I wonder…

In the readings critical, complex and open pedagogical frameworks the classroom or a course were the analytic levels.  As has been mentioned throughout people’s discussions of the semester, that there are some difficulties in applying this to certain courses.  This, for me, has raised an internal question of what if we do this on the major/department level, and create a critical pedagogical arc? 

For faculty, there can be challenges in operating within a system or structure that doesn’t support or advance these methods – pushback from the university, department and even students can temper adoption.  For students, I wonder how having the freedom to learn in one course and then shoved back into the traditional format impacts motivation and drive in the long-term.

I wonder how student learning will be changed, particularly in STEM, if departments adopt an explicit critical pedagogical arc over the course of a program.  While foundational courses adopt critical pedagogical techniques to the degree to which they can, sequential, high-level courses integrate techniques to an even greater degree of experiential learning, student-centered learning, collaborative course creation, etc. I wonder what would happen to knowledge if students could annotate readings and documents each semester to be used by others in the coming semesters, or for themselves in later courses. 

I wonder what would happen if students and professors created a shared portfolio that traveled with the student from course to course throughout the major/program, sans grades. I wonder if this would allow projects and personal interest areas to extend beyond one semester or develop earlier in lower-level courses.  This portfolio could be used to guide project selection in advanced courses, and continue student skill development started in one course in other courses over the entirety of their degree (this would not include FERPA related information, but a co-created evaluation of the experience, learning goals, self development goals which could be the basis for other professors to continue). 

I wonder if this would create personalized knowledge/degrees, even within the “traditional” degree structures.  I wonder if this would change the notion of ownership that students have over their education from passively “receiving/getting an education” to something more powerful.  We discuss the freedoms that students take in this context, without fear of failure – I wonder if faculty, with support from the department, chairs and deans, would also take more risks.  I wonder if there would be more collaboration between faculty with regard to structuring syllabus, projects, and knowledge development if classes were seen not as stand alone check boxes or requirements, but one part of an integrated whole development process, centered on the student.

You’ve Got to Know the Rules to Break Them!!!

Paying particular attention to the Langer article, what she terms mindfulness, I consider critical thinking.  However, I think the major differentiation is the “when”.  For Langer, she believes that starting with conditional learning opens up additional possibilities.  For me, I am a firm believer in “You have to know the rules to break them” philosophy in life and education. 

When I worked in the government and third-sector, one of my roles was updating and revising entrenched systems and procedures.  At the beginning of my career, I came in and began changing processes without learning the what and why of existing systems.  Not only was this not well received, but in many cases caused unintended consequences.  It was only in coming in assessing the existing structures, could I step back and look holistically and the systems, the steps and how they work together to meet an end. 

In Langer’s story, she talks of how she mixes up some of the ingredients/steps in her cheesecake recipe – add something here, take some away there.  However, in her story, she didn’t say that she tried to bake her cheesecake at 100 degrees for 3 hours, instead of 300 degrees for 1 hour, or that she put it in the refrigerator in hopes that it would bake in there, or added onion and chives.  Alternatives, which as a novice baker, she could have easily done. However, she doesn’t, because she knows the rules of baking – there are some things you can change and some that you cannot.  It is only with this knowledge, that she experiments.

The same applies to education.  There are (small t) truths and rote memorization that needs to happen in education, a child doesn’t need to know that two plus two could equal four, it is four.  However, coupled with this rote knowledge and behaviors, critical thinking and analysis are crucial, particularly the ability to step out of the system and think reflectively on the whole and the steps, add new information and respond – “to improvise, adapt and overcome.”

When I think of successful inventions in tech, apps, and other areas, it is because someone innately knows a process, routine, or system, is able to step out of it and analyze that system – someone says, “There has to be a better way!”   I have also spent much of my career in five- and ten-year-strategic planning. In the end, most strategic plans themselves are in and of themselves pointless, it’s the planning that’s important, particularly an assessment of (knowing) what is.  It is from that foundation from which you jump to where you want to be and work backwards.  Most of time the actual plans never come to fruition as laid out initially, but you know where you want to go, what you can change and shift and what can’t as things evolve in reality – like a cheesecake.

Lastly, I don’t know why, but “Sully” Sullenberger came to mind, and his (re)actions on the “Miracle on the Hudson.”  When I think of him I know that on any given day he could have taken off from LGA with his eyes closed – that’s what I, and most people want, in their pilots. The difference is the ability to be reflexive and reflective on top of that rote knowledge to know when something is happening out of sequence, discard the plan and improvise, adapt and overcome.   When training new pilots, the first simulator training isn’t one that gets geese stuck in the engine, it’s the basics and then build out, and then build in complexity.

On Networked Learning

(Response to the readings for GEDI-week 1)

The primary questions that I walked away from regarding Networked learning was, how do we as researchers and teachers approach first, our own networks, and second the networked learning opportunities of our students?  In the post, I will keep my focus on the first question.

(Professional) networks, as advocated by Godin and Peters, Hitchcock, and Belshaw involves the internet, specifically blogging, website, and social media to expand one’s clique/community, as well as secure an increasingly central and important position within the broader academic community network. 

I accept their collective arguments on the benefits of blogging, twitter, websites, etc., as providing up-and-coming researchers/academics new avenues through which to share ideas and methods through near real-time conversations, particularly when publishing is becoming more and more difficult. However, I view their works as simply “advice for digitally jockeying for prominence within the academic community.”

This is not to say that I reject a digital presence as a useful exercise – as evidenced by this website and posts. I just view their call to “digital arms” as one-sided, “Come unto my Ivory Tower Fellow Brethren of Academia.” In this way, they’ve converted the ivy-covered halls with ivy-covered blogs.

As the product of land-grant institutions, I wholeheartedly believe in academia as “Of the People, By the People and For the People.” I believe in research should be accessible and available to those outside of the academy. I believe that research should be transformative. We should move beyond the echo chambers of academia and share knowledge and insights with those on the front lines, engage with practitioners, not just theorists.

Gardner Campbell, “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning” (2016)
Doug Belshaw “Working Openly On the Web” (2014)
Tim Hitchcock “Twitter and Blogs are Not Just Add-ons To Academic Research” (2014)
Seth Godin and Tom Peters on Blogging (2009)
TEDxKC – Michael Wesch – What Baby George Taught Me About Learning (2016)