Online Teaching Blog

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Be Brave, Stay Wild!

Be Brave, Stay Wild!

by Darrell DiFabio
September 09, 2016

Does diving for snakes or snapping turtles and teaching online have anything in common?

Actually not much at first thought.

That was my thought until I met Coyote Peterson.

The Discovery channel and YouTube adventurer showed up to lead a few guided tours of the Holden Arboretum and my wife signed my youngest son and me up to witness this unique nature experience.

I had not heard of Coyote Peterson before that but now knowing him, I see a lot of similarities to teaching online.

I believe that one of the more challenging roles as an online educator is to convince students that they can succeed. To me that is the same as challenging them to "Be Brave" in their quest for a better future through a higher education degree.

So how do we convince them to "Be Brave" or for us to "Stay Wild"?" I think we can start by offering personal stories or anecdotes of our past. After all, aren't we brave? By this I mean haven't we managed or still manage to overcome our failures, setbacks, hurdles and challenges we face along the journey of life to "show up" in the classroom? If this can be conveyed through a video, I think that is even more compelling for them to see and hear us in "person." And results indicate that students take time viewing this personalized effort.

From a survey conducted with 100% online students "when asked if they watched the instructor-made videos, 100% of the respondents in the 100% online course indicated that they had viewed the instructor made videos provided in their class, with 67% of the respondents indicating that they had watched the videos more than once." (Rose, 2009). I do not find those impressive results to be the case for me from my video posts, but receiving a comment from a student about a welcoming video and hearing how they are anxious to work with you is humbling.

As my youngest son was practicing his trumpet (formerly mine) one day, I gave him a break so I could blow some melodious and militaristic motivational pieces. In thinking of how to be a little wild, I thought, why not put a video to it and share it with students. So then came the idea for my Trumpet Songs of Motivation. Here students can see and hear me giving them some positive vibes and follow it up by boldly belting some brass blasts. The link to my site is listed in case you need to be motivated...crank the volume up to 100 if you want!

Trumpet songs of motivation from Darrell DiFabio on Vimeo.


Perhaps a little wild, right?

I had one student give me a thumbs up in the class and said they would put it to their ringtone on their phone to get ready for the day!

So there again was the group of about 12 of us following behind Coyote Peterson as he methodically surveyed a lake, signaling us to remain quiet while he edged toward the water. In an instant and while fully garbed, he dove with arms extended into the water as if doing a belly flop. Seconds later, looking back to the group and smiling after spitting some water, he arose and clutching something tightly surfaced with a large snapping turtle with a shell the breadth of his chest. Kids and parents alike were like, "Wow! Cool! How did he do that?!"

What was more impressive was how he had missed one previously, returning to land with an anxious promise to get the next one, yet as wet as a winning coach doused after a championship game. That was a sign to me of how he persisted and knew he needed to take another chance. We are allowed to be imperfect when we are brave and wild.

The kids on that adventure learned a lot about turtles no doubt, but gained a greater appreciation for the natural wonders around us and ways to make it fun. Petting and photos captured the group’s attention. Several of the critters caught that day were even given famous names before being returned safely to their habitat. Even after getting back home, my son jumped into a nearby stream waded around and caught a few minnows to simulate the experience he witnessed. So we may never know how our ideas and messages regardless of how wild might egg on a student to try something, or pursue an opportunity. I love to challenge students in an operations business management class to try ideas or concepts we cover to make a process improvement. If it works, I tell them to take the credit. Or if the idea fails, I tell them to blame me, but to me, to "Be Brave, Stay Wild" is exploring and in the process learning as you go.

I would just never recommend jumping onto a snapping turtle.

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