Thursday, 30 October 2014

#ccourse Daily Create – 30th Oct: blog about it

I had just finished drafting a blog post for our first year #becomingeducational students when I saw this challenge – and I thought I would share ‘the blog wot I wrote’ – below – and a few thoughts about staff blogging for students.
Last year when we first started our course blog (rather than just uploading PPT slides to our VLE) we were a bit clunky in our own writing… we often started with a recap of the what, why and how of the lesson … Funny really because we wanted our students to blog to develop their academic voice and power in a way that was ‘theirs’ that was them – all of them as they were – but also the them they were becoming… We theorised this as quasi-academic writing that allowed them to playfully and wholly perform themselves as they became the academic they wanted to be (not necessarily the neutered academic that more formal writing might process them into being).
And – yes – we felt this process ‘worked’: students blogged – they had something to say – and in the end even the most truculent of them wanted to have their say about the course – about the assignments – and about themselves. Not a plagiarised word in sight!
But we changed too. We started to find our voices and ourselves – we started to become the academics we wanted to be. (Cool.)
So this year – we began blogging with a more freeform ‘voice’ trying to connect with and better engage with our student readers… and suddenly writing promotes *our* learning – and we begin to say some of the tacit taken for granted things that need to be said.
Anyway – this week we asked our students to explore the University as a site and sites of learning – ready for a Poster Presentation in a couple of weeks time – and – oh yes – because we wanted them to SEE – to see differently – to see the taken for granted stuff about education – about *their* education… and to start to think about what they might want to do about ‘that’. So here’s what the process of blogging helped us to write:

#becomingeducational W5: look – see
This week, W5, Study Week, we asked you to explore the University as a representation of learning, teaching and assessment – and as a site or sites of learning. 
We wanted you to develop your ability to observe – to really look and see what might be happening somewhere – and perhaps see it as if for the first time. Real ‘seeing’ allows us to bring fresh eyes to things that we may have previously taken for granted. Our new sight can give us fresh insight. This is a great tool for a researcher and perhaps is especially essential for the education researcher: after all, we’ve all been through school; we all ‘know’ what education, teaching and learning are all about – don’t we?
Well – perhaps we don’t.
After all we enter schooling very young – and the schooling we get shapes our experience and our understanding of what schooling is – can – and should - be. However, as we become educationalists – perhaps we need to see what education actually *is* - socially, politically and, yes, economically. Perhaps we need to really see what it is and what effect it is having – and keep asking, who and what is education for? Whose interests are served when education takes place like this? Could it be different? Could it be better? What would ‘better’ look like?
Participant Observation
We asked you to really look – to see – to observe – and to start to analyse. You were acting like anthropologists studying a new culture – and we are looking forward to your findings. We mentioned ‘participant observation’ – this is where somebody who is participating in an experience also tries to observe it. So as University students looking at University learning and teaching spaces – you were participant observers. On the other hand, you were not participating in the group discussions or the corridor or canteen discussions that you were observing. In preparation for your research project you might like to adopt the stance of a participant observer in your lectures and seminars, in your own study groups, in your peer mentoring encounters. As you do this you might start to see what works well in promoting student learning – and perhaps what works not so well. This might inspire you and help you to choose a research focus in which you are really interested. Below is an account of how a study support teacher prepared for her job by becoming a participant observer in her school.
Those Research Projects – again
For your research project we will ask you to investigate an aspect of University teaching and learning in more detail. After experiencing being a student for some time, you might find that you might want to explore particular practices like reading and notemaking or group work or attitudes to assessment or writing. You might come up with a completely different idea. We will be preparing for this together in class – and the proposal is not due till W19 – but keep your eyes open now – and use your Passion.
What brings you joy? What breaks your heart? How can you use this to design your projects? Check out this video on Passion Based Learning in the school sector: - and think how you can use your passions here and now.

Teachers Shadowing Students:
What I Learned By Doing What I Ask Students To Do

by Grant WigginsAuthentic Education
The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys. 

She wrote:
I have made a terrible mistake.
I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!
This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching my own classes; I am the High School Learning Coach, a new position for the school this year. My job is to work with teachers and admins. to improve student learning outcomes.
As part of getting my feet wet, my principal suggested I “be” a student for two days: I was to shadow and complete all the work of a 10th grade student on one day and to do the same for a 12th grade student on another day. My task was to do everything the student was supposed to do: if there was lecture or notes on the board, I copied them as fast I could into my notebook. If there was a Chemistry lab, I did it with my host student. If there was a test, I took it (I passed the Spanish one, but I am certain I failed the business one).
Teachers Shadowing Students: My Class Schedules For The Day
(Note: we have a block schedule; not all classes meet each day):
The schedule that day for the 10th grade student:
7:45 – 9:15: Geometry
9:30 – 10:55: Spanish II
10:55 – 11:40: Lunch
11:45 – 1:10: World History
1:25 – 2:45: Integrated Science
The schedule that day for the 12th grade student:
7:45 – 9:15: Math
9:30 – 10:55: Chemistry
10:55 – 11:40: Lunch
11:45 – 1:10: English
1:25 – 2:45: Business
Shadowing My Students: Key Takeaway #1
Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting.
I could not believe how tired I was after the first day. I literally sat down the entire day, except for walking to and from classes. We forget as teachers, because we are on our feet a lot – in front of the board, pacing as we speak, circling around the room to check on student work, sitting, standing, kneeling down to chat with a student as she works through a difficult problem…we move a lot.
But students move almost never. And never is exhausting. In every class for four long blocks, the expectation was for us to come in, take our seats, and sit down for the duration of the time. By the end of the day, I could not stop yawning and I was desperate to move or stretch. I couldn’t believe how alert my host student was, because it took a lot of conscious effort for me not to get up and start doing jumping jacks in the middle of Science just to keep my mind and body from slipping into oblivion after so many hours of sitting passively.
I was drained, and not in a good, long, productive-day kind of way. No, it was that icky, lethargic tired feeling. I had planned to go back to my office and jot down some initial notes on the day, but I was so drained I couldn’t do anything that involved mental effort (so instead I watched TV) and I was in bed by 8:30.
If I could go back and change my classes now, I would immediately change the following three things:
§         mandatory stretch halfway through the class
§         put a Nerf basketball hoop on the back of my door and encourage kids to play in the first and final minutes of class
§         build in a hands-on, move-around activity into every single class day. Yes, we would sacrifice some content to do this – that’s fine. I was so tired by the end of the day, I wasn’t absorbing most of the content, so I am not sure my previous method of making kids sit through hour-long, sit-down discussions of the texts was all that effective.
Shadowing My Students: Key Takeaway #2
High School students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90% of their classes.
Obviously I was only shadowing for two days, but in follow-up interviews with both of my host students, they assured me that the classes I experienced were fairly typical.
In eight periods of high school classes, my host students rarely spoke. Sometimes it was because the teacher was lecturing; sometimes it was because another student was presenting; sometimes it was because another student was called to the board to solve a difficult equation; and sometimes it was because the period was spent taking a test. So, I don’t mean to imply critically that only the teachers droned on while students just sat and took notes. But still, hand in hand with takeaway #1 is this idea that most of the students’ day was spent passively absorbing information.
It was not just the sitting that was draining but that so much of the day was spent absorbing information but not often grappling with it.
I asked my tenth-grade host, Cindy, if she felt like she made important contributions to class or if, when she was absent, the class missed out on the benefit of her knowledge or contributions, and she laughed and said no.
I was struck by this takeaway in particular because it made me realize how little autonomy students have, how little of their learning they are directing or choosing. I felt especially bad about opportunities I had missed in the past in this regard. If I could go back and change my classes now, I would immediately:
§         Offer brief, blitzkrieg-like mini-lessons with engaging, assessment-for-learning-type activities following directly on their heels (e.g. a ten-minute lecture on Whitman’s life and poetry, followed by small-group work in which teams scour new poems of his for the very themes and notions expressed in the lecture, and then share out or perform some of them to the whole group while everyone takes notes on the findings.)
§         Set an egg timer every time I get up to talk and all eyes are on me. When the timer goes off, I am done. End of story. I can go on and on. I love to hear myself talk. I often cannot shut up. This is not really conducive to my students’ learning, however much I might enjoy it.
§         Ask every class to start with students’ Essential Questions or just general questions born of confusion from the previous night’s reading or the previous class’s discussion. I would ask them to come in to class and write them all on the board, and then, as a group, ask them to choose which one we start with and which ones need to be addressed. This is my biggest regret right now – not starting every class this way. I am imagining all the misunderstandings, the engagement, the enthusiasm, the collaborative skills, and the autonomy we missed out on because I didn’t begin every class with fifteen or twenty minutes of this.
Shadowing My Students: Key takeaway #3
You feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.
I lost count of how many times we were told be quiet and pay attention. It’s normal to do so – teachers have a set amount of time and we need to use it wisely. But in shadowing, throughout the day, you start to feel sorry for the students who are told over and over again to pay attention because you understand part of what they are reacting to is sitting and listening all day. It’s really hard to do, and not something we ask adults to do day in and out.
Think back to a multi-day conference or long PD day you had and remember that feeling by the end of the day – that need to just disconnect, break free, go for a run, chat with a friend, or surf the web and catch up on emails. That is how students often feel in our classes, not because we are boring per se but because they have been sitting and listening most of the day already. They have had enough.
In addition, there was a good deal of sarcasm and snark directed at students and I recognized, uncomfortably, how much I myself have engaged in this kind of communication. I would become near apoplectic last year whenever a very challenging class of mine would take a test, and without fail, several students in a row would ask the same question about the test. Each time I would stop the class and address it so everyone could hear it.
Nevertheless, a few minutes later a student who had clearly been working his way through the test and not attentive to my announcement would ask the same question again. A few students would laugh along as I made a big show of rolling my eyes and drily stating, “OK, once again, let me explain…”
Of course it feels ridiculous to have to explain the same thing five times, but suddenly, when I was the one taking the tests, I was stressed. I was anxious. I had questions. And if the person teaching answered those questions by rolling their eyes at me, I would never want to ask another question again. I feel a great deal more empathy for students after shadowing, and I realize that sarcasm, impatience, and annoyance are a way of creating a barrier between me and them. They do not help learning.
If I could go back and change my classes now, I would immediately:
§         Dig deep into my personal experience as a parent where I found wells of patience and love I never knew I have, and call upon them more often when dealing with students who have questions. Questions are an invitation to know a student better and create a bond with that student. We can open the door wider or shut if forever, and we may not even realize we have shut it.
§         I would make my personal goal of “no sarcasm” public and ask the students to hold me accountable for it. I could drop money into a jar for each slip and use it to treat the kids to pizza at the end of the year. In this way, I have both helped create a closer bond with them and shared a very real and personal example of goal-setting for them to use a model in their own thinking about goals.
§         I would structure every test or formal activity like the IB exams do – a five-minute reading period in which students can ask all their questions but no one can write until the reading period is finished. This is a simple solution I probably should have tried years ago that would head off a lot (thought, admittedly, not all) of the frustration I felt with constant, repetitive questions.
I have a lot more respect and empathy for students after just one day of being one again.
Teachers work hard, but I now think that conscientious students work harder. I worry about the messages we send them as they go to our classes and home to do our assigned work, and my hope is that more teachers who are able will try this shadowing and share their findings with each other and their administrations. This could lead to better “backwards design” from the student experience so that we have more engaged, alert, and balanced students sitting (or standing) in our classes.
Those interested in learning more about shadowing and/or using our surveys for free, contact me; This article first appeared on Grant’s personal blog; Grant can be found on twitter here; adapted image attribution flickr user flickreringbrad; Teachers Shadowing Students: What I Learned By Doing What I Ask Students To Do

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Saturday, 25 October 2014

#ccourses 3: Threshold Concepts of a Connected World (and one #nugget) - or

The thinginess of the web:
Crap detection
Q: Why do the powerful sneer at Media Studies?
A: Because they do not want us to detect their crap!!
This is our play
Not ‘digi-lit 101’
byte-sized skills
MCQ'd up the whazoo.
When writing we do not start with a sentence – but with an idea – with something to say – we struggle to articulate and make meaning…
Till in school we are told we cannot spell – or punctuate.
That our grammar is deficit.
That we are deficit
That we need to be fixed.
Digitally different
And not yet corralled
Seeds a different learning
A model
Of enactment.
We learn because we want to
we struggle with meaning and the meaningful…
We wrestle
for voice
for space.
We engage 
we have something to say… 
beyond the cats and dogs and porn and trolls – there is the ineffable beauty of our saying it for ourselves – saying it ourselves.
Threshold Concept:
The portal once crossed
This age
This time
We can re-frame 
We can
generative, collaborative
ideas of learning
Not new:
Bruner had the will to learn
Winnicott played
fiercely alive
fiercely himself.
this medium is the message
The web in its essence invites connection, re-configuring, innovation…
Is an eco-system of connections…
We are the web!!
Trying out loud
The RIF and re-mix culture.
Defeating ‘cheating, collusion and plagiarism’
to connect – create – re-purpose.
Read – write – participate…
Doing, making, crafting.
It’s the joy of these ‘awkward first moments’
of something so momentous:
of Doctorow and the beginning of history…
Tell yourself
Curate your life
Fall off the edge.

Saw the redacted Udell article-poem – went straight into ‘Managing the Assessment and Feedback Process’ with a sheet of arguments for and against the specificity of assessment criteria; referenced #ccourses; set the task of redacting the arguments to produce individual criteria poems; we read out our poems.
Smiley Face!!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

#ccourses - Leveraging our ‘why’ – reaching out to the #ccourses community

#ccourses has suggested that we ‘leverage our why’ – and Jonathan Worth said we ask others to help with the HOW.

So - HOW?!
We are lecturers in an institution that reaches out into our local communities. Our students are often described as ‘fish out of water’ (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992),  swimming in educational currents composed of regimes of inspection and the over-riding narratives of assessment, SATs, League Tables, OFSTED, moral panics about plagiarism – and the ‘dumbing down’ of education:
There are Mickey Mouse students for whom Mickey Mouse degrees are quite appropriate (Starkey in Brockes ‘Taking the mick’ The Guardian, [online] 15 January 2003).
They are re-territorialising tricky academic space (Deleuze & Guattari1987/2005) – and do not get an easy ride. More than ever they need to experience connection – engagement – inspiration – creativity and joy…

We’re sustained by our communities (of Practice, of Inquiry, of Engagement): ALDinHE, (#loveld, #studychat) - and #edcmooc, #rhizo14, #ccourses … BUT we know that many staff in HE generally are feeling pretty battered and bruised right now. As with the students, they, too, experience regimes of control and surveillance: targets and strategies; Performance Review; Academic Work Allocation Model. Every hour is mapped and measured and there is no time to ‘be with’ students. Overworked and under-valued, they do not feel trusted – they may not feel trust. How can we celebrate and sustain creative emancipatory practices …in this cold HE climate (Sinfield, Burns and Holley 2003)?

So we are experimenting with Take 5:

Take5 includes some tips on:
Role playing and simulations
Creative and visual learning strategies – using:
Drawing, collage, performance, poetry, prose
Object and Inquiry-based learning
Project Based Learning
Real research projects – from the first year
Academic & empowering literacies – with a positive twist!
Using the MOOCs - #edcmooc, #ccourses, #ds106, #rhizo14
Resource and artefact production.

At the moment we are planning to write fortnightly blog posts speaking of things that we have done in our classrooms and our MOOCs – in the hope of seeding conversations and re-engaging people in their own love of teaching and learning.

What do you think?

What should we do next?
Who wants to join in?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

#ccourses – Theme 2: Trust

So little time – so many great things to do in #ccourses!
I am lagging behind – I am a *bad* student! BUT one thing I really loved in this theme was the chance to collaboratively produce a poem with other #ccourses participants – and loosely based on the theme of trust. We used TitanPad ( ) – and it could definitely be something to try with students… If not a collective poem – why not a collective essay or article?

So, in lieu of *proper* homework (!!),here’s that poem:

How to Stay Connected (While Walking Through the Wires)
A Connected/Collaborative Poem – erupting from #ccourses
(You can listen to the podcast of the poem from October 2: )
(This version copied, 14th October 2014)

Walking through wires
Dancing on air
Whirling through space
Pay attention to the sounds
of others alongside you
humming, mouthing, shouting...
Notice those beside you 
also walking 
through wires.
Only look at them through 
the periphery's a long way down
from balanced.

We're all tightrope walkers here
navigating across the lines
always in motion
teetering in virtual time:
Virtuosos, all of us!

Listen, what was that? 
A whisper, a scuffling of feet
from some other, other
a-part of the world,
apart in the world,
resonating with words and links and images
and sound
Perhaps a small laugh, full of excitement,  the froth of lingering fear
Look around, reach ...
Totter, swirl on the brink of
beyond yourself
make connections that 
span place and time

     I am so alone
     In this icy space
     The wires unjangled
     By the current that should warm them
Share your fire at our hearth
please join so that we may be comforted
This cozy cottage a gathering place, 
a shelter from our loneliness.

     It is so far down
     and the wires are slick and worn
     and sometimes I think
     a spider lingers nearby...licking.
But don't be afraid of falling,
we are all friends here
Trust us and if you fall we will catch you
so that you may continue on your journey

Do I have to say trust me to have you
close your eyes or better still, look around;
give me your hand and walk with me
or run ahead and lead the way.
Dance your dance across the wires
so that I might find your rhythm and
create the rhyme

And even when it seems we are

we are not.
These are the times our feelings are just

your eyes 
clear your ears to think.

But where are we going?
Do we have a map?
Do we explore and make 
our own
(Haec dragones sunt!)
Or -
Are we waiting for-

Why wait?

we cannot wait for someone to prove
their trustworthiness
we cannot wait for someone to protect
our privacy

 how do u know
 whom to trust
 without ever taking risks?
 how do u know?
 Our risks may be 
 Our safeties in disguise...
 or not.

 But before the barricades
 believe in the possibilities
 like cliches in a poem
 they are endless

Grow your knowledge of trust 
as you test the path.
It's a well worn road
Ask for directions
But don't expect everyone's using 
the same map.

It's a magic of sorts
Walking through timezones 
digging through rhizomes
riding wires like skipping stones, 
or underwater currents,
As if they weren't there,
saying good morning to
someone's goodnight, and wishing upon
the same stars from the sky.

A dimension transcending time and place.
Truly human
not making judgements
based on appearance, age, 
status, wealth - 
what do you say? 
Join us. Or don't.
Just don't do nothing. 

Extending an invitation
to write
to express
to make sense 
of the daily chatter
as well as the world's conversation
trying to streamline thoughts
playing, mixing, and remixing
words and ideas
conventional vs. unconventional
with just a few tweaks
I will have started the process

Simply trust --- that you can.
don't autumn  leaves
     that ?
  don't autumn leaves
      part of the soil
      that recreates
the Earth? 

humus = humility
mulch = organic

Trust your ideas will extend the wires
weaving a tapestry of understanding not yet imagined

these things are fleeting.
Ideas alone remain,
connecting cultures and 
enriching life.  
The expresso to the latte.

This human existence
encapsulated in connected thoughts.
A prism-glimpse of neurons, synapses.

Will you think?
Or muted, remain lost...

Wires broken, 
finding no easy signal and no outlet?

En otros idiomas
TambiƩn conectados
Porque ya no hay fronteras
Para quienes estamos interesados

Hola, te oigo

#ccourses 2014