Friday, March 31, 2017

Creative Thinking

Today, I started facilitating a discussion in the PIDP 3250 course, and I'm finding myself in a bit of a conflict. My subject is creative thinking, and the more I think about it, the more I believe that it may paradoxical for me to subjugate my classmates creativity with predefined activities and parameters.

I think it would be an interesting experiment to have a forum that has a life of it's own: No real moderator and no subject, per se.  It could be for the people, by the people.

Often, I observe the students perform poorly on some scenarios or tests. Yet, they do not lack the knowledge or ability to be competent.  It becomes evident that the check sheets and testing to which we subject the learners does not encourage creative thinking.  Rather, it defines knowledge as an explicit definition or movement, and something outside of that (whether or not it's effective) would be deemed unsuccessful, or worse, a failure.

Which brings me to the crux of my other, long-standing and far more pressing paradox:  The formal educational process does not encourage creativity.   In fact, it's standardized upon compliance and conformity.  We all know the "real world" is nothing like school, but why does that have to be?  Why can't schools teach creativity?  Why must a learning outcome be prescriptive to the point of being rigid?

In the end, this may be the plight of the facilitator: Teach creativity but evaluate conformity...?

Here's a link to a website that contains creative thinking excercises.  It proclaims: "If you act like an idea person, you become one."  Should facilitators, in their quest to model behavior, be able to allow for creative thinking and solutions to achieve learning?  If so, how would you create those standards?  One google search revealed this treasure: "Students will outline multiple divergent solutions to a problem, develop and explore risky or controversial ideas, and synthesize ideas/expertise to generate innovations."  Simply adding "relating to X (concept/theory)."

Would this work in every learning environment?  It's certainly interesting...

f you act like an idea person, you will become one. - See more at:
f you act like an idea person, you will become one. - See more at:
f you act like an idea person, you will become one. - See more at:

Friday, March 24, 2017

Digital Project Mash Up: Poster Sessions by Johm Boulton & Triad Listening by Bryce Walker

John Boulton presented Poster Sessions for his PIDP 3250 digital project.  I was immediately drawn to this strategy as I thoroughly enjoy watching the students create a work of art based on something they are genuinely interested in.

For the past year of teaching, both my main classes (Pathophysiology and Cardiology) have a myriad of learning objectives to cover when it comes to diseases.   When I first encountered these LOs, I was in the doldrums: So much work for me and so much content for 1st year students.  Visions of students sleeping in class while I try (in vain) to instill the importance of etiology, risk factors, pathology, signs, symptoms and treatments...well, I think you get my drift.

Again, reflecting upon my own paramedic education proved to be the life-jacket to my sinking emotions.  Of all the pathology I knew most vividly, my own project on Diabetes had stuck with me for the last 15 years.  I remember taking so much pride in devising the presentation and speaking to my fellow classmates.

Therefor, it was decided that the students would each present a main pathology for each of these classes.  A list was devised and the students chose their topics.

Reflecting back, I think John's presentation offered some very useful tips to increase buy-in from the learners.  In the future, I plan on creating a list of diseases with the learners, so they can decided what interests them.  A group discussion about possible topics could allow me the chance to offer anecdotal stories from work (as I've seen most of the diseases in the clinical setting,) which would serve to pique the learner's interest with "infectious enthusiasm."

Generally speaking, the students have been able to devise whatever presentation style they would like.  Invariably, they tend to mimic what lessons I have delivered prior.  I believe this hampers their creativity, and to circumvent this I would provide a list of 10 different presentation styles, in which no 2 can be identical. This would keep things fresh and interesting for the entire class.  This is where I'd deviate from just the posters, although that would definitely be one of the options.

Lastly, I would like incorporate and aspect of another engagement technique into the exhibition phase: Triad Listening.  This strategy was profiled by Bryce Walker's digital project, and I believe it has a natural fit with the presentation.

In Triad Listening, the 3 components to the activity involve a speaker, a listener and a referee.  In the guise of a being a follow-up activity to poster session, the speaker would be the presenter while the listener would be the  observers.  The referee would be the facilitator, which would allow me to not only enforce rules but also to suggest guiding questions if the listener cannot fathom what to say.

Since the inception of my student presentation activity, I have assigned a listener to each presentation with the guiding question as follows: "What are the TOP 5 things to know about this disease."  This, in turn, usually provides the class with a summary of risk factors and distinctive (i.e. "cardinal") signs and symptoms of the pathology presented.  This accomplishes a two-pronged approach to peer teaching and ensures that both the speaker and listener are engaged.

Digital Project: Problem-based learning by Eamonn Bourke

I would be remiss to start this blog on Eamonn Bourke's digital project without commenting on the efficacy of his product.  I was very impressed about the simplicity of his presentation.  He is a skilled speaker and understands how to summarize information in a succinct yet comprehensive manner.  I already knew about PBLs yet I couldn't stop scribbling note after note of useful tidbits.  My sincerest compliments to Eamonn.

Related image

Problem-based learning is something I used to lament in my first year of University.  This is cause I came to quickly associate it with dysfunctional teams and a feeling that I was burdened with an unfair workload. I thoroughly enjoyed the peer teaching but I left most projects feeling bitter and upset that the whole group would get a good mark based on (maybe) half the group's input.

Emonn lists some cons in his presentation: Mainly, anxiety and team dysfunction. I was in the throws of this as I attempted to mediate an argument during a conference call between two other team members.  Despite my best attempts, neither one nor the other side of the disagreement could be reconciled, and eventually (and inevitably) a phone was abruptly disconnect.  Feeling disheartened, I was soon online googling conflict resolution and team dynamic management strategies.  I sat there, loathing my dilemma before realizing that I had actually been blessed with an opportunity to explore some "real world" knowledge.

As exemplified by the diagram above, some of the pros of PBLs include:
-Driving question or challenge
-21st century skills
-In-depth inquiry
-Need to know
-Significant content

Now, don't get me wrong.  The project we were working on was very significant, relevant and challenging.  It was also worth 30% of our mark.  Yet, the conflict that had arisen may have actually been the more valuable lesson.  (To this day, I'm convinced the prof had planned it this way using a questionnaire and poll to formulate work groups.)  What I experienced (and no doubt my other team mates) was a synergistic PBL. Where the structure project had evolved into something less structured yet just as relevant: Team dynamics.  In a world where team work is likely one of the most valued characteristics in any work environment, we had stumbled upon a situation that was real-world PBL.

From my perspective, here is a a summary of the real-world PBL in which I found myself:

Challenge: Two parties who are angry at each other and cannot see the value of the other's contributions. 

21st century skills:  The polarizing effect of the confrontation is typical of today's western society.  We are a culture that is unable to "agree to disagree" and compromise. Yet, in this case, it was absolutely necessary to achieve compromise and understanding to move forward.

In-depth inquiry:  Perhaps the most in-depth inquiry is one that is self-guided, which outcomes, breadth and resources at the sole discretion of the one who seeks the knowledge.  (In my case, I spent about 4 hours formulating a plan to encourage the other team members to cooperate.  By comparison, I'd spent about 2 hours on the actual project.)

Need to know/Significant:  In deadlock, this team was at stake of not completing a valuable class project.  This would actually jeopardize the overall mark to a detrimental amount.

As one can glean, this real-world PBL would have both short and long-term ramifications, so formulating a solution was imperative.  In the end, my goal was to have the other team members agree to disagree on various points and to delegate specific tasks to each of them in a manner where they could not interfere with their product.  I would act as a intermediary whereby I would be responsible for synthesizing their products. The outcome was that, with clearly defined roles for all of us, they were not disappointed that I would modify their products as this was spelled out by the new plan.  (I.E. the "solution" to the PBL.)

I regard this as one of my most insightful and repeatedly useful experiences in any school to date.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Digital Project Review: Dialectic Journals by Mark Friesen

What really piqued my interest Mark's video was the concept of having a "conversation with the text and the author."  Dialectic indeed refers to discussion and investigation, but the imagery of having an animated conversation with an inanimate text book struck and image of students excitedly looking to their resources.  They could challenge, paraphrase and contextualize the content that lies within.

I was intrigued as to which kind of parameters could be used for the instructor to select certain lines, quotes or facts.  What would be most stimulating for the learner?  Would it be something that is inherently confusing?  Or perhaps something that appears so banal that most readers would skip it over.

I am ever-interested in the scaffold approach to any learning, and in doing some further reading I think the following guiding questions would be an ideal approach to first introduce, then progress the learner in the process of dialect journals.

Stage 1: Which quotes do you believe?  Which do you not believe?  Why?
(This would provide a venue for the learners to display their writing skills, and for them to become accustomed to the idea of articulating their beliefs. It would also introduce them to the general format of dialectic journals.)  This is kept introductory in nature by the lack of referencing material and defending their position.

Stage 2: Discuss certain key knowledge.  Tasks such as explain, describe or define concepts and theories to demonstrate how they understand them. (This may also be an opportunity for them to display misunderstandings.)  This could include other basic prompting such as "were you surprised by this fact?" Again, keeping the responses simple is paramount for this stage, as we introduce the idea of referencing the material.

Stage 3:  In this phase, the respondent would be engaged in more complex journal entries.  Examples would be relating knowledge to skills, or relating pathophysiology to signs and symptoms.  Likewise, differentiating certain knowledge would be key in this stage.  Case studies could be used to accomplish this level of dialectic engagement.  For example, a patient presentation could be described, and the learner would be prompted with such questions as : "Make connections between the patient's shortness of breath and medical history."

Stage 4: In this stage, the case study would be the end product of the technique.  An overarching theme would be to the extent of "Describe the history, risk factors, signs and symptoms of a heart attack.  What diagnostic findings would be associated with a heart attack patient?  What other diseases would be similar?  Is there any threat to life with heart attacks, etc..."

The 4-stage approach to dialectic journals would relate back to evaluation.  The learner will have been taken through the steps of dialectic journal entries in parallel with cognitive domains.  The stages progress from recall and understanding to synthesis and creation with aplomb.  By the end of the process (either within a class unit, or semester, or scholar year,) the student will be engaged in critical thinking and clinical reasoning.

Digital Project Review: Team Jeopardy by Neeru Mann

In reviewing other's digital projects for PIDP 3250, I was drawn to the Team Jeopardy presentation by Neeru Man.

I wanted to see how someone else valuated an activity that I have often used in my classes, and I was pleased I may be able to assuage some of the "cons" listed, but to also have the activity affirmed in other aspects I had not perceived.

Neeru mentions that the setup of the activity may be time-consuming, as a myriad of questions (that are content-specific and highly precise) need to be formulated.  While I agree it takes some time, I believe there are long-term time savings benefits.  First and foremost, the Jeopardy questions provide a basis for any exam questions. Whence you go forward and create and exam, the basic framework for types and content of questions is created.

Concurrently, the learner is informed as to which concepts and theories on which they should be focusing their attention.  The students are familiar with this essential content, and there shall be no "nasty surprises" for the students, as such.

I also can advocate for the team-building inherent in this activity. In fact, I have usually picked the team captain based on those students which are least engaged, and mandate that the answers be given out loud only by them.  While this does cause minor awkwardness at first, the team captains soon figure out effective systems for communication with the team and they become more adept at public speaking.

Furthermore, team building is one of the most important aspects of this activity.  Team skills are an essential component of any profession, and most new employers value this trait in new hires (Kirscht, 2013).  Introducing team building into introductory courses is complimented with Team Jeopardy's ability to actively engage students in team work while being well suited to basic knowledge recall.

The team aspect allows the students to openly debate the questions and responses, and allows for critical thinking to take place.  For the team to come to a consensus, there has to be impromptu conflict resolution and reasoning skills.   The students often convince each other of differing responses by discussing the pathophysiology or presentation of a given disease.  As the questions progress in difficulty, this task becomes refined.

This activity also allows for the facilitator to glean needs and knowledge gasps moving forward. If certain concepts or theories are misunderstood, it's an opportunity for prompt and specific feedback to the group.

Overall, this activity produces the foundation for team work in a fun, non-threatening fashion whilst preparing the students to challenge evaluation and helping them understand the importance of main themes in the curriculum.  A trifecta, if I ever saw one!


Ron Kirscht, (2013).  8 essentials of building of building a strong team.  Industry Week.  Retrieved from

The culture of/by education. Public pedagogy.

When you think about culture, what comes to mind? Clothing? Language?  Food? Religion?  Of course, these are all important factors that can help define and describe culture.  

When I google the definition of culture, it the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively."  Likewise, it continues to define culture as  "the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group."  When we break this definition down, one elements stands out: Social Institution.  As we delve into the constructs of education, we can find descriptions such as:  "School is first and foremost a social institution; established organization that has an identifiable structure; a set of functions for preserving and extending social order
primary function-to move young people into the mainstream of society.   So, where am I going with this?  Public pedagogy.

When doing some (admittedly more in depth than expected) research into the Gogies forum, the domain of public pedagogy proved to have an evasive and somewhat abstract definition. Giroux, the Canadian forefather of public pedagogical theory, likened public pedagogy to the influences that are exerted on a population that become intrinsic to culture.  Exemplifying this notion is issues such as healthcare.  As Canadians, we expect equal and mostly free access to bio-medical care. Both these expectations are institutionalized and delivered by the government, thereby demonstrating a public pedagogical strategy.  As Canadians, we are taught to associate our "way of life" (i.e. culture) to inherently free healthcare that is geared towards procedures, and to a much larger extent, medications.

I think it goes without saying that educators inherently play a major role in the culturing of those they teach, wether it be how they interact with the learners (culture of education) or the content they deliver (culture of subject, such as the aforementioned medicine.)

As I read about public pedagogy, I began to reflect on what I was overtly and covertly teaching the students in my class.  Some examples: How was I representing Canada in Qatar?  What subject matter bias was I (potentially) ignorantly promoting?  Does my own cultural background agree with what I am teaching?  What kind of relationship was I using to relate to the students?  Was it dichotomous or synergistic?  

Teaching continues to push me to reflect and evaluate my behavior in relation to my intentions.  I remember a quote from a seminar I attended on root cause analysis.  The lecturer had helped NASA investigate and determine the cause of Challenger's loss on re-entry to earth's atmosphere.  He speculated that a sign inside the NASA hanger was misleading.  It read "Safety is Job #1."  This overt messaging was in direct conflict with the mission of NASA: Space exploration.  Needless to say, it's inherently incredibly risky to engage in space travel, and this seemed to encapsulate the conflicting intentions at the space agency.  In relation to teaching: I talk the talk, but do I walk the walk?

ISLP Checksheet, first draft...