#INF537 Back on the rollercoaster

Rage Roller Coaster Drop Harry Rose via Compfight

I’m back! It seems like ages since I posted here. My last subject was through the WISE exchange program – Information Visualisation at San Jose State University. A fascinating subject, totally different to anything else I’ve done and also conducted quite differently to CSU subjects, with continuous assessment including marks for contributing to discussion forums and even a couple of tests. Needless to say, posting on my Thinkspace blog was not required…and, dutiful student that I am, I didn’t!

But I feel I’m back in another way, and that’s down to INF537 itself. I feel energised and overwhelmed all at once in a way that I haven’t experienced since INF530. Fitting, I guess, as that was the keystone subject and INF537 the capstone.

I’m energised by the cohort. So many people I’ve already connected with over this four year journey, and a handful I’m excited to meet for the first time. People I’ve collaborated, commiserated, celebrated, shared, whinged and laughed with, fabulous educators who truly are Modern Learners as described by Bruce Dixon in our first colloquia (more on that soon).

I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of what has to be done in this session (which takes place over little more than a standard school term). Reading, forum posts, participating in Colloquia, reading, blogging about Colloquia, other blog posts, reading and commenting on cohort blog posts, reading, a case study, reading and I haven’t even looked at what assignment one is yet! I’m fighting off an overwhelming sense of inadequacy – everyone else uses bigger words than me, they seem to have read more, know more, they articulate their thoughts more eloquently…will I be good enough, can I keep up? I’ve not felt like this since INF530 (well, maybe in INF536 also) but as I’ve said, I’m fighting these thoughts off and deep down I know that I can do it, seven subjects in I’ve always managed it somehow.
So, onto our first colloquia.

Bruce Dixon, co-founder of both the Anywhere, Anytime Learning Foundation, and, along with Will Richardson, Modern Learners, was guest presenter at our first colloquia held on Monday evening. In the spirit of anywhere, anytime learning, I listened to the first 15 minutes or so while walking home from the gym. The fact that I needed to hold up an umbrella inhibited my ability to participate in the chat for that time but I digress…

Modern Learners recently published ‘10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning’ white paper which is a short and worthwhile read and much of the colloquia discussion related to issues raised by the paper (Richardson, W. & Dixon, B., 2017).

A key tenet of the paper and our discussion is that the modern world requires self-directed and self-determined learners and there are concerns about the capacity of our schools and teachers to facilitate the modern learning required to produce them.

We were challenged to articulate what learning actually is, what self-directed learning looks like, and to consider what conditions provide the best opportunities for children to learn (whether or not that was within school).

There was some discussion about the role of technology in learning. I particularly like this quote from Chris Lehmann from Science Leadership Academy, PA, that Bruce shared with us:

We believe technology in schools needs to be like oxygen…ubiquitous, necessary, invisible…then stop talking about it.

An oft repeated phrase lately is “it’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning (or pedagogy)” which is true…to a point. I think a lot of “it” is about the technology, but the technology has to be easy and it just has to work – or as Chris says, be invisible. So many things that our students can do today were unthinkable when I was at school (no mobile phones, no instant creation of images, audio or video, no Google, no Youtube, no interactive websites, no instant communication, no social media…), and technology is the reason. What stops many teachers from fully embracing modern possibilities is their experiences of when things didn’t “just work”. We should no more have to think about technology than we do about a pencil’s capacity to make a mark on a piece of paper.

We need to stop privileging content over capabilities. Information is abundant, the notion of content being king started to go out with the invention of the printing press. Scholars then feared that the brain would be affected if it did not have to memorise knowledge that would be now stored in books. Learning how to learn is key. To finish, a quote from the white paper:

Regardless what the future holds, there is little doubt success in the future will first and foremost depend on one’s ability to learn, not on one’s accumulation of knowledge. (Richardson, W. & Dixon, B., 2017. p. 5)

Seymour Papert quote


Richardson, W. and Dixon, B. (2017). 10 principles for schools of modern learning. [ebook] Modern Learners Media. Available at: http://modernlearners.com/blog/ [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].

10 thoughts on “#INF537 Back on the rollercoaster

  1. Well Heather you are off to a great start with this Blog. We’ve been at this together for so long I thought I would jump in to say hi.
    As you have stated “Learning how to learn is key.”
    Why has this been forgotten, it seems so simple?
    Happy writing.

    • Thanks Simon, it’s been quite a time hasn’t it! It’s amazing to think that the end is actually in sight, although it won’t be the end of course, the learning will continue.

  2. Great post, Heather; I feel your energy. Sounds like you’re going to learn so much from this subject. I look forward to your posts.

  3. Heather, you are a deeper thinker and learner – never have doubts about your ability. Making sense of everything and forging your own pathway is the challenge in this class. A great start with this blog post.

  4. Oh man: “We believe technology in schools needs to be like oxygen…ubiquitous, necessary, invisible…then stop talking about it.” I love this quote too.

    All the best intentions in the world tech-wise are for nothing if it takes 7.5 minutes to start up the school’s 2010 MacBooks, Firefox crashes, Java needs updating, and the wifi keeps dropping.

    I feel like there is a lot of work to be done infrastructure-wise before you can even get going with the pedagogy / modern learning side. Or I guess it can run in tandem!

    Great first post Heather. Here’s to one more time around the block!

  5. Hi Heather

    This is my second attempt as my computer crashed before right at the end when I was putting my details in .

    Firstly, I would like to say ‘Thank you’ you have clearly expressed all my anxiety and inadequacies in your blog. I too am feeling overwhelmed and feel everyone else knows more than me or can express themselves better than me. I often find myself looking up the internet to understand the words or ideas being expressed. Perhaps together we can muddle through.

    Unfortunately, I had technology issues during the online meeting with Bruce and was unable to engage in many of the discussions. I have managed to go back a listen to the parts I have missed. He captures many of the issues I have when dealing with teachers who have not engaged with technology. They are often thinking ‘how can I use technology in my classrooms’ as an added extra rather than as an integral part of each and every lesson.

    Add to this the technology issues I have mentioned in my discussion posts and many teachers are having to ensure the have plan B, C and D up their sleeve incase the tech fails them. I think we need to look at how we can support these teachers with the use of technology so that it is seamless and integrated. Sometimes we fail to use the resources at our fingertips, the students. We too should be learning from them as they learn from us.


  6. Hello blog buddy!
    I am also a little overwhelmed by this subject and excited at the same time. I am sure as we become more familiar with the structure and expectations of the subject we will both be in the flow soon enough. I find it interesting that your WISE subject included marks for forum contributions. Unfortunately in my last subject, the forum discussions really dropped off after the first couple of weeks. Perhaps marks would have prevented this? I have a feeling that lack of participation will not be an issue with this INF537 cohort. What a way to finish at CSU!

  7. Heather,
    I’m with you in feeling a bit overwhelmed with the pace and standard so far. The strength of our cohort is definitely a result of the thinking we have engaged with over the study period and through our ongoing connected and collaborative study practice.

    As you noted and Matt confirmed, tech infrastructure issues can be a 1 step forward – 2 back scenario, especially because people can hold on to frustrations – eg. “it didn’t work when I tried that last year”, discounting that this year’s update has resolved the past issue. Frustrating, but understandable.

    Content focus in schools is an ongoing issue and a difficult culture to shift when so many contributors – teachers, parents and students themselves – still largely expect it to be the focus. A shared understanding of learning is a good place to start to encourage a shift in this focus.

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