I began my certificate program, in Online Teaching and Learning, this week at CSU East Bay. My weekly blog entries here will house weekly observations, allow for venting of my not-so-private rants and fears, and hopeful document an internal process of learning and awareness that may provide fodder for some future works.
A Clumsy Start
Being the self described techno-dork that I am, I found Blackboard a bit awkward at first. More than just new navigation, however, I experienced an inordinate about of anxiety over minor discrepancies between the syllabus and course shell.
I know better, I truly do! And yet I still had what another student aptly described as a “mini-meltdown”. I knew the syllabus had content from a previous mod, and yet I let myself get carried away with worry, and still I go back and forth to read and re-read, check and double everything. I’m convinced I missing something else. Then I worried about cognitive load; imagining that these demands on my energy are too much away from my ability to be truly productive.
I did notice an awareness that each different LMS is going to have its own benefits and drawbacks that should probably be taken into consideration when involved with course design. That didn’t stop me from wishing there was a definitive one page weekly overview that covered just this first week. That must be the holy grail of all course design; one magic component that solves all woes for students, instructors, and course designers alike!
Keeping track of discussions was also harder than I thought it might be. I wondered if I should have read one article at a time and then respond to that corresponding discussion. Is there a right way to do this? Maybe it’s better to read everything first, and let it all sink in and marinate a bit.
Yeah I do need a cave.
Reading Online Is Horrible, and It’s Distracting!
I already knew I preferred a hard copy to a Kindle version for non-fiction, and I knew that I’d elect to buy physical text books. I didn’t expect to feel such anxiety about the reading of online articles, however. Nor did I anticipate such a rabbit hole of temptation at every turn! What a potential time suck, and how can I manage to keep all this content organized?
That reminds me….I need to add The Shallows to my Amazon list….. but I digress. (And do so completely aware of the irony!)
Of course I have to print and keep everything in a physical binder. I like the printed page, highlighter, notes scribbled in margins, and sticky tags. Saving as PDFs with electronic highlighters are just not the same. I know I’m strongly kinesthetic in my learning style, but it’s not as if I don’t read all the time online for God’s sake!
Somehow this is really different though. It’s hard to put my finger on, but I first noticed it with the Kindle. Fiction is fine, but I don’t interact with fiction the way I do with non-fiction. I need the physicality of words on paper, I need to chew and digest them in an almost literally way.
But I’ve loved some of the reading this week. I most enjoyed the Thornburg article about primordial learning metaphors; with the campfires, water holes, and the cave. It made me think of Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, about how introverts need time and space for contemplation.
The need for isolation is absolutely critical for me. And it’s more than just physical space. So many aspects of modern technology, (the social or public aspect, and the permanence), is a horror! In Thornburg’s article I notice I’m immediately irritated when he suggests that the rite of passage can be interpreted as external knowledge that has become internalized.
Isn’t this the absolute opposite of what the cave metaphor suggests?! Certainly knowledge moves and becomes internalized, hence we say that we “process” ideas, but I think the idea of going on a vision quest and isolating oneself is very much about trying to escape socialization’s constraining influence.
My understanding of a vision quest and a rite of passage, is to go to an internal place, to find the “source”. To find out what you are made of, on your own.
I did love Thornburg’s example of the bad conference though, with no access to watering holes or caves! And I think he nails it about multimedia being a new medium that we don’t know how to work in yet. I am excited about how we’ll implement his vision of an interactivity that “…lets us move beyond the linear presentation of material” and be involved in the “creation of a unique story.”
“It is, instead, the storytellers craft writ large — a new medium of expression whose ideas cannot be captured or presented in any other medium. We are experiencing the birth pains of this new craft, and it promises to be a noisy baby.” (pg8)
Honestly, what he envisions Neal Stephenson’s young lady’s primer, from the novel The Diamond Age.
Oh and course I’m reminded of Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. I read that as a teenager too, and now I’m working in this industry, and now here I am in a class that’s probably ten weeks condensed to a five week format, and yeah I’m freaking out.
So of course I wonder about the critiques of technology, and the internet specifically, as I feel my own brain as this fractured, wounded thing. I am even patient enough to focus in the way that Thornburg’s cave requires?
So many good ideas – look up Marshall McLuhan, communications theorist who coined the phrase“the medium is the message”. So much more in depth research to do- David Thornburg; Holo-deck classroom; that reminds me of an Issac Asimov story I read as a child, The Fun They Had.
So many connections I need to make, and then to take apart!
Maya Angelou: On Finding Our Voice
Lastly, what a delight it was to listen to the embedded video from Maya Angelou, talking about how important it is to speak up, to sing, to raise your voice. She says that staying silent is “addictive” and “dangerous”.
I am very interested in how technology shapes our communication, and I’ve long been interested in how we present our ‘personae’ online. I am still skeptical of the concept of communication online, however. I know how the notion of surveillance changes our behavior, and in trying to find my voice, I feel the fear of permanence, and of being pigeon holed.
All communications online forms a kind of permanent record. What kind of influence does that have on what I will choose to write, or to omit? What kind of a cage is that?
That’s a cage a bird like me would really beat its wing upon!
Thornburg, David. Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century. Retrieved 9/30/14 from http://tcpd.org/Thornburg/Handouts/Campfires.pdf