Tuesday, April 30, 2013

On-Line Learning: We're In Trouble

Back in 1995 when I entered the glorious world of college, there was no Internet.  There was no Amazon for book deals.  No one read anything electronically.  We all ordered huge stacks of dusty books from the library, making the library the hub of social connection.  No cell phones.  No e-mail.  I used my pocket calendar to keep track of all my deadlines and important social events.  I have no regrets. 

I remember when the Internet was unveiled.  I didn't really even get it.  We all got Foxmail accounts and we'd all go into the basement of the GFU library and chat with each other...yep, with all the other 20 people who happened to be sitting down in that windowless haven.  You'd send something witty to the guy sitting in the far corner and you'd look up to see his shoulder shake with laughter and wait for his comeback.  He'd push send and then stop and look up to see you read it with your own eyes.  A few users had Internet access in their rooms; we all thought they were weird for spending so much time in their rooms on their computers.  What an isolating concept.

Well, I'm back on campus...or not really.  For my current career, I'm required to pursued some collegiate professional development.  So, I'm taking an on-line class.  I was very excited to do this because I didn't want to be bothered with driving to class every week.  It fits with my busy-adult-life.  And I'd say I am learning content.  But when I compare it with my traditional undergrad experience, it really isn't the same and should not be viewed as such.

I find myself not asking my professor any clarifying questions, even though there are plenty I could ask.  I'm not even sure how many of us are in the class.  We were all supposed to introduce ourselves at the beginning, and after reading about five intros I lost interest.  They all started blending together and seeming a bit meaningless...I mean, I'm not actually going to be in relationship with these virtual classmates.  (FYI:  We take timed tests on-line.  Each time I take the test I find mistakes in the questions and there are usually a few multiple choice questions that have at least two possible answers, but I never bring this to my professor's attention because what does it really matter. We don't have a real working relationship.)

We read PowerPoint lectures on-line.  We take part in required class discussions.  Each week we are supposed to respond to our professor's question and then we have to make one comment off of someone's original post.  After week three I have found these responses fairly uninspiring.  Each person basically rewords a paragraph in our book just enough so they won't be accused of plagiarism.  I finally decided to shake things up a bit and make the most out of the class.  I put my soul into a discussion question.  My husband finally piped up, "Are you writing a blog post?"

"Ha!  Basically.  I'm just trying to write something interesting that others might enjoy."  Don't worry, I got the required regurgitated information in there.

No one has responded to my post, probably because it ended up being 10 paragraphs long and not a simple paragraph they could skim and write a thoughtless response comment .  And they probably all find this Rebekah Schneiter who's profile pictures is a yellow smile, really annoying and over-the-top.  I'd probably find myself annoying too.

I just got done reading a memoir called, "The Year of Learning Dangerously," which is about a mom who decides to homeschool her daughter without a real concrete plan, and finally ends up contracting her child's education out between a math tutor, French tutor, and on-line school.  She writes about the on-line experience in glowing terms and how connected her daughter feels chatting with all her virtual classmates.  I have to admit I wanted to gage a bit.

Guess what...it isn't real.  It doesn't even compare.  Something huge is lost in this style of learning.  Maybe you don't know what is lost if you've never experienced the real deal.  Or maybe I just went to an incredible college..that could be it.  :)

I connected with most all of my professors. I felt like I mattered and that they had a real interest in my success.  I got to know my classmates and cared about what they shared in class.  I didn't agree with a lot of what I encountered when I first entered college, but this was part of the process of growing and changing.  These were real relationships and because they were real and mattered their opinions mattered and I listened, evaluated, assessed my own beliefs and changed mine when I realized my ideas weren't really true or relevant to who I was becoming.

None of this would have happened on-line.

Oh its been convenient during this stage of life, but the whole movement toward on-line-learning makes me sad.  I'm glad my boys sit in classrooms with other kids and learn in relationship.  I hope that one day they move out of my house and into a dorm, and that they have to set their alarms and walk to an actual classroom.  These things are fairly essential in my opinion.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Motherhood and Grace

The longer that I'm a mother the more I realize that I need grace, grace from my kids and from others...and from God.  I'm far from perfect.  I blunder along for sure.  I need encouragement and community.  I need honesty with close friends and lots and lots of laughter.

This mothering job seems too much at times, as I realize the lasting imprint I leave on my three sons.  What will they remember of me?  Will grace wash away those flub-up-moments?

I think Nancy B. Kenney's latest anthology is titled appropriately, Miracles and Moments of Grace. Inspiring Stories from Moms.

With Mother's Day approaching it could be that perfect gift to another mother.  The book is filled with short stories that really do bring encouragement, that you are not alone, not the only one feeling or thinking that about motherhood.  It is not just perspectives from new moms, but covers a wide spectrum of motherhood.  Some of the stories are quite heavy dealing with miscarriages and life-altering accidents, and then others are quite light and laughable.....my chapter entitled, "The Dirty Days of Summer," is more humorous, but still deals with me learning how to hold my own plans loosely as I journey through motherhood.

It is a group of lessons I'm proud to be included in.

Monday, April 8, 2013

My Spiritual Mentor

It only took me until my grandmother was 99 and gone to realize that she has been my spiritual mentor all these years.  Funny how the passing of someone makes you stop and reflect and realize truth.

My mother asked me to speak at her memorial.  I could have shared numerous memories and stories, some very funny and some more sad.  Some of our interactions were good, and actually some of our interactions were a bit bad.  (I regret the times I got mad at her, but we always made up.) I loved her very much, and should say I still love her since that continues on even after a person dies.

In my college years I began to realize how alike we were.  I think if we had both taken a personality test together we would have come out the same...or pretty close.  We actually have a lot in common, even marrying men with the same temperaments.  We share many of the same talents and hobbies, and both of us thrived during our college experiences.  We both love writing, reading, and learning new things.  We both have/had the same passion for travel and for connecting with friends and maintaining relationships. We also both were and are really good at speaking a bit too bluntly and sometimes saying things we regret.

During the memorial, a film of her life was made.  My cousin who was sitting next to me leaned over and said, "You look a lot like her."  That only brought forth more tears.  (I'm not sure if we look that alike, but our faces have a similar shape.)

The other way that we are alike is in how we connect to God: through our writing.  I have a whole chest full of journals:  letters and prayers to God and so did she.  We both tear up easily when we talk about the moving of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

So instead of sharing memories at her memorial, I shared her spiritual significance to me personally.  She was a woman who was always looking for the movement of the Holy Spirit and how she could be involved in that movement.  Who could she help, hug, encourage, speak to, serve, spend time with, etc.  She was always focused on the question, "What now?"

That is a question I find myself asking daily, and now when I ask that (a simple act of surrender really) I will see her face smiling at me, such a sweet face it was.