Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A new year

We are starting our new series of workshops today with our third QEP cohort!!  Seems as if we are rushing ahead; the future is ever upon us.  If the present exists, it is made up mostly of our anticipation of what we expect to happen to us next.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reflective workshop 3/16/11

Summary thoughts about reflective writing: this occurs on different levels.  Three levels that were revealed by our discussion are the following:

1) Blogging by students and teacher in somewhat of an informal way about the ongoing course content.  This could be stimulated by occasional discussion questions or topics posted by the teacher.

2) As a QEP ideal, each assignment could be designed to address/include each of the five literacies, as defined by QEP.  With "Reflective Practices" being the fifth of the five listed literacies, each assignment could have as a codicil a first-person, brief, reflective direction for the student to say what the experience of doing this assignment has been like for her/him.

3) Similar to #1 above, blogging can be a more structured and directed procedure with the class completing specific reviews of text chapters, peer review, or other designated projects.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Post-Workshop Thoughts about Critical Thinking

Following our "first" workshops about Critical Thinking this week, Sept. 15 and 16, we are posting "what we now know" about the topic, or what we have personally developed as a workable theory about Critical Thinking. Of course, the primary focus will be to apply these thoughts to ASU student learning in a clear and usable way. I tend to think and organize visually, so I created the following chart. At first, the chart was meant to simply accommodate a variety of mental states--as many as I could imagine, as well as whatever came up in the workshop discussion, with an eye toward organizing from basic-to-most-complex, shallow-to-deep, low-to-high, etc.

"Critical Thinking," as we applied it to one mental function after another, for me, has lent itself into this particular form.  In my chart below, I am trying to demonstrate how we can associate Critical Thinking with different mental experiences and learning tasks and, at the same time, give a sense of a student's educational journey from simpler to more complex achievements.

As you see, this chart begins in the upper left with "pre-conscious"states of mind, then shifts to a focused, attentive-awake state of mind in the upper right, and is divided into three or four levels whose learning activities become more complex with each (forward) level downward.

What struck me most after creating this chart was that each block on the right end of each level shows the person accomplishing, by way of making CONNECTIONS, a distinctly different, more sophisticated task.  After listening to Ravi Malik describe a student's journey through his Botany class, I saw in my levels, first, a solitary focus given to a single subject; then, in the second level, the student learns and follows different processes to demonstrate mastery, and, last, in the third level, the student uses an emotional connection with her/his personal quest to, ultimately, find one's place in larger society.

In other words, I am returning to our basic tenet of Connectivism -- we will improve student learning by helping them connect to "information networks."  In this case, I am thinking of separate sources of knowledge, but I am also thinking of the students making connections between what they are learning in one class and what they already know and/or with what they are learning in another class.  This focus also parallels the original QEP directive regarding "critical thinking": "CONNECTING IDEAS AND INFORMATION ACROSS DISCIPLINES AND SYNTHESIZING THOSE IDEAS IN WRITING."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Read this blog

As I hope many in our QEP group have been doing lately, I have been reading some education/writing/connectivity blogs.

By far, the best that I have read is titled "Helicopter Lessons," Mark Pesce's June 14 blog on childhood development and "hyper-connectivity"--http://blog.futurestreetconsulting.com/?p=372

His two or three blogs leading up to this one are also top-notch, but in this blog he brings his thoughts more to bear on education.

Pesce's site is called The Human Network, and it has proven to be a rich source of ideas for our explorations of connectivity and networking. Please, everyone, check it out!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I was reading a blog by Stephen Downes this morning that includes a perspective that I feel has great bearing on what we are trying to do with our QEP design. Downes is an early proponent of Connectivism, with George Siemens.

In his article "The Future of Online Learning, Ten Years Out" (2008), Downes says that two of the most transformative factors for our students will be the two terms in my title: flow and syndication. "Syndication" we all know from our exploration through Google Reader and its use of RSS feed, which Downes identifies as Rich Site Summary--the aggregate tool that collects site changes at our whim and loads us with probably more sources to look at than we can handle.

His term "flow" signifies a type of information gathering and learning that is purely 21st century and that is unique to our use of the RSS feed, our cable channels, our social networking, our iphones and ipads, and however else we input data . That is, we have "suddenly" all adjusted to picking and choosing what we want to learn about, and what we want to learn more about, by working an information flow or stream, or multiple streams.

As we've said in QEP, students are already there, too. BUT not in their classes! What made me sit up and take notice of Downes' comment is the realization that this (flow and syndication) is where we should be starting with our students! We should be taking them to the proverbial stream and dunking them in during their first week or two of class--"Go forth and find knowledge, record it, and then share it, and profit from what your neighbor shares!" If the first experience is exhilarating enough, then QEP teachers and students both will want to repeat this immersion regularly and often!

Yes, these forays into the unknown probably will be buttressed by textbook lectures, quizzes, PowerPoints, essays--our 19th and 20 century academic paraphernalia that we haven't discarded yet. But it's in the in-between class time when QEP exists and when these new practices will take root . . . if they are scheduled, collaboratively carried out, and carefully nurtured. Our students' evolution depends on it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

First post

Welcome! This blog is my professional space for discussing the teaching of writing and various topics that arise through my work as Coordinator of a Quality Enhancement Plan [QEP] at Albany State University in Albany, GA.

Presently, our main point of discussion is the learning theory of Connectivism, as written about by George Siemens in his Dec. 2004 article Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Here at Albany State, I and my fellow Coordinator Keith Hamon have been directed to construct a Writing Across the Curriculum program that uses student writing in an online environment to supplement classroom work. We work with about 10 faculty each year--this is our second year--to help infuse into their syllabi significant writing opportunities that support what the students are receiving in class.