January 10, 2008

Online Class #2 and why I love it

I started teaching my second online class at the University of Regina.(in large part due to the recommendation from Alec Couros)  Last summer I taught my first, totally online save for an optional face to face meeting. This class was scheduled to be a face to face class, students thought it was going to be face to face and found out tonight, that was changed. (a strike late last year of administrative workers and others likely meant course offerings were not updated and thus the confusion). I didn’t know, they didn’t know but think I managed to convince them it would be a good thing and after some dry runs of the technology, establishment of their shiny new blogs, we’re ready to take off and learn.

I’m so looking forward to this. I love this stuff, I’m passionate about it and  I live it everyday. I’m excited to be able to watch and learn, share and teach with largely a group of first year pre-service education students. Here’s are the main themes of this course:

  • Learning is social and connected
  • Learning is personal and self-directed
  • Learning is shared and transparent
  • Learning is rich in content and diversity

So much of the work I do in my day job is similar in all but one key way…TIME. Even the best case scenarios allow teachers 4 or 5 days a year for professional learning of this nature. How can they possibly begin to do the kind of learning and thinking that my students will do? We will meet every week for a few hours, they will spend hours on their own and with each other learning. We will be in constant communication. The teachers that I work with must try and carve out time after work to begin to reflect and embrace the idea of a changing classroom. Ever see the video of building a plane while it’s flying? Perfect analogy for today’s teachers. My students get to build it on the ground where it’s supposed to be.

This is not so much me reflecting on how hard it is for teachers to have the opportunity to learn but more on how excited I am to be able to spend some quality time helping these young people consider how they’ll be able to create spaces that are fun, engaging, personal, relevant and authentic. Those aren’t buzz words for me either, I really try to foster that in all the work I do. It’s not easy all the time but it’s what I believe is important. What makes it hardest is not being able to spend the time to really get it. That’s what it’s like for most teachers and I have to find ways to live with that. I can’t expect big things from a teacher who is already maxed out from a day filled with all kinds of distractions, duties and stresses that at times deplete their energy down to almost nothing.  So I make adjustments, try to support them in small ways, give them bite sized chunks of ideas and because most are smart and want to be better, they do pretty well. But most will say to me over and over, “I just wish I had more time”.  This phrase is echoed throughout the walls of most schools on the planet.

But for the next four months, I get to work with people who have the time; not the expertise, not the experience but the time. It’s gonna be good.

Update: Another surprise to me was that many of my students are Arts Education students so if you know of some great teachers of arts education (music,dance,drama and visual art) showcasing their work via blogs, wikis, podcasts, whatever, leave the link here….it would be greatly appreciated.

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