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. 

LCC’s 2nd OER Summit

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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! 

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.

IDEO HCD Process

The folks at IDEO have made a reputation of being an award-winning global design firm that coined the “human-centered” approach to design thinking.

 

Description of framework

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-10-14-30-amThe folks at IDEO have made a reputation of being an award-winning global design firm that coined the “human-centered” approach to design thinking. They use this strategy effectively to help a diverse portfolio of organizations to both innovate and grow. IDEO’s president and CEO Tim Brown describes design thinking itself as:

“… a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

So, what does this look like?

For one thing, it isn’t necessarily linear. In fact, IDEO recognizes that each project and client they work with invariably has its own context and character. At the same time, they do identify three primary phases that each design thinking project experiences. Conveniently, each phase begins with the letter “I”:

  • Inspiration
  • Ideation
  • Implementation

These three phases create space for the designer to do three primary things:

  1. Inspiration: Build and nourish deep empathy for individuals and communities they are designing for.
  2. Ideation: Inform the design of new solutions around improved understood of the problems they face.
  3. Implementation: Creating space to test ideas and prototypes of these solutions before implementing them.  

IDEO goes on to explain that the way organizations can transform the way they develop products, services, processes and strategy by thinking creatively like a designer. They propose that it is possible for professionals to use the creative tools of designers and approaches they use to solve a vast array of challenges even if they have never had formal training as a designer. This is because they describe design thinking itself as a deeply human process that draws on tacit knowledge we all intuitively have which can be overshadowed by more conventional problem-solving practices.

The IDEO website describes design thinking as a method that “relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, and to express ourselves through means beyond words or symbols.”

They caution that over-reliance on methods that are strictly analytical or rational can be just as risky as running an organization on feeling or intuitions alone. As IDEO walks with clients into new visions of what their operations could look like in the future, they use a holistic mix of both analytical tools and generative techniques. They do this using design thinking as an integrated “third way” that isn’t pigeonholed into just one way of thinking.

This results in activities that integrate business model prototyping, data visualization, innovation strategy, organizational design, qualitative and quantitative research, and IP liberation. Each of these methods is done with conscious consideration of both the capabilities of the clients and the needs of their customers. Before a final solution is designed, there are multiple iterations that are relying on feedback loops and assessments that inform each rapid modification. The goal is to deliver appropriate, actionable and tangible strategies that result in new and innovative options for growth each of which are grounded in business viability and market demands.

According to their website, IDEO’s approaches have helped them achieve some of the following milestones as an organization:

  • Ranked as one of the most innovative companies in the world by business leaders in a global survey by Boston Consulting Group
  • Ranked #10 on Fast Company’s list of the Top 25 Most Innovative Companies
  • Winner of 38 Red Dot awards, 28 iF Hannover awards, and more IDEA awards than any other design firm
  • Ranked #16 on Fortune’s list of 100 most-favored employers by MBA students
  • Awarded the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s National Design Award for Product Design

References

You can read more at:

How My Failure as a Teacher Began to Teach Me Lifelong Lessons.

I was a 2nd year teacher drop-out. I felt like a failure as a person and as a professional. Most of all, I felt like I had failed my high school science, biology and chemistry students.

photo-1453847668862-487637052f8aDropped out

I was a 2nd year teacher drop-out. I felt like a failure as a person and as a professional. Most of all, I felt like I had failed my high school science, biology and chemistry students.

It was November and I had been working long days trying to keep up the pace of lesson planning, grading and attempting to maintain some balance in my new professional life as a teacher.

I remember getting many warnings in my college days about the difficulties of being a teacher and especially in the first year, but I overestimated my abilities to keep pace with my own standards of perfectionism.

Burned out

Let’s be honest. I burnt out. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had to resign half way through the year leaving my students stranded and the high school scrambling to find a replacement. I put my resume out to nearly any job I could find but the market was nearly as grim as my own outlook.

You know what the worst part of it was? I loved education and I loved my students. How would anyone hire me in the field when I resigned from a full-time teaching appointment? I figured I wouldn’t be able to ever work in education again.

Substitute teaching

So I decided to start subbing.

Yes, that’s right, I was a substitute teacher right after quitting a full-time teaching job. Being a substitute teacher is hard enough in and of itself, but being one after being a teacher drop-out is excruciatingly humiliating. But I knew I needed to swallow my pride, focus on my own health first and then re-build myself as a professional from the ground up.

Things I learned

It was difficult times, but I had amazing family, friends and professionals who supported me through the dark night. I wouldn’t wish the circumstances on anyone, but I also wouldn’t trade the lessons I learned at the earliest days of my career for the world.

I was blessed with hard life-lessons on understanding my own limitations, on developing a healthy work-life balance, on understanding myself on a fundamentally human level vs. viewing my own self-worth through the lens of an externally professional reputation.

Still learning

Do I still struggle with these things?

Yes.

Have I arrived?

No.

Am I making any progress?

Every day.

Silver linings

And you know what?

I still am an educator.

Mostly, I get to work every day as a human being helping other people through the difficult and important work of teaching and learning.

*I am forever grateful for the many people in my life who have believed in me even when I haven’t believed in myself. I wouldn’t be here without you and I stand on your shoulders as I do the meaningful work of believing in others around me. 

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]

Have you ever thought about how you think?

webdesign, design, idea iconSo, metacognition is one of those big college words that is most often referred to as “thinking about thinking.”

The post below does a great job summarizing both what this means and the benefits it can provide to improve our teaching and learning skills both formally and informally.

Metacognition And Learning: Strategies For Instructional Design: The eLearning Coach: Instructional Design and eLearning.

Don’t miss the the great ideas listed at the end!

How about you? What do you do to help yourself or others become better at learning?

Motivation in an Online Learning Environment

IndifferenceCreative Commons License Photo Credit: Marc Soller via Compfight


The following were some questions asked of me as I evaluated the TEC-VARIETY Model in the “Instructional Ideas & Tech Tools for Online Success” CourseSites MOOC which I am participating in. I like how this activity enabled me to think deeper about the topic of learner motivation in online environments which is near and dear to my heart. Overall, I find that this is an outstanding model with plenty of supporting empirical research that supports much of it, but it also makes me wonder if it could still be improved upon further. I don’t get the sense that the original developers of this model would want anything but this to happen.

TEC-VARIETY Model

  1. Tone/Climate: Psych Safety, Comfort, Belonging
  2. Encouragement: Feedback, Responsive, Supports
  3. Curiosity: Fun, Fantasy, Control
  4. Variety: Novelty, Intrigue, Unknowns
  5. Autonomy: Choice, Flexibility, Opportunities
  6. Relevance: Meaningful, Authentic, Interesting
  7. Interactive: Collaborative, Team-Based, Community
  8. Engagement: Effort, Involvement, Excitement
  9. Tension: Challenge, Dissonance, Controversy
  10. Yields: Goal Driven, Products, Success, Ownership

What is missing or might be changed in Bonk’s TEC-VARIETY model?

One thing I think might be missing would be a more nuanced explanation of the problem that it is attempting to intervene for. The TEC-Variety model seems to lean heavily on the problem being sensitivity to the tool usage of a given medium, issues regarding training on pedagogical issues and the nature of asynchronous environments. It might be important to stress that there are other systemic problems that are crucial aspects to the problem of learner motivation that some interventions will simply not be able to address.

Another missing link are ones that were self-identified to be incomplete which were the actual solutions. Some solutions were specific examples of interventions to use, but there was little support for the effects these particular suggestions have had on past usages.

Other suggestions were vague and general in nature which could take one down multiple other specific solution options raising other questions as they went. Some general words in the model that could be considered for inclusion would be belongingness, peer-assessment, exploration, inquiry, reflection, experience, simulation, time-on-task, and the creation of one’s own meaningful learning models.

At the same time, many of these generalities could be connected and possibly consolidated into a more simple and general model in order to be a more solid framework upon to build from.

What do you like best about Bonk’s TEC-VARIETY model for motivation and retention online?

I like the emphasis on learner engagement because this is an affective domain that can be measured and will yield learning results.

Do you have any online motivational success story examples or cases that you wish to share?

Generally, courses that helped me navigate my own goal trajectories and involved meaningful levels of engagement toward the refinement and actualization of these goals with creative achievement modeling have been the most meaningful to me. I had one online course that built these models of my demonstrations into an end of the course project that brought things all together regarding what I had done each week to demonstrate my creative competency of the intended learning outcomes while being able to reflect on how these related to my context and career goals.

How do you deal with motivation and retention issues online?

The best way to deal with motivation and retention is to have a deep understanding of people in general, the diversity of what makes them tick, the uniqueness of their contexts, characteristics, their challenges, fears, hopes, stories and inspirational narratives that guide them.

What motivational problems have you experienced with online learners in fully online or blended environments?

Well, some could be motivational problems I have experienced elsewhere and others might actually be perpetuated by the medium itself. For instance, on one hand you have the ever-existing business of people’s lives, laziness, lack of resources and energy, distractions, obligations and all other influential contextualizations (aka excuses). On the other hand, the online environment itself can lend toward even less accountability if the learner and instructor are technologically fearful, incompetent, poorly-resourced, inadequately oriented and in need of a less isolating measures.

Have you experienced any motivational problems personally?

Oh no, never.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBNe8CUePTQ]