Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 35 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Thoughts on co-learning

| 11 Comments

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 35 seconds

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’m really excited about the upcoming unit in #ccourses about co-learning. And with Howard Rheingold, Mia Zamora and Alec Couros as facilitators, who wouldn’t be, right? (Also: can you believe there are only two units of ccourses left?)

So i have not had time to go thru the resources yet (except the Alec Couros video and the ‘what’s obvious to you is amazing to others’ vid – the latter being a great concept but i am not sure why it needs a 1-min video; guess it’s not obvious to everyone from the title hehe).

This week’s blogpost prompt is “What might co-learning look like in your classroom? What specific pedagogic changes have you/will you make to encourage a co-learning environment?”
I have 3 teaching-like roles:

A. I am primarily a faculty developer. I help other teachers improve their teaching, assess their courses and (re)design their courses. I give workshops and consultations. Co-learning kinda obvious there as we are obviously peers and i am not grading them.

B. I teach teachers. I used to be their age or younger. I am now old enough to have a few who are younger than me. To me, they are obviously peers with rich contexts and knowledge, though this is not obvious to them! And it takes a while for them to recognize that I mean it when I mean we all learn from each other (recent article by me on this in more detail here – err mostly on my failures, just FYI)

C. I teach a module (4weeks within a full-semester creativity course) on educational game design to Freshmen. That’s what i am teaching this semester. This is the one I will talk about most coz it’s coming up in a couple weeks.

Let me backtrack a minute and review the objectives for the unit:

To support teachers in relinquishing (some) authority in order to empower students to take more responsibility for their own learning and their peers’ learning;
The “some” there either assumes most teachers are traditional and uncomfortable or unwilling to give up authority (a fair assumption) or is being realistically critical that no matter how much we try and say, we continue to retain some authority as teachers, if only because of institutional structures.

To help teachers transform their own learning processes through listening and responding to student co-learners;
This is key to me to ANY good teaching. Many good teachers do this without necessarily planning on relinquishing control to learners, i.e. You can be responsive to learners even if you want to maintain authority. I think!

To foster open learning environments and facilitate networked learning;
I think this one is interesting because open networked environments can potentially help break down hierarchies, BUT they’re not democratic utopias (so much social capital going on on Twitter, so much name-dropping, prestige, etc.).

This reminded me of a recent tweet by a student of mine where he talked about me on twitter like this, “I think dr.@bali_maha” – lol! Who DOES that?

To support teachers in increasing their pedagogic adaptability and responsiveness to student needs.
I like this point because when I do faculty development, one of the key things I hope to do is improve their flexibility and confidence so that they feel comfortable enough to make changes to their courses, to adapt them, without needing to come back to me to check if it fits with their design. To me, I don’t care how well-designed their course initially is (shhhh) as long as I am confident they have thought about their course well. They know why they plan to do what they planned, and they know what their alternatives might be and why they might resort to them. They know where to look for other stuff and how to get help. They know how to listen to their students and recognize it’s time to change.

Right… Back to what pedagogic changes I’ll make to my classroom to encourage co-learning

It is a little less obvious how to be a co-learner with undergrads because of the difference in age and experience. But I learn every day from my 3-year old who uhh has very little experience and very little ability to uhhh teach or even express herself… I learn every week from my housekeeper who is barely literate. My students have even more to teach me than them. Obvious to me?

Here are some of the ways I encourage co-learning already:
Small talk is a big deal: if you’ve ever had to talk to me on hangout or Skype or DM, you’ll know this about me. It’s partly Egyptian culture but partly also just me. And i do this with my students, because they are human beings whom I would like to know and care about. I already care before I even get to know them, if that makes sense. And i sense they feel that.

Remind students of their value to the rest of us; try to follow words with actions. This is harder than it sounds. Much harder. And I apologize whenever I slip, if it makes sense to do so (more in that article on failures again)

Give choices – of what to do, how to do it, how to organize it. I try, doesn’t always work. I am already treading a thin line on the wrong side of this by grading them on playing the #tvsz Twitter game, but I will think some alternative up for ppl who really have a hard time with this. But I really want them to experience this so they can design more creative games.

Give minimal guidance

Let then teach me – and really, that’s the best thing about teaching. The infinite potential to learn if you just give your students the chance to. I have stopped giving assignments that I would be bored to grade. My assignments need to be at least authentic (related to a real-life need/use outside the class) or sustainable (can benefit the students beyond the class time, for a longer period of time).

What more can I do?
Been thinking to have different people who are working together in a group be responsible for reading different material on edu game design – that way, they’ll be developing different expertise and teaching each other. They found a lot of resource during the Twitter Scavenger hunt, so we might as well explore some of those resources THEY found via hashtags or contacting people I know online rather than resources I found a priori. Because, think about it, that’s how i find my own resources (well, other than google of course!)

I’ll think and blog more about this as I go…

.

11 Comments

  1. Your energy is infectious!!! I am excited for the new unit and will be refueling this weekend, whoo-hoo! Meanwhile, I have to say that I absolutely LOVE adding the title to your Twitter handle. The subject of academic titles came up in Howard’s discussion about authority at the CCourses discussion board, and your Twitter example is perfect for showing the way those old authority habits keep insinuating themselves even into these decentered, non-traditional spaces!

    • Umm re “title” to twitter handle, took me a while to figure out what u meant…. U mean the student who said Dr @bali_maha, right? Haha. I guess someone like @miazamoraPhD or @ProfRehn kinda solve that problem for students πŸ˜‰ Lol – I need to find time for the discussion board but i might disintegrate w info overload if i do πŸ˜‰

  2. @Bali_Maha I love the dr.@Bali_Maha example in there! Left a comment. Thanks for sharing all your excitement. It gave me a big boost! πŸ™‚

  3. “Authentic” and “sustainable” are excellent goals for assignments.

  4. I love your post! I realize it is about education and interaction in class rooms but I like reading it from just general interaction view with people sorta like exchange information and balancing knowledge…dunno if I’m making sence

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