100 Miles

Titus Norwood and myself

Let me start by telling a story. I have never been a runner. Pushing myself to do anything physical in my teenage years was like asking me to pull weeds – just something I was not drawn to by any means. I had no desire to be physically fit, but I still wanted to look decent. I joined track and gymnastics in high school, hoping this would spawn a “new” me. I took the lazy way out and did not give my best effort. As a result, I broke both of my ankles and it set me back even more. Now I could resort back to my Subway and pizza-eating habits I so craved. In college, I tried out for cheerleading and a girl fell directly on my neck, knocking me to the floor. I could barely walk for a week after that and I gave up on try-outs. Throughout this journey, my only “WHY” was that I was trying to look good, not feel good. I was trying to keep up with others as opposed to set goals for myself. All the wrong reasons helped me to stay in the wrong place. Eventually, I had two babies after graduating college and fell backwards even more down the slippery slope. I knew that I was going to be forced to look at why I was doing what I was doing, although I really did not want to. To preface all of this, how was I going to try this when I could barely even keep up with my two kids at such a young age. What I learned is that one step at a time is all I need to see at the moment. Small goals, small steps would eventually lead to consistency. I would get used to this and start liking the results, or so I told myself. So, round and round and round the track I would go, very slowly. I was not worried about those folks that ran faster than me or the kids at the track that could run up and down the bleachers and not break a sweat. I decided one day that I would set a goal for myself, a distance goal. Starting at 165 pounds (baby weight), it was very difficult. For a month, I could barely get around the track 4 times. Then by the second month, I was doing additional exercises with the 4 laps. By the third month, I was running more than walking and doing additional exercises. By the fourth month, I was doing two miles and additional exercises. By the fifth month, I was running 3-4 miles and started to venture away from the track and into running the great outdoors. All the while I was focused on distance. When I stepped on the weight scale, I watched the numbers slowly fall and even recorded it. One day, after about 5 months, I reached a goal weight that I had not seen in a long time. It was because I had shifted my FOCUS, my WHY. My WHY morphed from wanting to “keep up with the Jones’ ” to “I want to eat clean and instill a life change for myself and my family.” As a result, I was able to run 5 miles without stopping and consistently lost weight until I reached my goal weight. I even promised myself that I would be sure and run a 5k this year. Everything shifted when I spoke to myself in terms of goals and how they would impact me. I had set my sights on what I really wanted to do and weight loss became a by-product of that. It was when I shifted my focus from what I wanted to unearthing my WHY is when I started meeting my goals, and this transformation happened. I am now at the point that when I go out for a run, I am exercising mental fitness as a way of allowing me “think time” and clarity to what I am doing in all aspects of my life. While my WHY may shift in this way, I am grateful for discovering this so early on so that I could build and grow my WHY into other WHY’s. This is true because before I realized what I was doing, I ran over 100 miles in 5 months and found a partner along the way. This journey into physical fitness led me on a journal into mental fitness and I was able to run farther and exercise mental fitness at the same time.

Behavior, Failing Forward, COVA, Growth Mindset

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We have written Choice, Ownership, and Voice Through Authentic Learning Opportunities, which we will be referring to as the COVA eBook, to help you to create significant learning environments (CSLE) that will enable you to give your learners choice, ownership, and voice through authentic (COVA) learning opportunities. The COVA eBook is for you and in order to serve you more effectively, we are seeking your input. We need to know what is working, what we need to improve or change, and what we may need to take away or add. Our goal is to take your input and revise the COVA eBook by the summer/fall of 2018 when we plan to release a revised version of the eBook that can help you even more.

I read many books so before I commit to reading a book I like to examine a book’s table of contents, introductory chapters, and some sort of summary of the book. Therefore, to help you decide whether you wish to download the full copy of the COVA eBook we are offering you a PDF that includes the Cover, Table of Contents and first 3 chapters of the book so that you can get a sense of whether or not this book will be useful to you. The first chapter provides a context of how the COVA eBook came about; chapter two provides a context for building on the positive and operational definitions; and the third chapter provides a summary of the remainder of the book and points to the key ideas of how to make CSLE+COVA work for you, which is detailed in the remainder of the book. Download COVA eBook Preview

To download a copy of the full eBook we are simply asking you to provide your name and email address so that we can point you to the location where you can provide your input, to inform you on the progress of the COVA eBook revisions, and to point you to ongoing developments in the COVA approach. We respect your privacy and are excited to have you review our ideas and work so we will not share or sell your name or email address to anyone. You can also unsubscribe from the COVA eBook list at any time.

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COVA — is a learner centered active learning approach that gives the learner choice (C), ownership (O), and voice (V) through authentic (A) learning opportunities.

While the acronym COVA is somewhat authentic, the elements of the COVA approach to learning which include choice, ownership, and voice through authentic activities or assignments are based on well-established and widely accepted active learning principles. Similarly, the elements of Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE) are not new and neither is the idea of looking at learning from a holistic or broader learning environment perspective. So, when the COVA approach is combined with CSLE, you get a significant learning environment which takes into account all the key elements essential to effective active learning. Additionally, the learner has the opportunity to choose and take ownership of their own authentic learning experiences. All the variables are in place to help your learner make the meaningful connections which are so fundamental to learning. When you factor in a genuine digital learning portfolio, which we prefer to call an ePortfolio, you also give your learner the opportunity to find their voice, reflect on their experiences, express their insights, connect, and collaborate with a broader learning community. Research has shown that the assembly of existing or well-established ideas into new combinations is the foundation of most innovative work and knowledge advancement (Wuchty, Jones, & Uzzi, 2007; Duhigg, 2016).

COVA Components

Choice – Learners are given the freedom to choose (C) how they wish to organize, structure and present their learning experiences and evidence of learning. Choice also extends to the authentic project or learning experience. Choice promotes personalized learning (Bolliger & Sheperd, 2010) which includes adapting or developing learning goals and choosing learning tools that support the learning process (Buchem, Tur, & Hölterhof, 2014). It is crucial to acknowledge that the learner’s choice is guided by the context of the learning opportunity and by the instructor who aids the learner in making effective choices.

It is extremely important that this learning process is understood as guided discovery and not confused with pure discovery learning (Bruner, 1961, 1960). The research over the past 40 years confirms guided discovery provides the appropriate freedom to engage in authentic learning opportunities while at the same time providing the necessary guidance, modeling, and direction to lessen the cognitive overload (Mayer, 2004). In addition to instructor guidance, the creation of a significant learning environment will also provide guidance and structure to help direct the learner. The academic literature is rich with examples of choice which can often be referred to as learner agency, autonomy, empowerment, self-efficacy. Choice has a very long history as we can see from Dewey’s (1916) perspective from Democracy and Education:

The essence of the demand for freedom is the need of conditions which will enable an individual to make his own special contribution to a group interest, and to partake of its activities in such ways that social guidance shall be a matter of his own mental attitude and not a mere authoritative dictation of his acts. (p.352)

Ownership – Learners are given control and ownership (O) over the entire learning process including the selection of projects, the ePortfolio process, and all their learning tools. Once again we must reiterate that this ownership process is within the context of instructor guidance. The same benefits of guided discovery discussed above apply to this context as well. Constructivists, like Jonassen (1999), argue that ownership of the problem is key to learning because it increases learner engagement and motivation to seek out solutions. Ownership of learning is also directly tied to agency when learners make choices and “impose those choices on the world” (Buchem et al., 2014, p. 20; Buchem, Attwell, & Torres, 2011). Clark (2001) points to a learner’s own personal agency and ownership of belief systems as one major factor contributing to the willingness and persistence in sharing their learning. These belief systems must be understood prior to sharing their belief systems. Clark (2001) also claimed that media is not solely responsible for learner motivation.

Voice – Learners are given the opportunity to use their own voice (V) to structure their work and ideas and share those insights and knowledge with their colleagues within their organizations. The opportunity to share this new knowledge publicly with people other than the instructors helps the learner to deepen their understanding, demonstrate flexibility of knowledge, find their unique voice, establish a sense of purpose, and develop a greater sense of personal significance (Bass, 2014).

Authentic learning – Learners are given the opportunity to select and engage in authentic (A) learning opportunities that enable them to make a genuine difference in their own learning environments. The selection and engagement in real-world problems that are relevant to the learner furthers their ability to make meaningful connections (Donovan et al., 2000) and provide them with career preparedness not available in more traditional didactic forms of education (Windham, 2007). Research confirms that authenticity is only developed through engagement with these sorts of real-world tasks and that this type of authentic learning can deepen knowledge creation and ultimately help the learner transfer this knowledge beyond the classroom (Driscoll, 2005; Nikitina, 2011). It is also important to recognize that authenticity is not an independent or isolated feature of the learning environment but it is the result of the continual interaction between the learner, the real-world activity, and the learning environment (Barab, Squire, & Dueber, 2000). This is also why we stress that in the COVA model choice, ownership, and voice are realized through authentic learning and without this dynamic and interactive authenticity, there would be no genuine choice, ownership, and voice.


Barab, S. A., Squire, K. D., & Dueber, W. (2000). A co-evolutionary model for supporting the emergence of authenticity. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(2), 37-62.

Bass, R. (2014). Social pedagogies in ePortfolio practices: Principles for design and impact. Retrieved from http://c2l.mcnrc.org/pedagogy/ped-analysis/

Bolliger, D. U., & Sheperd, C. E. (2010). Student perceptions of ePortfolio integration in Online courses. Distance Education, 31(3), 295-314.

Bruner, J. S. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. S. (1961). The act of discovery. Harvard Educational Review, 31(1), 21–32.

Buchem, I., Attwell, G., & Torres, R. (2011). Understanding personal learning environments: Literature review and synthesis through the activity theory lens. Proceedings of the PLE Conference, 1-33. Retrieved from http://journal.webscience.org/658/

Buchem, I., Tur, G., & Hölterhof, T. (2014). Learner control in personal learning environments: cross-cultural study. Journal of Literacy and Technology, 15(2), 14-53. Retrieved from http://www.literacyandtechnology.org/volume-15-number-2-june-2014.html

Clark, R. (2001). Learning from media: Arguments, analysis, and evidence. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to philosophy of education. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Donovan, S. M., Bransford, J. D., & Pellegrino, J. W. (2000). How People Learn: Bridging research and practice. Washington D. C.: National Academy Press.

Driscoll, M. P. (2005) Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Toronto, ON: Pearson.

Duhigg, C. (2016). Smarter faster better: The secrets of being productive. New York, NY: Random House.

Jonassen, D. H. (1999). Designing constructivist learning environments. In C. M. Reigeluth, Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory (pp. 215-240). New York, NY: Routledge.

Mayer, R. E. (2004). Should there be a three-strikes rule against pure discovery learning? American Psychologist, 59(1), 14–19. http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.lamar.edu/10.1037/0003-066X.59.1.14

Nikitina, L. (2011). Creating an authentic learning environment in the foreign language classroom. International Journal of Instruction, (4)1, 33-36. Retrieved from http://www.e-iji.net/dosyalar/iji_2011_1_3.pdf

Windham, C. (2007). Why today’s students value authentic learning. Educause Learning ELI Paper 9. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3017.pdf

Wuchty, S., Jones, B. F., & Uzzi, B. (2007). The increasing dominance of teams in production of knowledge. Science, 316(5827), 1036–1039.

Student-Centered Learning, Pedagogy, COVA

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We believe that we must inspire and prepare our learners to lead organizational change using technology innovations as a catalyst for enhancing learning.
To do this, we create a significant learning environment (CSLE) that gives our learners choice, ownership and voice through authentic (COVA) learning opportunities.
We prepare leaders who can lead organizational change and drive innovation in a digitally connected world.

Core Proposition
Choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning

Student-Centered Learning, Professional Learning, Research, ePortfolios, Pedagogy, Failing Forward, COVA, CSLE, Constructivism, Social Constructivism, Growth Mindset, Feedback/Feedforward, Self-Directed Learning

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Disrupting Education

“What is disruptive? Moving from consumption to creation….this is where the magic happens. When students create and tackle real things, they get engaged. Kids are hungry to create. They are looking for new ways to do it….stay up all night to write songs. They need access and the environment. We need to build more tools and let go of constraints to let them create.”There is a lot of fear in doing something new. Involve them in the process. Pair their talents to the talents of their teachers – using their expertise.

Help students solve real-world problems….match resources to problems that exist in their neighborhoods.
Kids are hackers now…they can build websites! Pair those skills to real-world problems. Ask a crowd what’s wrong? They will tell you.

Be ready to adapt. Be ready for disruption. Build that shared experience with students.
Amazing possibilities when you work with students to solve real-world problems, try something new, experiment wherever you’re at. Use crowds of individuals to solve problems.
Take a step forward. Don’t live by someone else’s vision for how the system is supposed to work. Challenge the system and try new things and we will all learn together as part of that experience.

Thib Talks, Disruptive Innovation, COVA

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The Golden Circle “Why”


The Power of WHY
Let me tell you my story. In January 2015, I had my second child, Micah. I had gained almost 50lbs. I decided that it was time to start running to lose some weight. After many miles of running and my focus on the weight loss, the pounds just did come off. Day after day, I stepped on the weight scale and nothing happened. I couldn’t figure out why? I was left with the question of “why?” Why am I running? Why am I trying to lose weight. I realized it was time to find my “why.” I started to focus on distance, endurance, and strength. I found that running with a goal of distance and endurance should be my focal point, not the day to day weight loss regiment. I decided I was going to run a 5k this year! Before I knew it, people started asking me, “Have you lost weight?” Weight loss became a bi-product of my new goal, my new “why.” How transformative!! I encourage you to spend the next 18 minutes to watch Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle “Why.”  It could challenge your thinking in many ways where you just might be inspired to do something more than you thought you could.

Read this article to discover why failure is a great way to turn a challenge into an opportunity!
Sinek’s- Art Before Science

Thib Talks, Behavior, Failing Forward, COVA

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