Working in a bubble – not as awesome as it sounds

maxresdefaultWorking in a bubble – your current situation is not representative of reality.

Why we need to leave the bubble – we need to leave the bubble to work in a multidisciplinary environment, to work in an environment that is representative of the real world. Interaction with people who have different opinions and different views will allow for the exploration of new stances on subjects that you may not have considered previously. The way courses are taught currently is known as “the sage on the stage” method. Students are lectured and talked at for an hour or so and sent on their way to do their assignments. The instructors are perceived as the holders of all knowledge, but in reality that is simply not the case.

Working outside the bubble – all involved are contributors of relevant topics and knowledge. Sources of knowledge are not limited to select professors and a list of approved textbooks. Working outside of the bubble removes the limitations that are brought on by “the sage on the stage” method.

In engineering and other hard sciences, a blend of the methods would be suitable to encourage problem solving in the “traditional” way, but also turning students loose to work out problems on their own to figure out alternative ways to tackle the same issues.  images

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8 Comments

  1. You have a point that I agree with. During my time at Virginia Tech and at several universities prior to this, perhaps five of my professors devoted their time to ensure that students truly understood what they’re learning, while also allowing the students to voice their potentially valuable views of the subject matter without reacting defensively. Unfortunately, the other majority pretend that their views are undefiable, and being in a classroom teaching is a one way street. As an undergraduate, I was terrified of addressing my professors, in fear that if I offered a counter opinion that I would be penalized for the remainder of the semester.

    However, as a graduate student, I’ve come to learn that this philosophy is gradually changing. Without challenging the previous generations, the new generations are doomed remain static and never changing.

  2. The idea of connected learning to me is one of those techno-idealized notions that look good on paper, but in reality fall short of the mark.

    “to work in an environment that is representative of the real world. Interaction with people who have different opinions and different views will allow for the exploration of new stances on subjects that you may not have considered previously.”

    I did not complete my undergraduate work at Virginia Tech. The largest class in which I was ever enrolled held around 150 people, and that was an anomaly. Most of my classes held between 20-40 students, and interactive classroom learning and discussion was encouraged. The sage/stage notion you bring up was not the norm. It was not my experience, so I guess this is more of a question – in your experience, is sage/stage, the bubble as you put it, the norm here and at other large universities for undergraduate student/professor interactions? If so, do you see digital interaction as a viable educational alternative to such classes? Do you see “connected learning” as an alternative to an already interactive small class environment?

    • I am interested to hear more about your stance regarding the shortcomings of connected learning, as expressed below:

      “The idea of connected learning to me is one of those techno-idealized notions that look good on paper, but in reality fall short of the mark.”

      I believe connected learning is not only beneficial, but necessary. Broadening our scope of influence allows us to critically assess our own ideas and improve upon our original claims. I work in a scientific field, where publishing would not be possible without peer-review.

      Despite my beliefs, I am equally interested in looking at this issue dialectically. I also believe there are major flaws in how we utilize connected learning in the academic setting. I am having trouble expressing my own frustrations, and I am interested in your point of view.

      Thank you for providing an interesting point to ponder!

  3. I’ll let people who have been students chime in here as well, but as a practitioner, I would say that I’ve come to appreciate and value the ways in which connected learning (i.e. using networked environments to support active co-learning — which means, among other things: learning by doing, learning in a social context from one another) can amplify outcomes for any size class. I mainly teach classes of 40 or fewer, but find that technology-enhanced co-learning makes the experience better for all of us in any sized group. As an instructor I spend more time engaging directly with students and the content they produce (and less time measuring and counting). Students work at a higher level when they have more feedback from more people and have an appreciative audience for their work. Plus they have tangible “deliverables” to take with them from the course, rather than stacks of completed exercises for the circular file. Does this mean that I don’t value and make space for discussion and small group interaction that isn’t web-based? Not at all — I will always place a premium on that. But using connected learning environments really does amplify and enrich the F2F work in my experience.

  4. The professors in my past that most affected me made a conscious effort to get to know their students and challenge students to engage in learning beyond the textbook (a form of connected learning). While attending a small liberal arts college, I enjoyed class sizes between five and fifteen students. The small class sizes encouraged more discussion-based courses and one-on-one feedback between the student and professor. My professors did not use technology in our coursework. In my experience, the individual face-to-face time with my professors in the classroom and office hours offered me the personalized experience I needed for college. However, I can see that as technology starts to become incorporated into the general curriculum, larger class sizes will feel smaller with more professor-student interaction enabled by technological interfaces.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your blog. While I can definitely see the advantage to connected learning, and allowing students access to others to learn further, I would be a little concerned over false information. What happens if a student is taught something that isn’t accurate from another source? Then what does the professor do? I guess I am a little concerned about the role the professor plays then. Is he truly ‘in charge’ of the class? There is so much information on the internet, which is great, but not all of it is true. How do we protect students from being misinformed?

  6. Thank you for your thoughts, and I like the metaphor working in a bubble. I agree with the point in your last paragraph. For my research work with wine, the wine service lab will measure most of the basic quality parameters for us because of the inter-lab collaboration. The offer is time-saving and labor-saving, but when comes to the real world, like working as a winemaker at the vineyard, accurate and proficient analysis especially on the basic wine quality indicators is a must-have skill. The students from our lab may not perform as expected because lack of practice.

  7. Your post immediately reminded me of the words we often hear regarding creativity and imagination… that is think “out side the box”. I think the bubble here represents our comfortable spaces and stepping outside of the bubble can be intimidating and challenging for many (especially for those who are constantly looking for consistency). The bigger lesson I am learning is to taking baby steps out of the bubble (then the change is not that drastic).

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