Saturday, August 1, 2015

INTE 5340 Learning with Digital Stories: Final Reflection

 Life and Learning through Digital Stories

After seven intense weeks in an online, social media whirlwind Professor Remi Holden’s INTE 5340 Learning with Digital Stories class at the University of Colorado Denver is coming to a close. But before I can take a much needed breather, it’s time to reflect on my experiences throughout the course. To finish, I am including one last response to accompany my final portfolio. I will discuss the following topics:

·         My understanding of new literacies, social practice, and digital storytelling

·         My experience with digital storytelling and DS106

·         Applying my learning to corporate eLearning

Understanding new literacies, social practice, and digital storytelling

I started this class with a feeling of frustration. Right out of the gate, I had a week to complete half a dozen assignments and read a textbook chapter on some abstract concepts related to redefining the word literacy. I admit my initial impression was not a good one. The assignments felt like trivial busy work and the text seemed irrelevant to eLearning in general. In addition, everything we did needed to be published and shared via social media which is still a little outside of my comfort zone.  I had experience utilizing Facebook, LinkedIn, and some blogs but I’m more of the passive observer rather than active participant. Having everything accelerated into an eight week period didn’t help my attitude either, especially with the busy work and home schedules I had to manage at the same time. What I did not realize at the beginning was that the class and its underlying principles would come full circle by the end of the course.

I know now that the key to this course was changing the mindset and the way we think about learning. Redefining literacy was a big part of that and a necessary first step. It’s important to know that literacy extends beyond just the ability to read and write. It encompasses different mediums including various technologies and forms of social media, which were highlighted in this course. Once that definition is understood, we can then see how various groups or individuals exercise those literacies in everyday life. I think this is a major component of social theory. And within social theory we can examine two things: 1) how social learning takes place and 2) how social learning is put into practice.

The most interesting concept, for me though, was learning about the paradigm shift from pushing curriculum onto students to having students pull information based on their own desired learning trajectories. I believe this shift is a long time in the making but today’s new technological literacies have accelerated the shift. The web makes it possible for people to have information at their fingertips and learn what they want to learn. And now with Web 2.0 and the ability to collaborate across the internet, the student has the ability to become the teacher. Therefore, within this learning ecosystem, I can get some ideas of how to implement social learning practices into my professional learning career.

As for digital storytelling? That’s the fun byproduct of new literacies.

Digital Storytelling and DS106

In my opinion, nothing exemplifies new literacies more than DS106. I think the site and the movement altogether is incredible. I was immediately interested. I love creative projects and the fact that the site is sustained through the contributions of others. What made me uncomfortable was the social media aspect – which I mentioned earlier. Many of the assignments require sharing either on Twitter, Instagram, or other social media sites. Again, I’m more of a passive observer on social media than an active participator.

The number of assignments to complete each week was a little overwhelming. But for the DS106 assignments, I found the variety to be very intriguing. The daily creates and assignment bank projects included a vast number of different mediums illustrating the breadth of new literacies within technology. This helped me realize a number of things. First, there are quite a few online tools available and I have very little experience with any of them. It amazes me that, today, the average internet user has the ability to do web design, audio, video, and a number of other capabilities. For one assignment I needed to create my own maze but after a simple google search I quickly found a number of online tools that made the task fairly easy. Second, I found myself gravitating toward certain mediums. Audio, video, and photography are not really my thing. I would much rather do design, web, and writing assignments and generally sought those out for weekly projects. What ultimately made these assignments intriguing was the framework in which they were presented. I believe it was the text that mentioned that creativity requires restraints – you can’t just tell someone to go into a room and “be creative”. The framework starts the thought process but the ambiguity (a common attribute throughout the course) enabled the creativity.

When it came to critiquing digital stories, it was interesting to note that stories are everywhere. At first, I thought that digital storytelling would naturally come in the form of a video, such as a montage, documentary, or trailer. In reality, a story can be told in many different forms. When it came to finding digital stories to critique within our focal themes, I found myself going to quite often and found a number of great resources mixed in and around the publications. I think it was altogether a worthwhile practice. Anytime you can break something down into its smallest parts and take a critical view, a world of insight is opened up.

Apply my learning to corporate eLearning

Corporate eLearning has been a common theme for me throughout my masters studies. I considered choosing a different area of focus for digital storytelling but ultimately I wanted all of my efforts in school to contribute to my professional pursuits. So I again chose corporate eLearning. I am currently loosely affiliated with our enablement/training team at work and am looking for a full time position. I’m definitely glad I kept the theme for this course.

I’m excited to apply the learning from this class to my professional life. The biggest take-away is new perspective on eLearning. I originally though eLearning was solely comprised of self-paced learning modules and online courses. But that is just one component. Understanding the paradigm shift from push to pull has opened my eyes and given me a number of ideas of how to create an ecosystem at work where employees can pull the information needed to perform their work. It has also helped me realize that a “pull” environment is already in place but the lack of information and access has made the learning experience inefficient and cumbersome. Social learning is already taking place to some degree as employees often rely on tribal knowledge to get ramped up. And, those that work within the sales department at my company are those that benefit most from pull-based learning.

There is a major opportunity that I see and the potential to maximize learning or “enablement” as we call it is great. I believe it starts with understanding the current social learning practices and expounding upon them to make a greater learning experience.


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