Achieving Change through Collaboration and Cooperation

As an educator, I have always been aware that one feature of my role, was change. Not necessarily change on a global or national scale, but rather, introducing and implementing small steps of change in my daily practices .

Encouraging students to be success instead of doing poorly in their academic lives; changing how culture stereotypes may not always live up to their hype; change in the assumptions and expectations  that learners have in regard to their lives after the (relative) safety of classrooms. These are mere examples that every educator will recognise in their teaching practices. Sharing regular changes in perspective and attitudes are embedded in the role of educators.

In recent years my role as an agent of change has broadened both in scope and scale. It has become easier for me to train teachers in developing countries, for instance. It is easier to collaborate and cooperate across borders as well.

In my mind, it is also more urgent, more necessary to participate and engage in the changes happening within the eduscape. Not all is necessarily positive within the world/s of EdTech, for instance, but one needs to be aware of what is taking place in order to make the best informed decisions. When it comes to changing teaching practices, it has always been my belief that positive, constructive change happens from the grassroots upwards. Participants themselves must bring about the change they require, the change they wish to see implemented and spread in their educational institutions.

It is in this sense that I’d like to point out how at TAMK, teachers are actively engaging in such a process of grassroot discussion and action for change.

Successful change needs to begin from the bottom upwards. Successful change requires cooperation – whether across departments in an institution or across borders. In today’s world, multidisciplinary approaches are necessary for changing problems into solutions.  That is especially vital for supporting teachers as well.

One constantly comes across how education in Finland leads the world. There are many diverse reasons for that. However, putting into practice what one believes in, pulling together internal resources for change, is one approach that exists in Finland. One program that reaches out to the world is explained here by Mark Curcher. Digitmentorit is another example of how education and training in Finland differs and achieves the quality it is known for.

Change and educational leadership come from within.

Finding a way to accomplish transformational education lies in the will to achieve.

Winter apples do not need to be objects of desire, kept out of reach.

Change is not an elusive, imaginary process. Change is here, change is now.

 

Change is knowing that there are no limits when there is a will to change.

What changes are you engaging in now throughout 2016?

 

 

 

Further Suggestions:

Challenging our Pedagogy – Hybrid Pedagogy’s Editors Picks

Finding a Way – George Couros

Transformative Bytes

Never have educators had so many choices for professional development as today. Never have educators had so many choices of networks and professional communities to join and participate in. And yet…

There are those who still fear the internet and its power to erode local cultural morals. There are those who still add further brick walls to their already existing technical constraints in classrooms by burying any possible digital engagement under dull carpets of excuses.

Culture is not something static, neat and tidy that one keeps in a locked up box. Culture is alive, transformative in its nature of being alive and adapting to change. Clinging to the notion of culture as static, is denying what culture really is about. Defining culture today also implies reflecting on the global impact of globalisation – this is not only the “eroding” of local cultures, but adaptation and development. Whether one agrees of not, it will not stop as younger generations grow up in a post-Google world. And yes, there are dark, dangerous places online. Just as there are dark, dirty channels on satelite TV – yet, even in the most conservative of societies, these eyesores are a constant fixture on the housing landscape. Perhaps, precisely because of these dark spaces, it is worth integrating digital practices in classrooms, teaching learners how to keep safe, how to develop a positive digital footprint and how no, whatever they post online will not go away. Ever. Being a responsible educator today also means to guide students’ online profile.

Digital technology alone will not transform education. Referring to Excel sheets and teaching how to use PowerPoint is also not what I would refer to as ICT. Using an iBook as one would use a traditional course-book, is another fallacy which is easy to fall into.

Additionally, no imposed professionally training will actually make teachers become more receptive to implementing change in their classrooms. The will has to come from understanding the possibilities of engagement which digital technologies offer to learners and teachers alike. This will to learn, to adapt to today’s world, to today’s educational possibilities,  is the individual teacher’s responsibility. This shift of values has to occur from within. Whether it is focusing on digital citizenship, cyber-bullying, using a digital platform to create a movie,  or even how to find the best work-flow when using iPads in classrooms, individuals need to find a need, which will lead them to learning. Only then will educators really understand how digital technologies may bring about classroom engagement and educational value today.

Transformation will come about. Whether in small bytes by individuals driving change or even by students themselves, though in my experience, if a teacher is open to using digital tools/platforms in a classroom, students will more readily add their preferences as well.

Informal learning is becoming increasingly common practice. Whether through Social Media or other sources (e.g. online communities, MOOCs, open courses etc), worlds of learning are available to all. And yes, even in conservative societies, students are aware of these platforms. All it takes is the will power to guide learners how to take advantage of all this possibilities for their own learning. And no. Learning will not end nor will we be able to say “I know everything now!”. The speed of change is too great for such self-deluding discourse.

There are no miracles in the process of change.

There are individuals who engage, who seek learning. Learning comes from practice, from failing and not fearing to try again.

Transforming education was never a simple task. Education depends on individuals and not merely on communities and networks who are interested in change.

Most critically, students depend on education to prepare them for the changes that lie ahead of them.

How can educators ignore that change is indeed an essential part of education?

References:

Asfar, V. 2013, Our Educational Leaders Must Get Aggressive with Technology

Chad, E., 2013, Technology is not a Magic Bullet

The Question of When

In a thought provoking post, George Couros raises the question of “What if…?” – timely questions for all educators and educational managers. My question is when?

When will educators make the effort to be fearless?

When will educators make the effort to connect with others without judgement but sharing resources, ideas, visions, trials, errors and successes?

When will educators accept that today’s learners do have digital lives, even if they may not be familiar with how to use digital technology for learning and so need to learn how to make the best use of digital tech for their academic lives and futures unknown?

When will educators, who often have digital resources at the tips of their fingers, be brave enough to accept that making mistakes, asking for help, failing, is all part of learning and that they too are learners?

When will educators realize that it is through networks and connections that ideas thrive, and new forms of knowledge may develop?

caras-7When will educators acknowledge that their world is open, if only they let it be and that professional development/training is an on-going conversation and not an end in itself?

When will educators accept that without their passion, without their individual efforts, without their positive, constructive action towards change, not much may make a difference in their practices?

However, change WILL happen. With, or without them.

Change is challenging, change may even be painful. But life IS all about change. Holding on to educational paradigms which were designed for the Industrial Age will simply no longer work. Classrooms of disengaged learners, longing to get back online, where there is interaction and engagement, is heart wrenching for all involved in classrooms. Bringing the world of digital spaces and digital learning  to the world of learning is necessary.

A change of perspective is urgent. And the first step is for teachers themselves to get involved. Regardless of how many training sessions teachers must attend, if they are not involved in connecting, in participating in a networked world, if they are not active in the giving and sharing, then many of those training sessions will have little positive outcomes. I am not making a case that Social Media is the only way to learn – by no means. I am making the case that yes, participating in Social Media is one way for teachers to keep themselves updated and involved in the process of changeS that are happening all around.

Learning is not about leading.

Learning is about the will to participate, the will to negotiate meaning, the will to implement the necessary changes for one’s changing context. Learning how to make sense of one’s changing, global, networked world requires elements of fearlessness.

 

When… ?

the connection - Seth Godin

Further references:

Bryant, P., 2013, The Logical Impossibility of Status Quo: Six Disconnects that Demand a Digital Pedagogy

Couros, G., 2013, What if… ? 

Downes, S., 2008, Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

Downes, S. 2013, Strive Less, Share More

 

The Book that Spoke to Me

1xcom20300DialogueToday

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