Thinking About Communities for Learning {#Rhizo15 Week 5 – Catch Up}

Q: What a #Rhizo15 post? But Laura, I thought the course was over? Is this not true?

A: The #Rhizo15 is never over with a community like this one. #truth

Week 5 poked and prodded at the notion of community for learning, with questions like:

  • How do we make sure there is always room for new and contrarian voices?
  • Do we need to create a them to have a we?
  • How do we cultivate a community learning ecosystem so that it continues to grow outward rather than inward?
  • What does that mean for learning?
  • Must rhizomatic learning be an invasive species?

In my efforts to set up my 10-week Summer courses (why I dropped off the #rhizo15 path as an “active participant” both blogging, tweeting & on the Facebook group), I thought more about how communities can enhance learning, both the informal and formal sides. As I read the #rhizo15 week 5 blog posts and thought a the questions above – it made me consider access and agency to learning – my own and others. Whether it has been a course, certificate, professional meeting or a training seminar — the best experience in learning has been the people and their contributions. The opportunities to dialog and share experiences have lent to stickier and more meaningful learning — for myself and others. There is great knowledge With regards to facilitation and instruction, I would agree with Lisa’s sentiments from week #4 where the fearless #rhizo15 leader, Dave has “chosen words, for every one of his prompts, that are very open to interpretation.” Others interpreted this prompt with metaphors and ideas, including cultivating a garden of learning/teaching, thinking about spontaneous growth, and considering lines of flight for the #rhizo15 course/community.

I agree with these sentiments for my informal learning practices. In a number of my personal learning networks and communities of practice, there are always issues of cultivating a broader network and experience for those involved with learning. It is critical to avoid the online echo chamber when surrounded by like-minded people. This notion of echos in the network vary for #rhizo15 learning community. Some believe this community provides learning support and outlets to challenge the norm, while other community interactions or experiences might be determined by an algorithm. It is important to find ways to challenge and engage the learning community to reflect upon their practice and consider contrary points of view. Sometimes it is a good idea to step back to assess the conversation and learning in the community. I think it’s healthy to have a critical eye when reviewing the participation, discussion, and contribution in the learning community. How can we evaluate and reflect this practice more in our own learning networks?

echochamber123

The Echo Chamber [Revisited] by @gapingvoid

In my efforts to set up my 10-week Summer courses (one of the reasons why I dropped off the #rhizo15 path as an “active participant” both blogging, tweeting & on the Facebook group for a while), I thought more about how communities can enhance learning, both the informal and formal sides. In reflecting on my own formal learning/teaching, I have always valued individual contributions and experiences shared by others. Whether it has been a course, certificate, professional meeting or a training seminar — the best experience in learning has been from the people. We typically have been prompted to respond, answer, or be involved in some sort of interaction — however the learning happens more when the group of learners actively participate, chat, and share. This got me thinking about how to develop a learning community in a formal course curriculum and consider ways to personalize the learning experience.

Forcing or facilitating openness? You decide.

I like the idea of openness guided by the instructor. I enjoy finding meaning and ways to interpret the discussions; however I knew that most of my learners need directions and clear targets. This prompt encouraged ways to facilitate “openness” in my own teaching/training to revitalize a sense of exploration for my learners/participants. I want to facilitate a space that is structured “enough”; however it  does make room for all voices and galvanizes my learners to contribute to include their different perspectives and experiences. How are you encouraging these type of “open” learning experiences in your courses? How are they being interpreted/received by your students?

This past Monday kicked off the Summer sessions at UNT, and I was excited to welcome my learners in #LTEC3010 (Personal Development) and #LTEC4000 (Introduction to Training and Development). Both courses guide career and professional development either as individuals or within an organization [both course syllabi are posted here, if interested]. Interestingly enough, these two different courses have a lot of similarity in understanding organizational learning and individual performance in the workplace. There is enough “structure” for our online undergraduate courses; however I have made room for research, questions, creativity, and contributions from the learners. To be intentional about community learning, there are a number of activities (e.g. discussions, research projects, etc.) and examples to encourage self-directed learning offered in each class. As per usual, I hope to model the impacts online communities of practice and professional mentoring can have on individual academic/career development, while also introducing how informal and online learning networks can support new modes for training and development.

We shall see how these learning communities develop and grow… more to share soon (I hope).

Being A Networked Scholar

Using social media and being a networked scholar allows provides you with an online, research presence and connects you to academics inside and outside your field. The power of open, social networks, allows academic to connect to research and researchers across disciplines. Consider all the ways you can collaborate and share in social media. A growing number of scholars have adopted and joined these online scholarly communities to meet other like-minded scholars, solicit for research support, share project progress, and  disseminate findings beyond a conference publication or journal article. A core value of open, online networked scholarship  is it is “a place where scholars can congregate to share their work, ideas and experiences” (Veletsianos, 2013, p. 648).  There are a number of researcher identification and citation tools connected to social media sites and scholarly metrics. Teaching and research information are being distributed and shared across platforms and communities.

elearn14-digital-scholarship-21-638

“It is a critical time to rethink how research is produced, distributed, and acknowledged.”

(Pasquini, Wakefield, Reed & Allen, 2014, p. 1567).

As I investigate workplace learning and performance, it has been helpful to blog and bounce ideas off on others on Twitter. I have used Mendeley to work on literature reviews, Google+ hangouts for research team meetings, Google documents for collaborative writing/research, searchedAcademia.edu or ResearchGate to access publications, and posted academic results to SlideShare. These are just a few ways I like to “show my work” and work in the open as a scholar. Being social and online allows me to reflect on my academic teaching and research scholarship experiences, and it has connected me to a great number of academics who I learn and research among.

If you or another academic colleague are thinking about how social media and networks can impact your teaching, research, and service scholarship, then here are a few insights George & I shared for a Royal Roads University post on networked scholarship.

Network with colleagues

Higher education faculty and academics are adopting social media in growing numbers. A 2011 survey, for example, found that 45 % of higher education respondents use Facebook for professional, non-classroom purposes. Joining social media networks allows scholars to connect with colleagues, offer resources and discuss issues of professional interest.

Solicit feedback and reflect on your research and teaching

Academics increasingly share their work online, often engaging in activities that impact practice. Academic-focused social networking sites, such as Academia.edu and Mendeley, and general interest sites such as Twitter and SlideShare provide scholars with places to distribute, discuss and expand on their research and teaching.

Reach multiple audiences

In sharing in open social networks, scholars enter into interdisciplinary territory and often break down barriers between academic disciplines. Not only are the traditional walls of the academy thinner online, but academic work could reach broader audiences, such as practitioners and journalists.

Cultivate your identity as a scholar

Social media and online networks allow scholars to manage their online identity, track their citations, identify their spheres of influence and connect with colleagues. These tools support different ways in which knowledge can be produced, shared, negotiated and acknowledged. Learn more about a few of these tools here and here.

Become more open

Using social media and online social networks means being a tad more open, and that’s good for all of us. Openness is the practice of sharing resources and materials (e.g., syllabi, lectures, research papers) in a way that allows others to retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute them. Social media and online social networks often support an ethos of openness, enabling academics to share their work more frequently. A more open approach to scholarship allows knowledge and education to flow more freely and to be used more widely.

What advice do you give early career researchers and academics who are just getting started with social media?

I am not naive to say that being a networked, social scholars does not have any issues. What challenges do you see in being part of the “open” and involved in networked scholarship? Let me know. A follow-up blog post on this particular question and  issue to come…

References:

Pasquini, L., Wakefield, J., Reed, A. & Allen, J. (2014). Digital Scholarship and Impact Factors: Methods and Tools to Connect Your Research. In Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2014 (pp. 1564-1569). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved June 1, 2015 from http://www.editlib.org/p/148918.

Veletsianos, G. (2013). Open Practices and Identity: Evidence from Researchers and Educators’ Social Media Participation. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(3), 639-651.

A version of this blog post is cross-posted on the Royal Roads University website.

Time to Drop the Mic Instructors: Learning Gone Wild {#Rhizo15 Week 4}

Thanks for your#Rhizo15 hack in week 4, Viplav. Your questions really got me thinking:

  • How do we really learn online?
  • How much of control and direction do we need?
  • How much of control do we want when we teach?
  • How do we expect others to learn in such environments?
  • What do we expect of them as co-learners?

For #Rhizo15, a strong and involved learning community, the answers are easier to navigate when we remove the instructor or when “DAVE’S NOT HERE.” With a number of educators who are passionate about learning and entrenched in thinking in #rhizo15, you are bound to keep the conversation going and the learners engaged. For most of us, we have experienced traditional pedagogical models and like the ideas of this sort of free-form learning and ability to dip into the curriculum as we like. Also, it won’t take much for someone to create a video, post a cartoon, record a sound cloud, or throw up a blog post on the topic of getting rid of the instructor. As co-learners, we thrive among the course banter and expect one another to contribute. So getting rid of Dave (metaphorically, of course) in #rhizo15, would not impact this course as much as we think (no offense, Dave).

Now, what would happen if we removed an instructor from a course? This could be online or face-to-face class. How would the learners react? When control is given to the course participants, will it be “Learners Gone Wild” or will our students take up the charge to contribute? My thought: it really depends on the course design.

drop-the-mic

These questions made me think back to my undergraduate days at the University of Guelph (Go Gryphons!), where most of my 4th-year history seminar courses were just that. As per the typical course syllabi, we were assigned weekly readings; however instead of coming to a “sage on a stage” lecture we were required to do the teaching. Each week 1-2 students volunteered  to offer a micro lesson, develop questions, and  facilitate the discussion on a topic. The professor often sat back in the class, and let us drive the critical analysis, synthesize the material, and debate about issues. It was GREAT! I thought – THIS is what learning is all about at university. I want more!

StudentCenteredTheories

Student-centered learning theories & methods for flipped learning (Bishop & Verleger, 2013).

Student-centered learning is the key to deep learning, and although not described as “flipped learning” (Bishop & Verleger, 2013) back then, this is what most of my history faculty did at U of G. If you set up your curriculum to purposefully ALLOW for peer-to-peer learning, then removing the facilitator/instructor from the course may be just what you need. By creating intentional spaces (online or in-class) and opportunities for your students to co-learn, you might just be surprised on how they can bring more life to the course subject. During the course, instructors become facilitators of learning to support students with active learning strategies, such as individual problem-solving and team-based projects.Empowering your learners to take the reigns requires them to be embedded in the discipline of study. When you teach someone else about a concept, it requires a deep understanding of the material before you have to explain or critique it.

This does take some intention and planning in how you set up your course structure. It will be important for you to think about where, how, and when you want to infuse peer instruction and the support required for your learners. Think about how you want learners to contribute, lead, evaluate, and understand. When done well, this type of learning has huge benefits for both the instructor and leaders. There are so many possibilities to create dynamic interactions, meaningful conversations and critical thinking about your subject without your lead. Embrace the idea of “letting go of teaching” to see what might happen in part or all of your class. You might be pleasantly surprised at what YOU will learn from your students. Be sure to answer the following questions before you “drop the mic” as an instructor (adopted from Hoffman, 2014):

  • What positive opportunities can student-lead instruction offer your students?
  • How can instructors benefit from creating a cooperative learning experience?
  • What are the possible challenges students and instructors might with peer-assisted learning, and how might they be avoided?
  • What are evidence-based practices for learning environment without an instructor?

Interested in joining the #Rhizo15 world late or want to be part of the conversation and not just a lurker? Dave’s got a guide for that:

  1. This is a list of all rhizo15 blog posts
  2. Pick a title that resonates – click on it.
  3. Leave a comment
  4. Approach mirror, give the person in the mirror a high five
  5. Return contentedly to previous activity
Check out the course website http://rhizomatic.net or go to the hashtag on twitter #rhizo15
Also, you can write late blog posts (like me!) on any of the weekly topics.

For those #Rhizo15 slackers like Kevin & me (well, myself more so), we’re working on said things. The Slackers #Rhizo15 Guide will be available… when we get around to it. :)

Slacker's #Rhizo15 Guide... to comeCartoon via @dogtrax (Thanks, Kevin!)

 References:

Bishop, J. L., & Verleger, M. A. (2013). The flipped classroom: A survey of the research. In Proceedings from the 120th ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, GA.

Hoffman, J. G. (2014). The functionality and feasibility of flipping. Proceedings from the 25th International Conference on College Teaching and Learning, (pp. 112-126). Jacksonville, FL

Being Content Without Content {#Rhizo15 Week 3 Catch Up}

The irony from my last #Rhizo15 post = having to grade multiple assignments for the end of the semester. I should have seen that one coming. I set it up that way. Lesson learned. That being said, I have put a great more thought on my curriculum, with regards to evaluation, assessment, and, #Rhizo15 week three’s topic, CONTENT.

Dave’s prompt for Week 3: The Myth of Content and “Content is People” first made me think of Soylent Green is People, and then how most educators (myself included) tend to drive our students to learn based on the content over any other approach.

infographic_content_with_content

We create learning modules, assign specific readings, designate topics for lectures, and require discussion posts with specific content in mind. If a course was just a textbook or a course pack to read, then why teach? What would it be like to focus a class on a general topic? How can you offer a structure of learning for participation, inclusion, and knowledge sharing?

“We are all so much bigger than the content we teach. Perhaps that would go on our subjective portfolios and resumes – the place where all the really important things are listed and never realized.”  {Well said, Ron!}

It’s great to see how content can come “from the people” and present itself in a democratic way. I like the resources, references, and ideas shared from the #rhizo15 community. This is how we are modeling content by the learners. I suppose #Rhizo15 is a solid example of this, but can we do this within our disciplines and for our own courses? I would like to think so… and this summer, I might just have to test out the #rhizo15 waters with a new course I am picking up to teach:

LTEC 4000: Principles of Training and Development:. This course investigates the design, delivery and evaluation of training and development programs, specifically with regards to the relationship of modern technology and training theories.

In considering this strategy, I know I’ll need to create a framework for sharing, outline the purpose of the course, consider effective evaluation strategies, and offer a type of learning structure for my online students. My program typically has a wide-range of adult learners who share fantastic experiences and get to apply strategies from class to the workplace. Every semester, I learn a great deal when my learners to talk in discussion threads, blog posts, journal entries and on Twitter. I really am looking for my learners to embrace continuous learning in the workforce through discovery, curiosity, and inquiry.

I do have the same sentiments/questions shared by Mr. Misterovich:

  • Is critical thinking truly cognitive development or is it more socially guided?
  • In other words, should we not expect certain age groups to easily think critically because their brain development is not ready for it?
  • Or is critical thinking more of a cultural/social development?
  • If we choose to do so, could we introduce critical thinking earlier and start students stepping up the developmental stages earlier?

I look forward to the contributions my students will provide for training and development, and my own challenges/developments as I work on a “content-less” course. To be blogged about…

Measure This, #Rhizo15!

If you are teaching a course or conducting a training, those providing and taking ALWAYS want to know how you will measure success, learning, and performance. ALWAYS. What’s the bottom line? What’s the ROI? What’s the learning outcome? How will we know our learners have learned or our training participants “get it”? GRADES. SCORES. NUMBERS. STATISTICS.

This week Dave reminds #Rhizo15: “Learning is a not a counting noun.”

I am tardy in this post for a number of reasons (#et4online and #Fiachra40Fest, I’m looking at you). Without even knowing it, we actually had a late night discussion post-fire pit sing-song at the #et4online conference. {How did you get in our heads, Dave? Well done, sir.} Let me share a bit of that post-ukulele, harmonizing chat for you here.

FireSide

If you think about it, our learners are programmed to believe a grade informs their knowledge but is this actually the case? Grades evaluate an outcome; however it might not really mean learning. Do you know if your learners make meaning, identify value, or apply their knowledge beyond the assignment or specific course requirement? Grades have been there to offer benchmarks, set standards of evaluation, and help instructors measure FOREVER.

“You actually believe in grades?” asked Pete (a.k.a. @allistelling)

Great question. I thought about it. My response: Not really. As a faculty member, I have to provide an outcome or a grade for my students – but that is the university requirement and standard for our department. Our academic institutions require a numbered measurement to move forward in degree programs; however it is really the process of development, fine-tuning, and involvement where I see my students “learn” the most. For our students, a number is easy. It places them in a particular level or understanding of “how am I doing in the course?” Often they look at their learning in comparison to one another, and to figure out if they are “measuring” up to the learning standards. We could do better to “show you know” in other ways beyond a numbered evaluation. Really.

I am thinking more about the grades or non-grades in a couple of my courses. Two of my online courses are very much project/portfolio based, where the final product is built throughout the whole semester. My presentation class #LTEC4121 has a “TED” talk and short demonstration video, and my instructional design/facilitation #LTEC4440 class is building a 5-week online training proposal. Both of these assignments are very applied and relevant for my students; however a number of my learners are being pushed outside the comfort zone for their projects. Although most of the course evaluation (the numbers) are weighted towards the final projects, a few students will leave this course or give up based on early grade assignments. They are concerned about their GPA in this course, their cumulative GPA, etc. Those who stick past the first few weeks actually stop asking me about the numbers. Which is great! They want to know more about shooting film and editing, or considerations for putting media into their training course program. At the end of the course, I am impressed by their projects and final videos they deliver, here are a few examples of technical demonstration created last Fall 2014 :

In our fireside conversation, we talked about the value of developing artifacts, engaging in the peer-review process, how collaborative input matters, and working through revisions leads to understanding. With grades or marks (I’ll be inclusive to my Canadian & US colleagues), educators (myself included) often forget to model learning as a process. Learning should be developmental. As instructors, we need to remember to have our learners build upon previous knowledge and apply their learning beyond our course. There should be an opportunity for our learners to take risks, make mistakes, and pick up the pieces for the course and beyond. Making learning as not a number is not easy – for both the instructor and the students. There will be confusion and possibly frustration; however you have to be willing to work through the learning process with your students. I am thinking of just grading early items as complete or not, and providing feedback for their final projects. I am also considering what really needs to be accounted for in a letter or percentage grade, with regards to their final project developments. Finally, I do want to give credit for my students who have collaborated and learned on a local level. I have witnessed a number of connections thrive beyond a semester or course, as they support one another in work, life, and then some. Perhaps it is time to get rid of a few numbers to meaure what matters for learning for my next term… it would help with all the grading that I am now going to work on now.

p.s. If you are into learning about learning, it’s not too late to join the #Rhizo15 conversation… better late than never.

What’s A Learning Subjective? #Rhizo15

In the first course week of #Rhizo15 Dave asked us to define our learning subjectives, specifically:

  • How do we design our own or others learning when we don’t know where we are going?
  • How does that free us up?
  • What can we get done with subjectives that can’t be done with objectives?

After reading a the follow-up blog post & the list of #Rhizo15 Week 1 blog posts (Thanks, @Lenandlar) prompted me to respond. Learning is uncertain, and happens at the rarest moment.

As an educator, we get caught up with the standard Learning Objective slant for teaching and learning. Learning objectives (sometimes referred to as intended learning outcomes or course-specific goals) are clear statements to describe the competencies learners should possess upon completion of a course (Simon & Taylor, 2009; Harder, 2002; Kennedy, 2007). An effective learning objective identifies what a student would know and be able to demonstrate along with the depth of learning expected from the curriculum.

With #Rhizo15 the lack of learning objectives provides a lot of freedom to explore ideas, connect to meaning, and identify new ways of knowing. I think a learning subjective is when students are encouraged to make their own learning personal. I felt bad for a delayed blog post on this topic — but then I remembered — being subjective means individualizing and customizing my own way to learn. Subjective learning allows for more preference and flexibility, which provides dynamic ways to engage in uncertain patterns and developments from within a course. Learning objectives provide well-defined outcomes and intentions for learning. The openness of learning subjectives provides opportunities for students to drive the course agenda and direct their interests for topics. For some teachers and students, learning subjectives might place education out of its comfort zone to consider what a curriculum could be if defined by all those involved. I think

For many teachers and students, learning subjectives might place all outside of our educational comfort zones. Consider what your course and curriculum would be like if you showed up to class on the first day and asked everyone in the room to design & be a participant in your course? Bring on the blank stares. I suspect many students would walk out of the room or drop your online class. Not for the ability or empowerment of being part of the learning design process, but more out of the fear of the unknown. I think Tania‘s metaphor explained it best: a jigsaw puzzle. This daunting task of figure out where to put the pieces together for ambiguous learning is complicated and requires a lot of work. Are you ready to commit for this complicated and multi-layered task? Am I? Who knows? But I am willing to give it a try. [If I am overwhelmed by the #rhizo15 learning swarm – I always have Keith to ask. :)]

My learning subjective for #Rhizo15 will be en par with how I prefer to travel, e.g. backpacking across Europe. Travel light. Show up to the airport or train station. Select a random place to go. Identify a few things I might see or do. Be open to new adventures and experiences. Sure. I might get lost or not know the language – but I will figure it out or it will be an experience at least. The not knowing what is ahead is okay. I will find the way with others, as there are a number of locals and travelers I can have a chat with. Only memories (a few photos & blog posts) and connections will follow me home as souvenirs.

me & parliament#TBT from 2006 London – {Note To Self: I need to digitize my earlier travel photogs.}

I am looking forward to bumping into a few #Rhizo15 friends as I travel through this course. My learning pack is ready, and I want to explore. Some of you I will see soon (in person), others online, and then — who knows — I might even travel to a location near YOU soon (get your guest room or couch ready)! For now, I look forward to our learning travels online. Stay in touch!

References:

Harden, R. M. (2002). Learning outcomes and instructional objectives: Is there a difference?. Medical teacher, 24(2), 151-155.

Kennedy, D. (2007). Writing and using learning outcomes: a practical guide. Cork, Ireland: University College Cork.

Simon, B., & Taylor, J. (2009). What is the value of course-specific learning goals. Journal of College Science Teaching, 39(2), 52-57.

Curriculum T.B.D. with #rhizo15

From A Practical Guide to Rhizo15: “Rhizomatic learning is one story for how we can think about learning and teaching in a complex world.” Dave Cormier (@davecormier) has been thinking “in the rhizo” for a while and expressing ideas of the community as curriculum for teaching and learning. Cormier (2011) believes a curriculum for a course can be created in time, while a course is happening, specifically  “… to be rhizomatic involves creating a context, maybe some boundaries, within which a conversation can grow.”  

Sometimes learning can be messy. The rhizome concept is often uncertain as it maps in any direction, starts at any point, and grows or spreads with experimentation within a context. From this idea and others shared at the #ALN14 keynote (Pasquini, 2014), I gathered a number of valuable ideas to shape learning contracts for my own students and encouraging learners to map their own ways of knowing and evaluations (Brubaker, 2010). This talk directly impacted a new course I am teaching this term. Much of the content needed life infused into it, and learners did not seem connected to ideas for effective training and development facilitation from the previous iteration. I turned to my learners to ask them to make meaning and apply these concepts to practical situations, workplace experiences, and relevant examples they might encounter. From the class discussions, curation of readings, and developments of training/instruction, a number of my learners felt more empowered and felt as though they were part of their learning process. That being said – it does not mean things were clean and easy. There were a few bumps along the way; however this process of evaluating the learning structure helped me consider the process of knowing and supporting a collaborative curriculum down the road.

Based on my own interest in learning, and the hashtag (#) map of #rhizo15 conversation, I figured #rhizo15 would be a great place to connect and explore this concept further. [Thanks for recommending Socioviz to meet & greet with the community, Dave. Great idea!]

rhizo15hash

 

If you did not hear great things about the conversations, questions, and sharing from the #rhizo14 group – then you must have lived under an Internet rock last year. The #rhizo14 community often shared a number of valuable insights and resources. Although I tried to play in the sandbox with this active, online community, something got in the way of my participation (I’m looking at you dissertation). I am looking forward to the #rhizo15 camp that officially kicks off on April 15th for 6 weeks o’ fun as the participants build the curriculum. Here’s to playing in the unknown and building our learning out with fresh perspectives and gentle pushes from the #rhizo15 learning network.

Interested in joining the #rhizo15 fun? Here’s a few ways you can engage:

 

References

Brubaker, N. D. (2010). Negotiating authority by designing individualized grading contracts. Studying Teacher Education, 6(3), 257-267.

Cormier, D. (2011, November 5). Rhizomatic Learning – why we teach? Dave’s Educational Blog. Retrieved from http://davecormier.com/edblog/2011/11/05/rhizomatic-learning-why-learn/

Pasquini, L. A. (2014, October 31). Dave Cormier: Rhizomatic Learning – The Community is the Curriculum. The 2014 Annual Online Learning Consortium Conference (#ALN14), Orlando, FL. Retrieved from https://storify.com/laurapasquini/davecormier-s-aln14-keynote-twitter-notes