Sunday, 4 September 2016

PIDP 3260 - Resistance

As someone who went through too many years of undergrad before I saw the piece of paper in my hand called a degree, I can more-than-understand "resistance" in learning. Simon Fraser University had some of the worst (no offense) professors and instructors I've encountered at any educational institution. However, it also had a few of the best.

Brookfield's 2nd edition outlines resistance in chapter 12, and how to understand it. I'll mention the subheadings that Brookfield does, outlining the different types of resistance, and why it may happen. I'll also point out what I think I can do about it, and hope that it does work for the best.

Poor Self-Image as Learners

While many learners may have had poor experiences in the past when it comes to learning, they may have this notion thinking they're not intellectually gifted. When I'm teaching computer literacy, I expect my students to come from varying backgrounds. This means that some may have a lower self-image of themselves when it comes to learning.

This isn't something I encourage, and I intend to show everyone in the first class the basics of how I break down multi-faceted concepts in the classroom. For example, taking a bland document in MS Word and re-arranging it to look nice can be broken down into simple steps. I've done this before and it has had great results.

Fear of the Unknown

This is a common occurrence when it comes to learning computer literacy skills. What if you push a button and the entire computer shuts down? While this is highly unlikely and many operating systems have foolproof methods of preventing this from happening, it's still a common misconception among learners in this field.

From working in technical support, I've witnessed first-hand the fear of not knowing what can happen, or the fear of not knowing what kind of power you might be wielding when sitting at a computer with all the controls at your fingertips. I think I can help shake this misconception by challenging my students to try and tell me what steps they'd need to take to really crash a computer (outside of the Internet, of course). Chances are they won't be able to come up with a way, unless they've seen or done it before.

The Normal Rhythm of Learning

I want my students to realise that this new set of skills doesn't have to come with an uncomfortable feeling of being somewhere new. I want them to explore their skill-set after acquiring it, and let them know that the environment they're in was set up for just that. For example, launching Microsoft Word for the first time will produce a lot of anxiety. Once students learn to type and change a few things, they'll realise there are a lot of other options.

However, I can help them understand that clicking all of the buttons won't crash the computer, or really destroy anything. It's a safe sandbox environment, where virtually everything has an "undo" feature. This should help eliminate the "two steps forward, one step back" mentality.

Dis-junction of Learning and Teaching Styles

I will make sure that the style of teaching I choose is representative of how students would like to learn. Through research in other courses, and teaching experience, I've learned that students prefer an in-person classroom with a computer for each student. Then, they like to be walked through each task step by step, while they follow along the instructor's screen on a projector. This way, they can mimic each task, ask questions in person, and have individualised attention when needed.

However, I am open to changing and adjusting the teaching styles to help students learn in the best way possible. I will supplement learning with online videos for when students go home, as well as providing anything else I can do to enhance learning.

Apparent Irrelevance of the Learning Activity

Learners want their education to mean something, especially when it comes to learning computer literacy later in life. They are 'paying to learn computers', essentially. If they don't find the relevance in what they're learning, almost immediately, they can turn off like a switch.

One thing I've learned, is to make it personal to them. We can figure out who's learning to communicate with friends or relatives, who is trying to advance their careers, and other areas  of technology that people might be trying to break into. For example, I was only learning math in university because my degree required it. I had no interest in Calculus, and it showed. I still continue to have no interest, but it has proven to help my thinking process when approaching new problems.

Level of Required Learning is Inappropriate

As someone who is allergic to many plants and pollen-laden flowers, I'm a newbie when it comes to gardening. That said, if I were to take a class and my instructor asked me what type of garden I'd like to grow with what type of plants, I'd be at a loss. To organize and structure my own learning? No thanks. I came to class to learn something that was structured for me. Spoon feed me!

This is the same when it comes to computer literacy. It's such a vast world, and the instructor (me) should be responsible to understand the level of learning required, and the pace at which it should happen. I've designed my course (and re-designed it) in PIDP 3210 to the point where my own instructor said he'd want to take it when it becomes available. I'm confident I can resist the resistance here.

Fear of Looking Foolish in Public

Nobody wants to be the person who can't tweet or post an Instagram picture from their phone in public, right? The old days of "Hey, can I borrow your phone?" have gone away for many older adults and seniors, because they can't interact with a basic smartphone. 

I have parents, former students and customers that have this fear all the time. And they don't like to admit it until we're in a private conversation where they feel more comfortable admitting their weaknesses. Well, to be fair, we all get this feeling. My class would help with the basics that most people know, and help to diminish the things that we think we should know, but most people don't. For example, most people cannot code and design their own virus, despite what many people think when they lend their laptops to friends. This fear happens more often than I'd like to admit I've seen.

Cultural Suicide

I don't feel like cultural suicide is a huge concern for me, but I may have to learn this one the hard way. I see computer literacy as basic as numerical literacy for functioning in today's society in North America. If I cannot provide this to every living person without some sort of culture shock, then something in modern culture and society needs to change. I want to welcome my students to a wealth if information, not burden them with it.

Lack of Clarity in Teachers' Instructions

This is one I faced for years at SFU. There were language barriers with many professors, not just clarity-in-instruction barriers. There were also teaching barriers, one instructor in particular who flew away to SXSW festival in Texas instead of coming to lecture. We sat there for almost an hour before our TA got a hold of him while he was inebriated somewhere. We were pretty angry, but he got fired and I'm happy he did.

That aside, in a computer literacy class, I need to make sure that each concept is broken down in easy-to-digest chunks, and that each step precedes the next in a way that makes complete sense. For example, we need to turn on the computer, and then log into Windows. We need to log into Windows so the computer knows who we are, and that we are allowed access to the contents of the computer. That carries onto more complex parts of interacting with the computer. I never want my students to feel a lack of clarity or direction, and encourage questions in my classroom.

Students' Dislike of Teachers

This seems like one that I will have to take class by class. Each group of learners is different and unique in their own ways, and I will have to address this as such. Learning is very emotional, and if I do anything to disturb or negatively affect that, students will dislike me. It's something that is inevitable. However, I will have to do my best and inquire for feedback when necessary.

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