How did I get here?
What experiences have led me to work in higher education?
From my own learning, the most meaningful and rewarding events came from what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1996) describes as “flow”.
When it happens, it’s magical. The first time I remember experiencing flow was when my ninth grade art teacher used to play Enya’s Orinoco Flow. But these moments do not come easy. There is much consternation, anxiety, panic, and sometimes terror that I will not be able figure it out.
An art project.
A physics problem.
A chemistry laboratory experiment.
A workshop delivered to international educators.
An auto-ethnographic study.
The similarities to my approach of any task whether it is learning or teaching are very similar.
In the beginning, I imagine an elaborate and perfect synthesis of my knowledge with a carefully crafted and nuanced delivery contextually relevant to my audience.
Problem number one: Who is my audience?
Most recently, this past week in Grenada, my audience consisted of college instructors in Grenada.
I had so many unknowns. What do they teach? How do they teach? This is my first time going to Grenada and I just don’t know what to expect. Is there wifi? Will they have laptops?
Problem number 2: I have co-facilitators I haven’t really met yet. An unspecified number of my MEd colleagues would sign up to co-facilitate one of the four workshops being offered.
Working with other people you don’t know falls under Tuckman’s Stages of Group Formation (1965). I say theoretically because different groups move through these stages at different times, paces, and sequences sometimes. Forming, Storming, Norming, Peforming, Adjorning.
These two big unknown factors caused me to plan for multiple contingencies. This approach not only gives me anxiety but it turns out, it would give my co-facilitators anxiety.
Having an iron-clad plan, following a script, and setting clear expectations are components of a good lesson plan. However, in real life, getting to this point, is difficult if not impossible until you are in the space.
Meeting and discussing our plan was productive and fun. Though it should be noted we did spend a bit of time in the storming phase of team development. My desire to create the optimal learning experience for our future (still unknown workshop participants) came into direct conflict with my team-mates desires to solidify the lesson plan.
The solution was to design a lesson plan with multiple pathways based on the main desired learning outcome around “computational thinking”. It could branch in many directions based on the classroom configuration and participants’ needs.
Of course, once we were in the space, the room was sufficient and our participants turned out to be wonderful.
It turns out you don’t need wifi or laptops to teach computational thinking. And it can be very entertaining.
Collaboratively, my team of MEd facilitators came up with a series of unplugged activities to give instructors not only the opportunity to practice computational thinking but also some active learning techniques they could use in their own classrooms.
Each time we delivered the workshop we learned from the session and refined the instructions and lesson sequence. By the time our fourth and final workshop was delivered, we had created something to be very proud of.
For all the anxiety on all our parts, our MEd team of international educational developers grew very close and felt a great sense of accomplishment from the work we did in Grenada.
On our final day in Grenada, I was able to experience the real flow of the ocean. All I could hear was Enya and all I felt was a surge of euphoria at the successes of the week.
Enya (1988). Orinoco Flow. On Watermark [MP3]
Warner Music UK Ltd. https://enya.com/
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). The masterminds series. Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York, NY, US: Basic Books.
Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 384-399.