Feedback: Here’s your score!

English: Measurement unit
English: Measurement unit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I recently joined a MOOC on digital storytelling. I was up-front and honest about my experience and my reason for joining. I run a digital storytelling program and I wanted to see how another program might parallel, differ and/or otherwise inform me. There’s always room to learn.

As I engaged in the course, I felt good about participation and offering some thoughts and resources that others might find beneficial. I was excited and comfortable doing the first assignment and in retrospect, probably too excited and included information that more appropriately would fit into week 2: script development. Then…I waited. Part 2 of the assignment was to provide peer review of 3 other participants and then get feedback from 3 others. I was charged, ready to see the work of others, give feedback and to get feedback on my own work. But the design made me wait and the waiting began to disturb my flow. Finally, the day came to review others and I did that as thoughtfully as I could. I tried to provide positive support and make suggestions to help the development of their stories. One by one, I moved forward in a system that would not allow me to get feedback until all others had completed their work and the multi-day deadline had passed. Finally, the long awaited feedback came. Anticipating some thoughtful comments and advice, I was disappointed to get “grades”; numbers. Numbers that were a bit lower than I expected, but that’s OK. The disturbing part is that there was very little feedback and that it was anonymous. This made me rethink the value of peer-review, flow, anonymity and the inability to have a conversation about my work. This nameless, faceless, unconnected grading system left me clueless about how to improve my work. What’s worse, it killed my interest in the course. It became a bit of a canned process that ran on a schedule. However, all is not lost. It made me realize the value of open sharing and the possibility of instant or at least, very quick feedback. It made me realize the value of a personal connection to someone who actually cared about what they might say and how that might help me learn. It made me realize that through our open sharing, we might actually teach or learn from others and make new connections that might just change our way of thinking and in some cases, our lives.

Connected Learning

Leighblackall-64955397
Leighblackall-64955397 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I just read The Problem ofLearning in Higher Education by Randy Bass.

As I move toward increased participation in in an open and connected world, I do so with both excitement and measured steps. The openness and connection I want is for sharing my thinking, my understanding and most importantly, to have those challenged in order to learn.

Randy concludes his writing with a reference to Steven Johnson’s (author of “Where Good Ideas Come From”) TED Talk tagline: “Chance favors the connected mind.” I like this notion. In many ways, I see too many connections and get deep into the weeds in a heartbeat. I jokingly compare myself to the image of John Nash (A Beautiful Mind), as I could easily see myself in a room full of images, information and strings to connect the ideas. Maybe I should be scared of that vision.

Randy breaks down connections into two parts: first, making connections between things and secondly, the sense of being socially networked. The first part is easy for me, but the social aspect requires some work on my part. I need to think about the word social. I think this word is not clearly defined and understood by many, particularly as our use of words like “friends” or “circles” are transformed by the use of technology and media. However, in the context of connecting ideas across realms of experiences in various settings and with various groups or individuals, I have long seen the connection of sharing ideas to the enhancement of learning. In this light, I see and welcome thoughtful inclusion of individual and collective experiences in learning design. Engagement with others, commenting and discussion, collaborative creations, the use of ePortfolios and community-based service projects are only a few things that come to mind. Just as engaging in and observing the world about us informs our learning from different perspectives, it is our learning that should impact the world, sometimes in small but meaningful ways. As Mary PeaceMcRay said at the end of her story The Process of Science "in science, observation of small and insignificant things, often leads to greatness."

Why I Teach: I teach to enjoy your success

Yesterday, I started to write about why I teach. I came up with some ideas shared at the bottom of this post, but today, I read an email from a faculty member who participated in my Digital Storytelling Program. This short email and the video shared in the link is why I teach.

Hi Bud!
I hope you're doing well. I worked on a project this week that reminded me of our digital storytelling seminar. I thought I'd send you a link and say thanks for the learning! Apologies for the long rambly blog post.

Best,
Kristin (Reed)

Watch this video to see learning unfold in real time:


My guiding questions:
Why do I teach?
Why do I care if you learn?
Why should you come to me?
Why should I (or any teacher) ask these questions (most importantly to ourselves)?

I have a passion (some say I have a gift). My passion is for good stories and to explore my own understanding through the creation of stories. Good stories are compelling. They cause me to listen deeply. But, more importantly, they cause me to reflect and ask questions. 

You come to me to learn about digital storytelling and I am inspired to share what I know and the resources that have developed my thinking. I immerse myself in listening deeply, so I can help you hear your own story. I love to help you identify your true passion and help you learn to tell your story through the power of digital media. I love to help you learn about the power of image, sound, voice, timing of delivery and the use of technology to create and share your own work of art.


I come to digital storytelling with experience and ways of working, but filled with questions and challenging my own thinking. I’m often teaching on the fly, not with lack of experience, but questioning what I say, even as I share my experience and thoughts. 

I come with passion,
Passion for story
Passion for media 
Images
Sounds
Video
and a way to articulate feelings.

I  come to help you tell a story that will make my hair stand on end. 

Why do I teach?

I teach to enjoy your success.
----------------------------------------
PS: Kristen's video is very different from the work we explored in my digital storytelling program, but the experience there has grounded this creative exploration and I want to celebrate her work and the work of her students.

Connected!

I am further venturing into the the concept of connectedness. 

A telephone network connection point with spar...
A telephone network connection point with spark-gap overvoltage suppressors. The two brass hex-head objects on the left cover the suppressors, which act to short overvoltage on the tip or ring lines to ground. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As part of that process, I'm blogging about the baby step of tagging selective posts to allow them to be harvested and and fed via RSS into the connectedcourses.net MOOC. As required, I'm adding a tag to the URL of my blog. My tag will simply be #connected. I'm using my Blogger account for convenience at this time, but I may find that I want to experiment with Wordpress in the future. I can't resist adding an image and I know that Jim Groom will love the descriptive language. I expect that I will need "overvoltage suppressors" as I embark on this journey and I look forward to the "charge" that I expect to get from existing and anticipated new connections.

A "Killer" Blog: Reconsidering the power of metaphor in teaching and learning

--> Think about how we all use metaphors in education. What messages are we sending?



English: Cartoon drawing about a big fish bein...
English: Cartoon drawing about a big fish being attached by small sharks, a metaphor for things like bloggers putting focus on bigger players (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Quick as a wink,” the semester starts and we “charge up the hill” to prepare for “classes”.  We do our best to “communicate” and “connect” with our “students” to create rich learning “environments” and experiences. We strive to share our expertise and “guide” learners as they “explore” and “navigate” their way to “rich” learning. We work in both physical and virtual “classrooms”, share “documents” and “artifacts” (largely through electronic “bits” and “bytes).” We share our own narrative and “tell stories” that will hopefully “illuminate” and help learners “see”. 


English: A wrecking ball reading "million...
English: A wrecking ball reading "millions of years"; a metaphor suggesting that acceptance of an old Earth leads to the destruction of society. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Metaphors are everywhere. As a storyteller, I am keenly aware of their power, but perhaps my awareness needs further examination. What works a metaphor for me may not resonate with others, particularly those from a different cultural background. So let’s pause and reflect before we inspire others to “kill” the opposing team.  Let’s reflect on what we say and the awesome power of our words, particularly if they are misunderstood.  See: “Your Brain on Metaphors”, the Chronicle, Sept. 2, 2014
http://chronicle.com/article/Your-Brain-on-Metaphors/148495/?cid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en


Stories...to encourage a deep relationship with other learners

English: Graffiti in Bethlehem Polski: Graffit...
English: Graffiti in Bethlehem Polski: Graffiti w Betlejem Deutsch: Ein Graffiti in Betlehem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clearly, I am a storyteller and I believe strongly in the power of image(s) and the interconnection of other media to share narrative. Much of my thinking and work is related to this. Recently, I blogged about the need for an open source image collection so we at VCU might be better able to tell our stories and teach through their power. 

VCU Student Commons, Monroe Park Campus
VCU Student Commons, Monroe Park Campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the Wideo blog post of August 5, 2014, the notion that “Visual Storytelling is timeless and mighty” is presented from the perspective of advertising.  This blog shares interesting thoughts, but it is clearly about marketing. However, it made me start asking myself questions and speculating some answers.

What are the differences between a myth and a narrative?

English: Flag of the Navajo Nation Diné bizaad...
English: Flag of the Navajo Nation Diné bizaad: Diné Bikéyah (Naabeehó Bikéyah) bidah naatʼaʼí (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What are the differences between story and myth?  

As we tell stories of our own development, are they about something we want to come true/develop or are they about something that exists?

Telling these stories forces me to ask:

Who am I (are we)?

What examples can we provide (individually or collectively)?

What do I (we) want to become?

What actions will I (we) pursue individually and with others to achieve our vision?

Again, the Wideo blog is clearly about marketing. But, I wonder how this information might apply if we think about the meaning of "brand" from institutional, organizational, individual and most importantly, educational perspective(s). How about changing the idea of “opportunities for media to create a deep relationship with customers”, to using resources to create more opportunities for media to encourage a deep relationship with other learners?
Standard language: Ptolemaic hieroglyphics fro...
Standard language: Ptolemaic hieroglyphics from the Temple of Kom Ombo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think these are interesting questions and ideas to explore. 



Let's Build a VCU Open Photo Collection: VCUOpenPhoto

I work in the ALT Lab at VCU as Senior Specialist for Learning Media Innovation. My work routinely involves the use of images for the creation of digital stories and increasingly, the creation of course trailers and course content in video format, which is largely for access via the internet. I have also been assisting faculty in the creation of their own digital stories for teaching and sharing course related narratives. In turn, many faculty have encouraged students to create their own projects. Working in an educational environment pretty much dictates that faculty, students and staff who engage in this practice, must have access to freely available resources. Hence, I have practiced and promoted the use of Creative Commons licensed materials, with attribution to the kind people who provide them.

We live in the 21st century and have access to networks and wonderful resources that are shared by millions through Creative Commons licensing, with the intent of fostering creativity and learning. Why then in my own institution, is it so difficult to find good images to represent campus life and learning opportunities that I or others might use to create work, without having to purchase images? In my search for VCU images, I found a collection of 52 images that I am authorized to download (http://www.identity.vcu.edu/downloads/vcu/photo.aspx). Fifty-two images to represent VCU and the rich life this institution provides our students and faculty. When I search Flickr, I find many more images related to VCU, but alas, they often link back to VCU closed repositories and use is restricted.

Recently, I edited videos to introduce students to an international program that is hosted by VCU. This project required time consuming research for CC images. I experienced enormous frustration about finding (or not finding) VCU images that we can use without paying Creative Services (CS) and without marketing control. This has led me the idea to create a #VCUOpenPhoto (#VCUOpenVideo) collection that can easily be developed through crowdsourcing images from the VCU community. Such a project could also be used as an opportunity to foster digital literacy in the VCU community (including alumni) and grow a collection that can also demonstrate the power of networks (people and digital), RSS, tagging, and other means to pull together a digital collection that is in the control of the contributors and that can be dynamically added to at any time. Will this create challenges? Yes. Will this create concerns? Yes. Will this need some form of curation? Maybe.
 

We need an open collection of images images. We have a community of 30,000 students, plus faculty/staff. We live in the midst of creative people. If every student faculty member provided just one image of something they feel is important, beautiful, thought provoking, representative of VCU life and or study, we could quickly build a collection that can be endlessly expand. This project should emphasize openness, Creative Commons license, as a basis for establishing standards. This project could serve to inform and educate people about digital standards, size images, that you stand, etc.

The development of such a project could interface with Tom Woodward’s (@twoodwar) photo safaris and we could use the idea of tagging images for search under different criteria.

Our culture is changing our incoming students will be expected to blog. This implies they know or will learn how to use digital resources in appropriate and creative ways. Why don’t we use this idea to develop digital literacy? We are a community of creative people, with one of the finest art schools in the world on campus. We have people who are familiar with creating good photographs for various reasons. Let's be a bit radical, let's represent the ALT Lab philosophy and the philosophy of openness.


Please add your comments and let's build this collection together.