Friday, August 14, 2015

The Role of a Teacher

From George Siemens, Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing roles for Educators and Designers, different ways to view the role of a teacher:

Clarence Fisher (n.d.), blogger and classroom teacher, suggests a model of “teacher as network administrator” (p. 1):

Just as our mind has been a continually evolving set of connections between concepts, so our students and their learning can become placed at the center of a personal learning network which they construct with our help for their maximum benefit. Helping students to gain the skills they require to construct these networks for learning, evaluate their effectiveness, and work within a fluid structure is a massive change in how the business of classrooms is usually structured. (p. 1)

Curtis Bonk (2007) presents the educator as a concierge directing learners to resources or learning opportunities that they may not be aware of. He states,

We need to push students into the many learning possibilities that are ripe for them now. Concierges sometimes show you things you did not know were available or possible. Teachers as concierges can do the same things. We need to have quick access to such resources, of course, but as this occurs increasingly around the planet, so too will we sense a shift from prescribed learning checkboxes toward more learner designed programs of study. Now the Web of Learning offers this chance to explore and allow teachers to be their tour guides. (6)  The concierge serves to provide a form of “soft” guidance—at times incorporating traditional lectures and, in other instances, permitting learners to explore on their own.

Like Bonk (2007), I suggest that educators must assume dual roles: as experts with advanced knowledge of a domain and guides who foster and encourage learner exploration. Educators create learning resources that expose learners to the critical ideas, concepts, and papers within a field. 

I am convinced that a curatorial teacher acknowledges the autonomy of learners, yet understands the frustration of exploring unknown territories without a map. A curator is an expert learner. Instead of dispensing knowledge, he creates spaces in which knowledge can be created, explored, and connected. While curators understand their field very well, they don't adhere to traditional in‐ class teacher‐centric power structures. A curator balances the freedom of individual learners with the thoughtful interpretation of the subject being explored. While learners are free to explore, they encounter displays, concepts, and artifacts representative of the discipline. Their freedom to explore is unbounded. But when they engage with subject matter, the key concepts of a discipline are transparently reflected through the curatorial actions of the teacher. (Siemens, 2007, 9)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Worth Reading

After a two month hiatus here are some posts to check out.

1. TedxLondon: The Problem Finders- changing our pedagogical approach

Currently, the world’s education systems are crazy about problem-based learning, but they’re obsessed with the wrong bit of it. While everyone looks at how we could help young people become better problem-solvers, we’re not thinking how we could create a generation of problem finders.

2. Teaching Digital Wisdom- a pedagogical approach to technology and the classroom that does not stop at whether or how students may access digital devices in my classroom, but seeks also to address why it is important that students critically engage these very questions.

Stepping into the waters of collaborative learning, John Trimbur questions the claim that an aim of collaborative learning is to help bring about consensus. “Consensus,” Trimbur argues, “can be a powerful instrument for students to generate differences, to identify the systems of authority that organize these differences, and to transform the relations of power that determine who may speak and what counts as a meaningful statement” (442). A pedagogy seeking digital wisdom, then, will look for areas of dissensus and critically examine differences.

3. Shared Security, Shared GrowthOur changing economy has given rise to a nation of freelancers and contractors—and the need for a twenty-first-century social contract.

Gone is the era of the lifetime career, let alone the lifelong job and the economic security that came with it, having been replaced by a new economy intent on recasting full-time employees into contractors, vendors, and temporary workers. It is an economic transformation that promises new efficiencies and greater flexibility for “employers” and “employees” alike, but which threatens to undermine the very foundation upon which middle-class America was built. And if the American middle class crumbles, so will an American economy that relies on consumer spending for 70 percent of its activity, and on a diverse and inclusive workforce for 100 percent of the innovation that drives all future prosperity.

4. Developing A New Metric for Assessing Learning- how to assess learning in a world of evolving access to information

 Professor David Perkins raises the question, "What's worth learning?" in his new book, Future WiseHe argues that when students have ubiquitous access to information and facts through mobile devices, then perhaps what we should focus more on the content, processes, and skills that have relevance to their lives rather than whether or not they can regurgitate a mountain of disparate content facts.

5. What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work- the "Hollywood Model" in which freelance work is increasing

This approach to business is sometimes called the “Hollywood model.” A project is identified; a team is assembled; it works together for precisely as long as is needed to complete the task; then the team disbands. This short-­term, project-­based business structure is an alternative to the corporate model, in which capital is spent up front to build a business, which then hires workers for long-­term, open-­ended jobs that can last for years, even a lifetime. It’s also distinct from the Uber-­style “gig economy,” which is designed to take care of extremely short-­term tasks, manageable by one person, typically in less than a day.

6. Kinetic Affect Performs at WVU- Each year, Kinetic Affect returns to their Alma Mater at WMU to speak to thousands of students and faculty. Their message is simple; to remind our youth to follow their passions and to embrace the obstacles they face as opportunities to grow as they pursue their dreams.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Worth Reading...

It has been some time since my last post.  I want to share some good postings, I have come across the past few weeks.

1. Boston Designers Discuss the Creative Process (DeLuca) BostInno's 3rd annual State of Innovation brings together more than 1,000 business leaders and professionals for keynotes from high-profile speakers, cutting-edge panel discussions with industry leaders, engaging workshops and endless networking opportunities. This year, a series of workshops with partner General Assembly will focus on skills needed to fuel Boston's growth, including design thinking. 

2. Tomorrow's Learning Today (Heick)- I am never the biggest fan of lists, however, I like the second point raised in the post about the shift from standards to habits of mind.  

We’ve talked about this one quite a bit–most recently in Changing What We Teach, for example. This is among the biggest and most powerful ideas in “future learning,” and should be central to any meaningful discussion therein. What are students learning, why are they learning it, and what are they doing with what they know? In short, the shift from purely academic standards to critical thinking habits supports personalized, 21st century learning through a preceding shift from institution to learner.

3. 10 Buildings Show the Future of Architecture (Kushner)- interesting perspectives on how to play with a space and in particular, recognition of a personal design firm favorite, Snarkitecture

4. Feedback Revolutionizes How We Assess Learning (Barnes)- a teacher shares how he moved from a traditional grading system of handing out letters and percentages to where assessment is provided through conversation.  

Years ago, I decided to eliminate traditional grades from my classroom. I stopped placing numbers, percentages and letters on anything and everything my students completed. Instead, we assessed learning through conversation and narrative feedback. While students quickly grew accustomed to discussing their activities and projects, it was important to give them a system that would make sense. The formality and rigidity of grades disappeared, replaced by the simplicity ofSE2R — Summarize, Explain, Redirect, Resubmit.

5.3D Print Revolution (D'Aveni)- now that the 3D print revolution is underway what are some of the next level of developments to consider

Third, leaders must consider the strategic implications as whole commercial ecosystemsbegin to form around the new realities of 3-D printing. Much has been made of the potential for large swaths of the manufacturing sector to atomize into an untold number of small “makers.” But that vision tends to obscure a surer and more important development: To permit the integration of activities across designers, makers, and movers of goods, digital platforms will have to be established. At first these platforms will enable design-to-print activities and design sharing and fast downloading. Soon they will orchestrate printer operations, quality control, real-time optimization of printer networks, and capacity exchanges, among other needed functions. The most successful platform providers will prosper mightily by establishing standards and providing the settings in which a complex ecosystem can coordinate responses to market demands

6. Push, Don't Crush the Students (Richtel)- the article talks about encouraging students to strive for challenging goals and not placing undue pressure on kids.  

Experts say such clusters typically occur when suicide takes hold as a viable coping mechanism — as a deadly, irrational fashion. But that hasn’t stopped this community from soul searching: Does a culture of hyper-achievement deserve any blame for this cluster?  The answer is complex, bordering on the contradictory: No, the pressure to succeed is not unique, nor does it cause a suicide cluster in itself, but the intense reflection underway here has unearthed a sobering reality about how Silicon Valley’s culture of best in class is playing out in the schools
7. The Backwards Brain Bicycle
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8. The Best Kindergarten You Have Ever Seen- At this school in Tokyo, five-year-olds cause traffic jams and windows are for Santa to climb into. Meet: the world's cutest kindergarten, designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka. In this charming talk, he walks us through a design process that really lets kids be kids

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Worth Reading

Passing along a few favorite posts from the past week.

1. How Visual Thinking Improves Writing (Schwartz)- infusion of art into writing as well as getting students to write in stress free, low stake environments

You have no power when you are a kid, but when you are telling stories you have incredible power,” Moss said. “Kids get that.” And when they have the space to write and draw some realize they like to write, and by extension read, more than they thought. “It’s so easy to quash people and then they never want to write again,” Moss said.

2. What A Classroom Engaged In Real Learning Looks Like (Strauss)- stories from classrooms where students are engaged in deep learning

3. Relevant Math for Students’ Lives (Schwartz)- situating math in the real world, thoughts on providing authentic applications in a math classroom

Teachers at the public magnet school Science Leadership Academy use a project-based inquiry model of teaching in an effort to connect all subjects to students’ lives. Examining social justice issues by the numbers has proven to be one strong way teachers can connect student passions to math.  In one project,  groups of three or four students were responsible for a written mathematical analysis of their topic, two visual representations of the data, an engaging public service announcement video explaining the data and a list of recommendations for how the issue could be addressed.
4. What’s the First Thing You Should Do When You Get Into College (Lister)- promotes deferring enrollment to explore the world, poses a contradiction to the hectic college prep process underway in schools
But before you start buying decorations for your dorm room walls, consider for a moment following a road less traveled in America: Take a gap year.
That’s what I did before starting at Northwestern University: I coached soccer in Costa Rica; worked on a farm on the Ecuadorian coast; backpacked through the Himalayas in India; taught English and lived in an orphanage in Ethiopia; lived in a Liberian settlement camp in Ghana; taught English in central Uganda; and (after throwing out my original final stop), I ended my year living at a school for mentally and physically disabled children in northern Uganda.
5. Can We Talk About Change Without Hurting Feelings (Richardson)-
As someone who finds the experience of traditional schooling to be increasingly out of step with the real world, and as someone who has come to believe that schools actually are “broken” in many ways, how do I write and speak about those viewpoints without being heard or read as hurtful or demeaning to educators in schools? Is that possible?

6. 6. Realizing Empathy (Slim)- Through a series of studies in acting, dancing, drawing, writing, and working with clay, glass, wood, metal, paper, plastic, plaster, light and type, I realized that making things with physical materials is analogous to engaging in an empathic conversation with another person.  Based on this experience, I have distilled and developed a list of five necessary qualities—a shared sense of dignity, honesty, integrity, metaphor, and trust—that our interaction with the computer must afford, before it can facilitate an empathic conversation between the space of computation and the space of human body.

Realizing Empathy (Quick Overview) from Seung Chan Lim (Slim) on Vimeo.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Worth Reading...

Sharing a few favorite posts from the past few weeks.

1. What Teens are Learning from 'Serial" and Other Podcasts (Flan)- Shares how teachers are using popular podcasts such as Serial to model outcomes expressed in the Common Core.

What do students learn from the experience? “They enjoy it so much that they don’t realize they’re learning at the highest level,” says Alexa Schlechter, a 10th-grade English teacher at Norwalk High School in Connecticut, who had never used a podcast in class before trying “Serial.” Listening to and engaging with “Serial” helps many students address one of the main challenges in developing their analytical skills: getting beyond simple explanations of what happened, and figuring out how and why an event occurred, she says. Poring over text of the transcripts in class to uncover answers, students also develop their critical reading skills, she says.

2. Why Realizing the Full Promise of Education Requires a Fresh Approach (Vangelova)- This is the second of a two-part conversation with Yong Zhao about standards, testing and other core elements of the modern system of education, and the assumptions that may be standing in the way of meeting the real learning needs of all children.

In the alternate vision, individual differences are not flaws to be fixed; the emphasis instead is on helping all students to identify and develop their areas of interest, and to build on their strengths. Standards, curricula and tests would play a very minor role, as tools to be deployed only when they can help a particular student to progress. Learning would be organized around individuals, instead of classes and grades. And rather than looking to schools and teachers to manage students’ learning, we should “give children autonomy, trust that they want to learn, and let them become owners of their learning enterprise.”

3. How Should Learning Be Assessed (Vangelova)- This is the second of a two-part conversation with Yong Zhao about standards, testing and other core elements of the modern system of education, and the assumptions that may be standing in the way of meeting the real learning needs of all children.

Tests are just one form of assessment, he points out, and limited in what they can accurately measure. Important qualities such as creativity, persistence and collaboration, for example, are tricky to measure, because they are individualized and situation- or task-specific (someone may collaborate well in one group setting but not in another). And no test can measure whether children are receiving “a quality learning experience that meets the needs of individual students.”

4. All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking)I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten (Resnick)-  paper argues that the “kindergarten approach to learning” – characterized by a spiraling cycle of Imagine, Create, Play, Share, Reflect, and back to Imagine – is ideally suited to the needs of the 21st century, helping learners develop the creative-thinking skills that are critical to success and satisfaction in today’s society.

5. Stanford’s Most Popular Class Isn’t Computer Science- It’s Something Much More Important (O’Connell)- interesting course imbuing higher eds with the capacity to make important life decisions.
Here's what they learn: gratitude; generosity; self-awareness; adaptability. All reinforced by design thinking-based tools, from a daily gratitude journal to a deck of cards featuring problem-solving techniques. In lieu of a final exam—the class is pass/fail—students present three radically different five-year plans to their peers. Alumni say they still refer back their "odyssey plans"—a term that Evans coined—and revise them as their lives and careers progress.

6. Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system (Garner)-  Finland is pushing an initiative forward to scrap traditional “teaching by subject” in favor of “teaching by topic”.

Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

8. Larry Rosenstock- Learning {RE}imagined

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Worth Reading...

Sharing a few interesting posts from the past few weeks.

1. How Four Women In An RV Plan to Change Young Girls' Lives (Fast Company)- group of Stanford students who intend to travel across the country this summer to interest girls in design, STEM and the maker movement.

After spending a day helping Stanford’s SparkTruck team coach design and maker workshops for elementary school students in San Francisco last October, students Katie Kirsch and Jenna Leonardo felt inspired. They spent the drive back to campus imagining new ways they could bring design thinking—the creative process of understanding needs, identifying a problem and creating new ways to solve it—to young women’s lives. They asked each other an old motivational prompt: "What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?"

2. New Research on Games and Classroom Practices (Reich)- case studies on the effectiveness of games as an assessment tool

But to have a positive impact on student learning, formative assessment demands information that is both useful and used. Our study documented some of the ways teachers are indeed utilizing games for formative assessment purposes, and the potential value of these uses for these important classroom practices. These case studies explored common features in games that teachers could use for formative assessment. In addition to identifying ways these features are useful to teachers, we also identified many areas for improvement.

3. Slice and Carve: The New Wave of Computer Creativity (NY Time)- how a new wave of machines is bringing precision to the way people make things

4. Noam Chomsky On the Dangers of Standardized Testing
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5. Studio 360- Humza Daes Puts Shame in Your Instagram Game

6. Well-Prepared In Their Own Eyes (Jaschik)- perspective from employers and students on job readiness skills

7. Reinventing High School (Fallows)- see how the CART school in Freson, CA structures learning

I sat with the group while the students talked through progress on their 10-week-long project, the production of a seven-minute video. This year’s theme for the video teams is science fiction. The essential question of their assignment: “How do imagination and technology contribute to our understanding of science, nature, and the human mind? How does the exploration of science and nature encourage us to dream of a better future”?  The soup-to-nuts tasks include writing an original story and script, casting actors, directing, filming, effects, editing, promotion, and presentation. The final package includes a reality-documentary of the entire video production, with its many high points and low points.  A few nights ago, Jim and I watched about half of last year's 22 productions on DVD. The most remarkable part to us were the student-produced documentaries which accompanied each film. The students spoke about how doing this intense work taught them about frustrations, perseverance, teamwork, satisfactions, and a lot of other things we would all like high schoolers to experience.

Make It Stick

Sharing a few highlights from Make It Stick by Peter Brown.

Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful. Learning that’s easy is like writing in sand, here today and gone tomorrow

Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt

In other words, the elements that shape your intellectual abilities lie to a surprising extent within your own control. Understanding that this is so enables you to see failure as a badge of effort and a source of useful information—the need to dig deeper or to try a different strategy

Learning is stronger when it matters, when the abstract is made concrete and personal

Mastery requires both the possession of ready knowledge and the conceptual understanding of how to use it

Just as knowledge amounts to little without the exercise of ingenuity and imagination, creativity absent a sturdy foundation of knowledge builds a shaky house

show that giving feedback strengthens retention more than testing alone does, and, interestingly, some evidence shows that delaying the feedback briefly produces better long-term learning than immediate feedback

In interleaving, you don’t move from a complete practice set of one topic to go to another. You switch before each practice is complete. A friend of ours describes his own experience with this: “I go to a hockey class and we’re learning skating skills, puck handling, shooting, and I notice that I get frustrated because we do a little bit of skating and just when I think I’m getting it, we go to stick handling, and I go home frustrated, saying, ‘Why doesn’t this guy keep letting us do these things until we get it?’ ” This is actually the rare coach who understands that it’s more effective to distribute practice across these different skills than polish each one in turn. The athlete gets frustrated because the learning’s not proceeding quickly, but the next week he will be better at all aspects, the skating, the stick handling, and so on, than if he’d dedicated each session to polishing one skill

Here again we see the two familiar lessons. First, that some difficulties that require more effort and slow down apparent gains—like spacing, interleaving, and mixing up practice—will feel less productive at the time but will more than compensate for that by making the learning stronger, precise, and enduring. Second, that our judgments of what learning strategies work best for us are often mistaken, colored by illusions of mastery

Unsuccessful attempts to solve a problem encourage deep processing of the answer when it is later supplied, creating fertile ground for its encoding, in a way that simply reading the answer cannot

Moreover, people who are taught that learning is a struggle that often involves making errors will go on to exhibit a greater propensity to tackle tough challenges and will tend to see mistakes not as failures but as lessons and turning points along the path to mastery

The qualities of persistence and resiliency, where failure is seen as useful information, underlie successful innovation in every sphere and lie at the core of nearly all successful learning

The central idea here is that expert performance is a product of the quantity and the quality of practice, not of genetic predisposition, and that becoming expert is not beyond the reach of normally gifted people who have the motivation, time, and discipline to pursue it

Embrace the fact that significant learning is often, or even usually, somewhat difficult. You will experience setbacks. These are signs of effort, not of failure. Setbacks come with striving, and striving builds expertise. Effortful learning changes your brain, making new connections, building mental models, increasing your capability. The implication of this is powerful: Your intellectual abilities lie to a large degree within your own control. Knowing that this is so makes the difficulties worth tackling