32 An “Aha!” Moment

Becky Noel

The long University Days session on August 15, 2019, called Open Education & Focusing on a Year in Practice, delivered a long-overdue “Aha!” moment. It was overdue because I’ve taken the slower path to involvement in the CPLC so far since I was technically on sabbatical through the summer. I confess I haven’t been reading the materials; I did open all the tabs before our July 30 meeting but I got sidetracked before I managed to read them. While I attended and enjoyed the meetings on June 4 and July 30, things weren’t entirely clicking. During the University Days CPLC meeting, I attended Robin’s break-out workshop called “Connected and Connectivist Learning.” All of the workshops sounded incredibly helpful and it was painful not to be able to go to all of them. But I’m very glad I went to this one. This line in Robin’s slide show, slide 12 to be exact, was when I heard an almost audible click in my brain:

            Learning is considered a “knowledge creation process . . . not only knowledge consumption.”[1]

I’m sure this is a very basic, well-known point within the open learning approach. I’m sure I’ve seen and heard this point made before, and I’ve probably even said it. But I was ready for it this time. Teachable moments happen at all stages of learning, right? I’ve been groping toward this for a while—again, without doing the reading and ATI attendance and other learning that would have smacked me with it much sooner. Suddenly I saw how this could tie together everything I want to do in my classes and with my program’s major and minor. The slide show by Faculty Champions had already popped with ideas that exemplified this approach to learning. The concept of Personal Learning Networks is also very helpful. Considering students as connected knowledge creators immediately touches several areas of strong focus for me as I return from my sabbatical.

In HI 3145 Antebellum America 1815-1860, I want students to think about how the antebellum period is presented in public-facing media such as museums, films, and digital history projects. I also want them to do some presenting, i.e. knowledge creation. I’m working on a new public-facing project for the course, or more likely, a set of projects that they can select, propose, and shape. (This course would be ideal for a student-generated OA textbook, but I think that will have to wait.) ·      I teach HI 2223 Methods, Theories, and Careers in History, a course aimed at sophomores and required for the History and Social Studies Education majors. It’s important for SSE majors because not all of them will end up teaching, or they may teach for a while and then do something else. The career component harmonizes especially well with the concept of a Personal Learning Network. Students are developing PLNs for history content and skill development, but they are also building PLNs for career exploration and networking. If these are two PLNs, they overlap but not completely. I’d like students to think about this and then continue to build a future-oriented PLN after the course is done.

As the incoming History Coordinator, I’m fired up to work on cohort development for new History majors (first-years, transfers, and internal transfers) and for all of the students in the major. That’s something History has long wanted to do and we have watched how English does it with envy. Framing the students, faculty, clubs (History Club but also others), honor society, and other resources in and around the major as nodes in a PLN can help us enrich each student’s bond with the History major and enhance our community.

I’ve also been working toward increasing our connections with PSU History alumni, for students in HI 2223 and for all of our majors. History majors need to approach career development differently from students in fields like Accounting where the major is (or is presumed to be) the job. We tell our students about the diverse career paths of our alumni, but the idea of a PLN is a good way to explain how alumni can help them in their important and lifelong career exploration task. They should also see career exploration as another project of knowledge creation based on their interests and disposition. Even the simple and long-known device of an informational interview now looks to me like PLN-augmenting knowledge creation. ·      While on sabbatical, I thought a lot about career development for students in the humanities generally and for students across the arts and sciences. Everything I’ve just said about how I can use these insights for history majors applies to students in a number of other less-concretely-vocational (?) majors on campus. Leslie Blakney and I led a session on this at University Days that had lively participation, and I plan to follow up. I’m very grateful to Robin, Jess, Martha, Cathie, and all who participated in funding and creating the CPLC, including of course President Birx. I’m looking forward to the rest of the CPLC year and other activities at the CoLab. I’m also excited to look at all of the materials on Moodle and put this new vision into action.

[1] Yes, I know this quote is too short to need to inset. I’m doing it anyway to express how distinctly it stood out for me.

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