Hi Everyone! I was so sad to have to run in the middle of our coffee session today, and wanted to follow up a bit. I know I'm the one who shook things up with my frustration today, and wanted to share a little of what was behind that, and some recent musings.
First, as a human and an educator, I find myself utterly torn between needing structure and wanting freedom. In my course design, this means that I want to use a structure that is comfortable and familiar, while also leaving room for my students to explore and be human. On my wall in my office is scribbled a quote from a student in a class I took in my PhD program 5 years ago, because I'm still chewing on it: "Conformity never leads to empowerment." The conflict between those two pieces of conformity and empowerment and their relationship in digital pedagogy always gets me. How do we empower when we need some kind of conformity? Does choosing to conform mean that I am denying my students the opportunity for empowerment?
So, at the same time, I love the space that Naomi and Elena have set up for us, with the new freedoms of this digital learning environment! And yet, in a time when things are shaky, the uncertainty of a new and unfamiliar space is crippling, and I don't always know where to go and what to do. I've learned to be OK with just leaving some things undone. But then I wonder how comfortable I am with allowing my students, who need to earn a grade, the same freedom to just leave things undone when they are frustrated with my course structure. My frustration is more a reflection of myself, than a reflection on Naomi and Elena's efforts to guide us this week.
And yet, I had the opportunity to meet with 4 pastors from 4 of the 6 congregations that just held an interfaith food drive in our area, and delivered the 5000 lbs of food to the food bank yesterday. Inevitably, we talked about what they are doing for services during this time of COVID. What they are doing is online teaching, except they don't know anything about pedagogy! They aren't limited by the assumptions that frame teaching in higher ed, and their goals are more about connections, and community, and humanization than they are about specific, measurable learning objectives with carefully aligned assessments. And what they are doing is beautiful! Using social media, free online tools, phone calls, parking lot communion, dropped off kits at people's doors, window visits to truly connect with their congregations. I found this so inspiring in terms of what we are talking about this week. They connect with people first, and content second. I feel so very inspired to learn about online pedagogy from people who are not teachers, who teach "students" who span every walk of life, and share "content" that is more about faith and wellbeing than grades and analytics.
How do I capture that loveliness, and open sense of community, but also embrace my need for structure and conformity?