In between my work on teaching here at Upward Bound and prepping things for the start of another year in second grade, I have been taking an online course offered through the HarvardX online platform. HarvardX is this awesome project that allows people from anywhere in the world to access online course content from Harvard professors. (There is also a site called Coursera, which is based out of Stanford, that offers a similar learning experience but draws from a number of different institutions.) These programs are highly flexible, as you can either browse course materials and do what interests you (like an audit of a course) or you can complete all task assignments to get a certificate of completion.
I haven’t taken a course that was entirely online before, but I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. It is wonderful to be able to work at my own pace through the material and to not worry if I am feeling stressed one afternoon — I can just make up the work later. The content has been released one week at a time, which helps to keep me on pace, but there are no hard deadlines until the very end of the course, so there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of time.
Anyway, the course that I am taking is called “Leaders of Learning” and it’s offered by Dr. Richard Elmore at the Ed School at Harvard. The content in this course has been perfect for me at this juncture — because it is about exploring and articulating your own personal theory of learning and thinking about what types of roles you might be able to fill in the rapidly exploding landscape of the education sector. The introspective nature of the course has been eye-opening for me, because I’ve now seen explicitly that my personal orientation toward learning as well as my leadership style do not jive smoothly with the structures of traditional schools (hence one of the key reasons why I think that I was so often frustrated in my job during my first year teaching).
This is terrifying to me, because I am a product of public schools and am so passionate about the equal opportunities that public schooling can theoretically provide — but it’s also invigorating, as I start to think about what kinds of roles there might be around schools that might allow me to circumvent some of the things I find frustrating about the structure of traditional schooling while still reaching the underserved populations that I am so drawn to teaching and working with. In sum, it has been a really exciting journey thus far and I am really excited to see where it takes me as I continue through the course. It has been so glorious to be back in the student role, too — I think I am always going to be one of those people who misses school, so it is thrilling to me that online courses that are high quality are becoming much more commonplace.
Thanks for sharing your learning and reflections on your attitudes to learning and schooling. I could identify with some of the frustrations you are feeling. Finding a balance between philosophy and expectations of the systems was always a juggling act for me. I look forward to reading future reflections.
Thanks for stopping by, Norah! I always appreciate your comments.
So cool that you are enjoying your on-line learning. I just finished a MOOC (massive open online collaboration) through Stanford University on how to teach math. It was very rewarding, and I agree with you. I love how I could work at my own pace. I am looking forward to you sharing your new learning!
Did you take your course through the Coursera set-up? I am considering taking a class through that in the fall.
I wish that I could offer my students the same degree of self-paced learning as these courses do — though I’m not sure that would work as well in an elementary setting…they probably need more parameters.
I signed up for the MOOC through Stanford University. Here is the link: http://scpd.stanford.edu/instanford/how-to-learn-math.jsp This particular MOOC costs $125. However the student version is free. Here is the link to that one: https://class.stanford.edu/courses/Education/EDUC115-S/Spring2014/about It covers similar topics, but is geared more for students. Still you should check it out.
Thanks for sharing!