In the summer of 2019, I completed a two-week residency as part of the blended MALAT program at Royal Roads University. On the one hand, I was overwhelmed with the amount of academic reading and writing. Still, on the other, I thoroughly enjoyed the face-to-face interactive classroom experience with members of the blended cohort. Reflecting on the experience, I think I suffered from imposter syndrome because I didn’t feel like I belonged in the academic reading and writing environment. First, my undergraduate degrees were in math/science and education, not academic reading and writing, and I felt as if I was in the first year of university all over again. Second, I have always been an introverted student, and the intense discussions, debates, and public blog posts were a deadly combination. I am an extremely motivated learner and enjoy learning from others, but I felt I needed more time to absorb and reflect on the initial academic experience.
While taking a year off from the MALAT program, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Living and working in a pandemic, teaching a new group of students at my school, and working with another cohort has given me more than enough material for reflection. My thoughts from the summer learning experience and now the online experience always seem to focus on one common theme—the importance of interacting with others while learning, even if it is uncomfortable. Whether in a graduate-level program or a local high school, overcoming adversity in the school environment depends on meaningful interactions with people (Araújo, 2020).
Interacting with people makes learning more enjoyable and meaningful (Hurst, 2013). Although face-to-face environments provide interactions, I find it more meaningful to connect with classmates in a private online environment because there are more significant opportunities to think, process, review, and reflect on discussions and presentations. Discord, moodle forums, and synchronous sessions with instructors have been meaningful interactions and have added to my graduate learning experience.
While synchronously viewing the recent cohort presentations, rewatching them, reading cohort blogs, and reading our team feedback notes, I was most interested in the discussions about interactivity. Team 4 critical issue inquiry focused on creating deep and meaningful learning through interaction and interactivity using Discord. Team 1 focused on creating meaningful learning using video-based learning (VBL) despite using lectures without much interactivity. Team 3 critical issue inquiry focused on the potential interactive benefits of using virtual and augmented reality in education despite the barriers. Finally, my team created an interactive simulation and attempted to present a meaningful interactive presentation. The presentations made me think of interactions once again and how they are not always meaningful (Woo & Reeves, 2010).
As I stumble through this halfway point in the MALAT program, I am grateful for the face-to-face interactions during the summer of 2019. We are now experiencing topics we’ve read about in the past. For example, Ruey (2010) argued safely discussing, arguing, negotiating ideas, and collaboratively solving problems in an authentic, appropriate manner is beneficial for learning. According to Woo and Reeves (2007), “When learners are faced with confusion or conflict, they discuss the issues with one another at first and then they try to negotiate internally and socially to solve the problem” (p. 20). These meaningful interactions lead to learning. After arriving at a common understanding within our small team, I am more aware of the potential use of technology to help foster more meaningful interactions to help support high-quality learning (Ruey, 2010). I will keep these thoughts in my mind while planning lessons in my teaching context.
Araújo LA, Veloso CF, Souza MC, Azevedo JM, Tarro G. (2020). The potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child growth and development: a systematic review. J Pediatr (Rio J). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jped.2020.08.008
Hurst, B., Wallace, R., & Nixon, S. (2013). The impact of social interaction on student learning. Reading Horizons, 52(4). https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/reading_horizons/vol52/iss4/5
Ruey, S. (2010). A case study of constructivist instructional strategies for adult online learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), 706-720. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.00965.x
Woo, Y., & Reeves, T. C. (2007). Meaningful interaction in web-based learning: A social constructivist interpretation. Internet and Higher Education, 10(1), 15– 25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2006.10.005