Discoveries from ‘Data’: Not New Landscapes, New Eyes


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I asked students to respond to a Google Form for class last week. The point in doing so was to see what students made of the data from that form. I wanted them to look over what amounted to a snapshot of community activity. (If you are interested in the data, just tweet me at @telliowkuwp and I will send you a private link.) There wasn’t a lot of time to consider everyone’s discoveries in class, but one of the most important understandings was that they were part of a continuous stream of intelligence, the wisdom of crowds. Some of the students considered a single question addressed by sixty or so students in all my E300 classes. Others wanted to consider what the whole survey/ spreadsheet meant. We even had an interloper, Bart Miller, my ongoing MOOC and music and teaching buddy from Japan. He tweeted in:

Ya gotta love Bart’s hashtag #ED300stowaway. And that tweet gave me an opportunity to introduce our class hashtag #e300wku and the twitter client Tweetdeck. This is what I mean when I use the phrase ‘adjacent possible’. Having a ‘lesson plan’ with all of that stuff carefully scaffolded doesn’t unfold for students so much as it crashed down on the ears. This way there was a natural unfolding like a rose bud.

I was most interested in the last question: “we will end the semester at some point. May 15, in point of fact.. The Ides of May (if there is such a thing). Write for me what you imagine you might have done in your semester in English 300.”

Here is a hackpad with their responses and my ‘tagging’ of them, a kind of summing up so that I can get inside the data, translate it into myself. You can view a chart with all of the learner responses here at  Discoveries about Feedforward.

 So what was there to discover in that chart?

1. Students are not very specific about their hopes, dreams, and expectations. That is to be expected. It would take a very brave and self-confident student to push the limits on their imaginations. Although I had a few who were very funny and very dreamish.

2. Students have never been encouraged to use the concept of feedforward in their learning workflow. Just started a Scoop.It called Brain Movies to research this idea further. Simon Ensor has suggested some resources here and here as well.

3. Lots of abstraction and not much concrete to tie down the visualization.  In fact very little visualization/imagining evident.  Again, not a judgment, just observing that students coming to me do not see ‘brain movies’ as a potent tool in this environment.

4. An emphasis on the instrumental over the affective.  In other words feeling and what will be felt at the end of the course is not generally considered as part of the feedforward process.

5. Reactive to teacher content more than to intrinsic needs.  The expert is on top, not on tap. This will change, must change, if their research is to be personally significant.

This quick analysis has inspired me to create a Scoop.It page and a Diigo list to share with students (learners here and elsewhere) the wider world of visualization. They may have also given me the beginnings of the research question that I will pursue along with my fellow researchers in the course:

  • Is feedforward and a useful learning tool?
  • What is the relationship between feedforward and affect in workflow and goal creation?
  • How can we use feedforward ‘brain movies’ to achieve short and long term ‘making’?
  • Sample of One question:  how has feedforward and visualization helped me teach better? learn better?
  • All of these doors were opened by student data.  Think about using it in your own practice.  Special thanks goes to Maha Abdelmoneim for encouraging this post with her prodding question:


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4 thoughts on “Discoveries from ‘Data’: Not New Landscapes, New Eyes

  1. Since so many “adults” struggle to feedforward and visualize even short-term goals, I think it is fantastic that you are beginning this process with younger folks whose brains can benefit from it for decades to come. Even in adult PD, people tend to avoid the affective and do what they think the person “in charge” wants from them. Love this phrase: “The expert is on top, not on tap.”

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