This egg signifies the semester, and the footprints are a look ahead at the end of it, when I will hatch from it, having completed my final semester of coursework in the Ph.D. program, which has included my final course in the graduate certificate in digital literacy program. What a happy chicken I will feel like then! I don’t want to count any chickens before they’re hatched though, so I now turn to the task at hand…
From March 3rd (when the first reflective essay was due) to now, what have I learned and how have I learned it? Well, the speedy answers would be: A lot, and in multiple ways. But let me expand, because that doesn’t quite add up to 750-1500 words, now does it?
In my first reflective essay, I focused on empowerment, copyright and privacy. For this go-around, I am thinking about what and how I have learned about identity, collaboration, and improvisation.
In the past ten years, I have considered my job as a teacher to be many things: Some days, I was a mother, some days a drill sergeant, some days a nurse, some days a coach, some days a friend, and some days all these things and more, at different times with different students. But one thing I always considered to be a big part of my job in working with high school students every day was to help them figure out who they wanted to be, why, and how. Identity is important. I didn’t want my students to feel lost and confused, like Jennifer Lawrence in this gif…
I wanted them to feel confident and proud, like Ben Stiller in this one…
Digital authorship provides different opportunities for students to find out who they want to be, and why, and how. This concept, for me, is tied to audience, another big idea we read about and discussed in this class. In order to build units and lessons that leave room for my students to share what they’ve learned and express themselves as individuals, I tried to be mindful of audience, because as totally hip as I am (read: students may not feel this way), writing a boring paper for just me is not the best way to forge an identity. BUT creating a video to share with the class, either in place of or in addition to a boring old paper, adds an element of audience that makes identity forging a more authentic pursuit. I’ve definitely had students who have produced videos we might call “unwatchable” because the production quality was not that great, but those students were still crazy proud of their work, and their self reflection and peer feedback will help their next production to be more watchable.
As I mentioned in my last post, I worked with Mark Davis to create our LEAP 4 video, and that experience was laden with lessons about collaboration. Mark and I have both said that we learn through social interaction and meaning making with peers, and it’s a good think that’s a learning strength for us, because it made for a good partnership! To the surprise of no one, Mark had more digital know-how than I did. But collaborating together, and tossing ideas back and forth, made the learning and the making more fun and more dynamic, I think, than it would have been if either one of us had tackled the project alone.
Improvisation has been a major theme for me this month! First, I kicked April off with a panel presentation called How Many Discourses Does It Take to Screw in a Humor Symposium?: Theorizing the Pedagogical Possibilities of Humorous Media, which I presented at the 2015 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference with Renee Hobbs, Mike RobbGrieco, and Will Luera. If you want to see the PowerPoint presentation we used, I’m including that below, although I will warn you that the format didn’t transfer too perfectly, so there are some parts that don’t look right. It was like a late April Fool’s Day joke.
Then we watched that great TED Talk called “The Way of Improvisation,” by David Morris.
And THEN another professor of mine mentioned this piece she heard on NPR about the folks from Second City hosting improv classes for business people to teach them how to work and play together. My major takeaway about improv from all three of these experiences is that it is a way to:
- create something out of nothing
- bounce back from failure, and
- work together to listen and build off one another
The second one listed there reminded me of this excellent Sketchnote image I saw on Pinterest once, which makes an important point about the importance of productive failure, something that David Morris talked about in his TED Talk as well. In Improvisation and Strategic Risk-taking in Informal Learning with Digital Media Literacy, Renee Hobbs framed improvisation as a way to take a potentially embarrassing and confusing encounter and turn it into a teachable moment for children. Now that’s powerful. And playful.
Speaking of playful, I just want to return to my egg hatching comparison from the beginning for a moment to clarify that although the counting marks on the inside of the shell imply a certain impatience, I don’t see this semester as a place of captivity that I’m waiting to bust out of; I’m having fun and learning on my way to getting hatched. April showers bring May flowers, after all, and I love jumping in the proverbial puddles!