Sunday, 28 April 2013

Making the Grade

I want to begin by thanking the six of you in Comp who have helped me learn so much about learning and motivation. Your efforts (and sometimes your lack of effort ;-) have helped me begin to see the exciting possibilities of reorganizing and repurposing a class. I also have been less organized and polished than I would typically be in a class, and I thank you for focusing on the positive results and embracing the messiness that accompanies first attempts, trial and error, and collaboration. If I've learned one thing well, this semester, it is that I have a lot more to learn (and that really excites me instead of scares me)!

Endless grading of term papers
photo by joguldi
My learning log this week looks at assessment. I've learned that a single percentage grade that comes from me alone is not an adequate response to the work you've done, even if it is accompanied by comments. You deserve better and more frequent feedback from a greater number of sources. Your blogs have provided some of this, but we can do better. Your voice must be a more important factor in the assessment process, both individually and collectively. I'm learning about how to make these ideas a reality in our classes.

Below I've included an excerpt of a course description from one of Dean Shareski's classes. He's a professor at the University of Regina. Some of his students determine eighty percent of their mark. You can check out the entire sample, but I'd really like some feedback on one section: Social Learning. I'm really invested in community building, as you know, so this section really resonates with me and seems important. I also think it is undervalued and underrepresented in our assessment at school.

Here's where you come in. I'd like some feedback on the social learning section. What are your reactions to having part of your mark depend on how you benefitted from and contributed to the learning of others? Can you think of specific things you've learned from someone else in your class this semester? Have you contributed to anyone else's learning? Please, leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Assessment Sample from Dean Shareski

Tech Tasks
A simple summary and assessment about the quality, consistency and timeliness of your work. Grade yourself between 20-30% percent of the course.
Grade yourself between 15-25% Use a rubric or your own standard based your favorite blogs. Be sure to reference the criteria discussed on the course assignment page.
This will be a challenging one for some of you but the core of this will be your interview with your mentoring teacher. I would like a report that highlights your involvement as well. Grade yourself between 20-30%
Social Learning
This will be about a one page report answering the 2 questions: What did I contribute to the learning of others? and What did I learn from others? 10-20%
Final Reflection
This will be a media presentation of your learning. We’ll talk more about the format of this next week. This will be the only assignment that I’ll grade exclusively. You decide between its value between 10-20%

Sunday, 21 April 2013

What's My Motivation?

I'm in the middle of learning about motivation. During the last year or two I've had some success implementing principles of motivation promoted by Dan Pink, who writes and speaks about motivation. The video below is familiar to some of you; it demonstrates that autonomy, mastery, and purpose are far better motivators than incentives (like money or marks) in many cases.

Your passion projects are one example of success in my expanding knowledge of motivation. For several of you, choosing your own projects and improving skills involved with those projects has proven to be very motivating. You are working hard, spending time outside of school, and learning with more joy and interest. I'm thrilled.

However, in other instances, work is not being completed. I have set up novel studies in a variety of ways that include student choice and voice, but a majority of students don't complete the necessary reading. I'm stumped.

There are parallels in my own learning. My desire to help next year's 1:1 iPad project succeed motivated me to learn new skills, ask new questions about teaching, attend meetings, collaborate with others, and generally spend more of my discretionary time on work. That's the power of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. But, recently I completed mid-term reports, and while I understand the importance of this work, I put off some of the marking and preparation for reports in order to pursue more interesting work. Only the looming deadline motivated me to shift gears and get the less pleasant work done. Deadlines (and the potential consequences of missing them) are motivating.

So, while I have expanded my understanding of motivation, I have more to learn, particularly about the application of motivation theory. My latest thought is that we all have a unique ratio of freedom and restriction that will optimize our motivation--a personal motivation profile. Personally I am more productive when I'm aware of my own motivation profile; as an educator I need to have a clearer picture of the motivation profiles of the learners in class so that I can help them maximize their learning. I'm scratching the surface of an idea that I'm sure has been studied by many sharper minds. I plan to discover what these giants have to say, and then maybe I'll be able to stand on their shoulders and see a little bit farther.

What's your motivation?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A Beautiful Blend

This week collaboration ruled. I'm determined to make our iPad pilot project a success next year, so I'm learning and doing all I can to ensure that vision becomes reality, including trying out all kinds of stuff with our class (backchannel anyone?). I've traded and tested ideas and questions with someone in almost every role in the school this week: technicians, teachers, administrators, students, parents, support staff. It's an impressive list really.

What did I learn? A group made up of different people with different talents and perspectives who can disagree about plenty but who also have a common goal will create something great. In fact, they will be more likely to create something great than any individual because, together, they possess more talent and experience than any one person (as long as they find ways to work together). This idea isn't new to me, but this week I got my hands very dirty, working with so many people, and I learned about collaboration in a deeper way than ever before. Thanks for being part of the blending.

Sunday, 7 April 2013


This sketch has been attributed to Demetri Martin, author of This Is A Book.
Two events this week really underlined something I've been thinking about for several months.

The first was a recognition of some recent growth and learning. In December I decided that I needed to improve my knowledge of and proficiency with technology. I had been working through some teaching ideas, and I began to see that technology could help those ideas take shape. This week, after several months of learning, some people  I typically relied on for help with tech asked me for some advice about tech. Suddenly I saw how much I had learned. I'll still need their help, but the fact that I could help them in this area allowed me to understand and reflect on how much I've learned. Still much to learn.

The second was listening to Mélina deliver her progress report (thanks again for the treat, Mélina). She's excitedly talking (not unusual) about her adventures in the kitchen, relaying how her vlog was photobombed, and confessing that only a little more than half of her cake pops avoided imploding. She's reporting this with a smile--without a hint of embarrassment or failure--because she's learning. Typically in school, a student who made almost as many mistakes in a class she did correct moves would not be smiling when the bell rang. But Mélina was too busy learning to let mistakes get her down.

These two experiences came together when I saw the simple drawing above. I know I've written about mistakes in an earlier post, but these two experiences didn't focus on mistakes; they focused on success. When I reflected on my recent forays into technology, I saw many "mistakes". Mélina described a few mistakes. However, in both situations, I only heard a story of success. At least for a moment, both Mélina and I so fully embraced the version of success as rendered in the drawing on the right, that we simply accepted failure as part of the learning process--a necessary part of the process.

This week I learned more thoroughly to embrace the word fail as F.ound A.nother I.nsight for L.earning. It's cheesy, I know, but seeing the principle in action this week was almost as sweet as that Skor bar cake pop.