Photo by Aleksey Myakishev
We’re in the 4th unit of Connected Courses: Diversity, equity and access. I thought I’d look back at some of the previous questions and objectives from which we’ve been making meaning together. Only now have I realised that each unit has a ‘design touchstone’, and while I was investigating what this could mean and how these linked to each other, I decided to re-familiarise myself with the first one: Water.
I watched again the video of the speech given by David Foster Wallace to Kenyon College’s 2005 graduating class. The video starts with the story of two young fish swimming along when they meet an older fish swimming the other way. The older fish asks ‘How’s the water?’, and after they’ve passed him, one of the younger fish asks ‘What the hell is water?’
A rough summary of the message would be that the most obvious and important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Foster postulates that a Liberal Arts education is not as much about filling you with knowledge as it is about teaching you how to think – not in terms of the capacity to think (which we all have ) – but in terms of the choice of what to think about. He mentions that we often live unconsciously, that is, not questioning where our belief systems come from, and he encourages us to have a critical awareness of ourselves and our certainties. He talks about our default setting which positions us as the centre of the universe and suggests we do the hard work to rid ourselves of this hard wiring which leads us to interpret everything personally by learning how to exercise some control over what and how we think, and being conscious and aware enough so that we choose what we pay attention to and understand how we construct meaning from our experiences.
I feel that I need to go back and revisit readings many times to have the ideas and issues float to the top of my consciousness where they are in view and so that they don’t sink to the bottom and get forgotten. Connected Courses has enabled me to construct meaning in conversations with people and in the solitude of my own thoughts. I’m beginning to feel as if I’m conscious of the water.
It’s interesting to note that although Connected Courses is designed for faculty within higher education who are looking at developing online, open courses, so far the technology part of constructing the courses has been in the background. This is a valuable lesson for schools introducing new technologies to support teaching and learning. In Connected Courses we started with the why and we moved at our own pace supported by the network of participants. Expertise has been distributed and sense making has not only been in the form of text; participants have shared creative responses which have included drawings, comics, songs and other audio, slides and video and more. Some people have tried new things!
We’ve been given the opportunity to construct meaning together, and given choices about how much and what we focus on. My opinion is that this approach has enabled me to look more deeply into selected things. I haven’t felt rushed or forced in any way; I’ve had choice and control. At first I may have felt intimidated by learning in an academic cohort, but now I feel energized. It’s been fun!
Feel free to look at what I’ve collected so far in my Connected Courses Pinterest board.