info tsunami
Image attribution: Mark  Smiciklas, “Social Media Information Overload” Flickr Creative Commons Licence

In recent years, I have worked in one school where change was resisted by many and another where a ‘new culture of learning’ (Thomas and Brown, 2011) was more evident. The earlier example is a school where the students are generally compliant and many want to simply achieve results to get an ATAR, hence there are minimal behavioural issues and students ‘look’ involved in their work.  Sometimes challenge in the classroom can create an impetus for a creative, new response; here however, the perception of successful student engagement and learning was clouded by cooperative obedience.

Leadership began to see the need for progress and conducted a ‘visible learning’ investigation (based around John Hattie’s research); the results of which indicted that many students could not identify the specifics of what they were learning and could not see value in their learning experiences. This has given evidence for the school to build upon, convincing the more reluctant individuals to consider what will make learning more meaningful, relevant and necessary. It was great to see this momentum get started.

The more recent example is a school that embraces a ‘new culture of learning’ resembling that described by Thomas and Brown. In this context I have seen many exciting examples of teachers implementing a cultural shift from traditional methods to incorporate more examples of play, authentic learning, collaboration and creativity. The results of this have spoken for themselves; the more creative and enjoyable the task, the more students have engaged; and in a school system where non-submission is often an issue, some tasks have achieved 100% submission rates on the due date. Students were excited about their learning and wanted to share this with their teachers and peers.

My own personal shift as an educator has also been dramatic. Taking a role in a new school inadvertently meant teaching in unfamiliar territory and I have had to reimagine my teaching strategies, no longer the content expert. Interestingly, I found that the investment I made to structure facilitated, digitally connected units of study, enabled some very effective learning experiences when compared with classes for which I was a content expert and reverted to more traditional techniques.

My own learning journey through CSU is my third experience of distance study.  Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation is thankfully a huge advance on my lonely earlier experiences of independent distance education, reliant on snail mail and inadequate local libraries. Through this degree, I have developed my skills as a connected learner, making the most of online tools to maintain my notes, research and course materials, connecting with the community through the forums and blogs (where I have learnt as much from others as from the module contents), developing and extending an ever-evolving online PLN to enable information to come directly to me through Twitter, RSS and other platforms. Starting this degree two years ago, the thought of sharing my ideas, research and knowledge in an online environment terrified me (admittedly, it is still quite intimidating) but I have come to realise that my inexpert opinions and insights can have value when shared with an online community; they have generated discussion and helpful feedback, leading to further learning through a broader PLN.

Modern life is complex and information overload can be quite overwhelming, however I would not want to go back to a pre-Web 2.0 world as the interactive, socially connected and creative digital world provides significant opportunities to learn with and from others, create and share content and to connect with experts in a unique and meaningful way; all of which enable me to augment my own learning journey with play, questioning and imagination, alongside that of students and educators with whom I work.

References

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. Routledge. New York & London.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). Arc-of-Life learning. In A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (pp. 17-33). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.