Through his research to discover what makes people really happy, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has come to understand the impact that finding extreme pleasure and lasting satisfaction in one’s work can have. Being in a state of flow – what he describes as the intensity, or “ecstasy,” and other worldly, out of body state that occurs “when you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new” – especially when doing work that will benefit others, can be so clarifying and gratifying. His February 2004 TED Talk goes on to describe how entering flow requires expertise and technique that develop over time and with concerted practice/effort.
Well, on Tuesday, December 24th, 2019, in the auditorium at FKIP (Faculty of Teacher Training and Education Sciences) Universitas Pakuan (UNPAK), I experienced flow state, and it is exactly as Csikszentmihalyi described! In the shared space we created that morning, Puji and I led a workshop for an audience of 250+ that included university students, lecturers, and alumni from FKIP’s English Education program, students from around UNPAK, the head of International Programs for UNPAK, a group of teacher educators from a nearby institute, and more. The energy in the room was palpable. I had an inkling that this was going to be a good talk and a great morning even before we began as I walked among the rows of students, getting to know the audience by asking them about their interests and digital literacy practices. Something felt different about this compared to other talks.
My Part of the Workshop
As I presented, I moved about the room and could tell that I was connecting with the attendees and that the examples I shared from my research and teaching were creating moments of shared understanding about the digital literacies theory I was introducing. The questions I got at the end were insightful and offered me opportunities to further encourage gurus and dosens to redefine what “competence” means for them. I used a now familiar question expressing concerns about “hoax” on social media to talk about the responsibility that educators and parents have to guide young people in critical media literacy, rather than letting fear of technology encourage them to ban it from classrooms and homes.
Puji’s Part of the Workshop
The workshop continued as Puji led the audience through a series of cooperative learning (CL) structures to help them process and integrate what they’d been introduced to in my presentation. And, folks, it was JUST BRILLIANT! Not only did she demonstrate her evolution in taking on the identity of a digital literacy scholar, but she clearly demonstrated her expertise as a CL researcher and educator! Through her use of CL structures, Puji did a great job of creating space for a huge room of attendees to work together. She had them exploring identity construction through digital literacies by asking them to explore the various accounts of a mommy blogger/author. She had them questioning and building shared understanding through experiences as learners, and she gave them clear models for what it means to facilitate effective CL learning by bringing two groups up to the stage to demonstrate. Her use of online resources, of the room, and of all of us as participants, really made the concepts that I talked about in my portion come alive! As I noted in an Instagram post from the room that morning, it was a true Christmas gift to me as a teacher to be able to see this former student of mine really coming into her own in this workshop.
On Becoming a Dynamic Duo
Just as Csikszentmihalyi explains, it takes preparation and experience before you can find your flow state. This Christmas Eve workshop would not have come together the same way if we had done it earlier in my Fulbright experience. Since arriving in Central Java in early September, I have continued to learn so much about what higher education, faculty life, teacher realities, classrooms, and student experiences look, sound, and feel like. Knowing all of that helps me do a better job of connecting with audiences, and my presentation about digital literacies has evolved as I’ve learned more. We’re also just beginning to process the survey responses for our research, and I’m incorporating that into what I share. And, as she reads more, asks me clarifying questions, and continues her work to become a digital literacy researcher, Puji admits that her confidence and command of the concepts grows and helped her to facilitate the learning with this particular crowd better than she did when she did something similar in the UNNES Teacher Workshop back in early November.
As we reflected together over Christmas breakfast, Puji and I agreed that we’re really on to something here. I think that the combination of my concept introduction and her CL-facilitated integration makes for an amazing workshop experience for attendees. And, it wasn’t just me who thought so! Meita, the head of the English Education department at STKIP Muhammadiyah Bogor (A Teacher Education Institute), approached me during the photo session at the end of the workshop and introduced me to the group of students and colleagues she brought with her. In expressing her appreciation for the event, she hoped that I might one day be able to come to her institution and work with the faculty to help them incorporate digital literacies into their teacher education programs. Clearly, this workshop serves as a great introduction and can open doors for future collaborations with teachers at many levels. Though we’re running out of time to do it again during this Fulbright trip, I am looking forward to delivering a version of this same workshop at other institutions on future visits to Indonesia – including in June in Bandung, where Puji has another Master’s sister who eagerly wants us to visit her institution.
I am working on several different avenues to support my continued work in Indonesia and to fund return trips during the breaks built into my American academic calendar (we are SO PRIVILEGED, by the way!). The travel budget makes ongoing collaborations cost-prohibitive for most universities and school districts. But, once I’m back in the country, there will be many different opportunities to continue doing this work that brings me so much joy and returns me to the flow state, where I know I am doing exactly what I’m meant to do, with whom and where I’m meant to be doing it. I’m so looking forward to those future experiences and to seeing what we can all build together.