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For the Love of Learning

Learning. When you have the opportunity to watch learning – in any context – it’s really a beautiful thing. These past few weeks, there has been a lot of learning happening in our family. And it has been an amazing thing to watch. Our young son is discovering that the letters he knows (for the most part) are the same letters that are used to make words. This discovery has opened up a whole new world to him – and he now sees letters and words everywhere. From the backseat of the car I hear “Mama, what does that sign say?” From the bathroom I hear “Mama, there’s a K on that box!” From the bedroom (while he should be sleeping) I hear, “Mama, you have an H in your name. You make by going down, down and across. Shoop.”

All this learning has really had me reflecting on learning. More specifically, the love of learning.  We are natural learners. We are naturally curious. When we areheart___sandrine_valette___flickr-300x179 young we want to learn about every and anything. Yet, as we get older – something happens. School becomes a place not where we learn – but where we are educated. And for many, it is at this point that the love of learning is lost.

In a recent blog post, I wrote about how classroom furniture should be seen as an instructional technology. And it should be invested in. I obviously still believe that. But it also has me wondering how we ever got to the point where education overtook learning. When rows became the norm. When we needed to call out ‘active learning’ as revolutionary, rather than it being the norm – as it was in preschool.

I think in it all, it makes me realize (again) that while space and furniture and wall color matter – what matters most is a teacher that can find ways to instill or rejuvenate a love of learning in our students. How amazing would it be if we could create a culture where students came to us ready to be ‘educated’ and ‘job ready’ –  but left us as curious, engaged lifelong learners (to be totally cliché). I truly believe that this type of learning can happen literally anywhere. In a fixed classroom. In a flexible classroom. In a classroom with nothing but 4 white walls and a clock.

Just think of what could happen if students walked into a classroom not to be educated, but to learn.

Ways to Use Videos in Your Class

Last week I spoke to some of the Masters of Nursing faculty about the various ways video content can be used in a classroom. As I am new here to UW, I do not have a lot of openly available videos created by faculty to share. So I used some from faculty at Yavapai College. They show a variety of purposes a video may have. Instructional, an introduction, a useful aside, or an assessment of some work. I think it is a good representation of the types of videos we might create.

We created a single page handout trying to capture in a consumable format just the basic rational for creating video content for courses. It does matter what delivery is used. Face to face or online, there are many reasons that a short video can be something students can use to learn, or perhaps be inspired.


For the many who are already engaged in creating videos, we know the tools. Tegrity, Panotpto, YouTube, Jing, your phone, or your friends phone, or some app on a tablet. Lots of options and none of the tools require a doctorate in bioengineering.


Later this month I am headed down to Portland to attend a Quality Matters conference where I am to present about the value of faculty sharing their strategies for meeting the standards using short videos. We did that at Yavapai College and called it the March for Best Practice. I made a fancy website for the presentation. It looks like this. It was pretty successful. The vision was a wall of short videos that faculty could watch as other faculty described how they met the standards. Seems easy enough, right?


I thought it would be a good idea for me to gather some other videos made by anyone willing to share before the conference so I could point to them and say, look, we can do this! But, I am having a heck of a time getting conference participants to share their strategies. Maybe as the conference draws closer I’ll get more involvement. On a slightly sad note, I am reminded again of the challenges of getting people to make videos of anything other than their cats. If you want to share how you meet a standard, you can by clicking here. 


Classroom Furniture is an Instructional Technology

A definition of Instructional Technology
I set out to write this post, starting with a simple definition of instructional technology and then planned to structure my thoughts centered on this definition. Of course, me – not be able to just write a simple definition, I have spent literally HOURS reading how others have defined /are defining instructional technology. I was particularly amazed to find that in 2008, the AECT (Association for Educational and Communications Technology) sponsored a project to pen a whole book on simply the definition of the field of instructional or educational technology – Educational Technology – A definition with Commentary. Needless to say, part of me is stunned. The other part of me says – of course there is!

Anyway, this post is not about the definition of instructional technology. It is about how I feel classroom furniture should be viewed as an instructional technology.

Classroom furniture = Instructional Technology
A part of my work that really energizes and feeds me is thinking about how we can reform our teaching and learning spaces into spaces that are inspiring. That are welcoming. That are flexible. Spaces that you might actually want to TEACH in – let along LEARN in.


A classroom at UWB

However, as is evidenced in many of our classrooms at our colleges and universities, they are many times the least inspiring. They are unwelcoming and inflexible. Many times they are simply 4 white walls (with maybe a sign instructing you NOT to hang anything on the walls) with rows of immovable tables and chairs. I need not go on. I know you are envisioning such a space.

I find it ironic that we have 3-year cycles for computer replacements – and that we spend thousands of dollars creating virtual environments for our online and blended students. While our classrooms sit with years of deferred maintenance. This could change if our institutions (1) had a clear understanding of how space can shape or reshape teaching and learning (2) began to see classrooms as a way to reflect their campus’ missions and visions for teaching and learning and (3) invested in space design and redesign as it does in other technologies across campus.

Back to the AECT. In their 2008 book, Educational Technology – A definition with Commentary, the authors define educational technology as “…the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources” (p. 1, 2008). They go on to break down this definition word by word in the first chapter – so you can go after it there. However, I want to spend a few moments connecting the dots between this definition and classroom furniture.

The literature is rife with pieces exploring definitions of technology, and I’m not going there. I

Active Learning Classroom

Bowling Green State University

think it is safe to say that on our campuses, technology is probably defined as something that needs to be plugged in or that has alternate power source. It is electronic. However, per the definition from the AECT, classroom furniture also has the ability to facilitate learning and improve performance. This has been shown in much of the recent Active Learning Literature (see a few references below). Included in this literature is a piece that discovered that active learning can help disadvantaged students.

Now, I understand you can teach using active learning techniques without flexible furniture. However, how successful have you been doing a jigsaw in a tiered classroom with tab chairs bolted to the floor? Just as technology has continued to be refined, so has teaching and learning. Just as the tech industry is designing their devices using a policy of planned obsolesce, so should we when it comes to classroom furniture.

I am sure someone else has written about this. If so, please leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to read their work and gain further insights.

9x9x25 Reflection
I’m such a sentence counter! I find myself, midstream or mid-thought, counting the number of sentences I’ve written. Then trying to figure out if I should stop writing long sentences in order to reach the 25-sentence minimum faster. Why is that?!? I know I will meet the 25 sentences, so why can’t I just let myself write?

Wow. How our students must feel when we give them a writing assignment with a rubric. I used to be a proponent. Should I rethink that? Is this how our students use a rubric?

Januszewski, A., Molenda, Michael, & Association for Educational Communications Technology. (2008). Educational technology : A definition with commentary. New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Eddy, Sarah L., & Hogan, Kelly A. (2014). Getting under the Hood: How and for Whom Does Increasing Course Structurework? CBE – Life Sciences Education, 13(3), 453-Life Sciences Education, 2014, Vol.13(3), p.453-468.

Active Learning in Higher Education: http://alh.sagepub.com/content/by/year

Journal of Learning Spaces: http://libjournal.uncg.edu/jls

“it isn’t a course, just a camp…” And that is Brilliant.

potcampbadge2The Program for Online Teaching, or POT as it is affectionately known, has been around since 2005. I think I saw it around 2007 or 2008. Having read some of the writing of Lisa Lane and seeing that it was a class for teachers, run by teachers, with a goal of learning more about how to choreograph learning opportunities, I was hooked.

POT was a gateway drug for me. Shortly after experiences in POT I dabbled with some #ds106. I never tried to mainline a MOOC, but I signed up for a few. Thankfully, I stayed away from Coursera, EdX, and the Kahn Academy. I just wanted friends to talk to and I found them in the Program.

What I most admire about Lisa Lane is her commitment to trying to get it right. Or at least closer to right, and not being afraid of trying. She is fearless. She may not agree, but her fearless attitude envelopes the course and the participates feel safer with such an intrepid leader. Or organizer. Or whatever she might call her role in this group of people.

The community has travelled through the mediums of Facebook, G+, WordPress, Google Sites, and now Canvas. It has had conversations in Twitter, Hangouts, Diggo, and about every other tool that might improve experiences for learners. It is a voyage across the internet, not a conversation in a grain silo. And through all of the places and conversations, pedagogy and teaching are always held high and used to guide the travelers.

I learned a lot and I have made valuable connections and friendships through this course. You can too.

The Program is open to all and there is no charge.

You are invited.

We start Monday October 3rd.

Go here: https://canvas.instructure.com/enroll/APJCWL

You might meet someone who can help you. And if you do not want to have to take a class or go to a camp, you can always joing the Facebook page. It is active and you can ask questions that may be answered by the many awesome faculty there. Visit the POT page.

Hypothes.is: Twine Might Be Too Much. Or Not.

flickr photo shared by dutruong.t733 under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

I started this blog some time ago to invest in the reflective work on teaching and learning that I was asking of my students, and I was not a good role model.  Thanks to Todd Conaway for jump starting this project where a number of us will write together.

I didn’t keep up the blog because there was always something else that needed to be done, and I’m certainly feeling now that I should be working on my syllabi for the quarter.

But here’s the thing: I’m grappling with whether or not to incorporate two new digital tools into my Education and the American Dream course this quarter.   It’s time to decide.

I have seen multiple faculty blogs and tweets about using Hypothes.is to support social reading, as students jointly annotate websites or PDFs. I’ve read very encouraging accounts of deepened learning, richer class discussions, and students’ capacity to see things in course readings that they might otherwise have missed. Some of the readings in Am Dream are  dry  but important sociological studies, and I imagine that enabling students to  read “together” would provoke more questions and  legitimize critique of writing styles that merit critique. I’m also often surprised with the range of “numerical literacy” among students when they read some of the quantitative analyses, and I imagine the learning that could happen by witnessing others’ interpretations/ questions/ ideas as they work through these readings.

Back in June –when the summer seemed so enticingly long —  I also spent some time playing with Twine and I started to get excited about making interactive stories for this class.  They read books  (in small group “book circles” that usually operate mainly within fairly conventional online discussions) that trace pathways of opportunity — along with multiple multiple obstacles to opportunity.  I imagine them constructing games that explore different outcomes for the people in their books as they consider the complex routes that people take from childhood to adulthood.

So, instead of just revising my assignments and taking a run at either of these, I write.  I imagine having one or two students primed ahead time (and bribed with at least coffee cards) who could help classmates troubleshoot and who could model playfulness.  I imagine how great it would be to know that a few colleagues were also experimenting with either of these this quarter and we could compare notes or panic together out of the sight of students when we have no idea how to solve something.  But neither of those is likely.

So it’s time to decide.  Do I have the time?  I no longer believe that I have to have “mastered” a tool to introduce it to students, but neither will I go in without having a very good idea of how something works.  Will colleagues understand when two students (inevitably) push back on their end of quarter feedback that “this is not a tech class”?  Would my time be better spent prepping for my conference presentations (they COUNT) than refining assignments that already work ok?

I’m also developing a brand new course, in a new field that has mostly been an ever-more-finely tagged folder in Evernote for a year now, and is only now being organized into weeks and assignments and grading scales.    That’s been a lot of (fun) w0rk.

But it’s time to decide.

One? Both?

Stay tuned.  Right now, I have no idea.