Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What is in a name?

Hi all--

I am still worrying the ongoing discussions about what constitutes a "class" and what is considered "in class" or "part of class" and what is something totally different.  The term "class" means essentially two things in this context: the students' rank in the educational hierarchy and the scheduled meeting of the teacher with the instructor of a course. The physical space is then called "the classroom" as it is the place used for the scheduled meeting and is usually set-up to accommodate the meeting (with chairs and what not).

My course is primarily composed of online work. My students do meet in a computer lab for 4 hours a week, but virtually nothing in my course design requires the students to be in the same physical space. So what does happen in the classroom that could not be done from home? There is a certain amount of bonding and course and group identity through physical immediacy. I engage in a lot of hands-on troubleshooting. The boundaries of the room define a clear "workspace". Meeting at the same times established a "time for work".

In my role as cheerleader, I spend a lot of time reassuring people that "they can do it" (it is easier to smile in person than online). I think all of these elements are important, but certainly I am not doing "in the classroom" what has been traditionally thought of as "teaching" and most of my "class"--the actual course design and work--is on the internet in a variety of linked virtual spaces (though "space" is another problematic word that I will not get into here). Maybe the problem is that the words themselves are outmoded or becoming so. Would it help us conceptualize new ways of learning if we changed the words?
  • From "classroom" to "collective workspace"
  • From "course" (of study) to "learning program"
  • From "textbook" to "media engagements"
  • From "teacher" to "concept designer"
  • From "instructor" to "facilitator" 
  • From "schedule" to "course plan"
  • From "syllabus" to . . . . nah, "syllabus" is good. I like "syllabus".
In any case, these may seem silly, but I am still thinking about it.

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