The Risk of Hospitality

Digciz is a conversation centered around ideas of Digital Citizenship. The focus this week is on hospitality, in particular, the openness, risk and vulnerability relating to existing in online spaces. My response involves a series of short reflections:

Context First

Peter Skillen recently reflected on a situation where he corrected someone. He was sorry for the way it went about. This had me thinking about my own conversations with Skillen, especially around computational thinking and Twitter. One of the things that I have taken away is the place of technology to change the way we think and act. The problem is there are contexts where the conversations move away from the ideals. Although I agree with Skillen (and Papert) about the power of Logo and Turtle to explore mental models, especially after reading Mindstorm, sometimes when you are asked for simple material you put aside your bias to share a range of visual resources. In this situation, technology is only one part of the equation. First and foremost is pedagogy and the place of coding as a lunchtime club. The focus then becomes about entertainment, engagement and ease of instruction. The ripe conditions for initiatives such as CS First and Code.org.

Crossing Imaginary Lines

There are some learning experiences which seem to stay with us long after the lights have been turned off. In regards to online learning, my participation with Rhizo14 was one such experience. I neither knew exactly why I was there or what the protocols were. Stepping out into the unknown, my focus was to hold my judgements for as long as possible. Sadly, I think that I went a little too hard. Caught up in the flow, I critiqued everything a bit too much. (If you read any of Jenny Mackness’ research, apparently there were some heated conversations on Facebook which I was not a part of.) This questioning even included Dave Cormier and his assessment methods. Although this was a risk he fostered, it felt as if you knew you had crossed the line even if there were none. Maybe this is the reality online, the challenge I guess is knowing when to take your shoes off at the door and apologising if you happen to forget.

Tribes and Tribulations

In the book Teaching Crowds, Jon Dron and Terry Anderson unpack the different ways that people gather within online spaces. One way that really stands out to me in regards to open online spaces is the idea of tribes. At the intersection between groups and sets, tribes involve bringing people together around complex ideas and interests, tied together by certain rules and expectations. When I think about my participation online, I would say that I am a part of many tribes, some of which I collected here. The challenge with tribes is that they do not always talk to each other, sometimes even working against each other. Indirectly though they influence each other in a number of ways. For example, when communication is shared openly, it carries the risk of being appropriated by other communities. This bleeding and breaking can be construed as negative, but it also has a positive outcome of extending our thinking.

Mapping Our Digital Bits

David White and Alison Le Cornu offer a more fluid typology with their notion of digital visitor and resident. White and Le Cornu suggest that our use of different spaces on the web fluctuates between two states: that of the visitor whose use is often short term and task orientated compared with the resident who sees their participation as being an important part of their lived experience. Amy Collier goes beyond the notion of residency to describe the web and instead suggests the ideas of kindred spirits and belonging. I wonder if a different way of seeing the divide is from the perspective of APIs and the little bits of ourselves that exist around the web. In discussing the notion of personal APIs, Kin Lane provides the following breakdown:

  • Profiles – The account and profile data for users.

  • People – The individual friends and acquaintances.

  • Companies – Organizational contacts, and relationships.

  • Photos – Images, photos, and other media objects.

  • Videos – Local, and online video objects.

  • Music – Purchased, and subscription music.

  • Documents – PDFs, Word, and other documents.

  • Status – Quick, short, updates on current situation or thoughts.

  • Posts – Wall, blog, forum, and other types of posts.

  • Messages – Email, SMS, chat, and other messages.

  • Payments – Credit card, banking, and other payments.

  • Events – Calendar, and other types of events.

  • Location – Places we are, have been, and want to go.

  • Links – Bookmarks and links of where we’ve been and going.

As with White and Le Cornu’s mapping, Lane’s emphasis is on the journey, rather than a destination. Mapping our APIs provides the potential to dig down into our particular uses. The problem is, I am still trying to work out exactly how to go about this.


So they are some of my thoughts on the risks and vulnerabilities associated with belonging in open online spaces. What about you? What do you have to add to the conversation? As always, comments welcome.


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Building Trust in Online Communities


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I have been doing a lot of thinking of late around building communities of practice. Although there has been a lot of discussion around purpose and intent of the community, the question that I have been wondering is how we build trust in a purely online environment so that people are willing to participate. My own experience of a community of practice with Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century started with a face-to-face session, however not every community of practice is afforded such luxury. This led me to reflect upon my involvement with various cMOOCs over the years and consider how each set out to create an environment which fosters sharing and collaboration. So here are my thoughts and reflections:

Rhizo Learning

I am not sure how to explain #Rhizo14, #Rhizo15 or Rhizo anything. I guess it could be considered as a radical attempt to facilitate a course where the community is the curriculum and being the expert is not necessarily the goal. Although each of the iterations has been facilitated by Dave Cormier, he always seems to make every attempt possible to get out of the way. Other than a weekly provocation and Hangout, there were very few explicit formalities. This worked (and failed?) in part because of the strength of the community. I cannot actually recall any explicit trust building activities and I must admit that it got a little unwieldy at times, which I imagine might have put some off.

#CCourses

Connected Courses was a collaborative community designed to develop networked learning in higher education. Each fortnight had a different focus, supported by a team of facilitate, as well as a range of makes, videos and resources. In the lead up, Howard Rheingold, Alan Levine and Jim Groom supported people in organising a space and connecting it to the syndicated blogs. This was done via social media, as well as through a Hangout. Beyond the act of getting going, the first unit involved responding to the provocation #WhyITeach.

#CLMooc

Connected Learning MOOC is a yearly event designed to help people make sense of learning online through the act of making. In the first week of making, participants are invited to introduce themselves however they like, connect with other learners by commenting and reflect on the connections made. To support this creative process, a range of possibilities are listed in a ‘Make Bank’. Beyond the usual weekly challenges, there also daily connectors which allow people to maintain a sense of connection, even if they may have dropped out of the weekly tasks.

#DigiWriMo

Digital Writing Month is an annual 30-day challenge that has been occurring since 2012. Similar to CLMOOC, it encourages people to be creative by providing a number tasks and challenges. This includes a mixture of daily activities and on-going projects. Each year is facilitated by a different team, adding a different twist. In regards to introductions, the 2015 iteration started with an invitation to create an alternative CV (#altcv).

#walkmyworld

Walk My World is an annual social media project in which people are encouraged to share and connect around a hashtag. The intent is to explore open research and open publishing. The weekly assignments are designed to help tell your story. In 2016, the first challenge involved sharing a selfie and reflecting on the story behind it.


What seems to stand out is the sharing of something personal. In order to make this more possible for people to participate, these activities often emphasis choice and creativity in a lighthearted manner.

What about you though? What experiences have you been a part of? Do you have any thoughts, ideas and experiences? As always, comments welcome.


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Whose Idea is it Anyway?



In today’s day and age it seems strange to be talking about the ownership of ideas. That’s not yours, that’s mine. Really, can one person hold an idea and what is actually achieved by that?
 
For example, if someone comes up with a similar idea, aren’t we benefited by having a conversation with that person or group about how we could make both ideas awesome, rather than deciding which idea is more valid?
 
Although some love the glitz and glory that comes with being the one behind the great idea, to give an idea life sometimes we need to relinquish some of that control, we need to hold it lightly, allow for different perspectives and provide others a meaningful voice in the discussion.
 
A lone nut who keeps an idea to themselves is oddly enough still a lone nut. For in the end, it takes a village and sometimes the most important thing we can do is let it go.

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Learning in a Connected World – Moving Towards a Life of Learning

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by courosa: http://flickr.com/photos/courosa/2922421696
 
So far I have discussed connecting with others both off and online. In addition to this, I explored taking owner of our identity online, as well as elaborating on and engaging with the ideas of others. The fifth step in being a connected educator is learning.
 
Ideas and inspiration can come from many places and like connections, are not always digital or online. Sometimes learning can be as simple as a chat around the photocopier or walking between classes. I have discussed this elsewhere as the incidental ‘hidden’ professional learning. The reality is, everything in life can offer a point of learning if we are willing to see it that way. For example, an activity that I have done with my students in the past is to reflect upon their classroom and what it says. I have done this in history when considering artefacts, as well as in music when thinking about performance and space.
 
I would argue though that the digital realm only extends the potential of this learning. One of the best things about learning online is that you can do it anywhere, any time. Whether it be reading a blog, watching a video, listening to a podcast or participating in an online chat, there are so many opportunities and options that the biggest challenge that we are faced with is what to engage with.
 
At the recent Teachmeet event at the Immigration Museum+Richard Olsen posed the question about whether there are any negatives about being connected. This has really prayed on my mind. I think there is so much written about the positives, that the flip side is often left silent. One of the initial negatives that I found is having so many different options and ideas out there, it can often leave you in a state of disarray. The challenge then is what we do about this disruption to the way things are. The biggest lesson I have learnt in being a connected educator is that nothing has to be the way that it is, rather we choose for it to be that way.
 
My solution to this feeling of perpetual confusion is to engage with others online in the effort to identify different perspectives. By engaging I don’t mean lambasting those whose views are different, but rather, as +Peter DeWitt puts it, “finding common ground with people I do not always agree with, and building consensus with those that I do.” 
 
In a recent interview with +Ed Tech Crew, +Dan Donahoo provides the suggestion of finding five people that you disagree with and following them. His argument was that we often learn more from those who we oppose, than those that we agree with. In another take on this, +David Truss, refuting the echo chamber argument, states that, “a good PLN will pull in learning from places I don’t normally go, and this means that even when good ideas bounce around, perspectives on those ideas don’t stay static… they don’t echo, and they morph into new insights.” 
 
As I stated in my post on blogging, learning online is about connecting with others in a reciprocal manner, both taking and giving. At its heart, it is about keeping the conversation going. Often though, it is the walls that are often built around us that kill this conversation. 
 
The easiest way to breakdown walls that so often hold us back, inhibit us and prevent us from reaching our potential is to realise that such ‘walls’ are merely a construct. Having been built, they can often just as easily be torn down. To me the Rhizomatic Learning MOOC epitomised (or epitomises, depending on how you think of things) everything that is meaningful about being a connected educator both in content and construct. 
 
Although I connected with some really great people, such as +Simon Ensor, +Keith Hamon, +Luis López-Cano, +maureen maher, +Ronald L and +dave cormier, it was a connection formed around ideas rather than personalities. I made no pretence to assume that I knew many or any of these people. To me though, this is what is so significant about connectivism. Although we may connect with people, a specific identity, to me it is the thoughts and ideas that they may offer that makes them truly meaningful. It may be important to nurture and maintain connections, but it is our capacity to know more that is more critical than what is currently known which stands out the most.
 
Although online learning, whether it be responding to a tweet or participating in a MOOC, may not necessarily provide the same depth and rigor of a more formalised learning, it does provide an opportunity to connect with others who we otherwise would not normally associate with and develop new knowledge in the process. As +George Siemens pointed out in his seminal piece, “our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.” To me, being a connected educator is the first and most important step to a life of learning. For if as David Weinberger puts it that ‘the smartest person in the room is the room”, my learning is more meaningful when it is not restricted to those people who I work with or know through past experiences.

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A Homage to Rhizomatic Learning

So, it is Week 6 of ‘Rhizomatic Learning’, the last planned week of the course, and the focus is how do we teach ourselves into uselessness? How do we empower people so they have the PERMISSION to learn without us?
 
What an interesting topic to end Rhizomatic Learning with, the notion of doing your job so that you are no longer required any more. Maybe the word job is the wrong word, but simply so that you are no longer a required commodity. The question then is what remains? I would argue that when all else has gone, we are left with learning. The problem with this is that so much of ‘learning’ is social, it comes from our connections with other, those clashes of ideas that once settled, develop into new beginnings. The first step then in making ourselves useless is to define who ‘we’ are. Teachers? Learners? Facilitators? Critical friends? Fire starters?
 
What is often missed in discussions about teaching is the inadvertent, incidental, non-traditional environments that don’t necessarily stem from college and higher-education. Take for example a swimming teacher who may have completed a set of modules. However, their ‘qualification’ to teach is often based on their own prior learning and experiences. 
 
I sat watching my two year old daughter’s swimming lesson the other day and wondered what made her teacher a ‘good’ teacher. I had already decided that she was good, especially that my daughter had come along in leaps and bounds since moving up to the next level (although still easily distracted, can’t change everything). Added to this, in the previous group, I had gotten in the pool with my daughter, but now she was going solo and it gave me a whole different view on things. A view from the outside.
 
Some of the attributes that I would say that made her a good teacher is that she is stern but fair, while her instructions are always pertinent and to the point. However, what stands out the most is that she compliments the kids whenever she gets the chance. Although she obviously works from a program, she never ceases to interrupt the lesson when needs be so as to support her students if they are struggling with a particular skill or adapting a lesson to extend them. The reality is that her focus on providing continual feedback and encouragement is the attribute that truly makes her stand out.

Coming back to Rhizomatic Learning, I am therefore left mulling over how +dave cormier has successfully ‘managed the MOOC’. I must be honest that the word ‘manage’ may be slightly misleading, inferring incorrectly a sense of power and control, I think that instead what the course has done is instigate learning throughout. In some respect this has now been coordinated by everyone, although Dave has ‘set’ the tasks and facilitated the communications and conversations. However, as was demonstrated by +Mariana Funes‘ post, much was left to the community to continue the learning.
 
Whoever it may be, whatever the situation is, I believe that the reality is that someone always needs to be stoking the fire, throwing more wood on it, as well as setting some boundaries to make sure that it doesn’t burn out of control. Now I don’t necessarily mean ‘boundaries’ to dictate what you can and cannot say, rather it is about highlighting fractures or providing critical responses. The reality is, we all need constructive criticism and feedback at some stage.
 
I am reminded of a comment +Steve Wheeler made about blogging that restricting it is like going to a party with a paper bag on your head. To add to that, I think that a blog that doesn’t open itself to readers is like going to a party with only one person. Although a blog is usually written by one person, it is the community which legitimises it. Whether it be adding a different perspective or providing push back. For example, I always love when +Richard Olsen writes back to my posts, questioning all those aspects and ideas that I take for granted.
 
To me, there will always be a need for an instigator, someone to stock the fire occasionally, keep it burning, but whether this needs to be a teacher or leader I am not so sure. I am really intrigued by the idea of guest hosted accounts such as @edutweetoz and @vicpln which are voices rotated throughout the online community. In the end, what needs to change is putting learning at the heart of education. In this environment everyone has their part to play. If we all see ourselves as learners then surely that is most of the job done.

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Curriculum as a Verb

Universal Design for Learning by Giulia Forsythe (Flickr)
 
In a recent post, I wrote about the idea that a PLN, whether professional or personal learn network, as actually being something that you do, a verb, rather than something done, a noun, I think that the same argument can be applied to the notion of curriculum. Too often when we discuss ‘curriculum’ it is as something stagnant, something finished, something complete, a document held in the hand. However, treating it in this way misses something, denies the reality that it is something that is constantly developing, growing, adapting, changing and evolving.
 
One of the reasons that we see curriculum as being something stagnant is that often the changes can occur over long periods of time so we do not consider it as something constant. For example, in my time teaching, I have seen three significant curriculum shifts. Firstly the transition from CSFII to VELS. This was significant because it moved subject based assessment to also recognising various interdisciplinary strands of learning. Associated with this, there was also a move from grading students in an individual manner to assessing them in relation to a continuum. The second transition is from VELS, a state based curriculum document, to the Australian Curriculum, a nation wide initiative. What is interesting is that although each evolution brought about significant change, after a period of transition, a mystical sense of inertia kicks in.
One of the reasons that curriculum changes is because the world changes. In a recent post about whether everyone should learn to code, +Richard Olsen made the suggestion that curriculum is a form of future prediction, that is, it is “designed to predict need.” This being the case, curriculum does need to keep on evolving, because once the current set of needs are met then a new set of needs emerges.
I remember hearing David Howes from ACARA present about the National Curriculum a few years ago. One of the things that stood out was what he said about how the cross-curriculum priorities. Howes explained that indigenous histories and culture, Australia’s engagement with Asia and sustainability were chosen as priorities because they were contemporary issues faced by students today. What was significant though was that Howes’ stated that there will come a time in a few years when when these priorities will need to be revised. For if they are implemented properly, then they will no longer be an issue in society. Therefore, there will come a time when a new set of priorities will need to be devised.
This is what much of the debate the 21st Century learning is about. Too often we get caught up with the present and fail to grasp the coming future. Although many of the skills, such as collaboration and problem solving, are needed today, it is a technologically and socially rich tomorrow which they are truly derived for. The problem is that it is so much easier to respond to today, rather than worry about tomorrow.
So far I have discussed the epic seismic eruptions associated with curriculum, however there is also the flip side to all of this, those tectonic shifts in the plates which more than often go unseen. I think that the worst thing that we can do when reflecting on curriculum is to consider such documents as the Australian Curriculum as being the same thing for each and every person. This completely denies any sense of subjectivity associated with the creation of knowledge and understanding.
For example, I remember a few years ago there was an effort to align what was being done in Middle Years English with some of the changes to VCE. One such change was the introduction of contexts, such as imagined landscapes or encountering conflict, as a focus, rather than a particular text, as had previously been done. What was interesting is how everyone saw this change differently. For some it was simply a way of looking at a particular text, while for others there was no central text, rather it was about approaching the context from a wide range of perspectives. Added to this, even once an agreed approach is achieved, it is then further moulded and adapted as new teaches take to it. As I stated elsewhere, the process is often far more instrumental than the actual outcome.
+Richard Olsen sums this whole process up, suggesting that “it is not commonly understood that curriculum is a compromise.” Whether it be compromising on what is included or compromising on how it is implemented, curriculum is always in a constant state of choice and reflection – and that is ok.

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Community as Curriculum

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

I was faced with a new challenge the other day. With the choice of the new professional learning communities the group that I was allocated to was given an additional challenge, that we would in fact be leaderless, that we would work collaboratively to develop a focus and go from there. Initially, I was apprehensive, as I had concerns about where technology had been heading – the group was meant to focus on using technology to engage. However, what was interesting was the group did manage to develop a voice of its own, a collective voice, with everyone adding their own question and concern. This got me thinking again about +Dan Donahoo‘s keynote at ICTEV13 Conference that a community is not about everyone doing the same thing, rather it is about recognising the place of everyone in the village. 

This led me to reflect upon a bigger problem that has developed in the past few years, the mix and match of different technological devices and platforms. The school I work at has an array of devices, including Windows netbooks, desktop computers, Windows 8 tablets and iPads for leadership. With this assortment comes the issue that some things open on one device, but not another. Although my answer was Google Drive, as I have discussed elsewhere, however the majority of teachers have taken to using Dropbox as their solution of choice. I think what is significant about this choice is not whether the use of Dropbox is more useful than Google Drive, rather that there has been a lack of discussion and consultation. The reality is that I can live with any answer. However, when the community is not consulted, does the answer even matter? Is there a bigger issue at play? Does one size fit all?

In the end, to come back to Donahoo’s message, often the process is far more important than the actual outcome. Maybe that is what community as curriculum is, about a constantly evolving dialogue where everyone’s thoughts and opinions are given due diligence. Something easier said than done at times, but maybe that is the challenge.


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Is Books Making Us Stupid?

So, it is Week 4 of ‘Rhizomatic Learning’ and the focus is whether ‘books are making us stupid?’. The questions posed are what the medium of print done to learning? What are the implications of this objective distance? How does it impact what we believe is valid in our society both inside learning and outside of it?
 
In a recent post, I posed the question, ‘What’s so Digital about Literacy Anyway?’ One of my concerns was that in all of the reading practises that I have been a part of, digital texts are too often frowned upon, a poor distant relative to the exemplary printed text. The argument usually stated to me is that it just isn’t the same to read a text on a screen as it is to feel the texture of the paper, to flick the pages. It just isn’t organic. It is not how it is done. I couldn’t agree more, it is not how it is done, it is different, but just because it is different, does that make mean that it is better or worse?
 
This brings me to my other concern, that of ‘reading’. One of the things that I think is often overlooked in the whole process is the place of the response. Whenever we read we respond, the only question is whether we are willing to engage with that inner voice. So often students are indoctrinated from a young age that reading is what is important, that dedicating regular time to the cause is somehow what makes someone a good reader. I feel that although reading is important, responding is great. This may be as simple as asking a question spurred on by a book or sharing a quick summary with someone else.
 
What I find sad is that this denial of  digital literacy as a part of ‘reading’ denies such a powerful opportunity to respond to the text and take action. What I love about reading something an ebook or a blog post is that there are various ways in which I can capture my thinking and then collate it afterwards. Whether this be collecting my highlights and digital notes or using a social bookmarking tool like Diigo to capture annotations and ideas. On top of this, it is so easy to then share these ideas and pieces of information to a blog or a tweet.
Now, I am not saying that books make us stupid, but prioritising one medium over another is stupid. In the end, anything that limits the conversation is nonsensical, for as +Doug Belshaw pointed out in his ebook The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies, “I would argue that literacy is inherently a social phenomenon. In fact, I’d argue that, in isolation, an individual cannot be literate at all”

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Some Reflections on Uncertainty

So, it is Week 3 of ‘Rhizomatic Learning’ and the focus is embracing uncertainty. The questions posed are How do we make embrace uncertainty in learning? How do we keep people encouraged about learning if there is no finite achievable goal? How do we teach when there are no answers, but only more questions?
 
One of the many things that struck out from my first day back at school was the statement that, “a student’s perception is their reality”. The argument being made was that how you present yourself in the beginning has an effect on the rest of the year. This sort of thinking often leads to people donning a tie, graduate teachers trying to be sterner than they would like and teachers creating overly structured lessons all in the attempt to start the year off on the right foot.
 
The big problem with all of this is that we take such measures in the attempt to control everything around us. We presume that if we wear a tie, if we keep a few students in at lunchtime, if we develop some lessons where students are kept busy the whole time, that it will create the right perception, that school is about rules and power, with the teachers being their enforcer. However, what is overlooked in all of this is that it denies that the uncertainty involved in someone’s perception. 

For example, a young female teacher who smiles a little too often happens to teach next to the rather strict and stern male teacher. This chance situation often leaves the young teacher being perceived as a pushover. Whereas, if that same teacher taught next to a similar such teacher to herself, then the perception of her would be totally different. Although we can do many things to influence how we are perceived, there are still many factors that are outside our grasp. The reality is that we cannot control someone else’s perception and that is ok.
 
Associated with this effort to control perception is the effort to control learning. Seemingly dictated by the curriculum, it is so easy to structure learning for students, rather than with students. As +Richard Olsen pointed out on Twitter, “it is not commonly understood that curriculum is a compromise.” A part of this ‘compromise’ is actually opening learning up to students, not simply ‘compromising’ as teachers. Sadly, a part of this compromise often leads to teachers sticking to areas where they feel comfortable – working to their strengths you may say – rather than opening learning up to the students. Even though so many claim to be life-long learners, this is too often merely lip service, rather than embraced. Classrooms are proclaimed to be student centred, however class agreements are often created as a token gesture, only to be never seen again.
 
This all reminds me of a post from +George Couros the other about everything happening for a reason. Couros talks about how he was feeling unhappy in his career, so he decided to change his mindset by wearing a tie to school. What was significant about George’s change was that it was not about changing others, rather it was about changing himself. So often we try to lock down and control the world around us in the classroom, when the only thing that we can truly change and control is ourselves.

This year I have entered the classroom with a new vigour. Instead of starting with my curriculum fully planned, I have opened it up to the students. Although I had an idea of what we could do, it was only as a starting point to be refined by the contributions of the students. So instead of beginning the first lesson outlining what students will learn, I began the question, ‘what do you want out of this subject?’ After that I provided an outline of the areas that students would be assessed against and a suggestion of what I thought that we could do. After reflecting on the responses from the students and opening it up to the class, we then created an overview of the units of study of the semester. I must admit that one of the benefits that I have this year is that I am the only teacher of my subjects, therefore my class and I do not have fit in with somebody else. However, why is it that the need to ‘fit in’ means that differentiation is so often subdued.

I am not particularly sure that I have really addressed the questions at the beginning, but I would like to think that I have at least touched upon the heart of the problem, that how we deal with uncertainty often starts with the foundation for learning which we put in place in the classroom. That is the only reality worth talking about.

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Minor Education, Towards a More Independent Learning

There has been a lot of debate in Week Two of Rhizomatic Learning revolving around ‘enforcing independence’. Although some of the debate has been about the choice of words and other such technicalities, a lot of the discussion has emanated from the contradictory nature of forcing something that focuses on freedom and choice. I myself have already posted about the matter, in which I suggested that the only way that this could be possible is within a situation where the learning is their own servant and master. After some great feedback from those in the course, it was pointed out to me that education is full of impossible ideals that we never quite meet. Something I myself have posted about elsewhere. What our focus should really be is about using such prompts as the mantra that guides us, rather than the hard and fast rule that drives us. So instead I have changed tack. Here then are a list of thoughts and ideas that may not achieve ‘enforced independence’, but definitely work towards that goal:
 
  • Students must make a choice and live with the consequences, with ambivalence not an option. I have written a bit about choice. I think that instead of being forced towards a particular style or method, it is better to look at each option and make the best choice that we can, aware of the consequences of such decisions.
  • Everyone is learning something. Joe Mazza uses the term ‘Lead Learner’ to replace teacher and although there is a bit of conjecture about whether that means principal or all staff, I think that it is important to get rid of the term ‘teacher’, as in my eyes, it rarely achieves much good.
  • Students and learning are at the centre, not the teacher and instruction. In a fantastic little book by +Mark Barnes called ‘5-minute Teacher‘. He suggests in his closing remarks that if you simply start seeing students at the centre then you are already on the right track.
  • Creativity must not be assessed, rather it is should be reflected upon. In a fantastic post by +Amy Burvall, she outlines how we should approach creativitiy. Rather than assessing it with a rubric and putting constraints on the task, Burvall asks for five ‘tions’ from her students: attribtion, explanation, reflection, no hesitation and no self-deprecation.
  • Rubrics are best co-created. This is a fantastic task for getting student emmersed in a task and taking more ownership over their learning. A fantastic resource that I have found to support this is BIE’s ‘Rubric for Rubrics‘.
  • Feedback should be a two way process. Too often when we talk about feedback, it is about what feedback is being provided a the students. However, if everyone is seen as a learner, than feedback from the students is just as, if not more, important. Feedback, then, should always be an open dialogue.
  • Subjects should be the mediator, not the motivator, of learning. Although many schools are structured around ‘subjects’ and pushing thought a certain content, we should always have an eye on how each skill or tool may be utilised across the board and even more importantly, the world outside of the school.
  • Be open to change. The worst classes I have administered have been when I have decided prior to learning what we will do and being unwilling to adjust to each and every situation. It is so important to adjust to the needs of each and every learner, whether this be in the form of instruction, support or simply what is offered. Although you may have a plan attached to an intention, it is also just as important to go with the flow and respond to the moment, for that is what you are in.
  • Start with a space. In a great post from +Luis López-Cano, he outlines the importance of space on controlling the learning that is even possible. Just as it is important to recognise the choices that we make, it is also just as important to recognise the constraints that may restrict us. In recognising such things, we are better able to stretch them to get the most out of them or even break them.
 
It is important to remember that these are guides not rules – suggestions, thoughts, beginnings, a starting point to a more independent form of learning. To treat such ideas as rules can miss the point and as John Spencer and Tom Panarese pointed out in their post ‘12 Half-Truths Pundits Say to Teachers‘, it is easy to get caught up in the fervour of change and the realities and restraints of the everyday classroom. 
 
In the end, this list is best understood as a list of ideals to spur me forward, each and every day, to be the best that I can be and support those under my care. Do I embody them each of them everyday, no. Not because I don’t want to, but rather because life has its own way of things at times. However, such ideals are what help me continually break free from what John Goh describes, as our ‘default value’. That idea laid as a foundation during our formative years.
 
Are there any suggestions that you would add to my list? Any tools and strategies to add to a learner’s toolbox? Would love your thoughts and ideas.

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