Engineering and Networked Learning
For this first post I wanted to start with a brief background of myself for anyone reading. I’m an Environmental Engineering grad student at Virginia Tech with an undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan. I’ve taken one English class since high school and I can say that course was the most connected to the concept of networked learning and online engagement of any of the math or engineering courses I’ve taken. I think coming from a very technical background I have had countless “traditionally” taught lectured – at courses and while I don’t think they are the best idea, I haven’t quite understood a better one.
A key topic of this week’s readings was the idea of incorporating the internet and computer literacy into the classroom and I will admit, as an engineer, I am a bit confused. I found it very hard to understand quite what the writers and members of videos were saying meaning when they used this term and the vagueness of using the “network” made it hard for me to visualize what this might look like practically in a classroom.
I think I probably come from one of the least connected fields both in industry and in the classroom. Sure we’ve tried having online quizzes, homework that you upload and the occasional youtube video shown to impress on us the importance of taking your job seriously, but I wouldn’t say I understand the idea of “networked learning”. I agree with Gardner Campbell’s article on Networked Learning as Experiential Learning in that I believe computer literacy and understanding basic elements of coding are vital to surviving in this day and age and that I honestly don’t think I was ever taught these elements. This may be predominantly a factor of my age and the fact that I learned with the world on how social media develops and basic web etiquette. But I don’t necessarily disagree with my field and the luddite approach I’ve been predominantly taught with thus far. I feel strongly you must understand a lot of key concepts, equations and applications to be educated in becoming an engineer, which is essentially a vocation and I’m not sure would even qualify as “true learning” even though I can design my way around a water treatment plant.
My current understanding of teaching and I suppose learning is, I believe, very traditional. Most of my classes have assigned weekly problem sets with varying degrees of graded weight and then we were tested on the topics presented. I can count on one hand the number of classes that have deferred from this model but I can’t say I think its entirely bad. I never had the opportunity to participate in the “flipped classroom” but all I’ve heard about is that students were completely lost throughout and there was little guidance. I know that for me, the most meaningful instructors have been readily accessible and excited when I came to them with questions. They kept their doors open at all hours and would thoroughly try to answer questions or would point you to someone who could. The engaged professor has been the most helpful to me but I don’t think it actually helped me learn the material. I think the goal of teaching course with the idea of imparting knowledge drastically changes depending on the type of course you are responsible for.
When thinking of the kind of instructor I hope to be, I struggle with wanted to be innovative but also effective. I think being accessible to students is vital but I struggle with the idea of how to engage struggling students. I’m excited for what this semester has to bring in terms of thinking on these ideas and I hope there is some time spent not only on contemporary pedagogy and how to connect the internet into the classroom but also just on pedagogy because a lot of professors can get to the classroom without ever having been taught about teaching.