Reflections on #mosomelt bootcamp 2017

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The traditional notion of a ‘bootcamp’ conjures up images of blood, sweat and toil; of instructions for almost unachievable tasks being shouted at quivering participants by military style authoritarians, with the purpose as much about them relishing their domination and power as it is about personal achievements of those taking part. Today’s #mosomelt bootcamp at AUT South was the antithesis of this. Rather, it was an opportunity to get together mid-way through the semester, to chat as equals and share ideas for trying, evaluating, and implementing digital technologies into our learning and teaching.

Today, perhaps even more than usual, I was struck by our shared goals that transcend our disciplinary areas; the heutogological self-determined learning we strive for in our students and the almost statutory period of unlearning required by them (and teaching staff) to enable the seeds of this learning experience to be allowed to grow and flourish; the shared challenges we face either with students or institutional structures and processes creating unnecessary and sometimes necessary hurdles to be considered and negotiated.

While our discussions included challenges with ‘things’: iPhones, iPads, Apps and other gadgets, I think it was agreed that the bigger challenge lies within the mindset of people who don’t easily see the role of self-determined learning or the value in exploring, embracing, and critiquing digital media within the tertiary setting, despite the inevitability of an increasingly digitialised world for our graduates within an uncertain and changing future workforce paradigm.

 

I was reminded of Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), the Hungarian-British author and journalist, who possibly might have thought bootcamps were just what were needed to ignite innovation within the staid academic traditionalists:

“The inertia of the human mind and its resistance to innovation are most clearly demonstrated not, as one might expect, by the ignorant mass- which is easily swayed once its imagination is caught- but by professionals with a vested interest in tradition and in the monopoly of learning. Innovation is a twofold threat to academic mediocrities: it endangers their oracular authority, and it evokes the deeper fear that their whole, laboriously constructed intellectual edifice might collapse. The academic backwoodsmen have been the curse of genius from Aristarchus to Darwin and Freud; they stretch, a solid and hostile phalanx of pedantic mediocrities, across the centuries.”

 

While Koestler’s words are harsh they reflect his frustration with the hesitancy to change as the world changes, which perhaps today, in our 21st Century tertiary setting, is just not an option (especially if we are ‘the university for the changing world’).

I was reminded that during last week’s student presentations for our Media and Communication in Health Promotion paper, one student made the statement:

“Social media skill is not any more a matter of choice”

They presented the statement as a quote and I asked the student who were they quoting – they replied that it was their own.

Not only was the student’s message correct, but they had come to realise this themselves, through their own curation of, and reflection on, learning experiences facilitated through engagement with the class discussions and independent exploration. Furthermore, they felt confident to present their idea as a quote as if declaring the legitimacy of their own learning and experientially informed knowledge.

Their quote has stayed with me and it’s relevance solidified during today’s bootcamp discussions on possible inappropriate uses of social media by students, likely ramifications and the most effective strategies for instilling ethical use of social media. Do we steer clear of using social media in learning and teaching or do we have an ethical obligation to embrace it, thus allowing for a more collaborative, supportive learning environment within which students can assess the appropriateness of its use?

Do we wait for students to fall and then berate them like the traditional bootcamp’s authoritarian leader or do we embrace social media and together explore its boundaries and benefits? Perhaps “its not any more a matter of choice“.

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