Update! More Content to Come!

I want to reflect briefly on my first experiences as a PhD student – still can’t believe I’m saying that. The seminar I’m taking in Educational Technology and Learning Design is keeping me busy. I’m working with my supervisor on a research project as well, and those two projects are time consuming and draining. However, I feel like I’m working harder than I have many times in the past, and that feels good.

I still don’t consider myself an overachiever or a particularly hard worker. I think that if SFU found out what my principles are in regards to work, they’d rescind both my scholarship and my place in the program. I feel a bit like I’m working the system. Some PhD students have to take multiple classes as well as teach several. I don’t know how I did it, but I am grateful every day that I have a schedule that works for me, and that I’m doing something I love.

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Mindfulness for You and Me — Let’s Talk about Language Learning

If this PhD thing actually happens, then I think I found the topic of my dissertation. Because of my background and education and educational technology, I already knew I was fascinated by language learning and using technology to support learning in general. But I recently discovered that there is research looking into mindfulness as a way to support the emotional side of learning a language.

I am so intimately connected to the anxiety that accompanies learning a new language because I live with anxiety on a daily basis. This extends, and increases exponentially, to language learning as I’m often in a state of panic when I’m surrounded by speakers of other languages and then I’m expected to perform. It’s already challenging to learn a language for most of us, but adding a layer of underlying anxiety and it can be a painful experience.

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The Magic of Coffee – Teachers New to Online Learning

Although it rarely serves me well, I really like it when I can conclude that the answer is black or white. If the answer is clearly one side rather than the other, then I know where I stand. I like knowing where I stand, which doesn’t require me to be in that messy, uncomfortable in-between place. There are no subtleties or much effort required to fully understand a situation or person if the answer is seemingly clear. However, the answer is hardly ever simple, and I believe to understand the full complexity of something often necessitates being uncomfortable.

That is the result of the dissertation research of David D. Hoffman titled, “Considering the Crossroads of Distance Education: The Experiences of Instructors as They Transitioned to Online or Blended Courses.” It’s the reaction of instructors as they live in the anxiety provoking space of learning a complex new tool. If we could get a peek into their story, it might sound something like this.

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You’re a Designer, I’m a Designer, We’re All Designers — An Interview with Dr. Matt Koehler

Outside of the fun I’m having with this research and writing, my intention is to bring something useful to the educator who reads this. (And those people are numbering in the near double digits. It’s not just my mom any more!) So, like a good teacher, I’m working to personalize the lesson.

I’m doing this in a couple of ways. First, I chose an article by one of my professors in the MAET program then I begged and pleaded — though I’m pretty sure this wasn’t necessary — for him to contribute to the post. He agreed, of course. The result is that we will look at the article by Michael D. DeSchryver, Sean M. Leahy, Matthew J. Koehler and Leigh G. Wolf (2013) titled, “Technology, Learning, Creativity, and Design: The Habits of Mind Necessary to Generate New Ways of Teaching in a Career of Constant Change.” Although this already looks like it’s focused on practical applications, I’m going to refine that even more and zero in on those very practical uses.

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Your Content is Lookin’ Good! — Presenting Material Through Infographics

I had to create an infographic for one of my classes at MSU. I don’t think I was particularly inspired, and the results were fairly mediocre. (See it here, if interested: Google Apps for ESL Students.) However, once I took a look at the evidence about why infographics are useful, I wanted to walk on the wild side of what was possible with this visual form of presenting material.

Serkan Yildirim presents the benefits and elements of good infographics in the article, “Infographics for Educational Purposes: Their Structure, Properties and Reader Approaches.” This article is a good primer for this type of presentation. It appears that information is absorbed more readily through visual representations like this. And the author has also given us the basics we need to thoughtfully create our own.

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Here, You Do It – MIT Looks at Online Education

Listen up. MIT has a few things to say about the future of online education. In “Online Education: A Catalyst for Higher Education Reforms” (2016) Karen E. Willcox, Sanjay Sarma and Philip H. Lippel took an in-depth look at the meaning of online instruction and the direction in which it should head. This was the last of several explorations of this aspect of education at MIT, and it has strong implications for the rest of us.

I like it when educators with good reputations from prestigious schools synthesize the research for me. It’s hard to be especially effective at being current in the field of education, which is so expansive and has so many interconnected subjects. And, well, I’m always one to make a case for being lazy (see Lazy is Underrated – Unmanaging Our Time Through Embodiment). Balanced might be a more appropriate word, though.

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The Science of Learning, Through Stories

For the past six months I’ve had a book sitting on my desk that was a gift from my previous place of employment, Divine Word College. It is not a book of fiction. I have been struggling somewhat to read fiction lately; it takes me many, many months, and I only manage to finish one or two a year. I lost interest a few years back and my focus has turned to nonfiction. I’ve read about the 1992 disaster on Everest where fifteen people died, a man-eating Tiger terrifying a small backwater village in Siberia and a real-world example of what it’s like to try and live on minimum wage, among others. I suspect that as an educator, the appeal of nonfiction is that I’m learning about the world. But this book from Divine Word College might as well be fiction.

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