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.