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Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Avoidance of Doubt

“I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine.”  ~ Bertrand Russell

I was reading an email from a co-worker this week in which he used the phrase “the avoidance of doubt.” My first thought was that would make a great book title for a murder mystery.  But then as I thought about it some more, I knew it would have to be the theme for my blog this week.

There are some things about which it is comforting to be sure of such as the love of family or the dawning of a new day, but “it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” (Again, my thanks to Mr. Russell for saying it so well.)  Questioning opens the door for doubt which leads to inquiry which begets learning.

The idea of questioning the status quo came to mind as I was watching a video about students who designed their own schools.  “It’s crazy that in a system that is meant to teach and help the youth, there’s no voice from the youth at all.”  That’s the opening line to Charles Tsai’s video about Monument Mountain Regional High School’s alternative academic program.  According to Tsai, when the project was first proposed, it was met with a lot of resistance from teachers who doubted that real learning could come from students developing their own curriculum, and yet the learning these kids demonstrated is amazing.  “The… project itself continues to evolve,” says Tsai, and “dozens of schools around the world have already expressed interest in [the] model.”

The notion of questioning also came up during the presentation on creativity in class this past week.  We were introduced to the idea of lateral thinking, a term for breaking existing thought patterns.  Brainstorming is a common tool for coming up with new ways to approach a problem, but I was particularly drawn to the idea of “provocation,” a concept every parent has experienced with the incessant why questions from a five year old.  How many times you have played that game, sure that you could explain a concept to the child only to find yourself stumped somewhere around the fourth or fifth why?  And when you found yourself wondering why, did you investigate the answer and learn something new?

Leave room for the doubt because to be so sure of your thinking or of the accepted way of doing things is to close yourself off to the possibility of learning.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2013 in ADLT 642

 

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Motivation or Inspiration?

Courtesy of FakePosters.com

Courtesy of FakePosters.com

I’ve been reading a lot these past few days about motivation for my presentation in class this week.  I found a lot of things that struck me more as inspiration than motivation, so I guess I should start with what those two words mean to me.  Motivation comes from within.  It’s what drives us to do what we do.  It’s different for everyone, even if our goals are the same.  Inspiration is more of an external force that may or may not cause an action or outcome.  Again, these are my definitions, so no harm if they disagree with what Merriam-Webster says.

I looked for examples of motivation and inspiration in my life to validate my definitions.  A clear example of where I am motivated came to mind easily.  I am intrinsically motivated to do well in this M.Ed. program.  I would be lying if I said there weren’t external or extrinsic motivations as well — most notably the possibility of a new job — but the closer I get to graduation, more the I realize that (a) having the degree is not assurance that I will get a job in adult education, and (b) I’m really going to miss the intellectual stimulation of being in school.  The fact that I’m okay with (a) and really worried about (b) means to me that my reasons for being in school are much greater than the actual acquisition of the degree.

Keller describes intrinsic motivation as engaging in tasks “for the pleasure that comes from them” and extrinsic motivation as “necessary steps toward accomplishing goals that are valued.”  Thus I describe my motivation to do well in school as intrinsic.  According to a former classmate, I’m a “lerd,” or as I prefer to call it a “learnerd” — a learning nerd.  I love to learn for the sake of learning.  While I may have started this program for extrinsically motivated reasons, I have stuck with it and desired to perform well from more deeply rooted intrinsic motivation.

Thinking now about inspiration, what inspires me?  Maybe you can get an idea from my Pinterest Board by that name.  No surprise, there are several items on there that are animal related — a military service dog, a dog who is hoping a cure will be found for cancer, and an artist who captures the essence of animals in brilliant colors and patterns.  There are also some sports-related inspirations, including the South African Olympian sadly in the news of late for something less than inspiring.  And of course, what collection of inspirations would be complete with the obligatory inspiring quotes, so yes, I have a few of those, too.  While far from a complete picture of what inspires me, this board is indicative of things that are separate from me but that I find inspiring.

Is there a relation between inspiration and motivation?  I believe there is.  I believe that inspiration can support motivation, but inspiration alone will not get the job done.  I have found this to be true in all aspects of my life — work, school, personal, and spiritual. You can listen or read the inspiring words of Pema Chodron or James Ishmael Ford all day long, but until you are motivated to start your spiritual journey, they are just pretty words.  Motivation is what energizes you and makes you engage on a deeper level.  It takes you beyond wanting to doing, which would make sense since the word motivation comes from the Latin verb movere — to move.

As an educator, I want somehow to make my motivation for learning contagious.  Keller says this is possible to the degree that “a teacher and the instructional materials provide a curiosity arousing and personally relevant set of stimuli,” so I know that it’s a tall order I seek to fill.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2013 in ADLT 642

 

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Marketers from Mars

I was reading a report this week put out by ExactTarget called Marketers from Mars.  It described how marketing professionals tend to be on the cutting edge of technology, trying to discover the next best way to connect with their customers.  The report cautioned that marketers should remember that even though they are on Twitter and they pay attention to ads on Facebook, the averages consumer isn’t and doesn’t.  Bear with me while I share a couple paragraphs from the summary section of the report:

Decades ago, marketers were not explorers. They dealt only in the well-settled lands of television, radio, and print. Their form of social media was a three-martini lunch.

Today, however, every marketer must have a streak of restlessness and willingness to embrace the new. The challenge is how to balance new technologies with those that consumers use. Indeed, the best marketers will be those who can keep one eye on the future while meeting the needs of today’s audiences, seizing the opportunities of today’s devices, and navigating the evolving rules of today’s channels.

It got me thinking… not about marketing, but about educational technology.  I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest.  I have an account for Learnist, Prezi, Mural.ly, and as of today, for Gliffy, too.  I have created voice threads and screencats.  I write a blog, and I follow several blogs.  I dig Diigo.  So I have a lot of tools at my disposal when it comes to creating an instructional design, but does the typical adult learner even know what half of those things are?

Go back and re-read that excerpt above, substituting “educators” for “marketers” and “learners” for “consumers.”  With the exception of the three-martini lunch (and maybe even that fits?), those paragraphs could have just as easily been written about today’s evolving education landscape of hybrid classes, mobile learning, and MOOCs.

As I sit down this weekend to work on a design for a new adult learning theory class aimed as busy, overworked, and non-digital native medical educators, what is going to be the best use of technology to create a meaningful learning experience?  Should I focus on the technologies they are already familiar (maybe even comfortable) with, or do I push the boundaries just a bit to stretch their thinking about what tools might be useful in their own teaching?

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Source: rorc.research.va.gov

I’m leaning toward the latter, in part because I have truly enjoyed being introduced to so many new technologies, but also because the students these medical educators are teaching do embrace technology, and I think it will enhance the educators’ effectiveness with those digital natives to meet them where they are.  Again, referring to the Martian marketers, “When marketers are considering all options for their cross-channel marketing strategies, they should not only be thinking ahead, but also maintaining a connection to how today’s consumer are behaving and reacting online.”

Commencing countdown, engines on… look out, Mars. Here we come!

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2013 in ADLT 642

 

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That’s Hot!

I have been getting back in the practice of checking Twitter on a regular basis.  I took a break from it between semesters, but whenever I do that, I wonder why because inevitably when I get back on again, I find the most amazing articles and resources.  Begs the question — what did I miss while I was gone?  I’m trying to get more comfortable with knowing that I probably missed some good stuff.

One of the articles I found this past week was What’s Hot, What’s Not 2013.  Two topics it addresses – flipped classrooms and blended learning – are pertinent to the two projects we’re working on in class this week.

Flipped Classrooms – MKTG 442 Service Marketing

This week we are writing up our design strategies for an undergraduate service marketing class.  One of the suggestions we are leaning toward is flipping the classroom so that some learning previously delivered by lecture during class could be done by the students outside of class, and in-class time could be used for active learning where the students can interact and engage with the information they reviewed prior to class.

Lev Gonick states in the What’s Hot article, “flipping involves redesigning of time and strategy for engagement.” In some ways, redesigning time is the easier part.  The professor already knows she wants to increase the time students are working outside of class by introducing more online assignments.  Part of redesigning the strategy for engagement will be revising the course objectives to include stronger action verbs to describe the learning goals.  With a better idea of what the goals will look like, we can determine if the current assignments are providing the right activity for the students to achieve those goals and/or what new strategies for both in and outside the classroom we can suggest to support the goals.  Clearer goals will also help drive the creation of the right assessment tools.

Blended Learning – Theory & Practice of Adult Learning for Medical Educators

This week also introduced us to a new class being offered through a new certificate program on the medical campus.  In this case, we have the ability to offer suggestions on how to use blended learning to accommodate 30 contact hours in a short 8 week summer semester.

In What’s HotColleen Carmean says, “Blended learning is the norm. A status quo can be neither trending nor trendy. … What needs to catch up is reduced seat time for all technology-infused courses.  Now that’s hot.”  While we cannot reduce the seat time for this particular course, we have been given leeway to come up with creative ideas for the 10 hours the professor has allocated as not in-class seat time.

One of the things I have discovered while I’ve been enrolled in this masters program is that it’s hard not to be thinking about, experiencing, or discovering instances of adult learning in everyday life.  I make connections with what we’re learning about using social media as a learning tool as I hear the Tech Report on the news at night.  I cringe when I see an email at work that is paragraphs long with no screen shots and few links that is billed as “training tips” for the newly upgraded client database.  And my favorite examples come when I realize what I’m learning in my formal graduate studies has a direct correlation to what I’m learning about in my spiritual and meditation practice.  By keeping our minds alert to what’s happening around us, we adults are learning all the time!  Shouldn’t that count toward seat time?

Maybe I’m just a school-nerd, but learning something new every day?  That’s hot!

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2013 in ADLT 642

 

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