Web-Conference

The web-conference with my learning partner Tim was an enlightening experience.  In his blog Tim posted a number of thought provoking ideas and in our discussion we explored several of these, which helped me to a better understanding of the themes of his blog.  Our discussion was not highly structured but rather ranged from issue to connected issue, as befits mature adult learners – we followed our interest.  I enjoyed how we were able to link many of the elements from other of the course assignments into this discussion.

As an example, a video Tim posted in his blog, a lecture by Willie Poh on Learning vs Education raised the issue that education currently is largely structured to preserve the status quo.  When first I saw this quote within another assignment my reaction was that this was somewhat subversive – it didn’t ring true to me.  In reflection I started to see there is truth in this although I feel, as with many ideas, it is nuanced.  In my opinion the status quo is most certainly maintained and not always to positive effect when the learning is teacher centered.  An important, and necessary given our rapidly changing world, point made later in this piece is to “get out of the way, so they can figure things out for themselves”.  That is what a good instructor, as a facilitator of learning, should do.

What was one thing I learned?  In my earlier learning styles paper I did not address transformational learning as a part of the constructivist perspective and this exercise helped me to a greater understanding.  Tim makes the case for the need to develop the ethical mind as a part of lifelong learning.  How is this achieved?  It relates to another question posed within his blog – is the educator’s role to inform or to transform?  Helping to develop the ethical mind is transformational and to do so in part we must get away from being teacher centered.  You cannot instruct someone to think ethically as this rests clearly in the affective domain – learners must claim these beliefs – it must become a part of who they are!  Educators can model this but may first need to transform their own way of being, towards being learner centered facilitators so learners can make discoveries for themselves.  Such transformation is a great challenge to educators and learners as both will need to think critically and reflect on their own beliefs, behaviours and ways of relating to the world around them.

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New Insights and Trends

New Insights

This exercise has lead to at least a few mini aha moments.  My initial consideration of diversity lead me to pursuing diversity in the traditional (my) sense, most especially the differences between male and female or those of different ethnic or religious backgrounds.  One avenue of research I followed out of interest was that of the use of humour in the classroom, in particular the impact of humour in a diverse room.  I come from a workplace culture that has historically been quite homogenous (white, male, rough edged) and because of that, classroom humour no doubt trended to what many would consider to be inappropriate or even offensive.  Humour is a terrific tool for connecting with students, but to be most effective needs to be constructive, engaging and relevant for the entire classroom.  Humour in the classroom is not about the instructor or facilitator performing as a stand-up comedian, nor just the telling of jokes or funny stories – it is about establishing a positive, engaging and, when appropriate, fun environment.

Further exploration of Howard Gardner’s work on multiple intelligences expanded my understanding of another level of diversity, in that “since human beings have their own unique configuration of intelligences, we should take that into account when teaching, mentoring or nurturing” (Howard Gardner FAQ March 2013).  This theory of multiple intelligences would seem to have obvious cross-over to learning styles, but of course style is a preference and does not guarantee an intellectual capacity.  Awareness of these multiple intelligences as well as different learning styles strongly supports the need for a varied delivery of key content to engage a diverse group of learners.  While the VAK/VARK model of learning styles (visual, auditory, reading-writing, kinesthetic) is a widely accepted model, there is not universal acceptance of the validity of learning style assessments.  What does seem to be widely accepted though, is that we process information using all of our senses and thus a diversity of instructional method and sensory stimulation will be more effective.

Trends

As mentioned above, the learners in my field historically were not the most diverse group in a traditional sense.  That being said they were no doubt very diverse in as far as their intellectual strengths and capacities and in their preferred learning styles.  The Coast Guard classroom is now also a much more visibly diverse place with more women, visible minorities and of course learners that keep getting younger (it can’t be that instructors are getting older).

Younger learners are also much more attuned to modern communications technology, including the various social media.  One thing this modern media affords is that people (learners) can and do find on their own content, be it for learning or entertainment, that is immediately engaging for them.  And if it’s not engaging or does not speak to them they will simply switch it off or connect to the next link until they do find a media and message that resonates with them.  To paraphrase an old expression, they may not know instruction but they know what they like!  And what they don’t like!  One of my children, in middle school, described to her younger brother a teacher that he should avoid if possible.  Her harshest criticism; “She’s boring, she reads to the class from the text book”!  If we bore or do not engage and challenge our students we are wasting their time.

What can I take from this in my environment?  A greater appreciation for the diversity of learners, knowing that diversity is more than skin deep.  I need to review and refresh my instructional strategies.  Am I addressing the varied cognitive strengths in my classrooms?  Are the materials and strategies stimulating and engaging to a variety of senses on a variety of levels?  Is the humour that I use appropriate and relevant?  Because of this exercise I joined Facebook for the first time, and this is my first attempt at blogging.  I will look at greater incorporation of these and related media as a part of and in support of my training.  The use of these media in the Coast Guard at sea environment is not without challenge as access, connectivity, bandwidth and perhaps policy all can be expected to rear their heads.

Student Engagement

I came across a paper that I feel fits well with the theory of multiple intelligences and also captures the need to accommodate diverse learning styles.  This paper is titled Creating Student Engagement? HMM: Teaching and learning with Humor, Music and Movement.  It discusses strategies of how we might enhance the student experience, by strengthening the connectedness of classroom particpants and engaging them more thoroughly in the learning experience.

It’s about communication, over.

Instruction and much of what is important in life is about communicating effectively with others.  In search and rescue training we talk about the importance of closed loop communication.  As with many other important life lessons, “The Family Guy” provides a fine example.

Another thought regarding communication; if we accept that people have multiple intelligences or different cognitive strengths (e.g. linguistic, logical-mathmatical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic) and possess differing learning styles or preferences (e.g. visual, auditory, kinesthetic) it is only logical that our instructional communications will be more effective when we address them in their own language.

Humour, in the Classroom?

I tend to procrastinate….  I’ve been nibbling at the edges of the Trends and Roles assignment, but do need to get at it.  My learning partner Tim suggested that for a topic, we pick diversity, and more specifically Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. My initial forays into the on-line literature show that the subject is broad and my challenge is to find research that resonates with me.  Like most other net based activities for me, this becomes a surfing expedition!

I came across an interesting piece in a recent Faculty Focus newsletter that references to a review of Four decades of research of humor in educational settings.  This review is an excellent but lengthy read so for a quick overview of highlights I’d suggest scrolling to the final sections, Advice for Educators and Conclusion.

I’m a big believer in the benefit of levity in learning and this does resonate with me, but is there a humour trend?  Is humour increasing in the classroom or are we becoming humourless?  Does this fit within the diversity theme?  How do more culturally diverse groups of learners value or respond to humour in the classroom?  What pitfalls await the humour misstep?

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First Post

I have not been a blogger and to this point I would have had a difficult time answering the question “what is a blog?”.  That being said I have on rare occasion followed other’s blogs and as I begin to learn about blogging and prepare for my first post I begin to see the potential utility of the blog.    I intend to play with this and will see where it goes – I can always move it to the trash!

The principle reason for my foray into blogging is that this a required assignment for the PIDP 3100, Foundations of Adult Education.  The secondary, and hopefully more important outcome, is that this should be a very interesting and useful learning experience.