Backward is Forward

Dr. McDaniel teaches history at Rice University, which is just a few miles down the road from where I live in the south suburbs of Houston. This semester he is teaching a survey course in American History (I can see some of you are already falling asleep. Wake up!), but he does not want this to be a traditional survey course. Dr. McDaniel is going to teach this survey course starting in the present and going backwards into the past.

This is not an entirely new concept, as McDaniel points out in a very well reasoned argument about why a survey in history especially benefits from starting at the end. While the idea itself is compelling, it is the methodology of the course he envisions that strikes my imagination.

Dr. McDaniel wants the course to be question driven. Questioning the material and facts is a level of learning that students never achieve simply listening to lectures. It forces students to understand what they are learning and create new avenues of thought based on those new facts.

Students will read and review primary sources and then investigate some aspect of that source, an unfamiliar name or event mentioned in the source, for example. Based on their investigation, the students will then create a list of questions.

In class, the questions and issues the students have generated will be discussed as a group. The class, as a group, decides the top questions they wish to explore further. On the next class day, Dr. McDaniel will give a lecture that addresses the questions the class has identified as the most important.

This backwards, participatory approach not only forces the students to be engaged in their own learning process, it gives them the ability to control the direction of the class. It is mob rule learning at its finest.

As Dr. McDaniel points out, this process will also develop information literacy in his students. He says,

“Focusing my efforts on “historical thinking” will, I hope, better prepare students to critically analyze the history and pseudo-history they will encounter throughout their lives, whether at the movies, on cable news, or in written form.”

Dr. McDaniel has developed a course that teaches students how to navigate and evaluate information they will encounter in the real world, not just memorize facts on a timeline. I hope Dr. McDaniel updates us on the progress of his class over the semester and at its conclusion. His new approach has all the hallmarks of a course in which the students will be engaged and aggressively seeking a new understanding of their world. Bravo, I say, bravo!

–Jane, thanks to my friend Andromeda for sending this my way

Teaching Without Technology

I was going to post this yesterday, but the internet went crazy after President Obama got on Reddit for an AMA and I decided to wait.

I have another post, the last in this series, over at the ITI Books Blog. I am talking about how to take the idea of mob rule into a classroom where little or no technology is available.

My Twitter feed was awash the past few days with school supply shopping, teachers gearing up, librarians preparing, and parents rejoicing. It is a time of educational renewal, when all things are still possible and we still have hope that this year will be The Year of Something Wonderful.

Unfortunately, many of our students will come the first day, admittedly tired, but hopeful to a classroom that neither reflects learning or the real world outside of the classroom.

Stop by and tell us your stories from the trenches.

–Jane, good luck to all teachers and students this year!

Getting Difficult People to Come Along: a crowdsource challenge

Last week, at Computers in Libraries, I facilitated a session in which the participants defined the direction of our 45 minutes together. It was fun for me and, I think, fun for them as well. After some brainstorming, multi-voting, hand-raising, and discussion, the topic that came to the forefront was “Getting Difficult People to Come Along.”

I asked the group of about 120 people, in 11 minutes, to tell me what worked in their organizations when faced with challenging people. The list they came up with is an absolutely fabulous one. Here is the list:

  • pay attention to learning styles~!
  • customize the experience
  • letting people be a part of the process
  • get them to say what is important to them and then empower them to make that change
  • honor the past
  • demonstrate how the new thing solves a problem for them
  • being resistant to change can be good, make them winners, they are the people that can spot problems when the runners are too far forward
  • acknowledge and honor that what people are doing is difficult and there are multiple ways to do everything
  • have personal conversations with staff that are challenges
  • institutional perceptions are not always reflective of the institution – tissue paper example
  • all staff took learning or personality style surveys and classes, then talked about the change and put in the job descriptions that change is happening
  • involving everyone (don’t panic and carry a towel)
  • made training fun and was an often a scheduled thing
  • asked people what they wanted to learn
  • talking to people outside of your department
  • same as managing children (haha because it is so true)
  • change is coming, give them time to adjust

To see the full list of topics, check out the presentation notes I took on the session entitled “Unleash the Power of Your People”.

–Jane, mob ruled

Using a Mob in Meetings

I wrote an article for FUMSI called “An unconference approach can revitalise meetings and training.” FUMSI is an online resource for information professionals. The link above is only for the abstract. The full article is available for FUMSI subscribers only.

In the article I discuss some classic unconference facilitation styles, like fishbowl and knowledge cafe, and how they are best applied to business meetings and trainings.

–Jane, are you a fish in a bowl?

New Unconference and Mob Resources

Here are a couple resources that might be useful to you if you are new to the idea of the wisdom of the crowd or if you need a little inspiration for your own mob:

unconference.net – Though the blog on this site is not updated often and much of the information was posted long ago, there are a plethora of resources on unconferences here. There are explanations of unconferences, facilitation styles, how tos, and a discussion about Open Space Technology.

Open Space World – The original site on Open Space(OST). It is a must read for noobs.

Unconference LibGuide – This is a resource site put together by some librarians who have attended many unconferences. There are some great checklists for planning and some other resources.

Crowdsourcing in Higher Ed IT – This is a step by step guide from Educause on how to use mob rule to make campus and even multi-campus wide IT decisions.

25 Great Ways Colleges Are Using Crowdsourcing – A fabulous list to inspire your own ideas to improve your teaching or impact your community. Some of the ideas are only marginally related to Higher Ed, but they are still very interesting.

–Jane, what mob are you growing today?

Mob Driven Giving

There are many ways that the mob can change their organizations and communities. I stopped at Sonic a couple of weeks ago and saw that my cherry limeade had an advertisement for a charity drive that Sonic is conducting this month called Limeades For Learning.

For a third year, Sonic is helping teachers and schools raise money for materials and projects with the help of the public. According to the website, there are three ways to participate:

    Anyone with a valid email address can go online and vote for their favorite teacher’s project once per day.
    Get two extra votes with any SONIC purchase. Vote codes are provided on the bag sticker.
    Vote online 10 times and get two extra votes. Vote codes will be sent via email.

Projects with the most votes will get sponsored by Sonic. Individuals are also encouraged to give money to projects they like. You do not have to purchase items from Sonic to participate which I think is fabulous.

Sonic is working with an ongoing charity called DonorsChoose.org which uses the concept of mob funded charities to help teachers and schools year-round. Using the power of the mob to fund the future of our schools and the future of our kids is a great idea. Using this method of charitable giving means that people can be connected with the needs of others, no matter where they live, to make a difference in a community that needs the help.

–Jane, it is a feel good mob rule kind of day

Curating A New Learning Experience

My local NPR station recently started playing talk radio all day (hallelujah!) and I have been wallowing in all the wonderful shows I used to listen to regularly when I lived in Dallas. Last month, I had Talk of the Nation on and Don Tapscott was talking about higher education. My ears perked up immediately and, though I had to stop listening to feed my toddler (pesky kids), I went back and found the transcript. It was a great interview with some fabulous comments from listeners. If you are at all involved in higher ed or education at all, you should read this interview.

Tapscott, author of, among other things, Wikinomics, Macrowikinomics, and Grown Up Digital said that our current education system is not only not meeting the needs of our students, but its failure to adapt since its creation will be its demise.

Tapscott said, “All these kids that have grown up collaborating and thinking differently walk into a university and they’re asked to sit there and passively listen to someone talking.” He goes on to talk about the new research that is beginning to show that not only do students learn different and multitask, but the very fact that they are multitasking and learning different is changing the way their brains function and grow. The students in our classrooms now learn different because of the world they live in and yet we are still teaching them the same way we taught people when the classroom was invented. We ask students to sit and learn, to be containers for information instead of creators.

It is not just that we are asking them to be passive, but we are also cramping a process that could be broad and more enriching than a lecture. Tapscott gave an example:

I was talking to a youngster at Harvard, and he said: Why would I sit there and listen to a TA talking to 300 of us, a teaching assistant. I can’t even ask a question – the topic is Peter Drucker- when I can go online and interact with a real-time Peter Drucker.

Social media allows us not only to study a topic but to interact with it. The student from Harvard correctly points out one of the major flaws in our education system. We often ignore a resource rich world and force students to learn in a resource desert: the traditional classroom. Tapscott goes on to talk about how the way we do everything has changed and evolved as our understanding of the world has changed and evolved, except the classroom. This is something I also discuss in the second half of Mob Rule Learning. We have a teaching pedagogy that has not changed in hundreds of years.

One of the callers, Mandolin, talked about her experience in college with professors that did or did not understand their students learning styles, but she goes on to talk about her subsequent experience in the work force. The problems with higher education do not stop when our students graduate. Unfortunately, one of the things that students are learning in our colleges and universities is that multitasking is not an acceptable form of hard work, even though the newest generation in our organizations works better as multitaskers.

Multitasking has had some negative connotations lately and arguments abound regarding if increased multitasking is causing the ruination of society or making us better, stronger human beings. For the sake of this argument, I want to define multitasking as a form of multi-learning. What I mean is a learner that pulls in information from many different sources and media at once, reflects on the information, and then creates new content based on that information that is then shared with other learners in an interactive way that often allows those learners to also learn and create. This is the way that true multitasking in learning works. It means using everything at your disposal to create something new in the discipline. This is what students do now and this is what our traditional classrooms are hampering. As Tapscott points out, a student can listen to a lecture on something or they can go interact with that something. They will choose the latter almost every time and so would I.

What kind of student would you rather have in your classroom? A student who comes and listens quietly to your lecture as a passive learner or a student who comes, uses their laptop to look up additional information on the subject, later corrects an error on that subject page in wikipedia, and develops understanding for the topic on their own?

Another caller talked about an interactive textbook that he helped create and Tapscott’s response was this:

…what we just heard was a teacher acting as a curator rather than a content creator. And imagine if we had this global network for higher learning, there was a platform where all university faculty and educators could cooperate together where we could reach out into the public Internet to curate a lot of this content, like some of it obviously won’t be good, but some of it is spectacular, as the caller just alluded to And you know, we can do this. It just requires some leadership.

As teachers, we should be guides and curators. This is also where librarians are essential to the process. Librarians are curators of information already. We pride ourselves on curating information so that is accessible to as many people as possible. In the learning process, librarians should be making themselves indispensable in the curation process. We can help both with the discovery of information and with the curation of the new content being created by students.

Librarians, who have experience in curating (like cataloging), can help colleges, universities, and educators to move into these new roles, roles librarians have been filling in other capacities for some time. If we are going to change the way higher education works, we will all, teachers, librarians, and students, have to work together, in true mob fashion, to make the changes needed to make the education system reflect our new understanding of the world around us.

–Jane, wrote this with a lap full of 5 month old

LITA Forum Presentation – Staff Training and the Mob Rule

I am presenting at 3:20 in room 205. It is going to be very interesting and FUN! I am going to talk about how to use the concept of an unconference to solve your staff training issues. There will be zombies. Participation is required. But not participating zombies. Sorry, no brains for afternoon snack time.

Here are my slides:

–Jane, braaaaaaiiiiiinsssszzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Filtering Gets an Epic Fail

There is a new post on Library Garden that sums up every reason why filters in our public schools (and often in public libraries) get an epic fail. Epic. Fail.

Most of the stories I have heard from school librarians involving filtering have absolutely nothing to do with protecting children against things obscene and everything to do with filtering things that are simply unknown. WordPress = unknown, bad. Search engines in general = unknown, bad. flickr – unknown, bad.

The best line from the post is from a survey:

Teaching students about internet safety in a highly filtered environment is like teaching kids to swim in a pool without water.

–Jane, is filtered

New Theme, a bit broken

I found I new theme which I really like and added some fun plugins. Alas, my page tabs are now broken. I am trying to locate the problem.

The latstest WP 2.7.1 is very slick and easy to use. In comparing the .org with the .com versions, I am pleased that the .com version offers many of the customizations that used to make the .org version better. I use .com for the Rochester family blog and have never lamented not going with a more robust .org WP with a separate domain.  I think that WP has made a wise choice in keeping their open source and hosted version very similar and both free. Their developer community seems much more active than the communities that surround other similar platforms. *cough* Movable Type *cough*

–Jane, will tinker again tomorrow