Prior to beginning this course last week, I had no idea what the word ‘pedagogy’ meant; I honestly had no notion that such a word existed in the English vocabulary. However, I did recognize it must have something to do with education, since I was required to take this pedagogy-focused course as a requirement for the Virginia Tech Graduate Schools’s “Future Professoriate Certificate”. A long-term goal of mine is to make a career as a college professor, which is why I am enrolled in the Future Professoriate Certificate. In my field [food science], the role of a professor is divided into three main functions: research, extension, and teaching. Since 2/3 (extension & teaching) of my aspired-to career involved education in some form, I am intrigued to learn more about pedagogy and all it encompasses. So, as a first step in my quest to understand concept of pedagogy, I took to Wikipedia- despite the protests of my inner academician .
According to Wikipedia, pedagogy is “the discipline that deals with the theory and practice of education” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedagogy). The term ‘pedagogy’ comes from the Greek word pedagogue – a slave who escorted Greek children to school. In the present day, pedagogue refers to a practitioner of pedagogy (i.e. someone who imparts or teaches knowledge to another). From what I gather, knowledge does not solely refer to technical or vocational skills but extends to encompass social skills as well as an understanding of concepts and theories. When thinking about the GEDIS17 course, I wonder what aspects of contemporary pedagogy we will touch upon. One thing is for certain- I’m going to come out of this course with far more pedagogy-related knowledge than I came in with!
According to our course schedule, the first topic we will discuss is Networked Learning. Again, I have no clue what networked learning is, so I turned to Wikipedia once again. Networked Learning is defined as “the process of developing and maintaining connections, with people and information, and communicating in such a way so as to support one another’s learning” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Networked_learning). A key phrase I honed in on within this definition was “…connections, with people and information…”. I can’t think of a better phrase to describe modern society. Today’s world is defined by readily-available technology and the dependency we have on it to live our everyday lives. Not only does this technology connect us to vast amounts of information with the click of a button, but it just as easily connects us with our fellow man. After thinking about it, networked learning seemed like a fitting subject to begin with in the context of contemporary pedagogy.
This thought process lead me to a few “AH HA!” moments:
-Blogging is a form of communication.
-Writing and responding to my classmates’ blogs is a form of networked learning.
-I am actually learning stuff while sitting here writing this post…..cool!
In pursuit of more knowledge (and possibly more “AH HA” moments), I began reading the class material pertaining to networked learning. I first watched Seth Goodwin and Tom Peters on Blogging (2009), and really liked what was being said. Tom’s statement “No single thing in the last fifteen years, professionally, has been more important to my life than blogging” especially resonated with me. My first blogging experience was for my professional organization The Institute of Food Technologists on their blog Science Meets Food (which I presently manage for the organization). It started as a way to build my resume, and quickly became one of the most professionally-influential experiences of my career to date. I not only developed my ability to communicate science with a broad, non-scientific audience but became connected with individuals who would come to make a monumental impact on my career. I would never have guesses that this networked learning-environment, inherent to the nature this and other blogs, would so greatly impact my life.
The second article Twitter and Blogs are Not Just Add-ons to Academic Research (2014), by Tim Hitchcock, was an equally interesting read that I could relate to. As I previously stated, I started blogging to enhance my resume. However, as I wrote more and more content for the blog, I discovered I had a true passion for communicating my passion for food science. The freedom to write about subjects that inspired me allowed me to investigate and gain knowledge about topics I never would have pursued for academic purposes. I also agree with the author’s statement that “They [social media] are where the conversation is happening”. Even in my food science courses, among peers who are knowledgeable about my field, I fail to have the stimulating, passionate-fueled conversations I have while blogging. There is just something about blogging that allows you to open up, be yourself, and communicate freely.
The third article Working Openly On The Web (2014), by Doug Belshaw, provided some interesting perspective and support for (what I believe) the reasoning behind why blogging allows one to engage more actively in networked learning. His first reason is probably one of blogging’s largest appeals: you control everything. Literally. The content, how often you post, what you say, who you say it to, etc. The is no one peering over your shoulder telling you what to do or how to do it. Personally, I know I learn better when I’m not being forced to do so. As an introvert, I also experience a certain level of social anxiety when asked to express my opinion in front of others. The ability to say what I want, when I want, while being veiled in anonymity (provided by communicating from behind a computer screen) creates an environment where I can I comfortably express myself. This may not hold true for everyone, but I believe learning is best accomplished in an online environment.
Finally, I believe the last article Networked Learning as An Experiential Learning, by Gardner Campbell, was a fantastic piece that sums up how networked learning applies to contemporary pedagogy and supports my overall feelings towards the subject of blogging. In the words of Campbell, “Offering students the possibility of experiential learning in personal, interactive, networked computing—in all its gloriously messy varieties—provides the richest opportunity yet for integrative thinking within and beyond ‘schooling’ “. Allowing students to learn and connect in an online space creates opportunities for learning engagement that are not present within the class room. If one is to teach successfully in this contemporary age, then one must utilize blogs and other forms of online media to engage students in learning.