Research Using Own Context For Transforming Practices and Innovation in Schools

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Research < > Teachers < > Digital Technologies =

Transformation / Innovation

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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

 


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/

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

 

 


Initial Thoughts of Social Networking

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Social networking initially is understood to be a network of people who join together and interact with each other to share personally or professionally.  It is therefore as successful as those who join the community or network of people who have chosen to participate.  Social networking has always existed throughout history but since the inception of Web 2.0 the opportunities and possibility to connect with a much wider global community has meant the ability to expand ideas and thoughts.  Many more voices provides much more depth to the dialogue.

Social networking allows individuals or groups to develop connection and increase learning based on their interests and passions.  There are so many social networking sites that individual preference, passion and purpose determines which social networking sites are used by the individual (Ishizuka, 2010).  Social networking allows people to continue along their quest for knowledge and the importance of concepts such as lifelong learning are another of the benefits of this participatory, collaborative connection between people.  It highlights the need for individuals to develop knowledge and skills about recognising fact from fiction, developing their boundaries through critical thinking before contributing or sharing too much.  Social networking requires people to be able to bring the digital and the face to face into a one world view rather than a belief that is what happens online is different to what happens offline.  The question is, how private? how public? how much is too much? in this ever accessible network of people.  Is it really healthy to be connected to the technologies being offered by Web 2.0?

I have used various social network sites but my purpose and experience is quite different for each one.  Facebook, Instagram are by far my personal playground.  They are where I share anecdotes with family and friends as we live quite some distance from each other.  Twitter is where I find useful professional information with links to educational specialists and gurus from around the world and I tried to use Linked In for a while but found it not as effective as Twitter.  I have a Pinterest account to curate resources that could be useful for that rainy day, or meals to make for my family.  I have a You Tube account, a Google + account and these are new areas for me.  Anything that involves me sharing actual footage of myself I tend to not contribute but appreciate and comment on the efforts of others.

Throughout this unit though I hope to learn how to utilise the benefits of social networking in a primary (K – 6) educational setting.  What is it that needs to be considered?  How can the vision of a primary school library use social networking platforms to serve the needs of the learning community?

References:

Ishizuka, K. (2010). People who need peopleSchool Library Journal56(2), 32.