Assessment to develop Student Agency and Achievement
That was the title of my workshop at the SEDA (Staff and Educational Development Association) Conference on Assessment & Feedback and I had great fun. There were 40+ in the room and the plan was to talk to them for the first bit, presenting core ideas and a context for assessment. Then we broke into five groups, around tables and I gave them the brief to write an essay based on the information given so far…
What happened next was very interesting indeed. Everyone did something very different to what I expected. In my naive mind, I imagined that people would ‘get on with the task’ and just write an essay.
This was the beginning of a fantastic lesson for me. I know I was presenting, but I was learning. Read more
I did bring a suitcase of ukuleles to #OER16 in Edinburgh. It was as part of the BEST (Build Engage Solve Think) workshop I was running on learning networks. The workshop was based on the Open Source Learning Kit built by Mark Cabrinha. It was designed as a tactile tool that could represent the people, places, spaces, that were involved in learning, and through manipulating the pieces, and putting them together the user could create a representation of a learning network.
That sounds either very complex or really simple. Of course educators can design learning networks – we teach. But how often do you have the chance to really reflect on a big question and go through the different possible connections? Read more
I’ve had another adventure in learning and teaching… and sometimes when things are so good, it is hard to begin to put them on paper. This post is a glimpse.
I’ll call it: ‘Part 1: Of Many’
I know that my students will have to carve their places in the world of music- that there are few traditional ‘jobs’ that exist anywhere. Graduates don’t walk out of education and walk into a single full time secure job in music. Part of what I do is work to develop experiences that hold a bank of skills so that as people progress they can build their metaphorical pantry. …With shelves full of ingredients someone can make more than a PB&J sandwich in the restaurant of their musical lives. I like (and feel the need) to grow and develop my repertoire of musical skills and experiences. Read more
I’m running a day long workshop for the HEA at my uni (University of Chichester) and in the spirit of the title of the day I thought I’d include the schedule and the info I’m using/sharing with the people attending. The schedule is below – please feel free to join in. On Twitter we’re using the hashtag #HEAOpen and there will be other ways to connect as well throughout the day. You’ll find a link to my slides HERE. I’ll be tweeting links throughout the day- so follow along! I’m @laura_ritchie on Twitter.
11:00 Twitter, websites & blogs
11:45 Listening in and reaching out: An audio interview with Howard Rheingold (part 1) Read more
These are all words that, for me, are synonymous with aspects of good teaching and learning. I didn’t always use all of these in the context of ‘open’ the way I do now. Why the change? I was never against the idea, and I think I always practiced both connected learning and co-learning, but at some point I was introduced to different technological tools, techniques, and then I was encouraged. I’m a student too – always learning to teach better, differently, and part of that for me involves reaching out. I hope to be an encourager for others and perhaps to introduce a few new things…
On January 20th I have the privilege of running a workshop on ‘Embracing Open‘ at the University of Chichester for the Higher Education Academy. It is a day long event that is free to attend for anyone who is a Fellow of the HEA, and there will be points in the day where we invite anyone from around the globe to join in. We’ll be exploring aspects of blogging, Tweets, Google Hangouts, Open Source Learning and CC content, collaborative activities and how all these can be used in different everyday teaching situations across disciplines. There will be opportunities to ‘have a go’ at using all of these, and the day will be dotted with real-time connections with teachers and learners across the globe. Students will be involved too. We’ll be Tweeting with the hashtag #HEAOpen and you are more than welcome to join in! Read more
Reflections on my surprise visit to the two-day Expo at Coventry’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab. I presented a session over the lunch break on day two that truly disrupted people – we did an orchestral flash mob, and although they (mostly staff) could see the instruments arranged and on display all morning, they were completely unaware that they would be the people playing them.
Throughout the morning people became curiouser and curiouser, and watching their reactions was lovely.
As I wasn’t on the printed programme, I had a sort of secret license to not follow traditional rules – this was a conference and speakers were respectfully introduced for other sessions, but it was also in a place that was actually named a ‘Disruptive‘ Learning Lab. So when Kate Green, who was coordinating my visit began discussing how I might be announced or how to let people know what was going to happen, and I said that I would just disrupt whatever people were doing and announce that there was something happening now…. *that was fun!
I walked into meetings and said ‘excuse me, please may I disrupt you?’ (good thing I have no clue who most of the people were or I am sure I would have been daunted) I invited them all to take part – invited the IT man, the cleaner, the Deputy Dean, staff, staff’s bosses, and their bosses, and the students. See, in this session, in my flashmob, we are all in it together and it’s about working together to realise yet untapped capabilities. I don’t know who you are, and I am not going to pre-judge what you can or can’t do. My job is to give you a chance, believe in possibilities, and show you that you can believe in yourself too. I hope that came across to the people there on that bean-shaped ‘hill’.
Everyday, as teachers, we put our students in situations where we want and expect them to learn, and that means they are vulnerable- vulnerable to failure (both public, and private failure). With a clear approach that fosters achievement and supports their beliefs that they CAN do what is being presented or asked, then somehow they (and we) tend to exceed expectations. In short we learn not to get in our own way. So in this very short 45 min session, I presented a full version of a pop song that we as a group would play, gave them a whistle-stop instructional tour of the basics of holding the instruments, gave them graphic scores for the song with their parts on it (we divided into sections, like in an orchestra). They were responsible for 5 different parts, and I took the remaining two parts, with the help of my loop pedal.
We only had time for one full run through of the song, but it worked! Along the way there were some supremely good ‘failures’, which after all is what happens when we learn. Don’t get me wrong, I do NOT mean they actually failed, but in music the act of creation is something that is ‘out there’, it is sound, and unlike thoughts or even typed text, that can be kept private until polished, sound is obviously exposed. Certainly in this group setting, all of the initial workings-out and explorations were very public. Those who sat there and did it, the bosses who willingly found their notes and squeaked alongside the students and their other colleagues, they deserve a HUGE well done. It takes guts, and it was exposing and it was a risk – and the joyous thing is that they all did it with a smile. There was a sense of I CAN, and there was laughter, and they were playing – both in terms of violins, violas, and cellos, but also in terms of playfulness. It is a real privilege that I was allowed to bring that in the middle of a very nice buffet lunch.
I won’t pretend we produced a concert performance, but I thought everyone did really well, and did achieve. Afterwards I told them they were both brilliant failures and brilliant successes. I sincerely hope they understood that I meant they were great learners, they allowed themselves to be vulnerable, to learn, to co-learn, and to be open, and as a result they were able to grow and achieve.
Many thanks to Crostóbal Cobo for the short video clip and the group photos.
It all began at the HEA conference in July 2014. Jonathan Worth and I were both presenting on behalf of the Association of National Teaching Fellows, and blamo. I am a very confident person and I love (did I say love? – just checking, I meant to say LOVE) being on the stage, but ask me to talk to someone, and boy does that take courage. So, I plucked up the courage and said, (taking a deep breath, and trying to look normal) “I’d like to work with you on a project one day.”
and Jonathan said, “Drop me an email…”
The door opened. and I walked through.
That was the beginning of a great collaboration, and now I need to tell the backstory –
Last April, a very inspiring composer friend and colleague of mine – Jill Jarman – began to write a piece for me. She finished the first movement and gave it to me as a gift. as. a. gift. wow. (that is British understatement, the American in me says OH MY GOSH THAT IS SO COOL!) There are (or will be) two more movements, but I need to raise the funds or some sponsorship for those, but that is for another story… The piece of music is called Resonance and it is all about all the different sounds the cello can make – and it is meant to be visualised – you know, like with cymatics. Uber cool.
I got to talking with Jonathan about it, and played it to him one day at my house and then he had the idea that it would be great if his students could visualise it and create a sort of post-photographic portrait of the music as their final project for #Phonar. We both share a common ideology about collaborating and freedom of information – and on the back of that Jill (the composer) agreed that I could record the piece and release it under a Creative Commons license that allowed remixing – and that way the students could dream and make, and it would all be legit.
I made a trip to Coventry last December to see Jonathan’s students present their final work. It was a blast. I decided that something that would make my visit more meaningful was to give the students the chance to really experience the music, so I brought a van full of instruments and we played… It was supremely fun. At the time I mentioned that I had a concert at Chichester in February and that I would like to show some of the work while I played the piece live. -That event is happening this Thursday and today in preparation I was printing high quality photos from the students. The image in the poster is from one of the #Phonar students. There will be poster-sized photographic prints around the Chapel while I play and the audience will be able to access links and read about what the students were thinking. It is a chance for me to celebrate their work, and to reinforce the connection that we have had in sound, image, face to face, and now indirectly through an audience. As an effort to reach out and connect further, I recruited a couple of the university IT people to help me to set up live streaming for the concert. I use Panopto a lot (it is the system we have)- not really to record my lectures as it was intended, but for other things – reflection, student work, and I guess lectures too… but this time it will be to stream the concert.
So if you are free Thursday Feb 26th at 7:30 pm GMT, tune in on this link for an hour of music! Resonance is second on the programme, and will start about 5 minutes in, after a short vocalise for voice, cello, and piano. I can’t promise the sound or picture quality will be perfect, but that’s because it’s a first for me – gotta start somewhere!
I love teaching spaces that make me smile even before anything happens. When I walked into the Disruptive Media Learning Laboratory teaching space at Coventry University,
WAIT. I didn’t walk into it. I carried (with help from two fantastic gentlemen) an orchestra of string instruments from the van to the third floor of the building, and we entered an absolute teaching haven. Imagine minecraft becomes real, and there is a 3-leveled terrace of 1-meter blocks covered in SYNTHETIC GRASS!!!!! and there were beanbags bigger than my kitchen table!!! Oh My Days! I had gone to heaven early!
First, I had the task of getting through to the students in a very short space of time- figuratively and literally.
Everyone was surprised. They thought that they had arrived to present their final submissions for the term.
Last month, Jonathan and I had hatched a plan… and I said, sure I can come and teach them all to play.
Could I really do that?!?! Well, yes and no. I knew what I wanted to get across, and I knew what I needed.
Help from them.
In the short hour that I had, I needed to have each and every one of those students be actively engaged.
Need is a tricky thing.
Good for me, the students were up for it.
Ok. the back story. My friend Duane Padilla had done a fantastic solo violin version of a pop song called ‘Secrets’ by One Republic and basically he did it using a very cool tool that lets you build layers into the music. (This is also available as an app TC Helicon Voice Jam, which is superbly inexpensive) I said to Jonathan that I could get the students to play it … well approximate it !
The way the (fab) room was laid out meant that everything was hidden from sight until the students came around the corner, and there was a lovely look of surprise on their faces as they were confronted by a room full of instruments all prepared and positioned for them.
I dug in.
Then Duane turned up – from Honalulu via skype to wish us well on this crazy venture! It was after 11pm for him and he had just finished playing with his band… Back to the class…
These students were great. They began reluctant and one by one they somehow found that little bit of courage to do that thing they had never done before. It was magic to see the smiles and watch the way they were paying attention to different things – non-verbal cues, listening, and watching in ways that they certainly weren’t aware of earlier that day. In the space of 45 very short minutes, we did play a version of the piece, and there were a few moments in the middle when it all clicked and that was just like sitting on a cloud – like we were all on a cloud together. Magic.
Sure people fell off, and they got back on, and they kept going. I loved that. See, after that first bit of courage, it wasn’t so bad, and actually they wanted to learn, and best of all they were doing it together. There were 7 different parts going on at the same time. (I think we were officially on a floor of a library – making a huge racket. Yes, that was excellent, and I mean that in the most polite and creatively positive way possible.)
Ok. this is verging on TLDR, so I am going to call it a night. A very good night. I am in excellent company and my thoughts are filled with music.
Over the past month I have had the privilege of going to both the University East Anglia and the University of the West of England to speak and give people the experience of learning through doing something new – playing music. The f2f interaction and the tactile experience is magic. I love it and would go anywhere to share this with people, as the smiles and laughter that follow the initial reactions of ‘I can’t do that’ ‘I’ve never done that’ ‘I don’t do that’ make it all worth while.
It still amazes me how people say these things and effectively, not purposefully, qualify themselves as failures before they have begun, and this is not just in music but in anything that is new or perceived as daunting. In learning, having a fixed conception of ability is so limiting, (see the difference between ‘ability’ and ‘capability’ by Frank Pajares here) and if our students thought in this limiting way then what a battle we would have! We must not allow that unbounded sense of growth and achievement that allows a young child to really believe they can do anything – touch the moon and change the world- to disappear completely. I am not advocating that we all become completely unrealistic, but as Tali Sharot says in her TED talk on optimism,
“to make any kind of progress we need to be able to imagine a different reality, and then we need to believe that reality is possible.”
I work to keep that tethered to the ground, but I like to fly like a helium balloon with my dreams.
Music is my way in to share that feeling of you can in a way that people can accept it, where are neither expecting it nor resisting it. With so many new (and even developing) pursuits there are barriers, both external and that we place for ourselves. Sometimes these are in reaction to assumed societal norms, social groups, or even just a sense of self-doubt. I find that being given permission is liberating and sometimes that is all people need to take that first step. That permission can come in various forms, whether a comment on a blog, a telephone call, or a reassuring glance from someone you trust and believe in. I am certainly not immune. Even in typing this, it has taken me several revisions and thoughts of doubt kicking around before I dared to press ‘publish’.
…back to the story….
When I visit people and bring my car or van-load of instruments, I tell them at the start – this is not about the music. (I am not sure if at that point they realise what it is about, but that is for another time) It is not until afterwards that they realise they have accomplished things – both musical and extra-musical, and I love that. Permission to experience, permission to do, permission to learn, and permission to be. They don’t even notice that they are problem solving and making all sorts of mistakes – in public, and without fear – because, like I said, it’s not about the music.
Recently there have been a few posts in unconnected places about failure and how that leads to learning, on Flickr by Sheri Edwards and on a blog by a former schoolmate of mine Lisa Chu who went full circle from classical musician, to Harvard graduate, to MD, to partner in a venture-capitolist firm, to improvising/art-making/people-connecting coach. Again, we don’t all want to go out there and fail, but it takes a lot of falling down before a baby walks, and I hope that my not-about-music sessions show people that they don’t need to get in their own way and that they are allowed, certainly in my learning environments- to fall down, and I will be there to pick them up.
What’s the down side? I don’t really know. I guess it’s the traffic in getting from A to B, and I really wish I had a transporter to avoid that.