Posts Tagged ‘learning’
A few months ago I met with someone who was a student in a graduate class I facilitated several years ago.
After we exchanged pleasantries, he mentioned how he remembered me and my course. He said what impacted him was the fact that I documented the course with photos.
I thought this was somewhat ironic given that the course I facilitated was for Masters and Ph.D. students who were writing dissertation proposals. The course was about a form of writing, but what stuck in his mind were photographs.
On one hand, it could have been a sneaky way for him to say that he did not learn much from me or the course.
On the other, this was a poignant reminder to me that our learners pick up more than just what we are trying to teach. There are our values, mannerisms, the actions we model, the effort that we put in, etc.
Our learners watch and listen to us, talk amongst themselves, and learn the unexpected.
We must watch and listen to ourselves, talk to ourselves by reflecting, and learn what to do and not to do if we are to remain relevant and effective.
Recently I had to remind my son how to clear and rinse a dirty dish instead of just dumping it in the kitchen sink. That incident spawned lessons on values, Science, a brief the history on language, and perspective taking.
When my son left an uncleared dish in the sink, I realized that he should not only learn WHAT to do but WHY he should do it. The why was not limited to “because I said so”.
The lesson in values was obvious. He had to help out around the home because we do not have a maid. It was the responsible thing to do.
But I decided that he also needed a Science lesson to know why dishes are harder to clean if you leave them unrinsed in a sink. I had to teach him why gunk is hard to remove or starts to smell. I had to teach him about oxidation.
I had to link oxidation with something he was familiar with, our need to breathe. He understood how oxygen was necessary to burn fuel. The good thing about this type of oxidation was that it gave us energy.
But oxidation could also be a bad thing when you consider things like rust. Which was the common name for iron oxide otherwise known as ferrous oxide. Which was the link to the Latin roots for some of our English words.
I pulled us back to why oxidation was bad not just because it could cause rust, but also how it caused fats in food to turn rancid and smell.
In the end, it was an opportunity to look at something from different perspectives. Oxidation could be helpful or harmful. My son thought he was helping by putting the dish in the sink, but my perspective was that a job half done was one not done at all.
Later on I reflected on how contexts create moments for meaningful learning. Teachers need to think and operate outside their content silos to take advantage of such learning moments.
My son remarked that this was the best Science lesson he had, especially when compared to the ones he was getting at school. Flattering words.
I will only know that he has learnt something if he consistently rinses his dishes when he puts them in the sink. And if he can tell me why.
I read Seth Godin’s blog entry about marketing a brand name and thought about how it applies to education.
He concluded with: Great marketers don’t make stuff. They make meaning.
I think that effective educators do not just teach stuff. They make meaning too.
They do so by connecting with their learners (they reach them to teach them). Educators make learning meaningful by bringing in context and relevance.
They spread the love of what they do by showing their passion for learning, not by pressing for good grades.
They focus on what matters: The learner and learning, not the teacher and teaching.
Most organizations realize they need to get their employees to try new ways of doing things. One approach bosses and managers take is to bring groups on learning journeys.
I have lost count of how many such journeys I have hosted whether as Head of CeL or as a representative of NIE.
I have no objections to this approach save one: It is somewhat passive.
It is easy to walk away from a visit to another workplace and be filled with new ideas or to feel inspired to create change. But that initial excitement can dissipate just as quickly.
So my approach has been a bit different. As a department, we have started performing service as learning journeys.
This could mean supporting training or being part of events where the returns to us are not obvious. These are often events that others might label lost causes or wastes of time.
But I think otherwise. Just as educators learn the most when they teach reflectively and reflexively, I think the department stands to gain by simply leaving its comfort zone.
The training, service, and ideas we provide will challenge our service partners. We will gain by seeing the bigger picture, experiencing different contexts, and benefitting from immediate and longer term returns.
That last point is important for sustaining such efforts. Often folks who provide a service like training do not see the impact of what they do. They throw a stone in a pond and do not wait to see what the ripples do. Service-oriented learning journeys will allow us to see the consequences of our actions.
I will be the first to say that this approach is not easy. But the difficult things are often the most worthwhile to do.
Fortunately, I found this video and am scheduling this entry to be posted around the time we conduct the unconference segment of e-Fiesta.
The video is about how one photographer, John Butterill, started virtual photo walks to benefit folks who could not go on photo trips, particularly those who were bedridden or in hospital. He attached his smartphone to a camera, and with the help of Google Hangouts, video-conferenced with others.
I like how the video ends: Sharing your view. That’s a plus.
That is Google’s marketing tagline. But it is also relevant to promoting open learning processes and products. We must want to share our views with others openly.
Doing so is a plus to those who receive. The issue is convincing the givers to share more openly and freely. They will ask why and what-do-I-gain.
Thanks to the open Web, I can share a resource like this that provides answers to those questions. There are many other reasons and resources, of course.
One only has to search. You will find because someone has opted to share openly.
2013 might just be the year for the open learning movement to build on the attention and momentum it built up last year.
Much has been said about the benefits of open learning systems and resources. But I think there is one benefit that has not been celebrated as much: Transparency.
In the context of higher education, a university can laud its rankings due in part to academic publications. Despite the closed and exclusive nature of most journals, other academics can buy these journal articles to gauge the quality of research from that university.
If that same university has, say, a reputable service learning programme, it can also share what it does with publications and conferences. NIE’s GESL is one such example. Though that website and publications, it can allow interested others some insights into the programme.
But how do we let the public or stakeholders gauge the quality of instruction if they are not taking our courses? How do we build up our reputational capital in this academic area?
We might publish articles or share at conferences elements of our teaching practice, but these are spotlights on what we choose to share. They are not representative of our overall ability to educate. I think an answer lies in open learning.
By creating free and easy-to-access resources, teaching faculty share their knowledge and skills with those inside and outside their immediate classrooms. There is a transparency like no other. Being open and transparent allows others to see how well we teach.
There is also added stress from more open feedback and critique, but this is an excellent form of quality control. This can, in turn, polish our courses and teaching, and create demand for our courses.
So I think that universities stand to gain more by being open than by being closed.
The old system of academic exclusivity is passing because we live in the age of Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube. To survive, we must not only understand the changes as exemplified by these tools, but also take advantage of them.
These tools, platforms, and systems were created outside the university system and designed to be mostly open. We must go there and play by those rules because those rules are relevant now and in the near future.
One of the highlights of my family holiday has been the variety of experiences, not just of the places we have been but also of the modes of transport.
One of my son’s highlights was the cruise across the Bass Strait from Tasmania to Melbourne.
It was great fun to watch him get excited over everything about the experience. It was a timely reminder to keep learning from a child’s perspective.
Daphne Bevelier shares research on the impact of games on learners and game-players.
Myth: Staring at the screen worsens eyesight.
Her research: The vision of action gamers is actually better than those who do not play video games. Gamers can make out finer details and are better able to distinguish more levels of grey (better able to tell contrast?).
Myth: Gamers are more distracted because they develop attention problems.
Her research: Gamers are actually faster at resolving conflicts and can pay attention to more discrete objects or instances.
Myth: Gamers can multitask better than non-gamers.
Her research: The ability to multitask varies with the choice of media or game, not with the individual.
Myth: The effects of experimental game interventions are not long-lasting.
Her research: In one study on spatial cognition, the effects of a total of 10 hours of video-gaming were not only immediate but also present five months after the intervention.
Bevelier concludes that “general wisdom carries no weight” in the light of research.
I also loved her example of how educational games are like chocolate-coated broccoli. They are meant to be good for you, but you do not buy it because you will not swallow it.
Parents and teachers might buy the chocolate-coated broccoli games. However, the kids and learners will know better.
The trick then is to create games that kids really want to play and are also good for them. It is about creating good, really healthy chocolate.
I think there is a simpler solution. Show teachers how to take advantage of existing chocolate and get both students and teacher to consume and create at the right times.
This strategy is not about the technology. It is about the pedagogy. Good games are already well designed so you need not redesign or recreate. You just need to facilitate creative and critical use of the games.
This video has been my family’s favourite since it was released.
Warning: It might may cause laughter and it is very catchy.
Spoiler: It might not seem like it at first, but the video is actually a public service announcement.
In a similar way, I think that is what good games do. They are fun and they engage. They do not seem like they are educational. But you learn a thing or three after you play.
I like watching Marco Tempest, technoillusionist extraordinaire! I have watched his TED talks and now I feature his talk on Inventing the Impossible.
One of the things he said struck a chord with me.
He explained how magicians of old lived by the code of secrecy. But in modernizing magic with technology, he found that he could not protect his knowledge. Instead, he chose to share experiences with his audience and saw the importance of collaborating with others. He might be the first person to coin the phrase “open source magic”!
I think the parallels in education are in collaborating, being open, and collaborating openly.
There is too much information now for one person to know. Teachers need to form collaborative networks of teachers-as-learners if we are to stay relevant to our learners.
As we teach, we could share openly instead of hoarding what we think we know. If we do not share, our audience will simply go elsewhere. If we do not share, we do not build up our reputational capital.
The problems we leave for our children are more complex than ours and we do not have all the solutions. But we could adopt an approach that will help them solve those problems. That approach is open collaboration. After all, we cannot each be brilliant, but we can be collectively brilliant.
One other thought: A talent like Marco Tempest draws from multiple fields. He is good at what he does not just because he specializes, but also because he can connect the dots by connecting with other people.