Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Comments are the Marshmallows

Did you know that General Mills, as part of a contest, is giving away 10,000 boxes of Lucky Charms? Marshmallows only! My middle-aged common sense says I need to resist this temptation, but a little space deep in my reptilian brain is screaming, "Gotta have it!"



Some of you may have noticed my posts have become a bit infrequent. Where are my words going? Where am I sharing perspective? Where am I asking profound questions? 

I have been spending more time in the comments section of your blogs. You may be asking, "what's Schuetz's angle here?"

If you believe in the theory and math behind Reed's Law, ( 2N − N − 1 ) then you know that the potential utility of social networks depends on all members contributing to the network. As Dean Shareski says, "It's about the sharing." Those who have mapped their web usage, inspired by David White, know resident behavior in digital places is based on interaction and deeper levels of engagement. Engaging in a conversation with others on Pinterest about gardening techniques is more interactive than copying boards to our walls. Interaction is the ninety-three octane fueling our online communities.

Several years ago, when my body allowed me to practice martial arts, I learned that I was more efficient with counters. Often, I would bait my sparring partner into making a move so I could take advantage of the opening created by their attack. Blog comments, of course, shouldn't be considered pugilistic. Interestingly, I learned I get greater satisfaction from commenting on something someone else has posted. My comments typically focus on three areas; appreciation for the post and how it impacted me, asking questions about the topic to attain clarity or to add my perspective to the piece. Interaction is the key for me.

I moderate the comments on my blog because there seems to be a lot of people out there selling stuff. I completely support free enterprise, just not on my blog. Some bloggers, like Audrey Watters, don't allow comments. Hack Education is as thought-provoking as it is opinionated, but I always come away thinking about something I haven't thought about before. Watters, like some other bloggers, primarily women, have disabled comments as a result of being on the receiving end of degrading, sexist, and threatening remarks. It's a shame because her posts invite reaction and commentary. Deeper insight, Watters, by not enabling comments, is encouraging us to create and cultivate proprietary web spaces, places for our thoughts and stories, a domain of one's own.

Some bloggers who allow comments, don't respond to them. I suppose there are reasons, but I don't really understand putting out the invitation to engage and then ignoring the respondents. Bill Ferriter is one of my favorite teaching and blogging dudes (respectfully). He not only acknowledges and responds to comments, but he also turns key ideas into graphics and follow-up posts. If you are not reading the Tempered Radical, you're missing out. His honesty, transparency, and commitment to learning are qualities I admire. He took my comment about 1:1 devices and turned it into this post about the challenges of classroom innovation. Thus, generating more comments, the conversation extended to Twitter. This was Reed's Law personified, and for me, it was pretty darn cool!

Comments are like the marshmallows in Lucky Charms, the sugary goodness that adds flavor to our day. Comments turn posts into conversations. Sometimes, these conversations turn into friendships, and sometimes these friendships span the globe. I've never met Aaron Davis in person. Criminy, he's a half a world away! But it feels as if he lives right next door. We regularly comment on each other's posts. We have shared interests, we see the value in engaging with other learners, are we in a committed blogging relationship? I'm not sure what to call it, but the crunchy goodness of ReadWriteRespond is part of my nutritious meal each morning. Is there is a collaborative project in our future, who knows?

If you are still on the fence about blogging, maybe you could make a month-long commitment to posting at least one comment each day. Sharing your voice, adding power to your network, inviting interaction, and building relationships are all right there for you. Just remember to play nice and eat a good breakfast.

Photo Credit: By Sarah Mahala Photography & Makeup Artistry from Oshkosh, WI, United States (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, May 12, 2017

Tech Rationing 2017; What's in the Bag?

Last week, Aaron Davis asked, "what are your ed-tech survival rations?" What are those items that would cause you to turn the car around and head home to retrieve? In his post, "My #EdTech Rations", Davis quotes David Hopkins, "what are those essential devices that connect our personal and professional lives?"  - #EdTechRations

The times that I go into "airplane mode" are refreshing but few and far between. In fact, I feel completely naked and uncomfortable without my cell phone and my Fitbit. At the risk of being too honest, I fear public nudity far less than digital disconnectedness. Initially, I thought Davis was playing on my minimalistic sensibilities, then I began to consider my daily packing and preparations. Are my tendencies more "mobile-istic", than minimalistic? It's safe to say that I'm at least 2:1 with mobile devices almost every day.

With the #EdTech conference season in full gear, this interactive image, created with Thinglink, shows my essential "tech rations"; my carry-on bag. I comply with F.A.A. airport regulations, so I never leave my bag unattended. With these items, I feel prepared to present or fully participate in any session. The only items not included in this picture are my Bluetooth speaker, wireless headphones, and of course, my smartphone used to take this picture. Call me crazy, but I need access to music at all times. My most recent playlist digs into Junior Brown, The Derailers, and BR5-49.

Click on the picture for more tech ration detail.

  • Help me scratch my minimalist itch, how many of these items can be replaced by the creative use of a smartphone?

Use the comments section to play along. What devices constitute your essential tech rations?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Learning Sciences; Driving Evidence-based Instruction

How do people learn?

For centuries, educators and philosophers have wrestled with this simply stated, but confounding, question. Understanding how the mind works were left mostly to introspection or analogous comparisons with hydraulic systems, telephone switchboards, and computer circuitry. Dr. Daniel T. Willingham, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia, and author of "Why Don't Students Like School?" mentions these representations aren't based on scientific investigation or research.
"Is it possible many of our long-held beliefs about teaching and learning are based on supposition, opinion, and anecdotal insight into how the mind works?"

Technology and scientific research is changing what we thought we knew about brain development and functions of the mind. Teaching and learning will undoubtedly change as this new information becomes readily available to educators. 

In an article recently published in ISTE's magazine, Entrsekt, Jennifer Fink tells us, "Learning sciences are an interdisciplinary science, informed by neuroscience, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, sociology, and computer science." Simply, learning sciences, a relatively new field of research, is the study of how people learn.



Our minds and our learning are always changing. Learning sciences are revealing new methodologies and new resources for teachers. Instructional designer, Mindy Johnson, says it's important for educators to adapt their instruction according to what science is teaching us about learning.

Learning sciences is busting some myths about the inner workings of our minds:
  • Information processing is distributed across both hemispheres of the brain.
  • Brain development continues well into adulthood and neural density can increase or decrease throughout our lifespan.
  • Background knowledge significantly impacts current and future learning.
  • Learning styles theories, while often criticized, provide experiential relevance to the class content.
Surprisingly, the brain is not designed for thinking, rather it's designed to save us from having to think. It's automaticity that allows us to do everyday tasks, like driving, without thinking about them. Dr. Willingham says people are intrigued by solvable problems. In other words, curiosity and relevance are key factors of engaged thinking. "The difficulty of a problem", says Willingham, "is enormously important." This means our minds do not readily engage when presented with problems that are either too easy or too difficult to solve. Understandably, differentiation and personalization of learning are supported by learning science research.

In a world where students can acquire information easily and almost instantly, it's essential for students to learn how to learn, and to learn more about their own learning. This knowledge will make learners better able to adjust and thrive in a rapidly changing modern environment. Metacognition and reflection will raise awareness about a student's thought processes and learning techniques. Learning sciences indicate the importance of personal relevance and social interaction to engaged thinking. Immediate, meaningful feedback is proving to be very helpful in advancing student learning.

Learning sciences are a new and evolving field of study. Scientific research of the brain is helping us gain a better understanding of the mind. This new knowledge will help educators take guess work out of some long-standing classroom practices, many which have no basis in science or research. Ultimately, this will lead to increased student engagement, greater personal fulfillment, and strategies that cultivate life-long learning. Perpetuating learning in a modern world, where would you rank this on your list of meaningful school endeavors?

Photo Credit: Elisa Rivas, Pixabay CC0