100 LSreflections day ?/100

Pokémon Go came out when I was in Calgary for the first set of summer courses. I downloaded it from the US App Store before it was even available in Canada. I had a lot of fun with it during that summer and was able to talk about it with my students and even went on Pokewalks with my own kids. I loved how it combined so many of my interests. Being in nature, technology, GPS, geography, and fantasy. Of course none of my adult friends understood, but that’s okay. They didn’t see, at first, how it bridged a divide between people of all ages. It got kids outside into nature. It rewarded you for exercise. One day I was sitting by the river in Port Credit playing at a hotspot and a kid came along on roller blades. He knew I was playing (you could tell) and he gave me a tip about a rare Pokémon being near the church graveyard. It was sure a sweet and pure exchange. A gift he gave without thought of recompense. Sure enough, I caught that Pokémon and was able to brag about it to my kids. I don’t play anymore. But it was fun for a while. #100dayproject #100LSreflections 16/100
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100 LSreflections day ?/100

Here’s a fun new word. Dehiscent. “I divide, split open, gape.” It is used in botany to mean the “spontaneous opening at maturity of a plant structure, such as a fruit, anther or sporangium, to release its contents.” Roth uses the word in the context of an event*-in-the-making. We talked a lot in our Advanced Learning Sciences course last summer about utterances. The meaning of what someone says is not clear until the utterance has been heard and interpreted by the other person. “A locution is one-sided, whereas an utterance is two-sided, involving an articulation and its social evaluation on the part of the listener” (Volõsinov, 1930 in Roth, 2013, p.414). Roth utilizes this concept while analysing a video of an exchange between a teacher and student to say that we don’t know what will happen when the teacher asks the question. We don’t know who will volunteer to answer, we don’t know who the teacher will call on and, when she does call on the student, we don’t know what he will say or do. Roth analyzes this exchange in tiny video segments to learn about and then describe the event*-in-the-making. The meaning of the original question is not known until the student responds. This response is dehiscent–naturally opening and revealing the meaning of the curriculum that is now the event. You might ask why–what is the point of this distinction? It has something to do with the idea that when the your change your perspective on the event, then both participants are teacher-learner and learner-teacher. “They make the event and are made by it…Mrs. Winter is teaching geometry as much as learning to teach geometry; and Connor is learning geometry as much as allowing Mrs. Winter to learn to teach geometry” (p412). Think about your own practice. Did you know how to ask questions well at the beginning? I didn’t. I am still learning how to ask good questions to elicit the learning or conversation or thinking I want. The students teach me how to ask questions by their responses. This happens whether you intend to learn or not. This is why it takes me so long to write. These ideas do not come easily to me, but I am fascinated by them. #100LSreflections #100dayproject 13/100
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Dialectic (Part 3)

Dialectic (Part 3)–I recently sent my critical friends (a graduate study group who have become close friends) a text that said, “This morning I am embracing the dialectic. Apparently it is possible to be both elated and devastated; in my senses and disembodied; conciliatory and vengeful.” (I can become overly dramatic in text-form…much more so than in person!) It was the mixture of emotions that resulted from having to admit that I would not be able to live up to all the things I had committed to (both personally and professionally) and that I needed help. Graduate school and full-time work at the same time is hard. Much harder than I thought it would be. Once I finally asked for help, my friends, family and colleagues worked with me to figure out how cut back on responsibilities and to extend deadlines so that I could manage. I am humbled by and grateful for their love, support and understanding. I still worry that I have bitten off more than I can chew and, at the same time, frustrated by my slow progress. I have been listening to Brene Brown a lot and this quote speaks to me. We are all struggling with the dialectic aspects of being human. “Most of us are brave and afraid at exactly the same time, all day long.” The picture is from Agawa Rock Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park. I visited there during my trip across Canada last summer. I was very afraid because the rock ledge was very slippery and steeply slanted to Lake Superior and no one was there but me. But I pushed myself to be brave because I wanted to see the pictographs in person…not just pictures of them. Imagine the First Nations people who painted the pictographs. I wonder if they felt both brave and afraid at the same time. #100LSreflections #100dayproject 12/100
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Dialectic (Part 2)

Dialectic (Part 2)—The post I wrote a couple of days ago about students engaging in activism (student-in-the-making) is also about the dialectic. Through participation in any action (Roth studied workers in a salmon cannery and commercial pilots, for example) you both change the situation/environment and are changed by it simultaneously. “The very nature of practice is its own transformation” (Roth, 2016, p.106) and “being and becoming are dual aspects of nature” (Beatty, 2009). Roth’s “dialectical materialism” is based on the writings of Marx and Engels. It’s all a little beyond my comprehension but my understanding of “materialism” is that there is real world outside of our minds–matter/material–and it is knowable (in principle). It is there, even if we don’t perceive it. If that tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound if no one is around to hear it? Yes. This “realism” is in contrast with the “idealism” philosophy which posits that what we think of as reality is created in the mind and nothing is really real because all people experience the world differently. Dialectical materialism, then, (in my limited understanding) is the idea that the everything is connected in the material of existence. We are all connected to the natural world and our actions act on the world, and the world acts on us. Our thoughts are included. Even our thoughts are created and transferred in our material brains and perhaps also in all parts of our body (and maybe even the metaphysical body as well…but that’s beyond our talk today!). This also includes the ideas of interconnectedness of systems and the need to study all parts of system to understand what is happening. We must view “change as interaction among components of complete systems, and [see] the components themselves not as a priori entities, but as both products and inputs to the system” (Gould, 1990). The whole “system” is the minimal unit of study, because if you take out even one part or change even one part of the system, it affects all other parts. And, now, we have arrived at “activity theory”! #100LSreflections #100dayproject 11/100
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In-the-making

I thought I would write these posts chronologically, but this quote (Wolff-Michael Roth, 2016, p.116) is speaking to me today. This is from one of the papers I read for my literature review I wrote this last December and it is about taking the theoretical perspective that activism is learning. When you engage in productive activity that benefits society, you are simultaneously changing and being changed by the practice of activism. Or the practice of anything, really. The quote describes how we experience life–it’s always changing, just like that river with all its eddies and turbulences. Everything changes. So when trying to study societal actions like education, we have a hard time narrowing the measurement or observation to something static. It’s pretty problematic to stop the river to study the individual “states”, but if we try to observe the flow of the river or how the river changes, it’s more authentic. If we are looking at students engaged in activism, that student is both engaging in the action and being changed by engaging in the action; he is a not just the subject of research, but a “subject-in-the-making.” Simultaneously, the researcher is a researcher-in-the-making; the teacher is a teacher-in-the-making and the environment is also in the process of undergoing change. I guess this quote is speaking to me because I am experiencing a lot of change lately–not just professionally, but also personally. I am Susan-in-the-making. #100LSreflections #100dayproject 8/100

Going Upriver

For the Computer Supported Learning course, I wrote an essay about how to develop Global Citizenship Education (GSE) through activism and participatory media. GSE “equips learners with the knowledge, skills and values to navigate and live together in an increasingly interdependent world and to work collectively toward solutions to the planet’s pressing problems” (Truong-White & McLean, 2015). I want to share two metaphors that came from the research for this paper. The starfish thrower, based on a story by Loren Eiseley, essentially helps justify helping the ONE starfish by throwing it back in the sea, even though there are thousands on the beach that will die in the sun, because even though it will not make a difference, it makes a difference for that ONE starfish. But what if that starfish, in its infinite natural wisdom, knew that it was time for it to die and did not want to be saved? Another metaphor is the story of children drowning in a river with a strong current. Of course, unlike the starfish, we know for certain that children do not want to drown. We try to save them. But then we look upriver and see boats with people throwing children into the river and there are more and more boats coming. What do we do? Andreotti and Pashby (2013) describe 4 responses: “rescuing the children in the water, stopping the boats from throwing the children in the water, going to the villages of the boat crew to understand why this is happening in the first place, and collecting the bodies of those who have died to grieve and raise awareness of what happened.” They call this “going upriver” to find the root cause of the problem. The added complication to today’s GCE-oriented teacher is that viral media usually means there is no context for issues that are spread around the world and they are almost certainly shared without questioning what the people are doing to help themselves and how they want to be supported? Perhaps they are satisfied with their culture (not dying children, of course) and find fulfillment in a different way of living. Going upriver. It’s complicated. 6/100 #100LSreflections #100dayproject

Lifelong World Changers

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I am in the middle of writing the methodology chapter for my proposed design-based research study that will lead to my EdD dissertation. My current research questions are about how can critical place-based education be used to design a pedagogical framework which engages students in activism and can this framework increase students’ agency for activism.

I have come to understand that my desire to focus on how to increase student agency for activism comes partially from the lack of agency for activism that I have experienced in my own life. There are so many instances of me wanting to “do something” but not following through. I wanted to be a “Big Sister” but didn’t do it. I wanted to volunteer with animals or to clean up the local wetland conservation area in the spring. I wanted to save the world. Instead, I focussed on my family, or that’s what I told myself—as if the two where mutually exclusive. For example, I coached soccer for many years and became “Brown Owl” when my daughter was in Brownies. I made my children’s lives the best I could but I did not follow a personal passion for making the world a better place. I did a good job at being a mom and am proud of the wonderful adults my children have become. But it took joining a sorority for my daughter to learn service. It didn’t come from my example.

If I had participated in activism in school alongside my peers, and gained skills and knowledge on how to create positive change in my community, would things have been different? Would I have continued to volunteer or be civically engaged throughout university and into marriage and motherhood? I believed that personal fulfillment through service or “giving back” was my right and an opportunity would eventually just be presented to me on a silver platter. Of course this is not how the world works. I want students to know how important they are to the world right now and throughout their lives—how important their ideas are, their passions, their solutions. I want to help them develop the attitudes and tools to be able to be lifelong world-changers. #100LSreflections#100dayproject 5/100

Growth Mindset for Academic Writing

Academic writing is not my strong suit. I finished my masters degree in 1994. It had been over 20 years since I had written anything for a course that wasn’t a lesson plan or a reflection when I started to write my first paper in the summer of 2016. That first paper was excruciatingly hard. If I could wish for anything, it would be to be able to write quicker. I’m a pretty good writer but I am SLOW. If I am “on a roll” it will take me about 3 hours to write a page (about 250 words). But it takes about 2-3 full days of focussed work to get on a roll. This luxury of time is available to me in the summer, but not during the school year, so I have really struggled with my courses during the fall and winter terms. I love the research part though. Searching out sources, reading, reading and reading some more, defining words (remember those vocab lists from my first post?), going down “rabbit holes” into interesting topics that are not-exactly-but-maybe-relevant (to justify the time), making connections and then, finally, there’s no more time. It’s time to write or die. All the profs said to write daily. They said to get into a daily habit of writing without fail. If only I had listened to them! But I thought, “How can I write until I’ve finished the research?” Looking back, I see that I also did not allow myself to be a novice. After having supported Grade 12 students for 15 years as they learned how to write argumentative essays and editing those essays, I felt that I should be able to do it easily. I had to get it right the first time, without major edits and it had to be brilliant! These thoughts are paralyzing. Well, I believe in a growth mindset, not just for my students, but for myself as well. I have a lot of writing left in this degree. I can develop the habit of writing daily. I think I just started that habit about 4/100 days ago. #100LSreflections #100dayproject.

ConstrucTIONist

All my classes were based on a construcTIONist (Papert) epistemology today. Grade 10 Science were designing and making a model of all the body systems. Grade 9 Science just finished making atomic superhero models and videos and today were discovering how to program Micro:bits (this student did a “rock, paper, scissors) and Grade 9 Geography were making 3D maps of Canada. All these things are Papert’s “objects-to-think-with” which allow students to build “knowledge structures” through social interactions (Piaget’s construcTIVism which Papert felt happens easily when constructing “a public artifact” of the learning). I did not know these theories of knowledge before starting the EdD program, although I did use a social constructivist pedagogy, I didn’t know it. 🙂 Learning Scientists study both the science of how we learn and how to design effective, innovative learning environments, tools and teaching strategies. We need to have a solid foundation of educational theory to do this. I remember a heated debate about Knowledge building (with a capital K) and knowledge (with a small k) (Scardamalia and Bereiter). Good times! #100LSreflections #learningsciences #100dayproject 3/100