I thought I might contribute the the we are media project by making a reflection on my current teaching practice. I’ve spent most of the last two weeks working on “educational technology and the adult learner” a course being delivered to education students here on PEI. The course had no existing curriculum and it gave me a real chance to take a run at actually making the curriculum come out of the community interactions that were happening in the classroom. I’ll be making a series of reflections on this, tonight, an overview of goals.
There were three main goals that I was hoping for from the course… all hoping to change the focus from ‘the material’ to the ‘experience’.
A Reverse Curriculum
An archival record of learning directed, organized and created by the students… there was no other curriculum outside of the sketch syllabus posted in my last post, much of which was layed aside as community interests moved us to more natural ground. The reason i like to think of this as a reverse curriculum is that it tends to develop out of the interests that the students show during the course and they get to record and create the material as part of their daily practice. It is part creative zone, part class note record and part review space. The constant revisitation of the material for sorting, upkeep and improvement also serves to reinforce the material.
This also means that the students are, in effect, creating the work in the classroom with a specific audience in mind. Them. Six months from now. The students were repeatedly encouraged that they would forget some part of the work they were doing and that their inclass ‘book building’ (drupal book… essentially a wiki) should be directed at themselves, months from now, coming up with an idea and needing to be reminded of it. It’s also been a really nice live model of the pros and cons of live co-creation of knowledge.
One deep skill per student
Over the course of the uh… course, we’ve covered all of the standard issues, tools and strategies in the social software and desktop technology space that can support learning (list in forthcoming post with more details on curricular content), but, instead of expecting broad based reportable knowledge on each of these skills each learner was responsible for finding something new during the first week of the intensive course (ostensibly that they hadn’t heard of before) and present it to the class in week two. Students were very strongly encouraged to teach us ‘in context’ and prepare the material in such a way as to give us a clear sense of the context that they were writing from. This serves a variety of purposes
- The literacies that are learned from searching, learning and presenting a tool/strategy/method in a short period of time with only a community and the internet to lean on are critical to life long learning
- The first attempt at delivering this kind of content can lead people back to ‘old habits’ and a classroom can be a safe place to try new delivery methods.
- One deep skill, well understood, is more likely to inspire the confidence that the other three things you might have seen during the class are also adoptable when they become necessary in your practice
Community Literacies esp. Community commitment
Maybe the most important part of the of a course like this are the community literacies that are accumulated through a community enquiry into new material. The learners found that they could work together and rely on each other. They wrote nightly reflections and commented and helped each other with their work and reactions to the course. the sense of ‘competition’ between students evaporated. A sense of responsibility to the work at hand became stronger as the students found less and less direct guidance coming from the front of the room.
They also got a sense of how I relate with my own online community and how that serves me in my own professional and, indeed, personal ways. Knowing that we have a community to rely on can be as much an emotional support to our practice as a technical one. Each student has remarked, in one sense or another, how their nightly blogging (closed, sadly) has allowed them to understand that they weren’t alone in their moments of frustration or overwhelmedness. Thinking of your professional life as something that can contain a community that can do all those things can be a very powerful realization.
What we didn’t do.
What we did not focus on was outlining the ‘takeaways’ that students needed to bring out of the course itself, at least, not in a communal sense. There was a palapable sense from the first day that the students themselves came from very different backgrounds and any focus on particular outcomes outside of the somewhat ephemeral ones stated above lead to the kind of co-depency and artificial structure that tend to be superimposed on the learning process in order to bureaucratize it.
In a very real sense, each of those students will be taking a very different set of takeaways from this course, related to what they themselves put in, how they contributed to the community and where they are going to take those new literacies when they go back to their own professional practice.
There was no guided step by step instruction from me. All learning happened by suggestion, and mostly with modelling and contextualization after the fact. A rather jarring way to learn, but by the second week, the learners were willing to tackle any new task with no real prompting.
More on the specific breakdown of actual curriculum covered and ‘class leadership’ concepts that evolved in future posts.
Most useful thing I said during the course? READ THE PAGE. The students use it as a talisman for confusion, the stop, they breathe, and try again. Just an amazing group to spend two weeks with.