I enjoyed reading (September)

How online learning is going to affect classroom design (Tony Bates)

The important point here is that investment in new or adapted physical classroom space should be driven by decisions to change pedagogy/teaching methods. This will mean bringing together academics, IT support staff, instructional designers and staff from facilities, as well as architects and furniture suppliers.

Second, I strongly believe in the statement that we shape our environments, and our environments shape us. Providing instructors with a flexible, well-designed learning environment is likely to encourage major changes in their teaching; stuffing them into rectangular boxes with rows of desks will do the opposite.

What is clear is that institutions now need to do some some hard thinking about online learning, its likely impact on campus teaching, and above all what kind of campus experience we want students to have when they can do much of their studying online. It is this thinking that should shape their investment in desks and chairs.

Education is broken, somebody should do something” (David Kernohan)

Of course, the process (rather than the practice) of education is what drives the MOOC world. Writers without a critical perspective on both education and technology can be lulled into a simple skeumorphic model of replicated offline models re-established online. You can see large classes witnessing lectures by “rock star professors”, simple quizzes to reflect understanding, discussion groups, assignments and required reading. The process ensures that all of this is measured, monitored and recorded – both (somehow) to accurately gauge student achievement and to refine the process.


Beyond teacher egocentrism: design thinking (Grant Wiggins)

As teachers we understandably believe that it is the ‘teaching’ that causes learning. But this is too egocentric a formulation. As I said in my previous post, the learner’s attempts to learn causes all learning. The teaching is a stimulus; the attempted learning (or lack of it) is the response. No matter what the teacher says or does, the learner has to engage with and process the ‘teaching’ if learning is to happen.

Design Thinking, postscript: the importance of the teacher (Grant Wiggins)

In my last post – widely viewed and commented on in various places – I proposed that it was a bit egocentric to think of education in terms of the teacher and the teaching since the teacher is only one element in the design. Many commenters protested that while this may be true overall, they were personally inspired and launched into a career in education by virtue of a ‘passionate’ and ‘wonderful’ teacher. Surely that’s the most important part of the equation, they argued.

I responded that to me this was a form of confirmation bias. Sure, many of us who went into teaching were moved to do so by having had inspiring teachers. But that’s a pretty small and unrepresentative sample, prone to such a bias. What about non-teachers? What about  the average student’s school experience, the people who don’t go into teaching?

Fortunately, I altered our student survey two years ago to get at this very issue. Our data are clear: in a survey of over 1300 middle and high school students, the teacher is the least important factor in their liking and disliking of a subject:

A simple move to avoid ‘coverage’ and make time for more learning (Grant Wiggins)

We have all said it and we have all heard it: there’s just no time to slow down and [fill in the blank], I have so much to cover…

This, despite the fact that we all know, at some level, that it is not the ‘teaching’ that causes learning but the attempts by the learner to learn that causes learning; and that the 1st attempt may not be successful. The importance of feedback and its use, the idea that a key concept or skill is rarely learned at the first go, the need to ferret out and address misconceptions – all of what we know about optimal learning is far too easily trumped by a syllabus, course framework, or unit plan that says: we have to move on to the next topic!

Learners as producers (Steve Wheeler)

For the longest time teachers and lecturers have held the monopoly on the production of academic content. They create lesson plans, produce resources, devise marking schemes and search around for activities and games they can repurpose to use in teaching sessions. Although the production of content has been the preserve of the teacher and the academic since the formalisation of education, increasingly, we also see learners creating their own content. They have the tools, they own the technology, and they have the confidence to use them, not only informally, but increasingly in formal learning contexts. Many are prolific and proficient in producing blogs, podcasts, videos and photos for sharing on the web. They can do it all using the simple smartphone in their pocket. This user generated content trend is apparent not only in universities and colleges but also in the compulsory education sectors.

Reinventing School From the Ground Up For Inquiry Learning (Thom Markham)

For all of us, as citizens and educators, in this country and others, it’s way past time for school “improvement,” and high time to invent fresh organizations designed for inquiry— the ecosystem for inquiry, in which all elements of the environment act holistically to grow, nurture, and sustain the qualities of heart and mind necessary for students and teachers to learn to ask good questions instead of finding right answers. That’s a very high bar, but that’s the ultimate goal of 21st century learning.

How to develop this ecosystem? Only two qualities are required: Imagination and bravery.

Face-to-face as a subset of virtual learning spaces?


…educational technology is no longer a single innovation or a group of innovations but a sea change based on the awareness that face-to-face (F2F) pedagogy is a subset of the virtual learning environment — and not the other way around.

I like this quote from an old post by 21st century fluency, although I’m not sure I completely agree with it. I like the idea that we need to change our mindset and think of face-to-face spaces as a subset of learning spaces, rather than the predominant one. But, I don’t think of virtual spaces as the predominant space either. I think that learning spaces are both physical and / or virtual and that there isn’t a hierarchical structure to how these spaces are conceived. I talk about blended learning, but increasingly there is only learning, and we use a range of tools that sometimes includes digital spaces, sometimes whiteboards, sometimes models, and sometimes conversations. They’re all just ways of connecting people and ideas.

Design principles for clinical reasoning

graphic_design smallerClinical reasoning is hard to do, and even harder to facilitate in novice practitioners who lack the experience and patterns of thinking that enable them to establish conceptual relationships that are often non-trivial. Experienced clinicians have developed, over many years and many patients, a set of thinking patterns that influence the clinical decisions they make, and which they are often unaware of. The development of tacit knowledge and its application in the clinical context is largely done unconsciously, which is why experienced clinicians often feel like they “just know” what to do.

Developing clinical reasoning is included as part of clinical education, yet it is usually implicit. Students are expected to “do” clinical reasoning, yet we find it difficult to explain just what we mean by that. How do you model a way of thinking?

One of the starting points is to ask what we mean when we talk about clinical education. Traditionally, clinical education describes the teaching and learning experiences that happen in a clinical context, maybe a hospital, outpatient or clinic setting. However, if we redefine “clinical education” to mean activities that stimulate the patterns of thinking needed to think and behave in the real world, then “clinical education” is something that can happen anywhere, at any time.

My PhD was about exploring the possibilities for change that are made available through the integration of technology into clinical education. The main outcome of the project was the development of a set of draft design principles that emerged through a series of research projects that included students, clinicians and clinical educators. These principles can be used to design online and physical learning spaces that create opportunities for students to develop critical thinking as part of clinical reasoning. Each top-level principle is associated with a number of “facets” that further describe the application of the principles.

Here are the draft design principles (note that the supporting evidence and additional discussion are not included here):

1. Facilitate interaction through enhanced communication

  • Interaction can be between people and content
  • Communication is iterative and aims to improve understanding through structured dialogue that is conducted over time
  • Digital content is not inert, and can transform interactions by responding and changing over time
  • Content is a framework around which a process of interaction can take place – it is a means to an end, not an end in itself
  • When content is distributed over networks, the “learning environment” becomes all possible spaces where learning can happen
  • Interaction is possible in a range of contexts, and not exclusively during scheduled times

2. Require articulation

  • Articulation gives form and substance to abstract ideas, thereby exposing understanding
  • Articulation is about committing to a statement based on personal experience, that is supported by evidence
  • Articulation is public, making students accountable for what they believe
  • Articulation allows students’ thinking to be challenged or reinforced
  • Incomplete understanding is not a point of failure, but a normal part of moving towards understanding

3. Build relationships

  • Knowledge can be developed through the interaction between people, content and objects, through networks
  • Relationships can be built around collaborative activity where the responsibility for learning is shared
  • Facilitators are part of the process, and students are partners in teaching and learning
  • Facilitators are not gatekeepers – they are locksmiths
  • Create a safe space where “not knowing” is as important as “knowing”
  • Teaching and learning is a dynamic, symbiotic relationship between people
  • Building relationships takes into account both personal and professional development
  • Building relationships means balancing out power so that students also have a say in when and how learning happens

4. Embrace complexity

  • Develop learning spaces that are more, not less, complex
  • Change variables within the learning space, to replicate the dynamic context of the real world
  • Create problems that have poorly defined boundaries and which defy simple solutions

5. Encourage creativity

  • Students must identify gaps in their own understanding, and engage in a process of knowledge creation to fill those gaps
  • These products of learning are created through an iterative activity that includes interaction through discussion and feedback
  • Learning materials created should be shared with others throughout the process, to enable interaction around both process and product
  • Processes of content development should be structured according to the ability of the students

6. Stimulate reflection

  • Learning activities should have reflection built in
  • Completing the reflection should have a real consequence for the student
  • Reflection should be modelled for students
  • Reflections should be shared with others
  • Feedback on reflections should be provided as soon after the experience as possible
  • Students need to determine the value of reflection for themselves, it cannot be told to them

7. Acknowledge emotion

  • Create a safe, non­judgemental space for students to share their personal experiences and thoughts, as well as their emotional responses to those experiences
  • Facilitators should validate students’ emotional responses
  • These shared experiences can inform valuable teaching moments
  • Facilitators are encouraged to share personal values and their own emotional responses to clinical encounters, normalising and scaffolding the process
  • Sensitive topics should be covered in face­to­face sessions
  • Facilitators’ emotional responses to teaching and learning should be acknowledged, as well their emotional responses to the clinical context

8. Flexibility

  • The learning environment should be flexible enough to adapt to the changing needs of students, but structured enough to scaffold their progress
  • The components of the curriculum (i.e. the teaching strategies, assessment tasks and content) should be flexible and should change when necessary
  • Facilitators should be flexible, changing schedules and approaches to better serve students’ learning

9. Immersion

  • Tasks and activities should be “cognitively real”, enabling students to immerse themselves to the extent that they think and behave as they would be expected to in the real world
  • Tasks and activities should use the “tools” of the profession to expose students to the culture of the profession
  • Technology should be transparent, adding to, and not distracting from the immersive experience

We have implemented these draft design principles as part of a blended module that made significant use of technology to fundamentally change teaching and learning practices in our physiotherapy department. We’re currently seeing very positive changes in students’ learning behaviours, and clinical reasoning while on placements, although the real benefits of this approach will only really emerge in the next year or so. I will continue to update these principles as I continue my research.

Note: The thesis is still under examination, and these design principles are still very much in draft. They have not been tested in any context other than in our department and will be undergoing refinement as I continue doing postdoctoral work in this area.

TEDxStellenbosch: designing spaces

A few months ago I attended TEDxStellenbosch at Spier wine farm near Stellenbosch. It was one of the better TEDx events I’ve been to during past few years and I enjoyed it immensely. During the day I re-tweeted comments from other participants, mainly as a record of speakers and the comments that resonated with me. As with most TEDx events, it was such a whirlwind that a lot of what happened was gone before I’d had an opportunity to reflect on it. During the event, attendees were asked to doodle their solutions to problems on large whiteboards placed throughout the venue (see pics). Anyway, I just wanted to mention it here.


Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-09-19

  • @edtechdev never thought about using WP, might be interesting to explore. Thanks for that #
  • Looking for open source journal management software with “social” components. Any1 have any experience with any of these http://ow.ly/6xBD0 #
  • @mpaskevi looking for journal management tools, want faculty journal to go open access. Any experience with any of these http://ow.ly/6xBAU #
  • @ihorpona Not necessarily, but beautiful spaces can be inspiring. The aesthetics may add value over and above the physical space…? #
  • @RonaldArendse when you die #
  • UCT moving towards open education practices http://t.co/0hSK5Ad #
  • Rethinking e-Portfolios http://t.co/TxAFYj6. Nice overview of the different uses of portfolios #
  • via @perkinswill_EDU: beautiful learning spaces http://t.co/yn7v5PZ #BLC11 #
  • What improvements in medical education will lead to better health for individuals and populations? http://t.co/8s3BBGY #
  • @whataboutrob Haven’t read 1 or 2 yet. Just finished Book 1 of GoT, also almost finished Girl who played with fire…it’s OK #
  • Does God Exist? Ricky Gervais Takes Your Questions – Speakeasy – WSJ http://t.co/VmSg7k3 #
  • A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m An Atheist http://t.co/XzjZURb #
  • @whataboutrob Very cool. Loving Game of Thrones btw, you read Waylander II? Have another copy if you want it. How was London? #

CHEC course: teaching and learning (day 4)

Yesterday was the final day of the CHEC short courses on teaching and learning. While the whole module was useful, I found each day to be difficult in the sense that we were trying to cover some really big topics (e.g. reflection, educational theory, etc.) in a very limited set of time. I think that the course would be more valuable if we could set aside 2 or 3 full days to have some time to grapple with these ideas. Anyway, the workshops are over now and it’s just the assignment to complete. I’ll blog about that later. In the meantime, here are the notes I took today.

The reflective practitioner

Difference among teachers allows you to benchmark yourself against others, you can situate yourself, there’s no one “right” way to “be” a teacher

“Teaching is a science”…but it’s also an art

Teaching is about creating a space where students can learn, but we can’t make anyone learn anything

“The teacher, as the speaker of the specialist discourse, is able to “lend” students the capacity to frame meanings they cannot yet produce independently” – Northedge, 2003

Teachers can’t “make meaning” for students

Dimensions of tertiary teaching (Kane, Sandretto & Heath, 2004):

  • Reflective practice
  • Subject knowledge
  • Peronality
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Research / teaching nexus

What evidence can we provide for the quality of our teaching?
How can this evidence be presented?

What is my philosophy of teaching?

After a lecture, ask:

  • Was I on time?
  • Was I prepared?
  • Was I compassionate when dealing with students?
  • Was I trying to do the best for the students?

Reflection is “active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion to which it tends” – Dewey, 1933 (there are many other definitions of reflection)

Reflective practice needs to be systematic, built into your workflow

Content reflection: description of the problem / context / situation (what happened?)
Process reflection: strategies and procedures (how did it happen?)
Premise (critical) reflection: question the merit and functional relevance of the issue (why did it happen?)
(Mezirow, 1991)

When our belief systems are challenged, it forces us to reconsider our understanding of how the world works → new understandings and meanings → change in behaviour and practice

“Reflection is what allows us to learn from our experiences; it is an assessment of where we have been and where we want to go next” – Kenneth Wolf

Everyday reflective teacher → Reflective practitioner → scholarly teacher → teaching scholar (van Schalkwyk, Cilliers, Adendorff, Cattell & Herman, in press)

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-08-01

  • Cities Are Immortal; Companies Die http://bit.ly/pEWOmx. Masie briefly mentioned this Kelly article (I think)  in his great presentation at #cityafrica # (link updated after the fact)
  • Historic medical manuscripts go online http://ow.ly/1v9v0b #
  • Omniscient Mobile Computing: What if Your Apps Knew Everything About Where You Are? http://ow.ly/1v9tkE. Reminded of Masie at #cityafrica #
  • Is RT a form of legitimate peripheral participation? Attended #tedxstellenbosch yesterday & did a lot of RT, wondering “did I padticipate”? #
  • @Sharoncolback not sure if it’s so simple, see @jeffjarvis who is very public re. personal stuff & who inspires many in similar situations #
  • Am I addicted to the internet? Maybe, but so what? http://ow.ly/1v8Cd0 #
  • Before iPhone war, Samsung sells 5M GS2′s in 85 days http://ow.ly/1v8BPZ. Got my samsung galaxy S2 last week and loving it so far #
  • Are there some things that shouldn’t be tweeted about? http://ow.ly/1v8BDT #
  • Feds Will Pay Doctors For Using Medical Records iPad App http://ow.ly/1v8AYl #
  • Electronic medical records get a boost from iPad, federal funding http://ow.ly/1v8AH5 #
  • The current impact agenda could consider the impact of inspirational teaching, not just research http://ow.ly/1v8An8 #
  • Mendeley 1.0 is here! http://ow.ly/1v8y0T #
  • Learning spaces haven’t changed much since structured education emerged centuries ago. #cityafrica providing inspiration for change #
  • @wesleylynch venue is packed, hard to find 5 seats next to each other, realm team always inviting 🙂 #
  • @wesleylynch re-designing cities to be integrated spaces for working, learning and living #
  • @wesleylynch not sitting with #realm team, but chatted a bit #
  • @hotdogcop “quality teaching” isn’t going to happen without policy change that affect salaries and other factors related to job satisfaction #
  • @hotdogcop interest groups aren’t confined to academia though…some academics seek radical change, institutional structure makes it hard #
  • @hotdogcop “academic” doesn’t have to mean “top-down” or “policy maker” #
  • @hotdogcop agreed, but we train the people who will be called on to implement change #
  • @hotdogcop Mokena has some great ideas re. the city & education. would be interesting have him talk to our academics #
  • RT @TEDxStellenbsch: The future city already exists <- no, the technology exists, it’ll take a few years to implement #cityafrica #
  • Mokena Makena the best speaker so far at #tedxstellenbosch #CityAfrica #
  • Classrooms are not inspiring #cityafrica #
  • How could learning spaces change if city / community / nature were more fully integrated? #cityafrica #
  • How would the world look if cities were planned to integrate nature? #cityafrica #
  • Cities and nature don’t have to be mutually exclusive #cityafrica #
  • @vivboz hi vivienne, I’m not sure what writing group you mean? #
  • If the world can’t see or hear you, are u relevant? Do gangs and violence allow young people to be feared, if not seen & heard? #cityafrica #
  • How do our living and working spaces change the way we think and what does that mean for how we live? #cityafrica #
  • At #tedxstellenbosch trying to better understand the relationship between city and community #cityafrica #
  • Using social media: practical and ethical guidance for doctors and medical students – The British Medical Association http://bit.ly/nHBIyj #
  • Sites for the QR-enabled Tourist http://bit.ly/qcMuan #

Posted to Diigo 08/31/2010

    • technology is finally at a point that if we don’t use it now, then we are holding back the progress of science
    • The dominant mode of communicating research results is through peer-reviewed literature. This dates back to more than 300 years ago when scholarly societies formed and needed a way to present their findings
    • Publishers are already experimenting with the models, but they are waiting for something before going full force. They are waiting for us, the researchers
    • We could choose to publish in only Open Access. We could choose to reward tenure for Open Data. We could choose to only reward publications or data that are proven to be reused and make either a marked economic or research impact. Instead, we choose to follow a model that promotes prestige as the primary objective
    • Each time we hold back data or publish research that isn’t immediately open to all, we have chosen to be on the wrong side of history.
    • We could wait for policy changes from the top, but that is neither a timely, nor guaranteed solution
    • It is not uncommon to see research that is already two years old before it sees the light of day. This cannot be good for the progress of science.
    • “Article-level metrics” (ALM) is one step toward weaning the addiction that we have with journal impact factors. Here, we disassociate the significance of the article from the prestige of the journal that it is packaged in
    • One way to promote the sharing of knowledge, and thus be on the right side of history, is through reputation metrics. Unlike previous measurements for impact though, this would be designed to reward researchers who contribute to Open Data and science online
    • Platforms such as Mendeley can have a hand in meeting both the first and second conditions. Mendeley is more than just a reference manager, it is also a system that aggregates the metadata of millions of documents and provides authors the opportunity to promote their works
    • Those researchers who openly and quickly publish research or data for download will be rewarded.* Those who do not will adapt or risk falling into obscurity. As we wait for policy changes to be enacted by the top, we must act at the bottom to encourage a behavioral change in how we share our knowledge
    • All of our attention is focused on real and virtual classrooms and we often neglect the space between the lecture theater and the LMS. Attention, I think, needs to be given to unacknowledged learning and teaching places. Around the water cooler, between computer terminals, seated in the cafetaria, texting on mobile phones, waiting on strategically placed benches, posted on signboards, relaxing in a residence hall etc.
    • Learning designers need to think between the corridors and computers, and ask how can these spaces be used to support learning.
    • Where discussions and clarification took place either in the lecture / tutorial / virtual room, teachers and students that use networked digital devices can conduct their teaching and learning seamlessly across both physical and virtual spaces, synchronously and asynchronously
    • learning designers also need to find a way to support the creation of informal learning space between the virtual world and the classroom place.
    • If our attention is focused only between the real and virtual classrooms then it’s likely that we’ll fail in our attempt to use these new spaces constructively
    • don’t forget about the inbetween spaces and ask how you can support students freedom to engage in self-directed and independent learning outside the formally planned and tutor-directed activities

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-08-09