Monday, March 18, 2013

Open Journey

From the start of this blog for the ETMOOC, I've been torn about what to write about at times. Am I writing about my job? This class? How they both connect? I thought from the start that I would try out blogging, and then see if it's something that I want to continue. Turns out, I like it. I've made some new connections, and I've been able to share my ideas with colleagues who care. I've made a built-in time stamp with the title: EdTechBlog2013. It was unclear at the start if I would want to blog. Do I continue with this blog through 2013 or do I start something else? Not sure. 

The ETMOOC moves on to the next topic, and now it's Topic 5 (Mar 17-30): Digital Citizenship – Identity, Footprint, & Social Activism. I didn't get much done with Topic 4, but I have material to work with later--like next quarter when I am not teaching three composition courses. The first link shared by Alec Couros is the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. I haven't seen this before as a complete list, so I'm glad to have it. This is a nice way to start when you are discussing netiquette. When we talk about "appropriate, responsible behavior" online, this is a definition that we may see evolve. For now, I like how the ETMOOC has taken us from the Open Access policies to what our responsibilities are as digital citizens.

As I have mentioned before, so much of what I have done as an online teacher has been in the password protected learning management system of my college teacher. My digital footprint is really small. I haven't blogged, tweeted, LinkedIn, or anything else that gave me public exposure until this year. Have I been a responsible digital citizen? Yes. I just haven't made the time, nor have I seen the point in some cases (like Facebook).

I really like blogging to work out ideas and share my experience as a teacher. Teaching, despite being surrounded by people constantly, is a lonely enterprise. Online teaching is even worse, and it wasn't until this year that I realized that other online teachers felt the same isolation. Yes, I know. Other blogs have existed for years, and I'm behind the curve. Behind on getting to know what's out there: I'm not alone.

This morning I read Millennial Students and Middle-aged Faculty: A Learner-centered Approach to Bridging the Gap by

She points out some really great ideas that I identified with as a teacher. The feeling of getting older while your students do not, the challenges of connecting with people much younger than you, the frustration of dealing with people who think they multi-task well (the student who text while you are talking and then ask you to repeat what you just said), etc. 

What I disagree with is her suggestion that there is no longer a journey. No matter what your generation, there is a common bond of wanting a journey in life. Whether it's the classroom or your job, there's a journey. Whether it's in 15 minute chunks or hour-long lectures, a quarter is a journey. Flaherty has twice the experience than I do as a teacher, but I've been a student for a long time now. Being a student while being a teacher has given me some perspective that I'm still working out.
There is still a "journey" only it has changed. It's still there, teachers just have to do things differently. Perhaps the journey has changed, because although Flaherty mentions a by-gone time when students could sustain an hour-long discussion of a reading, I don't remember it that way. Granted I was an undergrad almost 15 years ago, but I remember being one of the handful of students who did the reading and tried to engage with my teacher and my fellow students. Cell phones were not as common (nor as small and connected as they are now) but my lazy comrades wrote notes, slept, or stared off into space. They weren't any more engaged as the Millennials whom we worry about engaging. They had no gadgets to distract them, and they were just plain bored.

Here is what I am trying to work out: I don't think that technology is necessary in all teaching situations. It can't hide bad teaching. I don't think backward design helps bad teaching. I don't think student-centered teaching cancels out bad teaching. Bad teaching, by my definition, is done by a teacher that doesn't care either way. The job gets done. A "bad teacher" has stopped caring about his or her learning by no longer taking risks. Bad teaching, in the era of open access digital footprints, is up for debate. I'm not so interested in the debate as I am about what to do about it. What I can do about my own bad teaching.

I'm working on the idea that I plan to present on in the spring at a conference--teachers can create their own networks to create small changes in their teaching that will be both self-serving and fruitful for student engagement. Generational differences exist. They are a reality. Our attention spans are different. Flaherty, by posting her work to build on her digital footprint, gave me something to think about on a morning when I'm struggling to get started with the day. How do we engage faculty who feel intimated by the digital gap? Why do we embrace technology in our personal lives but fear it in our classrooms? Are those in Generation X any different from the Baby Boomers? Forgive the generation digression. I live with somebody who has been working on a book on this very topic for the last ten years.

I'll leave this post today with a quote from an inspirational educator and colleague, Dr. Craig Lewis. At the close of his emails, he includes epigraphs. He makes a practice of changing the quotes, and I always look forward to what he will choose next. Here is my favorite that I wrote in my notebook, and for this and many other things, I thank him. It's the thoughts of others that often propel us onto new journeys.

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. 
― William Butler Yeats



  1. Alyson,

    Out of all of the information in this post, the one idea that stuck with me is the "bad teacher." I am in my 17th year of teaching and over the years, I have worked with countless amazing teachers, and unfortunately, countless bad teachers. I always wonder what makes them stay? I understand that retirement is an incentive, but I can't understand being miserable every day. I have always told myself that when the day comes that I don't love going to work, then it's time for me to quit and move on to something else. Hopefully that day is still far away, but when the time comes, I hope I have the courage to face it. As far as technology is concerned, I think it will continue to change the face of education. There have been some who have buried their heads in the sand hoping that it goes away - but it's here to stay and building every day. As educators, (at least those of us who have been around awhile) we are trying to catch up to the abilities of our students. I am thankful for the class that I am taking, as it has opened up a whole new world for me - one that many have been living in for quite some time.

    I look forward to reading your past posts and the new ones to come!

    On a side note, I attended a wedding in Bellingham years ago and we stayed on Lummi Island. It is so beautiful in that part of the country!

    Take care,

  2. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for your post! I connected with your Pinterest Board, so we are now in one another's PLN! Love it. I really hesitated to use the phrase "bad teacher" in this post, but there is no dancing around it when writing about ineffective teaching. I too wonder what makes teachers stay when they clearly dislike their work and the students. I worked as a waitress for a long time, and that's the perspective I always return to when I'm down/overworked. The only reward with being a waitress is "good money" and I never found the love of restaurant work that others have. In fact, I burned my apron when I got my first teaching job! I do, however, get a kick out of what I do now. I know I've been "a bad teacher" some quarters, but that's just part of the job. Striving to change and move forward is part of the job that feels less like work and something that I find fun.

    I see Lummi everyday from my routine dog walk, and I agree, it's pretty lovely here.

    I also love your blog title: that's hysterical!

    Looking forward to more connections,