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Stephanie Walter English 101 Professor Winans March 24, 2014 Sepia to Color – Conservative to Open I feel like I’ve been living this sepia-toned version of my life for quite a while now. Not quite color, but not quite black and white. I’ve been stuck in my own head with my own thoughts. I’m right, you’re wrong. I don’t want to hear your side, or have the confidence to voice mine. But somewhere deep down there was a hope for me. After all, I wasn’t black and white, I was sepia. There was hope for me to gain reception. Reception to view the world as a colorful place; a place where many opinions, conversations, and ideas make a difference, and on top of that benefit me. That hope happened to be my online English 101 class. To be honest I was skeptical when I first enrolled online, and a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to go to a class and mingle with my peers. I had never taken an online course before, and figured that it would be a walk in the park. Little did I know through the teaching and literature that my teacher gave us, it would produce such an impacting growth in me in just a few short months. That growth is a confidence in my voice. That growth is being receptive to other people’s voices. That growth is going from a stubborn conservative mindset to that of an open-minded being.

o·pen-mind·ed 1. Having or showing a mind receptive to new ideas or arguments. 2. Unprejudiced; unbigoted; impartial. Dictionary.com

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I have grown to listen, look, and consider multiple sides of a story. This quarter at Whatcom I was also enrolled in 2 additional online classes. While they were convenient for my schedule, they did not have the same spark as this English 101 class. Maybe this is because one was a medically charged class and the other math, where answers are just solid answers. With that being said, the math class tromped on the medical class, and English tromped them both. So what makes a great online learning environment? Both math and English offered a discussion forum where students were actively required to engage and encourage each other. The medical class didn’t promote this but instead led you to a “module” that strictly gave you the homework assignments, and the tests. I once tried to start a discussion forum in my medical class (shown above, to the left), and about 4 days later one student responded. That was the end of that. There was no connecting, no engaging within the class. It was sterile and boring. English on the other hand was set up so our class was reading or watching the same content, and then each of us sharing what we thought it meant, or what we got out of it (shown to the right). It was set up so we were bouncing ideas off of each other, and hearing our peer’s point of view.

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It was during our first reading and discussing of Nancy Sommers’ “I Stand Here Writing” that I knew this class was going to be different. Our first text and we are already thinking and processing on a different level than we had been taught throughout our entire education. It was thinking vertically. The type of thinking that takes you places you never even knew you could go! Thinking and analyzing texts, thoughts, and feelings, and applying them to the content, which in this case was Sommers. Sommers’ essay brought up the idea that we, as students, could all be sources. This idea of us having an opinion, and not just writing what we thought the teacher wanted to hear, was a freeing and enlightening way to start to our course. One of my classmates Sarah shared what this idea of voicing our own thoughts and opinions meant to her in our first discussion forum. She says, “This meant a lot to me as a student because I don’t always have to feel like I am “answering” the question so much as I should feel that I am adding depth TO the question.” (2.1) Prior to this class I was typically a social person, I would participate in my classes, but never fully allowed myself to speak what I wanted to speak. I was nervous I would be wrong or say something dumb. This class however taught me that people appreciate your thoughts. It is such a great environment to learn in, not being afraid of being wrong because you are building your own thoughts and ideas off each other in a positive and encouraging way. Having an environment that is so engaging and creatively open, is what first shifted my thoughts and my mind from sepia to color. Ken Robinson a speaker in one of the videos we watched in class helped my transition in his TEDTalks video “Schools Kill Creativity”. Robinson’s video is about how school systems are educating us to “become good workers, not creative thinkers.” This is so true! I don’t remember a time between high school and this English 101 class that I was taught to voice my opinion, to step outside the box! We are taught not to

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think creatively, we are taught that there is one right way, and we have been trained to produce what teachers and education want us to produce. However this class challenges my previous forms of education. Challenges giving the generic answer that you think your teacher wants, challenges a horizontal view on school texts and projects. I have actually taken in the readings; I know them, I understand them. I have thought deeply, vertically about them, and discussed them with my classmates and my teacher. It works to set up education like this, to get ideas flowing and connections forming within our classrooms! What is the importance of connecting? Steven Johnson brings up the thought that good ideas come from one another. In Johnson’s TEDTalks video titled, “Where Good Ideas Come From”, he says we, “take ideas from other people and stitch them together to from new ideas.” This is exactly what the discussion forums do for our class! We are given the subject by our teacher, and then each assigned to “dissect” it in our own thoughts. From there our other classmates work off their own ideas, and other peoples, so we are all discussing the same topic in different lights. It’s the type of learning depicted by Parker J. Palmer. It is shown to the right; as opposed to the usual style of learning shown on the left:

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So are other English classes at Whatcom this in depth and innovative? I can only take into account my husband’s in class experience. His experience images the picture to the left. He isn’t excited about his class. He has been expected to write papers on subjects that he could care less about! (I have even tried to help him, discussing the subjects with him, and honestly they aren’t that great!) He is held to the formal education style. On top of this he isn’t retaining the information given because he is so focused on getting a good grade and giving what the teacher the correct answer. The connections he is making with the subject isn’t a deep one because it’s a just browsing the surface or the content, not thinking vertically about it. But perhaps it’s because in a face-to-face class environment people are not as comfortable showing themselves. I feel that online, people are more comfortable being vulnerable and giving their opinions. We get to sort of hide behind our screen. In a face-to-face setting, you have eyes on you and that might make you hold back some of what you are really wanting to say. I would say one negative aspect of online classes is the ability to make friendships. I’m not saying that it’s impossible, but it takes motivation and courage to step up and see if that other person would want to hang out. In face-to-face situations, I feel that friendships unfold more naturally. If this same class, with our same professor would have been in a face-to-face environment, I honestly don’t think it would have been the same. In class we have stricter time limits. Online, you have set due dates, but can take the readings and responses at your own pace. This extra time allowed me to dig deeper, to re-read the essays and my peer’s responses before contributing. Not to say that my professor would have set-up a typical in class environment, because I feel that in any situation her class would always succeed; she creates an encouraging environment, and I think that will always produce great outcomes. It’s more about the time to finish the assignments, and the layout of the online class.

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Everyone online gets to respond, and everyone in the class can see everyone else’s responses. In class, there are a few students who like to speak out, and many that will stay quiet. The way our professor had our online class setup is so that no one stays quiet. No one can get by without speaking their mind. The shy people can’t be shy. The pushy people can’t be pushy. It balances out, and it is amazing to hear everyone’s thoughts and opinions instead of just a few. Overall this online English 101 class has taught me to open my views to others opinions and consider myself as a valuable opinion. Prior to this I was always striving to use other people’s ideas as the content to my papers. Using other’s ideas to form a paper that I thought my teacher would like. I had a constrictive narrow view on life, on other’s opinions and thoughts, because I had never been taught to think otherwise. This class has given me a fire and hope to explore and think vertically! Now I value other people’s thoughts and opinions and an outline or a source, but form my own opinions off of them to create new ideas and innovations!

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Works Cited Johnson, Steven. “Where good ideas come from.” Online Video Clip. TEDTalks. TED, 2006. Web. Feb 2006. Hansen, Drew. “My Favorite Feature Of The New Forbes.com.” Forbes. n.p. 7/16/2012. Web. Robinson, Sir Ken. “Schools Kill Creativity.” Online Video Clip. TEDTalks. TEDGlobal, 2010. Web. Jul 2010. Sommers, Nancy. “I Stand Here Writing.” Think Vertically! Essays for Inquiry, Analysis and Reflection. Whatcom Community College Faculty. Fountainhead Press, 2012. 293-304. Print. Sarah. “Discussion 2.1 Classtalk: Ideas in Sommers’ “I Stand Here Writing.” January 15, 2014. Online English 101. Whatcom Community College. Winter 2014. Web.