image by student Oscar Alcala, Fall 2016
Online instruction is interesting. In my early college days as a student, our school made some attempts at incorporating technologies. It was awkward and strange. I even forgot that I was enrolled in an online class for a week and subsequently had nightmares that I would remember my class on the final exam day years later. Beyond anxiety dreams, it wasn’t a very incorporated experience.
But now the internet is very incorporated into so many aspects of our lives–or I should say my life is incorporated into the internet.
It has been exciting and interesting to figure out how to incorporate this as a tool, to go beyond the idea of a clunky computer. To find those experiences that we are hardwired for streamlined into an educational landscape.
Fast-forward about 17 years later to teaching online and I find that there is a certain sense of creativity in the online format that has its own strengths.
My first day of online instruction began and I find that I really, really enjoy it. There is still so much for me to navigate in terms of content and figuring out which specific tools are more effective in creating an immersive online educational experience. My role is to figure out what those strengths are and what they look like, which is nothing new–just keeping my finger on a different pulse. What surprises me is how vast these tools are and the unique potential of how conducive they can be to an equally strong or even–gasp–potentially better educational experience that is online.
Are there places where language fails us? Where we do not have adequate linguistic frameworks? Are they different in person (orally + body language + sound) versus without? Are there ways that the pairing of image, click, and text can rearrange these frameworks until we can verbally catch up? Certainly, I think so when I take a look around me online and off. Memes and gifs can actually convey very abstract feelings and still be unified in theory. Powerful and evocative. There must be a way to harness this power to go beyond the mimetic and encourage critical thinking and connection. I mean, is the combination of abstraction and theory not a definition of imagination? It is as long as it is not mimetic. So, I suppose the creation of such codes exercises imagination, while it’s duplication does not. How different is this from standard boring education: reading and regurgitating? It’s kind of the same, just packaged differently. I’m figuring out how to unpack this package. Its deconstruction is vital to our students.