INF537

INF537 Critical Reflection

Image attribution: Lisa Plenty 2017

Shortly after starting my Master of Education, Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation (KNDI), I stood with a colleague presenting to Year 9 students about the importance of goal setting. After articulating her carefully considered 5 year plan, she turned and asked me to enlighten the students with my own. Caught between admiration for my colleague and fear-induced paralysis at not having an answer, I uttered something about completing my Masters, just to get out of the spotlight and avoid looking like the planet’s most disorganised educator. I have since considered my answer might have indicated that in a changeable and unpredictable context, perhaps I didn’t know what might be possible within the subsequent 5 year period and, whilst not meaning to undermine the value of being goal driven, that flexibility of thinking and openness to change may be a strength, not a weakness.

Amongst other challenging and inspiring units of study, INF537 has been a final Masters opportunity to question the purpose and role of contemporary education, and to consider the very concept of learning amidst change. The colloquium events with both Bruce Dixon and Mike Hourihane challenged me to further question the status quo. Dixon’s discussion of the efficiency over effectiveness conundrum in education was a concept that both reflected my experience and challenged me – how might we make learning more effective and work around the wicked problems of efficiency? (Plenty, 2017 a).

Hourihane’s presentation answered that question, whilst raising others (Plenty, 2017 b). His overview of the Think Global School (TGS) demonstrated that it is possible to completely rethink the structure of schooling. With determination and courage to take risks, TGS has explored a vision of education with authentic student learning at the forefront of decision-making; where Richardson and Dixon’s 10 Principles for schools of modern learning (2017) are actively practiced. Whilst each colloquium event was valuable, these two particularly inspired my direction for the assessment tasks.

The INF537 Interpretive Paper and Case Study were an opportunity to connect new learning with areas of interest generated through my KNDI study. Studying INF533, I discovered the New Literacies presentation, and become fascinating with the idea of ‘broadcast vs everyday technology’ (Thompson, 2013), a concept to which I connected again reading Weller (2011). The capacity for democratisation is something I have found a very significant element of the participatory internet, and therefore democratised learning became the focus for my Interpretive Paper (Plenty, 2017 c). Throughout my study, I have written repeatedly about the need for teachers to engage with Professional Learning to extend their ability to teach with technology and employ new pedagogies (Plenty, 2016; Plenty, 2017 d). However, I had not previously investigated in detail what was required to meet the needs of teachers and facilitate effective PL that might encourage a shift of practice. The case study presented an opportunity to investigate this need, which now more than ever relates to my employment.

Reflecting over my INF537 participation, I would like to have engaged more with my study peers and blogged more, but as Heather Bailie noted in her blog post, the study/work/life combination became very challenging. However, the confidence that I have gained through my KNDI experience since 2014 to engage in online networks has been instrumental in channeling my career. I have transitioned from a role in Arts education and Pastoral Care, to a unique role as a Technology Coach and this week, I started a new role as a Director of Digital Learning and Innovation, one I could only have imagined in 2014. So whilst I could not quite articulate my future trajectory back in 2015, my study and the employment opportunities I have been afforded have enabled me to reposition myself as an educator. I started INF537 with the video below, and it still stands as a summary of 3 highly productive, engaging years of personal and professional growth through KNDI. It has been an amazing ride.

References

Bailie, H. (2017). Overwhelmed and under-coherent [blog post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/hbailie/2017/08/01/469/

Plenty, L. (2016). Network Literacy Evaluative Report [blog post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lisa/2016/10/15/network-literacy-evaluative-report-the-inf532-travelator/

Plenty, L. (2017a). Thoughts from my busy brain [blog post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lisa/2017/07/23/thoughts-from-my-busy-brain/

Plenty, L. (2017 b). Thinking global with TGS [blog post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lisa/2017/08/13/thinking-global-with-tgs/

Plenty, L. (2017 c). Module 5 teacher professional development forum post [blog post]. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lisa/2017/04/17/module-5-teacher-professional-development-forum-post/

Plenty, L. (2017 d). Digital scholarship – democtratising education. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/lisa/2017/09/29/digital-scholarship-democratising-education/

Richardson, W., & Dixon, B. (2017). 10 principles for schools of modern learning. Retrieved from www.modernlearners.com

Thompson, C. (Producer). (2013). The new literacies. Retrieved from http://library.fora.tv/2013/09/22/the_new_literacies

Weller, M. (2011). The digital scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. London: Bloomsbury academic.

Digital Scholarship – Democratising Education

The participatory digital ecology and changing workforce have shifted practice and possibilities for scholarship. Notable in the university sector, this disruption is also relevant for school education, where teachers and students need to be lifelong learners amongst a changing dynamic. Rather than an individual, protected and privileged pursuit, to be a scholar in the participatory web context is connected and interactive, collaborative and open to sharing knowledge and ideas, with ubiquitous access to sophisticated multimedia opportunities for learning and creation. These factors of availability and the cultural shift to open practice have led to the democratisation of scholarship; anyone with access to the internet can be a scholar and have input into scholarly discourse through open networks and uninhibited creation and publishing. Whilst opening access and potential for participation, this new scholarly culture also raises questions about the validity of information and makes requisite that today’s information seekers be skilful assessors of quality.

In the traditional sense, Weller defines a scholar as someone with expertise in a particular branch of knowledge; often connected to, and perhaps defined by, an institution (2011). Traditional scholarship is typified by a complex and lengthy process of research, peer review and approval, prior to publication in print media. Marked by a tentative and cautious approach and “fraught with red tape” (Katz, 2010, p. 48), traditional academia’s linear structure prohibits disruptive discourse that might lead to divergent thinking (Gogia & Warren, 2015). The scholarly status quo was challenged in 1990, when Ernest Boyer noted that scholarship was fragmented and student experience lacked cohesion (Boyer, 1990, p. 2). Boyer called on the tertiary sector to make academic work more relevant to students’ lives and for the meaning of scholarship to be reconsidered and redefined (Boyer, 1990, p. 13). He challenged the notion that the term, scholarly, implies academic rank and status with a focus on research and publication, referencing more recent interpretations that included creative output and a less rigid interpretation (Boyer, 1990, p. 15). Alongside the opening created by technological progress, Boyer identified a space that was ready for change.

Made transformative by new technology and the participatory power of the internet (Seely Brown, 2000, p. 14), digital scholarship has begun to reshape and redefine academic learning. Weller identifies a digital scholar as “digital, networked and open” (2011, p. 44) with practice that is marked by virtuous and social collaboration, where a return on investment is not necessarily expected (Gogia & Warren, 2015). Digital scholarship is rich, interdisciplinary and relational (Gogia & Warren, 2015) and enables democratic and justice-oriented access to information and learning (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a). Whilst the bulk of research and literature on notions of scholarship deals with the university sector, considering the significance of digital scholarship for school education is also important. With a shelf life of less than five years expected for most areas of knowledge attained at university (Hagel, Seely Brown, Roy, Wool, & Tsu, 2014, p. 8), the necessity for students (at all levels) and their teachers to become lifelong learners is crucial. The 2017 ISTE standards for educators state that practice should be improved by learning through participatory networks and collaborating with colleagues and students (ISTE, 2017). The standards for students require that they are curators of knowledge, and effective global communicators and collaborators (ISTE, 2017). As familiarity and preference for new digital tools and practices flows from high school to higher education, a profound disruption of the traditional academic market is occurring (Wagner & Dintersmith, 2016, p. 149). It is critical that students are ready for change, as the university sector struggles to respond to a shifting paradigm. With the rise of alternate educational pathways, it is possible that formal higher education may not continue its hierarchical domination of educational discourse (Wells, 2016). With these factors in mind, it is timely to question the “outsized influence” of higher education on the K-12 sector (Wagner & Dintersmith, 2016, p. 8).

A notable outcome of the participatory internet is the democratisation of traditionally privileged academic spaces. As the internet has evolved, the quantity and diversity of information available online has exponentially increased (Weller, 2011). Through global access, the very nature of information and its purposes have changed. Wagner and Dintersmith describe privileged, education credentials as a “caste system”(2016, p. 8), and with university fees and study debts a considerable burden or prohibitor for many, the option of free, or drastically cheaper, socially-oriented, online learning becomes a viable substitute or complement (Wagner & Dintersmith, 2016). Today’s technology empowers independent learners, regardless of institutional rights and financial circumstances (Weller, 2011).

Not always institutionally associated, digital scholarship may be more defined by the individual’s interests and the influences of their network (Weller, 2011), leading to social and democratic construction of knowledge (Katz, 2010, p. 52). Early in the evolution of this digital space, blogs evolved as an example of digital scholarly expression (Weller, 2011), personalising scholarly writing by linking research with the identity of the author in connection with online peers (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b, p. 771). Blogs continue to be a key component of the new culture of shared academic thinking. They provide a space to rehearse ideas (Gogia & Warren, 2015) and socially shape thinking as feedback from open, interdisciplinary perspectives is possible and encouraged. Alongside this evolution of text-based communication, technological progress has brought competition to text as the supreme mode of literacy (Seely Brown, 2000), democratising visual and digital communication alongside traditional text-based expression. In a society affected by information overload and with dynamic and uncertain future workforce needs (Richardson & Dixon, 2017; Wagner & Dintersmith, 2016), the variety of digital creation tools has sparked creative thinking and skills and diversified communication to include multimodal methods, engaging learners in multiple processes for communicating, consuming and creating information (McCrindle, 2010). John Seely Brown notes that the web “honours multiple forms of intelligence” (2000), giving rise to creative skills in using multimedia for communication, alongside the spoken and written word. Content creation is a rich opportunity that can help learners forge a personal connection to areas of learning (G. Couros, 2015); however, there is still room for education across sectors to broaden the view of academic success to include more non-linguistic forms of communication (Joaquin, 2010).

Digital tools for creation of content are “fast, cheap and out of control” (Weller, 2011, p. 44), easy to learn and efficient to use (Weller, 2011). This shift in the power to create has moved creation technologies from “broadcast technologies” to “everyday technologies” (Thompson, 2013), available to anyone with access to the internet. Despite requiring the development of new skills in navigating and networking within the digital landscape (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b), such ease of use promotes disruption and unique methods of investigation, providing space for refreshing spontaneity (Gogia & Warren, 2015), evolutionary ideas and practice (Seely Brown, 2000) and the creation of new knowledge (Hagel et al., 2014) “without physical or economic boundaries” (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b, p. 772).

Traditional roles and relationships in academic spaces have also been democratised and recontextualised in this new ecology, with blurring of boundaries between teacher and student roles (Seely Brown, 2000, p. 20). As content continually changes, the notion of the teacher as “content expert” is no longer as valid (Spencer & Juliani, 2017), and collaborative learning spaces where the educator’s role is fluid are becoming more common (Adams Becker, Giesinger Hall, Cummins, & Yuhnke, 2016, p. 24). Innovative use of new tools and access to educational resources and communities have also led to significant interdisciplinary discourse, making the boundaries of traditional areas of knowledge more permeable (Weller, 2011) and levelling the perceived hierarchies of areas of knowledge. Skills in working across traditional disciplines have become essential as contemporary problems require thinking that traverses areas of expertise (Park, 2017) and disciplinary boundaries in the world of work are now more blurred (Hagel et al., 2014). This may be one of the most challenging areas of change for traditional secondary education, where curriculum and school infrastructure is often unreceptive to blending silo boundaries and providing space for transdisciplinary learning (Robinson, 2007).

As an entity, digital scholarship is not yet fully formed or easily defined – perhaps currently marked by a state of “not-yetness” (Collier, 2015). Whilst this fluid position allows for continued evolution and emergence, the contrast between an established structure and a less-defined new entity creates considerable tension for academia (Goodfellow & Lea, 2013). In this evolutionary space, it is fair to question the purpose and place of new practices and tools in order to assess their value and facilitate ongoing shifts in practice (Weller, 2011). At this early stage, it is not always easy to determine the success criteria and be sure that indications are reflective of broader trends (Weller, 2011). Tensions brought about by change in the ingrained, academic space may still outweigh transformative progress (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a) and therefore, more evaluative, rather than optimistic discourse, may be needed to resolve these concerns (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a). Some key challenges to the progress of digital scholarship are noted below.

Whilst open and collaborative practice may seem desirable, educational institutions are relatively slow to change (Veletsianos, 2016). Amongst other reasons for this delayed response, education across sectors is often marked by the impact of economic pressures, requiring accountability and efficiency (Richardson & Dixon, 2017; Veletsianos, 2016) and a “job-driven curricula” (Hagel et al., 2014, p. 4). The demand for these traditional requirements fails to acknowledge shifts in society and business (Hagel et al., 2014; Richardson & Dixon, 2017) and is likely to be questioned and rejected by contemporary scholars as digital practice becomes more prominent (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b).

Collier presents a challenge from a different perspective that is worthy of consideration; whilst technology is often considered a factor to simplify processes, Collier argues that digital scholarship can be more rich and complex than other scholarly approaches due to its capacity for creative, unpredictable and multi-faceted input (2015). This is both a benefit, resulting in rich opportunities for interdisciplinary, multifaceted discourse, but also a challenge for those who want technology to provide easy answers and a quick solution; rich digital scholarship may be more messy, undefined and complex and educators’ roles may be evolving, dynamic and varied (Ross & Collier, 2016).

We have moved from a scarcely resourced, pre-digital world, to a space where the new dilemma is discerning which of the myriad of resources are valid (A. Couros & Hildebrandt, 2016) and managing the overload of information (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a). “Not all information is created equal” (Katz, 2010, p. 53) and the wealth of information can lead scholars to quick and uncorroborated finds without depth or cross-reference. Users of scholarly materials in the digital space must develop the skills to determine what criteria might be applied to discern quality (Weller, 2011). As consumers of an information source as broad and deep as the internet, managing and navigating information has become a new and critical literacy for scholars (Seely Brown, 2000). Whilst it is incredibly easy to share, create and publish, doing so is not necessarily a native skill and can take considerable practice to do well (Wesch, 2010). Until scholars develop a strong understanding of participatory culture and the requisite literacies, they will not be able to fully utilise opportunities for digital scholarship (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a).

The industrial model of education has been set in place for so long, it is unrealistic to expect a significant shift in a few short years (Weller, 2011). Whilst a conservative, and in some cases sceptical resistance remains in recruitment and scholarly promotion (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012b; Weller, 2011, p. 48), as momentum builds and scholars continue to successfully model practice, including advancement and innovation that defies traditional practice, we may expect to see ongoing change in favour of the open, dynamic and interdisciplinary scholarship that the participatory internet facilitates (Katz, 2010). Katz describes the “torrential phase” of the digital age – where it is likely that expectations and innovation will put traditional practice at a competitive disadvantage (2010) and it is unlikely this momentum will subside (Hagel et al., 2014, p. 5).

Digital scholarship is a fluid and unresolved entity and whilst its identity continues to emerge and evolve, those working and learning within the education spectrum have both opportunity and challenge to construct and manage its formation amidst considerable disruption. In stark contrast with traditional academia’s elite, privileged and protected dissemination of knowledge, digital scholarship is democratic, open and participatory. This democratisation can be noted in a range of academic contexts; from access to information, to the participatory and collaborative creation and sharing of content, to a levelling of communication modes, to the fluid nature of academic roles. Whilst the benefits of this open context are many and undeniable, this levelling of the academic space raises questions and creates considerable tension. Scholars must develop new literacies in using, creating and evaluating academic materials and educational institutions must re-evaluate their purpose and practice. Whilst there is ongoing resistance from some sectors, the shift in culture and practice aligns digital scholarship more closely with the anticipated collaborative and creative future of the workplace and creates opportunities for innovation.

 

References

Adams Becker, S., Giesinger Hall, A., Cummins, C., & Yuhnke, B. (2016). NMC/CoSN horizon report: 2016 k-12 edition. Retrieved from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2016-nmc-cosn-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf

Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate.  Retrieved from http://www.hadinur.com/paper/BoyerScholarshipReconsidered.pdf

Collier, A. (2015). Not-yetness.  Retrieved from http://redpincushion.us/blog/teaching-and-learning/not-yetness/

Couros, A., & Hildebrandt, K. (2016). Designing for open and social learning. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emergence and innovation in digital learning: foundations and applications

Couros, G. (2015). The innovator’s mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent and lead a culture of creativity. San Diego: Dave burgess consulting.

Gogia, L., & Warren, S. (2015). A careful approach to digital scholarship. Digital pedagogy lab.  Retrieved from http://www.digitalpedagogylab.com/hybridped/careful-approach-to-digital-scholarship/

Goodfellow, R., & Lea, M. R. (2013). Research into higher education: Literacy in the digital university: Critical perspectives on learning, scholarship and technology: Routledge.

Hagel, J. I., Seely Brown, J., Roy, M., Wool, M., & Tsu, W. (2014). The lifetime learner: A journey through the future of postsecondary education. Retrieved from http://www.johnseelybrown.com/lifetimelearner.pdf

ISTE. (2017). ISTE standards for educators.   Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-educators

Joaquin, J. (2010). Digital literacies and hip hip texts. In D. E. Alvermann (Ed.), Adolescents’ online literacies: Connecting classrooms, digital media, and popular culture (Vol. 39, pp. 109-124). New York: Peter lang.

Katz, R. N. (2010). Scholars, scholarship and the scholarly enterprise in the digital age. Educause review. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM1023.pdf

McCrindle, M. (2010). Educating and Engaging.The ABC of XYZ. Retrieved from http://mccrindle.com.au/resources/whitepapers/McCrindle-Research_ABC-05_Educating-and-Engaging_Mark-McCrindle.pdf.

Park, I. (2017). Scientific researchers need to open up to collaboration. Jstor daily. Jstor daily. Retrieved from https://daily.jstor.org/scientific-researchers-need-to-open-up-to-collaboration/

Richardson, W., & Dixon, B. (2017). 10 principles for schools of modern learning. Retrieved from www.modernlearners.com

Robinson, K. (Producer). (2007). Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? . TED. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

Ross, J., & Collier, A. (2016). Complexity, mess and not-yetness: Teaching online with emerging technologies. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emergence and innovation in digital learning: foundations and applications. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/.

Seely Brown, J. (2000). Growing up: digital: How the web changes work, education, and the ways people learn. Change. Retrieved from http://www.johnseelybrown.com/Growing_up_digital.pdf

Spencer, J., & Juliani, A. J. (2017). Empower: What happens when students own their learning: IMpress.

Thompson, C. (Producer). (2013). The new literacies. Retrieved from http://library.fora.tv/2013/09/22/the_new_literacies

Veletsianos, G. (2016). Emergence and innovation in digital learning: foundations and applications G. Veletsianos (Ed.)  Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/

Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (2012a). Assumptions and challenges of open scholarship. Athabasca university: The international review of research in open and distributed learning, 13(4). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1313/2304

Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (2012b). Networked participatory scholarship: Emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks. Computers & education, 58, 766-774. Retrieved from http://www.veletsianos.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/NPS_final_published.pdf

Wagner, T., & Dintersmith, T. (2016). Most likely to succeed: Preparing our kids for the innovation era. New york: Scribner.

Weller, M. (2011). The digital scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. London: Bloomsbury academic.

Wells, R. (2016). Why are we still ignoring @sirkenrobinson.  Retrieved from https://eduwells.com/2016/09/24/why-are-we-still-ignoring-sirkenrobinson/

Wesch, M. (Producer). (2010). From knowledgeable to knowledge-able. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeaAHv4UTI8

 

INF537 Case Study Proposal

Image attribution: Lisa Plenty

The final assessment for the Master of Education Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation requires a case study with a focus of the student’s choice. I have chosen to investigate the challenges and optimal circumstances for delivering successful ICT teacher professional learning.

Inquiry Questions

What are the constraints that inhibit teacher investment in professional learning for ICT? How might these constraints be mitigated to maximise teacher engagement with learning?

Preamble

To best prepare our students for a changing world, we as teachers need to invest in our learning, or we could quickly be surpassed by the pace and momentum of change.

However, school-based teacher professional learning for ICT and new pedagogy can be ‘just-in-case’, not ‘just-in-time’, disconnected and insufficiently differentiated to meet the diverse needs of teachers. It can be a process where teachers check off their required hours without a sense of ownership, achievement or value-adding to their practice.

The case study will:

  • Inquire into the constraints to teacher uptake of professional learning.
  • Examine the circumstances under which teachers are most likely to find professional learning beneficial.

In the process of this inquiry, two surveys will be used to gain insight from teachers – one to investigate site specific needs and a second to investigate beliefs and experience more generally through social media.

Expected Outcomes

It is expected that the case study would facilitate a deeper understanding of the constraints experienced by teachers in the uptake of learning opportunities. It is expected that constraints may relate to teachers’ perception of need (affecting motivation) in combination with their preparedness to invest their time and energy around their general teaching and administrative requirements (time); however, it is hoped that further insights may emerge in the research process.

It is anticipated that the case study will provide deep, research-based awareness and context-specific insights that will help to inform the planning for meaningful professional learning opportunities, supporting  navigation around constraints and encourage them to embrace learning more openly.

Thinking Global with TGS

Our recent colloquia with Mike Hourihane from Think Global School was an excellent call to deeply consider the purpose and traditions of schools and the systems of which they are a part. The discussion and ideas presented have since provided considerable food for thought and had me asking questions around the ‘how could we …’, but also, ‘why not?”

“It is important to question assumptions.” Mike Hourihane

Think Global School is a unique enterprise, with no single school building and a very open educational philosophy, providing opportunity for student applicants to study in unique places around the world. It has been in operation since 2010 and has evolved in an iterative process of educational exploration, evaluation and refinement.

One of Mike’s focus areas is the concept of Agile methodologies, a software engineering term, where constant change is expected and planned for. This iterative, responsive approach is evident in TGS’s process, where Mike discussed the various aspects of school culture, pedagogy and curriculum that have evolved over time.

“What is the purpose of required secondary education?” Mike Hourihane

Mike noted the existing focus in most K-12 contexts is content, in competition with skills. He challenged whether we are ‘beginning with the end in mind’ if we just prepare kids for the next level (schooling, university etc.). Mike stated that the purpose is lost in education (specifically secondary) when we solely prepare students for higher education. He indicated that exposure to a range of curriculum areas is a must, but a focus on learning to learn is essential, though regularly overlooked in a content-driven model. These ideas complemented the previous week’s meeting with Bruce Dixon from Modern Learners and continued the challenging reflection about educational purpose.

Place-Based Learning and a Listen and Learn Approach to Service Learning

TGS students learn ‘from the location about the location’ through ‘Place based learning’ and Project Based Learning (PBL). TGS are focused on ensuring their students are motivated to make change in a global context and not just visit the world. There is a significant service learning approach, although not without context and maintenance. A ‘listen and learn’ approach to needs analysis is utilised and students may pass project work on to the next round of students working in the same space in order to respond to community needs in a purposeful and sustained manner. It is aimed that this change mentality extends beyond the school experience into the future lives of the students, although the alumni data is not yet extensive enough to be conclusive. TGS have learnt and aimed to focus more on culture than curriculum and this has extended to their hiring practices – through experience, they have learnt to look for mindset over academic ability.

Exams and high stakes testing eradicate wonder and curiosity.” Mike Hourihane

TGS are working hard to maintain academic rigour with a community-oriented project lens and operate largely outside systems that seek to standardise the learning process with testing. Mike raised the challenge that the “idea of the classroom almost has to go” – suggesting that different combinations are possible and that educators work towards mixing and breaking up constraints and standardisation. With this challenge in mind, Mike is launching a new company, Edio – through which he plans to educate and model the use of PBL to solve global issues.

 

 

 

Communities of Practice

Design: Lisa Plenty

Question: What are your thoughts and experiences with ‘Communities of practice’ – theory and real life observations.

I first heard the term Communities of Practice at a Transforming School Culture conference, where Anthony Muhammed was an inspirational presenter. Amongst his primary tools for forging a cultural shift in his school was the establishment of communities of practice.  Muhammad’s communities were places of rigour and challenge. If his teachers were initially not prepared to commit to learning and development, they would likely get on board or potentially move on, as the peer momentum that Muhammad encouraged took hold. “I don’t have time” is perhaps the most often heard reason teachers give to avoid self-improvement and learning. One important aspect that Muhammad provided for his teams was time to meet; with this provision supported by their leadership this barrier to learning was decreased.

Davidson and Goldberg made a pertinent point related to collaborative learning (limited by the 140 characters, I made an image of this quote to add on Twitter – see below). This concept can be applied to Communities of Practice just as it can to classroom collaborative learning. Collaboration makes the learning easier and under the right circumstances, leads to creative and new practice.

Davidson and Goldberg, 2009, p.26

At my previous school, our team teaching philosophy required collaborative practice, and whilst no one called these CoP, featuring the required ‘domain, community and practice’ outlined by Wenger (2011), they were infact the best collaborative learning teams I have ever worked in. Faced with challenges of shifting familiar pedagogy to work in open learning spaces with very large groups of students and multiple teachers, we worked as teams to create learning designs that were authentic, transdiciplinary and engaging. In the teams where input from members was equal, awesome learning design ensued. However, perhaps stating the obvious, outcomes were less successful and teams less productive where members were tailing on the efforts of others. In my current school our Junior School PYP collaborative planning resembles this focused CoP model, and is similar in regards to their productivity and outcomes.

In another setting, I have seen communities of practice implemented without a clear ‘domain’ of interest (Wenger, 2011), clear purpose or time provision. Whilst meetings within this loosely-governed structure could be beneficial, without clear direction, purpose and the possible absence of passion for learning, these communities are unlikely to elicit sustained learning or change in practice.

For me, the examples provided by Wenger of questions a CoP might tackle together (2011, p. 2-3) best relate to how I use Twitter and connect with an online Professional Learning Network (PLN). Especially when filtered down to the chats or hashtag groups with whom I engage and from whom I learn the most, these PLN groupings are the spaces through which I currently best experience a like-minded Community of Practice.

References

Davidson, C. N., & Goldberg, D. T. (2009). The future of learning institutions in a digital age. The MIT Press.

Muhammad, A. (N.D.) New frontier 21. Retrieved from http://newfrontier21.com/consulting/anthony/

Wenger, E. (2011). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Retrieved from https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/handle/1794/11736

Thoughts from my busy brain

Illustrated by Lisa Plenty Paper 53 on iPad

Our first two weeks of INF537 have been quite the thinking whirlwind! I had just returned from two weeks packed with PL (a few collated thoughts about these events can be found on my other blog here). To then launch into this intensive unit and start the term at work has been (continues to be?!) quite a challenge. However, as the countdown is now on to completing what has been an incredible degree (come November I will once again be able to breath), I know I will miss the collegial and collaborative interaction that has underpinned my Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation study.

It has been great already to share thinking with INF537 study colleagues around our growth as educators and connected learners and last Monday’s introductory colloquia with Bruce Dixon was a great start to the session to promote and inspire further thinking and sharing. However, on reflection, the session and my subsequent reading of Dixon and Richardson’s 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning has raised many questions for me.

Bruce posed the simple but important question – What is learning? In discussing the concept of modern learning, he noted that people have more trouble with the learning part than they do with the modern. These thoughts kick started a deep delve into what the bottom line is for us as educators in a modern context.

Concepts I found particularly important and relevant include:

  • The tendency in education to focus on efficiency over effectiveness (Richardson & Dixon, 2017) and thus miss opportunities for genuine learning
  • The need for a consistent and sustained approach – rather than just add-on change solutions like Hour of Code, Genius Hour and Makerspaces can be if not integrated sufficiently into overall practice (Richardson & Dixon, 2017)
  • That mission and vision are often disconnected from reality (also a concept raised in my recent Apple Distinguished Schools Summit professional learning) (Richardson & Dixon, 2017)

Some questions I am left with include (please share your ideas in the comments):

  • How might we bring innovation and inquiry into the core of education, rather than the fringes (Richardson & Dixon, 2017) within existing curriculum and systemic constraints?
  • How can we encourage educators to embrace rather than resist change?

Image source: Richardson, W. 2017. 10 principles for schools of modern learning. Retrieved from https://modernlearners.com/10-principles-schools-modern-learning/

  • How might we make a sustained shift to align the rate of change with the capacity for change in schools?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Richardson, W. 2017. 10 principles for schools of modern learning [site]. Retrieved from

https://modernlearners.com/10-principles-schools-modern-learning/

Richardson, W. & Dixon, B. 2017. 10 principles for schools of modern learning.  Retrieved from

https://modernlearners.com/10-principles-schools-modern-learning/

 

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