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

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Hats Off! How a Simple (Relevant) Prop Can Engage Participants

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Back in early June the Global Learning Partners team had our semi-annual retreat and I facilitated one of the sessions. During the session I wanted to make a point about how everyone in the group wears two decidedly different hats in their work with GLP. It was important to the conversation we were having that each person be aware of which hat they were wearing as they were addressing each subject. So I handed out baseball hats for each participant! On the front was a label with Role #1, on the back a label with Role #2. I’ll be honest. I thought it might be too hokey, that the idea would fall flat and the hats would get set aside. Far from it! They were immediately donned, put on forwards or backwards (even sideways) and not only were they used for the rest of the session, they were used for the rest of the two-day retreat. These props worked because they were: 1. relevant 2. fun  3. engaging and 4. appealed to both visual and kinesthetic learners. What props have you successfully employed?

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Engage! Science & Learning

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For Trekies and casual viewers of Star Trek, the command "Engage!" brings memories of that point where the engine-power was unleashed, propelling the Enterprize into light-flash. As teachers we too hope to engage, to engage students most fully, that they too can take their learning wherever they choose to travel at "light-speed". Like many films, Star Trek can be used to increase and deepen learning. Its integration of empirical science, fantasy, imagination and human struggles, personal and social, have provoked countless dialogues and hold historical relevance on many levels. The Enterprise crews explored space and other worlds, scientists today, like teachers, research the myriad dimensions of the human body, emotions and mind to discover how do people take in (sensory input), and process (integrate, assimilate, remember) information in ways that are actionable and useful. What follows are just a few links for fun and the curious, to articles of recent scientific discoveries and questions that all have implications for approaches to adult learning that would meaningfully integrate thinking, feelings and action. Engage! People Hear With Skin as Well as Their Ears; The New York Times, Dec. 1, 2009 Just What Are "Senses"and How Many are there? This web site lists works, and authors who examine senses, exploring philosophical and scientific evidence and insights. Science news Articles about 'sensory modality' Next Big Thing in English: Knowing They Know That You Know The New York Times, March 31, 2010. This brief article explores cognitive theory, reading literature and "reading" complexity within literature.

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Safety in the Classroom - Is Breaching It Ever Justified?

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One of my favorite movies of all time is Dead Poets Society. If you've not yet seen this movie, rush right out to get it! Robin Williams plays John Keating, a teacher of poetry at an all boys prep school, and it's the classic theme of how an "alternative" teacher who's more than a talking head gets in trouble with the powers-that-be, despite the fact that his boys are learning for the first time in their lives. It's inspiring, and lovely, and sad, and hopeful. When thinking of it today, though, I realized that one of my favorite scenes depicts a very "unsafe" practice in the classroom. John Keating singles out one boy, Todd Anderson - he puts him on the spot in embarassing ways and ultimately leads the boy to discover the poet within by pushing him to find his own "barbaric yawp" (Walt Whitman). Take a look at the video of the scene:  The Barbaric YawpIt got me thinking, though, about the Dialogue Education principle of "safety", which Jane Vella defines this way: "People need both challenge and safety. When the learning environment does not appear safe to adult learners, they will disappear, or resist the program dramatically to protect themselves." Is there ever a time where safety stifles learning, where breaching the safe environment is justified by the end results? Do things like what happened with Todd happen in real life learning, or only in Hollywood learning?

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DOWNHILL

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I walk every morning early to beat the heat. My path is through a lovely forested area,with hills and valleys. I want to say how much I love downhill. At my time of life...with my history... downhill feels just fine. I am trying to make it a metaphor for other walks I take in my life: try downhill!  Or - if you are on the water: sit! IN THE YELLOW KAYAK More's the miracle for me, not to walk on water, but to sit on it.

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Distance Learning - What Are Your Insights?

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Isabelle on the phone

Distance learning ranges from totally self-directed to totally instructor-centered. From specific attention to dialogue amongst the participants to little or no dialogue of any type. From synchronous to asynchronous to a combination of both. And from no interaction outside of the computer screen to hybrids (face to face class[es] in combination with online work).

And, within every one of these different approaches there are many variations, including the technology and its limits. I've enjoyed trying on many different forms of distance learning, as a learner mostly, and as a teacher in several situations. What I love is that each experience teaches me new ways of integrating Dialogue Education principles and practices, if I let it.

Recently I was engaged in a course that combines telephone teaching, coaching, and accountability buddies along with recorded and written materials and immediate application actions. It was quite fun to release my need to decide what was right or wrong about the "teaching/learning" in order to learn and note what was working for me and where I needed to add actions or ask questions to support my learning.

I've taken some of what I've learned and poured it into a new distance learning opportunity, a Dialgoue Education course that GLP is excited to offer:  Dialogue Education Step by Step: An Introduction (or Refresher) in Learning Design. I hope you'll check it out!

In the meantime, what new insights are coming your way about distance learning? Are you teaching from a distance? How do you feel about it?

 

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