Archive for the ‘Random’ Category

Advice to sink in slowly

For the past two years, graduates of University College Falmouth have designed a series of posters with advice to pass on to freshmen. Each new arrival to the College gets one. These are so whimsical and light-hearted. What a wonderful idea.

let go of what you think you know


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David Lynch on the iPhone

The ever-interesting filmmaker, David Lynch, in a parody of Apple’s iPhone ads … (warning: there’s a bit of language)

(For my friend, Alan, don’t forget to check out Lynch’s daily weather report.)

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Non, je ne regrette rien

In an age of women who sing with little synthesized butterfly voices, I love to listen to the defiance in Edith Piaf’s voice. Look at those clenched fists. You go, girl!

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Lisa, one of my favourite Maritime bloggers, tagged me with the 8 things you didn’t know about me meme so here goes. Here are 8 things you probably didn’t know about me …

  1. I was once a driver for the Royal Canadian Air Farce. My mom worked at The Playhouse in Fredericton when I was growing up so she used to call me when something had to be done and there was nobody to do it. I did everything from usher to tend bar to build props for magicians and pick up people at the airport … which is how I got to be a driver for the Air Farce.
  2. I was left-handed until I was about 4 or 5 years old. During a family camping trip, I watched my dad start the campfire with lighter fluid and thought it looked pretty easy. So while my mom & dad were sleeping I literally poured fuel on an open flame. I don’t have any scars but I spent a month in bandages so I’m now right-handed.
  3. Like Lisa, I give birth to whoppers. All three of my children weighed in at over 9 pounds. (Lisa, I bow down to you.)
  4. I spent a year working as an au pair in Paris, France. I grew up in a small place so living in another country was like taking the red pill. It completely changed the way I see things, and I’ve felt a bit like a fish out of water ever since.
  5. red pill or blue pill
  6. I hate housework but I like to wash dishes. While you might not guess that (especially if you saw our kitchen), it would come as a complete shock to my mother. I just find it really meditative.
  7. I’m a research geek. I have a pile of research papers on my night table that’s half a foot tall. My favourite is a paper about teens and IM. I’ve read it four times.
  8. I’m a major fashion hound in Second Life. On any given day I may look like this or this or this.
  9. sl_carolyn_2sl_carolyn_3sl_carolyn_4
  10. I’m an introvert. It’s funny because I get a lot of quizzical looks when I say that. I’m the kind of introvert who needs a good friend close by to have the courage to be extroverted … and then watch out. 🙂

I’m tagging some terrific bloggers that I know in person: Ian, Chris (aka Bob), Paul, Waye, Roger, Rebecca, Snips, StarHopper, & Doris. (I know that’s nine & I’m only supposed to tag eight, but I’m interested in what they all might write.) Lisa also tagged my husband. Hmmm … I wonder what he’ll write.

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… or something like that. Try for yourself.


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What did I learn in 2007?


Learning Circuit’s Big Question for December was “What did you learn about learning in 2007?” Year-end is a natural time for reflection but I had to give this question some heavy thinking. So much of what I’ve learned has already seeped into the back of my brain and isn’t easy to define. It’s a hodge podge but here goes …

Sometimes the best thing is get out of the way. I learned that people can learn perfectly ok when you give them goals & leave them alone. Last January, I tried something different when we upgraded our discussion software. Instead of automatically scheduling a training session for online faculty to go over the new features, I decided to try my own Hole in the Wall experiment. Without telling people how, I asked them to log on to the new software, make a post, reply to a post & upload a photo. Then I waited to see what happened. Everyone logged on. Everyone figured out how the new software worked. Nobody emailed or phoned for help. Once the conversation started, people were doing everything from telling each other how to create polls to sharing martini recipes. One person even suggested that we leave the discussion board active so that the conversation could continue throughout the term. What did I learn from the experiment? People learn a lot when you give them a challenge, establish a community so that people can share and get help from one another, and then just let folks figure out the path for themselves. I’m glad that one worked.

Simple tools can give big results. I learned that something as simple as Twitter can be a profound way to support conversations. Twitter is like standing at the water cooler and eavesdropping on the buzz of conversation around you … except the water cooler is the world. I’ve made a new friend through Twitter. I’ve picked up lots of great tips & pointers. Twitter has been one of the great finds for me this year.

Blogging helps me work smarter. I learned that blog posts are so reusable! I can’t tell you how many times I cut & pasted from one of my blog posts to an email or a project I was working on. Some people say that blogging takes time. For me it saves time. It gives me a ready-made repository to pilfer for other projects.

Making all the decisions for learners doesn’t make sense. Many online courses impose a lot of control on learners. However, I noticed this year that control comes at a cost. Control tends to increase the cognitive load on learners so there’s more of a need to simplify the course design. Control also means the instructions have to be crystal clear because I find learners are more prone to frustration in highly controlled courses. It’s a bit of a vicious circle, isn’t it. The more control we exert, the more we need to exert. When we hold back and let learners make choices, they tend to learn more deeply and in ways that we don’t expect. Highly controlled courses are also painful to teach. I sometimes hear faculty complain about teaching online when really they’re just teaching a poorly designed course. Adding choice and designing to allow learners to make more decisions often results in a better experience for faculty as well as learners.

People learn a lot from seeing other people’s work. I learned that people learn a lot when they see examples of finished work. Sometimes this can be the most important part of a course. I noticed this when I was lucky enough to attend a class given by a good friend and great teacher. He gave learners a challenge and then gave them an example to work from. It was interesting to watch the computer screens in the room. Most of the learners in the class divided their screen, putting the example on one side of the screen and their own work on the other. After the class I began to realize how much of my own learning comes from looking at the examples of others. Do you find the same thing?

It’s all about people. I learned that the most important thing in teaching is people. This notion comes from a good friend of mine who told me that he teaches “people first, program second”. That’s not a new thing to me but I think I appreciated it more this year than I did before. If you get to know your learners well, so much of the other stuff just falls into place.

The important things I learned didn’t come from a curriculum. Looking over my list, I realize that I learn best by doing, reflecting on the experience and talking about it with other people. My important learning is informal learning.

Sometimes things work in unexpected ways but you only find out if you keep exploring. Here’s a bit of a wonky one. I’m very visual, so I like approaches that help me visualize my work. This fall, I tried using the 8 Learning Events Model to simplify the course design process (pdf), but with mixed results. I learned that it isn’t such a great help when designing a course but it works great in helping you identify the weak spots in a course that’s being redesigned — especially if you color-code each of the activities in the course. (I warned you that this one was wonky.) If you’d like to try this for yourself, feel free to use this pdf as a guide. If you end up with a lot of activities coded with red circles, you probably have a content-heavy course and may need to brainstorm some alternative teaching approaches that are more active & less passive.

Some things I’m still struggling with …

The more I teach, the less I know. Furthermore, the more I teach online, the less satisfied I am with teaching face-to-face. It doesn’t feel as effective to me. What’s up with that? Does anyone else feel the same way? I’m getting the sense that teaching isn’t what I think it is.

Where are the great teaching tools going to come from next? How are we ever going to get away from those big, kludgey, ugly learning management systems, and what will come next?

Have a great 2008.

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Learning gives back

Elliott & Cathy Masie are blogging from Mali about their experiences being part of a project that will donate over 2 million mosquito nets to protect people against malaria. Elliott is posting some beautiful little snippets including interviews with people in the area.  I especially like the short video taken while he was conducting a train-the-trainer on how to craft a “sticky” message so that people will spread the message about the clinics.

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