"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

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VERY PERSONAL from JANE VELLA

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Remembering Dandy, a lively cocker spaniel who died on 9/7 SAINT DANDY OF THE HOLY PAWS He sits in my lap Comfortable Sure Deeply aware that he is loved, Clear of his loving message to me That is his sprawling body His head on my knee He makes me pause A holy pause To celebrate the moment To sit still To be quiet To pay attention He makes me dance with joy At my own homecoming Laughing aloud As we search together for the belled ball That calls us to play He makes me go slow On walks in the park Examining each bush, each tree, each blade of grass For its potential He makes my heart stir with excitement At the rise of a flock of geese The scurry of a squirrel up a tree The chuckle of a child who calls out “Puppy!” St. Dandy of the Holy Paws. Have you been here before, sir? If not, where did you get your taste for stolen brie?

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Knowing our work is worthwhile

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We all get our moments of thrill -- when we see the effect of a dialogue-approach on an individual, group or organization.  I had one of those moments last week and wanted to share it because it felt extra special. About 14 years ago, I worked with Karabi Acharya (both of us then with Academy for Educational Development) on a public health sector project in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region of Ethiopia. It was a "technical assistance" project of 3 weeks or so, to work through an Ethiopian team on community -based health promotion activities.   The team was big -- including a wonderful man, Wondimu Amdie. On subsequent visits to Ethiopia I tried to track Wondimu down, but had no luck. Last week, the day before leaving Ethiopia, I was having lunch at a little place in Addis Ababa. A hand gently tapped me on the shoulder - "Valerie?" It was Wondimu Amdie -- looking just like he did 14 years ago but like all of us, with a few more wrinkles and eyes a bit tired.  We felt waves of disbelief and gratitude for finding each other.  He invited me to lunch the next day and we couldn't stop talking... Wondimu's words confirmed for me that, even when we feel a bit disheartened by the limitations on our work, or our own abilities to make things " perfect," the approach we use is felt - and lives on - well beyond what we usually realize. Wondimu spoke of our teamwork together like it was a clear (and fulfilling) memory..

  • He remembers how we encouraged them to talk in Amharic, even though we didn't understand - and they thought this was great.
  • He said the approach we used made them work, but let them be creative so it was fun.
  • "You shared your ideas but you didn't make us think like you... we could have our own ideas."

In the years past, Wondimu has taken many other trainings.  He shook his head as he described one of these in which the trainers were bent on controlling the words everyone used to describe concepts: "They wanted us to present our work using their words... You can never really be successful this way because it's their work, not yours." I think you get the gist. Let's keep doing what we're doing, and when times get tough, let's remember what a DIFFERENCE it can make.

   Valerie Uccellani is a Certified Dialogue Education™ Teacher, a Partner, Global Learning Partners, Inc. 

 

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Visuals for You, Me and Posterity!

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Most teachers and trainers use visuals to help emphasize specific information, to give "form" or make concrete abstract concepts or connections, and to provide visual references for lectures, among many other uses. What has been talked about less, are the ways visuals can and do benefit the instructor, and in the following example, how they can support the relationship, progress and learning goals of teacher and theirfamily members. She was struggling with keeping track of all the different topics that had come up over time, and, wanted to insure even greater attention to reinforcement when appropriate. One of the ways she has attended to these issues is through the use of one type of visual, web charts. Here's what she did and discovered: I've started using a one-page web format to keep track of students' individual information, our topics (generative themes), and the materials we use. It's already proven useful as a one-glance review for me as I prepare for lessons. It also is a good visual reference for us when talking about student progress and interests. As Linda has continued this practice, she's also found that at times, it can be difficult to keep the charts up to date. What ideas do you have? I've also used charts/visuals as a reminder of some dimension of my teaching practice that I am working on improving. It may be that I created a dual connection "just for me" to an existing chart, or I may place a subtle visual reminder somewhere where I am sure to see it. In either case, it helps me to keep at the forefront of my mind whatever I am working on, personally, as I teach. How do you "remind" yourself of where you are stretching as you teach? What interesting and/or innovative ways are you using visuals? What visuals have you found more and less useful? For you wordsmiths, here's a visual resource you may not have seen yet: http://www.visualthesaurus.com

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The iPhone vs. Dialogue Education

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How many of you facilitators want to frisk your participants before a learning event so you can strip them of their iPhones (or Blackberries or Palm Pilots or . . . )? No more sneaking peaks at e-mail during the warm-up tasks, no checking the weather while another team is practice teaching, no calling in for voice messages during the break . . . ah, wouldn’t that be fantastic?

People think that because they’ve spent years learning how to multi-task, they can easily pay attention to a facilitator, their iPhone, and their learning partner all at the same time. Guess what? They can’t. According to Dr. Earl K. Miller, Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, you can only truly focus on one thing at a time. What we think of as multi-tasking is actually just switching our focus from one thing to the next, albeit with incredible speed. But what this means is that if someone is engaged in a group conversation while simultaneously texting a friend, they are really only able to pay attention to one thing – either they don’t hear all that’s said in the group or they send their friend a garbled text message. Dr. Miller says that one reason for this is that if our brains are trying to perform similar tasks at once – like communicating orally and in writing – our brain is competing with itself to use that brain function and it’s “nearly impossible to do [two similar things] at the same time.” And then, of course, the brain gets tired and overwhelmed.

Listen to this brief piece from NPR’s Morning Edition:  Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again. Next time you frisk your students, tell them you’re simply trying to provide their brains with an oasis of focus – a welcome break for their weary minds – in their typically chaotic, multi-tasking world.

Have you forbidden mobile hand-held devices in your classroom? Do you turn off your own while you’re teaching (even on breaks)? See the comments section, below, too, for a link to Dwayne Hodgson's post about how TO use the iPhone in the classroom!

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DIALOGUE EDUCATION AS PRAXIS

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I have the honor and privilege of preparing a new book for Jossey Bass Wiley. As usual, I was feeling daunted by the task, and shared my concern with Paula Berardinelli, GLP's new COO. She offered this insight.  " I think of an hourglass - you put into it the theory of many sages and out came this simple, accessible system we call Dialogue Education.  Then, many people put in their practice, their designs, their developing theory and out of it comes a renewed theory and practice. That's what I see you are writing now." Thanks again to Paula who keeps me going! One good line from that new theory is "The design bears the burden."  A sound design keeps us out of the way, gets learners moving into the hard work of learning, and assures that it occurs. Jane Vella  on the Back Porch

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