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

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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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Dialogue Education and a Systems View

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It seems to me that DE offers a systems-approach to adult learning. This is different than a system for adult learning, although I think DE provides that too, to a point. But you decide! Often when we think of a system, we think of linked items, perhaps we might even imagine dominoes, or a one-step checking writing system (anyone old enough to remember that!?), or a filing system; in all of these cases, I do this, in this order and this is the outcome. These could be called methods or ways of processing which are not the systems-approach I am suggesting where the outcomes are "by definition" unpredictable. In The Web of Life, Fritjof Capra suggests these ways to think of systems: …connectedness, relationships, context. According to the systems view, the essential properties of an organism, or living system, are properties of the whole, which none of the parts have. They arise from the interactions and relationships among the parts. p29 What questions come to your mind, in considering these distinctions? If you are interested in exploring through a systems view, visit the Human Systems Dynamics website. Here is a link to a two chapters from Kristine Quade and Royce Holladay's newest book, Dynamical Leadership: Building Adaptive Capacity for Uncertain Times.

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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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