June 7, 2010

I thought I’d spend some time reflecting upon a presentation I went to – all about the use of Web 2.0 technologies in the University. It was a very impressive presentation and showcased a whole range of fascinating technologies that held all sorts of potential for the educative process. What fascinated me though was that despite my immersion into this world for a semester, my first response was still to move to fear. As I listened and watched I could hear my defenses kick in: “Oh no, this is too much, too many..I’m interested, but I don’t have time to explore all of this…”

I had to very deliberately hold myself still and calm and try to move back to love and think about why I was attending. I struggled to “love” the technology. But where I could go to was a love of learning and a love of being at university. I am so grateful that I have access to spaces that offer challenges to my ways of thinking.

What interested me was that only once I had moved to love was I then able to begin to think critically rather than cynically or defensively. So in my reflective space a few things struck me.

The first was very funny. The presenter said: “We’re over blogging, wikis and discussion boards” – it completely cracked me up. Over it? Wait a minute. When did this happen? When did we get “over it”? Some of us are still getting the hang of it! Because I had moved away from fear I was able to giggle at the irony of this – rather than curl up with a sense of failure.

The second thing that struck me was the moral panic that sets in about generational differences. There was a line among some participants about how young people are thinking and relating differently, and I wondered how often through the ages these lines have been sprouted. No great wisdom on my part, just a nice reminder to myself to try to stay open.

Most of all I found myself appreciating the importance of simply having reflective spaces. Learning is a reflective space. Now that may sound obvious, but on the other side of the teaching game there isn’t much space for reflection. You tend to run around madly preparing materials, meeting with students, attending to admin, trying to do your own research and struggling to keep up with the ever amassing pile of literature on your desk. Sitting in the lecture theatre I was afforded the luxury of being able to free associate for the first time in weeks. As I was watching a presentation about IT my head made links to a fascinating range of issues: pieces of technology some of my students would love – and a mental note to self to send them the links, I thought about my own teaching practice and a conversation I’d had regarding support for first years students, I remembered an article I’d read and promised myself to send the author some feedback, I thought about the wisdom of crowds vs the tyranny of the mob, I thought about the move from fear to love. Most importantly it made me remember that finding the reflective space is an important act of self-care.

Image source: Photography by Darren Staples,


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