Friday, June 29, 2012

Connecting and Caring

The Cluetrain Manifesto
Small Pieces Loosely Joined
Everything is Miscellaneous

And on my list to read Too Big to Know 

David Weinberger's books have always resonated with me.

In any number of inservices, I've used parts from What the Web is For -- his version of Small Pieces for kids.

His next to last sentence has always been one of my favorites:
"Now, if connecting and caring are what make us into human people, then the Web - built out of hyperlinks and energized by people's interests and passions - is a place where we can be better at being people."

So why this post now---

Clarence Fisher's recent post caught my eye-- What the Web is For Updated for 2012 

His students, in collaboration with Heather Durnin's students in Ontario, collaborated on Google Docs to update the book. As I read his post, my thought was what a tremendous learning experience. He mentioned that:
"I’ve been in contact with Dr. Weinberger about this project and he is pleased that someone took it on. The students in our classrooms were also very excited to receive an email from Dr. Weinberger at the end of the process which began “to my 7th and 8th grade co – authors.” Yeah….. how’d you like to be in grade 7 or 8 and receive an email like that from an authentic Harvard – based researcher? Cool stuff."

More than cool, Clarence!

Clarence shared his students' version and as I read it--
It was filled with passion and the technology of the web they know today--
The students mentioned that David Weinberger had used a Creative Commons license and so were they --
David Weinberger commented on their writing--

Just think, collaborating to write a book on Google Docs with other students hundreds of miles away, an author commenting on the adaption you have done of his work when you are in 7/8 grade--

Isn't this really such a good example of just what David Weinberger said?
"Now, if connecting and caring are what make us into human people, then the Web - built out of hyperlinks and energized by people's interests and passions - is a place where we can be better at being people."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thinking on assessing learning--

Out of sync
Always wanting better
Not in agreement
Time and time again

More than 45 years ago, GRE exams
My answers and scores significantly impacted by the recent death of my mom
Not a reflection of my learning at all

More than 30 years ago, a Master's thesis and comprehensive exams
Real opportunities to demonstrate what I had learned

More than a decade ago, applying for a new position and answering a question on assessment
Replying that the process and the projects themselves illustrated what students had learned

In that new position, creating rubrics for projects for high schoolers aspiring to become teachers
Knowing that the state used the same type of rubrics to assess new teachers
Crying in the car after being told to change the rubrics to written tests by an old school CTE administrator

Almost 10 years ago, with a terrible cold, an appointment to take the assessment component as a NBPTS candidate
Timed testing, no kleenex allowed in the testing room, cranking out as fast as I could responses to 6 questions
No time to think

High stakes testing even for our beloved Harley as his obedience training classes came to completion
In the dark in a strange park, he would not stay as I walked away passing 9 of 10 tasks and failing
He curled up in the corner of the back seat with his head down on the way home

Some 6 years ago, designing and creating online professional development courses for Ohio teachers
Always pushing back against suggestions of quizzes, of tests
Pulling for learner created content and powerful questions that enabled deeper learning

Grades, points, projects, quizzes, standardized tests, rubrics--

And then MOOC 2008 with vast learning landscapes, autonomy, openness and distributed learning
I assessed my learning in the open here on this blog (in the blog search box, enter CCK08 for 6 pages of posts)
That learning experience was empowering and scary and full of wonder
And my thoughts on assessment are shifting --again


Very honestly, I've never been a real quiz, test person. In the classroom, I had conversations, I observed, I watched process and explored projects. With proficiencies and standardized testing, I was pushed to change. Conflicted, some testing entered the learning experiences of my students-- not without tension.

Now I'm old, less disposed to "push"-- more likely to follow my instincts---  especially when I've had an experience such as MOOC 2008 and I'm finding other educators seeking a shift/making a shift too.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach undoubtably has provided the most fodder for my thinking. She has articulated in so many places a vision of what could that truly resonates with me. That wayfinding, co constructing meaning and self directed processes play a huge role in shifting is an understatement.
Let the co-learners in the room decide context- the how of what we will share, the teaching and learning processes and the why of how we learn it this way.

Let us do our own wayfinding. Let us construct our own meaning and design, our own sense making activities. Let us show mastery of what we learned in ways that align not only with the standards but also with the self-directed processes and creative ways in which each learner chooses.

maybe we need to standardize (make it business as usual) that learning should be self-directed and knowledge co-constructed.
Anne Fox joined the group of PLP Connected Coaches last fall and in a conversation shared this resource on Heutagogy. Totally new to me, very exciting as learning moves from self directed to self determined. Maybe it's because so much of my professional learning was self determined (I rarely felt that the organized PD that was a staple in my career was of much value) that this notion speaks to me so clearly as does the accompanying concept of developing capabilities. This resource has had a critical impact on my thinking.
Heutagogy (based on the Greek for “self”) was defined by Hase and Kenyon in 2000 as the study of self-determined learning. Heutagogy applies a holistic approach to developing learner capabilities, with learning as an active and proactive process, and learners serving as “the major agent in their own learning, which occurs as a result of personal experiences” (Hase & Kenyon, 2007, p. 112). As in an andragogical approach, in heutagogy the instructor also facilitates the learning process by providing guidance and resources, but fully relinquishes ownership of the learning path and process to the learner, who negotiates learning and determines what will be learned and how it will be learned (Hase & Kenyon, 2000; Eberle, 2009).

When designing a self-determined learner experience, certain considerations should be made. A heutagogical approach to learning and teaching is characterized first and foremost by learner-centeredness in terms of both learner-generated contexts and content. Course design elements that support learner-centeredness in a heutagogical approach are presented below.

    Learner-defined learning contracts:
Learning contracts support students in defining and determining their individual learning paths. These individualized contracts, such as those used at distance education institution Empire State College (see, define what will be learned (e.g., scope), how it will be learned (e.g., teaching and learning approaches, learning activities), and what will be assessed and how it will be assessed (Kenyon & Hase, 2010; Gilbert, 1975; Cristiano, 1993).
    Flexible curriculum: In a self-determined learning environment, the learner is the driver in creating flexible curriculum, which is defined by the student: learners create the learning map, and instructors serve as the compass (Hase & Kenyon, 2007; Hase, 2009). Flexible curriculum in this sense is negotiated action learning, which adapts and evolves according to learner needs (Hase, 2009; Hase & Kenyon, 2007). Learners negotiate “how, when, where and to what upper (rather than minimal) level they want to take their learning” (Hase, 2009, p. 47).
    Learner-directed questions: Learner-directed questions and the discussion that results from these questions are what guide learners and serve as mechanisms for helping learners make sense of course content, bring clarity to ideas, and promote individual and group reflection (Kenyon & Hase, 2001; Eberle, 2009). Guiding learners to define self-directed questions is one of the biggest challenges facing developers of heutagogical courses, as designers must be “creative enough to have learners ask questions about the universe they inhabit” (Kenyon & Hase, 2001, para. 29).
    Flexible and negotiated assessment: In heutagogy, the learner is involved in designing his or her assessment. Negotiated and learner-defined assessment has been shown to improve the motivation of learners and their involvement in the learning process, as well as make learners feel less threatened by instructor control of their learning process (Hase & Kenyon, 2007, p. 115; Hase, 2009; Ashton & Elliott, 2007; Canning, 2010). One way of incorporating negotiation into the assessment process is through the use of learning contracts (Hase, 2009). The assessment should include measurable forms of assessing understanding of content, including whether the learner has achieved the competencies desired. Rubrics can also be used effectively in guiding learners in their self-assessment process, for example by assessing “discussion skills, quality of work, outcomes, collaboration, academic soundness and knowledge of material” (Eberle, 2008, p. 186).

Another dually important characteristic of heutagogy is that of reflective practice, “a critical learning skill associated with knowing how to learn” (Hase, 2009, p. 49).

Dean Shareski  has recently reflected on assessment as he teaches again his pre service online course at the U. of Regina. When I read his post, I reread the the sentence "The biggest change this term was to have my student's assessment themselves for the entire course." and I read it again. I like that and his "I really don't care much about the grade at all." as I don't either. It took me back to my learning in the 2008 MOOC-- of how much I learned, of how excited I was.

The biggest change this term was to have my student's assessment themselves for the entire course. In the past, it was required for a few assignments but not all. This term I was clear that they were going to tell me their grade and justify it. As long as their documentation was clear and from my perspective truthful, that's the grade they would receive. I suppose in some respects, I'm still assessing, assessing their assessments but my goal was to do two things. First to empower them to think deeply about their learning. While I've always advocated for reflection, I tried to emphasize more documentation. I still need to structure this better but that was my intent. Secondly I wanted the pressure of grading to be removed from learning.

I really don't care much about the grade at all. I'm interested in their documentation of learning and how I might support them and indeed provide new and better opportunities for them in the future and for my future students as well.

Dave Cormier  has been talking assessment around the course he began teaching this spring. Over the years I've been learning with Powerful Learning Practice, I've become convinced as is he that "making meaning, creating knowledge, is something that happens in public". And so his students are negotiating grading contracts with him.

I’ve been lacking a way to bring a method of assessment to the course that reflects the philosophy of education I’ve been working with. The idea of saying that you understood 92% of the ‘right’ way of seeing something is the exact opposite of the way that I see this course. From a traditional perspective… I want you to cheat. I want you to ‘get the answer’ from your neighbour. I want you to tell me that you did that… but more importantly, I’m hoping that you’ll tell each other that. So the contract measures how much work you’re doing… How much you are contributing. And, if you take anything from this course, is that making meaning, creating knowledge, is something that happens in public.

Student work in this course is evaluated by ‘contract’ – meaning that each of you decide how much work you would like to do for what grade.

The contract grading approach, loosely speaking, is one where the student and the instructor negotiate a ‘contract’ for how that course is supposed to go.

Here is an excellent example from Cathy N. Davidson that I’ve been borrowing from. (or, as she suggests, pilfering from)

I'd rather contract grading become contract learning or rather a learning contract. I'm starting to put pieces together. Learning in public, self assessment, learning contract, no talk of failure--

Cathy N. Davidson  was one of the resources to which Dave Cormier provided a link. With her contract grading the learner decides on what she/he wants or needs from the course (yes I remixed that too from "what grade"); the learner empowered to follow personal passions and needs truly resonated with me. If you follow the link below the quote, Cathy did not create her grading contracts with that in mind; yet her words "what you need or want" are important in my thinking.
The advantage of contract grading is that you, the student, decide how much work you wish to do this semester; if you complete that work on time and satisfactorily, you will receive the grade for which you contracted.  This means planning ahead, thinking about all of your obligations and responsibilities this semester and also determining what grade you want or need in this course
As the facilitator for the PLP Connected Coaching eCourse  I had to submit a syllabus to NDSU; we wanted to provide an opportunity for learners to earn graduate credit if they so wished.  Required by the credentialing institution, I laid out assignments and their influence on a total grade to be earned (no points, percentages).  Not entirely comfortable with that, I've been thinking hard on ways to incorporate all that resonates with me best for learning and assure that learners in the course who seek to earn graduate credit have that option.

In addition, I wanted the course to be of value to the diverse range of educators who were interested for varying reasons. Some wanted to become PLP Connected Coaches, some were face to face coaches and wanted to learn about strategies for coaching in online spaces, some were classroom teachers who wanted to move to a more inquiry based classroom and sought insight on facilitating communication. Some were in it to go deep; others more on the surface. My quandary, a way to facilitate deep learning that met the needs of everyone, remained true to the inquiry based model of the course, and promoted self governed learning.

Adapted, adopted from those who have gone before me, with a lot of Lani sprinkled throughout, I requested that all learners create a learning contract. Really anxious, very much believing in it's potential, yet still nervous I posted this and asked each learner to post theirs in our asynchronous virtual space.
Here it is:

It's not perfect. I haven't figured out how to give those taking the course for credit more options although I have personally encouraged them to add their own personal learning goals, to negotiate percentages for the graduate assignments, to create a timeline for demonstrating their learning that best meets their own personal schedule within the time limits of the course. I've asked them to determine how they will show evidence of their learning and to assess themselves using strategies of their own choosing. In the end, the reality is, I have to submit a grade; we'll Skype or phone; and if there is a need, we'll negotiate--  I am feeling at this point, this is a step in the right direction. If it proves to be of value in the learners' eyes, I will attempt to modify the syllabus for the university to more closely reflect this philosophy of learning.


2 weeks of learning in, I asked for initial reactions (yes I remain anxious and nervous, very much wanting this to be of value) in a recent webinar. Participants placed red stars on the value line on the whiteboard to indicate their feelings. This coupled with comments -- "scary but valued, learning about me,respecting the learner" --encourage me.

Stay tuned-- In late August when the formal course time for learning has come, I'll be back here sharing what I learned, what we learned --

 Image: 'Thinking & Playing'

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Remembering Dad

Searching through images--
And coming upon a folder "Dad" -- I'd forgotten I had made sure it was transferred to this computer--
Images originally gathered and scanned for his memorial service-
Now smiling, remembering--

The engineer

The gardener

The Sailor
He loved the water
Even in his last years
Our father
When I was very young and he traveled lots for his job, he sent me a quote that has been with me all the days of my life--

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations. --George Bernard Shaw
Thank you Daddy--

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New possibilities---
11 passioned women educators spending hours of their summer break learning and collaborating together in the current section of the PLP Connected Coaching eCourse. In our first few days together, their remarkable sharing has begun to enable an environment where a community of co learners can grow and flourish.

It struck me as we left our first webinar last night, an all women group is new for this course. My sense is that portends unique and exceptional opportunities to go deep into appreciative inquiry and coaching together. That's not to say that did not occur before; it did. The male voices in the previous sections have been incredibly insightful, and have added a richness to the collective wisdom of the groups. Yet with these strong, accomplished women, my intuition tells me we are about to travel an exceptional learning journey where possibilities truly abound.  I'm excited!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Celebrating a unique collaborative inquiry

Some 2 years minus 4 months ago, I embarked on a unique collaborative inquiry.

The driving question:
How can I restore range of motion and functionality to my left shoulder?

Luckily I've had the opportunity to dig deeper and deeper with an expert learner, Dana Melena, with this content.

And as the expert learner, Dana has brought to our collaboration all the attributes of expertise that Bransford described:

  • Expert learners have well-organized knowledge, not just problem-solving strategies.
  • Expert knowledge is organized to support understanding, not just recall. And the organization is grounded in a field’s foundational concepts.
  • Expert knowledge is conditionalized, and the conditional relationships form patterns that experts recognize and rely upon.
  • An expert’s fluency allows the easy retrieval of relevant knowledge. The patterns mentioned in the previous point are second nature to the expert, while the novice struggles to recognize them. This fluency with fundamental patterns frees the mental energy to focus on new knowledge to add to the pattern.
  • There is a difference between adaptive experts, whose metacognitive skills allow the transfer of knowledge from one setting to another, and routine experts, whose expertise allows them to function well in standard settings but doesn’t serve them well when conditions are different.

Dana is undeniably an "adaptive expert" as this inquiry has been challenging and this body of mine more than unique.

Throughout this twice weekly collaboration
We've asked questions--
We've listened, really listened to each other--
We've brought in expert opinions--
We've had difficult conversations--
She's valued what is important to me; she's been encouraging, she's been frank and honest.

And reflecting now-- the elements of collaborative inquiry abound.

Developing Collaborative Knowledge - Collaborative inquiry creates intersubjective understanding, including areas of common experience and mutual knowing. Knowledge is co-created by the group and is shared by the group.

Relationship - The potential for collaboration is enhanced by a shared history and careful attention to relationship building. It is characterized by an affirmation of one another's contributions, an absence of internal competition and the nurturing of individual and well as group development.

Dialogue - Dialogue is central to the process of  collaborative inquiry. This includes storytelling, creating metaphors and using other right brained processes, experience sharing and the expression of tentative, not fully-formed ideas.

Attentive Listening - Collaborative inquiry requires careful attention to self and others by listening with the intent to understand, observing nonverbal cues, attending to affective responses, honoring silence, and listening to the spaces between the silences.

Reflection -Engagement in collaborative inquiry requires multiple levels of reflection:individual reflection on process and experience, individual reflection on the written reflection of others, and group reflection through dialogue.

Openness to divergent views - By acknowledging that our own knowledge base may be limited by our socio-cultural background and experiences and becoming open to seeing from another's frame, opportunities to extend knowledge are created.

Shared Passion - When passion is mutual, the motivation for collaboration is high. Excitement and energy generated by one member often ignites passion in others.

Commitment - In order for effective collaboration to occur, members must be committed to themselves, to one another and to the group process and project.

We've created areas of common experience-- she has been the lead learner in this area with expansive expertise; I've brought some knowledge of my history and aspirations for doing.

The relationship element, as always, is huge. Each of us has intentionally engaged in affirmations growing a meaningful and productive relationship that enables visions to become reality.

Our sharing of experiences, the stories -- have contributed to formal and informal dialogues that have deepened and supported my learning.

And we have listened, really; so important to highlight that again-- Dana's a master of observational listening, hearing what's not said and that has been a strength for me also.

Our reflections on what worked, what didn't yielded more questions, more experimentation-- and led to different paths all in the quest of an answer to the driving question.

We've extended our collaborative knowledge -- when presented with a divergent view I was struck by Dana's nimbleness and flexibility and my excitement as she changed directions in mid step within seconds.

Fueled by our passions-- mine for regaining functionality and hers for seeing that occur-- we have sustained a huge momentum throughout this extensive inquiry. Dana's passion has truly "re ignited" mine when the inquiry came up against potholes and some detours.

And lastly commitment, articulated more clearly than I could ever-- we've been committed to ourselves, to one another and to the process.

Adding here one last element-- that of celebration and recognition of a process that is seen as important and significant by those involved. In my mind, these celebrations and affirmations can not only add value to the process but also provide opportunities for those involved to understand more deeply how profoundly the opportunity to inquire collaboratively has altered their lives.

Still inquiring and learning more, Dana, this celebration's for you! Thank you--

Image: 'The Art of Inquiry'