On January 27, 2017, I had the privilege of spending the day with several faculty members at Doña Ana Community College in Las Cruces, New Mexico, facilitating an edtech workshop entitled "Turn It App a Notch: Tools for a More Engaging iPad Educational Experience," and the richness of the conversations was mind-blowing!
Within the first minutes of the workshop, we began a conversation focused on what participants needed from me, the facilitator, and each other - essentially, their classmates - during the course of the workshop to make it a positive and productive experience for them.
And I want to pause now, and ask that you notice this breaking of patterns. Think back to the last time you attended a workshop; it is quite possible the facilitator had already reached conclusions about the participants' needs without actually gaining their input. Now, you might think "Bridgett, is that not ambitious and a bit challenging for the facilitator to wait until the actual workshop to get this information and then authentically and sincerely act upon it right there in front of a live audience?"
Yes, it can seem like a heavy weight on the shoulders and a high level of accountability; however, when you invite participants to make such a list, you show you care, and when you show you care, it makes it easier to accommodate the list of needs. Really! It does. It turns the workshop in to a conversation ... into an experience that makes everyone feel his/her interests and needs are in mind. And it feels SO GOOD to immediately hear participants' voices because the workshop is about them! It feels like standing back and gliding brush strokes of colors onto a blank canvas without worries of restricting borders or having to follow a set pattern!
Now back to the experience and how we REALLY discovered what it means to break some patterns in the classroom ...
I combined my pre-determined list with the participants' combined list of what they needed in order to have a beneficial learning experience in the workshop, and the amazing revelation at which we arrived was ...
Why wait until the student opinion surveys are tallied or until your dean, department head, or program manager evaluates you to find out how well you perform as an educator? And better yet why let someone else tell you whether you are doing a good job?! Harness the power of self-evaluation to assess your superstar status at the front of that room! (And if you conduct meetings, this is just as relevant! Simply exchange "students," "class," and "lesson" for "meeting attendees, "meeting," and "content/agenda.")
How exactly is this done? Simple! Ask and answer these questions at the conclusion of class (or a meeting!):
Can real discussions ... real, thoughtful, meaningful, interesting, thought-provoking discussions authentically and realistically happen in the online classroom?! Naturally, you expect me to indicate the response is "yes."
However, let's face it. For those who teach online courses, the discussions can oftentimes seem like anything but. You post discussion questions. Students post responses. And a few classmates comment with the good old “I agree!” You all keep rolling on down the train track and never take a diversion from the straight and narrow.
Frankly, for this reason, you can sometimes dread going into the online classroom - even during the weeks when the topic is one of your favorites because ... well ... you know what you'll likely find. It does not feel like much of a discussion, and you sure wish you could change that without having to put in a lot of work and time.
I have just the remedy, and here's a technique you can try today even if you have discussion questions (DQs) that you are not at liberty to change!