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. 

Wiley on OER and Open Course Frameworks

In it, Wiley mentions that, “The biggest barriers to OER adoption are the time and effort it takes faculty to find resources, vet them for quality, and align them with course outcomes.”

Commons, Creative icon | Icon Search Engine | Iconfinder http://goo.gl/6DoMBThis recent post by David Wiley will be stirring a another good conversation with interesting links that I couldn’t resist sharing here:

 

  • Open Course Frameworks: Lowering the Barriers to OER Adoption | iterating toward openness http://goo.gl/j1B4y
In it, Wiley mentions that,
“The biggest barriers to OER adoption are the time and effort it takes faculty to find resources, vet them for quality, and align them with course outcomes.”
He asserts that Open Course Frameworks can help solve these problems by helping institutions adopt evidence-based approaches to using OER for eliminate textbook costs and improving student success.

LearnDash – Could WordPress be a viable LMS?

So, I have always wondered about who might build a learning management component onto the existing WordPress platform.

LearnDASH LogoAbout five years ago, I had some kind friends help me to see the benefits of using WordPress as a platform for blogging and web design. I continue to find the interface of WordPress to be intuitive compared to other content management systems. The powerful plugins are also robust with an active developer community.

So, I have always wondered about who might build a learning management component onto the existing WordPress platform. There are many faculty who use it in their courses as a way to provide content to their students outside of a learning management system. In doing so, they also sacrifice native tools geared for learning like quizzes, discussion forums, and gradebook functions. This is why I have been recently really interested to hear about what has been developing over at LearnDash.

Besides having a great name similar to another one that I know, the LearnDash plugin is soon to be launching an LMS solution within WordPress. I am really eager to explore the course creation process, quiz creation process, certificate completion options, course scheduling features, user management integration with existing LMSs, learning analytics package, and even media hosting options.

What about you? Would you be interested in using LearnDash with any of your courses? What interests you about LearnDash? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Interview of Carrie on Google Presentation Collaboration with Students

I had a great conversation today about using Google Presentations for collaborative learning with Carrie Heeter and Keesa Muhammad from LearnDAT.

I had a great conversation today about using Google Presentations for collaborative learning with Carrie Heeter and Keesa Muhammad from LearnDAT. Check it out:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0l14KQzwO50]

 

[googleapps domain=”docs” dir=”document/pub” query=”id=18YYM0EB2TmYpkBL1fCfSrOhTADcS9QNsIAY38_rbVXM&embedded=true” width=”700″ height=”394″ /]

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Windownaut…

I absolutely love this tool on a daily basis. It helps me organize my application windows like a ninja organizes his evil enemies in a backstreet alley. Check it out:

I absolutely love this tool on a daily basis.

It helps me organize my application windows like a ninja organizes his evil enemies in a backstreet alley.

Check it out:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVJeAbISlKY&w=540&h=338]

Field Trip to Menlo

Remember field trips? What ever happened to those?

Remember field trips? What ever happened to those?

Well, I am glad to report that yesterday, LearnDAT team members and some others from IT Services here at Michigan State University took part in one.

Sure, we didn’t ride in a big yellow bus and I am pretty sure none of us had to have permission forms filled out, but it sure felt like an authentic field trip none-the-less.

You see, we had the privilege of visiting our friends over at Menlo Innovations today. Richard Sheridan, CEO, founder, and chief story-teller at Menlo gave us a tour of their facilities, practices and philosophies. He began by explaining how the entire vision is premised upon building a culture of joy. Immediately, one of the attendants asked, “Did you say ‘joy’?”

Richard then went on to explain that he did, indeed, say “joy” despite Menlo being a software innovation company. The surprise at the word joy in the context of the software industry is not uncommon, but Menlo is simply not a common place. That is what makes Menlo a constant revolving door for tourists like us who have gotten wind of some amazing things happening there.

Not many places can claim that their primary tool for project management is 3×5 cards, and especially a place that builds software solutions.

Other notable culture shock experiences during the tour included the wide open floor plan, the 40 hour work-week (with no overtime or limits of when employees are “allowed” to take vacation), and seeing bikes, pets, and children all around the room. The culture of transparency and trust breeds some fascinating results that made for a very interesting tour, to say the least.

According to Sheridan, the issues and difficulties they experience as an organization are not much different than what any organization experiences except for the way in which they handle them. In fact, one of the quotes seen right on the wall stated, “make mistakes faster.” Menlo intentionally identifies managerial practices based upon fear-tactics and eradicates them so that trust is built with clients and the Menlo team alike.

As Sheridan and his team continue to demonstrate leadership and innovation, you might consider joining one of their tours. See what kinds of things you could learn and conversations that could be started as a result. I know that we are glad we did. In fact, they could take the whole field of design and technology for a trip if you ask me.

See photos from our field trip on our Facebook page

Why Administration and Faculty must Mingle and Think Together!

manage, school iconThe Paradox of Teachers and Technology in the U.S. | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice.

Why do teachers get left out of the high-costing technology purchasing process? How could their inclusion evade massive wastes and embrace more effective pedagogical uses? Larry Cuban does a good job of exploring these issues, yet again.

Optimize Your Information Technology and Opportunity

Levy (2010) does such a beautifully articulate job of describing an organizational shift from grasping for enabling technologies to now optimization of so many technologies that are at our fingertips.

network connection manager iconLevy (2010) does such a beautifully articulate job of describing an organizational shift from grasping for enabling technologies to now optimization of so many technologies that are at our fingertips.

This technological optimization can help us more intelligently manage our time and assist us with prioritizing what to pay attention to. It also can help us evaluate which opportunities will be most worth our time.

This is critical in an age where both information and opportunity flood our landscapes.

Ellen Levy – Tungle Manifesto – YouTube.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7zdotm0TRM&w=425&h=350]

Marketing in Higher Ed… Please consider the following:

headset, voicecall iconEssay criticizes the brand messages colleges and universities are using | Inside Higher Ed.

This article provided a good synopsis of my own frustrations with poorly thought-through and executed marketing strategies in higher-education. Please, let us draw our own conclusions!