Friday, May 22, 2015

Evald Flisar, Slovenian Dragons, and a Reading at the Library of Congress

Slovenian author Evald Flisar will be giving a series of readings and talks, including one on June 23, in the U.S. Library of Congress.  The event starts at 12 noon at the European Division Reading Room, LJ-250, 2nd Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building.  Flisar will be responding to questions and will discuss the importance of literature in today's world.

Slovenia, the land of caves, castles, dragon bridges, mountains, and fascinating literature and culture will be in the spotlight in the weeks surrounding their day of Independence.

Evald Flisar, president of Slovenian PEN, whose works have been translated and performed in more than 40 languages, was recently featured in a special display at the Slovenian National Library.

Evald Flisar Retrospective in the Slovenian National Library. 

 For more information about Flisar's work published in English, please visit Texture Press (

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ruben Dario Should Be In Every Survey / Anthology of Poetry

Rubén Darío’s (1867-1916) work spanned many years, and it contains very distinct themes. One of the most popular deals with the sense of the ineffable, the impossibility of explaining the human condition. In many ways, his work predates the sense of “thrownness” described by German philosopher Martin Heidegger.

In fact, Darío’s intensity has Romantic roots, although his prosody is firmly modernist and spare.  His willingness to explore the dual nature of the human spirit finds echoes in the work of the German Romanticists, specifically E.T.A. Hoffmann and Goethe, as well as the Russian, Feodor Doestoevsky.  From a philosophical standpoint, his work aligns quite well with the work of Schopenhauer and his work, “On Pessimism.”

To reduce Darío to a set of connections or potential affinities does not really do him justice. His verses are beautifully formed, and they contain a direct address to the reader which insists upon introspection and a willingness to feel deep emotions, particularly those of nostalgia and longing.

Four Melancholic Songs by Ruben Dario

Works of Ruben Dario

Biography of Ruben Dario

Poems by Ruben Dario

Guiding Questions:

Please read the poems by Ruben Dario and describe the way he envisions himself and his existential condition as it relates to perception, feelings, and the meaning of life?

What are some of the motifs / images that are repeated in Ruben Dario’s poetry?

What are some of the elements that you like in his poetry? How and why might his poetry “speak” to readers?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cognitive Apprenticeship / Situated Learning in Life and Work Settings

Jenni's new approach for processing water from oil and gas wells was announced on the very same day that the Oklahoma Geological Survey stated that injecting produced water was causing the dramatic increase in damaging earthquakes in Oklahoma. So, her new approach was viewed as a potential solution to the problems. 

Because Jenni's approach was so practical, a large number of people were instantly interested, but they needed more information, knowledge, and understanding. As they educated themselves in the role of injected produced water, induced seismicity, and alternative processing approaches, they found they were very motivated - the hours flew by, and they retained what they were learning.

What was going on was a good example of situated learning, which focuses on making sure that the theoretical concepts are grounded in an authentic learning setting. Developed by Jean Lavé, the concept of situated learning is different from more formal learning approaches because it is unintentional, often unstructured, and focused toward the accomplishment of a concrete goal or objective.

Often referred to as cognitive apprenticeship, situated learning requires learners to use other learners and resources on an as-needed basis. As Lave and Wenger found in their seminal studies, the scope, depth, and breadth of knowledge are often very surprising.

If you are developing a learning program and you'd like to incorporate the power and flexibility (as well as the energy) of situated learning, it is important to put what is being learned within a specific context. It is also important to make sure that all the content and activities relate to learning objectives in a way that allows the learner to keep them in mind as they scramble around to obtain the knowledge and information they need.

Situated learning is a powerful strategy for several reasons. Here are a few

•    It is anchored in prior knowledge and real-world experience, and flows from the activities, context, and culture in which it is found.

•    A powerful example involves the application of new knowledge or techniques to case studies.

•    Situated learning contains true problem-solving power because it includes intrinsic motivation, and the learners are open to peripheral interesting and unexpected inflows / inputs as they try to achieve their learning objectives.

•    It is authentic and flexible, allows one to prioritize the instructional materials by what is needed most

•    Social learning takes place in a natural, fluid way as individuals naturally collaborate and share information / knowledge because they truly care about the outcome.

Some of the best learning takes place outside the classroom, and yet the strategies that make problem-based learning can be implemented in the classroom and online with great success. Situated learning is just one of them.

Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

Lave, J. (1988). Cognition in Practice: Mind, mathematics, and culture in everyday life. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1990). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Monday, May 11, 2015

How to Make Social Media Work for You in Learning / Training Programs

Imagine a group coming together to plan a new pet adoption center. They're working together as a team, and this project has a lot of moving parts, which include everything from the financing, design, permits, publicity, health and safety protocols, to finding the key personnel to make sure it's a sustainable enterprise.  

The planning process is also a learning process, and it requires a clear set of goals / objectives, and a constantly evolving set of information and a sense of what is "real" in terms of the viability of the project.

happy bear from slovenia susan smith nash
We care about our bears! Photo from Ljubljana, Slovenia.
It's a perfect example of the process of constructivist learning in action, and in the past, communication and the flow of information were both fairly easily mappable and ascertainable.

However, with social media, all notions of simple and predictable information / knowledge flows goes out the window.  Social media can give rise to all sorts of side or private conversations, and it pulls in other people into the conversation in an ad hoc manner. Further, the random and unpredictable nature of information that flows in can be either helpful or destabilizing / distracting.

Knowing that the use of social media is a reality, how can constructivist learning approaches make sure that social media contributes to the endeavor, rather than making it go off the rails?

Constructivist learning, which involves a dynamic interchange of ideas, approaches, and information, where learners interact with each other to share and fine-tune their knowledge and skills, is a powerful approach in the classroom and in the workplace.

It is also effective in online learning, where discussions and collaborative portfolios give individuals the opportunity to share, self-assess, and adjust.

susan smith nash, ph.d.
Social media accommodates different learning styles, and it allows people to collaborate constructively. Susan Smith Nash is your guide.
But, how do constructivist notions of learning fare in a world of social media? Here are a few questions for consideration:

•    What kinds of social media are group members using?

•    When do they use it to obtain more information and how do they share it?

•    When do they use social media for communication? With whom? For what purposes? 

•    Does the presence of fluid and potentially randomly gathered outside information call into question the authenticity or validity of the core materials that are in use?

•    Does the use of social media create subgroups and restrict the sharing of vital information? What is the nature of the "side conversations" if / when they emerge?  How can they be harnessed, rather than becoming divergent forces?

•    How can social media usage be unequal / uneven (asymmetrical) within the group? How can the highly adept users of social media share strategies with other team members?  

•    How might the asymmetrical use of social media cause problems in the "reality testing" that goes on in the shaping of knowledge in a constructivist model? 

•    What kinds of outside information are desirable?  Why?

•    When and how can outside information result in distractions? How can outside information be evaluated to see if it contributes to the achievement of learning objectives / project goals?

Many times in a group setting, it's easy for individuals to state that they're using social media, but it is quite rare for the group members to actually sit down and evaluate how / why / when they're using it, and how it contributes to (or detracts from) the achievement of goals. 

The dynamic and interactive nature of constructivist learning settings, essentially assures that there will be social media in the mix -- but the question is, to what end?  The key is to step back, assess the situation, and use social media in an intentional way.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Situated Learning in Practice: Integrated Conservation and Development Programs

 Countries and communities that have the good fortune to be near areas of biodiversity and beautiful beaches, mountains, rivers, fields, and forests often cite nature tourism as a key strategy for preserving the integrity of natural resources and alleviating poverty. In doing so, they integrate conservation and development programs, and try to avoid the pitfalls that are often associated with tourism, such as social disruption, the abandonment of cultural heritage in favor of low-wage jobs, the commodification of biodiversity, and social inequality.

Being successful in establishing sustainable Integrated Conservation and Development Programs (ICDPs) requires a clear training and education program which place the education clearly within a framework of practical applications.

Integrated Conservation and Development Programs

The ICDPs can result in economic benefits to the community, but that is often insufficient to guarantee sustainability because of fairly inevitable disruptions to lifestyle, traditional ways of earning a living (farming as opposed to formal employment). Further, satisfaction may plummet because perceived social inequality and restrictions on former lifestyles (SilvaJulie, 2014).

Situated learning is critical in the development and implementation of ICDPs:

     •    Conservation involves preservation of ecosystems
          o    Identify elements of ecosystems
          o    Explain which elements are most vulnerable

     •    Dealing with unexpected consequences: reduced opportunities for agricultural production, restriction of activities at home
         o    Describe the changes to communities and shared resources that require restricted activities (no agricultural expansion, changed practices)
         o    Identify the new types of activities and the skills requirements
         o    Create a plan for developing local talent for jobs with responsibility
         o    Identifying potential areas of social disruption / loss of cultural authenticity

    •    Taking advantage of economic development resources
         o    Create collaborations between locals and renowned experts for developing project plans
         o    Construct systems for administering new programs
         o    Develop lists of available incentives (tax credits, infrastructure projects, corporate promotions)
         o    Identify human resources and the needs to be satisfied

Implementing the situated learning approach requires the following elements:

     •    Collaborations, both face-to-face and with virtual communities of interest (Akoumianakis, 2014)
     •    Wiki or portfolio development of goal-focused information, such as habitat analysis, botanical information, etc.
     •    Repositories of information for marketing/outreach as well as operations (Libord &  Hjalager, 2010)
     •    Enacted social formations (Akoumianakis, 2014); travel communities (Lonely Planet, etc.) and virtual business communities (Travelocity, etc.)
     •    Knowledge management for communities of  interest

Case Study: Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico

Sayulita, Mexico, which is an economy driven primarily by tourism, is a perfect location for the implementation of an ICDP, which in turn could benefit from the application of situated learning.

Sayulita is a fishing and surfing town on the west coast of Mexico north of Puerto Vallarta in the state of Nayarit. It has been featured in a number of books about world-class surf sites, and has also become a destination point for Canadian and American tourists and retirees. It has a bohemian vibe, and as opposed to Puerto Vallarta or Nuevo Vallarta, Sayulita does not allow large developments.

As a result, the town consists of a small plaza and business area, narrow unpaved streets, steep hillsides with tropical foliage, and clusters of small houses, bungalows, and multi-family rentals. There are two main beaches: a larger one that has a number of docking areas for boats, and a small one that one must access by going through a cemetery, hence the name, Playa de los Muertos. On November 2, el Día de los Muertos, family members leave orange marigolds (cempasúchitles) on the above-ground tombs.

The goal of many property owners in Sayulita is to expand / develop the area, especially as funds pour into the “Nayarit Riviera” in Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta, and Punta Mita. The challenge for the property owners in Sayulita is that many of them are small holders, and also may not be full-time residents. Some are retirees and want to try a second career, but have no idea how to get started.

Further, they are very interested in protecting their investments, and a few recent developments have caused many owners to worry. For example, there is insufficient parking in the town, which is exacerbated by the fact that many restaurants place few tables inside. Instead, they put tables on the sidewalks, and even into the street itself, where diners run the risk of being run over by an errant car. They also have to contend with eating a lot of dust, and being menaced by the hordes of mongrel dogs and escaped chickens that roam the streets, adding to both charm and public health concerns.

Another concern is the fact that the few roads that provide access to the beach are very narrow, and often clogged by SUVs parking on the side. Further, the beach on the side of the cemetery, the “Playa de los Muertos” has less parking than ever since three food stands have opened, literally between and in front of the tombs. A charming location runs the risk of becoming a rather crass and potentially unwholesome crush. The recent developments run the risk of degrading the environment as well as the cultural heritage and authenticity.  It also runs the risk of exacerbating social inequality, and stripping the Sayulita original inhabitants of their culture and traditional ways of earning a living (Falk, etal, 2012).

The challenge for the property owners involves the following:

     •    Developing a strategy for preserving the environment
     •    Creating an economic development program
     •    Design a plan that integrates property interests and economic development via nature tourism

In order to be effective, all the activities will require learning programs, all of which should be closely aligned with the strategic goals and mission of the stakeholders.


Akoumianakis, D. (2014) Ambient affiliates in virtual cross-organizational tourism alliances: A case study of collaborative new product development.Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 30, January 2014, Pages 773-786

Falk, J. H, Ballantyne, R, Packer, Pierre Benckendorff, P. (2012) Travel and Learning: A Neglected Tourism Research Area.  Annals of Tourism Research, Volume 39, Issue 2, April 2012, Pages 908-927

Libord, J., Hjalager, A. (2010) Changing Approaches Towards Open Education, Innovation and Research in Tourism, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Volume 17, Issue 1, 2010, Pages 12-20

SilvaJulie A., Lila K. Khatiwada (2014) Transforming Conservation into Cash? Nature Tourism in Southern Africa. Africa Today, Vol. 61, No. 1, Special Issue: Narratives of the African Landscape: Perspectives on Sustainability (Fall 2014), pp. 17-45

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Classic Motivation Theories Compared and Re-Evaluated

Research by cognitive psychologists has suggested that motivation is often based on fundamental human needs, and that all are critical in factors in everyday life, such as job satisfaction, effective reward systems, team performance, and goal persistence.

Audio file:

bullfighter - san miguel el alto, jalisco - photo by susan smith nash
Bullfighter & son. What motivates people? Each person is different. (photo taken in San Miguel El Alto, Jalisco, MX, September 2014)
 However, not every theory covers the same territory, and it's useful to take a look at some of the most influential theories and compare them, as well as relate them. The theories examined are the following:

•    Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
•    Herzberg's Motivation / Hygiene (two-factor) Theory
•    McClelland's Need for Achievement Theory

Because motivation is so highly individualistic, and it can vary so dramatically between people, it is important to consider a wide range of explanations and mechanisms. The results are important not only for optimizing satisfaction (and performance) in the workplace, but also in developing a dynamic organization that emphasizes constant, continual, and outcome-focused learning and skills development. It then follows that there can be a predictive relationship in performance.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (1954) posits that there are five ascending levels of needs, and if a lower-level need is not met, then the individual will essentially stay "stuck" there and be unable to ascend to the highest levels (Ego and Self-Actualization).

1.    Physiological needs. Food, water, shelter, and sex are survival needs and all humans must possess them. If they do not, all their waking moments will be obsessed with obtaining them, which will preclude the ability to achieve higher order levels of existence.

2.    Safety needs:  Humans need to feel protected against danger, threats and deprivation. This applies not only to physical needs, but also job security.

3.    Social needs:  Humans need to give and receive love, friendship, and affection. They need to feel they are a part of an accepting group.  If the first two levels of needs are being satisfied, then an individual will start to be aware of a lack of friends or associates.

4.    Ego needs:  If the other needs are being met, humans will turn to their ego needs and will seek achievement, status, recognition from society and associates / peers.

5.    Self-actualization needs:  These are the highest levels of needs and they occur if the previous four levels are satisfied. Self-actualization relates to the individual's own quest to realize what he or she perceives as his or her potential.

Although it's true that one cannot really focus on self-actualization without meeting the lower-order needs, not everyone will ever be interested in the higher level needs. It really depends on their level of aspiration and attitudes / beliefs.

Herzberg's Motivation Hygiene Theory. 

According to Herzberg's findings, motivation to accomplish work is a factor of satisfiers and dissatisfiers.

•    Satisfiers include achievement, recognition, the work itself, advancement, growth, responsibility.

•    Dissatisfiers include company policy, supervision, working conditions, interpersonal relations, salary, status, job security, and personal life.

For Herzberg, an organization can do a great deal to improve the "hygiene" which is to say that "hygiene" refers to removing as many negative elements as possible. So, Herzberg devised a process:

1.    Identify the type of hygiene to use and eliminate toxic elements (often are extrinsic factors)
2.    Enhance the meaningfulness of the job itself, make people feel responsible for the outcomes, and give feedback (often are intrinsic factors)

McClelland's Need for Achievement Theory

According to McClelland's research, people are motivated in the workplace by a need to achieve and also to receive recognition for their work.

Important factors in the need to achieve include the ability to define what it means to achieve, and that achievement is meaningful, perceived, and recognized by people whose opinions are meaningful to the individual.

1.    Achievement involves personal responsibility (and thus, clear credit for work done)

2.    Successful and continuous achievers know how to set goals that are not too high, but which are achievable (and tend to be moderate). They also take "calculated risks" and thus their risk-taking behavior is carefully modulated

3.    It is important to give concrete feedback in order to reinforce the fact that the achievement has been realized, and also to improve processes in the future (to assure continuing achievement).

Relating the Theories

When one takes a look at the three main theories, it's clear that they involve many of the same concerns; namely, achievement and also the perception of how and when achievement is accomplished.

Maslow and Herzberg's theories work well together to discuss and explain the conditions that must be present in order to motivate individuals and also to set the stage for learning and performance.

Both Herzberg and McClelland include the need for achievement and they look at them as basically intrinsic motivators, which means that in order to motivate, efforts have to be expended that will create feedback loops as well as reinforcement and self-perpetuating dynamics that tie to achievement, recognition of achievement, and eagerness to achieve again (and thus repeat the positive experience).


Herzberg, F. (1966).  Work and the Nature of Man. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co.

Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper and Brothers,.

McClelland, D. C. and Johnson, E. W. (1984). Learning to Achieve. Glenview, IL: Scott, Forsman, & Co.

Pardee, R. L. (1990). Motivation Theories of Maslow, Herzberg, McGregor, and McClelland. ERIC

Blog post authored by: Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

susan smith nash, ph.d.
Motivation requires a multi-pronged approach.

Learner Identity and Motivation: Connections to Aspiration

Learning can be a risky business, especially when it has to do with a learner’s sense of self and their identity.  For example, how might a person who is learning a language for the purpose of becoming part of a group comes to realize that the act of learning is modifying who and how she is?  Is the change in one’s identity a good thing? If so, how and why? What impact does it have on learner motivation?

A good example is the case of learning a language. While learning a language may be for the purposes of assimilating in a society (or, in a broader sense, fitting into a group or workplace) it is important to keep in mind that assimilation should not go too far, and seek to efface or obliterate the identities of the learners. 

susan smith nash - learning spanish in jalisco
Learning a language requires changes in one's sense of self. Motivation to continue often involves the learner's aspirations, dreams, and ultimate life goals. Learning language in Jalisco.
Learning involves socialization processes, and the degree to which one can both maintain autonomy and feel a part of a group is an important influencer in student satisfaction and motivation. In other words, a balance must be maintained.

An over-emphasis on testing, assessment, and individual achievement (rather than group dynamics) can destroy motivation.

Individual autonomy can be effectively instilled by giving learners the ability to critique texts and instructional materials, have choices with respect to their topics of study, and choose ways in which they are assessed.

It is useful to incorporate aspirational elements in motivation, especially in learning a language, or a skill set / knowledge base that gains entrance to a group (especially a highly desirable group).

Reflective learner journals can be helpful, not only in developing meta-cognitive skills but also in the ways in which instructors can learn to tailor their instructional strategies in order to be more effective.

Perhaps the most surprising insight is that in order to encourage the mediation of identity that occurs when learning a language (whether a formal language or the informal “language” of a workplace or community of interest), it is useful to look at aspirational elements of the learner’s identity framework.

In other works, what’s the learner’s dream?  What is the learner striving to be or become?

By appealing to the learner’s dream identity, or aspirations, you as an educator or instructional designer, will make it easier for the learner to tolerate the ambiguity and/or frustration that he/ she may feel when learning a language (and hence tending to give up her own identity).

In order to increase a sense of autonomy (and comfort with the process), it is helpful to give the learner the ability to influence his / her own methods of interacting and being assessed.


Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior.  New York: NY: Plenum Press.

Lamb, M. (2011).  Future selves, motivation and autonomy in long-term EFL learning trajectories . in G. Murray, X. Gao, & T. Lamb (eds). Identity, Motivation, and Autonomy in Language Learning. (pp. 177-194). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Lamb, T. E. (2011). Fragile identities: Exploring learner identity, learner autonomy and motivation through young learners' voices.  The Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Special Issue. 14:2, 68-85.

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