CEP811: Maker Experiment #3

This week I am reflecting on my experiences in my CEP811 class and the Maker culture. The emphasis on Maker culture fascinates me because I teach in a discipline that is and has always been about making. Art and specifically graphic design involves creating or making whether for personal pursuits or for clients. My students create almost every week in the class. I have struggled a little with making my Graphic Design Survey class more interactive than a traditional art history type class. This course has provided some thoughts about how to better incorporate making into this course that really doesn’t lend itself well to interactive activities. I chose the Makey Makey kit because I saw several artistic experiments on the site and felt it could be a good tool for use in my classroom. I still see the potential and plan to spend my break exploring it further beyond my past experiments. Additionally, I did try a few new things this semester including having the students create animations using GoAnimate based on researching art movements discussed in class. Some were successful and others were not. In general, the students respond better and learn better when actively creating as opposed to just sitting and listening.

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Example of Maker Culture in my Classroom – This week in class my students created a design for a letter that they then carved into a linoleum block. They were then able to print the design using a letterpress.

Design is also based around on the creativity and problem solving Paul Gee believes is key to the next incarnation of education. (Gee) Students are given problems for assignments where they must work through a process to solve. We do not provide step-by-step instructions. Student must come up with their own original solutions and often these solutions involve problem solving such as answering a “How do I ….” question. My education was also oriented around this same methodology and I think it makes me better at problem solving and approaching new and unfamiliar situations. I can quickly make a plan to attack the problem and find the resources I need to solve it. It has also taught me not to view a solution not working as failure, but as a chance to grow. This skill serves me well both as a professional designer and as a teacher. I was able to my problem solving skills to work in class by finding a topic to unite my group of seemingly unrelated teaching disciplines. Art educators take great pleasure in this new focus on creativity because we have been advocating the importance of the arts and their role in developing these very skills for decades (should be STEAM instead of just STEM). The arts lead the way in developing creative problem solvers.

Grant Wiggins talks about how educators shy away from assessing creative thought. (Wiggins) I will admit it can be a challenge. It is difficult to explain to a student that an idea that them deem original may be an obvious solution to the problem or done before. This is why it is important for them to start reading about both past and present artists and designers just like CEP811 and the MAET program encourage us to further expose ourselves to past new ideas about teaching, education, and the use of technology. I try to show students examples of work similar to their solutions to provide support to my critique as well as point them towards artists and designers who push the boundaries. Creative thought can also be assessed on the outcome of it. Did it succeed? Was a problem fixed in a new or more efficient manner? How effective is the solution? There is a whole range of ways to evaluate creativity routed in objectivity. I use rubrics with my students like Wiggins advocates for in his blog. (Wiggins) They better assist students in understanding why they got a specific grade and on how they can improve than the typical “Good Job” or “Needs Work” comments I got in my undergraduate education (and they speed up grading). They provide specific, actionable feedback. Parts of the rubric focus on following directions, which is important in design, and parts are focused on the more subject part of creativity and execution. Great ideas also needs follow through. I tend to value the same thorough feedback on my own work. I want to be pushed to improve even when awarded a high grade.

While some of the material was review, the readings for the course provided confirmation of my own believes from a pedagogical standpoint and also often got me to think in new ways. Overall, the MAET courses continue to provide support for my beliefs and challenge me to push even further.

References
Gee, J. P. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games . YouTube. Retrieved December 9, 2013, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JU3pwCD-ey0

Wiggens, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. Granted, and… ~ thoughts on education by Grant Wiggins. Retrieved December 10, 2013, from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/

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CEP811: Choose Your Own (SoTL) Adventure

This week for class we discussed scholarly research, specifically Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) research. The goal with this research is to improve a teacher’s skills by conducting research about student learning and about teaching practices. As part of this, I needed to explore the MSU library and get in touch with a MSU librarian. As I’m not that close to campus, I used the chat function available 24/7 to students. The librarian was most helpful in narrowing in on terms to search to get the results I wanted and clarifying a few things about getting full text resources. I’m a fan of librarians. I have a friend who is a librarian and any time I need a resource I can’t find, she is the go to person to dig it up. The fact that a librarian is available 24/7 is quite helpful to night owls like me and students who wait until the last minute to start researching.

I was tasked with completing research related to my teaching and interests. I decided to research a topic that piqued my interest from the reading I complete for the CEP810 class. One of the articles mentioned how Caucasians often misperceive the intelligence of African Americans as lesser because of different culture norms with speech patterns and linguistics. I can see the validity of these claims based on my experiences as an advisor. A higher percentage of African American students score lower on reading and English placement testing than their Caucasian counterparts. After reading these articles, I can’t help but wonder if this is due to the linguistic differences prevalent in their cultures. As I am Caucasian and teach in a urban setting, I want to find out more about this and how to combat it. I welcome any opportunity to learn how to better connect with my students and to eliminate any unintentional biases on my part.

Annotated Bibliography
Eller, R. (1989). Johnny Can’t Talk, Either: The Perpetuation of the Deficit Theory in Classrooms. The Reading Teacher, 42(9), 670-674. Retrieved December 6, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20200272
This article discusses attitudes prevalent in the classroom where students are perceived as deficient based on a theory called Deficient Theory that began in the 1960s as a way to explain why disadvantaged students had trouble in school. According to the author, this theory has helped perpetuate the belief of linguistic inferiority among disadvantaged populations, particularly minorities. She highlights studies that find students successful when allowed to learn within their own linguistic vernacular. The author highlights accepting alternate responses to questions that are correct based on the students understanding even if they are not what the student is supposed to respond. The author advocates that we examine our own biases and avoid labeling children as verbally inept just because their response is different than our own.

Lamos, S. (2008). Language, Literacy, and the Institutional Dynamics of Racism: Late-1960s Writing Instruction for “High-Risk” African American Undergraduate Students at One Predominantly White University. College Composition and Communication, 60(1), 46-81. Retrieved December 6, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20457044
The article focuses on how racist ideologies of language and literacy shaped the development of writing programs aimed at high-risk African American students in the 1960s and 1970s. (p.46) The author talks about desegregation in education and the impacts racism had on these efforts. He discusses how the result of trying to assist the African American community and respond to their needs was to create “high-risk” educational programs that worked off the belief that low-income and minority students lacked the skills to succeed at the college level even if they had the potential to be successful. He highlights that many of these programs did little to change the deeply inbred forms of institutional racism. The programs focused more on forcing the students to change to meet “white” standards for speech and grammar instead of working within the cultural construct of the students. He discusses in great detail several attempts by colleges at the time to create these “high-risk” programs as an effort to increase diversity on campus and opportunity within the African American community. In general, these efforts proved unsuccessful because they really only sought to perpetuate the belief of the superiority of white mainstream language and literacy skills. (p.66) The author asserts that he believes that while flawed, these programs are redeemable if they better address the institutional racism within the programs.

Pearson, B. Z., Connor, T., & Jackson, J. E. (2013). Removing Obstacles for African American English-Speaking Children Through Greater Understanding of Language Difference. Developmental Psychology, 49(1), 31-44. Retrieved December 6, 2013, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0028248
This article focuses on the acknowledge that there is a different, non mainstream dialect with the African American community and the fact it remains denigrated in popular culture and education. The authors also highlight examples where students are denied educational opportunities because of their linguistic patterns.  The authors mention court cases where the ruling favored providing resources to children who spoke African American English to better aid the students in completely the material.  The authors mention a document from the American Psychological Association that finds that “culturally learned systems of belief can create negative attitudes at a subconscious level.” (p.31) The authors define what AAE is by providing numerous examples of the differences in linguistics and who typically speaks it. The authors offer several solutions to combat the existing problems with the system including: programs that harness the power of high expectations instead of treating it as a deficiency, programs that appreciate linguistic diversity, and programs that develop different kinds of linguistic awareness, especially dialect awareness. (p.39)

Solorzano, D. G., & Yosso, T. J. (2001). From racial stereotyping and deficit discourse toward a critical race theory in teacher education. Multicultural Education, 9(1), 2-8.
The article discusses linkages between a theoretical framework–critical race theory (CRT)–and its relation and application to the concepts of race, racism, and racial stereotyping in teacher education. (p.2) Critical race theory is described as challenging the current discourse that subordinates certain racial and ethnic groups. CRT specifically has five themes that make up its pedagogy: the centrality and intersectionality of race and racism, the challenge to dominant ideology, the commitment to social justice, the centrality of experiential knowledge, and the interdisciplinary perspective. The authors advocate for teacher education that identifies the subtle negative attitudes and racism within the educational environment and then seeks to find ways to eliminate them. The authors also provide a number of examples of typical statements made to people of different races that demonstrate both racism and the fact that everything connects back to race within our existing culture.

Wei, M., KU, T., & Wang, K. T. (2012). A development and validation of the perceived language discrimination scale. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic minority Psychology, 18(4), 340-351. Retrieved December 6, 2013, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0029453
This article focuses on discrimination based on racial minorities and speaking English as a second language. The authors highlight the effects both on achievement and even mention the effects on mental health. The authors highlight that discrimination based on language can occur just about anywhere in everyday life. The article is more of a quantitative study of the issue than a sociological approach like many of the other articles I read. The study looked at a variety of factors included the impact of the discrimination on respondents’ physical health and mental health. In general, the discrimination is self-reported feelings based on the individual’s interaction with the community at large. The authors discuss how this can impact mental health treatment, quality of life, and other barriers to integration within society for those that speak English as a second language.

CEP811: Maker Experiment #2 – Universal Design

This week the focus of our efforts was to explore UDL, Universal Design for Learning. Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn (http://www.cast.org/udl/). This is important in the classroom because educators want all students to be successful no matter what physical or learning disabilities they may have. The goal for this week was to revamp my Maker Experiment #1 to meet the guidelines provided for UDL (View guidelines here: https://sites.google.com/site/udlguidelinesexamples/home).

I have the advantage that the college I teach at has a whole department devoted to disabilities. The disabilities services department provides any resources that students may need in the classroom or at home. They also facilitate communication with instructors so that the instructor knows the specific challenges a student may have and what resources the student needs. In the case of deaf students, ASL interpreters are provided for deaf students in the classroom.

I currently make all lecture materials available to my students in audio format, written format, and provide images or examples. The written format is pdf, which is accessible for text readers (Find out more: http://wwwimages.adobe.com/www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adobe/en/accessibility/products/acrobat/pdfs/acrobat-xi-accessibility-checker.pdf). This allows all students to have their choice of method to view the information. Additionally, students are provided with a weekly reading sheet each week that focuses on what vocabulary, people, and other highlights are important for the week. I would add an electronic resource that would include written definitions of important terminology along with images and audio files to support all learning styles.

In general, I believe the activity I designed meets most of the UDL guidelines. However, I would make some key adjustments to better facilitate learner success.

  1. Add more explanation of the Makey Makey including hands on demonstration in class and showing a completed project from start to finish.
  2. Break the project into four stages: initial concept, planning, production, and final presentation. This will help make the task more manageable and allow them to have smaller success along the way. It also allows for more self-regulation.

The activity itself was flexible enough to allow customization for each group’s individual skills and abilities and was designed to be hands on. By working in groups chosen by student interests and skill levels, the students have the ability to choose a solution that interests them and perform the tasks they excel at while having group members to perform the tasks they may not enjoy or excel at. Students will receive feedback from myself along the way as well as assistance at the level and frequency each individual group needs.

Reflection
The biggest change to the activity was to add additional resources at the beginning of the activity to better introduce the Makey Makey in order to increase student success. The activity itself was already flexible enough to tailor it to individual students and groups based on their interests and skill sets. Design assignments are generally open enough for students to tailor to their own perspective. I encourage students to pursue solutions that interest them. However, we do discuss the role of clients and having to work within constraints.

Overall, the exploration of UDL has triggered some thoughts on how to better work with the students that are extreme outliers on the low skill set end. The high performers were always easy for me to work with, but the other extreme pose quite a challenge. I identify better with the high performers than the other so I am better able to adjust for them. It was good to see that many of the tools I use with my students by providing multiple ways to get the material are actually beneficial from a pedagogical standpoint. Unlike many others in my class, I do not have the same pedagogical training. I do follow my instincts and actively seek feedback from students to help improve my classes. I evaluate what is working and what isn’t. It also helps that I have department on campus to support me when dealing with students with disabilities. I look forward to putting this to work in the future.

References
“CAST: Universal Design for Learning.” CAST: About UDL. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.cast.org/udl/>.

“UDL guidelines examples.” UDL guidelines examples. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2013. <https://sites.google.com/site/udlguidelinesexamples/home>.

“Using the Acrobat XI Pro Accessiblity Checker.” Adobe.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013. <http://wwwimages.adobe.com/www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adobe/en/accessibility/products/acrobat/pdfs/acrobat-xi-accessibility-checker.pdf>.