Archive for January, 2007

UMW reports on how they developed a toolbox for first year students that would encourage them to take control of their learning, see college as something more and different form “13th grade.” Learning is all about making connections and social softwares allow this in amazing ways. Their criteria was: web-based abd “RSSy” (aggregatable) and empower students as individuals AND as members of a community. The tools inlcude MediaWiki, WordPress, Delicious and Flicker. Look at Steve Greenlaw’s as an example.

They wanted these freshmen to learn how to be part of a learning community, with the idea that thye will take this forward in their academic lives. Student post-course survey showed that the tool students are most wanted to use more was FLickr!

How did they structure the assignments and deal with grading? Portfolio: choose their best posts, analyze why they were best, tell how they show engagement with the class. Barbara Ganley says she has students create grading rubrics with her and then argue for a grade! She also asked her question that she mentioned in her own session yesterday: what happens to students once they leave this engaged learning community and go back to the “old style” in the rest of the university. Gardner talks about how some students now ask to use their own blog space and link in to the class blog. (Now I have another question: how do you decide: single linked blogs or one multiuser blog?) Gardner’s fascinating vision of the future is that we will all have our own lifelong learning space that we will make our connections in and store info in and connect to different classes at different times in our lives!

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University of Dayton presents on Learning spaces at ELI 2007. Early on in the talk, David Wright made this comment about pasive learning, and I was instantly intrigued. He went on to show MRI images of brains in action. The brain is the REAL learning space. Our job is to get more parts of the brain to light up. Not just more parts, but the middle part of the brain where the higher cognitive functions happen. George Kuh of NSSE and Deep Schools

living mission and lived ed philosophy

unshakeable focus on student learning


Space is dedicated for social and catylitic interactions.

I had more notes that I have now lost because I didn’t save ARRGGHH. I’ll try to recreate the gist:

The architect said that he has moved from considering students per square foot to considering square feet of learning!

Deborah Bickford had excellent insights into the importance of having teams that design spaces which include ALL stakeholders, including maintenance staff, and in helping the team to learn about learning spaces and facilitating conversation that has a balance between creativity and concrete decision making. Their teaching center had really cool space too, and they also mentioned IUPUI and Chism’s group and space.  While we preach collaboration, do we ourselves practice it? Do our spaces encourage or evn allow it??
This session was excellent and exciting. Summary: instead of thinking of starting communities and then later making spaces for them, consider how spaces SPARK community. I will try to link back to the supporting materials when ELI has it up.

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advice for lecturers

Sometimes Faculty Developers get a bad rap for being anti-lecture.  I am not against all lecturing; I am against boring lectures!  This blog has some well written and wise advice for making presentations.  And really, aren’t lectures presentations?  I hear echoes in this list of advice from one of UR’s great professors–Joe Hoyle

Still, the rubber hits the road when students get to enter into the discussion and try out new ideas.  We should try to make space in our classrooms for this.  And when we lecture, it should be interesting and engaging in its own right so that students are motivated to try the hard work of applying ideas.  Maybe we should do a PETE lunch on “Lectures that Kill” and look at lectuers that “kill” in the good sense, and lectures that kill in a bad way…

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Play is a perpetual motion machine that generates and uses energy simultaneously and about equally, at least until we get to what Emily Dickinson calls “The manner of the children, who weary of the day, / Themselves the noisy playthings they cannot put away.”

Gardner recently ended a post with this comment and it has been knocking around in my head. People who know me have often heard my rant that goes something like this: kids start out as expert learners, learning through their playing, and then we send them to school and kill of their desire to learn by making play into work. What divides play from work? I think it has something to do with external reward, and the results can be differentiated as Gardner suggests–by graphing the flow of energy. Work uses energy and results in the external reward of money. Play is different; it both uses and generates energy.

One of my goals in teaching is to get my students to play. For our students, that is a tough sell. They have been really successful in our system by being good workers, understanding that if they do as they are told they will be paid with a high grade. This grade is a currency because it is the necessary payment to move to the next level of education and the work world. So they are smart enough to doubt anyone who tries to say “grades don’t matter; it is about the learning and not the grade.” Ultimately that is a lie because we still give them a grade at the end of our time together.

I am well aware of the importance of assessment and feedback (some here have referred to me as the person in charge of assessment for our ipod program, though I like to think I am coordinating the assessment attempts of many…) Research shows that the closer the feedback is to the attempt, the better the learning, (which can be challenging for us writing teachers who need lots of time to generate thoughtful feedback). My time listening to student feeback in the form of voice memos has had a profound effect on me. One of the things I am realizing is this: students are not very good evaluators of their own learning. I find myself laughing at the students who say “I didn’t really learn anything from doing the Creature Feature Podcast or listening to other students’ podcasts because it wasn’t on the test.” Then the same student, when answering the next question (how did your feelings about your creature change?) will speak in detail about the organism he studied, including its scientific name, habitat, etc. I have been trying to figure out why they don’t recognize their own learning. Could part of the answer be that we never let them recognize it? We tell them that WE will let them know what they have learned in the form of a test with a grade attached reflecting how many questions were answered correctly. The Creature Feature Podcast challenged students to both master new technology and to get creative and have some fun when presenting the information. Some of the promise I see in educational technology is that it has the power to pull students back into the world of play and personal investment and creativity. But I think we in higher ed have to be realistic about the system our students were trained in. We may have to spend some time teaching the students the value of play and what real learning is, and give them both the time and space to experience these things. I find lots to be hopeful about for the next generation when I see work such as that of Project NML which I learned about in Christopher Sessum’s blog . Why? Because their conception of how to help devlop children’s “technical literacy” involves the many complexities of play, collaboration, synthesis, etc. It is a much more rich conception than that exhibited in the comments posted on a recent article in “Inside Higher Ed.”  IT seems critically important to me that we grab the potential of new technologies to transform education, and not shove these new activities into old paradigms.

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