Day 1, July 9th, 2018

Wow, today was a blast. I am impressed by these educators we get to work with in the next six weeks. I know I will learn a lot from each of them.

Today, one of the main objectives was to get to know each other better through tapping into prior knowledge, experiences and by articulating personal goals for this summer seminar. I’m going through and reading some of the writing the students did today and looking at the artifacts they made and seeing ways in which these main goals were accomplished. This will set us up well for success in this seminar going forward because we will always be able to point back to and iterate on the goal setting that took place on the first day.

I tried a brand new active learning strategy today that I learned at one of the sessions for the MSU Spring Teaching & Learning Conference this year. It is called kaleidoscope. I learned it is much different to experience it than it is to try and facilitate it. Namely, I sort-of botched up clearly explaining the instructions, but I think I was able to adapt on the fly in a way that made it work in the end. Essentially, the goal of the activity is to rapidly scramble groups so that more ideas are shared with random assortments of perspectives across the class. That ended up happening, but I realize now that when I numbered people off by threes, it was assumed that I wanted all people with the same number to join up across the room. Next time, I will explain it better, I’m sure. My approach was simply to renumber the people in the new groups that formed so that the 1s would go clockwise and the 3s would go counter-clockwise for the scrambling. I’m not sure others even noticed the goof, but I did. 🙂

I am reminded this fine evening at the simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting work of the educator. I’m what I would describe as out of shape as it relates to teaching (not to mention other ways). There is a certain type of muscle or stamina that develops when you are in the routine of teaching practice, but when you jump right into a sprint like this one having had a break in teaching, the demands of the work can be jolting. I’m sure every educator experiences this in some ways, but especially those of us who land more on the introverted side of the spectrum.

Tomorrow is another big day with a large focus on learning theories and the concept of mindset or grit.

Ok, back to writing feedback and reading for now until I can stay awake no longer.

Anyone who thinks the work of a teacher is easy either has no idea or has been led to think so by a teacher by trade only rather than vocation.

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.

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: