I Can Make a Difference When WE Make a Difference INF 537 Critical Reflection

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INF537 Digital Futures Colloquium has been some of the most challenging learning I have undertaken in recent times.  It has really helped me synthesise my understanding of what our digital futures could look like. I have realised that before we can make a difference in using digital technologies in education we really need to work towards gaining some clarity as to the how and why digital technologies can be used in the reality of schools.  One of the readings that really made an impact on me was Selwyn (2010) when he stated that there needs to be time to reflect on the how and the why of digital technologies?  It can be seen in many schools, investments are made to try and get the most innovative devices, robotics would be a good example here, but how many schools take the time to think: why do our students need these technologies? How are they going to help prepare for their futures? How can we integrate these devices to provide authentic learning opportunities?  If schools keep investing in devices in the name of innovation and no understanding of practice, then the devices just become toys and make no impact on learning at all.

The first colloquium by Simon Welsh who spoke about learning analytics was confrontational and caused me to leave the presentation (via Adobe Connect), with mixed emotions as can be seen in my blog post.  The two issues that I was confronted with were: how can the number of clicks be used to judge a student’s abilities?  Are we starting to depend too much on the machine and leave the human behind?  It all seemed very black and white and it is an area that I definitely need to do more learning in.

The second colloquium by Pip Cleaves was inspirational.  She really walked her talk and it could be seen through her presentation that the school she is working at is truly working towards transforming the culture of learning to be one of connectedness and active participation.  She really walked the talk and it could be seen that she was really making a difference.  Collaboration was a big part of her presentation as she was working to lift those teachers who needed support and use those teachers that were the first adopters.  The two thoughts I took from this colloquium was connectedness and collaboration.

The third colloquium was presented by Rebecca Vivian and was about Computer Science and Education.  This talk really affirmed the need for educators to be aware of the girls and how we can promote STEM so that we can have a lot more females entering computer science courses later in their education.  This is especially true if our digital futures are unknown and connectedness and digital citizenship is about relationships (Lindsay & Davis, 2013) then we truly need a balance of male and female perspective.

The final assignment was a full circle moment for me though as I seized the opportunity to take time to reflect on my local context and considered digital citizenship, connected learning, collaboration and how these three things intersect and could form the basis for building a Community of Practice for using digital technologies.  The idea for my assignment was inspired by the reflection I undertook while reading, Classroom Strategies : The Connected Educator : Learning and Leading in a Digital Age by Sheryl Nussbaum- Beach and Lani Ritter Hall.  Within this book they had provided a rubric to gauge how connected you were as an educator.  The premise of their book is that until teachers are role models for collaboration and connectedness through active participation online then how can we expect our students to become connected?

Another learning I have made in this subject is the need to engage with research both inside my own local context and outside the school setting.  I no longer see myself as a teacher of a particular school, I see myself as an educator.  An educator who is able to read the research, reflect on the reality and apply the practice to help improve the reality.  The need for schools to transform their settings through research became clear while I was working my way through my assignment and that part of my learning journey can be found here.

By far the most rewarding experience for me throughout this subject has been developing my own PLN through the collegiality and support of the cohort of fellow students along the way.  To read some of their blog posts was both affirming as we shared a likemindedness and challenging when our perspectives may have differed slightly.  I am really grateful for their insight and their generosity in sharing their ideas.  I am excited by all our digital futures and I know that I make a commitment to myself to continue to engage with the research, reflect and share my thoughts through blogging.  When I first started this Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovations) through Charles Sturt University, I had no idea where my learning would lead but one thing I do know for sure is that I finish this subject knowing I still have so much to learn in order to become the connected educator I wish to be.

I finish this course knowing that I can make a difference only when WE make a difference!

 

 

 

References:

Lindsay, J., & Davis, V. A. (2013). Citizenship. In Flattening classrooms, engaging minds : move to global collaboration one step at a time (pp. 97-125). Boston : Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publis

Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Ritter, H. L. (2011). Classroom Strategies : The Connected Educator : Learning and Leading in a Digital Age (1). Bloomington, US: Solution Tree Press.

Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65–73. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2009.00338.x


Digital Futures – Participatory, Communities of Practice and Peeragogy

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Created by MCook using Canva. Image used retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/en/teachers-meeting-books-reading-23820/

Created by MCook using Canva. Image used retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/en/teachers-meeting-books-reading-23820/

To write about digital futures may seem tiresome to some as digital technologies have been researched, discussed, innovated and will continue to change.  The fact is the digital is here but it is the futures that seems to continue the discussion and put the action of utilising these technologies to their fullest potential on hold.  The future is unknown in the field of digital technologies and this is one of the biggest challenges faced by educators as we attempt to prepare students for their future, their work, their chance to be successful, active citizens.

All we can do is look at what we know for now and transform education by embracing the fact that digital technologies are here to stay and that it’s no longer about the device and how it works (Selwyn, 2010).  Now, we need to prepare ourselves and our students for how to become participatory through our interactions, collaborations, creation and connection and forget about online as other worldly but as a means to realising that learning is lifelong because of the phenomenal changes that occur with each new technology that comes to light. We are all learners.  One thing that students have always looked for throughout history is the modelling that their teachers provide – walking the talk so to say.  So, if educators are not modelling concepts of participatory learning and lifelong learning, how can they sell these ideas to their students. If educators are not connecting and becoming models of what connectedness, what being effective in collaborating looks like and participatory citizenship, then in actual fact they may be causing a disconnect from learning in the school environment.  Educators need to be connected (Nussbaum-Beach & Ritter, 2011).

Participatory learning then is not just about connecting to the Internet but rather being able to collaborate with a number of people via virtual communities (so yes, there are sometimes strangers) to share knowledge and talents to support each other in the activity of learning(Davidson & Goldberg, 2009). It is a give and take learning where there is an exchange of ideas that is no longer limited by geographical location and information can be accessed from experts in their particular field.  Participatory learning is about the exchange or the process of learning from others to build knowledge to deepen understanding.  It is not just about the interaction, it is developing a connection with a network of people who are also willing to comment, plan, co-create, remix, share.

It is only through participatory learning and networking through establishing PLN’s that individuals of all ages can continue to build and grow knowledge.  Howard Rheingold suggests that educators need to build a peeragogy  whereby they connect and network with their peers and then as they become more connected and realise the possibilities of developing their own Professional Learning Network (PLN) then they can guide their students to do the same.  The teacher is no longer seen as the authority on everything as has been the education system of the 19th and 20th Centuries but rather the power for learning and of learning is put back where it needs to be – in the minds and the fingertips of the students.

The concept that seems to be the glue of all of these ideals though is collaboration.  Nussbaum and Ritter (2011) suggest that there is some confusion between the terms cooperation and collaboration for educators. Cooperation is where the individuals of the group each carry out an individual task to complete a group task.  There is no reliance on any one person to complete the task and if somebody has not contributed to the group’s effort, it makes no difference. Collaboration is where each person shares their particular talents, skills to make a significant difference to the final outcome and there is a reliance on every member to contribute.

This distinction has raised these question for me:  Am I setting purposeful, authentic tasks that encourage students to acquaint themselves with the skills and talents of their peers? Am I providing students with the skills and abilities to connect with experts that have the skills and talents that they may be missing in their group efforts?

Am I as connected as I need to be?  No, but it is something I am definitely striving towards.  Using the different phases outlined by Corneli, Danoff, Pierce et al. (2016), I feel that I am at Phase 4 – Building and shaping my PLN and the one thing I am learning is that it takes patience and time.  I also need to remind myself that so too does transforming my little piece of the education pie.

 

REFERENCES:

Corneli, J., Danoff, C. J., Pierce, C., Ricuarte, P., and Snow MacDonald, L., eds. (2016). The Peeragogy Handbook. 3rd ed. Chicago, IL./Somerville, MA.: PubDomEd/Pierce Press. Retrieved from http://peeragogy.org

Davidson, C. N., & Goldberg, D. T. (2009). The future of learning institutions in a digital age. The MIT Press

Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Ritter, H. L. (2011). Classroom Strategies : The Connected Educator : Learning and Leading in a Digital Age (1). Bloomington, US: Solution Tree Press.

Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65–73. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2009.00338.x

 

 


From Should Be, Could Be To Data-driven Adaptive Learning

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Retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/en/big-data-data-analysis-information-1084656/

Retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/en/big-data-data-analysis-information-1084656/

With the inception of Web 2.0 technologies and all they encompass – active participation through connecting, creating, collaborating is key.  The initial readings by Selwyn (2010) identify the need to reflect on what has been achieved and to identify how it is possible to move from the brink of educational technologies and what they should be, could be to actually using the technologies as they are intended.

The idea of learning analytics and data mining has been introduced via a colloquia given by Simon Welsh. Anyone who participates online via any social media platform would be naive to think that there is not some sort of tracking and data being gathered by every click.  Just as it would be naive to think that those who engage with shops via VIP cards and frequent shopper schemes are not being tracked through the purchases they make.  Data is everywhere and yes, our lives are being scrutinised in the interest of big business.  It is who is analysing the data and how that data is being used is the ‘grey’ area and where many people could and should ask the questions about privacy issues.  Is the offerings made by data analysis something that is really wanted by the consumer or is it being ‘forced’ upon them and is that indeed an ethical space to be?

Now let’s apply this idea of data mining and analysis to education and you have learning analytics.  The purpose of learning analytics is to track a student’s pathway to their learning.  The Society for Learning Analytics (SOLAR) defines learning analytics as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environment in which it occurs.” The questions and thoughts that arose for me when participating in this colloquia was who is considered to be the expert in analysing and deciding how the data is used?  What makes them the expert in determining what is best for that particular student?  Who drives the data and then ultimately takes responsibility when the learning interventions are not what the student wants or needs?  Where does motivation fit into learning analytics?

One way of gauging a students engagement was said to be the number of clicks and interactions in the LMS but there are many educational technologies beyond the LMS that some students use in order to learn.  It just seems very black and white at the moment and seems to be reverting to a pedagogy that is content driven rather than considering success in learning can be determined by a number of factors.  Simon Buckingham Shum, Director of the Connected Intelligence Centre at UTS states that we ‘need to be careful that the learning analytics do not impose a pedagogy or a mindset that is counter to where we are trying to take our schools or universities.”

As a primary school teacher librarian I have experienced the introduction of various ways to track students such as NAPLAN data, data walls, literacy and numeracy continuums and one of the dangers that we are constantly being told is not to teach to the test or the continuum.  Human nature is such though that data about student learning is seen by some as being used against their abilities as a teacher.  The idea of adaptive learning is that the data is used to meet the student at their point of need and differentiate the content to suit that individual student.  While I remain apprehensive and pensive towards this field of learning analytics, particularly in a primary school setting, I can see the idea behind this concept as a further way to evidence student learning.

The nature of learning analytics and data mining remains a concept that I will continue to reflect on and at the moment can honestly say I need a lot more professional development and understanding to develop here.  Learning analytics seems to be offering the ‘secret sauce’ (Sharkey, 2014, http://bluecanarydata.com/your-secret-sauce-is-not-so-secret/) but I agree that the benefits of them can only be determined through the ‘ability to execute.’  The aim of education is always to give our students a boost up to help them move forward to their informational needs but when factors such as skill set – digital, literacy, intra and interpersonal skills, mindset, motivation (just to highlight a few) are considered, do learning analytics meet the students at their humanity or is the focus too much on what the machine is generating?

Retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/en/big-data-analytics-data-analytics-1515036/

Retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/en/big-data-analytics-data-analytics-1515036/

 

REFERENCES:

Buckingham Shum, S. (2015). CIC: The future of learning. Learning Analytics.  Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34Eb4wOdnSI

Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65–73. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2009.00338.x

Selwyn, N. (2014). Education and ‘the digital’. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 35(1), 155-164. DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2013.856668.

Sharkey, M. (2014).  http://bluecanarydata.com/your-secret-sauce-is-not-so-secret/