For this blog post, I’m going to do a bit of recapping on Unit 5 and Unit 6. During the third class webinar of Unit 5, I very much so appreciated all of the input given by the panelists in regards to how we, as educators, can “autonomize” the classroom structure and learning practices. As a mentor, advisor, student, and professional, it never ceases to amaze me how students that take ownership over their learning exceed the given expectation. There have been times when I have worked with students who “were never that great at writing” and, over the course of a semester, transformed into creating literary works that were nothing short of poetic masterpieces. And they did it all because they were given the tools and creative space to research and make a “thing” that they were proud of. What amazes me even more is the sense of professionalism and poise that students show when they are presenting work to their fellow peers.
However, through this amazement, I can’t help but be mindful of the questions and concerns that lurk towards the back of my mind. How much structure do we, as teachers, give our students in a classroom setting? Is there a limit to the “openness” that one can use in a open classroom structure? At what point does a teacher’s role become diminished within this setting? Is there a balance between structure and autonomous learning?
To answer the last question that I presented, I absolutely believe that there is a balance. Perhaps where my concern lies is what happens when the line between the two forces is crossed. However, this leads me to something that my colleague Jeremy said during the Unit 6 webinar that was streamed earlier today. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, that even though this idea of hybrid “connected courses” is daunting, especially to those who fear submerging themselves into the sea of digital platforms, that you can’t let that fear hold you back from giving something more to your students. As Jeremy quoted from Howard, “If you don’t feel like you’re falling, you’re probably not on the edge”. I believe that it is motivations like this one that should drive us, as educators, to create these connected courses. I believe that these fears that we cultivate come from a social fear of being “wrong”. Sir Ken Robinson says it the best in his TED talk about our current educational institutions. As we move through life, we develop a fear of being “wrong”, which then hinders us from coming up with anything original or outside the norm. We teach this fear to our students, which hinders them from, in my opinion, one of the most important aspects of life…taking a chance. Having an idea, nourishing it, showing it, and bringing it back if it needs some fine tuning.
What if growing this idea that connected courses has presented to us was a step in the right direction towards eliminating the “wrong”. What if one day, students went through their academic and educational careers never feeling wrong, but instead feeling evolved. Like they transformed with their learning. Instead of this notion of learning to “play school”, students could feel like they could go to school and play to learn. This is what we should be striving for. Letting go of what makes us feel comfortable and meeting our students on a playing field where they can explore and exceed any and all expectations that we set before them. I am writing this to all of you as someone who learned at a very young age how to “play school”, and who could do it very well. It wasn’t until I was in my last two years of my undergraduate career that I thought “wow, maybe this school thing is cooler than I thought”. I don’t want our students to have to wait that long to have that “ah ha” moment. And I believe that connected courses like the ones we have engaged in over the past semester are a huge step towards a better educational platform.