Sunday, March 20, 2016

Self-directed learning is hard--

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“We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.” ― John Dewey

Almost over--
And I've lots of thinking to do following 8 weeks with a group of accomplished co-learners.  My burning question: What can I learn from what transpired and how can I grow the learning environment to best enable the deepest learning?

This is the first in a number of reflections
The focus-- self-directed learning

Learners from different backgrounds with varying goals collaborate to come to a deeper understanding of blended learning-- elementary teachers, integration specialists, consultants, middle grades educators.  The learning environment is designed to be self-directed, even more self-governed with personal learning pledges, a menu of  resources and multiple options for collaborating and deepening understanding.  Intentionally based on research, some of what I found to be critical to my thinking:

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In self-determined learning, it is important that learners acquire both competencies and capabilities (Stephenson, 1994 as cited in McAuliffe et al., 2008, p. 3; Hase & Kenyon, 2000, 2007). Competency can be understood as proven ability in acquiring knowledge and skills, while capability is characterized by learner confidence in his or her competency and, as a result, the ability “to take appropriate and effective action to formulate and solve problems in both familiar and unfamiliar and changing settings” (Cairns, 2000, p. 1, as cited in Gardner, Hase, Gardner, Dunn, & Carryer, 2007, p. 252). Capable people exhibit the following traits: self-efficacy, in knowing how to learn and continuously reflect on the learning process; communication and teamwork skills, working well with others and being openly communicative; creativity, particularly in applying competencies to new and unfamiliar situations and by being adaptable and flexible in approach; positive values (Hase & Kenyon, 2000; Kenyon & Hase, 2010; Gardner et al., 2007).
When learners are competent, they demonstrate the acquisition of knowledge and skills; skills can be repeated and knowledge retrieved. When learners are capable, skills and knowledge can be reproduced in unfamiliar situations. Capability is then the extension of one’s own competence, and without competency there cannot be capability. Through the process of double-looping, learners become more aware of their preferred learning style and can easily adapt new learning situations to their learning styles, thus making them more capable learners. With its dual focus on competencies and capability, heutagogy moves educators a step closer toward better addressing the needs of adult learners in complex and changing work environments (Bhoryrub et al., 2010).
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).
The above two paragraphs are from this resource, recommended years ago by @foxdenuk.

The course environment incorporated all of the above and of course I had the highest of expectations for deep engagement by all co-learners.

For the first 2 weeks, we co-created, we engaged in conversations synchronously and asynchronously, we developed norms, we got to know each other, we shared burning questions in a collective wondering about blended learning and some developed learning pledges.

And yet, as the opening quote from Sheryl noted, self-directed learning is hard.

Life gets in the way.  Anne (@foxdenuk) mentioned in a posting: “We all need to be led through a gently sloping florr into the deeper waters of self-directed learning."  Although I was gentle and ever present, I asked everyone to step off the cliff into the deep waters of self-governed learning. And perhaps there lies the problem. As the weeks progressed, there was less engagement on the part of some co-learners than I had hoped that we would experience.

In a survey, I will ask co-learners to share their feedback on the self-governed environment so that I can learn how can I grow the learning environment to best enable the deepest learning.  With that feedback, I'll reflect on each element and think lots more--

Self-directed learning is hard--

Sunday, February 28, 2016


flickr photo by muha...
shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.” ― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Very honestly, not a concept I'd given much thought to before
Unless I was referencing water in a river or from a faucet

 And so, when Anne articulately made a case for flow as a critical element in blended learning in a conversation on her blog I was really interested!

Me: You highlighted “flow” and I’m interested what additional thoughts you have on that? strategies/processes that may enable that?

Anne: I would say that flow is THE critical factor that determines whether your online learning activities are deemed a success or not. In itself it is not sufficient but if you can create that feeling amongst participants that they can’t wait to log on to see what the next installment is then you have succeeded. Of course this leads to a great sense of loss and mourning once the course comes to an end but that is a necessary negative I would say.

Me: You’ve made a case for flow–I’m really interested
As a designer how do we/how can we design for flow? What do you feel enables that in online spaces? I’d love to hear your take on it–

Anne:  I feel that promoting flow is not just one thing but a whole range of factors which includes engaging tasks that can be personalised, timely responses from the facilitator so that learners feel heard (this counts for a huge amount, even for adults) and modelling in the right places. You can’t/mustn’t model all responses but well chosen model responses as a prompt from the tutor make it easy for learners to follow without getting confused or mislead as to what is required. And finally, though it comes first, are those silly low stakes tasks that come at the beginning that enable learners to test out the learning platform and to get to know each other and build up trust that can later be used to work together. I call them silly tasks because, if not well presented, adults especially can feel that they are silly, but they are vital building blocks for what comes later. Building flow is a human process that I strongly feel cannot be automated. eg timely tutor response – here you have to know when an early response is a good idea ‘pour encourager les autres‘ or when it is better to let the discussion unfold a little amongst the participants before a tutor responds.
As I've been thinking on her response, what strikes me, is the complexity, the nuance, the multifaceted approach, the art, and the need for pattern sensing and responding that characterize an environment that enables flow. I'm wondering if adding inquiry learning, student centered learning creates an additional dimension for flow in blended learning? And I'm thinking that in any design for blended learning, there should be/needs to be an intentional mindfulness of enhancing flow.

 I've been pondering this from a facilitator's perspective and I wonder how it looks and feels different to a learner in a learner driven environment? Are there personal attributes that support immersion in optimal experiences? What results when someone tries to stretch past their limit?

 Thanks to Anne, I've more thinking to do.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Work in Progress

flickr photo by Kevan shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

My life has been and continues to be 
A work in progress

Whether it be 
Cleaning the house
Designing learning environments/experiences
Any other of a myriad of focus

At this very moment, Work in Progress extends primarily to the new PLPNetwork Blended Learning eCourse.

And while I've attempted to design a learner centered asynchronous experience that's fluid and filled with choices and have put that design onto a platform to set a trajectory for learning that is open for editing based on learner paths (sensing this week that "feedback" is not exactly in the right week and now regretting such a linear unfolding and wondering what I can learn/do to alleviate some of that), the synchronous weekly webinars continue to be a huge work in progress.

Each week we have a focus. And our time together in the webinar is about digger deeper into that focus. And I want that digging to not be about what I've brought to this experience but rather what is best for the good of our collective learning.  Given that, each week I suggest a path and ask if there are suggestions or burning questions or pieces we should ignore and to date everyone agrees to just move forward--

I've given thought to an edcamp type of webinar-- and I carefully watch each week for interests and passions we might bring into our time together.  And very honestly about this time each week, I wonder if I should panic because I'm unsure of the scaffolding/processes. 

And that's occurring especially this week as I've uncovered new possible processes that might really be instrumental in deepening and clarifying thinking.  Liberating Structures--  I've been a Nancy White follower for many years now and she has been sharing on her blog.  And I've been torn for the last number of days between adapting The User Experience Fishbowl as we explore formative assessment more deeply or go with a protocol I've used before What comes up for you?  I think there may be value in each. And given that I really want to encourage and model the importance of voice and choice, what may happen is that I'll ask the group to weigh options and decide what they'd like to do.

So I am reminding myself--
learner centered
inquiry based
is always
and will continue to be

And that's ok--  right?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Learning Postures Emerging

They are becoming even more curious, inquisitive, tentative, collaborative and reflective-- the co-learners in the current PLP Blended Learning eCourse.  And it's difficult, if not impossible, to sit on my hands and not celebrate that for it was many years ago that I wrote on this blog what's below; now wanting to highlight again what I sense as the importance of that stance. And wondering what else you might add to this thinking?

Stand up straight; watch your posture. Do you remember that or is it a product of my generation? I heard it lots when I was young; even had to practice walking with a book on my head—my folks really stressed it and I never had good posture to their chagrin—

In the classroom, I did think about posture-- from a different perspective, always searching for a more accomplished practice. Initially, my posture was upright, in the front of the class, talking, giving information, and telling. My “teaching posture” evolved -- I was often sitting, in the back or with a group of students or a student, sometimes prodding, questioning, and listening. Yet I’ve noticed that my initial posture still is in vogue in many classrooms.
And as I’ve been involved in various learning communities more recently, I’ve noticed that teachers seem to be so comfortable in “teaching postures” which mirror my initial one, that it is translated into their professional learning too. I’m really feeling, and I could be wrong, that negatively impacts moving forward toward a global 21st century practice. So lately I’ve been spending time pondering on a learning posture-- what it looks like, what it sounds like, and how to help teachers adopt one.

I’m wondering, after reading and thinking, might a “learning posture” be characterized as:

Curious and Inquisitive
So I am curious- what do you think? Should we be focusing on a different conversation than the one we are having? Should we be re-envisioning education in ways that are radically different? And if so- How do we move from talking to doing? Or is that important? --Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
What does this new design look like? What are the big questions regarding learning, teaching and schooling that we need to begin to address? How will the roles of elementary schools and high schools begin to evolve? How will we address the divide issues that these opportunities outside of school create? And how do we personally plan for these changes as learners, parents and teachers? --Will Richardson
My focus for the next while will be an experiment as well as a creative outlet. I’ve created a space to publish fictional narratives where my true identity is intentionally obscured. I want to see what happens to the questions of digital identity, social structures and relationships, and network dynamics when the identity of the author is replaced with a fictional character – and the readers are aware that the "I" and "me" in the blog entries refer to someone who does not actually exist. –Mike Bogle

Tentative and Unfinished
Examples of “process as text” are recordings of classroom conversations, considered temporary and fleeting, that become something more than a passing conversation when they exist as video or audio recordings. These types of texts stay fixed – we can’t really go back and change the flow of a conversation – but our finished products, when published digitally, are easily and perhaps even secretly editable and revisable after publication. So we’re able to fix the temporary and fiddle with the permanent. That seems interesting and worthy of further exploration. –Bud theTeacher
That’s all I’ll say for now. I hope to revisit these ideas on occasion. I also hope you’ll help me think through them. – Jon Becker
Much to continue to mull over here: some ideas to tinker with, and some practices to encourage, but still very much a set of “conjectures and dilemmas” (Bruner) to keep exploring. – Gardner Campbell

Collaborative and Participatory
I was part of an interesting discussion on Twitter Friday night and I wanted to share it here, as well as add a few final thoughts. Participants that I reference are Bud Hunt,Brian CrosbyDean Shareski, Anne Van MeterBarbara Barreda, and Karen Fasimpaur. Thanks to all of you for helping me think through these ideas. – Karl Fisch

That’s one of those really concise shift statements that makes me bend my own frame a bit. I think too often I fall into looking at these tools and wonder what they can add to our classrooms and our teaching when the real question is how can our classrooms and teaching add capacity to the tools. – Will Richardson

When I began mulling this over I had not anticipated that I would be including a sense of unfinished business; yet I have begun to feel that is particularly important. I’m not yet satisfied that I’ve captured the essence of a “learning posture” yet am feeling pretty strongly that it’s worth pursuing, especially avenues for helping teachers with an awareness of their posture and how that may affect not only their own professional learning but also that of others.

Might it not be possible that such a focus may open doors for many to possibilities for learning not yet imagined?

Sunday, January 03, 2016

My one word-- Possibility

"If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible."  - Soren Kierkegaard
Not a new word for me--
Renewing again my commitment to possibility--

To all that I encounter
Embracing each moment 
Willing to follow paths where they'll take me

The possibilities for Gus' and my life together
The possibilities to continue to make some difference
The possibilities yet to be discovered

flickr photo by christopherdale shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license