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Archive for December 2011

2

Occupy Learning

OccupyA learner is going to find a way to learn what they need to know no matter how much they are tested, scolded, and herded from grade to grade, teacher to teacher. The world is changing. People are changing. I am seeing how more and more learners are finding their own way — to figure out who they are. Some are working through the system to get a degree and maybe find a job that may last a few years. They may retire with a pension, but, in more cases, they will move from job to job and not know if they will ever be able to retire. Many cannot find a job in their field. The system is broken and there’s a whole generation of workers discouraged and wondering why they spent their hard earned money on a degree that doesn’t get them a job or work that is something they are passionate about. A few start their own businesses but being an entrepreneur is something they were not prepared for in school.

Schools were designed around the factory model which has been in place for over 100 years. After years of teaching the same thing to all children — the “one size fits all” model, learners are demanding that their education meets their needs. Each person is unique and different and they are reaching out to get what they need wherever they can find it. Even the theorist John Dewey wrote in 1897:

John Dewey
“The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences.

How come Dewey knew this that long ago and the teacher still is the expert and the hardest working person in the classroom? Why is it taking so long to change?

There are a lot of factors in place that are impacting how schools are run. US schools are focused on teaching to the test and raising test scores. Textbook companies design curriculum and most teachers teach from the prescriptive script. That’s how they were taught and, basically, it is easier since the tests come from the same sources as the textbooks. Teachers are not supposed to be creative and innovative or take risks with the curriculum. It’s been tested, tried and true according the adoption process. But is it working?

Most textbooks are broken down into separate objectives that work if you are a high-achieving linguistic learner from New York or Texas. Everything is teacher-directed with examples and tips. However, each child is different in each classroom. Each teacher is different also. They may even have a mind of their own, background experiences that they can bring to the topic.

Personalizing learning will help your students do more than increase their scores because they will own their learning and use higher-order thinking skills that they will need to be global citizens and marketable. The world is different and more and more of our children are falling behind. We cannot teach out-dated strategies that will not prepare them for their future. The learner needs guidance to break out of the dependent role and drive their own learning. Students are leaving traditional school environments for online courses, home schools, and/or dropping out. Schools are closing. Teachers are being laid off. Communities are suffering. Change will happen if learners have anything to say about it.

So I say: Occupy Learning!!
Find a way to learn what you want when you want it. I use social media and curation tools to find resources around topics. I ask and search through my PLN (Personal Learning Network) for new ideas. We’re all learners together. You can find free online courses and webinars and even find a coach to guide you along your learning path. Learn who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Find your passion and go for it. Use whatever works for you. Don’t let anyone stop you from realizing your hopes and dreams.

Hopes and Dreams

2

Why Content Matters: Defining Personalization

Curating content makes sense of all the content that others are creating. According to Joe Pulizzi’s article “Forget Content Curation, Focus on Original Content in 2012” there is no curation without original content.

Curation is helping me find resources and learn new ideas from people I never knew. Like so many others, I am getting caught up in curation. I go to my Scoopit daily to find new resources from reputable sources that I am following. I never would have found the article from Joe Pulizzi unless I checked my dashboard.

But I agree about the main concept of his post. “There is no curation without original content.” His website is about content marketing and shares a graph about brand awareness that is pretty cool.

Content Marketing

If you want to brand yourself or a concept, you need to write about it. My focus is on personalizing learning and articles and resources that appear on that topic are all over the place. I am following content curators and finding original content creators on personalized learning. I need to find good content creators that have original ideas, research, and resources to help my research.

  1. Some companies are using the term “personalized learning” when actually they are designing courses or platforms where the teacher can control who accesses particular content or quizzes based on their answers. To me that’s customized and still teacher-directed. There is a difference between personalization and differentiation. One is learner-centered; the other is teacher-centered.

  2. Teachers are confused about the term “personalized learning” because they only know how to teach they way they were taught. So when I come in and talk about student-centered learning and starting with the learner, it just doesn’t happen right away. There are teachers that are posting lessons using the term “personalized learning” but have all control. I say “maybe this is the first step” to moving to student-centered learning, but it is not there yet.
  3. If you are curating content about personalizing learning, don’t just rescoop it without commenting on it. Curation needs your take on the article especially if the direction is different than yours. Explain why.

Creating content is important. The Internet is full of biased information and, in some cases, wrong information. We need your content and we need you to curate by adding your own comments and opinions. Be aware of buzz words and anyone using terms just to get work.

Check out my 11 Tips to Personalize Learning. It starts with the learner and determining how they learn best. They own and drive their learning. Much of the content I am finding still has the teacher working harder than their students. We need to start with each learner and have them figure out how they learn best. They are all unique just like their fingerprints.

Fingerprints

0

Curated Ecosystem of Live DJs

Seth Godin latest article, entitled “the trap of social media noise“, touches on one of the hot issues about the Internet. I curated this article from Seth which was reviewed eloquently from Robin Good who asked:

Are we creating and leveraging these tools to regurgitate and spit out more noise, or are we working to build tools and to help others understand the value of distilling and making sense of the information wave surrounding us?

Curation can also be an easy way to repost someone else’s information without doing much work yourself. You can share to multiple social networks and RSS feeds. This creates even more noise and confusion. Who was the original author and what is the intention of the curator?

Seth writes that “…either be better at pump and dump than anyone else, get your numbers into the millions, outmass those that choose to use mass and always dance at the edge of spam (in which the number of those you offend or turn off forever keep increasing)… or Relentlessly focus.

Prune your message and your list and build a reputation that’s worth owning and an audience that cares. Only one of these strategies builds an asset of value.”

Howard Reingold interviewed Robin Good about Curation in the video below. I have been following Robin on Scoopit and am learning how to be a curator from him. People can be gateways to the information we need instead of relying on digital robots using algorhythms that produce millions of resources in a search — millions that are not relevant.

I am enjoying building my Scoopits and gathering resources that will help me write and learn. But I do have some concerns similar to what Seth was writing about and Robin was talking about. Just getting your numbers up with followers, hits, comments, and others rescooping your scoops isn’t enough. The Internet is like drinking from a firehose. We need humans to filter now — not just put up lists to links and more links. Building a curated ecosystem means that each curator is customizing the flow of information for their audience. I am learning as I go. I’m following people with similar interests and finding and collecting sources that I would have missed in a basic search.

I am just dipping my toes in this new world and anxious to see where it ends up. Robin mentioned one thing that stuck out to me: “Are you a Mixed Tape or a Live DJ?” A live DJ finds information and distributes it the way his/her audience would enjoy it. A live DJ will talk about the music and personalize it. That’s what a curator can do with the resources they find.

0

The Authentic Learner: Who are you?

Kris De Leon wrote in her article Learning to Trust Myself

Man Thinking“I am starting this blog to help people who are now asking the bigger questions in life – Who am I? Why am I here? What’s my purpose?

I often hear people talking about how important it is to be real and authentic. So how do you be authentic when you don’t even know who you are? I asked myself these questions several months ago. I tried very hard to be the upbeat, positive person that everyone seemed to like. Was that really me? Or was I trying to cover up some things about me that I knew people wouldn’t like? Was I just pretending to be someone else just so they’d like me?”

This made me think about what the authentic self is for each of us and what that means as a learner. Each of us learns in different ways depending on our background, our parents, our environment, and so much else. I looked at these questions on Be Authentic and Self-Empowerment and thought “why aren’t we using these same tools to determine who each learner is?”

Here’s a few questions I would look at using or adapting to determine who each child is and their authentic self:

  • Who am I?

  • What is my story?
  • Am I ‘my story’?
  • What is my potential?
  • Where am I stuck?
  • What is my identity?
  • What are my fears?
  • What are my hopes and dreams?
  • What do you enjoy doing most?
  • What concerns do you have about your story now?
  • Is your story really your story or someone else’s?

Young children may not know how to answer these. Their parents may be directing what they need and want without being aware of it. There are other ways to determine how each child learns best: Multiple Intelligences, Universal Design Learning strategies, Learning Styles, etc. I’m not even sure who my authentic self is. I know I love to write and learn from others. I do know that I learn best by doing my own research, brainstorming with others, and taking a chance to try something new. What about you?

If each learner understands who they are and how they learn best, then they can help drive their learning with their teacher. The teacher shouldn’t be the hardest working person in the classroom. That’s what it is now. I coach teachers around the country and see how hard they work. Many teachers work too hard where students should be the ones working the hardest. Learning needs to be hard. Learning means you are learning something new that you don’t know yet. It means you are challenging yourself to reach out of your comfort zone. When you learn that something you didn’t know yet, it is rewarding and powerful.

So what if we spent more time in the early years working with parents and guardians to help students figure out who their authentic self is so they know their authentic learner?

6

Being in the Flow

When I think about engaging students, I think about Flow. Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

In 1997, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi published this graph that depicts the relationship between the challenges of a task and skills. Flow only occurs when the activity is a higher-than-average challenge and requires above-average skills.

Flow -- Engaging Students

Graph of Flow from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29

The center of this graph (where the sectors meet) represents one’s average levels of challenge and skill. The further from the center an experience is, the greater the intensity of that state of being (whether it is flow or anxiety or boredom or relaxation). Flow only occurs when the activity is a higher-than-average challenge and requires above-average skills.

Kindergarteners spend more time learning how to take a test than learning how to socialize. Watch children play and challenge themselves. You can see how they are engaged. Play and learning needs to go hand-in-hand. If play is purposeful and challenges the learner, any learner of any age will want to learn.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Conditions of FLOW

Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi identified ten factors one may experience with FLOW:

    • Clear goals and expectations

    • Deep concentration
    • A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness
    • Distorted sense of time
    • Direct and immediate feedback
    • Balance between ability level and challenge
    • A sense of personal control over the situation or activity
    • Intrinsically rewarding activity
    • A lack of awareness of bodily needs
    • Absorbed and focused only on activity

How are you experiencing FLOW?

Think about an activity that gets you excited and are passionate about. If you love mountain biking, you probably cannot wait for that time to jump on your bike and take off. If you are working on a project that you are really interested in, you might work right through your lunch and not even know it. If you are part of a team and are valued, it makes you feel important. If the project you are working on is something you want to do or want to learn, then you spend even more time on it than you would in a traditional classroom setting.

How are your students experiencing FLOW in the classroom? Are they? If so, when?

I am a coach. I work with teachers to facilitate moving teaching and learning to student-centered classrooms. This isn’t easy for teachers especially with everything else on their plates. When teachers develop an activity that is student-centered and their students drive and own their learning, the environment changes. The noise level in the classroom gets louder. For some teachers this is bothersome, but that’s just because they are not used to it.

I call it controlled chaos and purposeful play. There’s a buzz going on in the room. When students are working in groups and fully engaged, they enjoy working as a team. Especially if each member of that team has a role and is valued in that role. I’ve seen middle school classrooms change from a group of at-risk students who are not interested in anything to learners who are excited about learning. I’ve seen them stay during lunch or after school to continue to work on projects. Now that’s FLOW!

You can see FLOW happen when students are working in groups or doing individual work. FLOW is personal. Learning needs to be personal. It really is all about the learner.