Looking Back, Edging Forward

We are only one week through our summer course and already many students are demonstrating their dedication to learning through poignant posts, engaged conversations, and thoughtful self-reflections (there are many examples).   I agree with Gardner when he wrote earlier today:

I’ve seen some extraordinary work, much of it splendidly blurring the line between creativity and analysis in ways that should remind us that any such lines are provisional at best and damaging at worst. The work these students have contributed fascinates me and encourages me. I am grateful.

As am I.  By now it is no secret, both in theory and praxis, that the course requires a high level of engagement and willingness to reflect both on one’s own thought processes and creations while negotiating the thoughts, creations, and reflections of others.  It’s been invigorating to see many students embrace this commitment and explore the vast learning environment the course promotes, and I am very excited to see where the momentum takes us in the next seven weeks.

Though, exploring this vast learning environment comes with difficulties.  I don’t mean just difficulties with how to use various online tools.  It is true that it’s very frustrating when technology doesn’t seem like your friend, but it usually works out in the end.  **And if there are ever problems or questions with anything, please let them be known and we can figure them out together**  The idea here isn’t to get bogged down with mastering new technologies, but to understand how the tools function to utilize them in various interesting and helpful ways.

The more worrisome difficulties seem to come from the wide parameters of the course, and how these parameters are unlike traditional classes.  In many instances, it’s fairly easy for students to continue in a class, get the grade, and get out.  As I have mentioned before, a large part of this course is meant to privilege the process of research and writing: one that exists in connection with thinkers and can exist beyond turning in assignments, receiving grades, and moving on.  The shared activities and open nature of the course allows for us to easily and organically form clusters of information we can share and make portable: looking at how others understand content–our shared course readings as well as outside sources they reference–and applying these analyses to our own areas of inquiry.

Moreover, they allow for this without any necessary end date.  Of course, the last day of class is July 31st and the inquiry project will be due and class will end.  Though, this does not mean that the work on the project has to end–there is no end date for the digital presence students create and the connections students make.  Donald Murray always stressed the value of rewriting and rethinking, and believed that all writing is experimental.  This summer affords the opportunity for these ideas to manifest and meaningful work to persist beyond  the final day of class.

As a teacher, I worry about students worrying.  This is perhaps heightened in our attempts to further destabilize the role and authority of “instructor” to continue to build new learner-centered experiences for our students.   What is important is that everyone is on the same page as best as possible (a feat difficult to achieve sometimes in any class) and we are all working openly and together to move forward.

 

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