(Photo from Wikimedia by Ansonlobo )
The past 8 weeks of my summer have been spent taking an online college class called Literacy in the Digital Age. Though I’ve taken more online college classes then I can count now, I found this one to be different than any I’ve taken before.
This week, I had to read a blog post called “The Steep “Unlearning” Curve”, and I believe it correlates much to the experience I’ve had within my digital literacy course. You see, I’m so used to a certain format when it comes to my classes, that this course was a bit of a challenge for me. I had to unlearn much of what I already new and felt comfortable with as an online learner. I had to become more independent in my learning. The author of “The Steep “Unlearning” Curve” points out that:
“There is no curriculum for unlearning, and, of course, in many ways it’s simply learning to see things differently or to at least be open to it.”
I had to take what I new as a traditional online class format and unlearn it to hopefully be successful in this new class. Let me explain some differences…
I’m used to being given different assignments and tests for the week that need to be completed and submitted to my instructor. I then complete these assignments and tests by their varied due dates and then receive a grade on each one individually and usually receive feedback, as well. In the class I took this summer, I was given a word document or two with assignments that I had to complete by the end of the week, but I received no individual grades on the multiple assignments.
I had to get used to another way of grading, as well. In the syllabus for this course, it states, “We will use contract grading in this class. If you complete all assignments satisfactorily, you will earn a B for the course.” When I first read that, it scared me! Actually, it still does. It’s a format for grading that I’m simply not used to. Again, there’s that unlearning of what I knew. I’m an A student, and my grades are important to me, so the thought of completing everything to satisfaction and not getting my “A” was a scary thought! I guess, as an older non-traditional student, I take my grades seriously. How I do not only effects me, but my family as well. I want to be a good example for my children, too. I want to show them hard work and dedication. I don’t believe in adapting the mindset that “C’s get degrees.” When I receive grades back from instructors along with feedback, it’s a way for me to understand if I’m completing work that is required of me or if I need improvement in a certain area and where. I grow from my grades and my feedback throughout a class. In this class, I had to be more independent and trust in my abilities and what I already know. This was good “unlearning” for me, as there is going to be a time in the future when I’m a teacher and I need to be more independent and confident and my abilities. This class pushed me to see that.
Another aspect that I had to unlearn is the different assignments given and how to complete them. Generally, my online classes consist of the assignments and writing forums every week, but this class was quite different. I had to create a blog and then write numerous blog posts each week based on different topics given, including my independent learning project and articles or videos I may have been assigned to review. My independent learning project was a way for me to grow as a learner, and I had to spend 4 hours working on this project each week. I chose training for a 5k as my learning project, and I would then blog about my experience at the end of each week. I was also required to respond to my classmates blogs each week. I also had to create a Twitter account and post numerous times throughout the course of the class using our #diglitclass tag, with the post topics varying depending on the week and what was assigned. We also had to participate in what was called “The Daily Create”, which required me to complete simple daily creative challenges in photography, writing, audio, video and drawing and then post them on Twitter. See, I’m used to forum posts where we interact back and forth with classmates on a particular topic, so this type of peer interaction was something new for me. It made me “unlearn” what I knew.
Despite the differences to other online classes I’ve taken, I’m quite thankful for the experience I’ve had in this class. Besides the wonderful material presented on the topic of digital literacy, this class showed me that I can be more independent in my learning. It showed me that I can get through a class without receiving frequent feedback. It showed me that I can stay on task and focused. This class gave me confidence in my abilities. This is what most surprised me about myself as a learner this semester-I am capable.
This class has also reiterated the fact that I will never stop learning and that I honestly never want to stop learning. I want to be an innovative educator like George Cuoros explains in his blog post “The Mindset of an Innovator”. His blog states that:
“The access to people and information changes a lot of the opportunities that are available both for students and educators, which calls for all of those being involved in education to see ourselves as learners.”
As a future educator, I think it’s especially important that I’m constantly learning and growing. What’s wonderful is that there is now a plethora of information available online, as well as the ability to network with other educators throughout the entire world. This class introduced me to personal learning networks and gave me the tools to build my own. Throughout the short 8 weeks I’ve been in this class, I’ve learned so much from the knowledge of others. This is part of what’s made me an innovative learning during this class. I’ve learned to network and grow from the wealth of knowledge that comes from the mind of others that are more than willing to help others learn and grow. As educators, we aren’t in a competition with each other, but we are in it to help our students succeed. When we learn and grow as innovative learners, our students win! Mr. Cuoros points out the characteristics of an innovator in his blog “8 Characteristics of the “Innovator’s Mindset”.
- Problem Finders
I’ve found that throughout this class I’ve often had to be reflective on the work that I’ve completed since I didn’t receive grades or the feedback that I’m used to. I had to reflect more than usual over the work that I’ve completed to hopefully ensure that I’m submitting quality work that will allow me to succeed. This reflection is also used in other classes when I complete work and then receive grades back. I reflect on what I could have possibly done better. This ability to reflect will also be important when I’m a teacher, as I will often need to reflect on how my students are doing, and how I’m doing as an educator. Reflection is another way to learn and grow!
Innovation in learning allows us to use the tools in technology to do this learning and growing. We have so much right at our fingers tips to not only help us grow, but our students as well. Though I’m not a huge fan of elementary students using social media, especially in a classroom setting, I CAN see them communicating for class through blog posts that are monitored through me. Blog posts can be done anywhere and at any time, as long as you have internet access. Students could work on them at home, or during permitted class time. Students could interact with their peers by commenting and reflecting on each others blog posts as we do in my digital literacy class. Students could be allowed more creativity and control in their blog posts. This is definitely a tool I plan on using within my classroom if my students are old enough. I also found that using a tool like Piktochart could help students expressive themselves through creativity. Instead of writing a paper over a particular topic, they could be assigned to create a graphic containing the material that I’d like them to cover. Another tool that could be useful within the classroom is a version of The Daily Create that could be tailored towards an elementary class. I figured I would write different prompts on the board each day for my students to complete within a 5 minute period. I might write on the board for my younger students, “Write a story about your family,” or “Draw a picture of a fairy.” I could give them a pile of plastic cups and tape and have them create for 5 minutes if it’s younger students. Creativity is such an important aspect of children’s education, that is often a component forgotten within our schools.
This class has opened my doors to a new way of learning as an innovator. It has allowed me the opportunity to see new tools I can use within my classroom and to utilize tools in a way I didn’t think of. This class has helped me to see the way that I can connect with others to learn and grow myself as a learner and as an educator. I want my students to learn the tools they can use, as well to enhance their own learning. I think it’s also important for me to reflect to my students a love for learning. I want them to see that even though I’m a teacher that my learning is never done and that I never want it to be. I want them to find their passions, as well. I want them to enjoy being in my class because they see the passion in me, too. I want them to want to learn…to love to learn.