Links and Learning

I came to know Nancy White through the MOOC I have been following and participating in since September. As part of a graded assignment for my course at Athabasca University, I focused on Nancy’s presentation Triangulating, Weaving, and Connecting our Learning. (Thanks Nancy for your enduring support as I worked through my assignment and ultimately the presentation!) I continue to learn much through Nancy’s tweets and blogs (Have I told you Nancy how much I love your links? They keep leading me to pleasant and unexpected surprises!).

Recently Nancy posted a link to Group Pattern Laguage Project and in particular to a Card Deck that they have created that is “designed to support your process as a group convenor, planner, facilitator, or participant.” I was intrigued to learn more about this card deck and dream about how I could use it in my given context. I see it working in two different ways which I am interested to test out. First is in helping me to hone in and create more focused business presentations using the patterns (or even academic presentations as was the case in my recent course). The second place I’d like to try it out is when I facilitate retreats (usually for teens). It will be interesting to use it as a guide to set the retreat tone, identify what they can expect, and the end point that we will try to reach together on the retreat. From what I have seen in the downloads, I think that naming the patterns, tying it to a graphic for those of us who are visual learners, and defining the pattern (through the “Heart”) will make it easier to use and to dream far beyond any set parameters.

Thanks again Nancy for an amazing link to yet another thing that will stretch and improve the way I present!

Check out Group Pattern Language Project…. it just may change the way you present, faciliate, or participate!

Nancy White left us on day one of her MOOC #change 11 week with a challenge to share examples of social artists. Honestly, I was still had a hard time wrapping my mind around what a social artist is and what is social artistry. It took an email exchange with Nancy to me thinking more about it. I could have named some well-known ones but I’ve decided instead to share one that isn’t known who is affectionately called “Mrs. H”.

Mrs. H is now a retired teacher but during her last year of teaching (1999-2000 school year), she approached me at the start of the year to help her out.

Mrs. H wanted to find a different and new way to motivate and encourage her grade 2 class (some 25- 7 year old students with approximately 6-8 English as a second language (ESL) learners- a few not speaking a single word since they had just immigrated that summer). She felt that stickers just didn’t cut it anymore. I went back to her with the idea of developing a class web site (now remember, this was over 12 years ago and technology was definitely not where it is today especially in the public schools!). Mrs. H had no clue how to set it up or even where to take it so that’s where I stepped in. Working together, we developed the site and quickly saw how the students took an immediate liking to it.

It became a labor of love each weekend as we would set up a new theme of the week and posted a piece of work that each student had completed during the past week. What was incredibly amazing was to witness how these 7 year olds emerged out of their shells, were extremely motivated to learn, and to produce “quality work” (there were even students begging to re-do their work because they felt it wasn’t “their best” and they desired to have their “best work” published weekly). In the case of the ESLers, they preferred to stay in Mrs. H’s class instead of having their ESL classes. They were the ones who seemed to make the greatest progress- they became not only confident in using English and interacting with their peers but they also seemed to acclimatise to the culture much quicker than the other ESLers in the school.

The principal soon caught hold of what was going on (parents talk!) and I was hired (in addition to my other full time work in the business sector) as a “tutor-in-the-classroom” to work alongside Mrs. H to teach her class technology, journalism, and media literacy. Mrs. H found a way to integrate technology into almost all her lessons and very soon the classroom extended far beyond the four walls of her classroom at that public school. We brought in a few donated computers and installed them in her classroom so that her students had full-time access to the internet whenever they needed it.

The web site became a tool for bridging families (in situations of divorce and in situations where extended family lived in another country) which in turn provided greater support and feedback to the students. Apart from the web site, the students learned interviewing skills, reporting, journalism, and videography. They put their skills to use when they invited different speakers from the community. They also paired up with a school in Japan and started corresponding with their grade 2 class quickly learning that they weren’t all that different after all.

But the results, which cannot be translated into a grade score that academic institutions and boards of education insist upon, of Mrs. H- as a social artist, practicing the art of social artistry (and not knowing it!) were very tangible when she hosted a special evening for the families of her students. On that night the director of the school board, the principal, the vice-principal, Mrs. H, and I witnessed what an impact Mrs. H’s “desire to motivate her students” had. Every single student was present and every parent (even those who were divorced or separated) were present to celebrate the students’ achievement and success in a special previewing and awards ceremony of the students’ participation in a multimedia project for elementary schools in the Asian Pacific Economic Council (APEC). Her class was chosen by the Ministry of Education in Singapore to participate and one the groups in her class (and they were the ESL group!) won first place in Canada. The “intangible” in this case was witnessing families coming together to celebrate and elevate the young learners.

From time-to-time Mrs. H will bump into a parent or student from that class. The “kids” are now young adults in university and most are still close friends and hang out in social media sites. From what Mrs. H has heard, a few are hoping to teach and be able to inspire children in the same way that they were inspired by their extraordinary social artist teacher!

Is there an off switch?

Erik Duval facilitate several very lively and engaging sessions on “Learning in a time of abundance” in MOOC #change11. Technology keeps us constantly connected and at the simple tap, click, or pinch of our fingers, we can access a plethora of information. When do we turn off the on switch and stop technology from controlling us?

Although the understanding with his topic is that we are aligning this topic for those who do not worry about having a roof over their heads or food in their bellies, I couldn’t help by keep wondering what our social responsibilities are (if any) to be equalizing the playing field in terms of sharing the abundance that we have. I’ve been pondering this question as I’ve been preparing for my final Athabasca term paper in which I plan on addressing the topic of technological divide (in relation to mobile learning) and what can or should be done to narrow the playing field.

I stumbled upon the Education for All Crowdsourcing Challenge which is a collaborative effort between Nokia, UNESCO and the Pearson Foundation to find creative solutions to achieving the Education for All goals through mobile education. Each month a new challenge is set forth and this month’s focus is on universal primary education.

The literature that I am assimilating for my term paper provides statistics that are enough to melt your heart and make you cry in pain… too many children don’t even have the chance to go to school let alone look forward to a safe and financial independent future. So in as much as we prepare our current students in primary, secondary, or post-secondary institutions to be engaged, independent learners who have access anytime and anywhere to information, do we have a responsibility- even if it is only morally- to support and provide whatever tools or teaching may be necessary to allow disadvantaged children and young adult to have a chance at breaking free from the poverty and giving them the same rights to learn in a time of abundance?

Dave Cormier took us on a field trip through a “garden” to see how “rhizomatic learning” grows as he facilitated week 9 of MOOC change11: Rhizomatic learning- Why do we teach?

Giulia Forsythe threw out a challenge:

So, I’m issuing a remix challenge. Record some audio for my doodle: using your PC, Mac, mobile, soundcloud, YouTube, etc. (your tool of choice, etc.), while watching the video and post it here for me. Or download the video using MPEG StreamClip and do whatever you like to it! (Update: I’ve made a version without audio for easier remixing)

Of course, feel free to take your own nomadic rhizomatic learning path. Cuz that’s cool too.

I decided to take her up on the challenge even though I had very little time to put it together. I’ve added music to it (Nomadic Fusions Bonus Track – Dub Caravan Project). The music conjured up images being constantly on the go, wondering and not bounded to any particular time or space- very nomadic. I’ve also added some graphical embellishments to some of the doodles as the path of the nomad is being traced out.

Here’s my take to Giulia’s animated doodle:

Graphic what?

Doodling… something I’ve done for years usually to keep my mind focused on a speaker so that I wouldn’t fall asleep. I remember carrying around one of the largest pencil cases when I was in school. I always had colored pencils, markers, and pretty sparkly pens in them (in university it became my stash of highlight markers!) so that I could “spice up” my notes. Never did I realize that my “doodling” is an actual form of practice.  Sunni Brown does some amazing stuff around this.

As for social artistry, here a segment of my graphic recording from the Friday’s session with Nancy White. (Thanks Nancy and Giulia Forsythe for mentioning graphic recording/ graphic facilitating/ sketch noting in DTLT Today! I love the right-brain sidedness and how I was much more focused on listening… I think I’m hooked!)

If you forgot to have your cup of coffee to get your day going, then participating in Nancy White’s presentation to kick of the “Triangulating, weaving and connecting our learning” MOOC #change11 week was the rush of adrenaline that was need. Or maybe Nancy was the caffeine?!! Then again, maybe it was the giddiness from a few too many taste samples of Halloween candy before the little goblins ring the doorbells! Whatever it was, Nancy’s presentation was a complete deviation in style to what we have seen so far in #change11… and it was good- at least for me!

Nancy is a master facilitator who absolutely amazed me on several fronts. First and foremost was her authenticity which was so evident when she ho and hummed as she pondered questions out load. Next was her welcoming spirit as she invited us to write and draw- to grab a seat in the circle and join in- to be equal participants in the learning journey. And the interjections of silence… <shhh… can you hear that? Yes, you’re not hearing ANYTHING… that’s the point!> to give us a chance to pause and transition (and for Nancy, probably a chance to breathe and catch up on the chat discussions) were absolutely brilliant… and risky. Risky because unless you are disciplined in the art of pausing, meditating, quiet stillness, etc, you are really at a loss as to what to do! If you don’t believe me, try being absolutely still- no thoughts entering or fleeing your mind, no moving, and no speaking for 2 minutes. It took me lots of practice to get to 10 whole minutes of complete and utter silence and stillness… now it’s my “go-to” place when I’m overwhelmed, stressed, or can’t focus.

Nancy launched us into the topic of change. Hmmm… chairs and “How do you feel when things change around you?” If you missed the first intro bit, then jumping in at this point you might have thought that it was a group counselling session! But I digress…

Change… what a frightening yet at the same time exciting word! I’m the type of person that loves change which comes as a surprise to many since I tend to be more of an introvert. I love to be challenged to try new things. Actually, I get pretty bored with the same-old-same-old routine. My curriculum vitae weaves a tapestry of change; not in who I am but where I have been and what I have done that is somehow all interconnected. And all of these instances of change are threads that make up who I am.  But I would be lying if I said that change doesn’t bother me. Sometimes I’m very fearful of change especially that which is external and that I cannot- or have no- control frightens me leading me to question and start the “what-if” dialogue in my mind.

At the end of Nancy’s session I was drained! So much interaction, so much involvement in the whiteboard and the chat, so many questions… definitely in need of a nap before processing what took place. Yikes… and THIS is the week of MOOC sessions that I proposed to present to my Athabasca University course peers?!!!

Can banter ever be considered collaborative learning? I believe so when you have a MOOC #change11 session that is as animated as the one of today.

There was a recap of the week that had passed an encouraging open question and answer time. I did not spend long and like the rest of the participants in this session, I left the room to join in a live session with Rory McGreal and Dr. Wayne Mackintosh in their presentation for Open Access Week.

Looking forward to this session!