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Creative commons licensed by Flickr. Shared by Heather.

 

In a distracted moment I read a recent TES magazine article, about teacher burnout. The article and the comments that follow support the notion that teachers are part of a dynamic career, potentially making a significant impact; but with a downside that the more we care about making this impact, the more we need to work. Individualised learning, formative assessment and information overload including the need to constantly learn as our environment changes can really take a toll. Bawden and Robinson refer to the paralysing effect of TMI, leading to a “do what you did last time” response; which in an educational context may see us take backward steps into chalk-and-talk. My desire to improve is why I am here, late at night after a seriously chaotic and challenging day in a school, stretching my brain in the hope that I might improve my practice. It is through this tired and mildly pessimistic lens that I have investigated the ideas of connected learning for educators as well as students.

The 2001 United States education initiative “No child left behind” is a noble ambition (standardised processes aside). This notion is reiterated in education across the world with educators focusing on individualised learning and the fact that all students can and should be given appropriate opportunities to learn. However, as Hargreaves articulates, the US rhetoric also requires that no teacher is left behind either and this requires us to learn continually.

I find that I regularly return to a frustration around teacher professional learning (PL). Organised PL to support pedagogical progression often misses the mark, is poorly timed and/or prohibitively expensive; however, the evidence around me echoes Louise Starkey’s argument – teachers need to believe and see the worth in revised practice, including connected models of learning, to deem the effort to change worthwhile. This has led me to question how a change in pedagogy to support connected learning can be encouraged and how this can be done without seeming like just another new and probably passing initiative. My late night idea is to do exactly what we as CSU students are doing: What better way could there be to learn about connected learning than to experience it in practice?

Sheryl Nussbaun-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall note that technology easily enables connection and collaboration. However, “most important are the relationship that learning technologies make possible” (2011. P.10). The authors advocate connected learning for educators as a viable means to ease the challenge of learning. Nussbaum’s Twitter research found a desire amongst educators that echoes the learning desires of many contemporary students – immersive, anywhere/anytime, personalised and collaborative are some recurrent themes (2011, p.3).

Humans are social creatures and I would argue that much of our informal learning arises from social connections; whether it is a staffroom conversation about a strategy that works or an Edutopia post that we find and share. Learning through connection and collaboration is both more available than ever before and highly likely to enable deep learning and change practice. Forging partnerships with business and industry, developing connections with others to evaluate learning, teaching a concept to a peer or engaging with virtual learning communities online are all socially stimulating possibilities that will enhance learning for both teachers and students.

Such possibilities inevitably require experimentation and significant planning, but once attempted can pave the way deeper, more relevant learning experiences. Surely where people are engaged with learning, our energy can be reinvigorated to evaluate, refine and continue the evolution of our practice. The more we can share content, resources and ideas, build professional learning communities, team-teach and connect with others to evaluate our success the less likely the incidence of burnout and overload.

 

References

Bawden, D, & Robinson, L. (2012). Information society. In Introduction to information science (pp. 231-249). London : Facet.

Brown, J.S. (2000) Growing Up: Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education, and the Ways People Learn, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 32:2, 11-20, DOI: 10.1080/00091380009601719

Digital Education Advisory Group. (2013, May 31). Beyond the classroom: a new digital education for young Australians in the 21st century. Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/deag_final_report.pdf

Edutopia: What works in education. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org

Hargreaves, A. (2003). Beyond standardization: professional learning communities or performance-training sects? In Teaching in the knowledge society: education in the age of insecurity (pp. 160-188). New York: Teachers College Press.

Nussbaum-Beach, S. and L. R. Hall (2011). The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age, Solution Tree Press.

Starkey, L. (2011). Evaluating learning in the 21st century: A digital age learning matrixTechnology, Pedagogy and Education, 20(1), 19-39.

Times Educational Supplement Magazine UK. I’m exhausted – and my family pay the price. (2015, March 27). Retrieved from TES UK: https://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=11006786