Blog, Education, Video

Video: How to Make “The Pointing Arrow” Paper Airplane

I made this as part of my graduate course in adult education, around the idea of learning by creating and sharing “artifacts” on the web in a “digital portfolio”.

My 7 year old son Gabe is a big paper airplane enthusiast. In this video, Gabe shows you how to make a paper airplane of his own design, “The Poining Arrow”. As you can see in the video, Gabe is a natural explainer. We rehearsed once or twice before we recorded this, and he went into about twice as much detail in the actual video as he ever did during rehearsal, without ever missing a beat or needing to do a second take. Contrary to what he said in the video, this was actually his very first how to video, and I was very impressed with his style and ability to explain what he was showing. I recorded the video on my smartphone, and uploaded it directly to YouTube.

We’ve been using Gabe’s interest in paper airplanes in our homeschooling to learn about all kinds of things – geometry, symmetry, lift, drag, and experimentation with different designs to see how they perform. We’re just getting started with the idea of making how to videos and guides, but we’ll definitely be doing more. They’re a great way to take a constructionist approach to learning – making something (a physical or digital artifact), sharing it with others, and thinking/talking about what’s being learned.

Blog, Education, Podcasts

Podcast: Owls and Ornithology with Emma

I made this as part of my graduate course in adult education, around the concepts of how we construct our own learning by creating artifacts and sharing them. I’ll continue to publish bits like these as they come up.

This is a podcast (an audio recording) I created with my ten year old daughter Emma about her fascination with owls, how she got interested in them, and what she’s learned about them (the image you see above is a quick sketch of Emma’s “logo” owl drawing). She’a a very bright girl (if I do say so myself), and as my wife and I have taken charge of our kids’ education through homeschooling, it has been a joy to help our kids find topics they’re interested in, and encourage them to explore. We try to let our kids, the learners. lead the way with what they want to learn, rather than focusing on “depositing” knowledge into them from a set curriculum. We feel like we have a lot in common with the “hackschooling” approach described by 13 year old Logan LaPlante in his popular TEDx talk (though we’re nowhere near as cool as his parents seem to be :-).

I made this podcast using the SoundCloud app on my phone, but there are lots of other tools and services that make recording and publishing a podcast easy (like Chirbit or Audioboo). We recorded the interview in my car (which can make a great impromptu sound booth), and it automatically uploaded to the SoundCloud service. From there, it was simple to grab the embed code and insert it into this page.

I can see us using a podcasts a lot more as we explore different ways of learning with our kids. There’s something easy and natural about just having a conversation about a topic, and it’s easy to hear the excitement and enthusiasm in their voices as you talk about things they have learned. Web and device based tools make it easy to make a podcast, and I’ll likely be asking our kids to make more podcasts about things they’re learning. Creating podcast as a digital artifact of learning is a a great way to construct and share knowledge.

Blog, Education

Why I’m Studying Adult Education

If you follow me in other places or know me personally, you probably know that I’m in a Masters program for Adult and Organizational Education at Oregon State University right now. I’m in my second term, and I’m loving the program so far. I had always known that I wanted to go to grad school, but it was a challenge for me to find the right program or even field of study. I’m a “techie” guy, but I didn’t feel like computer science was the right field for me – I’m a mile wide and an inch deep when it comes to programming. I like to dabble a little in everything. People ask me if I’m a developer, and I always say no, because I feel like it would be an insult to the developers I know to say that I was.

But I’ve always loved to learn new things, and teach people how to do cool stuff. It energizes me, and (I’m told) I’m pretty good at it. So I started looking into education-related grad programs. Most of them, as you can imagine, are focused on people who are going to be teachers or professors. I’ve toyed with the idea of being an adjunct professor or something someday, but I like working in the world of software and technology too much to give that up for academia. I’m a practitioner, not a researcher. So my search continued until I found this program at Oregon State.

The program is built around several different educator roles, like instructional systems designer, and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it would be a good fit for this weird sort of hybrid career and skill set I have built up. So far, it’s been challenging, fun, and I have learned a ton. I have no fixed idea of what I want to do with this degree when I finish it, but this program is helping me figure that out. When I was little, people would always ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and, snarky child that I was (and am), I’d say “it hasn’t been invented yet, but I know it has something to do with computers”. That statement is as true today as it was when I was five.

I’m going to be posting a lot more here about the things that I’m studying and working on. Right now, I have an amazing instructor for our Instructional Technology courses, Jonan Donaldson. He has introduced some amazingly powerful concepts around “constructionism” (building our own knowledge) and how we can use technology to learn and teach. I’m absolutely in love with these ideas and their application in my work and family life (as we explore alternative education methods and homeschool with our kids). Jonan calls this concept “authorship learning“, and he’s definitely on to something. There’s something very powerful about the idea that instead of receiving knowledge from a teacher, or through study, that we create it by making things, sharing them with others, and reflecting on what we’re learning. We’re doing that in Jonan’s class, and I’m experimenting with it with my kids. I can’t wait to get a deeper understanding.

Expect to see posts, artifacts, reflection, and more on the topic as I explore these new concepts and attempt to figure out my mission in life. Wish me luck! 🙂