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

Creative Commons License photo credit: brendio

I was following a Twitter conversation recently between @tomwhyte1 and @injenuity about learning theory construction. I expect it had been spawned from CCK08.

Tom asked the question “If the basic core of a learning theory requires other learning theories to have happened or exist, is it an actual learning theory or tool?” I was about to enter the conversation when I realized I couldn’t explain what a learning theory was. This week I’m reading Psychology of Learning for Instruction by Driscoll and have an answer to both questions. To paraphrase, a theory is a hypotheses that has been validated through data collection. More formally, Driscoll describes a learning theory as “a set of constructs linking observed changes in performance with what is thought to bring about those changes” (p.9).

A theory isn’t a theory though until some sort of proving has occurred. Which leads to Tom‘s question. Driscoll has a perspective on that as well: “any new theory must reinterpret all the previous findings as well as account for the anomalous ones that prompted its invention in the first place” (p.7). So Tom, I think the answer is It depends. If it meets the definition of a learning theory, that is seeks to explain a phenomenom, then not only is it a theory but it must build upon or refute past theories. If it doesn’t meet the definition of a learning theory, then perhaps it is describing a single construct (in this case perhaps node).

I’m going to like this book.

Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of Learning for Instruction (Third Edition ed.). Boston: Peason Education Inc.

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.

What better place than my journal to capture the journey I’ve been on collecting requirements for a K-12 Parent Portal. Based on a conversation I had with Dr. Rick Schwier, my trusted graduate advisor, I realized stories were a great way to convey the meaning of what folks are looking for in a portal. I already had several stories in my blogs and blog comments, he reminded me. I also found a theoretical basis for the work in the computer science literature, and several pieces in the general literature on story-telling as communication which I included in my project proposal. I was excited!

So for the last month I have embarked on collecting stories and using comic strips to tell these stories. I’m using Bitstrips.com thanks to a recommendation from Kelly Christopherson to build the comic strips. I soon discovered, however, that my online network had two deficiencies: first many members of my network are teachers and not always parents (or principals or trustees), and second many of these teachers vacation in July (so my network is not as active). It was and remains a struggle to get feedback on the work, although there have been a few bright spots including when two commenters began dialoguing in my blog.

A Skype call with Lorna Constantini got me back on something of a right or better track. I realize and the research supports that to engage parents you must make it personal to them. You must go where they are, not expect them to come to you. So that’s what I’ve done. First I sent emails off to Vanessa Van Petten and Kate Olson looking for advice on where to find parents online. At the same time, I searched myself. Vanessa suggested Cafemom and I found the Canadian Parents Forum. Both of these have provided fruitful comments describing the perspective of parent. I also have a couple links I’ve sourced while working on my proposal that I will post to today. And Kate has offered to have me guest post on a “mommy’s blog” that she thinks will generate good feedback. If that works out I’ll cross-post a link to my own blog at the same time. I’m posting all the work at my other blog Technology for Learning.

So while slower than I wanted (as always) the work is coming together. Next I’ll be looking at existing portals to determine what is available for parents in other school districts. I hope to have this done by early next week. Better get at it!

I’m struggling with the concept of school as it relates to my graduate studies. As a mature student I have several years experience in the work force. I have come to know that the best product is not produced in isolation, nor is it given to prime time for judgement in its first run.

But that is precisely what we are asked to do in our graduate classes. Write a paper and submit it for marking. No drafts are reviewed and commented. No chance to catch those miserable APA slip-ups or discuss whether the professor and the APA manual have a fundamental disagreement (or did you just read it wrong?).

Professors are as time-challenged as the K-12 educators they are preparing for the classroom or supporting in advanced learning. But if the assessment model in graduate school does not support progressive learning, what will the chance be that our teachers come prepared to approach assessment in new ways with our younger learners?

I think there is something to be learned from how projects are conducted in the world outside of our educational institutions. The best products emerge from a scaffolded approach with feedback, teamwork, and iterative prototyping. I wish the same for teacher preparation and advanced learning.

I realized I needed a break. It’s been a wicked month – last month of school means everyone else is tidying their desks onto ours, our support staff were on strike (thankfully settled this week), I finished two intersession classes (one on-campus), and I realized I’d gained 10 pounds. So that latter problem became my focus and I found myself just a tinge less committed to my studies. A time for rejuvenation, exercise, and healthy food. Yes those 7-hour drives to Saskatoon and back are munchie drives. ‘Nough said.

To top off the month, I read this morning that a colleague just one year older had died on Monday. Our paths have crossed several times through work and golf as he held the same position as me at a post-secondary institution in the city. He was a dedicated contributor to the profession and his work and wit will be missed.

So face every morning with a smile. Say good morning to strangers. Pay it forward. You get this one chance to make a difference.

Envie d'écrire
Creative Commons License photo credit: alecska

I just finished the final exam for EDRES 800, the research course for my master’s. Two assignments (one of them my master’s proposal), one presentation, and a final exam in six weeks, including four weekends in Saskatoon. Pretty intense.

What have I learned? Hmmm. Not sure I would call it learning. More like refreshing. And situating. New context. The concepts were not unfamiliar to me. I’ve been down the research and stats road before. But it was fun to resurrect t-tests and F-ratios and MANOVA’s. I’m a math geek at heart.

So the course for me was an opportunity to apply that learning to my studies today. I was able to take a very good run at my project proposal. I extended my network of fellow graduate students. I’ve developed a heightened awareness of the importance of research skills in teachers today. Tied to the accountability framework and being data-driven, in our district we are promoting more action research in our classrooms. To accomplish that, teachers need to know how to frame the research question, what data to collect (and how to collect it), and how to analyze the data. Without some skill development and support we can’t expect that it will just happen. Hmmm. Maybe this was more than just a refresher.

On a lighter note, I haven’t written in APA style for 30 years. I’m feeling almost compelled to double-space this post. Did you notice all the sentence fragments in the second paragraph? My inner writer is rebelling…..