Science for the People, the 1970s and today, then and now

Originally posted on Intersecting Processes:

One shift since the 1970s, interestingly not remarked much on during the conference just ended, “ Science for the People, the 1970s and today ,” is the rise of more self-conscious participatory processes.  This early morning youtube provides my reflection on the conference through the lens of being more self-conscious about participatory processes.  The document I am using to prompt my unscripted talk can be seen at .

To be clear: The document was prepared by me, a participant, after a post-Occupy “disconference,” not by the organizing committee.  I did send the committee a copy, but my primary motivation was not to diss the disconference, but rather to put any dissatisfaction behind me by using my experience to learn, to clarify what I think about better engaging participants’ interests and energies.  The same “Plus-Delta” spirit of learning (or “refractive practice“) motivates the youtube.

View original

On coming to have Big Ideas

I wonder if the cartoon below (posted in a thread on Seymour Papert’s idea of Big or Powerful ideas) suggests exactly the wrong idea about creative learning (the subject of a current MOOC).

Yesterday I read an essay that chronicled 3 years of Darwin’s 1837-1839 diaries as he worked his way very indirectly around but eventually towards the idea we now call natural selection (providing the mechanism of evolutionary change that can result in organisms adapted to their environment) (Millman and Smith 1997). In retrospect, Huxley (Darwin’s younger colleague) could say “Why didn’t I think of that!?” — natural selection is a Big and Powerful Idea. But what we can make of something after the fact is not a guide how a person plays with projects and interacts with peers to come up with a big idea. Unless one thinks that Darwin was an exception….


Arthur B. Millman & Carol L. Smith (1997). Darwin’s Use of Analogical Reasoning in Theory Construction. Metaphor and Symbol 12(3): 159-187 (abstract)

Seymour Papert (1980): Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas.


To meta-MOOC or not?

I think I’d have reservations if someone came to my regular college course saying that they didn’t want to attend all the lectures and do most of the assignments, but, instead, wanted to have discussions with students about how to rework the classes, study the diverse learning strategies of other students, make connections with competing theories of epistemology, etc.

But this kind of discussion often emerges in a connectivist-MOOC so the question might be just how much metaMOOCing can take place in a c-MOOC before it undermines the core purpose of the course?

This question has extra relevance in a MOOC on learning creative learning, where the central ideas are that Playing with materials as part of a Project, undertaken with Peer interaction is a way to release the Passion that learning ought to be about.  It would be a metaProject to have the LCL MOOC be a project for many people, not only the LifeLong Kindergarten core group.

If you buy my earlier post that there might be a 5th P — Parameters — then metaProjects might be out of bounds.  But it would be interesting — if not this year when the LLK are doing a first run with their new videos and format, then perhaps next year — for a c-MOOC on Learning Creative Learning to encourage metaProjects.  Thoughts?

Originally posted to

Relevant posts that fed into this one include:


What leads us to change our teaching so it departs from how we were taught?

A feedback slip at a recent faculty teaching workshop I ran asked the title question of me personally. Some thoughts:
1. A colleague who shifted during graduate school from ecology to science education studied science faculty who made a big change in their teaching (towards being more interactive, activity-based, etc.). He concluded, as I recall it, that each person had their own biographical reasons–there were no generalizations.
2. I have often found myself saying that I haven’t systematically looked at my own development as a teacher. I don’t have a coherent narrative to offer anyone else.
3. It is the case that I have tried to articulate my guiding themes ever since I had to prepare material for reappointment/promotion reviews. Doing this made me, in turn, more conscious of what I was doing (see and precursors).
4. But being reviewed may not be the explanation — indeed, colleagues advised me to focus on publications because teaching doesn’t really count. At about the same time, I had stumbled into being the advisor for graduate students teaching writing-intensive seminars (because I had started such teaching for extra $$ one summer). In that role, I observed their classes and had to invent ways of reflecting back what I saw — some of my themes about teaching arose from doing that. From that experience I convened a “teaching co-op,” in which faculty and grad. students observed each other’s classes.
5. But commenting on the teaching of colleagues may not be the explanation, given that I had already instituted a practice some years earlier of having students take turns to stay after class and give feedback.
…and so on.
6. I think a key connecting strand here is that my research has always been about problematic boundaries of complex situations and I have sought and made use of opportunities to teach interdisciplinary courses about life and environmental sciences in their social contexts. This teaching gave me the chance — or made it a necessity — to formulate my own distinctive interdisciplinary themes. In short, reflection on my teaching practice was less some virtuous approach to teaching and more something I had to do intellectually.
(More thinking, remembering, reflecting is needed here…)

Research for Writing, Writing for Research: A workshop

Overview of a workshop run for doctoral students in Environmental Studies at Yale University in Fall 2008.

OK, you’re near the end of a semester learning about qualitative research and preparing a research proposal.  This “writing workshop” will look at the role of writing in research from three different angles:

1.  Thinking about what your project (or thesis) is isn’t finished until you finish writing—and you can’t bring writing to a finish without thinking through what your project (or thesis) is really about.  So, what processes can help you with your thinking and writing at the final stages?  We’ll look at “Sharing” and “Revising with Feedback,” guided by chapters 3 & 13 of Peter Elbow’s Writing with Power (Oxford U.P.) and another piece of his ( elbowresponses.html).   (If anyone wants to volunteer a few pages for us to give feedback on, please email me and I’ll explain how this will work.)

2.  The course syllabus says:

The idea is to commit to a project quickly and put some effort into it; you may change your mind later, or find that the problem you thought was worth pursuing is in fact a deadend. Congratulations—that is what research is all about.

Is that what research and writing have to be like?  It is too late to change for this semester, but let’s compare your experience with a process that allows more time for finding a project that really engages you.

Before the workshop:

a. Read the introduction to a book ( that compiles material from three CCT courses:

b. Examine the “phases of research and engagement,” which are overlapping and “iterative”

c. Consider the idea of “dialogue around written work

During the workshop, we will use two of the tools in the book to compare your experience with the ideas/practices in a, b, & c: Guided freewriting, and Strategic Personal Planning.  (Details of how we’ll do this can wait till the workshop.)

3.  (time permitting)  Many of you will be teachers and researcher advisers one day.  If you see your development as a teacher as an ongoing process, then this process is a suitable subject for qualitative research.  In that light, before the workshop please read the compilation of snapshots from my development, and come prepared to give feedback so I can revise and improve this first draft.  (I’ll be asking you to use one of Elbow’s variety of responses in providing the feedback.)


Think, listen, share on our learning process in the 2014 Learning Creative Learning MOOC

With three others (at times that accommodate international participants), we’re planning hangout events in which we will think, listen, and share about the state of our learning in the 2014 Learning Creative Learning MOOC,

The first week (March 18-20) we will pay special attention to a “Prepare” step valuable for subsequent participation in the MOOC — or for deciding not to participate this time around. Participants will discuss what type of learning experience we are looking for; what we could put in place to minimize the barriers or challenges; and so on. The hangout will support us to take the time to address these and related questions.

In following 6 weeks, as long as people keep joining the sessions, there will be similar hangouts about the state of our learning, paying special attention each week to 6 more steps of MOOC involvement: Orient, Declare, Network, Cluster, Focus, Reflect. (The sequence here combines 5 steps identified by Dave Cormier, with pre- and post- steps added by Felicia Sullivan, .)

The hangout hosts are return LCL participants, whose experience in LCL 2013 led to, which addresses the needs of online learners who want to dig deeper, make “thicker” connections with other learners, and connect topics with their own interests.

Hangout times during the week: Tues 7.30am, Weds 4pm, Thurs 9am & 8pm. Note: The USA will be on summer time.


Half-time lectureship in Critical & Creative Thinking–Please spread the word

Please spread the word about a half-time lectureship in Critical & Creative Thinking (CCT) graduate program and the Science in a Changing World track for a person with ability to teach online and blended courses that span psychology, conceptual development in math and science, and research and writing for mid-career professionals around reflective practice and CCT in general.  More details:

The position could increase to full-time with additional teaching options if a proposed doctoral program in Creative and Transformative Education gets approved or if CCT student numbers increase.  This possibility, of course, can’t be committed to in the position description or initial appointment.


Full description

The College of Advancing and Professional Studies (CAPS) at the University of Massachusetts Boston seeks applicants for a half-time, non-tenure track, Lecturer in the graduate program in Critical & Creative Thinking (CCT) and the Science in a Changing World track, to begin fall 2014.  The CCT program has, for more than thirty years, helped mid-career students involved in a wide array of professions and endeavors to develop clarity and confidence to make deep changes in their learning, teaching, work, activism, research, and artistry.  Of particular interest for this position are candidates with a doctorate; ability to teach online and blended courses that span psychology, conceptual development in math and science, and research and writing for mid-career professionals around reflective practice and CCT in general; an active presence in activities and forums through which attention could be drawn to CCT course offerings and degree tracks; and experience in program development and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration.

Responsibilities include: teach three (3) online or blended graduate courses each year; develop and maintain relationships with practitioners (including CCT graduates) in a wide range of professional and online forums for the purpose of program promotion and pedagogical innovation; with the Director and Assistant Director, develop marketing strategies, evaluate the impact of various efforts and adjust future plans accordingly, and actively participate in new student recruitment; evaluate students’ capstone projects; prepare grant proposals for external funding.  Faculty may also contribute to the University’s urban mission, to university and college committees, to professional associations, and to collaborations with faculty colleagues on teaching and scholarly work.  The blended courses meet once per week in the evenings or in a 3-week summer semester; apart from that, there is considerable flexibility in the time and place where duties are performed.


A doctoral degree or A.B.D. in a relevant field is required. Applicants must have: at least three years of graduate-level experience in teaching and curricular development in online and blended modes; content knowledge that spans psychology, conceptual development in math and science, and research and writing for mid-career professionals around reflective practice and critical and creative thinking; an active presence in activities and forums through which attention could be drawn to CCT course offerings and degree tracks; experience in program development and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration; and strong awareness of emerging trends in the preceding areas in multicultural and international contexts.

Additional Information:

UMass Boston provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment.

Application Instructions:

Please apply online (via links to with your curriculum vitae, cover letter, and three professional references.

Review of candidates will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 128 other followers