UNICA: Where the magic happens!

Image taken from: http://img11.deviantart.net/5e03/i/2012/196/5/f/where_the_magic_happens_by_xenizondich-d57bcsh.jpg

I have just embarked on a new academic and work adventure at a Colombian teachers’ college called UNICA and these first couple of weeks have been a wild ride and have kicked me out of my comfort zone. I had already started at the beginning of July, but I was just planning, thinking and organizing myself. These last 2 and a half weeks, I started teaching and what that has done to me is amazing.

I can summarize the experience I’ve had these days with the image below… I had seen it many times, but it had never proven so true to me as now. Right now, I feel I’m in the zone where magis is supposed to happen.

Allow me to explain myself, I had been working as an online/blended learning MA professor for over 3 years and I had limited face 2 face contact with my students; only four times a semester. As a result, I had  forgotten what it was to walk in the classroom every day! I had forgotten the rush of lesson planning for a day’s class every day. I had forgotten the need for attendance sheets, and warm-up activities thought on the spot. I had forgotten the urgency that having a class every day implies, and the need for an active mindset. I thought I was active and I thought I did new things every day, but I didn’t. Even though I enjoy my online teaching a lot too, what I’m doing now really excites me!

Another aspect that has challenged me these days and has made me reflect is my love for active learning and the need to make my classes different every day. As a flipped learning enthusiast, I can’t conceive classes where students are not active at all times, and where I’m not the “guide on the side”. That’s pretty easy to do when you have only 4 classes a semester.  However, now that I have class every day, it is not that simple! I have struggled to plan my classes and make them active, student centered, energetic, and on top of that, to create the videos that have to go with my lessons. I have had to start to think differently, and to use different resources (other than videos) to give instruction to my students. I have had to reinvent myself in order to flip. I have been talking the talk for some years now, and now it is time to walk the walk.

I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong.  I’m just saying that now I can really say I’m flipping! And now I appreciate the work of my fellow flippers in the world much more. Aaron Sams, Jon Bergmann,  Crystal Kirch, Ken Bauer, Kate Baker, Brian Bennett, Laine Marshall, Robyn Brinks Lockwood and all the other flippers I have heard of or read about are really amazing! It takes a lot of planning and hard work to pull this off on a daily basis. Crystal Kirch’s book, Flipping with Kirch, has been a great tool to stay focused and motivated through these harsh days. Reading her book has inspired me to write this post and the ones to come as a way to examine my own flipped learning/teaching practices and why not, come up with my own book!

Another challenge I have experienced these days is the lack of technology I’m facing. I mean, I have spent the last 9 years or so of my life learning how to teach with technology, but I hadn’t devoted that much time to thinking about how to teach without it. Surprise! There are plenty of contexts where technology is not pervasive and where it is actually a luxury of a few, now I belong to one of those contexts. I’ve had to use my technology mindset to think outside the box and come up with solutions to my classes without the use of devices but still with lots of collaboration, cooperative work and active learning. I can now relate closely to my MA students, and tell them that all the things I said in class actually work, even though you don’t have the resources! More posts to come about that aspect.

I have been tremendously challenged these weeks. I feel somewhat overwhelmed, but the feeling that all of what I’m experiencing will just energize my mind and make me come up with interesting ways to handle the difficulties I’m now going through is a motivation booster! I’m out of my comfort zone and I love it! Because as portrayed in the image I chose to illustrate this post, the magic happens outside of your comfort zone. I know I’m struggling now, but I know it is because I had already managed to live through the day with the certainty of what to do. Now that I don’t know what’s going to happen, or how I will make it happen, I feel uneasy. But energized!

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