Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What can we learn from video?

Annie Murphy Paul raises an intriguing question in a recent "Brilliant" post.


I'm not sure this is all there is to say, however. Decades of research into audio-vusual and multimedia learning have shown that images, both photographic and diagrammatic, cimematographic and animated, can convey cogntive lessons that stick. The domains of subject matter include mathematics and natural sciences as well as more practical realms, like how to re-string a guitar or perform electronic soldering.
It's interesting that we are awash with "learning" video these days, from the wonderful new PBS learning site to the Khan Academy online. Yet there is, as far as I can tell, no systematic coverage of all this activity in terms of a more general theoretical model. 

To pursue:

  • Journals?
  • The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia (updated)
  • Academic Texts

From Annie's Blog:

"TED talkers are nothing if not fluent. Could it be that the effective presentation of the speakers in TED-style videos fools us into thinking we’re learning more than we are? As someone who watches TED videos often, and who has given a TED talk herself, I’m biased. But I think there are good reasons to believe that these videos can be vehicles for genuine learning. Here, five ways that  well-made videos (including MOOCs and other kinds of digital instruction) can help us learn:
• They gratify our preference for visual learning. Effective presentations treat our visual sense as being integral to learning. This elevation of the image—and the eschewal of text-heavy Power Point presentations—comports well with cognitive scientists’ findings that we understand and remember pictures much better than mere words.
• They engage the power of social learning. The robust conversation that videos can inspire, both online and off, recognizes a central principle of adult education: We learn best from other people. In the discussions, debates, and occasional arguments about the content of the talks they see, video-watchers are deepening their own knowledge and understanding.
• They put practitioners in the role of teachers. We take in knowledge most readily, not when it’s presented in the abstract, but when it’s embedded in a rich context of stories and experiences. TED’s speakers are effective teachers because most of the time, they don’t teach; they do.
• They enable self-directed, “just-in-time” learning. Because video viewers choose which talks to watch and when to watch them, they’re able to tailor their education to their own needs. Knowledge is easiest to absorb at the moment when we’re ready to apply it.
• They encourage viewers to build on what they already know. Adults are not blank slates: They bring to learning a lifetime of previously acquired information and experience. Effective video instruction build on top of this knowledge, adding and elaborating without dumbing down.
It’s become fashionable to mock the distinctive style of TED videos; their success makes them a tempting target. But in a world in which we want—and need—to be learning all the time, they’re excellent arrows to have in our quiver. (An abstract and link to the Carpenter article can be found here.)"

More on Mentoring in DISD

Editorial writer William McKenzie  wrote on May 9th:

"As part of the mayor’s education push, why not create an I Tutor Dallas campaign? The city has initiatives built around biking, parks and the arts. Why not complement them with a new effort that mobilizes various parts of the city in helping schools intervene with struggling students?
I am not talking about random work or feel-good assignments. Rather, I am talking about a strategic campaign that draws upon some of the city’s best educational resources and experienced talent.
For example, SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development has experts who could perhaps advise schools, parents and volunteers in the most appropriate ways to help kids who are behind in, say, math. Simmons already is involved with DISD in trying to improve West Dallas schools, so they already have a relationship with the district."


I wrote to Gilbert Leal (gilbert@texasmedia3.com)  after seeing his editorial in the Monday DMN, calling for more involvement of the business community with DISD students. 

Massive programs may work, but what we are looking for here is a more modest effort, first just to find out if a "proximate mentor" is really any better than a standard approach, and whether we can find and employ them in a useful manner. We also are concerned that all this avoids a "boxcar syndrome" where teachers view it as another add-on to the already overburdened school day and curriculum. 

We also need to look at the power of explanatory style on school and career. If Martin Seligman ( Learned Optimism, 1990) is right, we can identify children more likely to profit from special attention (those try- and try-again optimists), and even more powerfully, perhaps we can teach kids optimism to the extent that it changes their school performance. 

Last week, we met Marilen Mendez, a working young architect of Puerto Rican background, who expressed interest in what we are thinking about at Trini Garza. She referred us on to Clemente Jacquez, a colleague in the Dallas AIA who heads up a Latino group there. 

I called Vince Reyes, Director of Instruction at DISD and asked for a meeting. I'll get his take on our idea and see what else may be in play within the district.

The next step is to meet with the TGECHS faculty next week, and present the idea to them. One obvious question: to what extent are they already tapping to to the resource right there at their feet-- the collegians of the Mountain View Campus? If yes, how is it working, if no, why not? Another important issue to look into is how the teachers see their kids now, and explore what they need in terms of problem-solving and self-management strategies. The "presenting problem" from the Principal, Dr. Lombardi, was, of course, not for mentoring, but more specific training in project management. We have to start from that point, it seems to me. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

What if we turned "mentoring" on its head?

(notes towards a new high school mentoring program)

What if we:

Put students in a more active role?
We know that having the learners’ take an active role is pedagogically superior to taking a passive one. Instead of a traditional career night, perhaps a better idea is having the students "interview" a professional or career person. The instructional task then becomes teaching them to conduct an interview.

Reached beyond stereotypical career targets?
Clearly, most of the students, when asked about what they want to be when they grow up will give answers like doctor or lawyer or “neo-natal nurse” These are essentially career stereotypes. Neither they, nor we can know what jobs might be there in 20 years. Why premise our work on stereotypes? Instead of focusing on “aspirational jobs” (lawyer, surgeon, rock star, etc.) should be not focus on aspirational people?

Saw mentors as both proximate and distal aspirational figures?
Instead of just established professionals, what if some mentors were only a few years older than the mentees? We might better find mentors who are as much like the students as possible--in race, culture, economics, and age. Sure, a 40-year old thoracic surgeon would be a terrific interview, but how about a 22-year old college student who will actually graduate in 4 years (as only a small percentage of most Texas collegians and an even tinier number of non-traditional and 1st-gens do)?

Created a path from showcasing success stories to real mentoring?
Much may be learned in a one-shot event, but a real mentor/protege relationship cannot be planned. Provide for mutual election. Hold formative events. Host a summative event later, a "cocktail party" (with iced tea and cheese) where the semester's mentors can come back and mingle with the students less formally. Prepare sts. with networking tips and suggest specific ways for mentors to follow up.

Reflected on what we think we are teaching and what we are actually communicating?
Is it reasonable to expect a student to adopt the goal of being, say, a thoracic surgeon? Instead of focusing on “what I will be when I grow up”, what if we acknowledged that most of us (even the very successful ones ) had no idea we’d be by now? Life is so random. Instead of focusing on long-term career goals, what if we focused on shorter- term or intermediate goals at first? Finishing college in 4 or 5, not dropping out? Not getting pregnant? Perhaps too, what we really want to get the students thinking about is how successful people solve problems and organize themselves for their work--a more general and perhaps more transferable idea.

And more deeply still....while we are doing project-management perhaps we can convey certain determinative social and non cognitive learnings: that successful people are not just talented, but persistent, not lucky but plucky. This effort will die if it is just another add-on. What if we came up with a mentoring process somehow integrated into the school curriculum? We do not believe that class is destiny. From Martin Seligman and Paul Tough we have learned that qualities like grit, persistence, and optimism are what really lie at the core of success, and they are learnable. How do we teach student to re-narratize their life experience so far, and prepare them for the inevitable adversity to come?

(The dark matter of education may be those social skills and non-cognitive elements (like learning how to look at someone, shake their hand and  introduce yourself) that middle-and upper class kids are steeped in from birth. Perhaps the task at Garza is to help students "catch up" with 
some of these social and non-cognitive skills? Janice Lombardi has done this already by teaching her students how to make a proposal, requiring them to think about time horizons more than just a day away. )

Applied new metaphors to bridge experiential and cultural gaps?
We know that all knowledge and cognition begins with embodied experience.  All children bring with them a different set of such experiences, which provide metaphorical scaffolding for abstract concepts. They can learn anything if they begin from this solid ground.

Are we just adding another "boxcar"to the freight train? Can we fold this into what the schools are already doing?
Instead of this being another add-on program, (further burdening teachers and risking burning out the limited volunteer resources available, what if we came up with a mentoring process that was somehow fully integrated into the school curriculum? (like a gallon of water will disappear into a bucket of sand) How do we get this in the everydayness of school? On the (existing) clock and on calendar? Can we somehow come up with a sustainable & replicable process for learning optimism?

  • The process we teach will be one of interviewing, or inquiry.
  • The content will be time and resource management, (more deeply, it may be explanatory style as self-management).
  • The activity will be an interview process with preparation before and reflection after.
  • The goal is to change the way in which students explain their experience to themselves, form goals, and develop optimism.
(below, from abridged Wikipedia entry on Mentorship)

The person in receipt of mentorship may be referred to as a protégé (male), a protégée (female), an apprentice or, in recent years, a mentee.Mentorship is a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. However, true mentoring is more than just answering occasional questions or providing ad hoc help. It is about an ongoing relationship of learning, dialog, and challenge.
"Mentoring" is a process that always involves communication and is relationship based, but its precise definition is elusive. One definition of the many that have been proposed, is
Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)".[1]
Mentoring in Europe has existed since at least Ancient Greek times. Since the 1970s it has spread in the United States of America mainly in training contexts[2] and it has been described as "an innovation in American management".[3]

Historical [edit]

The roots of the practice are lost in antiquity. The word itself was inspired by the character of Mentor in Homer's Odyssey. Though the actual Mentor in the story is a somewhat ineffective old man, the goddess Athena takes on his appearance in order to guide young Telemachus in his time of difficulty.
Historically significant systems of mentorship include traditional Greek pederasty, the guru - disciple tradition practiced in Hinduism and BuddhismElders, the discipleship system practiced by Rabbinical Judaism and the Christian church, and apprenticing under the medieval guild system.

Mentoring techniques [edit]

The focus of mentoring is to develop the whole person and so the techniques are broad and require wisdom in order to be used appropriately.[4]
A 1995 study of mentoring techniques most commonly used in business[5] found that the five most commonly used techniques among mentors were:
  1. Accompanying: making a commitment in a caring way, which involves taking part in the learning process side-by-side with the learner.
  2. Sowing: mentors are often confronted with the difficulty of preparing the learner before he or she is ready to change. Sowing is necessary when you know that what you say may not be understood or even acceptable to learners at first but will make sense and have value to the mentee when the situation requires it.
  3. Catalyzing: when change reaches a critical level of pressure, learning can escalate. Here the mentor chooses to plunge the learner right into change, provoking a different way of thinking, a change in identity or a re-ordering of values.
  4. Showing: this is making something understandable, or using your own example to demonstrate a skill or activity. You show what you are talking about, you show by your own behavior.
  5. Harvesting: here the mentor focuses on "picking the ripe fruit": it is usually used to create awareness of what was learned by experience and to draw conclusions. The key questions here are: "What have you learned?", "How useful is it?".
Different techniques may be used by mentors according to the situation and the mindset of the mentee, and the techniques used in modern organizations can be found in ancient education systems, from the Socratic technique of harvesting to the accompaniment method of learning used in the apprenticeship of itinerant cathedral builders during the Middle Ages.[5] Leadership authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner[6] advise mentors to look for "teachable moments" in order to "expand or realize the potentialities of the people in the organizations they lead" and underline that personal credibility is as essential to quality mentoring as skill.

Typology [edit]

There are formal mentoring programs that are values-oriented, while social mentoring and other types focus specifically on career development. ...There are two broad types of mentoring relationships: formal and informal. Informal relationships develop on their own between partners. Formal mentoring, on the other hand, refers to a structured process supported by the organization and addressed to target populations. Youth mentoring programs assist at-risk children or youth who lack role models and sponsors. In business, formal mentoring is part of talent management addressed to populations such as key employees, newly hired graduates, high potentials and future leaders.
....There are many kinds of mentoring relationships from school or community-based relationships to e-mentoring relationships. These mentoring relationships vary and can be influenced by the type of mentoring relationship that is in effect. That is whether it has come about as a formal or informal relationship. Also there are several models have been used to describe and examine the sub-relationships that can emerge. For example, Buell describes how mentoring relationships can develop under a cloning model, nurturing model, friendship model and apprenticeship model. The cloning model is about the mentor trying to "produce a duplicate copy of him or her self." The nurturing model takes more of a "parent figure, creating a safe, open environment in which mentee can both learn and try things for him-or herself." The friendship model are more peers "rather than being involved in a hierarchical relationship." Lastly, the apprenticeship is about less "personal or social aspects... and the professional relationship is the sole focus".[8]

Contemporary research and practice in the US [edit]

Research in the 1970s, partly in response to a study by Daniel Levinson,[9] led some women and African Americans to question whether the classic "white male" model was available or customary for people who are newcomers in traditionally white male organizations. In 1978 Edgar Schein described multiple roles for successful mentors.[10][clarification needed]
Two of Schein's students, Davis and Garrison, undertook to study successful leaders of both genders and at least two races. Their research presented evidence for the roles of: cheerleader, coach, confidant, counsellor, developer of talent, "griot" (oral historian for the organization or profession), guardian, guru, inspiration, master, "opener of doors", patron, role model, pioneer, "seminal source", "successful leader", and teacher.[11] They described multiple mentoring practices which have since been given the name of "mosaic mentoring" to distinguish this kind of mentoring from the single mentor approach.
Mosaic mentoring is based on the concept that almost everyone can perform one or another function well for someone else — and also can learn along one of these lines from someone else. The model is seen as useful for people who are "non-traditional" in a traditional setting, such as people of color and women in a traditionally white male organization. The idea has been well received in medical education literature.[12] There are also mosaic mentoring programs in various faith-based organizations.[citation needed]

(mutual election)
... Bullis describes the mentoring process in the forms of phase models. Initially, the "mentee proves himself or herself worthy of the mentor's time and energy". Then cultivation occurs which includes the actual "coaching...a strong interpersonal bond between mentor and mentee develops". Next, under the phase of separation "the mentee experiences more autonomy". Ultimately, there is more of equality in the relationship, termed by Bullis as Redefinition.[16]

Matching mentors and mentees
Mentees are matched with mentors by a designated mentoring committee or mentoring administrator usually consisting of senior members of the Training, Learning and Development and Human Resources departments. The matching committee reviews the mentoring profiles and makes matches based on areas for development, mentor strengths, overall experience, skill set, location and objectives for the mentorship. Mentoring technology can be used to facilitate matches allowing mentees to search and select a mentor based on their own development needs and interests. This mentee-driven methodology increases the speed in which matches are created and reduces the amount of administrative time required to manage the program.[17] The quality of matches increases as well with self-match programs because the greater the involvement of the mentee in the selection of their mentor, the better the outcome of the mentorship.[18] There are a variety of online mentoring technology programs available that can be utilized to facilitate this mentee-driven matching process.

Mentorship in education [edit]

In many secondary and post-secondary schools, mentorship programs are offered to support students in program completion, confidence building and transitioning to further education or the workforce. There are also many peer mentoring programs designed specifically to bring under-represented populations into science and engineering.[citation needed]

Blended mentoring [edit]

The blended mentoring is a mix of on-site and online events, projected to give to career counselling and development services the opportunity to adopt mentoring in their ordinary practice.


Story on a Stamp

It's a story on a stamp.

Well, it's not a story, but a comment about the nature of cities as collections of stories.

I find a number of things of interest here:

1. That the author is a flaneur. The city is to be known by walking it. A cyclist can be a flaneur too. This idea needs to be brought back to life and applied to discussions of placemaking, public art, and urban life.

2. But how do I access its stories as I walk? Where, and how might we actually inscribe stories into the very streets and buildings--in a publicly accessible manner? What if stories were related by a kind of street actor, or interpreter? (We will never forget our wonderful guide in the Berlin Insider Tour in 2011.) They could be media objects, and the street could be a guided tour on one's cellphone. What if they were steganography?

3. The "space" for the story is the size of a stamp--a small, but arguably high-value space (at $63 a square foot, right now, and microprinting adds value!). That the publication of one's literary work on a stamp was a prize. This might be a way to give voice to the young, and stimulate new talent. This is replicable.

4. OK, so it's not a story. It's a paradigmatic statement instead. Is there not room for both? Perhaps, but stories are more accessible.

Here it is:

"The 60c stamp was commissioned to celebrate Dublin’s permanent designation as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010. It was unveiled at Roddy Doyle’s Fighting Words Centre earlier today.
Designed by the Stone Twins, two Amsterdam-based Irish designers, the bright yellow rectangle includes all 224 words of Eoin Moore’s short story which strives to capture the “essence” of the capital. It was chosen from a host of works completed by participants in Dublin’s Fighting Words’ creative writing programme."

Here is 17 year old Eoin’s observation in full:
The thick clouds cover up the moonlight, but the city’s lights provide worthwhile illumination – above them all, the beacon burns bright atop the monolithic podium, signalling to wayfaring voyages the ancient Viking settlement.  Now, where Norsemen once stood, I look back, along the quays, streets and alleys, to where the inhabitants live their lives: eating, speaking, and breathing their city into existence.  It gives me cause to wonder, as I stroll aimlessly along the cobbled paths, about those who have traversed them before me, by carriage or before there were even cobbles to walk upon.  I feel their lives and mine are somehow connected, that we all were at one point a part of this city, living pieces of its grand, striking framework.   Every High King and scholar, every playwright and poet, every politician and every rebel, every merchant, student, and busker who ever set foot in the city holds or held onto a chunk of this city’s soul; every one of them stepped to the city’s heartbeat.  I listen to the streets at night and I can feel the city’s lifeblood pumping through me; I can feel myself flowing through it.  All of us who travel those arteries step on the words, actions, and lives of those who travelled them before us. The city embodies the people, and the people embody the city.