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:
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{Graphics: SubSeaWorld, Watwood}

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From Aggregation to Curation

Over the past month or so, we have taken our students in GRAD 602 on a carefully scaffolded journey through web technology to support teaching and learning.  With Jeff Nugent and our graduate fellow, David McLeod, we have laid out how the web is impacting the landscape of learning, suggested the use of Chickering and Gamson’s 7  Principles as a lens for determining the use of technology for learning, and then introduced students to blogging (public reflective practice), Twitter (networked communication), and Diigo (tagging and social bookmarking).  We complete our review of digital technology tonight by discussing the notion that – through RSS – you can rewire the web to customize the information flow one receives, as we are doing with Netvibes.

Yet, as we have prepared for tonight’s lesson, I am beginning to wonder about RSS as a topic.  It seems that the orange icon is disappearing off many websites, as is the functionality.  I noticed this week that Inside Higher Ed still has RSS feeds from its top level news, but that the feeds for subcategories like Teaching and Learning have disappeared.  Feed for the tag “grad602” in Diigo pulls up links tagged last spring semester, but nothing from this January or February (and there has been no response to questions posted in the Diigo Help Blog for this issue).  Another prof at VCU who also has his journalism students using a class tag in Diigo had the same problem, and has shifted back to Delicious for class tagging.

It is not that the concept of pulling rather than pushing information has died.  Lee Lefever’s RSS in Plain English still resonates with me…but this video was done five years ago, and five years in the web is a lifetime.  Feed still seems to be an underlying concept to sites like Facebook and the new social and participatory site – Pinterest.  But aggregation?  My “old school” but go to aggregator – Google Reader – is still part of my daily professional life…but it seems to be getting harder to build my own personal one-stop portal.  Perhaps, as David suggested, this is simply a reality of the web becoming more monetized.  If I am pulling to my reader, I am not seeing the ads back on the pages from which I pull.

So Jeff suggested that we might need to shift our focus from aggregation to curation.  Which raises the question (and it is not really a new question): What is our role as faculty in curating content for our students…and what is their role?  How do you see this playing out in your classes?  Is aggregation an outdated concept?  How do you see your role changing?  Is this role different for K12 teachers versus undergraduate versus graduate faculty?

Let me know your thoughts…

{Photo Credit: Oleg Sh}

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