A Dam Blimage Challenge

As I noted in my last post, a new blogging challenge 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.

I so far have twice challenged my colleague Enoch Hale (who last year challenged me to a 30-Day Challenge with wicked fun results) and he responded with excellent posts here and here.  He in turn challenged me which resulted in my last post.  Now I have received another challenge from Enoch with this image of Ross Dam:

ross-dam

Ross Dam by werner22brigitte

Great image!

Do I focus on what is held back or what is released?

Holding back brings to mind fear, which brings to mind faculty discomfort with social media.  Behind the dam, the waters appear pretty calm.  The status quo is working, so why would faculty want to bring the disruption of social media into their classrooms?

Melissa Venable provides some thoughts in her post last year entitled “Face Your Social Media Fears“.  She noted that perhaps the importance of social media stems from the fact that is so widely used:

She suggested that faculty were concerned about privacy, looking unprofessional, going public in a traditionally private world, and managing the time investment social media seemed to require.  She gave practical suggestions on each of these concerns, and ended with two suggestions to keep it all manageable:

  • Find a good role model. Where are professionals in your career field or field of study engaging via social media? Spend some time on those platforms (e.g., LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest) first, and look for one or two people whose style and approach you can emulate and make your own.
  • Stay positive. Build your reputation, through your approach and the messages you send, as someone who is not only knowledgeable, but also helpful to others in the community.

Good suggestions.

So what can happen when you release the potential of social media in your classroom?

Ross_Dam_USACE_20031022

Marie Owens suggested in a post in Faculty Focus that faculty should view social media not as a concern but as an opportunity to connect with students. “By approaching the nearly constant online interaction of their students as a chance to connect, teachers might find a new context to do what they love to do: teach. ”

Like all aspects of teaching, the use of social media does not in and of itself lead to learning.  Knight and Kaye in their 2014 published study “To Tweet or Not To Tweet” found that students made greater use of Twitter for the passive reception of information rather than participation in learning activities.  Kelli Marshall had similar results until she made some mindful changes in how she used Twitter (and communicated that use).  Likewise, Mark Ferris used Twitter to add engagement to his statistics course.

Lisa Blaschke conducted research using questionnaires and interviews and incorporating the perspectives of both students and instructors on the use of social media in the online classroom, looking to explore how media influenced interaction and learner development. The results indicated that students perceived specific social media (Google Docs, mind mapping and e-portfolio software) in conjunction with specific learning activities as influencing specific cognitive and meta-cognitive skills (constructing new knowledge, reflecting on course content, understanding individual learning process). Her research also indicated an increase in student familiarity with using social media and student research skills.  She noted that “…it is evident that social media alone is not the exclusive factor in influencing cognitive and meta-cognitive development in learners. Rather, it is the combination of the pedagogy in the course design and delivery, together with the technology, that creates the kind of nurturing environment for this development to occur.”

In their book Teaching Crowds, Jon Dron and Terry Anderson quote John Seeley Brown and Paul Duguid from The Social Life of Information:

“Learning is a remarkably social process. Social groups provide the resources for their members to learn.”

We are only beginning to research the opportunities that social media bring to classrooms – motivation, engagement, ability to surface prior knowledge, and self-directed learning.  Yet I find the potential that can be released exciting!

My thanks to Enoch Hale for his challenge.  Back at you next week, buddy!

Graphics: {Brigette Werner, Wikipedia}

Direct Instruction and Learning Science

icon-e-learningKristi Bronkey had a nice article in Faculty Focus yesterday entitled “Re-Thinking Direct Instruction in Online Learning.” She noted that while direct instruction had a bad reputation associated with passive learning, it did not have to reflect passivity. She suggested a model framed around the notions of “I Do, We Do, and You Do.”

  • I Do – Direct instruction by faculty using screencasts
  • We Do – Faculty guided student processes with frequent feedback
  • You Do – Students working together in authentic group processes

Kristi noted:

“Direct Instruction should be an ongoing exchange between professor and students. With effort, creativity, and the intentional use of the I Do, We Do, You Do structure, we can present new information in engaging ways, provide guided feedback as students strive to draw meaning from their new learning, and allow students the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues before independently reflecting on their own learning.”

How Learning WorksI was struck by the parallels between Kristi’s article and the research Susan Ambrose and her colleagues published (2010) in How Learning Works: Seven Researched-Based Principles for Smart Teaching.

Kristi noted that for “I Do”, faculty could use short screencasts to help students make connections between the reading assignments and bigger picture aspects of the topic being discussed. She noted that this allowed students to “hear our thought processes.” This aligns nicely with the Knowledge Organization principle:

“How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know.”

Students do not have the rich knowledge structure and associated connections of facts that faculty experts draw on when conceptualizing a topic. Articulating these connections can aid student learning.

Faculty screencasts can also help guide the students in both procedural knowledge and the knowledge of how to employ them – steps towards mastery. Developing a concise screencast can help faculty push past their own “expert blind spot” by clearly identifying skills needed and steps for applying these skills.  This aligns with another principle noted by Ambrose:

“To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply them.”

Facts can be dry…but rarely come across as dry when a passionate expert discusses them. Screencasts can provide avenues in which this passion of the faculty becomes evident, and that links to student motivation for learning. As Ambrose noted:

“Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.”

Two more principles can surface in the We Do area of learning processes. Students come to our courses with a wealth of knowledge already, and helping students surface that prior knowledge influences how they filter and process what they are learning. If they lack sufficient prior knowledge, learning can be negatively impacted. The facilitative nature of We Do can help engage prior knowledge.

“Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.”

Kristi’s article also discusses the use of frequent feedback. Ambrose noted that learning is best fostered when students engage in practice that is directly linked to learning outcomes, set at an appropriate level of challenge, and is linked to specific and explicit feedback.  As Kristi noted, feedback does not simply have to summative – it can be used formatively during learning processes to guide students to higher levels of achievement.

Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning.”

In the final section of Kristi’s post, she discusses the independent nature of You Do in online learning, but advocates for a mix of group activities and independent metacognitive reflection.  Tackling the potential for isolation addresses another principle noted by Ambrose:

“Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.”

The reflection on their own contribution to the progress of learning also aligns with the final principle noted by Ambrose:

“To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning.”

learning_graphicI like Kristi’s call to action for online professors.  We would not want passivity in our students, and we should not allow our delivery to be passive.  Incorporating the concepts of I Do / We Do / You Do as a mindful approach to course design can not only help keep students engaged, but also better incorporate aspects of learning science that we know from research lead to more effective learning.

{Graphics: EuroMedia, Jossey-Bass, John Hopkins University}

Attention, Cognition, and Online Learning

Twitter-AttentionLast week, I began discussing Michelle Miller’s new book, Minds Online: Teaching Effectively With Technology.  In my post, “Cognitively Optimized Online Course,” I reviewed the first three chapters on online learning, how it works, and the psychology of computing.  In this post, I look at the fourth chapter, on attention.

Sooo … has the cute picture of the little dog grabbed your attention?

And in doing so, have I sidetracked our exploration of attention?

Michelle’s chapter begins with an exploration of the Stroop Effect, and how easy it is to derail attention.

StroopThe link above takes you to a simple task of speaking two sets of words, with the caveat that you speak the color, not the printed word.  It took me about 50% longer to complete Set #2 over Set #1, because my mind kept focusing on the mismatch between the printed word and the color.  Michelle noted that you cannot separate cognition from the mechanisms we use to allocate our cognitive resources…so paying attention to paying attention is important in online course design.

Yet, attention can easily be shifted.  The message ding on our phone pulls us away from the computer screen.  Images in our lessons that do not align with the task impact our attention.

We also have limitations, including inattentional blindness when we focus.  It goes back 8 years ago, but I used the video below as an example of inattentional blindness during a job interview.

As Michelle noted:

“The inattentional blindness effect illustrates a broader truth about human perception and attention, that looking and seeing are two different things – and that we are remarkably prone to missing stimuli when our attention is directed elsewhere.”

… as “The Invisible Gorilla” showed.

While capacity cannot be expanded, it can be altered by practice. Actions that become automatic free up the brain to process other information.  Michelle is quick to note that practice does not mean we can actually multitask…we just think that we can.

Attention is highly intertwined with visual processing, which is another facet of online course design that matters.  She describes change blindness, in which changes to the screen are not picked up readily.  Most people think they perceive more change than they really do.

 Working memory is an area of significant variation among individuals.  Michelle noted that attention directs what goes in to working memory, so again, understanding attention is important to creating a learning environment.

minds_online2Michelle suggested several strategies regarding attention and online learning.

  • Ask students to respond
    • Chunk material into short segments and have students do something (answer a question, click on a hotspot, etc)
  • Take advantage of automaticity
    • Use auto-grading features of LMS’s to provide practice opportunities and feedback, with incentives for completion
  • Assess Cognitive Load
    • You really can do little to impact the cognitive demands of the topic or the individual, but you can impact cognitive load by design features.  Poor instructions or requiring new features without practice can negatively increase cognitive load.
  • Discourage Divided Attention
    • The web is full of distractions, but simply informing students that they should pay attention actually increases attention.

The chapter on attention suggests that educating students about multitasking, making materials as seamless as possible, minimizing extraneous attention drains, and keeping them engaged through compelling activities – these will help with learning in online classes.

From attention, Michelle moves to memory – my next post.

{Graphic: Social Caffeine }

 

A New Center and A New Seven

How Learning WorksI am excited to be headed to Boston next month to join the Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning Through Research at Northeastern University.  CATLR, led by Cigdem  Talgar, was formed by Senior Vice Provost Susan Ambrose, lead author of How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching.  Each member of CATLR works with faculty to explore ways to enhance learning that are firmly grounded in the learning sciences.  I am definitely joining a quality team … and “team” is relevant, as this appears to be a highly collaborative group.

I cannot wait!

During the interview process, several members brought up the white paper that Jeff Nugent, Bud Deihl and I co-wrote back in 2009:  Building from Content to Community: [Re]Thinking the Transition to Online Teaching and Learning.  In the white paper, we wanted to state unequivocally that teaching online involved much more than simply posting content online.  I still think that is true, even given the rise in MOOCs over the past five years.  To make our case, we noted the amazing growth of open content (i.e., the content was already posted online).  We then noted:

“In reviewing the literature, many suggest that the while the content and the learning outcomes are the same, the manner in which that content is delivered and the interactions with students are quite different. Ko and Rosen (2008) suggest that developing an online course starts at the same place where one develops a face-to-face course. One sets the goals for the course, describes the specific learning objectives, defines the tasks necessary to meet those objectives, and then creates applicable assignments around these tasks. The fundamentals are the same, the technique is very different. So in many ways, the design of an online course mirrors the design of a face-to-face course. Both have clear learning objectives. Assessment of learning is critical in both. Yet the fundamental practices for delivering the instruction and facilitating learner interaction are quite different.”

To illustrate these differences, we used a series of vignettes based on Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good Practice for Undergraduate Education.   Chickering and Gamson synthesized fifty years of research and developed the following seven principles that they viewed as core to effective teaching:

7 Principles

  1. Good Practice Encourages Student-Faculty Contact
  2. Good Practice Encourages Cooperation among Students
  3. Good Practice Encourages Active Learning
  4. Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback
  5. Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task
  6. Good Practice Communicates High Expectations
  7. Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

Many others have coupled the Seven Principles with online teaching, such as in Chickering and Ehrmann’s Technology as Lever article or the recent Faculty Focus article by Dreon.  As I move to CATLR, I have been thinking differently.  I have been reflecting on recasting our white paper using the seven research-based principles described in Susan Ambrose’s book:

  1. Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.
  2. How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know.
  3. Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.
  4. To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned.
  5. Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning.
  6. Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.
  7. To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning.

In many ways, these are “Seven Principles Two Point Oh”.  🙂  The Chickering and Gamson Seven focused on good teaching.  The Ambrose Seven focus on good learning – a neat shift.

Prior Knowledge

The online environment offers the opportunity to tailor learning based on what each student brings to the course.  If prior knowledge is activated, sufficient, appropriate, and accurate (not always givens), then learning can be enhanced.  To do this, some form of assessment is needed to gauge and surface prior knowledge as part of the online learning process.

Knowledge Organization

This principle recognizes that novices and experts approach learning in different ways.  If one approaches online learning from a constructivist and connectivist view, then strategies should be applied that help students collaboratively build connections with the concepts they are learning, teaming experts and novices.  Online concept mapping exercises are a neat way to move this forward.

Motivation

Ambrose discusses the interconnections between a supportive environment, student efficacy, and the value of a learning goal – and these align with the earlier Seven Principle on High Expectations.   Passion for the subject and surfacing the relevance of the learning go a long way to increasing student motivation.  Empowering students to connect learning to their own passions and relevant interests applies here as well.

Mastery / Goal-Directed Practice with Feedback

In his book, The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests the “10,000-Hour Rule” – that greatness requires the investment of time and practice.  In a normal semester online course, one does not have thousands of hours, but the concept of practice to develop skills is important.  I coupled two of Ambrose’s principles here, because they are aligned.  Goal-directed feedback coupled with timely formative and summative feedback helps mastery.  It also might suggest connections between courses so that mastery grows over time across programs.

Social, Emotional, and Intellectual Climate

Every online class that I have taught has a unique personality.  As the faculty teaching, I have a lot to do with the tone set for a class.  The same is true for anyone teaching.  Our role is be proactive about climate.  Our students need safe places to try and safely fail, and then try and succeed.  We need to ensure that no students feel marginalized.  For me, this is a huge reason that my own social presence as the faculty member is so necessary in an online class.

Self-Directed Learners

Self-directed learners think about their own thinking.  Ambrose describes a metacognitive process in which students assess tasks, evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses, plan their approaches, monitor their performance, and adjust as necessary.  One of the best examples of faculty developing his students is in the blog journal of my colleague, Enoch Hale.  In “Visualizing Our Intellectual Journey,” Enoch describes his efforts “…to track their intellectual journeys in clear, explicit and visual ways: then, now and into the future.”

So, I am excited to be moving to Boston and joining a high energy team!  And I am excited to explore learning through a new set of lens provided by Susan’s book!

 

Innovation in Pedagogy Summit

Newcomb HallYesterday, Joyce Kincannon and I traveled up the road to Charlottesville and the University of Virginia for their second annual Innovation in Pedagogy Summit. We spend a good deal of our mental energy in our learning center focused on innovation in teaching and learning, and so this was an opportunity to see now another university might approach both the topic and the process of faculty development around the topic.  This full day event was a collaboration between the UVa College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the Teaching Resource Center, the Office of the Executive Vice President & Provost, and the 4-VA Collaborative, and we appreciated the invite!

During the morning, six faculty shared their innovations in teaching with their peers, while the afternoon was devoted to José Bowen, author of Teaching Naked.

In many ways, what we saw from faculty were concepts we have advocated for the past few years…yet these concepts seemed new to many in the room.  We saw Ran Zhao’s Elementary Chinese course that incorporated student-created videos as assignments, Claudrena Harold’s African American studies course which scaffolded mini-assignments before sending student groups out to interview and archive alumni perspectives, and Brian Helmke who welcomed student use of Google before and in his lectures.  Mark White discussed the use of spoken stories to motivate students, Stephanie Van Hover used Structured Academic Controversy to encourage the use of multiple perspectives in class discussions, and Dave Kittlesen illustrated how low-tech paper handouts can help students conceptualize difficult genetic concepts.

While the focus for the morning was “engaging students”, I was struck by how few faculty in the room had devices to connect to the internet during these morning presentations.  It appeared that digital engagement was lacking.  There was no established hashtag for the summit, and little advocacy was apparent for digital engagement – other than demonstrating how a few faculty used digital connections with their students.  It hit me as an interesting missing element at an “innovation” summit…or else it highlighted that the web is so much a part of me that I am surprised when it is not a part of my colleagues.

ALC 4110 Learning Studio

During lunch, each table had a “theme” assigned.  I sat with folks who wanted to discuss “collaborative spaces” as a new breed of classroom.  I shared information about our Learning Studio – carefully designed by my colleague Jeff Nugent – which seemed in line with some proposals UVa is considering.  Our Learning Studio is a state-of-the-art classroom that has been designed to support VCU faculty members and students in their exploration and study of new learning spaces. Located in the Academic Learning Commons, the Learning Studio contains a wide array of technologies and furniture that combine to provide unique opportunities to enhance teaching and learning.  For larger classrooms, José Bowen shared a view of a traditional tiered large classroom in which all desks had been removed and replaced with “Learn2″ chairs on wheels to facilitate small group work.  This also aligned with changes being considered at UVa.  As the welcomed outsider, it was interesting to hear faculty discuss new ways of conceptualizing class spaces with no clear “front of the room.”

Teaching Naked bookFor me, the highlight of the day was José Bowen‘s afternoon presentation.  He is the author of Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of the Classroom Will Improve Student Learning.  I was expecting a “close your laptop” focus, but what I heard was the exact opposite.  I subsequently read a review by James Lang that summed José’s premise up well:

“The book’s title make Bowen sound like a cranky Luddite, a chalk-and-talk professor who wants the kids to put away their smart phones and get their noses back into the books, and then sit up straight and listen to the professor in class.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Bowen actually celebrates the ability of technology to move much of our traditional teaching work out of the classroom, and wholeheartedly embraces a wide range of educational technologies as capable of doing the work of teaching content more effectively than professors.

The flip side to that argument, though, is that once we actually get students to interact with those technologies outside of the classroom, we should be spending our time in the classroom engaging in more frequent face-to-face interaction with them. Bowen sees the classroom as the space where we prove our value as educators to students, and argues that we should not be wasting that valuable space by lecturing students on basic content.  Let them gain first exposure to that content through podcasts, videos, e-mails, Google searches, and so on.  Then let them deepen the exposure in the classroom through human interaction.”
José Antonio Bowen is currently dean of the School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, and was recently named to be the 11th President of Goucher College effective in July.  He is a dynamite presenter, passionate about good teaching and even better learning.  He suggested that much of the focus on technology in teaching has been misplaced … and that the opportunity exists to create “Massively Better Classrooms.”  To do this, he suggests “teaching naked”, which involves:
  • A digital entry point as first exposure to a topic
    • By email, Facebook, or other social media
  • First exposure to the topic through a pre-assignment
    • Short and focused
    • Find open content (or let students find it)
    • Use summary sites like Wikipedia
  • A short writing (a paragraph on index cards…or Evernote) to reflect before class
    • Start with what matters to students…then connect to what matters to you
    • Ask the question not in the summary site
    • Interpretation…not summarize
  • A low stakes exam on entering the classroom
    • Use higher order thinking skills from Blooms
  • A challenging class – not lecture
    • Alter conditions and have students reanalyze
    • Complicate and reframe problems
    • Have students work on problem solving and “learning to learn”
    • Keep it relevant and real world
    • He suggested using techniques from Stephen Brookfield
  • Digital communication after class to reinforce
  • Cognitive wrappers for self-regulation of students
    • Self-reflection by students on time they spent preparing, process they used, and what they might do different next time

José’s focus is that the role of faculty no longer involves providing scarce content.  Technology provides richer content than any of us could provide.  Instead, our role is to prepare students to face the unknown…to be critical consumers of this ubiquitous content.  Students pay a lot for class time…and they should get more than a lecture.  New technology means that we can focus with our students on thinking and integration.

This aligned nicely with a post this morning by Debbie Morrison – “A Not-So-New Recipe for “A New Culture of Learning”“.  Debbie was reviewing a book by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown entitled A New Culture of Learning.  Thomas and Brown suggests that this:

“…new culture of learning actually comprises two elements. The first is massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything. The second is bounded and structured environment that allows unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries”.

In this new culture, questions are more important than answers, and students learn through inquiry rather than instruction.  Debbie suggests that this message is not new…but will be new to many faculty.  I would agree.  Our work with our GRAD-602 students reinforced that their concept of teaching is rooted in older models…not this new reality.  José suggested to me that I remind our GRAD-602 students that they are the outliers – successful in the game of school and looking to continue that game.  That no longer matches “the real world” … and José passionately believes we need to help students prepare for this real world – a world of unknowns and a world where unlearning and relearning will be key skills.

So fun day at UVa and a chance to add José to my PLN.

 

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Collaborative Assessment

Last night, we focused on the role of “assessment” in learning in our GRAD-602 class.  We had a good discussion around formative and summative assessment, and potential digital tools that could be used formatively or summatively for assessment.

Collaboration

What we did not discuss was the concept of collaboration in assessment.  So this morning, Joyce Kincannon, Laura Gogia and I took a stab at that.  Give a listen…and use the comments to join the conversation!


{Graphic: ISS Productivity}

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Connecting Some Dots

shallows…or maybe not connecting some dots…  Thinking about two blog posts this morning how they weave into thoughts about online teaching and learning.

The first was by Debbie Morrison – “What the Internet is Doing to Our Education Culture: Book Review of The Shallows“.  Debbie reviewed the book by Nicholas CarrThe Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.  She finds that Carr does not make a compelling argument that the internet makes our thinking more shallow, but she does find that the book suggests that we in education have turned to the internet for “efficiencies.”  Debbie stated:

“…the theme of efficiency as it relates to the Internet extends to our education culture—institution leaders, politicians and administrators seeking efficiency in practices and methods (automated grading, online courses with great numbers of students, etc.) Efficiency is not a ‘bad’ outcome to strive for, yet the idea of efficiency in education is frequently referenced in terms of increasing or maintaining education outcomes, with fewer resources…”

Now let me juxtaposition this with the other blog I read, from Gardner Campbell (…and in full disclosure, Gardner is my Vice Provost for Learning Innovation…and we in the CTE work for him).

Gardner has a thought-provoking post in “Understanding and Learning Outcomes.”  He discusses the historical shift from a teaching paradigm to a learning paradigm, and then adds:

“…Yet something is deeply amiss, in my view. As we seek to perfect the language and institutionalization of a culture of “learning outcomes,” it seems we are necessarily moving toward a strictly behaviorist paradigm of learning, away from what Jerome Bruner refers to as the “cognitive turn” in learning theory and ever more deliberately toward a stimulus-response paradigm of learning. This behaviorist turn can be very sophisticated and refined. The behaviors specified, measured, and tracked can be cognitively demanding “smart human tricks.” There can even be qualitatively measured learning outcomes, though it appears these are less frequent than quantitative metrics, for reasons I think are obvious. Yet these are still behaviors, specified with a set of what I can only describe as jawohl! statements, all rewarding the bon eleves and marching toward compliance and away from more elusive and disruptive concepts like curiosity or wonder…”

Gardner noted that no matter the taxonomy used, they all suggest that learning outcomes should use specific language and should clearly indicate expectations of student performance (…and I would add – “measurable” expectations of student performance).  Gardner pushed my thinking by asking how we get from
“students will…” to a valuing of our “students’ will”.

will

Gardner goes into further detail about learning objectives and how a focus on rigid taxonomies assumes a linear approach to learning, avoiding concepts such as “understanding” and “appreciation”…concepts at the core of what makes us human.  He asks “…does a learning paradigm that avoids “understanding” and “appreciation” reduce symbolic behavior to indexicality alone?”

I would add…does it devalue learning in favor of efficiency?

Gardner links to Chapter 6 in the 1974 Jerome Bruner book Towards a Theory of Instruction, in which Bruner discusses the “will to learn.”  In this digital age, this could be expanded to:

  • the will to create
  • the will to remix
  • the will to connect
  • the will to share

The question for me is how we provide open experiences for our students to co-construct knowledge (and wisdom) with us?  Is our teaching and learning “do to…” or “do with…”?

Thoughts?

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Why Networked Learning?

Jeff Nugent, Joyce Kincannon and I sat down this morning to record a podcast that riffed off of our GRAD-602 class last night.  We had continued our exploration of digital practices, focusing on communication and collaboration. We started last week with a Shirky quote last week on the largest increase in expressive capacity ever.  Another quote that inspires us and aligned with last night:

“In conversation we think out loud together, trying to understand. … The Web releases thoughts before they’re ready so we can work on them together. And in those conversations we hear multiple understandings of the world, for conversation thrives on difference. ” (David WeinbergerEverything is Miscellaneous (2007, p. 203)

podcastIn that spirit, we looked at practices associated with communication, such as email (parodied as the breakthrough communication that opened the professor’s door…but continues to be primarily a broadcast mechanism), video conferencing, and networked communications such as Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.We then shifted to digital collaboration, noting the overlap in many of these processes / practices we have already covered.  One example we showed was Mike Wesch’s class wiki, tying in student-generated content with tweets and blog posts and empowering students to co-construct their course.

We were trying to move our students beyond new ways to do old things.  Mike Wesch‘s open class offered up new ways to do new things…such as his World Simulation.  Another example of digital imagination is Wikipedia.  At the same time that Microsoft was spending massive dollars to create Encarta – a CD based encyclopedia produced by known experts, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launched Wikipedia, letting anyone collaboratively write and share articles.  There are now 4.4 million articles in the English version alone … though Wikipedia is now in 287 languages.  Globally, it is now the fifth most heavily used website.  This departure from “expert-driven” style took digital imagination.

This morning, we discussed the “So What?” question.  What makes networked learning compelling?  Take a listen…and add your thoughts using the comment feature below.

{Photo courtesy of Bud Deihl}

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30-Day Challenge – Day 29 – Your Teaching Tombstone

Hollywood Cemetary Richmond VAIf you ever want a relaxing walk on a spring day, nothing beats wandering the 130 acres of Hollywood Cemetery near our campus of VCU.  Rolling hills, old trees, winding paths, and the resting place of U.S. Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler, as well as Confederate President Jeff Davis.

For those that track these things, it is a forty-minute walk from the VCU gym to President Monroe‘s tomb and back…but I am not pushing it…I am enjoying the walk, the scenery, and the glimpse back into Richmond history.  I do tend to pause a couple of minutes at the President’s burial site, as the view of the James River is excellent.

I find the inscriptions on tombstones fascinating as I wander.  There are cases of spouses who died within days of each other and other cases of (typically) wives outliving their husbands by fifty years.  Lots of Civil War graves and lots of Civil War veterans who lived into the 20th Century.

On some stones, you find where someone attempted to sum this person’s life with a single sentence.

Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question, discussed this concept in his article “Find Your Passion With These 8 Thought-Provoking Questions.” Berger noted:

What is your sentence? is a question designed to help you distill purpose and passion to its essence by formulating a single sentence that sums up who you are and what, above all, you aim to achieve.

“…It’s a favorite question of To Sell is Human author Daniel Pink, who acknowledges in his book Drive that it can be traced back to the journalist and pioneering Congresswoman Clare Booth Luce. While visiting John F. Kennedy early in his presidency, Luce expressed concern that Kennedy might be in danger of trying to do too much, thereby losing focus. She told him “a great man is a sentence”–meaning that a leader with a clear and strong purpose could be summed up in a single line (e.g., “Abraham Lincoln preserved the union and freed the slaves.”).

Pink believes this concept can be useful to anyone, not just presidents. Your sentence might be, “He raised four kids who became happy, healthy adults,” or “She invented a device that made people’s lives easier.” If your sentence is a goal not yet achieved, then you also must ask: How might I begin to live up to my own sentence?”

So my 30-Day Challenge question for today (…and we are nearing the end of the challenge!):

Day 29 – What would I want listed on my teaching tombstone?

blank tombstoneTom Peters in some of his presentations used to use this tombstone metaphor.

He suggested that we would not see on Winston Churchill’s tomb:

He brought World War Two in on budget

…or on Ghandi’s tomb:

Grand Prize, Continuous Improvement, Spinning Wheel Division

So what would we want on our teaching tombstone that summarized our teaching in one sentence?

I would suggest that it should not be…

Excelled at using Blackboard

or

An Easy A“…

Maybe something like…

Transformed the lives of his/her students” …

or

Created a thirst for more learning” …

or simply

Made a difference.”

Berger quoted Dropbox founder Drew Houston, who said:

“The most successful people are obsessed with solving an important problem, something that matters to them. They remind me of a dog chasing a tennis ball.” To increase your chances of happiness and success, Houston said, you must “find your tennis ball–the thing that pulls you.”

So maybe my tombstone would read simply:

He found his tennis ball

dog and tennis ballThoughts?

{Graphics: Shelley Beatty, John Stephens, Michal O}

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30-Day Challenge – Day 27 – Future Proofing

A decade ago, Ernst and Young led a strategic visioning retreat for the technical college where I worked.  Over three days, a mix of college leadership and faculty met in a big room high above the Atlanta scene, looking out over both the city and Stone Mountain in the distance.  The room was reconfigured each day with moveable white board walls and comfortable furniture.  Toys and books lay scattered around the floor.  We spent time drawing our visions on the walls and then looking for common themes.

markers.
It was one of the best strategic experience in which I have ever participated…and so when I see something from Ernst and Young, I pay attention.

Their Australian branch has a study out on “The University of the Future.”  While focused on Australian universities – the study interviewed 40 Australian leaders from public and private universities as well as policy makers – I believe that the lessons are applicable to higher education worldwide.  It noted that higher education is a “…thousand year old industry on the cusp of profound change.”

In the report, they state that change will be driven by five trends:

  • Democratization of knowledge and access
  • Contestability of markets and funding
  • Digital technologies
  • Global mobility
  • Integration with industry

Any of us in higher education could probably agree that these trends are not coming…they are already here.  From the perspective of E&Y, universities will need to adapt, creating leaner business models and concentrating resources on a smaller range of programs.  They see universities transforming into three broad lines of evolution:

  • Streamlined Status Quo – broad-based public teaching and research institutions
  • Niche Dominators – tailored education, research and service for specific customer segments
  • Transformers – private providers for new markets

Ernst and Young laid out a framework for assessing and designing a “university future model.”

Ernst and Young modelI was struck by the strategic questions – “Is our current model future proof?  Where should we play?  How should we play?

The model explores higher education as a whole, but it opens up for me questions about each course and each faculty member…and their own approach to teaching.  Teaching today should not be about a steamlined status quo.  To be future-proof, I would suggest that we lean more towards the concepts behind the niche dominators or transformers.  My 30-Day Challenge question for today:

Day 26 – How do I make my course future proof?

By future proof, I mean that I have made my course a space for connections and learning…not a three-credit credential.  My course would be relevant (a moving target) and grow in students the digital skills they will need to be competitive in their future…no matter the field or place.  My course would integrate ideas developed globally…and help students find their voice in a global world.  I do not want my students to “pass”…I want them to be so distinctive that they stand out.  My course should be an opportunity for students to brand themselves.   My students should embody what  Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead stated:

You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.”

To me, this suggests playing in the open…using the affordances of the digital web.  While my course might have a start date and a date in which grades are submitted, students would be welcome to stay, continue playing, and play with those that come after them.  The course would be in perpetual beta as I and my students continually updated it to keep it relevant.

Maybe it is….

Drw the Future

{Graphics: CORC, Ernst and Young, Watwood, Gogia}

 

 

 

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