The Ticket
Originally uploaded by rdrunner

Today I convocated. Almost surreal – I began this blog when I began my Master’s journey. And here it is at the close.At the close of the formal program, that is. Not the close of my learning journey.

It has been a week filled with memories, as this trip to Saskatoon is back to where we started our lives together after our undergraduate time at the University of Waterloo.

Andrew took some wonderful photos – they are in a set in Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/rdrunner/sets/72157618846755860/.



The Ticket

Originally uploaded by rdrunner

Today I convocated. Almost surreal – I began this blog when I began my Master’s journey. And here it is at the close.

Andrew took some wonderful photos – they are in a set in Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/rdrunner/sets/72157618846755860/.


snow lounge
Creative Commons License photo credit: jaymiek

Today I wrote my final exam for ECMM 802. It was also the final act in my Master’s program. After working in earnest since September 2007 my Master’s work is complete. So why do I not feel incredibly elated? Veritably swooning? Doing the loud happy dance?

I do feel a sense of accomplishment. But I also feel a sense of loss. I have had little “free” time in the last 18 months. Reading, exploring, reflecting, discussing – mostly online – has consumed any moment outside of work and home chores. And I have loved every moment. So I do not expect my habits to measurably change, other than to create a little more balance and shift my priorities.

I knew when I started this journey it would be intense. I planned a full-time schedule while I also held a full-time job. And here I now stand, poised to put a check mark beside this item on my bucket list.

I will write again in reflection on this journey. I am now part of a community of learners that I would never have found on my own, to which I am grateful for support. Thanks to Jaymie for this photo of the faculty lounge. Being a distance student I wasn’t in it often, but when I was there, it was home.

I’m not sure it will every really be done, and quite frankly it is my intention to use the Guide in several ways in the future so I expect it to be updated. I would still like to create a downloadable full pdf version (that properly renders the html tables). And the inclusion of a detailed plan would be helpful.

But for now I’m happy that it covers the bulk of the issues and items that one should address when implementing a Parent Portal. It’s been quite the ride in development!

So please let me know if you or someone you know has occasion to use any of the Guide or its templates (I know some have been downloaded already, but because I allowed anonymous access I don’t know by whom). I’m always anxious to improve upon the product and so welcome your feedback.

Click to access the K-12 Parent Portal Implementation Guide.

One last piece of associated work is the completion of my eportfolio – documenting my project journey. Almost done that too.

I am sitting on a plane documenting the journey of my Master’s project for my eportfolio. What did I do, why did I do it, and what were the learnings. Reflection, and particularly I believe public reflection, is an important learning tool. I was writing about the two blogs I keep and their different purposes. I had just finished describing the purpose of this blog – Masterthoughts – when I realized I needed to write about my immediate struggle. I said this blog was about documenting my journey. Here goes.

I am on this plane travelling to Toronto to be with my family. My older brother, just turned 61 years old, suffered a massive stroke on Thursday. We did not find out until late Friday (he lives on his own and authorities were trying to reach us). I struggled through Saturday waiting for more news. Later in the day, no change. Talking with my parents and sister we decided I should stay in Calgary. Today, Sunday, my sister called and asked me to come home to help. I caught the next plane.

This coming Saturday I am scheduled to present my Master’s project, a piece of work that I have laboured over since beginning my program in the fall of 2007. I embarked on my Master’s journey with a clear and specific plan. I am among the older students in the program, and wanted to work through the program sooner rather than later, so that my learning would have the opportunity to benefit others. I had no idea when I began what a powerful and life-changing experience this journey would be. I have loved every minute, every challenge, every struggle. While I wish I had taken this journey sooner, I also am wise enough to know that the context may have been different in an earlier time and I am so grateful for all those who have helped me since I began.

I am also scheduled to present my project at the Distributed Learning Symposium in a workshop on Friday. I was so excited about it. Several colleagues that I work with a distance will be in Calgary for the event – Dr. Alec Couros and George Siemens for example – that I was so looking forward to meeting with. And having the opportunity for more feedback about my work was invigorating to say the least.

I know what I must do. My family is my absolute first priority. I feel more at ease now that I am travelling to be with them. I was updating the pages on my portfolio in preparation for the presentation on Saturday before I turned to this post. I may still be able to present – is that a silly idea? I will contact my advisor when I arrive in Toronto. I was going to wait, but…

Writing comes easier to me now. This journey has helped me to put thoughts into words. For many years I have written briefing notes. I have become very good at bullet points and synthesized issue statements. Prose and full sentences were foreign to me. Blogging is a powerful tool for learning, for reflection, for putting into words those thoughts that are swimming around in our heads. This tragic experience is part of my Master’s journey, and I felt obligated to chronicle it here as well. I want to be able to reflect further when I am past this moment. We are all human beings, multi-faceted, and I know I can better support other’s through the life experiences I have endured myself.

Follow-up: My brother passed away the day I wrote this, in fact right at the time I felt drawn away from my eportfolio writing to compose this post. He was always very proud of what I accomplished, just as I know he is watching as I complete this Master’s journey. How fortunate I am. How I miss him.

I’m writing a major term paper for a grad class in educational technology. I’ve picked the topic based on something close to home – to explore the roles both dance and technology can play for those learners “who have to move to think” (Robinson, 2006).

My daughter is a dancer. I am not. She dances every day at school and most evenings at the studio. There are attempts at her school to bring dance into the academic classroom but only in the representation of learning, not the learning itself (this is not a learning-through-the-arts program, so to be expected). I am intrigued by these learners and how movement may help them learn. And I am intrigued by what role technology may play in such a learning environment.

I’m planning to develop the paper in four parts. Here is the outline and some preliminary writing. I also have a list of other sources I’ve been collecting but not included here.

I’d love your feedback – Ideas? Sources? People to contact?
Thanks for the help!

People who have to move to think: Learning with dance and technology

Part One: Who is this learner who has to move to think?
The Learner
Sir Ken Robinson described one such learner, Gillian Lynne, in his 2006 TEDTalks video (Robinson, 2006). Ms. Lynne was the original choreographer of Cats and Phantom of the Opera. He related her early life: “When she was in school she was really hopeless. The school in the ‘30s wrote to her parents and said we think Gillian has a learning disorder.” But instead her parents sent her to a dance school. Robinson went on to describe her first impressions of the school: “We walked in this room and it was full of people like me. People who couldn’t sit still. People who had to move to think.”

The Theory
Gardner (2005) believed there are several kinds of intelligences and suggested that linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence are the two most prevalent in K-12 curriculum design. All of us have all intelligences, but each of us has a unique profile of intelligences. One of these, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, is presumed to predominate in the profiles of athletes, dancers, craftspersons and surgeons. He described bodily-kinesthetic intelligence as “the capacity to solve problems or fashion products using your whole body, or parts of your body, like your hands or mouth”(Gardner, 2005, p. 8).

Ivry (1996) suggests that “an account of skilled performance must go beyond physiology and extend into psychology” (p. 263). Automaticity is manifest with a skilled performance making it difficult for the performer to describe how the act is done. Ivry also suggests that the “type of information guiding performance may shift with practice” (p. 286). One study showed that what began with visual feedback shifted to kinesthetic feedback.

Part Two: Programs that incorporate dance and movement into learning

Gilbert included both an historical and current review of dance programs when she discussed the challenges of who should teach, who should teach the teachers, and what should they teach about dance (Gilbert, 2005). Many school districts incorporate “learning through the arts” as either a special program or a focus in a community school. These programs may or may not include technology but are important to understand how the theory discussed in Part One is or may be applied.

Part Three: Role of educational technology

The consideration of dance and technology together has had a stormy past. Penrod (2005) reminded us of the debate that began in the 1960s about the separation of mind and body. Today some educators still focus on either technique (the body) or creativity (the mind). Penrod suggested that technology can assist in removing this duality if “dance is tied to education, with a commitment to exploration, discovery, process, collaboration, connections between ideas, and problem solving when answers are not always straight forward” (p. 7).

Part Four: Summary and recommendations for future research and practice

This section will present a summary of the key points of the paper. Then it will conclude with recommendations (expected) for future research and (hopefully) for practice.

Gardner, H. (2005). Multiple lenses on the mind. Paper presented at the ExpoGestion Conference. Retrieved October 18, 2008, from http://www.howardgardner.com/docs/multiple_lenses_0505.pdf

Gilbert, A. G. (2005). Dance education in the 21st century. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 76(5), 26-35.

Ivry, R. (1996). Representational issues in motor learning: Phenomena and theory. In H. Heuer & S. W. Keele (Eds.), Handbook of perception and action (Vol. 3, pp. 263-). San Diego: Academic Press.

Penrod, J. W. (2005). Dancing with technology. Juornal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 76(1), 6-7,56.

Robinson, K. (2006). Do schools today kill creativity? TEDTalks, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

The new school year has started, and I’ve not quite captured a cadence. My plan has created a heavy load this term and while I’m not behind in any work I don’t yet feel in control.

This must be how our senior students feel. Coming out of summer vacation they are juggling part-time jobs, extra-curricular activities, homework, and the ever-present pressures of a teenage social life. Added to that they have life-planning stress as they make choices that could have far-reaching impact. One missed assignment could make the difference between university acceptance and a year off to try again. Do they get it?

Just as I ponder this question, there’s a news item on CNN about a new policy in Dallas schools where children can re-take tests if they fail, and that high school students don’t get graded for homework. Elementary and middle school students can use homework to raise grades but bad scores don’t count. Parents are complaining that school is too far from real life and kids will get a rude awakening when they graduate. Proponents say it will help kids stay in school and succeed – it’s about the learning. The answer won’t be known for some time as the current cohorts move through the system. The district has taken a bold step. Personally I would hope for a balance, that it’s not just about the testing regime but rather needs to be done in a context of creating a love for learning, not just removing the stress of testing.

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