#Rhizo15: Counting

I’m a counter, I’m afraid.
I assign too many grades, and I spend too much time counting up points.
I’ve tried to simplify my system, but it still comes down to this:  I need to give up more control to students, and teach them to assess their own learning.  I need to stop using points as a coercive (if well-intentioned) motivational tool, and instead spend more time and energy in building community and tapping into intrinsic motivation.
I’ll write more about this on the weekend.

Rhizo ’15: Thoughts on the first week

Rhizo ’15 started this week, and there was much to think about. I wanted to write 3 or 4 separate blog posts responding to all the wonderful ideas that people shared, but I just don’t have the time this week, so I’ll have to settle for a kind of medley of thoughts in a single post.

Learning Subjectives

First, the idea of learning subjectives is one that I want to explore further.

The most immediate problem I have with learning objectives is the question, “Whose objectives?” Who has created the objectives? In most cases, the objectives have been dictated by policy-makers who are far removed from the community (or, to paraphrase one of Maha’s posts, from the educational context). Even if the policy-makers have pedagogical knowledge and the best intentions – and many of them, as we know, do not have either – this is problematic. Objectives that have been imposed upon a community are alienating. Worse, when teachers face a host of objectives imposed from the outside, they are more likely to resort to the ‘banking’ model that Freire so justly critiques.

This is not to say that there should be no objectives – but the objectives should be democratically determined with input from the community. Students should be involved, as should parents, in addition to the staff.

I love the idea of subjectives in this context. The example of my own learning that springs to mind is my experience in CLMOOC 2013. In this case, I see that I had an objective – to be able to act as a liaison to my National Writing Project site, and to be able to share my learning. However, I was very unclear as to how to do this, or even as to what I going to learn. Perhaps this was a case of an objective working in concert with a subjective, as I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish but was otherwise unclear about my path?

I’d like to reflect more on the questions that I expect would inevitably arise about ‘accountability.’ If we don’t know where we’re going, how do we communicate to stakeholders about our learning? If we’re not sure where we’re going, how do we get stakeholders to believe that the journey is worthwhile? How do we convince the unconvinced, to paraphrase the late, great Eduardo Galeano?

Mapping the Nodes

Jane Van Galen created a wonderful map of Rhizo ’15 participantsThe form she used to gather data had some thoughtful questions, including one that asked us to describe and/or post a favorite photo.  “Only a few sentences,” she wrote, “blog the rest!”

So here is my photo.

Michael Book Festival 2012

This is at LA Times Festival of Books in 2012, the last year it was held at my alma mater, UCLA.  (It’s now at the campus of the “enemy,” USC.)  Apparently, Marlene & I were walking along, and then I saw this giant crossword puzzle and ran (I think my wife exaggerates) over to it.  Marlene says that I practically grabbed a marker out of the hand of a volunteer and wrote my response.

What can I say?  I love crossword puzzles, and what’s better than a giant crossword puzzle?  (Answer:  Nothing.)

Day of Silence

This is not directly related to Rhizo ’15, but I also wanted to blog about Friday, when I observed the National Day of Silence by teaching without talking.  I advise the Gay Straight Alliance club at my school, so in addition to helping the kids organize the event, I decided that I would support the students by taking the vow of silence myself that day.  So I spoke up until the bell, and then taught my three classes (we have a block schedule) with only gestures and written communication.

It was exhilarating as well as exhausting!  My kids were wonderful; they really tried to understand what I was trying to tell them.  I want to blog about this further, but I noticed that my intended communication was often quite different from what the kids perceived as my intended meaning.  This was a profound learning experience that I want to unpack further.