Archive for the ‘learning’ Category

If at first you don’t succeed… #twistedpair

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Steve Wheeler has cast his line again and hooked me this time. After a couple of recent blogging challenges (#blimage & #blideo), he’s come up with another great idea to get us thinking & writing – #twistedpair. Steve suggests we look for a strange (or unlikely) pairing of people to illustrate an aspect of education and learning. I’ve been thinking about the need for students to persist in their learning, to be tenacious, endeavouring to become authentic life-long learners. In thinking of an example of a couple of characters who epitomise this type of learner – who other to look to than Sisyphus and Wile E. Coyote as a #twistedpair.

These two characters are each in a perpetual struggle – they both have goals and in attempting to achieve them, continue to be frustrated. Both are compelled in their desire – either rolling a huge boulder up a hill again and gain, or attempting to catch that elusive Road Runner. These guys just keep trying. They don’t seem to have a choice, constantly trying to achieve their goal. I guess Sisyphus actually achieves the goal, but has to keep repeating the task. I guess he’d be getting pretty good at shoving boulders, but doesn’t have any opportunity to come at his labour from a different perspective, or use some sort of innovation to help…

He man
Photo credit Richard Roche

On the other hand, Wile E. continues to fail at catching the elusive Road Runner, but he’s always trying something else to become successful. He orders product after product from the Acme Corporation and they always look like they will help him achieve his goal, but they ultimately backfire and don’t work. We’re not sure how much he learn’s from his failures, but we admire that he’s alway up for another try. 

When we’re helping our students learn, we should be looking out for different tools that may be of assistance to them. maybe they need to see things from another perspective, or need a specific tool so that they might try another approach to gain understanding and achieve those learning outcomes. As teachers we need to support the development of resilience in our students and encourage them not to give up, to keep on trying, to persevere. As William Hickson once penned:

‘Tis a lesson you should heed:

Try, try, try again.

If at first you don’t succeed,

Try, try, try again.

 I wonder if Sisyphus and Wile E. might be able to solve each other’s challenges – if only they could get together…

how spicy would you like it? [#blogjune post #28]

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Post #28 – where questions of taste and flavour are considered

The tongue is an amazing thing – giving us the capacity to taste a wide range of flavours, from sweet to sour and hot to cold. Herbs and spices are able to change the way we appreciate food and we see that different cultures use these additives in different ways. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to try a number of different cuisines and like how spices can change the way dishes taste. I guess a lot depends on other ingredients too, the type of vegetables, what sort of carbohydrate, and the type of meat. It’s all part of the cook’s skill to determine the mix and the correct proportions of ingredients to make for a delicious meal.

So, I got to thinking how we might spice up our our education – what flavours do we add to learning experiences? Do we purposefully think about how we can make learning palatable? How can we make learning tasty, with a hint of spice (and daring) rather than being bland and boring? Do we actively encourage our students to try new dishes to expand their range of taste and appreciation? I guess the ways we present the curriculum can help, making it something different and even exotic can engage students. We should also be active in looking for new ways of cooking up a lesson, reading cookbooks and listening to and watching experts. The flavours and spices could be new types of resources, new assessment, new external activities, and even foreign approaches. It’s always good to ask your students to come along on the discovery of new tastes with you-who knows what you might discover. 

What sort of education cook/chef are you? What special ingredients do you use in your pedagogy? Any secret recipes you’d like to share?


Spices in the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul…

Word of the Day is: ‘clement’ – not inclement I guess…

what is elearning? [#blogjune post #13]

Friday, June 13th, 2014

Post #13 – where this writer contemplates what he does

I was prompted to write this post after a challenge that came from Mark O’Meara via Twitter after I’d tweeted that I needed something write about for this post.

Mark knew that I had just read his post ‘Mixed Messages, or How I Kept Loving Paper’, and we’ve often exchanged ideas in the past – so, I guess he knew I might take the bait.

Mark wrote his post in response to an article that was about banning laptops in the classroom/lecture theatre. It suggested that students may fare better in post lesson tests when they are not allowed to open their laptops. I have no reason to dispute this. Mark reflected on his willingness to use technology (as an elearning leader) in the classroom and wondered just how much is enough, and when might it be better to use other tools for learning. He also mentioned blended learning, but that’s for another post.

I guess Mark & I are in the same business and I often call myself an elearning coordinator (it’s easier & makes more sense than my real title), but then qualify that & say that I’m really an educator. An educator who is interested in using technology to advantage in supporting learning. I think we can get caught up in the excitement and possibilities of educational technologies and forget that they are tools through which students learn. These tools are enabling and can be engaging and I guess their functioning means that they are digital and electronic, rather than analogue (as a paper & pencil might be). But the paper and pencil are technology too. Should we keep making the distinction that these new educational technologies are electronic, and assume that the learning that occurs is ‘e’? I wonder if we should actually still call it elearning? Steve Wheeler asked this question a few years ago in his post ‘Dropping the ‘e’‘. 

What I do believe is that it does require a specific skill set to be able use technology effectively in learning. It requires a high level of digital literacy/fluency and good understanding of the capability of the tools to achieve the intended learning outcome. These digital tools should be embedded in the curriculum as a support & enabling device like books, paper, conversation etc., and not ‘be’ the curriculum. I guess I see that learning in today’s world should use the (appropriate) tools available so that students don’t just learn their intended subject matter, but also learn skills in how to use the tools to help them learn themselves. Students should learn how to ‘consume’ discerningly, as well as be able to ‘create’ evidence of what they now know & understand. What do you think?

branch embeded in tree

Tree embedding old timber as it grows around it. 

Our Word of the Day is: ‘ambulant’, like, as in able to get around. 

lurching from one thing to the next [#blogjune post #12]

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Post #12 – where consideration is given to transitions

Semester 1 & Trimester 1 are coming to an end and we’re busy getting ready for the next teaching periods. There’s really no let up as staff finish teaching this week, then there’s marking to do. Then there’s a week between that and getting their material ready for students starting again in first week of July. We just seems to lurch from one period to the next without a proper transition. Students don’t get much of a break either…it’s busy, busy, busy.

The image below is of a set of dots on the ground that indicate and warn of a transition in the path and  perform a useful public service. These would mostly be to provide guidance for people (particularly those with a disability) and they are meant to indicate an impending step or a corner to navigate. We see these all over our footpaths now, and I’ve been interested in the patterns, colour, material, design and style of the dots/buttons. 

What transition do we use to indicate a change in direction or the learning landscape at this time? I guess assessment and results, finishing and starting a teaching period are the main ones. I’d suggest we could also acknowledge the fact that we need to take care, have a rest and catch our breath before tackling the next learning period. 

But, do we have anything else that signals that we have finished one thing and are beginning something new? How do we transition between subjects/units/courses? Do we highlight connections between topics & themes? Are we explicit about the relationships between the discreet components of a program and how they make up the warp & weft of a degree. Informing students that they have learnt particular concepts and that they will lead onto other ideas is useful, it would hopefully make that transition easier and more meaningful. Is it possible to show students where they are on the map of their learning landscape (the degree) so that they understand what terrain they will be moving into? I think this would be worth doing, do you?


An array of (safety?) dots/buttons on a path.

Our Word of the Day* is: ‘gloze’ – an older word that means to gloss over.

*I source these words from the Dictionary & Thesaurus iOS app

learning through our stomachs

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Post #11 – where hunger is satiated through learning

After taking the photo of a plant (below – not sure what it is), I got to thinking about the last time I really enjoyed a learning experience. Was it that good that I wanted to stuff my face in it and gorge on the content? I’d love to have a learning activity that I could describe as succulent. It should be fat and juicy, delicious, and all that I would want/need. It would become a priority, my goal, my desire. I would like to to feel the need to learn, to have a goal, to be engaged. It would be OK if things got a little messy and needed fixing up. Mistakes would be OK and worth the effort to correct. The outcome of this learning would wonderful and very satisfying – we’d never forget it…

The food analogy leads me to wonder about the perfect recipe for the learning experience. This could be adjusted depending on dietary requirements and taste. We’d need the appropriate ingredients in differing quantities (relevant, interesting, question, challenge, purpose, engaging, participation), the corrects tools, a suitable environment and context, peers to work with (but not alway necessary), space/time, some guidance, and an intended outcome…  

When was the last time you devoured your learning, or you watched some students doing the same? What were the conditions, the rules of engagement? Learning should be yum! don’t you think?


Unknown succulent

Word of the Day is: ‘foray’, go on, you know you want to…


some things I thought about today

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Post #4 for #blogjune – where I just rattle off some random thoughts..

“What am I going to write today?”, I ask myself. Who knows, I’ll just going to keep typing for a few minutes and see what happens…

One thing in the back of my mind today is the paper I have to finish before the end of the month. It’s basically written, but stills needs some tweaking and a few hours of editing. I’m going to submit this for the ascilite2014 conference which has the theme of ‘Rhetoric and Reality’. It’s a good theme I think, and hopefully the conference will give us a good reality check against some of the rhetoric we see in higher education circles concerning education & learning with technology. I find some of the (rhetorical) discussion often distracts us from the real work of determining what works well and improves student learning outcomes. It will be good to be at an event where ideas can be presented and discussed – looking forward to it.

I believe there’s an ongoing discussion to be had about how we structure learning and assessment in this new (digital & social) age. How do we create authentic learning activities that apply some cognitive load and engage students enough for them to enjoy the hard work of learning? Are our students ready for this? What do they expect to do?

I’ve also been thinking about work-place culture and how we induct new academic staff to the ‘business’ of teaching. It’s quite a deal to start work in a new place and have to get your head around the IT systems involved, the teaching spaces and associated technologies, let alone the online learning system/space. There’s a significant overhead to get up to speed with these things, and I have been struggling with how to distill the essentials to ensure staff have enough of a grasp of things to get underway. Organised workshops can address some of the need, but I’ve found that face-to-face and at-the-elbow interaction is a productive way to help staff come to understand and gain confidence with their new environment. The BIG question for me is, does senior management recognise the need for staff support and professional development, and are they willing to invest resources for this? What are your thoughts and experience on this?

A rope in the grass

Came across a rope in the grass on my walk today – not a snake to be seen.

Today’s Word of the Day is ’sparge’ – I hope, dear reader, that you’re enjoying the sparge of ideas in these series of #blogjune posts.