Choosing to Teach: NotesFromNina

Back in November 2013, as we were driving home to Statesboro after attending a conference in Atlanta, my very good friend Joe and I passed a few hours along I-75 (and later I-16) talking about the current state of learning in Georgia and the rest of the nation. We lamented about the U.S. educational system’s preoccupation with standardized tests and other stumbling blocks to engaging, worthwhile learning for students. As we sped along on our way, the two of us decided that in 2014 we would do what we could to help people–students, teachers, parents, anyone really–learn how to learn.

To bring our goal to fruition, Joe and I decided to think about learning and teaching with a beginner’s mind. Though both of us know and use a great deal of technology and digital resources, we decided to begin our quest with a thoughtful exploration of the qualities of sound, meaningful instruction. In my search for enlightening resources about designing meaningful learning I was fortunate to find Nina Smith‘s blog, NotesFromNina. In particular, I found Nina’s presentation, Meaningful Learning and Teaching (one of  How to Improve Learning presentations) to be fascinating and helpful. Lately, I have been reading and re-reading Pasi Sahlberg’s book, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? so coming across Nina’s work just served to whet my appetite for another Finnish educator’s views. In fact, I am very excited about reading her own book, Choosing How to Teach.

Feedback Frenzy

I am still carefully crawling through John Hattie and Helen Timperley‘s (2007) article, the Power of Feedback and tweeting the nuggets of wisdom I find. I have found much to share as Hattie and Timperley’s article is extremely well-written and brimming with best practices. My intent is to mindfully absorb this research and apply the authors’ advice in my work with university students.

One of the first steps I’ll be taking is reviewing the goals and objectives for the course. I want to make sure that what I think the students should master is worthy of their time and attention. I thought I did a fair job of selecting and explaining learning goals when I revised my course over the summer. Even so, I think revisiting the course goals again will benefit my learners. I will be focusing on whether our  proposed learning experiences offer specific and challenging goals.


Crawling Back

I’m trying to get back into the habit of blogging.

I know I can do it. I just have to keep at it.

In a way, this experience is somewhat humorous to me. I find it funny that I am having to make myself take what spare minutes I can scavenge out of the day and write. There was a point in my life when composing a few lines for a blog was easy. In fact, at one point (about seven years ago), I was something of a blogging maniac. Of course, back then, I was in a magical place, a Camelot of sorts, where all manner of magical content seemed to appear before me and I had time to write.

These days, I have so many commitments vying for my attention that I feel guilty about stepping away to blog. Even so, I am going to do it. I know that reflecting upon what I am discovering and learning matters. Writing like this is akin to coming back to exercise after an absence from physical activity. Initially, there’s little pleasure in the process but over time that will change.

In addition to blogging again, I am also using of Twitter. As I am reading and re-reading Classroom Instruction That Works : Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd Edition) by Ceri B. Dean, Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, and Howard Pitler, I am delving deeper into the research cited by the authors and tweeting what I find to be most enlightening. I am hoping that anyone who follows my tweets will benefit as well. Having to condense my thoughts down to 140 character summaries is maddening and, strangely enough, addictive.

Book Report

I am grateful that my wife is so understanding. Though I am an insatiable bibliophile, she tolerates my frequent book buying binges. Even so, during my latest lapse into literary licentiousness, I promised my spouse that I would do more than just purchase, voraciously read, and toss aside my acquisitions. I gave her my word that I would dutifully blog about each of my books. Here are the books that I hope will help me become a little wiser.

I’ll be posting my discoveries/insights here as I work my way through each book.

Mind42: Digital Citizen Qualites Concept Map

I’ve been participating in Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) and have benefited greatly from the experience. As I work through the challenges in the P2PU courses, I blog my experiences in a journal-specific blog called The Visitor. My most recent challenge, Badge Maker, has me thinking about developing and using badges. I want to create badges as a means of helping people develop qualities that will guide them into becoming the kind of citizens that help a digital community prosper.

I intend to produce a digital course in which participants acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for entering, acclimating to, and supporting reputable online communities. As they learn what they (at least in my opinion) need to know and do, they will be able to earn badges that attest to their mastery and progress. I order to help me reflect upon and hone my own thinking about what participants must understand and apply, I went looking for an easy-to-use, web-based concept map generator.

Although I know of and use a number or concept-mapping/mind-mapping resources and tools (Cacoo, Cmap Tools, FreeMind, Inspiration, LucidchartMindomo, Mindmeister, Text2Mindmap, Tufts University’s Visual Understanding Environment/VUE, to name a few ), I eventually settled on Mind42. I’m hoping that, as I progress through the P2PU’s Badge Maker challenges, my concept map will help me flesh out my thoughts and insights.

This image is a link to a concept map housed at Mind42. It is guiding my badge creation thinking.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what I created with Mind42. One of the aspects of Mind42 that I really liked was that (in addition to offering so many features for free) the service allows me to export my work out to a number of formats (as a FreeMind version, a PDF, as well as a PNG).

Creative Commons License
Concept Map: Qualities of Digital Citizens by Jeff Giddens is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at: