"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

Posts tagged with "Blogging Towards Baltimore"

Teacher as Neuroplastician?

It’s true, my friends! Teachers are neuroplasticians.

In The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, Norman Doidge M.D. coins the word neuroplasticians to describe those who – quite literally – change the brain.

I was frankly shocked to hear that until very recently we all believed a terrible fallacy:  that the brain was a machine…built to last but not capable of change. Our belief in such a significant fallacy moved us to condemn blind people and deaf people and indeed, ourselves, to the condition we were born into, or developed into as children, with the idea that the brain was set in stone. Blind? You’ll never see again. Deaf? You won’t hear.

Boy were we wrong!

Take a few minutes to watch this incredible video, in which Paul Bach-y-Rita, neuroscientist, teaches a blind man to see . . . using his tongue!

Today we know that the brain has innate plasticity: and nothing is impossible! We can change. We can learn. We can become what we dream of being. We can change the neuronal networks in our brains, grow new dendrites and be what we will. And – relevant to our work as educators, we can guide others to do that – to celebrate the plasticity of the brain by using it!  Learning and Change, indeed!

So neuroplasticians is what we teachers are; we use the brain to enhance and strengthen and delight the person. For example, we tell a story to begin our math class: the experience of hearing and imagining the story moves the learners to delight, to curiosity, to experimentation.

Engaged as they are in the story, they are ready to try on the relevant mathematical concept and its accompanying skill. They laugh together! They share their expectations of the outcome of their work.

They argue and fight for their perspective.  They change their brains!

And you, the math teacher, Dialogue Educator, are the brilliant neuroplastician who designed the story, the learning tasks and materials, who managed their time and task and responded to their work.

I must confess I am moved to tears by the power of this new insight, this revision of a dominant fallacy that has held us down for all the years we’ve lived on this planet, until now! The Copernican revolution, the printing press, the world wide web – were mere blips on the screen of civilization compared to this! Because of the plasticity of the brain, we can create ourselves!

It is a new world, friends, and neuroplasticians rock!

*****

Join Jane Vella October 24-27, 2013 at the International Dialogue Education Institute for her plenary session, The Biology of Learning and Change.

Dialogue Education Essentials: Well-Researched Content (WHAT)

This is the fifth post in a series called Blogging Towards Baltimore. Why Baltimore? Because that's where we'll be learning together at the International Dialogue Education Institute, Oct 24-27, 2013.

One of the best ways to show respect of a group of learners is to put them to work on learning a tough set of relevant, immediately useful, complex, intricate and dense content (or, in Dialogue Education's 8 Steps of Design, what we like to call the WHAT). Such content is cutting edge, the latest version of research in the field, a synthesis of the tradition and the latest new insights - no matter if you are teaching six-figure salaried managers how to deal with economic downturns, or high school juniors the intricacies of selecting and applying successfully to a college or university, or white-haired seniors the vital nutritional knowledge and skills that can add to the quality of their lives.

You respect me when you bring it on! Put me to work learning what I know I need to know – knowledge, attitudes and skills – and I promise you I will not resist nor will I falter in completing a tough learning task. You honor me by your evident hard work in researching the latest science can offer me; I want cutting-edge content as an adult learner.

Our work in design, using the 8 Steps of Design, is demanding. The most demanding step, I have always found, is selecting the most appropriate content (WHAT) for the learners (WHO) in their current situation (WHY), noting the time available for the learning (WHEN) and the place and space in which the learning will take place (WHERE). I feel deeply that well-researched content – the WHAT – is indeed a Dialogue Education Essential.

Dialogue Education is based on empirical evidence, on the hard research done in the fields of epistemology, psychology, biology, anthropology, theology, sociology. That means our daily bread is earned as much by research and study as by designing, teaching and evaluating. Dialogue Education must be an open system, ready to change when new knowledge invites such change. Our life as educators is an ongoing research agenda, building a developing resource for educators that will not look the same in the year 2113, or even in 2023!

*****

And, to help you out with this challenge, my colleague Darlene Goetzman has written a terrific chapter (download it here for free!) about how to select the "best" content for your learning event in her helpful, downloadable coaching guide, Dialogue Education Step by Step: A Guide for Designing Exceptional Learning Events.

Join Jane Vella October 24-27, 2013 at the International Dialogue Education Institute for her plenary session, The Biology of Learning.

Dialogue Education Essentials: The Right Bit of WHAT for the WHEN

 

"If I only had enough time I could cover this subject!"

You may have said this yourself. And I'd be surprised if you hadn't heard other teachers say it! If the content of a learning event is worth its salt in meaning and significance, you'll never have enough time.

The fourth step of the 8 Steps of Design allows you to consider the time and timing for your learning event (the WHEN). It assures that you know how much time you have with a set of learners for them to learn the content of the event (or the WHAT).

We all know how easy it is to design too much content for the alloted time, or what we who use Dialogue Education like to call "too much WHAT for the WHEN." Skilled educators are aware of this danger to learning, and they design with it in mind. Less is more! (As a little aside, see why GLP Senior Partner Peter Perkins loves the axiom less is more.)

The end is learning, not sharing buckets of information!

It is skilled and difficult work indeed to select those items of content that are essential to developing knowledge, attitudes and skills for the purpose at hand. I have not discovered a perfect magic formula to avoid too much WHAT for my WHEN. But I do know it helps to be aware that too much content in a given time frame is a danger to learning.

And, to help you out with this challenge, my colleague Darlene Goetzman has written a terrific chapter (download it here for free!) about how to select the "best" content for your learning event in her helpful, downloadable coaching guide, Dialogue Education Step by Step: A Guide for Designing Exceptional Learning Events.

All of this explains why this is one of my Dialogue Education Essentials:

Cuidado! Be careful! Beware! Attention! Angalia! DANGER!!!     

Be aware of TOO MUCH WHAT FOR THE WHEN!

What tips do you have for avoiding this danger?

*****

Join Jane Vella October 24-27, 2013 at the International Dialogue Education Institute for her plenary session, The Biology of Learning.

Dialogue Education Essentials: Verbs for the Learners

Verbs in the Learning Tasks Are for the Learner

My good friend Agnes took the course Learning To Listen, Learning To Teach years ago. She had a hard time, as a professor, moving from telling to teaching, using Dialogue Education. We walked around the lake in Raleigh N.C. many a time while I gave examples of learning tasks, explained what she was reading in my books, laughed with her about her keen sense of wanting to do this in her classroom and her frustration at not grasping it.

One spring afternoon, as we chatted amiably on our lake walk, Agnes stopped and turned to me.

"Oh, Jane,” she exclaimed, “I see! A learning task is a task for the learner!"

We danced the rest of the way around the lake to the tune of : By George, she's got it! (From "My Fair Lady," with Rex Harrison, shown above.)

One way to sure you've got it is to be certain that the verbs in your learning tasks are verbs for the learners; verbs that tell the learners what they are to do.

Here’s a sample learning task – note that the verbs tell the learners what they are to do:

  • Read and mark up the story on page 18.
  • Describe in pairs your best learning experience. Analyze it by telling one another what you think made it work for you.
  • Find a URL that will be useful in showing the form and functions of the amygdala.       
  • Create - as a team of two - a four picture cartoon illustrating the importance of verbs for the learners.

Create. Find. Analyze. Describe. Read. Mark.  All are verbs for the learners!

By George, she's got it!

Join Jane Vella October 24-27, 2013 at the International Dialogue Education Institute for her plenary session, The Biology of Learning.

Dialogue Education Essentials: Safety

The system that is Dialogue Education demands safety. Learners must feel safe with the content, with the teacher, with the environment, with their colleagues. The designer/teacher must feel safe with her partners, with her design, with the group of learners, with the environment. Safety is not merely a nice aspect of the system:  it is absolutely essential. The brain cannot work if you’re not safe; when the amygdala is churning out adrenaline because a person is scared, mad, or sad – at risk, in danger – then synapses shut down and new dendrites cannot grow.* No new learning.

Fear is never a tool or a condition for learning.

Safety throughout a learning design invites challenge:  Bring it on! Safety is seen in the beauty of the materials, the sequence of the learning tasks, the visible relationship between partnering teachers, the relationships developing in the small groups and in the large group, the setting up of the environment, the fragrance of good coffee or cinnamon buns, the sharing that took place before the event in the Learning Needs and Resources Assessment, the positive framing of feedback, the timing of learning tasks . . . in short, the whole design, the entire system.

Did you notice how these principles and practices cling together, and connect? The shin bone connected to the foot bone…We can dare to call this an organic system, the means congruent with the end:  learning.

*Thanks for the brain ideas, from James E. Zull’s, 2002 book, The Art of Changing the Brain.

Join Jane Vella October 24-27, 2013 at the International Dialogue Education Institute for her plenary session, The Biology of Learning.

Dialogue Education Essentials: Laughter

Today begins a new series called Blogging Towards Baltimore. Why Baltimore? Because that's where we'll be learning together at the International Dialogue Education Institute, Oct 24-27, 2013. Each post will help to set the stage for the Institute.

 

Dialogue Education Essentials

Lately, Dr. Jane Vella, founder of  Dialogue Education has been thinking a great deal about the GPS that keeps Dialogue Educators on course as we design and lead learning events. She’s challenged herself and others with this question:

What are the ESSENTIALS  of Dialogue Education, without which it isn’t what it says it is?

“Suppose,” says Jane, “we speak of DEE:  Dialogue Education Essentials. And when I say essentials, I mean it isn’t apple pie without apples!”

Dialogue Education, says Jane, is a system - a somewhat mature system, but with all the chinks and weaknesses of any system. It is growing and developing – maturing, really – each time we do the solid research that manifests the usefulness and effectiveness of the system's components.

Over the coming months, Jane will be sharing with us her insights into the Dialogue Education Essentials, beginning today with laughter.

We invite you to offer evidence that these DEEs have worked in your diverse situations. Such precision, says Jane, can only shore up this beloved, demanding, sweet and successful-for-the-learners system we call Dialogue Education!

Dialogue Education Essentials:  LAUGHTER

A Dialogue Education event that did not ring with laughter would be suspect in my eyes.

  • Laughter is a physical, emotional, cognitive indicator of safety, engagement, and the relevance of the content.
  • Laughter is an indicator of the relationship at work in the small group, and of the group with the teacher!
  • Laughter is an indicator that the amygdala in the brain, which forces adrenaline into the bloodstream when a person is frightened or at risk, is at rest. A quiet amygdala is a physical, measurable sign of safety and of many of the other principles and practices of Dialogue Education!* (*Zull, James E., The Art of Changing the Brain 2002, From Brain to Mind 2011)

Laughter is an indicator to me that the human beings involved in learning together are not taking themselves too seriously. It is God's world. Isn't it great to have been invited along for the ride?

My friend Paula Berardinelli read a set of short stories I recently completed.

"Jane,” she said, “some of those stories were so funny. You have a future as a stand-up comic!"

I had to be honest.

"Paula,” I said, “at this stage in my life, I'm afraid it will have to be a sit-down comic!"

What do you think about laughter being a Dialogue Education Essential? How have you experienced laughter during learning events?

Join Jane Vella October 24-27, 2013 at the International Dialogue Education Institute for her plenary session, The Biology of Learning.