After having been the Spotlight for Learning and Teaching Conference (University of Otago, Dunedin, August 26 – 27th 2013), I’ve been buzzing with even more enthusiasm for teaching. To be honest, those of you who know me will know that this is pretty difficult to imagine, as I’m usually pretty buzzing about teaching (although not marking!). I have used the image of the koru (fern) repeatedly when talking about teaching for a number of reasons, including that I think learning can be conceptualised as a spiral in that we keep revisiting things, but in new ways and with fresh eyes so that each visit is actually a new experience but builds on older learning.
One of the ideas at the conference that had lots of people buzzing was “flipped teaching” which was beautifully introduced/taught/demonstrated by Megan Anakin – unfortunately, I wasn’t at the workshop, but I was lucky enough to sit beside Megan at another session and I reviewed her handouts with a friend who had gone to the workshop. I thought I’d write this blog spot to introduce the idea to teaching friends who are curious about it.
At the start of the year, I came across the idea of “flipped classrooms” – introduced by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams (chemistry teachers). What they had noticed was that their students needed them, not during the lecture delivery time, but while they were trying to do their homework! They became pioneers in screencasting – recording lectures ahead of time so students could watch them and then, come to class to do their homework. Doing homework in class, together with their teacher = better learning.
Official website with resources: http://flippedlearning.org/FLN
Nice summary about it: http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/the-flipped-class-conversation-689.php
I want to stress, as does the blog above, that flipped teaching is NOT about videos replacing teaching time. It’s about using face to face time (or time with students) more usefully.
A few months ago, through Central Queensland University’s Learning and Teaching Office, I heard about Beth Eschenbach’s presentation on “Just in time teaching” and reviewed her beautiful presentation. The idea, as I understand it, is that students are set questions ahead of the lecture/teaching time that they can answer (perhaps with the aid of a book). The teacher reviews the answers just in time to teach to the identified gaps in the learner’s understanding. Fantastic!
Here is the official website, chockerblock full of resources and inspiration: http://www.jitt.org
Do you flip your classrooms or use JiTT?
I’ve just been to Day 1 of the University of Otago’s FANTASTIC Spotlight on Teaching and Learning Conference. I’m buzzing with new ideas and the awesomeness of being with people who are keen to talk about and learn about teaching and learning. I also love opportunities like this, where I can really think about my own experience of learning and feel what works as a learner myself.
One of the novel things about today was that there was a twitter feed for the conference (#SPotago) and I (along with a few others) tweeted constantly. What I found, after the first few gingerly texts, was that this was an AWESOME way to consolidate my learning in a way I had not done before. So, what was different about tweeting compared to taking notes (which I usually do religiously)?
1. I had to keep listening and summarising to myself, the key themes. I usually write for record keeping, rather than for understanding.
2. I can find all my tweets in one place. I have grand plans for organising my notes and don’t.
3. I had to do careful summaries (less than 140 characters).
4. I could attach photos of slides, etc (which yes, I love that I can do in GoodNotes, but I don’t always archive properly)
5. People who were tweeting responded in real time to questions I had or comments.
6. From the twitter feed, I found out about sessions I could not attend.
So, how does this relate to Hydrangeas?! Well, I had thought I had done my dash with Twitter and left it aside, much as I had the hydrangeas. I was disappointed with the black stems, thinking that yet another plant had gone to the Giant Compost heap in the Earth. I was so excited to find new growth in the hydrangea. Even in what we might think beyond us or view one way (e.g., Done and Dusted), there are always new perspectives. There is hope, even in Winter!
It’s astonishing that it has been so long since I last blogged. These last few months have been a blur of teaching, assessment and report writing, returning to work activities and, amongst it all, planning and having a fabulous wedding!
This year, with my new interest in gardening, I’ve been more aware of the seasons. I hadn’t appreciated, before, how March heralded the coming of Autumn (for those of us in the southern hemisphere) and I hadn’t even realised that the three months making up each season divided the season into “early”, “mid”, and “late”. The timing instructions on seed packets are making more sense! So little time for each planting!
I rushed to get lots of seeds planted in seed trays in late summer. Although I was initially a little disappointed with the arrival of autumn (and the awareness that there were fewer varieties to plant), I decided to try and grow artichokes – one of the things that can be planted in Autumn. My first lot of seeds failed. Not one germinated!
Not to be defeated, I had another go and…success!!
Persistence is such an important psychological skill. In supervising research students, I really notice that it is persistence that matters in the longer run. No matter how insightful, original and creative someone’s idea is, without high levels of persistence, there is no thesis, or paper, or finished product at the end of the day.
I’ve been thinking about persistence a lot as I’ve been reading more about neuropsychological functioning and the executive system in particular. In a nutshell, the executive system is about planning, organising our activities, holding things in short term memory and focussing on a goal. My students this week are working on a hypothetical case of a child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This is one disorder where significant issues with the executive system can be seen. The good news for adults (and children with ADHD) is that there are psychological interventions that can help with these executive system issues.
The pak choy seeds transformed into wee seedlings, a mere 2 days after being sown. I’ve unfortunately put three seeds into the same planting space and now will have to thin them out. Sigh. There is only so much room…
There is also, only so much room for things we can hold in our mind. Well, in our working memory to be exact. There are different aspects of memory, but our working memory, conceptualised as a “work bench” is that very temporary store where we hold and manipulate information. For example, when someone tells us a phone number, we hold it in our working memory for just a little while while we need it. Working memory is limited though: we can only hold 7 +/- 2 items in it. That’s why phone numbers aren’t too long. Well..I don’t know if that’s why phone numbers aren’t too long, but if phone numbers were longer, it would be hard to hold them in short term memory! Curiously, this is something that we can forget as educators and try to cram too much new information into a teaching session.
We can increase our short term memory capacity by chunking – organising information into units. One “chunk” (which may consist of several pieces of information) then only occupies one of the precious 7 +/- 2 place holders. So, instead of trying to remember “3-3” [2 chunks], we might remember “33” [1 chunk]. Instead of having to remember that we have to buy cream, milk and butter, we might remind ourselves about “3 dairy”. As educators, we can help by providing these chunking strategies.
I definitely found out about the limits of my short term memory on Friday – after erroneously telling my students they had a quiz on that day (a week ahead of schedule) and freaking some out, I had a few other lapses in memory. Too many to remember…!
Another great day in the garden. I was really pleased with how much we got done and disappointed that we don’t have more “before” photographs. The “after” effect is so obvious to us but may not be to others who didn’t see what things looked like. Also, I wonder if we will forget how things used to look once we get used to this.
All the geraniums have now been repotted! Some of them were just so overgrown and needed lots of firming of the soil to get them standing upright. As I gave them a hand and also staked the passionfruit and grapes (hopefully these will grown in the glasshouse), the thing that sprung to mind was Vgotsky’s theory of the zone of proximal development. Quite a mouthful! Truthfully, I had forgotten all about Vgotsky between my 3rd year psychology courses and last year, when I became freshly interested in his work while reading about his teaching theories.
in the 1930s, Vgotsky noted that there is a gap between what a learner can do by themselves and what they can do with assistance (e.g., from a teacher or an advanced peer). This gap is the zone of proximal development. The teacher’s job is to provide scaffolding (just enough) to gently help/extend the learner out of their “comfort zone” or what they can do themselves into their zone of proximal development and hence extend their learning. It’s a delicate balance – providing guidance but also allowing the learner independence.
I wonder how long it will take for the grapes and passionfruit to fruit?