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

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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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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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