About this blog

Students can feel constrained by ways of communicating and learning that seem opaque and fixed because they are permeated with norms never made explicit, knowledge they do not share, or the language of others.

Janette Ryan and Rosemary Viete
Respectful interactions: learning with international students in the English-speaking academy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Maintaining the Demand to Reflect on our Teaching Assumptions

Yesterday, our college had a second Staff Conference - the first time we have had two years in a row with the opportunity for a whole of college day of professional development and conversation.

Last year I presented at the conference, and brought up issues about Western-centric ways of thinking which I felt were problematic - for my own teaching practice rather than for anyone else. I really challenged myself, standing up in front of people who didn't know me well to confront them about reflecting on their practices. I wrote about it in an earlier post last year.

This year's conference was personally challenging for different reasons, but I enjoyed the fact that more of my colleagues had taken up the opportunity to share their thinking, and challenge the rest of us to consider things which we might not yet be considering, but probably should. One thing which still surprises me, but I guess shouldn't surprise me, are the attitudes I heard from some other colleagues about those who stood up to challenge their peers to be more aware of their assumptions, and to be open to reflection. Some of these attitude are defensive, and indignant, and not one's I particularly admire.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Which innovations should we adopt? Comments on the role of a MOOC

This morning I read a few blog posts from the MOOC daily newsletter, one of which was from Sue Hellman, Small Changes; BIG RETURNS

Sue made some interesting observations about applying technology with a one-size- fits- all approach, namely, that it doesn't work. I agree. But I didn't quite agree that new technology and pedagogy ideas are necessarily presented as 'cure all' - but that is often how people who haven't (yet) spent a lot of time researching and exploring an idea come to perceive it from others who are more enthusiastic, and who have found the benefits they wanted. The new explorers begin to feel as though this is the 'new thing' they need to do, and catch up with, or be left behind. 

But those who feel overwhelmed often times forget that pens and overhead projectors and computers were once 'new innovative technologies' - but now they are ubiquitous tools in the repertoire. Here's a small part of what Sue said, among much interesting and valuable reflection, on changing pedagogy: 

"It's not that the innovation was a bad one. It's that giving it the tag of 'cure-all', mass producing it, and professionally developing everyone in its how to go about it (sort of), means the original vision becomes so diluted, the very thing that made it innovative in the first place is lost. It's no longer a creative response but has morphed into an expected norm." 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reflecting on the MOOC #change11

I've taken on a gamble, signing up to take part in MOOC #change11 to get informed about education technology, blended online learning, sharing, connecting and other things. I'm still not sure what it's all about, but it seems to be - as far as I've managed to work out - an online virtual world of sharing ideas, resources, experiences and opportunities to change education. I'm adding a page to this Blog to isolate my reflections, so look at my MOOC Reflection Page to see my additional reflections on the MOOC experience.

A Massive Open Online Course running over several months, with participants encouraged to plot a pathway through the enticing streams of thought and information, dipping in now and then, or taking a regular plunge into materials provided online by educators from all around the world. Sharing and reflecting on the content, and engaging with fellow MOOC participants, is the substance of the distributed materials thus far.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Teaching Teachers iPad EdTech - Weaving a multi-stranded base of support.

For the past eight months I have been teaching both young students in a Literature course for International students, and conducting regular Professional Development training sessions on new educational technology for teachers. If had I imagined I would be able to easily transfer my teaching skills across the divide between teaching young people and teaching teachers, I would have been seriously mistaken. Fortunately, as I began my second training role I was completing a Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching, the focus of which is teaching adult learners in tertiary settings. I had already come to the realization that some of the philosophy underlying adult education theories, such as the belief that adult learners are both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated to learn for 'higher reasons,' concerned with their professional identities and personal development, could not necessarily be taken for granted. Teaching already established teachers new things is a deeply challenging task; one which needs careful and nuanced planning and delivery.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why the iPad is a great constructivist tool for education. A case study in Literature.

My most visited post ever was from March 2011, when I wrote about Teaching with iPads - beyond the shiny surface. I think I gave a good run down of some of the features which make it a useful creation tool for teachers and students, but I think I diverged somewhat from my major interest in this blog, social constructivism. So here I am endeavoring to bring these two interests together in considering why, and how, the iPad can contribute to a pedagogy based on the principles of social constructivism. Of course, I am not claiming one 'needs' an iPad to achieve this - that would be silly.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Literary Aesthetics and the e-reader. Not an Irony.

I am someone who loves real books a great deal. I collect works of some key modern writers, and covet hard to find and expensive to buy hard backs. I've gathered all seven first editions of Anaïs Nin's Diary, published by Swallow. I also have a second edition of Nin's collection of short stories, Under a Glass Bell, which she most likely personally printed on a hand press in New York in 1944. My most cherished book is a first edition of Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, published in a small print run by Poetry Editions in 1945. I found an online photograph of the original cover, printed it to size, and made a dust jacket for it. There is nothing I would accept to part with it.

Fortunately, I can keep my first editions in their very good dust jackets with their sunned spines and their slightly foxed pages, and the scent of old book which will linger upon them for as long as they stay in solid form. There is no need for me to give them up, even with the advent of digital readers. I know!! It's a surprise that people are still actually able to make their own choices about how they read, and what kinds of books they buy, despite the proliferation of worried commentaries about the death of the book.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

On connection and change in Education

When I was researching for my PhD, I would frequently come across a book or set of essays which began with "On" something, or "Towards" something. I liked these works because they were so evidently open and in the process of becoming and evolving, never seeking to establish unique authority. This is a position I respect in academic writing, because it contributes a new voice to an area of exploration but then leaves the door open for new voices to follow. The writers are invariably of the kind I aspire to be: balanced, critically aware, passionate, and most importantly, they desire to be part of a developing narrative contributed to by others. Such voices are sadly harder to hear in many areas in which I am now spending intellectual and emotional time in the education field.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Teaching with iPads: Beyond the Shiny Surface

I have to admit right up front that I am not disinterested in seeing the very positive aspects of teaching students with mobile technology - and iPads in particular. My role as an Education Technology Manager in an iPad Project needs me to be an advocate for the investment in time, money and resources so far expended. But before I took on this role, I was teaching Literature to nine different tutorial groups of English language learners a week, and I used my iPad in almost every class - sometimes frequently, other times not at all. If you are interested in reading more about this pilot, look at the blog, and the recent report on the six month pilot, here.

My use of the iPad in the classroom has been wholly dependent on the learning task I have designed. It is never just about using the technology, and any good teacher will tell you that about any learning technology. The number of times I have read negative comments from people on blogs, and in response to positive articles about iPads in classrooms, arguing that the iPad is just a shiny toy deployed by Apple to take over the world, are not comments from teachers who have actually made a good effort to teach with one.

Here are five of the top reasons I love teaching with the iPad, and just a note, we have a reliable dedicated WiFi network for the iPads at our college.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thoughts on Combining Technology Integration for Educators with Primary Research

I have recently begun a new role in my college as an Education Technology Manager - an opportunity I attribute to discerning "following" decisions on Twitter and some timely post-grad study (as well as luck: the previous incumbent left). Naturally, I find myself continuously engaged with ideas about how to combine the grass-roots kind of constructivist philosophy I believe should shape learning, with my academic need to research everything. As I wrote in my previous post I am deeply interested in an approach to engaging educators in professional development which involves cultivating a meta-awareness of transferring constructivist practice from learning to teaching. The focus is not on technology tools, but on the pedagogy shaping the architecture of learning. The important question is, how can these new tools help to more effectively bring to life the ever-evolving designs of education?