I just finished my first on-line connected course
and I am officially drinking the koolaid. Anyone who knows me will appreciate the irony in this. I was quite possibly the last person to sign up for Facebook, and only did so accidentally when I was trying to view a friend’s photos through what I thought was an online photo sharing site like Snapfish (I was at the time puzzled by the number of questions I was asked about myself before it allowed me to view any photos. Come to think of it, does Snapfish even exist anymore?). The next day, I had received dozens of “friend invitations” from individuals that I had lost touch with years ago. As a military brat who grew up moving almost yearly and often wondered what had become of the many friends I had made along the way, finding and reconnecting with them was a powerful experience. But yet it wasn’t enough to sell me on technology.
I am the girl who spends more time with our IT guy than his partner likely does [Hi Joey, my computer isn’t working again (smile sweetly)]. I have never been accused of being an early adopter (and only became familiar with the term after reading Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why, which I loved). So there was a great irony to my being asked by the Vice Provost for Learning Innovation Gardner Campbell (one of the facilitators on this course) to co-direct the revamping of our university’s core curriculum with a focus on re-imagining the role of higher education in the new era of digital technology. When he asked, I did feel the need to mention my lack of digital savvy, but he assured me that I was not expected to come with an existing knowledge base; rather, I needed to have enthusiasm and passion, such that I might serve as an ambassador for our efforts to facilitate university engagement around the new educational quality enhancement plan. THAT I could do! Having laid the foundation for a university-wide research project for all incoming freshman at our large urban university, which involved working with senior leadership to bring together the many constituencies it took to make that successful, this felt more manageable. Passion for higher education? Check! Thinking outside the box to accomplish exciting new objectives? Check. Getting to meet and talk to lots of people and get their input on new initiatives? Check. So it came with a little side of technology; I could handle that. Next thing I know I’m setting up a blog, tweeting, and taking a course on digital story-telling, AND (in the latest ironic twist) talking to everyone I know about how exciting it is! What has the world come to?
I realize now that I bring a unique contribution to our team, as I am exactly the faculty member that the connected community is trying to reach. Someone who is passionate about their area and wants to reach students, but who would be reticent to integrate innovative technology platforms in the classroom (blogging, what is blogging, and why would anyone ever do it, much less in a class?). But Gardner’s passion for this area (along with my more experienced co-director Jeff South), got me excited about the possibilities. I began to see how on-line learning communities could be used not just to replicate what we do in the lecture hall and make it more widely accessible, but to go beyond – to create learning opportunities and draw connections that wouldn’t be made as easily in a traditional classroom setting. It actually seemed pretty cool!
But as we all know, reading about something is one thing, experiencing it is quite another. Now, enrolled in my very first on-line connected community, I experienced my very own “Aha!” moment. I was struck by the theme that was repeated multiple times throughout the week 1 events, in which there was an emphasis on reframing education to reward contributions rather than to punish failure. I loved the karate example — the idea that you don’t fail karate, you just work toward earning a black belt, and ultimately how much you achieve is based on how much you put into it. My Ph.D. is in clinical psychology, and I was struck by the parallel to what we know about parenting and shaping children’s behavior. We now know that punishment is not a good way to shape behavior in the long-term. Instead, effectively teaching children involves rewarding them for displaying the behavior you want to see (I highly recommend The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child; the title is misleading – it’s about good parenting in general. I suppose parents with defiant children are just the ones most likely to be buying parenting books). As someone whose training is inherently interdisciplinary, and who has built a research program, undergraduate course, and graduate training programs around interdisciplinary studies, it was exciting for me to see a new and direct connection between two different research fields (how to get undergraduates to learn and how to get kids to behave) that clearly have converged on similar findings about human behavior and have implications for one another. Aha! Score 1 for digital connectivity!
And so this officially constitutes my very first blog post. As a recovering perfectionist, the idea of publishing ideas that aren’t fully developed or polished is scary for me. But I am attempting to adopt the motto “Done is better than perfect” as I launch into this brave new (to me) world of blogging. In full disclosure, it took me several days to write this post and actually hit the publish button. I still have yet to tweet, but at least I’ve got a twitter account now. I hear that’s the first step.