Wrestling with the Inner Pedagogue

I have been reading “An Urgency of Teachers” by Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel.

I find myself engaging particularly with the chapter named “Beyond the LMS”.  In the “Relic of the LMS”, Sean Michael writes “The LMS was not a creative decision, it was not pushing the capabilities of the Internet, it was settling for the least innovative classroom practice and repositioning that digitally.” (Morris & Stommel, 2018, pg. 27)

I have long struggled with who I am as an instructor online vs. who I am as an instructor F2F.

And I’m beginning to wonder if, in fact, the reason for my struggle is that everything digital at CNM (my home institution) was forced and constrained to fit into the box that is the institution’s LMS. That I’ve, in fact, had a 12-ish year panic attack in terms of teaching online because the walls of the LMS box were too confining and too limiting and I did not feel like I had permission to break them…

Sean Michael goes on to say, “No matter how creative and inspired the teacher or pedagogue behind the wheel, the LMS is no match for the wideness of the Internet…The persistence of the onerous LMS, and the ways learners have already adopted the patterns and habits of the learning within it, indicates that we are not ready to teach online.” (Morris & Stommel, 2018, pg. 27)

I have been frustrated for more than a decade with the LMS. And I have hacked the use of the LMS in my classroom and added my own ways of teaching that exist beyond it. And I have felt perpetually guilty (especially after my health crisis in July) that I have gone too far outside the box allowed by my institution (i.e. the LMS).

Yet again, I realize I have not gone nearly far enough.

Which, of course, leads to new questions:

  1. Where is the innovation in my online courses? How do I redesign my existing courses to integrate any innovation I find that already exists?
  2. And how to integrate new innovation and new ideas without creating an undue burden for my students?
  3. How do I make my resources and assignments outside the LMS more universally designed?
  4. And how do I balance content mastery with creative expression and tool/resource discovery?

The last question, of course, is the ever present and ever annoying question in terms of teaching science. I think content mastery is not a problem if a student is an excellent student. But helping less excellent students (and by this I mean students who have not already discerned how they learn) learn to implement tools and tricks to learn content well is ACTUALLY MORE IMPORTANT than the content itself. And yet, my department final in each class is basic content mastery. Always.

I’ve decided to approach my online redesigns with the following in mind:

Will you join me in a conversation of rethinking what’s possible or even plausible in online learning for STEM classes?

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