Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hungry for the goal - epic wins in learning.

As I sit watching my son's team play soccer I see so many kids on the pitch...all here for different reasons, all here to win. I see each one picking up a different role...some roles designated by the coach, some roles happening spontaneously and some roles being picked up to help those who are not so strong in a particular area. I see kids reading the play, some have a more mature insight than others, depending on their background experiences.
Goal...to the opposition, the shoulders slump and the tone of the game shifts. I hear kids calling out to each other, offering advice, encouraging each other when things don't go as they should and giving hints from their own perspectives. Goal again...to the opposition..again..tone shifts. I see boys hungry for the goal...to get that ball inside those posts. I see kids own their own game. Occasionally coach calls out some advice to refocus the group...this advice only works when there is a culture of respect. It helps. The boys persist. The tension is tangible. Goal...our side..the epic win moment (as described in Tom Vanderarks's book called Getting Smart). The epic win isn't about the final score, it is about the events along the way, personal wins, personal improvements...growth. Shoulders straighten, smiles appear, encouragement all around is offered. The back slapping makes me smile. The half glimpses to the side lines to check that loved ones actually noticed what just happened. The tone shifts and the ultimate goal is potentially available once more. Focus regained, the boys move off for half time and reassess how they are going work together to achieve the next goal.

How much is this game like our classrooms? There is real merit in letting our learners control their learning environment...give the credit for the experiences they bring and let them drive a little more. As their coach/facilitator we can step back and let them solve problems, explore their learning and find answers. Through letting them do these things our students think deeply, think creatively, think critically and they own their learning. The epic win becomes sweeter. Our learners develop skills that set them up for life. Are we prepared to hand over ownership of the game? What does it take to construct environments that produce epic wins for individuals? Let's see more shoulders held high, more smiles on faces and students reaching new heights.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Online Learning Event

The next phase of our course requires us to plan for an online event of our choosing. We were asked to choose a method which we are not so familiar with and which would stretch our learning and experiences. Our focus is to be on various themes we have been studying in relation to effective online pedagogy such as online presence, maintaining interest/participation, social presence, tools to support pedagogy, roles of facilitators etc.
I faced a series of dilemmas when embarking on this assignment. One being, where do you start with something like this when you don't really know your cohort? How do I pitch to a group of people I don't know and will they be interested in the topic I choose. I spent ridiculous hours researching the topic of digital stories as it is relevant to my area and critiquing whether it would be a useful topic to my fellow students. In trying to construct a well designed event I tried to incorporate ideas put forward by Garrison and Anderson (2003) in relation to categories of social presence to break down barriers of alienation in an online environmentand how that can encourage participants to engage in higher order thinking and deeper level of discussion and analysis of material.
How do I foster a community of Inquiry (Garrison and Anderson 2003) which has so many benefits in terms of participants learning from others? Garrison and Anderson (2003) point out that communities of inquiry promote exploratory, organised, critical and rich thinking. This is the kind of result I am hungry for in my online learning event but when previous experience shows that participants in the course are fairly reluctant to post to discussion forums, it leaves me looking for an alternative method of running an effective learning event. I see amazing results of communities of inquiry in the use of Twitter. I'd love a Twitter feed as a part of this uni course - that way I can get immediate feedback and be challenged by the journey my fellow students are on and better still, I may be able to support them in their learning journey. I joined Twitter as way of expanding my PLN and to satisfy my thirst for knowledge - I have grown immensely from the community of sharing between participants. The participants in Twitter are willing participants...they want to be a part of a community, they are not participating because it will award them a mark at the end. This too is essential for our students and the activities we construct to engage them and to encourage the deeper level, critical thinking that they require for life.
The best outcome of this task so far? That I have a clearer picture of the dilemmas students face each day. I have a clearer idea of the stress they endure when they don't understand. I'm challenged to ensure learnign experiences are engaging, relevant, challenging and innovative. Let go of the control a little and let them lead, facilitate more and be clear about what outcome we want to achieve.