Participatory Learning in a Library Program

If participatory learning is manifested most profoundly in the maker movement, then school libraries are in the box seat. Teacher-librarians can “hack the curriculum” and provide varied opportunities for school community to design, create and share in the Library spaces and the rest of the school.

Opportunities to engage in the design thinking process, including trialling, prototyping and failing are still far and few between in schools. A makerspace can provide a safe place for self directed designing, creating and learning.

I am about to begin this journey of starting a makerspace movement in the school where I work in the role of the teacher-librarian and a thought leader. It’s time to become a “maker-teacher”: I don’t know how to code, program or make electrical circuits, but I do know who to ask to work with me, how to facilitate students to work together and how to connect with others and find out what to do. I am crafty, but need to practice making more technical creations.

The next step on with a school makerspace will be to show students how to share and make their creations public. To develop the students into true contributing digital citizens the teaching community may need to redefine our approach to digital literacy. A lot more conversations need to be had about how to change the environment on the web responsively and creatively. Blogs, wikis and other web 2.0 tools need to be named participatory media not ‘new media’ (they have been around for years now). Proven successes like to YOUmedia and Dream Yard projects look very exciting: they provide great opportunities for student-centred learning.

Digital badges are an interesting concept and remind me a bit of the MOOC concept where it can be open to everyone to engage, learn and succeed. It could be a great way of connecting people to expertise. I think it will take a while to shift attitudes to the type of assessments we provide.

 

New Models of Information Production

As the Internet continues to grow and evolve it has become obvious that our interactions with the internet are going to become more and more personalised and customised. I’m not sire though that I want companies such as FaceBook, Linked In and Google to follow me so carefully. Yes I would agree that people generally have more devices, combine this with the way we are using the internet to distribute information and there is no surprise that some companies are taking advantage of this type of behaviour.

Blogs. Blogs continue to be criticised by some, including fellow educators who have not realised the potential in the benefits of public reflection. I along with other students have experienced the knowledge creation that can come through sharing blog posts and comments. I am a fan of The Huffington Post because the articles are interesting and relevant to me. It remains a challenge though in my experiences to get students and other teachers to take on blogging and wikis. I have been trying for 5 years. They need to see value. Some students and teachers still are only driven my assessments. Maybe we need to start assessing their knowledge that is being created in these networks. As an organisation we are now tapping into the potential of social networking and social media.

More reflections to come…

 

 

Reflections on the evolution of a learning space.

I recently sat down with the Network Engineer from the school I work at to discuss the case study for Assignment 6. For five years now we have worked as part of the same team; we have shared ideas, helped solve problems (he usually solves more problems for me than I do for him), encouraged each other, provided feedback, learned new things and had fun together along the way. It has become evident too to surround ourselves with other like minded and entrepreneurial  members of our schools community (mainly teaching staff). The Leadership team have also begun to recognise the value of collaboration in the design process.We don’t often though put time aside just to reflect on the development of our learning spaces; we did for an hour a few days ago and it was ‘gold’.

The school’s digital learning environment has been developing for over ten years now. I have worked at the school for five years but the Network Engineer has been there right from the beginning of this evolution. He has an IT background and qualifications, but after working in an educational environment for so long he has a very good insight into learning, learning environments, the integration of technology and  it’s users.

The  following are my notes from our discussion. The names of the LMS have been changed for the purpose of this case study.

It seems that we have done a  a bit of a full cycle in the development of our Learning Management System (LMS).  Back in 2003 the school’s first digital environment was just a static website that the IT team developed.  A need was identified by the Network Engineer (together with the Leadership team) in 2004 to develop a digital platform to deliver information to the school community. The Network Engineer (along with the IT team) wanted to spread the workload of uploading information onto the site and also more staff wanted to use the environment. A number  of options were considered for this first intranet. The educational organisation that directs the school’s operations had no input into the choices that was made for the original LMS.

The first edition of ‘Remodel’ was considered in 2004, but it was evaluated as being too hard to use and cumbersome. Eventually the IT and Leadership teams choose ‘CommonPlace’ because was manageable, stable, easy to maintain, cheap and effective in delivering information. ‘CommonPlace’ also suited the growth factors of the school: the developers wanted to be able to add subject tabs and work-spaces.  ‘CommonPlace’  does include Web 2.0 tools like Blogs, Wikis and Threaded Discussion Forums but these are not easy to set up. When I joined the staff of this team( 2010) I had been using Web 2.0 tools successfully in online study,saw value in them and wanted to integrate them into the teaching and learning of the school community. A couple of staff were already doing this but most had not and were hesitant to do so.  The Network Engineer made a surprising comment that he doesn’t really like Web 2.0 tools (maybe as ‘CommonPlace presented them) – that they are messy : is this the nature of learning  and knowledge construction though, a little chaotic?

The Library team and I developed our Library webpage and linked it on to the LMS; this is an ongoing project where I feel we have not met our potential and it is a future goal to improve the Library digital space.

Over 2012 and 2013 a need for a more online classroom environment has been identified.  Some alternative LMS ‘Alive’ and ‘iSpace’ were added as links on ‘CommonPlace’. ‘Alive’ was mandated by the educational organisation. After discussion amongst the IT team, leadership and ICLT committee it was decided that we didn’t want to use ‘Alive’ because it was hard to use, the organisation of the site wasn’t satisfactory and it was better suited to Primary schools. The educational organisation have also ceased to encourage ‘Alive’s’ use, but it remains as a  unused link on the LMS as mandated by the educational organisation.  ‘iSpace’ too was mandated with the direction of the educational organisation, but it has had limited use too. So currently on ‘CommonPlace’  there sits a number of links and choices of alternative LMS that aren’t really being used. The past practice was to add the links early in the prototyping process and then train people to use them (access was sometimes limited to certain staff teams and students); this practice did not prove successful with ‘Alive’ and ‘iSpace’ learning spaces.

A lack of time for training, testing, and  a common language have been identified as barriers to the development of this learning environment. There is a huge variance too amongst staff (and students’) skills, attitudes and motivation.

However,this year motivations have become  more consistency high and attitudes are positive  in our school community to make our own choice and develop a online learning environment that works in with, directs and compliments the high quality teaching and learning that is happening in the classrooms.  We have come back to the LMS ‘Remodel’ which itself has been through developments and numerous editions. A link to ‘Remodel’ has not been placed on ‘CommonPlace’; instead select teachers have approached the IT team or been approached to use  ‘Remodel’ as a digital learning environment to complement and facilitate their good teaching and learning pedagogy and practice. Leadership teams have also been a positive driver in this focus and process.  ‘Remodel’ has been trialed and tested in a controlled but inclusive and participatory manner. This design process has been a very good example of ‘participatory design’ as it has been human-centred (Sanders, E., 2007).

Many positive aspects of this latest edition of ‘Remodel’ have been identified, like the opportunities and ease to allow for; personalisation, feedback, sequencing of learning activities, multimedia, engagement of students. These positive aspects of ‘Remodel’ match John Hattie’s principles of learning (2013).

The Network and Engineer and I also spent some time discussing the nature of  the ‘Status Quo’  approach versus ‘Experimental Spaces’.  ‘CommomPlace’ was initially chosen because it fitted with the way that the school was organised; departmentalised and structured. Attempts to use technology differently or organise learning environments in transdisciplinary ways is prevented by roadblocks like assessment strategies, timetabling,  pragmatic attitudes. It is through the efforts of the Network Engineer, the IT team and leading teachers that we are slowing challenging some of these ‘Status Quo’ assumptions.

At the end of this discussion we concluded that technology is not necessarily making our life easier as educators.We are a one to one laptop school and both the network Engineer and I had witnessed a culture where the students expect to use their laptop every day and nearly every lesson. Parents expect that the laptop is used too. Teachers feel an obligation to use the laptops  too; sometimes it seems that they are used too much. A need for more  handwriting and reading physical books is being noticed. Technology and digital learning environments can however greatly enhance and facilitate good teaching practice. We have valued being able to customise our digital learning spaces and have tried to match them to our user needs. The current design process of creating a better learning environment with ‘Remodel’ has benefited from the current trialing and testing phase and practice.

We have come  to appreciate the value of a participatory approach and team work in designing new spaces at our school and I look forward to seeing it continue and improve.

References

  • Hattie, J & Yates G. C. R. (2013). Visible learning and the science of how we learn. Routledge.

 

 

 

 

Is Wikipedia really that Wicked?

For as long as I have been aware of Wikipedia, I have been telling students not to use it as a reference, mainly because as researchers we do not know who has written the information. I have generally told students to use the references at the bottom of the page. Sometimes if it is a new concept I will say, read the Wikipedia definition to understand the concept and then find a better reference.

After reading the information in the chapter “New Models of Information Production” (Saulles,2012) about the comparison between Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica’s science-based entries which concluded that there was little to choose from between them in terms of accuracy, my opinion of Wikipedia is not so clear cut. There is still a lot of merit in finding the original source with a named author. Maybe  though Wikipedia is not as bad as I am making it out to be, as Berinstein(2006) said ...the kid’s alright and so is the old man (Britannica.)

Attributions:

Berinstein, P. (2006, March). Wikipedia and Brittanica ( The kid’s alright and so is the old man). Retrieved Marc 19, 2014, from Information Today, Inc.: http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/mar06/berinstein.shtml

Saulles, M. D. (2012). New models of information production. In M. D. Saulles, Information 2.0: new models of information production, distribution and cosumption (pp. pp. 13-35). London: Facet.