Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fear & creativity

Today's quote from my Don't Sweat the Small Stuff daily calendar:

That which we focus our attention on expands. If we spend our mental energy worrying, it's difficult if not impossible to create great abundance. Our fear gets in the way of our creativity and traps us in the status quo.
I also recently spent some time with the Creatively Fit website, to push myself to think differently and embrace the intelligences I spend less time with in my day to day. I'm considering, too, a charcoal drawing class at Brooklyn Brainery.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Show your learning

I'm at the tail end of a slow period at work, so my personal educational pursuits are not coming so naturally now that I don't have free time for self-directed professional development during my day job. This has led me to feel a bit lost in OOE13. I'm feeling the lack of focus I have in this MOOC, and I imagine I may be experiencing a common feeling that turns a lot of people off MOOCs.

Grant Wiggins blogged about measuring learning ("Experiential Learning"), and it prompted me to wonder about how I measure up to some of the questions he asks. That is, what do I have to show for all my reading of articles and searching out definitions? He asks:
"What are the key indicators to look for in judging whether your attempt at experiential learning is working?"
"One of the most frequent answers is a clear and specific sense of purpose, linking the activity to the WHY? question – We’re doing this because... We’re learning this because..."
"What does this help you do that’s important?"

I need a new goal.

But much of my frustration and directionlessness may be because I'm not engaged in experiential learning. Instead of being in a classroom with a roomful of kids and 20 tablets, I'm in an office scouring the Internet for theories and anecdotes that correspond to my vision of what technology in the classroom could or should look like. I am learning by connecting, but it is interesting to think about how different my MOOC experience will be compared with that of someone like this BYOD teacher, who is most certainly learning by experience as she's learning by connecting.

Has anything been written about the benefits of MOOCs for those who are currently engaged in whatever the topic is, compared to those less initiated, who may be trying to learn before doing?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Digital learning primer

As one of my OOE13 goals, I started a portfolio of articles as an introduction to digital learning and tech integration for curriculum developers. I created a Learnist board.

The problem is, I've been so subsumed in reading and research for a few months that I don't know how much background information to provide. Plus, I imagine my colleagues are all in different places of understanding now.

I'm wondering what general impression my compilation provides so far. I'm going for: students learn through doing and should be given more freedom to create and be self-guided learners. That is, I want to influence my colleagues away from the teacher-centered approach to tech (explained in "Three competing visions of educational technology. Which is yours?" this way: "'Interactive' white boards, presenting information or managing whole-class simulations are examples of computing for the teacher. In this scenario, the teacher is the actor, the classroom a theatre, the students the audience and the computer is a prop") and toward a student-centered approach.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Personal growth via professional development

One of my other recent learning projects (which I chose not to publicly blog about) is an interest in psychology. I've been trying to improve my own understanding of feelings and interpersonal issues and get back to a sense of depth and awe I seem to have lost in my twenties.

In my more public professional development efforts--online courses on teaching for learning and participating in the Open Online Experience MOOC--I keep noticing connections to growth efforts I consider more personal.

Foundations of Teaching for Learning drew my attention to Transactional Analysis (TA); the roles people play of parent, child, and adult; and this video on a TA view of games people play. The concept resonated with me, and with personal growth in mind, I just started reading I'm OK, You're OK. It's been sitting on my partner's bookshelf for years (with the rest of her social worker library), and I never would have given it a second of consideration if not for my Coursera course on teaching.

In the course materials, professor John MacBeath also encourages viewers to consider the concept: "Punish only in anger." He points out that although many are quick to assume this is poor advice, some things that make you angry (for instance, racism or other forms of bigotry or discrimination) often should be swiftly reacted to rather than contemplated. I've been thinking a lot about anger generally, so it's refreshing to have a notion to chew on from a more formal source than my own brain.

I recently heard about Learnist, and polled the OOE13 folks about it. Brendan Murphy shared his boards with me, and the first slide in 21st Century Teacher struck me. "If you want to be a carpenter, then you apprentice with a master carpenter. If you want to be a learner, then you should be apprenticing with a master learner too."

This quote is from Gary Stager's institute on PBL at ASB Unplugged2012. Original Image by Rob Shenk licensed under CC BY SA. Via Clint Hamada.
I was thinking about my future and my career before I launched into these professional development projects. I discovered that one of the things I get most engaged and rewarded by is learning new things, and I planned to research careers that take advantage of it, thinking first of being a workflow consultant (except for the whole people-losing-their-jobs part). 
Is education one of few careers that rewards and requires deep personal growth? In my office jobs, it hasn't felt so important and hasn't happened organically. Do you think of education when you consider careers for lifelong learners? What other careers do you think of?

Monday, October 7, 2013

An informed outsider's perspective on Education Nation

I think of myself as a connected and curious person. But I am new to the education field. I was curious about Diane Ravitch even before I entered the field: the magazine I used to work for gave her books rave reviews; I recall a friend of mine muttering disparagingly about her; and I've read articles praising her as they put down Michelle Rhee. I don't have enough background to make my own judgment about her, and I still feel out of the loop.

This is all just to give you context on what led me to click through from Twitter to an Education Week blog titled Marginalizing the Teaching Profession: Merrow, Ravitch, and Education Nation. Here, I read:
The annual Education Nation extravaganza is just over a week away. As has been widely noted, the list of presenters includes almost nobody with any actual experience working with children. No teachers. No prominent parent advocates. What is more, there is hardly even anyone we would recognize as being expert in education.... Educators have been completely silenced at a summit focused on our profession. (Anthony Cody)
So, that's the first thing I've ever heard about Education Nation. Back on Twitter, I see the hashtag rolling through my feed, which prompts me to actually Google Education Nation to simply find out what it is.

First of all, I love that it's being live-streamed. Of course coming from NBC, the connection is good, but a simple thing like that (access and user experience) can make all the difference.

I would appreciate more transparency about who's presenting. I tuned in during a presentation from Thirty Million Words, which I gathered as the presenter dropped their name a few times. But to find the context of this presentation, I had to scroll far down the page, note the time, and look at the schedule for context of who I was listening to.

I also caught Standford's Dr. Caroline Hoxby presenting on low-income, high-achieving students and how unlikely it is for them to apply to selective colleges. Expanding College Opportunities sends informational interventions via the mail and Internet to these students about college opportunities. The research was very convincing, but I wonder whether it is clear to families where/who these mailers are coming from? Once again, I feel like context is essential. Being a curious person and life-long learner these days requires skepticism, so transparency is so important.

How many of you caught the "Personalized Learning" ed tech panel? I have many thoughts on it. But most basically, in any situation, I hate to see a moderator immediately put panelists on the defensive. Was he trying to represent the popular opinion?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Aligning Digital Innovation with CCSS?

The impending OOE13 Twitter chat on declaring learning goals for this MOOC on education technology has me a little anxious, but this morning, it has proved to be a motivator to start zeroing in on a couple of goals! One of them is to explore the conflict between Common Core Standards and the vision of technology as vehicle for students to create.

I LOVE the idea of using technology in classrooms to empower students to create. I've read about amazing maker and code camps. I've thought about the metacognitive benefits of students using technology to document and capture their learning. To be very meta now and capture my learning, I'll quote Scott McLeod as he's quoting Gary Stager (who is quoting Piaget and Papert):
Piaget reminds us,“To understand is to invent,” while our mutual colleague Seymour Papert said, “If you can use technology to make things, you can make more interesting things and you can learn a lot more by making them.” (Three Competing Visions of Educational Technology)
This quote sums up the way my vision of educational technology has been drifting. And yet, something wasn't sitting well with me. Common Core.

How can we reconcile one of the three essential shifts for ELA: text-dependent questions and building knowledge form within the four corners of the text?

In my Googling, I came across a PDF: Accelerating Productive Digital Innovation that Supports the Common Core State Standards Common Core State Standards. Unfortunately, it's not currently on the Common Core site, and the mailchimp URL doesn't evoke confidence. But the font/layout, language, and content seems aligned (get it?) to all the CCSS resources I've seen, so I'm going to believe it's legit and has just failed to be well-catalogued on the Internets.

The document continues to promote the emphasis on the text itself:
At the heart of the ELA criteria for grades 3-12 are instructions for shifting the focus of literacy instruction to center on careful examination of the text itself. In aligned materials, work in reading and writing (as well as speaking and listening) must center on the text under consideration. The standards focus on students reading closely to draw evidence and knowledge from the text
And its suggestions for digital opportunities include audio readings of text, questions embedded in the text, and a glossary that defines words in context in the text.

It also states:
Materials use multimedia and technology to deepen attention to evidence and texts. The CCSS require students to compare the knowledge they gain from reading texts to the knowledge they gain from other multimedia sources, such as video. The Standards for Reading 36 Literature specifically require students to observe different productions of the same play to assess how each production interprets evidence from the script. Materials aligned with the CCSS therefore should use multimedia and technology in a way that engages students in absorbing or expressing details of the text rather than becoming a distraction or replacement for engaging with the text.
This seems like a whole lot of student-as-consumer to me. How can we remain CCSS-aligned and encourage the discovery and creation that make digital tools actual forces for improved education?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Openness & social media

I'm feeling overwhelmed at work today, and I keep wanting to turn to someone or something, and I am distinctly aware that social media is not there for me. I have various outlets online, with various degrees of anonymity and openness, and I have worked to create an identity, and yet, when I need support, I don't feel comfortable going into my public forums (whether they be "friends only," anonymous, or public and tied to my full name). My partner's dad stalks my Facebook; anyone anywhere could Google my name and find my blog and Twitter; my Tumblr is anonymous but not personal. 

My impulse to want to turn to these outlets makes me wonder if there's something to cultivating identity via online representations. I blogged earlier about an iTunesU course that freaked me out with this copy: "Personal branding sets the stage for being able to get in touch with one's identity." The idea infuriates and terrifies me, but the fact that I'm feeling drawn to broadcast my feelings may mean there's more truth to it than I'd like to admit.

I read or heard a concept so long ago, and I have thought of it again and again since then (without knowing or being able to find the original source, which is infuriating). It was the idea of bearing witness. It had something to do with the notion that we couple up and form intimate relationships because we need someone to bear witness to our lives. It validates the struggle if someone else sees it. If one wasn't worried about professional or personal reactions or repercussions to being totally open in an online space, could social media play that role? (If anyone can point me to something that references this idea of bearing witness, I'd love it, as it's haunted me for so long as something I remember and something that resonates with me, but something that I can't dig into further and don't entirely understand.)

A lot to think about the act of writing vs. publishing. Who as a child (or an adult) didn't imagine someone finding their diary or journals years later? It's so easy to diss and dismiss blogs when you grow up around mommy blogs and ten thousand book blogs and blogs and books on getting rich by blogging. But maybe there's more to it than I want to admit.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Brooklyn Brainery has classes for adults on all different types of topics,  taught by members of the community who are professionals of or just really interested in xy or z, for less than $10 to $100something, depending on the class.

I took a class on classroom strategies for teachers last night. It was a rapid-fire overview of seven activities that would work across all subjects, and it was fun! Trouble is, it reminded me of my interest in being a teacher, which is hard to sustain when I work with ex-teachers who've moved on to a much lower-key, higher-paying profession.

A masters degree is such a big commitment, and I've heard that the academic rigor of education programs can be lacking. I feel like I need to get closer to classrooms without actually being in charge of one to decide if it's for me.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Web resources on primary sources in ELA classrooms

I've been researching incorporating primary sources and history into ELA classrooms. The "interactive learning activities" on the National Archives Docs Teach site are cool, and I think I could spend a lot longer exploring this site.

I also came upon Awesome Stories via this page of ELA Common Core resources. However, it strikes me as very un-Common Core. When given a summary, how many students are going to click through to the primary source? I found myself uninterested in following the links. And isn't there some smoother, more dynamic way to present the primary source than via an embedded hyperlink?

The concept seems like the nonfiction version of this blogger's description of how her pre-reading activities "took all the joy out of reading from my students" because she "unlocked all the secrets of The Butter Battle Book for them and did all the work of dissecting the piece as part of my lesson planning" ("Defining 'Deep Reading' and 'Text-Dependent Questions,'" Turn on Your Brain). What I feel like has been drummed into my head for Common Core is to stick with the text, start with the text, return to the text. Shouldn't this mean presenting students with primary sources first, and guiding them to interpret the sources to learn about history?

Unlike Awesome Stories, this example activity on Docs Teach (and similar activities I've seen that use historical photographs) has students look first only at a photograph (or part of a photograph), and make inferences and zoom out from there.

Monday, September 16, 2013

I'm just starting the second Coursera course in the series Foundations of Teaching for Learning. So glad they changed the professor and the backdrop for the videos!! Amazing how a simple thing such as looking at the same visual and hearing the same manner of speaking can grow tiresome in video lectures.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Personal branding & identity

Browsing from a Pinterest on iPad lessons to a blog post on a gathering of Apple Distinguished Educators, I found myself looking at an iTunes U course description that says, "Personal branding sets the stage for being able to get in touch with one's identity."

That sentence right there is the reason I haven't been able to drink all the digital learning Kool-Aid. Do we think this is true? "Personal branding sets the stage for being able to get in touch with one's identity."

Am I old or out of touch for being freaked out by this concept?

Dr. Chi & how levels of engagement affect learning

I just heard a presentation by Dr. Micki Chi, a learning and cognition researcher and professor in the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State University.

Her ICAP hypothesis lays out four forms of interacting during learning: Passive (just listening/taking in information), Active (selecting, e.g., underlining), Constructive (creating something new, such as drawing a graph to better understand a prompt), and Interactive (interacting with another person). Interaction leads to more successful learning outcomes than construction; construction leads to more successful learning outcomes than action; and so on (ICAP). She's taken a lot of other people's research and viewed it through this perspective, and seen her hypothesis bear out.

Here's a Q&A with Dr. Chi, and her research paper Active-Constructive-Interactive: A Conceptual Framework for Differentiating Learning Activities.
I was interested to hear that construction is beneficial regardless of whether the student's answer is correct. Dr. Chi also briefly talked about sequencing, and noted that some studies show that a constructive activity followed by something passive (e.g., a lecture) can be most effective. I've been dipping into inquiry-based learning and constructivism, and these seem to be approaches that fit naturally with integrating digital tools.

She also sparked my interest in looking at how the tutoring model can be used in bigger classes. She presented research showing that the learning outcomes were better when students viewed a video of a tutor and tutee vs. a video of a single person lecturing, and she talked briefly about what it is in the tutor-tutee model that helped the viewers learn better. She found "students learned to solve physics problems just as effectively from observing tutoring collaboratively as the tutees who were being tutored individually" ("Observing Tutorial Dialogues").

Speaking of inquiry-based learning, I started reading up on the Quest to Learn school in New York, which the Institute of Play is helping to develop. Fascinating to me, but I shut down from the jargon in the MacArthur Foundation Report when I was trying to find out more about the curriculum.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New URL, New Look, Same Goal, Different Topic

I recently started building a personal learning environment to teach myself about digital learning and education technology. I'm trying out my first cMOOC, http://www.ooe13.org/, and I hear blogging helps with that process. I think it may also help me to turn 33 clipped articles in Evernote into something cohesive and more focused.

I spent a few minutes Googling to try to decide if I should start a new blog, or use my long-quiet existing blog in the process. My former URL was lay-ra.blogspot.com, and I used this space to learn about readers' advisory, a library science concept devoted to helping readers connect with books. Simply put, it's a sophisticated way to answer the question, "What do I read next?"

Now, I'm pleased to think of this as a space for me to learn in. Whatever that learning may be.

For the OOE13 folks, a little about me. I work on developing curriculum at an ed tech company. We recently had a reorg, and my role may be shifting somewhat. But for now, I've had some breathing room for personal research projects. My education background has been/is being cultivated in this position, so I've spent a lot of time just trying to acquaint myself with theoretical groundwork.

My recent personal research excitements have been:

  • Carol Dweck's Mindset