there is no try

April 8, 2008

…thinking a lot about change this morning; what it takes for me and how I am influenced by others. For a while now I have been thinking about the fact that what we are expected to do, the things that are just part of what we do every day, part of our jobs, part of our daily life become routine, easy, and unremarkable.

I saw a friend this morning and we shared our weekends. I had headed up to ski, but windy and icy conditions made that far from fun, so Kelly and I decided to hike instead, protected within the trees. She, however, forgot snowshoes. Well, as it is April in Colorado, the snow is typically packed (at minimum on the trails) so, we headed off anyway. Sure enough- well packed trails peppered with a few windblown drifts. Occasionally we would unknowingly cross a drift and pop through. Up to our thighs. And then it took a little time, post-holing until we got to a spot we could pack in steps and climb out of the drift. Then it was back on the trail and off we went. I have done this on many trails, in different conditions, but the basic premise remains the same: pop through, pack down, build stairs and climb out.

Well, the friend I was speaking with this morning does not spend much time backcountry outdoors. She laughed as I casually shared. What for me was mentionable, but unremarkable, for her was an armchair adventure (her words.) And it occurred to me, there was a time when that knowledge, that understanding of what was happening and how to get out of it had been completely unknown for me. As a matter of fact, I REMEMBER the weekend I learned this skill… and post-holed a half mile because I could not pack down and climb out. And it was not easy. Or graceful. And definitely not fun.

I think about this because right now I am moving through a similar stage of my own learning about online instruction. I have reached a point where the LMS, threaded discussions, dropbox, email, has become automatic, comfortable. I have great rapport with students, have established a comfortable rhythm in class, have great readings, assignments and discussions. I have basically shifted tools and transferred on-ground experiences, online. Instead of circles, we have threads. Instead of reading on paper, we screen-read. Instead of synchronous interaction, we interact asynchronously. Not much, though, has actually changed. I should be happy, everyone else seems happy, but I find myself in the interesting position of feeling dissatisfied. Just moving online is geography, not dimension. I need not just connection but actual collaboration, not just the sharing of ideas, but the building of new ideas together in community. And I know- there is so much more, right at our fingertips, but unseen from the safety of the LMS. And so I wonder. I ask (thank you Brian). I push. I attend every workshop I can. I lurk. I learn. I try. It goes great! Right before it goes embarassingly badly. So I lurk some more. Try some more. Ask some more. Then, I join Twitter (thanks Brian!) And now, as part of a community (thanks twitterverse), I begin to do. And do more. And suddenly, what was unfamiliar, uncomfortable, is getting to be more natural. Even fun.

And this morning, reminded by my four year old playing StarWars, I am inspired:
Luke: Master, moving around stones is one thing. Raising an X-Wing fighter from a swamp is totally different.
Yoda: No, no different. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
Luke: Ok, I’ll try.
Yoda: No, try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

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