Search Results for: relationship

January 21

Sea Lions and Trusting Relationships

I spent much of today wandering through Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Like all the major museums in Chicago, it is world-class, with intriguing exhibits showcasing the many critters that live in the waters around the world.

As part of my outing, I also visited the “Aquatic Presentation,” featuring Pacific white-sided dolphins, and several “guests” such as a red-tailed hawk. Of particular interest to me was a sea lion named Cruz.

He is blind, due to gunshot wounds to his face when he was a pup. In the wild, he most likely would have perished. Instead, Shedd Aquarium adopted him, and he lives with a group of other sea lions. His trainer has used a long-handled rattle and auditory cues (including some words) to teach Cruz how to navigate his world (and how to wow the crowd!).

Shortly after Cruz’ arrival at the Shedd, his trainer stated, “[h]e has a fearless personality and eagerness to learn…” Wow! That sounds like any number of students who are eager to learn, yet are struggling in school because of circumstances or experiences we don’t know about or don’t understand. Instead of writing them off, we need to seek to understand.

Cruz’ trainer further elaborated, “[b]uilding trusting relationships is the cornerstone to providing the highest-quality care for our animals…” Wow! Another statement that could also be applied to humans. Building trusting relationships with our students will help us better understand what they need in order to learn well. It is only as we have strong relationships with them that we can become effective as their guides, mentors, and biggest supporters.

He has a fearless personality and eagerness to learn…

February 24

Haptic, Tactile, Sensory, Motor: Crucial to #DeeperLearning

My friend Terry recently wrote about using his mind as a “fulcrum” and physical writing instruments as “levers” for analyzing and annotating (physical) texts. This led to a whole flurry of responses, with many wistfully recalling the “old days” of writing in books, doodling, scrapbooking, etc. There was a unanimous yearning to return to some of those old habits.

This discussion led me to explore (again) the evidence that haptic feedback is a vital, integral part of being human. I first thought of the sensory and motor homunculi, grotesque-looking representations first created by Dr Wilder Penfield in 1937 that illustrate the quantity of grey matter devoted to various body parts. The hands take up a highly disproportionate amount of space, suggesting we are meant to use our hands often and well.

Sensory and motor homunculi by Dr. Joe Kiff shared under a [CC BY-SA 3.0] license.

Smashing Design, an online magazine for web designers and developers, argues in Designing for the Tactile Experience that new and evolving technologies must be mindful of incorporating tactile and motor interactions. Several times, the author emphasizes that meaning is found in our experience of the world, not only in how we act in it, but how it acts upon us. If we are not physically interacting with the world, our experience is being very limited.

In 2016, NPR reported on a 2014 study that showed college students taking lecture notes by hand did better on “concept-application” tests, wherein they were required to apply the lecture information to an open-ended question.The difference in results held true even when the students were given time to review their notes between the time of the lecture and the test.

The need for a tactile relationship to #deeperlearning applies even (more?) at young ages. A 2012 study of preliterate five-year-olds tested the recall of children who were assigned to one of typing, tracing, or printing letters and shapes. fMRI scans showed that a letter recall task recruited the “reading circuit” area of the brain only in the children who had handwritten the letter.

There is a growing recognition within K-12 education that “making” is not only fun, it also aids learning. In addition to the general trend toward “makerspaces” in schools and communities, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education has a Project Zero initiative underway called Agency by Design, which is “investigating the promises, practices, and pedagogies of maker-centered learning experiences.”

I say a hearty amen to Terry’s “Theoria (thinking), Poiesis (making), & Praxis (Doing).”

February 4

To grit or not to grit

I just finished reading this article, entitled “What’s Missing When We Talk About Grit.” The thoughts shared by the author, Luke Reynolds, echo some of the reflections I have done recently. He describes the fervor with which “grit” was embraced, how it became the panacea for all ills related to disengaged and under-performing students.

As Reynolds sought to employ grit as a motivator in his 7th grade classroom, it didn’t always work. What he discovered is that relationship is what mattered most. Once he established a strong connection with students, then the tenets of grit kicked in. I have similar thoughts about the importance of building trusting relationships with our students, as I describe here.

Reynolds continues his reasoning by discussing the impact of inequality, and steps we all need to take to help rectify this within our communities. In this post, I discuss some of these same ideas, that when students’ needs are not being met in the lowest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy, they are unable to function well academically.

[we] need to get to know every child’s story—to truly understand the context and the struggle that each child lives through

The final point of Reynolds’ argument is we “need to get to know every child’s story—to truly understand the context and the struggle that each child lives through, rather than making assumptions based on generic attributes.” As this article declares, “Why is storytelling so important to the world? It’s our TRUTH.” I explore the question “what is story?” here. The conclusion I draw is that stories tell us many things, and are open to many interpretations, but most importantly, they connect us to each other!

 

 

February 3

(Human) Connections

Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook that her brother had just passed away from a massive heart attack. She said she debated before posting, as she intentionally estranged herself from him when her oldest child was born 20-odd years ago, because she did not want her brother influencing her children.

As I read her post, I felt sad on many fronts. Sad for this middle-aged man who was in such pain that he used substances to numb himself. Sad for my friend because she had to make a very tough decision all those years ago. Further sadness for her because I am sure she loved her brother, so she has been grieving his loss for decades.

I also asked myself what her purpose was for posting this history and loss in such a public way? I concluded that she, like all of us, seeks human connection, and she is reaching out for support.

individuals with the lowest level of involvement in social relationships are more likely to die than those with greater involvement

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a branch of the National Institutes of Health, says studies consistently show that “individuals with the lowest level of involvement in social relationships are more likely to die than those with greater involvement” and that this holds true “even when socioeconomic status, health behaviors, and other variables that might influence mortality, were taken into account.”

Human connections are just as important in the workplace as they are in purely social settings. Which brings me to Professional Learning Networks. I am grateful for the many other educators I have the privilege of connecting with, especially those I’ve “met” as the result of my participation in the Connected Learning MOOC.

My friend Sarah knit me a hat (and a Christmas ornament!) and helps me better understand what is happening in the UK. Karen faithfully corresponds, and has offered sage advice on more than one occasion. Daniel keeps up the fight against inequality by bridging the divide between those in need and those who can provide tutoring and mentoring services. Kevin abundantly shares information useful for improving my practice, and is always ready to lend a helping hand. Sheri, like me, loves project-based learning (PBL), and offers great insights, both directly and indirectly, into how I can become a better practitioner. Terry’s dissident thinking and reflection require me to think and reflect more deeply. Kim’s lovely photos make me yearn to return to southern California. Susan is another PBL geek who offers authentic critique of my work, and her fabulous art continually delights me. Wendy informs me how hot it is down under as we are freezing here, and creates (along with several others listed here!) magical music. Ron inspires me with his writing of children’s stories, which he does in addition to his “day job” of designing medical education. Simon is another who provokes me to think more deeply, and to aspire to learn all the cool things that can be done with digital art tools.

These are but the tip of the iceberg of my many PLN connections. If you’re not included here, it is because I ran out of time. Thank you all!

 

January 4

“Digital natives?” or something else?

I have been dabbling with Flipgrid this year, so far (mostly) successfully prodding students through one assignment. I asked them to develop and record two-minute biographical stories, choosing from a selection of well-known Eastern European leaders. Their recordings were then peer reviewed by their classmates and me. Based on the feedback they received, they were asked to revise their stories and re-record them.

The reaction to using Flipgrid has been mixed. Some students embraced it, others completed their assignments begrudgingly. When I have asked them what they dislike about Flipgrid, I get responses such as “I liked writing the story, but didn’t like recording it,” “I don’t like my voice,” etc. What most of the reluctance seems to be tied to is discomfort with communicating using this app.

What I find surprising about this reaction is that these same teens are fully launched on apps such as Snapchat, where they communicate with their friends through a video medium, complete with goofy stickers and other embellishments. (Flipgrid has a few of those, too.)

So, what is the difference? Do they perceive Snapchat as “not real?” Or is it because the Flipgrid assignments are “for real,” since the other students and I watch them and provide feedback? I don’t have a definitive answer on the reasons for the student attitudes, but I do know asking them to create Flipgrid videos is a good way to build their competence and confidence in communication.

There isn’t an online world and an offline world, there’s one world… ~ TEDxVictoria – Alexandra Samuel: Ten Reasons to Stop Apologizing for your Online Life

In this 2017 article, Alexandra Samuel debunks the idea of today’s teens being “digital natives,” and argues there are three different categories of technology users arriving in adulthood. She identifies them as “digital orphans,” “digital exiles,” and “digital heirs.”

“Digital orphans” have grown up with a lot of tech access, but very little guidance on appropriate use and consequences. Samuel sees this group as having a hard time meshing their online and offline lives, and in forming healthy face-to-face relationships.

The flip side of the coin is the “digital exiles,” who have minimal, limited access to online environments, highly controlled by their parents. Samuel sees them as heading in one of two directions when they gain access. Either they will go crazy with social media and find lots of ways to get into trouble online, or they will follow their parents’ teaching and become “neo-Luddites.” The question Samuel raises in regards to the second group is whether their day-to-day surroundings will be able accommodate their rejection of technology. (Have you tried booking an Uber ride without a smartphone?)

The third, and most balanced category Samuel identifies is “digital heirs.” They have had access to technology, combined with guidance from parents and teachers. They understand how to be responsible digital citizens. They have learned how create content across a variety of mediums. They will be prepared to navigate #reallife, whatever it looks like at the time.

Samuel’s assertions validate my belief that part of my purpose as an educator is to help students develop digital/media literacy skills. They also need practice with a variety of technology tools so that as they step into adulthood they will feel competent in #realworld responsibilities and careers.