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Torture By Text

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A stressed man sitting at a laptop rubs his eyes
Textual Torture

Another week has passed and all I can think is that I'm happy I've made it through. What made it so difficult? Well, I struggled a great deal with the content this week.

You see, this week we studied standards, theories, models, and frameworks of online teaching and learning. If you're glazing over already, you may be thinking I struggled to stay awake. Those topics don't exactly find themselves in many dinner party conversations, after all. But it wasn't the details that made it difficult for me. It was the delivery.

I don't know if you've spent much time reading academic journal articles, educational standards, and descriptions of theoretical models. It's rather tedious for the best readers in the room. They are full of technical language and not one shred of personality. Dry is probably the nicest adjective to describe their tone.

Perhaps surprisingly, that wasn't the issue for me. I'm one of those types that actually loves thinking about these kinds of topics. I would greatly enjoy a dinner party conversation on learning theories and the like.

But reading all this content? That's pure torture. It's pages and pages of small font, often serifed, tightly packed in long single-spaced lines. The sentences are often complicated and compound. There are frequent visual distractions from parenthetical references or long lists of professional and organization names and titles that interrupt the flow of thought. All these things make it very difficult for dyslexic readers, like me.

A standard single-spaced document
Text in its most tortuous state

I am inspired by Sir Richard Branson, a fellow dyslexic reader and founder of the Virgin Group, to consider my dyslexic thinking not as a disability or disorder, but rather as a superpower. However, at times like this, when I have large quantities of dyslexic-unfriendly readings to get through in a short period of time, it does feel like a handicap.

For context, when I was in grad school, one of my professors told our class they expected us to dedicate 15 to 20 hours a week to the class to complete the readings and assignments. That sounded like so little compared to what it felt like I typically spent. So, for the next week, I kept track of the time I spent on each of the activities I did for the class. By the end of the week, I had clocked over 40 hours alone just on reading. And the most disheartening realization was that particular week was light on reading, compared to most.

I made it through grad school with my sanity mostly intact, but for years after, even though I wanted to go after my doctorate, I just wasn't sure I could handle all that reading again. I decided to go ahead and try since it's a vital element in my long-term career goals. I emotionally prepared myself as best as I could, but felt a great deal of fear about how this was going to affect my mental and physical state and my relationships and other responsibilities. I had doubt I could manage adding a full-time job (or more) of labored reading to my already busy life.

To my relief, during the first 2 weeks of my current program, our focus was on creation. There was some reading, but mostly our assignments were focused on building things. The program was project-based and I felt hopeful.

This week, though, was mostly reading. All my fears and doubts resurfaced. I struggled. A lot. But I made it. And I learned a few things.

Online Learning is Not Like Other Distance Learning

Before this week, I thought that distance learning and online learning were practically synonymous. This week, Kerry Rice, the author of our course textbook, Making the Move to K-12 Online Teaching (2020), challenged that perception. She identified that while distance learning focuses on the separation between the instructor and student, online learning, though technically a form of distance learning, focuses on utilizing technology tools to connect instructor to student, student to student, and student to content.

This subtle shift in my thinking has changed how I approach online course development. With each assignment, I find myself now challenged to consider the questions:

  • How can this assignment establish or improve student connections within the course?

  • Is this assignment creating moments for the student to reflect and communicate that reflection?

  • Have I missed any opportunities with this assignment to help the student feel connected to the content, their classmates, the instructor, and/or the world?

Curation Tools A Plenty

This week, I ventured into the world of Wakelet, a content curation tool that is used by many educators to compile and share resources. In general, I love the idea of curation tools. If you've ever used Pinterest, then you've used a curation tool.

Being adept at technology doesn't equate to mastering every tool that comes my way. A common misconception I deal with from family, friends, and even colleagues, is that they often think that since I work in technology, I must understand all of it, or at least have a much easier time learning it than others.

Oh, how I wish that were true. The truth is, learning tech can be challenging for any of us. We all have our own gaps of knowledge or experience. What is perfectly intuitive to one may be entirely foreign to another. If you think I'm some kind of tech wizard, spend 5 minutes with me as I try to adjust some settings on my phone and I'll quickly dispel that myth for you.

But being a tech-savvy person, I do tend to pick up new apps fairly quickly. I've gotten pretty good at quickly grasping the organizational structures the app developers and designers have chosen.

That said, Wakelet's publishing features were not at all intuitive to me. I'm sure there are those in the world that will disagree with me. But I struggled to figure out that collections had to be published to your profile in order to share them publicly. During the process of learning that, I also learned that the free version only allows you to share 4 collections. Since I needed 4 collections for this assignment, I'm pretty tapped out on Wakelet now, unless I purchase an upgrade. Given that, I doubt I'd use this tool beyond this course.

While I enjoyed some of Wakelet's features, such as being able to fully edit the image, title, and description, as well as the ability to include PDFs, I struggled with some of its less than intuitive features and limited free version.

But this experience with Wakelet got me exploring other content curation tools out there. And let me tell you, there's a bunch of them. If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that we often have to sift through a plethora of tools to find the one that fits just right. I'm not sure I'll find one that suits me better than Wakelet. But for now, I'm content to keep looking.

Blurring the Lines Between K-12 and Higher Ed

A pivotal realization this week was understanding that online strategies for K-12 and adult learning aren't worlds apart like I used to think. This blurring of lines was both surprising and enlightening, reshaping my perspectives on how we approach educational structures.

Children playing together
Learning ignores age

I'm not sure where my initial biases formed. Minimally, it was solidified when I learned the terms pedagogy and andragogy years ago. If those terms are new to you, pedagogy is the art and science of teaching dependent learners, or more commonly children, while andragogy is the art and science of teaching independent learners, or more commonly adults (Holmes and Abington-Cooper, 2000).

Once we label things, they take on a life of their own. For me, I believed strongly that strategies for teaching children would not translate to adults and vice versa. That was a bias that I carried that has influenced what I have researched, what approaches I've chosen, and which sources I've trusted over the years.

Once I set aside this bias, I discovered the student-centric nature of online learning is a great unifier. Pedagogical and andragogical strategies for effective online learning overlap in many ways.

This overlap occurs because, whether child or adult, dependent or independent, when it comes to online learning, learner agency is required. Learner agency suggests "the student is the primary agent of his or her learning, with the learner making decisions about learning, from what will be learned and how, to whether learning has been achieved and to what degree" (Blaschke & Hase, n.d.). Successful online learning experiences develop learner agency regardless of age or dependency.

And if you're curious, there is a label for the art and science of teaching the self-directed learner. It is called heutagogy. I don't know about you, but I look forward to the day when we have a Unified Theory of Teaching and Learning and all these labels become pointless.

Weekly Wrap-Up

This week, I took strides in expanding my horizons, exploring more resources, and not sidestepping materials just because they catered to a different age group. Each week offers a wealth of opportunities to learn, to confront my fears and limitations, and to challenge my biases. I look forward to all these things, but I don't mind admitting that I hope next week's reading list is a bit shorter.


Blaschke, L. M., & Hase, S. (n.d.). So, you want to do heutagogy: principles and practice.

Holmes, G. and Abington-Cooper, M. (2000). JOTS v26n2 - Pedagogy vs. Andragogy: A False Dichotomy? Virginia Tech Scholarly Communication University Libraries.

Rice, K. (2020). Making the Move to K-12 Online Teaching: Research-Based Strategies and Practices (2nd ed.).


All images contained within this post are courtesy of Media from Wix, unless otherwise noted.

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3 則留言


Oh dear! I feel your anguish in reading this post...sigh...:) It is often more "fun" to play with the tools but as a rising OTL/Ed Tech expert, having a deep knowledge and understanding of how people learn, what tools enrich learning and why provides a solid foundation on which to build. Not always as exciting, but necessary to spend some time. Learning and stretching can be uncomfortable at times. Learning to skim/scan academic readings may be a necessary skill to make one's way in the academic arena.





I believe there is a Unified Theory of all things but we will never be beyond the labels. Our brains need labels for categorization and organization. At least mine does. But I will admit that too much rigidity in your thinking and adherence to old ideas can inhibit growth and lead to stagnant thought.

Julie Stoltz
Julie Stoltz

Yeah. I agree with you that we'll never get away from all labels. We need them. Just the more I learn about how much pedagogy, andragogy, and heutagogy overlap, especially in online teaching and learning, it makes me hopeful we might eventually settle on one "art and science of teaching" that envelopes all learners.

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