Talonsss: Your History is Served

Now, based on the title of this post you may be wondering where I’m going with this and what my question is.
Well, my question was,”Is there something else that historians are leaving out or glazing over, another important fact that they didn’t want to be common knowledge?” I came about this question while reading about our good friend Columbus and the other European explorers who were involved in genocide and plundering of “Indian” civilizations. When I thought about it, it’s only been recently that we are being told about the other side of the men who we were told were heroes. All through my life, up until two or three years ago, no one – not even the teachers who are paid to teach us about history and what really happens in the world – would tell us the whole truth about what happened to the Arawaks and other native tribes that were encountered.

Its not only in this part of history that this happens though, all of history is a few true facts mixed with the opinion of someone who was there or was told about the event. Whoever the historian was would want to make himself look the best he could in the occurring events that he was recording, altering it as much as need be to save face. An example of this is when a crew member of Columbus’ ship spotted land before himself and rightfully should have recieved the 10,000 monetary reward that was being offered, but Columbus wrote in his log that it was he who had seen the land before the others, changing the actual events so that he may rep the rewards.

Of course, none of us were there so we can’t verify any facts that we are given personally, we just have to trust that they are as close to the truth as humanly possible. My visual aspect for this little project depicts how history may start out as one thing, but by the time we get it it has been reformed into something different from the original product, different from the truth.

 

                   

On Memorable Learning

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Whether working with the TALONS, philosophers, or the #IntroGuitar community, I am fortunate to get to spend a good deal of time planning lessons and thinking of learning experiences that are not only ‘memorable,’ but hopefully also: personal, meaningful and – optimally – transformative. I would agree with a definition that sees learning as Jeanne Ellis Ormrod describes it:

“A long-term change in mental representations and associations due to experience[.]”

The theoretical approaches that I bring to this view of learning are largely inspired by constructivism and sociocultural theory, as well as the networked processes at the heart of connectivism. Defined in this week’s EDCI 335 reading, constructivists:

suggest that people create (rather than absorb) knowledge from observations and experiences.

More and more I have come to see both the ‘hidden curriculum‘ and the provincially required curriculum as bound to Foucault’s vision of Enlightenment, which should not be considered:

a theory, a doctrine, nor even as a permanent body of knowledge that is accumulating; it has to be conceived as an attitude, an ethos, a philosophical life in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them.”

I’ve come to think that memorable learning resides in such “experiments with the possibility” of going beyond our limits, when we are able to experience transgression of our boundaries and the potential and peril that such risk-taking involves.

Last spring I reflected on the work of:

Gregory Bateson, [who] describes these learning opportunities as “breaches in the contextual structure,” whereby individuals gain an understanding of the process involved in implementing “corrective change in the system of sets of alternatives from which choice is made.”

This sort of “third order” thinking is driven by a confrontation with “systemic contradictions in experience” (this is taken from University of Virginia prof Eric Bredo); to the outdoor educator, this double bind is represented by the necessity of learning to provide both the freedom to explore, as well as the structure and guidance that creates safe opportunities for growth.

Gardner Campbell points out that learning in this capacity puts participants – teachers and students and parents alike – to vulnerability. “It puts the self at risk,” he says. “The questions become explosive,” and “involve “the kinds of risks that learners, at their best, will be willing to take.”

It is a vision of learning that I think goes beyond the mass concerns of institutional education obsessed with accountability, but speaks to John Dewey’s dual intentions for public schooling:

    • To transmit the facts, dispositions and cultural heritage society considers to be of value; and
    • To raise a younger generation with the skills, persistence and ingenuity to transcend our historical moment.

In addition to being encultured to the traditions of our society’s ideals, meaningful, memorable learning is what Richard Dixon meant when he told me that

“Every class is just another opportunity for young people to practice forming communities.”

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The British Columbian outdoors have lent themselves admirably to this task:

We walked out into the woods and within minutes were greeted in our silences by the persistent hooting of an owl presiding over the camp for the duration of our solo. Scattered across the forest floor, in a blackness that enveloped all but the distant moon shining off the lake below, the owl rang its voice across the treetops, cradling us all. When I called out finally for the solo to end, seconds swelled and stretched in silence as no one wanted the moment to be gone.

Our ambition as TALONS facilitators is often to nurture these individual worlds, where everything needed for survival, or even thriving, is brought along in backpacks and the people assembled in a given place. Enjoying the peace of sitting in the woods at night alone, a serenity connected to the most basic of human fears of loneliness, made possible in the company of trusted peers.

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As have the annual rituals provided by annual TALONS events and adventures, when the (two grade 9/10 cohorts) each set about “creating something that is honest, magical, and their own.” On a night like the annual Night of the Notables, for instance:  

There is prolonged  thunderous applause. Standing ovations.  In all, it is quite a thing to see happen. Truly. Even if it is hard to say just what it is that happened up there on that stage and in the halls of our school tonight.

Because just as it feels a little bit my own, how I take in the night’s triumph against the backdrop of those that have preceded it, how everyone in the room experiences the evening is measured against their own sense of the vulnerability felt by those in the present ‘hot seat.’ From the college kids in the back to the grade nines sitting in the second row (to the teacher grinning in the balcony), everyone in the TALONS orbit has gathered to give it up for those whose task it is this year to set aside their fears, come together as a group, and dare to do something exceptional.

Something exceptional, like forming a band and playing your first gig just after locker cleanout on one of the last days of the school year:

On the last day of class, many of the Bears made a point of hanging around for a few minutes to take pictures with one another, shake my hands and otherwise linger in the magical atmosphere the guitar classroom had been transformed into by their efforts.

“This class was more than a class,” one of the young men who was graduating told me on his way out the door. “Just what it was, I’m not sure. But it was pretty great.”

Or teaching fellow singers in a Cuban fine arts school the English pronunciations in their new choral number:

What each of these learning opportunities have in common, I think, is that they put the student/learner at the center of the experience, where their individual perception of themselves or their world is expanded somehow. They perform feats not thought possible beforehand, or experience “breaches in the weave of contextual structure”:

  • Swimming in the ocean before breakfast,
  • Capping a night by first experiencing bioluminescence, or
  • Learning what part they can best contribute to a group.

Those are the sorts of things that lead to long-term changes in mental representations and associations. 

That is learning.

Mentorship Week #4

Laurent A. Daloz (1999) states, “Education is something we neither “give” nor “do” to our students.  Rather, it is a way we stand in relation to them” pp. xvii).  His notion fits well with our program’s autonomous learner model and its philosophy. He asks an important question in Mentor Guiding the Journey of Adult Learners, “The question for us as teachers is not whether but how we influence our students.  It is a question about a relationship: Where are our students going, and who are we for them in their journey?”  (p. 5).  You may recall that we chose one word to describe what we, teachers and learners,  will focus on for this year.  My word was “relationship” or to be more action-oriented, “to relate.”    The mentor and learner are in relationship with one another. I have decided to dissect this relationship in-depth for the next four months. Daloz (1999) points out that the mentor performs three tasks.  They support the learner.  They challenge the learner. Finally, they provide vision for the learner.

 Like Daloz, Lois J. Zachary (2000) uses the metaphor of “journey” in her book, called The Mentor’s Guide Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships. During the next few months, I am going to be reflecting on her eight chapters:

Chapter one: Grounding the Work: Focusing on Learning

Chapter two: Working the Ground: Considering Context

Chapter three: To Everything There is a Season: Predictable Phases

Chapter 4: Tilling the Soil: Preparing

Chapter 5: Planting Seeds: Negotiating

Chapter 6: Nurturing Growth: Enabling

Chapter 7: Reaping the Harvest: Coming to Closure

Chapter 8: Regenerating Personal Growth Through Mentoring

 

Chapter One:

The in-depth project focuses on the learner and the direct experience.  Berends (1990) writes, “Everything that happens to you is your teacher.”  The mentee is an active partner and the mentor is a facilitator.  The learning process is self-directed and the mentee is responsible for their own learning.  The length of the relationship between the mentee and mentor depends on the goal not the calendar.  There will be many mentors over a life time and multiple ones for even one project!  The relationship is not limited to face to face interactions even though there is a lot to be said for this approach.  For example, we gain tacit knowledge, not easily taught, by working alongside a mentor over long periods of time.  It is process-oriented supported with critical reflections, such as edublog posts, and applications beyond traditional schooling (Zachery, 2000).

The mentor and mentee relation is a learning journey for both partners. Our past and current experiences shape who we are and would like to become.   It is about self-discovery and learning. Helgeson (1995) writes about personal ecology and a web of relationships. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a god mother, a teacher, a snowshoe-er, a gardener, a kayaker, a pianist, to list just a few.  In these diverse roles, I relate to various people in various situations.   The mentor and mentee are another relationship in this complex web of relationships they already have with others.

Another concept frequently mentioned in the Talons room is the notion of facilitation rather than teaching.  The facilitator, or mentor, in this case, must

  1. create an effective learning environment
  2. involve the learner in planning and what they  are going to learn
  3. encourage the mentee to design their own learning contract/ plan
  4. support the learners to find their own resources and accomplish their objectives
  5. and finally, help the learners to implement and evaluate their own learning (Zachary, 2000)

 

Throughout this entire process, the mentee, the learner, will self-reflect as part of their learning cycle.

Something happens? –> What happens?–> So what? –> Now what? –> Something happens? and so on.

The mentor will need to be aware of the following guidelines:

  1. How fast the mentee’s learning should progress?
  2. When should the mentor intervene?
  3. How best to collaborate with the mentee?
  4. How to keep the focus on the learning process?
  5. How to set up the best environment for learning?
  6. How to structure the learning relationship and process?

Zachary (2000) concludes in chapter one, “The role of the mentor is to facilitate learning in such a way that the knowledge, skills, or competencies connect to action in the present and possibly in the future.  This requires building on the learner’s experience, providing a conducive environment for learning, and appropriately challenging, supporting, and providing vision for the learner” (p. 28).

Questions to think about for your post #2:

  1. How did your mentor gain their experience/ expertise?
  2. What were those experiences like for your mentor?
  3. What wisdom have you gained from your mentor so far?
  4. What have you learned so far, in terms of facilitation strategies, that might contribute to your own development as a mentor?

 Quirien Mulder ten Kate

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    Zachary points out that "mentoring relationships progress through four predictable phases: preparing, negotiating, enabling, and coming to closure" (p. 49).  Each of these phases may vary in length depending on the people involved and type of project.  Opportunities to reflect, such as blog posts, enhance the learning throughout these phases and allow for tweaking interactions…
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Planning 10 Unit 2: A Healthy Lifestyle

1. Healthy Eating

Importance of Healthy Eating

A key part in a happy, healthy lifestyle is having a balanced, healthy diet. Eating healthy is beneficial for your body in many aspects, such as having energy during the day, increased concentration, and having a healthy, fit body. According to the Canada’s Food Guide, in order to have a balanced diet, a person must eat a certain amount of servings from each of the four sections of the food pyramid, which consists of, fruits and vegetables, grain products, dairy products, and meat and alternatives. Another important part of healthy eating is having a big breakfast. Since breakfast is the first meal of the day, it is important to get the right fuel, so you won’t feel hungry throughout the day. Eating a nutritious breakfast instead of skipping it, will increase alertness, improve physical and academic performance, and stop you from overeating. The last tip is to always look for healthier alternatives, such as buying whole wheat instead of white bread, eating a fresh apple for a snack instead of a donut, eating in smaller portions, and avoiding fast food. Following these steps will ultimately lead to happier and healthy lifestyle.

2. Bullying

Cyber Bullying

Cyber bullying, is the newest, and most difficult bullying to deal with. First off, with our technological advancements, and new social media sites rising daily, cyber bullying is constantly changing, and can adapt to different sites on the internet. Bullies harass and humiliate their victims through social media sites such as Facebook and Google Plus, by playing cruel jokes, and sending hateful instant messages. Cyber bullying can be hard to punish at times, because since it is online, they can stay or anonymous, and the victim may not know who is bullying them. Cyber bullies may send hateful e-mails, upload pictures of the victim, and make fun of them over the internet. Bullying is a serious problem in schools, and can cause very negative effects to the recipient of the bullying, like serious depression, anxiety, trust issues, loneliness, social isolation, and suicidal thoughts. Cyber bullying is just as serious as other forms of bullying, and should be dealt with immediately. If being bullied, the best method is to talk to someone about it, such as a parent, a teacher, or someone who really cares about you.

3. Healthy Relationships

Steps to a Healthy Relationship

Building relationship with our peers is an important part of our lives, and making sure they are healthy relationships will be beneficial to both parties involved. There are multiple parts to a healthy relationship, and making sure that both sides are fulfilling these parts will lead to strong bond between the two. The first, and most important part, is that both people are willing to give, rather than just taking. Being willing to be selfless is a key part in a healthy relationship. The second step is being willing to change. Unless the stars have aligned, and they were a match made in heaven by fate, there will be obstacles between the two, and being willing to change, rather than blaming something else, is an attitude that will improve the relationship. This also means being able to admit they have made a mistake, and be open about it, instead of being defensive. The third step is good communication, specifically, to be able to listen to what each person is saying. Both sides are trying to imagine being in their partner’s shoes, before drawing conclusions. This also means being open to each other and understanding each other’s situation. Letting the other person know how they are feeling is important to a healthy relationship. The fourth step to a healthy relationship is to be able to support each other, and meet the other partner’s needs. By helping each other, both partners benefit, and get what they need. The fifth and final step is to have integrity. This means doing what you say, keeping promises, being honest, and trusting each other. Being able to trust each other will only make the relationship stronger. Healthy relationships are vital in our lives, and it is important how to know what a healthy relationship looks like, and these steps will create a foundation for a healthy relationship.

4. Drugs and Alcohol

Binge Drinking

Alcohol in drinks, such as beer, wine, and liqour present a problem for some students. Alcohol can be consumed safely, if it is in moderation. A large problem for students who can’t restrain themselves to one drink is binge drinking. Binge drinking is when someone drinks a lot of alcohol in small timeframe, and can be defined as a man consuming five or more drinks in a row, or four or more for a woman. Many young students may start to binge drink because their curious, they think alcohol will make them happy, or they want to feel older by consuming alcohol. Drinking multiple times in a short time is incredibly dangerous for the body. At first the alcohol may relax someone, but after a while it will cause mood swings, vomiting, impaired judgement, and if it is really bad, alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning affects breathing and the gag reflex, making it life-threatening. No matter what the circumstances, controlling your alcohol intake will be the difference between life and death. Alcohol is a dual-edged blade. It can relax you, but too much can seriously hurt you. Just remember everything is within moderation.

5. STI’s

Always be Prepared

STI stands for “sexually transmitted infection”, which are infectious diseases that spread between people through sexual intercourse. STI’s can affect anyone, and are a serious health problem. STI’s can spread through oral and anal sex, despite common belief. Some STI’s can even spread with just skin-to-skin contact on the infected spot or sore. The best way to prevent catching an STI is to be prepared. To decrease the chances of STI’s, don’t have sex at a young age, and don’t have intercourse with many partners.The best tip for prevention, is to wear a condom. Before having sex, making sure to get genital examinations for STI’s are important because it is easiest to treat then. One key step is to not be embarrassed that you might have an STI, and if you have any questions or concerns about sexual health, consult a doctor or clinic right away.

Goals:

1. Healthy Relationships – Made with Wordle

Wordle-HealthyRelationships

 

2. Eating Healthy, eating a balanced diet – Prezi

3. Safe Sex – Made with piZap

be safekiddis

 

 

In-depth Project 2014: Introduction (week one and two)

 

In-depth Study: Two Universal Goals.

The in-depth project is the TALONS’ program final large component of the school year.  The in-depth project has two main goals:

1. Know something about everything and everything about something.

In school you are usually taught about many subjects.  In this project, the goal is to learn a great deal about one field of activity, usually not available in a school setting.

2. Learn what others tell you is important and learn what you decide is important.

In school you are told what to learn and how to learn it.  In this project, you will decide in what field and with what strategies, you will become an “expert.”

REMEMBER:

We are interested in three components of your study.

1. The process: as young people, you will be learning patterns of behavior that will emphasize your strengths and that will help you overcome any difficulties.

–          Project will last at least five months

–          Your bi-weekly blog will demonstrate the process:

Blogging Criteria

Post includes: thorough progress report, includes information on mentor, describes frustrations, overcoming obstacles, includes evidence that illustrates process and product, includes modifications to project, includes relevant research, quotes, articles, references, websites etc, shows a caring about project.  Entry makes sense, is written concisely. 4
Includes most of the above description, but in less detail. 3
Includes about half of the above description, but in little detail.  Little progress is demonstrated. 2
In-depth study is progressing too slowly.  Entry is vague.  Demonstrates that not much effort has been made since last entry. 1
Not completed or handed in on time 0

2. The product: The product will include three areas:

i.            The evidence of learning

ii.            The source of self-esteem

iii.            The cause for celebration

 

3. The mentor: The relationship with the expert in your field.  This relationship will include three areas:

i.          Meeting with mentor on regularly basis

ii.         Expanding network in community

iii.       Getting feedback on progress

iv.       Obtaining an in-depth understanding of chosen field.

The learner’s first entry this past week introduced their project, reasons for their choice and a description of their mentors.  In three weeks, learners will report back about their mentor and first few weeks of progress.

 

In-depth blogs for this semester:

Visit Azaly’s blog to learn about car maintenance

Rather learn about bikes?  See what is Aidan is building.

Interested in writing and performing slam poetry, visit Jamie’s and Emma F’s blogs

Waleed will soon teach you how to speak some Mandarin.

Always wanted to join a circus?  Read what Kathrine is learning.

Computer programming is always very popular.  Visit Jeffrey’s blog, James’ blog  and Sean’s blog.

Want to pick up some new culinary techniques? Visit Emily’s blog, Ryan’s blog, Benjamin’s blog, Natalie’s blog and Adesh’s blog.

Elle’s blog will share her learning about pet care.

Jeanie and Devon are developing their interests in Cosplay.

Sewing skills are learned by Jessica R. and Sam and video editing skills are developed by Jackson.

How about surviving in the wilderness with the bare minimum?

Find out about computer building from Cheslie. bartering from Troy, prostetics from Max and special effects make-up from Vanessa F.

Steven, Diane and Liam are learning to play different musical instruments and Emma J. is learning how to maintain and repair a bagpipe.

The Fine Arts are represented by Sierra, Emma P.,  Tiffany, Alyssa, Irina, Yilin, Jenny, Crystal, Joanna, Amira, Sara K., Angela, Jessica S.,  Avery, Lori, Owen, Raymond.

Writing music and writing poetry and doing family tree research.

Lastly, how about some physical activity, such as archery, kick boxing, skateboarding, martial arts, or fitness training.

Quirien Mulder ten Kate

One of three TALONS “teachers”

 

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Blogs as Documents of Learning

Documenting Learning. Electronic Portfolios: Engaging Today's Students in Higher Education

Giulia Forsythe’s visual notes on Tracy Penny Light’s session on Documenting Student Learning with Electronic Portfolios.

I started blogging with the TALONS class (since expanded to two) a little more than four years ago. In that time I’ve learned a great deal about the capacity for such digital publishing tools to help realize aspects of the larger purpose of schooling; part of this has come through developing my own informal network and community of practice constantly interrogating the same question, and lately has included both a graduate community of SFU diploma students, and my own masters cohort. Including my own classrooms, every learning space I move through is suffused with discussion and debate about the purpose of school.

I’ve written about this a few times on this blog, as a matter of fact. Back in May, 2009, I began documenting my Adventures in a Gifted Classroom by quoting Nabakov:

The only way back to objective reality is the following one: we can take these several individual worlds, mix them thoroughly together, scoop up a drop of that mixture, and call it objective reality.

For Nabokov’s objectivity to be realized though is to realize the paradox of Einstein’s relativity (one degree of separation between Nabokov & Einstein: a productive Monday morning!): the more we know about the object’s speed, the less accurately we know its location, and visa versa. Any definition we seek – for Truth in the religious sense, to the tenor of our elected officials and the implementation of our education systems – must be constantly reevaluated, re-calibrated and ready at every moment to be torn down to make way for the New.

And while I still agree with the general direction struck up now four and a half years (and a few hundred thousand words) ago, a quick survey of my blog archive charts the evolution of my theory and practice in the time since:

21st century Learner

Giulia Forsythe’s 21st Century Learner

Breakdown of Posts by Category (from a total of 224) 

As broad terms, Pedagogy and Technology might be expected culprits in a teacher’s blog these days (and I am more than a little glad to see Pedagogy edging to the win here… phew); but I think the focus on Learning Networks and Classroom Communities is more revealing about the larger purpose of schooling I’ve been uncovering in posts on grammar, music, and outdoor education these last four years.

Across these topics, I have striven to refine a pedagogy that empowers learners to take ownership over their learning. As published in my most recent post, I believe that:

the skills attending to student “ownership” of learning are essential elements in the ongoing creation and maintenance of a democratic society.

In four years of blogging, I’ve refined my process in cultivating space in the TALONS class for students to find what Clare found, back in 2009:

“Writing, I think is both a way to think aloud and preserve ideas I’ve come to a conclusion about in my head or random observations; the blog is just an archive in that sense. I also have a draft saved on my email account where I journal on-and-off, as well as a word document on my desktop, but I think the stuff on my blog is more developed in terms of exploring what I have to say. Sometimes when I post something, I secretly hope that other people will read it and offer their opinions, other times I forget about it as soon as I click ‘publish.’ Blogging provides a lot of revelation and I’m still guessing at its destination, but I do know that it’s going somewhere good.

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Revelation without destination strikes me as a noble purpose for a school system concerned with creating lifelong learners that shifts our focus from product to process. But even while this has been a foundational piece of my beliefs about education since I began teaching, I have continued to refine the role that blogs and the development of student learning networks and communities play in this process.

More and more, both as a reflective practitioner and someone trying to create learning spaces and opportunities for others, I think this revolves around the praxis outlined by Freire – and explored into more than one recent blog post here – of a cycle of reflection and action. Blogging – and tweeting, and taking pictures, and journals, and many other acts of preservation – creates an object of those experiences that can be viewed in reflection, and can be manifest in future opportunities as wisdom.

Social Media and Personalized Learning Project(s) Update

ThursdayRun

Given the way my own learning had unfolded this semester, it’s not surprising, perhaps, that I would be coming to identify (and experiment) with the idea of emergence in my classrooms and the extra-curricular projects I’ve undertaken. My goals of a month ago talked about my intentions:

“to create […] space to reflect on this year’s learning environments, and gradually engage in a manner that seems most appropriate to my own learning and thinking about teaching, facilitation, and collaboration.”

What might otherwise be seen as a failure to commit to any one thing in particular is something I’ve found aligning with emergent educationists Gert Biesta and Deborah Osberg:

“…if educators wish to encourage the emergence of meaning in the classroom, then the meanings that emerge in classrooms cannot and should not be pre-determined before the ‘event’ of their emergence.”

I’ve been thinking about how this type of emergence arrises in transformative learning on both an individual and a cultural level, and how the skills and behaviours required for this type of ongoing, lifelong learning might also be a requisite societal competency in maintaining a democratic society. Paulo Freire has added to these ideas, as has (again) Gert Biesta, who cites Wilfred Carr and Anthony Hartnett‘s assertion that citizenship education is a process by which

“individuals develop those intellectual dispositions which allow them to reconstruct themselves and their social institutions in ways which are conducive to the realization of their freedom and the reshaping of their society.”

These are a few of the ideas guiding me with the various threads I’ve been exploring in my classrooms and other learning spaces this semester as part of my personal learning project.

Philosophy 12 

While it might not qualify as Massive, my ‘open learning’ coursework this semester has found a natural home in critically reflecting on my work teaching and learning in the open with a group of grade eleven and twelve students (and occasionally Stephen Downes) in Philosophy 12. Setting out, my hope was

“that as we move[d] forward, both this semester and into future cycles of the class, we have an organic means of establishing a set of pathways for future exploration of the site, and the philosophical knowledge that is discussed, shared and stored on the site’s various pages and posts.”

But this direction didn’t seem inclusive of the – very real – hybrid nature of the classroom environment; Philosophy 12 has never been composed merely of its online components, but exists fundamentally between the connections of its daily face-to-face participants. In the class’ study of Metaphysics, I was particularly aware of Jesse Stommell’s post on Hybrid Pedagogy:

“When we build a hybrid class, we must consider how we’ll create pathways between the learning that happens in a room and the learning that happens on the web.”

Discussable Object in #Philosophy12

Here, the class’ personal studies went into the wild (with #PhilsDayOff), and returned to the classroom to be shared in a process that was both individually, and collectively, an act of synthesis. All of it was documented and ‘captured’ on the class site (and live on the web as it unfolded).

But this only accomplishes one aspect of the task: to cultivate – alongside the present artifacts of learning – a set of navigable pathways through the layers of annual learning ‘objects’ the course site will continue to house.

Screen shot 2013-10-26 at 3.43.29 PMOn the Philosophy site, there are already a number of means by which online participants and visitors (as well as for-credit face-to-face students) can locate content relevant and meaningful to their own exploration of philosophy. The Widgets sidebars on the home page have organized content by Recent Comments, Units of Inquiry, and a Tag Cloud of topics, themes and ideas generated over the course’s one full-semester.

This year I have looked to integrate ongoing class assignments into the connecting and filtering of course content by assigning for-credit students to act as members one another’s comment groups (so far either randomly drawn or organized by themes of inquiry). These groups are responsible for engaging one another in discussion and dialogue that will further the author’s exploration of the Screen shot 2013-10-26 at 12.11.11 PMoriginal topic, and help put each assigned post into context with larger class themes and ideas; we have also begun experimenting with a rating system of both posts and comments (corresponding to class-generated criteria) that introduces site visitors to a class-sourced collection of recommended site content.

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Finally, as we approach the course’s mid-term, and a unit on Epistemology, participants are preparing portfolios of their collected work throughout our units and various assigned or unassigned blog posts. While serving as individual records of progress that will allow for ongoing reflection and the synthesis of summative learning assessments, the linked and communally curated portfolios will allow future Philosophy 12 participants (from for-credit to one-time visitor) to navigate the complexities of knowledge archived from year to year.

TALONS.bc.ca 

My learning intentions with regards to the fall curriculum in my TALONS classes has shifted somewhat from the heights of maintaining personal cyberinfrastructure to the creation of awareness around Bonnie Stewart’s ideas of “an ethos of participation” in blended online spaces. In adopting a communications approach, Bonnie “focuses on the Internet not as a technology but as a medium for human engagement,” which is an idea I’ve incorporated into a redesigning of the TALONS’ Eminent Person Study this time around.

“Because we hope to be transformed positively from this experience, each of us. But if we are to make these journeys, and come to these new perceptions, there is an almost moral obligation to share that wisdom with others who might make the trip themselves, something I’ll be interested to see unfold in the coming weeks.”

Screen shot 2013-10-26 at 12.30.23 PMAlready, as the Yahoo Pipes have aggregated the class initial explorations of their selected Eminent People, the corresponding RSS feed of blog comments has ballooned with the back and forth discussion of Individual Education Plan goals, notable biographies, and reflections on research adventures in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

In the coming weeks, the TALONS will engage in a portfolio cultivation of their Eminent Study not unlike the undertaking in Philosophy 12; in reflection and curation, the present learning will become the pathways for future TALONS learners and collaborators.

The Lunchtime Jam

Lunchtime Jam on @105theHive

Alluvium live on @105theHive

While outside the realm of an ongoing curricular project, I’m no less enthused about the development of Gleneagle Music‘s Lunchtime Jams on K12 distributed web radio station 105 the Hive. Something in Biesta’s citizenship education strikes me as relevant here, where he discusses that

“it can be argued that citizenship learning pervades all aspects of young people’s lives because, in principle, any aspect of their lives can be relevant for their growth as democratic citizens.”

On the other hand, he admits,

“there are very few experiences and events in young people’s lives that are ‘labelled’ as opportunities for citizenship learning.”

Lunchtime Jam

So it is that as I’ve watched various players from our school’s musical community stop by the music wing to create some spur-of-the-moment live radio for anyone who wants to tune in, I think of Bonnie Stewart’s “Trojan Horse” for literacies of participation, and how the emergence I’m perhaps most concerned with helping to facilitate and participate in is that of a more participatory democracy.

It is here, I believe, that my various learning projects this semester find common ground in striving to create opportunities for:

“individuals [to] develop those intellectual dispositions which allow them to reconstruct themselves and their social institutions in ways which are conducive to the realization of their freedom and the reshaping of their society.”

In his essay Transformative Learning and Transformative Politics Daniel Schugurensky talks about cultivating societies that

“generate public spaces of social interaction in which discourse is based on finding agreement, welcoming different points of view, identifying the common good in the myriad of competing self-interests, searching for synthesis and consensus, promoting solidarity, and ultimately improving community life.”

This potential creation of public space seems to mirror not only the implicit elements of the Philosophy 12 curriculum, but the aims of the TALONS blogged artifacts, and the shared rhythms of live jazz:


Eminent Person Study: Documenting Transformative Learning

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We began talking about Eminent Person the other day by discussing Gardner Campbell’s quoting of Gregory Bateson’s work, and the idea of:

“…breaches in the weave of contextual structure.”

As I’ve mentioned here many times in the past, many experiential aspects of the TALONS program, and authentic learning wherever it happens for that matter, seek to create “breaches” in each participant’s “contextual structure.” In each bringing past experiences, expectations for ourselves and others, and other “contextual structures” to bear on the learning at hand, when these expectations are exceeded – above, beyond or laterally – we are given a view of the world and our relation to it that didn’t until then exist.

The knowledge of this expanded plane of perception leads us toward the action required to establish it as a new self-evident truth of existence. And we do this as individuals as well as cultures:

  • We see our first live concert and witness the magic of music as something made by people, and go about learning to play the guitar;
  • We watch Chris Hadfield sing with Ed Robertson and a choir in Toronto and know that the world is now this small, this connected;
  • We conduct interviews with experts thousands of miles away, and give speeches, and glimpse in ourselves strengths and talents we didn’t realize we there, and are never quite the same afterwards.

In a way it is impossible to settle for the previous way of imagining the world, and are forever drawn to the expanding horizon. And I think this is where the Eminent Person Study finds its particular stripe of ritual power from every autumn, as the new grade tens settle in to their first major opportunity for individual and collective learning, and the nines learn from their example.

The TALONS alumni often come away with having witnessed something profound:

In a way, I think Night of the Notables, especially the speeches, is the gr. 10 initiation. When I finished that speech and went to sit back down amongst the other gr. 10s, it was like taking my place among the elite. And every time someone came back, they passed the test, I suppose. I saw you all a supportive group being each others’ safety nets.

Having been privileged to be a part of the last seven incarnations of the TALONS Eminent studies, I’ve come to revel in the realization that:

From the college kids in the back to the grade nines sitting in the second row (to the teacher grinning in the balcony), everyone in the TALONS orbit [gathers] to give it up for those whose task it is this year to set aside their fears, come together as a group, and dare to do something exceptional.

The experience is something shared, yet something unique to each of us. And it is this particular aspect of the learning process that I wanted to honour in redesigning the project outline and assigned expectations to focus on the sharing of and in one another’s journeys through the project.

Alumni quotes

Alumni Advice

The project’s goals remain largely the same, but I have tried to have the various assignments move away from presenting a finalized product toward capturing a study in progressBiographical research is intended to be connected to each learner’s personal goals – expressed in blog posts from earlier in the year, or their IEP – and field studies and Night of the Notables postings are designed to become a synthesis of both presentation and reflection of individual learning.

Groups will be formed to facilitate commenting and feedback to help further one another’s inquiries into biography (and autobiography), and it is my hope that these conversations will begin to constitute an assembled ecosystem of narrated learning artifacts. The challenge I am looking to confront specifically this year is emphasizing an ethos of social media sharing and documentation to effectively archive and organize this year’s learning for future reflection and growth.

Because we hope to be transformed positively from this experience, each of us. But if we are to make these journeys, and come to these new perceptions, there is an almost moral obligation to share that wisdom with others who might make the trip themselves, something I’ll be interested to see unfold in the coming weeks.

Social Media & Personalized Learning Project Proposal Ideas

Tuesday Walk

As I’ve been blogging a little of late, I have spent September getting to know my various communities of learners once more. Whether the TALONS, this semester’s Philosophy 12 bunch, or my fellows in the #TIEGrad cohort, I feel lucky to have had the time and know-how to create enough space to reflect on this year’s learning environment and gradually engage in a manner that seems most appropriate to my own learning and thinking about teaching, facilitation, and collaboration.

I’ve been reading a lot, as well. Research papers and such; I’m building on a lot of ideas that began last year during the Philosophy class’ Epistemology unit with theories of Emergence, Enculturation, and Oppression

But more on that later, no doubt…

What I’ve come here to share today concerns the learning plan for my Personalized Learning & Social Media project this semester. At this point in September I have a few balls in the air, each of which could be construed as their own learning project. Or… all of which could fit nicely under a single topical umbrella that I’ve I’ve yet to open (though it is getting to be the season…).

A few things I’m kicking around, looking ahead at the coming months are:

Philosophy 12: An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course 

For the second time around, this semester I’m teaching Philosophy 12 at Gleneagle, and making as much of the goings on as possible publicly available to anyone who would like to join us as an Open Online Participant. And while there are differences between our face-to-face and online cohorts this year and last, there are innumerable things that excite me about the personalities in this year’s group, the course content and how so much of it aligns with aspects of social constructivism and other epistemological beliefs that I hold about teaching.

One of these aspects is the element of designing the course site to bring about a truly socially constructed knowledge of the course content. Having experimented with individual blogs, and a class blog in my TALONS teaching, I was pleasantly surprised last year to see the simplicity of a single class site become a hub of conversation for a community intent (for credit for amusement) on delving into the Big Ideas of Philosophy.

Coming back to the site this September, it is a little daunting (and a lot exciting) to see that each of the course’s units is already chalked full of posts by last year’s participants. This year we’re already adding exponentially to that total, and we will be again in successive years.

We are, quite literally, creating personalized and communal knowledge.

But one of the problems I’m looking to resolve this semester is how I might construct the site such that it will facilitate the sifting that so much of the Internet does (Reddit’s up-voting, for example, comes to mind) beyond the mere page-views and comments metrics the site’s statistics monitor offers.

My hope is that as we move forward, both this semester and into future cycles of the class, we have an organic means of establishing a set of pathways for future exploration of the site, and the philosophical knowledge that is discussed, shared and stored on the site’s various pages and posts.

TALONS.bc.ca 

I talked to Jim Groom a few weeks ago about working with the University of Mary Washington‘s Domain of One’s Own program to bring some of the collected TALONS digital workspaces together under one roof, so to speak. Currently we use many different online platforms to publish, share and collaborate around the classes’ learning:

All of which I would like to figure more prominently in the daily goings on in the TALONS classroom, both as a means of creating, sharing and preserving learning artifacts and reflections, as well as cultivating a positive digital culture at the school that will extend beyond our room.

With our school and district moving in the direction of employing social media to support student learning, I think that many educators, students and their families are left wondering just what it is exactly the public web offers education (beyond the threats of deplorable discourse, pornography, or predators of youth). With the blessing of unique technology, an engaged parent community, and a documented tradition of former TALONS who have experimented with taking their lives and learning online, we have a unique position in the school to explore and demonstrate the practical applications and potential of many of these technologies.

Part of this learning is tied up in the practice that comes with students (and teachers, and parents, and alumni) engaging in the online community created and maintained across these networks of blog posts, Twitter updates, Flickr photos and comments. Part of it is inseparable from Paulo Freire‘s metacognitive praxis of Engagement –> Reflection –> Reengagement, and parts ask that participants consider their thoughts and actions in the public sphere, both as benefits a community, and as detracts from its potential.

All of which adds up to asking How, in other words, do we employ and engage with these social tools in the most effective way possible?

The other major thread here is of technical application: how do we take ownership and control over the physical data of our online lives and learning?

Image courtesy of Blogs @ NTU.edu

I’ve long held in the back of my mind the privacy mantra, if you are not paying for a service, you aren’t the customer; you’re the product. But have had neither the time / knowhow / dire need to bring much of Gardner Campbell‘s notion of Personal CyberInfrastructure into school until…

…until they killed Google Reader.

But that’s a long and sad story that we can just agree to look forward from, and as an opportunity.

Suffice it to say that in addition to learning about how we might use these social tools, we are on the cusp of delving into how we might use these social tools, and that’s exciting.

#RadioForLearning 

This last one might be the most general, but may also benefit the most from the structure of an ongoing learning project in the coming months.

For the past three years, I’ve enjoyed bringing TALONS learning, musical performances, and a lot of stuff in between to the distributed web radio communities of #DS106Radio, as well as its younger sister-station 105 the Hive. And while this has mostly been a means of connecting my various classrooms and the occasional auditorium with folks hundreds or thousands of miles away, I am excited to think of the possibilities of supplementing our school’s burgeoning social media presence with the vibrant addition of live radio.

In the past few weeks, I’ve spoken with a few former TALONS and current music department seniors about resurrecting a tradition from our early experiments in web radio a few years back: the Lunchtime Jam. Our hope is that by creating and promoting a regular sharing of live music and conversation over the lunchtime airwaves, we’ll be able to bring our school a little closer together.

Through headphones, or iPhone screens, or the wondrous shared vibrations of musical sound.

Just like a campfire.

In-depth Week 16 (only two more weeks until show time)

It is hard to believe that it has already been four months of exploring a particular passion, of expanding our horizons and of experimenting with new skills. The in-depth celebration on May 28th from 7- 1o pm is a little over two weeks away and only a few days after returning from a five-day adventure trip to the Squamish region.  These two events, in-depth night and adventure trip, are two of the five pillars for our program.  The June orientation, fall retreat and eminent person night are the other three significant milestones in our program every year. This last post is an opportunity for TALONS learners to reflect on their learning and to describe their learning centre, station, activity or stage presentation.  It is an chance for you to preview this amazing evening, filled with laughter, learning and lively conversations.

 

Hope to see past, current and future Talons learners and their parents enjoy  this culminating evening of two or one year of program participation. See you soon.

 

Megan’s insight on two years of Talons and in-depth wrap-up and more writing.

A final analysis by Richard about his screen play.

Vincent is experimenting with fruit flies.

Victoria teaching ballet.

Rowing with Immy.

Cake decorating with Emlyn.

Double-kicking the drums with Alvin.

Jeff learning and teaching First Aid.

Play badminton with Derek.

Song writing with Iris.

Know tying with Hayley wraps up.

 

Quirien Mulder ten Kate