Archive for May, 2008

EEK! I just realized I never posted this link to the video of Hoyle and Ayers!
enjoy this video


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At our fabulous end of year lunch today, we were talking about the possible death of No Child Left Behind when the new administration is in office next year. While we all agreed that SOL’s have been a terrible travesty as they have focussed all education on testing, there was a pause when I announced what I see in the future: personalized learning for every student. Well, I used the language Individualized Education Plan which I think got us off on the wrong foot, raising fears of even more bureauocracy, but, really: with less fearful regulation surrounding them, don’t you feel every student deserves their own plan, fitted to their own learning style and needs??

Then I watched a video created in part by Pearson Education and heard internationally renowned educators saying the kinds of things I hoped to hear educators say: the old model doesn’t work in the new millenium. Take a look yourself, and see what you think.

Coming soon, I will be working with a group of professors to develop some new pre-orientation programs aimed at helping students with the intellectual transition from high school to college. As someone who teaches first year students, I am painfully aware that K-12 has not prepared them well for what I will be asking them to do: think independently, analyze, pursue an idea with passion, collaborate with others in their learning community, make mistakes and get messy! The plan of these “pre-o’s” is to give students a taste of what learning can be like once they are free of SOL’s and standardized testing. We’ll be using the materials from AAC&U’s LEAP project to do this, which ties success in the 21st century economy to the methods and golas of liberal arts education. It is a really exciting project. Stay tuned for results!

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This article struck a chord with me. Science educators are exploring an innovative way to help students learn: drawing. This is something I have been experimenting with too. Here is a picture my students came up with earlier this year when we were reading Nietzsche’s “On the Geneaology of Morals.” During the first 10 minutes of class, the small groups had to come up with something to say to the class. Depending on the work under discussion, I would change up their prompts, but one of their favorites remained: Come up with some kind of visual aid to explain today’s reading.

Students loved this job even though they found it challenging. It really forced them to grapple with ideas and synthesize them in new ways. I highly recommend this strategy. It can make even Marx a lot of fun : )

back to grading…

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I didn’t expect to get information that would be so important to me at this conference for library instruction since that is not my field. But Laurel Ofstein from the Depaul Center for Creativity and Innovation spoke as a keynote and helped me to see a model for a work environment that SO appeals to me!

We can and must CREATE a climate for creativity and collaboration. Here are the major elements the enviroment must provide:

Challenge and Involvement
: meaningfulness vs. disengagement (all members part of goal setting…getting a variety of thinking styles in the group, also get all stakeholders)
Freedom: Autonomy vs. Strict Guidelines
Idea Time: slack vs. tightness (great ideas and breakthroughs happen in the bath, on the bus and in bed…) (composting time)
Idea Support (resources vs. Automatic “No”)
Low Degree of Conflict: tension is bad; climate of acceptance is good
Lots of Discussion: Participative vs. Authoritarion (**relaxed readiness–not jockeying, listening for a break to make a point. GOOD Listening skills are KEY)
Humor and Play (spontaneity vs. gravity) be glad to do things differently, experiment, play; not eyes on the prize with judgement and trying only to be “perfect”

Try this activity: assumption reversal
-write down the assumptions of your organization (eg: students need guidance from teachers) and reverse them (teachers need guidance from students OR students WANT guidance from teachers OR students do not need guidance from teachers)

another activity to try:
generate a problem/opportunity statement
–be broad, brief, beneficial
consider the outcomes: say this: “wouldn’t it be nice if…” write those statements on cards and read them out loud to the group. Discuss and brainstorm, look for themes, etc.

A couple of important points:

Negative statments discourage people from thinking of new solutions (“we don’t have the money,” etc.) ROADBLOCK!
instead: spend time imagining, defining the problem in different ways, BEFORE you jump to solution
A healthy environment will encourage “Risk Taking” and tolerance for uncertainty.

if everyone is coming to work every day scared to make a mistake, fearful, nothing good or innovative happens.

Here is a book she mentioned that I think might be helpful to us:
“Ideas are Free”

Cool session. who knew??

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Of birds and blogs


That is a picture of the nest outside my window at home. I have become a bit obssessed with the bird family, watching the momma bird spread her wings to keep the rain off the eggs and snuggling down on them when it gets cold. But she abandons her job at the slightest movement, which is why I have such a good shot of those gorgeous blue eggs. Eggs don’t hatch without that warming, so I try not to disturb her too often.

I’m in Chicago right now at a conference for librarians. Olivia nd I are talking about a project we did with my students in which they had to use research blogs. (See our presentation wiki.) It seems to me that the old style “research logs” were somewhat helpful for students, but there wasn’t much opportunity for feedback. When they did get feedback, it was way past the time when the questions and doubts were happening. In a way, student researchers were on their own, incubating their thoughts on their own as best they could.

It seems so clear to me that blogs are the perfect solution. With Olivia and I monitoring their writing in their blogs, we got to jump in close to the time that students needed some advice or support. Sometimes it was enough just to tell them that what they thought was “failure” in their search was really just part of the messy process of research. Students also read each others’ blogs. We had this whole community of support! Those of us who blog know how great that kind of community can be. But I do think it is a little different from the blogging that I do; the students put their links out there along with their doubts, confusion and half formed thoughts. I used to do more “processing” like that in my blog (this the blog name) but I notice that I am not taking as many risks as I used to. Do we get self-conscious, wanting to write only well-formed ideas? The problem with that is that a great opportunity is lost: if I am not exposing my doubts and half formed ideas, I lose the chance to have others help, inspire, spark…

I dunno…just thinking out loud here…

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Go 2.0!

NITLE alerted me to this article on a study showing how effective social networking tools are in getting information out. And this post over at the Common Carft Show tells me that May 1 is now “RSS Day”! (there is an organization promoting it who claims only 94% of internet users use RSS…could that be true??)

So I am doing my part.

RSS Awareness Day

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