PIDP 3240 Discussion

I’ve just begun my second to last credit requirement for Vancouver Community College’s ‘Provincial Instructor’s Diploma Program’… course designation 3240, ‘The use of Media in the Classroom’. A few of my colleagues have already completed the entire program. In fact the guy in the office right next to mine is one of them. He completed 3240 and the capstone final video presentation of the program in the last semester before summer break of 2016. No doubt I’ll be visiting his office over the course of this course to ask his opinion on my submissions and to compare our respective experiences.

One very pleasant, though I suppose not unexpected, realization when I first began the PIDP program was the level of support from both VCC in general and the course conductors in particular. Rarely did any of my many questions sit there unanswered for more than a couple of days.

Living on the opposite side of the globe from Vancouver, in Doha Qatar, creates an obvious logistical problem for real time communication, but each of my instructors made the necessary effort to meet with me on Skype at times that might not have been the most convenient for them.

I am looking forward to this next course. I am confident that I will develop skills and learn things that will be particularly appropriate and applicable to my teaching style.

A Brief History of One Earthling

It has taken me 56 years and five months to get to this point in my life. It has been a fascinating journey though not one I would care to repeat. In 1977, after leaving the small northern Ontario town that I grew up, I forged a new life in another small town, this time in northern British Columbia. It was there that I got married, had a couple of babies, became an industrial electrician and discovered my life’s passion for skydiving.

After relocating to a medium sized town on beautiful Vancouver Island with my family, I discovered that I had an interest and affinity for teaching… for sharing my knowledge of electrical stuff, skydiving and guitar. In the ensuing years I added flying and snowboarding to my interests, signed up to play guitar with a 70’s classic rock band, and suffered through a profound personal tragedy.

These days I find myself living in the Middle East with my new bride, instructing an electrical program in a technical school. Travel has always fascinated me. It is a way of life for expats. The world is like a book. Not to experience it through travel is akin to being illiterate of the incredible cultural diversity on our small planet.

New Blog

August 26th, 2015

It remains to be seen if blogging will find its way into my daily or weekly routine. This particular blog (and my first one) will be devoted to my Provincial Instructors Diploma Program. I suppose I should click on a few buttons and figure out how this thing works.

August 27th, 2015

Had a productive Skype session with learning partner Sabrina Ngo. Our mutually agreed upon Trends and Roles topic for this unit will be on the controversial subject of ‘Inappropriate Sense of Entitlement with Millennial Students’.

August 29th, 2015

Set up the blog site with pictures and menus, playing around with a few different themes. Phase One of my second assignment in PIDP 3100 is complete. Now I just need to fill in the blanks and start working on the Trends and Roles content.

Sept 7th, 2015

Completed my portion of the Trends and Roles assignment. Will contact learning partner to set up a time for our mutual teaching/learning Skype session.

Quotes from ‘Adult Learning – Linking Theory and Practice’

Objective

 

“21st Century competencies include deep understanding, flexibility and the capacity to make creative connections and a range of so-called ‘soft skills’ ncluding good team-working.” (p. 4)

To me, the key word in this particular quote is ‘flexibility’. To be successful means to be truly unlimited in our approach to a career and to life in general and being able to use a variety of technology with confidence. Innovation and creativity and the ability to network effectively have always been key to achieving personal goals, but in this contemporary world these things have become absolutely essential skills. Flexibility means being multi-skilled. It means being instinctive in our approach and practiced in how to pull together this variety of skills. Flexibility means success.

To function effectively in today’s fast paced world, not only must one have the ability to adapt to changes in technology and communication, but must be prepared to continually adapt. In simple terms, continual adaptation is a way of life. Never has the familiar adage, ‘the only constant is change’ been more applicable.

Monitoring trends can be an effective tool to anticipate changes and be preemptive in our strategy at work or in life. Opportunity rarely comes knocking. Opportunity is most often created through being pro-active and always being conscious of the possibilities. A person who is ever vigilant and goal focused will already have the skill set required to take advantage of those opportunities and if some bit of knowledge is skill is missing, will not be afraid to do what it takes to seek it out.

Educational institutions naturally play a key role in preparing people for success, and this presents a very real challenge to modern day schools. Technology is advancing at such an accelerated rate that the information taught is often outdated before the learner completes his or her formal education. “Students need to be prepared as self-directed, lifelong learners ‘for jobs that do not yet exist, to use technologies that have not yet been invented, and to solve problems that we don’t even know are problems yet’” (Darling-Hammond et al., 2008, p.2).

The technical college that I am presently teaching was established only fifteen years ago to serve the very demanding and competitive oil and gas industry in the Middle East. Though it is very difficult if not impossible, to keep abreast of the ever changing technologies and requirements within industry, engineering programs are tasked with laying down a solid foundation and with encouraging flexibility and innovation.

 

References

Darling-Hammond, L., Barron, B., Pearson, P.D., Schoenfeld, A.H., Stage, E.K.,

Zimmerman, T.D., Cervetti, G. N., & Yilson, J. L. (2008), Powerful learning: What we

know about teaching for understanding. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Reflective

“an educated person is one who has learned how to learn… how to adapt and change.” (p. 31)

The “information society”, the modern day phenomenon we find ourselves very much a part of, was a natural and unstoppable development with the advent of the Internet. Virtually every morsel of information; every bit of knowledge, is available to us whenever we want it, on portable devices that we all carry around in our pockets. The world has changed dramatically in the last few decades, in ways that no one could possibly have predicted fifty years ago.

The high school I graduated from in the late 70’s had a refrigerator sized metal box in the middle of a classroom. This monstrosity, we were told, was called a computer and represented the wave of the future. Though the Internet had its roots in the development of packet transfer networks in various labs throughout the seventies, the World Wide Web had yet to established. In fact the leading edge, game changing technology that was being developed in the seventies could not possibly have been known about in my high school. I doubt that the Computer Science teacher had any sense of what was to come, if he was even aware of the technology being developed.

There was at the time, a general sense that this new invention called a computer would be very important somehow, but I personally found it hard to relate to. I wasn’t even remotely interested in punching holes in a specified pattern on to a card that would then be input into the abstract metal refrigerator sized box to have it output another card with holes in different places. I chose typing over computer science as an elective in high school. There was no way of knowing at the time that typing would become the far more useful computer related skill. In the years to come, as advances in computers and Internet technology expanded, it became blatantly obvious that the world was on the verge of a dramatic change. It was also obvious that people whose formal education had already finished would not do well without continued self motivated and self directed study.

Knowledge and how it is disseminated has been continually changing for centuries, though extremely slowly. The conception of the computer and Internet would herald in a new era of change… and this would come to have huge implications in the way we do things… in the way we work and think. New and truly interesting opportunites would arise that would require new knowledge and skills. Quite suddenly there was motivation to learn. Quite suddenly we were forced to adapt and change.

In learning theory, self-directed, self-interested learning has a name. It is known as ‘Humanism’. With the advent of the computer and then the Internet and because of consequent changes in employment requirements and opportunities, people have been forced to change the way they learn. Educators have had to follow suit… to consider and find creative ways of implenting different and effective teaching philosophies.

I remember thinking upon my high school graduation that more than anything else my education up to that point was about teaching me how to learn. I couldn’t possibly have understood the significance of that realization at the time, though it has guided my adult life as far as learning is concerned. For many of us, learning is not limited to merely what one needs to change careers or advance in their present workplace. Self motivated learning has become, for a large percentage of the adult population, a way of life, allowing for and influencing a variety of leisurely interests as well.

Interpretive

“…tests and grades are anathema to andragogy, which assumes adults are capable of self-evaluating their own learning.” (p. 57/58)

Although I understand the intention of this quote by John Rachal and can accept it as being partially valid, I do not think we can consider it an all encompassing assessment of the validity or the inapposite use of testing for adult learners. There are just far too many factors involved for it to apply fully. The obvious examples of exceptions to this quote are when adults are required to take courses for employment or when there is an interest in pursuing higher education later on in life if a degree is desired.

To appreciate or understand the essence of this quote, one must look toward the essence of adragogy. As a rule adults learn because they choose to. As the adult compulsion to learn is generally driven by a self-motivated interest, evaluation is unnecessary. Testing may even be counter productive to adult learning because it might force the learner to spend time studying aspects of a given subject that have no relevance or interest. For instance a person might have an interest in learning about the sun and how it can burn so intensely and consistently for billions of years. This interest might stem from nothing other than a personal curiosity. There are of course, courses on Astronomy that would cover that specific topic within one chapter or unit, but most of a general Astronomy course would be on unrelated and superfluous material.

Let us define learning as the assimilation of new knowledge and then integrating it or referencing or supplementing it in some way with existing knowledge. Often learning involves the gathering of information from a variety of sources, or through reinforcing the same information in a variety of ways. Adult learning can take many different forms and come from many different places. It can be strictly regulated and formal as a doctorate degree would be or it can be very informal, as it would be learning something from a friend or through Internet research. If a person is curious about the inner workings of the sun for example and on their own volition reads articles in science magazines or on Internet searches, it is unnecessary to test knowledge retention. It quite simply doesn’t matter in this case, as a person will learn what they will learn and be grateful. There should be no negative consequences for not retaining every bit of information when the learning was entirely self-motivated and self-directed.

Evaluating learner satisfaction and knowledge gained can not be completely ignored however. It is impossible to be truly objective in assessing one’s retention and understanding of a subject, and particularly so if some kind of formal testing is not built into the course. Even if the purpose of learning a particular subject has absolutely nothing to do with career or employment… even if the purpose of learning were entirely based on personal interest and curiosity, there is value in evaluation. We can compare this idea to leisurely activitites like sports or games or music. A person will take up skydiving or lawn bowling or banjo playing or backgammon because they are enjoyable activities. In the absence of formal evaluation with things like these, people will tend to test themselves with an interest in determining if they are improving or not.

I have a few years ago made a personal decision to change my career and become a trade school instructor. My experience in the electrical field and with industry in general has been a valuable asset to that end but with an interest to be the best instructor I can be, it is important that I study education and learning theories. I am now an adult learner myself, presently taking a Provincial Instructors Diploma Program from Vancouver Community College. Even though this course is something that I have decided to follow through with on my own, I am grateful for the feedback and evaulation of my work as it is one indicator of how successful I might be as an instructor. Conversely, as it is a subject I have become personally interested in, I have studied above and beyond the requirements of the course with the hope and intention that I can apply techniques and theories in the classroom for the benefit of myself and my students.

 

 

Decisional

“we may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think” (p. 170)

This is a very interesting observation and the fact that it is based on scientific conjecture is cause for further investigation. In essence, the triune brain hypothesis, that lends credence to this quote, is based on a notion of the evolution of the human brain over millions of years. There are three components, the first of which, the Reptilian brain, is situated at the base of the skull closest to the spinal cord. This part of the brain is responsible for the instinctive functions of survival; eating, breathing, avoiding danger and procreation. The second part of this theoretical model, named the limbic system evolved early in mammals. Base emotions are processed here, as responses to external stimulus, which in turn accounts for motivation with the more fundamental human behaviour. The third and largest part of the brain, fully enveloping the other two is the familiar neocortex. We are human because we have a neocortex. Complex reason and logic, abstract thought, artistic endeavor and thoughtful insight are distinctly human processes and occur within this neocortex. Language and the consequent telling of stories and passing on information to our children, perceptions and analysis of our complicated social world and the ability to plan ahead or design buildings are all functions of this highly developed part of the brain.

Evolutionary theory maintains that it took millions of years for our brain to develop as it has, with each successive layer marking a distinctive milestone. We were not always rational thinking creatures. Our distant ancestors one million generations ago did not have the requisite gray matter to build a nuclear submarine or a pyramid or a piano. There was a point in time, if we go back far enough, where those distant ancestors of ours were ruled exclusively by instinct and emotion. This is what Bryan Taylor was referring to in his quote, when he wrote, ‘biologically’. Just as accurately and for the same reason, we could say that we are instinctive creatures that feel, or instinctive creatures that think.

It is not necessary to do an in depth analysis of human behaviour to make the determination that we are very much emotion driven. Our most private inner thoughts are based on feelings. Naturally, emotion is responsible for how we interract with other people but it is also inseparably linked to our rational decision making process. Everything we do is by definition, subjective which means there is an emotional component involved. Everything we learn, and especially everything we learn on our own volition as adults is subjected, even if subtly, to our feelings. If I were to examine my own motivation with the major decisions in my life, it would be easy to conclude that there is always an underlying emotional factor. I like teaching. It gives me satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. It makes me feel good. I have decided to learn about teaching with an interest in becoming better at it as a result of those feelings.

For better or for worse, even the small daily decisions of my own life are influenced by how I am feeling in the moment. Whether I choose to go shopping downtown or to spend the afternoon at the beach; whether I decide to work on a journal for my Instructor’s Diploma Course or noodle around on my guitar are decisions that stem from my feelings.

We are very much thinkers, us humans. Our intellect defines us perhaps more than any other quality. But it would be a mistake to say that our thoughts are separate from our emotions. It would be more accurate to say that we think because we feel. We are driven to succeed because we feel. We choose to better ourselves and make decisions that affect ourselves and other people based on feelings, even though we might tend to label those decisions as purely rational.