Higher Education, Professional Development, Reflections

Digesting #dLRN15: Making Sense of Higher Ed

In the midst of the death of higher ed headlines,the  disruption of HE,  and all the higher ed is broken rhetoric tossed out, a few of us took a pause last week to discuss how to deal with the issues and challenges facing the post-secondary education sector at #dLRN15. I felt fortunate to be able to connect with a number of colleagues to talk behind the buzzwords, and dig into a the real issues challenges our colleges and universities face. It’s time and there is a need to take time for making change in higher education (thanks for the prompt post, @KateMfD). I am not sure that “change” was made, but I am proud to be part of the discussion and momentum that will move some of it forward.

pre-con QaMany thanks to the conference organizers for bringing a few smart kids around the table to discuss the following issues:

  • Ethics of collaboration
  • Individualized learning
  • Systemic impacts
  • Innovation and work
  • Sociocultural implications

The panels, sessions, and keynotes left me with more questions than answers – and that is a good thing. Beyond the formal program, the sidebar chats over coffee/snacks/pints were not to be dismissed As Mike Caufield said, I will need to process discussions had at #dLRN15 for weeks. There were some deep discussions into complex issues that could not be dealt with in just two days.

In our pre-conference meeting, each group picked a question/issue based on the themes the conference was focused on (see above). One the groups developed a question that resonated with me the most:

keyquestionWe always want to push forward with big change and innovative ideas in higher ed, but really do we sometimes forget to recognize the incremental changes occurring within our institutions? How do we acknowledge the slow movements and progress we make in HE or that it is an on-going process of change? There are many micro-movements occurring within our learning spaces to help us evolve. I know there are a number of amazing things happening within our colleges and universities — sometimes it’s these slow contributions that make the difference and we often fail to recognize this gradual progress. Slow and steady does win the race.

FinalPanel

Ethics of Collaboration & Closing Remarks: Random Dude, Mike, Barbara & George

Fast-forward to the end of the conference, after a number of thoughtful conversations, this final panel reminded all of us of the call to action => to provide evidence for higher ed to shift. George Siemens asked us to utilize research to fuel the fight around the issues raised. Beyond collaboration, what are we really going to do with what we’ve talked about now? It’s great to hear that we are not alone in our discussions however we need empirical evidence to support the change ahead in higher education. I appreciated how this panel spoke about getting beyond the dichotomies and encouraged us to think about research in collaboration with our students and work. We really need to listen to our students and amplify their story/voice in the research we do. It’s easier to move and change when there is already momentum for systemic change, and perhaps #dLRN15 titled the scale for a few. There are a number of challenges and questions from #dLRN15 to consider with our research in higher education, including:

  • What were the foundational assumptions and purpose we thought about at the #dlrn15 ?
  • How do the threads of the conference fit together in a framework to support advancing higher ed? 
  • What does it mean to have a US-centrist focus in higher education? How does it impact HE on a global scale? Does it?
  • Was there enough systems-level research or research on systems change at #dLRN15?
  • Is there a need for systematic-change at all levels to advert change in higher ed?
  • How can higher ed research impact practitioner-based work?
  • Is research is the lever for change for us? And does empirical evidence have the potential to change the higher ed system?
  • How can we create a true design jam process — where research is reviewed and reflected?
  • Why should we trust the researchers?
  • We are able to get learners to the institution, but just not to get them through
  • economics of higher education — and the future of higher ed
  • Do we have enough divergent thoughts or ideas shared? Is this an echo chamber or do we need to invite others into the room/discussion for HE? 

This conversation (thankfully) is not over. Here’s a snapshot of my #dLRN15 Reading List with reflections and then some. Let’s keep this conversation and momentum going.

Learning Community

Curriculum T.B.D. with #rhizo15

From A Practical Guide to Rhizo15: “Rhizomatic learning is one story for how we can think about learning and teaching in a complex world.” Dave Cormier (@davecormier) has been thinking “in the rhizo” for a while and expressing ideas of the community as curriculum for teaching and learning. Cormier (2011) believes a curriculum for a course can be created in time, while a course is happening, specifically  “… to be rhizomatic involves creating a context, maybe some boundaries, within which a conversation can grow.”  

Sometimes learning can be messy. The rhizome concept is often uncertain as it maps in any direction, starts at any point, and grows or spreads with experimentation within a context. From this idea and others shared at the #ALN14 keynote (Pasquini, 2014), I gathered a number of valuable ideas to shape learning contracts for my own students and encouraging learners to map their own ways of knowing and evaluations (Brubaker, 2010). This talk directly impacted a new course I am teaching this term. Much of the content needed life infused into it, and learners did not seem connected to ideas for effective training and development facilitation from the previous iteration. I turned to my learners to ask them to make meaning and apply these concepts to practical situations, workplace experiences, and relevant examples they might encounter. From the class discussions, curation of readings, and developments of training/instruction, a number of my learners felt more empowered and felt as though they were part of their learning process. That being said – it does not mean things were clean and easy. There were a few bumps along the way; however this process of evaluating the learning structure helped me consider the process of knowing and supporting a collaborative curriculum down the road.

Based on my own interest in learning, and the hashtag (#) map of #rhizo15 conversation, I figured #rhizo15 would be a great place to connect and explore this concept further. [Thanks for recommending Socioviz to meet & greet with the community, Dave. Great idea!]

rhizo15hash

If you did not hear great things about the conversations, questions, and sharing from the #rhizo14 group – then you must have lived under an Internet rock last year. The #rhizo14 community often shared a number of valuable insights and resources. Although I tried to play in the sandbox with this active, online community, something got in the way of my participation (I’m looking at you dissertation). I am looking forward to the #rhizo15 camp that officially kicks off on April 15th for 6 weeks o’ fun as the participants build the curriculum. Here’s to playing in the unknown and building our learning out with fresh perspectives and gentle pushes from the #rhizo15 learning network.

Interested in joining the #rhizo15 fun? Here’s a few ways you can engage:

References

Brubaker, N. D. (2010). Negotiating authority by designing individualized grading contracts. Studying Teacher Education, 6(3), 257-267.

Cormier, D. (2011, November 5). Rhizomatic Learning – why we teach? Dave’s Educational Blog. Retrieved from http://davecormier.com/edblog/2011/11/05/rhizomatic-learning-why-learn/

Pasquini, L. A. (2014, October 31). Dave Cormier: Rhizomatic Learning – The Community is the Curriculum. The 2014 Annual Online Learning Consortium Conference (#ALN14), Orlando, FL. Retrieved from https://storify.com/laurapasquini/davecormier-s-aln14-keynote-twitter-notes