CTL 1608: A Final Reflection

As our time together in Constructivism and Online Design comes to a close, it is hard to capture it all in one blog post. I have to admit that there are still times where I feel like a wanna be but I believe I am leaving with a better understanding of the terminology and concepts we explored. As I look back on my take aways I feel they could be applied to both face to face and online learning experiences which is very exciting as we head in to more blended learning environments.

Here is a quick sketchnote that outlines my 10 take aways but feel free to also listen to the audio version on the bottom of the page.


For a better explanation, please CLICK HERE.


CTL 1608: Lessons from Gaudi

I was never much of a Gaudi fan. Liking the clean smooth lines of century old homes, his architecture always looked a little tacky from far behind my computer screen. But as we visited his works in Barcelona, I feel in love.


In love with his environmentally friendly design whether in Park Guell’s naturally cooled market square or finding new life for broken ceramics in the Casa Batllo’s exterior.

In love with the story behind the design, the details in the facade of Sagrada Familia so all could access the story without entering and yet the simplicity of the interior to draw you up to the stars.

In love with his dedication to his vision and passion no matter how uncool, unpopular or ahead of it’s time it may have been.

7903661114_ec8f7636a3_zAs I stood in the middle of towering columns of stone it was hard not to be in awe. In awe of the intricacies of design in the seemingly simple, the vision that had to be laid out for the many to carry forward years later.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Gaudi and his Sagrada Familia project as we have journeyed through the readings about constructivism, situated learning, distributed cognition and now communities of practice. When I first blogged about the Sagrada Familia a few years back for a work blog what stood out to me was the distributed nature of the construction. The shared vision that each artist carried forward almost 100 years after Gaudi’s death. The selflessness that must exist when you have a vision that you know is greater than your lifetime, the urgency that must come with wanting to pass it on. Although I didn’t know the term distributed cognition or distributed constructivism at the time, standing in the middle of Sagrada Familia reminded me of the power of a community, the fact that no single person could accomplish the masterpiece but rather it was the knowledge of the past and the community in the present.

I thought my take aways were done but there always seems to be more to learn. As I was reading the characteristics of a community this week in Barab & Duffy’s, I wondered if they could be applied to the artistic community around the project. The community definitely has a heritage spanning 100 years. They have a clear vision driving their work which is being passed down by the community. With out each of the community members the project would halt. They are interdependent on each other to complete the work being done, mentoring those that are at the peripheral’s of the project searching for more.

The question I had the day I stood between the towering columns, is the same question I have today. How can I foster or contribute to such a community of practice that stands the test of time, that reproduces and creates a web of interdependence? Can I be selfless enough to share in a collective vision, to know at one point I may have to walk away? Our tools may be different, but as we design online learning environments I think there are many lessons we can take away from Gaudi.

A Tale of Two WORDs

I have been reading and chatting with colleagues a lot about vocabulary and it’s expiry dates. It has made we reflect on how powerful words can be. So here are two stories that show the two sides.

Story 1:

It was my first M.Ed. class and I was nervous as heck so tried to make myself small in a corner of the room. The discussion started and I thought ‘I can do this’ and then I heard it. An eloquently composed statement that included the typical Edujargon and educated language I knew I couldn’t keep up with. I had a B.A, B.Ed. and several AQs but at that moment I felt like the kid from Italy that was sitting in the back of my grade 12 English class trying to fake an understanding of Macbeth. It took me a class or two to let go of the eloquent language and just jump in with my ideas. I carried a small fear of criticism along but was grateful for amazing professors that encouraged the dialogue. I wish I could say that was the only time I felt inferior and confused by the words used but the moments keep popping in courses, in meetings, even in Twitter chatter. There is always a moment where I ask myself if I have been faking it all along. It is amazing the power words have.

Story 2:

Last week we were reading Mitch Resnick’s writings on Distributed Constructivism, the idea that we can use computer networks to have learners discuss, share, and construct together. Resnick points out that the constructing together truly maximizes the potential of the technology at our disposal and engages learners in new ways. Now it may not seem earth shattering with my description of it, but I felt like I just found the Holy Grail. The word sounds lofty and intimidating when you first look at it but I finally could name my inquiry. I had a label, a concept to explore further. It was hard to articulate before what I felt was missing with educational technology, this need to go further than I have gone before. Last week I really felt the ideas that have been floating in my head connect and organize under with just that one paragraph, one term. It is amazing the power words have.

As a social linguistics major, words and their journey have always fascinated me.  I understand the power words carry with them but I don’t know if I have taken the time to reflect on the power educational vocabulary can have both to draw us in as well as alienate. I am always stumbling upon posts about what words are trendy in education, words that are overused, words that are just taboo. I will admit that I am guilty of dropping the educational vocabulary often.  But maybe that isn’t a terrible thing. Maybe it comes down to how I use my words. Am I using them to draw colleagues in, to help clarify, extend understanding and connect or am I using them to prove how current I am? We often blame the word itself for it’s overuse and  misunderstandings, but perhaps it is more the tale to blame. I have to let go of whether it is in style or not and focus more on whether it is the right fit for that moment. I know I will be thinking more about the words I choose and the tales I tell this week.

What are your thoughts about words in education? Would love to hear your thoughts!

CTL 1608: Qui Docet, Discit


He who teaches, learns.

As I was wandering the ROM gift store this weekend, a plaque jumped out: Qui Docet Discit. Ok I have to admit I have a thing for sayings, and being that my Latin is rusty the caption on the shelf helped: Qui Docet Discit-He who teaches, learns. As we have been exploring situated learning and consequently the transfer of knowledge between learning situations the last two weeks in CTL 1608, the plaque reminded me that I have had many situated learning experiences along my professional journey.

After two weeks of back and forth in the course environment I leave the conversation with an understanding that all learning is situated, influenced by the context, and that transfer can be encouraged through inquiry, deeper exploration, and time (those rich authentic tasks we always talk about). As I came to my own understanding of situated learning and the transfer of knowledge and skills one professional learning experience came to mind as what I would wish for in a situated learning experience.

It must have been the fall of 2006 or 2007 and an Additional Qualification course was being offered to explore Instructional Intelligence (based on Barrie Bennett’s work). It would be a three part series providing participants with their specialist in Primary or Junior education so I jumped at the learning opportunity. Looking back now I realize how much that year of learning together has influenced my practice as an educator, from the small instructional tactics I picked up to the understanding of the complexity of teaching. As I think back to my inquiry project on mind mapping and storytelling, I can see the transfer of knowledge from the course environment to my daily practice. Bringing that learning back to the community of adult learners allowed me to see how my transfer of knowledge and skills is not one way but rather an interconnected web that is always UNDER CONSTRUCTION. The greatest gift of the course though was the gift of time. The opportunity to explore, question and engage with people I knew personally and trusted. Most of all though, I don’t think I understood how much I learned from this experience till I facilitated AQs myself. That act of facilitating an adult learning experience allowed me to transfer my knowledge and skills in new ways.

Qui docet discit: As educators it is hard not to learn from the many situations we are immersed in daily. So much of my professional learning journey happened in my daily interactions with students. I taught, I learned. As I search for that ideal professional learning framework, I am reminded that perhaps the greatest learning opportunity is a great community of learners we trust, the time to engage deeply and a learning situation to test it all out in.

CTL 1608: Patience

A reflection for my MEd Course on Constructivism and the Design of Online Learning Environments.

As we discuss social learning this week there is a concept presented last week that has had me reflecting on my own understanding.

I mentioned in my last post for the course that I found the biggest hurdle for me in implementing a truly constructivist approach was TIME. Running from task to task, meeting to meeting, I always feel like there isn’t enough time to delve deep. Madeline then brought up the concept of PATIENCE.

She shared the following quote from the article Building versus Borrowed:

 “But the most important issue, and the one that should concern all educators, is the lack of patience to build a personal understanding of the models they needed to make personal sense of complex phenomena (p.25)… Perhaps worse, they no longer had the patience to see through a problem even with the offer of time and support (p.26).”

I have been thinking ever since how my concept of time may not be complete. Am I patient enough to allow educators to construct their own understanding? Am I patient enough to construct my own instead of borrowing that of others? Yes more time would eliminate the busyness, let me focus on less expectations, provide a few less tasks to complete as quickly but patience will be the difference of jumping in too fast, of struggling through the hard concepts, of playing together.

Thank you for the reminder Madeline!

CTL 1608: A Wanna Be

For my M.Ed. course this term, CTL 1608: Constructivism and Online  I’ve decided to blog my reflections. Although I have shared learning from my masters in this environment, I haven’t done it as the reflective journal so trying something new. Hopefully it works out!

I love photography. Setting up an image; capturing the right light. A year or so I buckled and bought myself a Canon Rebel. Now I have the fancy camera but there are moments where I feel a little like a wanna be. I’ve been lucky and have captured some great shots (or so folks tell me) but perhaps it is the scenery, the right light, luck. I can’t be a photographer if I’m in AUTO mode. IMG_3295

As we have been looking at Objectivism and Constructivism our first two weeks in the course, I have been reflecting on my practice and philosophy of teaching. I have always considered myself a constructivist but while reflecting on the readings and participating in the dialogue I am reminded of how little I know.

Am I a wanna be constructivist?

It is interesting to revisit theories you have explored in the past as experience allows you to take a second lens. I truly, whole heartedly believe learners need to construct their own understanding and with that comes a belief in a growth mindset, that learners can do just that if you set it up correctly (thanks Bruner for the reminder). When I reflect back on my time in a classroom and single school I can see moments. Yet as I reflect on my current support role I wonder if I am facilitating those same constructivist moments. Again there are glimpses but am I coming to a better understanding? If I reflect on what is holding me back, I would have to admit it is TIME. In a rush to accomplish objectives, to meet demands, to help I fear I fall into a more objectivist approach, with a list of tasks to complete, information to impart.

IMG_1510But as I reflect further, I wonder if this is not what theorists of the past wanted us to tackle with. Maybe it isn’t about knowing all the manual settings but being able to capture that moment the best way you can. As I read Dewey this week, a quote stood out about the purpose of education. “Since growth is the characteristic of life, education is all one with growing; it has no end beyond itself. The criterion of the value of school education is the extent in which it creates a desire for continued growth and supplies means for making the desire effective in fact.” Perhaps I need to worry less about what mode I am in, and focus on the picture: Am I sharing/inspiring a love of life long learning?

And the learning continues!