Tuesday, January 25, 2011

perceptual adaptation

Back in the late 1800's, psychologist George Stratton began an experiment in perceptual reasoning. He wore a pair of lenses that allowed his world to invert - that is - everything was upside down. After 4 days of wearing the glasses, everything started to look right side up - unless he looked closely. By day 8, his brain had fully adjusted, and everything looked upright again. When he tried to remove the glasses, the world appeared upside down. But, given some time, the brain worked it's magic. A few neurons firing here and there, a new pathway forged, and our brain was back to doing what it does, turn upsidedown images from our retina, into upright images in our mind.

This experiment is not all that unlike my current educational experience. Though I started using twitter over a year ago, I didn't incorporate it into my PLN until late November. First I was following 1 or 2 people. Then 10. Then 50. Then people were following me. By mid-December I started using Google Reader to keep up with all the ideas and information that were coming my way. By late-December I had started my own blog. January 1st I started my 365/2011 photo project to enrich creativity in my life. And by the time I went back to school on January 4 I was communicating with people world-wide. Between my laptop and iPhone I was connected to people and ideas more hours a day than I ever thought possible. Before school, during school, after school. While watching TV. My tweetdeck would be chirping through dinner and first thing in the morning right after my alarm went off. I have been accumulating and contributing information at a rate I didn't imagine possible. But in the process (and don't mistake me, because the journey is AMAZING), I feel like my world has been turned upside down. My philosophy of education has been ripped apart - in a good way - through the pushing, pulling, nudging and challenging of my peers. Articles I've read have changed my view. Different blogs have encouraged me to rethink the expected. My colleagues at work have brought forth statements that made me rethink why I do what I do. I'm still trying to find my sentence. And I'm not quite sure I am always better today than yesterday. My perception of what it is we do here in education is upside down. And then right side up. And then upside down again. Glasses on. Glasses off. repeat.

So now that semester 2 is about to start I feel like I have a clean slate. I am sitting at my desk, in an empty classroom, debating course outlines. They are full with blank spaces so I can come up we can come up with classroom expectations next Monday as a class. They tell students there will be a final assessment - but it won't necessarily be a final exam. They mention that students are expected to apply themselves, but that I won't be marking their homework. It reminds them that I am here every day for 1-on-1 support. I defines feedback and tells them how to get it. It outlines our class twitter feed, and how to use it effectively. I have so many things I want to do, and change, and everyday, with every new idea, I stop and have to completely rethink what it is I'm doing - if only for the nobel goal of doing as many right things for the best of reasons, in the interest of my students. I don't mind being challenge. Strike that. I thrive when being challenged. So thank you to those who challenge me each and every day. Please continuing doing it. Because I don't mind being turned upside down.


  1. I noticed the same thing when I started using Twitter a couple of years ago. At first I started out slowly and didn't know what to do, but I've adapted and now find Twitter to be incredibly useful.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Hi Alyssa,
    I arrived here after reading your comment on GUTS at The Learning Nation. Great quote btw :)! I share your enthusiasm for learning through Twitter and find reading and sharing online to be a good fit for educators. Like you, many of us are interested in utilizing these tools in meaningful ways with students. I'm also impressed with how your new learning has you reflecting on your course outline for the new term.