Posts Tagged ‘#change11’

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!


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Planted into a MOOC Garden

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:

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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?!!!

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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!

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Revved up and ready to go for this week’s MOOC #change11 session with Rory McGreal on “OER for learning”. Recommended materials read (heck of a great deal this week!), key documents printed and marked up with notes and questions, and additional research done to better understand copyright issues.

I was looking forward to learning more about common copyright as it applies to Open Educational Resources (OERs). All set for the synchronous session today with McGreal when suddenly… DETOUR! Yes, McGreal did speak about OERs but I felt that OERs were circumnavigated and suddenly the discussion was on OER universities. Nevertheless, I found the discussion extremely interesting (including the side chats) and left the quick passing hour long session with a desire to dig deeper and research independently the concept of OER universities even further.

I thought I as well prepared for this week but now I am faced with a new- and welcomed- detour in my learning this week.

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Chalk vs Technology

I have spent the week thinking more about the question:

Should technology enhance or transform higher education?

When I was first encountered this question, my initial answer was “it depends”. In other words, on one hand I felt that it should enhance higher education (in environments where technology is already heavily relied on and being utilized properly) but on the other hand  it should also transform higher education (as in the case where technology is not being used). Obviously I had to give it much more thought…

The problem that I see is that irrespective of which way one sides in debating this question, the issue becomes that of money. Technology costs much more than chalk or white board markers. And it is not solely the costs associated to the procurement of technological devices but also the maintenance, the insurance, the support staff for troubleshooting and setup, and the training required for maximizing the technology. Both sides of the question debate will be faced with these issues so maybe another angle  needs to be explored.

What are learners (the “customers” of the academic institutions) actually demanding?

I remember being bored to tears by instructors who droned on through their lectures. The one class that still stands out to this day was the one whereby various technologies were employed to not only enhance learning but to more importantly transform our way of thinking  and help us to escape from the cubic mind frame of a rigid academic environment. Wow, being challenged and forced to think, critically analyse, and evaluate multiple possibilities! Looking back, this would not have been possible without the use of technology. There was no possible way that what we saw, heard, synthetized, and retained could have happened as freely as it did if all that the instructors used was a blackboard or chalkboard. Our “guinea pig” class contributed to the development and ultimate acceptance of a new degree program at that particular institution. In this instance, technology transformed higher education.

I go back to my previous blog posting where I left off pondering of the question was more contextual in nature. The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and its newer development of One Tablet Per Child attempts to bridge the gap in communities where technology would otherwise be inaccessible for young learners. And it is these young learners of today who will be demanding for technology based learning of tomorrow. I believe that technology should transform education but we have to start somewhere and maybe that somewhere begins with baby steps called “enhancement” before it can become truly “transformative”.

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Sleepless Night

I had a hard time falling asleep because my mind was processing yesterday’s MOOC #change11 presentation by Tony Bates on “Managing technology to transform teaching”. The question that had me thinking was:

Should technology enhance or transform higher education?

I can’t speak from the perspective of an instructor at a college or university but I can speak from the perspective of the student. I need to spend more time thinking about this question this week although I am leaning towards transforming… but then again, maybe it’s more of a contextual issue.

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