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.

1 comment:

Anne said...

Lani, it helps to see the discussion in one piece of text like this. In retrospect I don't think that one can build flow. The agency for flow is with the learner not the teacher. But the teacher/school can at least facilitate flow by arranging things so that it is more likely to happen. This could include many aspects including flexible timetables so that if a student is engrossed, they can continue on their project, to uncovering student passions for them to work on and I am sure that promoting inquiry-based learning is more likely to lead to flow than other more front-facing pedagogies.