Tag Archives: learning

Miscommunication⤴

from

Close up, blurry image of a pink flower

Random moments of misconnection:

George, a Chinese UG, tells me how hard it is to study independently when there is so much he does not understand in lectures. He struggles to understand aurally and finds it hard to use lecture notes to find out what he missed because he … does not know what he missed. We talk about strategies, I suggest some support networks. I tell him not to struggle alone.

Later that day some of us struggle in an LTHEChat as the terminology used by the question setter is obscure. I laugh with my network. It does not matter to me that I am not understanding as nothing hangs on it. Still, I feel frustrated that an opportunity for a conversation was lost.

Unboundeq runs scavenger hunts. These are FUN! We share blurry, close up pics of everyday objects with each other and try to guess what they are. It’s hard. I realise how difficult it is to anticipate what others will and will not find obvious.

We also talk about ALT-text, and realise how hard it is to add this in a way that makes visual activities inclusive. I don’t feel I have an answer to that.

There’s a lot to process here.

Reclaiming Lurking⤴

from

Stalker

Lurking is a potential problem for theories of social constructivism and principles of active learning. It’s also a problem for data analytics – if the student is not VISIBLE, how do we KNOW that they are learning? The invisible are easy to ignore, easy to problemetise, easy to marginalise, easy to other, easy to shame. It is tempting to chivvy them into participation, but participation without intrinsic engagement and motivation is futile, is facile, is inauthentic. A pedagogic approach that emphasises the visible over all else ignores autonomy, dismisses reasons, denies that another story might exist. This type of approach can force us all to join in the jolly learning games FOR OUR OWN GOOD.

All of this makes me shudder with memories of the forced jollity of childhood – the insistence upon JOINING IN – no sitting in the corner READING quietly while the rest of the (good) children are PLAYING NICELY together. (If you know Joyce Grenfell you will hear her voice here.) I felt odd. I am not shy, yet for most of my life I had no way of describing my need to sometimes pause and reflect before speaking. Now I know that I am not alone – that others (sometimes) feel as I do. But I digress.

When we other the silent participants we risk confusing what is countable, what is trackable, what is noticeable,  for what is important – we risk confusing meaningful learning with what is easy to assess. But learning is not a counting noun – Dave Cormier taught us that. And, if we are not careful, we send students the message that spending time in quiet reflection is somehow wrong, that spending time learning conventions is wrong, that watching is cheating, that this behaviour is FREELOADING and that is JUST NOT CRICKET.

Yet learning often takes time. Thoughts need to percolate. Fine wine is not made overnight. this blog post, for example, began with a discussion on Twitter, and has been knocking around in my head ever since.

So I am stating, here and now, that I am reclaiming lurking. I am reclaiming the behaviour, and I am reclaiming the word. Lurking is allowed. Lurking. Is. Allowed. There, I said it aloud (lol).

I’ve written about this with others before. I’ve used Lave and Wenger’s idea of legitimate peripheral participation to suggest that lurking can be a legitimate strategy for those new to a community and its norms. I’ve talked about how our Facebook groups can help shyer students, and those without English as a native language, to take their time to respond in their own way. I’ve run a Twitter chat to talk in more detail about this. I’m not saying anything new. But the current emphasis on student engagement and active learning makes me want to emphasise this more. Lurking is a legitimate behaviour. It is something we all do from time to time. I lurk, you lurk, we all lurk. (Note, by the way, that I am talking about a behaviour here, and not a type of person – lurking is relational, is situational, is context dependent.)

We learn a lot by doing, I know. We should encourage our students to participate. We should ensure that the digitally shy can be helped to find their voice, that students build their digital capabilities as well as their academic ones. All of these will help them both within academia and beyond it. But any insistence on one size fitting all, of active learning being the only ‘proper’ way of learning, needs to stop.

So the question becomes, I think: how do we, as compassionate educators, allow students opportunities to learn what, when and how they want to learn?

Image of Cagney, lurking in our garden

Twitter chat personas⤴

from

Say cheese

I’ve been thinking a lot about the different ways of interacting, or not, on Twitter this week, and I’ve come up with a rough list of types of engagement in Twitter conversations:

  • Academic:  adds relevant academic references
  • Networker: links to others/brings other tweeps into the conversation
  • Self-publicist: always twists the conversation to talk about their work; provides links to their work over and over again
  • Cheerleader: RTs with added positive comments about the original post
  • Enthusiast: replies to say how great everybody and their ideas are
  • Lurker: likes posts, might RT without added comment, but does not post
  • Critic: disagrees, adds alternative points of view, but does so in a positive way*
  • Troll: no need to define these*

What do you think? Do you recognise yourself or others in this categorisation? Ha:ve I missed out any personas you’d include?

* Thanks to Len for these two

It depends how you look at it⤴

from

Blind men and elephant3

There’s a story that’s often told about a bunch of blind men and an elephant. Each man only encounters a part of the elephant and, based on their partial understanding, disagree with the others about the *real* nature of the animal. I wrote about this years ago on another site, now lost, and I can’t remember exactly what I said, butI said something related during rhizo15.

I’m not a fan of pretending that educational researchers can be objective. However, I don’t think that an implication of this is that all educational research is a matter of subjective opinion – there’s an alternative candidate that’s worth consideration.

Perspectivism is the view that every point of view is a matter of perspective.* Everybody has their own perspective, and it’s important to recognise that this might not be the whole story. This doesn’t mean that truth is subjective, or relative – perspectives can be better or worse than others, and some perspectives can be aggregated to make a bigger story, as the blind men can do in order to get a fuller picture of the elephant – if they take the time to listen to each other.

Rhizomes are like this. Each of us finds our own way of navigating then, each of us have our own perspective. We can often understand others’, and we can agree or disagree with them. Rhizomes are heterogeneous multiplicities, to use some of D&G’s words.

Perspectivism grounds my methodology and my ethical approach for my PhD. I am looking at CLMOOC and putting my interpretation on what I see there, then making my interpretation open to others to agree, or disagree. I’m not pretending to have all of the answers, but I am suggesting a point of view that I think is plausible. I think that’s how educational research should be viewed.

* There’s a lot more to this, of course. I’m not suggesting that there is no such thing as objective truth, it’s more complicated than that. But this will suffice for here.

Stealing learning⤴

from

He came like a thief in the night. Stealthily, furtively, he crept in. With nobody watching he grabbed it, clutched at it with all his might, cradled it close to his chest and shuffled away.

This picture of learners who do not actively post, but passively consume, is one that I think is prevalent with some folk. I’m not minded to give in to it – I think that this is an opportunity to reclaim the term. That’s an idea that is at the edge of my mind a lot at the moment. Lurking there, some might say. I’ll say more soon, but in the meantime here’s a couple of my sketches.

Be More Kind⤴

from

A timely earworm for me this week as I am marking philosophy exam scripts. The lyrics are actually about our broken society, but the title of the song speaks to me as I try to decipher scrawly handwriting and make the best sense I can of the jumbled thoughts written under pressure. Education could, and should, be more kind, in my opinion.

This semester has been particularly hard, with the strike action and weather leading to lost teaching time – and the need to be lenient yet fair while marking seems all the more important. This way of assessing students doesn’t seem at all kind to me.

Don’t kill the messenger⤴

from

It’s no surprise to find that Jeremy Hunt is talking rubbish again this week. In a Guardian article we hear that he is proposing a universal social media limit for every child. Sound good? Maybe – except that there’s no evidence to suggest that this policy is necessary.

Politicians – pfff. Not worth wasting typing time on. But there’s an undercurrent here (of course) about controlling the masses, and I suspect Hunt and his cronies are trying to attempt to control our non-state-controlled means of communication. Of course social media can be misused, but the frequent dissing of social media, and the emphasis on studies purporting to show how social media is bad for us, in one way or another, just annoy me. Social media is so important to me – it’s how I communicate, participate, and learn. I was reminded of this earlier when Verena asked the following question:

Like anything else, it depends how it’s used. But don’t kill the messenger if you find others using it badly. For some of us, it is our community, our affinity space, our home.

A short post -So what exactly are we developing on development days?⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

Here’s where I am on teacher education after nineteen years of teaching.

If you have, on average, six Development Days every year, and those last, let’s say, six hours each  at a conservative estimate. That’s thirty six hours of development time every year. If a school has one hundred teachers, which is not unheard of, then that adds up to, unless I’m worse at Maths than I thought, 3600 hours of development time. Imagine what we could achieve if all of those hours were focused on improving pedagogy which directly improved the education of our children, instead of meaningless processes of management speak.

Looking back at how much of my development time over those nineteen years has been wasted with comically time-wasting processes, box-ticking and time-serving, passively sitting in front of forty pages of someone’s Powerpoint presentation, is it any wonder that we become passive in our approach to Development Days?

Alberto Manguel – his part in my reading life⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

I’ve always loved reading about reading. The lives readers lead and the way books have formed them is an endless source of fascination, often envy. From Francis Spufford’s ‘The Child that Books Built’ to Susan Hill’s ‘Howard’s End is on the Landing’, tales of the remarkable journeys that we go on as readers have encouraged me to reflect on my own reading history, forming many of my values as an English Teacher. In particular, Alberto Manguel’s books continue to document the life of the reader like no others. So I was thrilled recently to discover that he has a new book this year, ‘Packing my Library: an Elegy and Ten Digressions’.

My first experience of Manguel came when I discovered his ‘A Reading Diary: A Year of favourite Books’ in a second hand book shop. It is a joyful short read, doing exactly what the title suggests. He takes us through his literary thoughts on classics such as ‘Don Quixote’ and ‘The Wind in the Willows’: he never reviews, never critiques; merely shares his thoughts as he walks alongside Mole and  Sancho Panza, reflecting on his life at that moment. I’d never read anything like it. Beautifully written, infectiously optimistic, it might possibly be the root of much that came after for me. He recognised that ‘Reading is a comfortable, solitary, slow and sensuous task’ while recognising that ‘every book exists in a dreamlike condition until the hand that open it and the eyes that peruse it stir the words into awareness’. And if I’d written that sentence I might never have to write another one.

When I began to write my own book on reading, it was to Manguel that I first turned; his ‘A History of Reading’ being as a good a point as any to start. Impeccably and painstakingly researched, Manguel walked me through the roots of reading. From a pre-Aristotle age to very contemporary, political approaches to reading, the book is a remarkable achievement, carefully arguing the roots and the pros and cons of silent reading, to translation and banned books. How we have changed as readers through the ages, how reading has been valued, and de-valued throughout history and how reading and literacy  have become the political tool of our age is a liberating story.

He sums up the importance of reading in the words of Thomas a Kempis: ‘I have sought for happiness everywhere but I have found it nowhere except in a little corner with a little book.’

While I’ve had it for a few years, I’m unsure I’ve read all of Manguel’s ‘A Reader on Reading’. It’s a magnificent collection of essays which you can dip into; my favourites being, ‘How Pinocchio Learned to Read’ and ‘The Library at Home’. The range and breadth of subjects covered suggests a writer who knows his subject. His journey is a thoughtful and remarkable one and this is a book which I return to often. Those of you who really ‘get’ that books can be a haven from a hectic world will love it:

“In the midst of uncertainty and many kinds of fear, threatened by loss, change, and the welling of pain within and without for which one can offer no comfort, readers know that at least there are, here and there, a few safe places, as real as paper and as bracing as ink, to grant us roof and board in our passage through the dark and nameless wood.”

Finally, as I wait patiently for his new book, another essay collection to recommend is ‘The Library at Night’. Now I grew up in libraries, having never had my own at home, and, in an era where libraries are seen as an excessive luxury rather than societal necessity, Manguel’s essays will make you weep with joy for a world sadly disappearing. He takes us through a series of thoughts and explanations, a series of treatise about libraries as collections of books as much as spaces; how those spaces, wherever they may be, provide us with places to live, places to think, places to grow.

“And for the course of four hours I forget the world, remember no vexations, fear poverty no more, tremble no more at death: I pass into their world.”

Thank you, Alberto Manguel.

Have we failed to learn from the past?⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

It’s important to stress, as I’ll go on to discuss Water Humes’ recent article ‘Seven reasons why Scottish education is under-performing’ , that I don’t think that our education is failing.  However, that it is ‘under-performing’ may or may not be up for discussion  and it would be difficult to argue that it has been flawed in its implementation. I tweeted last week that I agreed with each of Humes’ seven reasons but I want to go further by dealing with each in separate posts. These are just a collection of thoughts, so please argue with me if the need is there.

1.  Failure to learn from the past

I’m cheating slightly here but I wrote about this very subject about six years ago. There was a danger of us ignoring the voices of ‘previous reforms’ at the time, something I compared to ‘The Diderot Effect’. The Diderot Effect stems from a short essay called ‘Regrets on Parting with my Old Dressing Gown’, by French Philosopher, Denis Diderot. In it, the writer contemplates his life choices after the gift of an expensive new dressing gown plunges him into debt and despair. He’s delighted with the new gift but starts to believe that this beautiful new thing has begun to make everything else look dreary and old. The essay deals with his quest to replace his possessions with shiny new things, in the hope that his new gown won’t seem so out of place. He descends into poverty and ruin.

It seems to me that part of the difficulty in ‘implementing’ the Curriculum for Excellence, or any shiny new curriculum really,  has been the assumption when any great change takes place, that everything that came before it is now defunct – dreary and old, in effect. Experienced teachers have every right to feel slighted by this, even if it is only a perception.  A situation should never arise where previous practice is dismissed, whether that is done mistakenly or not. Effective ways of informing, collaborating and engaging with teachers have been missed. Communication has come across as flawed but it is not too late. The biggest challenges still to come are surely in preserving the best bits of what is happening and merging them with newer ideas.

There are those who may cry ‘I told you so’ but we ignore experience at our peril. This ‘arrogant sense that the past has little to teach us’ has come to pass but it is not too late. A mature and robust education system must be able to admit that mistakes have been made: if there are flaws then we can fix them. But let’s not ignore the voices who’ve been though change. Diderot’s character merely changed a dressing gown. We have so much more to lose.