What Did I Just Do…?!?!

I keep thinking to myself, “What the heck?!” But why am I soooo….surprised? shocked? scared? excited?

Why am I experiencing any of these feelings? It’s not like it was a hard thing for me to do.

After all, I just tossed aside my course outline for a course that is going to begin in a couple weeks!

I simply invited the few students who had signed up for my course to consider designing a course – a personalized learning plan – for themselves for this coming term. Then, I hit the Return key on my computer and the email went out to them.

I’m waiting for responses. Any response, really. Was this an absurd suggestion to make? Are they up for it? Am I up for it? Does the invitation appeal to any of them? Will they all withdraw immediately?

I don’t know. But, I do know this: I’ve never done anything like this before now!

aerial photography of three people skydiving
Photograph by Filipe Dos Santos Mendes on Unsplash. Para Club Aérodrome de Namur, Suarlée, Belgium

I’m not a throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of guy. I plan. Over-plan, actually. Most of the time.

This is not to suggest that I plan to put things into place before I actually do what is almost always a a semblance of what I had imagined. As if I could. And, somewhere in that idea is this picture of me trying to herd cats. As an owner of two cats, I should know how successful one could be attempting to do that.

brown tabby cat
Photograph by Jae Park on Unsplash. Bean the cat.

Maybe God put cats on this earth to amuse himself – while he watches us, he laughs.

To be sure, this course planning obsession is for me. It helps me to think through possibilities. It’s a place for me to practice my craft…in advance…in my head. Not quite like theatre…although maybe close to “guerilla theatre.” Surely, this isn’t too odd: in the past, I’ve often suggested to my preservice teachers that course planning was a little like trying to picture a movie before it happen.

I know I am supposed to “teach” this course this Fall. And, right now, it looks like I am likely to have but a handful of students – not nearly enough to engage in meaningful activities. So, I’ve suggested that each of them is invited to imagine a personalized learning plan – a course of their own design and desires. A course, to be fair, that would be aligned with the course learning outcomes that justified calling this course that I am teaching called “Theories of Individual and Collective Learning.”

It seems fitting that I anticipate them turning that learning lense back upon themselves, as both subject and object, for their inquiry into learning.

Clearly, I am not directing any of these movies! There are no scripts. No formal parts. No backdrops or scenes. No budget to speak of! But, here we are….

Can a model or a framework be a plan? I do have some ideas. I’ve facilitated processes for learning before now. I know about backward planning, learning-centredness, and constructive alignment. How will we put this “thing” together – for each of them? Will they – we? – enact this model for teaching and learning that I have in m head – the one I’ve been enacting for many years now? We need learning outcomes, learning activities, and learning assessments.

Done.

That’s constructive alignment. That’s what I’ve learned. That’s what I’ve been taught.

It was always – in a manner of speaking – a solo activity (not to be confused with the SOLO Taxonomy). Because now there are a few different pairs of relationships at play here.

It’s like dancing. (I don’t dance. I feel awkward just thinking about it.) But I have to dance. i don’t know my dance yet. And, somehow we have to figure how to dance…in the absence of a set of dance steps to follow. Do I really have two left feet?

https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1513882891304-216f3fc9a0be?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&ixid=eyJhcHBfaWQiOjEyMDd9&auto=format&fit=crop&w=1950&q=80
Photograph by Dolo Iglesias on Unsplash. Fundación Juan March, Madrid, Spain

Naturally, none of this is about sky diving, dancing, herding cats, or making movies. So, what is this? I guess we’re just learning.

This is 2020.

But do I need my/a course outline? Do we – me and my students – need a course outline?

Here’s an interesting question: how much can this approach scale up?

How big could this class be that I take out sky diving…together…for the first time? This might be my first time sky diving, but it may not be the first time for my students. So, let’s go!