A Layered Blimage Challenge

blimage_onionAs those who read me know, I have been participating in a recent blogging challenge that has emerged called blimage – a “blog image” challenge: You must use an image sent to you and “incorporate it into your blog, and write a post about learning based on it…Then pass an image of your choice on to someone else so they can do their own #blimage challenge.” Read about the original idea here and see a continually updated list of blimage posts here.

Enoch Hale and I have been challenging each other, with his latest thoughtful post here.  Now he has challenged me with this image of a cut onion.

My first thought was staff meetings in the past where my colleague Bud Deihl would get thoughtful and say, “My mind is reeling…so many layers suggested by this…”.  He used the onion metaphor frequently.

The onion metaphor is useful because it brings to mind surface issues and underlying deeper issues.  Thirty years ago, I learned about quality principles while still in the Navy, as DoD (and much of America) rediscovered Dr. Edwards Deming.  Deming was a engineer, statistician and quality expert who helped turn around Japanese industry after World War II.  A NBC documentary in 1980 entitled “If Japan Can…Why Can’t We?” helped bring Deming to the attention of American industry, and he consulted with government and industry until his death in 1993.  His quality principles were an integral part of my dissertation study on middle management in community colleges.  Deming regularly admonished management to focus on systems rather than people as the causes of problems (and opportunities for improvement).

Having moved into faculty development for the last decade, I see the work that we do in many ways as problem solving.  Whether moving a class online or incorporating a new technology into the classroom, we focus on working with faculty to improve the learning process.

The danger in problem solving is to focus on symptoms rather than underlying root causes. Toyota instituted the “Five Whys” process to try and get at causal issues rather than band-aiding surface issues.  In “The Five Whys Technique” by Olivier Serrat, an example is provided of Jeff Bezos of Amazon using Root Cause Analysis to get at the underlying cause of a safety issue.  During a visit the Amazon.com Fulfillment Centers, Bezos learned of a safety incident during which an associate had damaged his finger.

root-cause“…He walked to the whiteboard and began to use the Five Whys technique.

  • Why did the associate damage his thumb?
    • Because his thumb got caught in the conveyor.
  • Why did his thumb get caught in the conveyor?
    • Because he was chasing his bag, which was on a running conveyor.
  • Why did he chase his bag?
    • Because he had placed his bag on the conveyor, which had then started unexpectedly.
  • Why was his bag on the conveyor?
    • Because he was using the conveyor as a table.

And so, the root cause of the associate’s damaged thumb is that he simply needed a table. There wasn’t one around and he had used the conveyor as a table. To eliminate further safety incidences, Amazon.com needs to provide tables at the appropriate stations and update safety training…”

So when I gazed at the onion, I was wondering how often I and fellow faculty (and students) jump on the top layer (issue) and do not push to the underlying cause?  Deming noted that there are common cause problems (part of normal variation) and special cause problems (unique events).  Treating and fixing common cause issues as if they were special cause problems inevitably leads to worse issues, not improvement.

Maybe asking “why” five times might lead to more insight into issues facing us today.  In this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education, there is an article by Mary Ellen McIntire entitled “‘Machine Teaching’ Is Seen as Way to Develop Personalized Curricula.”  Some faculty might see this as an attack on teaching…one comment in the article states: “Ah, get rid of the human teacher to make the learning experience more personal… and profitable for ed tech…”

I would disagree.  I think that integration of technology into lessons (and personalization) is part of the unfolding evolution of teaching.  Perhaps we first need to identify the root cause that machine teaching could help improve.  Focusing on the threat implied by machine learning is only peeling back the first layer of the onion.

{Graphics: Onion, Root Cause}

30 Day Challenge – Day 19 – Flipped Out

Flipping the classroom has been the rage the past few years.  As Sams and Bergmann noted, many instructors assume that this means making videos for students to watch at home…”as though that were the essential ingredient.”  They go on to note:

“Flipped learning is not about how to use videos in your lessons. It’s about how to best use your in-class time with students. That insight is causing educators in classrooms from kindergarten to college to reevaluate how they teach.”

Image of horse running from flipped pagesSteve Wheeler (a.k.a. @TimBuckTeeth) took this to a new level last week with a post entitled “Flipping the Teacher.” Steve noted that he was not advocating obscene gestures by students, but was rather suggesting flipping roles between faculty and students. It raises a great question for our 30-Day Challenge:

Day 19: How would my course change if I flipped the roles of teacher and student?

As Steve noted:

If we are at all serious about promoting student centred learning, then we should at least reconsider the roles teachers traditionally play at the centre of the process, and begin to discover how we can help the student replace them. This does not mean that teachers relinquish their responsibilities or shirk their obligations. What it does mean is that teachers should seriously consider new forms of pedagogy where students are placed at the centre of the learning process, and have to spend some time ‘teaching’. We learn by teaching. If you have to teach or present something for an audience, you will make damn sure you go away and learn it thoroughly so you don’t make an absolute ass of yourself. This is the same principle we see when we flip the teacher.

Steve gives five suggestions for flipping the teacher:

  • Ask students to peer-teach
  • Give students problems to solve and present
  • Have students create self-directed presentations
  • Ask students awkward questions that require them to explain clearly a concept.
  • Use seminar approach with different students leading different subjects.

flip the instructionI am sure that there are many other options for flipping instruction.  It simply requires some letting go of control, but the rewards can be huge. It opens the door to shifting instruction from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation.

My colleagues Stan Anamuah-Mensah and Jeff Nugent teaching the Mobile Learning Scholars course use a variation of this process, having students every other week present iPad apps they have discovered that assist their learning. So far, the students have covered (and I have learned) a variety of apps for collaboration, productivity, and communication.

So flip out!  What have you got to lose?  (…and what potential learning can your students gain?)


{Graphic: Gajitz}

Enhanced by Zemanta

30 Day Challenge – Day 16 – Woodpecker or Swift

WoodpeckerMy wife and I love birds.  We have several birdfeeders in the backyard and plant flowers and shrubs that are bird-friendly.  Sometimes that means the local hawks thin the flock a bit…but that is part of nature as well.  Three different species of woodpeckers frequent our suet and peanut feeders, while – because we also live near meadows and open farmland – a number of species of swifts frequent our area as well.

The evolution of the different species of birds is fascinating.  Woodpeckers and swifts have something in common – they both eat insects.

Woodpeckers “peck” or bore into the wood of trees to find insects.

Swifts are among the faswiftstest fliers in the world, and they take their meals on the wing.  According to Adam Summers, swifts have proportionately large wingtip bones that allow for added maneuverability in flight.

So as I thought about my question for today’s 30-Day Challenge, I thought about how two species of birds approach the same objective (eat insects) in radically different ways.  It is a metaphor for teaching.

Day 16 – As a teacher, do I want to approach teaching (and learning) as a woodpecker or swift?

One can certainly take the “repeatedly hit them with questions” approach, drilling in to the objectives until the objective is met.  Cognitive scientists such as Dan Willingham have suggested that students do need to spend time on the fundamentals in order to develop problem solving skills.

On the other hand, that approach might not be appropriate for all subjects or with all learners.  In a constructivist approach, one might want students to maneuver around the topic, trying different angles of attack until they surface one that works for them.

Neither approach is totally right or totally wrong…it is a question of mindful application.  Which approach would work for you…and for your students?


{Graphics: Birdsguide, Wild Animals}

Enhanced by Zemanta

30 Day Challenge – Day 5 – New Principles


One of the “fundamental truths” that has informed my teaching for the past decade has been the seminal work by Arthur Chickering and Zelda Gamson back in 1987 – “Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” – in which they synthesize fifty years of research to develop their seven principles.

7 PrinciplesArthur Chickering and Stephen Ehrmann updated this in 1996 with their article “Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever.”  They noted:

“Since the Seven Principles of Good Practice were created in 1987, new communication and information technologies have become major resources for teaching and learning in higher education. If the power of the new technologies is to be fully realized, they should be employed in ways consistent with the Seven Principles. Such technologies are tools with multiple capabilities; it is misleading to make assertions like “Microcomputers will empower students” because that is only one way in which computers might be used.”

Fast forward to 2014.  In the past two decades, “new technologies” have moved from desktop computing to smartphones, iPads, and Google Glasses.  The web has become ubiquitous…I now get emails from my car.

Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released “Digital Life in 2025.”  Based on survey responses from over 1,500 people, it suggests that the future world in which we will work and teach will have the web woven invisibly in our lives and those of our students; that global connectivity could lead to more relationships and less ignorance; and while a revolution might occur in education, the divide between “haves” and “have-nots” could grow.  Also, while networks might grow and become more complex, human nature is not changing as rapidly.  Fifteen themes were noted:

“More-hopeful theses

1) Information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries.

2) The spread of the Internet will enhance global connectivity that fosters more planetary relationships and less ignorance.

3) The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and big data will make people more aware of their world and their own behavior.

4) Augmented reality and wearable devices will be implemented to monitor and give quick feedback on daily life, especially tied to personal health.

5) Political awareness and action will be facilitated and more peaceful change and public uprisings like the Arab Spring will emerge.

6) The spread of the ‘Ubernet’ will diminish the meaning of borders, and new ‘nations’ of those with shared interests may emerge and exist beyond the capacity of current nation-states to control.

7) The Internet will become ‘the Internets’ as access, systems, and principles are renegotiated.

8) An Internet-enabled revolution in education will spread more opportunities, with less money spent on real estate and teachers.

Less-hopeful theses

9) Dangerous divides between haves and have-nots may expand, resulting in resentment and possible violence.

10) Abuses and abusers will ‘evolve and scale.’ Human nature isn’t changing; there’s laziness, bullying, stalking, stupidity, pornography,dirty tricks, crime, and those who practice them have new capacity to make life miserable for others.

11) Pressured by these changes, governments and corporations will try to assert power—and at times succeed—as they invoke security and cultural norms.

12) People will continue—sometimes grudgingly—to make tradeoffs favoring convenience and perceived immediate gains over privacy; and privacy will be something only the upscale will enjoy.

13) Humans and their current organizations may not respond quickly enough to challenges presented by complex networks.

14) Most people are not yet noticing the profound changes today’s communications networks are already bringing about; these networks will be even more disruptive in the future.

15) Foresight and accurate predictions can make a difference; ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’”

As we continue our 30-Day Challenge sparked by Enoch Hale, my question really rolls out of number 14 above…Day 5: If today’s hyperconnected communication networks are bringing about fundamental changes to our work and study environments, are the Seven Principles of Good Practice still relevant or in need of update?

The Seven Principles have been my go-to lens for determining practical teaching applications, such as the use of blogs for reflection and commentary in the majority of my classes.  Encouraging social media opens up opportunities for faculty-student contact and reciprocity and cooperation between students.  The open, social and participatory web enables the provision of prompt feedback – from both faculty and students.  Time on tasks can be manifested both inside a classroom and on the cloud between classes.  Multiple pathways respect diverse talents and ways of learning.  The Seven Principles work for me.

But rather than viewing teaching through the lens of the Seven Principles, perhaps first I need to view the Seven Principles through the lens of digital life.  Are new principles suggested:

  • by the availability of big data?
  • by 24/7/365 access?
  • by “open”?
  • by … ?

Another Pew report from 2012 – “Networked and Hyperconnected: The New Social (and Work) Operating System” – asked if the brains of multi-tasking teens and young adults are wired differently {not a given}, will they be better (adept at finding answers and solving problems) or worse (lack deep-learning skills, social skills, and depend on the web in unhealthy ways).  Answering the question about the Seven Principles might better adapt us to creating learning situations that work to enhance learning rather than reinforcing poor practices.

Stowe Boyd in the Digital Life report noted that “we have already entered the post-normal.”  In this post-normal world, what are the principles we should use to guide our teaching?


(…and be sure to check out good questions being posed by Enoch Hale and Jeff Nugent as part of this 30-Day Challenge.  Join us!)


Enhanced by Zemanta{Graphics: Google, MGA Research}

30 Day Question Challenge – Day 4 – Which Way is Up?

feet-on-groundEarly mankind had a keen sense of place.  Our ancestors knew their village, their area, and their limitations.  Most of all, they knew – sensed – what was up and what was down.  If they swung their feet to the ground, their feet stayed there.  The concept of “upright” implies “right” as a premise.

Over the millenniums, our view has shifted.   From the Vikings to the age of discovery, we learned we could sail over the horizon.  We learned we lived on a round globe, and that what was up for us in one country was not the same direction in another.  As kids, we discovered that fellow kids in Australia were looking at a different sky than we were in the United States.

ISS_no_up3This was brought home to us when we first left the comfort of the atmosphere and ventured out into space.  I am a child of the 1950s/1960s, and my heroes were  the original set of astronauts.  From John Glenn to Ed White to Jim Lowell – not to mention the teen novels of Robert Heinlein – I learned about weightlessness and the concept that there was no “up” in space.  Even for our world – the Christmas Eve pictures from Apollo 8 in 1968 showed a blue marble floating in space.  More recently we have images from the International Space Station like this one at left.

So in our modern world view, what direction is up?

In higher education, it seems that sense of direction is shifting as well. Clay Shirky is lamenting the end of education’s Golden Age.  Steve Wheeler is questioning the survival of higher education given disruptions like flipped classrooms, mobile learning, and MOOCs.  It is definitely a time of change!

…or is it a time for change?  Should classes continue to follow old models of “right” when the winds of change are blowing?

So the question for today:

Day 4 – How might our teaching change if we shifted our perspective of what is “right” or continuing my metaphor, what is “up”?

I do not necessarily have a definitive answer, but “What’s Up?” has replaced “Hello” as a greeting, so the question of what is “Up” has become its own lexicon.  The spin off smartphone app WhatsApp has nearly 400 million users regularly reporting perspectives by text, audio, and video through 10 billion messages a day.  Our students today are immersed in a culture that routinely wants to know what is up.  So … does that open an opportunity for learning?  Can we and our students learn through multiple perspectives?

And hopefully, as we look for new ways to view “up”, things will not spin out of control as they did in Gravity, as the clip below demonstrates.


So, what’s up with your teaching?  Thoughts?

{Graphics: Kuttipapa, NASA}

Enhanced by Zemanta

30 Day Question Challenge – Day 3 – Break The Rules

I guess I am already breaking a rule, but I decided that “30-Day Teaching and Learning Question Challenge” does not necessarily mean thirty consecutive days!  So with the weekend safely behind me, here I am for Day 3 of Enoch Hale’s challenge.

breakrulesI am dating myself somewhat, but a decade ago, I was teaching business leadership courses at a technical college.  One of the bestselling business management books that I used was by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman (1999) – First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently.

Which for me today, raises the question:  Day 3: What rules should faculty “break” in order to better enhance student learning?

Wikipedia has a lengthy post on “rules.”  There are rules for human activity, science, law and government, and a whole set of articles for rules for living, radicals, punctuation, and directions of mind. Rules indicate “standards” for any number of activities.  Higher education over the past two centuries (and some might argue even longer) has evolved a number of rules – for admitting students, for assigning credit, and for conducting courses.  “Course” in and of itself is a “rule” – 15 weeks, 45 hours of “seat time”, assessment rigor, etc.

With the changes afforded by the web, the question of rules is being asked at the institutional and program level.  For instance, Louis Soares, Judith Eaton and Burck Smith had a series of essays in the January/February 2014 Educause Review on “Higher Education: New Models, New Rules.”

“What are the new rules that will accompany future new models in higher education? Three essays address this question by exploring state higher education policy, accreditation for non-institutional education, and the disaggregation of the current higher education model.”

But what about at the “course” level…by the individual instructor.

rulesNot to suggest that we faculty have not had the academic freedom to “…teach or communicate ideas or facts (including those that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities) without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment.”  We have certainly for the past 75 years enjoyed this freedom.  But in many ways, group think has also established a set of norms that have molded what instruction looks like.  I would submit that the question of using the web in instruction – any instruction – suggests that it is time to break some rules.

Buckingham and Coffman’s book suggests four keys to managing like great managers:

  • Select for Talent
  • Define the Right Outcomes
  • Focus on Strengths
  • Find the Right Fit

In breaking the current teaching rules, I am not suggesting that we recruit good students.  Rather, I am suggesting that we use the affordances of the web to draw out the natural talent resident in our students.  Rather than creating courses that assess student knowledge through two multiple-choice tests, a mid-term and a final, we could buck the norms and use formative assessment to surface student prior knowledge and map individual pathways towards achievement of measurable learning outcomes.  The web gives us as faculty the tools to help students find the right path for learning, focusing on the strengths they bring to the class and building collaborative and cooperative opportunities for learning.  We can help each student find their right fit to education, building pathways for success.

So, as faculty, what rules should we break?  I would be interested in your thoughts.

{Graphics: Barnes and Noble, ManhattanLSAT}




Enhanced by Zemanta

30 Day Question Challenge – Day 2 – Hyperlinked Course

Yesterday, Enoch Hale started us on a 30-Day Challenge to post an out-of-the-box question about teaching and learning each day for thirty days.  I responded yesterday with a question about design and whether it was complicated or complex.

reimaginetextMy question today really dates back to a wonderful book by Tom Peters, who in 2003 published Re-Imagine!: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age.  Tom crossed the Atlantic to find a publisher (Dorling Kindersley) that would publish the book the way he wanted.  And what Tom wanted was a print book that acted like a hyperlinked website.  Every page had sidebars with dashed lines linking to points in the text.  Every page had a variety of fonts, colors, and icons…drawing your eyes and moving you in different directions.  Tom recognized back eleven years ago that the world was morphing into a hyperlinked world.

So my question: Day 2: What would a course look like if its premise was the hyperlink rather than a linear chronology?

Michael Wesch in a delightful Youtube video “Information R/evolution (embedded below) noted that digital text is different from print text.  Hypertext has the ability to separate form from content on the Internet. Once form and content have been separated, users on the web with no previous coding experience are able to upload content (text, photos, video, etc.). Hyperlink fundamentally changes user interaction with digital media. Think about the implications of this as a premise for a course.



For me, a hyperlinked course would be a course of discovery.  It would use as a foundation a constructivist approach…but shift into connectivism as networks were built out.  It opens up new opportunities for dialogue and new challenges for assessment.  It would also shift the power structure in the course, empowering students for more self-directed learning.

And it could be a blast to teach!

Thoughts?  What are your questions for today?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Connected Learning

connected learning COVER With a hat-tip to Jeff Nugent for bringing this new ebook to my attention, I have just finished reading Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom, edited by Antero Garcia.  This book is a collection of narratives from primarily K-12 teachers within the National Writing Project, openly sharing their views of “what education can look like.”  The many authors go to some lengths to note that this book is not meant to be “best practices”…but rather “working examples” that model practices within specific contexts of learning.

It was interesting that this book starts with the premise that “best practice” is a misnomer.  In our GRAD-602 class, our students typically raise their desires for “less theory and more practical”…and when given a choice of five books to read about “teaching”, the majority chose Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do.  They want “the best practices”!

Antero states up front:

“…Typically, publications about or for teachers highlight “best practices.” The buzzword-driven form of highlighting a superior approach, to me, ignores the cultural contexts in which teacher practices are developed. The best practice for my classroom is going to be different both from a classroom anywhere else and from my classroom a year down the road. Context drives practice. As such, this is not a how-to guide for connected learning or a collection of lesson plans. The pages that follow are, instead, meant to spur dialogue about how classroom practice can change and inspire educators to seek new pedagogical pathways forward…”

This idea of context really resonated with me!  It applies equally to teachers and students, and in this book, the authors suggest that every teacher become a “designer-in-context”, engaging students as they help co-design the course.  A very constructionist (and connectivist) approach!

Much of this book flowed from an earlier study by Mizuko Ito and others: Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design.  This study defined “connected learning” as:

“…socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity. Connected learning is realized when a young person pursues a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career possibilities, or civic engagement.”

The authors frame their approach as one that breaks through an educational process that is “constrained, silenced, and stifled” – moving instead to one that emboldens teachers while meeting the individual needs of students.  Rather than suggesting “how” one might approach teaching, it provides a series of “whys” – a purposeful approach to sparking creativity.

There are six chapters in the book, each with some underlying foundation followed by three cases.

  • Interest-Driven Learning
  • Peer-Supported Learning
  • Academically Oriented Teaching
  • Production-Centered Classrooms
  • Openly Networked
  • Shared Purpose

Nicole Mirra discussed interest-driven learning.   Her premise is that students will gain more knowledge and higher order skills when the learning originates from issues or activities that innately captivate them.  This “power and possibilities of tapping into students’ passions” reminded me of the premise of our freshmen experience here at VCU, in which students develop their writing and research prowess through self-directed exploration.  Mediated through technology as a shared activity, interest-driven learning occurs at multiple, mutually constitutive levels – personal, interpersonal, and institutional.  Interest-driven learning can serve as a gateway to the other opportunities below.

Cindy O’Donnell-Allen then looked at peer-supported learning, sharing this infographic.


Cindy built from a premise that knowledge does not reside with the individual, but is socially constructed.  Her view of 21st Century learning involves the 3 C’s – collaboration, creativity, and communication.  She also notes that simply putting students together in groups does not naturally lead to collaboration.  It requires the mindful guidance of the teacher, intervening as required.  One factor she noted that increased success rates was to have students reflect on their collaboration.  She also suggested that teachers:

  • Pose the right questions and teach students to do the same.
  • Create inclusive environment to facilitate peer-supported learning.
  • Use new media to amplify and push out learning.
  • Make it about the kids, not the standardized tests.

Antero Garcia explored academically oriented teaching.  He noted the disconnect between forms of learning in traditional classes and the social and cultural contexts of today’s students.  Academically prepared youth should be able to “shape-shift” their skill sets to meet an evolving world.  A word he uses is “authentic” – reframe the learning to make it authentic and relevant to our new media students.

Clifford Lee provided examples of production-centered classrooms.  He quoted Ito’s report to suggest that production-centered classrooms facilitate the use of “[d]igital tools [to] provide opportunities for producing and creating a wide variety of media, knowledge, and cultural content in experimental and active ways.”  I loved that the word “tinker” showed up throughout this chapter…though he does note the need to keep it relevant – ensure that students see meaning and purpose behind what they create.  A good example to go with the cases show in this chapter would be David McLeod‘s Project710 class.

My Twitter hero @budtheteacher – also known as Bud Hunt – explained the concept of “openly networked”…finding value in the wealth of open resources he was both consuming and creating via sharing online.  Learning in this environment is cross-institutional, has multiple points of entry and outreach, and has interactions both in and out of school.  Regarding “open,” he noted that “[t]houghtful teachers choose intentionally what, when, and how they share what they are curious about and what demands their students’ attention.”  To do this, teachers need to be purposefully transparent, while practicing “productive eavesdropping” on the posts of others.

Finally, Danielle Filipiak discusses shared purpose.  She suggested that students “…thrive when surrounded by people who support them in pursuing their own interests and passions, which may be very different from what districts, states, or teachers impose.”  Student engagement with the wider web-based community expands their audience and knowledge base, setting up purposeful encounters that can foster civic engagement.

Antero ends by noting that the practices suggested in this book can involve risk.  They break the old rules.  He also suggests those rules need breaking, stating:

“…I remember distinctly thinking “those students are doing it wrong.” … I didn’t understand that I was naturally ascribing my own rules of use on a cultural practice that was not my own…As such “doing it wrong” is culturally constructed and important to remember when we think about how we will roll out sustained connected learning support for teachers nationally and globally.”

In the afterword, Christina Cantrill of the National Writing Project, noted that her website and “…this book start from the argument that, in an increasingly interconnected and networked world, digital is how we write, share, collaborate, publish, and participate today and in the future.”  She goes on to note:

“…This is why, as Antero Garcia tells us, there are more than “best practices” here. There are important practices and effective-in-their-context practices, as well as “there is a kernel of truth here, but maybe we will approach it differently next time” practices. These are active practices, practices that require opportunities to test, to tinker, to innovate, and to dynamically assess and reiterate…

…No longer is the teacher the only conveyor, the library the only holder, or the museum the only curator of knowledge. Instead the ability to convey, to hold, and to curate now is in the hands of many. This also is why the social and participatory framework of connected learning positions all learners, students, and teachers alike not only as consumers, but as makers.”

This is a book worth reading.  The authors hope to spur dialogue about what is possible in teaching…as do I.  I would value hearing your thoughts about connected learning and the contexts in which we find ourselves teaching today.



Enhanced by Zemanta

Creating Community as a Resource

Last night in our GRAD-602 class, we explored the question of how important is it to our “teaching” that we understand something about how people “learn”.  Jeff Nugent led this class and had students at their tables first develop their beliefs about learning, and then mapped them on our wall:


As Enoch Hale, Jeff and I debriefed the class this morning, we realized that our podcast today might be an opportunity to make explicit some of the underlying aspects of GRAD-602.  Our design hopes to help perspective faculty first develop a self identity as a teacher, surface their beliefs and begin to critically question them, and equally important, recognize that our use of discourse is beginning to build a practice of seeing each other as a resource within a community of practice.

Our students are, I think, typical of new faculty – they want McKeachie’s Teaching Tips or the one page handout of best practices.  What they have not yet begun to see is that teaching is a lifelong journey, and our fellow colleagues are some of our best resources.  Our practice of weekly debriefs of our class gives us an opportunity to think metacognitively about our teaching, which translates into concrete actions to take in future classes.

So … an interesting discussion this morning.  Give a listen, and use the comment feature to add to the conversation!


The Content Pedagogy Sweet Spot

Last night in GRAD-602, we had our class explore how to develop and grow knowledge about teaching within their own discipline, opening up the idea that knowledge about teaching is in fact its own unique domain.

We had the class in small groups examine a series of four snapshots of teaching situations and try to (1) infer the subject matter being taught, and (2) infer the teaching approach being used.


We then asked them to determine the connection between the subject matter and the teaching approach.  There was some fence sitting, but most felt that the content drove the approach.  We then used a series of vignettes to illustrate cases where a single set of approaches to teaching and an understanding of content just did not work for all situations or all students…which then led us to discussion about what Lee Shulman called Pedagogical Content Knowledge, or PCK.  Shulman suggested that this is:

(1) knowledge of how to structure and represent academic content for direct teaching to students;
(2) knowledge of the common conceptions, misconceptions, and difficulties that students encounter when learning particular content; and
(3) knowledge of the specific teaching strategies that can be used to address students’ learning needs in particular classroom circumstances

This morning, Laura Gogia and Dr. Enoch Hale sat down with me to continue discussing this “sweet spot” as Enoch noted.  Have a listen to our podcast:

Enoch will be back in our class next week.  His opening challenge to our students – “It is impossible to “cover” content.”  What are your thoughts …

Enhanced by Zemanta