IT 8000 – A Course Reflection

The semester is almost over. A unique experience I am certainly having these last several weeks.

For one thing, I have not been a student for quite some time. Well, that is not true if we apply the “you learn things everyday” adage to daily living. Speaking explicitly of going into a class setting, the last time that happened was in 2000 in a 2-month development program in Sweden.  Fast forward to the present… here I am participating in my first 2 classes that will hopefully pave the way towards a PhD.

Coming from an architecture background, and teaching in an architecture program, I will be asked two questions : 1) Why now?, and 2) Why this program?

First, it had to be now (call it the right or proper moment in life). I have always been a late bloomer, slower-than-usual learner. To state things plainly, I never saw the point in rushing into anything; in the end (meaning the way things turned out in my life) the important, substantial events and milestones flowed into my existence when they deemed me ready to participate properly, and not before. And I have realized I am quite all right with that. To have pushed for a PhD earlier would have caused me confusion as to the why and what. I would have been externally informed but internally ill-equipped. Now as to the question of why this field of education (instructional design and technology) and not architecture, I say this came about as a culmination of many things. I find I am not half bad at designing, but I dislike the corporate world. My projects in my much smaller practice were fewer and further between; this was fine since i love designing smaller projects like residences and interiors and retrofits. I stumbled onto teaching (as an averse reaction to corporate practice) and realized i was also not half bad at it. After grooming my raw abilities as a mentor over 12 years, I found that I liked both the content I was teaching and the channels of thinking and reflection it provided and required; and I also cared about the dance between teaching and learning, mentor and student. Oh there were deeply learned people in the faculty, for sure. Each person was a font of experience and knowledge in their area. But why did they have a disconnect with their students? Why were their classes more akin to pilgrimages of obligation, rather than exciting challenges of opportunity? I have quite a bit yet to learn… 

It is at this time that this opportunity to grow in this direction presents itself. How appropriate. An architect who loves to design and loves to teach is now going to grow in the field of designing instruction for effective and enjoyable learning. How can this not be called serendipitous?

But it is not all a smooth transition. Settling here in 2009 meant major shakeups to habits and patterns woven and laid down since the early 90s. And now dusting off the innards of gray and white matter and jogging it around to be a student again is requiring a re-learning curve. This semester, with a full teaching load, the usual committee assignments, owning a new house (never did that before… i did say i was a late bloomer…), and now learning to be a student again… this was a new challenge, indeed. Juggling and balancing was an exercise in adlibbing through daily life. Did I mention my wife and I also perform as a musical duo? Yea, that too… throw that in there…

For this semester, I took IT 7100 and IT 8000, two great ways to start things off. For most part, I always felt I was playing catchup. Must be age, despite my mind’s enjoyment of thinking and fiddling around with things. I must say, IT 7100 and IT 8000 were structured seriously. Both were excellent introductions into what the field was and the breadth of subtopics as well as the depth of the field (of which I am only taking the first step of this journey of a thousand miles). There really was no better way to start this off.

Starting in a class after so long is always awkward. This is also my first time ever to do online classes. I have two different personalities to relate to in Dr H and Dr C. This should not be a surprise; it is two different classes after all. Yet somehow, the online experience staring at Elluminate and typing on the same keyboard just seemed to wedge in a half-expectation of sensual stimuli uniformity. Thankfully, it was not so. But that such an expectation existed despite the real experience of over 20 years of schooling says something of the new realities generated by technological interaction. That and the observation of how the interjection of everyday technologies evolved people’s approach to life in a different direction, perhaps without awareness, really signaled a red flag. I have become more guarded of what technology promises for people versus what it inevitably does to their consciousness ever since.

And so it is with some effort and some resistance that I learned to traverse Ulearn and Moodle. This blog itself (my initial attitude to it and getting it up and running) reveals how old-school I am. I learn slow. I change slow. I can only look forward to learning it properly, all the same. Perhaps the old-school pace and the skeptic caution will serve as filters of healthy pessimism as i delve deeper into Dante’s next levels 7.2a.

Dr C’s class for me was not easy. The blog, as i have mentioned, is a new interface. So getting with the tail end of these new times was a load i have to add onto my re-learning curve. The IDT timeline was fun. Learning of prezi was way more productive for me than ppt ever can be. And though I got scheduled earlier for the presentation on motivation, those crammed nights did not change the work ethic and appreciation of doing work as best as I am able and mentally preparing not just content to deliver but a conversation to engage with (this is, I am sure, always why i work so much slower, pardon me). I shall be frank as this reflection requires. I like the quality of the work I am producing. But I am not enjoying the pace (which influences the load) that i have to operate in. This is for me to voice out, but also for me to reflect on and adapt to.

Writing a paper in APA took a while too. Learning curve yet again. I am glad Dr C really appreciates the amateur effort and is so supportive of these ideas I have. But these learning curves… haha… I’m dying here… Mind you, I totally agree with having every individual contribute to the class through the presentations. But often I feel overwhelmed  by the breadth of it all. Perhaps I am just stressing over having to understand it all so fast.

The quiz content was, in my opinion, very fair, appropriate, as well as very considerate in its questioning. I found Dr H’s exam much harder (happily I did well on that one, just as I am hoping to do well in our IT 8000 quiz).

My focus now – the final paper. After attempting my first topic (the scientific/technical class in architecture program + reflective nature of creative learning + flipped classroom), I realized i could not tackle it. Not now. Not without doing a mucked up hatchet job on a topic that deserved more patience, attention, and care. So at the last possible minute (over thanksgiving)(and I hope I am not too late), I rebooted the topic towards the issue of e-learning and motivation. Dr C I hope you will go easy on me on this final paper. However, in my typical pessimistic way, I do not presently see this final paper being as well crafted as the first one. I shall do the best I can.

And just like before I took the quiz, I am sweating bullets…

You can hopefully understand why I am not as keen to think presently about those definitions or terms, nor about the blog entry contest.

Much as i agree wholeheartedly with the objectives of the class, or despite what my performance grades may or may not imply, I am enjoying the classes. But I am also struggling. The major requirements of the class = two thumbs up. But I feel disconnected with other requirements i mentioned above. Not just because I have difficulty learning to do them (which I do) but I am experiencing (based on Keller’s ARCS model) a relevance-disconnect with a contest for extrinsic bonus points, and so on. Sorry. Perhaps if I were not juggling other required things…

This particular week shall prove yet to be another balancing challenge. Dr C’s paper. Dr H’s final project. Final studio reviews in architecture. Issues that bird-drop themselves in their perfect-timing ways…

Stay strong. Stand solid. I’ll do the best that I am able…

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~ by bdytoc on November 28, 2012.

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