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

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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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The Power of Less

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bookcover3

Twice in the last week I heard stories about fewer agenda items leading to better learning and work. The first story was from Jeanette Romkema, GLP Partner. She and Clayton Rowe and Hugh Brewster of World Vision Canada together designed a two-day course on facilitation and they deliberately structured it to allow participants with ample time for reflection and work. Jeanette says:

In the past few workshops I have taught, I learned “the power of less”. By having less packed days with fewer learning tasks, there was more time for deeper dialogue, tougher questions, and more profound personal application. There was space and time for the mystery and magic of learning. In fact, I even felt “the sacred” in the learning event: when people were truly moved by the learning and sharing, when time and space seemed to shift and be unnoticed, when people slowed down and noticed the details (which we often take for granted). Beauty entered these workshops in a way that has changed my teaching practice.

The second story was from Bert Troughton of the ASPCA. Bert and her team did a two-day staff retreat with only three objectives! They allowed long lunches and ample breaks. Bert says:

It was the most spacious agenda we ever developed. We walked away fully satisfied, mission accomplished, and ready to implement. What's more, we have implemented!

If you’re looking to streamline your life, or your curriculum, or the pace of your work day, check out Leo Babauta’s book The Power of Less. In a nutshell (and to illustrate the point), Leo shows you how to “identify what’s essential” and “eliminate what’s left.” How has less helped you accomplish more?

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Active Learning: Teaching without Talking

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Geoff Petty has a lovely accent and offers a wealth of information and resources on his website www.geoffpetty.com and through the website called Teachers Toolbox: http://www.teacherstoolbox.co.uk (Cambridge Regional College, UK). While most of the research he refers to and teaches about is focused upon young persons, most is also appropriate for adult-learning. I especially enjoyed the videos and connected materials on constructivism, teaching without talking and best of all his "spin" on feedback (formative assessment). Dr. Petty has leveraged the work of Black and William's research. A brief introduction to this research can be found in this video and you will find many additional materials as well. Enjoy!!

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