Friday, September 27, 2013

The Art of Listening


At long last I am copping to it. I have been extremely Quiet here on the blog. For years! Part of it is introversion, but most is an “I’m too busy to write this” attitude with a little bit of “who would really want to read what I have to say, anyway?” underneath. So I guess it’s partly what Susan Cain refers to as being shy – as distinct from introverted – the fear of social judgment. This distinction interests me and I hope to explore it further.

In response to some of the guide questions, especially the first and the last (“How do you evaluate “quiet” people; how you address privacy?” And “How does thinking about “quiet” students (or faculty members) shape your understanding of the trivium—pedagogy, community, and Web 2.0?” I want to raise something I think I mentioned in our last f2f: I see the issue of “engaging” students and faculty of different backgrounds and comfort levels as a dynamic, ongoing, creative challenge for us as facilitators/educators.

One way to invite participation is to design learning activities that integrate thinking about multiple types of intelligences (some of my work in grad school was based on using Howard Gardner’s theories and applying them for learners in Adult Basic Education and ESOL).

That was part of why I wanted to bring Voicethread (VT) into C2.0. : in VT the visual is the way in to the conversation, which can then involve audio and writing. Btw, I LOVE how the group collaboratively transformed our “Quiet”  VT into a really fun and funny space…while still focusing on introversion!

The other thing I want to raise is how do we learn to listen – or do we? I go in and out of being able to listen well, or listen at all. And I’m pretty sure I am not alone in this.  

I’ve found some things that help, including meditation and, interestingly enough, some of the interactive art projects I’ve developed in recent years. In my life “outside” of LaG, I am a practicing interdisciplinary visual artist. Some of these art projects are in large part based on people engaging in co-exploring beliefs or behaviors with me. For example, why would (or wouldn’t) someone believe a homemade oracle, and how can intentionally doing favors for people be a different way of connecting with others (even if you tend to do a lot of favors for others without thinking about it)?

Doing these projects has, in moments, helped me slow down, and sometimes to get quiet, hold back, and listen to people I don’t know – or even those I know – in a different way. Sometimes, it carries into the rest of my life, including my role at the CTL. 

I'll end with a question I would love to hear your thoughts on. How can we integrate the art of listening into our work with learners of all types?

Going Back to The Future

There were many changes to my department this past summer, but fortunately I have been blessed to receive a course despite the loss of many of our classes. However, on a more positive note, I am working with CSE 099 Essentials of Reading II students (aiding students in the analysis and comprehension of college level reading material through the practice of effective reading strategies). I will connecting my community with the community of CSE 110 Literacy and Propaganda (taught by Prof. Kurzyna). Both courses are using novels depicting negative utopian societies (mine "Fahrenheit 451" and his "1984"). Students using Blogger as their platform will discuss and connect similar themes across texts. Students in both courses will share elements of plot, characters and theme from their respective novel to create a common experience and understanding of the texts based on a dystopian future. One motto that I still hold to is the fact that information is useful only if it can be applied outside of the context it was learned. So, students will also be exchanging ideas that apply the connections from the novel to the society we live in today.

For my second activity, (which I'm still up in the air about in terms of platform-possibly powerpoint or google docs) students will develop a time capsule of sorts. Students will be analyzing the article "The New Literacy" which emphasizes technology as a catalyst for a literary revolution. If they could communicate a "warning message" to the future people of our society about the potential influence of technology and the importance of literature based on the connections they have made from the novel(s) to our present day what would it be. Working in groups, the capsule must include: Their letter/message to the people, a copy of F-451 and or 1984 and one piece of literature and or technology they feel will shape or have an impact on the views of this society.


Moderate Introvert



Collaborating on an activity proved itself to be more challenging than anticipated. Scheduling conflicts, differences in teaching styles and varying levels of student participation made the process a little bit more tedious. One tip which might appear to be the most obvious is starting early. Making timelier connections allots for re-evaluation of your platform and/or pedagogy as well as spreading out student responsibilities for the task within the original objectives of the course.

Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility… Be open to minor adjustments or major if necessary.We started out with Blogger and due to technological setbacks, we switched to Google Docs, which proved to be more beneficial for the students.

Students warming up to web tools: A brief introduction to the platform in the form of mini online assignments might help ease the tediousness of working with that particular web tool.

One last tip: Always keep in mind that the ultimate goal of the activity/ implementation of these approaches should promote an increased sense of comfort and familiarity for the students but should encourage the notion that students should actually be learning from one another. At the end of the day the students might conquer the task presented, but if they are not absorbing, learning and applying, what was the point?

I’m a Moderate Introvert????...Okey dokes!:
In my experience (others might agree), I’ve observed that the introverted/extroverted student may come into the “Community” generally with those “roles” pre-established. I have also observed that implementation of a platform reverses these roles for some students. The Community allows for the extroverted student to thrive at doing what they do best-socializing and verbally expressing their thoughts and ideas. The introverted student may work independently within their groups during this “Community Interaction”.  When the time comes for written expression of those thoughts and ideas, the platform has become the microphone/ p.a. system for the introverted.

“Absence of an overt voice does not mean the absence of thought, interpretation or comprehension.”
      -Unknown                                                                                                                                                                             

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Digital Dictionary and Reflections

First, I came across this digital dictionary in the spring issue of Computers and Composition:
http://candcblog.org/digitaldictionary/  I think it might be a useful resource for our own (and students') developing expertise with 2.0 technologies and terminologies.

In the comments I received on my last post, both respondents addressed the question of anonymity in student comments. I guess I raised this as a question for two reasons:  1)in a more public digital zone, like the NYT,  people comment on ideas and writing anonymously all the time and 2) I'm interested in how writing for the public makes students more accountable for their composing choices.  It makes sense that commenters should be just as accountable in the classroom community.  My hold out question on this topic is: can anonymity encourage any risk taking with writing and response that we don't get from comments with a name attached?  I won't try it with the journal, but perhaps some kind of anonymous responses to readings or peer writing that are turned into the instructor would be an interesting way to explore this. 

In regards to learning styles and the spectrum of introversion to extroversion, I am seeking articles and examples of reading and writing activities in the c 2.0 style that are multimodal (and thereby appeal to different learning styles).  Most of what I am finding is about addressing learning styles online, but that's not quite what I'm looking for. Here is a favorite example that I think goes a step further, and could be digitized:
http://textmapping.org/scrolls.html

Here is something I want to explore more:  http://bookbuilder.cast.org/ around teaching reading online.  Not sure if this can work in community format yet.

And here is something I am reading about teaching reading from the same organization:  http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/chapter4_3.cfm 





Monday, September 16, 2013

Emerging themes from our session of quiet...


Themes

In terms of commonalities shared within the three posts, what is initially clear is the intent of the writers to pursue best practices for canvassing student personality types to create environments where learning can take place.  When Wynne speaks of the variety of skills being asked, from writing, to presentations, exams or otherwise, it’s important that we think of creating minds that not only emphasize and achieve with their strengths (i.e. an extrovert may prefer certain assessment or assignment types) but also remedy their areas of discomfort and weakness, right?  While a student may not prefer to be engaged in a certain way in a certain space, that doesn’t mean it would not be academically beneficial (or even more far ranging than that).  By using thoughtful multiple modes, this might be achieved.  

From Nikki’s thoughts - where group work might be a large phase of the work, this doesn’t mean eliminating the “individual” and their time to construct ideas.  I’ve found that group work that ‘starts’ as group work leads the dominant voices to rule the assignment, as introverts need the extra time to think deeply (and really, the extroverts need it just as much, even though it isn’t their natural process).  For instance, in part due to this discussion, I’ve altered how I construct my first assignment for my Broadcasting (Intro) class, which is to create ideas and questions for street interviews.  Generally, in the past, I’ve grouped students together and allowed them to wrestle with ideas and end on one that we can exhaustively work on and produce.  This time around, I’ve asked them for homework to create several topics and question sets on their own, and will put them into teams with the understanding that they will represent their ideas within the group at that time.

I'm grateful for our session and writing of others to consider how to push further with our understanding and implementation of pedagogy.  Link to my initial post.

Reading Nikki (should I just write Nicole?) and Irwin...

solitude groupthink web 2.0 power home team
I read Irwin's and Nikki's posts. They both mentioned using Web 2.0 and Blackboard. (Just so I can get my labels in!)


It was interesting because Irwin outed himself as an extreme introvert. (Thanks for sharing, Irwin!) I think it's important because Irwin always strikes me as someone who is not anxious to get his point out, but when he does speak it's insightful and interesting. (Sometimes I get anxious that we won’t hear from him.) I guess my point is that it's not as if he's shy or has nothing to say. Cain distinguishes shyness (from introversion) as fear of social judgment. So I'm thinking about my *shy* students compared to those who are *quiet*. Irwin also underscores Cain's observation that in the U.S. there's a bias toward volubility. (I loved how Vanessa shared her inner-thought experiences in high school being so preoccupied with when to "jump in" the conversation, she was barely listening to what was said.) So what kind of values have we internalized and what are we unwittingly reproducing? And what is the loss? 


Nikki's post picks up on this bias: In the business world, there’s such a value put on group work and collaboration. But there it may actually work. Nikki observes, “although employers do require ridiculous amounts of team work (as cited in the Groupthink article), it is those companies which allow their workers autonomy and creativity that are cited as some of the best places to work and are consequently some of the most successful companies in their respective fields.”


As educators, are we hoping to replicate the corporate success of groupthink and its success and incorporating autonomy, etc.? If so how can we design better activities to glean the success and elide the traumatizing (re: Vanessa) or silencing (e.g., what if we didn't get to hear from Irwin?)

Nikki writes (and I'm adding all the emphasis): "... one big thing that jumps out at me is that last semester, my Community 2.0 project required students to work in groups in class, and then with others across classes. There was never a moment for independent work or contributions based on work done by an individual working in solitude. Everything had to be brainstormed, and everything had to be worked on in collaboration with team members. Students did not have the opportunity to sit in class, or go home, and take some time to tackle ideas on their own before sharing them with their groups.

I'm thinking about this this semester! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Closet Introvert" - Self-taught Extrovert.


I use quiet to reevaluate my teaching approach and reflect on past semesters.  I look back at what I did, what worked, what didn’t and what could or should be done differently.

Start early! Last semesters assignment would have been much more productive had we started at the beginning of the semester.  Had students connected earlier they would have been more familiar with the process and each other.  Moreover, we would have had more time to work out the technological glitches.  Also, being well prepared eases some of the frustration and anxiety.   

Other students who would benefit from community 2.0 activities include students with speech impediments, those who are Quiet or shy, ones with special needs or language deficiencies.

Web 2.0 Platforms help to give every member in the community a voice. Quiet Students tend to be more active and engaged in online discussions.

Teaching, Ideology, and Community

It's wonderful to read Daryl's and Maria's honest and insightful accounts of their pedagogy. Both of them acknowledge how difficult it can be to navigate the introvert-extrovert divide in the classroom. Maria write, "if I ask the “louder” ones to give room to the quieter ones, I’m putting the quieter ones in a difficult position. I’m basically saying: “Now’s your chance to jump in and “ape” being an extrovert!" Similarly, Daryl asks: "What are the opportunity costs of trying to be adaptive, sensitive, and accommodating in the classroom when dealing with student coping mechanisms?" These questions resonate deeply with me. I suspect most of us have spent our teaching careers navigating educational settings that are strongly biased towards extroversion. Every educator's classroom practices are deeply influenced (though not totally determined) by the ideologies of the wider culture; how could it be otherwise? In the end, it seems that Daryl, Maria, and I are all struggling to envision and enact alternative ways of teaching which honor the gifts and contributions of all our students. Of course, it's extremely difficult for any single person to push back against assumptions and practices that are so deeply ingrained as to seem completely natural, normal, inevitable. Working within a supportive community of inquiry and practice is an indispensable part of this effort. Our Community 2.0 group is such a resource. We're not going to change the world (or even LaGuardia), but we can ask questions, reflect, and experiment together. That's a pretty good start.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Quiet Activity and Posts


First, I must say that it was luxurious to have 20 minutes of quiet time to work on something. I have not had 20 minutes of quiet work time for a very, very long time. No place is safe- at home it is the giggles or wails of my baby, at work it its my (awesome yet very determined) colleagues knocking at my door. I have even trained myself to seek out the noise...when I recently visited the Queens Library to get some work done in silence, I found myself plugged into Spotify listening to Metallica!

 

It is great to read the thoughtful posts of my colleagues, Mark and Maria. It seems that we all understand the importance of creating opportunities for “Quiet connections” but are not sure exactly how we can or will go about doing it. To be honest, I understand the notion of quiet time, and of allowing someone to work independently, without the noise that classmates, technology and I as the instructor throw into the mix. However, how can we have students connect quietly? If we are simply discussing writing vs speaking, then that is relatively easy. However, if that is not what we are considering, I am at a loss as to how we can do this. What evidence will we have that students made this connection? It may be the “extrovert” in me, or the business background, but what results will we be able to observe?  I don’t deny that there may be ways to do this, I just humbly admit I am unaware of them and look forward to hearing everyone’s ideas.

Quiet ... quiet ...

I read Wynne's and Sree's post. Their posts where very complete and thorough compared with mine. My post was very short and did not addressed the questions posed by the assignment one-by-one. My feeling with all the documents and videos about "Quiet" by Susan Cain is that the introvert in me perceives it as too noisy and extrovert. As a disclaimer I have to say that I still agree with the Quiet revolution. Maybe that is why my post was that short. It feels a bit like contradiction.

Introversion. A comic by Luchie.
Wynne's post was very well documented towards student's consideration as introvert or extrovert but more about the whole spectrum you can find in any class. On the other hand, Sree's post was more detailed on her personal feeling and then started to answer the bulleted questions. In general, I agree with them in how students learning process is enriched by taking into account the way them and us interact in the traditional and virtual classroom.

I had used in my connection Web 2.0 tools like Wikispaces to a anonymous space where students can contribute with their work and connect to others by helping them refine their contributions. We are planning to again connect a math course with a CLIP class in the same online environment. In addition to that and in the context of a pilot I am participating in, I am planning to connect students of the same level but different professors to collaborate and support each other during the semester. This connection is being put in place using piazza.com. In this free platform, a virtual environment to support students questions is created.

I was interested in participating in Community 2.0 because I always have been interested in the latest cool thing to do in class for and with the students. Now, after participating I cannot think of a class with at least one component where they get to open the classroom or themselves to others.

Know thyself

I'll be focusing on this...  "How do you evaluate “quiet” people?"

After reading Sree's and Irwin's posts and Maria's comments on my original post, it occurred to me that most people consider me an extravert.  Most diagnostic tests place me just over the extravert line although I've always thought I am more introverted.  Oh well, I think this can be somewhat fluid and contextual obviously.

What struck me, though, was how much the personality type of the professor can affect the climate and activities in any given class (to state the obvious).  Irwin and Sree are both introverted and I think it is clear from their posts that this strongly affects their classroom environments and activities.  Likewise, with myself.  Although I am borderline on the extroversion/introversion spectrum, I pretty obviously lean toward, and encourage, classically extroverted behaviors -- especially in my communication classes.  I am going to rethink this.

In Search of Quiet



Quiet Reflection.......

There was a great bit of irony in the summer's homework assignment.  For the better part of the summer, I craved "quiet."  As many parents know, the summer can be especially harsh when summer camps are done and you must find activities for your kids.  With the passing of many days and hours, as I juggled keeping my son occupied, away from too many video games and involved in more productive endeavors -- trying the balance the never ending work-home life imbalance, my inner voice kept screaming loudly for QUIET!!!

I would quickly resign myself to the fact that "quiet" would only return when I revisited the halls of LaGuardia, and my son and his testosterone laden buddies returned to middle school.  Continued irony: I would have to return to a hectic paced environment that alternates between total chaos and constant "busy-ness" in order to get some semblance of quiet.

As I began preparing for the term in my late night quiet reflection, I eventually gave thought to the assignment at hand.   How might I translate the information from Cain's work on quiet into my classroom?  In one sense this seems easy.  I totally connect and relate to everything that Cain espouses.   I had immediate reflections going back to high school when I was frequently among the heavy chatter in the classroom of my obnoxious peers who loved hearing themselves speak.   I recall always feeling the pressure to "say something" so that my teachers wouldn't think I was an idiot.   When you are surrounded by loud and fast talking people, you can easily be drowned out and not have any presence in a space.   Ones silent can easily be misinterpreted as “unknowing.”  I have always been cognizant of this.   Thus, when I think about the implicit as well as the explicit demand placed upon students to “participate in class,” I know have to rethink what I previously placed value upon in my classroom.  How could I be living two contradictory existences?  On the one hand, clearly acknowledging cultural differences in self-expression, but on the other hand proscribing the “right way” for a student to show their connection to the course material.  
It is my goal this term therefore to make use of more creative assignments that will allow the quieter students in the classroom to have a “voice.”  I was able to do this somewhat with my students during the Spring 2013 term using the Community 2.0 assignment.  I was awe-struck to see the end products of students sharing their neighborhood and community assignments.  Two sections of students taking Urban Black Psychology were sharing video projects of their neighborhoods and commenting on others’ videos.  Students who had been reticent throughout the term were able to shine.   Not only did they have a voice, but it was powerful!  

Because of this experience, I plan to use more creative assignments that will allow students to give expression to their thoughts, ideas and feelings that they might otherwise not do in the classroom.    One possible project that may allow for this is an event that I am planning with Steven Hitt this term for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.  The Women’s Center will be working with PACT and developing a Bystander Intervention Program that is intended to make bystanders aware of what role they can play in reducing partner violence.  I plan to have my students blog about the experience – what they learned, what they took away, and what value they believe an event like this offers students at LaGuardia.  

I am eager to have students share their ideas about this as I believe such a sharing creates a community -- one that many can learn and benefit from.   More on this to come….

How rare! 20 minutes of quiet.

In common are themes of classroom community and culture and how online tools seem to provide an equitable opportunity for introverts to strut, but we’re thwarted by the status quo rubrics of academic life (i.e., classroom participation). More importantly, Introverts ruled in our section by 2:1. It seems that we agree that culture governs our classroom communities, especially the larger culture that exalts extroverts. Extroversion is, I’ll bet, not always something we strive for because of what the larger culture demands or who is considered successful and what not. In any case, we confirmed, based on our classroom experiences, that extroversion dominates and sets the tone in our classes. As Rob wrote, we know the names of the loudest and most talkative. (Is this confirmation bias? What if loud and talkative is a deflection or charade?) I would like to question how cultural this is truly. Another point of agreement seems to be that online tools to provide students the opportunity to shine (again, confirmation… ? Have we been primed?) Irwin says it’s liberating for the students who need the quiet space to participate and engage the class. I agree; there’s potential here. But again, shyness can ruin this because there is still room for social judgment. Where (how?) do we provide balance? Yeah. So I find myself torn, but requiring balance. I think students should practice having their own thoughts, but I also think they should practice discussing and collaborating with others. Web 2.0 might allow folks to share ideas and for one or two to blossom, but this means that other ideas have to fall to the way side. This might not happen, but how often do people take the best ideas from each other and part them together? The larger cultural influence is competition; this is what’s in conflict with collaboration as well as quiet. We’re trying to come up with the best idea all the time. Putting the skeptic to bed, I think everything has potential given the right about of guidance and a tangible and foresee set of outcomes that students can work towards. If a student cannot work towards these goals in class due to shyness or introversion, then Web 2.0 will open an opportunity to contribute or at least ask a question allows them to stay abreast of what’s going on.

agenda

2:30 Welcome Back! Hello again, plus a C2.0 update on our Opening Sessions Presentation with Maria, Priscilla, Irwin, Milena and Cyndi. See our proposal The Value of Vision in Design and Implementation.

2:45 Quiet Experiment
Now that you've read and thought about quiet, let's go a bit deeper by doing the "quiet experiment". 

3:30 - 3:40 Break

3:40 Wikis! Practical Hands-on and Wikis in Action
Why we use the C2.0 wiki for collecting info, how to post your info on the wiki, and real life examples of how your colleagues have used wikis with their students!

4:25 New Platform: Voicethread!
Voicethread uses a central image (or series of images) with the ability to receive multiple comments that can be recorded or written. Today as a taste, for homework, we'll experiment with responding to images relating to our ongoing exploration of "quiet". See instructions here.

4:40 Work time!
This semester you will make two (2) connections. The second connection should build on what you learn from the first. 

The first connection should take place prior to our upcoming f2f meeting on 10/8 . You can use this time to:
a. Work with partner(s)
b. Work by yourself (because your partner is not  there or you are connecting two of your own classes)
c. Come to our consulting circle.

In a blog post, describe what you plan to do for your two connective activities.




Homework 
Part One
1. Read the posts that incorporated your own ideas (there should be two). (You can find them by searching your tag) and comment on each (by 9/17). Reply to others’ comments on your 9/17 post (by 9/24).
2. Post a reflection (after you’ve read the comments and replies): How did it feel to be “quiet” for 20 minutes? How did this activity (both the Quiet f2f experiment and online components) affect (a) your approach to designing classroom and online activities and (b) evaluating their success? What other observations could you share?
Tech Requirement: Post three tags for participant names, three tags for themes, and at least one tag for a platform.
Tech Optional: Please embed links, add visuals, etc.  (by 10/1)

Part Two
Upload your spring syllabus on the spring wiki and complete anything you weren’t able to complete today on the F2013 wiki.  

Part Three
IMPORTANT: Have your students fill out the Student Pre-Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PreSurvey2013F by Friday, September 20.  

C2.0  - and the college - need to hear from your students!