Sunday, October 13, 2013

WK5 - Not with a whimper but a bang?

The Community Wall is looking pretty quiet, but I feel compelled to add my last response. Too little too late – apologies for that – but I take solace in that I still made it by the last day of WK5!

Loved this week’s topic and enjoyed the Morrison and panel webinars! 
This is something I took from Barrel, PBL: A Foundation for 21st Century Skills. His focus and examples are K-12, but the chapter provides a good overview along with the following practical guidelines for Developing Curricula for PBL:
1.  Identify a Topic
2. Map out the concept
3. Consult & integrate standards [if applicable]
4. Generate set of intended unit outcomes or objectives & specify essential questions that demand students engage in 21st Century skills – questioning, problem solving, critical/creating thinking, hypothesizing and reflecting – i.e. complex thinking

5. Design a problematic scenario that will spark students’ interest and provide a structure for the entire unit. Incorporate knowledge and understanding of the essential concepts of the unit into the intended outcomes
6. Formulate strategies that include inquiry approaches like KWHLAQ for observing artifacts and generating good questions. Students are actively involved and should lead this process.
7. Assessment. Use problematic scenario as a summative assessment. During unit, assess quality of students’ understandings using short-answer quizzes; essays, brief research reports; writings in inquiry journals. Inquiry journals contain initial questions; and daily, weekly, and/or final reflections on important ideas learned, process of inquiry, application of ideas to other subjects, new arising questions, and how ideas correspond to their own lives.

There was also some great discussion on the community wall, and I particularly enjoyed posts by Jims & Leanne related to the question of why authentic learning isn’t more common. Jims threw out some great ideas: maybe AuthenticLearning Isn’t More Common – Because It’s Too Common? or because we don’t really know what it is; and that perhaps authentic learning should be approached as attitude toward teaching that “makes the most of the instructional environment to simulate real-world conditions.”  Leanne added “perhaps it should involve more than attitude. Shouldn’t authentic learning be a movement in teaching where the instructional environment approaches real-world conditions?”

I would add that perhaps the artificial, disconnected manner in which our educational system has evolved has distracted us away what authentic learning really is. Or, for those educators who have not forgotten, maybe they feel they have to cave in to the pressure of teaching to the test or other institutionally imposed demands? Or [and I think this is where I fit in] perhaps there is a fear that if we go purely authentic learning, students might not ‘get’ it all. Of course the other side of that is that they will likely get it all plus so much more! This week provided some great insights into how we can still remain true to our responsibilities as educators while adopting more progressive practices that will better prepare our learners for the real world. 

I know that there is a big hole in my current practice and have always been a believer of authentic learning - love the Experiential/PBL ideals. As I started reading the materials, one of the first things that came to mind was the WebQuest – an activity that some of my students like to do as their final project in my educational technology course [which, by the way, is the most authentic of all my courses. Why? Because I am helping them to develop technology skills that they will be using in their future professional development and practice!]. I’ve created my own version for my Ed Psych course, called a BrainQuest, where I set up a scenario and have students look through various resources, etc. I now realize that though my spirit has been in the right place, this activity is in essence a traditional activity disguised in a want-to-be authentic wrapper. It needs a serious overhaul as does, I'm currently feeling, most of my coursework.

The theme of authentic learning really strikes to where I think I need the greatest change. I also sense that it is going to require the biggest conceptual shift; more so I suspect, than transitioning from F2F to OL [I've always bought into the importance of technology integration]. This will require a leap of faith, and truly rethinking the WHY I do what I do while focusing a little less on the WHAT [hearkening back to the Sinek Ted Talk].

One step at a time, right? I'm feeling inspired to revaluate my practice and to infuse what I’ve learned and ‘relearned’ through this course. As I start writing my final reflection, my goal will be to outline a practical strategy and timeline for doing this. I’m thinking I will use some of the frameworks explored in this MOOC to do an analysis of my courses and identify where the big holes are. From there I'll decide where I want to start.  The timing for this couldn’t be more ideal as I am currently on sabbatical and, for once, feel that I will actually have time to adequately work on this before resuming my teaching in the New Year.  Thanks everyone for a great learning experience!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting the Barrell steps...great overview. I have to agree...Authentic learning is not more "mainstream" because I think it is hard work! Think of all the time that it takes to create an authentic learning experience - I am overwhelmed just thinking about it. It takes some instructional design concepts, some subject matter expert knowledge, creative thinking, and a lot of motivation and work to come up with authentic scenarios/problems that get students to think about something and develop reach world skills and chip away at the vast amount of subject knowledge. Certainly regulation and pressure of test scores doesn't help this any. So I think it is a little bit of both - pressure, time, and motivation. Thanks for sharing your thoughts =)