I had some thoughts watching the TED talk by by Michael Wesch, so that is what I’m choosing to focus on in this blog, with some general comments about required blogging below. In both areas, I came to the same conclusion that balance should be at the forefront of education, whether it be balancing professor resources with student need, or balancing new technology with impact in the classroom.
I come from the psychology and human development fields and so socio-emotional and cognitive development and context are ingrained in my approach to and interpretation of all things. Especially in Human Development, context and individual differences are integral considerations and so I didn’t take away from the video what I was maybe meant to. Secondly, I’m also cynical (sometimes to a fault) as a person, so I might push back more than necessary or productive.
At one point, Dr. Wesch quoted faculty members who said “some people are not cut out for school,” though I think he meant for college, and that translated to those people saying “some people are not cut out for learning.” I get what he’s trying to say; however, school (specifically college) is for very specific kinds of learning and while educators can and should change and adapt their teaching style to meet the needs of their students, there is also a reason that some people go to college while others go to vocational school or train on the job, etc.
One of my biggest hang ups to the inspirational aspect of what he said was one kind of throw-away comment about a student pursuing accounting even though she hated it. There is also the very real thing that people need to make money to survive and while people can and should be encouraged to follow their passions, it seems inspirational but can often be dismissive to tell people to follow their passions in lieu of finding security in the real world.
Maybe Dr. Wesch didn’t even mean to inspire or give something to which educators should aspire, and he just wanted to share his experience, which is also valid. He was a well-known, tenured faculty member with a lot more resources than first- or second-year faculty, who won’t be able to take two hour lunches with their students each day and tailor their content to each student. My takeaway was to not always continue traditional methods of teaching but to also acknowledge that faculty members have different resources/skills/practices and it’s okay if some professors, especially early career and those with large introductory classes, can’t completely adapt and individualize their courses.
Switching gears to the connected/network learning, I took the Preparing the Future Professoriate course last semester and in my final journal, this is what I wrote about blogging:
Due to the size and structure of this class, having both a journal assignment and blogging assignments felt limiting and redundant at the same time. The blog assignment didn’t really increase communication between students in the class because of the sheer number of posts and how daunting it was search through and find ones that might be interesting to comment on. The assignment didn’t seem to make a fruitful contribution to class conversation or effective method of reflection. Also, because I was required to do both a blog and a journal, I would limit what I wrote in each area so that I didn’t repeat myself by writing the same thought in two places, which would have been a lot of work for little to no benefit. I think I would have preferred to only do the journal, even with an expectation that some journal entries would be read aloud in class or in small groups to facilitate conversation.
I have heard that this course is more interactive as far as incorporating blogs into the course content, the class is a bit smaller than my PFP course, and not everyone is required to blog each week, we don’t have a journal requirement and yet, I am still skeptical of how meaningful we will find the required blogging and comments for the course. I can appreciate the intent and I am sure that engaging digital learning in a classroom is a challenge and a constant give-and-take; however, I think the balance between wanting to engage in the newest teaching methods and opportunities and what is actually meaningfully contributing to the experience of individual students and classes as a whole is difficult to manage and should be constantly reevaluated.
As a last note, just from an ethical perspective, I thought it was interesting that the #1 recommended blogging format was a paid platform for which the instructor of the course has a coupon code. The discount code is a nice gesture for students and I know no ill-intent was meant, but oftentimes these coupon codes are mutually beneficial for the distributor and redeemer, yet no benefit/compensation was disclosed when the coupon code was given. There may have been no benefit, but the first question I had when I saw the code was what I was giving to the distributor if I had used it.