Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Uncomfortable, but not paralyzed"

I gave my digital history class a "pep talk" at the end of last week to address the concerns some of them had about feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about exactly what I wanted them to do this semester.

I explained that I wanted them to be uncertain, that I wanted them to be shaken out of their normal writing and researching experience, that it was in those conditions that they were most likely to learn. However, I explained that I wanted them to not be so overwhelmed that they felt like they couldn't do anything. I told them I wanted them to be "uncomfortable, but not paralyzed." It sounded funny after I said it (no faculty quote t-shirts, please) but it's a good summary of the environment I hope to create in this class. [Though comfortable is the ultimate goal.]

It came up again today in class as the students looked blankly when they were asked if they had any questions. So I asked, "uncomfortable or paralyzed?" They laughed and we moved forward.

I'm still concerned that some people are closer to paralyzed than uncomfortable, but I think they're willing to ask questions when they're stuck.

3 comments:

Shannon said...

Wow, two posts in one month! Is this the beginning of more blogging from you? One could hope.

Right now some people might be closer to paralyzed than uncomfortable, but I think as the semester continues as we get more adventurous people will be more comfortable into venturing into the unknown.

I'm also contemplating creating t-shirts for this class and "Uncomfortable, but not paralyzed" is definitely going on it. : )

SF said...

It definitely sounds like a productive conversation is underway.

I always like to run with the idea and model of 'play' as a means to pitch (read: ditch) rote models of the classroom task or a routine that has fallen into the rut of the overly-familiar.

Play offers a 'curious interplay between order and disorder' (Henricks 2006: 14) that makes for a very productive scene. It invokes both individual and cooperative effort, experimentation, and an embrace of a venture into the unknown. Chaos can be constructive... and a joy.

Kelly said...

I'm currently hanging in limbo between the two, but I think, like Shannon said, I'll get much closer to uncomfortable by the end of the semester. Hey, maybe I'll even hit that "comfortable" mark.

I feel as though this could be one of the greatest running jokes the history department has ever seen.