When I impulsively fill in the blank my response is, I am a visual learner. Then I step back and realize that that isn’t true. The learning style that I thought described me, well, just doesn’t exist. How can I be a visual learner without the audio? Stepping back farther, what am I learning? If I am learning to cook, then I need to smell and taste, if I am learning about a poet I need to read and visualize. When I think about all of the things that I love to do and how I learned them I realize that I learned a lot of different information in a lot of different ways. Why would I quickly reply visual learner? How many others respond to visual?
This summer I was introduced to the article “The Myth of Learning Styles” by Cedar Riener and Daniel Willingham. The article clearly points out the learning styles lack credible evidence and that the differences we see in learners is based on genetics, interests, experiences and abilities. So when I characterize myself as a visual learner is that what interests me? I love to experience audio and visual presentations. One of my favorite resources is Ted Talks. It is not a glitzy produced video on ideas, but a matter of fact talk on ideas worth sharing. I love listening to podcasts such as On Point, and This American Life. I love going to workshops and seminars to experience presenters and topics of interests. When I start to dig into what it is in learning that grabs me and engages me it is social interactions. It is sharing ideas, discussing perspectives and learning from others that ignites my passion for learning. I think of what all of my learning experiences have in common, and it is that I want to connect. I want to share,show teach, tell, discuss, or explain. I want to engage and socially connect what I am learning with others.
So how do we figure this out? How do we understand our learners? I can look to theory and pedagogy to inform my teaching practices, but that alone will not work. I need to understand and make decisions of my educational practice based on constant evaluation. Willingham discusses boundary conditions, must have principles, and could do principles when observing the educational process. These all align with an analogy of teaching that doesn’t fit particular learning styles, but fundamental principles. The principles of teaching are to know your students, know your conditions and understand best practice. I need to have the space to know my students and their goals. I need to have the resources and the tools to connect. It is constant construction where we are not always aware of the final product with out the input of our families and students. The analogy of teaching, by Willingham, to architect is brilliant. There are certain rules and fundamental skills that we must apply in construction of our teaching, but the variables of ability, interest, resources and experiences will shape our final product. We must work together on a common goal of educating our students
So now when I fill in the blank, I will leave the blank there and just say I am a learner, who want to connect and learn more.
It would not be a Heather Kurto post without some sort of video! I used an application called Powtoon to create a little short animated piece on my Journey through ETAP 640. It is extremely rough, but it was my first time using this application. It was easy to use and if you have a few minutes it is worth playing around with.
What have I learned?
This class had had many layers to it. On the surface of this course we have learned how to put an online course together. We have learned the principles of effective online instruction and the philosophies that surround interactions on line. Throughout the course each of us began to dig a little deeper. Some of us even dug down to the core of who we are as individuals. I have been one of the lucky ones who is looking inward at what lies at the source of my passion. I am really reflecting on what is at the soul of my teaching? Why do I feel so compelled to be a part of educational reform? Why can’t I continue to do my job, as hundreds and thousands do daily, without changing? My voice has been validated, and I am not sure if this is the design of the course or a course that my heart should follow.
Designing my course
I knew from the beginning that I wanted to design an online course that met the needs of my students parents. I wanted to do something outside of the traditional course and create a forum where I could be a guide in a families journey with Autism. In the past I have had parents come in during the school day and we would sit and discuss the data that we had collected on their child and what our goals would be for the subsequent weeks. I have always left the our meetings feeling like the parents needed more information. I have recommended books, I have tried to hold classes before or after school to create a space where we could come together to talk about issued in autism, but it seemed to flop due to the logistics of time and location. I am really hopeful that an online course will provide the flexibility, feedback and comfort level for parents to participate in activities and discussions to help them better understand their child’s disability. What is amazing about autism is that each child is an individual and while we all fall under the same DSM IV diagnosis of autism, the characteristics vary across a spectrum.
Designing this course is more than creating a space. It is designing a space that makes sense to the learner. The design is so important because it creates an independent flow of the course for the learner so that the instructional time can be spent facilitating interactions, providing feedback and establishing a community of learners. The Breeze Presentations, guidance from professor Pickett and readings and manual all taught so much about the foundations of course design. They provided us with discussion topics as a community to discuss and make clear the importance of collaboration with our peers. The design phase was a lot about anticipating questions, glitches, and potential confusion.
The peer feedback was such a crucial phase for me. I sat literally for hours, combing through the feedback, with a lot of windows open in various browsers, making sense of the feedback and my course. I realized how in my head I knew what I wanted to accomplish but I had to get that into my course. The feedback from Dan, Liz and Mary helped be untie the knots in my course to create a more flowing presentation in my activities and assignments. Professor Pickett’s feedback made me laugh out loud at my intentions, and really focus on making my goals and objectives visible to my students. I really want my students to engage in this course without fear of failure, and with an open understanding of what we all go through with the disability of Autism. I want to have open and honest conversations about our experiences. There are no tricks and I don’t want this to be difficult, but I want it to be accessible and meaningful.
Our community of learners during this course have been so inspirational. Every one in this course brought their interests and insights into the discussions. It became a space for all of us to voice our observations in our current classrooms/professional roles and how our visions were changing based on our understanding of presence.
This course has been my Aha moment. I have always felt a tug in my soul that something was not right in k-12 education, but what is it? Is it the content, the design, the teachers, students, parental involvement? What is is that is preventing our amazingly talented students from engaging and embracing education? This has become even more of a crisis for me as I watch my son move through our public school system. What is working and what isn’t working and how do we shift so that all of our students love and embrace school?
This course held a mirror up to the learner in me. Inside I want to connect with others. The social element in learning is vital. I want to connect, I want to be validated and I want to feel safe in my learning spaces. I want to learn from someone who is passionate about their subject and teaching. I want to be inspired and I want to feel like I am making a contribution. All of these elements have been present in our discussion forum. We have exchanged ideas, thoughts and we have been able to thoughtfully disagree.
In this last module discussion I have been watching a lot of TEDxTalks videos on Youtube after being entranced my Michael Wesch. Michael Wesch in, The Machine is Changing Us , really hit on how media/technology is impacting our interactions and classrooms. There is a buzz in some circles that technology is distracting our students to the point that education is becoming irrelevant. I think that education is providing us the opportunities to do the contrary. We are able to easily connect, create spaces that encourage curiosity and creativity without the stigma of failure. Technology can make it easier for us to be present for our students. How we are using technology is part of the solution, but not the whole picture. We need to look at our talented students bridge the gap between what they need and what they are offered. If the complaints about student attention and engagement are true (students need to be entertained and their attention spans have diminished) then shouldn’t we acknowledge that and adapt? I do not think this is the case. I think students have discovered better and more efficient ways of connecting and engaging and we have not fully caught up. In addition we keep expanding this idea of the Global Educational Reform Movement, more aptly named GERM that focuses on standardization, literacy and math skills and this idea that if you hold schools accountable for performance they will perform. Get over it already, it is not working!
I have cited Sir Ken Robinson a lot through this module. I am going to leave this blog with a video of his that I really feel everyone in education should watch. It really stirred my soul. He discusses the 3 important elements of education that are necessary to help the human mind flourish. These elements are creativity, curiosity and diversity. These elements have all been present in our course ETAP 640. This course has been an example of how we can create learner centered instruction, promote curiosity and creativity while appreciating and embracing diversity. If we can let go of educational nostalgia and embrace these core values of the human mind and spirit, we may be able to create a sustainable and peaceful global community.
We are in our last module and I am thinking about how everyone in this course has been so inspirational. I am surrounded by a group of educators that are thoughtful, intelligent and really question what is effective teaching and how that impacts education. It is so important that we have these conversations and look at ourselves as learners to then reflect on how our students learn. When I watched the Penn state videos on managing online workload, I realized how powerful connection, sharing and collaborating is. Professionals from around the country put together a 2-5 minute video to create an advice bank of over 70 videos that guide us to be better teachers. Why is it that we (educators) don’t connect more? It is so inspirational to hear ideas and be empowered with the ability to pass on wisdom and knowledge to the next generation. We have the ability to make a difference if we create spaces to inspire each other.
I LOVED the presentations A Vision of Students Todayand The Machine is Changing Us.I could feel myself back in the lecture centers of undergraduate school. I am pretty sure that the professors did not know my name as I sat in Intro. to Biology in Lecture Center 7. The physical space itself is not designed for interaction, and educational experiences. What I have realized in this course, is that teaching presence and social presence and cognitive presence come together to create meaningful learning environments for students and teachers. We want to facilitate this in our classrooms but also in our schools, buildings and districts. We want to create shared spaces where teachers are working together connecting, asking questions, working together to find solutions. When we look at the Seven Principles of Effective teaching, all of these principles are centered around communication and interaction. It is about forming relationships and understanding each other. It is about connecting, creating and understanding.
What I am learning is that together we can make a difference in our classrooms. That educational research needs to be put into practice, not just online, but in our schools and communities. The tools of the 21st century are creating avenues to share ideas to inspire connections, to make visible our message to the world. My message today is thank you for teaching me and pushing me to be a better teacher and student.
I am feeling like a kid in the backseat on a long car ride. I am a veteran teacher, and I feel like I am awakening to an inspirational era in education where we have the power to shift the educational system to a learner centered experience that is engaging, socially connected inquiry based and fun! While we worked out of professor Pickett’s manual in building our courses and are guided by the research gods, I feel more like a mad scientist. I am having so much fun experimenting and trying new things. I have been pushed to figure things out and for that my course is stronger.
I have spent the past two weeks cutting and pasting, linking and embedding. I have been trying to coax my hot mess of a course into a refined piece of educational art that inspires connection and inquiry. Garrison (2007) discusses a shift in social presence in a course from personal to purposeful. “Balancing socio-emotional interaction, building group cohesion and facilitating and modeling respectful critical discourse is essential for productive inquiry (Garrison, 2007, pg. 69).” This is a goal of my course. I want the students taking this course (parents of students with autism) to be in a community where they feel safe and empowered to ask questions. My role is to moderate and guide the course and to facilitate community. I need to balance social, cognitive and teaching presence in my course. The unknown now is my students. What if they aren’t that into my course? What if they don’t find my activities engaging? Is there room to shift once we begin?
While I am aware of this course ending and the development of our courses are almost complete, I feel like this is the beginning. It is a new way of looking at education from a teacher and student perspective. While we have grown and our courses have developed, it will continue to grow and shift over time and with experience. It is a lifelong journey of understanding learning and connection. The explosion of new technologies and increased connections will impact our abilities to be life long learners in our journey through life. So where am I? I am at the beginning of a journey of excitement and discovery.
Garrison, D. R. (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues.Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks,11(1), 61-72.