The Open Book

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These issues I’ve been discussing regarding AltLab/OLE infatuation with Twitter have made me think about my students.

They like closed systems. If I had them write a post or pass along an article or share a picture — and it went out to everyone they knew — many of them would be mortified. It would have a chilling effect on their free and honest expression.

That’s what a university classroom provides. Or that’s what it should provide. Security and support. The freedom to be a fool, to make mistakes, to learn and consider and discuss, without the burden of having each moment itemized and judged by outsiders.

I think a good online course should strive to retain this unique, and deeply valuable, quality of a creative classroom.

Of course, I might be wrong here. There might be holes in my argument. But that itself is an issue which online communication makes difficult. If we were all in a big room, I could state my questions or criticisms, some knowledgable staffer could respond, other folks could add their two cents. After awhile, we would all get a much better sense of how we feel and where we stand.

But here? Perhaps a few people will read this. I’ve got no idea. But for those who do, there’s no efficient way to discuss the matter, as responses will come in intermittently, if they come in at all. That’s no great tragedy, but it does remind me of the advantage of being in the same space together — not a virtual space— and how our online courses might try to compensate for such deficiencies.

9 thoughts on “The Open Book

  1. You’re right, of course, online exchanges are different. There’s no use pretending they’re not. If that precise sort of interaction is what you’re looking for, you won’t find it on Twitter or blog comments. It’s different. That’s the other reason why courses need to be transformed when they move online, not just transferred. Take advantage of the things you can do online; let go of the things you can’t.

    And it doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. Some work can be done in the open and other can be that “safe space” behind closed walls. Most folks are aware of the closed options so there’s little point in focusing on that. We’re exploring some of the other possibilities that tend to be lesser-known, some of which may be relevant for you, some of which won’t be.

    • Hi David. Yeah, I’ve got no argument with your message here. I think I’m just relating my personal hesitation with the process here — we are told at the beginning that this kind of feedback is useful — as well as the difficulties in expressing or discussing such issues in an online and intermittent fashion.

  2. “They like closed systems. If I had them write a post or pass along an article or share a picture — and it went out to everyone they knew — many of them would be mortified. It would have a chilling effect on their free and honest expression.”
    What’s your warrant for this knowledge claim? There’s an entire world of educators having students do authentic work for real, authentic audiences to great effect.

    I wonder if you’ve read anything about Connected Learning, the paradigm/orientation we advocate for and are modeling.

    “Connected learning is realized when the learner is able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends, caring adults, and/or expert communities and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career success, or civic engagement. Here, knowledge and knowing are associated not only with the teacher, the curriculum, or outside experts but with everyone participating. That is, learners are seen by themselves and by others as knowledgeable, committed, and accountable participants whose identities are variable, multivocal, and interactive (Holland et al. 1998; Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder 2002). Learners are held accountable for contributing to authentic problem solving, knowledge co-creation, and learning. In connected learning, learners are provided with opportunities to develop interpersonal relationships and to learn with and from others. These learning environments broaden traditional
    forms of learner agency and accountability by expanding possibilities for engagement and bringing
    in new audiences with whom students collaborate and create new knowledge and understanding.”

    That’s from here: http://www.researchgate.net/profile/K_Kumpulainen/publication/262486653_What_is_connected_learning_and_how_to_research_it/links/0046353929944a6bef000000.pdf

    There’s no “obsession” with Twitter or blogs or any tool, for that matter. Our obsession is with learning that takes full advantage of the affordances of the networked world that we live in.

    • What’s my warrant? Not sure I have one of those. But I do have an opinion, and it’s based on my empirical observations of students in my own courses. I’ve used hybrid online approaches in several different courses. In one class that involves a series of written essays, some assignments are published online and/or freely distributed within the class, while others are private, because their honest and highly personal nature requires the promise of privacy to even be expressed. In a video art class, we’ve had assignments that are publicly shared online on Vimeo and YouTube, while others times, for various reasons, videos are best limited to just class access. Finally I teach a socially engaged media course which includes the use of social media to pass on and comment upon interesting articles, images, and news stories. For many, this kind of consciousness building is a new thing. I’ve found that when I close the group — where their communications are only seen by the rest of the class, and not their family or friends — they’re far more comfortable and productive. For some of them, of course, they don’t need such boundaries. But others do.

  3. Hi, I’m an ALT Labber who is currently teaching an online course (I do not use the term online class as I see an association of a “class” with a physical space). I use Twitter judiciously, as part of my online teaching kit. I sort of feel that gives me some credibility to jump into this conversation with all of you.

    I’m a passionate advocate of inclusive teaching, which means creating safe spaces for my students is a priority for me. I encourage my students to use Twitter for immediate direct communication with me. In this way, I know they are present just as they know I’m present — creating online teaching and social presence is an online teacher’s attempt to humanize online learning. With the asynchronous nature of most online teaching, I appreciate Twitter technology and the immediacy it provides in letting me know I can indicate my presence and availability to my students.

    That being said, I try to balance both — supporting inclusive safe spaces with open pedagogy. I don’t tweet everything nor expect my students to blabber without discernment. They know that there are some things they could Direct Message (DM) me about. If I know an issue would embarrass them, I DM them. Of course, there is that whole “dignity of risk” argument too. I quote this from my blog post:

    “Supposedly, this phrase was coined in the 1970s regarding the subject of care for people with disabilities. I could see this applied in educational contexts. Allow students the liberty to try things for themselves, first. Don’t try to coddle them. Of course, we don’t like to see them get hurt and that’s where the discernment of the teacher is welcomed. I see this as an area of struggle for teachers as we move towards open pedagogy. We are fearful. We are anxious. We worry that they might get bullied, hurt, write or say the wrong things that backfire and brand them for life; leaving digital footsteps that ruin their future prospects. Remember, we are the guide on the side, and we are there for them, consistently.” (http://justywk.blogspot.com/2015/05/quick-notes-vcuiit15.html)

    I offer my students the opportunity to try something new because it’s a thinking disposition that supports productive thinking. Exploring the web with Twitter and blogs is quite an imperative I’d say in nurturing digital literacy. Helping students find their online voice is just as important as giving them the opportunity to have an audible voice in the classroom. Vicki Davis, an educator from whom I’ve learned much via Twitter, taught me that “a student without a blog is a student without a voice.” Here’s a funny but true meme: https://twitter.com/MitchChampagne/status/557555426321907716/photo/1

    I want my students to find their voice, using the best available technology out there. Having an online voice is not something teachers can ignore in the 21st C and letting them write for the world in 140 characters is one way to help them. Not the only way, of course.

    I understand your hesitancy because using Twitter or a private web video chat session is a decision I sometimes struggle to make, regularly, as long as my course is on. Safe space, open space, both, or more? There is not a perfect ANSWER. There are questions I try to deal with a case at a time, a day at a time. My course is located at http://rampages.us/clearthinking/ if you would like to check it out.

    Welcome to online teaching! Thanks for the space to articulate some of my thoughts.

  4. I agree that keeping some stuff restricted to the class (or other space) is essential, depending in part on what class you’re teaching. If students are thinking too hard about who might see it, that will be very restricting–and if they don’t think hard enough about who might see it, the results could be quite damaging. There is a ton of information about how many recruiters use internet and social media searches to evaluate potential candidates. Graduate programs do it, too. And some material shouldn’t be shared with anyone. (In my program, when students kept journals, they were told they could staple together pages if there was anything they didn’t want us to read, and they often did so.) A hybrid approach to making work and expression public is clearly–to me–the right approach.

    Also, in response to Yin’s comment WRT class vs. course, I found when searching Twitter that corporations, schools, scholars, and professors typically used “online course,” and students almost always used “online class.” I don’t think students think of course/class as differentiating based on location; the word “online” does that quite effectively, of course.

  5. Pingback: Twitter, Online Voice and Safe Learning Spaces | Yin Wah Kreher

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