Archive for the 'reflection' Category

Jul 25 2016

Learning While Building eLearning: Part 3 – Facilitating Online

Scholar Project -8This is the third of four pieces reflecting on the experiences of Emilio, a subject matter expert who was tasked with converting his successful F2F training into an elearning offering. This one focuses on the facilitation aspects of the course! You can find the context in part 1 , and part 2. (Disclaimer: I was an adviser to the project and my condition of participation was the ability to do this series of blog posts, because there is really useful knowledge to share, both within the colleague’s organization and more widely. So I said I’d add the blog reflections – without pay – if I could share them.)

I want to kick this off with a quote from the amazing Beck Tench talking about facilitating online learning:

Learning and change are super complex. Consider we may never know the effects of our work. Every snapshot lacks context in some way. Proceed with listening, kindness, observation, and experimentation. Accept that there will be uncertainty, as in all things, and move forward anyway.

I love this quote because it reminds us that facilitating online learning is about the teacher’s expertise. And about engagement. And about our stance as an online facilitator – something I think is often invisible or ignored.  Emilio stepped into that stance with a lot of grace, tolerance for the unknown and comfort with trying, learning, and even with a little failure. In my experience this is not that common!

Nancy:  Let’s talk a bit about stepping into reality, the launch of the course. This was your first time facilitating an online learning course. What happened?

Emilio: The beginning was very stressful. There was a moment where I had to reset my vision that I had created at the beginning of this project. We thought we had everything planned by the Thursday before the course. We were prepared to send a message out  to the people who had signed up for the course, expecting them to register on the actual Moodle site, and begin surfing the site and get fully on board on the first Monday of the course.

Then our partner failed to send us the list of participants in time and we had to postpone the launch. Once we got the list, we sent the welcome message on a Thursday. And yet by Monday people had not surfed the website and registered. I had to say, “wait wait, convince yourself, just don’t get frustrated.” This is what we were paying for: a pilot to experience everything, anything that can go wrong. It is better to experience it now. Next time we will do it better. That will be the real start.

This process takes a little bit of emotional intelligence. You can’t lose your focus. You have to learn in the experience. Don’t focus on the idea that this is the official worldwide launch of your elearning program, but a learning experience. So it was not a big deal. Just a couple of hours of freaking out.

Nancy: Now that you have had the experience what reflections do you have about moving and facilitating your successful F2F course? How did you engage people?

Emilio: Other than wanting to respond more quickly? (Laughter: Emilio was amazing – he was not only teaching online for the first time, but he was doing it WHILE he was on the road for work!) Here are some of my lessons.

First, what should I do about participants that belong to a group not responding to each other? I see the first person in that group posts and gets no response. I wondered, should I intervene? I wondered about how to  group participants in some way, to point out some challenges and invite others to react. But I didn’t hoping they would eventually engage. There were two groups where no one commented at all. If I were to do it again I would immediately ask others to post something.  

Nancy: There are more experiments with gamification in online, where, for example, you get points towards badges for responses. I’m not always sure of the long term benefit of these kinds of incentives and if they actually support the learning, but they appear to get people engaged in the moment. Maybe it can trigger learner socialization quicker and be something useful to explore.  Because as you noted, participation in the design of this course assumes people will interact with each other. So socialization of the group is the first step towards that participation, and later is essential for successful group work.

Emilio: Second, I can teach from anywhere. I could see that in our pilot. I was travelling like crazy. Another take away is the real leverage of technology. I could be doing different things in different places in the world and still deliver a course. You see people are learning from anywhere. If you compare that to level of effort for a F2F course, it is a trade off. But the value is there and you as an officer, can become much more productive. Once you invest in the up front work of design and planning, which was more than I expected.

There are some challenges to this anytime/anywhere though! I feel a bit guilty. I could have done a better job dedicating a bit more time overall. Once I woke up I did not realize the time difference in the office hours and had to wake up at 3am. There are a couple of times I knew I was responding two days later. I know that shouldn’t happen, how I wanted it to be. I wanted to respond within 24 hours.

Emilio: Third, include a synchronous element. The most effective tool I feel I had was our weekly synchronous “Office Hours.”  They gave me an opportunity to introduce a dose of F2F interaction which is fantastic.

During the office hours I got a chance to interact with the participants. They would post several questions. The sharing the screen was super critical. I surfed and took them where we wanted to go, to a question related to a graph or slide and explain it. You can sense by the comments – “oh yes, thank you this clarifies a lot.” We quickly solved problems.

Also, just by hearing their questions I could pinpoint those slides where the message may not be that clear and I would edit a couple of things right away. So it helped me get clearer as well.

We tried to record and post the recordings for those who could not attend due to work or time zones, but we had some technical problems. We will try and fix that next time. But I will also really encourage the participants to attend, because it brings the passion for the subject matter and the collegiality which is needed for the group work and active participation. The people who attended office hours were also the people who completed the course!

Some ideas for next time is to expand the use of office hours to help better set up the groups and the process for the group work. Maybe teams could have a private chat or meeting once a week and I could use some questions to help them get to know each other in the context of the course. That leads to my fourth learning: group work requires building relationships. Our group exercises need to be reconsidered (design) and I need to figure out how to get people comfortable enough with each other to actually engage in the group work.

Nancy: Yes, that is really hard, particularly when the participants have allocated an hour a day for three weeks and there is a lot of material to cover!

Emilio: Fifth, don’t do this alone! Milica was my assistant and she was always there. One time I could not log into the office hours and Melicia took care of it. In hindsight, we should have included her earlier in the facilitation conversations and planning. Part of the team. You and the other consultants Cheryl, Terri and everyone were very helpful.

Nancy: What was the facilitation highlight for you?

Emilio:  The first and second Office Hours were critical. The course was mostly asynchronous. I knew people were coming in. I logged in and I saw people logging in and that made it real. There are people there! They had interest, and were  asking questions, actually reading the slides. I could see the numbers (page views). But until you talk to them, see them asking questions, it is hard to see if they really are reading the material. When we held our weekly synchronous Office Hours, this became much more real.

Nancy: So would you keep doing this?

Emilio: Absolutely yes, I’ll keep doing this. Reflecting on it now, and putting into perspective from an administration standpoint,  what I produced during those four weeks of the course, there is an increase in efficiency. I delivered a course – granted for 7 people – but while I was working Bangkok, Mexico and then Peru. Pretty impressive. Amazing, yeah. I had good connectivity fortunately.

Up Next: Reflections from the whole team

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Jul 20 2016

Learning While Building eLearning: Part 2 – Learning Objectives & Assessment

signsThis is the second (slow!) of four pieces reflecting on the experiences of Emilio, a subject matter expert who was tasked with converting his successful F2F training into an elearning offering. Emilio has let me interview him during the process.

This piece focuses on the thorny issue of learning objectives at the front end of an elearning project and assessment at the other end. You can find the context in part 1 here. (Disclaimer: I was an adviser to the project and my condition of participation was the ability to do this series of blog posts, because there is really useful knowledge to share, both within the colleague’s organization and more widely. So I said I’d add the blog reflections – without pay – if I could share them.)

Nancy: Looking back, let’s talk about learning objectives. You started with all of your F2F material, then had to hone it down for online. You received feedback from the implementation team along the way. What lessons came out of that process? How do we get content more precise when you have fewer options to assess learner needs and interests “in the moment” as you do face to face, and with the limited attention span for online?

Emilio: I realize now that I had not thought about being disciplined with learning objectives. I had created them with care when I first developed my F2F offering. Once I had tested the course several times, I recognized that I forgot my own initial learning objectives because in a F2F setting I adapted to student’s interest and knowledge gaps on the spot, and I was also able to clarify any doubts about the content. Therefore, over time, these learning objectives become malleable depending on the group of students, and thus lost presence in my mind.

This became apparent as  I was doing the quizzes for the online work and got comments back from Cheryl (the lead consultant).  She noted where my quiz questions were and were NOT clarified in the learning objectives and content. I realized I was asking a bunch of questions that were not crucial to the learning objectives.

With that feedback, I narrowed down the most important questions to achieve and measure the learning objectives. It was an aha moment. This is something that is not necessarily obvious or easy. You have to put your mind into it when you are developing an e-learning course especially. It applies to the F2F context as well, but in an e-learning setup you are forced to be more careful because you cannot clarify things on the spot. There is less opportunity for that online.  That was very critical. (Note: most of the course was asynchronous. There were weekly “office hours” where clarifications happened. Those learners who participated in the office hours had higher completion rates as well.)

It was clear I had to simplify the content for elearning set up – and that was super useful. While my F2F materials were expansive to enable me to adapt to local context, that became overload online.

Nancy: What was your impression of the learners’ experiences?

Emilio: It was hard to really tell because online we were  dealing with a whole different context. Your indicators change drastically. When I’m in F2F I can probe and sense if the learners are understanding the material. It is harder online to get the interim feedback and know how people are doing. For the final assessment,  we relied on a final exam with an essay question. The exam was very helpful in assessing the learner’s experience, but since it is taken at the end of the course, there are no corrective measures one can take.

Nancy: Yes, I remember talking about that as we reviewed pageviews and the unit quizzes during the course. The data gives you some insight, but it isn’t always clear how to interpret it. I was glad you were able to get some feedback from the learners during your open “office hours.”

We used the learning objectives as the basis for some learner assessment (non graded quizzes for each unit and a graded final exam which drew from the quizzes.) How did the results compare with your expectations of the learners’ acquisition of knowledge and insights? How well did we hit the objectives?

Emilio: We had 17 registered learners and 7 completed. That may sound disappointing. Before we started, I  asked you about participation rates and you warned me that they might be low and that is why I am not crying. The 7 that completed scored really well in the final exam and you could see their engagement. They went through material, did quizzes and participated in the Office Hours. One guy got 100% in all of the quizzes, and then 97% in the exam.

We had 8 people take the final exam. One learner failed to pass the 70% required benchmark, but going deep into it, Terri (one of our consultants) discovered the way Moodle was correcting the answers on the multiple choice was not programmed precisely. It was giving correct answers for partially correct answers. We need to fix that.  Still, only one failed to pass the 70% benchmark even with the error.

The essay we included in the exam had really good responses. It achieved my objective to get an in depth look at the context the learners  were coming from. Most of them described an institutional context. Then they noted what they thought was most promising from all the modules,  what was most applicable or relevant to their work. There were very diverse answers but I saw some trends that were useful. However, it would be useful to have know more of this before and during the course.

Nancy: How difficult was it to grade the essays? This is something people often wonder about online…

Emilio: I did not find it complicated, although there is always some degree of subjectivity. The basic criteria I used was to value their focus on the question asked, and the application of all possible principles taught during the course that relate to the context described in the question.

Nancy: One of the tricky things online is meaningful learner participation. How did the assessment reflect participation in the course?

Emilio: We decided not to give credit for participation in activities because we were not fully confident of how appropriately we had designed such activities for an e-learning environment in this first beta test. I think this decision was the right one.

First, I feel that I did not do a good job at creating an atmosphere, this sense of community, that would encourage participation. Even though I responded to every single comment that got posted, I don’t really feel that people responded that much in some of the exercises. So I would have penalized students for something that is not their fault.

Second, we had one learner who did every exercise but did not comment on any of the posts. He is a very good student and I would have penalized him if completion relied on participation. Another learner who failed did participate, went to the office hours and still did not pass the final exam.

We failed miserably with the group exercise for the second module.  I now realize the group exercise requires a lot of work to build the community beforehand.  I sense this is an art. You told me that it is completely doable in the elearning atmosphere, but after going through the experience I really feel challenged to make it work. Not only with respect to time, but how do you create that sense of community? I feel I don’t have a guaranteed method for it to work. It is an art to charm people in. I may or may not have it!

Nancy: The challenges of being very clear, what content you want to share with learners, how you share it, and how you assess it should not be underestimated. So often people think it is easy: here is the content! Learning design in general  is far more than content and learning design online can be trickier because of your distance from your learners – and not just geographic distance, but the social distance where there is less time and space for the very important relational aspects of learning.

Up Next: Facilitating Online

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Feb 08 2016

Learning While Building eLearning: Part 1

F2FtoONlineIntroduction

This is the first in a short blog series based on conversations with a colleague who is “learning while doing” as he is building an eLearning offering. Disclaimer: I’m an adviser to the project and my condition of participation was the ability to do this series of blog posts, because there is really useful knowledge to share, both within the colleague’s organization and more widely. So I said I’d add the blog reflections – without pay – if I could share them. So here we go! Over time it will probably include some additional comments from other members of the team working on this project. (Edit: Part 2 and Part 3.)

The reason I wanted to share this story is time after time I hear people state “Hey, let’s just convert our face-to-face (F2F) training into elearning” without a real sense of what that process might entail. What really happens when you decide to convert your face to face training to an elearning offering? What types of offerings lend themselves to conversion? What would that conversion look like? What should you consider?  I’ve done piles of research for clients in the past (and I’m working on getting permission to share some of it.) But nothing in the research is surprising. What is surprising is that it is not considered before diving in!

There are many paths to answering the questions about converting F2F learning to online or blended learning. The most important starting point is to ask some important initial questions, explore the options, and learn from others. Then, if you still want to proceed,  you can hire a firm to fully convert materials, do it yourself or work with a few others.

Regardless, the “conversion” process asks us some fundamental questions about learning: what and why we want to learn and what the impact of that learning might be. Looking at our assumptions around these fundamental questions can inform any initiative to “convert” something to elearning.

Meet Emilio  

Emilio is a technical officer at a large international development organization. He is an expert in his domain with years of knowledge and experience. Over time he has been asked to share his expertise and has developed a set of materials and practices to offer face to face (F2F) workshops around his area of expertise. He is passionate about his topic and his depth of experience brings richness to every conversation he has with people who want to learn more. Now he has been asked to reach more people by teaching online. That “elearning” thing.

The first decision Emilio faced was to understand what elearning really means. What are the options? What does it take to convert his offline materials into online opportunities? In our first learning conversation, Emilio shared his discovery that there is a large range of types of elearning courses and that they are difficult to categorize. He started out thinking that this is simply presenting his F2F lectures in a real time online space, augmented with the materials he had developed. But he discovered there was more to it than that.

Matching the Material With eLearning Options

multimediaAn early insight was that what you choose to do depends on your target audience and what they want or need to learn. (Or what YOU want them to learn!)

From conversations with other colleagues at work, Emilio learned some forms of elearning that have been produced in his organization. For example packages were created to introduce ideas, concepts and general information to government officials. Emilio now sees these can be less interactive, self-paced, and can potentially reach hundreds in unfacilitated courses. His colleagues have handed material over to consultants who have converted them into self paced offerings – quickly and efficiently.  This form fits with a goal of information dissemination. The value added to the learner, as compared to doing an internet search or picking up a book, is that the material is chunked and sequenced into digestible chunks and because of the reputation of the agency, people have confidence in what they are learning.

Emilio’s existing  training courses focus on a variety of complex policy issues and practices.  The material is more about converting concepts into practice, which is far more challenging than introducing ideas. Learners need to wrestle with the material, practice its application, consider their contextual differences and get the kind of feedback experts like Emilio have in their heads – the kinds of stuff that is rarely included in the slide deck or readings. Subtle. Contextual. Experienced. This is more challenging than converting basic or introductory materials into elearning.

As the volume of complexity of the material grows, there are other issues to consider. How do you keep the learner’s attention? How do you know if they are falling off course and what do you do? What and how do you customize for different contexts?

An early implication of these differences was that Emilio’s colleagues and bosses may have been thinking that he was doing the same thing as the people making introductory courses. The might expect it would take the same amount of time and resources to implement. Like him, his colleagues were not familiar with the range of elearning options. Add to that the fact that a strong organizational driver towards elearning is the idea of efficiency and reach, you can fall into a trap assuming that elearning is just about low-cost content distribution to many people, and that it is always easy or effective to implement.

Sometimes we can and do reach thousands with introductory material. But how do we really build capacity for more complex topics at a distance? What does “cost per student” really mean for deeper learning?

Emilio discovered that the reality is quite different than he thought. There is a mountain of jargon. Even thinking about the course learning objectives in a more complex offering is much more challenging (and we’ll talk about this with Emilio in a later blog post). All his tacit information that is easily available when he is present in a F2F training needs to be identified and reconsidered. What needs to be made explicit? What can come out through the facilitation of a course, with direct online interaction with learners? What has to be packaged into knowledge products? What is REALLY important amongst the vast possibilities of the content?

The adventure has begun. Stay tuned for the next part!

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Jan 27 2016

Reflecting on my 2015 #365Photo Project

BradBradBradAs the month of January quickly slips into the rear view mirror, I realize it is now or never to reflect on my 2015 #365photo project. I had been watching Alan Levine and others do this practice for a few years and decided it was time to try it.

It was nearly a year ago when I made my only reflective post on the project last year, one month in.   While I can’t come close to the analysis of my fellow #365-er,  Eugene Eric Kim  and all his reflections on his 365 Project, it is worth putting on the reflective glasses and taking a moment. Even my sister prompted me to do this on Facebook. Go Cesca!

My Process

The picture taking process was almost always opportunistic. The value of knowing I wanted to capture and share ONE photo a day really upped my “noticing” while on walks, but if I did not get outside of the house (ah, Seattle’s winter) I found I had to stretch and sometimes even set up a picture. There certainly were stretches where nature was a key inspiration. Spring, Spring, SPRING! Flowers. Patterns of leaves and other natural elements (often juxtaposed with my feet, for some reason – at least a dozen) show up a lot, particularly fallen camellias! There are many of my family, particularly my granddaughters who are irresistible, but I also worry about putting too many pictures of them online.

Taken as a whole, they do tell the story of my year. You can see the travel, the work, the family, the seasons, the food!

The camahogada-tUdGera was somewhat of an issue early on, as I was using a fairly basic, lower resolution phone camera. I got frustrated but people said, CROP and use filters, to use the limitations of the camera as a feature, not a bug. That helped me over the hump, but in the end I’ve used cropping and filters only a handful of times. Lazy? Busy? Probably both. And I got a better phone with a better camera late last year and that FELT more fun. Especially for macros, which I enjoy.

I did NOT have a practical and consistent workflow for my project. I mostly posted from either my phone or one of my tablets to Facebook, MOSTLY got those into an album, and then at the end of the year downloaded the lot and imported them into the more easily sharable Flickr. I think some got lost and mis-categorized and I have totally changed my 2016 workflow for #366photo (yes, leap year!).

This year, every photo gets posted to Flickr using the phone app which also allows me to cross post on Facebook and Twitter. I always cross-post on FB, and sometimes on Twitter if the image is either pleasing to me or has some timely relevance to a wider audience as now only my friends can see my FB posts. I restricted them late last year instead of posting them publicly, mostly to protect my family. I should have done that earlier. When I post to Flickr I can put the image right into an album. Later I can go back and tag, but that is not a top priority.

Reflections

The process itself was wonderful. It was, in a sense, a meditation in paying attention to what is around me. Looking back, I smile at the pworkinprogressictures of friends, my family, of nature and of the many places I visited and food I ate. It is a celebration of the full and rich life I get to live. Here and there it hints at the bumps in the road. I think that is because I don’t really have too many and I don’t really want to make a big deal out of them. If there was one visual theme on bumps, it was fatigue!

The sharing part turned out to be a much bigger surprise. How many people on FB had a little “line of sight” into my life surprised me. The number of “likes” surprised me – people actually PAY ATTENTION to this stuff? The reflections shared with Eugene and Alan Levine were wonderful moments of learning.

As 2016 dawned I had just about decided NOT to do this again. Then the urge crept in. The three things I gained from the project were worth continuing:  a) the practice of noticing,  b) sharing, and c) learning, because life is always a work in progress! (And my workflow for it is already better. The pictures are here.)

My Pictures

I decided it would be fun to select some of my favorite pictures from 2015. As I noted, I was unhappy with the quality of many of my shots, but looking back, some are really pleasing to my eye.

CameliaShoes crappycroppy selfieatwork shadowflowers iliveinabeautifulplace horsechestnutshoes mylarry sandplay melbourne quotidian playginwithpapa




bugs
playjoy shoefrost noticingnature windowdawn furry oldbarge fiddlestilllifeinmontrealbeauty shoestilllife hanginout octasketti friends3 greenlake2 friends2 friends1 fallfeet skyfeet Greenlake squashedcameliapoetry frostyshoe wilddave

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Nov 27 2015

Relationship Centric Teaching – Part 3 of ISS Fellowship

This is the third in a series of posts about my ISS/Chisholm Fellowship in Victoria State, Australia. You can find the previous posts here: Part 1, Part 2.

learningLiberationBoth of my weeks in Victoria revolved around a series of workshops that were generally designed around the idea of increasing learner engagement. We played with all kinds of titles in advance, but of course, once I showed up and started to hear people’s stories, the new theme emerged: Relate and Liberate. I was very inspired by this quote:

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Lilla Watson (Quote found via The Interaction Institute/ )

Coincidentally, an essay by Clay Shirky, The Digital Revolution Has Already Happened” was circulating when I was planning and it really hit home. In it Clay talks about the importance the access online learning has provided.

I also wanted to focus on relationship centric teaching using conversational approaches. This was supported by a graphic facilitation workshop, which in the end, applied the relationship centric approach while introducing the joy of visuals and graphic facilitation in teaching and learning. You can read more about that workshop in Part 4.

threelegsFinally, I wanted to try out some thinking that I’ve been doing around how to shift such a strong emphasis on content to a “three legged stool” approach that looks at the interplay between content, relationship and social scaffolding, and signals (quantitative and qualitative data that helps us make sense of what is happening) not just from our courses, but across courses and options made possible by open learning. That will have to wait for a full blog post, but I’ll slide in my sketch here and leave it at that for now.

I was surprised that most of the participants were primarily teaching face to face. In my past visits to Australia to hang out with my educator friends, the emphasis had been much more strongly positioned on the online. So I made sure to talk about both online and offline contexts around the materials and processes. The first group at Chisholm were the Learning Leaders working on community based education. The introduction was strongly tilted towards seeing learning as liberation. I have a deep fondness for community based learning. The subsequent sessions were mostly TAFE educators or designers of learning courses and materials.

Process

In all of the workshops I tried to hold myself to the standard of walking my own talk. My plan was to focus on identity and relationship as a key to engaged teaching and learning, and use methods from Liberating Structures as a set of exemplar processes to embody this approach. That meant a focus on liberating the intelligence and passion in the room, making time for connections and creating conditions for useful conversations. My role was to be a catalyst, rather than positioning myself as the expert. This is a good thing, because I’m a learner first, expert… well, that is way down my “identity” list!

Liberating Structures were part of every workshop. We used Impromptu Networking to identify shared challenges, 1-2-4-All to make sense across those challenges. Then the subsequent structures varied by workshop. We  very successfully used Troika Consulting (I keep calling it by the name I know – Triad Consulting!) and Discovery and Action Dialog (DAD) to help address the challenges each group identified, W3 to evaluate the session, tagging on 15% Solution as the “What Next” step of W3 to identify a simple follow up step. In some of the workshops we ended with a simple appreciative networking activity to note who contributed to our experience during the workshop, and who people wanted to follow up with.

goatrodeoIn each of the workshops I offered a quick overview of Liberating Structures (see slides) that covered the micro structure concept and some other example structures. But I have found it has been more useful to USE them, then as appropriate, debrief them, rather than “preach” them.  I reviewed the basics of LS by showing a slide about the micro structures, the list of the 33 structures and shared Keith McCandless’ recent thinking about that (fragile) and rich space between over control and under control (goat rodeo – see Keith’s image to the right!) In the workshops there was insufficient time to talk about how to build an entire agenda by “stringing” structures, so I have included some examples at the end of the slide deck. That probably should have a blog post of it’s own!

In the session where we did DAD, I really appreciate the reflections about the value of iteration in DaD, and in staying close to the questions that are at the core of the structure to avoid “goat rodeo.”  Goat rodeo is everyone doing their own thing. Smart people fall into this trap all the time. In Troika, many people mentioned the freedom of turning one’s back to listen in. In all the structures people noted the deep importance of the starting questions. The more specific the question, the more precise answers are liberated.

A fabulous question was “when is it appropriate to use LS.” I offered an answer, but I also suggested I email everyone in a month and find out what they have used and done, and we’ll generate an “in situ” answer — nothing like reality!

Participant Feedback

In most of the workshops we did the “What, So What, Now What” debrief and reflect Liberating Structures. I was able to capture a few responses on video. Here is the result:

In addition, I received this quote in the mail this past week with permission to quote anonymously:

Hi Nancy,

Just a quick not to say thankyou for coming out to Australia, visiting us and giving us insight to your perspectives. 

 Can I just say that I thoroughly enjoyed it and put a couple of things into practice, nothing special but I went into class with a much more open mind and content within myself.

 I ended up combining 2 groups from 2 campuses for the final 5 classes and although the first night’s turnout was a little lacking, by the end they were developing new workgroups, mixing on their own, helping each other in understanding assessments and to top it off they even arranged a Christmas breakup for both groups together.

 The last night was purely a submitting work  and as a help session for those that hadn’t finished or submitted all their work and I still had nearly a full class!  They brought in cakes, all shook hands and celebrated and it was a genuinely nice thing to see.  Especially when most stayed around until 8pm on a work night.

 I wish you all the best in your travels and business.

Take care,

My Reflections

IMG_20151118_154110941Identity & Good Teaching

This issue came up most strongly in the workshops hosted by eWorks the last day of my fellowship. I took this little visual note on the white board. Our conversation about educators having a strong self identity as educators was the basis of good teaching. Good teaching comes before any facility with online teaching. It always goes back to those basics. This is no surprise, but surprisingly this concept can get lost with online initiatives because people focus so intently on content. Content alone can be found many places. The unique offering of the TAFE institutions is GOOD TEACHING.

Conversational Teaching

IMG_20151112_141319178An essential practice of good teaching – online or offline – is getting immediately into good and useful conversations. I asked people at many of the workshops if they struggled with discussion boards and many raised their hands. I suggested that we need to think carefully and skillfully about how we engage people so that things like discussion forums and web meetings are meaningful, not just things learners have to to. NO TICK THE BOX! This is where we can always improve our skill at designing really engaging questions that people can’t resist responding to, versus canned “discussion prompts.”

In our workshops, every session was started with a conversational approach that asked people what they wanted to get out of the session and what they had to offer. This activity helped me know what they wanted, and acknowledged their expertise as educators and designers of learning. The process used rotating paired conversation and without fail, the buzz in the room was robust and it was always hard to get people to stop talking. I take that as a sign of engagement! (Yes, they could have been complaining about me or the process… 😉 ) But again, this acknowledges identity in the context of meaningful conversation.

I asked people how they currently open conversations in their teaching, and how they might change this. One person said he was going to take is face to face group to coffee, instead of starting by reviewing the syllabus. Another was going to use the paired drawing exercise we did in the graphic facilitation workshop to help learners create relationships right from the start. Just two examples!

It was interesting to be in rooms with so many smart and passionate people, yet I sensed a reluctance for people to speak up at the full group level. Is this part of the identity thing? IS there a “tall poppy syndrome” issue in these organizations?  It may be some of those things, but for me it was yet another example of the critical importance of breaking people into smaller groups because intense, buzzing, engaged conversation emerged every time at the small group level.

brainBrain Based Approaches

Before the workshops I happened on a fascinating article on neurobiology. It described how neurobiology might inform our teaching practices, particularly the work of Dan Siegel. He talks about the unity of the “triume brain” of cerebral cortex (rational brain), the limbic system (emotional brain) and the stem (reptilian brain). Siegel “envisions the brain as a social organ,” and “the emotional system that develops in relationship.” I was taken how he describes a “sixth sense” as “mindsight,” and links this to mirror neurons. “What fires together, wires together,” is a way he talks about how we learn by what we observe. If we observer our teachers functioning as learners, will we be better learners? I think so…  Siegel talks about the power of associations that people make in order to make sense of the world. Positive and uplifting associations can be more meaningful, encouraging, and benefit change. There was so much in this and I only scratched the surface. But by the second week I had to make a visual…

Remember Group Process

A post on Facebook by the fabulous Chris Corrigan reminded me of some very resonant practices from the Art of Hosting and I grFrom Chris Corriganabbed an image to share about the Four-Fold path of Presence, Contribution, Participation and Co-Creation. I am a little shocked when I don’t see many of the deep process work from the facilitation community in teaching and learning. There are natural connections. So introducing across these communities is a particular joy. Going by to my “three legged stool” — this is the relational aspect. How we interact is as important as what we are interacting about.

Share Real Examples

Finally, it was fabulous to hear the examples of the educators in each workshop. In turn, I was able to share about a project I’m working on with an international team sponsored by the Justice Institute of British Columbia and the University of Guadalajara, the  UdG Agora Project. You can take a peek at a recent presentation online about the project from #OpenEd15.

Slides & Resources

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