SBOSE: Comfortably uncomfortable

As we approach the end of this module Supporting the Blended and Online Student Experience, I’m reflecting on my  own experiences and new understandings during this time.

I chose the blog option for my individual assignment because blogging is something I do naturally. From keeping a diary for over 30 years in pre-internet days to blogging about Moodle since 2007, I enjoy putting thoughts into words. The challenge with this blog, however, was not finding the words or topics to cover, but backing up what I say with relevant readings, evidence, references. This meant that I put much more time and thought into each post (which dampened my enthusiasm somewhat) but it also offered a broader, richer perspective on my other blogging. I’d begun a personal blog about learning Russian -just for my own benefit really – and soon found that I actually wanted to reference my experiences learning a new language against research I had read about how we learn. I would never have conceived of that a year ago. I realise the option of a reflective blog well meets the ‘Introspection’ aspect of Olcott’s five I’s of effective teaching  which I read about in (Paloff 2013)

Introspection is the interpretation, revision and demonstrated understanding of concepts.

Elsewhere the authors state that we should be:

encouraged to reflect on [our] own learning process, how learning with the use of technology has affected that process either positively or negatively…

I struggle with the level and quality of writing and referencing needed for this individual assignment, particularly when comparing my offerings with those of other course participants, so I started gently with some summaries of books  I had been reading. I blogged about Essentials of Course design (link to post) and also about Lessons from the Virtual classroom (link to post) Later I also summarised Is Technology Good for Education? (link to post), not an actual set text but one related to Neil Selwyn whose views questioning ed tech we were asked to consider early in the module. Doing these summaries definitely helped me clarify and  embed the thinkings into my brain, and using a blog for this process was something I was very comfortable with.

What I was less comfortable with, along with having to develop the habit of backing up my opinions with meaningful research, was the imposition of a Group Task. In fact, when I heard in module 1 that in  module 2 we would be working in groups, I almost quit. I am glad I didn’t – although I remain unconvinced about the merits of group work. I expressed my fears in All for One and One for All (link to post) .

A while later while listening to the weekly podcast, this time on Online Team Teaching, it struck me that while I am uncomfortable working in groups, I work very well  in a pair – if the two of us are on the same wavelength. In the post Online Team Teaching I outlined how my colleague Helen and I collaborate when facilitating online. Perhaps for me, the cliché ‘Two’s company, Three’s a crowd’ really works.

Another example of my discomfort was in the most recent module on Learning Analytics. We had a task which required us to analyse an Excel spreadsheet. In the post Feeling the Fear (and Do it Anyway) I reflected upon my spreadsheet-a-phobia and how, actually, if we are to progress, we do need to do things we find difficult. It’s the ‘Troublesome’ aspect of Threshold concepts, which I read about via (Didau, 2015)

Conclusions?

While I chose the blog option because I felt comfortable with it, I have learned in this last module that actually it was the uncomfortable elements that move me forwards. Stepping out of my comfort zone, for example in drafting blog posts with supporting evidence, engaging in group work, delving into analytics and statistics as a numerophobe- these  have all given me a sense of satisfaction and progression that I wouldn’t have felt if I had stuck to the comfortable stuff.

No coincidence that I have experienced this in parallel while learning Russian – practising language that is a little harder than I can cope with – and even in my Day Job! I was at the London Moodle Moot two weeks ago. I like to be very organised, have everything planned out – and I was faced with a situation where I had to significantly improvise. This would never have been my choice, but, having tackled it and completed the task, I feel more competent.

So – what have I learned that I would pass onto my students in blended and online situations?

  • Self reflection is essential -whether you do it in a private diary, just between you and your teacher, or to the world at large. Think critically about yourself
  • If you struggle with writing, just write anything at first until you get into the right frame of mind.
  • Choose the harder option, not the easier one if you’re brave enough, because in challenging yourself you will transform yourself.

References:

Palloff, R. (2013). Lessons from the virtual classroom : the realities of online teaching. 1st ed.

Didau, D. (2015). What if everything you knew about education was wrong?. Crown House Publishing.

 

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