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

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Here Come the Clones – A Slant on Multicultural Learning

In a globalised world, filled with the richness and risks of multiculturalism, how does one maintain a sense of being unique while at the same time, having a sense of “belonging”? Does the sense of “self” maintain its individuality or with the increase of networks and connections, with the far reaching consequences of globalisation, is one left to become a shadow of self, a clone of contemporary “selves”?

Because  London Fashion Week was recently taking place, I asked my female students what was the first piece of clothing which came to their mind when they thought of black for women.  Immediately their replies were “abayas”, “sheilas” (the black cloak and headscarf which is characteristic of female clothing in the Arabic Gulf). Women in the Arabic Gulf are as trend conscious as women anywhere else (if not more, as financial wealth is widespread), yet it was not biker jackets,  nor black boots,  nor LBD (little black dresses) which were initial references for these students. Their references were local,  and directly meaningful to their everyday lives.

An anecdotal example, but one that is significant when it comes to multicultural learning. Any teacher asking similar questions to their students will have responses which are mostly rooted in a local context. (I would like to make a note here: when referring to “multicultural learning”, I am referring to learning across cultures/with other cultures,  and not to political policies of social engineering).

Which brings me to ask whether in today’s scenario of social media entwined with learning and knowledge creation, if there is a risk of cloning in education. On the one hand, the same or similar digital platforms and tools are becoming widely used – for instance, Moodle as a learning platform for distance learning and Fotobabble as a digital tool. On the other hand, learning, sharing and creating knowledge through social networks is increasingly entwined in educational practices. How sustainable is this for the individual who is learning, to maintain his/her individuality?

When discussing  sustainability and authenticity  in higher education, Kaviola (2006) highlights how

“In transformative learning method students construct their own information and solutions to problems in co-operation and dialogue with the others involved in the learning process. When a student practices decision-making related to sustainable development in a collective learning situation (e.g. problem based or contradictory information), his or her ability to manage conflicting situations (which are inevitable in changes that promote sustainable development) will improve. This is also a way to develop students a sense of ownership in the learning process (Wals 2006: 49). “

This ownership in turn becomes personal, localised and individual. Rather than cloning, one has contextualised learning, which provides a degree of authenticity and meaningfulness in learning. Again, turning to Kaviola (2007) who explains that,

” A human cannot live in isolation away from society. Constructivism stipulates that learning and the object of learning are an indistinguishable part of the socio- cultural framework in which the learning takes place. This implies that information is always constructed in a certain context and that a person will put together a picture of the surrounding reality and him or herself by selecting and interpreting information and by reflecting on the feedback that s/he gets on his or her actions. ” (Kaviola, 2007)

A step further is of course Connectivism, where through connections and networks, knowledge is shared, distributed, and transferred. Individual learning through networks, chaotic as it may initially appear, is an inherent characteristic of Connectivism (Siemens, 2004). This informal learning lies on a set of principles, namely,

* Perceiving learning and knowledge in a diversity of opinions

* Learning as a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources

* Nurturing and maintaining connections is necessary to facilitate continual learning

* The ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill

* Decision-making is itself a learning process

Learning contexts will take many forms, whether those be personal,  institutional, or national. Learning cultures are even broader, with some sharing similar characteristics. However, despite the similarities, despite connections and learning networks, I doubt that today’s education panorama with Open Access, MOOCs and the myriad of online learning resources that exist, will lead to cloned education models or learners. These may push individual learners out of their comfort zone,  may provoke them into a richer, more critical analysis of knowledge and learning, but will not necessarily create clones. Clones are indeed among us (Korea’s Plastic Surgery Obsession Is A Glimpse Into The Futurebut hopefully will remain in the domain of other social concerns. 

Learning, like much else, remains an individual perception; a perception fostered and shared by a localised culture. That culture may indeed be transnational, international, mulitcultural (pick your choice) but it is left to the individual and fortunately, individual differences are still what makes us individuals – both as learners and humans.

 

References:

Kaviola, T., 2007, Towards Sustainable Development in Higher Education

Siemens, G., 2004, Connectivism

Wheeler, S., 2012, Theories for the Digital Age – Connectivism

Digital Delights : Connecting Online Education – Connectivism – A selection of articles and posts on Connectivism

Edu-Gadgetry

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

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

For instance:

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

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

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

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

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

Nevertheless….

However…

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

Momentarily I linger…

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

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

References:

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

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

Challenges and Opportunities in Higher Ed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

adding that

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

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

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

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

References:

Gerstein, J., 2013, User Generated Education

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

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

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

Wiley, D.

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

Note:

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

Have To, Want To, Need To – Recipe for Change?

If one is to accept that the song of life is accomplished on the strings of change, then my  life has been a tribute to change, ingrained in me, written on the body and practiced with sunrise.

From geographical changes, landscapes and seascapes, west to east, east to west, there are few spaces in between where change was not written in capital letters. As an educator, I have weathered both the lull before the storm of change as well as the satisfactions and frustrations that changes bring.

Change is a celebration, a gift of life.

Or Is it?

As I reflect on the changes sweeping across the USA in regard to the Common Core State Standards, I can’t help thinking that these objectives have always been part of the curricula that I have taught (in other contexts, other places). Nevertheless, the urgency that these same objectives are applied to all levels of education, have never been greater.

Two particular points are most relevant to higher education: the emphasis of life skills across the curriculum and accountability. It is not enough to claim that higher education is to prepare students for the workforce – very often it does not. Ivory towers still remain aloof, wrapped in delusions that technological advances are for others. Responsibility is much more than merely arriving to class on time and following a required syllabus.  Life does not happen in a vacuum, much less learning. Learning is inter-woven, regardless of subject or topic. Links are not merely hyper or digital, but factual and real. Ensuring that this transparency of inter-connectivity in learning, is in my view, necessary for every classroom, for in every context and age level, students need to make abstract and intellectual connections of knowledge.

Ignoring the connectivity that open learning brings us today, is ignoring the many changes taking place in the world of education today. Change does not occur in isolation nor do only academic articles published in journals, bring about change. Change is the practice, the implementation, the belief of change. And there are many who to reach out to.

Is there anyone who is possibly reading this now and can truthfully claim that they experience, they witness no change around them? More: can anyone truthfully say that there is no support available? As a curator I daily come across article after article, offering ideas and suggestions for implementing change, whether in companies, professional training or in education.  I think it is time to assert that only those who ignore change may state that there is no support; all it takes is will power and a click to open the windows of the many who share, reflect and practice change. They are no outsiders to their world of knowledge nor rebels without a cause. Practicing educators will often offer practical advice.

Where does this leave me in regard to change in education?

In the space visualized above, (taken from Learning Attitudes to #eLearning), where needs merge and inter-twine. I have previously mentioned the role of learners’ motivation; the chart above is a reminder how change is not only for learners but for all, especially those in the field of education – teachers, leaders, administrators.

Godin, reminds readers that,

Before changing the signal and thus assuming that this will change the outlook, it probably makes sense to understand what will change the causes of someone’s perception and habits, and use the signal as a way of figuring out who needs to be taught.”

In other words, it is not enough though to introduce change without all participants and stake-holders understanding the reason for change – major stake-holders such as learners need to be aware of the role of change, why and how it will affect them. Initiatives such as the introduction of iPadology will not become effective without learners understanding why such shifts are being practiced in their classrooms.

Change

and

connections

are written on the body.

Of all.

References:

D’Antoni, S. 2013, A World Map of Open Education Resources Initiatives

Godin, S., 2013, Signal and Causes

Hopkins, D., 2012, Learning Attitudes to #eLearning

Mak, J., 2013, Who are Changing the World of Education and Learning?

Murray, J., 7 Ways Common Core Will Change Your Classroom

Stacey, P. 2013, Open Access

Parallels of Online Learning and Higher Education

Increasingly my mind returns to the parallels of online education and transitions to higher education. Challenges of both blend into similarities and hurdles which students need to overcome. A broad generalisation – that I am aware of. Nevertheless, let’s consider some of the parallels:

1 – For those who initiate online learning, particularly in the case of distance education, more than learning about the subject matter, they need to learn how to learn online. This means being an autonomous learner, taking responsibility for time-management, being able to read instructions and follow them. (any echo here of higher education expectations?)

Students who have grown up more accustomed to using digital platforms for learning may perhaps be accustomed to the features I mention, but for students who are commencing an online course, this is not so obvious. For instance, often,  participants will post replies where ever they want to, either not following instructions or not being used to reading carefully and understanding instructions. This is certainly not because instructions were obtuse or complex – merely because the learner has not had sufficient online learning experience, as well as studying within an paradigm of educational expectations/demands. Asking the teacher to repeat instructions is common; in online education, the learner has to re-read him/herself. In other words,  the learner must be independent.

It is within this shift of behaviour  that I clearly observe parallels.

2 – The time spent at higher education often represents the best years of youth; expanding minds, new encounters, a bliss of options and parties. Discipline does not come easily. Managing one’s time to focus and to enjoy all the frills of higher education (e.g. extra curriculum activities, free conferences, foreign visitors/speakers and so forth) is not a skill which one is born with. It is a learning process. Both as an online student and online teacher, I have experienced the urgency to refine one’s time management in order to meet deadlines and be a full participant of the course.

Time however, is relative. Concepts of time, concepts of deadlines vary from culture to culture. The emphasis of meeting a deadline seems to be closely entwined with personal and social accountability. If a particular social environment does not place responsibility on citizens nor expects responsibility from its citizens, how will learners from this setting perform online according to other cultural expectations?

As an educator who works in foreign settings, these are challenges I have observed in different countries; I am an outsider, imposing foreign norms and educational expectations on my students. Most norms are international – for example, being on time for class – yet time is not fixed and tomorrow’s deadline may be perceived as next week’s assignment.

Discipline with time management is closely woven with cultural perceptions of time.

3 – Despite the many years we now live with digital technology, not all students have been taught digital literacies. Yes, they may have their mobiles and use Facebook as an extension of their physical body, but digital literacies are much more than mobile texting, playing games on an iPad and spending time in coffee-shop talk on Facebook. Digital literacies, the ability to present and understand information in the multitude of digital forms, is no appendix to learning. Digital literacies are as essential as the skill to read and do basic mathematics.

For both students entering higher education and online learners, these skills are a challenge to master. From uploading an image to embedding, to using a digital tool to present information (e.g. a popplet, using SlideShare and so on),  there is a wealth of key language to understand and then skills to accomplish. Lack of knowledge may be de-motivating for many. If motivation is to be taken as a personal driving force, not all learners are equipped with this engine to successfully study at higher education nor on online courses. Nevertheless, few options exist today as so many colleges and alternative institutions have decided to become universities. A university may hold more prestige, may receive more financial support from ministeries of education, yet does not do justice to every single student – many who would perform much better in a higher education college where their real skills and interests could be developed, equipping students to become more productive in their societies.

Results in both cases are again similar. Drop-out rates in online education and incomplete or poorly achieved degrees.

From features of

distance learning,

online learning,

blended learning,

classroom learning,

characteristics of learning are present. It is not the label which defines; learning processes share similarities. In the quest to promote knowledge, to exchange and create knowledge, the digital tools we have today are one’s compass to achievement. Whether one follows the advice for learning on a MOOC or in a classroom, it is not a question of labels, but rather, mapping one’s learning process.

Further reference:

Amy’s MOOCs – Professional Digi-velopment