Tony Gurr

Archive for the ‘The Paradigm Debate’ Category

So…What Exactly Should Curriculum Planning Look Like – for 2017/18? (Part 02)

In Curriculum, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Our Universities, The Paradigm Debate on 22/10/2017 at 12:35 am

Urbanski Quote

Have you ever done a blog post that totally leads people down the garden path – then promises to make up for it by saying that Part 2 will be more focused, useful and better-written?

Have you ever forgotten to write that Part 2?

Whoops!

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So, as I was saying – ELT has been using this ridiculous, ‘best practice’ model for curriculum-developing and syllabus-making for over 40 years (teachers have also incorporated it into their lesson-planning)!

CPD Blog Post 170717 slide 09 TG

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It just don’t work…and we have (in our heart of hearts) known this for years!

Why not?

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Well, it ain’t that hard to work out:

Screaming Teacher

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OK, OK – I get that when we look at our ‘content’, we get pretty scared:

Curric Content

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We can panic about much of this ‘content’ we have to ‘cover’ in the limited time we have available with our learners – especially, if we are also working in an EGAP or EAP context:

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Academic Literacy

Academic Literacy is a total bi’ach to plan for!

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Covey Quote

But, the solution is NOT to ignore the learner…it is to make sure we put the learner at the heart of our decision-making.

Wiggins and McTighe Quote 2

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We have to recognise that more of the same is not the solution…

Do Different ZAMANI

Indeed, we just have to listen to some of the ELT Jedi Masters (although they may be few in number)…

ELT Jedi Masters

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Recognising the power of questions…

Mackenzie Quote

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Wiggins and McTighe gave use a new planning model with 3 phases:

OUTCOMES

ASSESSMENT

IMPLEMENTATION

…and gave use us 3 disarmingly-simple questions to help us get it right!

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The first of these drew attention to the fact that learner outcomes (not teacher inputs) are here to stay – and, if we are to have a hope in hell of expanding and improving student learning and success, we have to begin with the end in mind or recognise that curriculum-developing needs to begin where it ends – with the learning of individual students.

Backwards Model (1st questions) 2

That’s the essence of the job, guys – always has been!

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The second phase has frequently raised a few eyebrows – because we, so often, just tag on assessment at the end of the learning process. We forget that, for students, assessment IS the curriculum!

Backwards Model (2 questions) 2

Come on! How many times have you heard a student say:

“Hocam, that was a great lesson! I loved the way you combined the 21st century skills of critical thinking and collaboration with a truly communicative, task-based activity based on a meaningful information gap…and the way you supported us with just-in-time instruction and helped with all that emergent vocabulary and lexis – you are a great teacher…I love you”!

How many times have you heard this one?

“Hocam – will this be on the test…or what”?

You get the point…

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The fact is that if a teacher really knows and understands the nature of the assessment processes and tools that students need to engage with (and these are more than simplistic, high-stakes, multiple-choice tests) they can create lessons that promote more of a learning-driven culture…where learners welcome the type of formative feedback that helps them grow and succeed.

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Backwards Model (all 3 questions) 2

The final phase is where teachers can get creative – developing a lesson (or series of lessons) that both meets student needs and is engaging and, dare I say it, useful! Rather than starting with a textbook (and following up with content-driven and activity-driven lessons), we design learning opportunities and tasks that can make a difference…and be fun!

Surely, I do not have to sell this any harder…it just makes so much sense!

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OK, I may have simplified things a wee bit – but just jump back to Part 01 and tell me this is not an improvement…that this approach can’t help us deal with the challenge identified by Rogers…over 35 years ago!

Rogers Quote 1982

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So…What Exactly Should Curriculum Planning Look Like – for 2017/18? (Part 01)

In Curriculum, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Our Universities, The Paradigm Debate on 22/07/2017 at 7:37 am

Blog Post (Curric) Image 01 220717

I know, I know…most of us are still on holiday…but I am sure there are a few of us out there that are (already) experiencing anxiety about some of the tasks we have to complete when we get back to the factory floor. Especially, if a new textbook was selected just before the semester ended…

Do NOT worry…I am here to help you get over that anxiety and give you the PERFECT curriculum planning toolshiriously!

Blog Post (Curric) Image 02 220717

…and it won’t cost you any more than the price you paid for this blog post!

 

Blog Post (Curric) Image 03 220717

As with any planning system, we need to decide on the key concepts that will guide us – and I have found, as we are in ELT, that 3 work wonderfully:

PLANof course!

IMPLEMENTbecause we have to take stuff into the classroom!

TESTwell, just because…we love doing this! OK…we want to check what has been learned!

 

The first of these steps is sooooooo easy…and involves 3 more mini-steps – take a gander:

Blog Post (Curric) Image 04 220717And, here’s you getting all worked up during your holiday! Most of you have already done mini-step 01 (hey, some of you might even be using Headway…even though the authors died 10 years back)! The key, however, is mini-step 03 – once you have the pacing guideline (the weekly ‘checklist’ of stuff to teach), you are more than halfway home. Indeed, if you work in a Curriculum Unit you can start planning your holiday for July 2018!

 

Now, the teacher steps up to the plate – ready to breathe life into the wonderful documents you have created.

What do they need to do?

Again…easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy:

Blog Post (Curric) Image 05 2207173 more mini-steps even a burger-flipper at McDonalds can execute! Again, the trick here is to make sure you stay on track…covering every activity (except those pesky ‘pronunciation boxes’ and maybe that last ‘speaking task’after all, who needs them…and besides…you’ve run out of time)!

 

 

Blog Post (Curric) Image 07 220717

Ahhh, now we come to the home stretch…because we all know that ‘assessment’ is really the ‘curriculum’ for every single student. I mean…come on…have you ever heard a student say, ‘Hocam, that was a wonderful lesson – I loved the way you blended those two Learning Outcomes with the notion of critical thinking and creativity through that truly authentic and communicative information gap task’!

Voilà – this is how:

Blog Post (Curric) Image 06 220717

3 final mini-steps even the most mathematically-challenged ELT teacher could follow (with a calculator and a pre-prepared spreadsheet)! OK, OK…that last one can be tough on the old heart-strings… ‘but I did warn you to study more and not play with that bloody phone of yours so much’!

AND, that…ladies and gentlemen…is how you do it!

 

Tried and tested all over the globe – a model that has found its way into…

Blog Post (Curric) Image 08 220717

…and I gave it you HERE…for:

Blog Post (Curric) Image 09 220717

Life doesn’t get better than that…for a teacher (and that means most of us) on a salary less than 50% of what she is worth!

 

CPD Blog Post 170717 slide 09 TG

Well, as a great Jedi…sorry…Reiki Master told me,

‘You get what you pay for’!

What if…

In News & Updates (from the CBO), Our Schools, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training, The Paradigm Debate on 17/09/2013 at 4:44 pm

What if 08 (WWZ Poster) TG ver

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Yes, Rosie! I love my Zombies, too…

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What if…?

Imagine for a second…we changed the way we thunk about what goes on (or should go on) in our classrooms.

You know…

What if 01

…did a bit of a swap!

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Not only in what we thunk…but also in how we talk about what we thunk.

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Would the world come to an end, acaba? Would the Zombie hordes that tormented Brad Pitt and his ever-so-sweet movie family over the Summer…move into our cities, suburbs and schools?

I know, I know…the zombies have already taken our Ministries, our School Boards, our “Reform” Agenda – but Brad did “win” out in the end…did he not?

By fighting on the “front line”!

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Many of us have already taken the first step. I mean…we have been asking:

What if 03

…even though we might not like the term “business”!

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AND…we already kinda recognise that…

What if 04

LEARNing is sooooooo much bigger…

…and something we (as TEACHers) cannot (however much we may want to) do on behalf of our students.

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Nope!

Brad kisses a zombie

No Zombie apocalypse!

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I mean…a few simple questions is all that it takes to get us there:

What if 02

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Mmmm – ouch! But, a nice “ouch”…

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Hey, here’s a thunk…what about if all TEACHers-In-Training (you know, those lovely TEACHers-To-Be) had these questions at the heart of their “curriculum”…lecturers that “felt” these questions in their bones…and “walked their talk”.

I wonder what impact this might have on these TEACHers when they get to “do business” – in their own classrooms?

Pretty much the same in the case of humanities – …what if we had humanities educators that (instead of teaching their students “about” books or what so-and-so “meant” in lines 14-15 on page 69) help their students to LEARN about life, work and themselves…”through” reflecting on books!

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Afterall…

What if 05

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Hey, just a thunk

What if 06

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The alternative, I fear, is waiting for those other Zombies to come up with the next:

What if 07

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And, this time…Brad is not around to save us!

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A Post That (Really) Made Me THUNK…

In Classroom Teaching, News & Updates (from the CBO), Teacher Learning, The Paradigm Debate on 11/09/2013 at 9:20 am

Are we too egocentric

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Yes, that’s it folks!

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That little quote ripped off from Grant’s latest blog post – and turned into one of my wee graphicsthat is my post for today!

Well, I am travelling these days (a lot) and that’s the best I can manage.

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Perhaps, I should not apologise too much – as it is such a powerful THUNK in itself.

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Read it again…and pop over to the post – for a closer look.

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What do you think?

How egocentric are we – as TEACHers?

How egocentric are YOU?

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Take a look at that last sentence (and the word “merely”)…now, that might ruffle a feather or 3!

You are here (universe) Ver 02

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…or…

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Has Grant missed the mark with this one?

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The “Art” of Sailing…and Collaborative LEARNing (from GUEST BLOGGER Laurence Raw)

In Adult Learners, Our Universities, The Paradigm Debate on 18/08/2013 at 2:51 pm
Creativity (Duras quote on seeing 01)
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I have just spent four days watching the conclusion of the Tall Ships race in Szczecin, Poland, as well as attending a conference dedicated to the metaphor of the sea in humanities learning.
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Watching the tall ships was a fascinating event, especially when one of them sailed into dry dock, accompanied by the crew singing Egyptian sea-shanties to the accompaniment of the bagpipes (an interesting transcultural experience there).
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Sailing and Teamwork (Slocum quote 01)
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As I watched, I could not help but admire the way the crew acted as a community of purpose – not only playing and singing their own music, but working with one another to ensure the ship’s safe passage into the dock.  I wondered why such communities could not be forged elsewhere – especially in the academy or educational institution.
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The next two days were spent listening to papers at the conference, and I soon understood why.  Although ostensibly dedicated to transcultural learning and teaching, the majority of pieces were dominated by what might be described as binary oppositions (black/ white, learner/ educator, west/east, America/Europe, Democrat/ Republican) that are necessarily exclusive in concept: one part of the binary is necessarily reinforced at the expense of the other.  Educators assume more importance in classes than learners; Mainstream American cultures are prioritized in curricula at the expense of locally produced cultures; the list is endless.
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Sailing and Teamwork (Pat Riley quote 01)
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I reflected a little, and wondered if we might find alternative ways of thinking by returning to the idea of tall ships and the sea.  To negotiate stormy waters, a crew must learn to act together; to take into account their differing strengths and abilities and use them to forge a prosperous community dedicated to the tasks in hand.  This should also be the basis of every learning experience; to negotiate the stormy waters of criticism, funding, syllabus or classroom issues, members of an academic community – whether at the school or university level – should take heed of the ship’s crew, and learn how to work inclusively rather than exclusively.
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To do this requires a fundamental shift in thinking.  It means that greater attention needs to be paid to “why” questions rather than “what” questions, especially where learning issues are concerned.  Everyone should acknowledge that learning is messy; it cannot be shoehorned into binary oppositions, as everyone (whether learners or educators) learns and reacts in different ways.  A community of purpose should give each of its members the time and space to think, as well as determine their roles within that community.
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Change (David Thoreau quote)
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Through this subtle shift of approach, I believe that a learning community can become like a ship’s crew, piloting themselves (as well as their institutions) through the Scylla and Charybdis of obstacles, so that they can land safely in dry dock.  Until the next voyage, that is.
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I wonder if it would work?
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Laurence Raw (aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)
Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
http://www.radiodramareviews.com

Who will my students BECOME after they LEARN with me?

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning, The Paradigm Debate on 18/07/2013 at 9:25 am

TEACHing is not LEARNing

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This little image is one of the very first I did for the blog – almost 3 years back!

It’s been downloaded so many times – hey, some people have even conntacted me and asked me for “permission” to download it (yes, there are many nice guys out there…gals, too). Others have suggested that I add a word or two…we could probably add many!

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Not that you need me to tell you…but I was kinda stating the obvious when I did this – and, I was also linking it to two other questions that TEACHers ask themselves on a Monday morningor Sunday night:

The toss up (LEARNing vs TEACHing)

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Very different, aren’t they?

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It’s not really a toss-upit’s a choice!

I’ve found that the TEACHers who ask the second question “do business” very differently to those that ask the first. I’ve also “confessed” (and recently re-booted the post in which I made that confession) that I used to ask the first far more than I ever asked the second.

So…how do we get from that second question to the one I have used at the title of this post?

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Well, I thunk it’s a question of what matters…or, to be more specific, what we thunk matters…and what we do to breathe life into that thunk.

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Go back to that first image, for a minute…I was suggesting that there are 11 things that are really important in allthingsLEARNing.

If you had to choose 3 of them, what would they be?

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  • FUN, perhaps? It’s important, for sure…but it might not make the top 3, yes?
  • What about REFLECTION? Yes, that one might be in there.
  • FEEDBACK? The LEARNing lubegotta have that in my top 3!

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Or, maybe, it’s EXAM PASSES!

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For me, top of the list would be:

Change (Margaret Mead quote) Ver 02

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Come on! Only 18 words there…you know the ONE!

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Need another clue?

Change (David Thoreau quote)

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It’s in there TWICE

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OK…I know you have got it by now – but I just wanted to throw in this one, too

Change (Maya Angelou quote) Ver 03

I know, I know…but I did take all that time to prepare it!

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Besides…who doesn’t love the She-Hulk? I bet Maya Angelou does…

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Change (Leo Buscaglia quote)

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LEARNing has to involve change…change in the way the LEARNer thinks, feels and acts.

It’s not just about LEARNing “stuff” or it shouldn’t be. The “stuff” we are creating these days is growing at exponential rates…and if our goal, as TEACHers, is to simply TEACH this stuff, we might as well just pack up and go home – and leave it all to the tech we now have!

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This is why our questions have changed…have to change.

Just asking “What should I TEACH today”? …is a “stuff question”.

Asking “What should my students LEARN today”? is an improvement…and, asking “What should my students be able to do with what they LEARN today”? – is even better!

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However, asking:

Who will my students BECOME

…is a whole new ball-game.

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A ball-game that scares the crap out of many TEACHers!

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Indeed, many TEACHers I have discussed this question with tell me it’s an impossible question – especially those that work in the ELT “racket”. They tell me that primary TEACHers (even university TEACHers) have a shot at this – they are well-placed…they have enough stuff to TEACH…they can shape minds (and souls)!

A friend of mine once told me, “I’m beginning to think that all that stuff about you being a LEARNatic is true…Come on! I’m just a bloody language TEACHer…I TEACH grammar…sorry, language communication skills…I help kids with the 4 skills…and vocabulary”!

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Read that again…

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My friend is, by the way, a great TEACHer. But, he is notgreat” because of his knowledge of grammar…nor because he knows how to TEACH the 4 skills (rather than just “practice” them using a silly textbook).

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but...

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…look at how he describes himself!

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I wanted to slap him upside his head when he said this! Instead…I think I made him pay the bill!

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Why do so many TEACHers put themselves down in this way?

Maybe it’s because this is what institutions have LEARNed themI don’t know!

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Change (Seth Godin quote)

My friend is a great TEACHer because he really knows how to “connect” with his students…and because the quality of his interactions with his “kids” allow him to make a real difference to the way those kids think, feel and act – and I ain’t only talking about GRAMMAR!

You see…it doesn’t really matter “what” we TEACH…what discipline we work in, yani! Afterall, none of us really “TEACHes courses”, do we?

We TEACH kids, teenagers, young adults…and even old farts like me!

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When I had this discussion with my old pal, it took a long time to convince him (what the heck…he was paying the bill)! Seth Godin had not published his latest book The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?

I wish he had! Perhaps, we’d have fewer TEACHers saying the type of things my friend was saying.

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Seth’s book has also led me to add another little question to my list:

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Who will I BECOME (as a TEACHer)

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…far more important for us as EDUcators, yes?

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Afterall, we (also) need to remember the words of Ellen Hocam:

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Change (Ellen Glasgow quote)

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Wonderful BEDtime reading for every TEACHer (and their dogs):

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The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

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When Spoon-feeding the “Kids” is NOT Enough… (not a RE-boot)!

In Adult Educators, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training, The Paradigm Debate on 09/07/2013 at 11:53 am

Spoonfeeding TEACHers 02

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This was a question a very irate TEACHer-cum-PARENT asked me the other week. She was, of course, talking about LEARNing our kids to feed themselves.

“They are turning my kid into a little test-drone” – she told me. Here, she was talking about her child’s school…and, probably, she wasn’t far wrong.

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Most of our schools are firmly grounded on 4 ways of “doing business”:

Spoonfeeding TEACHers 03

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Yeah…sorry about that – but, if it’s any consolation, that little image up there took me ages to do…guess I was making up for that last, imagesiz blog post I did.

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I don’t want to get into all of them – one-by-one – and, besides, most of you know what I thunks:

LEARNing (cannot be delivered) Ver 02

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You also know…in your heart-of-hearts that:

High Grades and LEARNers (Wiggins quote)

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I do not really care how many practice books, online resources, mock tests, or so-called “extra-curriculuar” tutoring sessions a school offers its kids…if these materials or opportunities are of the just-in-case, EXAMocracy type (rather than the just-in-time, LEARNing type) – the result is the same.

Pigeon holes (even of the “multiple intelligence variety”) are too small for our kids!

Hey, I did manage to cover them all!

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Twilight Zone 01b (TG edit).jpg

However, the story did not stop there.

I got a call from one of the “team” at the school (where my friend sends her kid) – quite by co-incidence.

They wanted me to to come to their school at the end of August and…wait for it…. “deliver a lecture” to their TEACHers…a 60-minute lecture, no less / no more (because, I was told, TEACHers cannot focus for more than 50-60 minutes) on….wait for it… “creativity with the new textbooks they have adopted” .

Do they not know me…at all?

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HULK (keep calm TG Ver)

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To add insult to injury…they also asked me if I knew any other native-speakers that would be prepared to come a give a 60-minute session on…and this was the killer… “any topic they wanted!

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The SECRET (Expletive)

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Now, I’m not going to get into the whole “NS vs. NNS TEACHer thingy” (though I would really love toI would)! But, it’s worth exploring some of the the other underlying assumptions…behind this seemingly simple request.

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There are many schools (and universities, too) out there that are basically looking for a way to “fill up” the Summer schedules of their TEACHers…called back to work far too early…when nothing of much value has been planned.

Now, I’m not saying this is the case here…Vallahi Billahi…(yep, Google Translate still sucks!) – but the request “smelled” of something…something very fishy!

Balik bastan kokar (TR ver)

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Why would a school want to invite a speaker or trainer to “do” a session on “anything they wanted” ?

Thunk about that for a minute…

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Even worse…why (oh, bloody why) would they want someone to come and deliver a lecture on a topic area or theme that is clearly so grounded on critical thunking, classroom practice and collaborative co-creation?

We’re talking about “creativity“, guys – not exam prep classes!

Duh (TG ver 4 blog)

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Now, call me old-fashioneddoesn’t happen very often…but I’m OK with it.

I’ve always believed that:

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The ART of TEACHing (van Doren quote) Ver 02

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…it just makes sense that TEACHer LEARNing (TRAINing, even – though I do prefer my other term), should follow the same principle…similar processes.

You know, all that stuff about “walking-our-talk” and “being the change we want to see in the classroom” –

posing and answering questions together,

working stuff out together,

solving real problemsTOGETHER!

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Motivation (the CHALLENGE)

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But, then again, maybe some schools just feel it’s easier to “manage” their TEACHers…when they manage their “diet”, too!

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Feeding our TEACHers is important…

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The problem is, however, that wonderful advice that Neila Hocam (yes, click on that link – it is a “real” book) gives us:

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If you dont feed the TEACHers (Connors quote) Ver 02

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…is also dependent on the “type of food” we make available to our TEACHers!

 

The Mother of all Curriculum Myths …(the RE-boot)

In Curriculum, The Paradigm Debate on 07/07/2013 at 7:26 am

Learning,

Reflecting,

Thunking,

…in big, bad İstanbul

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I lied…

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This one will be the last of my 500K celebration re-boots – but I wanted to try a little experiment.

This post was written in February 2012 and represented the very first time I had ever tried to get my thunks on curriculum down on paper (in a systematic way)…drawing on all the things I had learned over the past couple of decades.

However, when I decided to do the re-boot – I wondered what it might look like if I took away all the quirks that I use in my bloggery style.

You’ll notice there was no opening graphic

…there are no weird bits of bolding, no quotation marks (on words and phrases that do not really need them), no imagesat all!

Does it make a difference?

Can you still SEE (or HEAR) me?

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YOU tell ME…

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This be the REblogged post (header)

While cruising blogland this week (not sure if that little phrase is as suitable as it could be but my daughter is still telling me I have to stop saying surfing the web – as it shows my age), I saw that a number of bloggers had discovered the work of those really sensible folks at ICG (Independent Curriculum Group).

I’ve been following the schools that make up ICG for some time – impressed by the fact that all of them are really walking-their-talk with regards teacher-generated curriculum.

Come on…who is not going to be impressed by a bunch of schools that know their stuff with regards student learning and who put that stuff at the heart of their decision-making? 

Apparently, quite a few of us!

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What got the blogosphere buzzing this week was that the ICG schools had boiled their thinking down to a series of neat sound bites (sadly, sound bites still seem to get more attention than the serious thinking that underpins them these days) – and created a set of myths: 

  • Basic Facts Come Before Deep Learning This one translates roughly as, “Students must do the boring stuff before they can do the interesting stuff.” Or, “Students must memorize before they can be allowed to think.” In truth, students are most likely to achieve long-term mastery of basic facts in the context of engaging, student-directed learning.  
  • Rigorous Education Means a Teacher Talking Teachers have knowledge to impart, but durable learning is more likely when students talk, create, and integrate knowledge into meaningful projects. The art of a teacher is to construct ways for students to discover.  
  • Covering It Means Teaching It Teachers are often seduced by the idea that if they talk about a concept in class, they have taught it. At best, students get tentative ideas that will be quickly forgotten if not reinforced by a student-centred activity.  
  • Teaching to Student Interests Means Dumbing It Down If we could somehow see inside a student’s brain, its circuitry would correspond to its knowledge. Since new learning always builds on what is already in the brain, teachers must relate classroom teaching to what students already know. Teachers who fail to do so, whether due to ignorance or in pursuit of a false idea of rigor, are running afoul of a biological reality.  
  • Acceleration Means Rigor Some schools accelerate strong students so that they can cover more material. ICG schools are more likely to ask such students to delve deeper into important topics. Deep knowledge lays a stronger foundation for later learning.  
  • A Quiet Classroom Means Good Learning Students sitting quietly may simply be zoned out, if not immediately, then within 15 minutes. A loud classroom, if properly controlled, included the voices of many students who are actively engaged.  
  • Traditional Schooling Prepares Students for Life Listening to teachers and studying for tests has little to do with life in the world of work. People in the work world create, manage, evaluate, communicate, and collaborate, like students in ICG schools.

 

Now, lots of you might think that these myths are pretty obvious – but the fact that we still have so many soft spots in our schools and education systems (around the globe) tells me that these myths are, in fact, based on the underlying assumptions that guide the decision-making of many teachers, their administrators and schools and the ministries that (all too sadly) hold the reins of our educational systems – and that these assumptions remain invisible to many.

What was interesting for me was that the ICG myths were not, in the traditional sense, directly linked to the what we believe curriculum is all about – despite the very name of the group that produced them. However, the fact that so few of the myths might be viewed as curriculum issues shows the quality of thinking that these schools are engaged in…IMHO!

I have to say, however, that I felt the list was missing something…not just a few other myths that we could all probably add to the list…something bigger!

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For me, there is a more sizeable myth that underpins the set suggested by ICG. This mother of all myths lies at the work of veteran educators like Harry and Rosemary Wong and has been most effectively hinted at (or sound bitten) by people like Ann Parker:

Effective teachers don’t cover the curriculum… – they uncover it.

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The myth is essentially this:

Curriculum is best conceptualised as content – arranged as a teaching plan

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Now, I’m not sure where this mother of all myths came from – but we can feel its omnipresence in almost every corner of education. We find it in universities and the way (far too many) lecturers see their own curricular as being the topics they will cover and the order in which these topics are to be delivered to learners.

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Wikipedia (*) has also helped to promote this understanding through its definition of what curriculum is all about:

…the set of courses, and their content, offered at a school or university

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There are still many teachers in our primary and secondary schools that begin their lessons with utterances like ‘What page were we on last time’? – and then instruct students to turn to the next one for today’s lesson… It is this type of approach to learning and teaching that has led many a teacher to believe that they could not possibly survive without the textbook – and has created the even more cynical and insipid version of this myth:  

Curriculum is best conceptualised as the content pages of our textbooks!

Wouldn’t publishers and their textbook writers just love this understanding of curriculum to win out?

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The thing is that it wasn’t always like this – and the solutions to this challenge do not seem to be available on our present or future list of how to fix things in education. As we look at commentary on the future of education in today’s blogosphere and the solutions to many of the challenges we currently face in education, we keep coming back to one word – technology! 

Sorry, that is just dumb

Technology is not going to save education – the quality of thinking from those involved in educational decision-making is going to do that. And, the starting point is challenging the underlying assumptions and myths that all too often dominate our decision-making.

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The Greeks and Romans had nowhere near the technology that the average family home or teachers’ room has access to today – but they had a far superior conceptualisation of what curriculum is mean to be all about:

…the original meaning of the term curriculum was ‘racecourse’

and the understanding that curriculum represents a meaningful and purposeful progression to some predetermined goal.

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Far from being about delivering the content on the course outline or covering the textbook, this understanding of curriculum got it right with its emphasis on purposeful progression and a predetermined goal

Yes, the Ancient Greeks and Romans knew that curriculum needs to begin where it ends – with the learning of individual students and with the thinking of teachers and educators about how this can best be realised.

If we look closer at what the great teachers of the time did with what they knew about curriculum, we also see many things that are missing in more modern conceptualisations of what curriculum is all about: 

  • A curriculum should answer the question what are we here to do for our students – it is the fundamental expression of our purposes, aims and convictions (as educators and institutions).
  • Curriculum thinking cannot be divorced from the values and beliefs of those involved in creating it. A great curriculum uncovers the underlying assumptions and aspirations that educators have for their learners and themselves – it is more than content, it is a conscious educational philosophy given form and substance.
  • Just as a curriculum needs to be seen as an expression of an educational philosophy, it also needs to be viewed as a framework of educational values that informs problem-solving on a day-to-day basis. A curriculum needs to scream this is who we are and this is how we do business – not simply list a series of dry topics to be presented by an equally dry teacher.
  • A curriculum has to be centred on learners, their learn and what they can do with that learning…!
  •  Effective curricular need to be more than about what we are teaching today (or Monday morning). Curriculum needs to move beyond now into the future learning of students and graduates – and is only as good as the way it prepares learners to keep on learning after the experience of formal education is over and done with.
  •  When teachers and learners only conceive of curriculum as a document, we might as well pack up and go home (these words are a rough translation of what Aristotle said). A real, breathing curriculum is one that teachers and learners see as an on-going process of questioning of what ought to happen and an on-going process of problem-solving with regards how to make that happen in practice.
  • Curriculum is a process, a process that gives us a way to imagine, explore, and critique ways of thinking about the purposes and practices of a curriculum. This very process helps teachers and educators grow as much as their learners – it allows them to revitalise their subjects and disciplines and look for more ways to cross traditional boundaries so as prioritise making a real difference to the real lives of their very real learners.
  • Assessment and curriculum are the currency used by teachers and students and they should embody the very nature of the relationships we hope to build in and out of the classroom. As such, teachers and educators need to have a central role in designing not only the learning opportunities and assessment activities – but also the curriculum itself. Before students can own a curriculum, teachers have to be invested in and believe in it.
  • Curriculum also needs to be viewed as interactive process of designing, experiencing, evaluating and improving what learners can do with what they know – this cannot be done by teachers alone, it is (or should be) a true process of co-creation.
  •  If a poor curriculum is one that looks more like a tick-box checklist of things to be poured into the heads of students, a great curriculum is one that has at its heart a meaningful sequence and structure that involves iterative revisiting and expansion over time – and one that makes room for co-creation by students. Concepts, themes and topic areas need to be revisited with greater sophistication, learners need to be given opportunities to demonstrate earlier understandings and also be presented with newer challenges and projects imagineered to lead them to higher ability levels – challenges and projects that also explore their evolving view of both learning and the world they are building through that learning.

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Perhaps, it is no coincidence that these ancient teachers did not have textbooks (or iPads) – neither did they have publishers, textbook writers and software developers constantly hawking their wares back then!

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In a nutshell, we need to start viewing curriculum as:

the expression of educational beliefs – in practice – or the whole educative process

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Yes, it is true that in today’s world content, textbooks and course outlines need to be factored in – but if we limit ourselves to these components, we are actually preparing the ground work for all of the myths that ICG have outlined for us.

If we do not include a vision of the type of graduate we are working to create (and not just a version for wall decoration), teacher talk will remain at the heart of the teaching process – and covering it will still be equated with teaching it.

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We need to see curriculum for what it really is – not a document (or table of contents from a textbook) but what we do with what we believe it is all about:

  • Graduate Profile
  • Content
  • Course Outlines
  • Textbooks
  • Projects
  • Self-Study Modules
  • On-line Learning Resources
  • Practice Activities
  • Homework
  • Assessment Critreria
  • Tests
  • Feedback
  • Student/Teacher Interactions
  • Teacher Values
  • Educational Beliefs
  • Institutional Vision

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Curriculum needs to be about choice and principles (I stole that from Covey) – and those principles need to be:

  • Spiral
  • Purposeful
  • Explicit
  • Values-centred
  • Learning-driven
  • Future-orientated
  • Living
  • Dynamic
  • Teacher-owned
  • Creative

 

Now, tell me if that ain’t better than the myths and their mother!

 

 

(*) Since this post was first published (on 20th February, 2012) Wikipedia has changed its definition of curriculum…Mmmm, do not ask me why.

The Future is NOT in LEARNing …(the RE-Boot)

In Adult Learners, Teacher Learning, The Paradigm Debate on 06/07/2013 at 7:45 am


big bad İSTANBUL

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I know, I know…been doing a few too many of these RE-boots of late and you are getting fed up of them!

Actually, there is a method in my recent bout of bloggery madnessto be honest…a few methods – I’m reviewing ideas for a couple of new book thunks, I’m getting the chance to catch up on a few image credits that I have skipped (by accident, honest to God!) and I’m looking at a few ideas for new posts!

I’ve chosen this one – not because it was really popular…but, because I liked it!

‘Tis my blog afterall…

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This post followed a slightly more quirky post entitled “Not all LEARNing is created equal!” – and I was trying to thunk through the issues of RElearning, UNlearning and UPlearning…without wanting to stab someone in the head (or throat…the eye, even) every time they came up in conversation!

I am not a violent man…by nature…I do, usually, have a high tolerance for ambiguity (and “bullshit”)…but I just cannot cope with people who make up wordbites in order to have a stab at their 15 minutes!

But, this one was calmer than my usual “rants” – see what you thunk!

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OK…quickly look at the “title” of the post, again!

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WTF (with doggies)

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Now, I bet you never expected to see THAT kind of title on THIS blog!

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In one of my recent posts – Not All LEARNing is Created Equal – I finished up by using Alvin Toffler’s well-known, but over-used, quote:

UNlearn and RElearn (Toffler quote) Ver 02

…and suggested that schools, colleges and universities really needed to do a great deal of UNlearning and RElearning – if they wanted to get serious about moving from the SUPERFICIAL LEARNing we see so much of and “pick up the ball” in terms of the type of TRANSFORMATIONAL LEARNing our students need.

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I began to wonder about this – and did a bit of thunking.

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What I discovered was that Toffler did not actually “say” this – what he actually put down on paper was:

“The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction — how to teach himself. Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.

(Future Shock, 1970: p.271)

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And, you can imagine my shock when he revealed that he was using the words of Herbert Gerjuoy – after they had had a casual chat!

Do I really need to go back and re-edit all my graphics and images???

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Maybe, the future really is all about UNlearning and RElearning

Maybe, I need to change the name of my blog…

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Maybe…

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Actually, (if I was really honest) I “stole” today’s title from Kathy Sierra and the wonderful blog she runs with Dan Russell – Creating Passionate Users (go on…click on it, you know you want to)!

Kathy’s post is also not that “new” – it dates back to 2005 (so I’m guessing it’s OK to swipe her title). Kathy also lets us know that she was “inspired” – also “code” for “nicking stuff” in learning and teaching circles – by John Seely Brown over a decade ago)!

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Come on Tony – get to the bloody point, won’t you?

There are plenty of other blogs that use far less words than you…and package their sound bites for easier “consumption”!

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OK – so the “deal” is that Kathy wrapped up her ideas in a neat little “timeline”:

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Kathy also explained her rationale:

Yes, we’re under pressure to learn more and to learn quickly, but the future goes to those who can unlearn faster than the rest, because you can’t always learn something new until you first let go of something else. And learning to let go of rules is one of the first things we have to learn to be quicker at. Sometimes that means letting go of something that served you well for a long time. And that’s the toughest thing.

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And, finished up by saying / asking:

Forget LEARNing (Home Alone graphic)

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Now, this is a pretty “sexy idea” – and I can see why so many people picked up on it in the business world.

It’s interesting that many of the people who did run with the idea have a “busyness background” – both Alvin Toffler and John Seely Brown, for example.

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Even Kathy’s powerful examples show her background and focus:

  • UNlearn what your target market is (because it just changed).
  • UNlearn the way you advertise and market (because your market just got a lot smarter).
  • UNlearn the way you approach your brand (because it’s no longer within your control).
  • UNlearn the way you teach (because learners need to unlearn and learn simultaneously)
  • UNlearn the way you treat your employees (because before you know it, that “meets expectations” review might come back to haunt you on a blog )
  • UNlearn the technology you use (self-explanatory… we’re all living this one)
  • UNlearn the methodology you use
  • UNlearn the designs you use
  • UNlearn the words you use to describe your business

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I agree that these suggestions are pretty critical if you are involved in running a business – if you do not do these things, basically you go out of business! The difference is that “in business” we see a lot more STRATEGIC LEARNing or SURFACE LEARNing that gets us what we want – and we all know that “faking-it-till-you make-it” is a pretty common strategy in business circles.

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We can’t do that in education – there’s more at stake than “sales” or “profit maximisation”. SURFACE and SUPERFICIAL LEARNing do not cut it…

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Besides, we also need to ask whether UNlearning actually “exists” in the “real world” – whether it is a real “thingy”! Hey, maybe this why Toffler did not use the words we so often attribute to him…he is a very smart cookie…

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Covey tells us (and you know how I loves me “Uncle Stephen”):

3 Constants (Covey quote) Ver 03

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What I take from this is that no one ever really UNlearns anything – we just LEARN more and make different choices.

Hopefully, we make “principled choices” – and this is the start of TRANSFORMATIONAL LEARNing.

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One of the key elements of TRANSFORMATIONAL LEARNing is “perspective transformation”.

Mezirow tells us that this:

“…is the process of becoming critically aware of how and why our assumptions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand, and feel about our world; changing these structures of habitual expectation to make possible a more inclusive, discriminating, and integrating perspective; and, finally, making choices or otherwise acting upon these new understandings” (Mezirow 1991, p. 167).

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If we are to ensure that our schools, colleges and universities change the processes and practices that have led to the widespread levels of SURFACE and SUPERFICIAL LEARNing we see these days, they need to TAKE a LEARNing Perspective – not just “have a perspective on learning”.

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This means asking some tough questions – the first of which are:

  • Are our schools, colleges and universities LEARNing institutions or TEACHing institutions?
  • Do our schools, colleges and universities “teach” STUDENTS or “teach” COURSES?

If we are honest (and many institutions have already walked down this path), we see the need for more (similar) questions:

  • What are we here to do for our LEARNers?
  • What really “matters” in an education system?
  • What stops students from LEARNing in our schools and system?
  • What is wrong with the way we are currently “doing business”?

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It is questions like these that really get the “perspective transformation” engine fired up – and help us see the need to TAKE action and start walking-our-new-talk:

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  • What does it take for a LEARNer to flourish in the complex realities of the 21st century?
  • What can we do to expand and improve the LEARNing of all our students and staff?
  • What can we do to dramatically increase the ability of our schools and our teachers to LEARN and keep on LEARNing?
  • How do we know this?

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4 types of LEARNing Ver 03

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Hey, with questions like these who has time to worry about UNlearning and RElearning ?

let’s just get on with the LEARNing and make better choices!

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Can I keep the name of my blog, now?

– allthingsUNlearning just don’t seem like such a great idea after all!

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NB: You know, yes?…that the “F” in “WTF”…means “flip” (or maybe “frak” – at a push)!

BLOGGING – the “secret weapon” that is (finally) helping TEACHers “trump” SCHOLars? (the RE-boot)…

In Adult Learners, Our Universities, The Paradigm Debate on 05/07/2013 at 8:39 am

big bad İSTANBUL

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Still doing a couple of bloggery RE-boots to celebrate reaching my 500,000th milestone

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This one took me totally by surprise and was one of the most popular posts of 2012. Initially posted at the end of May, it stayed on my list of top 10 “best-sellers” for over three monthsnot too shabby, when you realise that most blog posts these days have a shelf life of around 7 days…tops!

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In a way, this post is quite significant for me (as a bloggery LEARNer) as it was the first time that I started to use images to “tell my stories” – rather than just use graphics to “support” the thunks I wanted to get on “paper” (on “screen”).

Some people have told me that this makes my posts more difficult to read…but I find it also makes them more fun to write!

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Anyways, I hope you enjoy seeing it again…or seeing it for the first time!

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TRUMP card Ver 02

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One of my favourite EDUreads from the last 15 years or so is Larry Cuban’s How Scholars Trumped Teachers.

Larry is my kinda EDUscholar and EDUcator – a real “thunking doer” who tells it like it is and does not pull his punches where the LEARNing of others, especially our “kids”, is concerned.

He also has an amazing blog – Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice – and, if you ain’t checked it out, you just don’t know the EDUblogosphere well enough.

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Anyways, the book, written in 1999 (yes, we “oldies” actually read these paper-based thingies back in the day) describes the development of the American Academe over 1890-1990 – using Stanford as his “case study”.

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OK, so he picks up that old chestnut of a question:

What is more important within the university – TEACHing or RESEARCH?

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But…his “answer” really hits the “spot” – and probably cost him a few “Academy pals”!

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Most of us in EDUland know:

Karabell Paradox (Ver 02)

… don’t we?

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Larry does! And, he basically “proves” that it is what academics are “trained” to do that has won out – again, and again, and again.

Not only in the States – all over the bloody globe!

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What Larry also does is also help us “see” through the smoke n’ mirrors that have characterised the type of “changes” and “reforms” the Academe claims to have realised over the years…

It’s a good read! A VERY good read…

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We TEACHers – knowing how much we have been trumped” (click this one) left, right and centre (yep, definition #02 is the one!) – have been known to get a bit miffed about this (…isn’t that Urban Dictionary just great)!

We tend to work harder (with the “people” who “matter”), we put in more hours (planning for the people who matter) – and we take more crap from the parents of the people who matter…and journalists, politicians, wanabe EDUgurus, publishers – do I need to go on?

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A lot of us see conventional higher LEARNing for what it is…and accept that…

Tradition and Bureaucracy (Moe quote) Ver 02

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We also know that the famed “holy trinity” that represents the “purpose” of the Academe – TEACHingRESEARCH and PUBLIC SERVICE – basically, and in practice, “translate” into:

Holy Trinity in HEd (Ver 02)

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We also see that our universities can and do make some very serious “mistakes”:

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Even…the best of them!

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It is because of these, and that fact that we do focus so much of our energy on LEARNing the people who matter, that many of us also ask the question:

Folk Wisdom (Schleicher quote) Ver 02

A fair question really!

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Because…every one of us “knows” (in our heart-of-hearts) that…

EXPERT Brain Ver 02

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I mean, would any university department shiriously consider putting together a “research team” (on the back of a big, fat government grant) made up of people who had not been trained in research methodology, had limited experience of conducting field work or (God forbiddid not have clue about MLA citations.

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That last one is quite interesting – and it now seems that we can even cite our tweets in MLA format. This little change is one tiny example of the “campus tsunami” everyone is banging on about these days…

Bob Dylan (for the times they are a chagin) Ver 02

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The difference…is that TEACHers are ahead of the game, this time – and blogging is our secret weapon!

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The WORLD has changed…

EDUcational THUNKing has changed…

LEARNers are changing…

LITERACY is being transformed

SCHOLARship (and AUTHORship) are being assimilated…

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Blogging is leading the charge with allthingsdemocratisation – and TEACHers have proven themselves to be the BORG of the blogosphere. Just take a look at the blogging figures – those groups of professionals actually using the blogosphere to get their voices “out there” – and inspire others to find their voices!

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TEACHers rule…and are ROCKing the blogosphere!

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It used to be the case that we ran around our classrooms “exposing” ourselves to every Tom, Dick or Harriet who presented themselves to us…Now, we are sharingreflecting…and ADAPTing on a global scale – the likes of which God has never seen!

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Good for us…GOOD for our LEARNers!

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And, it’s fair to ask, I thunk:

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Where are all the SCHOLars?

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POSTSCRIPT:

I did, in fact, do a couple of follow-up posts to this one.

But…and remember:

TELLıng theTRUTH (Ver 03)

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…neither of them really took off in the same way. Maybe, I tried to push a “neat idea” a little too farmaybe I got a little too self-indulgentmaybe they were just “crap”!

There’s a BLOGGERY lesson to be LEARNed in there…

Neyse, have a look at them…if you have 10 minutes to kill!

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Viva la rEVOLUTION!

(posted on 30/05/2012)

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I’m still STANDing…yeah, yeah, yeah!

(posted on 18/06/2012)

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