It is the end of the semester, and what a journey it has been. I haven't blogged in awhile, as I have been working on my digital pedagogy project for this course. Working on this project has been a fantastic experience of blending what I have learned about pedagogy for the way today's students learn, with the selection of digital tools and methods for teaching and also for students to demonstrate their learning. I was able to collaborate with a colleague, Victoria Curtis, to actually develop a semester long integrated studies course for U.S. History and English 11, which focuses on American literature. This project gives a general overview of the course and models the opening unit we will teach. We will teach a modified version of this course beginning in January, with full implementation next Fall. We have also begun plans for the second semester of this course, which will be an American Teenager project. All of this is thought-provoking, authentic, and very exciting. Take a look at my project, which I have put into a Blendspace: Just press Play and you can walk through each element.
I love what Calvin says in the second box: "Once you become informed, you start seeing complexities and shades of gray." This reminded me of what I read about situated learning and legitimate peripheral participation. When we are situated in authentic learning environments, interacting with learners who are both newcomers and old timers in the learning environment, we do become aware of complexities and shades of gray. Those complexities and shades of gray are what provide the richness of our learning and provide real-world context and application for our learning. Of course, most of us don't run from that knowledge and see it as "paralyzing" the way Calvin does, but his dramatics never fail to make me laugh ;)
Quote: "Knowing is inherent in the growth and transformation of identities, and it is located in relations among practitioners, their practice, the artifacts of the practice, and social organizations and political economy of communities of practice." This quote is taken from the conclusion of our assigned reading, and for me it sums the reading up well, as any good conclusion should do. As each individual grows, changes, knowing - learning is inherent, or a given. As we grow and change as individuals, we will learn and know. But it doesn't happen just inside the individual autonomously. The learning and knowing occurs as a result of the interactions between the individual and others in the various communities of practice in which the individual participates.
Question: This reading brought up many questions for me. but an important one is: how can I create that community of practice for the learners I work with? Thanks to this course I am finally addressing that question with passion and an emerging "knowing." The community of practice we are participating in as a cohort in EDL630 is providing me with rich interactions that create awareness of all of those complexities and shades of gray I need to be aware of so I can apply it to the communities of practice I help to create for the learners I work with. It is challenging to create a sense of community in the setting where I teach, because I work with independent study high school students. The fact that they are independent study students does not negate the fact that they need a community of practice to learn within. It has been a frustration of mine for a long time, and now I am learning tools to help create that community for my students.
Connection: I connected immediately with the section of the text that discussed a learning curriculum vs. a teaching curriculum. For years it seemed we were entrenched in the practice of developing and engaging in the teaching curriculum as standard practice, as we were held to student performance on standardized tests. I am not proud of that. I am horrified by that, actually. Yes- during those years there were many moments of authentic learning in my classroom, despite the emphasis on testing, but that type of testing really did obstruct more authentic learning at times. Now I am endeavoring to create the learning curriculum that should be standard practice.
Epiphany: Learning and intentional instruction are not (by any means) the same thing. This is both a simple and complex concept. It seems like a no-brainer, but I think many times teachers think, "because I TEACH it, my students will LEARN it," and that is simply not the case. I am learning that too much intentional instruction can actually get in the way of learning. Learners learn by doing, by experiencing- not necessarily by being TAUGHT. Learning is not passive.
As we move away from what the cartoon below depicts, our own learning and that of the learners we work with are endowed with possibility and opportunity much richer than many of us have experienced before. I am, however, experiencing it now, and for that I am grateful.
That about sums it up.
Well, Jeff provided us with an aptly-timed humbling experience over our Thanksgiving break: a close read on Situated Learning.
I consider myself to be a good and experienced reader, and I struggled through this piece more than I have struggled through any reading in a long time. I found myself reading aloud, at times stopping to purposely process each word in a sentence just to put the meaning together. It didn't help that a few times I was trying to read it when my children were awake, and the interruptions threw a hilarious wrench into any kind of meaning I was trying to extract at the time. This is why I usually engage in this kind of work at 4am, when I know they will be quietly sleeping. So then I was reading THIS!! at 4am... coffee did not provide the miracle support I needed at that foggy hour. As tedious and painful as it was (sorry- I'm feeling dramatic after the experience), the experience was a great reminder of how difficult some of what we assign to our students is for them. It acted as a reminder to me as to what kinds of scaffolding and support my students may need.
What made it especially difficult for me is that the evidence supporting claims was tough to identify because the evidence was usually abstract and in the form of deductive reasoning. I have much more experience and a greater comfort level with identifying evidence in the form of concrete examples. My brain likes those. It actually took me forever to figure out that there was any "evidence" because my brain didn't register those abstract deductions as such.
All in all, I valued putting myself through the practice of marking the text and identifying content and purpose because I have my students, grades 9-11, doing this exact thing every week as I work to help them learn critical reading strategies to help them in making meaning from text. I usually dedicate the entire second semester of my English classes to this. Putting myself in the learner mindset in this particular way, by reading a text with this level of density and difficulty, refreshed my sense of empathy for the experience of my students and the types of struggling they potentially encounter. Thanks Jeff, for this crucial reminder. Always keeping it real :)
Now I look forward to reading the reflections of our Collective, as I purposely haven't read any yet, so as not to jade my reading experience.