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Posts tagged ‘learning’

Learning what? Learning how?

So often education is outcome focused. Students are taught to take tests. They are taught to the test.

Rats. What’s the assessment?

In. What do I have to do?

A. Can you show me an example?

Maze. Do you actually have one that you’ve made?

It’s difficult to see a way out; it’s difficult to see a why and even more challenging to figure out how. 

Sometimes it isn’t about the actual tangible outcome- the essay, the script, the thing you make, the most important part is relational, understanding the process. The immediate goal does not encapsulate the longer term benefits of the task. Try explaining this to a student who says – but I need to get a certain grade or I can’t do the next class/task… Just tell me what you want me to do. It’s not just the students who are task oriented. Learning gain is a buzzword, and just after the definition, the section on the .gov website labelled ‘Why does it matter?’ begins with ‘Capturing how students benefit‘. Those two words in close proximity make my neck hairs hackle: capture and benefit. Certainly the concept of learning gain is not at all bad, it is very important, but the wording ‘capture’ makes me think.

Maha’s tweet rings true of how many academics do find themselves learning on the job, but also it is true of teaching in so many other contexts, including for those on the other side of the teacher’s desk. Good performers aren’t necessarily good teachers. Students aren’t born as great learners. Neither ‘teaching’ nor ‘learning’ come from the tap on the head of the fairy’s magic want that suddenly ‘learns you’ something. The learning- acquiring the se skills and understanding the processes- takes place somewhere beyond the textbook. The answers on the exams are not The Answers, they are tools- rungs on a ladder, paving stones in a path you are building, maybe even the trowel used to build.

Why do people miss the how? (especially in formal learning settings)

  • How takes time.
  • How is sticky.
  • How is where the perseverance kicks in.
  • How involves failure.
  • How needs help.

How also takes working with the ‘what’: knowledge, experiences, and a desire and willingness to engage with deeper learning. Even when there are teachers who do understand the how, the students can be hung up on not seeing an immediate why. Sometimes, the development of the how doesn’t produce visible ‘results’ until later, maybe well after that class, publication, event. Those seeds take time to grow, which makes it difficult to quantify in terms of standard metrics.

But I’m not a brick in the wall. I’m a person.

Image CC-BY-SA by Yi-Mei Ho

 

It is a dilemma to be in it for the long haul, the ongoing goal of learning, and to live in a real world where people are driven by demonstrating things, achieving, quantifying, and monetising. Perhaps as educators and co-learners, we can value the learning space and build some of that elasticity into existing classes, jobs, experiences so that those we learn, teach, and interact with can grow with us – for the sake of developing a repository of skills. Then if and when they build a path with their skills to a certain career, they will be prepared.

Learning Out Loud: Finding a Voice

Over the years I have gotten far more brave with my own learning and with sharing aspects of the journey. There is no destination in sight, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t arrival points. This post notices one.

Sometimes progress in learning is difficult to see – looking for the wood through the trees is a phrase that comes to mind, and there’s an excellent passage in the book The Forest People by Colin Turnbul where one of the forest dwellers is shown a clearing for the first time. He climbs a mountain and upon coming out of the forest into a clearing this was the scene:

On the plains animals were grazing everywhere; a small herd of elephant to the left, about twenty antelopes stared curiously at us from straight ahead, and way down to the right was a gigantic herd of about a hundred and fifty buffalo. But Kenge did not seem to see them.

Sometimes we cannot simply understand what is before us, even if we are in it. The same holds true for learning. As we progress day by day, today is likely to resemble yesterday, with small changes. It is only when we step back and look at progress over weeks or months that we can see changes clearly. Read more

Sowing seeds for learning

I am struck by how ideas form. This morning was like waking up under a bucket of cold water with various inputs – all enlightening, some glimmering sparks like stars, while others made me aware of darkness. Over the past few days thoughts have been bubbling about learning, as I read writings of others.

‘Learning is this’, ‘learning is that’. It makes me itch when theorists or educators so firmly define learning as a something. Imagine the teacher standing over the desk, asking the student, ‘What are you doing? Why aren’t you learning?’ really? Who could be expected to answer that? I certainly didn’t know how to answer the substitute teacher, so just turned my face back to the book, in grade school.

Sometimes learning is as etherial, something delicate and almost passive that is woven into our essential everything. I cannot just ‘learn’ just like I can’t just dream, but I can become more receptive to having ideas, and if you know me, I am indeed likely to blurt out with an ‘OH!’, mid conversation, because something popped into my head. Is that step one? It’s probably step 47, but recognising it is a good thing and certainly fits along the path somewhere. It is far less often the thing that happens when someone shoves a book under my nose and says: learn this.

What is learning? -Can anyone put their thumb on it?

Learning happens through experience and is the result of experience, but is not an experience. Thinking existentially: I am learning. Read more

Applied Imagination: I think, therefore I can

Yes you can. That’s a powerful refrain in my life, and it underpins so very very much. I had the privilege of teaching on the ‘Applied Imagination’ module at the University of Warwick yesterday. To contextualise, this class sits within Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) and the students come from all different departments and schools across the university- trans, inter, cross disciplinary are all big themes of the class, as well as thought, imagination, belief, and accomplishment.

It was such a special morning. I set off pre-dawn with my little care packed full of instruments, as my session would use music, but music as a metaphor. I know that people are not going to learn to be ‘musicians’ in a couple of hours, but music is so wonderful – it moves, it grooves, it makes you feel, and for so many of us it remains untouchable. I love to bring people to something that is perceived as being outside their reach. <— Hold that thought; I’ll return to it in a minute. Read more

Students, measurement, & connection: Book Club Post 4

Time for another Summer Book Club post! What? You say summer is over?? I am keen to hold on to every ray of sunshine, and as a slow reader, I’ll be posting well into November. This post covers pages 240-347 of Stephen Downes’ (free) ebook: Toward Personal Learning. I wrote about the earlier sections in these posts:

My method in writing these posts is to gather the bits that stop me in my tracks, make me think, write them down, and then connect the dots around them. Three themes emerged for me in these hundred pages: the students, the measurements that sometimes bind (as in hold fast, like hands tied) us, and connections. Let’s start with the students. Read more

Learning on your own

I love learning and I love teaching, and I love to make things fun. My classes started last week and I made a little video with the help of my son to illustrate what happens while ‘learning’. (insert cheshire cat grin here) If you need a good giggle, this one’s for you. Image CC BY-NC by Greg Hirson

See in learning stuff, could be any subject, there is content and then you have to figure out how to actually assimilate it and make it real for you, so that in the big wide world it means something and is useful. Very often we are given a ‘to do’ list and are set free to ‘learn’. The to do list is the what, and seldom includes the how or why. When I showed this video in class, it made my students cry with laughter, not because it is slapstick, but because it’s true. Read more

Time to open #MUS654 for 2017

It’s the start of another academic year, and I have just welcomed a new group of wonderful final year students to my undergraduate class on repertoire for the young performer. It’s a great one, in that we are so diverse, from classical to folk to rock and yet all on a common path of figuring out how to create a year-long curriculum for a learner. One of the first things I tell people is that I am not in a position to tell them how to ‘do’ their instruments. I can advise and guide on how to learn and devise learning. Time to open our minds! (featured image CC BY-SA by Eddie van W.)

We have more in common than we think – even with this year’s group spanning ukulele, clarinet, electric bass, voice, and violin. With all my classes we have no textbooks, and I strive to gather as many resources as possible for the students. For some classes these are paywalled, and fortunately we have access. For this class, there are many great resources that serve our purposes that are freely available. Over the past few years I have developed an open educational resource that is the closest thing to a text book that we have. It is here as the #MUS654 pages. There is a drop down menu for the pages, and I’m going to keep a grid of all the posts I make this year on a page there.

The idea was born out of two things:

  1. I can’t tell everyone what to do (I really could not pretend to have the expertise in ALL the instruments- that would be beyond pretentious)
  2. The people who can advise are out there, and so I thought wouldn’t it be great if my students worked to engage with you all, and in turn you were all invited to join in as well! (yay!)

What I had devised was like a mooc, but it isn’t a class that people need to register for. It is more of a cMOOC (that’s where everyone connects up and they devise the content). I didn’t realise it when I started this class in 2014, but that’s what I was creating. In this project/#MUS654, we discuss the commonalities of music, planning, engagement, but you have to do the heavy work and make the content for a curriculum (if you want). Otherwise you could just dip in and out and join in with anything that takes your fancy.

Learning to reach our and network is more than half of the game for musicians today.

So if you are a player, performer, enthusiast, teacher, learner, or just fancy yourself as a person who enjoys a bit of music – you are warmly invited to join in with any or all of the goings on here. Those studying with me at the University of Chichester will be following along with the content from now until the beginning of December, and I’ll announce the weeks with a blog post and share it as widely as I can. Feel free to look at Session 1: The Mechanics of Sound and see what you think…

You can participate by:

  • Tweeting (in your own account, or feel free to make a fake account just for this if you prefer to remain detached from your normal profile)
  • Blogging
  • Commenting on the main pages and posts here, on this website

You are in control of how publicly or privately you post.

I encourage you to tag things with #MUS654 and I’ll be searching! If I’m clever, this year I’ll figure out how to aggregate blogs! (these technical things hurt my brain sometimes 😉 )

 

I look forward to having you share the musical journey with us! We can learn a lot from one another.

Here’s to #MUS654 2017

Laura

Image CC By by Sharon Mollerus

Toward Personal Learning: Book Club Post 1

I’ve been reading Stephen Downes’ book Toward Personal Learning, which is a collection of blog posts, speeches, and articles (and is free via his website). It is part of my summer learning, making time to do the important things. Reading is one of those important things, and so is talking to people, so I invited people to share their thought about this book as a summer book club, using the tag #TwardPersonalLearning

As I read I keep a copy quotes that jump out at me, and these two really did:

“Good learning empowers; it doesn’t needlessly constrain.” p.59

“That’s the thing with education. What we think is the ‘outcome’ of the process is never really the outcome. If you simply case whether or not they learn how to code REST interfaces, that’s all they will learn. But if you want them to acquire a wider range of skills, you need to place them in a more challenging environment (and then encourage cooperation so they have a decent chance of success in that environment).” p.64

They come from a section that is a written conversation – replies to real questions by students. That is the first meaningful thing for me. Conversation with students. Let’s write that again: Conversation with students others. Even before discussing content, valuing the inquisitiveness of others and engaging with people whether they hold ‘respected’ posts in life, or something less outwardly glamourous, but none the less needed, wins for me. Every one of us on this planet is a person. Every one of us learns, as we all breathe, eat, sleep… Read more

A brilliant typo

It’s coming to the end of the semester and student minds are beginning to focus on assessment tasks and performance exams.

A student came to me with an early draft of an essay that was part outline, part drafted text, and in it there was a brilliant typo. The student had either mistyped or autocorrect had it’s way and changed mediation to meditation.

The essay notes read like this:

Learning is meditated by the child’s behaviour. Meditation is key concept in child development and culture- it enables the child to interact with their individual development.

Although it wasn’t what they meant, it stuck with me so much that a few weeks later I told the student I thought it was actually the most meaningful typo I had come across and I wanted to write about it. There are so many things that I profoundly like about it. Firstly there are key concepts of learning, behaviour, children, development, culture, and interaction. That might just be a whole world right there. It made me think about how they worked together, like a steampunk model of the universe, orbiting and balancing with one another. Image CC-BY-NC-ND by Andrew Poole

The associations with learning, especially at exam time, are anything but resembling a child’s behaviour. Children play. Learning should be play, or at least incorporate elements of play as fundamental – play as in experimenting, experiencing, first-hand, where you are at the helm, making the rules and experiencing the consequences of how concepts work or not in practice, in dedicated time, deliberately, and with all our attention. Playing is hard work, and can include incredible precision. The difference between play and work? Perhaps this has to do with ownership. My work becomes play when I feel in control of the parameters, and also when I am allowed to fail, or have iterations to get to the final product. When we play a game, outside in the field hiding behind trees, and someone spots us and we’re ‘out’ then oftentimes the rules get adapted so we can continue. Are we not engaging in a new strategy? Persisting, demonstrating some form of resilience to continue toward the goal. Having another go so we might ‘win’, or climb the tree, or stand on the mound in the middle of the field, or get to whatever the goal might be.

Going back to the inspiring typo:

Learning is meditated by the child’s behaviour.

I imagine these melting into one, becoming transient stages of one another. The link for me was the ‘is’… back in school I loved grammar, and although it doesn’t apply to this sentence, when there is a simple state of being verb, the subject and predicate commute – you can reverse the sentence. In this case there is a helping verb, so it doesn’t work, but I took the principle and applied it to the concepts:

What if learning is a form of behaviour and this in turn is a form of meditation?

In different traditions, various types of activity can be prayer, so perhaps different activities can also have meditative qualities. I don’t know if I really know what meditation is. I think if I thought I understood, I would be wrong as well, so there’s comfort in admitting that I don’t know. I do know that reflection, stillness, and activity are all important components in my learning and it helps when I can regain my childlike mindset. I don’t mean a mindset of folly. Just as exams bring out the worst connotations of learning, sometimes the idea of being an adult somehow invokes images of being through or finished with all that experimenting, learning, growing. Am I going to get taller? No, I’m an adult. Am I going to stop growing? No, I am childlike.

See where I am coming from?

so if I rewrite the brilliant typo to demonstrate what it made me think, it could go like this:

Learning, childlike behaviour (play), and reflective Meditation is are key concepts in child my development and culture- it they enables the child me to interact with culture their individual and development.

without all the visual edits, and put into the right order, here’s where it took me:

Learning, play, and reflective meditation are key concepts in my development. They enable me to individually develop and interact with culture.

It was the best typo. Thank you to the student for being willing to share that developmental draft, and for letting me write about it. Featured image CC BY-ND–NC by the-sillies. Above image CC-BY-NC by Lee Davenport

Finding the words

It has been a month since I posted anything. A month. Sometimes finding the words to express joys, sorrows, and for me now – the digestion of thinking – it’s a translation issue. It is hard enough to go between words and music, let alone begin translating living into words. The past month has encompassed a lot of living and it is through the people we meet and the stories they tell that inspiration takes hold yet again.

I seem to listen best when the lure of routine is broken and there is the luxury of space. What do I mean? Every so often my job includes travel, and personally I crave connection and interaction with those beyond my immediate experience. When in a different setting, physically, culturally, environmentally, there is a necessity for either adaption or calcification, as a form of perseverance or protection I suppose. I would like to think I am open to experience. There are also times we (certainly I) am not always receptive to stories, life, to the water we swim in and the air we breathe, but over the past month, I was. Read more