Digital Learning Hub Reflection

72194It has been quite the learning experience this semester building my digital learning hub. When I first heard that we had to build a hub I was not too interested in making one. I felt this way because I already use Moodle as my content management system, which is a hub of learning in itself. I thought that this project was a little redundant for me, but have changed my thinking because my Moodle is limited only to the students in my classes. I am the type of person that likes to share with others, as I search online for other educators’ work to implement into my teaching as well, remixing when needed. I look to use this hub as a supplemental tool, where students can go for tools like multimodal tutorials and other resources that they will not have access to after they leave my class. We are teaching our students the importance of being a lifelong learner, so I want my hub to serve as a place where my students, past and present, can go to access materials they may need at some point in their life.

I began creating my hub in Google Sites, but did not like how plain and dull its appearance was. This does not fit my personality, so I did not want this to be part of my online brand. I want my online brand, or digital identity, to represent me. I have switched to WordPress.com as the the place to house my digital learning hub, mainly because it is aesthetically pleasing and is easy to set up. My blog was already set up here, so I figured that it would be a seamless transformation into my hub, turning my blog into one of the pages located in the hub.

Currently I have my hub set up with 5 main pages: Home, Blog, Courses, Teaching Toolbox, and Contact. I plan to add a section strictly devoted to the IT&DML program, where I will include all of my coursework created in the program. On my homepage is my “about me” to welcome visitors to my hub. I chose this as the homepage to inform visitors about me as an educator and person (if they care to know).

I have included a page for my blog as well to coordinate a place for all my posts to go. I feel it is important to have this section because before I learned how to do this, (thanks Nicole) I had my blog posts automatically posted to my “home” section. I do not want visitors to my hub to be directed straight to my blog, mainly because that might not be what they are looking for.

I have added a page devoted to the courses I teach at my school, so that when students access my hub they can go straight to the course they take and access any necessary materials. For each class I will upload important documents and media needed for class (syllabus, parent letters, rubrics, etc).

I have a page called “Teaching Toolbox” where I will include all multimodal tutorials, how-to-videos, and tech tips. I currently have lesson plans as a subsection here, but am thinking of moving this to the IT&DML page that I will create. Still thinking about this; hopefully any of you reading this can give me some of your feedback!

In closing, what I like most about this project is that our Digital Learning Hub is a work in progress, meaning that it will be remixed and tinkered with throughout the duration of this program, and possibly long after. I will probably make more changes even after I make the changes discussed in this post. It was very helpful being able to share our hubs in class with our peers, receiving feedback and sharing ideas on how to make our hubs better. I look forward to seeing what the “final” version of my digital learning hub will look like in the very near future!

-John V

 

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Transformers: Humans in Disguise?

Growing up I had a very difficult time figuring out who I was and the type of person I wanted to be. I wanted to be one of the “popular” kids, yet I also wanted to talk about movies and draft my own fantasy team in the latest video games, things a “popular” kid just could not do. Growing up in the 90s was different than it is now. In the 90s, your identity was molded around what you brought to the conversation in person, because we did not have cellular devices until later on in my high school years (early 2000s). Now, teenagers have their face to face interactions, as well as their digital interactions to help mold their identity with the self and the people around them.

Sherry Turkle discusses these curated identities as avatars “that express aspects of yourself.” As I reflect back to the person I was as a teenager I vividly remember watching my favorite television and movie characters, saying to myself “Man, I would love to be that guy.” We, humans, tend to take what we admire in others and mold these characteristics into what we want to become. My favorite sport to play growing up was basketball, and I can remember everyday dribbling and shooting in the driveway, thinking I was Michael Jordan, sticking my stock out on every shot, winning on last second buzzer beaters as I counted down until the sun went down.

It is my belief that in our lives we have several avatars: ones that we can see and touch, our physical self in the workplace and the one we use in our personal lives , and the other being our digital self, the one that we create online. Turkle mentions in “Alone Together” the story about Joel, who has created his avatar in Second Life, offering him the chance to create a virtual youth version of himself. Isn’t this what we do with our online identities? As educators, we have to carefully pick and choose what content we put out there on the Internet. We read and follow respected educators and leaders in our field and worldwide communities, adopting the values shared by these leaders to become someone we aspire to be.

I compare our in-person and digital avatars to that of my favorite cartoon growing up, Transformers. These aliens came to Earth to escape the war that was taking place on their own planet, Cybertron. In order to fit in with the human race, they had to disguise themselves as moving objects such as cars, trucks, airplanes, and other moving vehicles.

Are we human transformers, humans in disguise? Is the person I am now the person I want to be? How did I mold who I am now, and will I continue to want to be this person?

I feel these are questions we ask ourselves when we create our avatar. During the school day, I wear a button down shirt and tie with dress slacks with the idea that this is what a professional should look like. Someone once said to me that teaching is “50% looking like you know what the hell you are talking about.” I have lived by this saying the last few years, and it has truly molded the person I have become.  The avatar I have created of myself is real, because that is who I wanted to become. But the avatar outside of the normal school day is a laid back guy who loves to watch football with his wife and obsess about his fantasy football team.

When we create these avatars of ourselves, are we taking away our credibility or faking who we really are? There can be so many interpretations on this issue, and I feel that in the world we live in today, you have to fake it in order to make it. You have to fake it until you become it. What I mean by this is that as a teacher, I cannot be my goofy or sarcastic self in school in comparison to the level I am when I am at home and with my friends and family if I want my students’ respect. I had to fake being someone else in order to be the teacher that I wanted to be, pretty much a remixed version of myself.

Now, with years of practicing the act of faking being me, I have learned to mix my personal avatar with my work avatar. This has had a huge impact on my experience as an educator, mainly because going to work is so much more joyful and fulfilling because I have learned the best version of myself for both me and my students.

I leave you with one of my favorite examples of avatars and aspiring to be someone others will admire. Below is a clip from another one of my favorite shows growing up, where Steve Urkle, everyone’s favorite “geek,” becomes Stefan Urkle, every young girl’s dream.

-John V