Wow, has it really been that long since I posted? I won’t even try to write an excuse. ….
Yesterday I enjoyed another of those amazing serendipitous ‘learning from my Twitter network’ moments when someone (I don’t recall exactly who) posted a link to the live stream of Kathy Sierra’s keynote at the New Media Consortium’s Summer 2009 conference in Monterey. (MANY thanks to the thoughtful people who make such streams happen).
Let me explain this. I am in South Carolina and place bound at the moment because of deep budget restrictions the result of the current and ongoing economic downturn. I am NOT able to travel to conferences. I relish the opportunity to join conferences via live connections whenever possible (I have done so on at least 4 different occasions in the last 10 days alone). Those who care enough to push out a stream from a conference make participation possible for people like me. And the added perk of such streams has been that along with the actual keynote presentation there is usually a Twitter backchannel going that includes face-to-face conference participants along with virtual attendees (like me) mixing it up together… about the ideas in the presentations – and (BIG PERK- sharing resources with one another). Sharing live from literally around the globe (one conference I tuned in to last week included participants from at least 3 different continents). Yet another benefit is the opportunity to add like-minded folks to my network via the contact in the backchannel. Do I love my twitter network? You bet I do. (See an earlier post).
But, I digress. The main point of this post is to share my thinking/notes from Kathy Sierra’s presentation. I am one of over 13,000 folks following @KathySierra on Twitter. I know a little about her background. You can look her up to learn more about her (in fact, I challenge you to do so). Admittedly her presentation was not specifically tailored for an audience of academics/educators. However, even though I did not hear the entire presentation (I ran across the streaming link in Twitter after the session started) I found much of what she had to say very meaningful to me and helpful in (re)considering my student/classroom/teaching relations as I approach my fall course planning.
So here goes (Know that I am paraphrasing here and remixing into how I make meaning of what she said. I am not claiming to render a verbatim transcription. If you want to hear her directly, follow links from the NMC Summer 2009 Conference Page to a couple of her past presentations. Also, I’d suggest you visit @GardnerCampbell’s blog GardnerWrites for his take Kathy Sierra Lives.)
- Focus on what users do not what you do. Okay, so for me in teaching this is the whole idea of focusing on what students are learning more than (or at least as much as) what I am teaching. And…this moves us on to the corollary that if I don’t do this there is the unavoidable ‘I taught it, why didn’t they learn it’ quandary.
- Give users superpowers quickly. Hmmm. How to give students ‘superpowers’? What does this mean? Well, I am still chewing on this one, but I think it can mean that it is important to help students feel successful in their learning as early on as possible. That could take many forms. It might be early success with grading. It might be the simple positive comments in response to effort at learning/engaging.
- Don’t focus on X, ask what X is a subset of. Here I am interpreting X to be content. So, don’t focus on content, but what the course content a part is of. I teaching nursing courses, so how does nursing fit into the larger healthcare picture? More specifically, how does the use of technology by nurses fit into the broader arena of health care information technology? Of course that is not all there is to learn about information/technology literacy for nurses, but context-building should certainly be a frame for the details.
- Always be practicing/create a culture of practice. It is important to build in opportunity for mastery experiences (I am a Bandura fan, but that’s another post). This takes thoughtful consideration and won’t happen if the emphasis is on content coverage. It means that the teacher is also a learner – alongside students – practicing learning in a shared spirit of inquiry.
- Remember (and I like this one best) that how you make them feel = how they feel about you. Sierra talked about ‘militantly enforcing’ niceness. Are people comfortable asking questions? Oh, how I wish I had thought of that when I was a young teacher in the classroom trying to make my mark/prove how much I knew. I was not a nice person. I was difficult, hard-nosed, haughty, arrogant. My students had to endure my classes. I can’t imagine how miserable I made them feel. I hope I am all better now. These days I am working on how to make students in my online classes feel closeness with me in their learning endeavors – without face-to-face interactions.
- There are no dumb answers. (We’ve all heard there are no dumb questions). This shifts the perspective a bit…and points out that it is okay to be wrong sometimes. That comes along with learning alongside rather than ‘instructing’ from the front of the room.
- Make the right thing easy the hard thing difficult. I think that could be making learning/engaging easier and not learning/engaging more difficult. That is more of a challenge, especially when dealing with students who lack motivation and who might be satisfied with mediocrity.
There was more, but remember I am not after giving you a transcription…but my thoughts about some of the points presented. I appreciate the opportunity afforded through my PLN to reflect upon my own teaching practice once again using a bit different frame….and the opportunity that came along with to join in the conversation about same with colleagues from afar. Thanks Twitter!! So, back to the start of this post. If you aren’t tuned in to your community of professionals on Twitter you are missing a golden opportunity to connect. Give it a try. See what you’ll learn.