And with that I am done

Last week I participated in the last of the assessment for my MEd. Now while I haven’t received back the results as yet, I am reasonably confident that I have passed and it will be awarded.

It has been an extremely long road – two universities, three different thesis supervisors and I have no idea how many words all up. And I am really pleased that it is over.

For the moment… that is all. 🙂

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Future learning and student voice – a ramble

I am coming to the end of my learning journey – well this particular formal learning journey. In the next few weeks I will complete my masters and then have a whole lot of time on my hands… or perhaps I will have time for that novel I have been meaning to write…

This week I am reading a lot about student voice in not only learning, but in learning environments (I am also writing about it a lot as well), and a question is really sticking with me…

Are we giving students an “authentic” voice in their learning?

The paper I was reading was talking about allowing students to have a real say in their learning environments, it wasn’t talking about Student Representative Councils or other representative bodies (which it viewed as “tokenistic” in many of the decisions they allow students to make).

I would like to think that I give students the opportunity to have a say in their learning (at a classroom teacher level I have managed to get some pretty cool things happening in partnership with my students), but at a whole school level, I don’t think I have been as successful as I would like.

A problem that I have with getting student input into whole school happenings within ICT, is that the students who have been identified as “student leaders” are not really those who are interested in what is happening, or could be happening with technology in the school.

I need to find a better way.

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater

What seems like an age ago now I was involved as a senior research assistant on a project at one of the big universities in another state. The intention was that I use this research to complete a masters thesis, write a couple of papers, present at a couple of conferences and build the academic side of my life – something I have come to truly enjoy. But as so often happens with these things, life intervened and plans didn’t come off – well not completely.

Tonight I have been re-reading much of my work, trying to selvedge some of the ideas and concepts which I was writing about. Primarily it was looking at change management from the perspective of students and if there was any student voice included in this. There had been some pretty major structural change at the school and we, my supervisor and I, were specifically looking at this site (there were six or seven involved in the larger scale project), to see what the overall effects of the changes had been. At the time I had something of a bee in my bonnet about student voice (still do, but it is a bit more refined now – mostly because I think it needs to be authentic, not just ticking a box).

A lot of what I was looking at was based on the Middle School thinking about student engagement through building relationships, but expanding many of those lessons to all of the year levels – not just the ones in the middle. At the time my supervisor was intrigued, I was working at a Middle School, one of the first ones in Australia, but there was very little of the “middle school ethos” present in what I described as my working environment. And yet there was.

Building relationships with our students is core to what we do as teachers. We know that our students learn better when they are connected to what they are doing and who it is they are learning from. I know that there are some of my students who refuse to learn from teachers they don’t like, or perceive that don’t like them. During my research I looked at different models of school organisation, how it is that schools figure out who looks after the kids; who it is that they turn to when they need assistance.

When we are considering school organisations and changing from one structure to another, there is a temptation to consign the old way of doing things to the past in favor of the bright shiny and new. But we need to find a way to not be throwing the baby out with the bath water and build on the past rather than dismiss it.

Personalised Learning

…reflections on an afternoon at a conference…

I was allowed out for the afternoon and it was actually quite lovely and frustrating (in equal measure). Lovely because I got to see some people I hadn’t had a chance to catch up with for a while, but then there was the inevitable frustrations which come from talking about the ideal and working within a reality.

As a part of my Globally Responsive Educational Environment, I have been looking at, and beginning to write about, personalised learning environments – today this was raised within one of the groups I was a part of (when I say part of, I was a loner so I was hanging out with one of my friends and we were sitting with her people). So being there amongst the principals and other leaders within the system I was listening to what was going on around me, having only had the opportunity to go to one of the sessions (on Australian Curriculum), I didn’t have a lot which I was able to add, as they were focused on the other sessions at the conference.

The conversation turned to how we are going to be implementing changes within schools over the coming years – and what some of the changes have to be. The hot topic was personalised learning.

The conversation was awesome, amazing and inspiring. Hearing the leadership within the system talking about what it was that they can see happening, what it was that they wanted to happen – was really uplifting. But then reality started to bite. Limitations in access to technology, systems which block whole parts of the internet and the talk about teachers unwilling to take the chance on anything which was “new” for fear it would create more work, brought the mood down significantly. But then there was a question about allowing teachers to take risks with the learning, letting them try to do some of the things they would like to do (something we sometimes like to think of as innovation), but the tone remained negative and the sentence was uttered “but how is all of this going to work with NAPLAN”.

At the moment I am experimenting. I have a class of students who are negotiating their learning, and are going to be doing some very personalised work and assessment. Is this taking more time to plan? Yes, slightly. Am I spending time calling home and chasing things up? No.

I am personalising the learning of my students and it isn’t taking any more of my time than teaching them all the same does. More positive things happen more often. Which is the point of the whole thing isn’t it?

Design a Globally Responsive Educational Environment

Students will design a globally responsive educational environment for the year 2025. This educational environment might cater for learners of any age. It could be within the formal school or tertiary education system or outside of it. Most importantly it should be located within a local context, but designed to strategically respond to major global, cultural and environmental trends within this local context.

So I may be starting this one a little later than I would have liked, but I am making a start more than a week before it is due so progress has been made. Kind of.  Looking at the literature on globally responsive environments, I am struck once again about the gap between the rhetoric when it comes to education and the reality.

I am designing, but I would really love this not to be a theoretical exercise, I would like to teach in this environment now. My context is being taken from my own context, the ‘learning environment’ I am going to focus on is again, my own. My classroom. What would I like it to be like? This has nothing to do with the physical space – even thought that is implied in the expanded instruction of the task – but everything to do with the cultural space, the environment or conditions which I would like to teach in.

Almost every teacher I know has that imagined space – the one where if you had all of the money and autonomy then you would start your own school. An imagined ideal school (sometimes mine has students, sometimes it doesn’t). For me it is more about the attitudes towards teaching and making it work.

The Trouble with Globalization

I am almost finished week three of the current semester of study and am really struggling with some of it. It is all about globalisation.

I have spent a large proportion of the past few hours trying to work out the words to express my “critical review” of the readings and viewings for the week. To do this I have watched “Conversations with History: Manuel Castells” and Sir Ken’s RSA Animate on “Changing Education Paradigms“, I have read from Appadurai, and assorted others as ‘required readings’, but I am finding it really hard to engage with them. I have four different starts to the review, and I am happy with none of them. It doesn’t seem to matter how many words I throw at it, they all seem to bounce off and land in the corner.

It isn’t that I disagree with all of the readings – I agree with some of them in part – it is more that I am not convinced that my position on them all is terribly helpful. All I am seeing is “Globalisation is bad” (which I generally finish off in my head with MMmmmkay?). Being presented with binary positions of the issues which stem from globalization hasn’t helped me at all, I am not a black or white kind of girl, I see the shades of grey.

And then, today I started to think about literacy (specifically digital literacy) and how I am having the same trouble nailing down my thoughts on that as well.

In the #etmooc chat this morning (my time) there was discussion of a continuum of digital literacy, which is something I can get behind. One of the troubles I have with globalisation as a concept is that while it can be seen in very negative terms (the perceived loss of culture, language and national autonomy) there doesn’t seem to be a mechanism for some of those things to be seen in positive terms, or as the historian in me would say – part of the natural development of humanity. There appears, at least in the literature I am required to comment on, that it is an all or nothing proposition.

In my post ‘Perhaps it isn’t the end of the world that we know it’ I embedded a video which looked at the rise of literacy (in the traditional sense), and how people are actually reading and writing more now than they ever have, because of technology. If we extend the thinking in this video and consider that we, as a world, are the most literate (in a tradition sense) that we have ever been – perhaps that side of communication and globalization isn’t all bad. Everyday I see what happens when cultures collide. There is remixing, reimagining and reinventing of all sorts of things – one of the Korean boys convincing half of the school to participate in Gangnam Style one lunch time could be considered an example of that.

Perhaps globalization is on a continuum, and people – be they individuals, groups, states, nations or geographical areas – just need to find which scale they would like to be on.

And perhaps I need to stop waffling on and just write the critical reflection.

Once More into the Breach

One of the most read posts on this blog is Hidden in the blue box, a post published about this time last year. At the time I was pretty hopeful about actually clearing the box, finishing the thesis, publishing it, and adding some more letters to the end of my name. But it was not to be.

Following a series of unfortunate events (which include a retirement, the moving on of teaching staff, and the reorganisation of an entire faculty), I was unable to finish things off at the university I started at in another state. In the middle of 2012 when I was informed that I would be unable to submit my thesis with that institution as there wasn’t anyone left to examine it, I went into what could only be described as a bit of a temper tantrum – I may be almost 40, but trust me there is a 2 year old in there too (but then under some conditions I think we all have one).  One of the things which was suggested to me was that I change universities, to the one which is actually within walking distance of my house. Made sense really. So that is what has happened.

In the meantime, things have changed. My focus at the time was looking at the introduction of digital tools designed to assist students understand their learning styles and how using technology could change that. Unfortunately due to, shall we say challenges… the focus became how the change was managed within the school, and how the communication between the school and the students was done and how effective (or not) it was. Essentially it was change management, and how it was handled. But that was research I did some time ago now, so things have moved on a little from there.

Change is continual in education. Teachers, parents and sometimes students lament that things are not the same as they were. Teaching practices, curriculum, technology and a myriad of other things change – sometimes in cycles, sometimes not. But one of the things which remains constant is that you need to keep up, it isn’t like fashion where eventually they will do things your way again.

As I look through the subject selection listing at the units I have to choose from, I was struck that I am not really looking at things which I would have chosen 5 or even 2 years ago. Recent experiences such as #etmooc are pushing me to look more globally than I have in a while, and the subjects which are interesting me are the ones which are looking more widely.

#etmooc started as my attempt to do something for me and my professional development – to build connections and lift my skill set, but I am now seeing that it is coming right at the time when the perfect storm is forming for me. I just hope that I don’t drown in the process.