Research Using Own Context For Transforming Practices and Innovation in Schools

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Research < > Teachers < > Digital Technologies =

Transformation / Innovation

Retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/en/computer-school-work-business-216890/

Retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/en/computer-school-work-business-216890/

As I stumble through my case study, one thought is becoming very clear to me – research is needed in order to effect change.  The latest technologies being used in schools and promoted to schools is robotics for coding, robotics for STEM.  Schools are purchasing but what research has been done by the individual schools as to how these technologies are purposeful for learning? Where they fit in the learning for the students?  Is it any wonder that  teachers have the attitude, here we go, another thing to fit into our day?

Before putting these devices in schools it’s important to understand that teachers are the faces of implementing these tools into the classrooms and students’ learning .  By having the newest technologies in a school does not necessarily make that school innovative.  Innovation is the product of trying to improve something and the cycle of innovation never stops.  Innovation then is also the product of using some sort of design thinking process.  If we do not include teachers and students in the implementation through firstly, supporting teachers through professional development of these learning technologies and connecting them to others who have had success in using these technologies then transformative practices in education will not be achieved.

After reading The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter-Hall, I was particularly impressed on their take of transforming professional development. “{Their} model shifts the locus of control to you, the connected learner, rather than vesting it in outsiders, higher-ups, and professional development consultants who may have good content but lack your school context” (p.5).  The idea of transforming learning through the recognition of teachers as learners who need to be effective in their own context first before they will feel confident to move beyond the school gate really resonated with me.  However, it is important to also highlight their efforts to put the responsibility of this learning with teachers as well.

This brings me back to the idea for the need for research using the local context.  While research studies from other spaces, contexts and academics are useful for gathering evidence and support for changing practices, there also needs to be some element of research carried out at the local context to find authentic learning needs of all learners within an educational community.  If firstly teachers, then students, do not see or understand the learning purpose of digital technologies then taking learning beyond the school gate and effective transformation (innovation) will be nothing but ‘just another thing to fit’ into an already overcrowded timetable.

Education is not broken (Zoul, Whittaker & Casas, 2015).  Teachers are still teaching and trying to avail themselves of the tools that are needed for learning and for their students’ futures.  Students are still learning. Education is however, experiencing a moment of disconnect and as the teachers have their own learning needs, they need to understand and to know the purpose behind these digital technologies.  In order to transform, their needs to be research not into the device but rather into how can teacher pedagogy include the device as part of the delivery of learning?  How can participatory learning and citizenship move beyond the gates of the school towards a more global education?

Jackie Gerstein suggests a model for teacher professional development which also places the teacher as learner and suggests that effective PD is only effective when the teachers are active and responsible for their own professional development rather than having their learning imposed.  It makes so much sense that teachers’ own learning should be their responsibility just as we try to promote active, inquiry-based learning for our own students.  When the teacher becomes the learner they model the experience of learning.  They are challenged by the same experiences as a learner and they learn empathy for their students.  When the teacher becomes a connected educator they model the experiences of being a connected citizen committed to learning.  They are challenged by the same experiences as their students when the expectation is to connect and empathy is gained.

The transformation does not happen only with the teacher, or only with the research or only by having the technologies.  The transformation occurs when all three connect.  The transformation and eventually innovation happens when the three connect to create an innovative vision of pedagogy (practice). George Couros recently shared a diagram drawn by his brother, Alex, that shows the teacher at the centre which also inspired my thinking for my case study. It is definitely in the knowledge consumption but also the knowledge creation AND sharing that will transform education for our students’ futures.

The having the digital technologies is part of the steps of how we need to achieve the vision.  The having the teachers is part of the steps of achieving the vision. The having the research to support teachers in their own local context using the digital technologies is how connected education can truly transpire! THEN our local story becomes a global story as teachers become upskilled, research becomes more than observations and talk and digital technologies become the learning tools they are intended to be. We need to reflect inward, knowing what the research says ‘out there’, reflect on our own local context, develop our vision and then design the steps needed to achieve it.

REFERENCES:

Couros, G.  (Sept. 15, 2016) The Arrows Go Back and Forth [Blog post] Retrieved from:  http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/6684

Gerstein, J. A Model for Teacher Development: Precursors to Change Retrieved from: https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2016/08/06/a-model-for-teacher-development-precursors-to-change/

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. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au

Zoul, J., Whittaker, T. & Casas, J. (2015). What Connected Educators Do Differently. : Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au

 


#INF530 In A Nutshell

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Walnuts by Pauline Mak, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Pauline Mak 
In  the first post I wrote in this blog I referred to Douglas Thomas’ “A New Culture of Learning” and how he could identify four components of learning:
1. passion;
2. imagination;
3. constraint
4.  play.
These words really provide an ‘in a nutshell’ way of thinking.  I have found the learning in INF530 challenging and at times I was quite anxious about my own ability to keep up and contribute as I have connected with an exceptional cohort of partners in learning.  As I reflect what I have learnt over this first session I find that again I can fit my learning into these four components.
1.  Passion
I have rediscovered my passion for my role as teacher librarian and am now able to advocate for our school library environments when they say things like, “But aren’t you worried that you’ve taught yourself out of the classroom?  Libraries might not be needed when we have the Internet” and of course, “You’re so lucky!  I’d love to just read books and show kids how to find information.”  This is why I chose to finish with my digital essay, “Why Do We Need School Libraries?  We have technology” I have found my passion for my role as teacher librarian to be more relevant than ever.  I see my students at all different stages of abilities in their digital literacy and digital citizenship development. The idea of the just-in-time learner really challenged me as I thought it was just a phrase being thrown around as almost an  Navigating Web 2.0 is something that our students need us to guide them before we let them go on alone.  Then eventually the lightbulb lit up and I realised I am a ‘just-in-time’ learner as much as I am a  lifelong learner.  My passion is not learning content but learning how to learn not just teaching it but refining my own skills so that I can ‘walk the talk.’
2.  Imagination
My imagination is the what are the possibilities I can dream from here?  I have had my eyes opened wide to the possibilities of integrating even more technologies within the environment.  Knowing there is video conferencing capabilities in the school that I have never seen utilised.  Knowing that there is a 3-D printer that could be used by students to create some amazing products of their learning.
I am passionate about reimagining and designing our library to be both a formal setting for learning and an informal space for collaboration and networking.  Conole (2012) discusses the affordances of Web 2.0  as “fostering collaboration and for co-construction and sharing of knowledge but raise a number of issues of copyright and privacy” (p.56).  I am passionate about this idea of collaboration as I realise that learning is dialogue, it is building upon each other’s understandings, it is a collective activity and therefore it requires collaboration and participation to keep the dialogue going (Ravenscroft, Wegerif & Hartley, 2007).  On the other hand though it is important that we assist our students in understanding that there are ethical ways of using information and  develop a healthy skepticism about expertise (Walters, 2015).
Bring on the revolution indeed.  I imagine an education system that embraces differences, in opinion and ways of learning, that will create a global culture of understanding with many voices.  Perhaps it isn’t just the problem-solving, critical thinking skills but also empathy and tolerance that can grow by immersing ourselves and our students in the globalised network of learning.
3.  Constraint  
Oh, how this idea can have so many meanings.  Firstly, it can relate to the idea of not having time, budgets, devices, professional development.  Some consider these barriers but I continue to question, can we keep allowing ourselves the time not to adopt? not to spend? not to train?  Why are we continuing to put constraints on our students learning?
Digital technologies allow learning to happen anywhere, anytime and perhaps it is time we embrace IT  rather than trying to constrain what is expected by us – connectivity and the ability to participate (Conole, 2012).
4.  Play
This idea of play was complemented by my learning in INF541 Game-based Learning.  I had never thought deeply of games or participating with Web 2.0 as an extension of our own creativity.  Routledge (2009), stated “Games are not a replacement for teachers but they should enhance the teaching experience” (p.280).  What if we replaced the word games in this quote for Web 2.0 ?  Web 3.0?    One way I have ‘played’ this session is by starting to participate in Twitter and it has now become my preferred social media as it is access to experts of many fields, anytime, anywhere.  It has become my Professional & Personal) Learning Network.  I then thought and know that after this experience of learning and being the student, I have appreciated the opportunity to play.  I no longer see myself as a “lesser” because I am the student, I now recognise that even my teachers (lecturers) are learners too.
So, in a nutshell – it can’t be the end of this first session, I feel like I have just gotten started!
References:
Conole, G. (2012). Open, social and participatory media. In G. Conole (Ed.), Designing for learning in an open world. New York: Springer.
Ravenscroft, A., Wegerif, R., & Hartley, R. (2007). Reclaiming thinking: Dialectic, dialogic and learning in the digital age. Learning Through Digital Technologies, 11(5), 39-57.
Routledge, H. (2009). Games-based learning in the classroom and how it can work!. In T. Connolly, M. Stansfield, & L. Boyle (Eds.) Games-Based Learning Advancements for Multi-Sensory Human Computer Interfaces: Techniques and Effective Practices (pp. 274-286). Hershey, PA: . doi:10.4018/978-1-60566-360-9.ch016
Walters, M. (2015, April 25). Says who? [Blog Post] Retrieved from:  http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/fromheretothere/2015/04/25/says-who/

Critical Reflection – To Game or Not To Game

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As I started INF 541 – Game-Based Learning, I was fairly naive.  The only personal understanding I had of games was that they were something that people do on an iPhone, iPad or a game console.  I had never really played any games on my laptop apart from Solitaire or Chess and really the games I engaged in were time wasters or for entertainment.  I had observed my own children playing Minecraft with their friends whilst on Skype and strategising over how to become the best clan in Clash of Clans and I was curious about the role of games in education.  How do games provide learning?

Professionally, I had an experience a few years ago in implementing Gamestar Mechanic into the library to introduce the students to the idea of game design as another form of text and using their learning in a creative way.  Little did I know that there has been a whole lot of research being done in this area of game-based learning.

That is definitely one of the big learning moments I have had this session in that I realised that research is vital before effective implementation of game-based learning can take place.  It was very frustrating as a primary school teacher librarian though as I soon discovered that there was very little research into game-based learning in the primary school. I noted this from the outset in our Module 1 discussions. My observation is that games are being used in primary schools but I could hardly find the information relevant to my learning context.  This was supported by research I found and used in my first assessment where “Caponetto, Earp & Ott (2013) where they searched for papers that dealt with the actual integration of games into classrooms, of the 753 papers their search discovered and after application of the criteria for their purpose, only 78 papers were returned.”

It also became apparent in my participation on Twitter ( a new experience for me this session) that the use of games in education is a ‘hot topic’ right now.  There is so much being shared through this platform and one learning I have also made is that while I retweeted some of these articles, I really wanted to discuss some of the ideas within them.  Games as advancing education, ways to use Minecraft, how to choose the best games for learning? it was all there on Twitter.  Those that lacked research and those that matched the research we had been accessing within this subject.  This is an area for self-improvement for me to focus on next session as I need to take the initiative to perhaps reflect on these using the affordances of the reflective blog that I have set up.

Another major point of learning for me during this session is that there is more involved in using games than what can be seen on the screen (Gee, 2012).  I was starting to form a definition of what game-based learning is and thankfully the title of my reflective post mentioned that this definition was evolving. I would suggest now that I still agree with this initial definition but I would now include that just as there are different types and genres of books, the same can be said about games.  It is the teachers role to design learning practices after they have actively assessed and evaluated the potential and limitations of the game so that they can know: 1) how the game can assist in the learning; 2) rules/goals, characters, settings, how the game can be differentiated for different levels of play – or the mechanics of the game; 3) what other learning activities need to be incorporated alongside the game? (Routledge, 2009).  So, the game is not a replacement for the teacher and just as any other resource would be utilised in the classroom, so should the game intended for learning be scrutinised and selected according to the learners needs.

My knowledge base has definitely been expanded by undertaking this unit of study and I can definitely see that the adoption of game-based learning needs to be strategic.  The affordances of game-based learning are so much more than being fun, engaging and motivating.  These can be seen in my Compendium chapter.  For me, there is still much more reading to be done and time to synthesise what has been read and shared away from the pressure of deadlines is needed.

References:

Caponetto, I., Earp, J., & Ott, M. (2013). Aspects of the Integration of Games into Educational Processes. International Journal of Knowledge Society Research (IJKSR), 3(4), 11-21. doi:10.4018/ijksr.2013070102

Routledge, H. (2009). Games-based learning in the classroom and how it can work!. In T. Connolly, M. Stansfield, & L. Boyle (Eds.) Games-Based Learning Advancements for Multi-Sensory Human Computer Interfaces: Techniques and Effective Practices (pp. 274-286). Hershey, PA: . doi:10.4018/978-1-60566-360-9.ch016

 


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