Sunday, April 24, 2011

Making progress-April 21 Meeting

(This is a posting by Liz,...I was sadly not there).

We had a really great meeting today with the faculty collaboration. Roger helped us use the "sticky wall" to try to solve the puzzle involving.....

Course and projects
Projects and Topics
Students and Projects
Faculty and Topics

After a lot of discussion we looked at a ridiculous project of "playing basketball for 2 hours a week" to see if even such a seemingly meaningless project could incorporate the topics from our course. A bit of a disclaimer in case someone misunderstands this example. We want to have students working on meaningful community based projects like described on our SUSTAIN SLO blog, and we are not saying Basketball is meaningless. This is just an illustration.

We all became energized around this. Below are some really great contextual examples around basketball.

acceleration, motion, collision of elastic and non-elastic objects.
 - varying rates of movement. Balls traveling in a parabola. Maximum and minimum points using derivatives
Statistics - Free throw percentages, is there such a thing as a "hot" shooter? Probability of making a shot from different points on the floor.
Economics - Diminishing marginal returns, opportunity cost, consumer choice model, institutionalization of basketball, wage comparisons
English composition - Anything mentioned in economics can be formed into an argument, Analyze the voice, Analyze trash talk.
Communications - verbal and non-verabl communications, strategy of movement
Audience analysis, who sits where and why (i.e. Jack Nicholson)

Next week we will discuss various models of illustrating the interplay between course, students, time, projects, faculty, and anything else that matters. There are many ways to look at this, a request was made of the group in general to bring your favorite model to share.

I think we are making progress.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Range of Possible Community Projects

These are some of the projects that are emerging in partnership with community agencies.

USDA Grant Partnership with the Food Bank for Hunger Free Communities
The Food Bank and non-profits involved in HEAL-SLO, the County Health Department, Cal Poly, and the local farming and business community have received a planning grant to assess local hunger needs and resources, and establish a coordinated strategic plan to meet the needs of those who suffer from food insecurity. potential disciplines needed: Sociology, geographic information systems, statistics, Spanish, Agriculture, Nutrition, Journalism, Graphic Design, Economics, Kinesiology, Food Science, Dairy Science

Trial Site for Sustainable Living
A group of Cal Poly faculty and students are working with the administration to establish a physical site dedicated to testing permaculture and other alternative technologies. potential disciplines needed: engineering, agriculture, ornamental horticulture, agribusiness, biology, architecture, Art and Design, Food Science & Nutrition, religious studies, philosophy, psychology, anthropology

Live Classical Music in Public Spaces
The San Luis Symphony is interested in supporting arts education and culture. There is interest in creating the possibility of live, small but high-quality free public performances that enrich our community awareness of the performing arts. What would it take for this to happen? potential disciplines needed: art and design, music, theatre and dance, journalism, English, marketing, graphic communication, psychology, education

Aquaponic Development of Local Aquatic Protein Sources
Aquaponics is a method to produce aquatic protein and plant food sources in a symbiotic sustainable environment. There is a small interest group who desires to develop and trial local aquaponics systems. potential disciplines needed: Biology, Crop and Soil Science, Food Science and Nutrition, statistic, chemistry, sustainable agriculture, engineering, marine biology

Biochar for Reducing Atmospheric CO2 Content & Improving Soil Properties
Biochar is the product of combusting biomass. It captures and stores atmospheric carbon dioxide while increasing the soil fertility and improving its capacity to filter water. There is an interest group in further developing biochar for local use. potential disciplines needed: Biology, Crop and Soil Science, physics, chemistry, engineering

Gleaning System for the Food Insecure
Each year, tons of local food is left unharvested while tens of thousands of people in our community qualify for food stamps. There is a group of individuals who have begun to conceive of and develop a local gleaning system with local farmers to provide food for the food insecure. potential disciplines needed: Art & Design, Graphic Communication, marketing, economics, computer science, geographic information systems, engineering, statistics, agriculture, journalism, psychology,

Re-Skilling for New Local Economies
Within our community, there are elderly populations that posses the knowledge of preserving food, hand crafting clothing and other skills. These skills are being lost to emerging generations. There is interest in designing how we might learn these skills and create new local economies. potential disciplines needed: gerontology, agriculture, sociology, journalism, engineering, graphic design, political science, history, fruit science, food science and nutrition, accounting, statistics

San Miguel Community Partnership for Sustainable Development
San Miguel faces long-term water scarcity issues along with socio-economic challenges. A growing partnership with key San Miguel agents is envisioned to begin systemically addressing the long-term community goals through trial sites within the community. potential disciplines needed: Viticulture, engineering, agriculture, watershed management and hydrology, tourism planning & management, ethnic studies, statistics, soil science, political science, education, statistics

Latino/Latina Success in K-12 & Beyond
Cal Poly is surrounded by Latino communities, yet its student Latino/a population is less than half the state population. This group is interested in systemically working toward equitable educational outcomes. potential disciplines needed: education, ethnic studies, Spanish, math, chemistry, physics, statistics, sociology, geographic information systems, political science

Natural Resources Management
This area is rich with wildlife and land, much of which would benefit from greater attention and management.  For example, there are small bodies of water in Morro Bay that would benefit from experimentation with "living machines" to reverse their eutrophication. There is also a need to work with local agencies to enable fewer wildlife deaths through better design and management of human/wildlife habit intersections. potential disciplines: botany, biology, geography, engineering, chemistry, journalism, political science, art and graphic design, English.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Intent + Alternative Learning Resources

We are now in the process of considering the design of the learning experience.  We need to detail out 3 critical areas: the form (or structure), the process of learning, and the materials that would be used to learn.  We are to consider these inside the intent of the 100-frosh immersion initiative.

The intent of what we are doing is to add value to the students' learning experience in four critical areas (the underlined items are the four essential learning outcomes of an educated person in the 21st century, according to the American Association for Colleges and Universities):

  • Integrative learning within an interdisciplinary setting;
  • Focusing on sustainability as a way to gain knowledge of human cultures and the natural world;
  • Learning in the context of community-based projects as a means to cultivate personal and social responsibilities;
  • Develop the capacity for systems thinking as an intellectual and practical skill.

Potential Resources for Process and Material in some cases
If you're teaching something that is kind of "linear," where one concept builds on the next, or there are foundational skills that enable higher-level skills, you might want to consider the following resources. - complete courses for college - educational media managed by Stanford University - short video clips for learning a range of topics - a searchable database of learning materials - higher education course designed by content experts and learning scientists - higher education courses with video clips and closed captioning
i tunes university - a compendium of podcasts from places like Stanford, MIT, Yale, Oxford + more

Next move: Detailing how we'd learn

Today we attempted to talk about a potential project to see into how we actually might learn.  We spoke about the "Hunger Free Communities" planning grant and how that represents a kind of complex, authentic project that would have a great deal of room to learn all sorts of principles.

Some of the things we established were:
1. The project provides meaning and motivation. There is no need to have a 1:1 correlation between the content of the project and the learning objectives--that is, there can be a logical learning schedule that sits outside the project but ties into the project at reasonable places;
2. While we may value the relationships that students are building between one another and their benefits, we must do the rigorous work of creating a strawman learning plan for those who have a different value system (e.g., parents?, colleagues?, students?).  This would look like a schedule of what is learned, approximately when,  roughly how, and how it will be assessed;
3. A sufficient variety of simultaneously-engaged projects may be required to ensure that a range of "content" can be relevant (e.g., a project around only statistics of hunger and food insecurity may not address issues found in mechanics, although it could address something about physics if in part of it they were to compute energetics of locally growing food or something such as that).

Our next step is to consider a specific example of a quarter, imagining what students' learning needs could be and how you might address this from your teaching perspective.  For example, if you taught physics and you saw that of the 100 students, you'd have students at maybe 3 different levels of learning physics, how would you address that?

For next week, we are to bring topical weekly lists of what you might cover. In making this transparent, we may begin to see overlapping in the learning of concepts.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Example Project: Food and Community

Last quarter, Liz Schlemer (Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering) worked with a group of non-profits that have self-organized into a Food Coalition. They began asking the question, what would we need to do in order to get locally-grown food to the food insecure in a way that builds social fabric amongst neighborhoods.

The link below describes the vision of the food system.  If you are able, look at the picture by itself and follow the strands out to the descriptions of what people imagine it could be like.  Also, if you can, imagine the richness of narrative, thought, experimentation, required to bring something like this into existence.

Link to vision of a food system.
This link will take you away from this website.

Working with the Strawman

In our meeting last week, we looked at the details of the original "strawman" design of the 100-freshman immersion experience.  In doing this, we were wanting to see what the "boundary conditions" were and trying to consider how we might deviate from the strawman design to enable the best learning.

The boundary conditions are:
1. We must cluster existing courses (no new courses);
2. The faculty of record for these courses will be someone with the disciplinary expertise to serve in that capacity (either has taught the course or could be assigned to teach the course);
3. The faculty of record would hold the responsibility for enabling students to meet the existing learning objectives and assessing their mastery of them.
4. The face-to-face time formulas for the clustered courses would not change from the existing clustered courses.

The strawman design looks something like this:

The cohort:
100-freshmen students in a cohort, taking a series of courses together;
Roughly proportional participation from each college based on the proportion of majors at the university;
Roughly 50%: 50% female:male ratio, ideally balance within each college;
Stratified by traditional predictors of success (e.g., SAT scores) to determine if this type of learning works for all students;

The experience:
Three consecutive quarters with possibility of including transitions periods of prior and post quarter;
Taking only the clustered courses ("immersion"), no other courses "on top" of the experience;
Meeting weekly for regularly-scheduled blocks of time;
Clustered in teams around authentic projects with community partners which inform the learning, but do not entirely "drive" the learning content;
Flexible in the learning in all other ways (e.g., could have 1 solid week of economics followed by 2 solid weeks of English Literature, etc.; project teams could be different than learning teams);
Learning resources can be of any type (on-line, printed matter, field work).
Three full-time faculty coaches from differing epistemological traditions (e.g., liberal arts, natural sciences, a practice-based professional degree) during the quarter;
Supplemental learning from 1 additional full-time faculty member during the quarter;
3-15 "part time" faculty, depending on the needs of the projects.

Which courses would be clustered?
This is a "chicken and egg" type of problem, since we don't know what the students will need, yet need to schedule the faculty far in advance of knowing the students' needs.  We will most likely approach this "problem" by choosing a sub-set of courses that can be taught by faculty who are willing and able to work with us.  Based on a study done by Liz Schlemer, MOST majors can be accommodated by a series of 10-12 courses a quarter.  This implies that some faculty would need to teach 2-3 different courses during their quarterly involvement.  For example, a calculus based physics would be learned along side of a non-calculus based physics by different students.

How will students learn?
This is the thing we haven't worked out exactly, because we need the faculty with the disciplinary expertise who would be teaching those courses to make those decisions.  That is the challenge of this group.  Some of the things that have been considered are for some subjects that are "linear" in nature, such as math or physics, or statistics, which builds on foundational knowledge, to have students learn concepts on-line and work on more complex application in the projects and the classroom.  This approach may also work with learning a subject that requires a base-line working vocabulary, such as economics or biology. What about ENGL?  We don't know.  Perhaps if there were a literature or poetry class, it would sit outside of the projects.

What is next?
We will take a look at a potential example project so that we can begin to consider what learning would be like.   To be posted soon.

Next meeting: Thursday, April 14, 12-2 PM, Kennedy Library 202A.