Monday, July 6, 2015

Power of Connections: Teacher Engagement and Reimagining Learning

In response to my last post on student engagement, Laura Gibbs commented that student creation has also been a primary path for teacher engagement in her courses.

I couldn't agree more. In fact, not only do I see student-engagement pedagogy (driven by creation, agency, and personalization) as being a key to teacher engagement, I also see it as being a primary transformative force in thee way we think about education and educational institutions in general.

I say this because pursuing educational models based on student engagement pedagogy will necessarily:
  • Change the way we think about information -- An educational model based on student creation and learner engagement necessarily envisions information as dynamic and open-ended (as opposed to static and closed). It places new emphases on critical inquiry and prioritizes creating with information (being able to do relevant things with it) over processing it passively;
  • Change our definition of learning -- Better yet, a student-engagement pedagogy forces us to re-think and re-imagine what learning is really about, as well as the purpose of education in general. It brings us to the inevitable conclusion that enduring learning, the meaningful acquisition of knowledge that can lead to wisdom, is directly dependent on learner engagement;
  • Changes our perspectives on teaching and its purpose -- Yes, it also makes us come to grips with why we teach and how we should measure our efforts. It requires us to examine our purpose and actions as teachers and to evaluate those efforts in the context of learner engagement.
I'm particularly mindful of this because Unit 4 in Power of Connections is on The Power of Imagination. In this unit, we're wanting to look at how student engagement and connected learning can contribute to the way we think about universities and the teaching enterprise.

I've also been contemplating how this relates to Laura's inspiring work with Inoreader and her efforts to curate Growth Mindset Memes. Here is her introduction to this project.
In this post I'll explain how I am setting up a blog hub and combination RSS feed for growth mindset memes and reflections. I'm designing this for my students (here's the project I'll be working on with my students), but since it is conceived as an open project, it could go in all kinds of different directions based on anyone who wants to hook up via this blog hub.
There's so much to like about this idea -- leveraging the open Web for dynamic information, encouraging students to create and connect across the Web -- and it makes me imagine the university, or any educational institution, as a similar hub.

It makes me wonder, for example, if we can imagine models for teaching, learning, and educational institutions that function much like Laura's work and her Inoreader feed (and all the pedagogical assumptions behind it).  Might this be a way to re-imagine the educational enterprise through innovative engagement?

In terms of Power of Connections, I am ready to scrap some of the preliminary thinking Stacy and I have been doing related to this unit, and focus instead on the student-creation/engagement/learning hub as a model for re-imagining our institutions and their purpose(s).

And, if they have the time (I know they are willing but do not want to impose on valuable time), I would like to invite Laura and Moira Ozias to help us facilitate this unit.

What does that mean/look like? Well, we'd like to, at a minumum, feature our basic unit content types (example below), but you could feel free to mix and re-mix, or to create additional content tyoes and ideas as well
You are welcome to create a piece of the unit, take it over completely (we would still be willing to do any work necessary to make it efficient and easy for you), or to take it in a different direction. In other words, the offer to collaborate is a fairly open one.

As always,  we are wide open to suggestions.

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