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Reflection

Hi everyone –

I’m not 100% why I felt compelled to do this, but as I was thinking about the craziness of the past year, I got the idea to make a little game about it. I set my sights on Twine, a program I’ve begun spreading the word about, but have limited experience in using.

I made this mostly for my friends in Cadre 17, but I’m sure other cadres will have similar stories.

Part reflection and part nostalgia, this was the most entertaining way for me to reflect on the past year. Enjoy!

Cadre Camp

If the image link doesn’t work, you can play it here.

Color Chameleon

The embedded slideshare showcases one of the design projects I’ve been working on – an outline for a game called Color Chameleon, a game used to teach color theory.

In it, you control a chameleon who must adapt to his surroundings by either blending or contrasting enough to accomplish certain goals. In process of playing the game, the player learns about analogous and complementary color schemes, while working quickly to match color palettes, training their eye to better perceive how colors can complement one another.

You down with CoP? (Yeah you know me)

I took a brief detour while visiting The Hollywood Studios in Disneyworld to drop in on the community of practice around fans of Disney Animation. In this particular part of the park, fans of all ages attend a brief session for one shared interest – learning to draw a Disney character.

A great way to learn by doing!

A great way to learn by doing!

Lead by a Disney artist, community members each take a seat in font of a blank sheet of paper, perhaps a little shaken to notice that the pencils don’t have erasers! This however, is addressed before we even begin – everyone must agree and understand that since we are only learning to draw a sketch, our drawings don’t have to be perfect. This builds up a bit of trust among participants since they are no longer worried about making things perfect.

Tabula Rasa

Tabula Rasa.

Throughout the session, we slowly go through the process of bringing the character to life, following the instruction of the leader. Looking around the room, you can see people equally focused on getting the lines of their sketch just right, while also looking at their neighbors for any pointers. Parents often mentor their kids as they follow along (though sometimes it’s the other way around).

Between the instructor, the parents, and the kids, there is a wide variety of skill sets in the community. Since the class is done one step at a time, this doesn’t seem to represent general artistic skill so much as motor control of the hands.

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Sydney knocked hers out of the park

All in all, it was great to participate in! Though I feel like my Olaf may turn out a bit better next time I don’t have to record video at the same time.

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Buzzfeed Presents: Six Signs You’re In A [Disney Related] Community of Practice (#4 is SO true)

buzzfeedNeed a complex situation distilled into a series of over simplified gifs and gags? Don’t worry – A Buzzfeed list can explain even the most nebulous concepts in just a few bite sized chunks of nostalgia and witty zingers. So you’re wondering if you’re in a Community of Practice? Wonder no more! These 6 steps should help you get a feel for what being a CoP is all about.

1. Communities of Practice need to have a focal point of attention about something that members really care about. Everyone in the community needs to be invested and focused on one thing:

simba-d571cf8c8b07cdfb871992c7bfcfa6f3

NAAAAA TZA-VAYNE-NYAH!!! Let’s all talk about the royal baby photos!

2. Learning together depends on the quality of relationships of trust and mutual engagement that members develop with each other.

giphyNot only do members need to trust each other, but they also need to trust that in the leadership and management of the community as well.

3. Leadership is an essential ingredient in a community of practice, whether formal or informal, either when concentrated in a few people or broadly distributed. The Tech Steward role can also be seen as a niche leadership role as well.

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A good Tech Steward knows the Buzz about their community AND the latest tech trends.

4. Diversity in community is a good learning resource. Incorporating multiple viewpoints allows a community of practice to flourish and grow faster than if it had a more limited outlook.

You think you own whatever land you Landon…

5. “From a community of practice perspective, lurking is interpreted as “legitimate peripheral participation,” a crucial process by which communities offer learning opportunities to those on the periphery.[4] Rather than a simple distinction between active and passive members, this perspective draws attention to the richness of the periphery and the learning enabled (or not) by it.”
Wenger, Etienne; White, Nancy; Smith, John D. (2012-03-26). Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities (Kindle Locations 489-493). CPsquare. Kindle Edition.

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Hmmm, is this post worth commenting on?

Your community may be full of people watching and benefiting from the conversation, but for some reason choose not to contribute. Lurkers are an important part of the community – be considerate of the silent majority!

6. Communities of practice must be open systems – they naturally transcends boundaries. By clamping down or trying to limit it, you strangle the intrinsic drive of its collaborators to contribute openly. This also relates to the benefits of having a diverse community of practice.

The nicest trolls on the Internet

The nicest trolls on the Internet.

By opening himself up to non-human advice and assistance, this “Fixer Upper” got a pretty sweet wedding outfit.

List compiled by Corey and Landon

Personal Learning Theory Trailer

BWWAAAAAAMMMMMM

THIS FALL

BWWAAAMMMMMMMM

PREPARE TO RE-LEARN HOW TO LEARN

BWWAAAAMMMMMMM

I chose to base the trailer off of Inception, because the goal of my career to is plant the seed of an idea in others’ minds: the idea that there is a better way to teach.

The goal of the trailer is to encourage others to be brave in their pursuit of teaching. To try new methods of engagement and to never fear failure. To shift their perspective, see things from a new angle, and then dive in to a new method of approach.

When thinking about what learning theories I personally believed in, I started jotting down the following:

  • Learning should be a fun, engaging, participatory event
  • Students should have some agency in how they demonstrate mastery
  • Learning should be ‘hard fun’
  • Grades should not be the primary motivation
  • Neither teacher nor student should fear failure
  • A classroom should have material that can engage everyone in the room, from the novice to the most advanced
  • The more a teacher is active and passionate and engaged with the material, the more that enthusiasm will seep into the learners as well

Much of these thoughts have been cobbled together over the years experiencing the good and bad classrooms and teachers, but have really be solidified after reading Smith and (yes admittedly) Dewey. Resisting the conformity of the current system in favor of a more enjoyable, more natural, and more effective classical style of learning is something that is becoming increasingly important to me.

I fear classrooms are pushing to become more and more contained and measured, when in reality learning is a notion that by its very nature fights constraint. You can never not be learning, so it’s ridiculous to teach to a test or syllabi and stop there. So many countless skills should be encouraged and fostered in a classroom – respect, self-confidence, exploration, experimentation – these are concepts that do not fit neatly into boxes, and neither do the students who are pursuing them.

Smith Reading

So after slogging through a few chapters of Dewey, I was desperate for a change of scenery. I was hoping and praying that Smith would hold something relatively lighter or easier to understand – having to read something like Dewey and Gee back to back would be rough.

It was much to my delight then to find that Smith was extremely palatable. While I was languishing in the bone-dry desert of Dewey, Smith was my sparkling spring water, splashing my sun kissed lips with much needed refreshment.

The only problem was, I started liking Smith a little too much. When he covered his first few chapters about how the natural ‘classic’ model of learning occurs, I felt vindication. Yes! Finally! You get it! That makes sense! I understand now why I could memorize painters and artists and stories about the civil war that were pages and pages long, but couldn’t remember a 5 item formula of abstract algebra to save my life.

Then he got to the second part – the gloomier part detailing just how painstakingly self defeating the current model of education was. About how it pushes unnaturally against our innate methods of learning all for the sake of the almighty quantifiable results. I started recognizing my own struggles within the educational system, both from my days as a student and from my current role as teacher and trainer. I would get angry. I also had to restrict myself from reading this book before bed, not because it would put me to sleep, but because it would make me upset.

I found myself constantly wanting to read sections out loud to my wife across the dining room table, (even though she was hard at work concentrating on her own studies). “Honey I know you’ve got about 60 pages to read tonight, but you really need to look at this section here”.

She often did not share my enthusiasm. Perhaps another time.

Why did I feel this way?

I felt Smith, in his frank language and easy to read manner, articulated many of my own inner frustrations that I wasn’t sure were personal or universal. He validated those feelings of struggle in a way that both relieved me and instilled in me a passion to continue to buck the system. I wanted to put this book in the hands of other educators and administrators and then volunteer to be the guinea pig who tried things the classic way.

The thing I would like more of is data. If so many people involved in the current system seem obsessed with quantifying learning this way, it might be prudent to try and fight fire with fire as it were. I am hoping that after completing this course, in conjunction with the action research portion, that I’ll be able to put some of these theories into practice in my class and come out on the other side with some of those numbers administrators seem so fixated upon.

I’m sure its been done before, but if I can do it slightly differently, and add one more voice to the opposition, it might be the final straw that tips the scales in a provost’s or president’s mind.

I’m in.

A Crack in Dewey’s Armor

I began to dread the sheer volume of effort that lay before me, packaged neatly in an unassuming Kindle. I knew those 7.8 little ounces of technology contained some of the heaviest, densest material known to man. Neutron stars would be jealous of this book. But I was determined not to give up. I wanted to learn this material and wasn’t going to let a book stand in my way.

I gave up reading before bed, since that was a losing battle right from the start. I tried reading on my lunch break quietly to myself in the library, but that was still extremely slow going. I was trying several different approaches, but most were still meeting the same end.

It wasn’t until my wife went out of town on business that I stumbled upon a turning point. One afternoon I was tired of rereading the same sentence over and over again to myself so I finally just read it out loud.
(!)
[This is the part in the movie when the protagonist looks up and a soft chime signifies a sudden a-HA moment]

That clicked. I only read it once and I got it.

So I read the next sentence out loud. Then the next. I started to elaborate a bit on his language and summarize Dewey to myself as if I was reading it to someone who might not understand it (which technically, though I was the only one there, was still true). By combining reading aloud and slightly summarizing to myself I was able to triple my reading speed, and I was absorbing more of the information while doing it.

It was only after some of the language actually started getting through to me that I was able to appreciate why we were reading the book. At first I thought it might simply have been a test of academic rigor. A thick walnut you expected us to crack with our intellect and willpower. But I realized there were actually gems buried beneath the thick, thick exterior. There now was a crack in Dewey’s armor, and I was going to finally break through it.

So why did this happen?

I didn’t really make the connection until now, but I remember back in high school history was one of my favorite subjects. It was a class I tended to do well in. I think because I could see it as a series of stories, I was able to remember and enjoy it more than my classmates. When I would have study sessions with my friends, I would often be the one to summarize the chapters since I was usually the only one who would read all of it. When I would summarize, I would just be speaking conversationally out loud to them, often elaborating or overly simplifying things to amuse myself in the process. They always seemed to prefer it this way because it was more amusing than the book, and it was simpler to understand. The facts and concepts were all still coming across, but in a way that was digestible. I think Dewey started to click for me when I did the same thing, just for an audience of one this time.