Sunday, 7 April 2013

Leading immortals

He restoreth my soul.

People are divine creations, bestowed with an immortal soul.  Dealing with people then requires us to operate in that knowledge.  

This chapter made me think of distance education.  When I took the course in Distance Education, it was somewhat surreal, because I was learning about education at a distance, while learning at a distance.  
Learning at a distance was one of the most significant pieces of my experience as a Masters student.  I have literally never been to Saskachewan, other than driving through on my way to a wedding in Minnesota.  All of my interactions have been online, via Blackboard, Collaborate, Skype, email and discussion boards.  It has given me such a different perspective on the power and the challenges of online learning. 
In planning my distance education course, and in following all my courses online, I had to remember that people are not just names on a screen, that there are indeed real live breathing souls on the other end.  Learning at a distance made me feel apart at first, but upon reflection, I see the richness that it has brought to my life.  I learned a lot about not only what people were posting for their assignments, but who they were professionally and as scholars.  The footprint of the learning is so much more lasting when it is online.  Firstly, in a real time face to face situation, there would never have been enough time to get into the depths of thoughts and learning that exist online.  Each post was considered, edited and formulated to best express one’s thinking.  As a consumer, I could choose the moments when I was most open to learning from others, and as opposed to an oral comment in a classroom setting, I could reread, ponder and respond at my own speed.  In an exercise in my last course, I reviewed the mountain of posts that had occurred over the course of the semester.  I was able to enrich my own understandings in reading what others thought.  I believe that in participating in the rich online environments fostered in the courses, I thought much more in-depthly than I could have imagined.  
The online experience of my Masters showed me the possibilities of using online environment in my professional communities.  When teachers get together to collaborate in person, they bring with them the realities of their life at the moment.  A tough day at work or a long stressful commute can negatively colour a discussion, and make the precious time together less productive than desired.  
In my Distance Education course, I imagined and planned a professional development community for French Immersion educators.  Because we are so few within our district, collaboration can be further hindered by location in the city, and out of school commitments.  Going back to a vision of a shepherd leader who leads immortal souls, the possibility of a professional community of learning that honours the teacher participants, that allows them to learn and share when it is best for them, was truly exciting.  I don’t think that I can accurately capture how connected I felt to my University of Saskatchewan learning community.  It is probably the most significant aha moment I felt in my program.  I will work hard to bring the spirit of learning and belonging back into my professional practice as I walk along side those I work with.  

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