Participant Observers

Sorry vtclis12ers… I feel a little late to the party.  I’m sitting here blogging my written portion of the meta-team project and think I’m going to take a bit of a different twist on it.  For one reason, I drafted the text about the story of the medianauts here and don’t want to be redundant.  Also, my two wonderful partners did an excellent job as they told of our team’s journey along with appropriate gratitude for your part in it all.

As I try to share with you what being a meta-team member has meant, I want to draw your attention to the notion of participant observer.  In my own understanding, I often think of it as this seemingly paradoxical role of being fully present in the moment, as one of the community, while simultaneously being fully removed – vigilantly tracking every action and experience, big and small, ever seeking to reflect, integrate, and synthesize.  It can be exhilarating – so many life-changing threads of insight flying by while frantically trying to grab them and weave them together.  At other times, it can feel frustrating and limiting… as if the ending of Schrödinger’s paradox is not that the cat is dead or alive, but that you in fact are the cat.  I jumped at the opportunity to be on the meta-team because I fully believe that we should be participant observers all the time.  As scary and challenging as the “both/and” can be, I feel that it is what can help us make tough decisions, persevere through hard times, maximize learning by straddling both micro and macro.  Ok, enough.  Clearly I’m overselling it a bit… but let me try to unpack a bit of how it affected me this semester.

As a student in vtclis12, I read and thought and blogged and tweeted and discussed and linked and clicked and shared.   You did too.  As a near-fully present, reflective participant, I carved my own path through the material.  I had insights that meant much more to me than they did to you.

For example – I got really tied up on the idea of collateration.  I’ve been thinking about it as this cool way for seeing connections in our life, across knowledge domains, etc. between seemingly distinct things.  A reading about how technology might enable us to make such connections got me thinking deeply about how it might relate to my own work, ePs for learning, etc.

Or, take the idea that we might be both augmented and blinded by our technology (or anything for that matter) in a way that should inspire us to actively filter/intentionally employ based on meta-level-aware, self-reflective proactive awesomeness. (insights we hit from McLuhan)

It might be hard for me to claim that these insights occurred just because I was on the meta-team, being encouraged to scour the meta-levels of my involvement in class.  So, let me tell you another story…

I have been thrilled, awed, inspired, challenged, frustrated, and taught by each of you so much this semester.  And, in part, I thank the meta-team for that.  With an ongoing project that asked us to consider the “ongoing legend of the medianauts” I believe I came to observe and respect each of you as colleagues in a different way.  For example, between Apgar’s face and Jordan’s enthusiastic, consistent deep participation, I felt called to be a better student of the class — maybe you felt that too.  I appreciated how Ben’s challenge of a point could help us peel back another layer, even if it caused some discomfort.  Or, how could we forget Julie breaking our brains by reading from right to left… or Adam’s incredible blog posts re: McCloud… or Hallie’s enlightenment… or Lissy’s dackulopatoni (which auto-completes in Google search bar now btw)… or Melissa’s recursive “aha’s” shared in her final project presentation… or Erin’s amazing movies!… or Matt’s dedicated participation to the classroom community… even if it means no sleep and a 3-hour difference via Skype!  Or, did you ever notice how Dr. C would kindly yet persistently ask each of us to continue when we rambled… ever determined to help us both humbly and triumphantly realize our own insights?

I believe I was more aware of these things because of the charge to be aware of our classroom journey.  It is this same awareness, and the awe of/for the magical learning taking place, that leads me to ask another question hoping that you might answer.

I believe we all felt a bit of a spark with the closing of the semester – like we had truly created something pretty cool together.  I felt this even from the hospital as I read this tweet and the one (that I can’t find now) about vtclis12 “creating our own content since…” It is in full appreciation of and consideration of this spark that I wonder, what were some of the key ingredients that made this space for us?  What things did Dr. C do that set us up for this?  What things did we do ourselves and for each other that fostered this environment?

Though I feel I could talk about many different items, let me pick one that I actually resisted quite a bit — Twitter.  I remember being somewhat hesitant at first.  I did not have a Twitter account before this class, and I was a bit skeptical of how it might enhance our learning environment.  The blog for me, was an easy sell.  But, 140 characters seemed like it wouldn’t generate the kind of conversation I hoped for.  Add to that, that I found it both pleasantly and terribly distracting.  I don’t even mean with things outside of the course itself — I distinctly remember a few times where I would post a link or get into a very engaging series of back-and-forth tweets with someone in class that, when done, left me to wonder where exactly the out-loud train of thought was.  Though the sidebar was both relevant and interesting, I do feel like things distracting us from being physically present should generally be done very carefully, if at all.  With all of that said, and understanding that any tool has both its opportunities and challenges… I want to share one incredibly powerful use of Twitter this semester that shouldn’t go overlooked.

#vtclis12 was our e-high-five in an environment (school) that seems to discourage real high fives.  Again, like when Julie read backwards.  We e-high-fived her.  While we were tactfully saying outloud “Julie, that was pretty cool,” #vtclis12 was lighting up with “holy crap you are reading backwards?! yes.” “like button” and “the reading backwards moment was beyond praise. i heard a click in my head. felt it too.”  can you imagine how encouraged and engaged you would be in classes if your insights were celebrated in the same way that ours were in #vtclis12?  Think Lissy will ever go the extra mile and do what the speaker challenges her to after the positive reinforcement of being an internet-dackalupatoni-sensation?  How many times have you ever had your “aha moments” celebrated as a classroom community?  Oh sure, intrinsic motivation, tracking and understanding our own success is important and all… but really, how inspiring is it to have a whole crowd of colleagues cheering you on?

I truly believe that we have encouraged, poked, prodded, and inspired each other along in a way that we should all be proud.  Yet another interesting use of Twitter’s small 140 characters… who’da’thunk?

With that, I will let my rambling end.  I apologize for the daddy-sleep-deprived incoherence if that came through at all.  I’m hoping for some moments of clarity between 10AM-noon tomorrow for our exam!

But seriously before you leave for the semester… what do you think contributed to the magic?

In paying homage to Twitter’s use, I’ll give you my response in 140 characters or less… :)

#vtclis12 makin’ magic learnin’. 1part diggin’ fer shiny nuggets. 1part @GardnerCampbell crzy mind-blowin’ ideas, 2parts hi fivin’ yer mates


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Illich offers more than four networks of alternative education

When VTCLIS12 firs started, I felt that I was in a completely different world, and I was terrified to say the least. I think this was more obvious when the undergrads sat on one side, while the grad students sat on the other. I felt intimidated by basically every single person in the class because I felt I wouldn’t contribute anything of value to the discussion, hence why I only spoke up when I really felt the need to say something. Now, I know we’ve always been told that it’s okay to speak your mind in the class, but that’s not the type of schooling I’ve come to known, and anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a fan of change. I like when things are clear-cut, with directions, and I can make a goal for myself.


That is the major reason I chose to do my final project on Illich’s “Deschooling Society,” because I felt that during my seminar presentation I had a good connection with it and I could relate a lot of my own experiences back to what Illich was saying and in a way, refute them. I do agree that out education system needs some work, because some things are just not working for our society. When I first started working on this project, I was doing almost the exact same thing as Hallie, which kind of threw me off track and I really wasn’t able to make headway into this until about Saturday night, when it hit me that a lot of the things Illich wrote about were present in my high school. I was in a specialty center in high school, where I was immersed in the French language and became practically fluent in it. However, the rest of the school outside of the specialty center was a mess, and it still is. I thought it was going to be hard to find three or four nuggets to present on for this, but once I got started, I had to stop myself from doing too many.

I felt very compelled by Illich’s argument on technology and how it can either be helpful or harmful, depending on the situation, in education. Technology can let a student’s mind wander for good, or it can allow them to procrastinate and waste time when they should be studying or paying attention in class. I can say with confidence that this happens more often than not, not only in high school, but college as well. In my county back home, the middle and high schools give the students computers for the entire year, hoping it will make them want to learn and get more work done. However, it not only shows the students’ motivation, or lack thereof, to do well in school, but it also demonstrates their responsibility and maturity levels. Students were so rough with their computers, and used them to play games, online shop, or just mess around on the Internet, all day long. I am all for using technology as a tool, but you have to remember, while all technology is a tool, not all tools are technology. Schools feel the need to keep up with the times of technology and giving students pieces of equipment that cost thousands of dollars, but is it really worth it? When I was researching online high education alternatives as Hallie did, I realized that this wasn’t where I wanted to do my research, because I felt that I wouldn’t be able to really put heart into it. Technology did play a huge role in those types of learning environments, since they were all online, but that was for adults who were responsible and actually wanted to learn. I decided to go a step back, and look at the big picture before you really get close to the real world.

In high school, students are constantly reminded of college, and the next big step in their lives. Well, coming from a sophomore in college, I feel like I still am in high school just because the amount of work didn’t change, I still check grades every hour after I’ve taken a test to see if my grade has been posted, and my teachers still hold high standards of their students, and I plan on fulfilling those standards and even going beyond those sometimes, because that is just how I am. I’m the type of person who gets frustrated when I’m not told clear directions, as I mentioned earlier, so this project was very hard for me to work on because I honestly had no clue where I was going or where my final destination should be. After thinking it through, I just thought, “this is what I am going to do, and I hope they like it, and I hope it makes sense.”

For this project, I also wanted to see what Illich meant by deschooling, and if I agreed with his ideas, and surprisingly, I did. In my opinion, you need to know the value something holds to you before getting rid of it. We need to break down the education system to see what really lays at the foundation of it all. There has to be some reason to it, and before completely restarting, we need to see what we do have of worth and what we can rebuild with. The education system has let the power shift from the instructors to the institution, as Hallie said in her blog, and the power needs to be redirected to either the instructors or to the pupils. But, deschooling also means abolishing the power of another person to make another attend a meeting, which I found interesting. There is no easy way to tell someone they no longer have authority over another, and it can cause even more problems. I think what Illich wanted was for people to step back and look at what has been created and where things went wrong. This does not give anyone permission to arbitrarily take things away without discussing with someone else.

Revamping the education system requires a lot of planning, thought, careful execution, and also, communication. I think communication should be at the forefront of deschooling because everyone needs to be on the same page so there are no surprises during the process or after the process is completed. I think that Illich makes some good points in his essay, but a lot of the points refute others that he tries to make. For example, he says that certification isn’t necessary to teach yet if you aren’t a specialist in a certain topic, you shouldn’t be teaching it, regardless of whether or not it involves your field of study. I think we need to give nonspecialists a chance to learn new things, because it may turn out that they are really good at it and enjoy learning more about that subject. When people tell me that I wouldn’t understand something because I’m not a certain major, its discouraging in a lot of aspects of life, and unfortunately, Illich can’t make up his mind on which side he would like to take.

The state of whether or not someone is a specialist in a certain topic and only that topic should not be the deciding factor or whether or not they teach that subject. I feel that it is possible to learn many things from people on subjects they aren’t specialists in, so we need to let people take a chance with it and see how it goes. Like I said during my presentation, my statistics teacher from high school is a civil engineer and didn’t need his teaching certification to teach, because it was something he did all the time, but I can honestly say that I learned the most from him in my entire high school career because he loved what he taught and he understood the best way to teach it. In my opinion, I feel that certification is necessary for some professions, such as medicine and surgery, but if you have been trained in something that requires an in-depth study of a certain skill, you should be able to teach that topic.

I can safely say that Illich definitely opened my eyes to a lot of different views, and some helped me understand better, while others made things worse. Illich carefully thought out this essay and wanted to make sure everything he wanted to say was out there. However, this essay was very hard to take in one go, so it is important to break it down and only take it paragraph by paragraph, because there is so much information and so many different things coming at you. This essay was very enlightening to read and I think it is something that future generations can learn a lot from when things change again.

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Ending… Telepathically

In the world of Kimon, a fictional world created by Simak in his story Immigrant, the inhabitants of the planet were highly evolved, telepathic individuals.  In a sense, the population was enlightened.  By communicating telepathically, they connected with each other and everyone around them in ways humans cannot fathom.  This connection resulted in an incredible capacity for empathy, compassion, and honesty.  Any text on enlightenment would describe enlightenment as such.

In the story, select humans were allowed to come and pursue job opportunities.  Of course, being an enlightened species, the model of communication and understanding differed so greatly that few humans were able to comprehend it.  While most characters in the story settled in their old models, one did not, and upon intense introspection, found himself invited to learn the new model.

So, how does this relate to anything?  To the internet?  To agriculture?  To evolution?

We, humans, will evolve.  We will evolve our technology.  We will evolve our culture.  We will evolve our model.  While we may or may not develop innate telepathic capabilities, it doesn’t matter, because we already have in our existence telepathic tools.  The Internet.  At our fingertips, we have almost infinite information, almost infinite possibilities for global communication- and much less of a reason “not to know.”  Technology is still external of us, and may always stay that way, which (currently) excuses our ignorance, but the model will change.  The model will state that technology is an integral component of your life, and if you do not adapt, you do not survive.  We will become telepathic in our own way.  You will drive by a farm and know what that farm entails.  You will know your neighbors.  You will know your world.  You will know, and because you know, you cannot be ignorant.  You cannot live in denial.

Evolved technology, the widespread adoption of the Internet, will expedite our capacity for telepathy.  We will become Kimon.  We will become enlightened.  We will learn to experience all things with a “simultaneous awareness of a complex group of causes and effects.”  We cannot imagine what this will do to us.

To always be on.

To be enlightened.

To see things as they are, for what they are.

Compassionate.  Empathetic.

Where would we go?

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Agriculture to Empathy… Continuing… Evolving

Our technological capacities are staggering.  We have the potential to collect, analyze, and communicate the intricacies of our ecological systems to everyone, everywhere, instantaneously.  Farm technology and advances in agricultural science allow producers to understand their land on every ecological, economical, and molecular level.  Inputs and outputs are understood, monitored, and tracked in real time by highly sophisticated equipment directed by GPS technology.  If there is a problem, the farmer will know.  Moreover, that farmer will communicate.  They will communicate with scientists, with industries, and together, they will solve the problem.  And then, the solution will be communicated to everyone, everywhere, instantaneously.  And that, I believe, is a good thing.

But agriculture, as important as it is, is still only a facet of the diamond.  What can be applied to agriculture can be applied elsewhere.  Understanding and communication, it is generally agreed upon, are signs of intelligence.  They are essential components of empathy and compassion.  The more you understand, the more you empathize, the harder it becomes to live in ignorance, to breed denial, and to shrug your shoulders in apathy.  Most technology, especially the Internet, tends to facilitate understanding and communication.  And so long as our technology is used for understanding and communication, and so long as we continue to evolve with our technology, and so long as technology becomes more integrated into our everyday lives, it will become a willful act to be ignorant.  Even better, evolutionarily speaking, in such a world, ignorance would not survive.

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To begin…

When I drive, as we all do, we pass farms.  We see fields of wheat or pasture, grazing cattle, or rows of soybean and corn.  Even more, we see something that is hard to describe in words.  That something is the reason why farms are the subject of paintings, photography, music, and poems.  Tranquility doesn’t quite explain it, but it’s a start.  But more importantly, farms also provide us the food we eat.  The work is hard, the hours are endless, and the natural world is brutal.  It’s a very different scene in the eyes of the farmer.  They carry a burden that few of us will experience.  The food that magically appears in our grocery stores must come from somewhere, and most of us have no idea where that where is.  Or what it takes for that magic to happen.  Inspiration is empowering, and if farms provide that, then by all means, let it happen.  But farms are more.  They are the backbone of every civilization.  If agriculture falls, everything falls.  Inspiration is critical in our world, but having an acute perception of reality is why we will survive.  And why we will progress.  This is not to say that inspiration and reality are separated- they shouldn’t be, but we can view it as such, and sometimes reality is compromised by idealism.

But learning to walk that fine line is the topic of another day.

I challenge you, the next time you pass a farm, to see the reality.  I challenge you to view that tranquil scene as data- data that will make us better- data that will let us progress.  I challenge you to see that scene as an ecological system, with almost infinite biological interactions, moving, working, in unison and in conflict, together, making that system work, allowing that crop to grow, so that we can eat.  I challenge you to imagine, where we might be, where we might evolve, if we could understand that system.

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YouTube Links

Hey Guys!


Here are the links to my YouTube videos from my final project presentation.

Scene 1 – Introduction

Scene 2 – Nelson and McLuhan

Scene 3-McLuhan and McCloud

Scene 4 – McCloud and Maxine

Scene 5 – Illich and Viola

Scene 6 – Conclusion

Hope you enjoy them as much as I did making them!



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“Suddenly I See…”

Enlightened; freed from ignorance. A feeling of tranquility. A feeling that Siddhartha Gautama reached once realizing that in order to reach enlightenment you must not seek enlightenment. A feeling that I have now reached. A feeling I reached once realizing that in order to understand the broader themes behind #vtclis12 I must not seek the broader themes behind #vtclis12. I had to let the themes come to me rather than force them to me. I guess I could say hindsight really is 20/20.

As I listened to Dr. Campbell speak on the first days of class, I was astounded by the #vtclis12 colloquia. I did not understand the significance of #vtclis12. I decided to approach the #vtclis12 colloquia like any other colloquia. Unknowingly, I was forcing enlightenment. I quickly learned that this was not something that I could force. As I read over the syllabus, I came across a list of tasks. I immediately felt the need to complete the list of tasks. I was unaware that this was not the appropriate mindset for #vtclis12. Under the appropriate mindset, I would be able to see that the syllabus did not contain tasks but it did contain opportunities. These included the opportunities to grow, expand, and learn. Opportunities I may only experience once in my educational career. At the time, this philosophy was foreign to me. With time, this has definitely changed. As I listened to Dr. Campbell speak on the last days of class, I felt like a third party observer. Looking in on our class, I could see that #vtclis12 was more than a course. It was a way of life. There was no right and there was no wrong. There was simply a chance to better oneself.

The completion of my final project was the last step before my the realization of my enlightenment. The articles within the new media reader decided to pack up and move from one condominium within my mind to another condominium within my mind. Their original place of residence was crammed with abstruse, confusing, and puzzling ideas. On the opposite end of the spectrum, their new place of residence was overflowing with comprehensible, straightforward, and unambiguous ideas. These articles have now nestled themselves into the most comfortable region within my intellect. A region of understanding. This place prides itself on its conviction that the society in which we live must be challenged and not be accepted. This challenge is the only means of social change. The change that I hope to see is from institutionalization to deinstitutionalization. I would like our society to be characterized by freedom rather than oppression. Of course, our civilization does not embrace this challenge and it does not welcome this change. Unlike the conventional members of our society, Illich, Morningstar, and Farmer have decided to embrace this challenge and welcome this change. They have done this through their controversial writings entitled “Deschooling Society” and “The Lessons on Lucasfilm’s Habitat.” Through these, Illich, Morningstar, and Farmer have expressed their progressive theories. These theories have given me the confidence to express my own opinions in #vtclis12.

The congruence of my ideals with Illich’s ideals is why I decided to do my final project on Illich’s “Deschooling Society.” It was the first article of the year that I felt an true connection to. I had always found our society’s educational structure to be dysfunctional. Though I felt this way, I could not help but play to its power. Throughout elementary school, middle school, high school, and even into college, grades have been of extreme importance to me. Some would say of too much importance to me. I was taught that unless I received an A in a course, I had not mastered a course. The anxiety that the educational structure imposed on me as a student was loathsome. It squashed any and all of my potential creativity. Illich took the words right from my mouth when he proclaimed that “schools were designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends on knowing that secret; that secrets can be known only in orderly successions; and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets.” This disappointment in humanity was not the only disappointment in humanity that Illich and I shared. Our dissatisfaction ranged from a disapproval in humanity’s political structure, to its economic structure, and finally to its educational structure. All of these structures share a common theme of centralization. This centralization has come about through years and years of the gradual shift of power from the people to the institution. Most of us were unaware of this gradual shift. Thankfully, it is not to late to reverse this gradual shift. If we attempt to deinstitutionalize one structure, it may lead to the deinstitutionalizing of the other structures. Illich affirms, “that the institutionalization of education is considered to institutionalize society and that ideas to de-institutionalizing education may be a starting point to de-institutionalized society.” This same proposition is brought to attention in Morningstar and Farmer’s “The Lessons Of Lucasfilm’s Habitat.” Morningstar and Farmer boldly proclaim, “detailed central planning is impossible. Don’t even try.” Though they are approaching the situation from a different perspective, their perspective still sheds light on Illich’s statement. They are asserting that with the vast number of citizens within our society, we must be cautious of generalization. This generalization takes from in institutionalization. Each citizen’s diverse goals, interests, motivations, and types of behavior are neglected when a society becomes institutionalized.

I decided to explore Illich’s “Learning Webs” in reference to “Deschooling Society” for my final project due to the rationale that diverse goals, interests, motivations, and types of behaviors can be nurtured when a society becomes deinstitutionalized. These learning webs are the most practical mechanism for fostering a student’s learning. Learning webs possess four networks that allow a student to learn what they want, where they want, and when they want. For my project, I analyzed three contemporary learning webs including Academic Earth, Khan Academy, and Course Networking. I analyzed them in terms of the four networks presented in Illich’s “Deschooling Society.” These networks included reference services to educational objects, skill exchanges, peer-matching, and reference services to educators-at-large. Each contemporary learning web possessed some unique strengths as well as some unique weaknesses. I found that Course Networking had the highest score followed by Khan Academy and then followed by Academic Earth. Completing this scoring system provided me with a new level of cognition regarding learning webs. Getting involved with learning webs was completely different than reading about learning webs. Suddenly, I reached an epiphany. I caught myself THINKING about what Illich was THINKING about when he defined his four networks. What exactly was he thinking?

This is when the deviations of my ideals from Illich’s ideals became evident. I found that though Course Networking received the highest score, I did not believed that it was the  ”best” contemporary “Learning Web.” I found that Khan Academy was the “best” contemporary “Learning Web.” It incorporated more content and more educational resources than Course Networking. When logging into Course Networking I felt a sense of confusion. I wasn’t sure what the purpose was. I wasn’t sure what I was suppose to do next. I attempted to peruse the educational resources but didn’t understand what I was doing. I joined a conexus but couldn’t figure out who my peers were and I couldn’t figure out who my instructor was. However, when logging onto Khan Academy I felt the complete opposite. Once creating an account the next steps were human nature. What I got out of Khan Academy was a direct function of what I put into Khan Academy. I do think it’s important to share that I am a bit Khan Academy bias. Its immense amount of publicity is hard for me to ignore. It is easy to find information regarding the site and its easy to see the future of the site. A future that is optimistic. Academic Earth and Course Networking have not been around long enough to reach this stage in its development. I am hoping that with time the Academic Earth and Course Networking can evolve into aggressive competitors of Khan Academy. These thoughts as well as other thoughts allowed me to reflect on my final project. In addition, as I caught myself thinking about these thoughts I became aware of my enlightenment. I had not only analyzed the contemporary learning webs but also challenged Illich’s ideals. All without any intention of doing so. The continual thinking about thinking led me to a state of content. I realized that there was no right or wrong anymore. There was purely a preference. A preference that applied too more than just contemporary “Learning Webs.” It applied to life.

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Mixed Messages

In LDRS 1016 this semester, I am currently finding myself in one of those teaching quandaries we often find ourselves in.  In the spirit of open vulnerability, and as a bit of a practical, realistic, and (for LDRSers) relevant “case study” I am going to unpack it here.

— The Big Bad Blog Grade Dilemma —

This semester in LDRS 1016, we blogged.  The “requirement” was to post once a week on a personal blog with a prompt of “something interesting to you that seems relevant to the course and your peers in it” and to make two comments/week. We talked about that blogs and comments should be “substantive, meaningful, honest, and relevant” in order to receive all/nothing credit.  Credit was tracked by a simple quiz framework in Scholar where each student assessed her/his own participation that week.

Rationale in Jake’s head: I don’t want people worried about guessing what is in my head and what I want from the blog.  What I want is simple… individualized reflection about LDRS and collective engagement.  I want everyone to draw together seemingly distinct experiences on campus, with readings, after watching movies, etc. and begin to re-cast and re-understand “leadership” in a broader, deeper, more personal, more applied way.  Hey… I know!  I’ll have them grade themselves!  Then, students will be free from “worry” about the grade and will just focus their energies on meaningful blogging that makes sense to them… it’ll be great!  And, the blog “quizzes” will create a simple accountability structure so that everyone is keeping themselves apprised of week-by-week participation.

Real-life story: As we all know, sometimes things work out better in the head than the real world.  All in all, blogging has been pretty interesting and engaging.  The “grading” however… and how easy it all was in my head… has been a mess.  Culpability probably doesn’t matter.  In some cases, Scholar [$!@&# learning management systems!!!] likely failed.  In many cases students simply forgot to do the quiz.  In some ways the setup was flawed from the beginning with my idea of how it would work.

On average, 80% of students completed the assessment.  I haven’t crunched the numbers yet, but based on emails throughout the semester, most of those who didn’t complete it actually blogged that week.  They just forgot to do the self-assessment.  Now, here at the end of the semester, a number of students have lower blogging scores than if I had actually graded them myself.

LDRS 1016 Timeout: Remember that whole talk about “clarify the message” and “authenticity” – aligning actions with espoused values as an important quality of leadership in responding to challenges we face?  Let’s keep that in mind…

Some options and the “messages” they carry:

(1) Nothing.  You knew the requirements, you had a time-frame for the quizzes, you very easily could have tracked progress, navigated issues with Scholar (or alerted me to issues as they came rather than at the end), and succeeded.  BTW, many students in the class did this just fine, why couldn’t you? 

This action values a rigid sense of responsibility.  It is justified by the belief that students learn that they need to read, follow instructions, and proactively navigate challenges well before the panic-at-the-end deadline.  Remember, you earn grades and are not given them.

(2) Forget the quiz for those who had issues/zeroes and either re-grade them manually as the instructor or just re-open the quiz for everyone so that corrections can be made.  Beyond self-assessment as an important step, I didn’t intend for quizzes to be a primary focus… the blogs were the point.  So, if you did them but forgot the quiz, then I should focus on what I said really mattered and not worry about the logistical hiccups.  Not to mention, Scholar has really shot us in the foot this semester, and that is as much my fault as yours.

This action values reflection and engagement first and foremost.  It recognizes that there is some mis-alignment between the assessment and the goal – that is, a 0 on the “quiz” is indicative of not doing the “quiz” rather than not meaningfully reflecting and engaging on the blog.  So, a course-correct by me helps to say “remember… this is what is important here” at the tradeoff of reinforcing that “loafing/procrastination” will be accommodated in the end.  Also, this option might be said to somewhat overlook that many students do what they are supposed to do and that accommodations now could demean or devalue others.

In thinking through these first two options, I also have to own my own role as teacher in all of this.  Though blog quiz grades are posted immediately after they are taken, “grades” in general have been delayed longer than anticipated… students are not really encouraged to track their progress through class via “the gradebook.”   Also, in retrospect, the setup itself was probably not the best.  Though students might have been freed to chase what was in their head rather than guessing what would be in mind, everyone has fretted so much about the quizzes and the grade that the entire point of all of this has been somewhat obscured. It is these two things that lead me to deviate from what might otherwise be a fully justified choice (1).  Though I do very much value everyone taking ownership of their own education and fiercely, proactively, diving into a course, the blog quiz is not a simple indicator of “are you doing what you are supposed to or not” and missing quizzes doesn’t necessarily indicate irresponsibility.  It has been muddied by technological issues, and some general inflexibility that comes with online quizzes.

However, I don’t fully like (2) either because I don’t want to devalue those that took the initiative to make sure they both blogged AND self-assessed as they were supposed to.   AND, while I value the reflection on the blog, I also did value the simple self-assessment because it weekly offered the opportunity (required) an answer to “how engaged am I in the course?”  So, really, the ship has sailed to a certain degree.  Self assessment in weeks 3 and 4 that could have lead to deeper engagement in weeks 5, 6, … was missed.  So, there really can be no make-up, can there?

It is with this dilemma that I enter the dangerous territory of make-up/extra-credit.  I say dangerous because I think that even well-intentioned, it can often be the worst of both options.  BUT, my hope is that the solution I am implementing might be able to avoid that… we shall see.

For good or for bad… Jake’s decision:

I really value your authentic, self-driven reflection.  That was one of the primary goals of the blog and of the “quiz.”  Simple as it was, you missed out on some of the opportunities presented by the quiz.  I don’t want that to kill your grade – because your grade should reflect overall knowledge of and engagement with “Exploring Citizen Leadership”… not simply remembering to log onto Scholar and take a weekly quiz.  But, I’m not going to just give it away, because you miss out on the opportunity and that devalues those who successfully navigated all aspects of the assignment.  So, if narrowed down, there were truly 2 primary functions of the “quiz” – (1) to self-assess blog participation, ultimately resulting in a grade for the gradebook and (2) as a very simple meta-cognitive tool to stop and think about individual participation in one facet of the course.

So – as a solution that requires students to still meet goals (1) and (2)…

If you are content with the blog grades showing up in the gradebook: congrats!  hopefully they offer a realistic look at (1) and were a week-by-week accomplishment of (2)

If you are unhappy with the blog grades showing up in the gradebook and feel they do not accurately represent (1) because of Scholar issues, your forgetfulness/procrastination, and/or poor planning by Jake:

  • Share a self-assessment (via writing, video, or…) of your engagement with “learning” (whatever that means to you) at this phase of your life.  In what areas are you most engaged, and why do you think that is?  In what areas are you most disengaged, and why might that be?  The scope for this could be as narrow or wide as you want.  It could involve this course, other courses, other interpretations of the word “course,” or no courses at all.  The intent here is to accomplish goal (2) as a general strategy since it was missed week-by-week with the blogs of this course as the context.  This self-assessment needs to be emailed to Jake at the very least, but you could easily consider sharing it via your blog.
  • When you send an email to me, with an attachment or link to your blog with this assessment, also tell me which quizzes to re-open.  I will then re-open those on Scholar for you to re-take.  That will then allow for ensuring that your blog “grades” on Scholar are an accurate representation of (1) and not just whether or not you took the quiz.

I hope that this solution sends the messages I am hoping to send by this action.  I think we (as teachers, leaders, humans) often send mixed messages that are very different from what we intend.  While there is no sure-fire analysis that leads to flawless decision-making, my intent here is to demonstrate that some thorough and transparent reflection can sometimes lead to clarity.  At the very least, it opens up the floor for conversation that could shape the future… be it about leadership, teaching, decision-making, blogging, self-asssessment, or…

As a learner, teacher, person who ever seeks to reflect and improve, I invite your feedback on this decision regardless of who you are and whether you are currently a student in LDRS 1016 with me or not.  Thanks!

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MindFrames: The Comic

Here is Julie and my comic that I previously blogged about. Our collaboration of McCloud’s Time Frames and Papert’s Mindstorms. Hope you all enjoy!

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A Conversation With Myself- Post Prelim Havoc

(Irrelevant to class, but for some reason, I feel compelled to share, which is very unlike me)

I am listening.  I am listening to you.  You are me, and I am you, and I know I should listen.  What are you telling me?

I am telling you everything.  You have so many questions, and I provide you all the answers, and you do not listen.  You ignore your emotions, you succumb to your irrationality, and you have forgotten what I sound like.  You are so caught in the trap, you are so chained to the wall, your eyes have gotten weaker by your limited gaze, your muscles have atrophied, and your memory is dissipating.  You have forgotten freedom and youth, burdened by the excess of culture and expectation.  You live like everyone else, and everyone accepts you for it.  Resignation is normative.  Your inner child is dying.  You will eventually feel nothing, and soon after, you will forget how to feel.

As much as you like to say “This is it,” you do not come close to embodying it.  You repeat yourself like a broken record, just scratching the surface, and never delving further.  You are going to die.  Your time is everything you have.  The social constructs of time make you believe you are inherently doing something when you are doing nothing.  By the passing of a day, you succeed without succeeding.  You watch progression without progressing.  You live vicariously through the passage of time in attempts to justify your passage of time, meaning, you use time itself as achievement.  When you say “Here’s to another day,” you validate your meager existence without reason.  You let the inevitable passage of time do the work for you, and you attempt to reap the benefits.  However, and you know, that deep down, those attempts are feeble.  They are not satisfying.  You are not content.

Time means nothing and time means everything.  And in any given situation, you tend to confuse the two.  When time really means nothing, you give it meaning.  When time really means something, you give it no meaning.  And thus the strange conundrum of your life- that you find yourself walking away from the moments that give your life meaning, and embracing the moments that give you nothing.  When the dying say “I wish I hadn’t worked so much”- this is what they are saying.

When you woke up this morning, that feeling of recursion was overwhelming.  I am giving you that feeling.  And finally, you listened.  Are you aware?  Are you willing to repeat this tomorrow?  Is that what you want?

You are angry.  I am giving you that feeling.  Why?  So that you will listen.  Five years of anticipation that did not result in an equal serving of satisfaction.  Of course you should be angry.  Your reliance on external validation failed miserably and it will continue to fail.  Because you listen to everyone else before you listen to me.  I will eventually get tired of trying.  You do not want that.

What are you becoming?

In the end, on the last day, what you became will have to face me.  I do not like to be disappointed and I will let you know.  And it’s your last day.

Think about it.

And come talk to me more often.

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