You’ve been thinking deeply about digital media and culturally responsive teaching, and the differences between formal and informal learning during this week.
Teachers must walk the line between both formal and informal learning everyday. In this inspiring narrative, 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Leonard provides an poignant example of empathetic formal and informal teaching.
The Power of Seven Words–The Whisper Test
Mary Ann Bird was born with multiple birth defects. She suffered not only from her physical impairments but also with the emotional trauma of “being different” from others. Here is a story of the power of 7 familiar words.
From Mary Ann’s reflection, “I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech.
When schoolmates asked, “What happened to your lip?” I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me.
By the age of seven I was convinced that no one outside my family could ever love me. Or even like me.
And then I entered the second grade, and Mrs. Leonard’s class.
I never knew what her first name was – just Mrs. Leonard. She was round and pretty and fragrant, with chubby arms and shining brown hair and warm dark eyes that smiled even on rare occasions when her mouth did not. Everyone adored her. But no one came to love her more than I did. And for a special reason.
The time came for the annual “hearing tests” to be given at our school. I was barely able to hear anything out of one ear, and was not about to reveal yet another problem that would single me out as different.
And so I cheated.
I had learned to watch other children and raised my hand when they did during group testing. The “whisper test” however, required a different kind of deception: Each child would go to the door of the classroom, turn sideways, close one ear with a finger, and the teacher would whisper something from her desk, which the child would repeat. Then the same thing was done for the other ear.
I had discovered in kindergarten that nobody checked to see how tightly the untested ear was being covered, so I merely pretended to block mine. As usual, I was last, but all through the testing I wondered what Mrs. Leonard might say to me. I knew from earlier years that she whispered things like “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?”
My turn came up. I turned my bad ear to her, plugging up the other solidly with my finger, then gently backed my finger out enough to be able to hear.
I waited and then the words that God had surely put into Mrs. Leonard’s mouth, seven words that changed my life forever.
Mrs. Leonard, the pretty teacher I adored, said softly, “I wish you were my little girl.”
The Bible says we will be held accountable for our every careless word (Matt. 12:36-37). Normally, this is taken as a negative – our every idle, harsh, or mean or untrue word.
I believe it also applies to life-changing positive words like “I wish you were my little girl.”
Story by Mary Ann Bird
Is there an aisle in the Anytime/Anyplace online learning supermarket that is reserved for the gourmet delicacy of sustained, deep thinking?
Yes there is!
Digital Innovations: This week’s Borrow & Blog’s innovation is Sylvia Ellison’s Twitter Slow Chats!
Sylvia Ellison @SylviaEllison perfects anytime/anyplace engagement through an affinity space called “Slow Chats.”
A Twitter “slow chat” invites an extension of informal learning and Sylvia Ellison at #HackLearning is a particularly effective connecting spark for learning because it conforms to learner’s engagement preferences (Tsai & Men, 2013). Ellison’s Monday/Thursday question response time segments promote reflection. Slow chats veer away from “vexatious issues over which people are in and which are out of the group” (Gee, 2004, p.215). Extroverts are plentiful online (Cho & Auger, 2017), yet in the social engagement supermarket not all affinity spaces are pressed from the same cookie cutter.
Slow chats encourage extended contemplation. They promote active engagement over frenetic response or the passive lurking of learners overwhelmed by rapid-fire tweets.
That a contemplative practice can occur on Twitter is a promising (and welcome) irony. Check out slow chats here!
Every Monday and Thursday, Sylvia creates and posts a new question.
2. Sylvia begins with an introduction followed by the question.
3. During the intervening days, Sylvia responds to participants.
Why It Works:
Twitter in educational contexts has research-based support. Research indicates that affinity spaces are necessary for student-led inquiry and learning engagement (Gee, 2004, 2017, Lammers, et al., 2017). Why? Because affinity spaces connect shared interest and engagement with activity (Gee, 2004, 2017).
Engagement on social media follows a continuum (Tsai & Men, 2013).
Cho, M., & Auger, G. A. (2017). Extrovert and engaged? Exploring the connection between personality and involvement of stakeholders and the perceived relationship investment of nonprofit organizations. Public Relations Review, 43(4), 729-737.
Gee, J. P. (2004). Afﬁnity spaces. Situated language and learning: A critique of traditional schooling. London: Routledge
Gee, J. P. (2017). Affinity spaces and 21st century learning. Educational Technology, 27-31.
Tsai, W. H. S., & Men, L. R. (2013). Motivations and antecedents of consumer engagement with brand pages on social networking sites. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 13(2), 76-87.
Informal Learning: A Work-place Application
An Assignment for EDLT 727, Dr. Sarah Haavind, Professor
Key Idea: Reading is a universal issue for all of us. It is important to provide reading opportunities for those who have worked hard to parent, provide, and protect us.
Key Words: Informal Learning, National Read-a-Thon
“Believing that one can initiate and sustain change is a key piece of making change possible.” Wenger-Trayner, Learning in Landscapes of Practice, p. 143
The Pruett Gerontology Center (PGC) is a non-profit research-oriented institution located onsite at a private West Texas university. It is appropriately situated to serve as a catalyst for Wenger-Trayner’s “convening role across complex landscapes of practice” (Location 3769). The PGC also fits Benkler’s label of a “commons-based, open organization” because its resources are available to anyone without membership requirement or fee (2006, Location 832).
Gerontology is a biological, psychological, and social stage in personality development. The PGC adopts Erikson’s “stage” approach (1959). Erikson’s (1959) theory of psychosocial development has eight distinct stages, which develop after a period of psychological struggle (Figure 1). Erikson’s stages follow a progression from trust to autonomy, initiative, industry, identity, intimacy, generativity, and integrity. Older adults are represented in the “Integrity” stage of life.
According to Erikson (1959), our path through life develops as a series of successfully resolved social adjustments. Each adjustment phase is the potential marker of later health and pathology. Erikson’s stages involve establishing a sense of trust in others, developing a sense of identity in society, and helping the next generation prepare for the future.
Members of the National Gerontological Society called Sigma Phi Omega wanted to impact their surrounding community in an authentic and sustainable manner. Sigma Phi Omega, with its self- decentralized structure and self-selected projects may also fit Benkler peer-production idea originally describing corporations rather than hierarchically assigned (2006, Location 1386). Within walking distance of the university campus a local assistive living center had expressed a desire to have volunteers engage with the residents on a frequent basis. For the previous semester, students had discussed a variety of ways to add a service learning component to their honor society experience.
During the month of January, the National Book Foundation promoted the National Read-a-Thon. Following Kotter’s Model for change, I guided the students to distill their ideas and commit to one event. I used blog posts to promote “Save the Date” and university media and graphic tools to create several posters of varying sizes to display onsite and around the university campus to generate interest and awareness. The PGC underwrote the cost of the posters.
Graphic by Helen Teague
(click on each tiny square above to see the picture it represents)
PGC advocates for Aging in Place, Lifestyle Redesign, and Role Navigation. Aging in Place refers to older adults remaining in their chosen environment safely for as long as possible. Lifestyle redesign involves creatively reconfiguring, adapt, and simply their environment. Either change the environment or change how you move in the environment. To honor and reinforce this goal, reading selections for the Reading Parties were customized for the resident population. Novels of true crime, suspense, erotica, and war stories were not recommended for inclusion into the onsite library. Large-print books were favored as were books by local authors. Some residents preferred to have university students read to them. Some preferred to read silently and discuss portions of the book afterward.
To reinforce the community strength in our landscapes of practice (Wenger-Trayner et al, 2015), I encouraged a discussion of to bring age-appropriate snacks for their event. The University has an auxiliary support group of women who are known for their home-made sweets and casseroles. This group agreed to provide the snacks for the event. The PGC underwrote the cost of the snacks. A local store donated the paper plates and napkins from the overstock. In picking up the paper plates, cups, napkins, and tablecloth from the store, one of the students said, “I did not even know about this store. It feels great the someplace in town wants to help.” Some of the pictures from the event show the growing collegiality and mutuality of the informal learning process: http://blogs.acu.edu/pruettgerontology/2015/01/27/turning-the-page-on-read-a-thon/ and at this link: http://4oops.edublogs.org/2015/01/28/informal-learning-with-read-a-thon/
Returning to Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages, the integrity stage is marked by a healthy process of life review. An example of a component of a healthy process of Life Review occurs when older adults begin to tell stories to others. Sometimes during this time of story organization, life events are reinterpreted and rearranged. According to Erikson, a successful transition through the process of Life Review will make them better prepared for death. The Healthy Process of life review when older adults begin to tell stories and reinterpret life events. Erickson calls this “integrity”. How do you hear and reflect back when people want to tell their stories. The patience to let them tell their story. Eric Erickson, psychosocial stages says that this process of life review will make them better prepared for death. Talking about death is natural for them. Not to initiate but receive it. When they reach a point of integrity where they are not afraid of death but are accepting of it as a part of the life cycle.
Students’ survey responses indicated that they experiences this Life Review event during the Reading Party day. They had become acquainted with the Life Review by completing a prior interview assignment from their gerontology class. They experienced the Life Review exchange again during their “Reading Parties” visits. Their landscape of practice included both classroom learning and conversational exchanges.
In post-event and post-survey peer-to-peer sharing within Sigma Phi Omega meetings and orientation with personnel at the assisted living center how to hear and reflect back to older adults when they wanted to tell the stories of their life was a primary lesson to learn.
What is the best way to hear and reflect back when people want to tell their stories? Erikson’s Integrity Stage requires listeners to practice patience to let them tell their story. Not to initiate a follow-up story but to receive the story from the speaker and acknowledge and validate it.
Students in the Life Review conversation are wise to remember the distinction between human “beings” and human “doings” (Dyer, 2010 p. 39). Students must be still and listen. They must listen actively and intently. They cannot just rehearse their response while an older adult is speaking. They must actively analyze what is most meaningful to an older person and try to get back to that, either in reality practice or in recreating and validating the experience through storytelling interaction.
Often in conversation, there is a tendency to add to what another is saying. For example, Speaker A may begin talking about their grandchildren. Listener A may decide that they will extend the conversation by talking about their own younger brothers and sisters, cousins, children they babysit, etc… This changes the roles from Speaker to Listener is counterproductive to the healthy life review process.
Discussions with personnel at the assisted living facility, residents at the assisted living facility, and students individually and in the group revealed that the initial “Read-a-Thon” Reading Party was successful and all participants wanted to build on their “short-term wins” and continue events (Kotter, 1996, p. 117). We began to increase our “Guiding Coalition” (Kotter, 1996, p. 51). We added community members from our local library, our workforce commission, and faculty from our Sociology and Social Work departments.
Invitation To Peer Review
We also began to look for sustainable funding. One avenue we pursued with the “Careers in Aging Week” grant. Working together we co-created a proposal to fund the key components previously funded by the PGC. I researched best practices and created a Google Doc to hold the text I wrote for the initial grant proposal. An editable link was sent to our new guiding coalition who made edits and comments.
Grant Proposal Peer Review
The entire grant document was submitted by midnight on February 2 by the PGC Director and the Sigma Omega President. Because of a family event, they compiled they worked in my absence. That, to me is the beauty of participatory design after an informal learning event: the interchangeability of roles of “sage on the stage” and “guide on the side” (Feeler, 2012, p. 163). We hope to hear the status of our application (whether we won) by the end of March.
The informal learning first experienced in the “Reading Parties” has grown now to a “Painting Nails Day Party” has grown to a mutually beneficial intergenerational and informal learning experience.
Student Peer-to-Peer Communication
The informal learning also achieved a renewed focus on Filial piety. Rooted in Confucianism and the Bible (Deuteronomy 5:16, Matt 15:5-6, Luke 15:21, John 4:20), Filial piety refers to honoring parents as a prime responsibility. Confined originally to families with an older relative, with over 23,400,000 people in the country who are over 65 years of age the responsibility of care grows to include members of the community. As Director, Dr. Charles Pruett states, “Today is the first time in history that the younger members of the tribe have to tell the older people in the tribe where they fit in the society.”
Course Alignment: Include a sentence that specifically states how the project is connected with the content of this class. 1.) Understand how to harness the way social networks and communities share knowledge. This project will utilize social media tools to query, organize, plan, and analyze a service learning outreach in our local community by local authors, local library and city leaders, and our local university students serving in a service learning group.
2.) Identify social networks and informal communities in the workplace. This project will use participatory planning to connect university students, with the non-profit Pruett Gerontology Center in a service learning project for older adults in an assisted living center close to the University campus.
3.) Identify technologies and strategies that facilitate collaboration, knowledge capture, and sharing. This project will utilize the following social media tools: google docs, email, text, Skype, blog posts, Camtasia, and Cincopa.
4. & 5.) Acquire strategies for building and supporting formal online (networked) learning.
This project began with a partnership between local university students and the on-campus non-profit PGC. After a successful first event launch and an invitation to continue Reading Party concept, the student group and PGC staff decided to apply for grant funding to ensure sustainability and to recruit community group members to strengthen partnerships for successful continued implementation.
Benkler, Y. (2006). The wealth of networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom. Yale University Press.
Dyer, W. (2010). The shift: Taking your life from ambition to meaning. Hay House, Inc.
Erikson, E. H., Paul, I. H., Heider, F., & Gardner, R. W. (1959). Psychological issues (Vol. 1). International Universities Press.
Feeler, W. (2012). Being there: A grounded-theory study of student perceptions of instructor presence in online classes (Order No. 3546663). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global; ProQuest Dissertations and Theses A&I: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection. (1266830430). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1266830430?accountid=13159
Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. Harvard Business Press.
Matthews, W. (2012). World religions. Cengage Learning.
National Book Foundation, http://nationalbook.org/2015_readathon.html#.VPEHOGc5CxA
Wenger-Trayner, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2014). Learning in Landscapes of Practice. Learning in Landscapes of Practice: Boundaries, Identity, and Knowledgeability in Practice-based Learning, 13.
Thank you for participating in the National Read-A-Thon Reading Party at Chisholm Place on Saturday, January 24th. As you know, Pruett Gerontology Center is also a research studio and your experience Saturday helps in our ongoing research.
Please take just a couple of minutes to think about the day and your experience. Then, based on your reflections, please answer the questions below. Your answers are very important to us. Thank you!
Thank you for participating in the National Read-A-Thon Reading Party on Saturday, January 24th.
As you know, Pruett Gerontology Center is also a research studio and your experience Saturday helps in our ongoing research. Please take just a couple of minutes to think about the day and your experience. Then, based on your reflections, please answer the questions below. Your answers are very important to us.
All education must be aimed at eventually leading children to think for themselves and become autonomous individuals capable of genuine moral action. ~Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau
And…Happy National Read-A-Thon Day! Our students in Sigma Phi Omega will be hosting a Reading Party at Chisholm Place today. They will also deliver books for the onsite library. Remember to take #timetoread !