#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


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].

Blog Task #1

The Global One Room Schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (Highlights from JSB’s Keynote at DML2012). Retrieved from http://youtu.be/fiGabUBQEnM

I didn’t know it till this week but it seems I’m an entrepreneurial learner. I look for new ways to do things, seek new resources, re-evaluate, re-assess, tweak, try, and reflect. I’m not happy doing the same thing in the same way unless I know there isn’t a better way (and that’s rare). So John Seely Brown’s words right at the start of the video struck me straightaway. That’s it! That’s my passion! I want other teachers to be entrepreneurial learners too.

I want to find new and better ways to inspire and motivate teachers to have a go in the networked learning environment, to become “connected educators” – what Tom Whitby defines as “teachers who are comfortable with collaborative learning, social media, and sharing their ideas online.” I share his concern of a “huge gulf now developing between connected and unconnected educators.” (Digital trends shifting the role of teachers)

I want to be able to use the right language to convey my passion, to be able to articulate in pedagogical terms why it is important to keep up and to back up what I say with compelling examples from research. I read widely and find myself nodding my head in agreement or protesting “no” at an outrageous assertion but lack the skills to articulate why I respond that way. I need to “level up” my academic prowess. This is key in my motivation for study and I’m already being rewarded by the range of information being shared formally through the module and the new eye with which I’m viewing information shared informally.

Teachers I work with get bogged down in real and imagined barriers relating to workload, red tape and previous bad experiences, using them as excuses not to try. I love seeing the lightbulb go on when someone realises that a particular tool can actually make them more efficient (seen recently with a new Evernote convert) but often teachers lack motivation or are scared of breaking something or admitting they don’t know. I want teachers to find the same joy I do in play. As Seely Brown says “a key aspect of play is…permission to fail. Fail, fail, fail, then get it right”.

I want teachers to see that the technology itself is irrelevant. Just yesterday a primary teacher bemoaned the fact that her students struggled with using a mouse because they were so used to touch devices. Does it really matter? I can see a day in the not too distant future when the computer mouse will be viewed like the fountain pen, a quaint relic. We already have voice and gesture recognition and eye control is being developed. The mouse should be seen for what it is – an input device, nothing more, nothing less. This tweet from Marc Prensky sums it up beautifully:

I want teachers to see the need to transform learning tasks, that simply digitising an existing task and teaching it in the same old way will not develop 21st century skills.  Future work skills 2020 articulates skills that will be required in the workplace of the future but traditional teaching methods will not serve these needs. Consider Ruben R. Puentedura‘s SAMR model:

Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/
Retrieved from http://jennyluca.wikispaces.com/TPACK+and+SAMR 13 March, 2014

SAMR can be applied equally by teachers thinking about how they teach and how they themselves learn. I want to be an agent of redefinition.

Finally, I need to become a better teacher-librarian by sharpening up my own search and research skills. Already I am enjoying the challenges this poses.