It’s Hybrid Eve!! #MAET

You know those butterflies you used to get before the first day of school?

I wish someone had told me those never go away.

I’m so excited about tomorrow being the first day of a six week learning journey with the MAET Hybrid year two cohort and my co-instructor Brittany (who is so phenomenal). I just finished watching some introductions that some of the educators recorded on our Flipgrid wall. I am so thrilled and honored to get to learn from and with this community!

Tomorrow is a big day with a lot of important ground to cover in ways that will shape the trajectories of the entire learning experience.

So, no pressure, but it is going to be one of the most important days of the experience.

I’m looking forward to learning more about each educator in the community and getting a sense of where they come from and where they are headed in their careers. This (among other things) is a foundational focus of tomorrow that will start off right away in the first meeting bright and early. Brittany and I are going to be facilitating some activities that we have drawn up and have put a lot of planning into them. Here’s to a successful first run at some brand new approaches for reaching the same outcomes of previous years.

It is going to be epic.

Embarking on teaching a nine credit seminar

This is an opening post to a series of daily posts reflecting on my learning as an instructor. This summer, I am teaching an intensive 9 credit hour seminar in 6 weeks on the topics of educational technology, educational leadership, and educational research.

Why do you teach?

I teach to learn. I learn to teach. In some ways, teaching and learning are as natural as breathing. It is essential. It is always happening. Most of the time we aren’t aware that it is happening or appreciative of its importance. I want to study and practice teaching and learning so that I can better understand healthy approaches to it for improving learning experience design.

What’s your next gig?

Next week begins a six week adventure of teaching a nine credit seminar course. This is a mosaic of three courses within the Masters of Arts in Educational Technology program in the College of Education at Michigan State University. It combines courses in educational technology, educational leadership, and educational research. I am excited and nervous.

What are you most excited about?

What I love most about this intensive seminar is it’s convergence within the larger overarching TPACK framework. TPACK has been a cornerstone of the program since it’s inception. It stands for the contextual relationships between three domains of knowledge: technical knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and content knowledge. As you can see, these three domains match up nicely to the focus of each of the courses in the seminar. In the same way TPACK has a sweet spot in the overlapping circles, this seminar affords a unique advantage of having all three courses interweaved into one common experience.

What makes you nervous?

This high intensity seminar makes me nervous because of all the planning happening in such rapid succession. What helps a great deal is that arrangements have been made for my full-time appointment so that I can focus exclusively on this course for a time. I love where I work and the supportive community that surrounds me each day.

What are you hoping to learn?

This summer, I would like to do a daily recap and reflection on this experience as one of the co-facilitators. It is important that I do this as it is a meaningful learning experience for myself as an educator. Doing so will allow me to have robust notes to remember the things that worked well and the things that can be improved.

What are you hoping educators gain from the seminar?

I would hope that they would remember that good leadership boldly builds on evidence-based practices while simultaneously maintaining humble postures of learning. These practices and mindsets must drive all technical and innovative decisions if there is any chance of them being successful. If the technology alone is expected to lead these conversations, we will inevitably fail. Let the learning commence!

Get serious. Play more.

A quote by a man named Lazer from the 70s got me thinking about science education today.

book coverI love the conversations that happen in The Hub. A few months back, Troy Livingston and I were shooting the breeze and somehow got on the topic of teaching science. Troy recommended a book to me called “Teaching Science to Children” by a guy named Lazer Goldberg. I told him I would read any science book by a guy whose first name is Lazer. The book was first published in 1970, but the content within it feels timeless.

Toward the beginning of the book, a paragraph that jumped out to me as being visionarily prophetic. So much so, I might insinuate that Lazer Goldberg may be viewed as a influencer of science education reform efforts in similar ways that Dr. Martin Luther King was influential to the civil rights movements. The following paragraph gets me fired up about science education in ways that remind me of the reasons I entered into the field in the first place.

“What is wanted is the will to organize a climate for children’s science learning. In such a climate children continue their play. The games whose rules they learn elicit their most intense participation. There is no shame attached to error and failure, and fear has been cast out. Interesting errors are admired, and perceptive questions are applauded. Task governs time, and there is freedom to make, to think, to remake, to chat, and to dream a little. It is a place where dissent and independence are honored, where thought is not deprived of feeling nor art of thought. Above all, it is a place of diverse activity—social, intellectual, artistic, manual. It is a place where children transform bits of their environment and in the process transform themselves.”

I believe that the climate of science learning described here could be applied to any discipline and learning level without sacrificing legitimacy. If we are going to be serious about improving, we need our working and learning environments to be open to more playful energy.

It might seem counterintuitive, but let’s get serious and play more.

If we hold on firmly to our ideas, our practices, our ways of living in this world, this is ironically the quickest way to lose them. If we, instead, play with and hold loosely our ideas, practices and ways of living, this is the only way we find them, grow and move forward toward a brighter future.

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. 

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!