30-Day Challenge – Day 26 – Deeper Explorations

Submaring divingAs part of the 30-Day Question Challenge, Enoch Hale posted “Going Beneath The Surface“, where he asked “How often do we journey into the unknown?”

As a retired Navy sailor, I immediately pictured a submarine diving when I saw his title.

Enoch asked:

“When I think about teaching and learning, I have to ask: do we carve out places (a lot of them) to explore beneath the surface of things? I’d rather not carve out those places. I’d rather my course be that place. I’d rather exploration define the learning.”

…exploration define the learning…

We went exploring last night in GRAD-602.  Our topic was “Developing Learning Content: Creation and Curation.”  As the students came in, they found this Clay Shirky quote from Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization in larger than life size on the class wall (thanks Laura!):

“We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capacity in the history of the human race…more people can communicate more things to more people than has ever been possible in the past, and the size and speed of this increase, from under one million participants to over one billion in a generation, makes the change unprecedented.”

Laura writing Shirky quote on wall

Through a series of short vignettes, we explored with the class the creation practices of screencasting, audio recordings, blogging, and slide creation, using Screencast-O-Matic, Soundcloud, WordPress, Prezi, HaikuDeck and Slideshark.  We also explored the concept of curation, using YouTube playlists, Diigo, Netvibes, Feedly, and Merlot (the free and open peer reviewed collection of online teaching and learning materials…not the wine).

This morning, Laura, Joyce Kincannon and I continued this exploration in a podcast.  The practices we covered last night were not “new”…they have been out for a few years.  Yet few in the class seemed aware of them or had played with them.  In the podcast, we riffed off of Enoch’s idea of “going deeper” to suggest that our role as academics is to explore, play and go deeper into trying new practices for learning.  We also discussed some compelling uses of digital technology that we have seen in teaching and learning.

This idea of exploration and play…and learning through exploration and play, surfaced several times.  In a hall conversation with Gardner Campbell this morning, I mentioned the conservative nature of PhD students in general, and he noted that breaking the cycle and self-perpetuation of conservative approaches to teaching is a challenge of higher education. If we are indeed “… living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capacity in the history of the human race…”, should that not surface in our approaches to teaching and learning?

Which leads to my question for today:

Day 26 – How can learning in my classes move from covering content to deeper (and playful) explorations?

Give a listen…and the submarine diving alarm is for Jeff and Enoch who missed this recording:


{Graphics: SubSeaWorld, Watwood}

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30 Day Challenge – Day 11 – Relevancy

NMC Horizon ReportThe NMC Horizon Report Higher Education Edition for 2014 lists six challenges which the review panel believes are very likely to impede technology adoption over the next five years.  These challenges are sorted into three categories defined by the nature of the challenge — solvable challenges are those that we both understand and know how to solve, but seemingly lack the will; difficult challenges are ones that are more or less well-understood but for which solutions remain elusive; and wicked challenges, the most difficult, are complex to even define, and thus require additional data and insights before solutions will even be possible.

These challenges will impact policy, leadership and practice…and it is the area of practice that I find most interesting.  The report raises an interesting point:

“Each of the six challenges identified by the expert panel presents numerous impediments for advancing teaching and learning, but perhaps the most wicked challenge related to these practices is keeping education relevant. Employers have reported disappointment in the lack of real world readiness they observe in recent graduates who are prospective or current employees. With both technology and the value of skills rapidly evolving, it is difficult for institutions to stay ahead of workforce needs.”

The challenges listed for this year:

Solvable Challenges

  • Low Digital Fluency of Faculty
    • “…digital literacy is less about tools and more about thinking, and thus skills and standards based on tools and platforms have proven to be somewhat ephemeral.”
  • Relative Lack of Rewards for Teaching
    • “…There is an overarching sense in the academic world that research credentials are a more valuable asset than talent and skill as an instructor. Because of this way of thinking, efforts to implement effective pedagogies are lacking.”

Difficult Challenges

  • Competition from New Models of Education
    • “…As these new platforms emerge, there is a growing need to frankly evaluate the models and determine how to best support collaboration, interaction, and assessment at scale.”
  • Scaling Teaching Innovations
    • “…Current organizational promotion structures rarely reward innovation and improvements in teaching and learning. A pervasive aversion to change limits the diffusion of new ideas, and too often discourages experimentation.”

Wicked Challenges

  • Expanding Access
    • “…expanding access means extending it to students who may not have the academic background to be successful without additional support.”
  • Keeping Education Relevant
    • “…As online learning and free educational content become more pervasive, institutional stakeholders must address the question of what universities can provide that other approaches cannot, and rethink the value of higher education from a student’s perspective.”

Relevance has lots of layers, like an onion.  Relevance of discipline, relevance of skills, relevance of path.

work4relevanceClay Shirky in “The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age,” focused on the unsustainable fiscal model of higher education, stating:

“…The number of high-school graduates underserved or unserved by higher education today dwarfs the number of people for whom that system works well. The reason to bet on the spread of large-scale low-cost education isn’t the increased supply of new technologies. It’s the massive demand for education, which our existing institutions are increasingly unable to handle. That demand will go somewhere.”

It seems that there are connections across these challenges.  Increasing digital literacy of faculty could help address challenges of access, scale, and relevancy.  My question for the 30-day challenge for today is:

Day 11 – In a digitally mediated and data-driven world, what practices will leverage what faculty do best – “…facilitating inquiry, guiding learners to resources, and imparting wisdom that comes with experience in the field” (to quote from the Horizon Report) while taking advantage of the affordances of the web to add value to the higher education student experience?

Figuring this question out could help address our relevancy.  Doing nothing would be wicked indeed.


{Graphics: NMC, Steve Heath}

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Bill Kist Book

kistOver the weekend, I finished reading Bill Kist’s book The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age.

Of course, given my past posts, this book really resonated with me.  But I think it is a good resource for any faculty exploring the use of social media in instruction.  One of the things I liked is that Bill is not totally commited to technology for technology’s sake, but rather really explores possibilities that enhance learning.

The book is written primarily for the middle school and high school teacher, though I think it could easily be applied to higher education classes as well. The chapters are divided into Short, Tall, Grande, Venti, and Refill – Starbucks allusions that work well.  When you order a coffee at Starbucks, the coffee tastes the same whether it is in a little cup or a huge one.  Likewise, Bill has provided social media applications for a low tech teacher to a “venti” one.

At the “short” end, Bill looks are collaborative learning without jumping in to too many web tools.  Using Word forms and index cards, he illustrates how to move from a linear lecture to a simulated hyperlinked activity in a classroom.

The “tall” chapter moves the concepts of community learning on to the web, primarily through internal blogging (such as the Blackboard 9 blogging feature, which allows for blogging within the walled garden of the class).  He has some nice examples of teacher guidelines, some of which I am adopting for my fall class.  He also addresses issues of safety and fair use when working with students in a web environment.

At the ‘grande” level, he looks at moving this use of blogging outside the LMS to the open blogosphere.  I like the guidelines to students that basically equate to “would your mother approve?”.  I recently introduced a faculty member to blogging, and her first post (on Mel Gibson) singed my eyebrows!  Students (and faculty) do need some guidelines, and Bill’s chapter gives some good ones.

At the “venti” level, Bill is exploring tearing down the four walls and looking at what classes look like in hybrid settings (and remember, he is writing about middle and high school classes – what if you did not have to come to school every day?).  His examples obviously work well at the college level, but are pretty radical for K-12.

His “refill” chapter explores some fascinating questions.  Will social networking be used to free students or more tightly limit their freedoms?  What is the relationship between entertainment and education (or as I would suggest, what does learning look like in a web-enabled world?)?  Is there enough time in one’s schedule for social networking?  And finally, what should our schools aspire to?

Regarding time, I read the first chapter of Clay Shirky‘s Cognitive Surplus last night, and he would suggest that we have plenty of time if we would just get off the TV!  I will follow up with more from Shirky as I get deeper in the book.

Kylene Beers wrote the foreword and titled it “Preparing Students for a World Gone Flat.”  My blog has remained with the flat world theme even though that concept is morphing.  Our students, be they K-12 or higher ed, are living in a web-enabled world and interacting in and through the web daily.  It seems to me that too many of our instructional settings attempt to block out this reality rather than see it as an opportunity.  Bill’s book does a good job of laying out options for teachers and faculty as they grapple with those opportunities.  Faculty can order a short cup or a venti cup, but faculty at a minimum need to understand what students are tasting.  Bill’s book gives some ways to start down that road.

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