So here’s where I really hope that writing is epistemic, since I’m thinking as a write and hoping to find the answers in the process. Three pieces come to my mind — flow, fun, and learning — as I consider my original assignment, the identification of core properties common to my most positive learning experiences. Dwelling on this for the afternoon (on and off, while also playing Trine, Freedom Force, and Go Fish, watching Yo Gabba Gabba, eating stuffing and peas, responding to email, grading assignments, and reading Ship It!) leads me to these potential common properties.
- Project ownership. In all of these experiences, I had a real sense of ownership over the projects. Not all of them were great projects, and one even completely fell apart due to my ignorance and overcommitment, but these were undoubtedly my projects. The more I think about this, I don’t have many vivid memories of being in a positive learning experience in which I did not take ownership, at least psychologically, of the project. I realize that “take ownership” is fluffy. I think what I mean by this is that I became a stakeholder, even if I wasn’t one to begin with.
- Artifact-oriented. All of these experiences were deep learning experiences that manifested in an artifact. The whole KR&R semester was interesting, but there’s no doubt in my mind that most of my learning was manifested in the paper I wrote (which was on contextual vocabulary acquisition in SNePS, by the way). This strikes me as especially significant as I think about flow and the fact that I can fairly consistently hit flow while developing software when I have the luxury of setting my schedule and work environment.
- Self-imposed goals. This may be redundant with my first point, but in all of these experiences, I set the goals for myself. In the cases where I was in a class, there was a broad framework provided by the professor as well as some expectations; however, for the most part, I set the acceptance tests myself.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with my mother recently. I was expressing to her my dismay that I felt many of my students were only doing what was “good enough,” but that “good enough” is not good enough where excellence is required. She pointed out that my “good enough” has always been at a level higher than most others — probably why she advised me out of becoming a high school math teacher. Good advice.
As I think more about this, I realize that this may be an important aspect: that I was able to set expectations just above my skill level, allowing me to rise to the challenge. Thinking about my Computer Science education, I’m sure there were plenty of times when I could have done much more with an assignment, but I didn’t: I did what was expected, and so I didn’t learn much — or at least it was not memorable. However, in my “greatest learning experiences”, I really felt like I was spreading my wings.
Given that perfectionism is in my nature, this might be a problem when I construct learning experiences! Thinking about this semester in particular, I have designed experiences of the sort in which I would thrive, but I notice that some of my students are getting lost in the shuffle. Perhaps this is because they lack the self-awareness to know where to even set the bar. Perhaps the required reflections in 345/545 will help with that? The problem with questions like this is that asking “Are you more introspective now?” is about as useful as asking “Is this sentence false?”
I got my three properties, and it’s 8:45PM on Sunday night. I’m not content with this list of three, but also, I want to play some games, work on my pet project, keep reading Ship It, and/or have a decaf coffee. Jess is at a “knit night”, and it’s nights like this when I hear Commander Shepard inviting me into an adventure for which I don’t have the time right now.