Thanks and congratulations

This first week of school has been a challenge! If not to you, then certainly for me. My goal for this class this week was mostly orientation to the online platforms we will be using this semester and to some of the principles of online education. I also wanted to begin the process of building a community of inquiry, through social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. Most of the way through the first unit now, and I think we are going in the right direction. Some glitches, some frustrations, some miscommunications, but that’s what beginning is supposed to be like. Thanks!

I’m sure your goals and challenges are different than mine, even in this course! I hope you have managed to move through … Congratulations on what you’ve accomplished and for still being out on the trail.

Workload


The online educational environment, combined with the compressed module schedule changes the way our work is structured, and way it is distributed in time. Another example of educational technology! It’s going to take some time to adapt and create workable routines and expectations.

The blended environment

Typically, ‘blended learning’ is thought of as a mix of online and in-person education, but I think it’s more useful to think of it as a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning/teaching. The basic framework of this class might not change radically if we moved the synchronous parts into a physical classroom, and away from Zoom. I would be happier, and feel more connected, and probably you would too, but that would not necessarily change the work we would do synchronously. This class has seven synchronous hours scheduled, but we will not ever meet more than three or four of those hours. It’s my expectation though that these others hours are not thereby erased, but that they move to the asynchronous side.

Class-time v. homework

In this situation, the normal distinction that HS students draw between what they do in class and what they do outside of class is not very useful. To my mind, the perpetuation of the homework idea into college is itself diminishes what you’re doing, and diminishes you. It puts us back in contractual, piece-work mindset where I give you a job and you do it, and then you get paid for it. This mindset is at odds with the possibility of a community of inquiry where the members are in it together to raise themselves up, not there to get the what they can, individually. We have work to do together, and a certain amount of time allotted to do that work: eight days for each unit. Timeliness matters most when what you what you do affects what others are able to do. Sometimes it matters less when you finish a piece of work, some times it matters more, based on the place of that work in the whole process. I can and will provide some external parameters for timing, but I would like you to accept the responsibility for understanding what we’re doing and when being ‘on time’ — like when a group is meeting to work on a collective project — is most important. We all have our own time pressures and there is much flexibility in the asynchronous structure we’re using in this class — Discourse discussions are always there, 24/7, whenever you show up.

One thing I will insist on, with respect to time, is that once we move on from one unit to another, there’s no backtracking. Everything for each unit is due before the next one begins!

Compression

For me and for those of you who are continuing students, it may be hard to remember that these are one unit classes happening in seven weeks, rather than fourteen weeks. You’re only supposed to have two of them. What that means is that the normal amount of work you have learned to expect in a course, on a daily and weekly basis, is now doubled. Or certainly much increased. To quantify: if the expectation of a ‘regular’ one-unit course is approx. 4 hours in class, and 8 hours out of class, per week, then the expectations for this class are for 7 hours synchronous, and 14 hours asynchronous. Because we will not meet for 7 hours, you can think of 4 hours synchronous per week, and 16 hour asynchronous, around 20 hours per week. It would be useful to you, I believe, to try to schedule all this time, rather than just the synchronous, when you have to be ‘somewhere.’ Because there is not so much synchronous time, that gives you a lot of flexibility in structuring your life. But you will not do well in this class, and it will be stressful, if you expect to spend fewer hours working in this class.

Looking forward

Please check the Events Calendar, and previous blog posts, for detailed information about finishing up the group part of the Question concerning technology projects. Everything must be signed, sealed, and delivered before we officially start the Plague loop on our expedition: 10:15 Wednesday morning!

I am working on some adjustments to our plan for the upcoming unit, based on what I learned this first week. It may seem counterintuitive in an online class, but one thing I’d like to consider is how to reduce screen time. A couple of suggestions.

  • Print out the entire Beautiful risk of education book by Gert Biestra: I didn’t ask you to buy this book because it’s ridiculously expensive. It’s pretty dense, and having it in your hands, ten pages at a time, will give you some time away from the screen.
  • Talk instead of text: the Discord video doesn’t work very well, but the audio does. You can easily call folks on Discord, individuals or groups. Back to the voice.
  • Print the writing prompts from Discourse and take some time to think about what they say, and what you want to say, without that screen looking back at you.
  • Print this.

I will hopefully have the entire unit mapped out in the Calendar today. Download these events onto your calendar, so you can keep better track of what’s going on. In the coming week, you will be expected to read all of ALL FALL DOWN, and two chapters of BEAUTIFUL RISK OF EDUCATION. There will be 4 Discourse topics devoted to BEAUTIFUL RISK OF EDUCATION. There will be a definite order to the events on Discourse, and the conversation will be richer if most of you are in step with each other, but there are not hard and fast deadlines. There will be a creative project related to ALL FALL DOWN. I will want to manage the preparatory process of this project carefully, so that every group has sufficient time to actually work on the project. The final projects are due next Wednesday, September 19.