Collaborative Communities in eLearning: Module 4 Reflections

'The sign showing the halfway house' photo (c) 2011, timquijano - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The class is half-over. Please discuss the “aha!” moments you have had so far, and what these moments have made you more curious about…

The class is half over! On one hand, that seems amazingly fast. On the other hand, one of the things this experience has made me curious about is whether I would be able to sustain this kind of intensity and interest in an online course that ran 15 weeks like a more traditional higher education course. Is the pacing in a 15-week course very different than one that is 8 weeks in duration? What changes does that entail in terms of the design of the course?

This occurred to me because, perhaps the WORST graduate level course I’ve ever taken was a three-week summer session course on children’s literature that I took while working on a master’s degree in education. The “instructor,” very literally, took her 15-week syllabus and covered one week per day for 15 class days. Assignments were completely unchanged meaning that I sometimes was reading 4 150+ page children’s novels and writing papers on them in one day. Our papers came back with a single plus, check, or minus on them at the top of the page in green ink. As a tenured professor in a college of education I have to believe that this person knew that this was poor course design so, basically, it was that she was slovenly, lazy, and unprofessional. I’m sure you can guess by now that 49-year old me would not really suffer this fool so kindly, but 23-year old me just put my head down and did the work. I’d like to hear a bit more about pacing discussions.

I have had a few aha moments this week and a few that have only emerged and come into clearer relief over time. One of my aha! Observations this week was to notice how little either Dr. Kay or Deb have been present on the discussion boards during module 4. By my very rough count, Dr. Kay and Deb were on the boards with 32 discussion posts in module 1, but only 6 discussion posts in module 4. Since, in my judgment, it certainly seems like all three of the module 4 discussions are going well I’m guessing that this is by design. I know I’ve been going to the Grant Wiggins well an awful lot during the course, but part of my aha! moment this week was to realize that this kind of purposeful retreat is exactly what Wiggins is talking about here in Beyond Teacher Egocentrism: Design Thinking.

The other aha! moments that have emerged so far (maybe more “aha…” than, “aha!”), have been in the affective domain. Some people are born to teach. Teaching comes naturally to them. I am not one of those lucky people. To be honest, I think that I’ve made myself into quite a good teacher. I’m not spectacular. Nobody is ever going to make an inspirational Hollywood movie about my teaching staring Edward James Olmos (but then, he’s not Asian so maybe Russell Wong could play me in my movie? … LOL!). An aha… moment that has emerged for me over the last three weeks is how important being a perpetual student is for someone like me who is not a natural born teacher. Living with the struggle and the sense of failure (even when you really aren’t failing) and seeing what I need to progress and feel good about it in the end is what I end up giving to my students when I change hats and become the teacher. I KNOW the theory. I’ve KNOWN the theory since my undergraduate days in the college of education. Being a student, though, is my way of coming to UNDERSTAND what the theory really means.

My final emergent aha… is that I actually know a lot more than I realize I do. I think I’m pretty well respected by my peers and colleagues at work, but deep down, I always have this nagging feeling that I’ve somehow been able to deceive all of these amazingly smart people into thinking that I know what I’m doing and I’m just buying time and faking it until I can really get it figured out. I know that, that’s not really true, but it is how I feel on the inside. This course is helping me reach some comfort in knowing that while I don’t know EVERYTHING, neither does anyone else and relative to a lot of very competent, very knowledgeable people, I’ve managed to build a body of knowledge and a develop a nicely rounded skillset that seems to serve me well in my professional life.

So far so good! I’ve been thrilled with what I’ve learned in the class so far! On to part deux!

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