Well, this is it. The final post of my Masters of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) and this first part at least is being written going 100 Kms an hour on the Northern Highway heading to my home in beautiful Echuca, Victoria. My amazing wife has let me smash this out while on the way home from a weekend in Melbourne. This is a small glimpse into the incredible support she has offered me while I’ve undertaken this course. So, first and foremost; thanks to her.
To be honest, I have mixed emotions upon finishing this subject and my course. The past three years have allowed me to explore fascinating concepts of knowledge networks and digital innovation including design thinking, game-based learning, digital citizenship, classroom technologies and knowledge networks. As you’d expect, it is incredibly broad! When I began the course, I was actually hoping to find something that would resonate with me and lead me down a very specific path to become a niche expert. Unfortunately, that just hasn’t happened. The phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind. Thinking about that more critically, I’m happy with what I’ve learned and accomplished. I’m looking forward to letting the dust settle and allowing me to reflect on a more focused area of study. I’ll let you know when I know 😉
But allow me to ruminate for a brief moment…
If I’ve completed my Masters, without feeling quite like a Master… what were the gains?
As I said before, it’s been amazing to explore and thrive in the subject areas, but in my opinion, the most important thing has been expanding my personal learning network (PLN). This is the one thing that won’t be forgotten and has proven invaluable over time. I’d like to thank broadly, all those I’ve connected with at CSU for their generous support and encouragement and for their inspirational fearlessness, publishing and sharing their work with a global audience. In particular, I would like to thank a crucial node within my PLN, Jacques du Toit who has helped me learn and grow as an educator/leader over the last three years. Weekly Google Hangouts to discuss readings and assessment have characterised this period.
Reflections on Issues in Professional Learning
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed this subject and in particular, combing through the course materials! There was a wide range of resources that helped me gain a solid understanding of the subject area.
In the beginning of the subject, Susanne asked us to identify our goals. I indicated that I was “ hopeful that this subject will help identify best practice and enable me to implement it with my staff in the future.”
Susanne responded by pointing out that “best practice is a term that has been used for a while – but it can be misleading. See her point below.
My second assessment allowed me time to explore not only the research behind professional learning communities but the contexts and conditions in which my school’s model works the best. It’s been great to sort out which versions of this model are more successful and as a result, begin to think about how I’ll draw from the research and lead change within my school community. Providing increased time, creating an environment that endorses rigorous debate and cultivating leadership are all places I’m looking to start. Despite having done a crazy amount of research on the topic, it’s still important to build with flexibility in mind. Huffman, Hipp, Hord, Pankake, Moller, Olivier, and Cowan (2003) caution that PLCs “cannot be prescriptive or expected to follow a linear course” (p. 68) There are too many factors moving within school organisations that can force you to augment your plans. So to reiterate Susanne’s point, it’ll be more about playing with the elements and finding out what works best within my context.
In terms of participation in the subject, I was able to utilise the discussion forum, blog and Twitter to enhance my experience.
Reflecting back, I found it difficult keep track of discussions on blogs. When I first posted to the “blog” section on the CSU learning management system, I was surprised that no one else had utilised the Think Space blogs or a free alternative platform to track their learnings/musings within this subject.
When comments were posted to the “blog” page here, no notifications were directly sent to the author of the post. This impeded potential conversations as I would often tire of checking. It was nice to connect with other students via my Thinkspace blog.
Obviously, I would have loved to participate more but unfortunately, these holidays, the family came (as it should) first. Now that my official study is finished, I’m looking forward to spending more time with them!
Hyperlinks to all previous posts:
(please note that formatting problems within WordPress have impacted the correct indentation of referencing below)
Huffman, J. B., Hipp, K. K., Hord, S. M., Pankake, A. M., Moller, G., Olivier, D. F., & Cowan, F. (2003). Reculturing Schools as Professional Learning Communities. Lanham, United States: R&L Education. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csuau/detail.action?docID=1058098
This subject has been an opportunity to focus on an area that has been the elephant in the room for many educators. With the pressures of today’s classroom, upskilling in matters of privacy, copyright, cyber safety, etiquette and device management is the thing that people intend to learn about that ends up being disregarded.
With that in mind, it’s been great to have the chance to develop a more thorough understanding of broader concepts within digital citizenship. After all, it “encompasses many aspects of life with technology and cannot be limited to a definition that includes the word computer” (Lindsay & Davis, p. 99).
Lindsay and Davis’ (2012) ‘Enlightened Cultural Model’ visually highlights all the digital citizenship issues that are raised when working online.
Lindsay and Davis’(2012) ‘Enlightened Cultural Model’
Permeated by the ‘rays of understanding,’ the ‘areas of awareness’ explore micro (individual) and macro (social, cultural and global) factors that result from technology access.
To be completely honest, I haven’t contributed to the subject with blog posts or discussion within the subject forums. Instead, the reflections that I’ve have continued to shape the way I’ve conducted myself within my new leadership role (Curriculum leader), in the classroom as well as my online presence.
- The inappropriate use of copyright materials is rife with teachers. We even have our own saying “don’t reinvent the wheel” which often justifies the stealing of digital content without acknowledging sources. I’ve made a concerted effort to showcase the appropriate use of creative commons licencing which has enabled staff to see a tangible way of operating within the rules. This is a choice that I’ve individually made yet has a social impact on the staff I interact with.
- One of the challenges faced in my new role is justifying the shift to 21st-century approaches to staff that are reluctant to change their technological/pedagogical approach.Exemplifying this is the need to cultivate a professional learning network. My staff need to see the power behind networked learning. Steve Wheeler identifies the ability to “connect with others, and create a professional network” as skillset of the 21st-century employee. This semester I’ve tried to model this by reaching out to a global audience through the use of Twitter in an attempt to demonstrate value by posing questions to generate data and resources in addition to strengthening connections. I’ve encouraged our staff to seek out other participation spaces (McIntosh, 2010) that meet similar objectives (ex. Pinterest and Google+) to provide alternatives to Twitter.
- Students need teachers to create tasks that enable them to become digitally fluent. Forcing them to think in that environment helps them hone their skills in digital literacy, collaboration, research and critical thinking (Stripling, 2010).
Both assessments have created powerful new learning experiences that forced me to grow. The first assessment task allowed me to work in a global collaborative space for the first time. Our team was even global in nature! We had an Australian, a Kiwi, an Australian hailing from South Africa, and a Canadian (that’s me)! I was unfamiliar with the use of wikis and it definitely challenged us collectively to work in that space. In order to do so, we also used Google docs as well as Hangouts for robust collaborative discussion that helped us achieve our desired outcome. In terms of content, the topic of ‘Social Media and Networking’ allowed me to explore how one sculpts a positive digital identity. This helped me launch my very own website where I’m planning to continue my adventures as a global educator.
I really enjoyed the second assessment as it was an authentic task that allowed me to apply my learning within my current context. The data that I was researching and receiving was current and it feels as though my recommendations (when shared to leadership) will be taken on board.
Half of my learning in this subject area can be directly attributed the articles curated and shared via social media. My co-learners active on Twitter have been amazing in this regard. In particular, Jacques du Toit and Matt Ives have filled my notifications up with pertinent readings that extend our knowledge and are then used in our frequent Google Hangouts discussions. Recently, we endeavoured to involve all connected educators within the subject for a cumulative Twitter chat regarding digital citizenship. Jacques was kind enough to make a storify of the event.
As technology continues to become more ubiquitous, greater lengths need to be taken to ensure that digital citizenship is embedded in learning in a way that makes it rich, real and relevant.
Lindsay, J. (2013, March 28). The future of learning is global – a vision for leadership [Slides]. Retrieved from April 15, 2016 fromhttp://www.slideshare.net/julielindsay/the-future-of-learning-is-global-a-vision-for-leadership
Lindsay, J., & Davis, V. A. (2013). Citizenship. In Flattening classrooms, engaging minds : move to global collaboration one step at a time (pp. 97-125). Boston : Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.
McIntosh, Ewan. (2010). The seven spaces of technology in school environments [Video file]. Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/15945912
Stripling, B. (2010). Teaching students to think in the digital environment: Digital literacy and digital inquiry. School Library Monthly, 26(8), 16-19.
Wheeler, S. (2015). Learning with ‘e’s: Educational theory and practice in the digital age. United Kingdom: Crown House Pub Ltd.