From the beginning, the fact that this class involved teleconferencing and distance learning never crossed my mind. I was excited about the syllabus and ecstatic at the prospect of reading class material, whose titles didn't even contain the words cataloging or Unix. In all honesty, although I had participated in some teleconferencing, I imagined that an unobtrusive camera, or a few email messages would be the extent of our distance learning experience.
However, after the first day of our Berkeley/Michigan class, I found myself completely and unexpectedly impressed. IMPRESSED, not at the video set up, not at the fancy classroom, and not in fact at any of the technology. The thing that impressed me most was a silly little thought that kept running through my head...."I wonder what they are going to do after class." 'They' of course being the Berkeley students, and yes a silly thought I admit, but it is not so much the thought as the idea and realization behind it.
The Net and all the technology that goes with it, is not real to me. I know how it works, I know about packets and protocol and all that fun stuff, but it is not real. It is a "You will...." experience, a fascinating commercial, I just happen to be involved in. And as with any commercial that has caught your attention, when it's over, you turn the channel and watch something else. You don't think "Gee I wonder what they are going to do after they use that cleaning product or leggo of those eggos" of course not, because it is not real. And as I sat in class wondering what those students were doing after class, I suddenly realized that it was real, they were real.
Now, as if I had never heard of any of this technology before, I find my mind racing with the possibilities. You can take classes from home, classes will be cheaper, more people will have the opportunity to be educated, rural will no longer mean isolated and so on... It is real and it works therefore it can be applied to everyday life! I am not naive, when I babble on about the possibilities, I know they will be problems, I know it is still new and I am eager to see exactly what those hang ups are, and what the pluses are as well. And I suppose my enthusiasm and excitement for it all, is best expressed by the glee I take now, from watching those "You will..." commercials, laughing hysterically and shouting back "DONE IT!"
Pamela Enyasi Wilkins
When I watch TV, I give it a portion of my attention, but it is rare for me to become so involved in the show, that I am unconcious of things around me. So it is the same way with Distance Learning. I find myself fidgeting more often and attempting to rest my eyes by focusing on other things in the class. This is not so much a problem when the Professor is there, because there is more going on to occupy my senses with.
The other thing, is although I feel a certain amount of connection with my classmates in Berkeley, the essential bonding that classmates get is missing, bonding that comes primarily from small talk, during and before class. Breaks and before class, are a time to get to know your classmates, away from the Professor. A time to gripe about class, exchange ideas, etc. One soulution to this, would be to start the transmissions up 10 minutes or so before class, perhaps then, students would have a chance to talk causally and get to know each other.
Pamela Enyasi Wilkins
Think back to every lecture or class you have ever attended. During this time, when did you learn the most???? Was it from the required text and supplemental reading? Was it from the teachers lectures or guest speakers? Was it from lively discussion , debate and interaction with fellow students???? Chances are , learning experiences were garnished from all. And depending on the class, or topic one type of experience or another, might have seemed more beneficial or useful. Also, depending on your personality, one type of experience might have been more useful.
The other day, I was heading to class and discovered a funny thing. Prior to entering class each Friday, I would experience a wave of nervousness. This was usually accompanied by a desire to straighten my braids, or check to make sure that my clothing was neat and not to loud. Later that night, listening to a friend talk about stage fright, I realized that Stage Fright was what I experienced every Friday going to class.
Despite my stage fright, I do speak in class and can vividly remember raising my hand 5 or 6 times to make a comment. I watch the "stars" of the class, and stare admirably as they spit out answers and comments, many of them pointless, but nonetheless, they boldly raise their hands and beg to be heard. In my traditional classes, I do not hesitate to speak, raising my hand at anytime I feel I can make a coherent or worthwhile statement. So why can't I feel so comfortable in this class.
The answer, which I arrived at, after several days, is really quite simple. I have an established bond with my peers in my traditional classes and therefore, feel comfortable speaking with or to them. Initially introduced in the beginning of class, we occasionally say hi in the halls, we whisper in class, I begin to recognize them and their behaviors and I become comfortable enough around them, to speak my mind. Now this fear I have is no fault but my own and not everyone experiences it, but then again as distance learning grows, others will have the same problems. In lieu of the bonding that goes on in physical classes, virtual classes, will have to come up with virtual equivalents. A quick hello from every class member, may take 15 minutes, but serve to foster a bond. Icebreakers in the first few weeks of class, may seem silly, but quality discussion will be the pay off. These are only possible answers, but the issue of bonding between classmates and class stage fright, are ones which I think deserve further study.
Pamela Enyasi Wilkins
I found the Web sources to be very well put together, however, there are a few things, that I think could be improved on. For instance, some of the pages, like the CD-Rom page have no connections back up, this contributes to one feeling lost and takes away from the sense of relation among the pages. I did however love the connections to the other locations, patriculary the library Also, the text on the potential projects page was very hard to read, a few paragraph tags would have broken it up nicely.
I love the fact that the newspaper articles are on line, For one it left me with a lot less fewer excuses to avoid reading them. It also saved me countless hours of trudging to the library to photocopy articles that had probably been stolen anyway, (not that I am bitter or had such an experience)
I crawled around the pages set up by the students last year, and I loved them, they were fun and gave off a lot of excitement about the course. I found the Winter95 pages to be better organized, but lacking some of that Web abandonmnet you get with large graphics and excessive use of the blink tag.
All in all, I really enjoy having class material set up on the Web. It means I can access materials from anywhere on campus or from any Internet accessible terminal. I find, that I do not have as many stray papers floating around, and I always know where to find my syllabus or assignments.
Pamela Enyasi Wilkins
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