a) An evaluative statement using the networked learning experiences documented on your Thinkspace blog as evidence of meeting the learning objectives of this subject
Accessing and using information has provided challenges for humans for as long as it has been recorded. Where once information was a scarce and precious commodity, since the 1990’s the issue has been filtering and selecting from the mass of information available (Bawden & Robinson, 2009). Today a simple web search comes up with so many hits it could take years to view them all, even if only fleetingly (O’Connell, 2015). Filtering, selecting and managing the overwhelming flow is difficult, leading to the identification of various information pathologies such as Information Anxiety, Infobesity and Satisficing (Bawden & Robinson, p.185). This and other challenges were explored in the post Challenges regarding the nature of information (Bailie, 2015 May 28). Strategic use of tools has become an essential habit of anyone working in a knowledge environment. These encompass tools for bookmarking and tagging (Diigo), storing, organising and note taking (Evernote), keeping up with blog posts (Feedly), saving to read later (Pocket) and curating and sharing (Pearltrees), and each have their place and (sometimes overlapping) purpose. Curation is an important strategy of teacher librarians who add context before sharing with students and other teachers (Bailie, 2015 May 7b). The complaint by some teachers that students should locate their own online resources, instead of the teacher librarian curated and catalogued Pearltree collections (McQueen, 2015 May 22) seems extraordinary as curating resources for learners has long been the role of the teacher librarian, except that previously it was done via the careful selection of physical items to include in the collection. Curation should be integrated into information literacy programs in teacher librarian supported student learning experiences (O’Connell, 2011).
“A connected educator is one who uses technology and social media to personalize learning for both personal and professional growth” (Whitby, 2013). They deliberately develop their positive online reputation, take advantage of just in time professional learning opportunities such as webinars and tweetchats, and blog to share and reflect (Gerstein, 2013). Connected educators understand network literacy (Bailie, 2015 March 30) and appreciate the importance of teaching students to cultivate networks for learning (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011) by teaching both about, and through networks (Pegrum, 2010). They know this is vital so as to not merely replace the digital divide (largely overcome through almost ubiquitous online access afforded by mobile devices (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011, Meeker 2015)) with a new divide characterised by those who do, and those who do not, connect through learning networks. The power of networks cannot be underestimated and was directly experienced in the development and construction of a digital artefact (Bailie, 2015 May 7a).
“Learning to collaborate with others and connect through technology are essential skills in a knowledge-based economy” (O’Connell, Lindsay & Wall, 2015). Educators must themselves be self-directed, socially connected learners who cultivate a Personal Learning Network (PLN) as part of their Personal Learning Environment (PLE) (Wheeler, 2010). Patnoudes (2012) describes the PLN as itself a system for learning. Today teachers need to be multi-literate, embracing the new literacies of the 21st century (Nussbaum-Beach & Hall, 2012) and willing digital participants in the creation of knowledge (Rheingold, 2012, p.115). They need to be open to new ideas, cultivate a growth mindset (Dweck, 2010), and collaborate with peers, colleagues and students regardless of whether they are in the same building or on the other side of the world (Nussbaum-Beach & Hall, 2012, Bailie, 2015 March 12). Sharing is perhaps the most important thing as the act of sharing benefits the teacher, her direct connections and the education community as a whole. Sharing is a responsibility, not an optional extra (Gerstein, 2015). When looking for information, connected learners can consciously and deliberately turn to social networks instead of search engines – success depends on the breadth, depth and size of the network (Pegrum, 2010). “The key to becoming a successful ‘connected educator-learner’ involves spending the time needed to learn how to learn and share in an open, connected environment.” (Rheingold et al, 2015, p.14).
“Blended learning is about good teaching and making the most of our online and face to face environments” (Jonson, 2014). It requires deliberate and careful instructional planning. Classroom interactions shift from teacher-student to student-student and technology becomes a space for learning (Jonson, 2014). Maffei (2015) has concerns that online and flipped learning removes the teacher’s ability to make formative assessments through personal observation and fears that these recent trends are leading us down the path of replacing teachers (who enable learning) with instructors (who provide training). The teachers’ direct, face to face involvement with the students in the Skype and Twitter stories (Bailie 2015, May 14) was crucial to their success. Do middle and junior level children have the intrinsic motivation necessary for success in online learning without a teacher in a physical classroom? (Bailie, 2015 May 28).
Galan (2014) reminds us that face to face interactions are equally important for teachers. Often these face to face meetings are made possible by the prior online connection.
Instructional design supports the process of learning rather than the process of teaching (Morrison, 2013). Merrill (2002) has identified five first principles which underpin instructional design models. Both school-based and online classroom engagement and learning are strengthened through intentional instructional design. 21st-century skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, decision making, communication and collaboration are carefully scaffolded and the digital and physical work together for formal and informal learning activities (Bailie 2015 May 14). A flexible approach opens the way for personalised learning; digital tools facilitate its realisation.
Wheeler (2015) identifies Learner 2.0 – young people who have been immersed in technology their entire lives. Millenials increasingly prefer visual over text media (Meeker 2015). In designing learning experiences we must meet our students where they are. Merrill’s number one first principle is that learning is promoted when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems (2002). This can be extended to include using their real-world online tools and the socially connected medium where they live. Van Eck confirms this saying “Learning that occurs in meaningful and relevant contexts is more effective than learning that occurs outside of those contexts (2006, p.18).
b) A reflective statement on your development as a connected educator as a result of studying INF532, and the implications for your role as a ‘connected leader’ within your school community, and/or at district/state/national level
In March 2014 when I was embarking on INF530, the keystone subject of this course, I wrote:
What do I hope to get from this course? A way of formalising/legitimising the reading, connecting, curating, commenting, learning I already do. Skills in interrogating and articulating my thoughts about the mass of information I come in contact with each day. More and better connection with outstanding educators (Bailie, 2014 March 5).
INF530 was a whirlwind tour and a terrific beginning but INF532 has given me new insight and appreciation for the potential implications of my own habits in knowledge networking for the students and teachers I work with.
I didn’t think I knew much, if anything about instructional design before this subject. Under the guise of Education Informatics I had discovered that Gagne’s nine events correlated well with my previous school’s Instructional Model (Bailie, 2014 April 23). But instructional design? Like other things, curating springs to mind, sometimes it turns out that you are already doing it, even if you didn’t know it had a name. As always, it is fabulous when you get confirmation that not only what you are doing is right, it has a body of academic research behind it too. Unconsciously, workshops that I present for teachers follow the five first principles outlined by Merrill, I will make conscious effort to use good instructional design in the learning experiences I plan in the future.
As described in the post The future – digital learning tools and strategies (Bailie, 2015 May 25) I see Blended Learning as the approach to online learning with the most chance of making a real difference to the students and teachers I work with. Excellent, professional teachers will not be replaced by online instructors anytime soon. While adults, myself included, may thrive in an online environment (particularly if they are well-connected and supported by social networks), the nuanced assessments teachers make through first-hand observation is unimaginable to me in a purely online learning environment, particularly for early and middle-years children. I will endeavour to provide leadership for a blended approach by:
- continuing to support teachers using Google Classroom as their online classroom presence
- promote the use of curation tools as a learning strategy – for example a Diigo group can be used for students to collaboratively research using the commenting feature to critique and discuss each others finds
- discouraging the use of technology as a reward. The games on our iPads should be intrinsically linked to the curriculum, not a bonus for children who complete their real work early
- creating, and supporting others to create, online resources for learning that have lasting value
Creating the digital artefact forced me to quickly develop new skills with a range of tools. This has given me confidence in my abilities to create resources for teachers and students, perhaps to support teachers who wish to introduce flipped learning or use such resources in a blended approach. Creating the artefact was very time consuming but I now feel confident in using Audacity, Powtoon, Moviemaker, and to demonstrate their use to others. My video was made up of multiple short clips, several made in Powtoon. Each one came together more quickly than the previous one. Going back and re-editing after some initial feedback was relatively painless, certainly in terms of the technological process, although selecting which content stayed and which went was more challenging. As an exercise in knowledge networking I thought it very successful – I was overwhelm by the number and generosity of responses to the survey which I shared through my networks. I was particularly pleased with Deborah Welsh’s critique when she said “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.” (Welsh, 2015).
I have continued to display the habits of connected educators through this subject – I’ve been active on Twitter using the INF532 hashtag, shared resources to the Diigo group and posted to the forum. Sharing has become automatic. However, I’ve let myself and others down in one area. Like most students or workers I ensure I do everything that is explicitly required. At work I choose to go the extra mile when I can although with study there is always more to read and do than I have time for. Previous subjects, INF530 and INF536, both included compulsory, non-assessed, blog tasks which I dutifully completed. While I have completed most such “recommended” tasks for INF532, except in a couple of instances I have not “gone the extra mile” to comment on others’ blogs (another compulsory, non-assessed task in INF536) and I’m disappointed in myself that I haven’t. Commenting is time-consuming to do well, but balancing work, study and family means that unless required, it doesn’t get prioritised. This is something worth remembering when I despair of the lack of apparent interest of my colleagues in becoming connected. It is time-consuming, it can be scary to begin with, it isn’t easy and we are all busy.
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