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Saying ‘No’ to Best Practices – OFFICE OF DIGITAL LEARNING
"The worst best practice is to adhere to, or go searching for, best practices. I have been in countless rooms with teachers, technologists, instructional designers, and administrators calling for recommendations or a list of tools they should use, strategies that work, practices that cannot fail to produce results in the classroom. But digital tools, strategies, and best practices are a red herring in digital learning. Learning always starts with people. Instead of asking “What tool will we need?” ask “What behaviors will need to be in place?”

I emphasize and encourage a critical digital pedagogy—an approach to learning that grows from the work of writers and teachers like bell hooks and Paulo Freire, and that recognizes that in today’s world all learning is hybrid. But that approach never starts with the digital. It starts with the human. And I find that the most effective application of Critical Digital Pedagogy arises from a place of kindness, trust, and belief in students. With student (and teacher) agency as its aim, Critical Digital Pedagogy asks its practitioners to always, first and foremost, acknowledge that we are all in this room together—whether that room is a classroom or the whole wide web—and to act accordingly.

At a teaching workshop I was facilitating recently, I was pressed to offer a list of best practices. This is what I came up with. I offer these 10 best practices with what should seem like an obvious caveat. No best practices should ever go untested. I personally have tested each of these, but because learning and teaching are not homogenous experiences for everyone, I don’t encourage anyone to follow a best practice that doesn’t suit them.

Sean’s 10 Best Practices

Be yourself

While working with a group at the University of Delaware, I spoke to a graduate teacher whose upbringing in a Southern Baptist tradition sometimes leads her to present in her “preaching voice.” This is an authentic voice, and one that she’s very comfortable using; however, other teachers joke about it, or malign this aspect of her embodiment as un-academic. In digital spaces, she edits herself, creating a teacherly presence much more normative, almost unidentifiable as her.

In digital spaces, we tend to adopt mannerisms and a personality that are not entirely true to who we are. Be suspect of that, and watchful for it. In a classroom, we may perform ourselves in certain ways, but we are fallible, unedited, and vulnerable. These qualities make us better teachers. Don’t be afraid to be who you are in a digital environment as much as you are in your classroom.

Create trust / Be trusting

Jesse Stommel, Executive Director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington says,
Learning is always a risk. It means, quite literally, opening ourselves to new ideas, new ways of thinking. It means challenging ourselves to engage the world differently. It means taking a leap, which is always done better from a sturdy foundation. This foundation depends on trust — trust that the ground will not give way beneath us, trust for teachers, and trust for our fellow learners in a learning community.

Critical pedagogy assumes that students want and are motivated to learn. Only about 75% of teachers I’ve talked to feel this way. We need to change that for ourselves. Teaching is not only more effective when we trust students to learn (which I distinguish from following instructions or passing a test), but it’s also more fun, more satisfying, and less exhausting.

Grade less / Grade differently

Peter Elbow writes, “Grading tends to undermine the climate for teaching and learning. Once we start grading their work, students are tempted to study or work for the grade rather than for learning.” We all know this is true. Working for a grade undermines not only a lifelong attitude toward learning, but also student agency. A critical pedagogy asks us to reconsider grading entirely; and if we can’t abandon it whole-hog, then we must revise how and why we grade. Consider allowing students to grade themselves. Offer personal feedback on work instead of a letter, number, or percentage. There are lots of options to evaluating work without artificial markers.

Question deadlines

When pressed, most teachers have told me that they enforce deadlines because students will need to meet deadlines in the “real world.” There are no students in higher education who got there without meeting deadlines. Education need not be militaristic about deadlines. Ideas and creation are more important than timeliness. I wrote, in my post called “Late Work,”

We are put in the most unique spot of coaching learners into a world of knowledge. What we need to remember is that their world of knowledge may not align perfectly with our own, their process may not fit our schedules, their ideas may not synch with our own.

Think about what you are actually teaching and question whether you need deadlines, whether students need deadlines, and whether either of you benefit from them.

Collaborate with students

Learners are pedagogues in their own right. Chris Friend, Director of the Hybrid Pedagogy journal, writes:
If we give students the freedom to choose their own path, they might choose poorly or make mistakes on our watch. But we must be willing to allow them the challenge of this authority, the dignity of this risk, and the opportunity to err and learn from their mistakes. They learn and gain expertise through experimentation.

If pedagogy is the sole purview of the instructor in the room, students are asked to follow along a path predetermined by that instructor’s best (we hope) intentions. However, because students bring different levels of expertise to any material or discussion—and because their lives, identities, and intersectionality inform their learning—students should be as involved in their own learning as possible. From syllabus creation to grading, building rubric and assignments to self-assessment. As Daniel Ginsberg writes, “my students are the most central members of the community in which I learn critical pedagogy.”

Inspire dialogue

Very little can be accomplished through direct instruction. Bloom’s Taxonomy makes a show of positioning knowledge-level learning as the foundation of any learning experience. But learning is more chaotic, messier, and more confounding than taxonomies provide for. In “Beyond Rigor,” Jesse Stommel, Pete Rorabaugh, and I argue that:
Intellectually rigorous work lives, thrives, and teems proudly outside conventional notions of academic rigor. Although institutions of higher education only recognize rigor when it mimics mastery of content, when it creates a hierarchy of expertise, when it maps clearly to pre-determined outcomes, there are works of exception — multimodal, collaborative, and playful — that push the boundaries of disciplinary allegiances, and don’t always wear their brains on their sleeves, so to speak.

Simply put, learning happens outside the lines. It’s perfectly acceptable for instructors to provide lines, but whenever we do so, we must just as diligently encourage learners to leave those lines—to question, to redraw, to imagine, to refuse, to explore. When we do this, we inspire dialogue, not just between students, but between ourselves and students, between ideas, between the act of learning and the act of instruction themselves.

Be quiet

Generally speaking, teachers fear dead air. Silence in the classroom, or few to no responses on a discussion forum, can stir all kinds of thoughts and emotions—from “they’re not getting it” to “I’ve done something wrong” to “they’re bored,” and worse. But in truth, thoughtfulness and thoroughness takes time.

Janine DeBaise writes that: “Every student has something valuable to teach the rest of us. I’ve made that assumption for over thirty years now, and so far, I’ve never been proven wrong.” If at the core of critical pedagogy we believe that learners are their own best teachers—and if we have spent any time at all as teachers ourselves preparing lesson plans and discussions—then we can acknowledge that teaching takes time.

Filling silence may come out of a desperation to keep the class moving and to ensure that all ideas are understood, but it also reinforces the teacher’s voice as primary. When we are silent, we can hear what students have to say (even when they’re not saying it), and listen for the swell of understanding as it builds.

Be honest and transparent about pedagogy

Teaching isn’t magic. In fact, there are very good reasons for teachers to reveal their “tricks” to learners. I have, numerous times, sat on the desk at the front of the classroom and called attention to how that’s different to standing behind a podium, sitting in a circle with the class, or lecturing from notes. Not to qualify one over the other, but to reveal something about the performativity of learning and teaching.

Similarly, we should invite students into a discussion about the syllabus, the 15- or 10-week structure of a course, the usefulness or uselessness of grades, etc. Kris Shaffer, in “An Open Letter to My Students,” brings students in close to his teaching process:
I am not perfect. Nor are any of your other professors. We are experts in the fields we teach, and some of us are experts in the art of teaching. However, we make mistakes … and each pass through the material brings new students with different experiences, backgrounds, skills, sensitivities, prejudices, loves, career goals, life goals, financial situations, etc. There is no one way — often not even a best way — to teach a topic to a student.

There is power in secrecy, as any magician knows. But for a collaborative, critical pedagogy to work, that power must be shared.

Keep expectations clear

In digital learning, instructions are vital. If … [more]
bestpractices  education  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  2017  seanmorris  learning  edtech  digitalliteracy  jessestommel  criticalpedagogy  sfsh  grade  grading  howwelearn  deadlines  collaboration  chrisfriend  hybridpedagogy  dialogue  peterorabaugh  rigor  janinedebaise  silence  quiet  listening  performativity  expectations  adamheidebring-bruno  change  thomaskasulis  maggiemaclure  krisshaffer  amycollier  jenross 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Alan Kay's answer to What made Xerox PARC special? Who else today is like them? - Quora
[I noted on Twitter that "1 through 5 easily adaptable for education. For example: teach students, not subjects."]

"A good book (pretty much the only good book) to read about the research community that Parc was a part of is “The Dream Machine” by Mitchell Waldrop. There you will find out about the ARPA (before the “D”) IPTO (Information Processing Techniques Office) set up in 1962 by the visionary JCR Licklider, who created a research community of 15 or 16 “projects”, mostly at universities, but also a few at places like RAND Corp, Lincoln Labs, Mitre, BBN, SDC, etc.

There was a vision: “The destiny of computers is to become interactive intellectual amplifiers for everyone in the world pervasively networked worldwide”.

A few principles:

1. Visions not goals

2. Fund people not projects — the scientists find the problems not the funders. So, for many reasons, you have to have the best researchers.

3. Problem Finding — not just Problem Solving

4. Milestones not deadlines

5. It’s “baseball” not “golf” — batting .350 is very good in a high aspiration high risk area. Not getting a hit is not an error but the overhead for getting hits. (As in baseball, “error” is failing to pull off something that is technically feasible.)

6. It’s about shaping “computer stuff” to human ends per the vision. Much of the time this required the researchers to design and build pretty much everything, including much of the hardware — including a variety of mainframes — and virtually all of the software needed (including OSs and programming languages, etc.). Many of the ARPA researchers were quite fluent in both HW and SW (though usually better at one than the other). This made for a pretty homogeneous computing culture and great synergy in most projects.

7. The above goes against the commonsense idea that “computer people should not try to make their own tools (because of the infinite Turing Tarpit that results)”. The ARPA idea was a second order notion: “if you can make your own tools, HW and SW, then you must!”. The idea was that if you are going to take on big important and new problems then you just have to develop the chops to pull off all needed tools, partly because of what “new” really means, and partly because trying to do workarounds of vendor stuff that is in the wrong paradigm will kill the research thinking.

8. An important part of the research results are researchers. This extends the “baseball” idea to human development. The grad schools, especially, generally admitted people who “seemed interesting” and judgements weren’t made until a few years down the road. Many of the researchers who ultimately solved most of the many problems of personal computing and networking were created by the ARPA community.

Parc was the last of these “ARPA Projects” to be created, and because of funding changes from the Vietnam war, got its funding from a corporation rather than from ARPA-IPTO. But pretty much all of the computer people at Parc had grown up in ARPA projects in the 60s, and Bob Taylor, who set up the computing research at Parc, had been the 3rd director of ARPA-IPTO.

Bob’s goal was to “Realize The ARPA Dream”.

Parc was highly concentrated with regard to wealth of talents, abilities, vision, confidence, and cooperation. There was no real management structure, so things were organized to allow researchers to “suggest” and “commit” and “decommit” in a more or less orderly fashion.

Quite a lot of the inventions Parc is most known for were done in the first 5 years by a rather small pool of researchers (Butler Lampson estimates about 25 people, and that seems about right).

One of the most interesting ideas at Parc was: “every invention has to be engineered for 100 users”. So if you do a programming language or a DTP word processor, etc, it has to be documented for and usable by 100 people. If you make a personal computer, you have to be able to make 100 of them. If an Ethernet, it has to connect to 100 devices, etc.

There was no software religion. Everyone made the languages and OSs and apps, etc that they felt would advance their research.

Hardware was trickier because of the time and costs needed for replication and doing and making new designs. In practice this worked out pretty easily most of the time — via not too many meetings — and the powers of HW geniuses like Chuck Thacker. A few things — like the disk sectors and simple Ethernet protocols, etc. — were agreed on, mainly to allow more important things to be done more idiosyncratically. In practice, Parc designed and put in the field a variety of Alto designs (about 2000 Altos were built), MAXCs, Dolphins, Dorados, NoteTakers, Dandelions, etc over a period of about 10 years — i.e. quite a lot.

There were key figures. For example, Parc would not have succeeded without Bob Taylor, Butler Lampson, Chuck Thacker, and a few others.

I would call the first 5 years “effectively idyllic”. And the second 5 years “very productive but gradually erosive” (the latter due to Xerox’s many changes of management, and not being able to grapple with either the future, or a possible grand destiny for the company)."
alankay  zeroxparc  2017  vision  goals  funding  milestones  deadlines  errors  tools  toolmaking  education  learning  innovation  creativity  arpa  sfsh  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  openstudioproject  lcproject  problemsolving  problemfinding 
april 2017 by robertogreco
cityofsound: Sketchbook: Fabrica 2013 Informal Annual Review: Exhibitions
"So Sam's team devised some modular furniture elements, a modular graphic system, and a modular web service, each of which related to the other but could be taken apart by incoming teams subsequently. Then, working with local students, a series of furniture elements emerged—benches, shelves, chairs, crates and so on—with customised graphic identities alongside.

This of course ticks several boxes for me, such as modular, adaptive components, collaborative design processes, open platforms and so on. But better was to see the buzz of activity when I visited on the closing Saturday and Sunday, with highly imaginative adaptations created in collaboration."



"What's Sam's studio does very well is use exhibitions to drive the rhythm of the studio. By giving themselves these immovable deadline of showing in public, they get stuff done. It's hard work, but productive, and the researchers really appreciate that. As do I.

We're increasingly using exhibitions to get Fabrica out and about, and watch out for more on that front, big and small. For instance, we're currently working hard on a very big, very top secret, quite design fiction-esque exhibition, for next February. More when I have it, but that is also using an exhibition to develop particular new skills and new perspectives inside Fabrica, through partnering with great design firms, and homing in on new thematic areas.

Another post along shortly.

Insights
Use exhibitions to turn Fabrica inside-out.
Use exhibitions to drive the rhythm of the studio.
Use exhibitions to acquire new skills, new perspectives."
exhibitions  2013  danhill  cityofsound  fabrica  sambaron  modular  modularity  adaptability  collaboration  design  openplatforms  open  studioclassroom  studios  tcsnmy  presentationsoflearning  rhythm  howwework  deadlines  productivity  openstudioproject  lcproject  learning  howwelearn  public  workinginpublic  projectorientedorganizations 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Put This On • Sometimes people ask me about how I created my...
"Sometimes people ask me about how I created my little media empire. This is how.

Ira spent 20 years working at NPR before he started This American Life. Twenty years making mistakes, learning from them, thinking about what he’d do with his own show. When he started This Life, NPR turned him down. After 20 years. Told him to do it on his own. So he went out and won some fucking Peabodys.

The day Ira told me he enjoyed a particular episode of my stupid comedy podcast that I didn’t even know he’d every heard of much less listened to was one of the proudest days of my life. For serious.

And speaking of serious: SERIOUSLY, MAKE YOUR THING."
creativity  work  inspiration  tips  howto  iraglass  jessethorn  putthison  persistence  mistakes  learning  perseverance  hardwork  glvo  lcproject  volume  process  2011  making  doing  justdo  do  taste  potential  practice  deadlines  discipline  self-discipline  thisamericanlife 
april 2011 by robertogreco

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