Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Creativity from Chaos

Reading the Book Chaos, Creativity, and Cosmic Consciousness by Sheldrake, McKenna, and Abraham one gets a feeling of pedagogical liberation. For a preview link here. Science has evolved in the last centuries to accept and frame change as a fundamental element in our understanding of reality. This change has not been incorporated in the way the we teach in higher education. Why do I say that? Because in many instances we continue with the old paradigm of lecturing in class as did our ancestors centuries ago. Some cosmetic changes have occured like the use of small group discussion and the introduction of electronic tools like data projection of "power points", videos, and clickers. But the fundamental relationship between teacher and learner has not evolved to satisfy the needs of today's students or -by the way- professors. One has to ask again and again what is the fundamental need or purpose of education. Oh yes, I know many will say that question has been answered so many times that repeating it only justify bad pedagogy. We all know what the purpose of education is! We all know that we need to train useful people to become citizens in today's economy, in today's society, and in today's wars. Both mission statements and values of higher education institution articulate how in an orderly fashion students will get rid of the chaos in their life but seldom will they embrace "chaos" as an accepted state in nature, as the uncertainty principle so well described by Eisenberg in physics is able to relate the knowledge of the position of a particle in space by sacrificing the knowledge about its motion.
One can understand the need for creativity in our society as our students look for a way in which they can be of service, in most cases this implies being able to be creative. Low income jobs will -as have always been, be for those incapable of creating. Those able to be creative will -as they have always been, be able to participate not only in the production process but in the benefits of these processes as well. That of course will mean being compensated in a way that will satisfy their standard of living.
(As I am preparing for my next assignment teaching general chemistry as well as organic chemistry next fall I am looking for ways to transform my teaching techniques in a way that will be liberating for my students.)
When one prepares for the change in the way we look at things finds that is hard to define what has to be changed. Unless we know that, how are we to know how to change it. Using the metaphor of a broken car we see that the diagnosis is based on functionality if something is not happening, if something is not doing what is supposed to to then we know what the part is broken, thus knowing what piece has to be replaced. In pedagogy this is more nuanced and most times is of course more difficult to diagnose.
Every course should start with a diagnosis of the relationship between the students taking the class and the program (syllabus- or as I call it syllabook) for that class.
What should be included in this diagnosis? That is what I'd like to know!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Best Practices and Cool Tools

There are a lot of worth looking videos online about online teaching and learning this is one

This is one about first time online teacher:

This is about using simulations:

This is about audiovisual aids (multimedia) to enhance learning

About online teaching

Have a look at this video 

and this one

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pulling students in

As we finish the semester I find that some students were willing to dip in and some were waiting to be pulled in. I feel like some students taking the class were thinking that they had to take it for some external reason unfamiliar to them, this of course is not the first time! It looks like every year with a new set of students we face the same'ol issue of motivation. Now motivation is a product of self-knowledge and maturity, and is necessary to produce engagement in the class. As engagement is the product of motivation and active learning and not an ingredient provided by the teacher. This is a common misconception: good teachers produce student's engagement in the classroom. Good teachers provide the conditions for engagement within an active learning setting, but will not be able to engage the student if the student is not motivated. And there are many reasons why the student might not be motivated, one is lack of self-esteem! Here is were a good teacher might be able to do something, there are according to Jack Canfield 100 ways to enhance self-concept in the classroom  and 100 ways to build self-esteem and teach values but at the end is for the student to take ownership of their performance, their education, and their future.    


Commencement is a long tradition in the academic world, represents the transition from student life to that of a "professional." So one expects that the ceremony will give an insight of how those years spent as a student make a mark on the character and ethos of the individual. When one observes the changes in those who one met a few years back and then see how they have matured and evolved, there is no other feeling but the satisfaction of being a participant in that process.
So how would "Commencement" look when students get their education through online programs, what king of relationship will be developed between students, instructors, teachers, and professors; not to mention administrators? Will it be possible to witness the evolution and maturation of a young student through the critical years of traditional college?
Or is the new paradigm of online education only effective when educating adults? These are questions that many in the academic world are addressing.
My feeling is that with the complicated and diverse nature of humans, no one system will fit all. Hybrid systems will always be more effective and will have the advantage of adaptability in a fast changing world.