September 17, 2009
E-Coaching Tip 70 (#1 Fall 2009)
Course Beginnings - Finding the Patterns in Your Content
Have you looked at the patterns and cycles in your course lately? What are the basic two or three patterns that you would like your students to discuss?
Dealing with information overload on an hourly and almost minute-to-minute basis, McLuhan’s assertion highlights a critical skill that we need to be developing and nurturing in our learners — a skill at detecting patterns, cycles and relationships. Independent and individual pieces of knowledge are too disembodied and uncontextualized to be very useful. Surrounded by data we need better thinking strategies for navigating and making information useful.
What I think is intriguing about McLuhan’s statement is the idea that faced with information overload, our brains appear to adapt by necessity to being more efficient at pattern recognition. If we can chunk course content into fewer disparate segments, the whole is more readily seen. In other words, information overload might be viewed as a positive development because it is messaging our brain to adjust. Brain researchers refer to this capability as brain plasticity, the ability of the brain to “not only to create new neurons throughout life, but to modify networks of neurons to better cope with new circumstances.” (Society for Neuroscience, 2007)
The first phase of a course is an exciting and enthusiastic time. It is a time that learners and faculty gather together with core course resources and plan out the learning that they want to achieve. The first phase of a course is similar to the launching of a new project initiative. Spirits are high, ideals expansive and opportunities seem limitless. But of course this phase passes, and reality sets in.
How can you increase the probability that learners will retain this initial spirit of excitement and take more away from the course? Here are a few ideas.
Think Patterns. Think Cycles. Think Relationships.
Ask yourself, “How can I encourage my learners to discern patterns, and link ideas across papers, discussions and personal reflections?” How do we dig deeply into core concepts such as power, leadership, culture, and organizations and detect patterns that provide new insight about these core life concepts and how they work or manifest themselves in different environments.
Ask your students some version of the following kinds of questions:
Library of Tips
Don’t forget the full library of ecoaching tips is available at http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/inventory.htm
References and Resources
E-Coaching Tip 27 (Fall, 2006): A Rubric for Analyzing Critical Thinking.Retrieved September 7, 2009 from http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tips/tip27.html
E-Coaching Tip 58 (Spring, 2008): Reaching the Heights of Learning -- Authentic Problem-Solving. Retrieved September 7, 2009 from http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tips/tip58.html
Guide to Rating Critical & Integrative Thinking. Washington State University, Fall 2006. Retrieved June 26, 2009 from http://wsuctprojectdev.wsu.edu/ctr_docs/CIT%20Rubric%202006.pdf
Pink, D. H. (2005). Revenge of the Right Brain. Wired, 13, 70-72. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.02/brain.html or his 2005 book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age Or his video on motivation and reward at the TED conference — http://blog.ted.com/2009/07/dan_pink_at_ted.php
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