It is about them

Last week we have seen the video by Mike Wesch about the way in which students feel invisible and unimportant in the classroom setting and in their interactions with their professors. As I mentioned in our class, that was no news for me. Ever since I know myself as a student, I have experienced hardships and observed how it reflected to my own learning process. Coming from a family of teachers, having been taught in both public and private educational institutions, in classrooms which range from 250 to 5 students, took hundreds of standardized tests, as well as specialized ones, whose subjects range from language to science, literature to geography, I came to realize there is no singular way of learning. And yes, a privileged position makes a difference in one’s learning experience. For instance, as the daughter of two good teachers I have no choice but to learn and to achieve. I am sure Mike Welsch’s son will be a fierce learner and achiever, as well. The list of different circumstances may be extended however, what I am curious about is how I can make learning experience more beneficial and desirable for my students. As I go over this week’s materials I started to find answers to my question both as an instructor and to better understand my expectations as a student.

Throughout the week, I have been contemplating on my mission, my responsibility, my plan, my schedule ect. It included so many “my”s that I forgot my students have expectations from this class as well. It was not about me. This class was about them and their learning experience. As Ken Robinson mentioned in his talk, learning is an individual process, which requires curiosity and creativity.

My position as an instructor allowed me to organize the class in a self-centered fashion. All I need to do was to assume. Thus, Langer discusses how myths about learning structure the way we organize and act as teachers, leaving no room for mindfulness in the classroom environment. Thinking what I needed to do at the basic level would suffice to clear my conscious about my responsibility as a teacher.

The rigidity of the habits reinforced by the myths about teaching and learning is mostly depended on the foundations of our education systems, command and control. How does this unbalanced power relation effect our teaching? What does it do to us as teachers? I argue that it may make us lazy, indifferent, self-centered, which in turn what we will be obsvering in our student’s attitudes towards the class. However, I believe the bigger danger lies in making us hold on to our teacher positions rather than being mindful about teaching and students’ learning process. Taking the myths and assumptions granted on teaching or following a certain standardized teacher attitude may prevent us from seeing our students and their needs. This is how we make them invisible and feel ignored.

Through his example on the Death Valley, Robinson underlines the importance of conditions that renders the learning experience either dormant or flourishing. I believe we first need to enable such environment through creating new categories, offering new ways of thinking, encouraging openness to new information, and raising awareness on more than one perspectives (Langer, 4). Most importantly, within the time we spare for preparing and lecturing, we shall prioritize student’s learning experience over our teaching position.

On why I am reluctant to blogging

Seth Godin and Tom Peters start this segment of video addressing blogging. One of the first things that Seth Godin point out to is that “blogging is free, it doesn’t matter if somebody reads it, what matters is the humility that comes from writing it” But blogging, after all, is not just for the writer but most importantly addressed to the reader.

In preparation of my Future Professoriate Certificate, I am taking two courses, Contemporary Pedagogy and Preparing Future Professoriate in which I am required to blog on a regular basis. My blog will consist of weekly reflections on the current state of education, pedagogy and my ongoing experience as an instructor.

Though I have to admit that before actually typing on this keyboard and sharing my message with you, I was and still am, very reluctant to this form of expression that is: Blogging. Since I have to do it regularly, I thought of doing some research on Blogging and understanding more my reluctance.

The word Blog is a combination of two terms: web and log, Blog designates “a log of thoughts and writing posted publicly on the World Wide Web”. The word Web blog soon became Blog. Blogging is a modern mode of expression that emerged in the late 1990s. The Blog quickly became a form of an online diary with the possibility of readers from all over the world to read, comment and interact with the writer and other readers. The Blog also became increasingly mainstream and used as a tool for advertisement, outreach, and opinion formation but also a way to sell a way of life and a mode of thinking.

Therefore, when I hear the word Blog, I have the following reservations:

Is it authentic? Is the author genuine about his experience and his voice? A Blogger is a person like you and me, who has feelings, opinions, and biases. When someone adopts the Blog as a primary form of mass communication, I am concerned about the extent to which this person is true to themselves and their way of living. A speech is a power to influence, and being authentic is primordial and often hindered in the format of a Blog. We tend to write to others because we want them to like us and/or approve our way of living and thinking, just like social media is also a way of self-promotion looking for self-approval.

Blogging compromises privacy. As a form of an online diary, the blogger agrees on sharing his privacy with the reader. However, unlike a diary, a blog is public and shared with hundreds of people –if not more. It transforms a personal reflection and experience into something public that exposes the author to the insurrection of desired (and undesired) comments.
Aside, in order for the blog to remain alive, its author needs to share -sometimes over sharing. The Blog becomes a broadcast, instead of a publication.

Reliability and Relevance
A blogger will write about a variety of topics, quite randomly. These writings tend to be more informal and more prone to error. A blogger does enjoy a freedom that few academics and journalists writers have. While a reporter or a researcher will wait patiently until a source is confirmed and rely on other references, a blogger is mostly reliant on his opinion and his experience to analyze a case. This freedom is more accident-prone and more subject to misinformation and less formal. Therefore, competing perspectives becomes something that is considered universal and reliable, while the reflective process has been dramatically reduced.

The imperative to be digital
Publish online or perish. While I understand that many professors would like to open the World Wide Web to their students and introduce some to more contemporary forms of expression, I do question whether blogging is the best tool to do so without some amount of preparation and understanding of the responsibilities that comes with it.

To have a Blog, you need to find your voice. Blogging has enabled writers to express themselves out loud in ways that were never explored before. In this process, we do have to emphasize that the quality matters as much as the quantity. In a world of ‘post-truth’ and ‘alternative facts’, the reader is looking for an anchor, a voice, or voices that are authentic, well argued and sensible to the reality and people’s concern in an age where information and facts are vanishing.

Hence, part of me is not reluctant to the form of blogging in itself, but the way blogging has been used. As a future blogger, for the next few months, I will be blogging with the best of my ability to be authentic, reflective and relevant to you readers, and to be worthy of your time (I’ll try!!)


In “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning,” Gardner Campbell argues that networked learning is a form of experiential learning that has been overlooked by those who champion experiential learning. I agree with Campbell’s assessment of the value of networked learning and appreciate his statement about how the metaphor of the network has replaced more traditional ones that utilize ladders and trees. He says, “With networks replacing ladders and trees as a primary metaphor to describe the structures of knowledge, digitally networked learning becomes marvelously recursive as a site of integration: the very experience deepens learners’ understanding of the condition of learning itself within a strongly social context that can mobilize communities of practice quickly and effectively.” The difference between these kinds of metaphors is addressed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in the introduction of A Thousand Plateaus. Deleuze and Guattari discuss how the history of Western thought has been dominated by a certain kind of logic, a binary logic that relies on tree and root metaphors. Such a logic is unable to account for and more often than not, distorts the workings of complex systems. In place of this tree logic, they put forth a rhizomatic logic that is based on the conception of a network. Like Gardner, they believe that networked learning is at the heart of education in an increasingly complex and saturated world.


Before I learned about networked learning, I tended to have negative feelings about the internet like this:

Source: Accessed Jan 26, 2017

Usually, I prefer to close the laptop and put my cellphone into another room before focusing on studying and working, except for the moment when searching online is necessary. Here is my old thought:

“we believe internet could increase our productivity and help to obtain knowledge in seconds. However, it also wastes us a lot of time by overloading too much information. Since human brain is quite limited to select and process information.”

Also, I feel that I’m easy to be distracted when work on the web. for example, I planned to search how to geocode points in ArcGIS, but often ended up with reading news or shopping in Amazon. Because my subconscious mind always wants to find something interesting and easy to do than sticking with the difficult learning problems. So I really doubt how web could help regarding learning, although it may be a good way to engage students.

Source: Accessed Jan 26, 2017

However, the article” Twitter and Blogs are not just add-on to academic research” somehow changed my mind by some good points. First, writing blogs and twitter is a good practice of writing and getting feedback from your audience. Second, as you try to explain your research to someone who may not have advanced knowledge as your peers or advisor, you have to first convince yourself that this research is interesting and contributes to the public knowledge, instead of playing with methodology or increasing publications just for promotion. This article opens a door and let me see a new world about the next generation of researchers.  It shows how to find a wider audience for your current research, and know what others are doing in your field. As a young researcher, I would like to explore networked learning and take advantages of the internet instead of letting it control me.

Pedagogy GEDI 2017-01-24 13:10:53

The question of “what kind of educational experience changes lives?” is truly an important question. The goal of educators is to often have high impact on their students so they can go out with knowledge and change the world. However, my self I can only remember a handful of instructors/ classes that really had a strong impact on my learning experience or just me as a person, that is surprising to me as I reflect because I have been in school forever (straight fro high school 2009). It was interesting to find out through Kuh’s article that active learning practices was unsystematic at the undergraduate level of education. But now that I really think about it, it is really not surprising to me at all. I work as a substitute teacher for a awhile. And my GTA focuses on how to teach pre-service teachers science (STEM)  grades K-12 due to the lack of women and diversity in the STEM careers and higher education, this course that pre-service teachers have to take focuses on how teachers can present science in an engaging way. Focusing also on inquiry based learning and Understanding By Design (UBD) model (a backward design model focusing on doing the activity first then talking student through what they just say happening in the activity).

I know I went off on kind of a tangent but this idea of active learning not being systematic at the undergraduate level is not surprising because it is not systematic at the K-12 level (especially in sub filed like science) which is an interesting notion because everyone learns differently and I believe that all 5 senses need to be recognized as instructors teach material due to the fact that everyone attains knowledge and information in different ways.

As I substituted I saw alot of students using internet-based material and technology for learning, such as ipods, ipads, computers (especially for students that were known to act out. Instructions for me as a sub was to just “let them get on the computer”.  I mean yes it made my job easier to handle the rest of the class but to think of all the psycho-social impact that it had on these students that “acted out” is kind of scary. Smart boards are in the classroom there in no more white boards and all fundamental learning games are on the internet or technology based materials for these students. Only one teacher I saw still used and hand blocks and marbles to help teach the students to count. So network learning has taken place in all levels and areas of education. Can this be a good thing to keep society technically advanced? Yes. But I also think there needs to be a balance of networked based learning and the “old school way” of learning as well.

The ambiguous experiential nature of Networked learning

The articles and video on networked learning and blogs this week argue that rather than a solitary process, more powerful forms of learning involve putting one’s own thoughts and perspectives in conversation with a broader community. This is really critical. I like Campbell’s notion of this when he says that learning is best understood as an “adventure in discernment and self-actualization within a deeply relational context.” These articles and the video particularly speak to the possibilities of digitally mediated networks for this type of learning – blogs, twitter, and collaborative student projects – that go beyond the aims of gaining information, finding meaning, and even critical thinking, to the possibilities of making meaning (Wesch).

This all largely fits with what I see as the conditions for powerful learning. In many ways, it seems to suggest a form of learning, and of knowledge, that is more inclusive of many non-Western cultures that understand knowledge as fundamentally relational rather than the traditional Western conception in which knowledge a universal truth that transcends all cultures and places. More specifically for this week’s articles, digitally mediated environments make it technically easy (as Wesch suggests) to realize the interesting possibilities associated with collaborative projects. I’ve often considered how students in my Global Environmental Studies class might somehow collect and organize their collective learning and knowledge gained throughout the course and make it available in a public forum. I could see the class as having a sense of accomplishment in doing this. But as Wesch rightly reminds us, while these projects are technically feasible, the actual practice of having students “connect, organize, share, collect, collaborate, and publish” sounds quite rigorous and time-consuming.

Despite the argument that these digitally mediated learning environments are a form of experiential learning that is associated with high-impact practices, it seems to me that they capture a very limited range of the human experience. It certainly is experiential in the context of digital environments. But we might question what parts of life, such as directly embodied human-human or human to non-human interactions are left out of these environments. The limitations of communication through social media are well known, when a particular Facebook comment can be read in multiple ways. In short, then, I’d argue that the experiential learning of these digitally mediated environments is valuable in today’s world, but also quite restricted and abridged.



Self-Media – An Extension of Academic World

When I was first attending our group meeting in 2013, my advisor asked every group members to introduce our research in one or two sentences that can make your grandparents understand your work. It was not an easy job at all because we needed to get rid of any jargons that were frequently written in our scientific writings. I used two sentences to describe my master’s work and to my surprise, it somehow refreshed my understanding of it. Plain words and vivid expressions can not only effectively convey our ideas to the public, but also reflect our understanding and enthusiasm on our work. For us who would like to be a professor, such training can be extremely useful when you teach undergraduate students what is the meaning of our subject or when you give a talk whose audiences are from outside the academic world.

Among many ways that can demonstrate your work to the public, blogging and twittering are probably the mostly adopted ways here in US. I have a twitter account and have connected to a lot of professors in my field. Although I barely twit anything, I spent several minutes on it every day, from which I can get the information about the new publishes, conference presentations, abstract calls, as well as recruit opportunities. To me, twitter is merely a self-media for scholars. Most contents are relevant to science or science-related policies. People provide insightful comments on “hot topics” in our field and communicate with other experts.

“Self-media” is literately translated from a Chinese word that represents a platform on which people can publish their own stuff. The most famous self-media in China – weibo seems to be almost completely alienated from the academic world. I do observe that more and more Chinese scholars start to establish their academic profiles, such as google scholar and researchgate. However, those profiles can only exhibit their work metrically. “Xiao mu chong” and “Ke xue blog” are two popular platforms for scholars in China. But people seldom post their new work on it. The reason why they are reluctant to do this is probably 1) the culture that does not encourage “show off” and 2) the concern that their ideas may be stolen by others.

With the growing number of Chinese new generations, self-media has become successful in start-up business, sports and entertainment. More and more people are willing to share their opinions and knowledge through it. For example, a famous soccer journalist Lu Dong launched an online broadcast program sharing his experiences and opinions on soccer tactics that has been watched by more than 1 billion people in less than one year. Academia in China may have less fans than soccer. However, the self-media in academic can be the most interactive one because the players in it are perhaps the most smart people in the world. It provides opportunities for academic cooperation and generates new ideas. I believe self-media will play a more and more important role as an extension of academic world in China.

Future of the Internet

In the near future, everything will be created, shared, and stored via the Internet. We are creeping our way there with more and more textbooks and tutorials becoming available online; with research and news spreading lightning fast through blogs, websites, and online journals; with discussions and debates transpiring over varying social media platforms. All aspects of our personal, academic, professional, and social lives are becoming increasingly tangled in the World Wide Web. However, I do not necessarily think this is a positive change for our future.

The Internet almost makes the sharing of information too easy and quick. When something can be posted at the click of a button, it takes away some of the responsibility away from fact-checking your statements. The Internet is oversaturated with misinformation and blatant lies are constantly shared and discussed as truth. Even when information that is shared and discussed is truthful, the limitations of pure text on social media or even video chats through Skype can hinder the flow of discussions that would be better suited in-person. There seems to be an invisible barrier when people are not face-to-face that stifles clear and collaborative communication.

This is why the use of social media in classrooms may not always be the best idea. Yes, students should learn to review their and other’s sources when sharing information. Yes, they should learn how to clearly communicate their ideas online. And, yes, social media is a great tool for networking and sharing new and relevant information in a variety of professions. But, is social media necessary in every classroom in order to be relevant or interactive? I don’t believe so. Sometimes it can even be a deterrent for the constructive evolving of ideas. Students need to have a variety of outlets and mediums to discuss and collaborate on their interests; this includes face-to-face.


How blogging changes the way I write

Blogging is not a new thing to me as an audience. Besides traditional newspapers, I usually read blogs to have different points of view. However, I have just started writing my blog last semester as a requirement of my class. Since our topic this week is “Networked Learning”, I will blog about the difference how I write my assignment using a blog.

In general, I think blogging has positive impacts on my writing. Traditionally, my work is only seen and evaluated by a single audience, my teacher. Meanwhile, by blogging, my audience changes significantly, they include my teacher, my classmates, and even people outside classroom scale. With broader audience with diverse opinions, I have spent more time and effort to think about what I should write, what other people want to read, and what they might think of the topic. Besides, before publishing my work online, I spend time to double check grammar, spelling, and word choices. A hard copy of a writing paper is easy to be lost. Even a paper submitted online by mail or Canvas can be hard to find. Writing a blog makes it very easy to go back anytime to read, to revise, and even to continue the content. Another thing I like about blogging is it is convenient to cite or link online related information as many as I want, which makes information is clearer and more connected to each other. The crucial benefit is that blogging is purposefully designed to promote communications between the author and audience as well as among audiences with different features such as providing feedback and sharing the content easily. Therefore, when I write I can leave some open questions and ask for others’ opinions.

Saying that does not mean using a blog for writing assignment has no limitations. However, I think generally it has more positive points than negative ones.

1 2 3 5