Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Practice, practice, praxis!

This semester students have responded to using Web 2.0 platforms in a range of ways: Some have taken to the whole blog infrastructure like fish to water. No problemo. Others need extra help setting it up and practicing; they’re getting it. Others get it, yet have not kept up. Students come to class using their iPads, iPhones (and other smartphones), laptops, and—this is a throwback!—notebooks of the paper variety. We have two hours scheduled in a computer lab and one hour scheduled in a smartroom.
Incorporating a mindset of Web 2.0 with college courses seems to be an acquired practice: One person does not have Internet at home, has never complained about the unexpected burden of being required to use it, and even offered that he would need to adjust his schedule to get to a computer lab in time—yet he hasn’t gotten there yet! One person who is absolutely brilliant with the course content has yet to add any posts to her blog, which she finally made three weeks into the course. Yikes. (I don’t think these students would necessarily have pulled it together even if the whole class were pen and paper. But still…)
I don’t think a facility with technology or Web 2.0 is a key determiner to success in this course. (My success and the students' success.) Rather, it has more to do with practice.
Incorporating technology/Web 2.0 as a way to facilitate learning (and not dominate) the course remains a challenge for me as a teacher. As I reflect on this and tweak my expectations and requirements, I find it helps to keep in mind why I am doing this in the first place.
Okay: Why am I doing this in the first place? What kinds of practices do I want in my course? I’ve come up with three:
1. Practice building community: It doesn’t come easy or made to order. It’s contingent on feeling safe with and interested in others.
2. Practice learning how to learn using new or unfamiliar technologies/Web 2.0 platforms; practice demonstrating one’s knowledge using technology and Web 2.0. How might I use hyperlinks, images, videos, audio, etc. to illustrate and support my point? (It shocked me the other day when a student pulled out a handwritten bluebook exam to show me the responses her professor had given her on her exam. It seemed so retro, I had to remind myself that it is still very much part of college culture. I am so used to being able to reflect on, add to, and revise my own comments before sharing with my students. What happens to all this writing in bluebooks? Access to Web 2.0 documents (this semester, I’m using Google Docs) allows me to keep an archive of our class writing and responses. Where do all the comments in these bluebooks go? How do they "add up" for the student? For the teacher?)
3. Practice—as in praxis: How does the experience itself of designing and composing using technology/Web 2.0 shapes us as meaning makers?
These practices are necessarily integrated: knowing and imagining to whom we are communicating, to whom we are demonstrating/sharing our knowledge necessarily shapes what we learn and how we show it. Or not.
But as I have tried to demonstrate (I’m still learning! Still and always practicing myself!) in the visual above, the elements of practice are “in the air” in this course this semester; some students are *happier* about it than others. (Of course there are other elements in the course (e.g., the content!) and other things going on in their lives that impact their experiences.) 
I think with practice, I can get better at creating a facilitating environment for praxis to occur side by side or even as part and parcel of the content itself. 
To be continued... 
P.S. Okay: I composed this on Word, cut/pasted here, lost my format, which I've tried (only half successfully) to recreate. Ugh. I feel my students' pain! 


  1. Very interesting.

    One of the things I like about having *everything* recorded on Google Forms or otherwise is that there is no more mystery as to what happens to the comments--mine or theirs. Not that I kid myself that now that everything is recorded = all students following the recommendations...but at least I have a record of what I suggested and why.

  2. Your point about creating a safe environment is an important observation. Students, like the rest of us, can be wary of being judged by others, especially when your work is “out there.” Fear can be a barrier to trying something new. You seem to have a nonjudgmental and adventurous approach that I think students would appreciate.

  3. Thanks for sharing all this. I really like the idea of 'learning how to learn,' in addition to everything else here. I also agree that creating an out of class element to course community can help. I'd love to respond to this in my own blog post, soon. I'll have to think about it.

  4. Learning how to learn is my motto! Always. Glad you're having a wide rage of learning curves going on!