Reflective statement.

The following reflection adds personal perception to the evaluation which precedes it. This course has certainly enriched my expertise in and understanding of, the tools and strategies of connected learning.  I have been challenged (against my genetic inclinations) to compose something creative in a medium I have never used before. I have been stretched to broaden my own practice in Connected Learning (CL) through the use of forums and online applications that are familiar and await deployment, or which are simply unknown. I have read articles and blogs which have been epiphanies – and some which have stirred me little. I have enjoyed having my own prejudices reinforced and encouraged by the global energy around CL and by the experience of so many open-minded educators who are actually making this stuff work, and who are thus enhancing, some transforming, the learning experience of the kids they teach. Above all, I have been stimulated by the extension of my own PLN to include people in this course who have the foresight, the tenacity and the wisdom to see the possibilities.

The task requires me, however, to place the evaluation of my own learning into my professional context, to make sense of the theory in the praxis that is my daily life.

Much of the material suggested to us and the readings required relate to environments which differ from my own. Many of the readings take us into the realm of primary and tertiary learning. Little is local in its focus. Why is this so?

Perhaps, I ask myself, it just isn’t there. Perhaps the combination of secondary learning in an Australian setting doesn’t draw the passionate practitioners to its portal. Interestingly, I gather from online exchanges with fellow students that all participants in the course at this stage are, or have been, operating in the secondary sector. There is a hunger for a revolution in learning strategies that include, should include, the very approaches that have been at the heart of this course.

So, where to from here? This learning has gifted me with the expertise and the confidence in scholarship to argue more cogently in those places where I have a voice, a blog presence or a twittersphere to make the presence of these possibilities more prominent. The principal challenge (pun intended) is to take others with me. We hear of what can be done ‘in your classroom’. Well, I don’t have one!  My classroom is the territorial prerogative of others. And I can make a difference.

Critical to this happening is the learning culture of the whole community. It is a question of leadership.  Others will not follow unless and until they are led towards new and transforming possibilities, where the central impetus of learning is how more than what, and less still, where.

A central tenet here, to be more precise, is not just that we are connected but how we are connected and what for.  This is the paradigm shift for our educational communities. Mostly, schools have embraced technology with enthusiasm. That is a significant and necessary first step, but it is not a sufficient step. Now, progress will hinge on a thorough and purpose-driven assessment, based on instructional design theory for better learning, of how the connected world can benefit from progress made so far.

The reflective statement brief mandates commentary on “the implications for your role as a ‘connected leader’ within your school community”.  Thus, if leadership is critical, as I have argued, where can I contribute to the leadership needed for effective change to occur?

Personal professional activity is cultural and contextual and is contingent upon shared understandings of leadership.

Leadership theory continues to evolve, along with instructional design, the nature of learning and digital connectivity. The principles of distributed leadership, dispersed leadership have long been deployed in educational circles. As the learning hierarchy flattens, so do models of shared leadership in schools and educational bureaucracies.

Here, the theory and practice of functional leadership rather than positional leadership come into play. This is where I find myself as one without any authority of positional leadership. My activity, my passions are subject to those who supervise my professional work.

It is imperative, therefore, that what authority I can exercise will flow from being an authority rather than wielding positional authority.

There remain, then, two significant implications for my role. First, I must model the virtues and pedagogic benefits of the connected learner. This requires me to continue to be active in my PLN, national and global networks and to bring this into my own school culture. It is an ambassadorial role.

Second, I must continue to promulgate, encourage and support my colleagues in their own growth towards greater connectedness, fully recognising that teachers are time-poor, that the curriculum is ever more crowded and that increasing burdens of compliance weigh heavily upon a teacher’s energy supplies. Here, assisting them wherever possible to save time, to get greater learning advantage from small investment will draw them further into this arena.

Culturally, perhaps one of the greatest challenges is breaking down barriers, penetrating the walls which continue to surround much learning practice. This is endemic to much secondary school work where the silo-esque attitude to curriculum lingers, despite the efforts of the National Curriculum to cross these boundaries. It may, also, be a function of the proprietary nature of schools, and independent schools in particular, where for reasons of identity and market profile there is a reluctance to collaborate. Competitive attitudes are inimical to shared learning and to connectedness. I shall continue to fight this good fight, in the certainty that progress will be slower than I would hope for and that we shall have to proceed in little steps.

This course has provided me with the knowledge base and the theoretical confidence to persist. As well as some wonderful additions to my PLN.

 

 

KN artefact critique

Heather Bailie  Get connected with Google+

This digital artefact is engaging, concise, visually appealing and clever in its design.

The initial question puts the audience in a place to embrace what follows. This is the hook that gets the viewer in, followed by an introduction that is unambiguous. The audience knows where they’re heading. There is a problem (You need to learn how to connect), and here’s a solution. (Have I got the solution for you!)

The music harmonises well with the embedded text and the narration. There is a confidence to the presentation that is encouraging for the viewer. Heather has practised what she preaches, in seeking, sensing and sharing ideas from her PLN. The medium becomes the message – together we know so much more.

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Heather’s calm and positive narration imbues the digital artefact with a can-do ethos. This is what connected educators do, she says. They take advantage of the opportunities technology affords to develop relationships with other people.

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The graphics are seamless, and the backgrounds both blend in well and enhance the foreground text and image. The movement of the graphics displays a clever design sense so that the accompanying narration aligns well. The characters that appear at the beginning and the end of the artefact introduce the learning concepts, then draw conclusion to the essential instruction in the middle. The artefact tells the viewer what to do, in simple easy chunks, suggesting some options but then alighting on Google+.

If the imperative is to get people connected and sets out to get people on to Google+, perhaps other tools need not be cast aside. You don’t have to diss Ford to sell Holdens! The Twitter people look a bit sad..

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The concept of community informs the artefact, both in the idea of the community of educators in the global sense, as well as the communities that one can be part of in Google+.The acquisition of the knowledge is made more efficacious in the repetition of the community of practice idea that is at the heart of Google circles.

 

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This short video would be ideal to view in a staff meeting to kickstart a conversation on social media and Google+, with a follow up online training workshop. My school has iTeas and iToasts for PL for staff and the workshop atmosphere is conducive to trialling new tools and strategies.  It’s not threatening and generally collegial. Alternatively, a backchannelling tool such as Padlet, could collect ideas and suggestions, as well as hosting the video.

What endures?

In this interview with Howard Rheingold. Alec Couros asks, “What will endure?” The connections will he says, not necessarily what was shared. There are so many connections to be made on social networking sites, and there’s an inherent value and learning there, or why would we keep going back?

I know I’ve focused much more on networking outside my school than within it. After 4 years with a senior leadership team who truly believed in the power of the collaborative culture, and the building of those relationships with teachers and students, I now feel quite bereft that they’ve all moved on to bigger and brighter worlds. I do wonder why their belief was not embedded deeply in the learning culture, but I know there are fewer connected teachers now than there were two years ago. The new SLT have bigger fish to fry. Technology has definitely been the focus, but it has become an end in itself, with a distinct lack of underpinning framework. And i haven’t worked out how to do what Alec Couros is advocating. Yet.

 

Retrieved from : http://youtu.be/ru6LoU2-kC0

 

How do you design for aliveness?

An excellent question from Etienne Wenger et al. They suggest a community of practice needs something alive in them to keep them buoyant, and, just as space design encourages a certain type of interaction, so a well-designed  community of practice allows for a particular ecosystem to thrive. What does drive teleological organicity in an ecosystem? Wenger et al have described 7 principles that embody thoughtful design, design that works, that focus on the value derived from a network of practice. Such communities exist within many areas of social networking, but particularly in Twitter. Therein exists different levels of participation, there are both the familiarity of followers, as well as enthusiasm for new people, and there is an inherent rhythm. It is a living thing, a network that acknowledges the importance of relationships. The value lies within the sharing, the common goals, but also in the commonly held belief of network users that there is learning in collaboration, the “social co-participation” (p.295)

(Preaching to the converted.)

Howard Rheingold understands the importance of our social media literacies. We need to counter the entitlement students feel to direct their attention wherever they want, so that they learn to exercise “mindful deployment” in order to be a critical consumer. Where we give our attention is central, along with how we participate, with whom we collaborate, and what new literacies are demanded in the changing information landscape.

 

Rheingold, H. (2010). Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media LiteraciesEducause Review, 45(5), 14.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. M. (2002). Seven principles for cultivating communities of practice. In Cultivating communities of practice : a guide to managing knowledge. Boston : Harvard Business School Press.

Wenger, E. (2012). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Retrieved from
http://wenger-trayner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/06-Brief-introduction-to-communities-of-practice.pdf

Network literacy

What does it mean to be literate? McClure’s paper of 1993, both perceptive and ahead of its time, could be throughly innovative for some of my colleagues in 2015. The information literacy definition ” the ability to locate, process and use information effectively” (p.117) still underpins mission statements in school libraries today, many of whom still believe this is innovating into the 21st century. The question is then, is this definition timeless, or are information specialists just not prepared to let go of analogue thinking?

McClure’s proposition that the gulf is widening between the “elite few” who do understand the power of networks, and the rest of the population who are illiterate. His concerns are for equity and focusing on the issue from a policy perspective, where governments – those in control – find ways to educate individuals so that they live productive lives in society, emphasising taking seriously the challenges of the information age.

Rheingold says humans have been creating networks since they evolved into homo sapiens. This is not new. He focuses on the freedom of the internet, which is open to all through networking groups of people. It is only under the control of government when they agree, vis the Netflix syndrome. The international downloading of films. The control of networks is impossible.

Maybe there’s a dawning realisation that government is less in control than it thinks it is.(cf China – can block Twitter, control ISPs. ) The technical architecture of the internet, says Rheingold, reserves innovation for the users, not the controllers. This presents a challenge for those who would like to control (Learning Management systems in schools anyone?) and seek not to have diffused and decentralised networks. When people can organise themselves without organisations, this is threatening for hierarchical models.

 

control freak

Social capital, says Rheingold, is the capacity to get things done as a group, without the direction of government.

McClure focuses on the role of government in driving network literacy, while Rheingold focuses on the capacity of the individual nodes to connect around mutual interests.  McClure says we can’t make predictions about how the networked society will evolve. (p.119) but that the characteristics of the networked society may change.

Literacy has never been any different. We just see it through different perspectives. We learn to look at it through different lenses, that of our time and context. Literacy is the capacity to share, and it is only relevant in the context of its time. Without literacy there is no sharing and on this Rheingold and McClure are in harmony.

Coping strategies.

The paralysis that ensues when faced by the sheer volume of choice available through the new models of information is perfectly comprehensible. Going from a supermarket that once had 600 items from which to select, to one with over 10,000, creates a definition of choice that is simply insurmountable. Information stress, cognitive overload, continuous partial attention and technostress (Bawden and Robinson, 2009) presents an image of a digital world from which one might be tempted to retreat were it not for the fact that this is our new reality, and that of our students. Information is cheap, ubiquitous,  complex in nature and appearing in diverse formats. The solution is to take control, but how is that done when the ground is constantly shifting underneath you?

Even the secure knowledge that down at the newspaper office, the editor and journalists selected a handful of interesting stories from all possibilities that day and then delivered them to you, you never felt the fear of missing out. And there was never an obligation to read everything. Now, not only is the torrent overwhelming for the receiver, things aren’t working out too well for the print media either. Blogs and social media are challenging traditional journalism, just as the iPhone is squeezing out professional photographers. As De Saulles (2012) points out there are fewer opportunities for publishers to generate income. And yet media in new, diverse digital formats  – The Huffington Post, The Conversation, The Guardian, amongst many others –  are making their appearance. Quality in commentary and analysis may be compromised, and perhaps this is a reasonable criticism, but many of the journalists who worked in print media have made the move online quite seamlessly.

The lack of central control has lead to a new openness. The ends of information are human ends, says Brown and Duguid, and people are free to decide what matters and with whom they choose to collaborate. Social media places power in the hands of the consumer, who with the new tools, is now is a producer of information as well as a receiver. Resistance is futile, says Brown and Duguid. Perhaps that is true. One could choose simply not to be part of it. (A bit like the anti-vaxxers?) Actually, many people, including many teachers, choose that path. I would be one of the few people in my school who are consciously choosing to be connected. That, i believe, is another post.

 

  • Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2009). The dark side of information: overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies. Journal of Information Science, 35(2), 180–191.
  • De Saulles, M. (2012). Information 2.0: new models of information production, distribution and consumption. Facet Publishing.
  • Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. (2002).Limits to Information. In The social life of information (pp. 11-34). Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

 

Being connected is the new black.

The facility to connect and collaborate with other educators through new media has made my learning grow exponentially. What’s new and different? Just about everything. Sharing through Twitter and Twitter chats, being part of groups in Diigo, Google, Facebook, (not doing the LinkedIn thing though), being fed RSS feeds, as well as being part of this Masters course, has provided an anywhere, anytime PLN, which is not limited to the face to face opportunities which preceded it. So absolutely, I have moved beyond cooperation.

I have to say though that I have often found it challenging to have like-minded educators using social media to be connected, in my own school. One former principal described it as having a “courtyard mentality” where it spent time navel-gazing. Despite my belief in the importance of embracing change, it moves at a glacial pace. Perhaps it’s my recent arrival as a teacher librarian, coming from a language teaching background. Or even not being a 25 year old, career-building. Baby steps I’m told constantly. Like trying to turn the Queen Mary on a sixpence, my English husband would say. I am working with like – minded people, as much as possible, but many of them are wedged in the traditional ways. i do feel the passion for being connected and I do believe we are short-changing our students when we are not prepared to learn and change.

The literacies I find most surprising? My effective filtering and curating strategies, which have been a revelation. I am not very organised, (terrible for a librarian to concede) but finding ways to gather, filter, organise, share and connect students and teachers to information, has been as surprising to me as anything in my teaching career.