As part of our assignment for the week, we had to get together as teams of two and try out a new tool that we had never tried before, and play hangman online. Brad and I decided to try out Google Hangouts, as neither of us had tried it before. As it turns out, it does not have a white board option, but we found a plugin for Hangouts through www.webwhiteboard.com that was supposed to add the white board feature to the site. Unfortunately, the white board showed, but nothing else; we could hear our voices and see each other, but we could not draw cooperatively. So, we clicked on the other option also offered in the website, and we were able to use a whiteboard on one browser tab while Google Hangouts was still open on the other tab! Success -- we played a very smooth and fun game with voice and even video, if we wanted to switch tabs. It was super fun and we played for an hour! I found that the response time for the program was amazingly fast and the options were super fun to play. It was like playing face to face. It's amazing how we can have no distance barriers anymore; I can see this being so useful if trying to design something or share a visual idea over the Internet. It's so exciting to think of all the possibilities. I want to find an even better art option online to collaborate over the Internet.
This was an exciting, positive, incredible week... so why do I feel like drowning?
First, the exceptional:
Before the break, I had submitted a proposal for an exchange between our girls and the boys at a nearby private school to do artwork. The girls were to go to their school to work on ceramics, and the boys would come to our school to work on printmaking. Since both our schools are segregated, this would be an opportunity for a low-key coed ongoing activity without the pressures of an actual event. This Tuesday the 19th, the proposal was accepted! The principal said it was a great initiative. When I told the girls, they were beaming, and after a little paperwork, we have a bus set up for us this upcoming Thursday.
More importantly, my mural project was also approved by the principal, who took the time to sit with me, encourage the project and praise the design. The wood was purchased this week, and it is smooth and perfect for the mural; I will draw the design on Monday, and the girls who will participate are extremely excited about the project, particularly Jessica, the talented grade 11 girl who designed the overall mural idea.
To top it off, I was asked to give a presentation to the whole senior school during assembly on the 22nd. The topic they asked me to talk about was my experiences, twists and turns between being an almost-dentist in Brazil to being an artist teaching at a private school. More importantly, the administration said they wanted me to reveal the secret for being joyful (they caught me hopping and singing to school, oops!)
I hadn't done any public speaking for the past 20 years, but I made a good slideshow, and in the end, the girls had laughed so hard... everyone had a really good time, including me. Finally today, I went to an all-day pro-D about apps in iPad, and it was very informative.
Now, the negative:
Because my improv team had their big performance the previous Thursday January 14th, I missed OLTD class. I had hoped to catch up during the weekend, but I got the flu -- which is why I didn't teach until Tuesday. I also missed my Monday meeting with my OLTD group, when we were going to continue our discussion regarding our group seminar. A paper which was due this week remained unfinished until tonight. With all the commotion, I have spent the whole week trying to catch up to all the work, but worst of all, I feel very disconnected from the OLTD group. In fact, Wednesday I was considering dropping out of class and waiting this one off until next time.
I can't help but think that, if as an adult, I feel disconnected and overwhelmed, a kid who for some reason misses online class must feel much worse. I think this is probably one of the reasons online courses have such a high drop-out rate... the lack of face-to-face really makes one feel like the ship has sailed and no one even realized you stayed at the dock. There is no one for you to approach after school and ask for notes. How important it is for us to build a strong community with our online students! How can this be further improved? Zoom and Collaborate are good, but how else can we keep our fingers on everyone's pulse? I can't wait to see what comes down the line, and how much online learning will improve in the next ten years.
We were prompted by our professor of OLTD 503 to design an image that represented our experience with Online Teaching and Learning so far. As I reflected on what image could be a good representation, I thought back on my experiences with the Internet, and the magical world we have available under our fingertips; how amazing it is to be able to reach and create these meaningful connections with each other, so far away. In my experience, relationships through the Internet can be even more real than face to face, as the defenses and facade we often hold up are removed and we are able to relax. We hear a lot about faking things on the Internet, but in my experience, people can be very sincere and honest through the Internet, and you can get to know a whole lot about someone very fast -- things that you would normally learn very slowly. Creating connections through the Internet often drives people to tell a great deal about their ideas and inner considerations, something we are very guarded naturally to do face to face.
This image came to mind:
This is a simple collage of several images I found on the Internet -- I thought that was apropos :)
Online, each one of us is the master puppeteer of our own learning; we only get as much as we want. But with every keystroke, we make connections with other real individuals out there. Our thoughts and ideas become interlinked, like a giant cat's cradle, and everyone contributes to the knowledge base. In a way, we are all teachers and students; we should encourage our students to get "entangled", to create content, to interact and explore. Without getting their fingers "tangled" on others' thoughts and work, without the interaction between people, then all we are left with is a boring database, with no soul. I am looking forward to encouraging meaning-making and connections between my students, so that they can become excited about their own learning.
** Sources for images are as follows: