There is often a disconnect between the aspirational rhetoric of academic theory and the realities of the classroom. It is sometimes difficult to imagine a school where the digital concepts of this course are aligned and balanced. While it is easy to use the jargon in assignments and critical reflections of the blog posts, it’s not so easy to sound like an innovator, an achiever when asked to present real-life case studies.
All this seemingly changes now with INF537. We are suddenly exposed to articles and experts who are critically evaluating the work of academics, claiming that educational technology is not progressing quickly (Selywn, 2010), nor in all the best directions (Ross, 2012). We are now offered opportunities to question and critically examine the theories and the contentions, and acknowledge the gaps between research driven data providing ‘should’ and ‘must’ conclusions, and the constraints placed upon schools to act upon them (Selwyn, 2014).
It’s a frustration experience reading, learning and reflecting on the possibilities and then taking the ideas into schools, only to be hit with ‘slow down’, ‘wait a minute’ and ‘we need a committee to decide that’.
Ultimately, unfortunately, such delays can wear a person down (not me, of course, I am just saying).
One area that never seems to improve in schools is immersion into the participatory web. No matter how much academics argue for the many benefits for students who collaborate, comment and reflect in open, online communities, there is too much concern about privacy and criminality (Campbell, De Bois & Oblinger 2007, in Long & Siemens, 2011) given students’ ages for it to ever gain a strong foot-hold. However, freedom to interact in virtual worlds blossoms once students reach tertiary institutions, and evidence from learning analytics indicates that students who interact regularly with their online management course work, and in other networks (social or otherwise) achieve better (Long & Siemans, 2011). But while there are questions around the validity of the data and the conclusions reached by learning analytic models (Welsh, 2016), it continues to be mined, particularly in higher education.
Interestingly I have found learning analytics being used at a private girls’ school, where I have just started a six-week contract. Unsurprisingly, it is the Academic Mentoring Program that is its strongest advocate. They encourage teachers to access the dashboard data available through the school’s LMS to analyse, compare and identify potential at-risk students. They also want the teachers to use it to inform and develop their own practice.
I am excited by the way the college is determining professional practice in teachers. I have only been there for two weeks, and already I can see there is strong expectation on staff to take responsibility for lessons that leverage digital media, that they understand their accountability to student success, and that they make use of all the programs and technology available to them. It’s the strongest example I have seen of teachers being challenged to consider the future of pedagogy and the implications for their changing practice.
I hope this will translate to exciting and authentic project opportunities for assignment three.
Long, P., & Siemens, G. (2011). Penetrating the Fog: Analytics in Learning and Education. EDUCAUSE Review, 46(5).
Ross, J. (2012). The spectacle and the placeholder: Digital futures for reflective practices in higher education. In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Networked Learning (pp. 227– 244). Retrieved from
Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: Notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65-73. doi:10.1111/j.1365- 2729.2009.00338.x
Selwyn, N. (2014). Education and ‘the Digital’. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 35(1), 155-164. doi:10.1080/01425692.2013.856668
Welsh, S. (Presenter). (2016, 24 July 2016). Learning Analytics: A Traveller’s Guide. [online colloquium]