Education

Education

#learnmoodle Reflections

When we learn something new, it is useful to spend some time thinking about our experiences and analysing our progress.

About half way through the first week of the Teaching with Moodle course, we are being encouraged to reflect on our learning.

Being an old guard geek, most of the stuff we are learning are things that I’ve already picked up, or probably would have picked up pretty quickly just by playing with Moodle. It is fairly easy to use. What is more interesting to me are the discussions about how it is, or can be, used.

I now have a better idea about how to organize topics for a class. I’ve also been more directed in playing with it, learning more about blocks, enrollment and tracking completion of course tasks.

This last part has brought about one of the more interesting discussions. Should you set up Forums so that they automatically complete a section of the course based on what the student has posted, or do you leave a manual completion check box for the student to check off? How does this relate to badges, and how important are badges and gamification? What other ways can you encourage participation in the Moodle?

These are issues I spend a lot of time thinking about in terms of social media, how to encourage participation, badges and gamification.

This leads to some other interesting discussions, such as the role of lurkers in a class, or in social media. As one possible longer term todo, it seems like a literature review of the use of badges and gamification in education is called for. I may tackle that when I have more time.

Another interesting discussion has been about the age of students in Moodle. Do younger students, digital natives, find it easier to use a Moodle? How does this relate to ideas of education around Constructivism, Constructionism, Connectivism, and other learning theories?

It has also brought up an interest in exploring the conditional activities in Moodle.

Hopefully, I’ll spend more time reflecting on this later, when I’m not so busy and tired. I look forward to reading some of the other learners experiences.

From MOOCs to Badges

With the snow and cold, I decided to take it fairly easy this weekend, resting and reading. Mostly what I’ve been reading has been material from an EdX MOOC about Walt Whitman and a Moodle course about Teaching with Moodle.

Interspersed with this has been Dadaist films on OpenCulture and A look inside Charlie Hebdo. I’ve been having some additional discussions about DeanSpace which I plan on returning to later.

For this evening, however, there are a few things that caught my attention from the Moodle course. The Moodle uses Badges as part of the system; particularly Mozilla OpenBadges>. I earned my first badge in the course which I’ve placed in my Open Badges Backpack. So, one of my todos is to learn more about Mozilla’s Badges and Backpack.

One of the first issues I ran into was that the badge I received from Moodle was for my work email address and the backpack was set up for my private email address. In exploring this, I managed to get my work email address added and come across Mozilla’s Persona.

Each of these are things that I need to explore in more depth.

One Favorite Poem

I'm taking a HarvardX MOOC course on the poetry of Walt Whitman. Getting going, we have been asked to introduce ourselves. As part of the introduction we've been asked to list our favorite poem. There is no way I can narrow it down to one or two poems, so here is what I wrote:

Hi. My name is Aldon and I’m from Connecticut. I’m taking this class for a few different reasons. One is simply that I’m interested in always learning new things. I’m interested in how learning takes place online. And, I’m interested in Poetry, in 19th century America and Walt Whitman.

In terms of favorite poems, I’m going to break the rules, because I just can’t narrow things down to a few. Growing up in New England, I was exposed to Robert Frost early on and he was one of my earliest favorite poets. Stopping by Woods… Two Roads Diverged… In fifth grade, I had to memorize a poem, and it was John Masefield’s Sea Fever, which also remains a favorite of mine today. e.e. cummings was another poet I liked early on. domenic has a doll… anyone lived in a pretty how town….

It was probably in High School that I first encountered William Carlos Williams and So Much Depends Upon and The Great Figure became favorites. Later I wandered into the poetry of H.D. and many of her poems became favorites, such as Sea Rose.

When I studied the bagpipes, I immersed myself in Scottish culture and developed a love for the works of Robert Burns. My Heart’s in the Highlands… My Love is like a Red Red Rose… To a Louse …

I spent a bit of time reading Richard Brautigan in high school, but don’t remember many of them. The Winos on Potrero Hill comes to mind.

In college, I had the opportunity to hear some great poets. Nikki Giovanni, Ego Tripping remains a favorite. I can’t remember if Maya Angelou spoke at my college, but Still I Rise became a favorite poem of mine. We also had Denise Levertov speak. She read, A Tree Telling of Orpheus. It was the most magical experience I ever had listening to poetry, and many of her poems have become favorites.

The flip side of this was hearing Allen Ginsberg read Howl. I had read it many times and held it in deep reverence. In my mind it sounded ponderous as if it should be read by James Earl Jones. Ginsberg sounded nothing like James Earl Jones.

After college I binged on Keats and Blake. Yeats became a favorite, especially Lake Isle of Innisfree. I read a bit of T.S. Eliot in an adult Christian Education class in New York City, and still come back to the Four Quartets and The Wasteland.

Many of these poets became what I read to my children when they were young, along with Wordsworth’s Daffodils, and Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.

These days, I watch videos of poets reading. I like Sarah Kay’s If I Should Have a Daughter. I like Billy Collins Forgetgfulness and Richard Blanco’s One Today.

If I spent more time, other important poems would come to me as well, but I’ve already gone well beyond the one favorite poem.

All the Time in the World

Recently, people have shared some links on Facebook that combined with some other links make an interesting story. I’m sharing these links, without comment.

The Disease of Being Busy.
A ton of people didn’t vote because they couldn’t get time off from work
Connecticut voters defeat early voting measure
Gathering Time - Haleys Comet
Lowen And Navarro's All The Time in the World

Back to School Night: Common Core, Ghosts and Seizing the Day

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig talks about the ghosts from his past as he taught rhetoric and quality before his nervous breakdown. In Dead Poet’s Society, the character of John Keating played by Robin Williams, invoked the ghosts of former students, urging his students to “seize the day”.

Last night, I walked the halls of Amity Middle School in Bethany, accompanied by these ghosts and others. My wife was a student at this school over three decades ago. The mother of one of my daughter’s classmates was one of my wife’s classmate those many years ago. Did they imagine, back then, that their children would be classmates, carry small devices like the communicators from Star Trek and have access to machines that could print out three dimensional objects? What were their dreams, what were the dreams their teachers and parents had for them back when they walked these halls.

Back to School night started similar to the school day. The principal’s voice crackled over the loudspeakers. We all stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, bringing recollections of the ghosts of those who fought for our freedom. There was a moment of silence, thirteen years after 9/11 as we recalled our friends and neighbors who died in that attack.

Then, it was off to meet the different teachers. There were a few themes that emerged, the total point system was repeated over and over again. There were frequent mentions of the Common Core, and at least to me, it seemed, there was too little focus on the actual curriculum and acknowledgement of the ghosts.

The first class I sent to was World Geography and Culture. There was a good syllabus presented and a discussion about the focus on argument and debate. Fiona, like her parents, loves debate and I’m excited for this class. I did wonder about how much the students will be encouraged to question the assumptions they have about culture based on the culture they’ve grown up in.

The second class was Spanish. I believe both Fiona’s mother and uncle had Mrs. Young for world language classes when they were students.

This was followed by English. I am sure that this will be a fine class and that the teacher will inspire the students, but I have concerns. The teacher will be managing the class using a “behavior management plan” based on corporate structure. I’ve already written to the teacher expressing concern. I am not convinced that CEOs are the best role models for proper behavior. Nor do I believe that they are the best exemplars of the use of the English language.

She spoke about finding examples of good writing to emulate, of “mentor texts”, and my mind went to e.e.cummings, Jack Kerouac and James Joyce. Somehow I suspect that may not be the sort of texts they’ll focus on. She mentioned that because of the Common Core, the readings would be based more on the skills being taught than on the titles of famous books. I have mixed feelings about this. Skills are important, but so is being literate in certain classics. I hope Fiona will end up reading Lord of the Flies, The Pearl, A Separate Peace, and other great books that illustrate something more important about language than just skills.

The essay, 'Understanding Poetry,' by Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D. comes to mind:

If the poem's score for perfection is plotted on the horizontal of a graph and its importance is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the poem yields the measure of its greatness.

For those who miss the reference, this is a section of the text book that Mr. Keating in Dead Poet’s Society urges his students to rip out.

That said, I remain hopeful for the class and the work they will do. Perhaps the students can form a union to deal with the corporate structure. Perhaps some can even participate in the National Novel Writing Month Young Writers Program. I think everyone should try to write their first novel by the time they complete middle school.

There was a nod to integrated curricula connecting the English class with the social studies class. I was glad to hear that. I’m a big fan of integrated curricula.

The next class was science. The teacher highlighted the classroom and the lab equipment. My daughter wrote that she thought I would like the science teacher, and I do. They will be studying lab safety, metrics, the scientific method, earth movements, meteorology and astronomy. I wondered if AMSB had a weather station connected to Weather Underground. It doesn’t appear as if they do. I figure I’ll have to dig out my ten inch Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope soon. I wonder how much they will get into issues of climate change or the effect of fracking on earth movements. I also wonder to what extent the science curriculum can be connected to the social studies curriculum.

The following class was tech. The teacher recognized me because of my Google Glass and we talked about 3D printing. My daughter is pretty excited about this class as well. As the teacher lauded the school district. We do have a great school district with wonderful facilities, great teachers, all contributing to the success of the students. Yet I remember hearing former New York City school Chancellor Joel Klein talking about equality in education. He spoke about how if the school system is working properly parents should be happy with whatever school their children end up at knowing that they all have the same level of excellence. I thought about students at under performing schools in Connecticut and remembered a great quote attributed to Virginia Woolf, “There is only one thing wrong with privilege, it’s that not everyone has it.”

For the final period, my daughter wrote Phys-Ed/Choir and listed the teachers and rooms for each. I suspect that Fiona, like me, prefers choir over physical education, so I went to the choir room. No one else showed up. Since we were supposed to be following the A schedule, I should have gone to physical education. My daughter had made a similar mistake at one point, missing technology and going to choir instead. Yet it provided one of the best chances to spend time talking with a teacher.

We talked about folk music festivals, expanding musical horizons, and the role of the arts in STEM oriented systems. My middle daughter, with her masters in community arts education always points out that it really should be STEAM, with the A standing for Arts. Without the creativity of the arts, the inventions of STEM projects are too likely to be lifeless and soulless.

There wasn’t any discussion of integrated curricula here, but it would be great if choir expanded the musical horizons of the students to include cultures being studied in social studies.

Like the students, when the classes were over, the parents found time to speak with their friends before heading home. As I drove home, I thought about the Common Core, various ghosts, and seizing the day.

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