Our Own Egypt

Having recently revisited our own Exodus from enslavement, the Mi Chamocha and its difficulties are fresh and our memories. Pesach is a time where we celebrate our freedoms, but we also remember that our freedom did not come without grave costs, and we are commanded to remember that when people are suffering – especially when it is at the expense of our own victories – we cannot celebrate fully.

As we come to the Mi Chamocha, we recognize a great deal of internal struggle. The V’Ahavta, which precedes it, commands that we love the Oneness of everything and be present with and within the Commandments, but it can be difficult to do so when knowing that gaining our freedoms had dire consequences for others.

It seems as though we are surrounded by situations that have no clear right or wrong answer, no clear pathway toward good or bad, and very murky distinctions between people who work to uphold the rights of others and those who work to tear them down. Perhaps we are each experiencing our own “Egypt” – globally, nationally, in our personal spheres of living and loving, and within ourselves. What places are troubling you? What places or environments or situations are enslaving you? How will you deal with them? And what will you do with those who do not agree with you?

Paulo Freire, in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, describes again and again how groups of people who are oppressed for long periods of time finally build up the momentum to revolt, and when they do so, once they have the power, they don’t know what to do with it because there was no real plan for actually winning. People organized around the revolution, but they did not organize a structure for establishing authority figures and regulations and laws. There was just the simple goal of winning. But winning isn’t enough. We must be part of our own learning, contribute to our own escape, and take responsibility for our own circumstances … however difficult that may be. We must think not only of how to exit a situation, but how to deal with that situation once power and control have been transferred. Once we feel empowered, what steps will be taken? What strategies will we use? And how will we ensure that we do not become those who (or that which) oppressed us? It is important to reflect upon our own spaces and situations. What is your “Egypt?” How will you unshackle yourself from that “Egypt?” And what will you do once you are free? Will you treat your enemies as they treated you? Will you celebrate their downfall? Or will you promote something different? And if you’re going to try something different, what is that going to be and how will it work out? What are the possible consequences – good and bad?

These are all things we must consider when we are preparing to start our own Revolution, be it global, national, personal, or internal. Hineini? Where are you? Ayeka. I am here.

 

Reflections on the Hour of Code in My Classroom

While I’m writing my dissertation, I am teaching at an independent learning school in a small town in Southern California. The school has traditionally been packet-based, with very little use of digital anything.

Dr. Stephen Pietrolungo, the principal here, is working diligently to move the school into the 21st century. This week, he outlined several fairly simple ways to integrate digital tools, inquiry-based learning, and critical consumption of information in his blog as a kick-off to our launch of the international Hour of Code.

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Impacting Teacher Learning with PPD and TPCK

On Friday, I gave a talk on this paper at the SITE conference in Las Vegas on the relationship between Participatory Professional Development and Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK). Generally, I asserted that all of these innovations in technology are changing the ways learners interact with information, learning environments, their teachers, and each other. They are more connected – to everything – which means that we need to reenvision our understandings of what learning environments look like, how to design for them, and what counts as “engagement” and “learning” within them. However, this also means that we need to reenvision what professional development looks like and the ways in which it presents new information to teachers so that they can learn how to design for and teach  in these new environments.

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Collaborative Design as a Form of Professional Development

In 2012, I attended the International Conference for the Learning Sciences. front pageThere I was part of a workshop led by Yael Kali and Susan McKenney, where we discussed collaborative and participatory approaches to teacher learning. I collaborated with Joke VoogtTherese LaferrièreAlain BreuleuxDaniel T. Hickey, and Susan McKenney to write our article on Collaborative Design as a Form of Professional Development, just published in Instructional Science.

The basic model for participatory professional development is outlined in Case 1. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the article.

 

 

Supporting Not-So-Tech-Savvy Teachers through PD

I was scrolling through tumblr today and came across holtthink’s post, which posed an excellent question: “should we still have sympathy for teachers who don’t use technology” or “don’t get computers?” It’s a fair question, and one I’ve come across many times. I would argue that, yes, we need to have sympathy for these teachers and moreover, we need to provide them with appropriate, sustained support in learning to use and integrate new technologies into their classrooms.

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Setting Intentions

In the morning over my coffee, I set an intention for the hour and for the day. I do this to give focus to the moment so that I can carry that intention throughout the day. And as usual, I started to think about learning. I realized that this notion of setting intentions is exactly what we want learners to do in our courses. We want them to set goals for learning beyond memorizing facts. We want them to set intentions for learning that will carry through to their other courses and their daily lives.

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Introducing Participatory Professional Development

I’ve been a teacher of some kind or another for about as long as I can remember. From reading to young kids with processing disorders to teaching ten-minute playwriting and producing festivals to tutoring middle and high school students for cash in college, I seem to always find myself in some kind of educator role. So when I became a teacher – and not a geneticist as I had planned – no one but me was surprised. “Of course you became a teacher,” everyone said. “You were teaching toddlers when you were three,” they said. “You were born a teacher,” they said. And I suppose they were right.

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Some selected blog posts from the past

Now that I have a central place to collect my writing, I will add new blog posts to this site as they’re written, but in the past, I have been contributing to several other blogs around the web. Here is a quick roundup of some of the more significant ones.

I am anchoring research into educational assessment in digital badge systems, one of four research strands of the Design Principles Documentation Project, which is wrapping up a 2-year study of 30 educational programs that are using Mozilla’s Open Badges to recognize learning. We sorted how programs designed their assessment practices into ten general design principles.

Here is an early explanation of those principles: Design Principles for Assessing Learning with Digital Badges (2013, May).

And some previous thoughts on assessment design in digital badge systems: Encouraging reflection on practice while grading an artifact: A thought on badges (2012, March).

Purdue Veterinary Medicine Digital Badges Aim to Excite Youth and Expand their Knowledge (2013, July).

I write a lot about educational assessment and technology outside of badges as well. Here’s a sampling:

The role of artifact reflections in participatory assessment (2012, July).

Reflections on using a wiki to organize a summer learning event:  Summer 2012 hackjam: The wiki (2012, June).

Three firsts: Bloomington’s first hackjam, ForAllBadges app, and participatory assessment + Hackasaurus (2012, June).

 

Itow, R.C., Hickey, D. T. (2012, February). Finnish lessons: Start a conversation.

Itow, R.C. (2011, December). Another misuse of standardized tests: Color coded ID cards?