Thursday, May 29, 2008

ED 5850 Assignment A (Preparedness for 21st Century Learning): Part One

Background For HBP Blog Readers
This and the following post comprise an assignment I've written for my ED5850 class (Using Emergent Technologies to Support School Improvement) in the Masters of Education program at the University of Lethbridge. I thought at least parts of it might be of interest to HBP blog readers.
Background For My Instructors
As I’ve written in the ED5850 forums, who I am as a person is integral to who I am as an artist and a teacher. My mission for these roles is connected: I have a strong calling to use my own struggles with vulnerability and my own understanding of vulnerability to do whatever I can do to move humanity forward. As a mother, especially, I feel a deep sense of urgency. Survival of the fittest no longer cuts it in the interconnected world of the 21st century--I believe that we humans need to move to an expanded paradigm in order to survive, one that includes compassion in all of our endeavours (for ourselves, for each other and for the earth).
I am just one of many people who are concerned about the atrocious problems of the world, people who would also like to see this paradigm shift. Most of us have no idea what to do, though. In my independent art project, the Human Body Project (for more explanation, see the Human Body Project website), I can be seen as a teacher to my audience of something we can actually do to make change. By using my naked body as a human “sample” I offer an experiential learning opportunity. In essence, I am saying: “Use me as a starting point to explore in a felt sense your own human vulnerability.” That felt experience is the key, difficult though it may be. Like a classroom or workshop, I offer a place or situation where people can have permission and a chance to learn how. Also, like a teacher/facilitator, I offer outcomes: the more we deal with our own vulnerability the more we will be able to feel connected and compassionate; the more we feel it, the more we live it.
My mission and my art project are actually very related to the main subject I teach, public speaking at Lethbridge College. (I have also taught writing courses at the U of L and LC). What I am doing in my art project is, in some sense, a modeling for what students do in class. Whether students want to or not, they have to explore their vulnerability in a public speaking class. Also, whether they are conscious of it or not, students have a strong need to connect and form community. When a student speaks in public he or she is putting him or herself out there. And almost everyone has some kind of edge around that. My main job as an instructor of this class is to create a supportive environment so that students can feel safe in their vulnerability. The “we’re all in the same boat” message applies to both my art project and my class. I think I can say that when students leave my class they are not only better speakers, they have also experienced being part of a caring community.
For this assignment, I will address both my class at the college and my art project.
ICT-Related Vision/Place in Contemporary Educational Thinking
Human Body Project:
The project is an ongoing one that mostly “lives” on the website anchored by an artist statement, documentation of the events, and my blog. I have had an “if you build it they will come” mentality about the site and, indeed, people from all over have contacted me to tell me that they have been moved by the project. It is necessary for the project to have an Internet presence to reach people.
My vision for it would be that the video documentation of the events would be there now (in reality I haven’t caught up on editing for about two years); and the photos and participant art and other website updates could be done easily and quickly. I would also be reaching lots more people and project events would be webcast or have their own reality TV show.
My project is very much about experiential learning, i.e. actually learning to deal with feelings of vulnerability (who does not avoid this?) vs. intellectual knowledge of our mortality (who does not know this?).
Public speaking class: There are two main ways I’d like to use emergent technology to expand what we do in class.
1) I’d love to see students really willing to stand up for themselves and for their views in a way that reaches beyond the classroom. We already record student speeches. I’d like to experiment with getting students to post their recorded speeches on MySpace or facebook or YouTube as a means of reaching further outwards.
2) I’d like as many students as possible to engage in critiquing presentations and for them to understand more clearly the possible diversity of their audiences. For these purposes, I’d like to use Turning Point student response system “clickers.”
Using Internet sharing/networking sites addresses the concept of authentic learning. Students will be encouraged to use sites where they are already “hanging out.” Using Turning Point also addresses the concepts of differentiated learning and universal design for learning. First of all, use of the “clickers” is tactile and in the moment. But, also, the anonymity of the responses helps to engage the more reticent students.
Synopsis (My Area at Lethbridge College)
I am a contract instructor, meaning I never know what I’ll be doing from one term to the next, but I have been teaching at least one section of the public speaking course almost every term since 2004. The usual class size is between 20-30 students. I am one of four regular public speaking instructors. The course is part of the General Studies program at the college but business students are also required to take it. My classes are usually at least half business students, 40%-ish general studies students and a smattering of CIT (Computer and Information Technology) and nursing students. (The class can be used as a U of L transfer GLER elective.)

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