Circles of fear – a very personal story (Episode 6 (Summer 2010 – Summer 2014))

Episode 5

herbstAfter spending a very young summer (after all she is 4 years younger than me) with a lot of self-made music, little love adventures and a lot of relaxing in the Castle garden of Karlsruhe, my cooperative studies begin. I enjoy working and discovering the freedom I’ve got in my company. There is a monthly meeting which everybody can join and I am told that after every project presentation everybody can ask every question. So once attending to this meeting for the first time (after working a few days in this company), I ask 4 questions after 4 presentations (100% score, yay!) and get my first standing at the company. Some might be embarassed for the rest of their lifetime now but that’s not my way.

After Christmas, I change to my studying phase and work hard because I have a certain fear of not making it. I make it, even too good so that I decide to relax during the second year of studies. But one step after another…

Do you understand that I want to get back to this physical state? :)

Could I become a jacket model? 🙂

By the beginning of 2011, I have helped my girlfriend to become a lot better at school and lifted her up so that she does not hurt herself anymore or only at very rare occassions. I feel happy and we enjoy our time together travelling, making music and discovering/rediscovering the teenage way towards becoming an adult. It hits me like thunder once I learn that my girlfriend is suffering from some kind of bulimic anorexia. She has talked to my brother who decides that he can’t take the responsibility to keep that secret and talks to me. Three days later, she talks to me and tells me what happened to her.

Now I can handle it, another potential developing project, we can make it baby, here we go! I take her to a doctor, we talk to her mother, we try a lot of things and sometimes she feels better and sometimes she feels worse. Work is becoming a little less important even if I am struggling with the teams during my second year’s working phases. I guess I can thank to the music and my inner knowledge of my potential and unconscious feeling of my energy that I don’t start getting another psychic illness…

It’s by that time, in the end of 2011/beginning of 2012 that I begin to develop a little emotional distance from my girlfriend. I guess it’s a little self-protection wall against her sometimes very hard verbal aggressions. After all, she is sick and not herself or in control of herself all of the time anymore so I don’t blame her for that but take the necessary steps to protect myself. Though this beginning of losing my love for her, I still believe we can make it and move into a flat with her in autumn 2012. I accept a 90 minutes door-to-door one-way way to work everyday to be able to live with her despite the fact we work in different cities. In the beginning, it’s worth the pain. She gets a lot better once having left her parents (where she lacked the attention she needed or wanted to get). At least for sometime…

Through the green gate

Through the green gate

After about three months, I realize a change in her behaviour, now highly sensitive for this kind of behaviour. She is starting to overreact, to refuse being touched, to worry about eating, trying hard to destroy her life once again. I support her trying lots of things even though she has made my daily way-to-work-pain a ridiculous sacrifice by quitting her job and staying at home looking for another job closer to the city I work in. But my emotional self-protection wall begins to grow, I kind of put my heart into the freezer and we live together in the most independent way possible in a 3-room flat.

Ah yeah, I almost forgot, my final study year has already begun and I am working hard to prove my company I am the one to hire after my studies. I am writing a good project paper after a well-appreciated project in my company and discover my interest for education writing two research papers at the cooperative state university.
After some time of hard work and uncertainty, I finally get my working contract and can fully concentrate on writing a great bachelor thesis. Looking at my final grade, I haven’t done that bad…

2013-09-25 14.31.00In Autumn 2013, I leave for Kazan, Russia, to present a paper developed out of my research papers about education. I discover in this foreign country how easy communication with a girl can be even if you only share about 5 words in one language (she only speaks Russian and very very few words of english but luckily she is that smart she brings her tablet with google translator with her the second day). Nothing more happens but once back in Germany, I decide to accept my emotional wall and leave my girlfriend – may she do whatever she wants to her life as cruel as it may sound. I break up (I am so bad at it) and she falls in love again with another guy after a week or something.

I move to my parents’ again and enjoy life at Hotel Mummy again. Not for a long time, I lose my platin card guest status quite quickly and begin to mow the lane, clean the road and do some housework again quite soon. But I am not alone if I need someone to talk and I am independent enough in my room if I need some time for my own.
I begin working at the company where I studied after my longer holidays and enjoy it quite much. Towards christmas I am concentrating on a little love story with a chinese girl living in Cologne (in short it was like a rocket – took me almost to the stars in a sudden but somehow I dropped back to earth in a sudden like a waste part of a multistage rocket). This story already finishes shortly after the beginning of 2014 and I concentrate on work again.

2013-10-11 10.45.46I realize that now I am done, I’ve reached my last goals – getting my bachelor degree and getting hired. What am I supposed to do now? Should I keep working until my retirement? What do I do during my spare time? Why does work feel so bad and unfitting sometimes? Am I doing the right thing?

30 days of proacitivity diary - read me in the morning - tell me in the evening

30 days of proacitivity diary – read me in the morning – tell me in the evening

Let’s say I begin to think about my life again after three years filled with studies and girlfriend struggle. I discover the great book “The seven habits of highly effective people” by Stephen Covey and begin taking control of my life again. I do better at work, enjoy my life more and more and feel quite good. I am spending very great summer holidays, one week of hiking with my parents (Austria) and two weeks of language-learning/practising and partying/excessive dancing (Salamanca, Spain). I discover how much I like to get to know to new people once again and organise some parties and connect people to each other. Back in Germany, some may have a hard time getting used to my new self-confidence but yeah, we are working on that.

So lots of things are happening/I make lots of things happen and I want to leave you here for getting my shower to get ready for another exciting day.

Thanks for reading and feel free to ask for more detail whereever I have gone to fast.



Ten Thoughts That Changed My Life

Howdy folks,

Mind creates life

Mind creates life (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

today I want to introduce to you ten thoughts that changed my life as you voted me to do so in the last customer service poll. I used the blockquote formatting to mark my thoughts, might see it as a citation of my mind.

(1) It’s a small world full of great opportunities and great people.

This thought came in my mind once again this morning when I asked a young man at the Karlsruhe Main Station for a pen to write the notes for this blog entry. We began to talk and realized that we are both studying at the Duale Hochschule at Karlsruhe, both studying Applied Computer Science. The only difference was that he started his studies in 2012 and I started in 2010, so he will hopefully enjoy the Software Engineering course I designed starting in October 2013 and I will have finished my studies and be employed by this time. Thank you very much for giving me a pen, Michael K!

(2) There are entity theorists and incremental theorists, also called fixed mind-set and growth mind-set people.

I believe that there are also inconsistent people. These people believe that they can improve in one area and keep at the same level for all their life in another area believing that they are not able to change this. I think that being an incremental theorist/growth mind-set people is essential for being able to head for meaningful activities. Which will make you happier, you know. I believe I can grow!

(3) If something is made for me, I will feel and find it someday.

Door light

Door light (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I think that there are always opportunities that show you that you should decide to go somewhere and that you can always decide to live against what you are meant to but will feel when you listen to the hints of life and do what you are meant to. I just start to feel the flow then. Why someday? Because the good things sometimes take longer. I am taking singing lessons for almost five years now but only within the last two months, my progress have begun to scratch the surface of audibility.

(4a) If I do not take the responsibility for my life, nobody else does.

Does that sound daunting? It’s a great opportunity as you will see in the next thought…

(4b) Only if I take the responsibility for my own life and my personal development, I can become the best version of myself.

And that is what I aim for as I am looking for making my life a meaningful activity.

(5) We live in a wonderful world. How can I help and what can I do to maintain and even improve this world?

What do you think? What do you do?

(6a) I have to feel my body but be present and focussed on the outside.


Singer (That’s not me, will post about my band when we are ready :)). (Photo credit: flo and me)

This is very important to have the right source of energy (the body) and be able to use this energy letting it flow to a target outside. As a singer, groove and audience help me to do so.

(6b) In my mind I have to be precise but my body will only be able to translate this precise imagination if it is not cramped.

So I have to differ between precise thoughts I make in my mind and precise actions that result from the precise imagination in my mind (call it a template for action) and are improved by regular, mindful reproductions of the mind template (known as training).

(7) Freedom does not mean you do what you want to. Freedom means that you do what you want to as long as it does not limit the freedom of other people.

E.g. you could turn up your music as loud as you want to but as you would thereby limit your neighbour’s freedom to have a nap or simply relax, you should not do so. To say it with Eleanor Roosevelt‘s wise words: “With freedom comes responsibility.”

(8) There is bad work, good work, do your own thing and meaningful activities.

Social integration and meaning plus following personal aims leads to a meaningful activity

Social integration and meaning plus following personal aims leads to a meaningful activity

I already wrote about this one. If you did not follow one of the two meaningful activity links above, you can read about it here.

(9) There is the instruction paradigm and the learning paradigm.

Regretfully, you can not only find it in college but almost everywhere in life. I wrote about my thoughts on the great book of John Tagg here.

(10a) I do not need to rely on existing enterprises to satisfy my needs. I could start my own business.

social media

social media (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I often have ideas how to improve existing business models or how I imagine a great business/store of a certain kind. The last thing that came into my mind was my favorite future fashion store with no sale and no cloth hangers. As I am always looking for great opportunities and great people, I am sure that I will be able to realize the concepts one day.

(10b) We are all social beings.

So enjoy your friends, go for social interaction, use the amazing technical possibilities of our days. Join and communicate, meet people and make a difference, for you and for others. Remember, it’s a small world full of great opportunities and great people!

Goes without saying that I am looking forward to getting to know you and reading and answering your comments!

Lessons I learned from reading John Tagg’s “Learning Paradigm College”

Howdy folks,

Today, I want to introduce to you a great book about education and life I read some time ago: “The Learning Pardadigm College” by John Tagg. I read this book for my research on designing a new course concept for the Software Engineering course at  the Duale Hochschule of Karlsruhe and got a great bunch of inspiration from reading it that I want to share with you now. But some important questions first.

P question

What do you think about the Learning Paradigm College?

What do you think are the problems we are facing as students and as teachers at university/college/school?

Have you ever worked in a project in school/college/university and how did it feel compared to everyday’s learning?

I love to read and answer your comments, thanks in advance!

So now we can begin with the lessons I learned from reading John Tagg’s “Learning Paradigm College”.

Guidance from the map and feedback when you see a roadsign you expected to see. (Photo credit:

Guidance from the map and feedback when you see a roadsign you expected to see. (Photo credit:

Teaching is never adequate to cause successful learning because no matter how well you guide me in advance, I still need to determine whether I am successfully doing what you asked me to. (S. 189)

Guidance gives direction; feedback tells me whether I am on track or off track in a way that enables me to self-adjust. (S. 189)

This is an important thought first: A teacher can tell a student what to do but the student will need feedback from the teacher to determine if he/she is still on the way to success and how he/she could do better. If the teacher fails to give accurate feedback, every exercise will probably result in frustration for every student that accidentally lost the road (the way to success).

Many students will take time to learn to use their freedom because they have adopted a radically short time horizon, thinking in terms of the next test or the next assignment. (S. 245)

If you implement a new course concept which uses Problem-based and Collaborative learning (which I would really appreciate by the way, please remember to share your findings and experiences with us. Thanks!), don’t expect the students to change their habits from one day to another. As Tagg says, they have adopted a very short time horizon which makes it hard for them to work on problems that do not directly lead to the next test. This was the reason that I decided for the Software engineering course re-redesign to plan for almost weekly grades but always paired with feedback which is important to the students to improve as they will do the same activity again and again in the course.

When students write reflective journals or essays about their experience in the field – in internships, research, or service – they reify their formative meanings. And when they discuss those reflections, they participate in the ongoing negotiation of meaning. (S. 259)

Planned student activities during a "lecture" in my re-redesign of the Software Engineering course

Planned student activities during a “lecture” in my re-redesign of the Software Engineering course

In my SE course re-redesign, students are expected to write regular blog entries that are graded and that they receive feedback on. In their teams they discuss what they learned and how their project is doing and write a blog entry about it. Additionally, there are peer reviews for submitted project progresses with predefined criteria. The meaning of this criteria has to be negotiated, too.

Only if the teachers are learners too, and if they are seen to be learners, can they genuinely model deep learning for the apprentice learners in the community. The best design for learning in classrooms, it seems to me, is the combination of several teachers with a group of students who are addressing a theme that none of them quite has charge of, the meaning of which must be negotiated by the teachers as well as the students. (S. 263)

In this very inspiring quote, Tagg claims (in my opinion) for cross-discipline Problem-based and Collaborative teaching. There we get to a very central point of the Learning Paradigm College: Opposed to the Instruction Paradigm College with its “One teacher, one room, x students all focussed on the teacher (or should be)”, the Learning Paradigm College expects you to drop all the unjustificable relicts from the history of education: The blackboard and the teacher table do not have to be in front of the classroom and the chairs should not be arranged in lines. You may ask if it is still school then? No and yes. No, it will not be like school we know it today. But yes, it will (finally) be a school in the meaning of a “place where students learn something for life”.

English: 5th floor lecture hall at Baruch Coll...

English: 5th floor lecture hall at Baruch College. Taken on the day of an Economics Final Examination. The watermark is my own; I have full rights to this image and am the original photographer for this image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A lecture hall affords sitting among a mass and listening. The overwhelming message sent by the room is “sit down and watch what happens at the front of the room.” (S. 290)

Lining up the chairs in rows is an Instruction Paradigm habit. (S. 309)

As I already told you, the Learning Paradigm College expects you to drop all the unjustificable relicts from the history of education…

Shupe’s template for categorizing learning outcomes:

–          Understanding: a student’s demonstration of what he or she knows and understands within a specific context

–          Performance: a student’s demonstration of what he or she can do that is specific to a context

–          Perspective: a student’s demonstration of what he or she knows and understands that can be carried from one context to another

Capability: a student’s demonstration of what he or she can do that can be carried from one context to another.

(S. 301)

This template can be used to evaluate a student. And remember, evaluation is to analyze where the student can still improve in a learning environment that has a long time horizon. If you do so, please share your findings and experiences with us. Thanks!

Rich feedback leads to learning, while frequent evaluation often deters it. (S. 332)

Think about it in relation to deep learning vs. short time horizon created by test and drop.

Collaboration Rooms

Collaboration Rooms (Photo credit: Robert E. Kennedy Library at Cal Poly)

A major focus of course redesign should be to create communities of practice among students. (S. 330)

Go for Collaborative learning, internships and team project work!

Everything depends upon how the institution uses technology, whether it reinforces the cool cognitive economy that thrives in most institutions today or raises the temperature. […] On the other hand, if we look at many online courses offered today, we see a very cool cognitive economy, where students are isolated and denied significant feedback for most of their activities.

I laughed wenn reading these lines in Taggs book because I remembered the Duale Hochschule using Moodle but having deactivated the messaging function between students so that only the teacher could communicate to (not with) the students. Does not sound like Instruction Paradigm yet? You have to read or ask about it again, I guess…

If the goal is to facilitate and highlight student performances, the tools that count most are the tools that students use. (S. 333)

So Facebook and Co. have a great potential for learning? Anyone got any experiences with it? Would be great to read about, share them with us, please. Thanks!

So much for now, I added the “Golden rule – a kind of Ten Commandments for teachers” to the poll to vote for the next blog entry. Maybe you want to learn more about it…

P question

P question (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do you think about the Learning Paradigm College?

What do you think are the problems we are facing as students and as teachers at university, college and school?

Have you ever worked in a project or taken an internship in school, college or university and how did it feel compared to everyday’s learning?

I love to read and answer your comments, thanks in advance!

Failure and what I learned from failing – A course re-redesign

Howdy folks,

Today, I want to introduce myself as someone who tried educational gamification and failed. And as someone who read the amazing book “Learning Paradigm College” by John Tagg and was much influenced by Tagg’s thoughts. But let’s begin with the beginning…

English: University of Cooperative Education (...

Duale Hochschule Karlsruhe/University of Cooperative Education Karlsruhe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For my studies (Applied Computer Science), I wrote two 30 page papers (called “Studienarbeit”). Both are about redesigning the 1 year-long (2 semester) Software Engineering (SE) course in the Bachelor program for Applied Computer Science at the Duale Hochschule of Karlsruhe (DH).

The first one is about gamifying this SE course.

Most important ideas were:

  • Using a Map (see image below) where students could choose their way through the material (autonomy).
  • Providing students with a profile with a progress bar (feedback).
  • Giving Experience Points (XP) for completing tasks.
  • A Marketplace for creating and joining projects for the second semester.
Map providing students with autonomy to choose their way through the learning material

Map providing students with autonomy to choose their way through the learning material

Problems with this course design encountered in collected student feedback were:

  • Early release of the prototype had as a consequence that students were likely to find it buggy and feeling like guinea pigs (subjects of experiments).
  • The course design had too little focus on grades for a grade-centered environment like the DH.
  • Games seem to have a connotation as inefficient and not having the same value as work (sounding a bit like “Man, I’m serious and hard working, not just playing around!”).

So feeling quite frustrated, I said to myself “If you want hard work, you get hard work and if I only get you hard working by regular grading, let’s have a try!”.

This led to the second paper about implementing a Flipped Classroom for SE course:

Most important ideas were:

  • Diverse kind of tasks for students to avoid “reproduction-only” tests and increase learning efficiency (see image “student activity over lecture time (minutes)”).
Student activity over lecture time (minutes)

Student activity over lecture time (minutes)

  • Team work from the beginning to facilitate students keeping motivated and moving.
  • Regular grading and feedback for students on almost every task (see image “Possible points (sum) over lecture number”).

    Possible points (sum) over lecture number

    Possible points (sum) over lecture number

This design will be used in the next SE course starting in October 13. I’m already excited about how it will be perceived and rated by the students. I hope that the regular grading will avoid that students do not take the course serious just because it feels less like a lecture they are used to. After reading John Tagg’s amazing book, I thought that if we add enough feedback to every grade so that students can get better and better, it could heat up the learning environment a lot.

Do you have any ideas or comments to share on one of the papers? Or do you have any questions about one of the papers? Waiting for it in the comment section!

By the way, I wrote a shorter paper about the second paper and won a trip to Russia in September 2013 to participate in the IGIP conference. I’m looking forward to that adventure…

Have anyone ever been to Russia? Would be great if you shared your experiences with me!

I will write about the Russia trip and the conference and the Flipped Classroom for SE course after my conference participation. So if you already have questions concerning one of this three topics, let me know! Thanks in advance!