Link to a new blog

Hi all,

I don’t know what I was thinking…starting a new edublog blog.  I’ve hopped over to blogger, primarily for its ease of embedding and it’s color options that seem to be missing on this blog (but oddly present on my old blog…hmmm…and the source of my new blog’s name)  Anyhow, I hope you can join me, for a schizophrenic discussion of calculus, Katharine Hepburn, Vannevar Bush and Dora the Explorer.

Hope to see you there

Embracing the Table

Classes started last week and in usual fashion, I’ve already thrown myself into the deep end of the reflection pool.  On Monday in Constructivist Inquiry, I learned that there is no external world and that even the table is not real.  By Tuesday night, I had learned that research was value-less and related to an external, generalizable reality.  But let me go back to Monday for a moment…I’m all for subjectivism and personal filters for the interpretation of reality, but even Merleau-Ponty said there was an external world, albeit it was in existence for us (and not the other way around), but still…come on, people, whatever you might want to call it or experience it as, the essence of the table does exist outside of ourselves.

The blanket acceptance of wildly relativistic relativism that my classmates exhibited in Monday’s class (and the condescending pity for my un-enlightenment that accompanied it) sent me on a wild ride for the rest of the week.  My past training as a positivist raged to the forefront in profound and obvious ways.  During an ice-breaker activity for another class (a cookie taste test—how original!), I found myself operationalizing “richness” for a rubric I quickly created that included the amount of fat staining that a cookie produced on a piece of paper.  That night, I dreamed of the comforting feel of a well-calibrated micropipette in my hand.

Wow. What did it all mean?

So, here it is…I never really rejected positivism the way I’ve been telling myself I did…I only suppressed it.  Not only is suppression uncomfortable but it stands in the way of being really good at whatever it is that you think you are becoming.  And it encourages shame of prior activities—whatever it is you are rejecting.

Recently I’ve been taking all these classes related to non-Western thought and qualitative research and the teachers make it sound so great…Hooray for non-linear thinking and postmodernism and boo to the linear and the modern.  If anything, I am led to believe I am handicapped by my success in the hierarchical and Western world of medicine.

At least that’s the way I have felt, until now.

You know, linear and positivist thought has its place, just as the circular and postmodern has its place.  And it’s ok to like order, and it’s ok to be good at creating structure.  It’s time to embrace my Western tradition but with an appreciation and recognition for the non-Western.

So how is this related to our discussion of CoI last week?

We discussed last week that thinking is not linear in the way it has been treated by researchers who are using the practical inquiry model as a way of measuring cognitive presence.  Well, I’m not sure that linear thinking is so inaccurate for some of us.  I suspect I am very linear and that PI does a pretty good job of capturing me.  And so for western students, I’m not sure the PI model is such a bad thing, as long as the researchers know what they are doing.  Why not find some nonlinear models of learning and see if they provide similar results to the PI model?  Do those models exist?

We also discussed how teaching presence is conveyed in the CTE.  I’ll skip all the details in this blog, but an assumption was made that professors know how to create their own social presence (the social presence of the teacher—not to be confused with social presence within the class) within the class.  Why do we assume that?  There are entire books written on the subject—I’m thinking Stephen Brookfield, Parker Palmer (“Courage to Teach”).  If you don’t have the vocational identity of “teacher” then you don’t necessarily have an underlying philosophy of creating social presence in your class and Parker Palmer wouldn’t have had a book to write.  So what about all those faculty who are chemists first and professors second?  Don’t we owe it to them to check in on how they feel about their social presence?  We need to de-mystify the art and science of teaching because it shouldn’t be an assumed thing, just like linear thinking shouldn’t be assumed.  Just like western OR non-western philosophy shouldn’t be assumed.

That’s it.

Inspiration, page 7

New Beginnings


Inspiration, page 7Well of course it’s new…it’s a beginning.

I’m involved in a workgroup which has tasked itself to investigate Community of Inquiry (CoI)…a CoI on CoI if you will.  For an eloquent and brief description of CoI, visit Britt Watwood’s blog.  But as I sat in the workgroup meeting–the newest team member and a student at that–I was a little overwhelmed.  With all these creatively thinking content matter experts in the room, what could I possibly contribute?

I have always believed that inactivity in the workplace is the surest path to a crises of self confidence, so I have to do SOMETHING, even if it’s just actively listening.  It doesn’t take a content matter expert to summarize what everyone else says, and the summation can be useful–essential, even.  So that’s what I did: a pictorial image of the meeting minutes.

I didn’t spend a lot of time on this, folks.  Maybe an hour of concentrated effort.  But why waste my time?  Was/Is it useful?  The entire time I was drawing I had to keep pushing back the doubt–was this just another form of playing?

I kept returning to something the big boss, Gardner Campbell said to me earlier this week.  He had stopped by my office to be friendly (as all big bosses should do with fellows or interns or students–in all my stints in higher education I’m always surprised at how many don’t). We were talking about the personal doubt or even despair that inevitably occurs when someone is doing the good and necessary work.  Part of his message was to not be afraid of loitering…occasionally you need to loiter in ideas much longer than appears necessary at first glance.  He used the example of the doctors who don’t loiter when talking with their patients–when they don’t loiter, they often miss the real diagnosis or problem.  I had to laugh (inwardly) at that example–that sort of loitering had the linchpin to my vocational identity as a physician–he was preaching to the choir in a way that I connected with so closely that it almost hurt.  The day I was too burned out to loiter with a patient was the day I knew quitting was the morally responsible thing to do.

But somehow, loitering outside of that one particular context has always been difficult for me, probably because I have yet to adopt it as a linchpin to the vocational identity of STUDENT.  There has been little moss growing on this particular stone.  Hmmm, I should get rolling on that–moss-growing, that is.

And, on top of everything, how can a picture be meaningful in a professional setting at all?  Something like this would get laughed out of a meeting in the medical world (my husband laughed at it before he felt bad and stopped laughing).  I’m still trying to figure out if it’s worth sharing with anyone beyond my kids.

So what does this picture tell me about CoI that I can’t get from Britt’s excellent textual summation?  What is my subconscious trying to tell me?

1.  The cows have a satellite dish on their barn because otherwise it felt a little too isolated for an image about CoI.  Is our small workgroup too isolated?  Should we be including others sooner rather than later?

2.  Any allusion to want to give to the beehive, well, go for it…all the ones I have come up with so far work.  Busy bees, socially-based work ethic, kicking the hornet’s nest in several different ways–two examples of nest kicking: (1) attempting to change our culture (teachers and students) to be open to facilitated learning and true learning communities; (2) critiquing CoI when it is so enormously popular and there’s a lot of buy-in…

3.  The rocky foundations under the tree–there’s so much to critique with CoI…particularly the assessment aspect of it. What kind of outcome is perceived learning–I don’t agree that it is the best way to measure community.  But then, what is “deep and meaningful learning”? Oh, Ausebel, what have you given us?

4.  Clear blue sky–so many ripe opportunities for research and publications

5.  This picture is set in Greece (so maybe those should be goats, not cows).  Birthplace of democracy, anyone?

We touched on all those things in the meeting–yes, I think I got the entire meeting in the picture.  So until I feel like I can do more, at least I can be the reporter :).

Cheers, guys.