CEP 812: Questioning For Life

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As the year comes to a close, I reflect on my successes and failures to consider growth for the new year. Questioning has been an important theme for me this year; and questioning is hard. It is the opposite of my desire to go with the flow and focus on the day to day activities. We live in a world where the old way is no longer good enough. Access to alternative expertise and skill is just a click away. Focusing on the day to day does not often bring about the change needed. Thomas L. Friedman highlights that “everyone who wants a job now must demonstrate how they can add value better than the new alternatives” (2013). It has become nearly impossible to succeed, or expect promotion as an employee, without becoming a lifelong learner. The skills and knowledge we obtain come closer to becoming obsolete every day. This is why we must embrace a mantra of questioning for life. We can keep the things we are passionate about and apply curiosity to explore how our interests fit into this technologically enhanced world. There are many gaps to fill by people of all different fields of study, skill levels and desires. Success awaits when there is an intentional approach to questioning for life.


References:

Berger, Warren. A More Beautiful Question. Bloomsbury, 2014.

Friedman, T. (2013). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q. The Opinion Pages. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html

CEP 812: Wicked Problem Project

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Keeping education relevant is a wicked problem. The New Media Consortium (NMC) highlighted this truth in their 2016 report on Higher Education. Our team has explored this issue with the hopes of designing possible solutions to make progress on this multifaceted problem. There is no perfect answer here, but there are opportunities for success; and some educators have already found success in their methods. We have looked to both successes and failures in our own experiences, along with the experiences of our peers and researches to build a case for effective strategies.

Thanks to the wisdom of Warren Berger, inquiry is the cornerstone of our wicked problem project. Along with a mindset on constant questioning, our process closely mirrored that of the Stanford Design Model.  We began by writing out 30 questions related to our topic of keeping education relevant. Empathy was a key component as we designed these questions and dwindled them down into 3 strong questions. Our chosen questions can be found on my wicked problem infographic. Continuing through the design process, we more accurately defined our problem for the key stakeholders and spent some valuable time ideating before meeting to discuss possible prototypes to put to the test.

As with most challenging problems, the design process for solutions to keep education relevant may never end. The solutions we outline address a mere fraction of the entire problem. We must continue to collaborate as a global society to keep education relevant. I truly believe that education can resolve many of the problems we face in this world. To do this, educational systems must strive to reach their fullest potential in relating content, pedagogy and technology to the real world. We may never reach the highest potential, but if we don’t ask questions or open up to new methods, how else will we make progress on this wicked problem?

CEP 812: Managing a Healthy Infodiet

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Brian M. Patten. What’s in your Infodiet?. 2014.

As I reflect on the many challenges facing our nation, and the world, I understand it is an important time to maintain a healthy infodiet. An infodiet is all the information an individual consumes as they interact with the world in a variety of different ways. The maintenance of my Professional Learning Network is an approach I utilize to control my information intake and expose myself to new and contradictory ideas from professionals and amateurs in various fields of study. I truly believe that the best way to solve, or improve, the world’s biggest wicked problems is through diverse collaborative teams with individuals from different backgrounds, points-of-views and fields of focus. Upon recent reflection, I have discovered that I may not understand the views that oppose mine as much as I once thought. Thankfully I have come to this realization and I can now work towards a greater focus on empathy for all viewpoints.

While exploring affinity spaces and filter bubbles, I have realized how my choices, as well as forces outside of my control, have disrupted what I thought was a well-balance infodiet. In his 2011 TedTalk, Eli Pariser displays how two people have vastly differing Google search results when preforming an identical search. Search algorithms can personalize content based geography, computer type and several other factors (Pariser, 2011). I knew search engines utilized algorithms to customize content, but I never thought about the extent to which this process keeps us closed to opposing information. With this, individuals must be stewards of their own learning and expand out to search for true diversity in points-of-view. On the other hand, I also feel individuals should be able to rely on structured programs, such as schools, designed to expand knowledge related to a well-rounded understanding of multifaceted problems. If one goes out on their own without a mentor, teacher or well-designed curriculum, the individual runs the risk of learning from bad information. Fake news and bad information is all over the internet. With this in mind, learners must obtain the skills of a vigorous researcher and have the support of trusted learning communities to get the right information.

With this realization, I have tried to expand my information networks to gain a truly well-rounded view of the world’s wicked problems. One of my struggles is with giving credit to certain ideas that come from individuals who have, or support people with, extreme ideologies as it relates to my personal beliefs. This extreme divide may not occur in education often, but the current political atmosphere seems to have created a divide between people that I have never seen before. Though I realize there may be some valuable perspective in the thoughts of these individuals, I sometimes have trouble respecting any of their ideas based on one or two of their thoughts that I have found disqualifying. In this frame of mind, I run the risk of placing myself in an echo chamber, so I must be careful not to be too dismissive. To create more balance, I have strategically added and removed components of my PLN to focus my attention, cut out the noise and exposed myself to differing perspectives in my main current concern of keeping education relevant. I do not have the time, energy, power or know-how to tackle all the world’s problems, so it is much healthier for me to clear the clutter.

In relation to focusing attention, Nicholas Carr makes some wonderful points for taking breaks from the constant bombardment of information in his talk at a conference sponsored by The Economist. Carr does not call for a complete elimination of technologies that provide instant access to information, but I believe he agrees with taking time to disconnect and ideate. To better manage my intake, I unfollowed many Twitter feeds and focused on pro and cons of technology integration, standardized testing, common core, virtual schools, charter schools and government organizations related to education. The combination of the aforementioned sources should give me a well-rounded view in regards to the wicked problem of keeping education relevant. With continuous mindfulness of my information consumption and a drive to improve the status for all stakeholders, I truly believe I can positively impact the world of education.

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Nicholas Carr. “The dark side of the information revolution”. The Economist. ND. Retrieved from http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid57825992001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAADXaozYk~,BawJ37gnfAnGoMxEdQj_T9APQXRHKyAC&bctid=1128986496001

Pariser, Eli. “Beware online “filter bubbles” | Eli Pariser.” YouTube, uploaded by TED, 2 May 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8ofWFx525s.

Patten, Brian. What’s in your Infodiet?. 2014., PNG, Retrieved from https://brianclaessonpatten.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/is-your-information-diet-well-balanced/

CEP 812: Wicked Problem Infographic

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This semester we have learned that a wicked problem is “a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize” (Wikipedia, 2016). Keeping education relevant in an ever-changing world is a wicked problem that my team and I are diving deeper into with the hopes of creating some solutions to help minimize that impact of this problem. We are approaching this problem through the lens of designers and we have created three questions that will assist us in pinpointing key components related to keeping education relevant. The three questions we have posed are:

  • Why isn’t education relevant?
  • How can technology support the curricular and pedagogical changes needed to be more relevant?
  • Why are 21st century skills needed for students seeking tomorrow’s careers?

The infographic below puts the questions in a more structured format and our hopes are that by asking the questions, we will start to cultivate possible solutions as we ideate, collaborate, experiment and revisit the design process. Please feel free to share any thoughts you may have as you think about this wicked problem.

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CEP 812: Wicked Problem Survey – Keeping Education Relevant

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Sebastiaan ter Burg. Het Nieuwe Instituut: Social Design for Wicked Problems. 2013.

5 Minute: Keeping Education Relevant Survey

A wicked problem is one that cannot be solved easily and sometimes it cannot be solved at all. The solution(s) put into place when dealing with wicked problems try to make the best out of a bad situation. The wicked problem my team is investigating relates to keeping education relevant in a world of rapid change. The New Media Consortium outlined this problem in their Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition. Please consider completing our Keeping Education Relevant Survey to help us gather data to better understand the numerous factors of this wicked problem. The survey should take about 5 minutes to complete and your responses will remain anonymous. If you wish to participate, please complete the survey no later than Friday, November 16, 2016.

The questions in the survey were designed by three graduate students, including myself, in the Michigan State University Master’s in Educational Technology program. Our goal is to utilize the data collected to inform decisions we make while attempting to enhance the learning experiences for our students and the communities we serve. Today’s job market is looking for a new type of employee who differs from the one traditionally produced from our current educational system. Developing the type of skilled and innovative individuals desired by employers today is a wicked problem. How can education stay relevant in a world where vast amounts of knowledge is freely available to the masses, but change is rapid and there are very specific demands for all the individual fields of practice? Please consider helping our cause by completing the survey above and revisit gregeran.wordpress.com to follow the progress as we strive to keep education relevant in an ever-changing world.

New Media Consortium. (2016) Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition. Retrieved from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2016-nmc-horizon-report-he-EN.pdf#page=36

Sebastiaan ter Burg. Het Nieuwe Instituut: Social Design for Wicked Problems. 2013. JPG. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/ter-burg/9701305453

CEP 812: Why We Stop Questioning and How the “Comfort” Factor Might Help

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catch21productions. student question time. 2006

In his book, A More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger explores the importance of inquiry to guide innovation. Just as important as questioning, Berger expresses the need to take action following inquiry. “Basic formula: Q (questioning) + A (action) = I (innovation). On the other hand, Q – A = P (philosophy)” (Berger, p.31). Berger’s book takes a deep dive into the details of how we can foster the formula of innovation. One of the keys to this goal is facilitating within an environment that is not only accepting of questions from all individuals, but urging for questions to come regularly from all participants. As part of this challenge, Berger shows how quickly our desire to question spikes at a young age and drops drastically. So why does this occur? Why do preschoolers ask fewer and fewer questions as they grow toward adulthood?

An area I will explore while looking to answer part of this question is related to a “comfort” factor as theorized by a Harvard child psychologist and author Paul Harris. Berger brings to light Harris’ “comfort” factor which suggests, “at home with a parent, children are more willing to share their questions than they are at preschool” (Berger, p.43). As a parent of a nearly three-year-old boy and a four-and-a-half-year-old girl, I can completely relate to both sides of the “comfort” factor. My wife and I feel our main job is to unconditionally love our children and make sure they are safe. We have freedom in our lesson plan, because with our children there is no set lesson plan. The conditions in our house are ripe for inquiry. Of course the level of comfort given to ask questions varies day-to-day, but we try our best to expand our patience and gladly accept a constant bombardment of questions. One the other hand, teachers face all sorts of challenges that make this type of truly student-centered learning nearly impossible. However, through all the challenges, such as standardized tests, high student-to-teacher ratios and limited resources, it is crucial to foster inquiry. Berger explains, “if a student thinks of a question him/herself, it is likely to be of more interest than someone else’s question” (Berger, p.56). As we show children that they are in a safe place to question, the questions will just keep coming.

I work very hard to extend this “comfort” factor to my workplace environment. The strategies can work across the ages to encourage inquiry. Individuals are much more likely to ask questions if they feel that they are in a safe place, physically and mentally. For example, in the technology field I feel that it is my responsibility to always gauge whether the language I am using is being understood. By constantly verifying, I feel I am creating openings within the discussion where questions are noticeably welcome. I also gladly speak about my weaknesses within the vast technology field and explain how no one can know it all. As Berger notes, “good questioners tend to be aware of, and quite comfortable with, their own ignorance” (Berger, p.16). I believe showing this vulnerability to students, co-workers and others is one of the best ways to break down walls and create a safe comfortable space for open discussion and inquiry.

References:

Berger, Warren. A More Beautiful Question. Bloomsbury, 2014.

Catch21productions. Student question time. 2006. PNG. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/catch21/237011169

CEP 812: Technology to Support Learning with Dyslexia

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frankieleon. My Cereal Speaks. 2010.

Though I was never formally diagnosed with dyslexia, my 4th grade teacher expressed her concern that I showed some symptoms in my reading, writing and spelling skills. I still wonder today, but I have been able to manage my challenges enough to be successful in my career without major concern. The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as “a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge” (International Dyslexia Association, 2016). Thanks to after school tutoring sessions in grade school, I made positive strides and learned some techniques for combating my weaknesses concerning reading, writing and spelling. Today we are fortunate to have a vast amount of knowledge on the topic, as well as technology that can support learners of all ages who may struggle with symptoms of dyslexia.

As I said, I was never the strongest reader in school and still as an adult I have to use several techniques to support my reading, writing and spelling skills. I am fortunate to have gotten over the shame of my weaknesses and have utilized my strengths to make my struggles nearly unnoticeable. As educators there are many ways we can structure content delivery to support learners of all ages and abilities. Applying the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines (National Center on Universal Design for Learning, 2014) is one of the best methods we can employ to cover a wide range of challenges learners may face. These guidelines stress a student-centered approach and the phrase “multimodal” comes to mind repeatedly as I think about implementation into practice. Video is one of my favorite content types and I feel more supported in the content area when the video is captioned. Specifically related to dyslexia, captioning can support phonological awareness in some learners. As observed in the field of Neuroscience, improvements within children with dyslexia have been found when instruction “includes explicit and systematic instruction in phonological awareness and decoding strategies” (Gabrieli, p.282).

The captioning process can be time consuming, challenging and/or expensive depending on the method used. YouTube has one of the easiest and least expensive options for captioning videos, but it does come with its constraints. As with all automatic computer-based captioning services I have experimented with, the Youtube service is not prefect. This is especially true when captioning video within fields that have their own set of complicated languages. Computer programming and healthcare are two areas that come to mind which require extra attention to make sure the captions match what is truly being said in the video. The YouTube system does have a fairly easy system for allowing edits to the automatically generated captions, so this is certainly an effective method for providing captions for recorded audio/video. Captioning will always add extra time when in the preparation process of delivering content, but the value added can make a large difference for a variety of learners. Also, the value will continue for future students with minimal effort if videos are reused for future classes. Another option that lowers the time investment for content creators, but increases cost, is sending the videos to an external company for captioning. This may not be an option for many institutions, but the services are fairly quick and extremely accurate. With a fee-based service like Automaticsync, an audio/video file is submitted and a file containing human produced captions is produced that can be attached in YouTube and other content management systems. The process takes a few days, but saves a lot of time for the original content creator. No method is perfect, but captioning can have profound effects on learning for individuals with symptoms of dyslexia, and truly, learners at all levels of ability.

frankieleon. My Cereal Speaks. 2010. JPEG. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/armydre2008/4278905797

Gabrieli, J. (2009). Dyslexia: A New Synergy between Education and Cognitive Neuroscience. Science, 325(5938), 280-283. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20536638

International Dyslexia Association. (2016). Definition of Dyslexia. Retrieved from https://dyslexiaida.org/definition-of-dyslexia/

National Center on Universal Design for Learning. (2014). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines_theorypractice

YouTube. (2016). Add Subtitles & closed captions. Retrieved from https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2734796?hl=en