Thursday, April 29, 2010

#edfuture: Party-Pushing Pressure Parameters

In response to a discussion titled The Extreme Opposite of a Critical Society is a Police State..., Dallas PcPheeters posses the following question:

How [do] you create pressure that pushes "out" from "within" the students??

Instead of viewing a "critical society" and a "police state" as opposites, both have certain characteristics that make up only a part of a complex system.  Taking the "schoolhouse" as an example, there are actors within the community that assume some of the characteristics of either extreme, enough to perhaps think of the educational environment as falling along some continuum with respect to power and control (in a negative sense)  at one end - referred to here as "police state" - and openness, sharing, and collaborating at the other - referred to here as "critical society".  But even the word continuum does little to explain the nuances of educational discourse that we find in schools.

Considering all the actors, or stakeholders, that have an interest in any give school, one quickly realizes how varying perspectives, interests, policies, etc. can both conflict and align with others at any given point in time.  That is, the network that ties stakeholders together is a complexed system that is impossible to characterize as extremes.  Another approach is to look at the educational ecosystem that makes up any given school environment to see how stakeholders are able to move through the ecosystem in order to address a common objective...say improving student achievement.  The moves required to make this happen require both a top-down and a bottom-up approach.  The question above pertains to a bottom-up approach so we'll begin there.

How do teachers create pressure that pushes "out" from "within" the students?  Looking at a K-12 school, important stakeholders here involve the students, teachers, and least initially.  The first step is that one teacher needs to begin opening up and sharing their teaching experience with others.  Teachers begin by buildling common assessments and sharing how they are evaluating their students (via formative and summative assessments) across and within disciplines.  Since most schools already have standards in place, assessment-building comes before instruction through what Wiggins and McTighe (2005) refer to as a "backward design".  Teachers still work with standards and standardized testing, but additional formative assessment practices relate more to the effects they will have on subsequent instructional practices.

Once teachers reach a consensus on what evidence they will need to make sufficient inferences on student achievement, teachers continue to collaborate on instructional practices that foster creativity, innovation, and a critical perspective that makes their learning more relevant and robust.  Part of the process of making their learning more relevant and robust involves getting their students' work out to the public.  Whether it's for their parents, friends, local community, or the world wide web, the students need to have that contact with society.  This is when the teachers begin to "create pressure that pushes 'out' from 'within' the students". 

Teachers begin to harness these educative experiences, learning from them, making them better, and sharing their success and challenges with all the stakeholders in a way that demonstrates good learning and higher achievement.  Teachers begin doing this by working with the resources they have first.  Then, when administrators, parents, community leaders, etc. start seeing results, teachers then have created a bit of "pressure" or at least some perspective in addressing whether all stakeholders are doing what they can to assist in improving student achievement.  Sounds easy enough...right?

Well, sometimes teachers are hesitant to change and if they are used to working in isolation or being formally evaluated on every move they make, it could be a challenge to open up the professional learning environment such that teachers begin learning in a more transparent way.  So while it is important that teachers take on an active role (even if it's just one teacher initially), it also requires that administrators, curriculum designers, etc. assist in creating an environment that promotes creativity, risk-taking, and collaboration among teachers.  At this point you begin to get a bottom-up and a top-down approach to change, each approach influencing the other.  

<span class="Apple-style-span" sty
le="font-family:'Lucida Grande', Verdana, 'Bitstream Vera Sans', Arial, sans-serif;font-size:medium;">Administrators, curriculum designers, teacher leaders, students, parents, and community leaders all have a distinct set of interests when it comes to the educational system that they are involved in.  They each use their power and influence to get what they need, both in positive and negative ways.  To improve student achievement, all stakeholders need to understand that the entire network or the relationships between the stakeholders remain an ongoing negotiation and should continue to strive for continual purposeful action.  

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

#edfuture: Dancing and Singing

Dancing and Singing | Open Course in Education Futures

Taken from the live session this week, I'd like to comment a bit about music as I can't say much at all about dancing. :)

Being heavily into music growing up, I'd like to offer one perspective with regard to creativity and critical thinking.

I agree that they are separate processes but they do coexist. Playing bass guitar in a variety of musical contexts (i.e., classic, rock, jazz, musicals, etc.), there were always varying degrees of creativity and critical thinking required. Playing classical music involves more critical thinking skills such as playing in tune and playing musically. Since most of the interpretation of the music was already predetermined by the director and/or the composer, the creative "juices" still existed but were limited within the parameters of the musical composition. Listening to two different orchestras perform Adagio for Strings the expert will notice slight differences in interpretation, and it's these differences that link back to both critical and creative thinking. That is, with gained knowledge and understanding of music, one uses their critical thinking skills to detect periods of creativity.

Now playing jazz music (i.e., standard jazz originating from the 20s-50s) is a different story and is more indicative of how we communicate. Jazz music during this time was known for it's improvisation and creative style that allows musicians to play off each other. When jazz musicians are improvising a solo, for example, there is a high degree of creativity that is required. But at the same time, they are also being critical in listening to the chord changes, the way in which other musicians are playing, etc. Both processes are occurring at the same time, even though one can be more critical upon hearing a recording of a performance after the fact.

Someone just starting to learn how to play jazz music, specifically how to improvise a given set of chord changes, will be less creative and less critical because they have a naive view of what scales to play, playing in tune, finger positions, etc. Once the musician becomes more proficient, knowing what scales to play, playing in tune, etc. becomes second nature, freeing them up to be more creative and thus allowing them to be more critical as well (playing in tune, following what the solo, respecting the musical integrity of the song, etc.).

Moving away from music now and looking at brainstorming, the level of creativity and critical thinking skills are also related. If I am brainstorming about a topic that I know little about, then it will be difficult for me to be critical (and even creative) as I come up with ideas. As I learn more about the topic, I will be able to become more creative and critical about the topic because I will be able to make a more thorough argument.

When building a house, if I am being creative in choosing the right tile for the kitchen, the paint for the living room, etc., then later realize that I am over budget (i.e., using critical thinking skills), I basically just have a lack of knowledge as to what it takes to build a house. The next time I build a house I will have learned more about cost and design and that will influence the decisions I make in the future, causing me to be more critical and creative at the same time: like realizing that I can mix an expensive tile with a cheaper tile that actually looks better but is less expensive to install.

Even though we use creative and critical thinking skills at the same time, reflection can (not always) provide an additional perspective that can add to the critical thinking process.

#edfuture: What's your next move?

What's your next move? | Open Course in Education Futures


Dave's slide presentation , specifically slide 6, reminded me of the importance of divergent and convergent approaches to creativity. "Choosing" and "using scenarios" really is what creativity and innovation is all about. Schon and Rein (1995) allude to this same notion when they view actors, participants, students, etc. as "seeing, moving, and seeing" their way through an ongoing change process that requires problem setting and solving skills. So instead of the teacher creating a problem that students need to solve, the instructional design is set so that learners can "see" the situation or context and set the problem or problems that are applicable to that particular scenario. Then the students "move", or do something that leads to both intended and unintended outcomes requiring them to adapt, adjust, reflect, etc. before making another move. This ongoing process then becomes a "playground" for students to exercise what they know, what they can do, and what habits of mind are they developing.

This is the essence of critical and creative thinking. Building professional learning communities within schools should work towards developing instructional designs that require learners to gain perspective and interpretive skills as they plan their moves in how they will interact with content, processes, and products. The process of "seeing", "moving", and "seeing" promotes divergent thinking that leads to a variety of possible outcomes. At this point, learners reflect on these outcomes, looking for patterns, trends, or tendencies thus promoting convergent thinking skills as well.

#edfuture: Predictions and the argument

Futures thinking is not about predictions...

I would say future thinking is about predictions (one particular outcome) or forecasting (several outcomes) as one develops a thorough argument.  In this sense, argument does not mean "grandstanding" (slide 3) or a disagreement, but rather involves articulating a claim, counter claim, evidence, warrant, etc. to a particular audience.  A prediction is a type of claim (one that expresses the future), and is just one facet of what makes an argument.

When we talk about education futures, we need to be making predictions based on sound arguments.  This includes looking at trends, patterns, perspectives, contexts, etc. through an open and ongoing dialectic.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

#edfuture: The nature of change

The nature of change is changing: the new pattern.

I agree that the nature of change is changing, but through a different pattern loosely based on design rationality (pp. 166-173).

1. Openness: A person must be open to take in information from anyone, and must be open to try new things in a transparent way. Not afraid of making mistakes and willing to share knowledge and experiences with others are a must. At this point, it is not necessary to be dissatisfied or even be able to identify a problem even though both could be case. What is most important is that the person realize that improvement is a valuable pursuit and that it is possible.
2. Predictions: Through social practice, the individual predicts certain outcomes based on changed behavior. Depending on the level of expertise, this stage may include some level of intervention to assure that predictions are based on sound research.
3. Negotiation: As the change in behavior unfolds, the individual negotiates with other individuals and manipulates objects until intended and unintended outcomes result. In the negotiation stage, everyone has a vested interest that drives a person's actions, so being able to interpret one's actions and having perspective are crucial.
4. Opportunities: As the person reflects on the intended and unintended outcomes, he/she recognizes certain opportunities taking into account all the contextualized cues (unique to each individual) that exist at that particular moment. Any opportunities that present themselves provide new information that is then part of a new scenario requiring the individual to become even more open to new information thus continuing the cycle.

As we repeat the cycle - unique to each individual - we become more open and better at predicting, negotiating, and recognizing opportunities based on new scenarios. To facilitate individuals through this cycle, all stakeholders must work together to create an adaptive environment where those who are targeted to change can do so at different rates and with the support they need.


Openness provides the mindscapes needed in order to make more accurate predictions given a particular scenario (unique for each individual). Based on sound predictions the individual begins negotiating with others and manipulating objects through an ongoing social process that positions the person in a perceived role within a particular learning network. By negotiating with others and manipulating objects, certain opportunities or lack of opportunities may result, some intentional and some unintentional. These opportunities or lack of opportunities provide new information that changes the context for the individual which is then used to make further predictions.

#edfuture: Openness is the only means of doing education

Openness is the only means of doing education � Moving at the Speed of Creativity

This is the future of education. Teachers sharing as much of their own learnings as possible. You learn it, you share learn it, you share it, etc. Learning and sharing as a reciprocal process builds on itself. Teachers sharing their knowledge not only with students, but with other teachers, administrators, parents, etc. creates a professional learning community that is better equipped to help students reach a higher level of achievement.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

#edfuture: The Future of Education

Here's how I see the future of education:

Facebook | English teachers' chat room

Facebook | English teachers' chat room

I came across this Facebook page and thought I'd pass it along. I'm always looking for ways to form communities with EFL/ESL language educators, so if you know of any others, do share! Now that free Nings could be on their way out, we all could be required to shift to other spaces.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

#edfuture: MOOCs in the Future

After sitting through the first live session of OCEF, I began reflecting on not so much what was said, but the manner in which it was said.  Like other MOOCs I've attended (i.e., CCK08, CCK09), the tendency is to have live sessions center around the facilitators.  Facilitators typically try to include certain weekly comments made in forums, blogs, etc. into their weekly commentary, but there tends to be limited live discussion that involves the attendees.  Since this course relates to defining the future of education, I'm compelled to ask the following:

How will MOOCs be conducted in the future in a way that fosters greater interaction between the facilitator(s) and the attendees? 

This course for me is simply looking at what we do today and thinking about what it might look like in the future (not about listening to the facilitators discuss the definition of the word trend, for example).  Taking this as a premise, I think future MOOCs might look something like the following:

  • The entire course outline will be made available the first day in terms of understandings and essential questions.  
  • Each unit will express an understanding or understandings that are generative in nature and are expressed as a noun clause.  For example, participants will understand that creativity and innovation are a result of stakeholders working together while at the same time giving educators the freedom to pursue individual goals
  • Each unit will express essential questions around understandings. 1) How does the process of being creative or innovative vary between different parts of the world?  2) How can teachers retain their individual identity within an institution that claims a mission and vision statement, goals, and specific values? 3) How do artifacts and objects influence creativity and innovation? 4) How do stakeholders close the gap between an educator's espoused theory of action and the educator's theory in use? 5) What role does culture play with regard to creativity and innovation?
  • Readings, blog and forum discussions, and live sessions will be based on understandings and essential questions presented for each unit.  Again, good understandings and essential questions are generative enough to allow for a variety of perspective, empathy, application, among others.  There are a number of performance verbs (think Bloom's taxonomy) that could be applied based on the meaning being transmitted by the speaker.
  • Prior to each weekly live session, a certain number of participants would be chosen to offer an opinion or answer to any of the understandings or essential questions.  This would be done in a way that gives each participant time to prepare an answer as well as prepare for any technological requirements needed in order to speak during the live session.
  • During each live session, the dialog would begin by having each participant share an opinion or answer followed by the rest of the participants responding, giving their own point of view.  The facilitators would also be part of this interaction.  This process would repeat for about half the session, then facilitators would conclude offering more insight into the issues that were discussed by the participants, linking their arguments to current literature as needed (e.g., assigned readings, additional readings, etc.).
MOOCs will work because there are facilitators that are well-respected in the field and have the power (in the positive sense) to bring people together (clearly as George and Dave are able to do).  But the value of such a course comes from hearing what the facilitators as well as others think about what individual participants have to say and less about hearing only what facilitators think about the readings for that particular week.

The future MOOC involves a change in the manner in which individuals move through a systemic and interactive framework and will not materialize solely by encouraging attendees to participate during weekly live sessions. And yes, this may mean that we have to wait a few more seconds while attendees say, "Can you hear me?" five times, and that the flow of conversation might slow up a bit.  But I believe that human beings are adaptive and will learn how to use the technology available to conduct a conversation that meets and more than likely exceeds the expectations of the facilitators.

#edfuture: UC Berkeley Webcasts | Video and Podcasts: Statistics 21, 001

UC Berkeley Webcasts | Video and Podcasts: Statistics 21, 001

This is an example of what the future of education is not: paying for notes, simply converting what's done in the classroom to some online format, failure to utilize affordances that foster interaction among stakeholders.

Week 1: An introduction to trends and futures thinking: What and Why | Open Course in Education Futures (#edfuture)

Week 1: An introduction to trends and futures thinking: What and Why | Open Course in Education Futures

My response to the what is futures thinking in eduction is a combination of teachers defining their own goals and pursuing them through the development of personal learning networks (PLNs) while at the same time administrators, program directors, professional development leaders, essentially all other stakeholders working together in order to create the affordances necessary for teachers to pursue their own goals. A common discourse among all stakeholders based on current research will be required but the means in which teachers develop their PLN and interact with others will be open. In fact, the future of education will see increased opportunities to interact with others, and although this seems like a simple notion, this shift in culture - one that makes teaching practice a more transparent learning process - in many cases is far from simple. The future involves working through change like no other time in history.

Why is it important that we focus more on the teachers than students? And why is it more important that teachers learn how to define their own professional development paths (with the support of other stakeholders)? We focus on teachers because we can't expect to increase student achievement if we can't implement a change in teaching practices. Also, teachers have more options than ever before to interact with and learn from others, both within their own school as well as outside their own school. Old paradigms that involve top-down directives rarely have long-lasting affects on changing teachers' behavior because learning doesn't happen within isolated instances (e.g., workshops, meetings, conferences, etc.), usually with the assumption that all teachers have the same level of knowledge and pedagogical skill set. Learning - indeed changing one's teaching practice - is more complex and ongoing and must be approached through a diverse set of assumptions. The primary assumption is that professional development evolves around a rhizomatic education.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sclipo and Live Web Classes

I hear Sclipo will be making improvements to their live web class application next week.  Check it out and let us know what you think!