(More) Reflections and Rumblings #INF537

This capstone subject presents a myriad of challenges primarily because it draws on a large number of topics and divergent thinking. For me it commenced with challenging thinking about ‘The Need for Critical Study’ Selwyn (2010), to encouragement of ‘remixing’ and ‘reconfiguring’ practices (Ross, 2012) and then being introduced to the wonderful resource, ABC Splash, by Annbel Astbury.

Last week we heard from Simon Welsh, Manager of Adaptive Teaching and Learning Services at Charles Sturt University. The focus of his conversation was Learning Analytics. It was fascinating. as our guest host. In defining the topic her favourably referred to the Society for Learning Analytics and Research ( SOLAR) who consider Learning Analytics to be “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs”. For quite some time, this has meant measurement in the form of the ‘behavioural’; that is “the number of clicks” or “the time spent clicking”. However, it was pleasing to hear that the future of Learning Analytics may involve more measuring, or, at least observing, ‘creation of knowledge’ and then coupling that with the ‘behavioural’. Both combined may then give recommendations to the learner about how to progress their learning.

This converges with questions I have about current educational institutions, questions which were confirmed after reading The future of learning institutions in a digital age by Davidson & Goldberg. Although published in 2009, 6 years on, the ‘future’ stills looks like the ‘past’. Schools are still, “holding desperately to the fragments of an educational system which, in its form, content, and assessments, is deeply rooted in an antiquated mode of learning” (2009, p.14). Even though they point out that global business more and more relies on collaborative practices where content is creative, distributed and participatory, and that those coming into our educational system rely on participatory learning for information about virtually everything else in their lives, schools, from a learning perspective, still mainly celebrate learning achievements attained from benchmarked and mandated state/national testing such as the HSC, VCE, NAPLAN, PAT etc. Are we bold enough to ask this question,“How does this very paradigm of measurement and celebration of individual achievement support the effective learning styles of today’s youth?

I am of the belief that schools have to reconsider what they do and how they do it. If schools are about learning, and also preparing students for the future that awaits them, then schools, systems and the leaders of those institutions, have to ask serious questions. Furthermore, they have to openly and honestly answer those same questions. OECD reports, government rhetoric and leading thinkers such as Sir Ken Robinson and Ewan McIntosh, regularly articulate that the workplaces of tomorrow will increasingly require employees to work collaboratively, think critically and act creatively. However, the majority of our schools still look like places which are preparing students for 19th century factory-like world in which they were established. This begs another question, “How does the very appearance of our schools, and the classrooms which sit within them, actually prepare our students for increasingly connected forms of civic participation and global connectedness required of them in the future?”

In the Davidson and Goldberg (2009) article, they offer Ten Pillars of Institutional Learning which they state are “foundational to rethinking the future of learning institutions” (2009 p,26). These Pillars include practices and characteristics such as self-learning, networked learning and open source learning, which will require institutions to ‘remix’ so that education is seen and experienced “as part of a continuum with (rather than a resistance to) the collaborative, participatory, networked engagements that our students participate in online today” (2009, p,39).

To grapple with this challenge, and there are already Schools Rethinking Education,  it may well be that we follow the lead of MIT professor and digital learning pioneer Henry Jenkins who “has usefully spoken of the convergence resulting from networking a culture of new models and forms and contributions with older models” (Davidson and Goldberg 2009, p.40). Do we start with the ‘older model’ of school acknowledging ‘new forms’ of learning such as self-learning, networked learning and open source learning in a ‘new model’ timetable? How can the timetable accept and acknowledge networked learning where students collaborate with others in new ways outside of ‘normal school hours’, “where learning was fluid (not governed by set hours and days)” (Lindsay, 2014)? Or do we ask another question; that is, “How can we ensure self-learning, networked learning and open source learning are represented in our current timetable?”

Here’s an idea. Why don’t we ‘flip the thinking’ about mandated hours? For example, in New South Wales, it is a requirement to teach 400 hours across Years 7 to 10 for English, Maths, Science and HSIE. Yet most schools teach way beyond that. Could we limit these subjects to the bare minimum 400 hours? Yes, LIMIT them! Let’s take the example of ‘School A’. At ‘School A’, they deliver 520 Hours of English, Maths, Science and HSIE across Years 7 to 10 when they are only required to teach 400 hours for each subject. That is a surplus of 480 hours across the four subjects over four years; 120 hours per year. Just to give you an idea of what can be done with that time, Music/Visual Arts is allocated 240 hours over Year 7 & 8 (120 hours pre year) and LOTE is allocated 120 hours in Year 8. As per its timetable, that is 3 x 1 hours lessons per week for four years. WOW!

How could those 120 hours per year be used to ensure self-learning, networked learning and open source learning are represented in the current timetable? In other words, how can those 120 hours be used so that the future of learning at schools in a digital age authentically serves the needs and and interests of those we serve, the students?

I know I have more questions than answers. I also know that digital technology and new media need to be of concern to anyone seeking to make sense of contemporary education (Selwyn, 2014). I look forward to pursuing the ‘making sense’ part!

From your comments and feedback, I will lean more. So, please feel free to respond.

Regards

Greg.

 

REFERENCES

Collaboration – On the Edge of a New Paradigm, retrieved 7 March from: http://vimeo.com/77240879

Davidson, C. N., & Goldberg, D. T. (2009). The future of learning institutions in a digital age. The MIT Press. Retrieved from http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/future-learning-institutions-digital-age

Lindsey, J. (2014). Discussion Forum Thread 1.2. Retrieved March 8, 2015, from INF532 Knowledge Networking for Educators: https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/discussionboard/do/message?action=list_messages&forum_id=_14229_1&nav=discussion_board_entry&conf_id=_7274_1&course_id=_6636_1&message_id=_7155_1#msg__7155_1Id

Rheingold, H. (2010). Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media LiteraciesEducause Review, 45(5), 14.https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM1050.pdf

2 thoughts on “(More) Reflections and Rumblings #INF537

  1. Greg, your ideas about flipping mandated hours resonates with my thoughts also. Teaching in ‘subject’ allotments should be a thing of the past. Bring the walls down and focus also on inter-disciplinary or (as the IB calls it) trans-disciplinary learning. For this to happen subject teachers actually have to talk to each other and plan authentic, theme-based units of work that engage learning across the curriculum. As a former Middle Years Programme (MYP teacher and coordinator in the IB system I have seen this done very well (and very poorly). When it is well planned and everyone is on board it is magical learning….

  2. Hi Greg, lots of great thoughts. I like the idea about the hours – opens up a lot of potential. Being in the primary school setting, i think we also need to go back to having classrooms that utilise integrated units so that connections between concepts and subjects can be made. I worry that too much of what we do in school is siloed and less connections are being made by our students. Some very though provoking ideas Greg – well done.

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