Weekly Writing, 4.3, Bob, Online Pedagogy, ED 655

Original post.

  • What have you learned about integrated course design, taxonomies of learning, active learning, or problem-based learning?
  • How is the online learning environment working for you? What are the advantages and/or the challenges of taking this class in this format?
  • What have you learned about yourself during this unit? Have you discovered anything new about your own learning styles or preferences? Have you developed any new strategies that help you learn more effectively?

I summarize integrated course design with three insights I have picked up through the course and with Fink’s five elements.

First, creating community — this is a lifelong benchmark or touchstone for me, and my thinking about any enterprise.  In 1987, I attended the Alaska statewide conference on creating community in Sitka.  It was a formative experience for me.    Similarly, Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone reminded me of these values.  Creating, even briefly for a place-time, a community of learning is something that I can support, even get invigorated by.

Second flipping the classroom so that content is learned outside the contact time and contact time is used for specific application, is a new notion for me.  Though, as I have mentioned another framing of the concept: extending or continuing the conversation beyond the moment of the classroom is a practice I have celebrated for years.

Third, helping learners solve real problems or problems formulated in a real world format. Learners do what it is they are learning to do.  This is a closely held value in both my criticism of my schooling and as I have tried to help, my employees learn to do their jobs.  I think the first, most articulate, formulation of it came from reading Eliot Wiggington’s, Sometimes a Shining Moment.

Finks’ five:

  1. What are the important situational factors in a particular course and learning situation?
  2. What should our full set of learning goals be?
  3. What kinds of feedback and assessment should we provide?
  4. What kinds of teaching and learning activities will suffice, in terms of achieving the full set of learning goals we set?
  5. Are all the components connected and integrated, that is, are they consistent and supportive of each other?

I am comfortable in an online learning environment.  In particular, this course with its collaborative approach to blogging and commenting is effective for me.  It makes sense to take a course about teaching and learning online… well, online.  Indeed, it would be a little odd to take it in a solely face-to-face environment.  Where we are having frequent synchronous sessions, it would be easy to see this in a blended environment too.

I have a theoretical understanding of integrated course design.  However, because I am not a teacher I lack the details of practical experience with integrated course design.  I lack the repetition of daily practice.  I also understand a little bit more about how I include my direct reports in making the content of our training, indeed every aspect of our workplace, for our student employees.  I feel hampered not having their contribution and insights into the work.   That insight has raised the question for me, about how teachers can create courses on their own.  I know that in my situation professors frequently design courses on their own.  Sometimes core courses are informed by conversations and are practically designed by individuals.  This is a significant difference from how work is done in many other work places.  I wonder how much better courses would be if along with the content expert were a team of an instructional designer and an assessment specialist.

My own learning is less of a matter for reflection at this point in the course.  Rather, I am focused on my target demographic for the “course” we are designing as our final project.  Getting out of my own head and into theirs is the challenge.  That empathic exercise however is important.  I have been reading in popular writings about the generational differences between “Boomers” and “Millennials.”   I am trying to avoid over generalizations like: “Kids these days….”  Rather, there are very specific differences in expectations and experience and I cannot gloss those details if I hope to facilitate learning in that demographic.

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Fancisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Putnam RD. (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.  New York: Simon & Schuster.

Wigginton, B.E. (1985). Sometimes a shining moment: The Foxfire experience.  New York: Anchor Books.

Weekly Writing 4.2, Bob, Online Pedagogy, ED 655

Original post.

In your writing post this week, discuss the value of taxonomies for defining student learning, with specific examples from your subject area. Attach your learning objectives and concept map. (Don’t forget to provide the title or topic of your lesson plan.) It is particularly important that you review classmates’ posts this week and provide feedback on their learning objectives. Identifying outcomes and writing clear objectives is a challenging task; I’m confident you will all benefit by giving and receiving critique on this assignment!

This is the first time in a long time where I have floundered with an assignment.   The concept map tools were just perplexing for me.  I went to each website and tried each interface.  I placed shapes and drew links between them in order to see how the tools worked.  Then I stared blankly at the interface.  I simply could not see how or why to use them to accomplish work – this work.   Therefore, I have no conceptual maps to submit.  Obviously, I feel some defensiveness – what is wrong with me?  I talked with my wife about how she might use them.  The process she described was helpful in developing an understanding of the tool.  Alas, it was an alien process for me.  I might doodle some circles and lines on a notepad, or create category headings.  Conceptual models for me grow out of sentences, and paragraphs and finally essays.  I may edit those down to bullet points for professional writing, for final presentation.  I might use the mind maps afterword to create a diagram or a flowchart to illustrate a workflow analysis — but probably not.  I am just never likely to use these tools.  Perhaps it is good for me to know about them in order to share them with learners or co-workers….

Turning to the objective builder, I resonated with the Radio James Objective builder tool.  I see two related uses: one in writing job descriptions and tasks in a workflow, second, in creating employee training.  I love the simplicity and interactivity of the tool and once you have outcomes drafted you simply highlight, cut, and paste them to a working document.  Interestingly, I find that for most tasks in our workplace I do not need the highest-level functions from entry-level employees.  I do not need them to create, or evaluate, and only occasionally to analyze.  Rather, I need high functioning with application, understanding and remembering.  My supervisors will operate more frequently with analysis, and evaluation yet only occasionally at the creation level.

A related difference is that rarely in our workplace do we engage in creative work alone.  It is usually in a group.  In addition, this was another hang up with this week’s assignment.  “Write three learning outcomes” — this is work done in a team in our workplace.   I also struggled with the scope of this assignment.  I selected:

  • Emergency Procedures
  • Photocopier/Printers
  • Professional Demeanor

Trying to write this in entirety in six hours was just not possible, and I missed my team and their energy and insight.  Two of these are easier to write outcomes for; emergency procedures and troubleshooting and maintaining printers/photocopiers, as both have “correct” answers.  I can be quite behavioristic in my formulation of these outcomes.  For example, evacuating the building has one right outcome and one right process.  Similarly getting paper jams out of a copier, filling paper trays, and exchanging toner cartridges all have specific steps and a single final decision either the machine is working again, or it is not and an out of order sign is affixed to it and the matter reported to a supervisor.

However, in including “professional demeanor” I vastly exceeded what could be done in the allotted time.  Yet, this is perhaps the most interesting of the outcomes I identified.  It is inherently subjective, inherently situational.  Offering feedback to employees on this skill is an art, and an iterative process as they self-correct to approximate an improvement on subjective outcome.   I selected eight elements to address; appearance, reliability, competence, ethics, phone etiquette, written communication, self/workspace organization, and accountability.  These were selected after Googling the topic and reviewing a number of blogs and online articles – a very different, but very realistic way that a lot of work in the workplace gets started.  The point in academic writing is to create original or uncommon knowledge, however, the point in writing for the workplace is to find a norm and build around that.  Likewise, there is no point in attributing common knowledge and I am certain that various documents and web pages that we have created have likewise been appropriated – and I cannot care.

Turning to Appearance, my first stab at writing outcomes sounds like this:

  • Exemplify professionalism through dressing appropriately for this workplace,
  • Understand that smiling when you greet customers and co-workers can convey confidence, enthusiasm and may begin to diffuse difficult conversations.
  • Apply this understanding in using appropriate facial expression in the matching communication situation – do not smile or laugh while a customer is obviously angry or upset, for example.

Appropriate dress in a college work place tends to be more casual, though at times ties, coats and pantsuits are called for.  However, we understand that students are not going to return to their rooms and change for work.  Therefore, for young men we ask for colored shirts, young women we ask them to avoid or to cover tank tops, for examples.  We actively discourage showing up in gym clothes or pajamas.  Our point is not to die on this hill but rather to start to sensitize the young people to the issue.  I asked one of my student supervisors to come in early this morning because the new President was hosting an event in the library – on his own he offered that he would dress up a bit.  That is a successful outcome.  To my mind, it shows competence at the comprehension level of Bloom’s taxonomy.  I do not need the Supervisor to evaluate or judge the merit of dressing appropriately – I need them to judge the situation and dress appropriately for it.

Perhaps then, the employee is actually operating significantly higher level then I imagined….

Turning to the next performance indicator:


Exemplify professionalism by –

  • Showing up for your shift a few minutes early, working through your checklist of chores immediately, and communicating about sharing the chores with your co-worker.
  • If you need to miss a shift for legitimate reasons arrange for shift coverage as soon as you learn of your need.
  • If you are ill contact either or both your student supervisor or Branch coordinator at the earliest possible time and ask for shift coverage.
  • If you offer to cover a co-worker’s shift make certain that you follow through.
  • Any service promise you make to a customer needs to be executedupon and completed. This may involve clearly communicating with a co-worker or supervisor since the actual work maybe done by another.

To my mind a young person who behaved in these ways would be competent in behaving with professional demeanor as regards reliability.  Extending this and returning to Bloom’s taxonomy I think they would be at the analysis level.  My reasoning being that if I asked them to tell me why these behaviors were important they would be able to explain.  The occasions we see student employees achieve synthesis is on their return from abroad or from internships where they compare their workplace experiences or experiences with service providers and demonstrate insight into why we prioritize reliability among our employees.  They may continue and evaluate these differences but in truth I am not seeking there feedback on what we have determined to be workplace appropriate.  Said differently I am not looking for them to evaluate but to abide by these norms.

So what I am struggling with here is that we may well be successfully teaching to a higher level, but we do not need to evaluate performance at that level….

This gets us back to a question asked by Owen in a comment – he wondered how I would apply cognitive and constructivist and connectionist theories of learning to workplace behavior.  I am wondering about that as well.  I suspect the value of such a theoretical enterprise is in being self-reflective about our process.  I am struggling a little bit with these taxonomies and theories.  It is interesting to realize that my employees may be actually learning at high levels, synthesizing, evaluating and judging but I do not see it because I am not looking for it.  I need them to operate at the mid-level for most functions and that is sufficient.  However, I wonder if higher order outcomes are occurring; so then what more can be accomplished were we to pay attention to that?  Alternatively, if our evaluation of excellence might be more objectively informed by these higher order levels of learning.  I wonder if it might be more repeatable if we are using better theories to interpret behavior can we in turn get better behavior more frequently.  Given the pressure, we are under to generate customer enthusiasm I suspect I have some hard work to do in more precisely recognizing and capitalizing on student employee’s work in analysis, synthesis and evaluation.  This bends back around to generating rubrics as well.  Creating rubrics will probably break me as well.   I have to say this is humbling.  It is also starkly revealing in how different the work of teachers and employers is.

Above I say: “For example, evacuating the building has one right outcome and one right process.”  And I ask now do I really mean it?  Nothing is more subjective than emergency response; nothing is more dependent upon correct judgment.  For example, evacuating during a drill is a rote routine.  However, imagine clearing a building with a real fire burning.  All of a sudden, my behavior may change radically.  I may carry a fire extinguisher with me.  I may access floors through cut-through or stairwells previously not used.  My goal is to empty the building completely and systematically and to get myself out safely.  If I limit my employees to rote protocol, I might kill them or a customer.  If I encourage them to operate at higher levels, I might save lives and speed the process.

Emergency Procedures

  • Locate First aid kit, fire extinguisher, Light switches, panic button, and emergency call list
  • Explain how to use; First aid kit, fire extinguisher, Light switches, panic button, emergency call list
  • Properly execute a building evacuation for fire alarm,

This is inadequate.  I have to dig deeper.  I have to explore objectives that employ verbs, like solve, use, prepare, or infer, question, select, even more, plan, modify, and rearrange, and again, evaluate, interpret, and justify.

I do not think I can do this in the time allotted or on my own or once and for all.

Weekly Writing 4:1, Bob Heath

Original post.

For your writing post this week, develop a thorough description of the situational factors impacting your lesson plan. Exhibit 3.2 in the text provides a checklist of initial considerations. If you’re developing for K-12, speak to the developmental stage of your students. If you’re developing educational content for adults, estimate the level of prior experience and describe how that will affect your lesson plan. Highlight the situational characteristics that you believe will make course development most challenging.

Review the posts of your classmates and provide feedback on the situational factors they’ve listed for their target populations.

Colby College is an elite liberal arts residential college.  As such many of our students come from well to do families many from the Boston area.  Many have attended private high schools, preparatory schools.  Indeed, upon graduation many return to this home city.  However, not all students have this background.  Like all colleges, Colby attempts to create diversity in its student body.  Some international students are recruited through the International high school program.  Some international students are from China on a can pay basis – that is they require no financial aid.  Colby works closely with the POSSE foundation program and recruits ethnically diverse young people from inner cities, New York, Chicago ,for examples ,in this way.  A few of Colby’s students are recruited from Maine—though not as many as in the past.

The upshot is that few of our job applicants have prior work experience of any significant sort.  This along with generational differences between Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials and we have some significant hurdles to manage regarding work place expectations.  Very few of our students imagine themselves in an entry-level position.

The work at our Service desk has changed over time.  However, at a basic level it is transactional work, checking library materials in and out, keeping printer and photocopiers operational and filled with paper, providing directional services for both the building and the campus.  Over time our business model has shifted with part-time student employees increasingly important in supporting our front line service.  This has include extended hours in the evening and weekend.  It has also included providing basic research assistance.    In truth, there is a lot of content knowledge and a lot of process knowledge that our service desk employees need.  Historically, we created a “career path” for our student employees.  We defined three different levels of work: level one work was basic retrieval or shelving functions in handling library materials, we distinguished it as inward facing and having impact on internal library functions.  Our second level involved this level and additionally was outward facing in that it serviced customers or contacts external to the library: on campus, students and faculty, or off campus, other libraries or external vendors.  Our third level involved supervisory or research skills that affected library employees at various levels in the organization.  We promoted employees based on competence, fit, and possibly based on age/experience.  Therefore, many first year student employees worked as shelvers returning borrowed materials to the stacks and shelving them correctly.  Conversely, they worked for our interlibrary loan department retrieving materials from the stacks and packing them for shipping.  Our Service desks were second year students who had worked for a year in the previous capacity and had a sense of basic library skills and work.  We augmented their training with training in communication skills and problem solving and they provided first contact resolution services.  Most Colby students spend their junior year, a semester at least frequently the full year abroad.  Therefore, our third tier employees are often seniors; we draw our student supervisor and research assistant positions from this applicant pool.

Because we are an educational institution, we often imagine that performance issues are a matter of training.  If only we could get our training right then our performances would be perfected.  However, this is an incomplete truth and an error sometimes encountered in supervisors thinking about employee performance.  A performance deficiency might result from incomplete knowledge, a skill deficiency, or a managerial deficiency: motivational problem, organizational problem, equipment problem, or a policy problem (here I am drawing heavily from Robert Mager’s analysis of performance problems).

Turning my attention to another aspect of managing a service desk, that is key performance indicators.  This something we have not examined in the past, at least, with any consistency or thoroughness.   Jeff Rumburg and Eric Zbikowsky in their white paper “The Seven Most Important Performance Indicators for the Service Desk” identify: cost, quality, productivity, agent, service level and call handling as their priorities.


All of this boils down to a single element of quality, which is first contact resolution rate, as the single most important service desk metric to focus on for improvement.

The Colby College Libraries consists of three on campus facilities, Miller library the main library whose collection and services focuses on humanities and social sciences, Bixler Art and Music library whose collection and services focus on art, music and performing arts, our Science library whose collection and services focus on science, math and their related interdisciplinary studies.  Our final facility is an on campus storage facility that provides for more than forty years of collection growth.  Miller library has just under gone a two-year renovation, alas a highly controversial renovation.  Three years ago, we engaged a consultant and entered into a process of organizational re-design, two years prior to that, we engaged a consultant and underwent a strategic planning process both of these processes were successful (based on a variety of measures) and have moved the organization forward.  However, the controversy surrounding our physical renovation has seriously damaged our reputation with all college constituents, students, faculty, administration, and alumina.

As our student, employees working at our service desk are our primary source of first contact resolution, whether for customer service, building or campus directional assistance, technology assistance, or primary research assistance we are acutely aware of their performance and our need to for excellence in their performance.


Just some Maine fall colors, since we are sharing.

Article Review #5, Bob Heath, Online Pedagogy, ED 655

Original post.

Andrew See & Travis Stephen Teetor (2014) Effective e-Training: Using a Course Management System and e-Learning Tools to Train Library Employees, Journal of Access Services, 11:2, 66-90, DOI: 10.1080/15367967.2014.896217, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15367967.2014.896217

Therefore, it seems I have found the perfect article for my purposes.

Online instruction and e-Learning tools are increasingly being used in the academic setting for faculty to deliver course content; however, most libraries have yet to apply the advantages offered by these tools to employee training. This case study from the University of Arizona Libraries (UAL) presents the challenges of sustaining traditional training approaches and the steps to develop an online training program, including identifying specific competencies needed to create effective online training, an approach to prioritizing where to start your program, and requirements for training platform selection. (See and Teetor 2014)

I suspect that most academic libraries struggle with similar versions of this problem, limited permanent staff, multiple locations, extensive hours of operation, and many part-time student employees with frequent turnover, and schedules that do not overlap with supervisors.  The work consists of customer service, technology support, providing directions, basic research assistance, and building security.

Perhaps many instances of independent invention have occurred in academic libraries to address these issues.   Our solutions at Colby College Libraries include a variety of tactics.  We meet face-to-face at the start of each semester at each location as a staff.  New employees receive focused instruction from a permanent staff supervisor during their first shift.  Librarians likewise meet with as many student employees as possible and provide an hour of instruction on answering research questions — followed up by individual make up sessions to catch the rest.  We have a selective interview process for student supervisors and train them more extensively.  They assist with both training and administrative tasks in managing their respective staffs.  We created a peer mentor program where new employees are partnered with returning employees and so gain the benefit of their experience.  We also created a website to supplant our old training manual. We have enriched that sight with instructional videos created by student employees. We refer to that site when we answer employee questions to impress upon them that many answers are available to them through that resource.  Finally, we meet for lunch once a semester all service desk employees from all locations and while the focus is fun, we sneak some training or review into these sessions as well.  We like the authors of the article also systematically evaluate the employees’ job knowledge and retrain as necessary.  This yields good, but not great results and I am feeling increasing pressure to achieve great outcomes.

The authors first described a new position, a specific employee to create their online instruction.  They then describe the selection process for LMS.  They then describe the content areas of the LMS they use: “Checklist, Content, Quizzes, Dropbox, Grades, Classlist, Discussions, and Syllabus.”  Because these categories are facets of the particular LMS, I will not spend a lot of time summarizing the details of their curriculum.  However, their discussion of creating online content does bear some study.  They used the Desire2Learn LMS system, but for content creation, they describe three tools: Adobe Presenter, Articulate Storyline, and Panopto.

They evaluated the results of the new training on cost savings, test results, and observation of task performance.

  • “In terms of cost savings, online training will likely result in cutting F2F time in half instead of eliminating it completely.”
  • “Similarly, UAL employees who have used the online training have been just as successful in passing tests as their counterparts who received predominantly F2F instruction.”
  • “While there has not been an in-depth comparison of performance when trained F2F versus online, employees have proven just as capable and have completed this stage of training just as quickly, regardless of how they were trained.”

Again, these conclusions are conservative as with most academic writing.  However, to my mind as an Assistant Director whose business is the same business.  I think there is plenty to go on here.  I have shared this article with my permanent staff and my student supervisors.  We will be discussing it 10/10/2014 at our supervisors meeting.

The authors’ finally end with this conclusion: “While we have received feedback from trainees about their desire to have a greater degree of F2F interaction, overall the online program has proven to save time while achieving the same degree of effectiveness in preparing employees to work at service sites. We plan to address this need by adopting a flipped classroom approach to supplement online learning with F2F activities and workshops.”

Over the last 5-6 years, we, at my work, have approached and shied away from using the LMS system for these purposes.  I decided on my way into work this morning that I was done with the indecision.  I meet with our Instructional Designer today to review the objections that have been raised in the past.  To see if these objections still had any bearing on the matter – she convinced me that none are meaningful any longer.  In the morning, I will schedule a training meeting, next week, for my staff with this person.  Moreover, we will move aggressively into online learning in support of improved employee performance.  Another important conversation was had today with a new colleague an Assistant Director in an adjacent department.  We agreed to revisit a past initiative to create a career path for student employees in our library.  Several years ago, we did this hard work and had good success with it.  Alas, we lost track of it in our reorganization.  I think these two projects go hand in hand.

There that was the easy part.

Article Review #4, Bob Heath, Online Pedagogy, ED 655

Original post.

Macdonald, J., & Poniatowska, B. (2011). Designing the professional development of staff for teaching online: an OU (UK) case study. Distance Education, 32(1), 119-134. doi:10.1080/01587919.2011.565481

This article caught my attention because it is at the crossroads of several personal interests in thinking about online pedagogy: the workplace, blended learning, near synchronous feedback, and cool and geeky new tools.  The authors review a module taught through the UK’s Online University.  This module is aimed at online teachers, but teachers in the workplace though in this case the workplace was the OU.

Drawing on this experience, we therefore set out to design a new online professional development module at the OU (UK), which would act as a guide and introduction to new ways of working with online tools for all staff throughout the university. It was important that this module should be designed in a way that it could be easily updated with changing technologies. We were aware of the need to sustain engagement by using measures such as an activity checklist and certification system, and to consider ways of encouraging peer learning through an online community. Finally, we wished to design this module using a practice-based approach, starting with the job. (Macdonald and Poniatowska 2011)

The authors spend several pages on developing a theoretical structure that informed their case study which we will happily gloss over. Instead, their approach was to focus on the common intentions of teaching and supporting learners.  Their focus shifted then to strategies and finally to tools; an eminently practical approach, I think.  This approach allowed them to minimize the need to regular revision of the course – instead new tools could be classed by strategies and accommodated.

VLE Choices

Learners selected either a self-study route or a cohort program.  It sounds like the latter was easier to manage since interactive projects were precluded in the self-study route.

Use of the Elluminate tool was experimental and new so the authors recruited tutors competent with the tool to enrich that experience.  Their experiences with this approach have encouraged them to explore online tutoring.  The authors review briefly some of the quantitative and qualitative data they collected on participants experience with the curriculum.  They discuss the outcomes of the course broadly and each of the tracks, cohort and self-study, their conclusions, as with most scholarly projects, are constrained and suggest additional directions for subsequent research.

I particularly like their final observation: “In other words, what the learner actually learns cannot be predicted in advance.”  I think this is brilliant.  It shows the aleatory quality of learning.  We throw a variety of learners and supporting props together and then watch intently to see what is learned.  There is no accounting for motivation, curiosity and discovery.  A gifted learner can skew a set of course outcomes significantly from those imagined by the teacher.  Combine that with a cohort and the outcomes can be profoundly variable.

I liked this inquiry very much.  It was not exactly what I was looking for in my thinking about teaching young adults about work at a service desk, but it is closer than many of the articles we have reviewed thus far.  I find it rewarding that this article is about teaching teachers.  A number of interesting facets to that, one seeing that full-time teachers self-selected for cohort study whereas part-time preferred individual study.  Intriguing also to see teachers receive tutoring.  In addition, to see them working to discover an on-line voice, on-line techniques for tutors, is rewarding.  I suspect like teaching labs, tutoring on-line has its challenges.  I also suspect that the learners themselves provide many clues on how to do it well.  I found it valuable that this course showed the collaboration between instructors and instructional designers.  I liked as well that it introduced the collaboration between tutors and the aforementioned.  I like that it is an iterative process to develop the course.   I also like and simultaneously struggle with it not being a graded course. “Finally, to support engagement, participants are encouraged to complete a choice of activities using an activity checklist that once completed generates an automated completion certificate.”  This is something I am struggling with as I consider the final assignment for the course.  I am obviously suspicious of “schooling” and of “grades” and so writing rubrics is a conflicted task for me.  I understand their value in assessment and in connecting outcomes and course work.  However, there is part of me that wants to honor the discovery that is unpredictable in throwing learners and tools together in an aleatory space.  There is the part of me that is a boss.   I am driven by finite resources and expected to show return on investment.   I am appreciative of focused and measurable outcomes as evidence of learning.  I also understand that excellence in service that creates customer enthusiasm is a result of motivation, curiosity and discovery.  I suspect that I will need both/and in my assessment of learners in order to accomplish rote skills and interpretive skills.

Weekly Writing #4, Bob Heath, Online Pedagogy, ED 655

Original post.

What theoretical principles support the use of game mechanics in learning? Consider the list you created of ways in which the world has changed, and then reflect on the goals of Partnership for 21st Century Skills. In your writing this week, discuss the ways in which learning must change in the 21st Century and the ways in which it must continue to build upon solid theory and models. Elaborate on ways in which Khan Academy or Peer Instruction are either accomplishing those goals or falling short.

I guess I am disappointed.  If schools themselves are part of our trouble with learning; then how is more of the same going to be an improvement?  Since leadership is a matter close to my heart, I selected that topic as an entry point into the case studies of exemplar schools on the P21 website.  I first clicked through the slides on their Tumblr.  Alas, I really did not see a difference in those images from my own recollections of K-12– more than 30 years ago.  Then I listened to the podcast and was meet by a jargon dump from professional educators.  I listened through to the point where they allowed a student to talk and again I was just disappointed – just more of the same dressed up and promoted on the internet.  I then clicked through to their “about us” section for parents and community.  There were pretty summaries of curricular high points, assertions without evidence, but most disturbing, there was nothing about community building.  Rather education was still just a commodity produced by experts that we are expected to consume.  Although the home page for P21 has a world map, all of the schools they hold up as exemplars are from the US.  The little rainbow map of the program is crisp and clear and boring.  It is fundamentally self-referential within the US education industry.
I want to run far away from this.  Instead, what if we build a new model based on what young people are really doing?

At 1:41 John Seely Brown describes his neighbor, a 20 something surfer, a world class surfer. He and his friends have refined a technique for speed learning but more for invention of new techniques. I love the point that JSB makes about a 48-hour turnaround time on new tricks – fascinating. I of course love the risk of failure as well.

To my mind, we have several tools or attributes to inventory here:

  • Peer group of like-minded and skilled persons
    • Mental toughness
    • Physical toughness
  • A shared curiosity for a topic embedded in the real world
  • The equipment to engage in the activity
  • Equipment to record the engagement and hence to study and criticize the engagement
  • the internet connects a global community of peer groups hence peer review

Returning to the classroom, we see:

At 11:17 Eric Mazur says: “You don’t learn by listening you learn by doing.”  Moreover, a few seconds later he describes the heart of the flipped classroom the transfer of content occurs before and outside the classroom the sense making occurs inside the classroom and a classroom where peers help each other make sense.  At 8:35 he give the clue to why this works so well – a person with a fresh understanding also clearly understands the confusion and can help their peers to avoid the confusion.  By contrast, for the “expert” that confusion is long gone and so is their human connection with not knowledge but rather ignorance.

These two examples seem most closely aligned with the Constructivist theories of learning.

Constructivists see learners as active rather than passive. Knowledge is not received from the outside or from someone else; rather, the individual learner interprets and processes what is received through the senses to create knowledge. The learner is the centre of the learning, with the instructor playing an advising and facilitating role. Learners should be allowed to construct knowledge rather than being given knowledge through instruction (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996). The construction of knowledge includes both physical and intellectual learning activities (Phillips, 2005). A major emphasis of constructivists is situated learning, which sees learning as contextual (Hung, Looi, & Koh, 2004). Learning activities that allow learners to contextualize the information should be used in online instruction. If the information has to be applied in many contexts, then learning strategies that promote multi-contextual learning should be used to make sure that learners can indeed apply the information broadly. Learning is moving away from one-way instruction to construction and discovery of knowledge (Tapscott, 1998) (Ally 2008).

We quite clearly hear Mazur speak of the change in his role in the classroom he uses the term “coach.”  However, who has that role in the example of the surfer’s peer group?  I would theorize that it is a shared role.  No single person has exclusive claim to those responsibilities in the group.  Both examples show learners constructing knowledge one physical the other intellectual.  Indeed we see Mazur’s disruptive moment being the realization that his teaching was context specific, classroom and textbooks, rather than applicable in real life.  As he flipped his classroom, he could shift his focus to multi-contextual learning.  The JSB example is clearly multi-contextual as the “trick” is learned around the globe within 48 hours – remember, every beach and break is unique.   This 48-hour turnaround is interesting to postulate as having a link to connectionism through the butterfly flap of chaos theory. I particularly like the link between constructionist theories of learning the principle of decision-making in connectionist theories.  “Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision” (Siemens 2005).  This skill set of decision-making is I think more accurately taught and learned through surfing then through lecture hall physics – though both refer to matter and energy in motion.

Ally, M. (2008). Foundations of educational theory for online learning. In Anderson, T., & Elloumi, F. (Eds.). The theory and practice of online learning (2nd ed.) (pp. 15–44). Athabasca, AB, Canada: Athabasca University.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital ageInternational Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning 2(1).