Category Archives: CSU INF530

Resistance is futile: a critical reflection

 

     It is difficult not the play on the metaphor of travelling on an express train, when trying to establish a starting point of reflection for INF530. The sensation of being swept along with the excitement of making connections within new information environments, engaging in group discourse, conducting academic inquiry and immersing yourself within extension research readings, was at times overwhelming. Moments of personal reflection amid the fast paced information flow left the thoughts spinning whilst grabbing at emerging possibilities for future learning. With the pace of the course now beginning to ease, there is a sense that so much more could have been gained.

    Throughout the course I have challenged myself to delve into the content, explore the concepts and ideas being presented, and then synthesise the various aspects covered into communicable thoughts. With these thoughts I then endeavoured to engage in discussion with my professional peers in an attempt to refine the network of understandings. At times my depth of understanding was shallow and warranted further research to give a more sophisticated edge, but I felt there was value in this process so as to ground the learnings into the real world.

Tweets

    With the participatory experiences presented in the course, such as the discussion forums, tweet meets, hangouts and adobe connect sessions,  the opportunity was taken to engage in further discussion on course work.  I found the depth of knowledge and experience the course cohort were sharing in this medium extraordinary. The ideas, opinions and links the group shared added to the subject value and spread another layer of complexity of thinking in my already overwhelmed thought processes. There was a certain level of engagement by me in this aspect of the course, perhaps more evident in the earlier weeks. The discourse I shared with my work peers was not as easily reflected into the digital medium as I struggled to express my understandings in a timely and succinct matter. This aspect of engagement in online learning is an aspect requiring ongoing development. It highlighted the hesitation and wariness that my students must feel when required to engage in online collaborative tasks.

Forum 1

    During INF530 the required and recommended readings, scholarly book review and digital essay research initially required a level of extrinsic motivation, with the demands of other professional reading battling for limited time. But as the appreciation for the perspectives of ‘digital promoters and opponents’ developed, there was a shift in the scheduling of reading time. Writers such as Boyd, Davidson, Zhao, McGonigal and Wagner and thinkers such as Rhiengold, Whitby, Robinson and Gee changed my perspectives on a number of aspects of my role as an educator. My shift in the value I place  on  digital connections in the workplace and for learning, has gone from an educator’s interest to being passionately seen as an essential aspect of any educator’s life. There is also a deeper appreciation of the complexity and value of digital mediums in a child’s education and position in society.

    When reflecting on the objectives and outcomes of INF530, I find that through my interaction with the course learnings, I have come to understand the importance of networked, connected learning. There is a fundamental need for there to be a re-imaging of the learning that is happening in our schools. The globalisation of economies and education have an crucial link that will impact on the futures of today’s youth. They will need to be creative and innovative, be able to generate valuable learning networks and understand the flow and curation of information. As educators we are entrusted with the development of the capabilities of youth. We need to be 21st century educators and learners. The world is changing, technology is changing, and education must change. Resistance is futile.

vortex21

Cathy Davidson studies our brain – scholarly book review

The tasks of a scholarly book review was extremely daunting. Concepts and Practices in a Digital Age, delivered through CSU, challenged us to delve academically into a book and examine the the writings of the author to produce a critical assessment. The learning path taken in completing this task has been immense and, although the outcome has its faults and lacks some academic finesse, I am pleased that have taken the journey.      

Scholarly Book Review of  

Now you see it: How the brain science of attention will transform the way we live, work, and learn

by Cathy Davidson 

Davidson, C. N. (2011). Now you see it: How the brain science of attention will transform the way we live, work, and learn. New York, NY: Viking.      

In the book, Now you see it: How Technology and Brain Science will transform Schools and Business for the 21st century, Cathy Davidson (2011) explores the possibilities of the educational and workplace world of the future. Using an array of collected research findings, personal anecdotes and active research, she pieces together an argument for the refocus on the structure of the current education system to take advantage of the human brain plasticity and attention direction.

                Dr. Davidson currently holds the two distinguish positions of the Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and the Hope John Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University in North Carolina, USA. She is also due to move to a new position where she will hold an academic appointment in the Graduate Centre at the City University of New York, in the English Ph.D program. After  graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and English in 1970, Davidson went on to complete an M.A., Ph.D in English and complete postdoctoral studies in linguistics and literacy theory. During the period of 1998 to 2006, Davidson served as Duke Universities Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, during which time she helped develop over seventy collaborative programs particularly in the area of Information Science. She initially drew intense criticism for her role in the introduction of ‘iPods’ into the Duke’s academic program in 2004, which went on to provide the grounding for iTunesU and podcasting conferences. Cathy Davidson has written or edited over 20 books and  is now a frequent speaker and consultant on institutional change.

                The book, Now you see it, has been written with the educator, particularly an educator of Information Literacy, in mind. However the scope of the book can include anyone with an interest in brain science, the impact of technologies  in education and the workplace, and the future of education in the 21st century. Davidson’s style also allows for the general interest reader or those looking for intellectual enlightenment. The broad nature of the book with spirited stories, research examples and an extensive section of notes with references allows the book to be a source of extended research as well as light reading.

                The central key point of Davidson’s book is the phenomenon of attention-blindness and how distraction can be cultivated to enhance the learning experience. Davidson uses the research of Simons and Chabris (1999) and their gorilla experiment to draw attention to the way directed distraction can lead to many people failing to see what is later an obvious intrusion into a scene. Their research found that there is evidence of cognitive forms of blindness and this ‘inattentional’ blindness reduces the likelihood of noticing an unexpected object whilst focussing on a task (1999).  Davidson then emphasises that with collaborative working the concept of attention-blindness, which dominates our everyday lives, can be used to harness a more holistic view of a situation. With teams of differing individuals an education or workplace issue can worked through as each person is able to focus on what draws their attention, and so identifying something that may have been overlooked by others.

                It is through this key point, Davidson draws on extensive research and scientific studies ranging from the work of de Waal (2009) and Edelman (2006), through to studies on autistic children to highlight the process of brain development, learning by young children and brain plasticity. Edelman’s work identifies pattern recognition within the brain sensory systems and how these recognitions can short cut conscious awareness in certain situations, while de Waal sought to understand teaching and learning through the concept of mirror neurons. These understandings are then  woven into the constraints of the twentieth century education system, with is linear structures and age compliant progressions. Davidson works hard to draw on the point of the limitations of an education system established for the industrial age to emphasise the outcomes of her  active research in educational centres that have embraced technology and the connectedness of the internet network. 

                Within the text of Davidson’s research there is an indication that attention-blindness is overcome by the cognitive multitasking abilities of the human brain. Rather than viewing information provided by the networked internet as isolated facts, it is suggested that the brain is able to draw from several sources to gain a more holistic view of the knowledge sought. This, coupled with group collaborative activities such as crowd-sourcing,  is the approach Davidson feels should be the emphasis of education reforms and teaching pedagogy changes. There are those, such as Rosen, that challenge the idea that the brain is built for multitasking. Rosen strongly argues that multitasking is a poor long term strategy for learning (Rosen, 2008, p. 105) and references several studies to support her claim, but Davidson presents the assumption that the brain is built for multitasking and uses it as a basis for the required reforms for a 21st century school. Davidson presents  several examples of how these reforms can look in the future classroom.

                It is here that gaps develop in the flow of Davidson’s argument for a restructuring of the education system through the acceptance of the information-rich connections of the internet and the extensive use of connected, collaborative learning classrooms.  With her position at Duke University, Davidson is privileged to engage with schools at the higher end of the digital divide that exist between education systems across the world.  Her forward thinking examples seem inconsistent with the realities of attitudes that exist in schools.  American writer Nicholas Carr has published two noted books arguing the detrimental effects of the internet on the brain and the coherence of society. He expresses this view which he feels is commonly held by an extensive number of people, many of whom hold key positions within the current education system (Carr 2013). 

                The strength in Davidson’s book is the discussions centred on the transformations occurring in the modern workplace. As industry embraces the global connectedness of  the internet, progressive companies are implementing changes from a less building centred work environment to transient workers connecting through the cloud. Davidson’s extensive research into the works of innovators such as Aza Raskin and technology company, IBM, highlights the ideal of removing the limitations of the workplace. Through the skills of collaborations, attention, multitasking and network connectedness, Davidson demonstrates achievable principles that worksites could embrace. Here it’s the decision maker that greatly benefits from the change, with workers collaborating with their strengths so benefiting the team in a flexible and decentralised workplace.

                There are a range of books that address issues in similar context to Davidson, but none seem to take the reader from the simplest understandings of the brain through to detailed examples of real life applications of the book’s concepts. A few authors attempt to analyse the effect of the internet on the brain, such as Rheingold who supports Davidson’s thinking through his work on ‘mind amplification’ (2013). He argues that through good design of digital media and web applications, there can be a leverage of human ability to think, communicate and cooperate. On the other hand, authors such as Carr (2013) and Bauerlein (2008) use research to suggest that the internet is not advantageous to education, work or human intellectual development.

                Davidson’s overarching thesis is to discover the best way to learn using education and workplace psychology, cognitive sciences and innovative technologies. She endeavours to prove that the current approaches to learning and working were established for the early stages of the industrial age and that a new kind of learning, that embraces technology, is needed to develop critically thinking students who will become the future global workers.  Now you see it, is a book designed to look closely at the science of attention and the implications of attention blindness on the current thinking for education and workplace systems, and the necessary changes as society moves deeper into the 21st century. As a global system of interconnected computer networks, the internet is able to provide a rich source of connections that enables the distracted brain to progress through information with organic flow, rather than like the compartmentalised chunks encouraged by the current education system. Davidson makes a courageous effort to link the learning abilities of the brain and the potential of the internet, to argue for reforms in the approaches to education in the 21st century. The book’s logical flow and progression makes for easy reading and also provides a starting point for educational reform debate. Her book, Now you see it, is a passionate plea for changes in how society should be educating our children and structuring the workplace. It is worthwhile read for anyone.

 

Bauerlein, M. (2008). The dumbest generation: How the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardizes our future (or, don’t trust anyone under 30). Penguin.

Carr, N. (2013). The shallows: How the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember. Atlantic Books Ltd.

Davidson, C. N. (2011). Now you see it: How the brain science of attention will transform the way we live, work, and learn. New York, NY: Viking.

de Waal, F. (2009). Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved: How Morality Evolved. Princeton University Press.

Edelman, G. M. (2006). Second nature: Brain science and human knowledge. Yale University Press.

Rheingold, H. (2013). Mind Amplifier: Can Our Digital Tools Make Us Smarter?. Ted Conferences.

Rosen, C. (2008). The myth of multitasking. The New Atlantis, 20(Spring), 105-110.

Simons, D. J., & Chabris, C. F. (1999). Gorillas in our midst: Sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events. Perception-London, 28(9), 1059-1074.

 

Creative thinking and Innovators – a digital essay proposal

The final assessment task for the Charles Sturt University subject Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age (INF530), is to compose an academic essay that is presented within a digital medium. In pursuing a topic for this essay, I investigated forward into future subject modules where the topic of Creativity and Education in introduced. This unit struck a cord with me as I see a tremendous link with STEM education (Science Technology engineering and Mathematics) where I also have a desire to further pursue within my school. Creativity, innovation, invention, creation…all words that begin to define the approaches needed to enable our students to move towards pursuing a future in STEM careers. Ken Robinson (2011) in his book, Out of our Minds, and Tony Wagner (2012) with his book, Creating Innovators both stress on the need to develop creative and innovative thinking in our students for not only economic and sustainable needs of societal growth, but also for the future career prospects of youth.

The following is my topic proposal:

Proposal topic

‘Creative thinking and digital environments for developing innovative students.’

Digital tools and spaces

Using iBook Author, a digital essay in the .ibook or EPUB format (ebook) will be created to include video, audio, web links and photographs.  The ebook will be directly distributed to readers via email until available in ibookstore.

Rationale

As our global economies move from the industrial to  knowledge based economies, which is then replaced by creative and innovative economies, there is a need to develop the creative capacity of our students to become innovators. Research and educational institutions, industry and economist are looking for these innovators to be motivated, collaborative workers and have interdisciplinary problem solving skills, and these innovators need to grow from the approaches and practices of schools.

The Australian Curriculum recognises that responding to the challenges of the 21st century requires youth to be creative, innovative, enterprising and adaptable. They will also need motivation, confidence and skills to use critical and creative thinking with purpose. The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008) also recognises that critical and creative  thinking are fundamental for students to become successful learners. Both documents also identify that in this digital age, with its rapidly and continuing changes, students will need to be highly skilled in the use of digital technologies for knowledge sharing, creation, development and communication.

The initial focus of the essay is to critically analyse the current ideas and principles of creative thinking in education, while the principle focus is how digital technologies are currently employed in schools, using creative thinking practices, for the development of innovative students. 

 

Wagner, T. (2012) Creating innovators: The making of young people who will change the world. New York: Scribner (Kindle Edition)

Robinson, K. (2011) Out of our minds: Learning to be creative. Chichester: Capstone Publishing Ltd. (Kindle Edition)

Knit one, pearl one.

starstitchscarf
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Leanda Xavian via Compfight

As I sit in the lounge chair, contemplating the intricate pattern of a scarf I am knitting, I am suddenly struck by the complexities of the the woolly pattern that is developing before me. Surely my repeating pattern of knit one, slip one, knit one, pass slip stitch over has not ultimately produced such a beautifully crafted, functional garment? How could such simplicity produce a complex network?

It is here that my train of thought suddenly diverts to the complex structures of the internet’s web. The simple line of connectedness of one person as they weave their way through the links of information to form a complex path of knowledge acquisition. The beauty of that knowledge as it grows into a functional wealth of understanding and critical thinking. But where is the collaboration? Where have I linked into the path of another and allowed my thinking to meld into the thoughts of others? What beauty could I help weave if I allowed myself to blend into learning pathways of others?

I look back at my knitting and reach for another ball of wool. The weave of another colour would make my scarf look exquisite.

 

 

Reflective Blog #2 – My head in the clouds.

It seems that technology has been embedded into education since perhaps the first sharp stick scratched the etchings of thought into the sand. Each time a new technology for education is developed, it was generally for the improvement in learning. Higgins, Xiax and Katsipataki (2012) clearly advise that when technology is used to improve learning, it is essential to determine the problem the new technology aims to solve. But since the development of the first personal computer in the 1970s, there has been a steady influx of new technologies which have been entrenched to everyday life, with a seemingly natural flow on into the education of our youth.

For a long time there has been an uneasy relationship between educational technology development and education practices. As new ideas, models and pedagogical approaches are discussed, learnt and implement in the classroom, teachers change to better suit the needs of the students and the demands of their authoritative body. Even in my own time of teaching there have been significant changes in the delivery, assessment and reporting of curriculum standards. My teaching has gone from the chalk and blackboard centred classroom, to the laptop and collaborative learner space. Each time a new idea was introduced, a rumbling of discontent or insecurity enveloped the staffroom. Many of these ‘technology in education’ inductions have been initially developed outside the walls of the educational institution, perhaps inducing resentment among the educators targeted for the technology delivery.

In recent times there has been a fundamental shift in the attitudes of educators in the classroom. In her book ‘Tech-savvy kids, Parker (2010) talks of a shift in the attitude of educators to understand digital technologies to offer more engaged, student-centred learning opportunities within schools. Her thoughts, and those of Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (2012), describe that with the advent of the internet and social media, the way students learn has changed and emerging web technologies have connected students outside the classroom walls. Educators, and researchers, are embracing the opportunities these technologies can bring to the class room. Many of the current educators are likely to be active ‘digital natives’ and see how recent digital technologies can be included in the school curriculum delivery.

A recent research presented by the NMC Horizon Report (2013) has tried to identify, and describe, emerging technologies that will have a large impact on education in the coming years. In this report they identify cloud computing and mobile learning as becoming a pervasive part of everyday life in much of the world, and Reidel (2014) goes to say that these technologies are beyond tipping point, with most kids not using the traditional computer connected to the internet at home. This likely has enormous implications for the 21st century educator in the traditional classroom setting. Where does this leave the staffroom rumblings? Hopefully these educators are busy implementing some of their own learning in the cloud with their own mobile devices.

Blackboards delivered through TV 1933Retrieved from http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2014/01/15-technologies-that-were-supposed-to-change-education-forever

Any new technology that captures widespread attention is likely to provoke serious hand wringing, if not full-blown panic. When the sewing machine was introduced, there were people who feared the implications that women moving their legs up and down would affect female sexuality.  boyd (2014)

 

References

 boyd, d., (2014) It’s complicated Yale University Press

Higgins, S., Xiao, Z., & Katsipataki, M. (2012) The Impact of Digital Technology on Learning: A Summary for the Education Endowment Foundation. School of Education, Durham University. 

Nussbaum-Beach, S.,  (2012) The connected Educator Learning and leading in a digital age  Solution Tree Press

Parker, J.,  (2010) Teaching tech-savvy kids: Bringing digital media into the classroom Grades 5-12  SAGE publications

Riedel, C.,  (2014) 10 Major Trends in Education http://thejournal.com/articles/2014/02/03/10-major-technology-trends-in-education.aspx

 

 

Blog Task #1 – ‘I am what I am!’

Many times over the thirty years of my teaching experience, I have set to initiate challenges in my professional development to better suit the needs of my students and school, as well as maintaining a spark of energy in my attitude to my profession. It was with my first placement with my current school almost 17 years ago that I was introduced to the internet, with a student in a Technology class showing be how to surf the net. I was hooked and several years later, after seeking training in media technologies, I was delivering a courses for senior students teaching them how to use technology for their studies.

My current school is a small Reception to Year 12 school, nestled in a rural area south of Adelaide. It has undergone some significant changes over the last few years and has been affected by the introduction of bus runs from the small local town to three private schools approximately 30 km away. Although the school is successful in enabling students to achieve rewarding goals when they complete their studies, the school is often seen as struggling to cater for the education needs of the community. It is within this context that I am working towards helping to develop a school that can enable our students to be digitally literate, globally connected and can use technology to meet their learning needs. With this the school will meet the progressive needs of the education system, the academic needs of the students and the respect of the local community.

To do this I need to immerse myself into the same sphere as the students. I need to experience the technology, appreciate its power and understand its potential. I need to develop as a connected educator and leader, and learn the skills needed for directing collaborative learning with both my professional peers and students. I need to understand how I can move the school forward into the 21st century in an environment of limited resources and the occasional resistant barriers. As Helen Haste argues in her presentation Technology and Youth: Five Competencies there will be a need to be confident in five essential competencies that encompass information ambiguity, responsibility and agency, sustainability, emotion management and technological change.

Taking on the Knowledge Network and Digital Innovation course will likely be the most challenging professional development I will undertake as an educator. My main aim is to help my school continue its move towards meeting the needs of the students to become digital citizens and connected learners. I am also looking to develop skills that will enable me to eventually move beyond the school environment and help facilitate the development of teachers and principals to manage the technological change that is coming to education.

The challenges I have set myself will certainly push me out of my comfort zone. Although a proactive teacher and school member, I will need to develop the skills, confidence and knowledge that will enable me to work with leadership, and school community, to help initiate the changes necessary for the schools future. I will need to ensure that I am worthy of the title ‘Master of Education’.

Personal reflections #1

DSCN2334 As I reflect on the first weeks of study for the Master of Education course, I think back to last year when I first considered taking on this journey. My motives at the time were to challenge myself with something that could further develop ‘me as a teacher’, yet at the same time allow me to  feel some sense of personal achievement. I chose the Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation focus as it fitted perfectly with my professional direction of eLearning.

The deliberate submergence of students into the online world of social media, blogs, forums and information repositories has certainly left me bobbing in the world wide web pond. As I paddle around trying some new approaches to communication and knowledge development, I have felt an overwhelming sense that I am at the start of something significant in both my professional and personal life. It seems that the move forward to become a 21st century educator has begun and I am stepping into it at a very important time for education in Australia.

In much the same way the students will be challenged with evolving digital literacy needs, information ecosystems and collaborative learning, I am being challenged to understand the importance of these changes in our education system. I am no longer the purveyor if knowledge through the mystic of being the all knowing teacher. My challenge is to develop new pedagogical practices that enable students to engage in learning that is self directed, through multiple mediums and encourages a positive approach to life long learning.

The journey starts….