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Posts tagged ‘reflection’

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

The Butterfly, Learning, & Community: Book Club Post (August 1)

Is it August already? Yes, and today is a great day to type with the rain coming down outside. That butterfly pic was taken just yesterday… I’m sure summer will come back. Keeping to my schedule it is time for my August post for this Book Club about Stephen Downes’ book ‘Toward Personal Learning’. Several people have said they are reading too, and that is great. Please do join in either with your own post or a comment.

According to the schedule, this post could cover anything from p.81-177, which contains a lot! I have covered a little bit of it here. (6-8 min read. Featured image is a ‘silver washed’ butterfly taken by Jan Ritchie)

Abstraction and Myth:

About scope and understanding:

“We speak in myth be cause reality is ineffable. It cannot be expressed in words. All language is, as in the first instance, based in myth, based in some idealization, some abstraction.” p.81

“We comprehend the future in terms of what we understand today. This is the basis of the origin of these myths. This is really important to understand. When we start talking about what cannot be known we lose our place or we experience only confusion. We are lost in a swirl of chaos. It’s chaos that, in fact, characterizes all reality.We project our thoughts, our ideas, our beliefs, our features onto the chaos. This is how we understand the chaos. We look at the chaos and we see ourselves. In seeing ourselves in the chaos, we comprehend the chaos, but it’s a myth.” p.82

I liked this because I tell stories, speak in metaphor, sound, images. I love the idea of the chaos. I don’t love chaos, but instead the *concept* of an existent chaos that is beyond my brain’s organisational comprehension. Read more

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

A long and winding road

A conversation is something I relish, not chit-chat, not pleasantries, but a real conversation. I began my journey on this road slowly, because I read slowly, and actually I hear voices when I read – so a conversational book is completely perfect. My post about it is going to be notes, just because. The quotes below are things that struck me. When I was younger I used to buy two copies of books and sometimes cut out fantastic quotes. I remember both the top of p.105 of Sartre’s Being and nothingness, and p.84 of Great Expectations. That probably tells you something about me.

I found out about this book club about We make the road by walking  by Myles Horton and Paulo Friere in a very round-a-bout way and decided to have a read and join in. I purposefully did not read any posts before drafting this one. Bryan Alexander is the man at the centre of the book club, and you can read his first post about it. I didn’t want spoilers as I haven’t read the book before. Saying that, after I wrote this, I then looked at half a dozen posts and thought how lovely it was that people have all sorts of insights. I have notes and resonances, and glimpses. I will have more time to write after next week, and then may develop some of the themes and will certainly comment on other’s writing, if belatedly. Time is relative and flexible, I hope. Here we go: Read more

Jumping in

(2 min read on beginnings, transitions, and silence) This week was the first week of the term in many places across the UK, for my university, my local primary school, my children’s schools and colleges, and no matter how many times I’ve done it, the beginning reminds me of holding your nose and jumping into the water. Sometimes it’s beautifully warm, sometimes shockingly cold, then there’s the first time you jump off the side of a boat or a pontoon into the sea and realise it’s salty. You don’t know what it will be like until you’re in it.

(Image CC BY-NC-ND by Elvis Kennedy)

I knew what the summer was like. I developed a routine of study, writing, reflection, and stillness. Yes, my routine included slowing down to silence. In fact I found balance so that several times in the day I could put my finger on just the thought I wanted, like having a clearly tuned radio. Now I jumped into the water and am swimming in the stream of the new semester. It is refreshing, there are great people, but there are new things to balance – a current to navigate. I wonder if there is a secret to managing change and maintaining the balance and stillness.

Today is Saturday, and although it is grey and slightly drizzly, I can still taste the summer. There are raspberries in the garden to pick and the magnolia and the rose are still blossoming. If I let myself, I can feel that stillness, but today it took time to find it. I had to physically lie still and then let the mental static go before I could see through the noise. The noise isn’t bad. It isn’t actually noise at all. It is all the important things – every week has challenges…

I had a special sort of day last week where the shower door fell off, the loo (toilet) broke, and my car clutch went. When I went to start the car it sounded like 22 mid-sized chicks having a squabble in there, along with some metallic grinding noises… Good thing I cycle.487357814_73150e2772_zI did say it was a special sort of day, and there were plenty of things to think about and it made my brain look like this: (Image CC BY-NC-ND by Jason Hunter)

 

Bizarrely though, it was a good day. There will always be everyday things that float into our worlds and minds like puffy clouds in the sky. Maybe it is when we allow them to block the view or rain on the picnic that they become noise.

For me it’s learning balance and developing skills of switching between one task and the next. Blowing away the clouds that shouldn’t be in the front row of the theatre of my mind, and allowing the spotlight to shine where it should.

Slowing down to stillness? Yes.

It is not about how long it takes, but about always remembering that it is an ongoing process, and it is only when I forget to listen and push back the distractions that the noise clouds my vision. Here’s to focus and finding the groove.

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Image CC BY-NC-ND by Josh N

Learning in Public: Part 3

This is a critical post about performing. I take you inside my mind to illustrate the good and the challenges of performance. Going from the practice room to the public platform is something that all musicians do. In school, at university, or with a teacher this is something that is trained into you and facilitated. There is performance class, there are opportunities to ‘air’ the music first, but what happens when you leave that environment and are on your own? Do you keep it going? Do you still push yourself? Few graduating musicians are likely to play the same concerti they prepared for their final recitals as recital material and certainly not as regular ‘gig’ material. And what of the learning opportunities? When you leave your teacher’s studio, there are no more regular performance classes, and depending on what you do there may not be any peers to play for….unless you create the opportunities. This is the story of the opportunity I created, my thought processes, and the results. I’m learning in public. (Featured image CC-BY-NC by C Steele) Read more

Looking back and moving forward

Last week I held the last of three sessions for the Connected Classes project. They wove themselves into one of my university modules and became the content. The students in my class were studying one-to-one teaching in music, and they all had taught a student of their own throughout this term. Our usual ending sessions had to do with looking at the wider picture, troubleshooting, and reflecting on the experiences over the term and and so we used (and expanded) those ideas to engage with them as part of our #cclasses sessions.

We had one of the librarians visit us and watch what was going on. She wanted to see me teach, but I told her this would be like no other session she had ever seen, I probably wouldn’t even seem like the teacher! I invited her to bring her headphones and join in. She did listen, but didn’t tweet – instead she made notes, and I asked her permission to share some of her notes with you. So here you have an observer’s account of what went on… Read more

Respectfully yours… from the parents

Last week we heard from the parents in our #IVTchat and it was certainly interesting. I’m not going to soliloquise about it here. The good thing was that it made us think and we had a full discussion afterwards. I sometimes feel my head spin as I could (and did) contribute as teacher, parent, and learner. All I will say here is that life is a complicated cocktail, and with the right ingredients it can be completely magic. Just being aware that there is always more to the picture than we can see is a first step – and understanding that the impact of a teacher can be so very valuable – either to instigate and then reinforce the positive support from home, or to be a source of support where there is less to be found outside the lesson. There was so much to think about! It made us reflect on our own experience and perhaps look at the wider picture of lessons in a slightly different way. Read more

What’s in #YourJar ?

It’s a blog game

called #YourJar

 

This is a blog challenge for everyone to join in with- whether you are a learner or teacher (and that covers pretty much everyone!) this one is for you. Chrissi Nerantzi proposed the idea as an in-person activity for the 2016 UK National Teaching Fellow’s Symposium. It worked well in person, and it will work well online too. Here’s the challenge:

Everyone gathers three things to put in a real or figurative jam jar. This is #YourJar and the things in it represent some aspect of your learning or teaching. (If you were in a conference setting, everyone would put their jars on a table, labelled with names on the bottom, and people would select a jar that looked interesting and then seek out the person to find out the story behind the objects.) For this blog topic game everyone can post a photo of the jar, or of three things in a glass if you have no jar – and then you describe them. Explain and say why you have chosen those things? You can be as intuitive or erudite as you like.

Read more