Is this the end?

Provide a critical synthesis of your reflection on how your views, knowledge and understanding of the work of an education professional in digital environments has changed and/or developed.

I can barely believe my time as a CSU online student is over. Contrary to what I was warned, online study has not been isolating. I have discovered that I am a social learner – the participatory, networked, open, digital environments where MEd. (KNDI) exists are where I thrive. Like Weller’s digital scholar, I am defined by the network and online identity I have established, not by my institution (Weller, 2011). INF537 – Digital Futures Colloquia has been a fitting end to this stage of my journey.

The first two colloquia with Bruce Dixon (Modern Learners) and Mike Hourahine (Think Global School) really set the scene for INF537, challenging our ideas about school, education and learning. It’s so rewarding to be part of a cohort who engage with the speaker and each other during online meetings, breaking down another perceived disadvantage to online learning. Those first few weeks were energising, but also overwhelming.

The case study turned out to be more challenging than expected (and I always expect to be challenged). On reflection, I should have approached it quite differently, used different methods of data collection and asked different questions. 20-20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. The time constraints made this task very difficult, my data gathering had to be done while I was at work – when I’m at work I have work to do.

Back to Bruce Dixon. Modern Learners’ promotion of the need for self-directed, self-determined learners resonates with me and I continue to be frustrated by an education system that places so much value on high-stakes testing. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised by the number of teachers who don’t share my enthusiasm for digital, networked and open practices, particularly in the later years of schooling, it’s understandable that they take the path of teaching to the test.

Lower down the school though, I may be making some progress. Stymied by a “we’re too busy/don’t have time” response to an opportunity I shared at the start of term three, I’m excited now that the same year four teacher is keen to explore the idea of a virtual book club collaboration with a teacher I met through the CSURU global collaboration. Even better, I can drive this by incorporating it into my once a week ICT sessions with her class – if it’s successful I should get more buy-in for other projects in the future.

The CSURU collaboration was my first experience of Flipgrid, I’m excited by its potential and it is definitely one of the tools to consider for the book club. The collaborative process for the case study reminded me of the value of Voicethread, another potential book club tool. I know we keep banging on about “it’s not about the tools” but finding good ones that “just work”, that offer flexibility for a variety of circumstances, are easy to use, free, and don’t require students to be over 13 can do a lot for persuading reluctant teachers of the potential of being open and networked.

For some years I’ve said I’d like to work more with teachers. Moving forward I would like to make teacher professional learning the main part of my role, wherever that is. I am the “go-to” person regarding digital technology for a number of teachers at my school and I happily share and support them but it is ad hoc. Through my role in the library I support teachers with resources, I look forward to reading Karen Malbon’s case study on Open Educational Resources and making OER a bigger focus in future.  

I keep thinking that this is the end but it is also another beginning. Embarking on this masters wasn’t the beginning of my journey to being a digital, networked and open scholar but was hugely important in propelling me along. The formal study might be over but the learning never will be. Bring it on!

References

Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. Retrieved from http://www.SLQ.eblib.com.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=773623

Case study proposal

Case study research question and illustration

DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT

This case study will focus on students’ personal devices used for learning and teaching in year 6 and 7 to examine how students can be supported to make meaningful and empowering uses of their devices. My school is a small, independent P-12 school with approximately 50 students in year 6 and 70 in year 7. Students in year 6 continue from year 5 but in year 7 as many as 30 are new enrolments. The school’s BYOD program for years 6-12 is in its second year. Students are supported to bring any device of tablet size or larger (not mobile phones) meaning that there is great variability in capacity of devices in any classroom. I am interested to learn more about what types of devices are present; when, where and how they are used for learning and teaching, and to explore whether the variability in device type has a significant impact on either teachers or students.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES

Develop an understanding of how devices are being used for teaching and learning in years 6 and 7 at my school. This may indicate a need to further investigate whether BYO any Device is the best model for our context.
Develop a report for the community to assist parents in the selection of a suitable device for their child.

DATA GATHERING

  • Literature review
  • Survey for year 6 & 7 students (Google Form)
  • Survey for year 6 & 7 teachers (Google Form)
  • Classroom observation
  • Interview selected year 6 and 7 teachers

Overwhelmed and under-coherent

I have been feeling rather overwhelmed this week with the number of different study-related things that need my attention (not to mention work and family). Between trying to get to grips with the module 2 reading, keeping up with forum posts for colloquia, thinking about my case study proposal (and the recommendation to dip into module 3 for that), other reading requirements AND blog posts, I’m starting to feel like I’m going in circles spending a lot of time not getting anything done. And I’ve just come down with a cold…that’s what you get for congratulating yourself on how healthy you are!

So, an apology first up, this post will be a bit of a mish-mash of various thoughts I’ve had over the last week and a bit, and probably won’t flow as a coherent whole.

Firstly, while listening to Mike Hourahine on last week’s colloquia it occurred to me that Think Global School’s Learning philosophy had quite a bit of synergy with Modern Learners’ Ten Principles for Schools of Modern Learning

TGS Philosophy

Modern Learners Principles

Think Global School Learning Philosophy

 

Modern Learners Principles of Modern Schools

Students should have more autonomy and choice in their learning Principles 3 and 4
Students should be designers of their own curriculum and experiences Principles 3 and 4
Technology should enable authentic, real and rigorous learning Principles 6, 7 and 8
Learning should not be limited to the classroom and the classroom should not be limited to one teacher and one group of students Principles 5, 9 and 10

Modern Learners’ principle 1 is implicit in a school’s philosophy – “clearly articulated and shared beliefs” while principle 2 could pretty much sum up TGS in a nutshell “Live a mission and a vision deeply informed by new contexts for learning”.

TGS’ Lesson learned #3 really resonated with me: “A focus on high stakes exams and teaching to the test all but eradicates wonder and curiosity.” When will those with the power to dictate curriculum and outcomes to schools wake up to this?

Questions raised by the session:

How might we apply what TGS has learned to our geographically fixed schools?

How could the travelling experience be realised for more students?

Could it be virtual as discussed by Davidson and Goldberg in The future of learning institutions in a digital age (2009). What about programs like the Victorian Education Department’s Alpine, Snowy River and Gnurad-Gundidj campuses of the School for Student Leadership, or other term or year-long experiences for year 9 students? Could it be like the School of the Future where “class schedules and locations change every day (the goal being to break down our culture’s dependency on time and place)” (Davidson & Goldberg, 2009.p. 50).

Davidson and Goldberg was a good read, I particularly liked this statement: [Banning wikipedia]…” is a catastrophically anti-intellectual reaction to a knowledge-making global phenomenon of epic proportions” (2009. p.28).

Back to Mike Hourahine who posed the question “What is the purpose of required secondary education?”. I answered in the chat “to keep them off the streets” and I was only half joking. In Victoria now the leaving age is 17 unless the students has a job/apprenticeship or recognised training course to go to. In the past kids could leave school at 13, 14 or 15 and go into real career paths with the post office, public service, in trades or even just retail. Those opportunities are long gone, VCE is a minimum for anything. For the kids who don’t want to go onto further education the purpose of their education might just be keeping them busy until they are allowed to leave (and hopefully get a job or access welfare if they can’t). My previous school was in an area with a high percentage of generational poverty – 2 or 3 generations of families where no one had ever had an ongoing job, where the family lived on welfare. Job search allowance isn’t available until you are 17. Staying at school is an end in itself.

Interestingly, I was listening to Bruce Dixon and Will Richardson’s latest podcast where they discussed the notion, put forward by Seth Godin, that going to college is a bigger risk than not in terms of cost vs value. They discussed going straight to college or university versus taking one or more gap years or, for those young people with great computer skills (often learned outside of formal school) going straight to the workforce. It made me reflect on my own children and what the future holds for them.

My eldest daughter has just started this year at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of music. People ask me what she plans to do with her music degree. I don’t know, she’s just started…who knows what will happen in three or more years. In the meantime she’s having some amazing experience, meeting and playing with interesting people. She’s also exploring casual work options on the side, one that has come from her year 10 work experience with Daniel Donahoo – she is now apparently a “creative professional”. I don’t know what will come out of that, potentially amazing stuff or maybe nothing at all, but I’m certainly not worried.

As for my other daughter, she’s in year 10 and right now facing up to selecting her VCE subjects. She’s a polymath, at this stage for year 11 it looks like English, German, Music Performance, Studio Arts, Maths Methods, and Physics (Unit 3 & 4 as she is doing units 1 & 2 this year). Again, who knows where that will take her, but really, does that matter now? She’s choosing subjects that interest her and that she’s reasonably good at, which as far as I’m concerned are the main considerations. I’m fairly certain she won’t go straight to uni, she’s been planning a gap year (visiting Girl Guide World Centres) since she started secondary school. I’m not concerned at the prospect it might turn into two, three or even five years as apparently Bruce’s daughter’s did – she’s now a successful lawyer.

So there’s my rambling collection of thoughts from week 3. Now back to reading…

#INF537 Back on the rollercoaster

Rage Roller Coaster Drop Harry Rose via Compfight

I’m back! It seems like ages since I posted here. My last subject was through the WISE exchange program – Information Visualisation at San Jose State University. A fascinating subject, totally different to anything else I’ve done and also conducted quite differently to CSU subjects, with continuous assessment including marks for contributing to discussion forums and even a couple of tests. Needless to say, posting on my Thinkspace blog was not required…and, dutiful student that I am, I didn’t!

But I feel I’m back in another way, and that’s down to INF537 itself. I feel energised and overwhelmed all at once in a way that I haven’t experienced since INF530. Fitting, I guess, as that was the keystone subject and INF537 the capstone.

I’m energised by the cohort. So many people I’ve already connected with over this four year journey, and a handful I’m excited to meet for the first time. People I’ve collaborated, commiserated, celebrated, shared, whinged and laughed with, fabulous educators who truly are Modern Learners as described by Bruce Dixon in our first colloquia (more on that soon).

I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of what has to be done in this session (which takes place over little more than a standard school term). Reading, forum posts, participating in Colloquia, reading, blogging about Colloquia, other blog posts, reading and commenting on cohort blog posts, reading, a case study, reading and I haven’t even looked at what assignment one is yet! I’m fighting off an overwhelming sense of inadequacy – everyone else uses bigger words than me, they seem to have read more, know more, they articulate their thoughts more eloquently…will I be good enough, can I keep up? I’ve not felt like this since INF530 (well, maybe in INF536 also) but as I’ve said, I’m fighting these thoughts off and deep down I know that I can do it, seven subjects in I’ve always managed it somehow.
So, onto our first colloquia.

Bruce Dixon, co-founder of both the Anywhere, Anytime Learning Foundation, and, along with Will Richardson, Modern Learners, was guest presenter at our first colloquia held on Monday evening. In the spirit of anywhere, anytime learning, I listened to the first 15 minutes or so while walking home from the gym. The fact that I needed to hold up an umbrella inhibited my ability to participate in the chat for that time but I digress…

Modern Learners recently published ‘10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning’ white paper which is a short and worthwhile read and much of the colloquia discussion related to issues raised by the paper (Richardson, W. & Dixon, B., 2017).

A key tenet of the paper and our discussion is that the modern world requires self-directed and self-determined learners and there are concerns about the capacity of our schools and teachers to facilitate the modern learning required to produce them.

We were challenged to articulate what learning actually is, what self-directed learning looks like, and to consider what conditions provide the best opportunities for children to learn (whether or not that was within school).

There was some discussion about the role of technology in learning. I particularly like this quote from Chris Lehmann from Science Leadership Academy, PA, that Bruce shared with us:

We believe technology in schools needs to be like oxygen…ubiquitous, necessary, invisible…then stop talking about it.

An oft repeated phrase lately is “it’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning (or pedagogy)” which is true…to a point. I think a lot of “it” is about the technology, but the technology has to be easy and it just has to work – or as Chris says, be invisible. So many things that our students can do today were unthinkable when I was at school (no mobile phones, no instant creation of images, audio or video, no Google, no Youtube, no interactive websites, no instant communication, no social media…), and technology is the reason. What stops many teachers from fully embracing modern possibilities is their experiences of when things didn’t “just work”. We should no more have to think about technology than we do about a pencil’s capacity to make a mark on a piece of paper.

We need to stop privileging content over capabilities. Information is abundant, the notion of content being king started to go out with the invention of the printing press. Scholars then feared that the brain would be affected if it did not have to memorise knowledge that would be now stored in books. Learning how to learn is key. To finish, a quote from the white paper:

Regardless what the future holds, there is little doubt success in the future will first and foremost depend on one’s ability to learn, not on one’s accumulation of knowledge. (Richardson, W. & Dixon, B., 2017. p. 5)

Seymour Papert quote

References

Richardson, W. and Dixon, B. (2017). 10 principles for schools of modern learning. [ebook] Modern Learners Media. Available at: http://modernlearners.com/blog/ [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].