I was the typical shy asian boy who was quiet and avoided talking in class if I could help it. Throughout high school and college, I seldom contributed to discussion even if I did have some nugget of insight to share (which was also a rare occurrence). I was also the kind of person who needed guidelines for doing things, like homework and projects. If it’s too open-ended, it makes me anxious and I spend an unnecessary amount of time trying to decide what I’m supposed to do, even though there wasn’t any particular thing I was supposed to do (that’s sort of the point of open-endedness).
I guess one of the good things about my graduate program is that a lot of things are done in groups. For the “Technology for Learners” class I have to give a presentation with a group on various readings on the broad topic of multimodal systems, multimedia, and multiple representations. We didn’t have too much to go on for what our presentation should accomplish, aside from leading a discussion. In our group meeting, none of us really had an idea of how we should start. So we did the only thing we could do; talk about the readings.
I am glad that 1) having read 3/5 of the articles, I was able to speak coherently what my understanding was, and potential flaws/caveats that I noticed, and 2) that although our group discussion had no prescribed agenda or goal, through generative discussion we reached a rough sketch of what our presentation could be (and it involves more than just summarizing the readings in powerpoint slides). And 3), that I can appreciate having intellectual discussions with intellectual people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. I’m actually very relieved that I could contribute in some way, and that I’ve made progress from being the shy and silent asian boy.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m now very prone to participating in discussions and sharing, but it’s progress.