About Ana Cristina Pratas

Educator, blogger, curator; interested in educational technology, educational innovation, online education; love photography, music, seas and open skies

The Cyborg Within

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Who am I?

Who are you?

Simple questions, yet where does one begin unravelling the complexity of being a “someone”?

It was over the summer,  that issues of identity came again to linger on my mind. When I first visited Laos years ago, there was hardly a mobile phone in sight; to access the internet you needed to find an obscure, dark internet cafe, where you then struggled with connectivity. Today, that world has changed dramatically, like so many other places around the world. Today, one may find wi-fi in practically almost all public cafes and restaurants; everywhere you turn your gaze to, there will be someone taking a selfie, checking their photogenic image and uploading it to a social network; when silvery, Mekong evenings spread across the jungle skies, there will be throngs walking, jogging, running along the bank, with their smart phones,  some in Adidas track-suits,  most with  ear-plugs and an eye on their mobile screen. You could be almost anywhere else in the world – if not for the natural surroundings.

If asked who am I, I sometimes grin and say “I’m a cyborg. Whatever else?” Others’ reactions are usually quite interesting; often their associations are with dark, menacing Sci-Fi  films, where cyborgs are threatening beings, their powers far beyond mere humans. There is a lurking fear, a lurking mis-trust of cyborgs. Being a cyborg, simply put, is not desirable.

However.

Those jogging on the bank of the Mekong with their smart phones held dearly and tightly in their hands and those who possibly are reading this blog entry, are equally as much of a contemporary cyborg as I am. There are different interpretations of being a cyborg,  e.g. those who wear technology for enhanced digital experiences, those who participate in digital worlds, forming an identity within simulations, and those, like myself, who are equally comfortable in and out of digital worlds. As Turkle (2012) explains, “We are all cyborgs now”, in regard to how we “wander in and out of the physical real”. This element of being a cyborg has another characteristic as well, for one is in the digital world and somewhere else simultaneously. In other words, as cyborgs, we not only wander in and out of digital dimensions, but even when connecting with others, when digitally communicating with others, we are inhabiting two worlds at the same time.

Technologies and identity are complex issues. As someone who has had an interest in the digital since the internet became publicly available, it comes as no wonder that “who I am” will necessarily include the digital mix of who I am. In other words, I am my “life mix” (Turkle, 2012), moving quietly between worlds, between connections, between digital devices.

1xcom272947hangingThere are times when both my real and virtual self need breathing space as well – for instance, there may be times I don’t participate as much on one social network but with time, will return to it. There are times when I feel the need to disconnect, feel the need to think and dream without the ongoing connection which I do have in my life. This is not a rejection of my digital, cyborg self; merely a pause and one that I must ensure by silencing all my mobile digital gadgets. My “life mix” is both asynchronous and synchronous. Time to disconnect, briefly,  becomes a necessity. “Hanging up”, being “off the grid” is also necessary downtime for cyborgs.

A word of caution though: one may choose, re-invent or play with identity. This is not my case. Perhaps because it is not my case, I am equally at ease with my “life mix”.  Within my mix I am often a learner and educator, (though definitely, not only – e.g. I watch movies, connect with friends and family at non-professional levels, listen to music and so on). In these complex times of deep changes, I seek answers, I ask questions. I participate in online communities with others who likewise share the same concerns and questions. These communities range from social networks such as Twitter and G+, to VLEs where I learn and share with other members.

Which brings me to learning – once again. Leppisaari and Lee (2010) highlight how images are an integral part of constructing knowledge. By taking up visuals of footwear (Leppisaari and Lofroth 2013), one can visual one’s identity and role within multicultural learning.

From cyborg, from wandering in out of digital and analogue worlds, my footwear reflects the type of learning I engage in . Sandals – open, strappy, comfortable in twilight zones of being a cyborg. Sandals are ideal for treading lightly in a hyperlinked world.

Sandals are also practical for informal learning – which is how I would say most of my learning is today. I learn with and through my social networks, reading open access journals, reading articles online, participating in MOOCs, taking open online courses, and daily,  with my PLN, sharing and taking  part in on-going conversations. I attend webinars and belong to professional networks, where conferences are sometimes held online. Both these last two examples offer me the possibility of learning and participating in contexts which otherwise I could not attend. And I learn as I always have, even before the internet, i.e.. by learning from other fields of knowledge. Hence it is no surprise that I am a supporter of cross (or multi) disciplinary learning.

At times, I also take part in more formal learning, i.e. a structured course, where, ideally I will submit assignments on time. Hence, a pair of red shoes dangling, expressing on the one hand, a certain degree of formal artifact and on the other, the eternal quest of balancing time.

As a learner and educator I have lived and worked in different countries with distinct cultures. Though fascinating as it may sound, living and working in different cultures may be walzing through a mysterious field – one knows the footsteps to the dance but the music is different. Every time one thinks one finally understands the tune and attempts to dance, the steps will be different, for cultures are complex and forever changing. Every culture will have what is easily noticeable and learnable – with so many other steps hidden or disguised and which are essential for its understanding. And yes, there are times when simple sandals are more convenient to live within those settings, leaving light footprints, opening paths of learning for others who, in turn, will create meaningful knowledge and learning for their own cultural contexts.

When Downes (2013) speaks of learning, he mentions how:

“To teach is to model and to demonstrate; to learn is to practice and reflect“.

In a multicultural setting, whether F2F or online (e.g. distance education), this requires sturdy (but comfortable)  boots. Not only does one need to be sensitive to the culture, (e.g. in terms of what is or not appropriate) but the modelling has to be meaningful to it as well. Tapping into what may or not be meaningful to learners requires patience, resilience and time. Boots are often necessary for learning.

Much like Dorothy (Wizard of Oz), I dream of the perfect lesson, the perfect learning path where as an educator, it would only take a snappy click of heels for my students to become inspired, creative, and critical thinkers. In my cyborg mind, this is simple, with a myriad of tools and platforms to offer. In my “real”, analogue classrooms, this is much more challenging. At times, simply hard to do. After all, there are days and days – with a mix of 20+ learners in a classroom, there are bound to be days where the flow of learning just isn’t happening as one would wish it to.

Yet, I cling to the notion of a perfect lesson, where tasks are meaningful, motivational and fun for all. There are days when no click of heel is necessary and objectives are accomplished. And there are days when I return to the dream of a perfect lesson.

Today I have chosen 3 variations of footwear that perhaps define my days. When reflecting on the nature of being a cyborg and  a multicultural learner/participant, one also needs to add the digital dimension to multicultural learning. On the one hand, there is the culture of digital identity as an integral  part of the notion of identity, while on the other hand, there is also a cultural  field on online learning/distance education. Both of these, in my eyes, have different features; features which overlap at times, and which add another dimension to multicultural learning. In other words, it is not just the analogue world which has multicultural learning – there is a digital world as well.

When technologies and identities blend, “simple” issues of identity become more complex. In my mind, often richer as well.

Do you ever consider your cyborg self?

How do you perceive yourself as a cyborg?

References:

Leppisaari, I. and Lee, O., 2010, Modelling Digital Natives’ International Collaboration: Finnish-Korean Experiences of Environmental Education

Turkle, S., 2012, Alone Together

The Book that Spoke to Me

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Summer days are still upon my part of the world, but thoughts and resolutions are turning towards a new academic year with its challenges and wealth of learnings. With a de-cluttered mind, I set about preparing for what may lie ahead. Not only will be there be months of teaching, (as yet unknown courses), but also my own personal studies and professional development for which I necessarily need to slot in time for.

With an end-of-summer-break-resolution, I begin reading educational articles and commentaries, mostly finding myself asking when will they speak to me. When will all these academic writings actually speak to me; “me” who is an educator with years of classroom experience, with years of learning experience and as such, with some points of reference in the world of education?

 That is when I picked up a book lying on my coffee table, having kept it to read with a calm, quieter mind, hoping that new discoveries and perspectives would engage and stimulate my own personal thoughts. What I had not expected was how the book would speak to me.

As someone who has been in education for over 20 years and has studied formally and informally, academic articles are not a novel form of text. Yes, there may be another slant on a topic, but mostly, there will be strings and strings of other references, backing up every second statement. Despite my respect for this academic endeavour, despite understanding the “whys” of this style of writing, I have still wanted to read a non-fiction book, a book on education, that spoke to me. A narrative that started from the perspective that I understood current affairs in education, was aware of educational changes, of the role of digital literacies,  and wished to be inspired to take further action for constructive, positive, educational change. A book that would express its’ authors own ideas, without that endless string of quotations and  references, backing up every new statement. I wanted a book where the writers’ voices were present, were heard and not drowning in an academic display of references.  This book spoke to me.

Each chapter may be read on its own if one wishes. However, because the book is a dialogue with educators, inclusively including transcripts of conversations between the writers, I did not dip into chapters. Instead, as I read linearly, each chapter added to my own random thoughts, provoking me into further questionings of my own teaching experience, forming cohesion between beliefs and questions to pursue. 1xcom44797macroPearlsThese provocations made me take notes on how to better introduce effective change in my daily practices and reflect further on how to best achieve change. It was equally refreshing to come across references to educational technologists whose work I am familiar with and deeply admire, as well as including intelligent nuggets of information from social networks such as blogs. Not all references were entirely new to me, thus giving me a sense of a shared community, both as a reader and a participant, as well as teaching me about new connections and thinkers. This book spoke to me as a contemporary educator who is interested in professional development, interested in learning and yes, aware of the profound changes occurring at the many levels of education around the world.

 As someone who partakes in academia, this book also satisfied my own need for solid and further academic references. The richness of scope was another feature that left me reading slowly, not wishing to end the pleasure of the text. Having a background in the Humanities, I relished the weavings of film and theatre, for instance, as much as the academic writers and knowledge banks referred to. However, it is not a book solely for those with a background in the humanities – rather, a book every educator who is interested in transformational education should read.

 Why? Because it is written as a dialogue with the reader, providing case studies from others as well as the writers’ own experiences.  Throughout the chapters, there are also dialogues between the two writers, adding to that refreshing feature of speaking with rather down to the reader.  The reader becomes part of the dialogue, a participant in the transformation of learning. The reader becomes a member of that “learning gymnasium” which is explicitly described and referred to through the book.

adaptation studies “Adaptation Studies and Learning” is written by practitioners and for practitioners. There is a strong sense of knowing the world of classrooms, knowing daily challenges and restrictions, yet overcoming these by implementing effective changes in attitude and approach. Touching on film history, theories in education and literary criticism, “Adaptation Studies and Learning”, is in my view, about adapting to todays’ needs in education, how to overcome the culture of instant technological gratification, how to implement change and focus on learning instead.

Learning – that elusive, messy, chaotic process in which education is (supposedly) set up for.  Learning how to adapt to an increasingly fast-paced changing world, a world with uncertain professions, a world where openness, resilience and transdisciplinarity reign unfettered. Learning how to live with these features, learning how to guide students through these characteristics of today’s learning experience is what “Adaptation Studies and Learning” focuses on closely. Drawing in the reader as a participant in the narrative, provoking the reader to reflect on his/her own educational narratives, this book certainly did speak to me.

1xcom29429alluser8926TimeForFairyTalesWhat summer readings have spoken to you?

Reference:

Adaptation Studies and Learning 2013, Raw, L. and Gurr, T. 

iPadogogy, Portfolios and iSense?

Slowly, sluggishly, another academic year draws towards its end. A year of bridges, a year of learning, a year of questioning. A year which leaves me with no e-portfolios to go through.

Some may find that a relief; personally, I find it a pity.

It is never too soon to have learners begin their e-portfolio, in particular when working within an iPadology framework. The question of e-portfolios has been widely accepted but where is the practice?

Let’s begin by considering an iPadology framework where students have a possible iBook and a selection of apps to work with. It is with the apps that students create their presentations, whether those be with Haiku, Keynote or digital stories with PuppetPal or any other app appropriate for story-telling. Students may present their work to the whole class or neatly submit it to the teacher through a LMS or cloud. Either way, this approach is parallel to when students wrote only for the teacher’s eyes – a practice I have always rejected. In an age where digital literacies are needed to be fostered and developed, producing only for the teacher’s eyes makes even less sense to me.

Which begs the question, if students are encouraged to use apps for creating stories, movies and other tasks, why must these creative productions be hidden in a cloud?

Let me take a step back for a moment – what are these digital literacies which are so bantered about? If literacy may be understood as  “a set of social and cultural practices that involve the interpretation, production and communication of shared meanings. Literacy implies the ability to make sense and to create meaning, as well as an understanding that doing so is a social practice that draws on an array of complex, interwoven social, cultural and historical contexts” (Payton & Hague 2010), then digital literacies are all of the above but with the addition of digital tools.

These digital tools help build new knowledges, changing how students learn and develop knowledge. Belshaw (2011) points out how there may not be a complete agreement among some regarding the precise definition digital literacies, yet highlights how there are 8 main elements to take into consideration:

If these literacies are to be included in a learner’s experience, if a learner is encouraged to bring his/her life experiences to their learning experiences, then their work needs to be visible.

This visibility serves different purposes as well. On the one hand, it is a show-case of the learner’s work and progress throughout an academic year or course. On the other hand, by being able to display, share, comment and improve, the individual learns.

It comes as no surprise that I believe blogs to be the best medium for a student’s portfolio. While there may be a whole industry willing to sell e-portfolios to educational institutions, again, these are far from my preferences. Why should a student leave their work locked up, far from the real world, in an institution’s system? Where is the purpose? (Where is the openness?) It is not only the need for one’s portfolio to be accessible anywhere, at anytime – it is a question of ownership. A learner’s portfolio belongs to him/her, reflecting their progress, learning and achievements.  Even if a system is mobile, the learner’s portfolio will still be tucked away, visible to teacher and possibly peers. Possibly.

More than tools developed for digital curation and storage, for example LiveBinders, blogs are easy to use, easy to share and students are left with a visible trace of their progress. As Downes  (2004) explains, “What makes blogs so attractive, in both the educational community and the Internet at large, is their ease of use. A blog owner can edit or update a new entry without worrying about page formats or HTML syntax. Sebastian Fiedler, a media pedagogy specialist at the University of Augsburg in Germany, has been monitoring the rise of blogs for a number of years. “Many lightweight, cost-efficient systems and tools have emerged in the personal Webpublishing realm,” he writes. “These tools offer a new and powerful toolkit for the support of collaborative and individual learning that adheres to the patterns of contemporary information-intensive work and learning outside of formal educational settings.”

Downes (2004) also discusses the value and pitfalls of blogging, adding that “Despite obvious appearances, blogging isn’t really about writing at all; that’s just the end point of the process, the outcome that occurs more or less naturally if everything else has been done right. Blogging is about, first, reading. But more important, it is about reading what is of interest to you: your culture, your community, your ideas. And it is about engaging with the content and with the authors of what you have read—reflecting, criticizing, questioning, reacting. If a student has nothing to blog about, it is not because he or she has nothing to write about or has a boring life. It is because the student has not yet stretched out to the larger world, has not yet learned to meaningfully engage in a community. For blogging in education to be a success, this first must be embraced and encouraged.”

Students are learning. It is through practice, by being given opportunities to create, develop and display their work that an iPadology (for instance) adds to what I would call “iSense“.  By keeping a portfolio, students are able to go back, reflect, while at the same, go forward with their learning while developing their digital literacies – literacies which for me,  also include other skills such as digital citizenship, being aware of one’s digital footprint and a degree of transparency in the learning process. Luca, (2011) who neatly points out 5 reasons supporting why students should blog, also stresses how students’ world view changes when blogging – a learning experience which one would hope exists in education.

I cannot perceive learning as an end, despite there being objectives for every course. Learning is a process, one that needs to be encouraged and supported. The focus on the learner, offering individualisation and catering to different learning needs and styles,  only makes sense when giving learners a chance to develop a project with tools which best meet the project and their learning styles.  To have students develop a blog as their portfolio, only enhances the “iSense” which is necessary in today’s environment of digital literacies.

Lastly, a word on change.

It has happened. It is happening. Change in our world, change in our daily learning and practices.

And no, it won’t be turning back so soon.

NOTE:

Please note that I have purposefully referred to E-Portfolios as portfolios. Just as E-learning is a part of learning, electronic portfolios may be considered part of portfolios, especially as the introduction and practice of digital education is increasingly a common feature in many parts of the world.

References

12 Important Trends in the EPortfolio Industry

Downes, S., 2004, Educational Blogging

Luca, J., 2011, 5 Reasons Why our Students are Writing Blogs and Creating ePorfolios

Payton, S. & C. Hague, 2010, Digital Literacy – Professional Development Resource

Further Reading

Couros, G., 2013, 5 Reasons Your Students Should Blog

Lampinen, M., 2013, Blogging in the 21st Century Classroom

Rosenthal,S., 2011, Learning abut Blogs for Your Students – Part II Writing

Waters, S., 2011, Getting More Out of Student Blogging

So What Happened to Learning?

I sift through reams of words and worlds of pedagogy.

I blink through bytes of pedagogy and educational concerns.

May 2013 and still the drums beat on about 21st Century Learning. May 2013, and one still faces screens flickering on about disruptions in the educational process. Spring 2013 and again I wonder – what happened to learning?

It is simple enough to pin-point what learning should and may entail today. It is simple enough to declare “we want to become digital learners”. Yet, how far is the curriculum actually moving forward to give space to the learning which needs to be put into practice?

Students will not start creating content for learning if not given space and encouragement. Students have busy lives – they are connected and digitally intense. It’s that passion, that connectivity which needs to be channeled towards learning and learning environments, that still eludes me.

Just as I am baffled by a student who explains to me that they were told not to download interactive stories onto their iPads because those apps (i.e. interactive stories) take up too much space, I am left wondering – so it’s OK to fill up an iPad with games which require no learning, no thinking, no incentive towards productive creativity?

Change in attitudes will not happen because one decides to implement change from above. Change in learning attitudes is not solely the responsibility of teachers. It is the responsibility of all members of an institution, of a community.

As a classroom teacher, I want a change in focus. Stop telling me how and what to teach. Begin telling me about learning.

Tell me about the learning for futures uncertain.

Tell me about learning for jobs which have not yet been established.

Talk to me about learning.

Then, perhaps, will I awake from this flickering slumber of digital bytes on teaching.

Beyond the Gloss of Educational Change

Yes. You have been there. The children are scrubbed clean, their uniform shirt has been ironed and their broken, shoddy footwear is kept well out of site.

Yes. You have been there. The new building which is an eye-sore on the urban landscape, the sparkling clean windows, the corridors barren of dirt and laughter.

Yes. You too have been there. The newly installed wi-fi, the brand new digital devices, the staff breathlessly dashing from lessons to training sessions, only to slump in the car park with relief that another wasted day is over.

And that is precisely one of the central issues at moments of profound change: the outer gloss.

Gloss comes in 3 main categories as well.

Category 1 – We have invested in new computers/iPads/computer labs! See how we shine for you…..

Category 2 – We provide professional training to our staff! See how we shine for you…..

Category 3- We are on par with leading institutions because we support change in Education. See how we shine for you…..

However, the shining is superficial, the gloss is thin and easily cracked.

In order for real change to occur, one needs to work constantly beyond the gloss, beyond the rhetoric, beyond the shining exterior. Agendas of change need to begin within the participants for there to be any positive effect. If teachers themselves do not feel the need for change, no amount of imposed professional training will alter their perceptions. If students are not shown how digital learning does enable them to become better learners, better students, no amount of digital investment will change their perceptions.

Having been (and currently am) a participant of change within educational systems that I work in and contribute to, the attachment to glossy smoke and mirrors is, in my view, one of the major stumbling blocks to effective change.

That is not to say that I favour dropping all digital initiatives and thus risk even further gaps of skills and knowledge. By no means would that solve any problem in education.

What I am saying, is that the need for change, the need for all players to acknowledge the need for change, takes time and must come from within an institution and its participants. There may be national educational agendas, regional agendas or even local agendas. None will be effective if the need does not stem from within. When participants are able to contribute to the agenda of change, to tailor it to their context and needs, that is when the process of change begins in full bloom. That is the moment walking unknown roads becomes a pleasure, an urgency and meaningful.

Just as the iPad brings no alchemy of success to classrooms without an iPadology to accompany it, introducing digital change from above without internalizing change to begin with, will not bring about success.

Educators cannot be lingering and waiting for professional development to come to them any longer. Educators need to be willing to have initiative, to practice and develop their interests and skills. Step by step – just as so many educators will tell their students. Educators need to internalize and  acknowledge change. From there, they are able to assist learners, many who still struggle with using digital environments and tools for learning.

There is no time to fear failing.

The only fear is being stuck in gloss.

What’s your choice?

 

Further references:

Heick, T. 2012, 5 Secrets for Smarter Education Technology Integration

Jeffery, B., 2013, iPads, A Tool, Not Alchemy, For Education

Vander Ark, T., 2013, Good Work: Tapping the Dark Matter

Over the Rainbow and into Reality

Overlooking a city intoxicated with dirt, air pollution and prayers for tomorrow, I am already caught between worlds. I linger on Twitter, catching up on tid-bits of conferences and opinions which are to influence educational practices and positions, I sip my coffee while trying to out-wit the never ending swarms of flies. I am lucky to have a connection to view the web world, to interact, to be myself.

And I wonder – how much does the developed world actually include the have-nots?

In an attempt to bridge the increasing digital divide, I came as a personal volunteer to train EdTech.ON MY WAY

(To those who do not know me, yes, I live over the rainbow, I live with hope, I live with belief).

Nonetheless, it takes much more than good will and possibly monetary donations, for change to happen. Change, as many know, takes time.

When it comes to EdTech, there is undoubtedly an awareness of what is happening in the rest of the developed world. There is an acknowledgement that digital learning skills are necessary for development and educational prestige. However, for EdTech to be effective, – or any professional training for that matter – it takes a profound shift of attitudes.

By no means am I an favour of imposing change from other models and countries; I believe that each environment, whether classroom or society, needs to implement the changes that are best suited to its needs and participants. However, there is a need of bridges. No one can progress, no one can introduce change without the aid of bridges. When it comes to professional training in developing countries, those involved need to make the effort to create bridges of understanding and performance – both ways. It is not acceptable any longer that bridges are to be built only by one world. If there is to be success, then both parties, both sides of participants are required to make the effort to reach out and elliminate possible stumbling blocks and cross-cultural differences, in order that the training experience is as  successful as possible for all participants.

Rainbows and realities. Neither are meaningful without a tremendous effort to achieve success. It is not a question of lack of cutting-edge hardware, nor ill will,l nor lack of material resources which lead to risks of possible defeat.

It is the required shift in perceptions and learning attitudes. And these are the most challenging features to change – anywhere, at any time. In regard to EdTech, these are most urgent to deal with, the most urgent to reflect on, if there is ever to be effective educational change.

Rainbows and realities. An urgency for each to meet, interconnect and blend.

Resistance and the Re-Imagining of Knowledge

With distance I regard my educational expectations, hopes and whims. I look out the window of my regular comfort and into the lives of the disenfranchised, the disconnected, the illiterate and wonder what  knowledge is today, what would  knowledge be for these who dig up roads and what is knowledge for those in clean connected classroom.

There have always been gaps of knowledge between the haves and have-nots. Today is no different, despite the hope that is pinned on the Web of Open Access and Open Education.

I think of my own students and how their profiles have changed over the years. I tell myself to accept these changes in their attitudes towards educators, towards their studies. If, as an educator I have always encouraged change, if, as an educator I have always supported creative ways of learning, then why do I find it uncomfortable (at times) to accept that students’ profiles have changed? Society has changed. Social norms, social rythyms have been altered by digital technology. The world of education has opened its door to a broader background of students. Their diversity brings creativity but also frictions to classrooms.

Challenge: how does one  guide those frictions into constructive learning?

When considering knowledge today, it is necessary to bear in mind the changes brought about by Open Access. Increasingly there are more open journals, more academics who blog, sharing resources and reflective considerations on their teaching context. Knowledge production has changed, just as students and social environments.

Challenge: how does one make sense of all this open knowledge?

Again I think of my students, of the changes I impose on them in regard to learning with digital devices. As I scrutinize their faces, I am aware of their resistance to digital learning – at times. In this paradox of learning, where students are happy to bring an iPad to classes yet refuse to become autonomous learners, I ask questions and know that I am not the only educator to face this.

Pearce (2013) explains:

“Students are actually quite conservative in their use of open educational resources (OERs),” she said. “The students in our sample were clear that while many made use of them in their own learning, they were much more likely to do so when it was part of their course and it had been suggested to them by their lecturer.

“Where lecturers do not value OERs and do not signal that the use of OERs will help in their learning, and in particular where students are not offered technical support in their use of them, they absolutely won’t use them.”

She added: “I was quite surprised to find that students will absolutely defend to the death the lecture – a mode of learning that many of us are getting used to thinking of as an out-of-date method of teaching.”

If educators are to actually instigate, inspire and hopefully encourage learning, then one must take students’ approaches to learning more in account. Despite the benefits that educational technology may bring to learning, it is non-productive without students taking on board those same values.

What strikes me most in this excerpt above, is 53% of students who wished their teachers used more F2F interaction. This holds true in 1:1 classrooms – no matter how much creativity and autonomy iPadology may bring into lessons, students still expect educators to explain, to hold their attention at the front of the classroom.

Challenge : how does one make students understand that the requirements of jobs have changed today? How will demands of more collaboration, more creativity in job posts become relevant to the young, when they live the now, the moment and post-pone a future of accountability?

I look out towards the hazy sky filled with fumes, dust, incense. Distance from my regular social environment raises questions.

If , as an educator, I adapt to local circumstances, may I talk about adaptive learning?

An adaptive learning approach in classrooms which allows me to deal with student resistance, the re-imagining of knowledge and a more flexible path to educational change?

How do you deal with student resistance?

How do you make sense of the re-imagining of knowledge?

References:

Five Ways Students use Technology in the Classroom

Parr, C., 2013, Students Will Defend Need for Traditional Learning

The New Normal

So what is the new normal today?

What it always has been.

Change.

Paradigm shifts.

And as with most shifts, change begins with whispers which waver before becoming tsunamis.

MOOCs are an example. Initially MOOCs came into action without making daily headlines; today, rarely a day goes by without the media highlighting a new MOOC, advantages and disadvantages of MOOCs and all other opinions, fears, challenges and opportunities that MOOCs bring with them.

Contrary to many of those in the ivory towers of knowledge, I have always believed that education was all about change. Yes, there are the power factors too which reign in education thus maintaining the status quo of societies. Perhaps it was because of all my linguistic transitions; perhaps because of my personal narratives, I often have been on the edge of social circles, a resident, never quite an ingrained citizen. Perhaps these are purely irrelevant concoctions as there will always be individuals who provoke shifts, nodes of change who meet, who connect,  and in serendipity, add to the currents of change.

It is within these narratives, these desires, these perceptions of new possibilities and clearer objectives, that changes happen too in education. The new normal is not invisible. The new normal has been here for a while, being daily added to, re-mixed and re-used.

What still needs to happen is for the new normal to be widely acknowledged, accepted and, most importantly, practiced.

In the visual above, Heick (2013) stresses 7 main shifts in the educational world today. I hesitate to agree with point 5 – if there had been no interaction before, there would never have been changes. Obviously, today interactions are more immediate and far reaching; the effects of OERs, for example, are still to be seen. Additionally, I would argue with point 2 being “new”.  For all the negative rap that academia may sometimes receive, critical reflections are at the core of academia. In the new normal, it is expected, practically demanded, that the learner too takes the reigns of learning, of producing critical thought to a new level of production.

The new normal is sometimes unrealistic.

How many students actually want that power? How many young people actually demand that responsibility? And how many are really able to dare and take the responsibilities of freedom of thought?

The new normal is provocative.

Begin talking about the role of digital literacies in a staffroom, among a circle of business people, among learners. Notice the reactions – from blank to comprehending to puzzled. To denial as well.

Provocation is nevertheless maintained, and even publications such as Forbes, discuss the relevance  of digital literacies.

The new normal is.

Boyd (2013) refers to the Faustian bargain that has permeated education, explaining that initially,  the cost and difficulty of managing the insertion of computers, networks and smart boards into class rooms proves more costly than any benefits gained. This has been true of early adoption cycles for technology in every industry.” Today it is visible to all that the interface between technologies and classroom is a smoother reality, stretching out to developing countries as well.

No change comes without failure. The new normal accepts failure as part of the process. As an educator, I must necessarily accept a lesson which fails because my students did not achieve what I had planned with a specific tool. Perhaps they were not ready. Perhaps the failure was mine, not having selected a less demanding digital tool or task. However much I reflect and plan, I must accept failure too,  as part of the new normal – not as personal, ethical or moral defeat. Shifts challenge.

Unrealistic, provocative, challenging. The new normal may induce discomfort at times (failure is never pleasant, for example). But is precisely because of discomfort that the new normal has come into being. Hence, the discourse of “disruption” so often heard in thought circles today – not the disruption of misbehaviour, but the disruption of past perspectives and practices. Below is another example of how the new normal transcends borders.

The new normal is open.

How do you embrace the new normal?

References:

Boyd, R., 2013, SuperHuman Education

Hartley, S., 2013. Digital Literacy: New Literacy?

Heick, T., 2013, Shift_Learning: The 7 Most Powerful Idea Shifts In Learning Today

OER will need 20 to 30 years to reach its ultimate global realization” interview with Fred Mulder, chair of UNESCO OERs

Edu-Gadgetry

If communication does not happen in a vacuum, neither does magic. As many know, iPads have become one of the most recent panacea to the many woes in education. From primary education to higher education, iPads are being introduced in classrooms. What do they fulfill?

Undoubtedly, iPads are powerful – with that added appeal of sexy cutting-edge and user-friendliness.  However, will their implementation achieve the same high results at all stages of education? Having been teaching with iPads for the last months, there are questions which have not been completely answered – yet.

For instance:

How do students perceive learning with iPads? Can an iPad really take the place of a laptop, in particular at higher education where students must write longer essays and not only the 5-paragraph essay for an IELTS exam?

There is so much rich learning from iPads that to dismiss them entirely is neither constructive nor beneficial to anyone, especially learners. What needs to be understood is that they will not magically increase learner engagement if learners are not themselves motivated to learn, nor can they be used in the same way in all educational contexts.

Petocz & Manuguerra (2011) claim that iPads have been used to “as a means to engage, inspire and motivate students through high-level presentation and communication tools.” They also add how It has changed the pedagogical approach, making the learning experience simpler and yet deeper. Results show that students learn best when technologies are seamlessly integrated into the curriculum to enhance their learning experience.”

Yes, there are apps which do add that extra appeal and glitter, however they are not essential for a high-level presentation nor as a communication tool. There are plenty of those online – and free to users. Often what I see is merely a more attractive re-packaging of a presentation rather than deep learning. My other query is up to which point are digital technologies really being seamlessly integrated into the curriculum when assessment is still based on paper and pen exams? Where lies the enhancement? With all the discussions and claims to enhancing motivation and learning, dare I ask – where is this learning? And once again, is the focus of iPadology more on the tool or on what the tool can achieve in terms of learning? Is the increased engagement all about the tool and apps, or in fact about the quality of learning?

Personally I believe that learning today is more mobile than ever; mobility shapes us with the aid of digital technology. Mlearning  (which I use to define mobile learning for the sake of clarity) will hopefully bring educational benefits to the many who have not had access to education.  Mlearning is a benefit to myself as well. My iPad is always by my side, all I need is WiFi to reach out to the world and learn.

Nevertheless….

However…

Is the implementation of iPads (and a required iPadology) sufficient to improve learning in educational environments? And if, doesn’t there need to be a differentiation among the educational levels and environments in order that the use of the tool better fits the needs and demands of learners?

Momentarily I linger…

I question as each day unfurls further questions. Education has to be more than gadgetry – though those will not go away any day soon.

Between the shoreline of Web 1.0, Web 2.0, heading towards Web 3.0, is where you will find me.

References:

Heick, T., 2013, 8 Characteristics of Education 3.0

Petocz, P. & M.Manuguerra, 2011, Promoting Student Engagement by Integrating New Technology into Tertiary Education

Challenges and Opportunities in Higher Ed

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

Were it so simple in the world of education. I often compare (naively?) the educational field with the field of medicine. In the medical world, the aim is to save the patient’s life or cure his/her disease. Cutting edge approaches are welcomed and doctors endeavour to practice these approaches as much as their working context allows them to.  Team work is no oddity, for it is not only nurses and doctors who provide health care, but a wider group of professionals, from lab researchers to anatomo-pathologists who work behind the scenes.

The educational world is changing rapidly and yet there are times when I feel as if left behind in time. What is holding education back?

Roscoria (2013) points out the following challenges in regard to adapting technology  in higher education, which were highlighted in an Educause  Learning Initiative in the 2013 Horizon Project report:

1. Faculty training still does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues to rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.

2. The emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching outpace sufficient and scalable modes of assessment.

3. Too often it is education’s own processes and practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies.

4. The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.

5. New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to traditional models of higher education.

6. Most academics are not using new technologies for learning and teaching, nor for organizing their own research.

Perhaps it is the first and fifth points that immediately jump out at me. I have yet to become familiar with a curriculum that openly acknowledges the role of digital literacies across the board; equally, despite MOOCs being a constant headliner in journals and newspapers, there are still many educators who are not familiar with MOOCs nor the concept of such open learning.

Another aspect that I wonder about, is why so many institutions do not offer more blended courses to better suit the population? Often institutions do have the hardware and the professionals who are able to offer such courses. I believe that these changes will occur – the challenges and barriers will fall on the way as increasingly a student population wishes to study online, or at least within a blended approach of F2F and online learning. There is no lack of platforms and the technical requirements for students at higher education may be simply met with training sessions on campus before the course begins (should this be necessary).

Then there are Open Educational Resources. These are not meant for only a developing world, but for all.

One needs to bear in mind that only a selected group in developing countries are privy to OER – not only are there  regular struggles with hardware, electricity maintenance and wifi, but often those who would most benefit don’t speak the language which OER are published in. Nevertheless, this too is changing as more universities around the world open up their libraries and resources.

Personally I find the sixth point difficult to understand – for many years now academics are able to access libraries online, for instance. What I do find curious is how in academia, skills that academics use, are not taught to students more systematically.  For instance, how best to use search engines and not merely Google. A simple example,  but one which I regularly encounter when speaking with under-graduates. By the same measure, academics who claim to support open learning will continue publishing in closed, paid for journals. Blogging? Definitely not part of academia. These are but some contradictions which I encounter and am perplexed by.

Michael Horn, co-director and co-founder of Innosight Institute, believes that many of the challenges and opportunities for higher education will eventually happen as major changes will occur at secondary level. Horn also points out how:

“University professors, while they’re really good at research, are not really good at teaching and learning,”

adding that

Different students have different learning needs at different times,” as well as pointing out   that that situation may provide big opportunities for disruptive models to step in and offer more efficient solutions to individualized instruction. Disruptive models, in this case, being online education which opens up opportunities for more members of society to study.

Online learning may be understood within different models as Hill (2012) describes:

The last challenge I’d like to point out for now, is how we are living on the edge of Web 3.0 yet so much of what happens in classrooms still belongs to a world of Web 1.0. In Gerstein’s  (2013) discussion on User Generated Education, she includes the following visual which clearly defines each stage of the Web and how it is being used in education:

At a time when so many changes are happening around us, when iPadalogy, whether for the better (or not) is rapidly spreading across countries, when MOOCs are raising their heads everyday to the point of even offering accreditation,  it is time to take these changes into more serious consideration through conversation and reflection. Each challenge will provide further opportunities for both students and educators, contributing to a more open world of knowledge.

References:

Gerstein, J., 2013, User Generated Education

Hill, P., 2012, Online Educational Delivery Models: A Descriptive View

Horn, M., 2012 Disrupting College - Video of Horn’s talk

Roscoria, T. (2013) 6 Challenges to Higher Ed Technology Adoption

Wiley, D.

Warmoth, B., 2012 Educause 2012: 5 ways online learning is disrupting education

Note:

If you would like to read more on OERs and other Open Access for Education,  and Change in Education, please visit, re-visit,  use, re-use, re-mix, re-vise and re-distribute!