Tag Archives: cycle of learning

Bloom, Revisited: Towards a Digital Taxonomy

Once you gain support in your school/district for the development and promotion of 21st Century skills in your curriculum, you begin the real work in training the staff.  When you direct the PD, don’t forget to highlight the fact that there exists a spectrum of skills.  Far too often in the rush to share the advantages of 21st Century skills in a student’s development, we leave out the fact that we have effectively carved out a new domain in Bloom’s Taxonomy.  And not all 21st Century skills are created equal!  This new domain for a new age of pedagogy emphasizes the hierarchy of skills needed to be successful in the information economy:

  • Curate – Students need to show facility in navigating a vast array of resources and discerning which are valuable and which are irrelevant to the needs of the moment.
  • Share – Students need to demonstrate judgment in calibrating how much is shared with an audience and by what method.
  • Collaborate – Students need to show they can engage with their peers in a collective effort, and act as both leader and follower as appropriate.
  • Cull – Students refine their thinking by gleaning the best of the collaborative process to produce informed decision-making.
  • Publish – Students express themselves confidently and creatively in a manner that shows full participation in the cycle of learning.
  • Reflect – Students can effectively and thoroughly consider the process of learning on a metacognitive level.
How will you best prepare your students for the world they will inherit?
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Cycle of Learning, Part IV: Groupthink? Guess Again!

As I write this, the biggest education event of the weekend – Philadelphia’s #Educon 2.4 – is concluding. The conversations that began this weekend were stimulating and provocative. Overall, I must say that it was an experience that left me hopeful for my profession and the field of education in general – a too-rare feeling these days! Now imagine how I would feel if I attended! You see, I only connected remotely from home through the Twitter feed that was running the whole weekend. I am already making plans to attend next year’s convention on January 25-27, 2013.

In my last post, I stressed the importance of collaboration in the Cycle of Learning. I am a strong advocate of 21st Century Skills and the need for them to have a prominent place in the classroom. Yet, I am also on record as favoring a balanced approach. The idea of throwing out everything good about the educational system and replacing it with “all-collaboration, all-the-time” just doesn’t strike me as a good notion.

Enter Susan Cain’s New York Times article on The Rise of the New Groupthink. It spread like wildfire through the convention this morning, which I was attending remotely from my laptop at home in Baltimore. It seemed almost perfectly timed to take the wind out of the sails for the #educon #edchat crowd and the article talks pretty tough about a few things:

SOLITUDE is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in.

But there’s a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They’re extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They’re not joiners by nature. […]

Culturally, we’re often so dazzled by charisma that we overlook the quiet part of the creative process. Consider Apple. In the wake of Steve Jobs’s death, we’ve seen a profusion of myths about the company’s success. Most focus on Mr. Jobs’s supernatural magnetism and tend to ignore the other crucial figure in Apple’s creation: a kindly, introverted engineering wizard, Steve Wozniak, who toiled alone on a beloved invention, the personal computer.

I am still wondering about the presuppositions present in Cain’s thinking. She seems to argue, at least in the first half of the article, that the advocates for 21st Century skills, like myself, are pushing for a revolution in education that replaces the tradition from Dewey to Danielson with a whole new way of thinking. Sure, there are some who would argue for that – I saw many tweets this weekend comparing the conference rooms of SLA to Independence Hall – but I don’t feel that it’s the majority. I believe that the blogs that arrived Saturday night into Sunday afternoon individually reflecting on the convention spoke to the power of collaboration as a crucible for shaping ideas. Revolution isn’t what we are after – rather, it’s evolution! The field of education needs to adapt, not get scrapped and reinvented.

Brainstorming via Twitter and “unconferences” doesn’t breed Groupthink, nor is it an echochamber as some would contend. At least, it won’t as long as we maintain the all-important fourth part of the Cycle of Learning in mind – Integration. Integration is the phase of learning where we use the 21st Century skill of reflection to refine the collaborative process into manageable pieces. As the #educon attendees have commented, getting a whole lot of quality PD in a very small amount of time can be an overwhelming experience. You leave with a headache, but the good kind that makes you think for a long time afterwards. It is during reflection that you come to the individual conclusions that stay with you beyond the learning. You also come to decide what you want to learn more about, which leads to new Discovery, and the Cycle of Learning starts anew.

I like to summarize the Cycle of Learning as a dialectic. Beginning with Discovery, the instructor facilitates the curating of new information to develop a THESIS. After using Expression to share that thesis, the learner engages an audience in the process. As a group focused on Collaboration, the learners practice culling by exposing the thesis to alternate views. These alternate views constitute an ANTITHESIS. Afterwards, the learner needs to find a way to promote Integration. By using the tool of reflection, the learner blends the best elements of the thesis and its antithesis into a SYNTHESIS. This fully vetted and thoroughly studied idea now becomes the basis for new knowledge and further Discovery. A dialectic built on the 21st Century skills of curating, sharing, culling, and reflection – this is the Cycle of Learning as I see it, and it is the post-collaborative reflection which separates this model from all others.

This reflection is important for all learners, whether it is a teacher or administrator seeking PD, or a student processing new material after a inquiry-based group project. As an instructor or supervisor, our job is to direct that reflection – to facilitate and guide it to a place where it will do the most good. This is the proper role of a critical friend. The post-#educon blogs prove to me that we are not in danger of Groupthink. It’s collaboration writ large that demonstrates a truly organic moment in the evolution of our educational system. Now is the moment to capitalize on our learning and engage our collective will into making action plans for the future. The critics are waiting for us to prove them wrong, and the students can’t wait any longer for the important work of proving ourselves right.

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Cycle of Learning, Part III: Beyond Thunderdome

The Marketplace of Ideas

All schools, in the final analysis, are a Thunderdome.  Of course, I mean that metaphorically, although on some of the worst days marauding bands of children and Tina Turner ruthlessly arranging death matches may sound accurate.  No, my view is rather one that makes the classroom a marketplace of ideas, where concepts compete for student attention. To discern between competing ideas is the skill of culling, yet another essential 21st Century skill.  “Two ideas enter – one idea leaves.”

Culling is where a student learns the ability to refine the ideas that have been curated from the learning process.  Collaboration is the arena in which this culling of ideas occurs; where both teachers and students can challenge ideas and be challenged in turn.  Fundamentally, collaboration of this nature is a Darwinian process. Students engaged in group work and inquiry-based project learning share all ideas, and through the facilitation of the instructor, the best adapt and grow stronger.  Weak ideas appropriately die. Strong ideas get tougher.

While this “only the strong survive,” “wheat from chaff,” “men from boys” talk might sound rough, remember that we are talking about the mental concepts and skills that are competing for our students’ attention here.  There is already a lot of competition for that narrow bandwidth of attention as it is – if teachers aren’t willing to roll up their sleeves and throw a couple of elbows to engage the students in the learning process, then we’ve already lost the fight before we begin.  We must be willing to compete for our students’ attention!

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

If we truly want to move beyond the Thunderdome to a place where our students are fully engaged of their own volition, then we need to fully appreciate Marshall McLuhan’s predictions once again.  The man was born 100 years ago yet predicted the Internet long before it happened – so with its rise as the dominant medium of the age, his works bear serious reexamination.

McLuhan’s vision was of a “global village” – that the advent of new technology will serve as prelude to a return of the collaborative society that used to found in tribal communities.  He predicted a social order where communication is both universal and instantaneous.  With the evolution of the internet into not only Web 2.0 sharing but Web 3.0 collaboration, we have finally seen the fulfillment of McLuhan’s vision.

Yet, for all the talk of Prensky’s “digital natives” that has finally gotten some traction and been applied to the Millennial Generation, we seem to have completely overlooked the rise of the post-Millennial generation right behind them.  They’re like Millennials, only more so.  The independence of Millennials has yielded to the groupthink of the new generation, born between 9/11/01 and today.  Much in the way the “Silent Generation” lived in the shadow of the “Greatest Generation” of WWII, this iGeneration (iGens) very often demonstrate a hive mind.  Some of the common social patterns involve VOIP to chat and group gaming via Xbox.  Many iGens read Reddit obsessively, and they gravitate in hordes to Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr-type social media… collaboration of this sort is purely intuitive for them.

As an English teacher I’ve seen it in iGen writing as well.  Their inability to divorce argumentation from mere opinion is reflective of the collaborative aspect of their socialization.  The iGens have been trained very well to accept everyone’s opinion is valid, and so that creeps into their self-expression.  They already know very well how to collaborate – what the role of the educator needs to be in this new landscape is to help train the iGens how to harness the raw power of their collaborative skills to refine their learning and make their ideas even stronger.  Using technology to engage students on their terms is the way to help the iGeneration reach its fullest potential.

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Cycle of Learning, Part II: Servants of Two Masters

One of the great works in the dramatic tradition of Commedia Dell’Arte is Servant of Two Masters (1743) by Carlo Goldoni.  Its comedic zenith occurs when the clever servant, Truffaldino, races around Venice attempting to tend to the needs of both his employers while convincing them he is loyal to each exclusively.  Truffaldino started looking quite foolish – thinking himself twice as clever as he actually was, and contorting himself into all kinds of uncomfortable scenarios all the while trying to satisfy a hungry stomach.

Students in the 21st Century are not too far removed from the slapstick of Truffaldino when you discuss social media with them.  Desiring both the attention of the world and privacy from the same, they desperately try to have it both ways.  I hear innumerable tales of postings online that went awry because the intended audience was not the only recipient of the message.  Too many students have yet to learn proper Expression, the second phase of the Cycle of Learning.

20120116-114254.jpgIn my last post, I identified the need for promoting curating as a 21st Century skill.  After students have developed an understanding of content, then they need to harness the proper means of sharing their understanding.  The Internet is an ideal vehicle for sharing content, yet the pitfalls are numerous, and it is incumbent upon today’s educators to guide students in the maturation of their voice in what is a very public arena.  The major difficulty for honing 21st Century communication skills involves recognizing Web 2.0 as a megaphone, not a confessional.

While there is certainly a place for weaving 20120116-115118.jpga personal narrative into the fabric of cyberspace, far too many students fail to realize that the narrative you weave may live beyond your initial motivation.  Commentary that you believe to the private whisperings of two is actually a drama witnessed vicariously by many.  There is no such thing as volume control in social media sharing, and this is the element that needs to become part of our educational practice.  Tone and audience are both nuanced concepts that need rigorous practice, and if our students are going to be successful participants in the new information economy, then they need training in how to calibrate their narrative voice.

Just like Truffaldino, our students are often hungry – they want respect, attention, and positive reinforcement.  Instead of bemoaning the state of affairs in social media today, let’s create a new pedagogy that harnesses these powerful tools in a way that leaves all of the players onstage smiling at the end!

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Cycle of Learning, Part I: The Age of Discovery

One of my most prized possessions is a compass that my father gave me for my 18th birthday. It was his compass from his time in the Scouts as a young boy and he wanted me to have it as I became an adult so that I would never get “lost.” It was a touching father-son moment and I’ve never forgotten it.

Great educators are a compass for their students, helping to direct them through their “Age of Discovery,” and hopefully to avoid getting lost. For many students today, however, finding their way through a dense sea of information is a challenging prospect. This is why I propose that the Cycle of Learning begins with Discovery and the 21st Century skill of curating. Navigating the oceans of adolescence can be difficult enough without complicating matters from the rising tide of media overload. It never ceases to amaze me how comfortable students seem midst the chaos.

Our students are flooded with information on a daily basis – how will they determine what merits attention and what can be dismissed? The ability to discern valuable from invaluable content is a critical one for the 21st Century. This responsible content consumption is the essence of curating, and it is a fundamental tool needed in the new information economy. Is it the only tool? Of course not! There will always be a place for more traditional practices for the development of content knowledge. Yet a place for this type of learning needs to be found in the classroom, and our pedagogy needs to evolve to match the epistemology of a new Age of Discovery.

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Tradition vs. Innovation: New Year’s [Conflict] Resolution

20111225-204309.jpgHappy New Year! Having just finished with the holidays, tradition has been in the air, and nothing is more traditional in education than the time-honored three R’s – Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic.

But the old idea of the three R’s certainly has taken a beating these days, hasn’t it?

Mary Bart, writing for Faculty Focus, identified what is quickly becoming accepted as “best practice” for a new generation of learners:

Christy Price, EdD, a psychology professor at Dalton State College, became interested in Millennial learners when she noticed a gap between students’ expectation for success and the effort they put forth in the classroom (Price, 2009). Price then conducted a qualitative analysis of narratives provided by more than a hundred Millennial learners to get a more accurate picture of what makes them tick.

In the recent online seminar Five Strategies to Engage Today’s Students, Price shared some of what she’s learned regarding the characteristics of Millennials’ ideal learning environments, their preferences regarding assignments and assessment, and the characteristics of their ideal professor. She then outlined the instructional implications of her findings with these five R’s for engaging Millennial students:

  1. Research-based methods: Research suggests Millennials prefer a variety of active learning methods. When they are not interested in something, their attention quickly shifts elsewhere. Interestingly, many of the components of their ideal learning environment — less lecture, use of multimedia, collaborating with peers — are some of the same techniques research has shown to be effective, Price said.
  2. Relevance: Millennials have grown up being able to Google anything they want to know, therefore they do not typically value information for information’s sake. As a result, the professor’s role is shifting from disseminating information to helping students apply the information. One of the greatest challenges for teachers is to connect course content to the current culture and make learning outcomes and activities relevant, Price said.
  3. Rationale: Unlike Boomers who were raised in a more authoritarian manner in which they more readily accept the chain of command, Millennials were raised in a non-authoritarian manner and are more likely to comply with course policies when teachers provide them with a rationale for specific policies and assignments.
  4. Relaxed: Millennials prefer a less formal learning environment in which they can informally interact with the professor and one another. In interviews with students, the term “laid back” was used repeatedly.
  5. Rapport: Millennials are extremely relational. They are more central to their parents’ lives than previous generations and are used to having the adults in their lives show great interest in them. They appreciate it when professors show that same interest, and they seem to be more willing to pursue learning outcomes when instructors connect with them on a personal level.

Another take on reforming the three R’s can be found here by edublogger Mark Brumley:

Creating is not only at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy, it is a critical skill needed for the advancement of our society. The “Creative Class”, a term used by author Richard Florida in his book The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, is growing and manufacturing jobs are dwindling. We must teach students skills to engage in non-routine cognitive work.

Curating is a skill needed to sift through the mountains of new content created every day. Students need to know how to discover and discern what is truly meaningful and relevant and discard the rest. This includes “crap detection” (Howard Rheingold) but also “gem detection” to determine the truly remarkable content.

A key component of creative class jobs is collaboration. In almost all cases, these types of professions involve working with others and creating and curating within the groups. Of course this means not only collaborating with the people next to you but globally and even virtually.

So the Industrial Revolution gave us the 3 R’s and now the Digital Revolution has given us the 3 C’s. In my next series of posts, I plan to outline the relationship between the traditional methods of pedagogy and the rise of a new model appropriate for the 21st Century.

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