Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Digital Storytelling and My Journey- The End!

Wow I can't believe this journey is over!  It was definitely a course filled with ups and downs, with a lot of frustration but a lot of satisfaction as well.  This final reflection and portfolio showcases my work through the last seven weeks in CU Denver's Learning with Digital Stories course taught by Professor Remi Holden. By completing this portfolio, I was surprised how much I accomplished in a short period of time.  Here is the link to my final portfolio, and below is my final course reflection. I hope you enjoy learning about my journey as much as I enjoyed it!

Myself as a Learner in this Course

The following addresses how I learned in this course, how I understand social learning practices, how my experiences in this course inform how I will learn in the future, and the ways I understand myself a connected learner.

When I read the syllabus a few weeks before the course, I was a bit nervous of what was to come.  I didn’t even really understand what a digital story was.  Then as the first week began I watched the two screencasts and part of me felt better and part of me felt unsure.  Remi stated that it was ok to feel frustrated, confused, discouraged (I can’t remember all the adjectives but there were a few) so I knew I wouldn’t be alone in my feelings.  I am pretty sure the first week’s assignments took me about 3 days to complete as I was exploring DS106 and the different aspects.

As the weeks went along, I became more and more comfortable with the course and assignments and even began looking forward to the DS106 assignment bank.  My progression of comfort in the course is very evident in my blog posts and tweets as the weeks went on.  This comfort level increased based on how I learned in this course.  At first, everything was new to me; blogging, tweeting, digital stories, DS106, Daily Creates, literally everything was new.  I learned by doing and trying.  I learned by viewing other classmates’ work and from trial and error on my own.  I learned by asking for help from classmates and Remi.

This leads to how I understand the social learning practices given theory by Lankshear and Knobel.  My whole journey to become a teacher and more recently getting my master’s degree has had a fair amount of social learning, although I wasn’t really aware of the label until recently.  My cohort through CU Denver’s Urban Teaching Program became my go to for help and questions more so than my professors on my road to becoming a teacher.  Some of my master’s classes have had a lot of social learning and some had none.  This most recent course on digital story telling has had the most social learning.  My favorite definition of social learning comes from Lankshear and Knobel’s New Literacies chapter 7, but it is from a quote from Brown and Adler.  They say, “[Social learning] is learning based on the assumption that our understanding of concepts and processes is constructed socially in conversations about the matters in question and 'through grounded interactions, especially with others, around their problem or action” (p. 218).

My social learning became evident when I asked for help in a blog post regarding DS106 assignments and within one hour of my post, I had two classmates offer suggestions to me.  I immediately took their advice and was on my way.  Even though this is my last graduate class of my program, I plan to continue incorporating social learning into my third grade classroom.  I have learned how powerful it can be, especially for younger students who are like sponges.  There is a lot of research out there that discusses how important social learning and group work is for English language learners and my plan is to incorporate as much as I can this coming year.

My Co-Design of this Course

The following addressed how this course was different from others I've taken, how I contributed to the development of this course and our learning community, how I was responsible for directing both my own learning and also the shared experiences of peers/others, and how I would have designed this course differently.

With the exception of one or two courses in my program, this course was very different.  It challenged me to think on my own and rely on myself and the help from peers to figure things out.  My whole ILT program was online so there is always some degree of self-reliance, but here I was pushed farther than before.

I feel I contributed to the development of this course by bringing a different perspective (that of an elementary teacher) to the group.  There were a lot of people in the class that had something to do with education, but to my knowledge I was the only elementary school teacher.  This allowed my peers to see this class through a different lens than their own.  Those that read my blog could see how the Lankshear and Knobel readings or DS106 assignments could be tied to elementary classroom.        

I was responsible for directing my own learning through DS106 assignments and digital story critiques.  It was up to me to pick the DS106 assignments and then learn how to complete them.  This was a lot easier said than done.  There were so many assignments I chose that were a learning curve.  Whether it was figuring out Windows Movie Maker or Audacity or just simply how to embed things into a blog.  As far as the digital critiques went, I could choose a story that interested me or taught me something.  For example, I watched a lot of Ted Talks on education and I found myself paying close attention to the news or Facebook in order to find stories I wanted to critique. 

One of the most helpful aspects of this course was reading other responses to the text.  Each person had a different take on the same chapter and it was very helpful to read other responses and put it all together.  What I had to say might have helped someone else that was struggling with a concept or something I read on another’s blog helped clear up my confusion.  This shared experience of working through a complex text together, I think benefited everyone.

There are two things I would change about this course: the story critiques the second half of the class and the lack of grades.  I found that many of the remixes the second half of the course that people critiqued, including myself, were not as in depth or were more surface level than the critiques the first half of the class.  For example, remixed songs or fan fiction.  I realize those remixes are very important to some and maybe I am being naïve in saying they are more surface level or just for fun.  But for me and my journey through this course, I preferred the critique criteria the first half of the course where I could watch Ted Talks or news stories that were not remixes.  But then again, Lankshear and Knobel argue that everything could be considered a remix of something else so perhaps it just comes down to personal opinion.  Finally, it was hard for me to never get a formal grade for my work.  I know everything was read and kept track of, but I am person that needs that grade to keep me at peace that I am on the right track.  Although, I am assume if I was failing, I would have been notified by now!       

My Understanding of Pedagogy

The following addresses how I understand Remi's course design and ongoing decision-making, how this course changed my understanding of pedagogy, how my understanding of "instructor" changed, and some feedback to Remi about this course.

I would be curious to see how this course was designed before this semester as I had heard it used to look very differently.  My understanding of this course design comes from what I have seen on DS106 as our syllabus correlates to the DS106 syllabus.  I very much appreciate Remi’s ongoing decision making throughout the course because I feel like he was really listening to our reflections and acting accordingly.  He wasn’t afraid to veer from the syllabus and update it to meet our needs.  For example, I was one of the people who was frustrated with the Daily Creates because there were very few I related to each week.  I never directly complained about them but would mention my concerns in my reflections and a few weeks later he made them optional.  This goes to show he was really listening and doing his best to meet our needs. 

With that being said, this course didn’t necessarily change my understanding of pedagogy, but it did help confirm my beliefs.  I knew the importance of social learning, but like I said before, I didn’t have a name for it other than group work or collaboration.  Through Lankshear and Knobel’s final two chapters and the real time exposure I got to social learning, it has confirmed that I need to ramp up my efforts in my own classroom.            

To me an instructor is someone who guides you along your journey and helps you reach your goals.  Their job is not to ‘push’ all this knowledge at you, but be there for support as you try to find your way.  I think all of us became ‘instructors’ in this course as we all helped each other through the journey.  Selfishly, it was comforting knowing others were going through my same struggles and I learned about their same struggles through their posts, whether it was technology issues, work or travel obligations, to confusion about assignments, etc.  Our ‘instructor’ was there each Monday to check in and help guide our work for the following week.  It was always nice to be showcased in a screencast as it validated and acknowledged the work we were doing.   

All I have to say is if you had asked me 8 weeks ago if I was going to make it through this course, I would have said probably not.  I remember saying to someone, I don’t know how anyone with a job will have time to complete all of these assignments!  Not only did each week get easier and easier, but I began to look forward to things like the critiques and DS106 assignments.  I learned about a world I never knew existed (fan fiction and anime) and learned about new programs and web 2.0 tools that will be very useful for me in the future with my students.  I think it is very important that you emphasize to ‘newbies’ that it seems like a lot but it is worth the journey, if I could do it, anyone can!

Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2011). New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning. New York: Open University Press.

Here is the embedded version on my portfolio.  To view the complete site, click here

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