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Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Facts or Faith

It is faith that moves mountains, not facts. Facts do not give birth to faith. Faith needs a story to sustain it – a meaningful story that inspires belief in you and renews hope that your ideas do indeed offer what you promised. Genuine influence goes deeper than getting people to do what you want them to do. It means people pick up where you left off because they believe.

Annette Simmons

I found this quote in a book I am reading and as I have thought about it quite a bit over the past week I believe it has implications for all us in the cohorts as we move forward with our culminating projects. I have more questions than answers, as usual and here are some thoughts as a result.

Do we begin to look at professional learning as a leap of faith for those who resist pedagogical changes in classrooms especially if it involves the use of technology? In the above quote a this stands out for me  – a meaningful story that inspires belief that our ideas do indeed offer what is promised.

How often when professional learning is offered is it presented as a how to, not a why to? Would having a story to tell around the why be helpful? Incorporating our story of the tool, our story of our own changes as a result of use, and our students, help to instill faith – influence people enough to believe what we are asking is worth a try?

We want them to pick up where we leave off, do we need to change our approach to incorporate meaningful stories to inspire belief?

Image Source: Flickr user kodomut

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Limits We Set

Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking about inhibition, what inhibits people from speaking up, sharing what they think, and why, especially in writing.  I find it somewhat ironic in respect to what we ask of students in our classrooms and I would venture to guess of our own children. We encourage them to voice their opinions, not to be a follower, stand up for themselves, take a risk, go out on a limb to contribute in life and in their classes. Yet, when we are asked to do the same with our colleagues we freeze, opt out, find a reason we have nothing worth contributing or say others have already said what we were thinking so we have nothing to add.  In essence we don’t do a good job of modeling what we ask of others.

Inhibitions are self- imposed, internal limits we set, why do we do it?
Why do we limit ourselves, what drives our reluctance to speak, act, and share? I know inhibitions are our defense against criticism; we don’t want to give others the opportunity to disagree, but why? Our inhibitions limit our thinking and without thinking we become stagnant, complacent. Aren’t our thoughts and ideas worth the risk, don’t we grow and gain confidence in who we are and what we believe through our interactions?  As Chris Lehmann has said “what is the worst consequence of your best idea?” Is it that someone will disagree and you will have to defend your thoughts, what is wrong with that? Through challenge and reflection we have the opportunity to examine what we hold dear, and through those same conversations we may be swayed to look at something from a different perspective, which may cause us to change our thinking, learning together, again what is so bad about that?
Hand
We give our students grades for participation, how we would grade ourselves?  Isn’t it time we begin to let go of our internal limits, begin talking, sharing ideas, and understand through ongoing dialogue we develop and are more apt to become the people we truly want to be? I know I am ready.

Flickr Source Melanie Milliken

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How do you begin to talk about shifts in classroom practice / pedagogy with colleagues? As you plan to share professional development how do you start? You want those attending to be excited to learn, as facilitators we want to be positive, upbeat and enthusiastic, yet many times we start with statistics which point to all that is wrong, we know the world is flat, and we are in danger of being outsourced. So how can we approach the conversation to build interest and excite people into action? I started to think about how to frame the conversations differently and I found this TED prize winner, Cameron Sinclair who in 2006 began the Open Architecture Network, he sponsors a yearly challenge for teams of teachers, students, architectures and designers to work together to design classrooms of the future. As I watched the video I thought why not use the analogy of physical building redesign –  to the redesign of teaching and learning practices?  How can we design a better learning environments – visioning better classrooms. What new learning spaces do you envision, both in physical structure as well as the what and how of learning? Enjoy the video which I am attempting to embed below, if it doesn’t work click here to watch.

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Last night PLP held its first Live Event of 2010.  Will Richardson interviewed Allan Collins and Richard Halverson, the authors of Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America. A very brief overview of the conversation: The authors believe schools will not disappear anytime soon, but they contend we are not going to fix education by fixing schools, schools are a 19th century invention trying to cope in the 21st century.  They assert, learning will leave schools behind if schools cannot change fast enough to keep pace with the advances in learning technologies. They also discuss the positive and negative issues associated with a changing education system such as home schooling, learning centers, distance education, workplace learning, technical certifications, equity, the role of web communities in learning. Others have weighed in with their thoughts on the authors views, take a look at what Darren Draper posted a month ago.

The interview was interesting, with a great deal of conversation taking place in the chat of Elluminate. If anyone is interested in listening to the interview, here is a link to the Elluminate session, please take some time to listen and offer your thoughts here on the conversation as well.

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One of the challenges of my position in the district where I work has been how to “teach” others about social networking, how do you convey the benefits of virtual personal learning communities / networks, in a 3 hour workshop? How do you cover all the options, explore all the tools available to assist in creating those communities, and also build a comfort level for those interested, but who most likely have never been involved in something like this? As I reflect on my participation in PLP over the past several months and look at the foundations that have been laid for all teams across the cohorts participating this year and examine the structure in place it helps to answer the questions I struggle with. My conclusion is I don’t think you can adequately teach these concepts in an hour or two, to honestly understand the value, having the opportunity to be immersed in the conversations/immersed in the environment is the best way to learn.

What I have been able to see throughout all of the cohorts is the growth of individuals in this environment, there are emerging voices, those who are becoming comfortable are beginning to start discussions, add comments to posts others have made, share their own teaching experiences, as well as personal experience. Here is an example of one who has begun to incorporate some of the tools we have been learning about in PLP in her personal life.

One of the things I remember Will saying at our first meeting was a way to be successful with technology this year. He said that we are all so busy, so technology can’t be added to your life, but must take the place of something you already do. He used the example of how he used to watch the news, but now he uses technology to stay informed. I really thought that was important for me to remember this year. So what I’ve tried to do is use and learn about technology in the things I am already spending much time on. I attended a workshop on gifted students. The keynote speaker was talking about using technology with gifted students, he talked about 21st century skills, web 2.0, wikis, blogs, nings, etc. I understood everything he was talking about and used much of what he talked about with my students. This is the first time ever that I have understood more technology than many other teachers. I am so proud of what I have done the past few months and how much I have learned.

She started using tools she had been introduced to in her cohort, in her personal life, and as a result has gained confidence and understanding in the value of using technology as an integral part of what you do every day rather than add it on to your daily life.

Another portion of a post, from Scott Godshalk, principal, Tohickon Valley Elementary School.

Last year, I tried, unsuccessfully, to facilitate the use of a wiki at our school. I asked teachers to post a reflective document of their work during their Collaboration Sessions. As I reflected on this, I realized I dove in headfirst with the concept of a wiki. This was a new idea for the teachers, and a new way to collaborate. Teachers followed through with this expectation, and posted their Collaboration Session reflections, but there weren’t any additional comments, posts, or discussions about the content of their work. This year, I took a couple steps back, but pushed forward with the idea of a wiki. I send out a weekly bulletin to share my reflections and give teachers my thoughts on school and district initiatives. I spend a great deal of time preparing the weekly bulletin. Recently, I had an epiphany. Why am I working so hard on this? There is a school full of brilliant teachers who have fantastic ideas. They should help me with this! For the last two weeks, I posted a simple question on the wiki site, and had the teachers write a brief response to this question. The results have been phenomenal. Last week, I asked teachers what it means to teach in the year 2008. To be an effective teacher, what are the words that come to mind? Their response was awesome. Our staff is beginning to enter a new phase of collaboration.

Others are beginning to blog, some are sharing classroom experience, resources for teaching and professional development, creating Delicious accounts and sharing web sites with their cohorts. It is remarkable to see the growth of individuals who are supported and encouraged as they expand their knowledge and level of comfort in an area, just a few short months ago; many had never been introduced to before. This is the work of PLP, creating environments for collaboration and learning in ways that are relevant to all of us.

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Wendy Drexler created this video as a final project of the course she took on  Connectivism at the University of Manitoba taught by George Siemens. I have linked to the post Wendy wrote about the video, please take a moment to read the post, and watch the video. Great job Wendy, I am definitely going to share this with others in my own district, thanks for sharing it with all of us! I wish there were more teachers who held these same beliefs and modeled learning for students this way.

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Network Literacy

literate1 I believe there is a new literacy for networks. In education our definition of being literate has been determined by the ability to read and write in a linear, focused, sustained manner and success in life is predicated in how well one mastered these tasks. Today we have a culture of participatory learning emerging and the word literacy has expanded to include more than reading and writing, IMHO.

I think the movement from solitary studying / learning, which is what I have experienced in my education, to collective / shared learning is a huge shift. We are moving away from brick and mortar, focused learning environments to more global collaborative learning spaces that are not constrained by time or place, where we have the ability to connect, learn, teach, converse with anyone, anywhere in the world. I believe the tools available today through the web are beginning to cause us to rethink our perceptions of time, authority, purpose and relevance. We have the capacity to seek out others to learn with and from, socialize, build relationships outside of our physical space; this has never been possible before. Learning how to develop learning networks, how to find your voice within a network, how to build your online community of learners is something that takes time and can be overwhelming in terms of where to start. We have to learn how to create networks of peers outside of our classrooms, move ourselves into a knowledge sharing environments, it gets messy and uncomfortable, extending yourself to others you do not know can be difficult, being open to others pushing back on your ideas is new for many too.

I am interested in your thoughts, is this a new literacy? If so what does it look like in your own learning, how can it be used it in our teaching?

Image Source Flickr user austinevan

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