Teaching Forward In a Roundabout Way

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Altmann, G. (2012) "Traffic Sign"  Retrieved from: http://pixabay.com/en/traffic-sign-road-sign-shield-108779/

Altmann, G. (2012) “Traffic Sign” Retrieved from: http://pixabay.com/en/traffic-sign-road-sign-shield-108779/

 

An awareness exists in our schools that pedagogical change is necessary as digital technologies continue to pervade every aspect of our students lives.  The educational arena is in a state of transition, there is a shift and it is “not optional” (Richardson, 2012). Practices with digital technologies are still inconsistent, some teachers are open to the possibilities, some teachers are still cautious of the possibilities and some are rarely using technologies.

Within the educational system I work, provision has been made for all students and staff to access Google accounts providing opportunity for collaborative and creative practices.  It is all happening in a roundabout way but it is beginning to happen. One of the challenges is access to Professional Development is mainly given to those in leadership positions. Teachers who are not in leadership have played to learn and there are ‘gaps’ in their learning. There are still those teachers who haven’t had the opportunity for PD or choose not to participate in the opportunities offered because it is yet another chunk of time.

As a teacher librarian in a large primary school I interact with 550 students across the school for a 50 – 60 minute lesson once a week.  There is no time for collaboration between teachers and myself, unless I catch teachers on the run throughout the day.  We still need to overcome the challenge that learning happens only in classrooms.  Some teachers still prefer to work in the context of their grade and not recognise a whole team of teachers within the school and beyond (Richardson, 2012).

Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ekcWQxgk3k

The challenge is bringing value to what is presented to the students in our community.  How do we take advantage of the ‘abundance’ of opportunities that are available to us as educators and to our students, to make our students learning authentic in this digital age?  He also makes the point that it is the immeasurable that we should be putting our attention to – problem solving, creativity, critical thinking.  We need to see our students not as “tool users” but rather collaborators, problem- solvers, critical thinkers (Haste, 2009).

Another of the challenges in this inconsistency in adopting the technologies available is that students are not acquiring the social practices and values needed to be participatory digital citizens.  While teachers see the need for developing good digital citizenship practices they tend to only understand it as cyberbullying and netiquette issues.

The following clip below has challenged my thinking  and is motivating my practice as I participate in the learning of this course.  My aim this year is to expand my knowledge and practice in the use of digital technologies.  I am taking more risks and partnering my learning with our students and throwing the need to be ‘expert’ to the wind.  John Seely Brown (2012) I believe says it best, “the technology is the easy part, the hard part is what are the social practices around us and also the institutional structures, we gotta ask ourselves what are the institutions of schooling, universities, (research universities) going to look like in 5 – 10 years from now and if they look the same as they do now……we got problems.”

Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiGabUBQEnM&feature=youtu.be

Another goal is to try to be as paperless as possible with those classes where 1:1 iPads have started.  It is still difficult to believe that we can be entirely paper free but it is a goal.  The main challenge is my own fear and knowing and understanding the Web tools that are best to drive these lessons. This was also recognised in an article by Edudemic Staff (2014) along with the need to be choosing the most appropriate apps for learning.  Having access to 9 computers with with some classes of 32 is another challenge to be overcome. I need to become creative in how to ensure each student has access to a computer during the learning time.

I want to continue to move my teaching forward and not get disheartened or frustrated and to persist when the learning happens in a roundabout way. By teaching forward I am teaching for not what our students need now but for what they need in the future.

REFERENCES:

Brown, J. S. (2012)  “The Global One Room Schoolhouse” Retrieved from:  http://youtu.be/fiGabUBQEnM

Edudemic Staff (2014)  “Ultimate Guide to the Paperless Classroom” Retrieved from: http://www.edudemic.com/ultimate-guide-paperless-classroom/

Haste, H. (2009) “Technology and Youth: Problem Solver Vs. Tool User”, Retrieved from: http://youtu.be/YZRoS5QlJ44

Richardson, W. (2012) “Education Leadership” TEDxMelbourne Retrieved from; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ekcWQxgk3k

 

 

 

 


Are digital games being ‘overlooked’ in ‘digital education’ reform?

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To reflect on the question, “Are digital games being “overlooked” in “digital education reform?” first led me to try and seek some clarity in my mind as to the difference between the terms video games and digital games.  The initial understanding was that video games are those that are played using a game console such as Playstation, Wii or X-Box.  Digital games then would be those that are played using laptops, iPads or other Android devices.  As I read the article, “Teachers re-evaluate video games,” (Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 30, 2014) it then became apparent that the terms digital and video game seem to be used synonymously.  It would seem to make more sense to call games digital though as they are neither in the format of a video or indeed use the technology of a video player, so for this purpose I will be using the term digital games as those that use the technology of computers and mobile devices.

How do I see digital games fitting into my practice?  What is the context of my learning? What are some challenges?

Within my own practice as Teacher Librarian at a large primary school I would suggest that I am strongly in favour of using digital games in learning and in the library.  I have used Gamestar Mechanic as a way of discussing the importance of narrative, digital citizenship issues such as providing feedback and looking at how games are created and I would agree that there were no issues surrounding motivation or engagement. It led to a “deeper factual and conceptual understanding,” as identified by Dr Catherine Beavis (SMH, Nov. 30, 2014.)  I also suggest though it was tricky to ‘fit’ into a timetable where each class visits the library for a 50 minute – 1 hour lesson and not necessarily on the same day. This then means that there needs to be an allowance of time to set up the 7 laptops and 2 desktops, moving to a shared computer, (some classes are 30 students between 9 computers!)  Once the learning/collaboration begins in no time at all the time for packing away is upon us. Also, it needs to be mentioned that the cost can be a factor when adopting digital games in the classroom.

Van Eck (2006) suggests that we have overcome the perception that “play” is in fact at the opposite end of the spectrum to “work.” (p.2).  I am unsure if all teachers hold this belief but generally teachers are embracing the idea of games as a learning possibility.The perception from leadership can be that games are frivolous and that they may not have any educational value.  So a challenge here is two-fold: professional development required and budgetary allocations.

Jesse Schell identified one of the “biggest challenges” teachers face is the timetable. Timetables are one of the drivers of a teacher’s and students learning as there is the issue of compliance and ensuring that each subject is allocated the appropriate amount of minutes.  Dr Catherine Beavis identifies that whilst deep understandings can be made using digital games we ““need to find ways to use them that are consistent with the ways teachers teach”(SMH, Nov. 30, 2014.)

 

Minecraft is another game that I have been wanting to include in the library and I can see huge potential for it to be used in so many ways, the only limit being my imagination.  For example, I could easily suggest students create a world that demonstrates the water cycle, create the visualisation of a particular setting that we are escaping to as we read a novel, create a 3-d map of a particular geographical feature and so on.  I question though whether I am forcing the game to fit the learning or am I using the game as it is intended to be a collaborative, creative tool.  In the following clip, some of the questions and challenges are outlined which show that while Minecraft is HUGE at the moment with our students, how can we best fit it into our classrooms?

Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI0BN5AWOe8

In the article by Josh Jennings, “Teachers re-evaluate video games,” (SMH, Nov. 30, 2014), Rebecca Martin, a classroom teacher, recognises that schools need to make game choices that are “open-ended and creative, rather than skill and drill or digital worksheets”(SMH, Nov. 30, 2014.)  I welcome this attitude as I observe teachers do use games in their classrooms but mainly as drill and practice, group tasks on iPads that keep students busy whilst the teacher is freed up to do other tasks.  I am not judging this as wrong, as there still needs to be a place where basic facts need to be learnt but I believe we are still at the early stages of adopting digital games into our classrooms as a learning medium and we need to find the balance between open-ended and drill and practice.

I see a great space for games such as Minecraft,  and apart from the challenge of time I wonder how to overcome other challenges of parental expectations, what other colleagues perceive as teaching?,  how do I assess the learning – through acquisition of 21st Century skills or content? how do we make students accountable as there can be many distractions along the way in participating in games?  The question could be, do digital games enhance a students learning?

Here is a clip that explains some of the effects that can happen when students participate in gaming.

Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOsqkQytHOs

My personal aims as I continue my professional and personal learning in this area:

*  To become an advocate for digital games and game-based learning throughout our school;

*  To make wise choices in regards to the digital games and to develop a selection criteria just as I would for the choice of printed resources in our school;

*  To ‘have a go’ at some of the ‘popular’ games our students play so they can identify me not as teacher but as a player learning with them – partners in learning.

What challenges am I hoping to meet for myself?

*  To make time to advocate, I need time to collaborate and share the learning that I make.

*  To heed the advice of Dr Catherine Beavis when she says, “there is a tremendous potential for games-based learning, but also the potential for things to go seriously wrong if the current enthusiasm for games-based learning leads to the introduction of games into the classroom without knowing more about how they actually affect learning, values, understandings and how to do this well?”(SMH, Nov. 30, 2014.)  The challenge that I hope to meet here then, is to be discerning, be patient and to avoid being too hasty in applying the learning I hope to make.

To answer the question, are digital games being overlooked in ‘digital education reform?”, I would conclude that teachers are interested and aware that games exist and could benefit their classrooms.  I would also suggest that there needs to be more professional development opportunities and challenges to be overcome to ensure that quality games are integrated into the curriculum for quality learning experiences.  They are not being ‘overlooked’ per se but perhaps the issue is ‘how can we do it well?’

 

REFERENCES:

Jennings, J. (2014). “Teachers re-evaluate value of video games.” Sydney Morning Herald, Retrieved from: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/teachers-reevaluate-value-of-video-games-20141130-11jw0i.html

Schell, J. (2011). “Playing Games in the Classroom.” Big Think Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bA7KuOyH3PQ

Van Eck, R. (2006).  “Digital Game-Based Learning: It’s Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless….” in EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 41, no. 2 (March/April 2006).  Retrieved from:  http://edergbl.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/47991237/digital%20game%20based%20learning%202006.pdf

 

 

 


The Next Learning Chapter Begins

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Geralt (2010) "Shield" Retrieved from: http://pixabay.com/en/shield-transport-panel-board-229112/

Geralt (2010) “Shield” Retrieved from: http://pixabay.com/en/shield-transport-panel-board-229112/

Having just read the subject outline and Introduction to INF530 Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age, there is a definite knowledge that I am on a HUGE learning curve.  I have always thought that I was an active participant in social media and having just signed up, joined and renewed accounts that I have let sit idle for a very long time, I now realise I still have so much to learn and my participation may not be participatory.

Having completed my M. Ed (Teacher Librarianship) in 2013, I was introduced to the work of Joyce Valenza and one article which has always been remembered is “Fully Loaded: Outfitting a teacher librarian for the 21st century. Here’s what it takes”(Valenza, 2011).  Since the completion of the M. Ed (Teacher Librarianship) I was left with a feeling that there was more I needed to do to become ‘fully loaded’ in my role as teacher librarian at a large primary school.  Even, Valenza (2011) acknowledges in her article that the list she provided in 2011 would need to be reviewed regularly.  I have searched to see if she has updated her ‘fully loaded’ inventory and cannot seem to find a review and would love anyone to share if they have been successful in finding said review.

Geralt (2014) , "Street sign, note, direction" Retrieved frm: http://pixabay.com/en/street-sign-note-direction-141361/

Geralt (2014) , “Street sign, note, direction” Retrieved frm: http://pixabay.com/en/street-sign-note-direction-141361/

Another reason why I have embarked on this new chapter is that I am a mum of two curious and avid users of technology.  I am at a stage where I have to question my values as a parent as a ‘tweenager’ challenges my beliefs as he wants to play games such as ‘Call of Duty’ and all the other kids do it.  ‘Minecraft’ is a daily event building amazing worlds and sharing them online.  There are Instagram accounts and discussions about Snapchat.  They are using icloud to message their friends and call it a conversation.  Yes, as a mum, I have come to realise that I need to keep up-to-date and know what I am talking about when discussing the way they engage with their devices.

As I watched Douglas Thomas’, “A New Culture of Learning”, I was struck by his notion that the idea of learning should be “natural and effortless.”  I was equally impressed by the way he has defined the 4 components of learning:

1.  passion

2.  imagination

3.  constraint and

4.  play.

I reflected on these 4 components and pondered are these 4 components present for me in this the beginning of the next learning chapter.

Passion – I am passionate about working with our school learning community and advocating for change in the way educators teach. I am passionate that we need to equip our students with the necessary tools for their learning where technology is evolving so rapidly.

Imagination – The ‘what if?’ (Thomas, 2012) for me is what if all our students could effortlessly and seamlessly move from one app to another?  What if we allowed them to learn from their mistakes rather than making their efforts wrong?  What if we allowed students to design their own learning through their own inquiry rather than teaching them what they already know?

Constraint – The obstacles in my way, time (as for every person on the planet!) My own beliefs in my own technological abilities.

Play – Am I willing to have some FUN on this new journey….absolutely.  Let’s look at this next chapter as play rather than work, something to be enjoyed rather than endured.