Resistance and the Re-Imagining of Knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pearce (2013) explains:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you deal with student resistance?

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

References:

Five Ways Students use Technology in the Classroom

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

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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!

Dear Colleague – An Open Letter to A Teacher Trainee

Dear Colleague,

When I see you from the back of the classroom, time takes me to the classrooms where I first began my journey in teaching. Journey may be a well over-worn cliche, however, that is exactly what teaching is – a learning journey which spirals into fractuals, kaleidoscopes,   never ending. No matter how well you do on your training projects, no matter how well you have read pedagogical theories and approaches, let me share with you: the best teaching has little to do with trends and bandwagons of variable truths. Your best lessons will come from your heart and soul as you connect with students, as you stumble across the minefields of classroom management, as you walk in a haze through corridors wondering how to plot the next best lesson.

I delight with the sparkle in your eyes, I recognise the despair of being unsure what to next when students do not keep quiet, I smile softly as I see you lost in a maze of options.  Yes, those moments will be your daily bread from now onwards. Be prepared to deal with them calmly.

Be equally prepared to witness power struggles around you; politics which rarely have much to do with education. Inhale and focus.

Focus on why you are an educator. That is your policy. That is what comes first and foremost – fine tuning your skills as an educator, sharing with students and colleagues alike. Yes. I know. You tell me I am a dreamer and this does not make sense. Dear Colleague, education is a process of joy; each educator is responsible for his/her choices and accountable to their educational community. Strive to be a positive educator, one who solves problems instead of creating stumbling blocks which lead nowhere.

 

Be fearless and tread those classroom gardens with joy. Yes, there will be days in the shape of monsters.  Just as there will be moments which will remain with you all your life – a thank you, the look of achievement, the moment of finally putting pieces together and understanding. There is no financial gain for those moments. And they are yours to cherish and share.

Dear Colleague, throw out fear. Don’t isolate yourself, your worries and concerns; your classroom may have walls and doors, but the world is open. Your students live wall-less. Education is no longer to be kept locked – open all the locks for your students and keep yourself up-to-date by connecting with others.

If millions connect for social purposes today, (below is a mere example), you too can find others to connect with. As you participate in those networks and exchange ideas, thoughts and form your new ones, encourage  students to become responsible digital citizens as well. Show them how they too can make the internet a learning ecology.

Dear Colleague, I ramble on, trying to pick on my own chaotic learning. Welcome to the world of teaching! Messy, chaotic challenging,   interconnected and in flowing change! Let go of the past images of teachers; be prepared for power shifts in classrooms; never forget those in front of you need a place of joy, safety, intellectual stimulus. Often it is the only place where they can feel safe.

And let go. Let go of perfectionist ideals in and of classrooms. They do not exist. Each classroom will  host a unique culture. Finding a balance between reality and educational  dreams will become your daily routine.

Dear Colleague, I must surely have bored you by now. Do not look so alarmed.

Smile –  the world of education is a joy; despite all its trials and tribulations, there are few professions which touch the heart of humans as the intricate, ever-changing, ever-challenging world of learning. Connecting, smiling, letting learners know you are there for them; simplicity has its place in education as well.

Dear Colleague, heed the wise words of others, of those who challenge you to inquire, to seek answers to questions not yet asked. For it is you who will then bring these seeds of inquiring and learning to others.

Dear Colleague, the world of education is a world of disruptions and interruptions;  rise to the wonderous occasion of it all with joy!

Yours Learning as Always,

AC

PS!

And in the process of it all, do have fun everyday!

References:

Christensen, C., 2013, Why Online Education is Ready for Disruption Now

Shareski, D.,  2013, It Takes All Kinds : Teachers

Embracing the Chaos of iPadology – Part 3

I sought bridges and found none.

I sought coherence and was left with chaos. At times, there is no choice but to embrace chaos, to accept the dynamics and life within a sphere of chaotic movement. I regarded fractuals and their apparent order, quietly acknowledging how fractual my  practices in the classroom had become. Is this where teaching practices were heading towards? A fractual of lessons  where chaos reigned?

Murphy (2011) refers to Katherine Hayles, when reflecting on elements of chaos in an instructional designer‘s practices:

Chaos theory . . . can be generally understood as the study of complex systems, in which nonlinear problems . . . are considered in their own right, rather than as inconvenient deviations from linearity. Within chaos theory, two general emphases exist. In the first, chaos is seen as order’s precursor and partner, rather than as its opposite. The focus here is on the spontaneous emergence of self-organization from chaos. . . .

The second branch emphasizes the hidden order that exists within chaotic systems. Chaos in this usage is distinct from true randomness, because it can be shown to contain deeply encoded structures called “strange attractors.” Whereas truly random systems show no discernible pattern when they are mapped into phase space, chaotic systems contract to a confined region and trace complex patterns within it. The discovery that chaos possesses deep structures of order is all the more remarkable because of the wide range of systems that demonstrate this behavior. . . . The strange-attractor branch differs from the order-out-of-chaos paradigm in its attention to systems that remain chaotic. For them the focus is on the orderly descent into chaos rather than on the organized structures that emerge from chaos.” (Hayles, 1990, pp. 9–10)

While I was quite comfortable with the varying rhythms of students working on their laptops, the introduction of iPads in my practices forced me to look into chaos and the organised structures which may emerge. I began by considering what could be done with an iPad:

The iPad is much more than a mere toy which gave access to digital games; it is also much more than only a device to create engaging presentations; it gives learners practice and develops skills which they will need in their lives beyond the school’s gate. The argument against this is,  whether adopting iPads is really necessary as there already is a wealth of digital tools online which provide free practice for the above skills. However, that was a thought, a reflection; the refute, being how data access has become mobile and that this has affected education as well. Nevertheless,  my main concern was how to find a balance between my teaching beliefs and practices and iPads in the classroom.

The moment came when I tried a different approach.

As usual, I wrote up the date and day of week on the upper hand corner of the whiteboard. As students came into the classroom, there was the regular  pre-lesson interaction, greetings and questions. Then, instead of having the whole class focus on the same task at the same time, I explained that they were to complete the tasks on the board within the time of their lesson. I quickly wrote up the tasks which needed to be done, from tasks in their course iBook to the use of apps to complete project work.

Silence. Stares. Silence.

 Then a wave of energy ensued. And chaos reigned.

If I was reluctant to have students enclosed in their individual bubble, working quietly, individually with their iPad, I was wrong.

As I went around the classroom, observing them, students were working together, solving exercises, collaborating with each other. Some worked alone then checked with a partner. Others decided to go straight for their project work and compared their work with those students who were also focusing on that task, comparing what they had achieved with their choice of Apps. (I had given a range of Apps for them to choose from).

The energy was catchy and my teacher trainee was equally surprised at how autonomous they had become. Yes, there was a certain degree of noise as students called out for each other. Yes, I was kept busy as individual students had different questions. The 2 hour lesson went by in a flash; all tasks had been accomplished. At the end of the lesson, I exchanged views with my trainee; after all, her opinions as an observer and a speaker of L1, were relevant. What I found out surprised me – students had been focused on their tasks throughout the entire lesson. What appeared to me as chaos, was in fact students talking about task problems and how best to solve them. Instead of being distracted with  games and private texting, they spent the whole lesson focused and being productive.

There had been no isolation. Collaboration ruled within the apparent chaos.

From apparent fractuals and chaos, I had found the bridge I so needed. Perhaps this lesson had been characteristic of a certain group of learners, at a certain point in time. They certainly had had experience with using their interactive iBook; they already had had experience using a range of Apps for carrying out assignments. What I had not expected was their autonomy in achieving all tasks. I, in turn, was able to assist more individually, giving specific support and clarification to each individual. The iPad, with its ease of mobility in the classroom, allowed everyone to work at their own pace and easily collaborate with whom they wanted to – not only with the person sitting next to them.

Ideally, I wish that all my lessons had the flow and energy that this particular one had. But that would be like wishing for a perfect world, not taking into account students’ moods, concerns, and other features which influence a lesson. My quest remains: at every step I wish to use the iPad as a 1:1 teaching device, I want my students to collaborate, solve problems, create, and above all, learn.

iPads still frustrate me with their lack of Flash and Java; iPads are certainly not for word-processing but offer users the possibility to blog and write and even print from them.

iPadology? A welcoming world of streamlined fractuals and chaos, from where new practices of learning arise.

References:

Bloom’s Taxonomy Re-imagine & Digital Blooms: different ways to approach learning

Gleeson, M., 2012, The iPad, What it should and shouldn’t be for Education

Holland, B., 2012, What Students Can Actually DO with an iPad (Edudemic)

Kulowiec, G., 2012, iPads are like Hammers (Edudemic)

Murphy, D., 2011, Chaos Rules, Revisited in IRRODL, Vol 12, No 7 (2011)

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:photo25510not 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

Deconstructing Maps of Digital Identity

‘This’, Belbo said, would explain why Dee paid so much attention to those royal cartographers. It was not to discover the ‘true’ form of the earth, but to reconstruct, among all the mistaken maps, the one right map, the one of use to him.

 ‘Not bad, not bad at all,’ Diotallevi said. ’To arrive at the truth through the painstaking reconstruction of a false text.’     (Eco 1989:459)

Maps, learning and reconstructions. One must not confuse the map with the territory. The map becomes another objective reality to read interpret.

However, as a participant in education, I am required to create maps, to read maps, to interpret maps. To interpret approaches, trends and changes. It is part of who I am, what I do, how I wish to learn.

Ethnographic interpretations are part of my map reading. According to Lutz (1981), ethnography develops from two models: the operational and representational model. By operational model, Lutz refers to the “data of events observed by the researcher” (Lutz 1981:55). On the other hand, the representational model reflects the “data gathered from “native” informants about the “native” interpretation and meaning of what happened.” (Lutz 1981:55). Ethnography becomes an encounter with inner and outer events. We may even regard it as an approach which is primarily characterised by this collaborative encounter with experience – not only the researcher’s experience, but also of those who are being studied.

Maps are to be read, interpreted and understood. So where can meaning be found?

To arrive at meaning, the research must undergo understanding and interpreting phenomena. Heron (1990) demonstrates this by saying that:

“To explain human behaviour you have, among other things, to understand this activity, and to fully to understand it involves participating in it through overt dialogue and communication with those who are engaging in it.” (Heron 1990:23)

The ethnographic text thus becomes an artifact, a construction of reality (Hammersley and Atkinson 1983, Reason and Rowan 1990). This constructed reality, the map of reality but not the territory, cannot express a total, unshaken truth, for:

“(…) the idea that any science can be value free is, in my view, a delusion. Persons in relation to their world symbolizing their experience of the value of the presented world constitutes a fundament of the human condition.” (Heron 1990:33)

In any scientific research then, it is impossible to break away from any degree of subjective interpretation. 

Digital Maps

One aspect of today’s change is the added feature of digital citizenship. No light addition,  for both educators and learners need to understand what is involved; they need to understand the map/s of digital citizenship.

Reading the Map of Digital Citiizenship

As I read the map of digital citizenship, the following characteristics leap out:

These are neither simple nor learnt in one hour. One’s digital footstep, one’s digital traces have become part of one’s identity. As an adult, I have learnt with time, participating in educational boards, mailing lists to online communities and networks to contributing to the digital world with my own blogs and other online participations. I have often questioned the issue of identity, particularly one’s digital identity; and as any other role, perceive it as one which is alive, in motion, developing.

In regard to learners, educators have an urgent responsibility to openly discuss the implications of online participation and the nature of digital citizenship. As Richards (2010) explains:

“The Internet features communication platforms, such as blogs, wikis, and social networks that have allowed average users to change from passive receivers of information to active producers of information (Budin, 2005).  These tools and the ways that they have empowered individuals to take control of their Internet experiences have been categorized as Web 2.0 technology (Pachler & Daly, 2009; Williams & Chinn, 2009). There have been several occurrences in recent history where the use of these tools has either promoted awareness of social causes or gathered people together for civic action.  As more of these instances happen throughout the world, it is increasingly important for students to understand not only how Web 2.0 tools work, but also how the sharing and distribution of information through these tools can promote civic engagement (Budin, 2005). Warschauer (2003) defined computer-mediated communication (CMC) as the “interpretive and writing skills necessary to communicate effectively via online media” (p. 117).”

Ethnographic research into classrooms and roles of teachers and learners today, needs to take these digital maps into consideration. These maps are more than traces of identity – they define one’s identity, thus being an integral part of oneself.

Maps are to be read into.

Maps are to be questioned throughout learning journeys.

How do you map your digital citizenship identity?

References:

Hammersley, M.&P.Atkinson – 1983, Ethnography, Principles and Practice Tavistock Publications

Heron, J. – 1990, “Philosophical Basis for a New Paradigm” in  Human Inquiry, ed. Reason, P.& J.Rowan, John Wiley &Sons

Lutz, F.W. – 1981, “Ethnography – The Holistic Approach to Understanding Schooling”, in Ethnography and Language in Educational Settings, ed. Green, J. & C. Wallet,

Reason, P. & J. Rowan, – 1990, “Issues of validity in new paradigm Research”, in Human Inquiry, ed. Reason, P. & J. Rowan, John Wiley & Sons

Richards, R., –  2010,  Digital Citizenship and Web 2.0 Tools, JOLT