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.