It’s all about soul

It would not be a Heather Kurto post without some sort of video! I used an application called Powtoon to create a little short animated piece on my Journey through ETAP 640. It is extremely rough, but it was my first time using this application. It was easy to use and if you have a few minutes it is worth playing around with.

What have I learned?

This class had had many layers to it. On the surface of this course we have learned how to put an online course together. We have learned the principles of effective online instruction and the philosophies that surround interactions on line. Throughout the course each of us began to dig a little deeper. Some of us even dug down to the core of who we are as individuals. I have been one of the lucky ones who is looking inward at what lies at the source of my passion. I am really reflecting on what is at the soul of my teaching? Why do I feel so compelled to be a part of educational reform? Why can’t I continue to do my job, as hundreds and thousands do daily, without changing? My voice has been validated, and I am not sure if this is the design of the course or a course that my heart should follow.

Designing my course

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to design an online course that met the needs of my students parents. I wanted to do something outside of the traditional course and create a forum where I could be a guide in a families journey with Autism. In the past I have had parents come in during the school day and we would sit and discuss the data that we had collected on their child and what our goals would be for the subsequent weeks. I have always left the our meetings feeling like the parents needed more information. I have recommended books, I have tried to hold classes before or after school to create a space where we could come together to talk about issued in autism, but it seemed to flop due to the logistics of time and location. I am really hopeful that an online course will provide the flexibility, feedback and comfort level for parents to participate in activities and discussions to help them better understand their child’s disability. What is amazing about autism is that each child is an individual and while we all fall under the same DSM IV diagnosis of autism, the characteristics vary across a spectrum.

Designing this course is more than creating a space. It is designing a space that makes sense to the learner. The design is so important because it creates an independent flow of the course for the learner so that the instructional time can be spent facilitating interactions, providing feedback and establishing a community of learners. The Breeze Presentations, guidance from professor Pickett and readings and manual all taught so much about the foundations of course design. They provided us with discussion topics as a community to discuss and make clear the importance of collaboration with our peers. The design phase was a lot about anticipating questions, glitches, and potential confusion.

The peer feedback was such a crucial phase for me. I sat literally for hours, combing through the feedback, with a lot of windows open in various browsers, making sense of  the feedback and my course. I realized how in my head I knew what I wanted to accomplish but I had to get that into my course. The feedback from Dan, Liz and Mary helped be untie the knots in my course to create a more flowing presentation in my activities and assignments. Professor Pickett’s feedback made me laugh out loud at my intentions, and really focus on making my goals and objectives visible to my students. I really want my students to engage in this course without fear of failure, and with an open understanding of what we all go through with the disability of Autism. I want to have open and honest conversations about our experiences. There are no tricks and I don’t want this to be difficult, but I want it to be accessible and meaningful.

The Discussions

Our community of learners during this course have been so inspirational. Every one in this course brought their interests and insights into the discussions. It became a space for all of us to voice our observations in our current classrooms/professional roles and how our visions were changing based on our understanding of presence.

This course has been my Aha moment. I have always felt a tug in my soul that something was not right in k-12 education, but what is it? Is it the content, the design, the teachers, students, parental involvement? What is is that is preventing our amazingly talented students from engaging and embracing education? This has become even more of a crisis for me as I watch my son move through our public school system. What is working and what isn’t working and how do we shift so that all of our students love and embrace school?

This course held a mirror up to the learner in me. Inside I want to connect with others. The social element in learning is vital. I want to connect, I want to be validated and I want to feel safe in my learning spaces. I want to learn from someone who is passionate about their subject and teaching. I want to be inspired and I want to feel like I am making a contribution. All of these elements have been present in our discussion forum. We have exchanged ideas, thoughts and we have been able to thoughtfully disagree.

In this last module discussion I have been watching a lot of TEDxTalks videos on Youtube after being entranced my Michael Wesch. Michael Wesch in, The Machine is Changing Us , really hit on how media/technology is impacting our interactions and classrooms. There is a buzz in some circles that technology is distracting our students to the point that education is becoming irrelevant. I think that education is providing us the opportunities to do the contrary. We are able to easily connect, create spaces that encourage curiosity and creativity without the stigma of failure. Technology can make it easier for us to be present for our students. How we are using technology is part of the solution, but not the whole picture. We need to look at our talented students bridge the gap between what they need and what they are offered. If the complaints about student attention and engagement are true (students need to be entertained and their attention spans have diminished) then shouldn’t we acknowledge that and adapt? I do not think this is the case. I think students have discovered better and more efficient ways of connecting and engaging and we have not fully caught up. In addition we keep expanding this idea of  the Global Educational Reform Movement, more aptly named GERM that focuses on standardization, literacy and math skills and this idea that if you hold schools accountable for performance they will perform. Get over it already, it is not working!

I have cited Sir Ken Robinson a lot through this module.  I am going to leave this blog with a video of his that I really feel everyone in education should watch. It really stirred my soul. He discusses the 3 important elements of education that are necessary to help the human mind flourish. These elements are creativity, curiosity and diversity. These elements have all been present in our course ETAP 640. This course has been an example of how we can create learner centered instruction, promote curiosity and creativity while appreciating and embracing diversity.  If we can let go of educational nostalgia and embrace these core values of the human mind and spirit, we may be able to create a sustainable and peaceful global community.



2 thoughts on “It’s all about soul

  1. mcm1199

    Love the PowTown video. One question though – how did you get through the summer? It seemed like you were taking multiple classes. I’ve only taken ETAP 640 and I’m exhausted!!!
    Loved your blog,

  2. hkurto Post author

    I am not teaching over the summer, so I took 3 classes! One was finished in July, and the other class really complimented this class. I am going to enjoy and implement what I have learned this summer in these two weeks before school starts. Maybe I will see you in the fall! Thanks for your comment!


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