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Category Archives: MOOC

Can storytelling and content courses play nice?

In a society characterized by uncertainty and rapid change, the ability to think creatively is becoming the key to success and satisfaction, both professionally and personally. For today’s children, nothing is more important than learning to think creatively – learning to come up with innovative solutions to the unexpected situations that will continually arise in their lives.

                                                                                                                        Mitchel Resnick

This week in AP Bio class students told stories about DNA replication using whiteboards. I use this activity to invite students to make sense out of content that might have little or no personal relevance. The stories produced in the AP class, were, well very unstory- like. Students told stories that were precise, exact and essentially verbatim of their texts. Their whiteboards were full of words and included few pictures. They were being what obedient students are, well-trained parrots (sorry students I love you parrot like and all).

When later in the week my Bio 12 classes did the same group task, students wrote stories that were zany and fun. One story described a helicopter ride over shark infested water and how Student J is ripped in half (like DNA in replication has it’s 2 strands broken apart by an enzyme). There were fewer details in the stories, but the overall flow of information was there and accurate.

At the end of the week when I look back I cannot remember even one of the AP classes’ stories but I do remember several of the Bio 12’s and in particular the shark one in vivid detail.

I have always loved metaphors and when I think I tend to think in images first and then find words later. I get flooded easily if all I am given in word based input. I prefer to look at diagrams in text then fill in details as needed. I can recall patterns on a page easily but fail to remember how to spell simple words. When I struggle to understand a topic I get clarity when I find a central metaphor to attach details to.

I find many students make sense out of unfamiliar territory this way. Many like to make stories to help give meaning to a topic devoid of meaning to their brain, but many do this activity in private, as if it were a less-than learning strategy.

Theorist Klaus Krippendorff writes: ” unlike analogies, metaphors are fundamentally asymmetrical. They are the linguistic vehicles through which something new is constructed.” He further explains that metaphors “carry explanatory structures from a familiar domain of experiences into an other domain in need of understanding or restructuring”.

Students like stories in general. If I find fiction pieces that relate to a topic I will read them aloud in class; I can feeling them listening in a way that is completely different from when I read a non-fiction piece. I also find that reading fictional stories aloud brings a calm and peace in class to a stressful day.

Despite these observations about the power of telling stories on both myself and students, I frequently encounter disdain and scepticism from some students who feel they are getting a sub par education when I invite them to be creative. They see the creative part as wasteful as the time could be better spent amassing more knowledge. Can storytelling have a meaningful role in a senior science class or is the time better spent on inquiry and experimental design? I wonder why it seems that as we move into senior secondary courses do we strive to squeeze out every ounce of the creative spirit of storytelling and squeeze into the learning space raw unfiltered content?

Can they not dance together, the content with the story? Or does one always have to take over and be the sole performer on the stage of learning?

For them to dance together, there must be the right tension between them and perhaps it is the complexity and nuance of this tension that scares us off of having them dance together? How do we decide where one begins and one ends, when we are trying to keep the subject matter in its pure form? Or is that the problem itself, that really our brains don’t think in subject areas and the silo approach pulls meaning from a topic like vultures pull flesh from carrion?

What do you think? Can storytelling and content courses play nice?

What an individual can learn, and how he learns it, depends on what models he has available. This raises, recursively, the question of how he learned these models. Thus the “laws of learning” must be about how intellectual structures grow out of one another and about how, in the process, they acquire both logical and emotional form.

Seymour Papert

Is developing voice a prerequisite for connected learning?

Every time you take the risk to be true to your own soul – whether or not you name your action as heroic – your example helps others to do likewise. When you notice this pattern, it becomes easier to have absolute fidelity to your own path without fear that doing so is selfish. We can do nothing better for others than model the authentic life.

                                                                                                         ~ Carol Pearson

I have been struggling with locating MY voice. I thought I “had it” awhile back, but I was out riding an #etmooc wave that threw me up on shore sanded, seaweeded and discombobulated. I pick off the bits ingrained in fabric and particles between toes. I was cautious to ride again.

What made me fall? Did my voice drown, gasping in the discordant cacophony of others? Did doubt make me unstable losing balance all at once.? Did I become too attentive of the other riders?

As I paddle out again, I hear voices louder than my own; stronger, clearer, purer, surer. Not mine. It pains me to hear my voice yet have it tangle on its way up and out, mixed up and mixed in, still. Seaweed and sand. Discordantly it does not seem to matter that I have clarity of voice within but rather it seems essential to get it out in one intact piece.

To connect, my voice is my primary tool, whether in 140 characters, a blog post or meeting face to face for the first time at a conference. Is my voice the way you draw a connected line to me? Is it one of the fundamental ways that we connect as people and therefore a primary building block for connected learning?

Do students have an opportunity to safely explore their own voice? Do they get to explore voices from different points of view, social, global, entrepreneurial, political ?

Is voice the nutrient broth for connectivity and does an authentic voice allow for more meaningful connections which in turn amplifies the connection?

Is care  fundamental to voice development in providing an environment where you feel heard and feel your voice has value?

Do we give our students voice? I think at school students have very little voice. Why is that? How can we change that?

“All I have is a voice.”
― W.H. Auden

#etmooc Session 1: Idea Burrs

There were many “idea burrs” (ideas that stick) from this afternoon’s first intro #etmooc session. I decided I would drill down into one topic and try to get some traction. The topic that pulled me in was the fourth one, Open Movement, of the 5 (Connected Learning, Digital Storytelling, Digital Literacy, and Digital Citizenship) thatwe will be exploring further in #etmooc.

The open movement is the topic that I know least about yet find intriguing. I also found the Aaron Swartz story both compelling and tragic, which drew me in further.

Alec recommended we read Prosecutor as bully  by Larry Lessing as well, he recommended Larry’s Ted Talk.

I read Larry’s blog and I have to admit that although I found it interesting in a general sense, it did not provide me with any deep insight into the very complicated issue surrounding Aaron’s removal of digital articles from a MIT archive. I can only summarize very broadly because that is all I am able to do at this moment. At the heart of this matter, are the questions of who owns knowledge? Who controls it? Where and how do we define the lines of ownership?

I found the Ted Talks more compelling (albeit a lot to process at 9:00 PM for the first time).  My very general and first take away were a big pile of sticky questions:

Where do ideas begin and end? Can ideas be ever completely “owned” as we do we property? Does it all come down to control of resources as a means to be powerful and this in part motivates those in control to “own” as many ideas as possible? Is this similar in some ways to how in Science we are struggling with the questions of who and how people (companies) can own, buy, re-mix and alter life via Recombinant DNA technology?

Maybe ideas are like DNA, that can change and evolve, mutate and be of someone but never completely “theirs”. Maybe ideas, as DNA evolve in spite of us, rather that because of us.

Lessing’s quote below summed it up:

….in response to this new use of culture using digital technologies, the law has not greeted this Sousa revival with very much common sense. Instead, the architecture of copyright law and the architecture of digital technologies, as they interact, have produced the presumption that these activities are illegal. Because if copyright law at its core regulates something called copies, then in the digital world the one fact we can’t escape is that every single use of culture produces a copy. Every single use therefore requires permission; without permission, you are a trespasser. You’re a trespasser with about as much sense as these people were trespassers.

This reminded me of  Kirby Ferguson’s Embracing the Remix. I like when a new idea connects to another older idea!


MOOC: Say what? Let the #etmooc adventure begin.

I signed up for a MOOC last year, at the time I had no idea what it was, I just knew I was curious and intrigued.

This time around I have a better sense what I am diving in to and am brimming with delicious excitement wrapped in nervous anticipation (Can I keep up? Will I keep up? Will this work for me?). Probably this is a feeling shared by many who are new to the MOOC world. That said I feel confident that this is the path I want to explore more than any other right now and when I look down it I see growth, adventure and expansion.

Although this is the continuation down a path I am already on and started over a year ago, this new adventure feels the beginning of a new chapter. In this chapter I feel more in charge of my learning, have a handle on tools to amplify my learning and I am 100% ready to be part of a collaborative process.

I might as well be going to Narnia, considering the reactions of people in my life who say: “A MOOC? What? Why? Don’t get it!” when I tell them about this new project. Soon I will be able to articulate more clearly for them just exactly what I am up to with #etmooc

Looking forward to diving in and discovering my first MOOC experience with such a diverse group!

Let’s go!!

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