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/