I spent last week as a Graduate Assistant for the Pepperdine Master’s of Arts in Educational Technology [online] program in Malibu (yes, Malibu!) California. VirtCamp is a chance for the new cadre members to meet face to face and learn the communication tools for their online year ahead. The excitement in the air was contagious and as I sat there and reflected about my 13-month journey through OMET – I was struck about how much I learned this year and how my community taught me most of what I now know.
I admit – I had to hold myself back from gushing all kinds of advice like: You’ve got to learn about del.icio.us and other social bookmarking sites. If you work on multiple computers like I do you will love having all your bookmarks in one place (plus it’s fun to snoop through other people’s bookmarks!). Wikis? I love wikis. I use them all the time. Whenever my cadremates and I were discussing a situation I was always to first to suggest, “Let’s add a link to our wiki and add our ideas there”. Wikis are so great for collaboration and giving each person a voice. Oh … and you must post all of your pics on flickr and play around with flickr toys! I found myself proclaiming the wonders of blogging – even though before this program I could barely keep a diary for more than a week. Now I find that I have so much swimming around in my head that I have to write it down so I can digest it slowly, let it mull around in my brain for awhile and then come back to the idea later on and discuss the idea some more.
I was so busy during the week that I didn’t have time for much blogging and realized how much I missed it. Now that I am finally reflecting on what happened I am realizing that blogging is so much more about the process of my thinking and actions – and less about “what happened”. I definitely missed a golden opportunity – oh well – next time.
During the course of VirtCamp, class members are thrown into social learning activities where they share how they learned what they know and are asked to complete activities in groups where they are given little direction of how to complete the project. It is basically organized chaos. Some people love the open-endedness and interactions and others crave some written directions. There is no better way to reflect on your preferred learning style than to be thrown into a situation where you are challenged to grow and be a learner again. Most of the people in the program are K-12, Higher Ed or corporate trainers and I am sure they are used to being the experts and “knowing how to do it all”. Being placed back in a position of a learner is good for educators. I think it is critical to experience and remember the feelings of nervousness, fear, frustration, exhilaration, and sense of accomplishment. It will make each of use more sensitive to the learners in our environment.
My main role was to assist the new students when they needed help with communication tools, setting up blogs, designing websites or answering basic questions. The students were eager to learn and there was A LOT to learn in a short amount of time. After teaching someone how to set up a template in Dreamweaver or how to add tags to a blog entry I found myself saying to them, OK now, pay it forward. Teach this skill to at least one other class member”. I am happy to say that after two or three days I observed many new Dreamweaver templates, lots of interesting blogs and many new skills being shared with classmates.
Just think. Individually we know a lot – but what if each of us really takes on the theme of “Pay it forward”. Collectively we know so much more and we can accomplish a great deal together. The OMET program embraces social learning at it’s best. Educators can learn a great deal from each other if we take the time to share best practices and be open to learning.
Pay it forward!