robertogreco + amycollier   3

Saying ‘No’ to Best Practices – OFFICE OF DIGITAL LEARNING
"The worst best practice is to adhere to, or go searching for, best practices. I have been in countless rooms with teachers, technologists, instructional designers, and administrators calling for recommendations or a list of tools they should use, strategies that work, practices that cannot fail to produce results in the classroom. But digital tools, strategies, and best practices are a red herring in digital learning. Learning always starts with people. Instead of asking “What tool will we need?” ask “What behaviors will need to be in place?”

I emphasize and encourage a critical digital pedagogy—an approach to learning that grows from the work of writers and teachers like bell hooks and Paulo Freire, and that recognizes that in today’s world all learning is hybrid. But that approach never starts with the digital. It starts with the human. And I find that the most effective application of Critical Digital Pedagogy arises from a place of kindness, trust, and belief in students. With student (and teacher) agency as its aim, Critical Digital Pedagogy asks its practitioners to always, first and foremost, acknowledge that we are all in this room together—whether that room is a classroom or the whole wide web—and to act accordingly.

At a teaching workshop I was facilitating recently, I was pressed to offer a list of best practices. This is what I came up with. I offer these 10 best practices with what should seem like an obvious caveat. No best practices should ever go untested. I personally have tested each of these, but because learning and teaching are not homogenous experiences for everyone, I don’t encourage anyone to follow a best practice that doesn’t suit them.

Sean’s 10 Best Practices

Be yourself

While working with a group at the University of Delaware, I spoke to a graduate teacher whose upbringing in a Southern Baptist tradition sometimes leads her to present in her “preaching voice.” This is an authentic voice, and one that she’s very comfortable using; however, other teachers joke about it, or malign this aspect of her embodiment as un-academic. In digital spaces, she edits herself, creating a teacherly presence much more normative, almost unidentifiable as her.

In digital spaces, we tend to adopt mannerisms and a personality that are not entirely true to who we are. Be suspect of that, and watchful for it. In a classroom, we may perform ourselves in certain ways, but we are fallible, unedited, and vulnerable. These qualities make us better teachers. Don’t be afraid to be who you are in a digital environment as much as you are in your classroom.

Create trust / Be trusting

Jesse Stommel, Executive Director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington says,
Learning is always a risk. It means, quite literally, opening ourselves to new ideas, new ways of thinking. It means challenging ourselves to engage the world differently. It means taking a leap, which is always done better from a sturdy foundation. This foundation depends on trust — trust that the ground will not give way beneath us, trust for teachers, and trust for our fellow learners in a learning community.

Critical pedagogy assumes that students want and are motivated to learn. Only about 75% of teachers I’ve talked to feel this way. We need to change that for ourselves. Teaching is not only more effective when we trust students to learn (which I distinguish from following instructions or passing a test), but it’s also more fun, more satisfying, and less exhausting.

Grade less / Grade differently

Peter Elbow writes, “Grading tends to undermine the climate for teaching and learning. Once we start grading their work, students are tempted to study or work for the grade rather than for learning.” We all know this is true. Working for a grade undermines not only a lifelong attitude toward learning, but also student agency. A critical pedagogy asks us to reconsider grading entirely; and if we can’t abandon it whole-hog, then we must revise how and why we grade. Consider allowing students to grade themselves. Offer personal feedback on work instead of a letter, number, or percentage. There are lots of options to evaluating work without artificial markers.

Question deadlines

When pressed, most teachers have told me that they enforce deadlines because students will need to meet deadlines in the “real world.” There are no students in higher education who got there without meeting deadlines. Education need not be militaristic about deadlines. Ideas and creation are more important than timeliness. I wrote, in my post called “Late Work,”

We are put in the most unique spot of coaching learners into a world of knowledge. What we need to remember is that their world of knowledge may not align perfectly with our own, their process may not fit our schedules, their ideas may not synch with our own.

Think about what you are actually teaching and question whether you need deadlines, whether students need deadlines, and whether either of you benefit from them.

Collaborate with students

Learners are pedagogues in their own right. Chris Friend, Director of the Hybrid Pedagogy journal, writes:
If we give students the freedom to choose their own path, they might choose poorly or make mistakes on our watch. But we must be willing to allow them the challenge of this authority, the dignity of this risk, and the opportunity to err and learn from their mistakes. They learn and gain expertise through experimentation.

If pedagogy is the sole purview of the instructor in the room, students are asked to follow along a path predetermined by that instructor’s best (we hope) intentions. However, because students bring different levels of expertise to any material or discussion—and because their lives, identities, and intersectionality inform their learning—students should be as involved in their own learning as possible. From syllabus creation to grading, building rubric and assignments to self-assessment. As Daniel Ginsberg writes, “my students are the most central members of the community in which I learn critical pedagogy.”

Inspire dialogue

Very little can be accomplished through direct instruction. Bloom’s Taxonomy makes a show of positioning knowledge-level learning as the foundation of any learning experience. But learning is more chaotic, messier, and more confounding than taxonomies provide for. In “Beyond Rigor,” Jesse Stommel, Pete Rorabaugh, and I argue that:
Intellectually rigorous work lives, thrives, and teems proudly outside conventional notions of academic rigor. Although institutions of higher education only recognize rigor when it mimics mastery of content, when it creates a hierarchy of expertise, when it maps clearly to pre-determined outcomes, there are works of exception — multimodal, collaborative, and playful — that push the boundaries of disciplinary allegiances, and don’t always wear their brains on their sleeves, so to speak.

Simply put, learning happens outside the lines. It’s perfectly acceptable for instructors to provide lines, but whenever we do so, we must just as diligently encourage learners to leave those lines—to question, to redraw, to imagine, to refuse, to explore. When we do this, we inspire dialogue, not just between students, but between ourselves and students, between ideas, between the act of learning and the act of instruction themselves.

Be quiet

Generally speaking, teachers fear dead air. Silence in the classroom, or few to no responses on a discussion forum, can stir all kinds of thoughts and emotions—from “they’re not getting it” to “I’ve done something wrong” to “they’re bored,” and worse. But in truth, thoughtfulness and thoroughness takes time.

Janine DeBaise writes that: “Every student has something valuable to teach the rest of us. I’ve made that assumption for over thirty years now, and so far, I’ve never been proven wrong.” If at the core of critical pedagogy we believe that learners are their own best teachers—and if we have spent any time at all as teachers ourselves preparing lesson plans and discussions—then we can acknowledge that teaching takes time.

Filling silence may come out of a desperation to keep the class moving and to ensure that all ideas are understood, but it also reinforces the teacher’s voice as primary. When we are silent, we can hear what students have to say (even when they’re not saying it), and listen for the swell of understanding as it builds.

Be honest and transparent about pedagogy

Teaching isn’t magic. In fact, there are very good reasons for teachers to reveal their “tricks” to learners. I have, numerous times, sat on the desk at the front of the classroom and called attention to how that’s different to standing behind a podium, sitting in a circle with the class, or lecturing from notes. Not to qualify one over the other, but to reveal something about the performativity of learning and teaching.

Similarly, we should invite students into a discussion about the syllabus, the 15- or 10-week structure of a course, the usefulness or uselessness of grades, etc. Kris Shaffer, in “An Open Letter to My Students,” brings students in close to his teaching process:
I am not perfect. Nor are any of your other professors. We are experts in the fields we teach, and some of us are experts in the art of teaching. However, we make mistakes … and each pass through the material brings new students with different experiences, backgrounds, skills, sensitivities, prejudices, loves, career goals, life goals, financial situations, etc. There is no one way — often not even a best way — to teach a topic to a student.

There is power in secrecy, as any magician knows. But for a collaborative, critical pedagogy to work, that power must be shared.

Keep expectations clear

In digital learning, instructions are vital. If … [more]
bestpractices  education  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  2017  seanmorris  learning  edtech  digitalliteracy  jessestommel  criticalpedagogy  sfsh  grade  grading  howwelearn  deadlines  collaboration  chrisfriend  hybridpedagogy  dialogue  peterorabaugh  rigor  janinedebaise  silence  quiet  listening  performativity  expectations  adamheidebring-bruno  change  thomaskasulis  maggiemaclure  krisshaffer  amycollier  jenross 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Not-yetness | the red pincushion
"I have done several talks lately about the idea of not-yetness. It’s an idea that Jen Ross (University of Edinburgh) and I first wrote about in our chapter, Complexity, mess, and not-yetness: Teaching online with emerging technologies, to be published in the forthcoming second edition of Emerging Technologies in Distance Education. In the first edition of the book, our esteemed editor, George Veletsianos, wrote about defining emerging technologies. He wrote that emerging technologies can be both old and new technologies and they are constantly-evolving organisms that experience hype cycles. George also noted that emerging technologies satisfy two “not yet” conditions: they are not fully understood, and not fully researched.

These not-yet conditions hit home for Jen and me. Writing from a complexity theory lens, we thought of not-yetness as being related to emergence. Noel Gough (2012) defines emergence as a key attribute of most human environments and systems, and what occurs when “a system of richly connected interacting agents produces a new pattern of organization that feeds back into the system.”

In our context, emergence is allowing new ideas, new methodologies, new findings, new ways of learning, new ways of doing, and new synergies to emerge and to have those things continue to feed back into more emergence. Emergence is a good thing. For us, not-yetness is the space that allows for emergence. Not-yetness is not satisfying every condition, not fully understanding something, not check-listing everything, not tidying everything, not trying to solve every problem…but creating space for emergence to take us to new and unpredictable places, to help us better understand the problems we are trying to solve (to use Mike Caulfield’s wisdom).

This is becoming increasingly important in education, where the rhetoric surrounding educational technology pushes simplification, ease, efficiency, and measurable-everything. This rhetoric goes hand-in-hand with the accountability movements (many call it “evidence-based practice”) at play in educational contexts. Randy Bass wrote that “these pressures for accountability are making us simultaneously more thoughtful and more limited in what we count as learning.” We hear a lot about “best practices” and “what works,” which Jen and others (Sian Bayne, Hamish Macleod, and Clara O’Shea) have argued is a “totalising notion.” There are lots of ways of understanding what our students experience, lots of ways to do things “right,” lots of definitions of right.

Davis and Sumara (2008) argue that “an education that is understood in complexity terms cannot be conceived in terms of preparation for the future. Rather, it must be construed in terms of participation in the creation of possible futures” (p. 43). And yet the push for simplicity and accountability defines a pretty narrow set of possible outcomes for students. Gardner Campbell cautions us to be careful with learning outcomes statements: “Yet these {learning outcomes} are still behaviors, specified with a set of what I can only describe as jawohl! statements, all rewarding the bon eleves and marching toward compliance and away from more elusive and disruptive concepts like curiosity or wonder.” Simplification and an over-pursuit of accountability run counter to our view that education is complex, messy, creative, unpredictable, multi-faceted, social, and part of larger systems.

We argue that not-yetness helps us to make space for critical discussions and experiments with emerging technologies in a way that recognizes the beautiful complexity of teaching and learning. As Jen said in our ET4Online plenary talk, which focused on messiness and not-yetness in digital learning, “We can use it to tell new stories about what teachers, students, developers, designers and researchers are doing in our digital practices, and why it is hard, and why it matters. We can take better account of issues of power, responsibility, sustainability, reach and contact in digital education. We can be more open about the work of education.”
To that end, Jen and I write in our forthcoming chapter, “We need practices that acknowledge and work with complexity to help us stay open to what may be genuinely surprising about what happens when online learning and teaching meets emerging technologies. In this sense, our focus as educators should be on emergent situations, where complexity gives rise to ‘new properties and behaviours… that are not contained in the essence of the constituent elements, or able to be predicted from a knowledge of initial conditions’ (Mason 2008, p.2).”

So what does all of this mean for educators? Here are some ideas. Embracing not-yetness means making space for learning opportunities that:

• promote creativity, play, exploration, awe

• allow for more, not fewer, connections, more personalization (true personalization, not necessarily what has been offered to us by adaptive learning companies)

• transcend bounds of time, space, location, course, and curriculum

• encourage students to exceed our expectations, beyond our wildest outcomes, pushes back on “data science of learning” focus

• do not hand over essential university functions and important complexities over to private industry

In my talks, I shared examples of projects that I think embody or embrace not-yetness. I’ll share those examples in my follow-on post.

As I was looking at these projects, trying to better understand them, I started thinking about Legos. I love Legos. I was talking to my friend Mike Caulfield, who is at Washington State University-Vancouver about this idea and he said, “do you remember when Legos used to just be free-range Legos? Now, they are these sets that have instructions and tell you how to build exactly what they want you to build. They were trying to eliminate the problem of kids not knowing how to build Legos, but instead they also eliminated the opportunities for creative expression.”

This really hit home for me, because I was really into Legos as a kid and my son is really into Legos. I decided to run a little experiment—mostly for my own curiosity. I decided to see what would happen if I gave him the same Lego set twice and had him build it once with the instructions and once without. First, this is what happened when Vaughn had the Lego instructions (fyi–the videos have no audio):

[video]

I thought that, when I gave him the set without the instructions, he would try to copy what he had done when he had the instructions. But instead, after suspiciously confirming that he could build whatever he wanted, here is what happened…

[video]

Note that throughout the time he was building without the instructions, he was also playing. Note that he is making sounds (though there is no audio, you can clearly see he’s making the requisite “boom” and “fffffsssshhhhh” sounds a six year old makes), talking more, smiling. He’s exploring. He’s enjoying himself.

Building Legos without instructions may have seemed harder or daunting at first, but instead it opened up space for his creativity. Not-yetness—not specifying outcomes, not predicting what he would or should do, not outlining each step—opened up space for play and for the three really cool ships he built.

I know that my highly scientific experiment may not work for everyone, but what you see in these videos is one reason why we argue for not-yetness. Because of the play, the fun, the opportunity in complexity and not-yetness. The ill-defined, the un-prescribed, the messy can lead to the unexpected, the joyful. Noel Gough (2012) writes, “complexity invites us to understand that many of the processes and activities that shape the worlds we inhabit are open, recursive, organic, nonlinear and emergent. It also invites us to be skeptical of mechanistic and reductionist explanations, which assume that these processes and activities are linear, deterministic and/or predictable and, therefore, that they can be controlled (at least in principle).”

Open, recursive, organic, nonlinear…these things say to me that we can have learning that is unpredictable, fun, emergent, organic, freeing, co-developed, co-experienced, complex, deep, meaningful.

So as I looked for projects that embodied not-yetness, I kept these concepts, and my son’s Lego adventure, in mind. In my next blog post, I’ll share those examples. Stay tuned!"

[Follow-up post: http://redpincushion.us/blog/professional-development/mess-not-yetness-at-et4online/ ]
amycollier  via:steelemaley  messiness  unschooling  learning  emergent  emergence  emergentcurriculum  2015  lego  not-yetness  gardnercampbell  edtech  noelgough  pedagogy  instructions  directinstruction  mikecaulfield  brentdavis  dennissumara  complexity  curriculum  tcsnmy  howwelearn  howweteach  online  web  georgeveletsianos  emergenttechnologies  technology  simplification  efficiency  quantification  measurement  cv  hamishmacleod  clarao'shea  sianbayne  randybass  open  openness  jenross  criticalpedagogy  recursion  spiraling  rhizomaticlearning  nonlinear  deschooling  meaningmaking  understanding  depth  unpredictability  unfinished  behavior  power  responsibility  sustainability  reach  contact  lcproject  openstudioproject  teaching  education  schools  cocreation  non-linear  alinear  linearity 
december 2015 by robertogreco

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