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.

Embracing the Chaos of iPadology – Part 2

In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance.

Jeanette Winterson

What is it about that chaos that attracts me?

The underlying order it establishes, the order that waits patiently to be deciphered. Perhaps. Nevertheless, if I am to pin point a “strategy”, a new approach in my classroom, then it is with wonder and respect that I say it is the perfection of apparent chaos flowing as students engage and produce at their own rhythm.

But first let me admit – as each day I watched my students sit with their iPads in front of me, I wondered: are we (educators, administrators, politicians) confusing content and learning with a device? Is this device actually delivering quality learning or quality technology? I struggled to understand. For this was a mobile device, not one where students sat in classroom rows. This was a device to consume and create content but …. where was the learning if it was the teacher who was obliged to create? Hungry for answers, all I came across was the cliche mantra: challenge-based lessons!

My lessons have always been a challenge. Not only do I teach a 2nd/3rd language to many of my students, I come from a different educational paradigm which challenges most of their educational experience. So how exactly was the iPad to add to the challenge – other than the challenge of finding activities which would actually work on it (i.e. the lack of flash which does not enable learners to engage in the many online activities available). Above all, how, as an educator, was I to ensure good teaching practices with the iPad? Furthermore, most of what I came across regarding iPadology, was in the context of K12. I teach at higher education. Where were the bridges I needed for my students?

This brings me to Mishra and Koelher (2006) who  explain how,

“Quality teaching requires developing a nuanced understanding of the complex relationships between technology, content and pedagogy, and using this understanding to develop appropriate context-specific strategies and representations.”

If one considers the three components mentioned above (technology, content and pedagogy), there is bound to be points of tension between them at different moments in time. Today, and for example, in my case of using iPads as a learning device, I often feel that “it is the technology that drives the kinds of decisions that we make about content and pedagogy” (Mishra & Koelher 2006). Couros (2012), in an article referring to the use of social media, highlights how educators need to use the web with its 2.0 technology and not the more passive 1.0 approach. With the use of iPads in the classroom, educators have little choice but to follow this sound advice.

So where were the bridges I had to create? How was the implementation of iPadology to be effective? Far from attempting to create a new pedagogical theory, I sought a framework of practice. For “having a framework goes beyond merely identifying problems with current approaches; it offers new ways of looking at and perceiving phenomena and offers information on which to base sound, pragmatic decision making.” (Mishar & Koelher, 2006)

In order to begin establishing some kind of road map, some possible framework of practice, I considered the different contributions on App evaluations for the classroom. Below is Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s considerations on content and components logistics based on the SAMR model of learning.

All nicely put and visually pleasing, yet it is the framework of my daily practice that I inquire into. Could there be a road map in the apparent chaos and pedagogical tensions I perceived? Would I be capable of carrying out my pedagogical beliefs (so well summarised by Couros, 2013) with a mobile device and a set syllabus to cover?

In between the chaos and the space. Chances of learning practices loom.

References

Couros, G., 2012, Don’t use 2.0 Technology in a 1.0 Way

Couros, G., 2013, 8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom

Mishra, P., Koelher, M.J., 2006 – Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge

Ruben R. Puentedura’s Weblog – Ongoing Thoughts on Education and Technology

Schrock, K. , 2011, Evaluation Rubric for iPod/iPad Apps

Embracing the Chaos of iPadology – Part 1

Throughout this past semester, I tried, (often in vain), to create bridges for myself. Being accustomed to working with a computer and having students likewise work on their laptops, I had the urgent need to hold on to what I knew – digital tools which would enable learners to express themselves more creatively, digital tools which would add value to their learning of digital literacies. Above all, the use of online tools and activities which would engage learners in their learning process.

With the iPad, I was often left in despair – any site or task which demanded flash, would not work  on the iPad. Activities done with Glogster, for example, had to be left to the time slot in the computer lab as students complained how the iPad screen was too small for them to comfortably create digital posters. The world of iPadology had become a jungle with too many apps and too little effective outcomes.

1x.comphoto28743As I read papers, blogs and opinions of others, more experienced than myself with iPad teaching, more questions than answers began formulating:

1 – With so much focus on technology, where was the focus on teaching? Where was the focus on learning – other than with games which didn’t really develop deep learning? Was higher education going to be finally turned into one enormous nursery room in the name of Apps?

2 – Wasn’t the role of the teacher to actually teach?  With the increase of administrative loadings, assessment, teachers today are also expected to create iBooks and design other pedagogical materials with new digital devices – yet the discourse most commonly encountered is how it is important to let students themselves develop materials. I find this clash of discourse and expectations an added burden to teachers, who are already juggling so many extra tasks. Where exactly lies the balance?

In between digital devices, digital tools, digital beliefs, I found myself questioning. Digital technology is not a replacement of teaching. Teaching involves much more than the use of digital tools.

In regard to my first question, having students accept that their iPad was more than a trendy device to edit images, took time. They had to learn how to use a particular set of Apps, such as Edmodo, Popplet and others. Their learning had to include coming to class with their iPad charged, updating Apps and other necessities which working with iPads demands. As in many other learning processes, the first step was one of new habits and new attitudes to responsibility.

Personally, I had to adapt as well. I had to now consider learning tasks which the iPad would allow.  There are many Apps which I could recommend, but this is not the place. However, one example springs to mind: Haiku. Besides Keynotes, Haiku has become a favourite among my students; without their direct awareness, Haiku requires that the presenter speaks to the audience while showing images; for me, this was note-worthy progress from deadening presentations filled with bullet points which were merely read. I mention this example as a very positive outcome from using Apps for presentations in class. There are other Apps, such as Word Mover, which engaged my students with language and which, after having created their poems, we sat on the floor and listened to each poem with smiles of understanding.

Would my students have achieved the same outcomes without the Apps mentioned above?

Yes.

Regrettably, digital technology does not equal good pedagogy.

In fact, digital technology requires good pedagogy, for without sound pedagogy coming first and foremost, a lot of digital practices found online will fall into rote learning which was done on paper not so long ago. For me, using digital technology in the classroom is exciting  and a pleasure – as long as it can inspire learners to create, organize their thinking, enable them to learn and practice skills which will be useful in the workplace.

Philey, (2012) points out that:

“We like to say that teaching has changed, but I’d like to argue that it hasn’t. Teachers still have the same major tasks today as they did before the Internet. Two hundred years ago, teachers still:
Collaborated with students and other staff
Communicated with students and parents
Found and shared resources
Managed student behavior
Delivered direct content
Built rich, performance-based assessments”

This happened before digital technology played such a major role in classrooms and  it still does today. However, with the digital tools available today, many of the processes have changed. DropBox and LiveBinders, for instance, become resources which can be shared and accessed anytime, anywhere. Yet the fundamentals of good teaching are still ingrained in these practices. Even in classrooms where iPads are being used, there needs to be consistency in pedagogic practices for every context.

In every new paradigm shift, there is bound to be elements of chaos. Kathy Shcrock’s (2012) visual of how Bloom’s taxonomy is put into practice today, reflects how Apps may be used, and possibly what an iPad classroom may look like:

8178269_origIt is in the inter-action of the above wheels, in the how and why that chaos may seem to be integral to iPadology. Apps offer much more than games; as one can see above, the creativity wheel is practically central to iPadology  – and creativity also implies problem solving and critical thinking.

As for my second question regarding the role of teachers: as in other contexts without iPads, a teacher plays out a number of roles in the classroom. Within an iPadology, it appears to me, that one of the central tasks is to have learners create learning materials. This implies that tasks are appropriate for the level and goals students need to achieve. There are marked differences between learning at primary, secondary and higher education, each having its own set of goals and outcomes. Is the educator now going to teach tech or the subject matter at hand?

Where lies the balance?

Can balance be achieved within chaos?

References:

Schrock, K., 2012, Bloomin’ Apps, Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything

Piley, A., 2012, Let’s Stop Talking About Teaching with Tech

The Fallacy of Being a Facilitator

1xcom:photo33799

End of semester blowing in the cold morning wind and time for truths. Time to reflect, recall and question my learning. Time to consider my learners’ learning. And what changes I may – or not – resolve to make in the near future.

But first, my context: Teaching students who have just entered higher education and who struggle with the foreign language that their degree requires. Students who have had no digital learning experience before, yet now have been given an iPad as their learning tool.

1xcom:photo36463And then there is me.

Me, who is teacher and learner.

Me, who plays out the varying roles that classrooms demand.

Or do they?

Me, who is likewise holding on to mental railings, with fear of falling. Digital entanglements can strangle the mind.

Teaching strategies cannot be discussed before reflecting on the nature of my role. For it will be defining.

In my view, it is a fallacy to determinedly say ” I am not a teacher – I am a facilitator“. Not only does that come across to me as another stale, band-wagon expression, but also begs the question of what exactly is one “facilitating” when one is expected to be teaching. It is as if the very word “teaching” has become only associated with dry, lifeless lecturing; teaching, in that context is far from engaging, therefore “teaching” must be substituted by another word, another determiner, another box which can pin down the role as simply as one pins  a dead butterfly. Therein lies the fallacy.

Teaching is not a cold, distant, ranting lecture without a context.  There is a wealth of roles, often overlapping each other, that can be found in the act of teaching. Hence my rejection of notions that state, do not teach! Facilitate!

Sunnaborg, (2008) explains that “Whereas a traditional pedagogical teaching approach emphasizes the role of the teacher as the holder of the wisdom, facilitation puts the onus on the participants to become involved in their own learning. The facilitator’s role is to introduce subjects of discussion, encourage sharing of perspectives, and integrate students’ shared experiences.”

If on the one hand I find this too vague for my educational context, (language learners expect some kind of explanation to their questions of why and why not?), on the other hand, this fuzzy interpretation of classroom teaching leaves me wondering – would I as a young learner or even university student, be prepared for this approach? By no means have I ever believed that the teacher holds all the truth and nothing but the truth. Perhaps I was fortunate enough to always have inquired, to have questioned the “bare truths” handed down to me. Consequently, as an educator I have always provoked my students into questioning, into inquiry and not merely passive listening (or in my eyes, passive daydreaming).

Additionally, I cannot perceive any educational process or educational experience if learning is not emphasized. Nevertheless, noble aims of learner autonomy, learner responsibility, learner involvement in their learning environments (e.g. using digital spaces as a learning environment) are per se, steps in learning -  not all students grow up with that set of educational aspirations. Not all cultures foster independent inquiry nor wish their young citizens to question. Critical thinking practice is often left to higher education and today, owing to demands from the job market, more widely accepted as a requisite in education.

Sunnaborg (2008) also reveals how his ” job was not to tell; my job was stimulate thinking, encourage exploration, make associations, and be a connector.” Again, I question this statement as it is the learner who makes the connections 1xcom:photo25510- not the facilitator or teacher.  As for “stimulating thinking”, didn’t learners think before this role shift? As Stager (2012) points out,  “Regardless of the speaker’s intent, “teacher as facilitator” is a cliché that makes teaching sound more mechanistic and impersonal, not more.”

Education is neither mechanistic, nor  impersonal. No matter what technology is introduced in the classroom, no matter what strategy, teaching approach or even method is being applied, classrooms are the heart of education. They are alive, forever changing and above all, hold youthful humanity,  with its hopes, dreams and fragilities. Hence I cannot claim to be anything else but a teacher, an educator,  who will adopt the best approach for my learners’ context.

Which brings me back now to digital entanglements. It is no secret that I strongly believe in using digital technology for the purpose of learning (see CristinaSkyBox). Nevertheless, as I used the iPad in my every day teaching, questions and doubts haunted me. Bearing in mind the framework proposed by TPACK, how effective was my learning to teach with iPads? How effective were my lessons in light of my educational beliefs and practices Before iPad? Most significantly, how did my students learn?

“Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org”

I shall attempt addressing those last questions in my next posts related to elements of iPadology, and end here for now with Adam Simpson’s video related to the TPACK framework and English Language Teaching:

References:

Simpson, A., 2012, The #TPaCK Model – An Introduction

Stager, G. 2012, We Need Teachers, Not Facilitators!

Sunnarborg, M. 2008, From Teacher to Facilitator

Assessment and iPadology

Aligning course goals with a course, is often left out of the  hands of educators who work at  institutions, (or at least where I am currently located – in other locations, I both designed and developed the assessment format of a course). However, as I also mentioned in my previous post, personally speaking, I have always had a handful of marks which I could give to learners according to what I thought was relevant. Most of the times, these marks were awarded for continuous assessment – not only a presence in the classroom, but collaboration and fulfillment of tasks. As a language teacher, project-based learning is not new to me – for years I have practiced what is known as task-based learning – not only learning a language, but learning it through intelligent tasks where students could use the language and skill outside the classroom.

Nevertheless, my greatest challenge at the moment, is finding a balance within the assessment formats I am given to follow. If one looks closely at this chart below (taken from Teach Thought), where exactly do the contradictions lie?

Many of these tasks are not really about quantity; rather about quality and richly embedded with digital literacy skills (which still today are not being included in the curriculum). As I am currently teaching within an iPad learning environment, everyday I question assessment and evaluation procedures more.

As a learner, I appreciate feedback for my progress or lack of it.

As a teacher, I assume that other learners also appreciate feedback and the lack of any form of assessment would leave them in a void. Other than explaining the evaluation format at the beginning of a course, I also include 3/4 other elements which I take into consideration. They may not be much, but considering the handful of marks which I am given to award students, these elements weigh heavily in terms of qualitative work which cannot be pin-pointed by multiple choice.

For overall achievement of set tasks and classroom collaboration,  I award badges through Edmodo – the LMS which I use for both class management and teaching.  I create badges for collaboration, team-work, sharing, enthusiasm, self-initiatives and more. Nothing pleases me more than a student coming up and showing me something they have discovered how to do on the iPad – immediately I will ask if he/she wouldn’t mind sharing with the rest of the class. This is in fact not only sharing, but performing a mini-presentation as well. More. It is a student taking control of what she wants to learn, of individualizing her learning interests and sharing them. Isn’t that one of the purposes of education, to foster autonomy and love of problem solving? Isn’t it a pleasure when it is a student who sets the example of learning and doing instead of sitting passively, waiting to be entertained? At the end of the semester, other awards are given to the 3 students with the highest number of badges.

It is no surprise that blogging rates highly on my list of tasks for students. Blogging is one of the most important practices that actually teaches students about digital literacies and essential skills for today as they learn by doing. Just as for Presentation Skills, I give students rubrics by which their blogs will be assessed.

Depending on the level I am teaching, both presentation and blogging assessment will have slight variations of rubrics – after all, students are learning both a language and a skill.

If the diagram above is to be implemented, if media and technology skills are further developed with the implementation of iPads in classrooms, there is no doubt that assessment will have to change. The focus now is on the creation and transformation of knowing and knowledge – not only learning facts and figures to pour out in an exam.

Nevertheless, this change is far from simple or straightforward. Public/state institutions are accountable to the Ministry/Department of Education. Most governments are accountable to their population, particularly where tax is accounted for. Societies need their educational system to turn out graduates who can perform in their social systems, namely at work. If on the one hand, today there are robots doing many jobs which were initially performed by law abiding citizens, on the other hand, the emphasis on critical analysis, creative problem resolution and digital media skills are too, a focus for graduates to fit in the jobs which are necessary for societies to maintain themselves today.

Perhaps the most urgent issue is not whether one uses apps, online learning tools or not – but a change in assessment, making assessment more meaningful to learners, making assessment reflect their learning progress and ensuring standards of quality.

References

23 Ways to Use the iPad in the 21st Century PBL Classroom - Teach Thought

CristinaSkyBox – Sailing the Shift

Downes, S. – New Forms of Assessment: Measuring What You Contribute rather than What You Collect

iPads as a Catalyst to Rediscovering Your Curriculum in the 21st Century

Kharbach, Med. – Teachers Quick Guide to Blogging

Further References for Rubrics

Online Assessment Resources for Teachers

Rubrics for Assessment of Online Activities

Visions and Values

Visions of green, visions of greetings, visions of home.

Yet it is not home where I find myself nor greeted by.

Values of learning, values of progress. Thirst for knowledge and thirst of knowing.

Like my beautiful deserts which have adopted me, I am surrounded by drought, lack of lush green, lack of development. Instead I face lack of basic amenities, lack of connecting. I face lack. Not of visions, nor values.

I am currently teaching an online course which I designed for a developing country. The contrast of my participants’ enthusiasm, curiosity, thirst for knowledge, is striking when one thinks of all the digital technology and facilities one takes for granted in other parts of the world. Not only do I have 24 hours of electricity, but for over 20 years have been connected and participated on the grid. My current students too are connected, but their online time is determined by the hours of electricity they are given in their regions; Wikipedia is a novelty for some, while Google is only search engine they are aware of.  Their learning curve is sharp and steep. Their learning curve is a leap into the present and future.

I sit quietly, thoughts of learning, of online learning and distance education revolving in a dance. The changes I have seen and experienced in education have been constant, but never as urgent and on a global scale, as today. Information technology has brought about changes in all spheres of life, and indications predict even more to come with the advent of Web 3.0. As Oblinger (2012) well notes,

“Information technology has brought about much of the economic growth of the past century, accelerating globalization and fostering democracy. Such broad impacts would be impossible if “information technology” were only a set of technologies. As our use of mobile devices, games, and social networks illustrates, information technology can create new experiences. But more important, information technology enables new models. It can disaggregate and decouple products and processes, allowing the creation of new value propositions, value chains, and enterprises. These new models can help higher education serve new groups of students, in greater numbers, and with better learning outcomes.

As important as information technology might be, technology does not have impact in isolation—it operates as one element in a complex adaptive system. For example, in order for information technology to be a game changer, it requires that we consider learners as well as the experience that the student, faculty, institution, and technology co-create. The system is defined, in part, by faculty workload, courses, credentialing, financial models, and more. To realize changes through information technology, higher education must focus on more than technology.”

Digital technology would not be as powerful if not shared, if connections did not happen, if learning corridors were not open.

What strikes me most in my current online course, is the urgency to learn, the urgency to connect, the flexibility and learning capacity individuals have, when given the opportunity. Yes, my course was designed with a degree of difficulty for I had no idea who students would be. Designing a course in the dark is a challenge. Yes, I gave and re-check instructions, clearly and with examples. Yes, I am present to guide and provide feedback. Yet, what would any course be if participants themselves did not collaborate, did not investigate together?

Kang (2007) also explains how

“We learn from out interaction with other people, events and occurrences around us. Knowledge and meaning are always produced with a context. (…)

Learning is an ideological and cultural practice under the influence of socioculturally established norms. Therefore, the context is not a simple backdrop against which the learner is stituated. Rather, it is something shaping the learner and shaped by the learner simultaneously.”

Within this perspective, the credit of any course, and this one in particular, is not mine. It belongs to the participants, who with their thirst to become 21st century citizens, they are aware of the role of being netizens as well.

For all those who are digitally literate, for those who blog, who design online courses, and so much more, this leap into a present future may not appear significant. Deja vu almost.

However, from what I have experienced and seen in countries such as the UK, where at one university where I taught, for example, there was no wifi, my classroom had no projector nor desktop for the teacher, one needs to bear in mind the many changes and challenges that are occurring in economically developing countries. The argument of deja vu falls through for digital lack  (whether that be in hardware or teacher interest, for instance) is found both east and west, north and south. Digital progress, digital learning is happening right now in far flung places of the globe, where learners struggle with lack of electricity and even possessing their own digital hardware (e.g. desktop, laptop, iPad). They depend on desktops at institutions, they look forward to courses which they can access on their mobiles.

This is today. This is the present. Tomorrow?

Consider:

If educators don’t prepare learners for today, what hope will there be for our tomorrows?

References:

Kang, D.J., 2007, Rhizoactivity: Toward a Postmodern Theory of Lifelong Learning

Oblinger, D.G,  2012, IT as a Game Changer

Learning Mobility

Cordelia - Nothing

King Lear - Nothing!

Cordelia – Nothing.

King Lear – Nothing will come of nothing; Speak again.

Silence. Stillness.

Disconnection. Nothingness.

Having recently experienced a tech meltdown ( CristinaSkyBox), issues regarding the relevance of being connected, of teaching digital citizenship/identity, of engaging learners and teachers with technology for education, it is no surprise that concerns about mobility have been most on my mind.

It is never sufficient to explain how mobility needs to be integrated into classrooms. Mobility of being able to connect without firewalls, mobility to use mobile phones – above all, the mobility to inspire minds. In many institutions world over, the rule of no mobile phones in the classroom is still strongly preached and enforced.

Question: what exactly are educators afraid of?

Are they indeed concerned for their learners or the fact that their classrooms are dull, boring, lifeless?

Or,  is it the threat that a younger generation,  who is more tech-savy, has the power to dismiss the teacher who does not wish to update him/herself both technologically and pedagogically? Were I student today at school (and please do note that I am in fact currently a student as well), I would be on my mobile device throughout boring lessons. Why would I even want to attend school if I was not learning how I wanted to, how I needed to and above all ,not  be respected as a 21st century learner?

Mobility to learn is not just related to M-learning. Mobility to learn is our reality today with OER, Open Universities, MOOCs, Web 2.0, mobile devices and so very much more.

Mobility is an attitude. A state of mind. A state of learning.

Question: what right do “teachers” have to censor learning?

What right do “educators” who are unwilling to keep up with current pedagogical approaches, with the needs of their learners, with the demands of real life outside the classroom, have to maintain silence? To establish educational censorship?
Bauer (2012)  explains how “Today’s students aren’t interested in “going online” to get things done. Booting up, opening the browser, logging on, navigating to the task — they’ll do it if absolutely necessary. Students live in a text and tweet world now and are more likely to consume information and access services if they’re mobile-friendly.
Tinto, suggests that in order to maintain student retention at higher education, that structures need to be put into place which meet their needs. In his study Taking Student Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College, Tinto raises several issues in regard to student success and retention and explains how:

Involvement is also an important condition for student learning. Even among students who persist, students who are more actively involved in learning, especially with others, learn more and show greater levels of intellectual development.

Tinto also stresses the need of not only shared knowledge but share knowing – and shared responsibility. This is put into practice through communities where students are required to collaborate with each other. Result?

” students spend more time-on-task, learn more, and persist more frequently than similar students in stand-alone and/or traditionally taught classrooms. Their involvement with others in learning within the classroom becomes the vehicle through which effort is enhanced, learning is enriched, and commitments to their peers and the institution are engendered. By being placed in a setting where students have to learn together in a collaborative fashion, everyone’s understanding and knowledge is enriched. As one student observed, “not only do you learn more, you learn better.” (Tinto, Taking Student Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College,)

It is through digital and mobile technology that these successes occur.

Bauer highlights how “According to market research firm IDC, by 2015 more users will access the Internet through mobile devices than through PCs. By not embracing mobile, institutions will not only miss an opportunity to communicate with their students, they will actually create an interaction barrier.”

Change comes slowly. Change does not happen in a vacuum. Change demands loss of fear and commitment. Bauer’s  (2012) results from a 2011 survey showed the following:

We were surprised to learn that students wanted more than just a handful of campus services on their mobile devices — they wantedeverything. The overwhelming majority wanted mobile access to view grades, check course schedules, and log in to the college’s learning management system, Blackboard. They also wanted access to essential services like the library database and course registration information, along with conveniences like dining menus and bus schedules.

The student survey also pointed out that a majority of the students felt that mobile apps were of high importance. It was clear that whatever we did with mobile, we needed to do it quickly. And in building our strategy, we needed to incorporate students in creating the vision – we couldn’t workshop something and pop it out on them. We needed their voices and ideas in our development efforts.”

Change. Change is embedded in life. Change should be embedded in education.

However, as Herrington & al (2009) note:

Despite the significant potential of mobile technologies to be

employed as powerful learning tools in higher education, their current

use appears to be predominantly within a didactic, teacher-centred

paradigm, rather than a more constructivist environment. It can be

argued that the current use of mobile devices in higher education

(essentially content delivery) is pedagogically conservative and

regressive. Their adoption is following a typical pattern where

educators revert to old pedagogies as they come to terms with the

capabilities of new technologies, referred to by Mioduser, Nachmias,

Oren and Lahav (1999) as ‘one step forward for the technology, two

steps back for the pedagogy’ (p. 758).

Barseghian (2012) recently pointed out:

The opportunity of using mobile devices and all of its utilities allows educators to reconsider: What do we want students to know, and how do we help them? And what additional benefit does using a mobile device bring to the equation? This gets to the heart of the mobile learning issue: beyond fact-finding and game-playing – even if it’s educational — how can mobile devices add relevance and value to how kids learn?

There’s not just one explanation. As mobile devices evolve and become ever more powerful and multi-functional, the answers will change. In the meantime, there are some things educators know for certain do make a big impact on learning.”

Finally,

“Because mobile devices are the new piece here, people want to know does it make a difference,” Pasnik said. “When we know that learning happens because of relationships, and we want to keep that richness. So the question of the value of a single piece like the mobile phone becomes reductive. You falsely are having to focus in one element, when in fact, learning happens because multiple elements are interacting with one another.” (Barseghian, 2012)

With learning in mind, I turn to Herrington & al (2009) who call one’s attention to authentic learning:

“Authentic learning situates students in learning contexts where they

encounter activities that involve problems and investigations reflective

of those they are likely to face in their real world professional contexts

(Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Lave & Wenger, 1991). Herrington

and Oliver (2000) have identified nine characteristics of authentic

learning:

• authentic contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be used

in real-life

• authentic activities that are complex, ill-defined problems and

investigations

• access to expert performances enabling modelling of processes

• multiple roles and perspectives providing alternative solution

pathways

• collaboration allowing for the social construction of knowledge

• opportunities for reflection involving metacognition

• opportunities for articulation to enable tacit knowledge to be

made explicit

• coaching and scaffolding by the teacher at critical times

• authentic assessment that reflect the way knowledge is asses in

real life.”

Mobility is real. Mobile learning is reality. So, again I ask, what right do those who are involved in education, dare dismiss mobility? Mobile phones, iPads/tablets, iPods are all useful learning tools. Learners connect with their devices – and through their day-to-day devices, become more open, more accepting of being in a classroom. Or must they only be in a classroom to do tasks and actually learn?

Hockly (2012) clearly explains how teaching/learning tasks may be carried out in the classroom or on “the go”. Even when an institution denies permission to use M-learning, there are so many creative, inventive ways for educators to guide learner on how to use their mobile devices. It is a question of taking advantage of the moment, of opening learning opportunities to students.

No. This lack is not because of tech. There are too many teachers, who by sticking to routine lesson plans, afraid of taking the untread path, fearful of losing “power”, do not take advantage of relevant learning moments. Which begs the question – isn’t that why students go to educational institutions? Aren’t they there to learn?

Many comments, such as the ones published here and here, are unacceptable. If one is involved in education, one has social, ethical and professional responsibilities. Educators need to keep up-dated. Educators need to connect with their learners, guide them, show them how they can use their devices to learn and not only send texts to each other.

In the words of Siemens (2012) in regard to higher education:

Educators are not driving the change bus. Leadership in traditional universities has been grossly negligent in preparing the academy for the economic and technological reality it now faces.”

Changes. Economic, technological realities. It is not only at tertiary education where these changes should be taking place, but at all levels of education.

Mobility comes in many forms. Mobility is above all an attitude, a belief and practice of life.

References:

Barseghian, T,  (2012) Amidst a Mobile Revolution in Schools, Will Old Teaching Tactics Work?

Bauer, P. (2012) Mobile: It’s Time to Get Serious

Herrington, J., Herrington, A., Mantei, J., Olney, I., & Ferry, B. (2009). New technologies, new pedagogies: Using mobile technologies to develop new ways of teaching and learning. In J.Herrington, A. Herrington, J. Mantei, I. Olney, & B. Ferry (Eds.), New technologies, new pedagogies Mobile learning in higher education (pp. 1-14). Wollongong: University of Wollongong. Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/

Hockly, N. (2012) in Mobile Tech, Nicky & Language Acquisition – IATEFL, Glasgow 2012

Siemens, G. (2012) The Future of Higher Education and Other Imponderables

Tinto, V.  Taking Student Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College

Further Reading:

10 Sites to use with Mobile Phones in Education

E-moderation Station

Mobile Devices Drive Creative Instruction

Top 50 Mobile Learning Resources

Action, Beliefs and Inquiries

Knowledge is knowledge of order, the order created by the individual when he imposes the organization of his cognitive categories on the chaos which surrounds him.

(Riley 1985)

In moments of dramatic changes, I feel the need to re-visit maps, to reflect on knowing and knowledge, to open  boundaries which may lead my inquiries and learning further beyond. Knowledge becomes what one knows after having imposed cognitive categories in an organized fashion.

And, according to Riley (1985)

Since each individual has his own cognitive map and will add to it indiosyncratically, the most powerful aids to learning will be those which reveal to him (the learner) the nature of his map, which provides him with a model of his world. (Riley 1985:160

My maps are entwined with different knowings. Between the analogue world and the digital dimension, I seek possibly clues for answers.

In his discussion on the content of education, Stenhouse (1991) raises the following issue:

Prophets may teach private wisdom: teachers must deal in public knowledge.

(Stenhouse 1991:6)

So, when transmitting knowledge, what roles do teachers perform? How do they become apparent (Widdowson 1987:84)?

Let me thread my beliefs together:

  1. Firstly, reality is socially constructed. Its features of knowledge are shared by all members of a specific community or cultural group.
  2. Educational institutions and their classrooms from such specific cultures.
  3. Culture is fluid and this notion of fluidity, with its tensions between internal and social worlds, will be present in the classroom.
  4. Culture may be perceived through the enactment of roles. Within the classroom culture, there exist three determining role of the teacher, the learner and the curriculum. Each will sustain and be sustained by the status recognized by and recognizable of the group.
  5. These roles and statuses will determine and shape the expectations and demands of each of the participating members.
  6. Despite the “opportunistic process” (Jackson 1968:166) of teaching there exist norms and procedures. Owing to these, the classroom culture may be seen as a chess game, where power struggles are perceived through the social interactional setting.
  7. Hence, the art of teaching is confronted with the unnerving critical question: is the classroom space intended for teaching – i.e. the handing down of knowledge- or good social management? And does good social management provide fruitful learning conditions?
  8. Power is sited in discourse:   What are the implications for the classroom teacher who is often caught between theory and reality? What possible bridges exist And how are they crossed?

Educational group such as schools and classrooms are specific cultures into which their members are initiated. We may understand the educational process as formulated by Stenhouse (1967)

Education is essentially a group process depending upon communication. And the communication is not merely from the teacher to the class. If the class is to make the culture its own, it must come to found its own social life on it.”

With metaphors or without, classrooms may be perceived as dynamic social communities, with their own cultural behaviour and knowledge. In relation to knowing,  knowledge is always gained through action and for action (MacMurry, 1957, Polauyi,1958).

Hence my belief that it is of no practical use to only claim to support digital tech in education. One needs to practice one’s belief and understanding; to foster knowledge and knowing, there needs to be action. This action is not merely initiated and maintained by the teacher, but by all participants of the classroom. This action too can not be limited to the Powerpoint displays by the teacher nor only participation of learners in a LMS.

At a time when the needs of digital literacies are constantly discussed, it is impertinent that learners themselves create and become involved in their process of digital literacies. It isn’t a question of learners being “involved in their learning process” – that has been a requirement of all times. What indeed is urgent is that learners are able to understand that even using simple digital tools to create dialogues or comic strips for their blogs, are relevant skills for their future.

How? Learners need to read the screen. Locate information, and not just cry out for the teacher’s assistance. This is a skill which is learnt through practice/action. It is through active participation in digital networks and communities that learners become more aware of their role as digital citizens and their digital footprint. It is by blogging  and using class wikis that students gain experience to take beyond the classroom walls. It is by experimenting with search engines other than Google that learners may become aware of how better to locate information.

These are merely some examples which I practice in my classrooms; practices which cross the bridge of class management and the tensions between educational theory and practice.

I began this post with retracing beliefs.

I end this post by planting a garden of (adapted) questions raised by Cummins, Brown and Sayers (2007).

Journeys of inquiry do not end quickly.

Referenecs:

Cummins, J., Brown, K, Sayers, D. – 2007 – Literacy, Technology, and Diversity, Pearson

Jackson, P.W.– 1968, Life in classrooms, Holt, Rinehart &Winston

Riley, P. – 1985, Mud and Stars: Personal Constructs, Sensitization and Learning”, in Discourse and Learning, ed. Riley, P., Longman

Stenhouse, L.       – 1967, Culture and Education, Thomas Nelson & Sons

Stenhouse, L.       – 1991, An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, Heineman

Widdowson, H. G. – 1987,  “The Roles of Teacher and Learner”, in ELT  Journal, vol1 41/2,

A Digital Journey’s Epilogue

Breen (1986) has called our attention, to the fact that in order to better understand the relationship between classroom input and learning outcomes,

“Or to explain possible relationships between strategic behaviour and language learning, then we need to locate these relationships socially.”

(Breen 1986:138)

Classrooms, which may be producers of scientific thought, do not proceed in vacuums. Above all, they represent atmospheres which are socially conditioned.

According to Thelen (1981) there exist three types of knowledge which are utilized in any classroom. They are used whether one knows it or not. They are:

“knowledge of self; knowledge of the society in which on participates (i.e. the classroom group); and artifacts.”

(Thelen 1981:113-114)

Parson (1964)  says culture is transmitted, learned and shared (1964: 15);  Hall (1976) also considers three characteristics which are fundamental in culture: “it is not innate, but learned: the various facets of culture are inter-related- you touch a culture in one place and everything else is affected it is shared and in effect defines the boundaries of different groups.” (Hall 1976:16)

Culture thus becomes the product of and a determinant of the systems of social interaction (Parsons 1964:15). Parsons also discusses how patterns emerge in one particular social system, which in turn become interdependent with others (1964:15). This concept of patterns is also exploited by Berger & Luckman (1984), in relation to the relation to the reality of everyday life. According to Berger & Luckmann (1984:35), the reality of everyday life appears already objects to the individual, i.e. the order of objects before the appearance of the individual.

In a sense, we come full circle if we now consider Gellner’s view of structures and cultures (1964:153-155). He holds that in modern societies “culture does not so much underline structure: rather it replaces it” (1964:155). This replacement of structure in relation to “small, simple, ‘primitive’ societies, everybody knows the identity and therefore the role of the other members. Bourdieu (1981) stresses this issue by saying;

“culture is not merely a common code or even a common catalogue of answers to recurring problems: it is a common set of previously assimilated master patterns (…).”

Bourdieu (1981:192)

Thus, culture becomes that which is fundamental to co-operation and communication among the members of a group – namely, as Stenhouse (1967) phrases it – “recognition and anticipation of the thoughts and action of others” (Stenhouse 1967:14)

If we perceive culture as something which is learnt, assimilated and inherited by the next generation, it forwards that learning is an individual process as one learns for him/herself. At the same time, culture is a shared phenomenon. Culture, therefore, is a phenomenon which is both individually learned and shared. Stenhouse points out that culture is both individual and social phenomenon.

Yet one must be wary – for although culture is intrinsically part of reality, Bourdieu (1981) points out, quoting Kurt Lewin that:

“Experiments dealing with memory and group pressure on the individual show that what exists as “reality” for the individual is, to a high degree, determined by what is socially accepted as reality … “Reality” therefore, is not an absolute. It differs with the group to which the individual belongs.”

(Bourdieu 1981:195)

Thelen (1981) notes:

All classrooms develop their own culture in the form of a set of expectations which become sufficiently well habituated that people can see how to relate to and communicate with each other. (Thelen 1981:134)

These expectations are perceived much in the same manner by Stenhouse (1967):

(…) the teacher generates in his class common understandings which link mind with mind. (…) the class has a culture (…) of its own. It has shared values, information, techniques, interpretations and meanings.

(Stenhouse 1967:67)

 Therefore, it is my contention that culture cannot be regarded as a fixed, immobile reality. It is dynamic in the sense that it is a phenomenon which is alive and changing. But although change occurs, that does not imply that a culture is altered: any culture will hold elements of changing factors which will in turn be perceived as recurring patterns to the members of the group, thus keeping the group together.

So how can digital storytelling alter a classroom culture – if there is any change indeed? And if there is a change in roles, won’t a specific culture be altered?

I have claimed before (in this blog) that it is not the tool itself that is relevant – it is how the use digital literacies alter learning processes, roles in classrooms and classroom cultures. With the final emphasis being empowering students in their learning process, learning autonomy and preparation for a future is digital.

Epilogue

The process took the form of a journey or exploration; from showing an image to students who then were given the power to form their own questions and answers, to setting up groups where they collaborated together through their LMS on a story, to then transferring their digital fragments to a coherent Word document in order to edit and proofread, to selecting images representing their story and creating a movie.

When discussing transmedia narratives, , Max Giovagnoli (2011) explains that:

“cross-media and transmedia, both used to identify narratives that simultaneously develop on multiple media. As always, the difference lies in the nature of stories and in the way we choose to tell them. In this sense, there are:

- narrative forms that don’t change when they are diffused on multiple platforms (for instance, a short film released in the same version at the cinema and, at the same time, on the web or during a TV show);

- narrative forms that share the same elements (plots, characters, atmospheres… ) but that change depending on the publishing platform through which they are released (for instance, the same short film might be developed as a series or as a movie for the theater; its protagonist for a comic book series, etc… ).”

and that

“This latter way of storytelling, which is much more powerful and effective, is often identified as cross-media in some countries (for instance in Europe) still today. In others, particularly after the term has been accred- ited in the Hollywood film industry, it is known as transmedia.”

I shall refer to the process as transmedia, for students worked collaboratively through their LMS, then thru images and sound and finally through their voices. For the last stage was in fact a group performance.

Each group presented the class their movie, a stream of images representing their written work, accompanied by music which reflected their story. The audience (i.e. the other students) watched and then told the whole group how they interpreted the images and music, thus creating another story. At times there were overlaps of stories, desires, cultural references mixing and shared by the students own personal and generational culture. Afterwards, the group who had showed the movie, read their story to all.

The ritual of taking control of the teacher’s desktop to standing together in front of the class, each member of the group reading their part of the story, took the form of a flowing performance, where each member had a role, while all members of the class were equally engaged and in tune with the readers words and story.

Cultural Disruptions

“The four cardinal points of “doing transmedia” are:

1. Doing transmedia means to involve multiple media in a publishing project, keeping the features and the language of each one, even if they are part of a single system of integrated communication;

2. Doing transmedia means to make the project’s contents available on different technological platforms, without causing any overlaps or inter- ferences, while managing the story experienced by different audiences;

3. Doing transmedia means to allow the multiple media to tell differ- ent stories but all exploring a common theme, even if it is experienced through multiple narrative perspectives;

4. Doing transmedia means to agree to give a part of the authorship and responsibility of the tale to the audience and other storytellers in order to create a participatory and synergistic story in the experiences of the different audiences of the tale.”

Max Giovagnoli (2011)

Synergy. With the implementation of digital tools, there were shifts in power and roles. I as a teacher was put aside while students took control of what they wanted and how they wanted to express themselves. Students used current digital tools, incorporated elements of transmedia to the traditional storytelling.  They were challenged and in their groups had to compromise. Collaboration and cooperation – elements important in the past and increasingly relevant today when participants are involved in online projects.

Obviously, there is an element of relativity as I had set up the task through the LMS and then added selecting images and sharing their movie with the whole class.  That was the framework. A queen never abdicates in the game of chess. (see previous blog entries).

There are elements too of a  hybrid practice; the whole journey was not soley digital, despite the digitalized beginning. Writing is still writing and before students eventually publish their work in their blogs, their writing needs to be edited and proofread – just as without digital technology. Hence I perceive this experience of a hybrid transmedia task, where cultural classroom practices were altered and learners given a sense of  empowerment.

For as C.S.Lewis once said ” We read to know that we are not alone”.

Sharing stories consolidates participants in a culture, whether that be on a large social scale or in a classroom.

Stories are to be shared.

Stories may disrupt classroom cultures constructively.

Creative voices may bring disruption.

Voices are to be heard.

References:

Berger, P. & T. Luckman,  -  1984, The Social Construction of Reality, Penguin

Breen,M.P.  –1986, “The Social Context for Language Learning – a                                    Neglected Situation?”. In SSLA 7, pg.  135 -158

Bourdieu,  P.  -1981, “Systems of Education and Thought”, in Knowledg and Control, ed. Young, M, Collier Macmillan

Gellner,  E.  – 1964, Thought and Change, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Hall, E.T.  – 1976, Beyond Culture, Anchor Books, Double-day

Max Giovagnoli & ETC Press 2011 -TRANSMEDIA STORYTELLING, Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non commercial-NonDerivative 2.5 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5)

Parsons,  T.  – 1964, The Social System, Routledge & Kegan Paul

Stenhouse, L.  – 1967, Culture and Education, Thomas Nelson & Sons

Thelen, H. A. – 1981, The Classroom Society, Croom Helm

Finding Meaning in Paradigm Shifts

Dant (1991:5) defines knowledge as being a phenomenon which is socially constructed and shared by all members of a society. Its features of common sense may be understood at two levels: on the one hand, it is of belonging to a consensual wisdom: on the other hand, common sense is not only taken for granted, but at the same time, maintained by the members of the group.

Stenhouse (1991) claims that the school is basically a distributor of knowledge rather than a manufacturer (1991:10).This raises two issues – firstly that the knowledge found in schools is moulded in the activities of maintaining that knowledge rather than generating new forms of knowledge. Secondly, as Stenhouse also points out, disciplines of knowledge “have a social existence” and: “are located in groups of scholars, typically in our society working in universities, extending their disciplines by research and teaching them to students.”

Knowledge – or what is accepted as useful knowledge by a certain community – is thus maintained in educational institutions. We may perceive by this that this maintenance of knowledge is a powerful form of social control, and in effect, a maintenance of reality.

And, according to Postman and Weingartner (1975:195),

“The basic function of all education, even in the most traditional sense, is to increase the survival prospects of the group. If this function is fulfilled, the group survives.”

Learners are not passive recipients of knowledge. They do not come to class as tabua rasa, but with their own set/s of knowledge. One can only learn in relation to what one knows already, which is one of the pedagogical intents of involving learner’s personal points of references in order to create/add further knowledge.  Hence, my question is, if todays students are using digital technology for their everyday purposes, why are educators still reluctant to acknowledge the implementation of of digital tech in the classroom? If education is to establish the survival of a group, then denying students to use digital technology in their learning process is to deny their survival in the world outside classrooms. Digital technology is not merely a tool which facilitates learning – it is much more than that as I have previously explained throughout this blog.

As Sara Rasmussen explains:

“Understanding how to take advantage of the capacity of iPad apps, how to use audio recording devices and Audacity, how to export and upload files online, or exploring programming software like Processing — these skills are utterly valuable. Sure, they up a student’s job marketability, but far more importantly, they create opportunity for creativity.They expand students’ options for expressing their work and push them to rethink and challenge the ‘natural’ standards for collecting, communicating and sharing knowledge.”

It is that shared knowledge, the ability to take advantage of digital tools for communication and creation that make up the characteristics of digital literacies. This knowledge is an integral part of learners’ requirements today, just as it is for educators.

Enthusiasm and support for integrating digital technology may stem from a number contexts: “For some, it’s about improving computing skills to support the digital economy and entrepreneurship; for others, learning to code is part of a subversive and empowering approach that enables ordinary people to take control of the structures they live and work within (see, for example, the excellent hackasaurus and codecademy projects). It can stem from a belief that schools need to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change in the modern world to remain relevant to students’ lives outside school or because digital media makes study more effective. It can reflect a desire to equip young people with the skills to participate in new media networks, or to defend themselves against pervasive and potentially harmful media messages. It can be seen as both opening up new educational inequalities and as a way to combat social disadvantage.” (Lyndsay Grant). Morever, it can be a a combination of the reasons above or even others, such as ensuring that education fulfills its purpose as the survival of the group, as Postman and Weingartener point out.

When Downes discusses knowledge, he refers to different types of knowledge, broadening the spectrum of quantative and qualitative knowledge, to include distributed knowledge: “Distributed knowledge adds a third major category to this domain, knowledge that could be described as connective. A property of one entity must lead to or become a property of another entity in order for them to be considered connected; the knowledge that results from such connections is connective knowledge.”

It is this paradigm of connective knowledge that our learners are growing up in today. Learning is not confined to the classroom. Learning occurs in and out of educational institutions. Connected learning is not only a possibility, but a reality. Today, it is also a matter of choice for educators. Below is an example of how a digital classroom may harness digital learning:

I understand that it takes courage to shift behaviour, beliefs and paradigms. Nevertheless, it is time. Time to acknowledge that we are living in times of profound change and those changes affect education and approaches to learning. Digital tools do not replace traditional knowledge – it is the approach, the enhancement of what learners already know and practice and developing their skills further. For example, if before students spent hours searching for a reference in a library, today they can often  find that information online. What they need to know, is how. If in the past students glued images to their projects  which were then posted on the classroom walls, today there is a wealth of digital tools for image editing and digital posters can be shared beyond their classroom walls, commented by others and perhaps even the beginning of dialogues which transcend borders and boundaries.

Distributed knowledge is fluid. And through its fluid characteristics, dynamic. The sociotechnical context of our world is altering traditional practices and if educators are not part of that change, they will be left behind in a world which has no place for them.

References:

An Introduction to Connective Knowledge – Stephen Downes

An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development – Stenhouse, L. (1991)

Connected Learning

Design Your Digital Classroom  - Susan Oxnevad

Knowledge, Ideology and Discourse – Dant, T (1991)

Liberal Arts in the Digital Age: Teaching Technology as a Language – Sara Rasmussen

Network theories for technology-enabled learning and social change: Connectivism and Actor Network theory – Francis Bell

 Role of Tech vs The Purpose of Education - Lyndsay Grant

Teaching as a Subversive Activity – Postman, N. & C. Weingartner (1975)