5 Student responsibility in a collaborative curriculum

While this course is certainly ‘about’ technology, it isn’t so much about the actual tools themselves, but rather what the implication of those tools are on us as humans. This week I’d like to talk a little bit about the responsibility that the student has when the community is the curriculum.

Responsibility vs. Obligation
These are very similar words, in a sense, but there is a motivational difference between the two that I think is very important to the educational experience. Collaborative learning presumes that people are coming to a learning environment in an attempt to come to a new understanding, or to get a sense of a new context. If this is true, and you are working with others that are also there for that reason, i see it as your responsibility to help each other. It is also your responsibility to help yourself, in ways that make sense to you.

If I, as an educator, create an obligation by setting an artificial performance mark or some other leverage of power, then we are working from my own context and history and not yours. If i help structure an ecosystem that allows you to bring your own sense of responsibility, then you are working from your history. I would argue that the latter is more relevant. Responsibility is and should be student driven. It certainly would seem more likely that the students would be able to perform with a similar responsibility after the course was over if they had worked that way during the course.

Some key points about responsibility…

Give your colleagues good feedback, help them learn by sharing new connections between their ideas and ideas you’ve had. This may ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ with what they are saying, but this isn’t important. Good feedback creates new connections. New connections can come in many formats, it may be a link to a new thinker, it may be something you overheard or just a thought you had. Share them.

Improve collaborative work Our group work belongs to all of us, and it is the record of what we’ve done together. If everyone spends an hour going in, cleaning up links, making new connections, fixing formatting… our work gets much better. Imagine you were working on a house together and you saw a part of the house unpainted. Get brush. Paint.

Detail your learning journey I’m going to learn WAY more from the ways that you have learned than from the final product of that learning. What wrong turns did you make? What were the important lessons that allowed you to move forward? What good ideas did you have that you didn’t have time to follow up?

Be responsible to your own learning If there’s something you don’t get about the course or what we’re doing, that doesn’t make sense to you, or something that you don’t like, talk about it. Ask questions and challenge it. But make sure you’re informed. The syllabus of a course like this (or in our case the learning contract) is a part of our ecosystem. Read it. Digest it. It sets the ground rules of the language we are using. Many times simply reading what other people have said or done, or reading the foundational documents, is enough to clear stuff up. One of the biggest reasons for us to come together in something like a course is to create a common language that allows us to understand each other. Sometimes that takes work.

Push yourself As an educator, I do my best to push myself and my students. I like to think that coming together and giving bunches of hours of our time to learn together is worth caring about. There’s no sense committing 30-100 hours of your life to something and not get something out of it. Find new connections, new ideas, do things that are hard.

Do things that are hard… and come tell us all about it.

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