About Zen Parry Educator

An educator quietly disrupting higher education

I want to run an online course

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The sad reality is I have witnessed this conversation in this video below many, many times. Online courses take two fundamental forms – (1) flat-file and distance based with no interaction and (2) engagement driven in real-time with substantial interaction. An online course does not have to be a Power-point dump of someone’s already questionable teaching in the classroom. Who listens to endless droning while 100’s of Power-point slides slip by? It doesn’t work online either.

The best online design comes from people who have been online students AND delivered teaching online as a Lecturer – there is credibility and authenticity they are designing from the student experience perspective. If a Lecturer has never been an online student then they have missed the point of an online course completely!

I have yet to meet a Lecturer who has taken their own “Power-point poisoning online dump course” – maybe if these Lecturers “ate their own dog food” then the quality of their online educating would improve substantially. If these Lecturers would reflect on the practices they use to develop themselves professionally then perhaps they could then use those same practices to help others learn in their course!

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The Zen of Yoda

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Says Yoda……

Says Zen…..How many of my students have known me to say “You must unlearn what you have learned! If you don’t believe it, that is why you fail…………….”

Acknowledgement: http://mindoverminerals.com/  for always presenting an interesting and valuable perspective on how education can be (and reminding me of this Yoda vid)

How Entrepreneurs see the “unexpected”

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When I taught entrepreneurship in South Korea, many of the Korean students expressed the conflicts they balance between wanting to be an authentic entrepreneur and participating in a non-entrepreneurial education system. This article from the Seattle Times highlights this point in the words of the young “treps” featured when they state “if we were in the US they would have dropped out of school and done a start-up” (without the shame of not finishing their schooling). I can imagine the stress associated with ‘doing the bare minimum to pass’ and not being the typical robot Korean student that families create.

While I was involved in the South Korean treppie community much of what I saw was window dressing for the outside world looking in, with little true entrepreneurship occurring. These guys in the Seattle Times article are different and hopefully emblematic of the new generation that can blaze a new path. They really have seen the ‘unexpected’ and I truly wish them well!  http://ecubelabs.com

http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2021127653_skoreastartupsxml.html

And from the Kauffman Foundation – another insightful commentary on the cool way entrepreneurs do things. If only we could make education half as entrepreneurial in some way. . . . . . . .

The Entrepreneurial Learner

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As I strive to create an environment where students can become entrepreneurial in their learning, there is always a struggle with the institution that houses the experiential program. It is not just about the students shifting their mind-sets, but the faculty and the administrative leadership also need to become entrepreneurial learners to succeed as well.

A New Design for Education

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My passion and research is in redesigning what I see as a broken system for education. My goals and ambition for my experiential course model are simple – make every student feel as if they own their learning!

There are many unique and authentic experiences in our experiential model – you get one-on-one attention from me because you are online. You write an email and I respond – you won’t always receive that attention from me in a face-to-face class or an auditorium lecture.The course is not a “one-size-fits-all” – it is not an assembly line. Instead it is a massive, intricate, continuous and complex networking experience and ALWAYS extremely interesting and creative BECAUSE it is driven by contributions from every participant as they discover their talents, ideas and passions. If the course content is not customized to suit every individual in that course, then I haven’t done my job! It is easy to customize when the student creates and curates that unlimited content through their interests and expertise! There is no spoon-feeding, exams, tests or quizzes – just contributions and collaborations! Hopefully this experience will stay with the students through-out their journey of life-long learning.

This video offers a way forward – it all comes down to technology in the palm of your hand!

The Networked Student

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It is one confident position to state that I design experiential courses. It is quite another (perhaps confident) position to identify the necessary skills to create an entrepreneurial and networked student that gains the most from an experiential course. Most students are a product of the broken system they have been in for decades. They complain about the process but they are also part of the process and consequently are part of the problem. It was the same system when I was a student – all assembly line, where it is  easy to ‘read, write and submit’ my essay. Did I learn anything then? Not much. Would I learn anything now? Probably about the same non-amount, although I would probably pay someone to write the essays for me in this academic era.

The first couple of weeks of our experiential class are always painful as students realise they have to unlearn their academic Pavlov Dog behaviours to be able to learn in a new way that is meaningful for their future. As the educator, all I can do is stand attentively at the side as they struggle, get angry, fight the process then finally embrace what is happening and become immersed. It is like taking the training wheels of a bicycle for the first time.

It always works!

The future of learning – as simple as letting the students ACTUALLY LEARN?

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Being immersed in higher education at the moment, there are many days when all I see are the enormous gaps between academics and students and the system they are participating in. Sometimes this gap is created through a jostle for control and authority, often creating misplacement of interests and in conflict between the agenda’s of the different stakeholder groups.

Why can’t learning be more entrepreneurial and allow students to find the answers for themselves? When students do this, they truly do retain what they have discovered! Why can’t academics trust their students to find their potential and personalize their learning? When students do this, they truly do retain what they have discovered! Why can’t students be more engaged in their own learning by customizing what they learn towards their passions and interests? When students do this, they truly do retain what they have discovered!

The question of technology within education is as polarizing as ever, perhaps polarizing in the context of ‘everyone’ sees the need to integrate technology into education, yet there is still incredibly dogmatic resistance towards this integration from academics AND from students alike. Both sides can be faulted – one for feeling threatened that (because of technology) their livelihood could be jeopardized and the other side for feeling frustrated that (without technology) their livelihood remains indefinitely at arm’s length. It is a comfortable position for both sides to take because there is always an excuse to support either view. It is always a disappointing conversation….

The system that fosters learning as we know it today can change. As the video asks, “why can’t schooling now, be just a little bit better?”