As I checked my Facebook account last night, a chat box popped up from a colleague from a former institution, Gwinnett Technical College, where I worked in Georgia. We chatted for a few minutes, and she relayed a nice complement. She had stopped by our old college to visit with friends and discussion turned to some frustrations with their moving to Angel from Blackboard. One faculty said, “I wish Britt was still here. He would never tell you ‘I don’t know.’ Instead, he would tell you ‘I bet so and so knows so let’s both go and learn together how to do it.’ That brought a smile to my face, as I remember doing that many times.
Forty years ago when I was a plebe at the U. S. Naval Academy, I learned quickly that naval officers never said “I don’t know.” The correct response if you did not know the answer was “I’ll Find Out, Sir!” And then you had better find out! It is a little thing, and yet, from an attitude perspective, huge. “I don’t know” is a passive response requiring no action. “I’ll find out” is a proactive response requiring action.
As I said goodnight to Michele, I was reflecting on her comment about my not saying “I don’t know.” That is a personal attitude, but could it not also be transferred to our students? After all, it is simply an expectation that students will take responsibility for their own learning.
We have been debating the efficacy of allowing laptops in classrooms here on campus. At the risk of calling them old-schoolers, there is a segment here that flatly bans the use of laptops or mobile devices in their classes. To me, that is inviting a passive student to your class. Luckily there are faculty here who feel the opposite.
The alternative as these other faculty have found is to tap in to the natural curiosity of students and set the expectation of “I’ll Find Out!” At a brown bag lunch last week, one faculty talked about the excitement of having students in his History class fact-check him during lectures and pull their impromptu research into the class discussion. I totally agree, and I think the attitude applies whether you are talking face-to-face or online classes.
In my online classes at both the undergraduate and graduate level, I have tried to set the expectation of student-generated content to add to the learning process. My current class is a good example. I have enjoyed co-teaching Educational Technology and School Leadership this semester with Jon Becker. Over the past twelve weeks, we and our students have collaboratively explored the integration of Web 2.0 in K-12 programs. At the start of class, we had a group of self-described technophobes who were very worried about taking an online class. Through the use of active learning and collaboration in a wiki, they have grown comfortable working and sharing online. Now, they wonder why their colleagues are not doing the same. During the past week, the online discussion was rich with commentary about the professional development of K-12 teachers. It was interesting to see my students moving from a former expectation that it was the administrator’s job to provide professional development to one that espoused personal learning in a networked world as the key to professional development.
“I’ll Find Out!” may be the heart and soul of learning-centered teaching, but I am coming to the realization that it also is the heart and soul of faculty development as well. Of course, it requires action on the part of each individual. A personal learning environment or network does not materialize overnight. It requires time and conscious thought to develop a learning network that works for you.
Trying to figure out how to facilitate that process will tug at me for the next few weeks. In June, Jeff Nugent, Bud Deihl and I will be guiding our annual Teaching and Learning with Technology Institute. Our theme this year is Teaching and Learning in a Networked World. Our challenge will be to introduce faculty to the power of networked learning and to assist them in developing their own networks. I have had the luxury of a full semester with my class, so this is a tall task to attempt in one week. It will be interesting to see how we do. Will we succeed?
I’ll find out.