I have mixed feelings about this last post of the class. Normally, I can't wait to finish a class and move on, but this feels a little different. While I have never met most of you, I feel like I know you so well based on your posts and hopefully you know a little about me too. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of so many people in this class from our instructors, to our presenters (giving their time when these world-class experts could charge a hefty fee-I'm not sure the exact arrangement Alec worked out, but I bet it is not $1000's of fees) to the people in the class sharing their knowledge it has been one of the most enriching experiences I have had. This was my 4th on-line class and by far the best in content, instruction, course materials and wealth of information. No disrespect to our instructors or presenters, but most of the best material came from each other. Can you imagine a classroom where this already happens? I bet it does happen, but not in my classroom and I hope that changes. I feel empowered to move forward with so many ideas that I received from people in this class that are already making this sort of dream class a reality. I have loved this class and always looked forward to our Tuesday night sessions.
I personally feel more detached the more technology I have in my life and one of the reasons I rationalize getting new technology (i.e smartphone, tablet) is to be more connected. I definitely am too connected to my devices. Do any of you have similar feelings? To me the fact that I can check my work email before I go to bed or anyone can get a hold of me just about anytime is not progress. What I try and do lately is to find balance, not be so dependant on devices and maintain a real relationship with my friends and family.
I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of so many people in this class from our instructors, to our presenters (giving their time when these world-class experts could charge a hefty fee-I'm not sure the exact arrangement Alec worked out, but I bet it is not $1000's of fees) to the people in the class sharing their knowledge it has been one of the most enriching experiences I have had. This was my 4th on-line class and by far the best in content, instruction, course materials and wealth of information. No disrespect to our instructors or presenters, but most of the best material came from each other. Can you imagine a classroom where this already happens? I bet it does happen, but not in my classroom and I hope that changes.
This week's topic was a suitable wrap-up for us as everything up until this point has been an example of the benefits of networked and connected learning. While the presentation was great, the amount of side conversations and humour several times derailed the discussion a bit. Not in a bad way, but what was cool was that so many in the class were engaged. Most on-line classes I have taken are passive to a fault. Participation is calculated on how many minutes you were logged into the course site or the number of posts you made. All of these combinations usually made for a lot of "talking" and not a lot of "listening". This class was different as there was so much responding to what people posted in a sincere way. While I get the instructors needing a quantifiable way of marking participation, there is something very disconnected at the same time of relying on this.
Alec and Katia were great about opening the door to many wonderful rooms for us to play in. I know when I asked them questions they responded directly, but for the most part they managed the class rather than lead the discussion (which was great). It forced me to be more active and participatory. Did you know Alec has just under 70,000 followers and has sent out 104,000 tweets on Twitter? Incredible! We know Alec is great, but it is hard for us to measure his influence outside of our class. We have had one of the world's finest people in the field for a teacher and his role was mostly to get out of the way. Again, no disrespect, but he is an example of the sort of thing he preached of giving students a voice and redefining the role of the teacher. His example of how he organized the class along with Katia is one of the biggest take-away things I have from this class. It makes me want to do the same thing for my students to hand over the power of learning into their capable hands and my role changes dramatically in order to help them attain the things they need to learn. This sounds simple, but I fear it as it really is a sea change for the way I have run my classroom for 15+ years. I hope I am a strong enough teacher like many of you already are to be able to stick to my guns on this and make this sort of classroom environment a reality.
Speaking of fear, one other take-away that applies to this week's topic is my fear of trying new things. I have really gone out of my comfort zone this semester and while it was a little scary, I am pleased with the results. Having a more connected classroom (i.e. my blog, student blogs) has paid off in better student engagement. The kids in the classroom today are different than when we went to school so relying on old practices will not speak or engage todays students. It blows me away to read the student blogs by teachers like Lisa who have been getting very young children to express themselves. From a kid talking about his grandma to another talking about how much he loves basketball these young voices are wonderful and I am so pleased there are teachers out there like Lisa who give kids a voice. I am a parent and I would love if my kids did a similar project, not because they use technology, but I want my own children to be expressive and feel like what they say matters. These are some wonderful lessons being taught to young people.
In closing, I have no idea what a classroom will look like 10 years from now. I am sure there will be similarities to today's classrooms, but with the rapid changes happening it is too difficult to predict. What I am optimistic about is giving students a way to become connected and explore. To teach kids that what they say matters and that someone is listening. My own fear held me back in these areas and I feel stronger now that I have been shown these ways of expression and I feel confident that no matter how technology changes, I will be able to be a effective teacher and give my students the tools they need to express themselves for years to come.
December 2nd, 2014