Some trips to the vet are for good responsible reasons such as a checkup, vaccine, micro-chipping, or spay/neutering. But some trips to the vet are due to the unexpected. Things like misplaced fish hooks, eating the non-edible, infections, and other injuries sometimes occur.
In MET I had some unexpected events as well.
My first encounter with the unexpected and unwanted was in ETEC 565 (Learning Technologies: Selection, Design, and Application). In this course I needed to use basic HTML. I had a HUGE mental block about HTML which hurled me forward into tears, nausea, and fear. I was completely overwhelmed, despite the many available online tutorials and support offered by by fellow students. Fortunately, Dr. Egan (my instructor) and Robert Marthaller (our TA) came to my rescue. They supported my learning with a hands on and carefully scaffolded approach. I never expected the level of support I received from these gentlemen. Countless emails, small practice assignments, and constant feedback helped me to gain an entry level understanding and reduced my tremendous anxiety of HTML.
Chickering and Gamson (1987) identify good practice in undergraduate education. I believe these principles apply to post-graduate education as well. In this course I definitely saw the following principles employed:
- encouraging contact between students and faculty
- using active learning techniques
- giving prompt feedback
- communicating high expectations
- respecting diverse talents and ways of learning
With confidence I can say that I will never become a programmer, but what I gained out of my initial failure was a deep appreciation for individualized and scaffolded eLearning. I gained first hand knowledge about the impact online instructors can have, and how learning can be facilitated in an online learning environment. What began as disaster, provided what most would see as minimal learning (I am still a novice HTML-er), ended up being a huge eye opener and period of growth for me as a student and as an instructor.
A second “event” that sent me running for support was enrolling in ETEC 521 (Indigeneity, Technology, and Education). Before this course even began I enrolled in it, dropped it, enrolled in it, dropped it, and finally enrolled and stayed. As the course began I felt totally out of place. I had nothing to offer. No training. No prior coursework. No experience. Again, I found myself feeling overwhelmed. The first conversations within the course left me feeling embarrassed and uncertain. I tried not to “blurt”, but stuck my foot in my mouth more than once. When asked to discuss my culture, I had nothing but “family traditions” to offer. And computers–not neutral? What was that about?
My ignorance and desire to learn set me off searching for support. I ended up meeting with my college’s Aboriginal Education Coordinator who sat with me and introduced me to topics I had never considered. She gave me resources. She sent me away with more questions than answers. I was on way to learning! Back in ETEC 521 Marker’s (1997) article Teaching History from an Indigenous Perspective – Four Winding Paths up the Mountain set me on a path of looking at the significance of place and narratives. From there, I ventured forth into digital storytelling, which later became the foundation for a unit I created in another course.
For my final project in ETEC 521 I researched how to support post-secondary Aboriginal students in online courses. I have since integrated many new strategies and approaches in the online courses I teach, and continue to see new insights and knowledge in this area.
(Image above created by H. Wik in ETEC 521 at http://www.wordle.com)
The unexpected and difficult can be turned into a pivotal learning point. I didn’t enjoy feeling the way I did, and my dog does not like going to the vet, but I would never have learned the things I did had it not been for these hurdles. My MET struggles were invaluable for my learning.