Diversity – yes . . . Statement – not easy

I understand that one should be able to articulate views, opinions and values in written form. But I’m having a really hard time “following the rules” (guidelines, standards, whatever they’re called) and framing how I think and behave towards others in a way that both articulates my core beliefs and how I uphold those on a daily basis, how I have in the past and how I will in the future.

It comes down to this:

I believe in the inherent dignity of every being on this planet. I seek to act in a manner that respects and honors the value of each life in relationship to each other. I seek to behave in a manner,  and uphold other’s behavior, that is just, equitable and compassionate. I am constantly seeking ways to grow and learn about others’ stories, responsibilities, perspectives and significance, and I share my own with others freely in hopes of providing them with a perspective they may not have otherwise encountered. I attempt to humble myself to others’ truths and seek meaning through understanding their culture, traditions, relationships, and conflicts. My intent is to connect with others through our commonalities and learn more than I knew prior. I attempt to be open to all perspectives and experiences, but stand firm again racism, bigotry and acts of aggression meant to diminish others’ sense of worth and value.  I champion the underdog, the ones who cannot speak for themselves, or those who have been victimized, taken advantage of and cast aside because they are devalued by others. I seek to educate others to the Truths of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that will enable us all to live a life of good and value, in service to one another and this planet we call home. I am imperfect and make mistakes regularly. When I recognize my errors, or they are pointed out to me, I seek to correct them in the most honorable way I know how.  I seek to express my personal respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are each a part.

That is the best I can do … right now.

(Lest you think that I just popped this off the top of my head: this ‘statement’ has been at least 15 years in the making and is based, in large part, on the beliefs and Principles of the Unitarian Universalist congregations. The UUC Beliefs and Principles have been refined by many scholars, theologians, and passionate minds over centuries. I simply seek to embody them as best I can in all that I do.)

Multitasking does not exist

 

So Don’t even try – https://hbr.org/2010/12/you-cant-multi-task-so-stop-tr

You’re basically short-circuiting your brain’s ability to focus and attend to either (or any) of the tasks you are attempting to do simultaneously (but not) – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201103/technology-myth-multitasking

You’re actually engaged in ‘serial tasking’

There are designated areas of the brain that do specific things. And, sometimes you can seemingly do two things at once (like walk and talk or chew gum), but that does not translate into multi-tasking, according to neuroscientists – https://laurenpietila.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/multitasking-is-not-possible-according-to-neuroscience-attention-part-3/

And in trying to “multi-task” we are likely doing physical damage to ourselves – https://www.truthdig.com/articles/multitasking-its-dangerous-and-it-doesnt-really-exist/

I can’t believe I’m saying this: before you were born there was a great deal of value placed on doing one thing at a time and doing it to the best of your ability. When I was in my 20’s, I fell prey to the myth of believing that I could do two (or even three) things at once: I felt powerful, in control and like I had conquered the time-space continuum. I also didn’t learn to establish reasonable boundaries for myself or conserve my energy, so by the time I was 40, I was exhausted and realized the whole notion of do multiple things well at the same time was all an illusion.

There’s a better chance that one could live in two separate dimensions at the same time than do two things at the same time in one dimension. Chew on that for a moment.

Moral of this story: heed the example of your predecessors’ failures (as well as their successes), understand the scientific explanations of how the brain works/processes information, and make good choices so that you don’t burn out in the future (and pass this wisdom on to your students, please). Do one thing at a time, and do it well. Then the dopamine rush will carry you on to the next task, and the next, and the next.

Live long and prosper, my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other References  – from Cognitive Processes Course @ VT

Junco, R. (2012). In-class multitasking and academic performance. Computers in Human Behavior28(6), 2236-2243. VText*

Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers & Education62, 24-31.

Carrier, L. M., Rosen, L. D., Cheever, N. A., & Lim, A. F. (2015). Causes, effects, and practicalities of everyday multitasking. Developmental Review35, 64-78. VText*

*you will need to be logged in to the VT Network in order to access these documents via the link provided.

Multitasking does not exist

 

So Don’t even try – https://hbr.org/2010/12/you-cant-multi-task-so-stop-tr

You’re basically short-circuiting your brain’s ability to focus and attend to either (or any) of the tasks you are attempting to do simultaneously (but not) – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201103/technology-myth-multitasking

You’re actually engaged in ‘serial tasking’

There are designated areas of the brain that do specific things. And, sometimes you can seemingly do two things at once (like walk and talk or chew gum), but that does not translate into multi-tasking, according to neuroscientists – https://laurenpietila.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/multitasking-is-not-possible-according-to-neuroscience-attention-part-3/

And in trying to “multi-task” we are likely doing physical damage to ourselves – https://www.truthdig.com/articles/multitasking-its-dangerous-and-it-doesnt-really-exist/

I can’t believe I’m saying this: before you were born there was a great deal of value placed on doing one thing at a time and doing it to the best of your ability. When I was in my 20’s, I fell prey to the myth of believing that I could do two (or even three) things at once: I felt powerful, in control and like I had conquered the time-space continuum. I also didn’t learn to establish reasonable boundaries for myself or conserve my energy, so by the time I was 40, I was exhausted and realized the whole notion of do multiple things well at the same time was all an illusion.

There’s a better chance that one could live in two separate dimensions at the same time than do two things at the same time in one dimension. Chew on that for a moment.

Moral of this story: heed the example of your predecessors’ failures (as well as their successes), understand the scientific explanations of how the brain works/processes information, and make good choices so that you don’t burn out in the future (and pass this wisdom on to your students, please). Do one thing at a time, and do it well. Then the dopamine rush will carry you on to the next task, and the next, and the next.

Live long and prosper, my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other References  – from Cognitive Processes Course @ VT

Junco, R. (2012). In-class multitasking and academic performance. Computers in Human Behavior28(6), 2236-2243. VText*

Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers & Education62, 24-31.

Carrier, L. M., Rosen, L. D., Cheever, N. A., & Lim, A. F. (2015). Causes, effects, and practicalities of everyday multitasking. Developmental Review35, 64-78. VText*

*you will need to be logged in to the VT Network in order to access these documents via the link provided.

Critical Pedagogy: Education as Emancipation . . . or . . . Teach for the Sky

Table 3’s Take on Critical Pedagogy

Education is getting an overhaul. A growing appreciation of the dynamic nature of the world has led to dynamic classrooms, and we could not be more excited.

Previously, the initials CP might trigger vague thoughts of Canada’s largest international airline, or how physicists still measure luminosity (Candle Power). Not anymore! Now CP stands for one thing, and one thing only: Critical Pedagogy. But what is Critical Pedagogy?

Codified and championed by Paulo Freire, the Argentine polymath, CP is a revolutionary teaching approach that aims to challenge education’s traditionally authoritarian perspective (I teach, you learn). Whilst CP can be achieved in myriad different ways, there are several things it cannot do without.

Critical Pedagogy …

 

Requires dialogue between teacher and student

Teachers must know their students in order to be able to teach effectively, thus the relationship between the two, and the one that exists between the teacher and the collective group of students (class), guides and shapes the education that is given and received.

 

Facilitates the asking of questions   

 

 

 

 

 

Is political and requires teachers to be engaged in societal issues and debates

 

Is Centered upon the Concept of Biophily – nature is inherently dynamic, and thus can only be fully understood if we appreciate the changes and adaptations of natural systems over time.

Neither students nor teachers are static entities, and this has direct consequences for both teaching style and course content. Failure to recognize the fluid nature of a classroom will likely lead to failure. What’s more, the progress of society hangs on these shared dynamic properties, without which there would be no reason for hope. We have made it this far, but only by the skin of our teeth.

video – 4 Billion Years of Evolution in 40 Seconds

Blog post: Freire and Fromm on Necrophily

 

Searching to define the ‘best’ way of teaching – versus thinking that the existing way ‘works fine’.

 

Democratic in its approach to including all perspectives:

  • Attends to equity rather than equality   

 

Another illustration from a different perspective (CP in action!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flexible in its construction: not proscriptive or prescriptive – utilize what makes sense, adopt practices and outcomes that align within the general framework of Frerie’s ideas, but does not need to follow them exactly

 

Respects students’ pre-existing knowledge and make use of it.

Learning goes beyond re-learning existing knowledge, includes the creation of new knowledge. The teaching process is more than knowledge transfer, encouraging the learners to create and recreate knowledge for themselves.

 

An example for this from Chang:

My previous research was focused on some new functional nanomaterials before I came to Virginia Tech. Then I joined the group at VT which the projects were mostly about environmental contaminants detection by spectrum analysis. By using this kind of analysis, substrates were employed to get the chemical compound detected. In some specific project, the nanomaterial I studied before could be used as perfect substrates in the work we are doing now. It s a great incorporation for which I could dig deeper based on my previous study and make use of it in the future research. My advisor totally respects what I have got and he said he had definitely learned something from it.  

 

Open to various ideas and perspectives  

Multiple perspectives are essential in order to reach various learners  and promotes students adopting various perspectives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group Members:

Brittany Boribong, Chang Liu, Faith Skiles, Jonathan Harding, George Brooks, Kathryn Culbertson

#IAmACuriousBeing

It has become apparent, to me in the past few years, that humans possess the answers to how to become all that we can be for at least 100 years. And, we continue to learn what we need to be

 

“It is through the exercise of tolerance that I discover the rich possibility of doing things and learning different things with different people. Being tolerant is not a question of being naive. On the contrary, it is a duty to be tolerant. “

 

Freire recognizes the importance of teachers being critical thinkers and learners in order to effectively and constructively pass along this critical way of perceiving and living in the world:

“The more I learn about myself as a thinker and kind of epistemologist proposing a critical way of thinking and a critical way of teaching, of knowing [for] the teachers in order for them to work differently with the students.”

And he understood the responsibility of every person to be educated well enough to influence the course of humanity:

“[T]he more they can grasp the dominant syntax, the more they can articulate their voices and their speech in the struggle against injustice.”

Because what is more important in being human than to search for, and learn to recognize ‘truth’ over ‘untruth’. In other words: light versus dark, good over evil.

“Change … is difficult, but [always] possible. ”

~ Paulo Freire

    Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy and Civic Courage

 

 

Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Rowman & Littlefield.

Dream Learning

I dream about learning constantly. I dream at night about my own learning: finding my way, getting out of situations or trouble, helping others, finding something that is lost. I dream during the day of how to create a learning environment that is free from constraints of time and grades, but not standards or measures of competency – I think of them more like literacy standards (Seymour and others): the basic building blocks of understanding that will help to scaffold additional learning and create opportunity for greater awareness.

I am a teacher, and Educator. If I were asked if I always wanted to be a teacher I would say ‘yes’ even though I did not turn to it as a profession until I was in my mid-thirties. I have always been an educator. I read to my friends and showed them the things I knew about words, playing Chutes and Ladders, what flowers grew under the trees, how fast I could ride my bicycle to the end of the road and back.  When I was in college, I became a peer tutor and quickly realized that in facilitating others’ understanding of accounting methods I learned the content more explicitly than had I studied on my own. When I was a young adult, I worked with middle school students to show them the power behind organizational theory, basic economic principles and business planning. When I became a mother, I reveled in demonstrating what I knew, exposing my children to the wonders of the natural world, and how to pay attention to their surroundings.

In my mind I can see the learning Dewey (and Montessori, and Reggio) envisioned for children: through experiences and under the guidance of adults who can encourage, challenge and re-direct (if necessary) toward successful practice and understanding.

 

Becoming “Real”

There are few things in life that confound me more than humans choosing to do something – often repetitively – when they know the outcome will be unfair, unreasonable, unrewarding and/or unrevealing. Grading performance in an academic setting is one of those things. Alfie Kohn’s arguments for re-thinking assessment are both sound (research-based) and logical.  One particular revelation struck me as being at the heart of the matter: Maehr and Midgley’s (1996) observation that “an overemphasis on assessment can actually undermine the pursuit of excellence.” Kohn himself summarized the issue even more clearly: “the more students are led to focus on how well they’re doing, the less engaged they tend to be with what they’re doing.” Isn’t this completely counter to what is intended to be accomplished in the education endeavor?

This observation is reflected in a few of the blog posts others wrote reflecting on this topic:

Vanessa Guerram did an interesting post on the difference between educating for the workforce (filling a need of society) versus educating to empower [the individual].

The notion that somehow economic security trumps individual fulfillment has confounded me for years. And as Vanessa eloquently acknowledges “if education systems focus on students’ learning experiences, education will be about empowering students so they can find the tools they need to make their difference in the world.”

If students are able to focus on becoming experienced – possessing both skills and understanding – won’t they be productive citizens and contribute to the greater good of society?

Jaci Drapeau finds Kohn’s arguments limited and more synergy with Elbow’s argument for “more evaluation” which focuses on growth of students’ abilities or sophistication.

I appreciate Jaci’s reading of Elbow. Through her blog post the clarity of the language used – evaluation versus assessment – was more clear after contemplating it from her perspective. Evaluation, in Elbow’s work, is akin to an apprentice relationship: the student learns from a master and receives guidance, crtique, and challenges along the way to refining one’s craft/understanding. Through the experiences one learns and becomes more capable of applying understanding to new situations, problems or innovation.

Lauren Kennedy questions the feasibility of an alternative evaluation system (narrative) in the context of a system that is based upon summative assessment and grades quantified in numbers.

Lauren’s contemplation of where would the education system be without some sort of number-based assessment system was also clarifying. It helped to see the existing system as serving its own needs rather than those of the individual “engaged … in what they’re doing.” (Kohn

Becoming a real _______ [can be filled with any occupation or title] requires the development of the skills, mindset and demonstrated proficiencies that are expected within the field(s). And, while we have established systems where grades represent progress toward becoming real, they rarely reflect ‘real’ anything.

Feedback (both positive and negative) is essential to progressing and developing one’s craft.  Few humans exist and work simply for the benefit of themselves. Effective feedback can be liberating for the perfectionist and the individual who is stuck in an unproductive process: it can be the catalyst for new perspective that leads to original insight. Feedback that leads to an informed evaluation of a student’s progress – their growth – through certain carefully crafted exercises/projects/artifacts intended to develop one’s skills, thinking and articulation should be the aim of any educational endeavor. Grades mean next to nothing to anyone involved in the ‘earning’ or ‘distribution’ if there is no meaningful and intentional feedback.

 

____________________________

Kohn, A. (2011). The case against grades. Educational Leadership69(3), 28-33. Retrieved from:  http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/case-grades/

Maher, M. L., & Midgley, C. (1996). Transforming school culture. CO: Westview.

Practice Makes Permanent

I think we’re each a product of the culture we were raised within. This isn’t really a stretch. Of course, it’s true. But how many of us have really taken time to think about what that really means, in terms of how we ‘fit’ into the world we inhabit? How many of us realize how much we were influenced by the way the adults around us responded to the world (or didn’t), how our community’s  sense of place, privacy, responsibility, influence shaped how we saw ‘others’ and responded in stressful situations. How many of us consider the history, perspectives and values of people we meet for the first time and how that shapes how they interact, what they say and how they hear what we say?

I grew up in the 1970’s and ’80’s – those were my sentient, formative years. The years when I was paying attention to what was going on around me and when I was trying to ‘fit in’. I wasn’t aware of any of that stuff outlined above. I didn’t even realize that the benign neglect my parents demonstrated was detrimental much more than there wasn’t dinner on the table every night and they weren’t in the stands (or even knew) when I was running a cross country meet or playing soccer. I don’t think either of my parents ever came to a sports event I was involved with. My dad liked coming to football games on Friday nights, but not so much because I was in the marching band: he was much more interested in being raunchy and obnoxious with the low brass boys, and watching football. That’s ok because I wasn’t terribly interested in hanging out with my dad at football games on Friday nights and I ditched him as fast as I could most weeks. (I should mention, my parents divorced when I was seven, so I only saw my dad once a week at most) For the most part, I was a ‘free range kid’ in the sense that no one worried about me unless I didn’t show up by dark or I called because I had fallen off my bike (and we didn’t have cell phones at the time either).  I roamed in about a five-mile radius from home and rarely did my parents know the full story of where I was, who I was with or what we were doing.

That sense of freedom grew as I did through my teens and into my early twenties. I rarely had to answer to anyone about choices I made, the friends I chose to hang out with, the places I worked. I felt like I had conquered the world by the time I got to college. I had always felt like a round peg in a square hole in many respects: most of my friends in high school (in NoVA) were from intact families and were at least second generation college-goers. (although I’ve found out since that most grew up with the same sort of feeling of benign neglect that I did, or worse) We weren’t poor, but I always felt like we weren’t as well off as others around us (that was more a function of my parents’ frugality – they had both grown up at the end of the depression in working-class families). I prowled the local mall, found a group of wildlings like myself and got into some ‘interesting’ situations – often referred to as ‘poor personal choices’ today. Most of my 20’s were spent doing what I wanted to, working toward that elusive thing called ‘adulthood’ that I would know when I saw it, or at least that’s what I was told.

The only other thing that is important about this story of my youth is that I was born into two families that knew how to fight for what they wanted or needed. My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents had survived their own travails as children and adults, and it was ingrained in our DNA that if necessary, we were able to survive. Just as an example, my high school guidance teacher called me to her office during my junior year to tell me that my grades and course choices were not ‘college material’ and I should consider a vocational option past high school. She was ‘doing her job’ and was woefully underinformed about who I was or what I intended to do with my life, but I recall saying that not going to school was not an option for me. My parents expected me to go to college – that was certain. And I did know that it was my ‘ticket’ to the future. I didn’t have any intention of not going just because this woman, who didn’t even know me beyond my ‘file’, had decided I wasn’t capable of handling it.

I fought a lot for what I wanted – back then we called it a ‘struggle’, but in hindsight, it was a fight. I learned how to get around people that stood in my way, how to face others who thought they could exploit or manipulate me (or friends), and I began to develop a sense of being a force to be reckoned with. My first job was as a compliance officer for a company that hired retired military men as insurance and securities salesmen. That was a fight most days (and could fill a book). I had to constantly resist my father’s insistence that I get a government job for the security and guaranteed pension. I had to learn how to resist the sexism, classism and mean-girl attitudes that pervaded the 1980’s, and I learned how to fight for political and community values that seemed to be eroding before my very eyes. I figured out that adults didn’t know half of what they professed to, and that rules were made for people who needed them. There’s more, but I think I’ve made my point.

All of this as a response to the tone and messages of our readings/viewings this week related to Mindfulness.  I’ve capitalized it on purpose. It is a philosophy that I had to be introduced to. It did not ‘fit’ into my early life paradigm of scrapping through difficulty, ignoring barriers, pushing past people who tried to stand in my way, and making space for myself and what I wanted from life. I was not selfish in my wants – I was more of a champion for the underdog, a role I knew well.

It didn’t happen until I was in my mid-30’s and struggling with the fight on a minute-by-minute basis. It’s worthy of more than a mention, but I was exhausted from the fight and literally couldn’t fight through any more. I had two wonderful, beautiful children, a nice house in the suburbs, a husband who was happy, engaged and supportive, a large extended family. There were a series of deaths in my family that had left me feeling very vulnerable to the forces of the universe, but that was only the visceral catalyst for the dissatisfaction with the world I was feeling. I was deeply unhappy as a public school educator: exhausted by having to endure the stresses and pressures that responsibility for other people’s children can heap upon one; of dealing with colleagues who thought that they didn’t have to demonstrate civility and compassion toward each other, the children (and families) that they engaged with, and a system that knew – absolutely knew – it wasn’t serving every child’s best interest but it was doing a ‘good enough’ job.  I fell into a very deep depression. The can-do spirit and the scrappy attitude I had cultivated throughout my life was a fleeting memory.

For six months I struggled to make sense of what was happening. For the first nine weeks I functioned in a fog. The next three months I tried to make sense of how I felt, how everything could have crashed down around me like it did – what had happened and what could I do to ‘get back to normal’. I got back to what appeared to be ‘normal’ (worthy of another tale), but I am not the same as I was before. I was lucky, once again, and found a way toward Mindfulness philosophy through Buddhism, yoga and meditation.  At the time, it was much more of a personal journey, but now (eight years later) I see it as an evolution into a sphere of understanding that helps me make sense of the world, to support others in their journeys through life, and to be my authentic self, even if I don’t always ‘fit’.

Ellen Langer’s Mindful Learning work is rich with the learning and lessons that came to me only after I had crashed and burned. The being aware  of one’s surroundings enough to understand them and how you function within is such a valuable lesson to know and understand while in college and into one’s 20’s. I wish I had. The notion that we are all capable of learning beyond what is being taught is liberating, isn’t it? And, the ability to think deeply, question assumptions and expectations, to be aware of the constraints that culture, family and community (including less mindful professors, advisors and mentors) can place upon you is so very important to being able to function freely – to be a free range learner – in both times of ease and strife, that is the real value of a liberal education. None of us are perfect. We may think we are, or we may strive to be, but I’m convinced it is not possible, or even desirable to be so. I am fairly convinced though that if we are mindful in our attitude, and authentic in our actions, kind to others and seek to do good in this world then we will have achieved ‘greatness’ for ourselves.

===================

A brief note about some of the other Mindful sources from this week (I couldn’t work them into this post in a more artistic way):

This quote from A New Culture of Learning (Thomas and Brown 2011) is so very powerful:

Change motivates and challenges. It makes clear when things are obsolete or have outlived their usefulness. But most of all, change forces us to learn differently. If the twentieth century
was about creating a sense of stability to buttress against change and then trying to adapt to it, then the twenty-first century is about embracing change, not fighting it.

I could not agree more. And I think this is kind of what I was getting at above, although in a very veiled way. There is a liberation that happens when one can embrace and welcome change, a sense of renewed hope for what is possible that doesn’t always exist in a stable environment. It is not comfortable, but the discomfort often pales in comparison to the freedom that results. (thinking about Plato’s Cave allegory here).  And if the twentieth century was really about creating a sense of stability, which I buy (two world wars, a worldwide depression, countless other regional wars, environmental, political and social instability)

Ken Robinson – How to Escape Education’s Death Valley

Sir Ken Robinson has been a champion of looking critically at the dysfunction of education systems. He has informed my beliefs and values for what is a ‘free and appropriate’ education for children and his perspective has lifted me out of feeling hopelessly frustrated more than once. His anectdotes and analogies are touching and reach into people’s thinking through humor. But he, like others, are ‘faces’ for the hard work going on in classrooms and communities each day. There are real people who are working themselves to death to keep children in school, to teach them all that they can and to shape them into humans worth knowing. While Robinson’s words and thoughts are uplifting, be mindful – and actively engaged – with the educators who are fighting the good fight each day. And be engaged parents, if you choose to take on that challenge: support wide learning opportunities, resist ‘group think’ and  standardization of learning that serves only the institution and not the individual.

 

Why PEAS Are the Key to a Successful Education | Dr. Michael Hynes

I can’t recall how this made it into the mix, its obviously not part of the reading list..

This is one of those tireless educators I mentioned above. Dr. Hynes has scrapped through his own issues in life, and likely had some sort of mid-life revelation, about what is real and important in the world. I am grateful that he is able to stand up and tell his story because it does inform the rest of the world in a way that is positive, challening and possible. And PEAS should be the goal for us all – both as individuals and as educators.

It is lofty in approach,  and the bookThe Educational Conversation: Closing the Gap and Parker Palmer’s work has deeply informed my values as an educator.

 

Garrison, J. W., & Rud, A. G. (Eds.). (1995). The educational conversation: closing the gap. SUNY Press. Dr. Garrison is a Professor here at Virginia Tech

Dr. Garrison is a Professor here at Virginia Tech and typically teaches an ed. philosophy course in the spring related to this book. Last year it was titled Gaps in the Educational Conversation.  He is a world-reknown Dewey Scholar and a professor of mindful teaching himself.

Thoughts on Why Lecture is Obsolete: and why gamification may turn education on its head

I think that the cultural relationship we have to ‘school’ and ‘lecture’ are the largest contributing factor to why lectures persist as a teaching method, even though few students believe that they are effective (personally) or significant, in terms of what is actually learned.

I read Robert Talbert’s article: Four Things Lecture is Good For reluctantly, because I, like so many of us, do not feel that lecture is an effective pedagogy most of the time. But I was much more optimistic about the power of lecture after I read it. I agree with Talbert’s assessment that if a lecture is intentionally prepared and delivered for one of the four purposes he states, it could very well be a positive learning method. But I don’t recall any lectures I have attended in a university setting that were intentionally delivered, or framed as being for one of the purposes enumerated by Talbert (modeling thought processes, sharing cognitive structures, providing context, telling stories). I have listened to plenty of TED Talks, attended book introductions, attended presentations of research and study findings, heard people tell stories about their life and experiences and never considered them to be lectures. But I never thought about why.

So, I’ve decided to take a few minutes to do so. To make sure I was operating from a solid foundation, I looked up the Oxford Dictionary definition for the word ‘lecture’. The two listed were what I expected, but then I looked at the etymology which is most interesting:

lecture (n.) Look up lecture at Dictionary.comc. 1300, “written works, literature;” late 14c., “learning from books,” from Medieval Latin lectura “a reading,” from Latin lectus, past participle of legere “to read,” originally “to gather, collect, pick out, choose” (compare elect), from PIE root *leg- (1) “to collect, gather,” with derivatives meaning “to speak (to ‘pick out words’).” To read is, perhaps, etymologically, to “pick out words.”

The sense “a reading aloud, action of reading aloud” (either in divine worship or to students) in English emerged early 15c. That of “a discourse on a given subject before an audience for purposes of instruction” is from 1530s. Meaning “admonitory speech given with a view to reproof or correction” is from c. 1600. Lecture-room is from 1793; lecture-hall from 1832. In Greek the words still had the double senses relating to “to speak” and “to gather” (apologos “a story, tale, fable;” elaiologos “an olive gatherer”)

(link to Online Etymology Dictionary)

As soon as I read it I recalled learning that years ago as I was beginning to teach. Lectures were not originally intended to be centered on what the Lecturer had to say to whoever was listening, their primary intent was to transmit knowledge – which at the time resided largely in books – in a story-like fashion. I envision ancient Greeks going to listen to a teacher or elder reading (lecturing) from a book written by Pythagoras, Socrates or Plato – transmitting their ideas and understanding in a way that was not accessible to every person at the time. Lectures, in that time (and, I would argue, through the beginning of the twentieth century) were one of the only effective means of transmitting knowledge. They may not have been ideal, but they were a step up from what was happening before they made their debut (think: believing myth, story and innuendo/gossip as ‘truth’). They were evolutionarily appropriate and allowed more humans to think reasonably and rationally about truth and accuracy.

I would argue that lectures have held on as ‘acceptable’ pedagogy because of how deeply ingrained they are in the fabric of our existence. We’ve never really known a world without them being used, and we’re not convinced yet (at least not the majority of us humans) that they are not an effective means for transmitting understanding.

But there is hope all around – and plenty of new thinking about pedagogy that should result in more and better learning among people of all ages. My favorite one to think about at the moment is gamification.

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Thanks to Jason Callaghan for his post “With a show of hands who wants to be lectured at?” which spurred my further reflection.

Tomorrow is Here Now

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say “why do we need to do this differently?” or simply avoid change. It is difficult for me to comprehend why anyone would want to continue to do anything the exact same way, day in and day out even if whatever they were doing worked perfectly. Learning is a function of either not knowing something and taking the time and energy to absorb/comprehend it, or making a mistake and then finding a way out whether its a mess or another opportunity that results.  There are times that I wish I didn’t have to struggle so much/long to work my way out of a problem, but looking back those are exactly the times that I revel in my accomplishment and ability to overcome the obstacles that stood in the way. That sounds cliche, and I am not one for quippy aphorisms or platitudes. But I don’t know how else to explain what learning and accomplishment looks like, to me.

In my youth, there was a sentiment that some people were “born before their time” meaning that they were visionaries, able to see around corners where others couldn’t, being able to imagine the future being radically different than the present day, or having such a unique talent, perspective or ability that they were perceived as one-of-a-kind. I don’t hear that phrase very much anymore. And I don’t see the same things being considered as ‘before one’s time’. Instead, the unique person – the visionary – is one who possesses the skills and experiences to deal with situations as they arise with enthusiasm and confidence, seeking innovative ways to solve problems or create solutions because of her/his unique perspective.

I have wrestled with this post most of the week, and have decided to make a list of inspirations from some of the materials to view and read. The Digital media video was truly inspirational: to know that there are so many other adults out in the world attempting to ‘change’ the way change is perceived, and provide children and youth – particularly – different ways of seeing the world they live within just a little differently and inspire them to learn. And Talbert’s article gave me pause to consider what good there might still be in a ‘lecture’ from a different perspective.

Digital Media – New Learners of the 21st Century

Form groups to learn …

Take an active role in order to shape their [learning] experiences…

Don’t sit in front of textbooks

system-based thinking: trial and error

the power and importance of play

tinkering brings thought and action together in some very magical ways

lifelong learning event

Game design (in school) teaches you to attack a complex problem in smaller pieces. It also makes you think on many different levels at once.

How do we get people prepared to learn in the future for things that don’t even exist now, and how do we prepare them to be able to innovate and solve problems and not just know a bunch of facts they can’t use.

A game is just a problem space … you must solve in order to win

Digital media is a tool … we’re learning from it

standards are a baseline …

If a learning system is well-designed, you don’t finish it without the guarantee that you’ve learned …

[we can] build such rich learning systems that they … assess themselves.

We’ve used the term ‘addiction’ to refer to things we don’t value, but they may, in fact,  be valuable to students and young people in their lives.

 

Digital Youth Network – brings a wide variety of opportunities to youth that may never have the opportunities otherwise.

In the 21st century, kids need passion … because learning requires a lot of practice

If you put opportunities in front of him, he’ll take advantage of it

Digital media … is changing the ecology of reading and writing. Different practices happen. Different types of texts are produced. Kids are doing more reading and writing than they ever did. [They’re just not doing it the same way they did before]

Media work builds on top of traditional literacy: and if a kid hasn’t had art, if they don’t understand color, if they don’t understand shapes and circles, then it’s very hard for them to say ‘we want to do graphic design’

A lot of learning happens outside of the classroom

We know that the learning outside of school matters tremendously in school

Every child has an interest…

[T]he responsibility of libraries, museums, schools, after school programs … is to help kids identify those interests and then … become more advanced … [with an] academic coach.

When you put a phone in their hand and say “look, you’re the photographer. You’re going to be … looking for objects.” Something actually happens. They look more closely …

They are engaged in the process of constructing meaning (not simply receptors of knowledge)  {KgC commentary}

Place-based learning … is mobile. It’s also pervasive in that you have it with you all of the time. Students, an hour later or later that night or over the weekend can continue to do work because they have the mobile device with them.

Removes the barriers [to meaningful learning] of walls, reliance solely on tangible resources, dependence upon ad

 

ults for providing information, tools and environment {KgC commentary}

The game has them look closer at the objects, have to learn about the objects to communicate information in their scavenger hunts [and] allows them to be more active and take a role in their experience.

 

There are a whole new set of tools accessible to help bring content to students … and increase your audience.

How do [we] move from the notion of individual expertise to collective expertise? Most of our learning could very well come from the interaction with peers in [our] particular collective[s] … In peer based collaboration you’re both learning and teach

ing. And that sense of having to explain something is often where you discover what you know and don’t know.

 

 

The individual student is being empowered … to follow a personal path to learning. [T]hey’re going to feel more confident, they’re going to believe more in the creative process, and they’re going to believe more that they can make a contribution to this world that is positive.

~    , Director Hirshorn Museum of Art

Humans don’t learn from abstractions. They don’t learn from just a bunch of words. They learn from having experiences and then learning how to generalize, eventually, from lots of experiences: find patterns in them and then marry them to words.

~ James Gee

Augmented reality game allows students to get out into their community, learn history from a game-based learning platform and then recognize the built environment and address what the needs may be for re-designing the town to address the desires of the community.

We can imagine a system [of learning] is not just about what job you’re going to have by about making everybody able to participate in society, to have dignity, to be able to innovate …. And then we’re going to have to deal with the problem that society is too smart for some of the jobs, which would b a nice problem to deal with.

An intelligent society where everybody can produce knowledge and collaborate with each other to make a better society would make us much more successful in the long run in the global economy.

~ James Gee

 

Robert Talbert, “Four Things Lecture is Good For

There is no doubt that I do not appreciate lectures. Like Talbert, I am inspired by others’ speaking about issues that they are passionate about, but I do not learn well when lecture is the primary driver for knowledge conveyance.  But his four things, in the context presented, do make a compelling argument for how a lecture format can be an effective tool for learning.

1.   Modeling thought processes

The idea of modeling is not new to elementary teachers. There is as much information conveyed to children in how you act/move as there is in what you say to young children. Their first learning experiences are all about watching and imitating gestures, walking, expressing emotion and all types of other non-verbal activities. If I take two minutes to show a child how to do something, I imagine it saving ten to twenty minutes of talking and possible re-teaching if I only use words (that are subject to misinterpretation or misperception.)

I can recall several instances where I was able to pick up on the thought processes, rationale and thinking that the ‘teacher’ was using to get to an appropriate solution.

2.  Sharing Cognitive Structures

While Talber’s example is rather facile, I can imagine fairly easily how this purpose could ignite understanding and provide the scaffolding a student needs to break through to understanding an abstract concept or idea when it is shared by an expert: learn from the master comes to mind. I imagine there are countless opportunities in every discipline or subject for this method to be effective: application of a mathematical formula; understanding a law of physics, chemistry or cell biology; determining the correct language to use in a paper; using a technique or tool appropriately in art, design or engineering.

3. Giving Context

Providing the appropriate mindset, setting and relationships is another fairly effective tool of the K-8 trade. As James Gee said in the Digital Media video (above):

Humans don’t learn from abstractions. They don’t learn from just a bunch of words. They learn from having experiences and then learning how to generalize, eventually, from lots of experiences: find patterns in them and then marry them to words.

Providing context allows students to use both their own experiences and their ability to abstract to develop their understanding of new material.

4. Telling Stories

Stories are a powerful way of transmitting knowledge and history – they were at the origin of mankind and have held their value through time. Stories based on both knowlege and history  provide context for further learning and understanding and allow students to insert themselves into the story as well.

21st Century learning is dawning as an age of personalization of learning experiences but working toward a collective knowledge base that makes us all responsible to and for one another’s learning.

Tomorrow is definitely here now.

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