#INF536 Critical Reflection

The prompt for this blog post is a reflection on how my views, knowledge and understanding of the work of an education professional in digital environments has changed and/or developed. I think however, a lot of my most tangible learnings have not been in the digital realm at all – they have been on me, as a person, and in the physical world.

Here are some of the ways I’ve grown, my knowledge has grown, and my professional understandings have grown. It’s a highlights reel of my most key learnings from this course:

  • A rekindling of my creative confidence! Being creative is rarely that one off “lightbulb” moment, where you are struck with inspiration – you need to work hard to be creative (Gladwell, 2008; Dyson, 2011). Knowing that I didn’t need to get creative pursuits right, or perfect the first time really opened me up to just giving things a go and getting started. Creativity is an amorphous beast though, and takes many forms for many different people.

  • Bringing more ideas out into the real world – making them visual, moveable, actual items – frees them from a range of digital and mental constraints. Elements of thinking can be collected in a Project War Room, where the whole picture, rather than individual snippets can be seen (Kolko, 2010). Links can be made, and patterns can be found. Different organisations or sorting of the elements can occur (such as in a hexagonal thinking activity).

  • Growing a bias towards action (Kelley, 2012). Design is about turning ideas into action (Brown, 2009). I feel empowered now that I understand, and have had practise with, the process.

  • An affinity for collaboration. Much of creative culture, and the Design Thinking process, is enhanced when with, or around others (Siedel & Fixson, 2013). Connect with others, talk things through, share your ideas. But also, don’t be afraid to go it alone when you need to (Thornburg, 2001).

  • Welcoming feedback. Feedback is the gold dust of learning and improving (Hattie, 2013). Be open to feedback, get it early and often, and when giving feedback, make sure it is kind, specific, and helpful (Berger, 2003).

  • Keeping the ‘user’ at the centre. Teaching isn’t about you, it’s about the students. Co-design, and involving students at every stage in learning will lead to more meaningful outcomes. In contrast though, your role as a knowledgeable expert is no less important (Hatte, 2013).

  • Setting my eyes on the horizon. Let your big, audacious, Moonshot ideas out. Experimenting allows unexpected outcomes to emerge, rather than sticking with the same old status quo. Frame your thinking on what could be possible; don’t be daunted by the blocks in the way. At the same time, don’t be afraid to start small (Doorley & Whithoft, 2012).

  • Knowing space is a powerful change agent. It communicates the kinds of relationships you value (Kelley, 2012) and facilitates the kinds of learning experiences – collaborative, creative, flexible, real-life, feedback-laden that are the pillars of effective learning (Claxton, 2009; Hattie, 2013).

In reflection, this is probably the first time over my whole academic career that a paper or course I’ve taken has been so shifting. Mostly, in my experience, papers throughout University are the ‘regurgitate in your own words’ style of showing your learning. Actual, brain-chomping learning however, comes from tackling weighty issues, not pseudo ones (Claxton, 2009). It involves those intense moments of confusion and chaos when everything seems to be too much and you can’t see light at the end of the tunnel. But then you stop, you reflect, you start making connections and finding patterns and a glimmer of hope appears. The sense of accomplishment, at knowing you’ve waded into complexity and turned up on the other side is very fulfilling. And there is NO way this isn’t good learning. And that is one of my central takeaways from Designing Spaces For Learning – the power of this kind of learning process. It’s hard, it’s exhausting, but so much learning comes from the struggle.

 

References

Berger, R. (2003). An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. Heinemann, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc., 361 Hanover Street, Portsmouth.

Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. HarperBusiness

Claxton, G. (2009). What’s the point of school?: Rediscovering the heart of education. Oneworld Publications.

Doorley, S. & Whithoft, S. (2012). Make space: How to set the stage for creative collaboration. John Wiley & Sons.

Dyson, J. (2011, August 4). No innovator’s dilemma here: in praise of failure. Wired.com. Retrieved from: http://www.wired.com/business/2011/04/in-praise-of-failure/

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. Penguin UK.

Hattie, J. (2013). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

Kelley, D. (2012). IDEO Founder David Kelley: Bias Toward Action. Retrieved 12th October, 2014 from http://washingtonexaminer.com/ideo-founder-david-kelley-bias-toward-action/video/gm-4965755

Kolko, J. (2010). Abductive thinking and sensemaking: The drivers of design synthesis. Design Issues, 26(1), 15-28.

Seidel, V., & Fixson, S. (2013). Adopting design thinking in novice multidisciplinary teams: The application and limits of design methods and reflexive practices. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30, 19–33.

Thornburg, D. D. (2001). Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century. Ed at a Distance, 15(6), n6.

My Current Understanding

Blog Task 1: Using your readings and interaction with the subject to date, develop a statement about your current knowledge and understanding of concepts and practices in a digital age within the context of your work or professional circumstances. What is the context of your learning? What are your personal aims in this subject? What challenges are your hoping to meet for yourself?

New media tools and frameworks have facilitated the rapid expansion of participatory, collaborative learning opportunities. I say expansion rather than generation because humans have always learned from one another throughout history. The New Zealand curriculum states “facilitating shared learning” as a valid, effective pedagogy. It’s just that in our current times, more than ever, we have the tools and infrastructure to enable these kinds of interactions to a previously unavailable extent.

The web allows people to come together in communities of like minded individuals, communicate with one another – work, play, and think together. The world has become more open. Content and data which was previously holed up in libraries or labs can now be accessed, commented on, and developed further. The world’s history is in the process of being digitised, catalogued and made searchable.

These nodes of knowledge are being connected together like synapses in the brain to other nodes; both real people (amateurs, experts, communities) and other pieces of data. Connections between previously unconnected nodes create new avenues of thinking, help solve problems and drive further questioning.

This availability of knowledge however, is challenging the traditional definitions of “teacher” and “student”. It begs the question – if all of the knowledge I’ll ever possibly need is a Google away, why do I need to be taught things from a teacher? Does the role of “teacher as expert” still exist?

This is one of my personal aims in this course – to explore what it means to be a teacher in these times of enormous change; the interplay between new forms of learning possible and the core skills needed to be taught to enable effective participation with them. As a primary school teacher responsible for laying foundational skills and knowledge to students aged 6 to 11, as well as growing their capability to live well in the future, this is of high personal interest.

           

So while without a doubt, some core sets of skills and knowledge remain central to our ability to learn and participate effectively, what Thomas and Seely Brown (2011) call our “new culture of learning” challenges our traditional emphasis on certain literacies. It calls upon a new model of competencies. It revises the toolbox of skills students need to actively participate in the world of the future.

One of the competencies key to success in the future is the ability to adapt to rapid change. As people living in these times, how well are we dealing with this shift?

This is the sharp end of the spear as I see it. Change, in practice, comes slowly to education – how can we speed it up? How can we move from isolated pockets of teachers and innovative schools trialling, thinking and doing, to a more mainstream application and understanding of 21st century learning? How can we get parents and community stakeholders understanding what it means to teach and learn in our connected, networked now?

These are some of the challenging questions I hope to investigate as I move through this course, and why I’ve decided to choose “Digital Leadership” by Eric Sheninger as the focus of my book review.

I’m looking forward to the journey ahead, in particular “walking the talk” – being actively engaged and participating in our community of learners.

 

References

How Humans Learn Best. Retrieved from http://changelearning.ca/get-informed/understanding-human-learning/how-humans-learn-best

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning. Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Educause: Berkley, Thomas D & Brown J, Souellis Studio.

TKI: Effective Pedagogy. Retrieved from http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/Effective-pedagogy