Tag Archives: Audrey Watters

Introducing Audrey Watters

Audrey Watters holding shark jaw

Last week at NWeLearn’s 10th Anniversary conference, I had the great opportunity and privilege of introducing one of my ed tech heroes, Audrey Watters.  It was not only a big deal for me that Audrey was won of our keynotes, but it represented a milestone and celebration of what this little conference has grown into and how it is leading the pack in some ways.

Seeinging the tide of STEM &  Ed Tech conferences filled with all-male panels of experts and all-male line ups of keynotes (noticeable to the extent it generated a meme of its own), I threw down the challenge via tweet:

The NWeLearn nation answered the challenge in a big way – Audrey as one keynote, and so many top lady thinkers presenting sessions that we suddenly found ourselves in the majority. You rocked it, NWeLearn!

Here’s Audrey’s introduction (co-authored with my buddies Alysonn Indrunas and Maria Erb):

Good morning.  Are you having a good time? Enjoying the sessions?

When we talk about who influences us in our careers, especially in EdTech, it’s easy to come up with a host of names, but for the women in the room, there is perhaps no stronger influence right now than Audrey Watters.  And that may be true for men, as well.

Audrey often gives voice to the things we cannot say in our daily work lives while she critiques institutions and philosophies around the intersection of education and technology. As someone who claims to be a serial dropout, we’d like to give her an honorary degree in Feminist Radness. And men, if you feel excluded, allow me to remind you that feminism is for everyone.

On that note, NWeLearn has achieved a milestone. This year we have 26 presentations by women, 18 by men, and 9 presentations with shared duties. Wow NWeLearn! Way to represent!

According to Audrey, “To “hack education” isn’t something that just technologists should do or care about. Nor only is this a concern for teachers, administrators, parents, or students. We all should consider the implications of technology on how we teach and learn, lest the future of ed-tech be just like the history of ed-tech: learners as pigeons.”

Learners everywhere have a true champion in Audrey, watching their backs and taking shots at corporate bullies in disguise. She is onto them.

In her spare time, she reads, rabble-rouses, and prepares for the zombie apocalypse “because you never know”…And if you want to buy her a beer, try to make it a Green Flash West Coast IPA.

Please join me in welcome Audrey Watters!

The other thing tha happened this year? The Tweeters came out in force – sharing thoughts and resources from both keynoters (Jesse Stommel took the keynote reigns on the second day). The hashtag #nwelearn lit up by attendees and those following along from beyond the conference.

You can read all the tweets by checking out the conference Storify feed.

I hope you’ll join us next year at NWeLearn 2016 – somewhere in Oregon!

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#Fedwiki is EASyR than you Think

For the learner, Ward Cunningham‘s Federated Wiki is at once curation, collaboration, and synthesis.  It’s old school HyperCard mashing up with wiki-anyone-can-edit-this philosophy, plus a little 1990s Wild West of the Internet thrown in.  It’s easy and it’s hard at the same time because you have to think in page origins and iterations, not sites and links as we’ve become accustomed to them in the standardized web of 2015.  While it may not yet be ready for prime time, I can already see its potential.

(If you want to see its potential, Mike Caufield’s post from today does a great job illustrating the concept).

It got me thinking about the fundamentals of teaching and learning again. Not what instructor to hire or what our FTE count is this quarter, but honest-to-goodness teaching and learning concepts. Wow. (True confession: Had to dust some mental cobwebs out of the way).

In the good old days (pre-administrative appointment) my conference presentations were always faculty-oriented and teaching-related. One area I liked to present on was how to create activities that used critical thinking in online classes.  It’s a course and assignment design skill that faculty desperately needed – they created way too many “read and quiz” courses.   (It’s still a problem, btw).  In the online course, faculty often lacked the instructional design skills or time to move beyond using the basic quiz or test tool – uploading a PowerPoint or lecture capture video with a discussion was considered the height of engagement.  (To be honest, some faculty I worked with didn’t do anything more engaging in their  face to face classes either).

To help combat this problem, my friend and colleague, Dr. Kay Lehmann, and I developed a lesson planning guide (complete with acronym) to help faculty move from quizzing/testing as a final product to something based more on higher order thinking skills rather than just identification and recall.  We called our model EASyR…as in “the EASyR way to teach critical thinking”.   We basically  challenged  Bloom’s taxonomy – at least the way it was always laid out in K12 teacher’s pre-service programs — by flipping the order of the higher level concepts and changing and redefining the terms a bit…(though our idea aligned more closed with Anderson and Krathwol’s post-Bloom revision of the taxonomy).  Go big or go home, right?

We’ve refined it a bit since its origins, but in a nutshell, EASyR means:

  • E – explore – explore existing thought and concepts – see what all is available.  (Think of this as the initial Google search results – the whole list)
  • A – analyze – activities that help students differentiate between the relevant and the not-so relevant results of the exploration.
  • Sy – Synthesize – the process of taking the relevant results and the students own ideas,.and putting them together to create something new (at least new to the student).
  • R – Review, Revise, Reflect – These final steps are the most critical to higher level thinking and the ones we all but eliminate in our rush to prep for the next test.

So as I learn about the Federated Wiki, I can’t help but see how it fits perfectly in this process that I’ve been talking with faculty about for years.  The ease with which students can curate web content by dragging sites onto their own wiki pages makes exploration technically easy.  Being able to move the smallest paragraphs around, fork them to different pages, add video and images then share those pages with other students who can challenge or extend allows for deep analysis.  Because each learner creates the connections as they see them – their site is their synthesis – and the sky’s the limit for what products could result.  Finally, the revision lives in each page’s journal – reflection can be in commentary left on a page or in summary linked from the Welcome page.

I’m really looking forward to the Thinking Machine Happening with Audrey Watters in March.  The whole experience will, I suspect, confirm what I’m thinking as we explore what information is available, analyze it, and pull it into our own sites to become something we each take ownership of.  My reflections to follow…

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