Size is anything

PROLOGUE

I got a drone the other day.

SIZE ISN'T EVERYTHING — IT'S ANYTHING

Coming back from an EdCamp Sunday I stopped to fly my BeBop 2 drone. I'd had it aloft a few times already. But those were in my backyard to get familiar with its controls. The spot I picked to see what the drone could do was about an hour west of Phoenix, Arizona far from any airports. It was nestled among two hills that would probably keep larger aircraft away.

I flew the drone up and down this way and that for a while. It was fun let me tell you. After a while I remembered the Bebop 2 is good for about 25 minutes flying time before the battery is completely drained.

That's when I noticed the tower.

Photo of a water tank

I flew the drone towards it. Not being sure how far from my iPad (an app on it lets me drive the drone) the control signal was good for I moved briskly with it. I decided to try a flyby.

Anyway, now it's a couple of days later and I've just read a blog about PLN (Personal Learning Network) size shared on Twitter by @elearning.

Screen capture of a tweet leading to blog post

Its author, @Tracy_Parish, wrote about these rings of PLN scope.

Sketch of concentric circles

Here's the thing, when I engage with my PLN it's usually in one or two ways: conversations on Twitter or long drives to gatherings. Most of the gatherings are with people outside the instructional design discipline.

EPILOGUE

So why did I get the drone? Officially it's for an RFP response. Unofficially it's because in the past year I've seen some members of my PLN light up about drones. The first time was during CUERockStar Vegas when teachers got on the floor on their bellies to see a drone in action. The second time was at a San Diego CUE event where someone I know through Twitter won one.

As my drone flew around the tower at an altitude of about 15 metres I stopped worrying about how far the control signal reached. I was deep into the WOW zone wondering where the drone might take me.

So how big is my PLN? A few at a time.

 

Marbles

INTRO

I’m taking a MOOC this month. It’s about designing a little humanity into the online learning experience. As you might imagine, being human, I have strong feelings about it.

WHEN LOSING YOUR MARBLES IS A GOOD THING

I think the Humanizing Online Learning MOOC I’m taking is off to a bumpy start. It’s only borderline engaging. At the moment I’m listening to a webinar. I’m not really paying attention to it though. The reason is I don’t see it as engaging. Humans have five (traditional) senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste; the webinar, comprised of video and audio, engages only hearing since I’m not watching it. (One might argue it’s engaging my sense of touch and sight, too, since I was sketchnoting).

Sketch of children learning to play marbles

Whilst I was not watching the webinar I drew the above sketch in Paper by 53 on my iPad. It’s a memory of me as a boy learning to play marbles. Everything I heard the instructor talk about in the webinar is contained in the sketch: trust, community, activity, being real and safety.

OUTRO

My takeaway from the webinar is that students want context in their learning experience. They want to do stuff with their bodies and minds. If they can do stuff with others in meaningful contexts so much the better.

 


Thumb Aplomb

PROLOGUE

I did a lot of rhizoming yesterday driving from Salliwell, OK to Abilene, TX. I backtracked and stopped quite a lot along the way when curiosity got the better of me. I’d see something and think about stopping to take a closer look. Only I wouldn’t stop right away. I’d continue on for a bit then think, “I may never pass this way again.” and turn around.

Photo of horses for sale

THUMB

I took a couple hundred photos of stuff yesterday. It was after importing them just now from my iPhone into my Mac’s Photo app and deleting the ones that didn’t come out right that I remembered The Thumb. You know, when an errant finger finds its way into the picture frame.

Photo of an old metal slide

In the olden times of film you'd take a picture of something then later when the film comes back there it was: a thumb or finger spoiling the shot. Only today we get to see the oops in real time just after taking the picture or, as happened for me just now, whilst importing and curating the pictures.

APLOMB

I’d deleted all the thumbs and fingers when I remembered last night’s #LRNCHAT Twitter chat. The chat was moderated by @SarahMMcKay, a neuroscience researcher. Question 6, my tweet, and Dr. McKay’s reply came back to me.

Screen capture of lrnchat subject

My reply to Dr. McKay was to agree to disagree. Not worrying overmuch about theory and research I go about designing learning experiences with aplomb.

EPILOGUE

My design craft has been influenced greatly the past couple of years by the thoughts and experiences shared by educators I’ve met throught EdCamp, TCEA, CUE, the Elearning Guild, and my local ATD chapter.

Photo of Urbie in front of a Bigfoot crossing signpost

I can’t recall that we talk about research a lot, at least I don’t remember anyone calling out anything specific. I’m a practitioner among practitioners. But I wonder what’s out there I might be missing?

 

Heroes Journey

INTRO

During an EdChat the other day I learned about The Hero's Journey as a learning metaphor and process.

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO MLEARNCON

CUE cap on my head and suitcase in hand Monday afternoon I opened the front door of my home. I was eagerly anticipating my road trip to Austin, Texas for the eLearning Guild's mLearnCon (mobile learning) conference.

I was surprised to find Mrs on the other side of the door about to use her key to unlock it. She was coming home from a job interview. Long story short we had agreed she'd stay home with our granddaughter whilst I went to the conference. She asked if she and the baby could come. Saying no to Mrs is hard to do 24 years into our marriage. Off she went to pack.

AUSTIN

Some months ago I was encouraged by @lnddave tweet asking for proposals to present at a mobile learning conference hosted by the eLearning Guild. This was my Call to Adventure. Two of my proposals were accepted. More on these a little later.

Getting to the venue in time for the mLearn conference, from June 10 to 12 came with challenges. Through a lottery I got a chance to go to EdCampUSA in Washington, DC in late May. It was great learning and growing and connecting with other educators. Mrs and I spent the next day together playing tourist taking in the many historical sites the capitol region has to offer. This ate up our vacation budget for the year.

I tend to go cheap to the PD events I participate in. I usually drive a long distance in my 11 year old Honda Pilot, now pushing 380,000 miles. On really long trips, over 500 miles, I sometimes camp out under the stars. With Mrs and Carly, our 21 month old granddaughter, along for the ride the trip to Austin was shaping up to be a grand quest.

THRESHOLD

Carly is a wonderful kid. She is very good at playing the toddler role. At times a joy to be around she would occasionally have issues. If you're closely associated with small children you know what I mean. She learns quickly, mostly through trial and error. She is fearless. She usually overcomes challenges. Sometimes she's distracted by a shiny object but even that's okay as it's another learning opportunity.

REVELATION

My first mLearnCon AHA! moment happened far from Austin. Carly is the poster child for mobile learning.

Photo of my 21 month old granddaughter painting

At 21 months of age telling Carly what life is about doesn't have much impact. There's too much cool stuff for her to experience.

ABYSS

So we make it to Austin late on the 9th. Unfamiliar with the area we get lost for a while before finding our motel. Once in the room we notice Carly looking flushed. She has a fever. Thankfully a Walgreens was across the road from us. A few hours later her temperature falls and so we sleep.

Only we wake up too late to catch the mLearnCon keynote and opening excitement. A big reason I had for going was networking. I had hoped to grow my PLN (Personal Learning Network).

TRANSFORMATION

No worries. Mrs and Carly Uber to The Thinkery, Austin's children's museum. I uber to the conference venue. I catch a session on interface design. It's 2:30 pm on Wednesday June 10 and my session on teaching strategies I learned through a year of EdCamp is up. My Google slides for the session are here. I tried a presentation strategy I learned at #CUE15: setting permissions so anyone could edit my presentation and providing the url to the file on Google drive. I got done with my presentation about 20 minutes early, hoping to start a conversation about stuff that participants had added. Only no one had. I have to rethink this. At CUE15 participants had added dozens of slides. I can feel a transformation coming. I'm going to participate in CUERockstar in Las Vegas in August. I have questions to ask and ideas to try out. Something is definitely up.

ATONEMENT

Thursday I gave a talk on appsmashing. You can access my presentation file here. I think we connected, the participants and I, during my talk. A highlight was when I demoed Paper and Plotagon. These are my fav apps. Paper is amazing for sketching. It's the virtual napkin where many of my ideas are born and fleshed out. Plotagon is a different tool. In a nutshell it creates 3D clips working from text you enter. You pick scenes and characters and Plotagon does the heavy lifting. In minutes you have a working, moving, and talking prototype of a script.

I've been an instructional designer for over 16 years. I think I've gotten better in my practice over the years. Sharing what I learn from teachers and others in K-12 does me good. I hope I'm helping others along their journey, too.

OUTRO

I had this idea the other day. What if I packaged snippets of what I learn and practice into little snippets of know-how and put them out there? Call it a six minute EdCamp. The conversations I have with teachers is the fuel. I'm evaluating some apps to make it happen. The best part: The Heroes Journey begins anew. By the way, I say heroes in the plural because it's about us learning together. Smashing is not just for apps. It can be about people smashing ideas, too.

 

 

 

 

MRPtA Draft 00

PROLOGUE

“Every picture tells a story, don't it?” — Rod Stewart

MRPtA

My mLearnCon proposal was accepted by the eLearning Guild: Yea! So now the work begins.

Screen capture of mLearn conference agenda
 

DRAFT 00

I had thought to do my talk on a case study but during a chat on Twitter someone suggested a different spin.

Screen capture of a tweet suggesting my talk be done workshop style.
EPILOGUE

So that's where I'm at now, ideating how it might work. Good things happen, I've found, when you throw ideas out there.

 

 

 

Lucky Break

PROLOGUE

I caught a lucky break the other day. A nasty bug sent me to hospital for a few days of rest, recuperation, and reflection.

LUCKY

It's been like a prolonged visit to the movies, sneaking from one theater to the next to watch them all for the price of one.

Photo of a movie theatre refreshment counter

I got to watch some old movies on Netflix and catch up on some reading. Or I would have read some books on cognition and learning except that they suddenly seemed painful to read. I realized that laid up as I was I needed to read something fun rather than a title to increase my professional knowledge.

BREAK

The book that found me was Andre Norton's Time Traders. It was really hard to put down. It wasn't just the story, it was how it made me feel.

Ages ago, whilst serving with the U.S. Navy I read voraciously, mostly sci-fi and fantasy adventure titles. I loved how authors like Anthony, Asimov, McCaffrey, Asprin and many others spun tales that took me to all sorts of places where my imagination could take flight.

Something happened about 20 years ago, a little after I became a parent and had to settle down. I read for my kids but less and less for myself. A little later when I switched careers from electronics engineering to learning and development I began reading technical tomes about cognition, psychology and the textbooks that go with a masters degree in education. Interesting stuff but nothing in the same league as Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

EPILOGUE

Andre Norton's Time Traders made me realize something profound. At least profound to me. When I travel to EdCamps for professional development I sometimes feel like an outsider. While I am an educator I serve adult learners. The teachers, librarians, administrators, and support staff that make up EdCamp's intended population work with children in K-12. My outsider feeling changed reading Time Traders. Norton describes traders as people who move about from place to place sharing information. They look and act a little differently because they are different. I don't have to worry about where I fit in. I just do.

 

Hear, There Be Students

PROLOGUE

I'm thinking of retiring from my job and transitioning to some role, as yet unknown, in the K-12 space. I've been giving some thought to what being a successful educator involves.

HEAR

There's more to teaching than leading students to learning. When I think back on all the teachers I've had in my life the one or two whose names and faces I can remember had these attributes in common:

  • Passion for what they did
  • Adept at painting a mental image in my head of how I would be able to use what I was learning
  • Almost tangible storytelling ability

At some level they were able to hear the uncertainty of my youth and get me excited about possibilities.

DRAGONS

My take is that relying on leadership ability most of all, waving a flag and expecting learners to follow you, results in hoarse throats and missed opportunities.

The best teacher I ever had, CDB, had these posters on her desk. One, from Thoreau I believe, said something about listening to the beat of a different drummer.

Sketch of a sea separating land with a dragon in the middle

As I went on, and continue in, my development journey each new learning experience is a step towards the unknown. This isn't a bad thing. It's curiosity manifest.

EPILOGUE

A successful teacher creates an ecology for learning where anything is possible given the constraints we all have. Leadership ability is at best secondary.