It was like I stepped into a dark room. The door closed behind me and I couldn’t find the handle to reopen it. I wasn’t sure I should reopen the door. I heard another language – open online, syndicated, digital presence, makes, RSS feed, DML, DS106, FemTechNet, reclaim hosting, and connected courses – where am I? I was unsure, nervous, curious, and feeling small. The voices got louder and there was a small light. I was afraid to step forward out of the box, but I did. The light kept getting bigger and brighter. Suddenly, everything was visible. What I could see now was unlimited space, never-ending possibilities……
Summer of technology
So I guess I can say I had an unexpected “summer of technology”. It started out with a simple “hey are you interested” kind of email from Michael Berman, to be included in the DML hub Open Teaching Bootcamp. I did not know what to expect, my small knowledge of technology and my thought that I was doing okay, shifted to thinking “I know nothing!”. Driving onto UC Irvine campus, I forgot how big other campuses were, came in late after parking and re-parking, and only to realize that I must be in the wrong room. I am listening to a foreign language (otherwise known as the DML crew open online learning language) and I hope no one knows how lost I am in this conversation.
I could think out-of-the-box and adapt. As we progressed I now started capturing moments where I felt like I could be up to speed, maybe even contribute to the discussion! What happened by the end of the day was unexpected. There were numerous options of how to deliver content, who to connect together, how to connect them, and how to keep them engaged. I didn’t get it at first, but when I started to, I had to spend significant time thinking and testing it all. Rethinking your courses to “open” is challenging. You have to get beyond the walls of the learning system, the course roster, and the program curriculum to reflect upon what is valuable in your teaching. Suddenly I wanted to have a digital identity! I had numerous ideas about building communities, connecting nursing students between the 2 campus sites, within different nursing programs, and even internationally! Outside of the learning management system I could even connect students from diverse programs for collaborative interdisciplinary research, discussions, and even share cultural or international perspectives, while the course remains engaging and effective.
But wait! … if open is really OPEN, why are educators using learning management systems?
My thoughts on it
Learning management systems equate with a pre-wrapped gift. You may have limited color and ribbon selections, but in the end, the content can be organized. If you don’t want to be restricted, you have to take time to select, and wrap the gift yourself.
So the dust settles and you get back from the conference and realize all these great ideas actually take time, effort, and navigation in new territories. Do I actually consciously plan to revise my course again? Instead of changing one or two assignments, I decide to revise one course. That should be reasonable, I thought. I have great support from my new and old connections, Jim Groom, Mikhail Gershovich, Chris Mattia, Michael McGarry … plus, I have the highly motivated other Jaimie (Hoffman) of the infamous “Jaim(i)es” who is opening all her courses this fall. I can do it!
So here is the issue. TIME. You need time to learn the language; knowing the difference/similarities between a blog, a post, a comment and a page; figuring out what plug ins you need for your site depending on what you want to do; deciding which widgets you want and what sidebar; searching and trialing themes. TIME. Rethinking old assignments, redesigning discussions, and completely gutting even the syllabus can take hours! Next year, however, I will have experience, and this will be easier, right?
So as I trial and error WordPress, my 5 year old daughter wants to know if a widget is something tinkerbell tinkers with, while my 8 year old asks if I know I am talking to my computer. TIME. How do I decide where to spend my time? Will I become so entangled with my digital identity I will forget my real one? I electively sabotaged a busy fall semester for options and connections.
Why? It offers the opportunity to try something new, think outside of the limitations of Blackboard, and educate students in a way that fits you – your content, your style, your learner needs, your level of engagement. You can make it what you want it to be – which ends up being the motivation. My advice is to consider what your intention is – a blog, an assignment, a whole course – plan for time for your own learning, allowing for adequate reflection and digestion of what you’re doing along with your students. Just jump in.
Maybe instead of changing the whole course all you can do right now is one project, your blog online, or a trial run for the next semester. You can add it piece by piece, or just dive in. But then in moments of frustration, keep in mind why you were motivated in the first place…. And then I find myself talking to another computer (aka smart phone) to dictate what I want to say as I drive home from work with the earpiece, just because that is where I can fit in my thoughts for that moment, but guess what? I found TIME.
The impact is opening possibilities you can make to fit for what time you have, how you envision it, and where you want it to take you … even sometimes where you don’t expect to go.