“People who take huge risks aren’t afraid to fail. In fact, they love to fail. It’s because failing means they found the edge. Courage doesn’t mean we’re not afraid anymore, it just means our actions aren’t controlled by our doubts (Goff, 2012).
It is week three of my current course Instructional Design in Online Learning. This week is dedicated to entering at least 50% of our course on the Schoology website and reflecting on this process via our ePortfolio. I have already entered the entire course except for a list of references, so I am confident that the process is going well. Last week I posted my overview including the introduction, learning goals, desired results and the outline on my social media platform to gain feedback from friends and family who have been following my journey through this program. I believe feedback and the ability to reflect on criticism is necessary for growth, therefore I felt it was important to include them alongside my Digital Learning and Leading cohort. It was motivating to know that my message and goals I intend for my elementary students translated to others beyond this DLL program. I believe it is vital to be able to connect to the hearts of your audience, but when you’re able to connect and expand beyond your intended audience, it validates that your hard work matters and it is attracting others to your cause. Below is a reflection based upon an article I read this week during this instructional design process to help focus my thinking.
Debbie Morrison’s (2015) How to Make an Online Courses a ‘Place’ for Learning really struck a chord with me because I am a huge believer in the impact the physical environment of the classroom itself has on the moods of my children. I’ve spent countless hours considering how to transform, calm, and make the best of the space that was provided so that no matter what kind of environment my students left, they felt safe and perhaps some sense of stability the moment they walk in the room. I am able to imagine this type of environment better as a physical space than an online space. The online space would need to take an innovative approach in which the students who logged on would be logging in not only to learn, but to feel a sense of community and connection. This all goes back to technology not being the focus, but the tool that helps elevate the learning experience. My course Developing a Growth Mindset Through Literacy was created with my current 3rd graders in mind since I will have them again next year for their 4th grade year. I have considered what they already know and what they are capable of achieving at this point in time. We have heavily discussed the importance of growth mindset, grit, and the fact that their own self belief in their own abilities will make or break what they’re hoping to accomplish. It still absolutely blows my mind that many of my elementary students are so terrified to fail. I fortunately don’t remember feeling that terrified to make a mistake to the point that I wouldn’t even try at all when I was eight years old. It reflects the pressures society places on parents/guardians these days which directly effects these same pressures being handed down to their children. It somehow validates that they are the “perfect parent” if their child is shielded from struggle. These pressures to be the perfect (fill in the blank) parent, spouse, co-worker, sister, brother, daughter, son, friend, Instagram presence, counselor, etc” model for our children that perfection is what is enough, nothing less. With this in mind, this ideal of perfection shapes our thoughts therefore it shapes our actions. Check in often and consider, ‘what is my intention, here? What exactly am I trying to prove, and to whom? Why? Perhaps it has just been a difficult week, but in my reflection of my last seven years of teaching, I have noticed an increase of petrified behavior (and in some cases, trauma) beginning earlier and earlier in students due to pressures of society they don’t even have the capacity to understand yet. It is filtering into their homes and now at school.
How do I plan to make my online course a place for learning? I’ve considered just what students are seeking regardless of what they are saying. What is their behavior saying (or not saying) when it comes to their needs? Many claim their favorite place to be is behind a screen playing video games or watching/creating YouTube videos. Where there is nothing wrong with either of these activities, there is an issue when it has halted their desire to connect to their imagination’s concept of reality rather than what the internet formulates for them. We have to teach our students that technology is a tool to enhance their imagination, not limit it. When their online presence is their only sense of belonging, the real world becomes more of a figment of their imagination making it more and more difficult to create solid, meaningful relationships in real life. The online course I have created is centered around developing social-emotional skills and a growth mindset through literacy. I know many of my students want to love learning, some of them just don’t know how or may feel like “imposters” due to learning disabilities or other difficulties beyond their control. They want to feel heard, loved without an agenda, and safe to make mistakes. They want to belong, yet they watch their parents belong by logging into their phone every night. Overall, I do believe we are all doing the best we can with what we have or what we know. It can be difficult to cultivate the energy that is needed to connect sometimes due to the demands of our every day jobs, but when we become conscious of what is draining our energy, perhaps we will find better strategies for self-care so we can invest in those we love the most. In the words of Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect (2016),
“It’s easy to be liked by strangers. It’s very hard to be loved and connected to the people in your home when you’re always bringing them your most exhausted self and resenting the fact that the scraps you’re giving them aren’t cutting it.”
So my goal is that this online course would not only be a place that my students feel they belong, but it would ignite their curiosity to explore, connect meaningfully, and feel confident as a life-long learner. Perhaps it would provide a new perspective of what being behind a screen could mean for their future.
Goff, B. (2012). Love does. Discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world. Thomas Nelson.
Morrison, D. (2015, October 16). How to make online courses a “place” for learning. Online learning insights. https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/how-to-make-online-courses-a-place-for-learning/
Niequist, S. (2016). Present over perfect: Leaving behind frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living. Zondervan.