Thoughts about education

classroom

Places please! Sit in your seats! Be quiet. The play is about to begin and I am ready to play my part as an eager, attentive student. The teacher plays the leading role and her students play their supportive (or not) cast of characters.

I loved getting positive feedback from teachers. Any nod of approval and I was in heaven. And I learned that I was able to get good grades by following the formula. Good grades=Listen + Do the Homework + Be Attentive. I really did like school, but I think I liked the attention more.

I certainly felt that I could not show that I liked school. It was not “cool” to like learning. School was something to be dreaded. When many people were groaning about something, I was usually secretly excited.

I even noticed this sentiment when I took my first doctoral class last spring. The students were tiiirrreed. Because it was my first class in a few years, I was very motivated to have the opportunity to be in this class. I had energy and they were clearly exhausted. Not everyone, of course, but many. I felt guilty for having so much enthusiasm. But I did not let this interfere with my momentum and I forged on to have a great learning experience.

Yet, I learned the most about learning when I was a teacher for the FIRST Step Program in Wilmington, Delaware, in the early 90’s. “My” students were obligated by the State of Delaware to attend high school equivalency classes in preparation to take the GED test because they were on public assistance.  It was in this electrified emotional environment I realized that the curriculum needs to meet the person not the person adjusting to curriculum. With significant effort I was able to create multiple levels of learning on just about everything we did. Our time spent together was more of an evolutionary process as we developed a strong community.

I believe that everyone can learn and that this learning can provide opportunities. Unfortunately, education is only one piece of a complicated puzzle. Several of my students were battling various kinds of issues like substance abuse, domestic violence, and poverty.  Other women were clearly controlled by the men in their lives. These adults were the children who were seen as difficult when they were in elementary and middle school and eventually dropped out. They felt that teachers did not care about them and because they were dealing with a less than supportive home-life, they chose the path of least resistance.

paulo freireIt was during this time that I learned about Paulo Freire and the Pedagogy of the Oppressed and how society can be changed by creating a community of learners.

I think the most important step in any educational activity is finding and igniting passion and a sense of exploration that is not dogmatic and tied to some artificial timeline. Preconceived notions of deadlines are the antithesis of true learning.

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Beginning….again

Back to It

spa

I am back from my hiatus. I recharged my batteries and am ready to start again. I decided to drop my winter class and take a break, which was a great decision. I am refreshed and very excited about spring semester.  The two classes I am taking are Curriculum Theory and Analysis for Educational Decision Making. Scott Richardson is teaching Curriculum Theory and I cannot wait until our first class next Thursday. After only reading a few chapters in his selected text, Curriculum Theory by William Pinar, I know this class will be worthwhile.

Pinar talks about using an autobiographical technique to challenge how we teach. His second chapter is entitled, “Autobiography: A Revolutionary Act.” How cool is that? Looking at our lives and telling our stories can shed light to our own interiors and our own personal journeys, in addition to informing society and moving it forward. Pinar blends philosophy, psychology and human rights into our educational pursuits. I think he sees education as a way to free society and bring balance into our existence.

 

The journey begins….again

The Age of Aquarius in Professional Development

Let’s chat for a minute about what you need to be successful at work. Is it online training seminars, more webinars, more workshops? Maybe… but you probably need a little bit more than that.

Professional Development is much more than what workshops are offered and when.

1st Dimension: Training

There are many spheres or dimensions to development. On the surface we think about training objectives/topics, presenter skills and engagement activities. All of these are very important strategies during training. However, the absolute key to any seat-time experience, whether it is online or f2f, is what happens afterwards.

How do we transfer that learning back to our work environments, our offices?

2nd Dimension: Knowledge Transfer

“Wow, that was a great workshop! The speaker was awesome, the handouts spectacular. Now I am going to put it all in a folder in my drawer….oh, no.”

What does it take to bring that new knowledge into our practice? Maybe we just need time at the end of the session to consider how the information we just learned can impact our current situation. What if, when the training concluded we were given 10 minutes to complete a worksheet or engage in a dialogue that would outline how we could integrate this new knowledge into our practice. If we can’t integrate it for one reason or another, then can we at least list a number of colleagues who may be interested in this information and then pass it along?

3rd Dimension: Fostering Connections & Contributions

The previous two dimensions are important, yet I believe they mean very little without this third dimension.

To be successful, people need to feel that they can actively contribute, engage with their peers, and develop professionally.  I found a great audio excerpt about the Essentials of Engagement which is located at the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) site.

This mini-podcast references the one segment of the following book, 12: The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner and James Harter.  When we feel that our workplace promotes these concepts, an engaged and active, thriving environment emerges.

  • I connect with the vision and mission of my employer or division.
  • My opinion matters.
  • I have the opportunity to grow professionally.
  • I am recognized or praised for my work. I am appreciated.
  • Someone at work encourages my development.

So, yes, I need to focus on training strategies that can engage people during the workshop, but I also need to find out how I can support the broader engagement of our staff.

Florescent lights of the lms…

a lonely florescent breakfast

Yep, I love Jim Groom’s description of the florescent light of the LMS.

I completely support the concept of leaving the LMS behind when it is clunky or commercially cyborged. I truly understand the argument for the use of multiple tools and weaving together “whatever” works for instructors. Yet, is this expectation realistic? There are a handful of people I know who can do this…well. Other instructors need the well-structured universe of a standardized tool or “system.”

Good instructors take some risk, great instructors experiment and bring their students along with them. Unfortunately, I think that most people (students and instructors alike) feel that the stakes are too high to experiment. The student says, “I pay too much money for this.” (Whatever this is.) The instructor thinks, “I don’t want to look like a fool.” So, I think the edupunk movement has two-sides to the coin: instructor risk and student satisfaction.

My dilemma now that I am in an employee training field, is that we need to track employee course completion. Has the employee reviewed OMB circular A-21 or has she completed the necessary online training to handle radioactive material? How can we do this on an institutional scale where we can apply reporting and analytics to ensure that we have met the legal training requirements?

yay, legal documents!

Yet what is really interesting to consider is how the edupunk movement can evolve or expand employee training too, not just what we consider “standardized” k-12 education. Todd Hudson at the Maverick Institute considered this when he wrote the article “Lean Knowledge Transfer.”  How can we bring a new philosophy into training? He cites the lack of responsivity that formalized corporate training embodies. And that it is better to implement a “lean” approach where the learner is driving the experience.

I do think that the edupunk philosophy is critical to the advancement of education and should possibly be the foundation of all learning:

          1. Reaction against the commercialization of education

          2. DIY attitude

          3.Thinking and learning for yourself. (quoted from Wikipedia)

Ultimately, it probably is time for instructors to get some real-life sunshine and step out of the LMS’s artificial shadow.

“Quick” Learning on the Web

question from the audience

question from the audience

I attended UD’s First Friday Roundtable on Teaching on 10/5 (and had a blast, I might add!) about active learning techniques and my interest was piqued with the idea of “Bookending the Lecture.” Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to attend the mini-session to get the gist of what “Bookending” was all about.

For my blog post for #udsnf12 I will tell you about my online learning path to investigate this topic.

“Bookending the Lecture” where to start?

Initial Searches for 10-15 Minute Response Time

I came to absolute dead-ends at Class Central and Makerspace. However, when I looked at HowCast my return search topic was “How to Cast a Spell.” I thought this was interesting, but not quite on topic.

I finally went to google and found 23 results for “bookending the lecture.” The content returned was scholarly so I was able to build a foundation of how this engagement concept fits in with other strategies.

From here I decided to try YouTube with Zero results!

Searches for 1 Week Response Time  

calendar

a week or longer…

I then decided to go directly to the source and ask Kathy Pusecker, the director of the Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning.

As I was waiting for Kathy’s email response, I went to the ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) web site. Again, searching specifically on “bookending the lecture” resulted in zero results. But then a little chat window popped up and asked if I wanted to chat! Well…yes, I did as a matter of fact. And, again, no resources for this very specific concept.

Now I am starting to feel like I am looking for the elusive Sasquatch.

I received an email back from Kathy and she pointed me to the Google docs they created for the event. At last, I can see the resources the Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning used for this very specific topic. Now I have some resources to enable additional searching ideas.

I also went out on a limb and started a LinkedIn discussion with my ASTD group and asked the following question:

Have you used an active learning technique called “bookending the lecture?” If so, what activities did you incorporate?

And as of today, 10/15, five days later, I do not have any replies.

My takeaway from this exercise is that it is important to ask your community for help, even if you do not get a response. The point is to ask.

Connectivism in Action Part 2

My dance with  National Council of University Research Administrators-NCURA’s social web network.

courtesy of aka_serges photostream on flickr

I first looked at their Twitter feed and found that the majority of tweets (and I mean almost all) were pointing followers to their “YouTube Tuesday” sessions. The second most tweeted subject by NCURA was about conference dates and conference related things.  OK- on the surface really good stuff, but not immediate texts and links that I am interested in. Now I dig a little deeper and look into their 456 Followers.

Note: this is where the idea of Connectivism gets real. I am taking a respectable organization’s twitter account and peering into their followers AND I am allowed to. I am not hacking, this is public knowledge. Wow! It is like looking into someone’s contact list.

Behind Door Number 1: Trustworthiness

I see that  John’s Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is following NCRUA, but decide that this Tweeter is focused more on health related topics and not general research related ideas, which is what I am searching for. So, although they are incredibly trustworthy, they do not meet my “follow” criteria.

Door Number 2: Lacking Tweets!

I click on another follower of NCURA’s tweets and see that this person has only tweeted 3 times, which again, does not meet my criteria. The tweeter I want to follow from this group will be an active twitter allowing me to learn something or attempt to build a professional connection.

Door Number 3: A winner! Trustworthy & Lots of Tweets that meet My Professional Needs

Next up is HarvardOSP or the Office for Sponsored Programs at Harvard University. At last, real potential. They only have posted 58 tweets, but it looks like this is a new account and is very active for September.

Furthermore, their content is exactly what I am looking to find : educational resources on the web, funding opportunities and critical issues in my field, news. I think this Tweeter would be a great one to do my next layer of connectivity research.

Door Number 4: Way off Topic

My next Tweeter to research was a woman with a very promising scientific profile. She also had 288 tweets. Awesome, or so I thought. When I dug further, many of the tweets were personal, some political and several had a lot to do with the Mars Curiosity rover, which is interesting , but not what I want to follow. So, she did not meet my criteria.

Door Number 5: Off Topic…again

Found a promising tweeter that is also followed by NCURA and HarvardSOP, so I thought,  “Perfect!” a real person I can follow. Unfortunately, his postings were a lot about sensationalistic news items and fewer references to research development.

During  my review of other resources/websites that I stumbled upon I found other golden nuggest of information and resources.

For some of these I know that I will have to  sift through the (yes, I have to say it) the Connections, I will find valuable opportunities to learn and connect with others in a way that I did not realize.

This is so, so, so very cool. I cannot tell you how much this assignment has meant to me, to my professional life.

Gold Mine for Sale!

My overall observation? It takes a lot of digging to find gold.

Connectivism in Action Part 1

“Tools are extensions of humanity, increasing our ability to externalize our thinking into forms that we can share with others.”  –George Siemens

courtesy of wlonline at Flickr

Completing this week’s blog assignment for Mathieu Plourde’s Social Networking class at UD #udsnf12, has taken me to a deeper level of understanding of the Internet’s capability to build bridges and expand my knowledge, to build my Personal Learning Network.

I have been welcomed into the rabbit hole and have found helpers along the way. I was afraid of the volume of information (still am a little), but now understand how to filter it and make it work for me.

And, now, thanks to this assignment, have seen the proverbial light by reading George Seiman’s artile on Connectivism. Matthias Melcher (who Seiman refers to in his article) even states that Connectivism is too broad of a concept to be harnessed with the restrictive label of a “learning theory.”  That Connectivism expands this parochial notion of education and pushes us to reach beyond the walls of an educational building, a teacher, a formal learning experience.

This is revolutionary stuff, my friends. This is MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), this is OER (Open Educational Resources) . This is the Web, or as Connectivism likes to describe this experience as the neuronal network, where uncertainty is certain and the paths are many. (At least, this is my current interpretation.)

I began seeing these connections when I started the first part of this assignment by researching professional organizations and their use of social media tools. The one I finally decided to review is the National Council for University Research Administrators (NCURA), which subscribes to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Linked In.  Now for the fun part!

It’s not you, it’s the web…

Or should I ask, Can I Control Information Overload with Filters and Tools?

Clay Shirky

First of all, I love Clay Shirky! He really brings the message home, whatever he investigates. However, in his Web 2.0 Expo talk in NY (that we watched for Matt’s EDUC #udsnf12 course), I did not like his claim that

“all the solutions [web/email filtering solutions] are temporary…you have to take the volume increase for granted.”

No, I do not want to take the volume increase for granted! Yuck! Yet, hearing this is liberating. It’s not me, it’s the flow. I am not incapable. I just don’t have the right combination of filters set up. This concept is freeing, really and truly.  I will have to keep modifying my set up, but when I get overloaded, I know that it isn’t me, it’s the flow. As Shirky puts it we are in “post-Gutenberg economics.”

So, in order to manage this phase of info gluttony, I have investigated the following tools:

IFTTT (If This Then That)-an old adage from programming language, eh? I just started using this, but I think this tool will really help me increase my klout score. Is your ego interested in this? Did the Web 2.0 makers come up with this digital expression of online worth? We shall see…  Yet, I do like IFTTT because it allows me to (1) post in multiple places with one expression, (2) it also brings all the information I want together into my google reader-this alone will be awesome. (PS-be sure to check out article below–it looks like IFTTT is dropping TWITTER!)

Netivbes: I was totally enamored with PageFlakes (RIP) until they went belly-up and I lost everything I aggregated in there. I really liked their simplicity. But a new tool came along and now I can do just about everything in Netvibes. I am still learning the extent of this tool and am very excited to do more than collect urls and see my feeds from Facebook, Twitter, etc.. The aggregating tools in Netvibes are immense and I need to figure out how to best utilize them.

Tweetdeck is OK, but I “think” it can do the same thing as Netvibes. I think this tool would be really helpful if you had more than one Twitter account. I would like to hear other opinions about this.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Hootsuite!! I think know I am going to really like Hootsuite! This may be my “go to” tool. I really like the straightforward interface and adding in all kinds of apps. I added my youtube subscriptions and they play right in Hootsuite! Awesome! And there are about a million more apps to add in like Evernote too!

So, what’s the difference between content curation and content aggregation? Well, this site really helped me out http://socialmediatoday.com/johnsouza/559293/content-curation-vs-content-aggregation-basics  and from that I have the following understanding.

From Secret Sculpture Garden

Content Curation means sharing other people’s content and information with my friends and connections in some awesome and very deliberate way, like using a website. Curation has my personal touch on it.

Content Aggregation means pulling a bunch of information together and not sifting through it to get the good stuff. This is usually via some sort of search process or aggregator that automatically pulls information in.

I am seeing the differences between the two in this way. Content Aggregation is like throwing a bucket of paint on the wall while Content Curation is like using many colors to create a beautiful mural.

from something else studios

What do YOU think?

Struggling with web 2.0 and kids

Ok, I know most of you think that web 2.0 is awesome, and I do too! Really, I do. Yet…(in a sort of whiny voice) I am worried about when kids use it. This blog has started changing my mind. http://kathycassidy.com/2012/05/15/why-my-six-year-olds-have-digital-portfolios/

Thanks udsnf12! aka Matt & co.

 

Reflections on The Connected Learner in a PLE

Connected

Connected (Photo credit: steven w)

My reflections after reading The Connected Learner in a PLE.

Thank you Professor Plourde for posting this on our Pintrest site. I think articles that center around “connected learners” is a great direction for us to start thinking about HOW to use these tools. When I think of the possibilities I am a bit overwhelmed and feel that we need to have our own “Connected Classroom Learning Standards/Rules/Manifesto..etc.”

We need to address these challenges:

1. How do we navigate the infinite choices that change, break, get bought/sold?

2. In what ways should we use the tools of choice? What are the best practices?

3. What privacy issues need to be addressed by the school district, the parent, future stakeholders in this child’s life?

4. How do we address this ending paragraph from this site?

  • “As proponents for the use of technology, we also realize that the noise from myriad digital distractions threatens the cognitive complexity of learning. Learners need to have the skills to know how to self-regulate the use of these tools.”

I hope that we will begin to discuss some of these questions that keep me wondering about web 2.0.