Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Synergistic Roots of Growth Potential

The roots of a tree grow strong, fierce, inevitably charging it’s way through the hard undergrowth of the earth–in seemingly unknown and uninhabited patterns. How can we predict the path of a tree’s root? How can we know what the root is seeking and where it will end? What is the potential of growth for any living thing?

Botanical species organically grow and develop with basic common structures, but they each have uncertain and unexplainable development potentials during the growth process. The development of human life presents the same unpredictable variables. We each possess the same basic anatomical structures, such as hearts, minds, and bones, but yet we grow and manifest in such extraordinarily different ways. How can we possibly predict what will come and what will be once a life has begun?

The potential for education shares these unpredictable and unlimited roots and possibilities for growth, and it’s greatest foundation for supporting exponential growth relies heavily on the environment in which our students begin to develop. The influence of environment on the development process is not limited to just humans, but rather to any species or source or life overall. The growth potential of any plants is limited to the resources available in environments where they manifest, such as sunlight and water.

The limiting foundation of environments can be paralleled to the accessibility of “knowledge” and information from any discipline, “Information is the foundation of knowledge. The information in any given field consists of facts and figures, such as may be found in the technical reference manuals of learning…individual experts translate information into knowledge…” (Cormier, 2008).

Once commonly accepted notions of our solar system, including the concept of a geocentric universe, took years to disprove and revise; oftentimes, with social agendas and perspectives mitigating and inhibiting the potential growth process, as clearly seen from Copernicus’s once anonymous explanations of our heliocentric universe.
These changes, alterations and reconfigurations of beliefs and understandings have forced us to inevitably become flexible in our perspectives regarding growth potential for assumed knowledge, expertise, and new ideas, “[t]he increasingly transitory nature of what is lauded as current or accurate in new and developing fields, as well as the pace of change in Western culture more broadly, has made it difficult for society in general and education in particular to define what counts as knowledge” (Cormier, 2008).  Historically, this accepted “knowledge” and other informational facts have been stored mainly in the minds and thoughts of experts and their resources, but these conduits of understanding have steadily morphed into a fluid, unpredictable, and oftentimes contested confluence of ideas, thoughts, and opinions. The once static decrees of what is or what should be or how things work has become a dynamic myriad of insurmountable and seemingly unending masses of information, widely accessible to all, and proclaimed by anyone.

Take for instance the dangers of DiHydrogen Monoxide. A simple Google search of the term will produce a variety of results warning people about the dangerous effects of this element, begging for support in banning it altogether:
…the U.S. Government and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) do not classify Dihydrogen Monoxide as a toxic or carcinogenic substance (as it does with better known chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and benzene), DHMO is a constituent of many known toxic substances, diseases and disease-causing agents, environmental hazards and can even be lethal to humans in quantities as small as a thimbleful. (DHMO)
Seems pretty dangerous, right? There are facts and other “scientific rhetoric” providing the dangers of this substance, and believe it or not, many of these facts are true! Further research of the topic will simply result in the discovery that DHMO is merely the technical term for the commonly used compound known as water. DiHydrogen (2 molecules of Hydrogen) Monoxide (1 molecule of oxygen)–more commonly referred to as H2O.

So our ever-changing technological existence and advances provide individuals the opportunities and platforms to have a voice and contribute to society and community in meaningful and thoughtful ways, and sometimes, in not so helpful ways, as seen above. We (Americans) are no longer (seemingly fully) bound by the beliefs and scrupulous conformity of religious sectors political leaders, because we have the access and capabilities to absorb knowledge, share it, and grown from one another. But how do we ensure that these opportunities for growth serve as a catalyst for positive, credible, collaboration?

In Dave Cormier’s “Rhizomatic Education:  Community as Curriculum,”  Cormier speaks about the concept of rhizomatic education, emphasizing this notion of growth potential as witnessed from the rhizome plant which has no limitations or restrictions to its development process. In using the rhizome plant as his muse, Cormier sets out to advocate the support of non-traditional academic models or cannons that place the expert as the knowledge holder, but rather place the students as the collaborative masses of learnings, prescribing innovative ways of transforming, developing, adapting, and synergizing curriculum as the community of learners become the catalyst for growth for one another: “Collaborative knowledge construction is also being taken up in fields that are more traditionally coded as learning environments. In particular, social learning practices are allowing for a more discursive rhizomatic approach to knowledge discovery” (Cormier, 2008). We now possess the great strength and individual potential to lead and share together, contribute in new ways, and serve our community through our contributions to various knowledge-based platforms.

Digital literacies and rhetoric from all fields have become expanding forces, continually augmenting in novel ways, and in order to appropriately acclimatize ourselves with such changes, we must be willing to perpetually adapt to new technologies, models of instruction, and new meanings of literacy, curriculum development, and the learning process. In order to embrace to the deictic nature of learning and understanding, we, as educators, must also agree to share our knowledge, demonstrate its use, and prove the functionality and subsequent sustainability of explored ideas over an extended period of time. Through consistent collaboration, development of community, and an open-minded propensity to accept the potential of our collective force, who knows where our roots will end.
           Cormier, David. “Dave’s Educational Blog.” Daves Educational Blog. N.p.,
                     3 June 2008. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Connected Learning: A Generating Generation and Literacy Limitations for Today’s Youth

           When viewing the videos about connected learning, I couldn't help (the English teacher inside me), considering how "Connected Learning" fully relates to the concept of adolescent literacy acquisition. Although it may seem that literacy education is wholeheartedly missing the needs of our students today, it is partially due to the fact that the term and educational procedures themselves still have yet to be fully defined and understood. Not only has this struggle to define such a convoluted term caused many researchers to search for information to help understand and measure literacy in unrealistic, insufficient ways, but it has also forced the process to be hastily accelerated; therefore, denying students the proper educational approaches that will help them to become effective communicators, collaborators, and members of a connected society.

Our students have voices; they have ideas; they are creators, generators, developers, thinkers, hackers, lovers, fighters; and most of all they are real people with real problems. Education as a whole needs to embrace these unique characteristics of our students. Educators will never be able to even begin to understand their students until they allow them to have a voice. Until we begin to listen to our students, to care about what they think, feel, and do, then we will never open the door to understanding how we can help to enrich and empower them. We need to begin to hear their ideas and respect their lives. Literacy today cannot be defined simply by our previous notions of it, but rather it must embody the distinct characteristics of today’s youth; otherwise, we fail to utilize the amazing opportunities that modern advances offer for our students.

An understanding of not just technological advances, but also the functional, critical, rhetorical, and networked complexities that surround us, must become a foundation for education. We must begin to teach our students how to be thinkers, evaluators, producers, and users of technology, information, and knowledge, not simply just “readers and writers.” We can not possibly develop such foundations in our curriculum until we begin to understand and embrace the real lives of our students.

Literacy no longer exists only in school, but rather it has become ingrained in semiotic and social influences all around us. As we begin to deconstruct these notions of literacy and broaden the lenses through which we define it, we will begin to identify and understand its use in every aspect of our students’ lives; therefore, helping us to discern how we can teach them best.

In my own personal experience, I have found that students become far more engaged and are far more likely to complete tasks, when they are producing, evaluating, or critiquing something that relates to their lives in some form. Whether it’s reading articles and posing questions about age limits for things like piercings and tattoos, discussing and using social media, or producing persuasive films about the prevention of teen suicide, students want to feel like they have a presence and voice in their work. Not only do they want to have a voice and be listened to, but they also want to feel like they have produced something that could possibly have meaning or influence outside of the academic walls of their classroom. Students want to affect people and effect change; they want their work and their learning to have meaning.They want to be connected to their learning and to the possibility of influencing one another.

Literacy no longer implies that our students are simply just storers of information, but rather they have become producers, composers, and creators. These previous notions of literacy must be replaced by the epistemology of literacy in today’s generation. We must teach our students how to utilize their multiliteracies in order to enhance their capabilities to become producers and creators. We need to begin to think of our students as those who are developing our future. They can do much more now than  simply just memorize and recall information. They can produce unique ideas, thoughts, products, and solutions. What will our students create? What impression will they make on society? How will they use their access to infinite amounts of information? How can we teach them to develop ideas, think creatively, evaluate information and make fair judgements? Certainly not by teaching them how to take a test.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

State Assessments & Multimedia Work

I'm interested in assessment of multimedia work in the classroom, especially in terms of using these curricular devices as a means for preparing our high school students for standardized tests. With the new Common Core Standards adopted by Michigan, I wonder how teachers can effectively utilize classroom technologies to not only prepare students to meet these standards, but also to meet the standards of the MME & ACT; therefore meeting AYP. I'm a strong advocate for technology-based/multimodal instruction, but I fear that these state restrictions have only limited the creative capabilities of our already low performing schools. Also with new state wavers granter for online high school instruction in Michigan, I'll be interested to see how much technology integration verses online standardized curriculum will prevail in order to meet the real needs of our students.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wikipedia & Clay Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody"

I was also very interested in Shirky’s discussion about Wikipedia in his text, "Here Comes Everybody," stating that it is a self-sustaining machine. No one is getting paid to do the work, so no one is concerned about how much work is being done by other people, “[s] ince no one is being paid, the energetic and occasional contributors happily coexist in the same ecosystem” (121).
I find this notion of work and “happy collaboration” to be somewhat similar to the structure of the cyber school where I teach. Many of the subject area experts and other project managers happily fill random duties and other obligations with very little direction or without being assigned to do so.
Essentially, at my school many of the employees are given the freedom to work on what they please, with some minimum requirements. This model works great in many ways, and it’s funny how the people I work with fully function to their own regard. It’s like a self-sustaining machine, and people come up with new ideas, groups, projects, work, and other functions without any direction whatsoever.
On the other hand, there are many areas that are inefficiently run due to this open structure. I liken it to the way Shirky describes Wikipedia that it, ” …involves being effective without worrying about being efficient” (120).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Virtual Learning

The cyber school I work at was just referenced in a Detroit Free Press article posted yesterday. Oddly enough, this article connects very well to our conversations from last night's class...

Online commentary:
Virtual learning 

works for many students


Online Tutoring

When tutoring online, I believe that it's imperative to make sure that we, as the instructors, don't come off as too cold, distant, or unwelcoming. Something that I haven't read a lot about with the notion of online tutoring is the importance for developing trust within teacher/student interactions; those are achieved through openness and encouragement with responses. 

Just a couple nights ago I had a student ask me if I could read over his college entrance essay that was due the next day. The topic was to discuss whether there were any struggles that he may have faced that would have caused his transcripts to not be reflective of his actual abilities as a student. He wrote in a very dry and simple manner with little voice, and he was well under the word limit. The directions for the essay asked for some personal insight and connection, which I felt his was missing, since his essay was just so simple and factual. This was a situation where I responded a bit differently than normal because I knew he wasn’t going to revise in great depth, but I gave him suggestions for revision anyways. This is my email response to his essay: 

Hi M..., 
You have a great sense of basic writing conventions, and you're very good with your grammar and mechanics. There were only a few common errors that I commented on for revision in the attachment. You have good organizational structure as well. If you had more time, then I would encourage you to try to add some voice and depth to your story by giving some heartfelt details. What happened? Why did you have to move? What were some specific struggles that you faced? Be personal, be real, and be specific.  Write the same way you would tell someone about how hard something was for you. They are asking you to tell your struggles, so don't be afraid to do so. What is the real story behind this story? What other challenges were you facing? If you add these things, and want me to read it again tonight, then I will, but I'll be in lab all day tomorrow and Friday. Good luck!

This was the first real contact that I had with this student, other than when he had instant messaged me prior to my response to ask me if I would look over his paper for him. He may have known me from lab, but I wasn’t necessarily familiar with him. This onetime communication might be similar to those in online writing labs.

In the world of online tutoring, emails need to be open, encouraging, and not at all critical on a personal or intellectual level. I think sometimes online communication can get too technical. We've already lost all body language cues online, so we must substitute those with an extra sensitive tone.  

In reference to tutors for online writing centers, I can see the value in being super technical, but I also think there are a lot of benefits to just being real and open with the students. I think it’s important for online tutors to be extra sensitive to their communication, and to make sure it is extremely friendly, open, approachable, and encouraging. This type of communication will help to provide a positive experience for both the tutor and student. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Watchtower

  After reading Selfe and Hawisher, "The Rhetoric of Technology and the Electronic Writing Class," I really started to think about this notion of the www as an omnipotent watchtower.

   I love blogging and making my ideas heard, but I have become so fearful about putting anything online. First of all, I fear that if I post about a similar idea that’s been published under my authorship for the digital textbook company that’s employed me for the past 5 years, then I could possibly be sued for using my own ideas. I’m not sure how all that works, but it is a general fear of mine. Once I sell my ideas/writing, then they’re not mine to share anymore, right?

 Another reason that I fear the omnipotent 'watchman' is that I don’t ever want my ideas, thoughts, or rants taken out of context or ever used against me.  In many ways, I feel like I have to restrict myself so much, that it almost sucks out any inspirational or creative ideas that I have.  My feelings of restriction don’t come from this class, but rather from the notion that these will be public and recorded ideas that could be viewed/shared and/or taken out of context in any way.

   I recently had a colleague send a string of email excerpts about a problem she was having with the administrators’ requests about our department at school, and she included notes from all the other English Experts to use as support for her argument to them. She didn’t present my ideas in any ill form, but the notion that someone was taking excerpts of my emails, and using them in conjunction with other people’s emails, which were not even related to my messages, was completely astonishing. I don’t think she had any malicious intent, but the whole idea that someone can just string pieces of conversations like that together really freaks me out.

   It’s almost like we’re constantly being interviewed, and we know whatever we say could possible be shared publically or easily taken out of context. This notion of the ‘watchtower’ has really made me cautious about many things…