Walking the Walk

I started a new online graduate class yesterday.  In the first assignment of this course, I ask the students to record a “confession camera” like those used on reality television shows.  In a confession camera, individuals record themselves answering a series of reflective questions.  While these are usually spliced and diced by the reality TV producers to create drama and promote infighting, in this class, my goal is to get the students to reflect on the assigned readings in first module and also to build a larger learning community in the class.  By seeing and hearing their classmates, my hope is that it makes the potentially isolating nature of online learning environments a little more social and collaborative.

The class is one of the advanced courses in our online teaching program and I’ve worked with all of these students in prior courses. I provide a list of prompts that I want the students to answer and also offer a list of applications that the students can use.  I tell my students that ultimately I don’t care how they record their “confession cameras” but I want to be able to see and hear them.  Since many of these students are currently teaching in some face-to-face capacity at their schools, one of the prompts asks them to reflect on the courses in the program so far and whether studying online instruction in the courses in the program has informed their face-to-face instruction.  In last week’s post, I wrote about how some people believe that we should view online instruction as “an entirely new way of teaching with new methods of engaging students.”  While that may be true, I think teaching online can certainly enrich our face-to-face instruction (and vice versa).  I wondered how the students would respond to the prompt and the first submissions are being posted online.

In one of the confession cameras, a student reflected that she has learned to “walk the walk” when she assigns a project with her face-to-face classes.  This, she says, is one of the big take aways from our online classes.  In my online classes, I don’t just provide directions, guidelines and rubrics for my students.  I “walk the walk” and contribute and participate as I’m hoping my students will.  For example, my confession camera was the first one submitted.  I responded to the prompts, drew on the readings and discussed my thoughts and reflections.  I know the confession camera assignment is uncomfortable for students.  Few people like to see recorded videos of themselves.  Fewer still enjoy hearing the sound of their recorded voices. By “walking the walk,” however, I’m saying to my students “I’m fully participating in this experience with you.”

I hope this doesn’t sound too preachy but “with” is one of my favorite prepositions.  I worry that educators often focus too much on “for” or “to” and lose sight of “with.”  By “walking the walk,” I’m hopefully changing the perception of assignments as being something done to them or being required for their grade in the class.  Instead, I’m hoping that my students see the class activities as something done with their classmates and with me.  From watching some of the confession cameras, it’s great to see that my students recognize that I’m walking the walk with them.

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