowledge? is it reputable knowledge? is it timely knowledge and how will it enhance the classroom in which they teach? All of these things are variables when considering teachers and technology.
These ideas helped frame my group’s debate. We tackled the idea of openness in a classroom being a bad thing. We knew going in we faced an uphill battle, fighting against the integration of technology in classrooms in a class dedicated to just that. We fought valiantly, and we learned so much about how openness in the classroom can both benefit and detract from student learning through our own research and through opposition research. The most important thing we learned was about the lack of guidelines available to teachers and parents about how to successfully navigate the world of social media safely for their students and children. It was an eyeopening experience to see both sides and to have to understand both sides in order to formulate a knowledgeable argument.
The guest speakers we had on the second to last class were incredible. Audrey Watters made so many salient points that spoke directly to my worldview, it was amazing I’d never come across her before. She spoke of corporate involvement in school, especially regarding standardized testing, which is a pet topic of mine. Her discussion really affirmed what I had thought about corporate involvement. Dean Shareski brought an expanded understanding to what I had previously known and I appreciated hearing an “insider” opinion on what a corporation’s actual intentions, minus the liberal bias, may be. It was interesting that, during this class, the chat and people’s opinions seemed to be the most vehement and their blogs most prone to apologize for ranting, as though that’s not what blogs are for. The impact of corporations on teaching must impinge on some deeply held beliefs by teachers because of the extraordinarily strong, emotional response the debate and speakers elicited.
As this class closes, I am left with many more questions than when I started it, and for that I am incredibly grateful. It is wonderful to know that I still want to know more and more and more and that I will never have all the answers. It confirms that I truly do want to be a life-long learner and it is something I can model for my students. It is my job to lead by example and in this, I am a proud leader.
So thank you to Alec and Katia. This is has been a whirlwind of a class, but it has taught me so much about my boundaries and how many new things I am willing to try to be successful. I hope I have the chance to take one of your classes in the future!