There was a time when learning was simple, safe, almost sound-proof. Giggles and blunders, dreams and childhood disobedience were snuggly tucked behind school walls. Playgrounds were for running and crying out aloud “Tag! You’re it now!” followed by peals of laughter and often, scraped knees.
Learning settings have changed. Today I face a blank sheet where I am to account my learning bytes. My initial task was to write about my expectations and possible concerns regarding this online learning experience. However, learning, like communication, does not occur in a vacuum. As the days accumulate, so too do my reflections of learning and what it means to be a participant on this course. It is within the cracks of time and reflections that I now try to make partial sense of what it means to be an open, online participant on a post-graudate course.
But first, a glimpse behind a wall.
I began a blog (CristinaSkyBox) which, among other purposes, was an example for my students, because I believe that as an educator, I needed to set an example for them. This was not the first time I have participated online, and it is a blog I still keep and develop. More recently I have begun Mind Mirrors, a blog about reflections of change and voices from different parts of the world. Just like I have always perceived feminine writing as being not written on the body, but rather, written through the body, Mind Mirrors too has taken me beyond my regular comfort zone.
In Mind Mirrors my body, my self is transposed electronically, in pixels and bytes; my body and voice are trapped in electronic media, public, open to criticism or positive acceptance. It is one thing to participate in video conferencing for private or professional reasons; another to expose one’s human fragilities as a matter of fact. This is what I do and what I ask participants to do on their side of the screen. Our electronic selves melt away from self-consciouness, for our focus is change and whatever matters arise from the particular context we are discussing.
Which brings me back to here and now. My open learning space. A public, open space where I dare raise my voice as a learner, as an educator and a participant of a community.
This is definitely not as simple as I initially had thought it could be. One needs to balance restraints, silences and hesitations, as well as the need to clearly state what one believes in and thinks as an individual. I wonder too about my role in keeping this public learning process and what possible value it may ever have for others, other than to assess me, to stick a grade or number to my name. I think about learning pyramids and how teaching can be either passive or participatory. So too, is learning: with a time for passive learning, and a time for participatory learning.
As someone who strongly believes in free learning, in open access and open sources, how is it that I now question my very beliefs when I am moving beyond the school walls?
In other words, I have become publicly vulnerable as a learner. Leaving the comfort and safety of classrooms, staffrooms and playgrounds, I step forward humble as a learner, eager to grasp a sense of knowing and perhaps indulge my understandings of knowledge.
Today I have re-learnt how as an educator I need to bear more often in mind my students’ vulnerabilities too.
What lessons in open learning have you experienced?