Thursday, August 27, 2015

How Do You Think About Teaching?

Enjoyed this piece today in the Chronicle of Higher Education "These Videos Could Change How You Think About Teaching" - I'm a fan of  Mike Wesch  @mwesch , and especially appreciate his attitude about teaching. I had the privilege of hearing him speak at an Educause conference years ago. In person and online he comes across as genuinely authentic, and I'm sure his students sense that. 
I'm also glad to hear of his new site, My Teaching Notebook. The videos below and more can be found there. "He is working on more short videos – they're essentially visual op-eds – to post, all of them about his philosophy that college teaching should focus on transforming the learner." 
That last part, "college teaching should focus on transforming the learner," that is what resonates with me, that's what I believe.  

I'm a big fan of risk taking and failing, this one is my favorite so far:

Lastly, as an academic librarian I teach short one-shot library research classes (typically 45-60min), and as an adjunct I teach fully online courses. It can be challenging to connect with and "transform learners" in short teaching sessions or in fully online courses. I work hard at this in my teaching and have seen pretty good results so far. I hope to break new ground this year by reminding myself of the philosophy of Mr. Wesch.  
As always, comments are welcome.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Learning in Virtual Worlds -- #Minecraft #DigitalLiteracy

Years ago I served as a librarian and then as an adjunct instructor for graduate education courses taught in a virtual world, Second Life (SL). After teaching for a while, I took a National Library of Medicine grant funded position as a Consumer Health Librarian in SL. Both were remarkable experiences. the learning that took place for me in that virtual world was truly transformative.
However, with all SL had to offer, there were problems and challenges that, in the end, proved too difficult and costly for many colleges, universities and schools to continue to use SL for teaching. Many educators moved on to other virtual worlds but, in my opinion, nothing came close to what SL offered...until Minecraft. (Yes, Minecraft is very different from a real life like virtual world but it's the same type of open system that allows you to create whatever you can imagine.)

If you know nothing about Minecraft for education, this entertaining video can get you up to speed in five minutes. And, of course, there's the Minecraft wikipedia page, which includes excellent references. For those wondering about Minecraft research, here are Google Scholar results.

I've been working on an upcoming digital literacy presentation and have been researching ways we can develop digital literacy skills through inquiry, play and exploration. I agree with @EricStoller in this Inside Higher Ed article regarding our digital literacy development in higher education " seems that technology competency, digital literacy, social media fluency, online engagement, etc. are still areas that need some structured/intentional work."

In this post I want to showcase an excellent example (albeit quite advanced) of learning, and developing digital and traditional information literacy skills around a project using Minecraft. A short article, found through twitter, titled Students build Gallipoli in Minecraft, includes comments from the teacher and a few of the dozens of Auckland teenagers who spent thousands of hours recreating an awesome virtual version of 1915 Gallipoli. It also features a quality silent video of the student work.

I went hunting for a bit more about the project and found two of the short videos below, which include student narration, on this page.

The learning and engagement with history, technology, problem solving, and the research process itself that took place during this project is clearly evident.

Watch: The making of Gallipoli in Minecraft:

Description: Watch how students used the sketches from Percival Fenwick’s diary as a reference for the 'Recreating Gallipoli in Minecraft' build. 

Decription: Students from Alfriston College re-enacting the tragic events that Anzac troops had to experience on the Gallipoli peninsula from May 5th to May 7th 1915.

A couple of years ago I downloaded Minecraft and began playing. I mostly made a huge mess, it was fun and very reminiscent of my early days in SL. Like SL, I could create whatever I wanted, I simply had to learn how. There was a familiar feeling of empowerment that I often experience when exploring a powerful new digital tool that allows me to create and learn. I could take my time solving problems, make a huge mess and it wouldn't matter. I could make connections, collaborate with others, solve larger problems, etc., all while fully engaged and continually #learning.
Being overly committed I decided that, until time allowed, I would follow the development of Minecraft in education on Youtube. A Youtube search of Minecraft returns almost 60 million results, it's really quite a phenomenon.

Teaching and learning with online games and virtual worlds has been taking place for many years. It seems to be more popular than ever in K-12 (partly due to Minecraft and people like Jane McGonigal and others who understand the engagement and learning potential), I've been surprised that there hasn't been greater adoption in higher education. I wonder how students who learn about history, for instance, in such an active constructivist learning way, will fare in the more traditional "sage on the stage" type of lecture classroom.

I didn't fare well in traditional classrooms, I was painfully bored and could not remain focused no matter how hard I tried. I was also intensely curious and remember desperately wanting to learn. I would have loved to have had opportunities to learn in similar ways as the Alfriston College students. I'm thankful I can continue lifelong informal learning, and developing my digital literacy skills using many readily available technologies.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Thoughts About Educating for Responsible and Effective Social Media Use

My thoughts in the Google+ box below are on the New York Times piece about ThinkUp, a service that helps a person monitor his or her Facebook or Twitter account. Click the link under the image to read the article.

After my knee jerk reaction (as an educator, I feel pretty strongly that education is the answer to many of our problems), I've been reconsidering.  I suppose the founders of ThinkUp could make the argument that they are educating via their service as well.  And to be fair, the company does provide services (additional analytics) beyond helping people "act like less of a jerk online."

Still, my thoughts are that unless someone just doesn't want to think for themselves, and is unable to learn about the many free tools that are available to provide analytics for them in their use of twitter and facebook, most can manage without a service like this.

Perhaps I'm thinking too narrowly, I'd be interested in hearing thoughts from others on this topic. Feel free to comment.

(Full disclosure: I am beginning my fourth year as an adjunct instructor for master's level students on professional Identity management.)