Category Archives: Production Centered

Connected Learning Principle

Divided Attention

9780674368248I’m reading Minds online: teaching effectively with technology by Michelle Miller, recommended by several colleagues and reviewed here by Harvard Press.

I’ve read as far as the chapter on Attention – the capacity to pick out and maintain task-relevant information while holding irrelevant information at bay. We know human perception and attention is highly intertwined with visual processing. Looking and seeing are not the same! Our attention capacity is limited, probably more than we recognize. We have surprisingly little intuitive awareness of when our limitations are exceeded, which is why we still talk on the phone and drive.

We remember very little in the absence of focused attention. Since focused attention directs what is to be kept in our working memory, it heavily influences what we remember, and without it, we remember precious little.  We do process material at some level even when ignoring it but little or none of it makes it to memory.

This YouTube video is an example of how she demonstrates change blindness and inattentional blindness to show students how much attention matters.

Michelle Miller gives several strategies that may help online learners.  I’ve summarized several of them here:

  1. Keep them engaged by asking questions. Ask students to respond as often as possible to the material they’re reading/viewing to keep attention. Intersperse questions within reading material that require an answer, opinion, or example. Do the same with narrated slides or a video lecture.
  2. Practice for Automaticity. Provide unlimited practice that gives automatic feedback for the kind of lower level problems experts solve quickly. Both time and accuracy count with grade incentives.
  3. Lessen Cognitive Load. Put instructions in the same place as the activity. Don’t make them switch back and forth between instructions, illustrations, and text. Use diagrams with labels in place. Teach software skills before using it to do an assignment. For example, have students practice using a wiki before a major assignment using this shared space is due.
  4. Discourage divided attention. Remind students that divided attention by dysfunctional multitasking costs them time and deep learning. Let them know that the distractions of a quick email or message chat changes their focus from the learning activity.
  5. A short walk in nature restores the ability to focus nature walk'sattentions. Even pictures of nature can sometimes improve attention…

In an online environment, it’s easy for students to be distracted so help them focus by using some of these strategies.

The following is an interview with the author, from Teaching in Higher Ed

Network a Shared Experience of Creating Together

…the importance of doing things together, the lip-dub project. It’s one thing to have all the tweeting and commenting, but quite another to have this shared experience of creating together.
It’s pretty simple. And yet so rarely done.  Reply to a post by Alan Levine (@cogdog)


Waag Society Do it together bio. Home grown bio paper and ink.

Waag Society Do it together bio. Home grown bio paper and ink.

And not a new concept. We know shared creating establishes learning more deeply.

Community-centered: Community-centered environments foster norms for people learning from one another, and continually attempting to improve. In such a community, students are encouraged to be active, constructive participants. Further, they are encouraged to make—and then learn from—mistakes. Intellectual camaraderie fosters support, challenge and collaboration. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School  John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown and Rodney R. Cocking, editors. National Academies Press; 1st edition (September 15, 2000)

So what’s different with the Connected Learning Principles we’ve been sharing, learning, discussing? How can they make community building in our (online and f2f) classrooms a reality? Shared Purpose. Interest Powered. Production Centered. Peer supported. = DO TOGETHER.

Openly Networked Community of learners connected to Open Educational Resources is the new possibility communication technologies and multimedia brings us. Students reflecting about their intriguing questions with those researchers who are developing the related knowledge, facilitated by teachers who make the connections. How do we “make together” in an online connected network of people not in the same physical place?

Pretty simple. ??

Certainly worth doing… We have some examples of students writing magazines together in a syndicated site; diagramming blood paths within biological systems on a digital whiteboard; researchers building shared databases of data; …

What can you imagine being openly networked will do for your students?

Gives Prompt Feedback

Getting feedback on a performance feels great if it’s positive.

“Gives Prompt Feedback” is one of the Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (Chickering & Gamson, 1987)

Knowing what you know and don’t know focuses learning. Students need appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from courses. When getting started, students need help in assessing existing knowledge and competence. In classes, students need frequent opportunities to perform and receive suggestions for improvement. At various points during college, and at the end, students need chances to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know, and how to assess themselves.

Providing ways for students to assess their own work and the work of their peers would help them learn to critique and understand the critiquing process. Peer/self assessment won’t always replace feedback from an expert but it can certainly be helpful to use specific criteria and focus questions when learning the process of evaluating your own work compared to others.

What is a simple way to present these criteria and questions for students to use? Forms could work. I’m searching for good questions. I’m also wondering if the feedback given would help other students if it were available? Open assessment feedback is a larger question…

Why I Teach

Just listened to Mike Wesch’s question — Why we need a “Why?”   when we teach. I’ll attempt to describe my personal Why?

There was a time, decades past, when I was criticized because there was too much movement and talking in my classroom. I had moved my students’ desks out of rows and into groups so students could talk with each other (cooperative learning, serious play) about data and how they might represent it in graphs.

Even though it was messier and certainly noisier, I felt then that the students, especially the English Second Language students, were doing authentic problem solving and asking questions together — learning.  Connected Learning describes this principle as Peer supported. It involves curiosity and fun, shared purpose and doing. It was the conversation that made the difference — the conversation about why.

That was the year I purposely questioned my choice to teach as a profession. And decided I would continue to study teaching and learning. That was the same year they added a computer lab… It’s been an amazing journey and I’m pleased to be part of this current conversation that emphasizes the construction of knowledge by learners studying together.