Online Pedagogy: Personal philosophy — Bob, ED 655

Original post.

Often times we are significantly formed by negative role models – positively.  I mean, that we define ourselves positively in opposition to bad, weak or shabby experiences.  For me K-12 was a shabby, at best, series of experiences.  Fortunately, college and then graduate school were valuable and positive experiences — that I attended was a stroke of luck as I had written the whole of formal education off.  However, in being self-reflective of that disparity my early thinking about a philosophy of pedagogy was susceptible to radical theorists.  So for example:

  • Dennison, G. (1999). The Lives of Children:  The Story of the First Street School: Heinemann.
  • Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (2nd ed.): Vintage.
  • Illich, I. (2000). Deschooling Society: Marion Boyars Publisher.

The physical site of schooling and the unnecessary connection between teaching and learning, or more explicitly the priority of teaching the sub-texts, order and discipline, over content and learner, are at the heart of these critiques.  Moreover, in my early phase of theorizing about schooling, teaching and learning these were liberatory insights.  I needed to swing to the extreme as a process of healing to correct my feelings of shabbiness.  However, one cannot long operate at extremes.  Gradually, additional thinkers softened and complicated these notions:

  • Bateson, G. (1972b). Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Ballantine Books.
  • Schumacher, J. A. (1989). Human Posture: The Nature of Inquiry. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Wigginton, E. (1985). Sometimes a Shining Moment: The Foxfire Experience. Garden City, New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday.

All of these thinkers explore ways to be radical, thoughtful, and engaged in auditing their organization, even as they practiced their professions within that organization.  Through these and my own positive experience in higher education, I could imagine myself a teacher in this venue.  I even started a PhD program, ill-timed and so unfinished, I had to make my peace with earning a living to contribute to my family.  This, although at the time like a door closing, was actually another fortuitous turn in my professional life.  I started taking business and IT classes – a seeming radical turn from the libertarian, and philosophical leanings.  Yet, in truth, communication and leadership were the skills and interests that developed in this turn – very practical applications of the theories leading up to this moment.  In the latter part of those courses, I took some online classes and found a learning environment with which I resonated.  The, architecture of the classroom was ruptured (no sitting in ranks and rows) and the tyranny of the clock, gone (I could spend hours on interesting material and minutes on uninteresting).  Self-motivated learners were rewarded (or conversely the unmotivated weeded themselves out).  Pace was personally dictated (faster, and more being my preferred approach).  Interaction with other learners was by choice (at least far more than in the classroom).  Professors who realized that they were not in control and so instead became facilitators and coaches supporting my learning.  The timing is fortuitous for me as I see one more re-invention of my professional self, one more push before retirement.  Tied to that is my laser like desire to return to Alaska, my time as an undergraduate in Sitka – well like a salmon returning to the river of origin – it has always been my horizon.

Online Pedagogy is a new enough set of concepts, to me, that I do not yet have a defined set of categories.  Therefore, my vague set of categories:  I am fascinated by learning communities, by augmented reality, and gaming (both a model for inquiry, and fun thing to do).  In the specific context of Alaska, I see online learning as having a very important role in cultural preservation and transmission for Alaska Natives – it is a way to cross generations and locations.  I am interested in alternative forms of certification, the high school diploma, the BA, MA, instead of standing on their own are part of a wider set of credentials informed in part by real life (parenting should damn well count for some credentialing).  Another fascination aspect of online instruction is the creation of teams to do the work that used to be done by the “sage on the stage.”

Learning Communities:

I find the example of these provided by the surfer’s learning community described in earlier post to be deeply satisfying.  I love it because it reminds me of the Temporary Autonomous Zones  celebrated by Hakim Bey in the mid-80’s.  A relapse to my anarchist roots, timely as we have just survived an episode of higher educations self- reflexive bitterness.  For years I have subscribed to the mission of higher education only to be burned by the privilege of the tenured.  And here we get to the heart of why I love the story about surfers’ learning communities in YouTube, along with a host of other specialized skills, none of the cost (financial and spiritual) and all of the benefits and we do it ourselves.  I no longer buy, under questioned, the value of tenure track academics.

The TAZ is an encampment of guerilla ontologists: strike and run away. Keep moving the entire tribe, even if it’s only data in the Web. The TAZ must be capable of defense; but both the “strike” and the “defense” should, if possible, evade the violence of the State, which is no longer a meaningful violence. The strike is made at structures of control, essentially at ideas; the defense is “invisibility,” a martial art, and “invulnerability”–an “occult” art within the martial arts. The “nomadic war machine” conquers without being noticed and moves on before the map can be adjusted. As to the future–Only the autonomous can plan autonomy, organize for it, create it. It’s a bootstrap operation. The first step is somewhat akin to satori–the realization that the TAZ begins with a simple act of realization.

I love that our text for the course is so completely focused on learners and learning outcomes.  It is not about being in need of teaching rather we share the need for learning and only rarely is teaching the way to fill that need.  Indeed let me appropriate Bey’s musing:

The {learning} is an encampment of guerilla ontologists: strike and run away. Keep moving the entire tribe, even if it’s only data in the Web. The {learning} must be capable of defense; but both the “strike” and the “defense” should, if possible, evade the violence of the State, which is no longer a meaningful violence. The strike is made at structures of control, essentially at ideas; the defense is “invisibility,” a martial art, and “invulnerability”–an “occult” art within the martial arts. The “{learning}” conquers without being noticed and moves on before the map can be adjusted. As to the future–Only the autonomous can plan autonomy, organize for it, create it. {Learning} is a bootstrap operation. The first step is somewhat akin to satori–the realization that {learning} begins with a simple act of realization.

It is important to remember that Bey was writing this at the dawn of the internet.  Yet he saw the parallels between pirate communities in the Caribbean and life online.  Certainly the internet feels a lot more like the Las Vegas strip these days, but, one can still find biker bars, so to speak, and wilderness.

Gamification: serious play, flight and surgical simulations

I wrote a masters thesis once upon a time and there I celebrated the seriousness of play.  I urged the point that we are playing for our very lives.  Since it is unpublished you will have to believe me and accordingly I will not bother to quote myself.  I have time and again raised the matter of skills along with knowledge and motivation.  Some of these simulations are an amazing opportunity to create skills without the price tag of real failure.  Flight simulations, combat simulations, are examples from the military and the airlines.  But, we hear as well about surgeons in a distant city using 3D printers to create an image of a damaged organ from which they create a strategy for surgery.  We raise eyebrows as our children spend hours perfecting fingering combinations on a game controller — but it is no stretch of imagination to see delicate tasks virtually and robotically augmented and controlled through… game controllers since they are familiar.

But this is only a part of what I mean.  I do not want to forget the giggle and rapture of discovery, of halting success.  Jumping rope, skipping stones, sandlot baseball, singing, and sometimes just messing around — how do we remember that and capture it and inject it into our classroom?  Part of it is certainly starting with the learner as sacred and central, but, that is not all of it…. Fun, discovery, invention, improvisation are fundamentally human just as learning is fundamentally human.  How can I in my role of “teacher” remember myself as having fun too, as learner too?  Is there a way to drag the state mandated learning outcomes into the rough and tumble of life — to make them authentic again, so that learners see themselves in them?

Resisting Cultural Extinction:  Cultural Preservation and Transmission through online learning

There is an irony (perhaps ironies) in making the connection between cultural preservation and online learning.  Life on the internet is virtual and representative of altogether different activities in the flesh and blood world.  Native cultures are very aware of starvation yet many of us online merely have to brush the Cheeto crumbs from our neck beards.  A picture is worth many words (some adult language, long and graphic illustration of processing food):

I love the Cree family processing Goose, the radio playing oldies in the background, I love the busting of chops as his Mom corrects his sloppy job (notice in the comments folks telling him to listen to his Mother) so many cultural values reinforced, even if unintentionally and by non-natives .  I love that the conversation switches between Cree and English.  I learned (but not practiced), from this how to pluck and bone a goose (though I have processed chickens, ducks and turkeys, never geese) and I was fascinated to watch the transition of cultural knowledge across generation — and so much laughter.  The next step might be to make a VR where I practice what I have learned.  And we see video conversations frequently on YouTube and native communities (though perhaps not constrained by ethnicity).  Indeed:

So between these two videos I have points of comparison between hunting and gathering practices and across cultures.  So in the classroom we can explore this theoretically through concepts of anthropology or history.  We can explore it as practical activity and process our own food.  We can share it with elders and create conversations.   I also see getting people to play with their food as a subversive activity in this age of mass produced and processed food.  For me this at the heart of what I am relevating in this post — this is Online Pedagogy.  To whit our jobs are more and more to help learners refine their art and inspire them to lifelong learning

Final Project: Rational and Method — Bob, Online Pedagogy, ED 655

Original post.

I suspect that most academic libraries struggle with similar problems, 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.  Our part-time employees consist of traditional age undergraduate students.  Colby is a highly selective liberal arts college – accordingly our talent pool is a good one.  However, these young adults have little previous job experience, and while they have good work ethic developed in schoolwork and sports they often struggle to transfer that to the workplace.  While we have tried hard to make “workplace expectations” more transparent we still have more work to do in this area.  One way to do this is to move a portion of our training to our Learning Management System.

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)

Therefore, the project for this course is to create a blended learning environment for our training purposes.  While online presentation is important, what is really at stake is creating a multiplier effect that significantly increases our training contact hours with our employees while not increasing the number of our supervisory staff nor significantly increasing their workload.  An important technique is creating a “flipped workplace” so to speak.  The Flipped Learning network website offers a straightforward definition on their homepage.  “Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”  There is however, the question of how much content and what type of content moves to the “individual learning space.”  Likewise, what are the expectations, and motivations, and reasonable limits to pushing workplace training into the “individual learning space”?

Since the workplace already consists of a “dynamic, interactive learning environment”, there is an inherent logic to this configuration of employee training.  “Transformative learning involves ‘reflectively transforming the beliefs, attitudes, opinions, and emotional reactions that constitute our meaning schemes or transforming our meaning perspectives” (Ally 2008).  In the case of our professional demeanor unit, the question becomes — what behaviors, performances, or changes in performance and behavior would convince me that learning occurred because of employee’s interaction with the resources in the unit?

In this unit, employees learn skills and practices of workplace professional demeanor.  First, what do we mean by “professional demeanor”?  A definition of “demeanor” lists, conduct, behavior, appearance, and deportment as key elements — we modify that by setting it in the professional circumstance.  Really, these skills and knowledge are assumed in many workplaces but we have learned over years that we cannot assume this; we have to make these expectations explicit.  Therefore, this unit will cover:

  • library mission, vision and values,
  • work ethic,
  • workplace appearance,
  • basic workplace communication
    • phone
    • written
  • basic customer service

The selection of Moodle for a presentation format is because it is the college’s LMS.  Alas, I cannot simply link to this presentation as it is behind Colby’s security protocols.  So instead I have provided a screen-cast “tour” of the unit, linked here.

Where Moodle is Colby’s LMS, our student employees are already familiar with it.  The use of our existing online training/reference manual linked from within the LMS creates a feedback loop for our employees reinforcing our instructions to use this resource as they try to answer customer questions or engage in review to reinforce training.  The use of “question and answer” forums is also an important tool within the LMS.  Specifically this type of forum requires a participant to post before they can see co-workers posting.  I am hopeful this will help us avoid superficial engagement, for example, “I agree with Sally.”  Another tool used in this unit is this because of our campus subscription to this resource.  Leveraging this reduces the amount of content we have to create from scratch.  Certainly, there are costs and benefits to outsourcing training in this way.  We will seek feedback to understand these tradeoffs.  We will pilot the content with our seniors this year.  From this, we learn about the usefulness of the content and about the assignments themselves.  Indeed one possible scenario is after our seniors “take the course” we give them the keys to the kingdom, give them “teacher” status, and ask them to help us re-write the weak sections.  We will also implicitly certify that they do not leave us without exposure to these key workplace skills/knowledge.

A recurrent question both from my direct reports and from the instructor of this class has to do with — what gives us some teeth?  — “teeth,” meaning both requiring participation and assessing learning outcomes.  One way to give the online instruction “teeth” is for me as the Assistant Director of Customer Service and Administration to be the main instructor.  Another is to grade the course like a graduate course, A, B, F.  This has some logic because although this grade will not show on their transcript “grading” is an experience this demographic is familiar with and driven by.  Once we have all employees, returning and new hires, through the training the number of participants will drop to between six and twelve.  Frequency will be at the start of fall and spring semester.  One element of this is simple participation — does the employee do what is asked?  If they refuse to participate, they are showing a withdrawal from the workplace much like absenteeism.  Absenteeism is addressed, though progressive disciplinary procedures.  Probably, I might weight non-participation in online instruction differently from missing several shifts, none-the-less both are unacceptable behavior and addressed with the same protocol.  Additionally, each year employees receive evaluations.  One aspect of this is participation is training.  Our move into the online environment simply provides one more piece of evidence for these conversations.

I see two opportunities for assessment.  First is in the LMS as they work through the assignments; second in the workplace as they do their work.  I care most about their demonstration of learning in the workplace.  I think that constructivist theories are also important in thinking about the learning we are encouraging and our assessment.

Inquiry and community were at the core of John Dewey’s educational philosophy and practice. Dewey (1959) believed that an educational experience must fuse the interests of the individual and society, that individual development was dependent upon community. He believed the essence of community was the organic fusion of the public and our private worlds. He also believed that the process of inquiry went to the heart of the educative experience. For Dewey, inquiry involved the generalization of the scientific method to practical problem solving and worthwhile learning. It defined the relationship between thought and action. For Dewey, inquiry was also an essentially social activity. Dewey believed that through collaboration that respected the individual, students would assume responsibility to actively construct and confirm meaning. It is this collaborative constructivist approach that is worthy of further exploration in online learning. (Swan 2009)

This online presentation creates a site for community and practice of peer feedback.  This is important in all workplaces simply because learning occurs at all levels of the organization.  If this learning is not shared, the organization is vulnerable.  However, it is very difficult to create a culture of trust and respect in the workplace.  There is no single right answer to creating trust and respect just many approximations.  I hope that forum discussions in the LMS about shared learning can be part of these approximations.  Another element of using the forums as a public display of learning and requiring peer-to-peer commenting is practice with accountability (“teeth,” as it were) to each other, not just to the supervisor.

Regarding the mission, vision and values section, I am looking for employees to understand themselves as part of a larger organization and part of an important mission.  Another aim for this section is to create some context for our work.  I think such understanding makes the work meaningful rather than rote.  Regarding the work ethic unit there are specific behaviors that could change because of this learning, for example, timesheets completed with greater accuracy and timeliness.   This section as drafted has eleven learning outcomes hence our hopes for it is significant (in truth, some of these outcomes may have to move to other instructional activities).  Some of this is about reliability creating trust and respect between employees.  Some of it is about accountability creating self-awareness about performance and knowledge in the workplace.  Finally, some of it is about choosing to do the right thing in the workplace.  Regarding the appearance section, first, we are not requiring a particular dress code instead, rather we are suggesting one, by setting the mark for business casual, we will likely achieve smart casual.  That said assessment could be defined in behavioristic terms – that is if we see employees more frequently in appropriate clothing and less frequently in inappropriate clothing then we have achieved a change in behavior.  For our purposes in the workplace that could be enough.  Finally, all of these issues and matters pertain to the last section about workplace communication.  If we have done a better job of creating knowledge, we will see among some of our employees an improvement in how they answer the phone and transfer the calls.  Some will require additional feedback as they develop skills and some will require additional motivation for us to see this improvement.  For us the improvement will look like answering the phone and transferring calls professionally and correctly.  In addition, notes left for us regarding customer problems that the student employees had to refer will be more complete and legible.

In conclusion, I think we have made some progress in identifying skills and knowledge we all too often take for granted and assume that our student employees will value and demonstrate.  I think there is a coherence to the content and sequence of the instructional unit.  However, it is only through usability testing that that will be confirmed.  Rather more likely is that some sections will be modified significantly after testing.  As mentioned, we will pilot this unit with our seniors this spring.  One of the open questions is do we march through the unit, five weeks, at the start of the semester?  Alternatively, do we spread the unit across the entire semester?  The former solution has the possible problem of overwhelming a new hire, the latter runs the risk of losing impact as the students shift to doing their schoolwork and losing efficacy in the workplace – we need the employees to do the work well immediately.  I am not as worried about requiring participation as some of my direct reports.  Nor, am I worried about having the employees doing some or all of the work during their regular shifts.  That said I perhaps should be listening to them more closely – only practice will show.  I have felt distanced from the student employees as my job responsibilities shifted to an administrative nature.  I am hopeful that I can reconnect with them through “teaching” this unit and helping them see that these workplace fundamentals are important to us, but more to them.

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.

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,

Swan, K., Garrison, D. R. & Richardson, J. C. (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: the Community of Inquiry framework. In Payne, C. R. (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivismin Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 43-57.

6.1 tool survey — Bob, Online Pedagogy, ED 655

Original post.

So, I didn’t read the assignment closely enough to understand the difference between the two tool assignments — my bad.  Hence, this is some makeup work.

I found, JoyTunes, and more specifically their apps, PianoMeastro and Piano Dust Buster.  Since I have slightly more musical aptitude than a sack of potatoes but, a great fondness for music these apps intrigued me.  I watched a couple of their promotional videos and particularly resonated with the “gamification” of music practice.  The adults mentioned the shortened attention span of young people these days.  Yet the kids recounted practicing for perfections as a result of using the apps.  Apparently,  PianoMeastro can be used rather like an LMS where the teacher can add assignments for particular students and push these out between classes.  I suspect that additional research might show me a number of companies and a number of instruments in this market niche — none-the-less thought this was really cool.  Easy to see applications in home or enrichment schooling on a families tablet or, in school, or the traditional instrument instruction — many of the adults in these promotional videos were introduced as “piano teacher” for example.  I’ll have to look around for an app that teaches blues guitar — maybe Jack White has been recruited for the voice acting .

On far other end of the spectrum is zSpace.  Here we are talking high powered software, and big school districts, big money.  This is an immersive 3D simulation using “pens” and glasses.  All the teachers and students are smiling and fascinated by what they are interacting with.   One video describes “heart dissection”.  I suspect it doesn’t come with senso-rama so no stink of formalin, nor any real body fluids, ohh, like blood.  There was no cutting of the sternum and spreading of the rib cage….  Maybe they save that for the version for medical schools.  The expense, and the hyper-real sanitary and unreality of it are really off putting for me.  The heart I saw in the video looked like a drawing — I didn’t see any real plaque in the veins or fatty buildups.  It is cool and sexy technology and probably a very interesting use and application.  But it troubled me too.

After a lot of poking around I was able to find Tynker.

The website offers modules for home, for school and for partners (enrichment programs). The point is that coding is a literacy that we all, but particularly our children need to learn.  The coding here is embedded in interfaces that are a lot more pleasing and interactive then the lines of basic we had to write in the bad old days.  The product seems to be aimed at kids elementary and middle school age.   Each module builds on the previous, and there are several different modules, each costing $50.  It appears that they are moving into coding for mobile devices too.   I suspect that the company is building a community as well though exactly how that works is a little unclear to me.  The have a page called the “hour of code” which they are participating in and supporting it seems to be an intentional effort — kinda cool.