Emergent patterns in nature and society

Topic 5: Lessons learnt – future practice

Future practice

On the previous post I’ve already introduced what I am going to do with the lessons learnt on my ONL course. I’ve been charged with the challenge of co-designing an online asynchronous introduction to sustainability science. My goal is to make it as accessible as if my mum would take it, people with full time jobs or young parents. It will be leveraging online tools, but also activities that students can perform in their local realities that can teach us what sustainability means in different cultural contexts.

I initially took the ONL course to sharpen up skills for teaching online given the whole pandemic crises and the need to move all courses online in a very short period of time. My motivation was how to do better next year if courses continue being zoom based, how to improve the experience of my students and mine as teacher. But the lessons were far beyond that initial motivation. I’ve learn about learning networks, democratisation of knowledge, or the different meanings and practices of open learning. I’ve also learnt that online courses are a way to enable long term learning for people that cannot afford going to university, either lack of funding, lack of time, or simply difficult circumstances. Online courses do however nurture curiosity. No-one is too old to learn something, online courses make it possible for many.

I’m myself a decent consumer of online content for the sake of learning new skills and keeping my curiosity alive. From computer languages, coursera refreshments in old methods (statistics) and new ones (QCA), to patching up my incomplete knowledge of linear algebra (Khan Academy, good one!). I appreciate enormously when teachers have their teaching materials freely available online, slides, exercises, even videos. One of my favourites, as you already know, is Steven Strogatz. It’s time now to pay back to the community of teachers and people who have made that experience possible for me. So I’ve started doing the same and now when designing content for my classes, I’ll make sure they are available and under some sharable format e.g. under creative commons.

The last closing remark is that there is plenty of resources and science that it is being done on how to teach better, both online and in the classroom. I’ll keep an eye on the education literature, looking for inspiration and ideas of new things to try. Teaching is part of my job, but when I do read science I typically focus on my research questions but not necessarily on teaching methods, or what practices do work well under which conditions. Keeping myself literate about teaching is catching up with those developments as well.