Monday, May 24, 2010

Temporary Instructor Opportunity at UF

Temporary Instructor, Educational Technology, University of Florida

The Educational Technology program within the School of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education at the University of Florida is seeking an individual to teach multiple sections of EME 4401: Integrating Technology into the Elementary (or Early Childhood) Curriculum.  This course prepares prospective elementary (or early childhood) teachers to use technology effectively in the classroom. This is a temporary position (Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 semesters) and will involve teaching no more than 4 courses each semester. This one-year position is funded with non-recurring funds and, thus, is not renewable. Salary is approximately $40,000.

There is an established curriculum for the course but the selected person may work with Educational Technology faculty members to revise it to meet the needs of the program and the strengths of the individual.

The ideal candidate will have (1) experience teaching with technology in K-5 settings and (2) technology-related experiences with prospective and/or inservice teachers. Preferred qualification include (1) advanced coursework in Educational Technology, (2) evidence of involvement in the field, (3) substantial knowledge of free tools that allow students to create digital content and (4) knowledge of alternative assessment strategies for post-secondary learners.

Interested individuals should submit a cover letter, curriculum vita and 3 reference contacts to Dr. Kara Dawson ( Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Personal Learning, Drive, and Autonomy

This era doesn't call for better management.  It calls for a renaissance of self-direction (Pink, 2009)
I've been listening to Daniel Pink's audio book version of Drive:  The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  I haven't found it all that surprising, but it has me thinking about the relationship between personal learning and self-determination theory (SDT)

Pink (2009) asserts that management isn't the solution, it's the problem.  He extends the word management beyond the common business definition to include our social structures and institutions.  (Yes, including education.)  He cites Ryan & Deci's (2000) work on self determination theory in support of autonomy for workers and learners.  (Note:  There are others who have thought about SDT in a K-12 context.  See  Reeve & Halusic (2009).  

Ryan & Deci (2002) identify three basic psychological needs:  competence, relatedness, and autonomy. The optimal social environments satisfy all three of these needs.  Human behavior is either controlled or autonomous.  Autonomy is different from independence.  It means acting with choice (Pink, 2009).

Realizing Pink's renaissance of self-direction for education will be challenging.  Centuries of institutionalized control are not easily undone.  Pink points out that humans are curious and self-directed "out of the box".  Passivity is the result of years of "management" and control.  My experience working with middle and high school students on personal learning environments supports this perspective.  It's even more challenging when we try to direct personal learning toward system-imposed content standards or the rigor required for deeper learning of these standards.

I know what you're thinking.  Directed personal learning is an oxymoron.  But, the reality of the current situation in our K-12 classrooms is that years of passive learning have undermined student autonomy.  Myths about student learning preferences further constrain our progress, especially when it comes to learning with technology.  It is common in teacher professional development sessions to hear that students want to learn with technology.  Actually, some, not all students enjoy using technology for social, entertainment, or learning purposes.  Few have had consistent, quality technology integration in school.  When asked to create artifacts based on rigorous inquiry or to use technology for rigorous study, the complaints range from "I don't like technology because it doesn't work" to "my teacher isn't teaching me" to the ever popular "just tell me what I need to do to get an A".  This does not describe every student.  Of course, there are those who embrace autonomy, especially when given curricular choice.  I offer these seemingly negative examples to encourage educators to think realistically about the consequences of a passive learning system and the hard work it will take to undo those years of indoctrination.  

I happen to believe strongly in learner empowerment and the value of technology as a means to achieve autonomy.  I'm also realistic about the steep climb it will take to get there.  I offer some suggestions for creating an atmosphere conducive to learner autonomy within a system that is not likely to change quickly.
  1. Taking back control and responsibility for learning can be facilitated by teachers who scaffold the processes that support learner autonomy.  These processes include digital responsibility, digital literacy, organization of content, collaborating/socializing with others, and synthesizing/creating (Drexler, 2010)
  2. Integrating those processes into early grades will ensure that personal learning environments of increased complexity can be constructed in the secondary grades and beyond with greater focus on the learning outcome rather than the processes or technology needed to support it.
  3. Building a teacher and learner disposition of experimentation around technology use that recognizes the speed at which new technologies emerge and the tinkering required to adapt technologies for learning.

 I'm intrigued by the possibility of a renaissance of self-direction.  I feel I've been able to build that reality in my personal learning and professional work, and I want even greater empowerment for the next generation.  More importantly, I believe those learners who are less autonomous will be at a distinct disadvantage. 
Deci, E. & Ryan, R. (2002).  Handbook of Self-Determination Research.  New York:  University of Rochester Press.

Pink, D. H. (2009).  Drive:  The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us (1st ed.). Riverhead Hardcover.

Reeve, J. & Halusic, M. (2009).  How K-12 teachers can put self-determination theory principles into practice.  Theory and Research in Education. 7(2). 145-154.

Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Decision Making and Systems Thinking: Week 3 - #edfuture

I was fortunate to attend AERA in Denver over the last few days.  As a result, I did not have a chance to participate in the Ed Futures Elluminate session at the regular time on Tuesday.  But, I had plenty of time to think about the plethora of solid educational research that will never translate into educational policy.  It's an ongoing frustration for most of us in the field, yet we can't stop thinking about the possibilities.  Maybe that is the allure of a structured approach to future thinking.  

The Education Futures Elluminate recording and assigned articles prompted me to pull out a handout from the conference (one of few actual pieces of paper I kept) because the decision-making issues in Weick's (1993) article were sounding very familiar.

Relative to poor decision-making, Weick quotes Morgan, Frost, & Pondy (1983:24):
Individuals are not seen as living in, and acting out their lives in relation to, a wider reality, so much as creating and sustaining images of a wider reality, in part to rationalize what they are doing. They realize their reality, by reading into their situation patterns of significant meaning" (Morgan, Frost, and Pondy as quoted by Weick, 1993).
This immediately brought to mind J. Michael Spector's AERA presentation, Integrating a Systems-Thinking Perspective into Learning and Instruction for Complex and Challenging Tasks.  Spector quotes Dietrich Dorner's (1996) Logic of Failure.
Highly trained, well-intentioned adults often make bad decisions when reasoning about complex phenomena.
What is more complex than our system of education?

Spector goes on to explain that these bad decisions happen for a number of reasons.
  • Acting on instinct
  • Failure to anticipate-delayed effects
  • Focus on one aspect of a complex system
  • Failure to understand non-linear effects
  • Less analytical & reflective thinking as a problem worsens
  • Accidental reinforcement of undesired behavior
  • Failure to recognize internal feedback mechanisms and change over time (Spector, 2010; Sterman, 1994)
 He advocates for a systems-thinking approach to help students learn to solve complex, ill structured problems.  It seems systems thinking can also help us with future thinking, at least as we begin to consider education futures.

Anderson and Johnson (1997) define essential characteristics of systems:
  • A system's parts must all be present for a system to carry out its purpose optimally.
  • A system's parts must be arranged in a specific way in order to carry out its purpose.
  • Systems have specific purposes within larger systems.
  • Systems maintain their stability through fluctuations and adjustments.
  • Systems have feedback.  (Anderson & Johnson, 1997)
Each of us exist in silos of expertise in the field (or system) of education.  Perhaps this is why it is so difficult to affect change.  We constantly make decisions without all parts present.  Anderson & Johnson (1997) advise that we should think in terms of the big picture, balance short-term and long-term perspectives, recognize the complexity of our system, and consider patterns.  They even offer a worksheet at the end of the paper that might come in handy as we move deeper in the course.

Anderson, V., & Johnson, L. (1997) Systems Thinking Basics:  From Concepts to Causal Loops, Waltham, MA: Pegasus Communications.  Retrieved from

2010 Horizon Report Johnson, Laurence F., Levine, Alan, Smith, Rachel S. and Stone, Sonja. 2010 Horizon Report. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium, 2010.

Karl E. Weick . Reprinted from The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch
Disaster by Karl E. Weick published in Administrative Science Quarterly Volume 38 (1993): 628-
652 by permission of Administrative Science Quarterly. © 1993 by Cornell University 0001-

Morgan, Gareth, Peter J. Frost, and Louis R. Pondy. 1983. "Organizational symbolism." In L. R.
Pondy, P. J. Frost, G. Morgan, and T. C. Dandridge (eds.), Organizational Symbolism: 3-35.
Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.