The Fear of Learning New Things

Today I watch some of the training videos to design my writing course for a new online platform for students to access. It’s coming along so slowly as I learn new technology and new ways of thinking about presenting information for others to use.

I’m sitting here in a jumble of a syllabus with lesson plans and presentations, videos, sample papers, textbooks, and exams. Students now access everything from their phones, and they expect my calendar, assignments, grading rubrics, and lesson plans to arrive to them organized, hyperlinked, and beautiful.

And Penn State has adopted a new way of doing this that I don’t know how to navigate.

Fear! Confusion! Stress!

But I’m learning. It’s slow going, but I’m learning.

(Remember, I still use chalk on the chalkboard. I use paper. I hand out pencils. I like to hear the sigh of a real page turning in a book I make students read.)

I made a choice today to ignore this strange fear of new technology when it comes to teaching. If you take your time and realize that nobody is against you—there’s no taskmaster ready to punish you if you mess up this importing of material into this dashboard and that module—you can settle into learning. 

If you realize that you’re OK and still lovable–even if you aren’t as smart or as quick as others–you can settle into learning. 

If you realize that this can be joyful and open up new opportunity, you can settle into learning. 

Joy! Gentleness! Humility!

Sometimes it’s good for professors to become students of something new to remember how it feels to sit in a new space, full of fear and confusion, and need someone to give you permission to settle into learning. It’s humbling and requires a certain graciousness on the part of everyone around.

Just like writers these days also need to become marketing experts, college instructors need technological expertise. Instead of complaining and rejecting this new world–and these new platforms–I settle into learning.

I develop.

And I make an extra cup of coffee to survive the afternoon at my monitor (that word autocorrected to “monster”). Ha! It’s not a monster; it’s a monument to humble learning.


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