Most Likely to Succeed

For tickets to this screening, please click here!

MLTS Poster

 

 

Advertisements

Sustainability & the Environment

eco-literacy-tube-map-3-1-no-districts

Image taken from Eco-Labs.org

For those folks in the Post Baccalaureate programme at the University of Winnipeg or for those teachers thinking of heading back, here is a preview of a course I will be facilitating in the Winter term.

The course is officially titled Sustainability and the Environment and it is a requisite for the Sustainability stream in the Post Bac programme. The course can also be used as an elective in other courses.

The course is a hybrid course, meaning that much our interaction will be online using Edmodo while we will also meet on three Saturdays between January and March. We will meet on the following days:

January 16th – 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

February 20th – 8:30 AM  – 4:30 PM

March 19 – 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

If you wish to join the Edmodo group now, simply enter this code: nxmw6d.

Here is the official description of the course: This course is designed to expose educators to the concepts of sustainability, ecological literacy, and systems thinking within the context of teaching and learning. As such, our learning community will explore the ecological crisis that confronts our age, the reasons why we are often paralyzed to engage in meaningful solutions, and how education, be it in its present form or other, may act as a catalyst for changes in our individual and collective attitudes and behaviour.

Course participants will be asked to engage in scholarly research and writing, virtual discussions, curriculum design, resource review and creation, and application of learning pertaining to how we help develop an ecologically literate society.

This is an intensive course and will require full engagement from all participants within the learning community.

Here are the texts we will be using:

Denton, P. (2012). Gift ecology: Reimagining a sustainable world. Rocky Mountain Books, Vancouver, BC (Those who took the Global Citizenship course with me will already have a copy of this.)

Orr, D. (1992). Ecological literacy: Education and the transition to a postmodern world. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY.

Callenbach, E. (1975). Ecotopia. Bantam Books, New York.

I would also heavily recommend the following texts for the course and for our teaching and learning in general:

http://www.amazon.ca/Beyond-Learning-Doing-Theoretical-Experiential/dp/0415882087

http://www.amazon.ca/Beyond-Learning-Doing-Theoretical-Experiential/dp/0415882087

To advance our thinking within our learning community, there will be weekly assignments, tasks, and subsequent readings to help us focus on how and why we teach and learn and how, as educators, we might play a massive role in creating sustainable communities.

As a learning community, we will be creating two ebooks in our time together. The first will be a review of resources currently “out there” which focus on systems thinking and ecological literacy. The second ebook will be a collection of learning experiences we have created and applied in our teaching.

You can check out the rest of the assignments and University policies on the official course outline. Please note, if you take the course, you will need to be active on Twitter, Edmodo, Google Hangout and other platforms which will enable us to connect and share ideas. The course, ultimately, is what you make of it. I am looking forward to it, as I love learning from master teachers.

If you have any questions, please email me at mhenderson at sjr.mb.ca

Boys & Homework: Why & How we Learn

zullmodelgif1On Monday morning, I woke up as usual to CBC Information Radio. Whilst making lunches, forcing young children to practice violin, and sorting out who gets to use which spoon, a segment caught my attention related to a recent OECD study which looked at how sex might determine how and why we learn, be it through intrinsic (internal) or extrinsic (external) forces.

Here is the segment on CBC Information Radio:

My colleague, Ms. Ragot, produced an article from Saturday’s Free Press via the Economist looking at the same issue: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/female-genius-finally-has-chance-to-shine-295462041.html

This got me thinking about how we learn, regardless of sex, gender or other criteria. It also got me thinking about what sort of baggage teachers bring into the assessment process.

It also brought me back to James Zull, author of The Art of Changing the Brain, and what he suggests learning is about: changing the chemistry of the brain: http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el200409_zull.pdf

So here are my questions: 1) How do we learn and what do we mean by learning? And 2) Do teachers gear courses and learning experiences for a particular sex?

I invite you to ask your questions and to respond via Twitter using #CBCStudentVoice or via a comment below. Be precise, be courteous, and be smart.

Experience: Is Place Essential to Learning and Transformation?

Walking in the Bird Sanctuary at Phillips Academy in Andover - A place.

Walking in the Bird Sanctuary at Phillips Academy in Andover – A place.

This week I have had the extreme privilege to share time and space with outstanding educators from all over the world at the 2015 ISEEN Institute. ISEEN is the Independent Schools Experiential Education Network. Most educators, it would seem, are coming from places where outdoor, service-based, and/or global education are imperatives and are integrated into various curricula.

I am struck, however, that all three silos are based on one fundamental principle associated with experience — place. Place tends to be the common denominator when we have discussions about learning, growth, and transformation. Learners are going somewhere, are at a place, or are hanging from a mountain. David Orr spoke of place as a means to achieve an ecological literacy, as evidence through his Meadowcreek Project.

But I think experience does not have to exclusively relate to the external world. We can be transformed and become better people and agents of social change outside of this notion of place. My question then is can this type of learning happen without being grounded, rooted, or connected to geography, buildings, or nature?

Yesterday morning, Eric Hudson of Global Online Academy, presented to our group on the idea of creating educative and transformative experiences for learners through technology — where time and space are annihilated. Learning communities, according to him, were rooted in relationships, ideas and the creation of new bodies of knowledge. This understanding of experience moves away from place-based education and the lived experience and focuses learning communities on moments of disequilibrium or cognitive dissonance based on difficult concepts, conceptualizations of humanity, and our purpose on this planet.

As an educator at a university prepatory school where we are the largest consumers on the planet, I am uneasy about creating experiences which pack students up into planes and drop them into developing communities for 15 minutes. I am uncomfortable with events like WE DAY which are perhaps manipulative and a platform for corporate sponsors.

The emphasis on place might limit the experiences we attempt to foster as we are relying on only certain modes of understanding and contextualization. The emphasis on place, as it is often conceived, often requires a certain socio-economic status of our learners. Place might often exclude the vast number of learners who simply do not have the resources to leave their urban neighbourhood, First Nation reserve, or rural community.

Freire suggested that experience, and simply put learning, should be emancipatory and fundamentally based on dialogue with peers and elders (as Illich would posit in Chapter 6 of Deschooling). In many of our contexts, the majority of our students are quite affluent. The transformation, or experience in this case, must fundamentally be an emancipatory one as learners must understand how their actions, both individually and collectively, contribute to the oppression of others within their own communities abroad. (I might suggesting reading Jay Roberts’ Beyond Learning by Doing as “chapter 1” in experience.)

Experience, and educative experiences based on growth and a change in attitude and behaviours, is fundamentally about ethics and moral reasoning. We know that there are massive knowledge-action gaps pertaining to the crises of our time, and as such the transformation to what I speak arguably needs to based on dialogue, relationships, the creation of new bodies of knowledge, and Socratic self-examination. If our desire is to cultivate learning environments which produce global citizens, cosmopolitans, and an ethic of Umbuntu (I am human because you are human…), then the experience is not necessarily phenomenological; rather it can transcend time and place and transformation can occur in spaces we don’t anticipate as educators.

It has been really fascinating to speak with educators from all over the world this week, including my good friends Thomas Steele-Maley, Rebecca Powell, and Becky Anderson. I thank all participants for making me think about my philosophy of education. You are amazing educators and people. I also wish to thank all the organizers of the Institute and specifically the board members of ISEEN. Bravo.

Claudia Ruitenberg is far more eloquent than I could ever be, and I am intrigued by her metaphor and her understanding of experience and place. I leave you with her thoughts:

If one wishes to educate students to have a commitment to their social and ecological environment, one needs to start with an emphasis on commitment rather than on locality or community. Despite the commonly used metaphor, human beings do not grow actual roots on which they depend for their physical, intellectual, or ethical nourishment. Instead, nomads who have learned the ethical gestures of hospitality and openness to a community-to-come will bring nourishment to any place in which they land.

Kornelsen: Stories of Transformation

From uwinnipeg.ca

From uwinnipeg.ca

In an era of ubiquity when it comes to positioning, conferences, and subsequent books on the notions of experiential education and global citizenship, Lloyd Kornelsen, professor of Education at the University of Winnipeg and former acting head of the Global College, offers a breath of fresh air and an impressive conceptual analysis of both concepts.

In Stories of Transformation: Memories of a Global Citizenship Practicum, Kornelsen describes a School Initiated Course and learning experience from 2003 whereby he accompanied a group of high school students from the University of Winnipeg Collegiate to Costa Rica. Several years later, with questions in mind regarding the utility and transformational power of such excursions, Kornelsen interviewed the participants to examine how these practicums line up with the theoretical underpinnings provided by likely suspects: Dewey, Freire, Kolb, Illich,  Nussbaum, Appiah, and more.

The power in Kornelsen’s journey is the questions he raises about the efficacy of these trips — where affluent youth truck down to the South for the purposes of Socratic self-examination, transformation, and to gain insight into this idea of a global citizenry. Kornelsen pulls no punches and offers several pitfalls of such learning experiences, but fundamentally asserts that two critical capacities are required for educators.

The first is what he refers to as teachers needing to take responsibility for their teaching selves. By this, educators need to be global citizens, defined principally by Nussbaum and Appiah. Teachers must be critical thinkers, and examine that jumping on a plane and living with local families may have its limitations and ethical uneasiness. How do we as educators provide our students with the support and experiences necessary to overcome these limitations? Are we simply sending students on trips and hoping for the best?

The second capacity refers to something that I fail at often — that is the need to relate to our learners as Korenlesen suggests, “inter-subjectively.” Educators must foster and facilitate learning communities whereby the experience of each learner is honoured and respected and where the elders provide nudges and insight for further educative experiences and dissonance.

This book is well researched, painfully honest, and a window into what excellence in teaching looks like. Stories of Transformation is a must read for all teachers who truly seek to engage learners in meaningful conversations about who we are as a species and our purpose on this planet.