Final Reflection and Exhale… #relief

As part of my coursework in Professor Remi Holden’s INTE 5340 Learning with Digital Stories Summer 2015 course at the University of Colorado Denver, I have looked on my experience as a learner with (digital) storytelling given my participation throughout the semester.

This reflection is complementary of my final portfolio and builds on my seven prior weekly summary reflections addressing the following:

  • My co-design in this course: How this class was different than previous courses I have taken
  • How I learned in this course
  • My understanding of the pedagogy: Understanding Remi’s course design

My co-design in this course: How this class was different than previous courses I have taken

Upon starting this class, I did have a large amount of previous expectations. I think it important to mention my education background as it has shaped my perceptions and expectations.

This is the fourth college I have attended. I have a standard four year degree from Kent State and I attended Cleveland State as a post bachelorette school for a year and a half. Also, I went to the University of Phoenix for my Masters in Education (did not finish). I am very familiar with writing long papers and following a strict syllabus with tight deadlines. Going to so many colleges was never in my long term plan but I don’t think a person can have too much education (says the person swimming in student loan debt). Being a student sometimes feels like the only thing I know how to do. I love learning and elevating myself to want better.debt

When I was signing up for this class, I initially contacted spoke with the guidance counselor the Education office. I was advised to start taking this class (INTE 5340) that had a young, modern teacher. I am used to taking classes and regurgitating facts in very lengthy papers. I could not have predicted how intense this class would be for me. This class is significantly different than any another Master’s (and Bachelor’s) class that I have ever taken. The open ended malleable nature of the assignments provided me a venue to choose activities that appealing to me (and my focal theme).

In general I felt that I learned more from the online community (more than I could contribute). I didn’t feel as if I could help anyone initially because I was brand new to so many different things. For the first two weeks I remember writing down hashtags on a post it note just so I would remember them when posting my assignments. I didn’t want to submit something incorrectly. I now feel more like a connected learner. I finally reached that point where I feel comfortable using twitter or a blog to ask questions. I have continually posted comments on people’s blogs but they were not usually with advice. I enjoyed reading the advice others gave me. Two people in particular were responsible for inspiring a critique and a web assignment for me. (Emily May and La Dawna).

I am not sure how I will feel about taking traditional classes after taking this course. I have yet to apply to this Master’s program but I know that is something I am looking into. I plan on applying next semester.  Finishing this course, I finally feel I have gained the confidence with the applications and websites I used to actually be able to help someone else. It’s interesting how much can be learned through observation then trial and error.

How I learned in this course

nerdWhen signing up for this class (on the first day class began), I couldn’t believe how far behind I was. I barely use Facebook let alone all of the websites I was supposed to access. I literally spent the first few days barely completing assignments. I was TRYING to understand Twitter and how to “tweet” I admit googling what a hashtag meant. Please believe me when I tell you I’m a pretty “normal” person. I just really don’t use social media. I am not sure if it is due to fear, privacy, boredom, or maybe just I can’t understand the why’s behind it all. I never understood the selfie mentality or why people thought their lives were so important the world must know about them.

As I mentioned in my reflection last week, I don’t think there was anyone or anything that could have prepared me for this class. I was pushed to what really felt like was my breaking point. I contemplated dropping this course in the first week (and several times after that). At one point I was trying to explain this class to my manager. She of all people was very helpful with reassuring me I should stick with. After all I have never started a class and not completed it. This class in retrospect was probably exactly what I needed: a kick in the pants to push myself.

I don’t think I could even list the number of applications I learned how to use in this class.  I failed at using new websites sometimes and I succeeded at mastering a few. There is an indescribable about of satisfaction that I feel gaining knowledge. The relevance of learning how to use so many different applications carries over into my career. I know I would have never used even half of the websites I did, if I had not taken this course.  I can practically apply a few of the tricks I learned, to the documentation I compile at work.  I could not say that about classes I have taken previous to this one.

My understanding of the pedagogy: Understanding Remi’s course design

My idea of pedagogy is that it is an instructional method where a teacher holds the students accountable for their own learning path/process. An instructor provides a skeletal frame work comprised of a flexible structure that is meant to be filled with self-guided experimentation on the student’s part.  This model is radically different (to me) from the standardized “teaching” methods of the traditional classroom. Instead of facts and regurgitation of information, students are on a custom-made tour. Instead of reassurance and formal critiques, pedagogy forces a person to try, fail, try again and maybe succeed.drowning

The traditional classroom setting takes most of the pass/fail immediate gratification and other human emotions out and replacing them frustration, confusion and enthusiasm. This is not meant to be condescending or isolating, quite the contrary. The students are learning in groups so they can feed off of each other’s failures and successes. The teacher is more of an invisible guide on the tour giving occasional digital hi-fives and feedback. This forces the student to almost build their own sense of intrinsic motivation and happiness. This is the most progress form of education I have ever learned about or experienced. My mind sort of melts even thinking about the possibilities of structuring classes in this fashion. Is it possible to create a whole degree out of this? Wow. If you position this class correctly this could almost shape what you want your degree to be in. This is close to being a digital guidance counsler in some regards.

The thing I struggled with most was opening up to people I did not know. Going forward I now recognize that this is an area I need to improve. I have had a difficult time learning how to communicate with strangers online. I read everyone else posts and I didn’t understand how to jump in or fit in conversations sometimes.  Maybe if people had basic bio’s so I could gain a bit of knowledge at the very beginning of this class I would have felt I could approach them easier.  I am typically a very outgoing individual in real life, so why this class was such a challenge baffles me. Understanding the hashtags is something I still think is bizarre and difficult to define. I talked a lot to my little brother about this class this past weekend. He mostly laughed at me and my lack of knowledge. He is only 4 years younger than me but definitely could relate. Sometimes it feels good knowing you are not the only person who might not have a clue.

Future Thoughts:

If I had to make any recommendation for future classes it might be for more information on what the final portfolio should look like. I might just be saying this because I was a bit panicky about finishing such a large assignment in a timely fashion. It is difficult to reflect on a class that breezed by. I think I would just create little notes for each week about how I felt if I had known what my final portfolio was going to look like. Then again I guess I was able to pull most of my emotions from my past reflections (and boy was I a paniced mess!)

L&K provided in my opinion, a phenomenal look at social media at its finest. I wish I was able to read this book before I started this class. It did a great job of explaining all the how’s and why’s that I always wonder. When I finally got my book in the mail I had to speed read to catch up. I found the book to be a helpful guide at understanding this class. I can see this book being used in a variety of ways.

DS106 is has amazing potential. I wish there was more assignments. Looking back I think it would have been fun to create a few. Maybe that should be on the syllabus for next semester! With the emergence of new applications and websites that website will only get more robust as more classes engage using it.

In Conclusion:

I could not have more positive things to say about how this class turned out for me. I am also glad to see there is a survey so I am able to provide feedback. This model of teaching should be considered for other classes in this department. “Learning by failing” might be the theme but the struggle was worth it at the end. It is difficult to say if I will continue using every website/application I used, but I know I have gained a solid base that is only going to help me with future projects.

Relief is a wonderful emotion, highly underrated. In fact, I prefer it to elation or joy. Relief lets the air out of the Tire of Pain. – Adriana Trigiani

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