The Synchronous Journey 2

On a Monday in August of 2018, I stood outside with a colleague as she remarked, “Some faculty may not try to understand the innovation and some will take years to process what you are doing with students. As faculty with 30+ years of experience, it pleases me to be in the audience watching the process unfold. You are living and creating the future.”

The experience of “chronicling” social justice during SOCI 399: Social Chronicles has been a personal and political process. The teaching experience in a synchronous online setting was a partnership including moments that were spiritually vibrant and empowering beyond description.  The music, symbols, and sociological imagination imposed upon us all allowed each student and faculty member to connect the past, present, and future to a goal of service.

The synchronous classroom space spawned conscious and unconscious growth for all participants. The students and faculty engaged learning simultaneously as the unique service experiences and missions at the Life Enrichment Center and Immanuel’s House pushed us all to seek justice and take learning to the next level.  The lighting and backgrounds for each participant created a classroom space that was personalized and comfortable. The conversations were also multidimensional and academically powerful. Similarly, the effect of proximity via our faces, expressions, and sentiment in the online setting was equally remarkable.

No ideas went unnoticed. The presence of each participant was known, and afterward, it was missed. While the course was packed with layers of social activity, social experiments, and several digital tools to master, the final product was none other than a heightened love and respect for communities. Learning with a social and centered purpose of giving made each lesson worth remembering.

I remember most the transparency and willingness to explore content that was traditionally uncomfortable. We capitalized on life’s challenges rather than being defeated by them, and focused on success. Although I can still almost taste my tears and my heart still beats in the rhythm of pain encountered by my peers and community, I am empowered by the social justice-oriented course outcomes. The “Social Chronicles” course has left us with energy we need to make a difference. Spread the word to educators: “chase new visions and layer pedagogies in ways that make learning fun, creative, and memorable.” #lovecoplacdigital

 

Social Chronicles

 

Shared experiences in real time,

More alike than different.

Aligned roots and identities,

Focused with a clear view.

Quality support with a healthy foundation,

Capturing interactions and creating new relationships.

 

Dr. Chiquita Howard-Bostic

The Synchronous Journey 1

In 2016, COPLAC called for professors interested in developing and teaching digital liberal arts at a distance courses as part of a Melon-funded initiative. Dr. Howard-Bostic and I met through that experience and developed the initial plan for a course combining the ideals of social justice, experiential learning and digital liberal arts. We prepared to teach the course in the spring of 2017, but in December 2016, I had a massive stroke. While I was in hospital and rehabilitation, the decision was made to postpone our course.

I returned to full-time work in fall 2017, which was probably too quick, but it felt important to work as I struggled to regain my identity and self-determination. In spring 2018, Dr. Howard-Bostic and I decided to offer the course in fall 2018. In the interval between our first and second attempts, some things had changed and been refined through other digital liberal arts courses. We spent much of 2018, re-planning  with greater attention to the historic archival purpose. There was concern throughout development because the nature of our course differed from others in the initiative. Rather than a strict adherence to a historical research purpose, we wanted to include the social experiences of our students. The process was occasionally messy, but throughout, all parties involved in the planning maintained a focus on the educational experience and grant purposes so issues resolved quickly.

We anticipated a special course environment and were pleased when we finally began, to meet and exceed that expectation. Our students and faculty almost immediately settled into a family-atmosphere within the distance setting. This became a process of searching and sharing that is different from any other in my career as an educator. We decided to document our course as a unique COPLAC environment similarly to the way our students are documenting their engagement sites. We will blog and share audio-visual materials in an effort to allow outsiders a taste of our environment and experience.

H-D