Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Masks, hats and other musings

I've been thinking about many things just lately. A few days ago someone kindly posted an interesting article about digital personas and how people feel they have two personas, digital and real life. This raises a point that I thought I would share, that of masks. A mask hides the real self from others and reduces inhibition. So is our digital self less inhibited than our real selfs? Is this the reason for the rise of cyberbullying- the mask or distance that technology allows us. We don't see how our words hurt others because we're not there. We do not feel the shame of the act.

But  does this also mean it it easier to share online than in person? Our reservations are stripped away and we are prepared to share more of ourselves than we might in a face to face professional or academic setting. And isn't this the point of etmooc, to share? But then, how much of it is our real self or is it our digital self?

I have yet to see the Blackboard session and I am looking forward to that. I believe it is about storytelling which was one of my favourite activities to do with students. This was especially true for aboriginal students, for who storytelling is the preferred way of communicating knowledge. I loved teaching the exercise with hats. Firemen, police, rain hats, straw hats, hats from other countries, all sorts of hats! Every student, including myself, would take a hat and wear it for an hour or so. We would spend some time wondering about the person in hat. What was their name? Where did they live? What did they do? What was the story of the person in this hat? And we would write the story of the person in the hat, including myself. ( modeling writing is a powerful way of teaching writing) and then read them out loud. It was always lots of fun and very successful.

It is also why I used Shakespeare in the elementary classroom because if anyone knows how to tell a story it was that man. Plus Shakespeare is surprisingly accessible for children (they know a good story when they hear it.) I would often take picture books for the younger grades and make them into plays for the students to act out. For the older students, I would have them convert Greek myths into plays and have them perform them in the classroom. Because the art of storytelling is not just the writing of the story but the performance.

Finally, I've been thinking about educational technology and how sometimes, in our rush to try new stuff, we forget the user. This is nothing new in education and anyone whose ever been enrolled in the public school system has been a part of the ongoing educational experiment. I have been enrolled in various moocs and I feel that moocs are not centred around the end user but the people designing them. Is this because they are so new? But online courses have been around for a while so has online education always been this poor? The xmoocs I have participated in have varied in their approaches to the student, from an environment of no support without even a TA to supervise the discussion forums (which soon degenerated into a free for all with pleas to the professor for help, harassing postings, posted answers and crudity- oh wait there's the mask idea!) in the Coursera platform to a broken peer review process in Designing for New Learning Environments.So perhaps it isn't the content that is poor but the "classroom management techniques" that need to be refined. And can cmooc benefit from improved online classroom management? Hopefully by the end of the course I might have an answer.