I am cold within. Frost bitten. A racing mind, seeking answers, bridges which I may tread upon. To no avail. The ones I put my foot on are too shaky and stilted for my liking. My desire insists on stronger, more permanent bridges. Passages of learning need to be safe, silent, secure.
My inheritance this semester are students who have little or no digital skills. Nor do they wish to acquire them. Hence this inner bare landscape, withering away in a fractual of questions I seek light and possible solutions.
I wish I could say that learning is a delightful, warm, easy, fuzzy experience. Soft as the finest of wools, simple to weave meaning, silky and smooth when putting into practice.
Reality, however, is different.
Learning is hard work. There are no red pills. There are no blue pills. (“You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” The Matrix)
The learning process is social – one learns with and from others, whether from the past or present. When social learning is discussed, the focus is on the “how” one learns. Learning, assimilating skills and information is left to the individual.
And this requires a total shift in values and perceptions which is equally challenging.
Learning involves the 8 points highlighted in the above poster. One may substitute passion for motivation – yet motivation too is individual. No matter how a teacher tries, if a learner is not motivated to learn, there will be little progress. There are rivers of ink on motivation. I too commit the fallacy of believing that there are right tools and approaches to inspire motivation. However, it is the inspiration and not the motivation that an educator may trigger among learners. Besides, as many educators understand, it is more comfortable and easier to blame a teacher for lack of motivation rather than take responsibility for one’s learning process.
Accountability is a strong word. Shareski (webinar on 23.January.2013) discussed the differences between being accountable and responsible in regard to educators sharing work online. This discussion is equally relevant when it comes to learning – are students to be accountable? Should they be responsible?
Despite my belief in learning how to become an autonomous learner, these are no simple questions in many societies where group values are embedded in learners’ behaviour. Once students enter higher education, they are expected (and demanded) to be autonomous learners and be responsible for the first time in their lives.
Knowing how to participate, knowing how to be and what the expectations are in a certain context (e.g. higher education), is like learning about a place, a different landscape, a different culture. For students, this transition from analogue, rote learning to a landscape where digital learning is required, is painful. Resistance to change is easier than change itself.
I would also dare add the lack of fear, for change is scary. Unknown landscapes are bewildering, at times, on the border of threatening.
What can an educator do?
Explore, engage, explain.
Connections do happen.
My recipe? Stories. Learners elaborate on their own framework of knowledge and as a teacher, I have data to evaluate, to contribute to students’ assessment.
More than routine assessment (something teachers and students cannot ignore), learners gain confidence – in themselves, in their own world knowledge, in learning how to use digital spaces for learning.
Red pills. Blue pills.
Only the self can walk through the door of learning.
Connections do happen.
Shareski, D., 2013, Social Media and Open Education, a webinar on 23 January, 2013
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