Category Archives: CCKO8

CCK08: The Role of the Teacher

Alright, so I’m in my Saturday morning yoga class and, doubtless due to the CCK08 influence, my mind wanders to noticing the structure of the class and the role played by my yoga teacher.  This is a class of, roughly, 25 adults, who come together for a 75-minute class once a week.  This instructor (Cheryl) is in her early 50’s – a very experienced yoga teacher – with a regular and devoted following.  

For those of you who’ve never been in a yoga class, here’s how it works.  You arrive on time (it is a serious etiquette breach to enter a class already in progress), put your yoga mat down on a spot on the floor, and then the instructor leads you through a series of movements (poses) designed to give you a full work out that, if you work hard, will lead to better body alignment, greater overall health, relaxation, and a scad of other benefits (both physical and spiritual).  

Yoga classes vary widely – different practices and traditions – but they also vary with the personality of the instructor. I like Cheryl very much.  She’s efficient, clear, and no nonsense.  Some instructors are ridiculously hard – asking students to contort their bodies into these impossible poses way beyond the level of the possible.  Others are way too easy and lax, taking forever to work through the simplest of things. And, to my supreme annoyance, some instructors give you little mini lectures at the beginning – about their auras or their diet or their mantras (whatever…) – which is waaay more information than I need on Saturday morning.

So, today, I paid more attention to my instructor – what did she say and do to make the class flow so logically and expertly from beginning to end?  What is it, exactly, about this class (and about her) that works so well?

So here’s what I noticed. I was very taken by the instructor’s precisely decriptive language.  Some of the yoga poses are quite difficult, requiring steady concentration and continual adjustment to make them work for you.  I became aware of the way that Cheryl’s descriptions really helped me hone in on a mental picture of what I was supposed to be doing.  For instance, in a lunge pose she described how my back leg should work like the rear leg of an easel, supporting the front and taking all of the weight.  That image worked for me – and my lunge improved.  

Later she described how we could use the centerline of our mat to adjust the centerline of our body and how to fous on a distant object in order to achieve a more comfortable balance.  She used a number of useful analogies during the class – think of your breath as a colored fog, use your thigh muscles like a lever, let your head hang down like a rag doll.  Each analogy, each verbal description moved the physical along a path closer to her goals for us.

Yes, I can do yoga on my own.  I can read about it in books, get online and study photos and videos of the poses, I could even join a yoga social network to deepend my practice.  All of that will work for me but I can also see the extraordinary value of the teacher.  She had a plan for that class this morning, she lead us through it briskly and efficiently, she guided me when I slipped off target, she clarified with her words when something was muddy, she answered questions as they came up, and she sent all of us off, right on time, in a better place than we’d been when we started.

How satisfying.

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CCK08: Wayfinding on Mount Manadnock

The white dot trail on Mt. Manadnock

The white dot trail on Mt. Manadnock

Today, my family and I climbed to the top of Mt. Manadnock (a 3,165-foot, lone mountain in the southern end of New Hampshire). I know, I know hiking mountains (even comparitively little ones like this) in New England in late October isn’t the smartest of things, but hey. We got to the trail head at about 10:00 this morning and, after a brief consultation with the park ranger, we opted for the White Dot trail which is the quickest ascent. Steep but efficient. We were racing a pending afternoon rainstorm and hoped to get up and back before the rain hit. The ranger, sizing us up, assured us that we could do the round trip in 3 hours. Famous last words.

So, off we went. My husband, my 14-year old son, and me. In the beginning, the climb was arduous but doable. Within the first half hour we all shed layers, heating up from the workout. About halfway up, things started getting more difficult. Large granite (NH is the granite state) slabs that we had to go down on all fours to scramble over, finding foot and handholds as we climbed. Not only was the ascent getting trickier, it was getting colder. As we neared the summit, the temperature dropped to the 20’s and there was a serious wind picking up. We retrieved jackets out of our daypacks and put on hts & gloves. What was previously a heavy mist, turned into a driving sleet storm with the 40-mile-an-hour winds at the top of the moutain. We had to shout at each other to be heard. When I saw a grown man topple over in the wind, I opted out of the final 100 yards and said I’d hold the packs while my husband and son made the final push.

Near the top.

Near the top.

But the ascent, of course, was only half of it. Once they’d (very briefyl) visited the top, we all had to go down. And that’s where the really hard work began. What were fun rocks to clamber over on the ascent were slippery death traps on the descent. Each of us fell more than once and my poor old knee joints were talking to me – and they weren’t talking nicely. My anxiety grew with each step down. What if one of us falls? Will I be able to make it?

Slowly. Oh so slowly, I made my way down the trail, picking and choosing, looking for the driest patches, the pine needles that would surely provide more traction, the tree branch that would offer me some support as I navigated. And as I made my way, my thoughts turned to that lovely phrase I’ve learned from you, my CCK08 cohort — “wayfinding”. I suspect I’m hardly the first to draw the analogy between making your way on a difficult hike/climb and making your way through an educational event but I was so struck with the apt comparisons, I vowed right there to write about it as soon as I got home.

Wayfinding. Darken’s notion. As George and Stephen have shown us – with wayfinding, we begin to devise strategies to make sense of new environments. Do you pick your path carefully, as I did, or do you blast your way through, as did my 14-year old son? Not only is he a digital-native, he has much sproingier knees than I! He had no trouble with the risks and seemed completely oblivious to the potential for injury that was dogging my every step. I was so taken with watching his descent – he leaped from rock to rock, making the quickest of mental calculations about where his feet should go next. At one point I asked him, how are you deciding what path to take?” He breezily said, “Oh, I’m deciding as I go.”

Do you decide as you go or are you more planful than that? Do you bound down or do you judge each intersection and proceed with caution? Do you just dig right in or do you map out goals for yourself? How often do you stop for a breather or to admire the view? I particularly noticed how many people (who were now on their way up) would stop us to inquire – “how much further is it?” or “what are the conditions ahead” Yup, we all want to know where we are in relationship to the whole experience (a basic tenant of good instructional design).

I became quite enamoured of the trailmarker signs. Small white dots painted on rocks or on trees to reassure hikers – yes, you are on the right path. And those wonderful wooden signs that give you estimates – 1 mile to go. Or, my personal favorite, “1/2 mile to the parking lot”. I was reminded of the importance of leaving students signposts as they make their way through our planned activities.

But it was my husband who offered the best insight of the adventure when he noted that, inevitably, once he finished a bad stretch of descent, he would realize that there had been an easier way. He just didn’t see it until he was done. And it was the reflecting back that gave him the information. A reminder of the importance of reflection on our practive.

So there you have it – CCK08 is making its way into my weekends; wayfinding on the mountain.

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CCK08: Thought on Grainne Conole’s Mapping Model

 

Grainne Conole's Model

Grainne Conole

I just returned from the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) conference in Memphis, TN where I attended many excellent sessions and gave one workshop myself on applying technology to biology teaching.  I had a great group of 60 (mostly) secondary school teachers who were enthusiastically interested in applying web 2.0 tools to their teaching.  

 

In my workshop, we talked about technology use in the classroom (they mostly vented about ‘no time’, ‘no money’, ‘too difficult’) and I gave them an overview of web 2.0 tools and what they (and their students) might/could do with them.  Then we broke into small groups so that they could try their hand at creating a wiki, recording a podcast, and delving into Second Life.  Lots of fun, discussion, and chaos – as any good learning environment should have.  But I did come away with a nagging concern that, ultimately, I had not done enough to give them a road map for continuing on the journey once they left the nurturing space of a conference filled with like-minded individuals.

Fast forward to this morning when I read Grainne Conole‘s article “New Schemas for Mapping Pedagogies and Technologies” from this week’s assigned CCK08 reading.  This one really spoke to me – got me thinking – and I wished I read it before I went down to Memphis!  

Among other things, I really like her 3-dimensional model for mapping technology tools to pedagogical goals (see image above).

This works for me and I think it would have worked well with those 60 enthusiastic teachers in my workshop.  I’m afraid the plethora of clever Web 2.0 tools I rolled out for them must have felt a bit like trying to drink out of a firehose.  But if, next time, I could get them to think about the various learning objectives in their courses in the context of a model like this (and ultimately, to take a look at their course as whole in light of such a model), I suspect it would start making more sense.

So, for instance, rather than just suggest they assign student groups to build a wiki as their group’s output, encourage them to thoughtfully consider the goals of the assignment in relationship to what the tools can do.  Do the content knowledge and desired learning outcomes for the project call for individual or social interactions?  Do they require passive or active learning?  Are they more informational in nature or experiential?  If the learning at hand is all about social and collaboration, then a wiki is indeed a good tool. Have the group work together to build a wiki as the group output – many hands collaborating, whole greater than the sum of its parts.  If the learning at hand is really more about the individual’s reflection, then a wiki is not the best tool for the job.  

And, of course, each of these dimensions is a continuim so a blog could be very far to the “top” on the “individual/social” dimension (if it’s an individual student keeping an online journal) or it could be very far to the “bottom” (if all students in the class are commenting on the blog entries and a good conversation is heating up).

I like this.  But now I have a question for my fellow CCK08 travelers –  what are we shooting for here? Ultimately, what are we encouraging teachers to do?  Do we want to shoot for regular bouncing around on this 3D spectrum, offering some info, some experience; some individual, some social; some passive, some active – so that there is a healthy range and variety in a given course experience?  Or do we instead encourage discovering an optimal coordinate spot on the pedagogical framework for each desired learning outcomes and design student work accordingly?

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CCK08: Qualities of Connected People

   


Girl Mailing a Letter

Originally uploaded by Smithsonian Institution

After reading Jenny Mackness’s blog entry about her 82-year old mother (loved it), I started thinking more about what human qualities help to insure our connectedness. And are these qualitie that can be nurtured, developed, enhanced? Surely, indentifying the qualities of well-connected people would be step #1 in coming closer to being a more well-connected person myself?

So, after reading about Jenny’s mum and her church, golf, and dog-walking friends, I began to complie my own list of well-connected individuals.

I had to start with my friend Liz Dorland. Many of you may already know Liz…that’s just how well connected she is. I only met Liz a few years ago at a Gordon Conference on visualization. But since that initial meeting, Liz has introduced me to more people (and more interesting people) than many whom I’ve know my entire life. Liz is a faculty member at Washington University, she is a scientist (chemist), she is a teacher, a mother, an active citizen of Second Life, and a member of many (including this one) online communities. But membership is just opening the door. Liz walks in the room and begins to work it . The room is brighter and more interesting when she’s there.

Next up on my list: Chalon Bridges, a publishing editor that I’ve had the pleasure of working with for four years. Like Liz, Chalon knows many people and adroitly connects them to each other. She seems to have boundless energy and applies it prodigiously to the task of moving through her network and expanding it. I am always struck by her openness to new information; she’s like a sponge, eager to soak it up.

Giving us a tidy triplet, I have to add my father. His profession, through many phases and faces, was sales. Primarily working in the medical field, he networked among health care professionals. He remembered names, interests, and preferences as if they were his own. Key to his success was his ability to make people feel comfortable and, in their comfort, see the advantages that were so perfectly clear to him.

Reflecting on my observations, as I watch these three people network, here is my first stab at the qualities of a connected person:

– They move adroitly between groups

– They remember people’s key interests/areas of expertise and then connect the dots when they encounter someone else with those interests

– They regularly give sincere credit/compliments to people for the things they do well

– They don’t waste words or time – each encounter is action-packed

– They are articulate – making connections and the advantages within those connections clear to everyone

– They are good listeners

– They understand the dynamics of social interaction…the give and take

– In most interactions, they lead with the “give” instead of the “take”

– They have their eye fixed on the long-term (as in, this may not pay off right now, but over the long-haul, it will)

– They have a way of making people feel comfortable and open to new experiences/people/processes

What would you add to this list?

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