The digital essay I completed for the Assessment 8 of INF530 was in iBook format and can be downloaded from the Dropbox link above.
The digital essay I completed for the Assessment 8 of INF530 was in iBook format and can be downloaded from the Dropbox link above.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
If I want something to grow in my garden I will ensure it is situated in a suitable place, it is firmly sitting in the soil, is protected from harm, is fed with essential nutrients and, of course, is watered. With regular attention my plant will grow. But there is probably no point in growing my plant if I don’t learn to appreciate it and understand what it is trying to achieve. It could produce the most succulent of fruits but should I not notice it or learn about harvesing it, then I will not fully take advantage of why it was grown by me in the first place.
The same could be said of a Professional Learning Network or PLN; a network of connections for life long learning. A support crew of like minded individuals who are there to connect, converse, collaborate and create. It is something I need to grow to enable the shift to a 21st century learner and educator.
The first step is to take hold of some suitable tools that will help establish the firm ground for a PLN. A few more tools will protect the PLN from harm and with a good supply of participation, communication and appreciation I should see some rewarding fruits begin to develop. What can be harvested from the PLN? Not sure yet, but it promises to be very satisfying. And how big will the PLN grow? Well, that all depends on me.
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’.
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….
As a student of Charles Sturt University, a reflective journal is established to encourage reflective practices. It is an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of subjects undertaken, reflect on thoughts and perspectives of learning, and identify areas of change or improvement.