This was the blog I maintained during my PhD. It has been 6 years since I graduated and the journey have brought me on research adventures to Princeton, MIT, and back to Sweden. Now as a “grown up” researcher I’m still learning, everyday. And one of the joyful challenges of my career is learning how to become a good teacher.
Motivated by the covid-19 pandemic, the working from home situation, and the all-zoom-teaching that we have to endure either as teachers or students, I’ve recently enrolled on a course about open networked learning. It is highly recommended, all materials are online and you can study at your own pace. Or take the course for credits through one of the offering institutions (Stockholm University in my case), which gives you additional access to mentors and a network of students/teachers facing the same challenges as you. I’ll be blogging a bit some reflections triggered by the course.
The first part of the course catered around digital literacy. Technology has changed the way we communicate and connect to each other. Only in the last few decades, there has been an overwhelming boom of different ways to socially engage: e-mail, facebook, twitter, instagram, tik tok; you name it. It is changing the way people relate to each other, how information is consumed and produced, and even influenced political debates, health, and businesses. An excellent documentary about its impact is The Social Dilemma (Netflix).
But it also change the way we do education, the way we teach, learn. The meaning of the word classroom. It presents us with challenges and opportunities, and they are shaped by digital literacy. This is, how a person engage with digital tools, platforms, and how she interacts online. It defines the learning style of students, and challenge the teaching style of physical class room teachers. Learning occurs on the embedded networks of social interactions. In the classroom, it takes place in between conversations between teachers and students, but most importantly: in between students. Such conversations point out different understandings, rise questions, and offer opportunities to get our head around new problems, new concepts or re-evaluate old knowledge.
Online the same magic can happen but the networks of social interactions can take different forms. Working on an shared online document in google could become the place of asynchronic discussions. Questions can rise on twitter, longer discussions on slack, while teaching material can be delivered through different media such as video, or interactive exercises. Are we taking advantage of this new horizon of possibilities? Are we testing what works best or not for teaching? Are we helping students to feel comfortable within their digital literacy? And as teachers, are we using a set of digital tools that facilitates learning and perhaps provides a diversity of tools that satisfy the different learning styles?
The pandemic has force us to move the classrooms online. We all have suffered from zoom fatigue, and I can only wonder how tired students are from a lecture after another a year in a row. Research shows the rate of learning has decreased when learning from home. But it is also an opportunity to experiment, try out things and learn how to be a better teacher; how to help our students to have a joyful learning journey.