Setting the Stage for Designing Young Lives

I’m currently engaged in a new Collaborative Exploration offered up the the Critical and Creative Thinking Community out of UMass Boston entitled “Young People Designing Their Own Lives.”  The case challenges explorers to think about how we might go about helping young people tackle their life design challenges by presenting the concept for a script or book that would guide young folks as they chart their course.

Interestingly, this coincided with a conference session at the National Humanities Conference this past weekend.   Folks from the PA Humanities Council talked about their Teen Reading Lounge program. The program has teens read books, discuss them, and then do hands on activities related to the books. The presenter linked the program and the exploration of literature to these key life questions teens are confronting:

  • Who am I?
  • What is my place in the world?
  • What do I believe?

Definitely, important prompts to start a life journey.  As I’ve been contemplating this case, I have also been thinking about creative books and activities from my youth.  One of the things I loved most when I was young were Colorfoms.  I loved having scenes where I could place characters and props.  I could rearrange and reconfigure infinitely.  I was free to orient, overlap, and edit.  At the same time, I had a container or structure that bounded my exploration.

About a year ago, a few of my favorite pre-teens were interested in creating their own “tv show.”  I gave them some simple guidelines:

  1. they each needed to have a character and know what their character was about and how that character related to the other characters
  2. they needed to have at least 3 settings
  3. they needed a challenge, task, or mission that they were trying to accomplish
  4. they could each bring or include one friend in the process

The girls scripted out a basic story line.  They knew what each scene was and what they were trying to do.  I told them to come to the tv studio ready to act.  They should bring any costumes or props that they needed.  I then let them design and arrange the various studio sets and furniture how they wanted.  I showed them how the green screne worked so they could see the possibilities for creative backgrounds.  From these basic elements they created and orchestrated a pretty silly, but cohesive story that was generated out of their own creative mind.  It was sort of like Colorform media.

So, as I’m exploring and thinking on this month’s collaborative exploration, I’m contemplating how to go about crafting a basic environment with enough raw materials that might jumpstart the life design mindset of teens.  What would this look like?  What format — book, script, media production, game?  What elements need to be in the mix and what will allow them to productively craft this?  What supports or guidance are needed?  It is exciting to think about.

 

The “N” in PLN (#xplrpln)

So in considering the contours and definition of a “personal learning network” (PLN), I turned to the trusty online dictionary.  So the words personal and learning seemed to garner definitions that resonated:

Personal — relating to, directed to, or intended for a particular person
Learning — the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill

Then I came to network and that is when things started to get really fuzzy and exciting at all?the same time.  So one possible definition revolves around the connective mechanisms:  any combination of filaments, lines, veins, passages or the like in a netlike form
So here we have conduits, tissues and live wires formed into a specific pattern that is interlocking, decentralized, yet strong.   Then there is this definition related to radio and television:

a group of transmitting stations linked by wire or microwave relay so that the same program can be broadcast or telecast by all

This idea of entities transmitting information and relaying it seems useful.  The part about broadcasting “the same program” not so much.  And then there is this:

a system of interrelated buildings, offices, stations, etc., especially over a large area or throughout a county, territory, region, etc.

This definition brings in the sense of geographic space and travel across that space.  That seems cool. Then there is the idea of a network related to electricity:

an arrangement of conducting elements, as resistors, capacitors, or inductors connected by conducting wire.

In some ways this harkens to the first definition, but the inclusion of concepts like “resistors,” “capacitors,” “inductors” and by extension “transmitters,” “amplifiers,” “switches” and such start to flesh out the dynamic processes that are inherent in electrical grids — overloads, blackouts, excess capacity are also part of this analogy.

So, I’m sure if I search further there would be other networks with finer nuances depending on the sector or field — social networks, computer networks, underground networks.

So how do I make sense of network as a definition?  These are the things that work for me:

decentralized, interlocking, formed by many materials to aid movement and conduction, spread out across space (and I’d say time as well) with dynamic components that work for and against its smooth operation.

So a personal learning network?  So if we add this network definition to the personal and learning I would get:

spanning space and time, a personal learning network is a decentralized, interlocking, multi-material form with dynamic components that work for and against an individual’s process of acquiring knowledge and skills.

Any way, that’s what I have for the time being.  I realize, that the “what” moving across this network is till not particularly clear with “components” being a particularly fuzzy concept. I’ll need to think on that. (#xplrpln)

Stories of Resistance: A Pathway to Change?

resistanceI am about ready to start another Collaborative Exploration (CE) cycle as this week’s Creativity, Innovation and Change MOOCs (CICMOOC) considers “resistance.”   The October CE will focus on stories and story-telling as mechanisms to scaffold creative learning. The interesting thing about the CICMOOC’s call to “listen to the resistance” is this compliments the practice of extending and developing thinking in the CE.  This is a process by which others respond to your thinking and ideas with suggestions you may not have considered.

Stories and story-telling are one possible way in which thinking may be challenged. I know I have looked to stories — in the form of books, movies, the experiences of others — to help me resolve tensions and conflict.  But I wonder if stories of resistance, tension, and conflict can in themselves be productive forces?  Just as we need our supportive community to empathize and listen, we also need challenge, pushing and resisted to grow.  I know this to be true from my own research in youth development settings.

As I ask a couple of friends to resist me in one of my goals, by rafting their negative narratives, I am interested to see if my attempt to dispute and craft an alternative narrative will allow me to create a more solid belief in my own ability to succeed.  I guess I will see 🙂

 

Working with Others: Branching Out, Going Deep

heterogeneous

So the material for this week’s Creativity, Innovation and Change MOOC is focusing on the idea of creative collaborations,  In particular, the emphasis is on making the best use of a group’s wide range of talents, skills, capacities and motivations to move creative work forward and leaving the unproductive tensions to the side.

Bringing diverse perspectives and ideas to the table are also a core value in the Critical and Creativity Thinking program as well.  As I was wrapping up participation in the September Collaborative Exploration: Everyone Can Think Creatively!  I benefited a great deal from insights from two collaborators who gave me new ways to think about and extend my work at constructing an exercise that explored the social aspects of creation. Both of these individuals come to these CE with thinking that is different, yet both brought very good insights to my own thinking that I would not have come up with on my own.  I love these experiences with CEs and other CCT offerings because there is an emphasis on promoting and sustaining spaces where lots of diverse ideas and thoughts can surface.  I always learn something beyond what I thought I would.

This is also one of the aspects I love about the best of engagement in MOOCs — when I take advantage of it.  The idea that I could come in contact with lots of diverse ideas and individuals is exhilarating.  Yet, I seem to gravitate in these open learning environments to others who think about and are interested in the things I am — such as technology enabled learning, building learning communities, and navigating new learning landscapes.  Here the contributions are not so much about an entirely new perspective, but rather going deeper and extending my thinking in an area shared by others.

So I wonder how we go about constructing our own personal learning networks to ensure that we have enough challenging people and opportunities that make us think differently, while at the same time cultivating connections with those who want to dig deep into an area we are all passionate about.  Maybe this will be something to explore further in the upcoming open seminar on personal learning networks.

 

The Paradox of Structure in eLearning Environs

structure

This week’s materials in the CICMOOC on the Paradox of Structure sparked that seed of interest for me.  For the last couple of years I have been exploring the contours of self-organizing within open organizational structures (e.g. open source software movement, world social forum).  The 119 Gallery in Lowell, MA is often the focus of this work and I’ve written about it at various place on this blog [post 1, post 2, post 3].  However, the prompt to explore structure in the CICMOOC as one of week 3’s exercises has me returning to the comparison between this MOOC and my current Collaborative Exploration (CE) offered up by the Critical and Creative Thinking Program at UMass Boston.

I’m trying to enlist the help of one or more of the current participants of the CE to collaborate with me in the CICMOOC exercise on the Paradox of Structure.  In the meantime, I thought I would explore the enabling and limiting features of the two current learning spaces I find myself in at this time.  Both learning spaces are looking at creativity and ways to engage and enliven individual creativity.

The CE is a 22 day small group, case-based exploration under the topic of “Everyone Can Think Creatively!”.  Meeting synchronously once a week for an hour using Google+ Hangout and engaging in individual inquiries based on the case in between are the main activities. Each synchronous session has a format and structure, while the individual inquiries are diverse and broad.  The group exchanges are intended to support and stretch individual thinking.

The UMass Boston CE enables me to pick my own path of inquiry, but within a defined structural space that focuses or contains the inquiry. Much like the story shared in the CICMOOC lecture this week by Kathryn Jablokow..  There are colleagues to motivate and be accountable to as well as provide additional thinking and support.  It also helps me to know that this is a contained activity with defined parameters of time and input which helps me move forward.  In terms of limits, the CE has a small number of individuals to engage with.  The connections are deep, but not particularly diverse.  Also even thought the time is specified, it still creates some pressure to maintain the schedule.

The UPenn CICMOOC on Coursera has a more formal 8-week course structure.  It is a MOOC, so thousands of individuals might be engaging at any given time.  The course has build in a great deal of diversity in terms of materials, levels of engagement and assignments.  There are assignments, activities and projects to prompt accountability.  I am also participating with a learner initiated quadblog initiated by Cathleen Nardi with myself, Maureen Maher and Jack Matson.

The CICMOOC is enabling in a very different way. Here the course materials are more prescribed, but they are provided in easy to access and digest formats with the option to dig deeper if I like.  Likewise, weekly activities and exercises are diverse enough and there is enough freedom to choose those that interest me.  I have thus far found at least one exercise that energizes me each week.  The course’s three possible levels of engagement create both freedom and support.  Each level is presented as completely valid and no option is presented as better than the other, just different.

In terms of limits, the CICMOOC has provided the opportunity to engage with a very broad set of learners and potentially ideas.  I have yet to fully engage in deep exchanges.  In part this is a lack of my own commitment to do so, but without accountability (or obligation) built in I am finding it difficult to make the time to engage.  The exception to this is the self-organized quadblogging group.  This commitment to quadblog has been enough to prompt me to write regularly and interact with a few folks.  I see that part of the exercise for this week prompts a step to participate in the discussion board, so I will see what happens next.  This inability to have others really respond, react and prompt further thinking prevents deep understanding and exploration of the content.

I am gong to continue to think on these formats and for the time being it seem to me that any eLearning ecosystem needs to have a diversity of options and levels of engagement with content and learners.  Enabling others and supporting learners to build that ecosystem is what I hope an upcoming open seminar on Personal Learning Networkswill explore.

Image from: http://davincidilemma.com/2010/12/add-structure-to-your-schedule-to-be-more-creative/

Considering Self and Community while Exploring Creativity

I started the Creativity, Innovation and Change MOOC (#cicmooc) this week as well as a Collaborative Exploration (CE), “Everyone Can Think Creatively!” offered in collaboration with the Critical and Creative Thinking Program at UMass Boston.   Exploring self was the focus of the two activities I engaged in for CIC and understanding how my personal story connected with others was step one with the CE.

Reflecting on self in CIC was a relatively deep endeavor designed to unearth my creative style, my motivations, my driving forces, influencing factors and thinking about blocks and supports.  Connecting with others in this context is a secondary activity and a community of learners is still in the early stages of emerging.  The injection of a quadblog group headed up by Cathleen Nardi helps with the idea that I’m at least accountable and connected to others who are sharing this experience.  That I am part of a learning community. The return of familiar names and faces from the previous #edcmooc is also connective.  So, here in CIC-land I’ve had time to consider material and think on self and move slowly into “conversation” with others.  Although the conversation is right now more like a bunch of random broadcasts waiting for response.

The CE starts from a different place.  The content is less prescribed and as such the starting place is a little more unsettled.  I’m very familiar with this format now — I have my sea legs so to speak.  While a small group has formed around a loose case or idea, the first step here is to really get to know each other.  Intensive autobiographical introductions are the mechanism for doing this along with thinking about where each of us connects to the others. These connections are collectively shared.

So these are two very different places to start in thinking through creativity and creative process — structured content and a loose community vs. loose content and a structured community.  It will be interesting to see how my thinking and knowledge builds through these two distinct learning experiences.

 

 

Current Exploration on Creative and Transformative Education

I have been engaged in a collaborative exploration on “creative and transformative education” run by Peter Taylor who directs the Critical and Creative Thinking Program at UMass Boston.  My thinking related to creative and transformative education is still in a very unsettle space.      Below are the threads I’m starting to considered based on the three goals of the case.

a) expose a variety of possibly competing views of “Creative,” “Transformative,” and their combination;

I began here by searching for “transformative research” since any doctoral program would need to make the case on what new knowledge and research would it be preparing its students for.  The National Science Foundation put out a report in 2007 (https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/documents/2007/tr_report.pdf) calling for the NSF to fund and support more “transformative reserach”.  In the context of the report concepts of “risk,” “innovation,” and increasing openness to paradigm shifts.  The NSF defines “transformative resaerch” as:

research driven by ideas that have the  potential to radically change our understanding of an important existing scientific or engineering  concept or leading to the creation of a new paradigm or field of science or engineering. Such  research is also characterized by its challenge to current understanding or its pathway to new  frontiers.

In particular the report looks at the resistance to change that comes from long standing institutional and cultural practices in the field of scientific research.:

Experts in the areas being challenged (many of whom may sit on  review panels) may dismiss such ideas by pronouncing the research overreaching or without basis. Consequently, such ideas can remain hidden or discouraged and their breakthrough discoveries delayed or even missed. (p. 4)

I was also able to locate a call for transformative research in the social sciences (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/funding-and-guidance/funding-opportunities/23831/transforming-social-science.aspx) put out by the Economic and Social Research Council which is the largest funding agent in the UK for research in the economic and social issue arena.  Issued for the 2012-2013 funding cycle, it is a relatively new push with a focus on “innovation” and “risk” as well.

 We regard transformative research as that which involves pioneering theoretical and  methodological innovation. The expectation is that the transformative research call will  encourage novel developments of social science inquiry, and support research activity that  attracts an element of risk.( p.1)

Some of the possible characteristics of transformative research according to this call include (p. 2):

  • results that will radically change accepted thinking in the social sciences
  • research that may be high risk but with the possibility of high reward
  • research that is carried out with the expectation that it will produce a broad base of
  • knowledge and new thinking/insights

The next line of inquiry in this area would be to look at concepts of “creative research” and transformative research in the context of the educational field.

b) draw employment possibilities from their own location in the world;

Thinking on who might be the potential audiences for a doctoral program in creative and transformational learning it occurs to me that these might be possible candidates: 

  • Those working in fluid and changing contexts
  • Organizational leaders with diverse staff and customers / constituents
  • Those at the intersection of sectors, fields or disciplines
  • Individuals responsible for managing complex problems with diverse stakeholders
  • Those in transnational / global environments
  • Those seeking new ways to research and explore areas in new ways

I was then thinking about programs that are out there and have “non-traditional” or alternative concepts of graduate education with the idea that they might trigger ideas for promotion and language.  The European Graduate School’s Expressive Arts PhD  and Goddard’s MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts were two examples I was starting to explore along this thread.

The next step in this line of inquiry is find some additional examples and try to synthesize their approaches.

c) do blue-sky thinking about what kind of mid-career or mid-life creative and transformative education that would attract their personal interest

Thinking about the kind of program I would attract me, I jotted down these elements.

  • A program that would ideally attract an extremely diverse set of students with varied experiences, research interests, and personal backgrounds
  • Provides many, many opportunities for these students to interact and learn from one another — a learning community — Peter Taylor has been exploring the idea of a studio and in a previous collaborative exploration Marius Foley talked about elements of a co-constructive design environment. here Peter’s Studio idea,  Marius’s criteria above
  • Demonstration or mastery would take multiple forms an not just a written thesus (need to find examples)
  • A small set of required core courses that focus on inquiry, research, engagement etc — similar to 3 core research and engagement courses in CCT program — 1 initial course designed to allow students to identify their core interests and begin a learning map of additional courses that will meet their goals.
  • How can you design a program that seeks creativity and transformation without being too prescriptive?

I am going to continue thinking on what I would desire. I also started an inquiry in the term “doctorate”

  • The term doctorate comes from the Latin docere, meaning “to teach.”
  • At the university, doctoral training was a form of apprenticeship to a guild.

Resources

I’ve also collected these resources to follow up on mostly prompted by Dan’s paper on practice-based research.

  • Hanson, Phil and Baron Bruce 2009. Research-Based Practice: Situating Vertical City between Artistic Development and Applied Cognitive Science.  TDR/The Drama Review, Winter 2009, Vol. 53, No. 4 , Pages 120-136 (doi: 10.1162/dram.2009.53.4.120)
  • Leary, Mark R. 2001. Introduction to Behavioral Research Methodology. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  • PARIP. n.d. Practice as Research in Performance. University of Bristol, www.bristol.ac.uk/parip/ (5 September 2008).

  •  
  • Art & Research – http://www.artandresearch.org.uk/v2n2/busch.html

Borgdorff‘s vision of artistic research

Embedded in artistic and academic contexts, artistic research seeks to convey and communicate content that is enclosed in aesthetic experiences, enacted in creative practices and embodied in artistic products.

 

Panic, disorientation, risk, trust, self-efficacy and transformative learning

image by Charity Johansson

As part of a Creative Exploration (CE) on cMOOCs, Rhoda Mauer at Cornell has been posting comments and resources related to concepts of panic, trust and storytelling.  At the same time, Peter Taylor, who is also part of the CE, is talking about a possible new collaboration on transformative education. These conversations intersect with my attempts to understand the power of shifting perspective and building confidence and competence (self-efficacy) that may result from being in a new or unique learning environment.

A brief Google search on the terms “disorientation learning trust” got me to a piece on transformative learning.  So my exploration is turning to learning more about “transformative learning”.

In a Journal of Environmental Education piece, D’Amato and Krasny (2011) write:

Transformative learning is often precipitated by a “disorienting dilemma,” which is followed by critical self-re?ection, social interactions, planning for action, and building competence and self-con?dence in new roles and relationships as a result of taking action (Mezirow, 2000). Such learning could result in personal growth as well as in questioning and changing one’s behaviors toward the environment (instrumental learning). (p.239)

Kucukaydin and Cranton (Adult EducationQuarterly, 2013) also reference Mezirow as four distinct types of transformative learning:

  •  developmental (Daloz, 1999)
  • emancipatory (Freire, 1972)
  • extrarational (Boyd,1989)
  • rational (Mezirow, 1991)

Keegan (Asian Social Science, 2011) also speaks to four processes in transformative learning (critical reflection or feedback,  reflective discourse or evaluation, and action related to learning and teaching quality).  that resonate with the 4 Rs  and Probe-Create-Change-Reflect modes that Peter Taylor talks about as well as the experience I had during the EDCMOOC offered Coursera by U of Edinburgh.

Let’s see where this creative exploration path takes me.

 

 

Civics, digital badges and alternative assessment: Preparing students to be engaged citizens

I have a new working paper on digital badge and civics released today as part of CIRCLE’s working paper series.  The paper explores digital badges and alternative assessments for civic skills, knowledge, and dispositions and is entitled “New and Alternative Assessments, Digital Badges, and Civics: An Overview of Emerging Themes and Promising Directions.” It also considers digital badges as well as ePortfolios, rubrics, games, simulations, and other assessment and learning tools that might expand options for those committed to improving civic education. The working paper is also summarized in an online presentation.

 

New Additions to My Learning Ecosystem

Keeley Sokoti has been engaging in a number of conversations with myself and others in the MOOC about ways to support and extend learning within MOOCs and other online environments.  A number of these folks have been engaged in an asynchronous VoiceThread discussion over the last couple of weeks.   Keeley orchestrated the convening of a group of us in a Google+ Hangout earlier today and now these individuals are part of my learning ecosystem in an even stronger way.  Most of them have blogs where they capture their thoughts.  Check them out:

Keeley’s Blog: http://gatherwithpurpose.wordpress.com/ 
Rick’s Blog: http://drrbb2nd.blogspot.com/
Beth D.’s Blog: http://selfdirection.blogspot.com/
Fran’s Blog: https://elearningmoocedinburgh.wordpress.com/
Henry’s Blog – http://henryjburnett.wordpress.com

Virginia, I am sure, will in the not too distant future be publishing her thoughts on line as well.