By the Light of My Laptop Screen
#Etmooc (Education Technology and Media MOOC) is winding down as the spring dewdrops and daffodils raise their cheers to the return of the sun in Vancouver, BC. It’s been a January and February of steady rain, brooding skies and the artificial light of my laptop screen. Hunched in my armchair and warm in my home, I have learned to connect- virtually, that is. I’ve had the time to spare during a non- teaching semester especially as I opted not to fly south with the other Canadian Snowbirds this year. Instead, I Tweeted, Googled and Mooced. Let me tell you what I have learned in my living room.
There is a worldwide community devoted to pushing the boundaries of education. I believe the thrust of those I have met in #etmooc is that of democratizing knowledge- opening the classroom doors to wider audiences and allowing for a free exchange of ideas beyond institutional firewalls. Some in #etmooc have been more open in their presentation of ‘Self’ and others (like me) more reserved. The manner in which #etmoocers chose to communicate revealed degrees of openness in an expanding and networked cyberspace. Many debated the potential pitfalls / dangers or benefits of the open Self. I found a middle ground for myself- more open than before but still guarded about full exposure. The idea of the internet’s potential for ‘ubiquitous surveillance’ is unsettling to me, but the benefits of openly blogging and fireside chatting in Google+ circles have invited me in. By opening up to the World Wide Web, I have advanced my understanding of how much there is to know about it and unless one begins engaging, the virtual world remains mysterious, misrepresented and misunderstood.
There is a language associated with this online and connected world- like Runes on a Norse stone- one has to learn to decode before one can speak. Do you know how often I Googled words that came up in Twitter chats? Blackboard chats had me puzzling over clipped language- more like symbols than words! And netiquettes I had to learn while chatting / tweeting / commenting- my eyes decoding, brain processing, fingers typing, hands scrambling to correct keyed errors – all while listening to engaging presenters and I, desperately wanting to add something of value to a ‘live’ session. I never did take the mic during a Blackboard session- strange for me as I speak for a living as an educator but intimidated by the medium, I guess ,and the topics new to me, I have needed time to reflect and carve out a comfortable space for myself in this brave new world of edtech speak. Do I call professionals “peeps”? Do I pretend to understand what a ‘.gif’ is before I have tried the technology for myself? And really, does anyone out there care what I think or know? I am long past my jitters over public speaking in a classroom and now, a new bravado with accompanying jargon is called for.
The tools. Animoto introduced me; my one Gif attempt was seizure –inducing (like a strobe light), my blogs somewhat successful as resources and testimonials of #etmooc experiences for my university colleagues. However, I enjoyed writing my blogs and will continue this open writing. I was discovered through my open writing by two #etmooc ‘lurkers’ who contacted me at my work email address wondering whether I would present at a Simon Fraser University event in June. I still don’t feel confident about my knowledge base in edtech integration to present at a conference, but my appetite for learning about the open source movement has been whetted in #etmooc, and I know that my curiosity and industry will lead me to pathways I could not have imagined. I am looking to incorporate some of my #etmooc learning in my summer courses- my students are in for some experimentation which really keeps me creative as an educator. And that’s the biggest thing for me in #etmooc- I have learned from the experimentation and creativity of others and by others’ efforts- I have taken more risks-openly. Most of my learning has really been in the range of intangibles and that seems fitting for a connectivist Mooc (small letters or capitals?) never sure!
At the end of April, I’m going back to Italy- to Florence this time for two weeks. Four days at the Journal of Arts and Sciences Conference with side trips to Sienna, San Gimignano, Pisa and Lucca, and the remainder exploring Renaissance art. I will leave the virtual world for La Dolce Vita as spring blossoms into summer. I am looking to make connections between my online experiences this winter and the IJAS study abroad programs. Thank you to all #etmooc participants and conspirators for keeping me company this winter; I plan to stay connected.