maybe it’s not as bad as it seems [#blogjune post #25]

June 25th, 2014

Post #25 – where we think about looking on the bright side

Often when facing difficultly, I find it useful to think about what would be the worst thing that could happen. All seems lost and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to remedy the situation. It’s a bit like being in a barbed wire canoe without a paddle – we might be sitting in the boat, but it’s painful and we’re on the bottom of the river, not going anywhere. But, we can swim! Let’s leave the canoe where it is and think about getting to dry land and having a think about what we were trying to do with that canoe. Sometimes a learning activity can sink as well – it didn’t get students to where you wanted them to be…

The barbed wire canoe was obviously not fit for the purpose we intended – it’s more suited as an art gallery exhibition piece. I guess we were aware there was some risk involved and we’ve learnt from the experience. So, what to do? It’s back to the drawing board to design a different canoe I guess. Rather than barbed wire, we need to find some other material to build with – what sort of resources are available and appropriate? Thinking more about the purpose and ensuring things like good design, being waterproof and the right paddle will be important. Maybe a sea trial is a good idea too – test the design before asking people to come along for a ride…

Are you willing to abandon your (learning design) ship and rebuild your canoe?

Barbed wire Canoe

Barbed wire canoe

Word of the Day is, ‘peckish’ – somewhat hungry…

what’s involved in making a nice carpet? [#blogjune post #24]

June 24th, 2014

Post #24 – where the aspects of design and construction are pondered

The photo below was taken during a visit to Turkey late last year and while it shows us the process of making a carpet, I think it’s useful for us to consider it as a rich model or metaphor for creating/designing learning. It’s hard work to make a nice carpet. First you need a strong loom to provide the frame and hold the ‘becoming’ carpet together till it can ’stand’ on its own. In learning, the loom might be the unit of work or course that governs the size of the learning activity.

Next you need the raw (tough and strong) threads of the warp as a foundation and base structure to build the pattern on. This is the part of the carpet that is usually hidden in the final product, but an important part of the carpet as it provides integrity. In learning design this could be the theory of learning adopted, the understanding of content, presentation and assessment (as curriculum) – the supporting ideas that inform the learning process. 

You then need a plan or design/template to work from, you can see this in the picture and it seems to be at a double scale. The intricacy of the pattern is all laid out, and includes the colours of the thread to be used. This design can be used again and again, but also changed in necessary, or another design might be used depending on purpose. What are the desired learning outcomes for your students? Do you have are clearly articulated plan? 

Next we need the coloured threads (the weft) which are the ‘resources’ used to make up the pattern. These are used purposefully to create the design, and each thread needs to be added to the warp and knotted so as to become and integral part of the carpet. You can see a whole bunch of these gathered at the top of the loom and while they look messy there, once added to the carpet they take on a different form. They are knotted and cut to fit perfectly in the overall design. We should always ensure we have sufficient resources to support and align with our learning design, and maybe even have some as back up just in case… 

We also need to know how to add the threads to the weft using special knots and even a tool to embed them firmly. Each thread has a reason for being where it is, and this should also apply to what resource material we ask our students to use in their learning – it should be meaningful and have purpose. 

It takes time to create a beautiful carpet, it’s not an instant process. You also need to take time to pause or rest, to check that things are proceeding according to plan. But is the process finished when the last thread is tied off? I don’t think so, next comes the sale and then the carpet takes on a new life as it graces the floor, wall, or table in someone’s home. It can be used for a number of things – and best of all, has an ongoing aesthetic and inbuilt story of it’s own making…

I guess evaluation and feedback comes in some form when a customer decides they like it, appreciate the workmanship, it fulfils a need, and they want to spend their money on acquiring it and having a carpet to keep as an heirloom. 

Do you think about your learning design as a piece of art and something worth desiring and keeping for life?

carpet being woven

Carpet under construction

Word of the Day is, ‘garboil’ – confusion.

what are you really leaving behind? [#blogjune post #23]

June 23rd, 2014

Post #23 – where footprints (digital and otherwise) are considered…

In a recent post I wrote about tracks and the marks we might leave on our learning journey. The focus of that post was of physical things and tangible artefacts, but what about the digital footprint we leave? This extension (part two?) of that post is in response to that question (conveyed by a reader) and I think it’s an important one…

While our physical legacy is an easily observable one, what of the trails we leave in the digital world/landscape? I guess these are legion – think of all those online applications and services we use and where we go on the web. Most of what we do online is collected and stored in a database somewhere. This data is often used to analyse our interests and preferences and can provide us with more relevant and targeted information that generally encourages us to buy stuff. This data is also used to collect our statistics on things such as friends, tweets, photos, videos, profile/demographics, etc. Our students also need to be aware of this, they leave digital trails in systems at university as well as elsewhere in the internet. What do these trails tell us about them? Do we have a due diligence to encourage students (and colleagues) to use something like an ePortfolio to manage and curate their evidence of learning (outcomes) and reflect on their learning journeys? I suggest an ePortfolio here in the context of it being able to aggregate the range of different artefacts that may exists across the web. A place where a personal (learning) narrative might be presented.

I took the photo below in Niger which is a poor and very sandy country. What surprised me about this image was that most of the prints were made by bare feet. There is no intermediary between the foot and the ground. You can feel the texture of the sand under you foot and between your toes, and the heat of the earth through your sole – a direct connection. Does our digital footprint, while giving something away of ourselves, also mediate between the viewer and our real selves? Our digital persona is not our ‘real’ self, it’s a portrayal. Maybe that’s a good thing, but I also think it can be a hinderance to authentic relationships. While aspects of the digital learning environment can facilitate good learning through consumption, communication, and creation, how well do we really connect and collaborate? 

How do you mediate the digital between yourself and your students? 


Footprints in the sand

Word of the Day is, ‘droke’ – steep sided valley (Canada)

where do ideas come from? [#blogjune post #22]

June 22nd, 2014

Post #22 – where ideas and creativity are discussed

How do you ‘see’ things? How do you react to the environment, people, and circumstances around you? I guess I’m asking more about what happens when you notice something, new or otherwise. How do you respond? Is it a considered response, or are you dismissive? Do you interact with the thoughts you have, or do you just continue on without distraction? Are we good at responding to prompts enough to think and wonder a little? Do we allow time, or are we too quick to dismiss the opportunities provided to make connections between things so as to move our thinking to another place? 

I believe good learning comes from pause, from slowing down a little and looking at what we see and linking it to what we know. If we can’t link it, we should work at finding ways to do so, to find out how this new information or input can build our mental models or world view and expand our understanding/s. Any prompt should cause us to think, to have an idea which should provide opportunities for creativity. The process of being creative is a gift we all have and can practice, as well as encourage in each other, and our students.

Do we provide enough material for our students to prompt them to think differently, to wonder otherwise, to develop understanding? What does the photo below make you think? Would love to hear your comments…

Printed leaves

Leaf impressions printed on silk

Word of the Day is, ‘arsy-varsy’ – completely back-to-front

the frustration of barriers [#blogjune post #21]

June 21st, 2014

Post #21 – where the topic of obstacles as discussed

Sometime obstacles are put in our way on purpose, things that need to be overcome & negotiated. Take the recent development of the Tough Mudder races – challenges galore and lots of fun. Often though, we come against an obstruction that prevents us proceeding, something that frustrates our progress and holds us up. A way forward does not seem to exist. Just when things are going well, we are making progress toward a destination, we need to adjust and come to halt. Things are even worse if there are no signs explaining why we can’t go further, it’s all we can do not to give up. 

What do we do when we come up against something blocking our path and our progress is checked? Do we look around and seek ways to circumvent the barrier, or do we give up and turn back. What about when we’re learning, when we just can’t find the solution or don’t understand a concept. We need something to progress and we feel lost and helpless. What do we do then? Have you had student stat just don’t seem to get it, or have some learning problem that prevent success. These are frustrating times and can effect self esteem and confidence, but are we aware of them? Do we acknowledge that these barriers exist and allow for them, can we adjust the activity or the assessment to remove a potential/particular obstruction to learning?

It is worth considering though, when we are forced to stop, that it may be useful to think about why we are held up. There may be a good reason we don’t know about, it may actually be dangerous and unsafe to proceed. It’s not a bad thing to take the time to assess the situation and weigh it up in the balance of the larger picture. Are the alternatives?

How often do you come up against barriers, and how do you respond?

Locked door

Locked door

Word of the Day is, ‘epithalamion’ – wedding song

can you see where you’ve been? [#blogjune post #20]

June 20th, 2014

Post #20 – where the imprint of education is considered

I got to thinking about the road we travel, that particular route we take in life and work. Where does it start, where does it finish – not just in the sense of location or place, but also in what we do and who we meet on the way. Having travelled a little, I’ve reflected on the tracks we leave, particularly as individuals but also as a collective group such as tourists or humanity as a whole. As we move from one place/thing to another, what marks do we make. What do we leave behind on the way – footprints, rubbish, memories, or trails for others to follow or for us to return on? What do we take along with us friends, conversation, food, photos, souvenirs and stories?

What about when we learn? What do we leave something behind on the track of our travels through our readings, discussion, assignments and exams? I guess we produce writing in essays, make presentations, build models, do experiments, and participate in groups – so there is a certain manifestation of our learning. All this is good evidence that we can present as an account of what experiences we’ve had, and learning we’ve done. But how accurate an account is it of how we’ve changed through the learning. Is it just a pattern of footprints through the landscape of education, or are we leaving something else behind. Are we a different person? Have we evolved on the way? What have we become through the experience of learning? How and where is that reflected?

What would you see if you turned around and looked the the tracks you’ve left behind?


Animal tracks in the sand.

Our Word of the Day to finish off the working week is, ‘agrarian’ – of the soil