Active Learning Panel Reflection

.@Rangerdavie, @crmcardle, Cho Weebadde and Danielle DeVoss share their love of teaching and the importance of education. #ITeachMSU pic.twitter.com/BnrZ7INJJN


I love educators.

I was thinking the other day about how every person in my life who has had a meaningful impact is an educator in some capacity.

Does that mean each of these people are certified teachers who work in an educative profession? Not at all.

Similarly, as in any occupation, there are certainly teachers in the profession who I would argue are not educators in terms of what Parker Palmer defines as vocation (200#). These are not the people I’m talking about. I could spend my time ranting and raving about the ills and the challenges faced in education, but frankly, I find that to be both depressing and unproductive.

Rather, I like focusing my energy on the people who have looked at the profession with all its challenges, the low pay, the long hours, the misunderstandings, the resistance to the work, the lack of recognition, the ever-growing animosity from private interests against education as a public good, and still see people on the other side who need a learning coach to be successful in life. Despite all the obstacles, they still pursue the work of being a caring educator to people, because they know how essential this is for a thriving society.

So, what was the topic of this blog post again? Oh, right, active learning.

On Friday, October 13th, I had an amazing opportunity to talk to four amazing educators at Michigan State University who have grown over the years in their pedagogical practices to be, let’s say, more student-centered. I’ve seen first hand accounts of the kinds of life and energy they cultivate in their classrooms around the learning that is happening. It was quite a joy to have them sit together at a table in front of peers and get to ask them questions about their teaching practices.

Thank you Kirstin, Casey, Cho & Danielle for the amazing work you do with hundreds if not thousands of students here at MSU. Thank you for giving us a brief peek into your classrooms through the conversation. I hope we can do it again sometime soon, especially since I only make it through a small percentage of the questions prepared. Your responses to my questions and to those raised by those in attendance were insightful and compelling. You touched on themes such as starting with the why, providing space for critical reflection, designing authentic assessment strategies that put the ownership of the learning into the laps of the learner, the increased value of lecture content when in the chunked context of a more active learning environment, and many more. I could have stayed there all weekend with you learning from your experiences and wisdom.

You can watch and listen to it here on the MediaSpace archive video. I apologize about the angle of the video as we missed Kirstin in the frame. We’ll get that fixed next time.

Speaking of which, I’m ecstatic about the upcoming sessions yet this Fall, 2017 semester. Hope to see you there in person to learn more as we explore innovative approaches to using educational technology on behalf of student success. In fact, there is one today on the topic of making your course content well organized and accessible to all! Hope to see you here in the Hub

Fitness Coaching Failure

{ …commentary on the traditional over-emphasis on the pedagogy of lecture… }

“I stood in front of that class each day for six weeks and demonstrated perfect form in my workouts. They all took great notes. Why didn’t they get in shape?” -Hypothetical Failing Fitness Coach

Man lifts cats as weights
LOL Cat Fitness Fail Shared by James at FITBODYBUZZ

It is a common misperception about teaching that the educators job is solely to instruct. Placing this concept in the context of an athletic or fitness coach can help reveal the flaw in thinking here. It isn’t that demonstrating good form or good practices isn’t important. Quite the contrary. But if that is all that happens without space and feedback provided for people to practice on their own or with others, the value of that instruction is prone to be wasted in the ether.

Eric Westervelt and Carl Wieman ascertain in this NPR Interview that:

“…undergraduate Higher Ed still worships at the old false idol called the Big Lecture and doesn’t seem to want to ask whether it’s working.”

It is possible to be incredibly in shape and fail at helping others to do so.

Similarly, it is possible to be incredibly smart and unable to impart it on others without a fundamental understanding of how people learn.

Let’s get smarter together on our shared values of teaching & learning as educators.

Reflection on Two Friday Talks

I have a habit of putting interesting events and talks coming up on my calendar and then forgetting about them until the day of. A few Fridays back (September 15th) was one of those days where not one, but two speaking events were on my calendar. It was a busy day, but I was glad I stuck with my plan to attend them both.

There are many of these kinds of events I attend that I will duck out of if nothing of importance is being discussed or happening and I will forget about them and get back to my work. This Friday was different. It was a bit of an anomaly of a day because it had two events I had previously signed up for. One was in the morning and the other in the afternoon which allowed me attend both. That itself was unique, but what was far more fascinating to me is that both of the events were so good that five minutes after they began, I started recording them on my phone knowing that there was rich content being shared that was worth pausing and reflecting on further.

Hence this blog post.

The events were called:

  1. Knowledge for Sale
  2. STEM Alliance Fall Reception

Dr. Busch shares his book conclusions with a room of peopleKnowledge for Sale

Friday morning I attended “Knowledge for Sale: The Neoliberal Takeover of Higher Education”. This was a talk given by Dr. Lawrence Busch who is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology. In the talk, Dr. Busch discussed the contents and premise of his new book in this same title. Here, Busch espouses that higher education has been taken over by a newer pragmatic and market driven philosophy compared to its more historic roots in pursuing knowledge for its own sake.  As he spoke, I couldn’t help but make connections to so many instances and efforts globally in higher education and surrounding me in my own context here in Michigan. I wash shocked by the low number of attendees for this talk and wished as I was listening that the whole university was present. Instead, I decided to hit record about 5 minutes into the talk so that I could share it with others who I knew were interested in attending, but who were unable to (see the link below this section). I have added the book to my Amazon wish list and look forward to reading it this Fall. I’m sure it will continue to give me a lot to chew on related to some of the powerful and yet often invisible forces at work behind the scenes in higher education.

The talk was followed up by a couple of commenters who both reinforced some of the things Dr. Busch highlighted and embellished on them in their own experiences shared.  Dr. Alyssa Dunn from the Department of Teacher Education in MSU’s College of Education and Dr. Stephen Gasteyer from the Department of Sociology shared personal accounts of market-driven decisions being made by administrators that were directly effecting the lives and qualities of education they have given their life vocations to. I was particularly struck by the account Dr. Dunn shared of her own experiences at Emory University in Atlanta where entire departments that were reputable for their excellence were eliminated for claimed monetary reasons by administration. These departments included the education program where she earned her masters and doctorate. They also included spanish, liberal arts, and ethnic studies staffed mostly by people of color. Administration further claimed that these programs were not relevant for 21st century education. You can’t make this shit up.

  • Listen to an audio capture of the talk recorded on my phone.

Improving How Universities Teach ScienceSTEM Alliance Fall Reception

Later in the afternoon, I walked over in very hot weather for Michigan to the Kellog Hotel and Conference Center to hear Carl Wieman speak. Dr. Wieman was the 2001 Nobel Prize winner in Physics and has done extensive experimental research in atomic and optical physics. What I was more interested in hearing from him on was with his more recent intellectual focus which is on undergraduate physics and science education. Here, he has been a pioneer for the use of experimental techniques for evaluating the effectiveness for particular teaching strategies in the STEM fields. Among other accomplishments, Carl also recently served as the Associate Director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology.

Dr. Wieman spoke on “Taking a scientific approach to the learning and teaching of science.” The focus of his work draws on research on how people learn informing more effective ways to learn, teach, and evaluate learning than what is in use in the traditional college class. He shared his slides freely where he points to examples of some of his work with places such as MSU, U. Cal. San Diago, Univ. of British Columbia, Stanford and others. He pointed to a meta analysis of approximately 1,000 research studies from undergraduate science and engineering classrooms comparing traditional lecture with “scientific teaching” approaches. He went on to explain that the more scientific approaches to teaching consistently demonstrate greater learning outcomes, lower failure rates, and how these benefits extend to all, but most notably to at-risk students. None of these findings were surprising to me in any way, still it is always helpful to have people in the room who are hopefully being persuaded of these things further by evidence.

  • View his slides.
  • Listen to audio of his talk recorded on my phone.

What about you? Have you attended any meaningful talks or workshops lately? Please share your reflections as a follow-up here. I believe that good things were always meant to be shared. 

finish lines

Dr. Andrea Zellner getting signatures after defending her dissertation.
Dr. Andrea Zellner getting signatures after defending her dissertation.

This past week, I was privileged to witness two amazing PhD candidates I know cross the finish line of defending their dissertations. Congratulations, Dr. Andrea Zellner and Dr. Erik Skogsberg! The hours, days, weeks, months, years, and the perseverance people like you demonstrate toward major life accomplishments like this are an inspiration to people like me. You both finished strong and have so much to be proud of. That goes for you and all the people who have surround you and supported you in this. Celebration is now in store, and well deserved, I might add. I hope you both are able to relax, reflect, and enjoy the feelings of accomplishment you deserve to feel.

Dr. Erik Skogsberg with wife Amy and son Ezra at graduation ceremony.
Dr. Erik Skogsberg with wife Amy and son Ezra at graduation ceremony.

I can only imagine all the reading, writing, pouring over data, late nights, meetings, classes, thinking, discussions, revisions, hurdles, and the many challenges you must have experienced these past years leading up to this monumental week. The sacrifices you’ve had to make and commitment you’ve demonstrated are beyond what people are able to comprehend who haven’t gone before you. In fact, even people who have gone before you can’t fully understand your own unique experiences you’ve had and the difficulties you’ve overcome in a venture like this.  I’m sure there were days where you questioned if it was all worth it. I’m positive there were times you wanted to throw in the towel. But you didn’t. You fought through and you’ve crossed the finish line to a degree that maybe 1 in 500 people in the world have received, if that.

Personally, I’ve been considering the possibility of pursuing a doctorate for some time now. I’m apprehensive. Only recently, since Lindsay and my three boys all began school this past year have I been meeting with folks like you both who have gone before and charted new territories such as these. I’ve been gathering advice and continue to do so. One of the questions I like to ask is:

What is it you wish you had known in the early days when you were deciding to do a terminal degree like this? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks, in advance & congratulations,

-dave

 

 

hello, world!

Gibson and me at Binder Park Zoo
Gibson and me at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, MI

Friends,

They say you are a writer if nothing makes you more excited than a blank page.

Maybe that makes me a writer?

I don’t know, I think a writer is someone who writes and writes often because it is in their bones.

I’m excited to start a brand-new writing and reflective practice here in this space. Much of it will be for my own learning and growth as someone considering the prospects of being a PhD candidate, but I also plan to reflect on my life as a husband, a father, a musician, an educator and a learning designer.

I look forward to connecting with those of you who might join me in the practice of writing as reflection as we trod our learning paths together.

Thanks for stopping by!

The rangerdavie blog has retired…

I’ve decided to take my writing endeavors to rebuild a new social presence over at daveg.msu.domains.

Well folks, it has been a great ten years or so here at WordPress.com!

I’ve decided to take my writing endeavors to rebuild a new social presence over at daveg.msu.domains.

Hope to see you there!

You stay classy, my dear readers.

-Dave

LCC’s 2nd OER Summit

img_7872
Image shared on Twitter by Eric Kunnen

On Friday, I was fortunate to have been able to attend the 2nd annual Lansing Community College Open Educational Resources Summit. I attended last year when David Wiley was the keynote and it was outstanding. This year’s keynote was Dr. Cable Green who is the Director of Open Education at Creative Commons. It was an amazing day of learning, sharing and making connections with others in the field I hadn’t known before.

For instance, as seen in this panel image which was the culminating event at the Summit, I learned about Joseph Mold who is the Director of Online Learning & Instructional Design at Bay College in our beautiful Michigan Upper Peninsula. The work they have been doing on behalf of student success and faculty autonomy with OER is one of the most compelling examples I have learned of to date. You can see a glimpse into some of their efforts and accomplishments in the two short videos below:

I nearly missed this year because it somehow was not on my radar. Fortunately, Regina Gong (Chair of this great Summit) mentioned this year’s summit over the weekend on Twitter. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to pull it off because of some previously scheduled meetings I had on my calendar, but thanks to my kind colleagues who covered for me, I was able to attend.

You can follow the active twitter stream that ensued here at #LCCOER or at #GoOpen. Don’t miss Eric Kunnen’s infamous note taking skills on his WordPress site too. It’s probably the next best thing to actually being there.

Looking forward to next year already! Thank you, Regina and all the great folks who helped put this together! 

Winners Announced! Aquent Design for Good Grant Opportunity

cropped-ee-new-logo-web-header-11-15

Last month, I submitted a video application for a $5,000 grant opportunity to fund the nonprofit organization of my choice around a design challenge. I did so on behalf of Energizing Education in Jackson, Michigan. Although my video was not a finalist in the chosen recipients, it was still a really good experience to take part in and I am so impressed with all the great submissions that came in from around the world for this opportunity.

If anything, check out the 5 Recipients and join me in celebrating this great accomplishment! Also, a huge shout out to Aquent and to Vitamin Talent for making this grant opportunity possible. Thank you, so much!

Monica Bloom is the Creative Director of “Vitamin T” and invited us to join her in a virtual celebration to congratulate the 5 Recipients of the Aquent Design For Good grants:

*clap clap clap* *horn blast!*

Here they are!

  1. Give a Beat
  1. North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  1. Khushi Baby
  1. American Story Project
  1. Understanding Our Differences

See the entire collection of all the submissions on Aquent’s gallery page. Grab your handkerchiefs. You will be glad you did.

Great work, everyone! I’m way impressed. I love watching people getting their hands dirty while changing the world.

Teacher trust

 

TurtleI would do so many things differently than I did those first years of teaching.

I made so many grave mistakes.

I have a vivid memory of a 10th grade Biology lesson I was giving one day in the late Spring when my students were fidgety and seemingly unable to focus on what I’m sure was an incredibly engaging lesson (insert sarcasm font here). It got to the point where I had to stop the lesson and go off script which wasn’t my forte, especially when opening up a difficult conversation with a class of 35 students in the room.

I remember being genuinely nervous, but realizing how important it was for me to express my concern about how the class was going as I felt like I wasn’t getting through to any of them that day. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I expressed my concern in a very honest and frank way. I opened it up to the room on the spot to provide some ideas on how we could make it through the rest of the year without me blowing a gasket. I also admitted that I needed to figure out a way to know I was doing my job as a teacher better.

I think this vulnerability I stepped into in a way that was clearly not planned is what really grabbed their attention to the point where it was eerily silent in the room at first. I remember practicing to wait and embrace that awkward silence to let trust develop and courage for people to speak up honestly with it me not passing judgement or taking offense to the fact that my teaching approach was clearly not working. Ideas started flowing from the room on how we could address the challenge together.

Of course, things never got perfect after that, but I do recall an enormous shift that took place even toward the end of the year where me and my students had a better understanding of each other. That moment catalyzed deeper trust for everyone in the room to speak up or connect with me personally when things just weren’t working for them.

I will never forget that the courage of honesty in moments like those (rather than losing my cool) was constructive for building the essential trust there must be between a teacher and their students.

Now to the daily challenge of putting this courage to practice moment-by-moment.