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  1. ICERI 2013

    2 December 2013 by shartley

    ICERI A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to attend, present and chair at the International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI) in Seville, Spain (18-20 November 2013).  This came about due to the comprehensive research completed by a group of us at school, upon the request of our principal, into ‘ICT and Active Learning’.  The investigation involved visiting a variety of innovative schools, surveying our own community and secondary research.  The report ended up being 60 pages long and has resulted in the implementation of REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning), a concentrated effort for a paradigm shift to more student-centred learning in a Year 7 pilot program for 2014.  Since we had already completed the research we wrote a couple of different abstracts to apply to present at international conferences and were surprised to be accepted by both.  The school is paying for the Innovative Learning Team (ILT) to attend the International Conference on Learning in New York, July 2014, so couldn’t send us to the ICERI one too.  I therefore asked for leave and attended under my own steam (except for accommodation).  I also gained permission to add a couple of days in Paris to visit my 16 year old daughter on school exchange there.  From lift-off to landing I was gone for a total of 9 days, only absent (in body) from school for 5 of them.

    So why would I go to so much expense, effort and jet lag to be at ICERI 2013?  Put simply, the experience.

    For the first time I’ve had an academic conference paper published (with my two colleagues, Melissa Carson and Nick Cook).  Although it’s not the level of a peer-reviewed journal, it’s still something.  It had to be submitted back in October; I wrote it during the school holidays, heavily based on our report for the principal.

    For the first time I’ve presented at an international conference.  I was the first to present during my session, forgot to mention a couple of key points, but generally thought it went well.  We were asked to use either Adobe Acrobat (pdf) or PowerPoint for our presentations.  I was quite pleased with my slides, prepared the day before I left and I wrote what I said during the flight over.  I was asked which I thought should come first, the pedagogy or the technology, and I replied quite definitely, the pedagogy, but what I’ve read since has made me question my decisiveness a little.

    For the first time ever (beyond the classroom) I’ve chaired a session of presentations.  This meant I had to introduce each of the presenters with a supplied biography, pronounce their names as correctly as I could, and ensure they adhered to the tight time regulations.  The duo that followed me were speaking for a couple of minutes before I remembered I had to time them but I recovered and nobody knew.  The next presenter was so nervous that I concentrated too much on calming and preparing her that I forgot to introduce her.  She ran out of time so I concluded with a comment about how fast the time slips away when up front that I also forgot to introduce her and did it then, at the end of her talk.  From then on I was much better and even managed to gain a laugh with my comments about the last speaker’s presentation.

    Of course there is the added benefit of the credibility it provides to me and my school.

    Unlike the various school conferences I’ve attended, this conference was wholly based on academic research.  Each presentation went for 15 minutes and I attended approximately 50 of them on a wide range of topics.  Some were highly technical analysis of statistics that bored me but then I was often surprised by the interest some audience members displayed in the following Q&A.  Most presentations had something that fascinated me.

    By theme the sessions I attended were:

     

    The highlights for me were Morten Fahlvik (@Fahlvik) speaking about blended learning, Ruth Bridgstock (@RuthBridgstock) speaking about educating for digital futures, Alex Tyman presenting on perceptions of leadership and the presenters in my session who had researched teachers’ responses to the introduction of or increase in ICT usage in classrooms.

    Some of the issues that had me thinking include:

    • technology increasing the income gap and the lack of ICT adding to the poverty cycle
    • pedagogy being taken hostage by the tools
    • ‘massification’ resulting in the requirement of large halls; personalisation resulting in the requirement of smaller learning spaces; and ‘interactive classes’ requiring convertible settings
    • parallels between digital media professionals and teachers networking through PLNs on Twitter and TeachMeets
    • how we keep judging leaders against our prototypes (men, tall, suits, aggressive, etc) instead of what we say leadership should be about (consultative, caring, diplomatic, etc)
    • a study of US songs have had a recent exponential rise in use of the words ‘me’, ‘myself’ and ‘I’ in lyrics
    • how students condemn cheating but justify their own cheating but also how this has been researched with many underlying assumptions (eg what actually constitutes ‘cheating’)
    • how to assess social and ethical behaviour/attitudes
    • the language used in relation to shifting teaching styles should not be “make them”
    • focusing more on students’ competencies than knowledge

     

    The other important aspect of the conference was simply talking with other earnest educators, the vast majority being from universities around the world.

    Before the conference, I had already connected with @davidwebster (David Webster – University of Gloucestershire) via Twitter through the hash-tag #iceri2013 and found each other in person during the first break.

    At the first day’s lunch I sat next to Tony Scafide of SUNY Oneonta (USA) and we talked intensely all lunch and throughout the cocktail party the following night about life, the universe and everything.

    On the second day I lunched with Ruth Bridgstock (QUT) and Margaret Mackay (University of Portsmouth) and we discussed how people learn and how to motivate students and teachers to want to learn (without finding definitive answers).

    It was truly an international conference.  In my session alone the presenters were from Norway, Nigeria, Israel, Poland and Turkey.  But I must say, for a conference about innovation in learning, Twitter was rather quiet.

    Overall, despite the rotten cold I had the entire time I was away (and still), it was the conversations with intelligent and passionate people in education that will stay with me the longest.  It motivates me to continue with my study, my teaching and my interest in student-centred learning.  Somebody described me as a border collie, meaning I’m the one who rounds everyone up, gathering them in to try and face them in the right direction.  I think that is a pretty good summary and a conference like this will keep the wag in my tail a little bit longer.


  2. If only Education was like West Wing: what I learned by studying Advanced Pedagogy at uni (M.Arts)

    19 October 2013 by shartley

    I love the television show West Wing.  The fictional government was ethically sound and tried to unite the country by attending the needs of the marginalised, the poor and the society as a whole.  If only we had a government like that.

    Education has become inextricably linked to economic ideals and this has a large impact on curriculum and pedagogy.  One area where this is evident is in the “choice, competition and performance” promoted by politicians (Buchanan 2011, p.68) and I’m guilty of shopping for schools for my own son currently, as one of the financially advantaged who can do so.  Another example of economic prominence in education is how students are continually viewed as a labour resource with a desire for individual success rather than as participants in a community.  As Wyn (2009) claims, “Education must accommodate individual and social goals” (p.43).

    I am an advocate for the type of pedagogical change Kalantzis and Cope (2012) promote for schools with their concept of “learning design” that examines “the big questions” (p.84) in an environment of “energetic intellectual inquiry and practical solution development” (p.86).  Thooman et al (2011) found it is important to connect to students and create positive collaborative experiences, “education should provide students with opportunities to work on realistic and situated activities” (p.356) which supports my motto of ‘keeping it real’.  National curriculum and its General Capabilities (ACARA 2011) provide a strong prospect to shift teaching from an industrial learning model to a student-centred thinking model which is the position we’re taking at my school.  Next year as national curriculum is introduced, I am helping teachers to implement our REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning) Program to Year 7, a student-centred concept, as part of my role on the Innovative Learning Team.

    There is an extraordinary amount of political rhetoric surrounding ICT in schools as revealed by Jordan (2011), some of which I readily accept as universal truths, such as how ICT drives change, but the main point where I am in agreement with Jordan is her criticism of students as being described as “digitally savvy” (p.245).  The nature and implications of ICT in education are changing rapidly and nobody is able to keep abreast of it all.  Further pressure on teachers come in the form of charismatic speakers on the education circuit such as Sir Ken Robinson and Sugata Mitra criticising the current methods of teaching and promoting their own pedagogical agenda.

    This rhetoric and economic overdrive affects teachers immensely.  I thus have an ongoing concern about how a pedagogical paradigm shift is integrated into schools.  Too often structural change is forced onto teachers instead of in consultation and students are neglected altogether (McGregor 2011, p.15), making them both feel powerless.  O’Sullivan (2007) demonstrated how teachers are tied to their role emotionally, more than to their professional pride in intelligence and ability (p.9).  Thoonan et al (2011) acknowledged the role teacher self-efficacy had in motivating students. An analysis of teaching standards by Connell (2009) revealed the absence of recognition of the sheer energy required to teach, “Energy, movement, expression and fatigue all matter” (p.220).  Teachers need to be supported and be involved in the change process for it to be successful.

    Education needs to be like West Wing where idealism is implemented for the individuals who constitute the education community and the good of society as a whole.

    Reference List

    ACARA (2011). General capabilities. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/general_capabilities.html

    Buchanan, R. (2011). Paradox, Promise and Public Pedagogy: Implications of the Federal Government’s Digital Education Revolution. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36(2), 67-77. DOI: 10.14221/ajte2011v36n2.6

    Connell, R (2009) ‘Good teachers on dangerous ground: towards a new view of teacher quality and professionalism’, Critical Studies in Education, 50.3, 213-229.

    Jordan, K. (2011). Framing ICT, teachers and learners in Australian school education ICT policy. Australian Educational Researcher, 38(4), 417-431.

    Kalantzis, M and Cope, B (2012) ‘New learning: A charter for change in education’, Critical Studies in Education, 53:1, 83-94.

    McGregor, G. (2011). Engaging Gen Y in schooling: the need for an egalitarian ethos of education. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 19(1), 1-20.

    O’Sullivan, K (2007) ‘Unmasking the Professional Identities of English Teachers’, International Journal of Educational Practice and Theory, 29(1), 6–5.

    Thoonen, E, Sleegers, P, Peetsma, T and Oort, F. (2011). Can Teachers Motivate Students to Learn? Educational Studies, 37(3), 345-360

    Wyn, J. (2009). Touching the Future: Building Skills for Life and Work. Australian Education Review, 55, Australian Council for Educational Research, Melbourne.

     


  3. League Tables

    19 October 2013 by shartley

     

    Everything seems to evolve around the economy now. Education is no exception.

    On the home page of the federal government’s Department of Education Schooling website it repeatedly refers to being about access to schools.  It states the department is responsible for access to “quality and affordable” education that meets the needs of all children (Australian Government Department of Education 2013a).  The words access, quality, affordable and needs all relate to the field of economics and economics is about constant measurement and assessment.  Education is no exception: “The My School website contains school performance data and other information on Australian schools” (Australian Government Department of Education 2013b).  It is interesting that the judgement-laden word, performance, is used, as if the data displayed is a definitive evaluation of schools.  The media then further analyses these numbers to create the Australian version of league tables.

    There have been many criticisms of the use and display of league tables including that it humiliates low-ranking schools (Farrell 2009) and sends administrators into “damage control” (Joseph 2006), place teachers under pressure (Joseph 2006) which results in teaching to the test and frequent tests (Hawkes 2010) and is used for “wedge” politics (Clennell and Patty 2009).  The main issue, however, is that the data only covers a very narrow aspect of education.  League tables neglect the cultural, sporting, extracurricular, ICT and community aspects of schools (Joseph 2006, p.16).  Boston (2009) claims employers find young people with formal qualifications “unable to communicate simply and well, cannot work collaboratively, lack initiative and enterprise…lack a thirst for continued learning and personal growth…deficit in the soft skills that form an essential component of the human capital of each individual” (p.37).  This is an example of an argument against league tables, an economic driven measurement, also being stated in economic terms.

    The government argues that MySchool exists to provide transparency to parents but it is such a small window it “becomes a proxy for all the other information which is inferred” (Boston 2009, p.37).  It has created a stronger market situation for schools using economic rhetoric about choice and asset allocation to support its case (Cobbold 2009, Joseph 2006).  Choice may actually lead to social and racial segregation (Cobbold 2009, p.10) and is not readily available to many due to the financial restrictions of fees, transport and lost time (Reid 2010, p.13).  Tim Hawkes (2009), Principal of one of the most prestigious schools in Australia, The King’s School, recognised the negative issues of league tables but also argued that MySchool is good as an indicator of the value added by a school and how government is allocating taxpayers’ money. This constant economic language ties in with the government’s neo-liberal focus on individuals instead of community.

    Education should be much more than about creating a product called human labour, contributing to Australia’s role in the global economy.  Education is about community, friendships, nurturing, caring, the whole person, contributing to the world in more than the economic sense.  It is about understanding ourselves and each other.  The MySchool website is a tiny window into just a fraction of what school is about. Other information needs to be gathered if it is to be a realistic indicator of school performance.  Even so, the rhetoric about choice and asset allocation as justification for transparency needs to cease because it is a complete fallacy.

     

     

    Reference List

    Australian Government Department of Education. (2013a). Department of Education: Schooling. Retrieved from http://www.education.gov.au/schooling

    Australian Government Department of Education. (2013b). Department of Education: MySchool. Retrieved from http://www.education.gov.au/my-school

    Boston, K. (2009, October). League tables. Teacher, n.205, 36-42. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/

    Clennell, A. and Patty, A. (2009, November 12). Breaking the law: the exam results they don’t want you to see. smh. http://www.smh.com.au/national/breaking-the-law-the-exam-results-they-dont-want-you-to-see-20091111-i9zt.html

    Cobbold, T. (2009, March). League tables. Professional Educator, 8(1), 8-11. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/

    Farrell, J. (2009, November 19). School league tables. Club Troppo. Retrieved from http://clubtroppo.com.au/2009/11/19/league-tables/

    Hawkes, T. (2010, January 27). Ladder of opportunity rises above league tables. smh. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/ladder-of-opportunity-rises-above-league-tables-20100126-mw8b.html

    Joseph, J. (2006, October). Report Cards: Reporting what matters. Professional Magazine, 21, 14-17. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/

    Reid, A. (2010, March). The My School Myths. AEU (SA Branch) Journal, 42(12), 12-13. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/


  4. Globalisation and Education

    17 October 2013 by shartley

    SkypeWithPalestine

    Photo by author: Skype to Palestine (ex-student converted from Christianity to Islam)

     

    Globalisation has had a profound effect on education.  The breaking down of political, trading and geographical barriers, strongly influenced by the development of the Internet and advanced communication techniques, is altering education from being inward looking to being more world focused.  Instead of peering into textbooks, students are beginning to connect with the wider world through technological processes.

    Curriculum is being prescribed for a globalised world but it is politically motivated with too much attention placed on the economy and the students’ future role as a labour resource.  The influence of a capitalist economy is also apparent in the political promotion of “choice, competition and performance” in Australian schools, evident in the enforcement of transparency of test results and in the development of national curriculum (Buchanan 2011, p.68).

    An example of economic language involved with curriculum is in the discussion of the environment and in particular climate change.  The word ‘sustainable’ is used often but in relation to a sustainable economy instead of having the emphasis on sustaining people’s interaction with the environment.  For instance, in the draft ACARA Geography Curriculum (2013) the word ‘economy’, or its derivative, appears 66 times.  Lambert (2013) argues for Geography to play a greater role in British curriculum, by linking “economic, environmental and educational crises of our times” (p.85) to present a case for a curriculum of survival as opposed to sustainability. Emotive and economic language is all too common in current literature about curriculum (Ditchburn 2012).

    The economy, globally and locally, is important but it should not be the dominant force influencing curriculum.  There needs to be more emphasis on students being actively involved in all aspects of community, globally and locally, not just the economic component.

    The more I examine curriculum the more I am convinced that we should be moving to capabilities as a focus in curriculum (ACARA 2011, Reid 2005). Lambert (2013) is arguing the opposite. He views the shift to ‘competences’ and the integration of subjects causing the “contemporary erosion of trust in specialist knowledge, and increased emphasis on students’ experience” and changing “the emphasis of the curriculum from content to skills and to favour more open ‘facilitative’ pedagogies” (p.89). He then concludes that this shift “almost signals that schools should give up on knowledge” (p.90).  Personally, I’m tired of extreme rhetoric.  What we need in curriculum and pedagogies is greater balance.  There is a place for specialist knowledge, a place for experience in active learning and a place for skills as well as knowledge in modern curriculum.

    As technology comes to the fore through globalisation, teachers are as important as ever due to the skill required to balance the numerous influences on education with each unique student that comes before them.  I believe in having a structured curriculum and thus resist the term ‘student-directed learning’ which makes me think of ‘free schools’ where students themselves organise learning activities or self-select from the activities provided (Galley 2004).  I am an advocate for technology and student-centred learning but there needs to be a balance.  I would like to see teachers who generally want to remain traditional, expository in nature, to learn to yield some of the control, place some of the learning process into the hands of students and connect to a community beyond the walls of the classroom.  Again, I call for balance and sensibility.

    Just as there are an immense variety of students in our education system and a wide range of resources available, each and every school, class and teacher need to adapt accordingly.  My dream is of schools, rich and poor, around the world, connecting, allowing all of us to think critically and gain deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. We need to think what is best for our students and community, not necessarily our economy.

     

     

    Reference List

    ACARA (2011). General capabilities. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/general_capabilities.html

    ACARA. (2013). Draft F-12 Australian Curriculum – Geography. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum_1/learning_areas/humanities_and_social_sciences/geography.html

    Buchanan, R. (2011). Paradox, Promise and Public Pedagogy: Implications of the Federal Government’s Digital Education Revolution. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36(2), 67-77. DOI: 10.14221/ajte2011v36n2.6

    Ditchburn, G. (2012). The Australian Curriculum: finding the hidden narrative?, Critical Studies in Education, 53(3), 347-360. DOI: 10.1080/17508487.2012.703137

    Galley, M. (2004). Free Rein. Education Week, 23(36), 27-31. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/ehost/

    Lambert, D. (2013). Geography in school and a curriculum of survival. Theory and Research in Education, 11(1), 85-98. DOI: 10.1177/1477878512468385

    Reid, A. (2005). Rethinking National Curriculum Collaboration: Towards an Australian Curriculum. Department of Education, Science and Training, Canberra. Retrieved from EDCN812, Macquarie University iLearn, http://ilearn.mq.edu.au/course/view.php?id=13878

     


  5. Policy Rhetoric Regarding Technology in Education

    13 October 2013 by shartley

     

    Photo by author

    Photo by author

    The rhetoric of the role of technology in education spruiked by government bodies and other institutions was clearly demonstrated by Jordan (2011).  It provided a similar awakening for me that the research conducted by Marcos, Sanchez and Emilio (2011) into teacher reflections also provided (see previous post).  Basically, in both cases, there are a lot of statements made emphatically, authoritatively but with little evidence of research into the effectiveness of the promoted course of action.

    The problem is the rate of change in education today, particularly in regards to education.  People feel there isn’t enough time to conduct research.  It is compounded by the familiarity many people feel towards technology and the absolute horror felt by others.  Those who have the knowledge and experience easily dictate how it should all work to those who know little.

    However, in my not so humble opinion, some of Jordan’s criticisms are of almost universally accepted truths. For instance, technology is a driver of change.  It is evident by the smart phones in people’s pockets and how they use them.  Jordan (2011) lists “ICT as driving welcomed change” (p.419) as her first theme in representations of ICT.  My issue is with the word ‘welcome’.  The language in political rhetoric is more about “opportunities” (p.420) that can be gained with ICT change.  The more emotive and persuasive language is found in words such as “vital” (p.420) in regards to how technology should be used for learning.  This is not saying it is welcomed.

    Of course politicians and educational institutions want to focus on the positives students’ futures.  Don’t we teachers want the same?  I believe it is fairly obvious that there is potential to harness and transform technology for the good of education so I don’t agree with Jordan’s criticism on these points (p.421).  However, the word ‘revolutionise’, to me, is pushing the rhetoric a bit too far.

    Overall I don’t object much to the rhetoric used regarding the potential of ICT in education.  However, I agree with Jordan’s criticisms of descriptions of students as “digitally savvy” (2011, p.425), a term coined by Mark Prensky, a prolific keynote speaker around the world.  He has experienced four years in the classroom, 1968-1971 (Prensky 2013).  In the classroom we too often see the shortfalls in students’ ICT knowledge, such as not knowing to use CTRL F to search for a particular term in a screed of text.  From my experience, they have a much more narrow experience of technology than I, generally restricted to gaming and social networking.

    At my previous school, teachers were constantly marginalised to being facilitators and technology lifted to the role of teacher.  Jordan (2011) argued that where students are deemed digitally savvy, “the teacher is relegated to the role of passive mediator, the instrumental means to predetermined ends” (p.428).  It is a false depiction.

    Popenici (2013) lamented the portrayal of an ideal where students completely self-direct their learning in a blog post that resonated to an extent with the experience I had with my previous school.  For instance a ‘Deep Learning Day’ was introduce one day a week for Year 11 to work on whatever they chose, even though teachers were expected to provide work that may not be completed.  Students were allowed to consult with teachers but teachers were (originally) not meant to keep them on task or offer unrequested assistance.

    Personally, I agree with most of the rhetoric of the politicians but agree with Jordan’s concerns for the way students are depicted as having a technological advantage over teachers.  The framing of the use of technology in education needs to more realistic for the opportunities and possibilities to be achieved through recognition of the true support and development required to make it happen.

     

    References

    Jordan, K. 2011. Framing ICT, teachers and learners in Australian school education ICT policy, Australian Educational Researcher, 38:4, pp.47-431, http://www.academia.edu/1964725/Framing_ICT_teachers_and_learners_in_Australian_school_education_ICT_policy

    Marcos, J.M., Sanchez, E., and Tillema, H.H. 2011. “Promoting teacher reflection: What is said to be done” Journal of Education for Teaching: International Research and Pedagogy, 37:1, pp.21-36

    Popenici, S. 2013. Devaluation of Teaching and Learning, 10 October, http://popenici.com/2013/10/10/teaching/

    Prensky, M. 2013. Marc’s Resume (CV). http://marcprensky.com/marcs-resume-cv/

     

     


  6. Pedagogy

    13 October 2013 by shartley

    PowerToolReadingCooking

    Photos by author

    I have recently been immersed in a wide range of activities learning about curriculum, pedagogy and technology in schools.  As a consequence I am attempting to write a series of related blog posts. Yesterday I wrote about IT Infrastructure.  Today I’m writing about pedagogy with a focus on research by Kalantzis and Cope, as seen in their New Learning website.

    I don’t have a single pedagogical model to call my own.  I am deeply cynical and resent prescribed models dictating a single way of teaching, yet this week I had to present on 21st Century Fluencies because this is a the model I’ve been training teachers in PD sessions at my school, as part of my role on the Innovative Learning Team. Solution Fluency is just one style of Project Based Learning (PBL) and PBL is just one pedagogical practice. What I like about PBL is its focus on process as much or more than the product.

    I believe teaching should be a balance of a whole variety of methods and be flexible according to circumstances, with circumstances being anything from the students themselves to the weather.

    Kalantzis and Cope (2012, p.86) describe today’s typical learning environment accurately, “We have in our classes today a generation of young people who will be bored and frustrated by learning environments that fail to engage every fiber of their intellectual and active capabilities”.

    I hence also like how Kalantzis and Cope (2012, p.84) advocate for traditional teaching “to be replaced by new notions of ‘learning design’”.  In some ways planning for learning is my favourite part of teaching because Plan A is for a perfect world where students behave according to expectations and technology works as it should and I’m excited for its potential.  It is then a case of Plan B, Plan C and so on as all the possible variables come into play.  Plan A generally focuses on “addressing the big questions” (p.84), much in line with the programming model my school follows, Understanding by Design, not that I think this needs to be followed strictly either.

    I would love to see schools that Kalantzis and Cope (2012) call “sites of energetic intellectual inquiry and practical solution development” (p.86) and my previous school was trying to do this but at the expense of other aspects of education, such as nurturing students.  I think this community centre of thinking is almost science fiction idealism but I dream.

    Back to class, I like students to be active in their learning, meaning I am student centred in my pedagogy.  I’m not so fond of the term student-directed because I believe, in the main, students still need to be provided with direction, although there should be a place for passion projects.  This why I’m against open-plan learning but support flexible learning spaces so that learning can occur at a cohort level, large groups, classes, small groups, triplets, pairs or alone.

    Technology must have a role in Australian education because it is so integrated into our daily lives and is engaging for students.  It also allows for a wider audience and collaborators outside textbooks, schools and teachers’ own knowledge.  Thus learning is more connected to reality.  Students therefore need to be literate and discerning with technology.

    My pedagogical model is a mixed bag but my motto, Keeping it Real, is what’s closest to my heart.

     

    Kalantzis, M. & Cope, B.  (2012) New learning: a charter for change in education, Critical Studies in Education, 53:1, pp.83-94


  7. Protected: The Importance of IT Infrastructure

    12 October 2013 by shartley

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  8. A reflection about reflections

    1 September 2013 by shartley

    reflection

    My number one goal of today was to begin a critical analysis of a journal article for my Advanced Pedagogy course which is part of my Masters of Education at Macquarie University. I have been enjoying this subject very much because it is closely related to my role on the Innovative Learning Team at Oakhill College. In fact, in my professional life these are the two aspects that have me fired up, excited about what I do as a teacher. The university readings have helped give academic evidence to what the ILT is suggesting and preparing for the future direction of the school in terms of technology and teaching practices. My real life experiences as a classroom practitioner and the discussions and research in which I’ve been participating with the ILT have been feeding the online exchanges I have with fellow students and the course convenor. Further to this, the ILT has been accepted to present a paper at the Twenty-First International Conference of Learning in New York, July 2014, so I’m looking to use research I do as part of the Advanced Pedagogy course to contribute to the preparation for the New York Conference.

    But now, let’s look at the article I chose for the critical review and the impact it had on me. One of the many recommendations the ILT is making for the school is that all teachers create and regularly contribute to online reflective journals about their teaching and learning experiences to develop their meta-cognitive processes and therefore improve their teaching. The paper we’re presenting in New York is called Pulling No Punches: The Metamorphic Process of Turning Teachers into Professionals with Pedagogical Practices of the Modern Era so obviously we envisage reflective journals to be part of this process. The article I found, on a list supplied by the Advanced Pedagogy convenor, is called Promoting teacher reflection: what is said to be done (Marcos, Sanchez, Tillema 2011). The article scares me. To explain, I’ll start with an anecdote.

    A science teacher friend and I were chatting about our approaches to studying our different Masters of Education and found we had almost opposing attitudes to reading journal articles. I generally skip over the scientific research components where the method and statistical analysis were conducted and go straight to the findings and conclusion. I like to know what the research found but am rarely interested in how it is found out. My friend says that’s the part he likes, checking the research for scientific and statistical authenticity. We both agreed though that case studies of just a few teachers, often in the same school, were just hopeless as proper research. However, since I had to conduct a critical analysis on this article about teacher reflection, in this case I did read the bits I would normally skip.

    The abstract of the article intrigued me when it mentioned investigating “possible differences between what is evidenced in research and what is promoted in practice” (Marcos, Sanchez, Tillema 2011, p.21). When I promote a course of action in my school I want to have it right and implement it effectively. This was the article for me.

    The introduction listed the ways teacher reflection had been promoted, including (p.21):

    • “to scaffold critical thinking”
    • for “knowledge construction”
    • to “promote self-regulation”
    • because teaching is “a process that lies open to scrutiny and deliberation”
    • as part of “professional development”
    • to improve “metacognitive ability” of teachers

    I thought this was good list and a reasonable explanation of why teachers should maintain a reflective journal. However, the introduction then went on to outline critiques of reflective journals, such as trying to meet too many aims and neglecting to acknowledge underlying assumptions about why teachers should use them (p.22). My summary of this paragraph was that reflective journals had lost their way.

    The authors then summarised quite nicely what has been said about reflection (pp.22-23):

    • it’s a cyclical and recursive process
    • includes “problem solving”, “awareness-raising” and “professional knowledge”
    • teachers need to “build on experiential knowledge” (preferably using “action research” eg “observe and analyse classrooms”), “be critical” and “work collaboratively”
    • “requires personal involvement”

    The authors appear concerned that awareness-raising is promoted more than problem solving as the primary reason for conducting a reflection process and that few “studies provide information on its applicability and implementation in the classroom” (p.23).

    Now to my favourite part (not), the method. A total of 122 articles were examined from two Spanish journals, involving 168 authors (p.24). Each article was broken into paragraphs (units) and then all units were divided into 1509 “propositions” which were grouped into 117 “themes” (p.24). These themes were then further split into nine “content-specific categories” (p.25). Is it any wonder I don’t like reading this section? From all this the findings were boiled down to (p.25):

    1. What was said about reflection: What was said was what had already been said in the article too and the concern about the lack of problem solving as an aim was made more clear at this point. The authors were quite repetitive at this point.
    2. The reasons for reflection and the evidence behind these reasons for reflection: This was the scary part. The authors found that there was little real evidence backing statements made about the reasons for teachers undertaking reflection. What empirical evidence they found was based on “specific and iconic research projects…rather than specific data” (p.26). I find this scary because much of the reading I do is based on anecdotes from my Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter and various teacher blogs. My convictions about pedagogy and teacher professionalism are based on these readings and personal experience, not academic or scientific research of my own, until now. A table summarising statements made and the evidence provided (or not) ran for five pages and it wasn’t pretty with numerous crosses in the evidence column.
    3. The persuasive techniques used: The authors actually worded this section as “mode of convincing” (p.32). This was another section where I felt damned. The language used was broken into three methods:
    • Implicative – involving an expression of “interesting thoughts and new ways of thinking (i.e.[sic], ‘we believe’)”
    • Descriptive – statements as facts “(e.g., ‘reflection has’)”
    • Prescriptive – “the article directs or hints at a preferable action (e.g., ‘we must’)”

    This is how I write. When I write blog posts, or even for the ILT report into the implications of ICT for the future of the school, I do so based on my convictions from experience, observations, discussion with colleagues and what I read haphazardly online. Although some of this was intentional primary research it isn’t enough.

    A few weeks ago all the contributors to the report met and went through the recommendations thoroughly. It was at this point I realised that everything we wrote in that report had to be supported by evidence or it would have no weight. Yet, reading this article today still came as a shock. I think the message is finally hitting home.

    The article concluded with a discussion about the biases they had discovered. The two most important were (1) how the literature stressed what reflective journals were about without enough attention to how to go about it and (2) how convictions rather than real research were behind promotions for reflective practice (pp.32-33). I liked how the authors said their intent wasn’t to be overly critical but to reveal “certain blind spots” (p.33) and they suggested teachers should be provided with “more evidence-based or research validated information on what works in reflective practice” and that reflections should be scaffolded for them (p.34).

    I definitely intend to provide a scaffold for the teachers at my school when we begin implementing reflections as part of our PD process next year. I’ll leave it to my colleague to back up what we do with the research since he prides himself as being the academic one on the ILT.  He’s also taken on the writing of the paper we’re going to present in New York, dissing my proposal because I’d written ‘the metamorphosis process’ instead of ‘the metamorphic process’ (note that the proposal was accepted anyway).

    This whole investigation into pedagogy at uni and school is a load of fun and I’m learning heaps about the way I act, learn and think, perhaps even more than I am learning about the way I teach.

     

    Marcos, Juanjo Mena; Sanchez, Emilio; Tillema, Harm H. “Promoting teacher reflection: What is said to be done” Journal of Education for Teaching: International Research and Pedagogy, 37:1 , 2011 , 21-36


  9. Who Are We? Teaching ‘Personal and Social Identity’ in Society and Culture (a reflection)

    28 June 2013 by shartley

    This topic was introduced with the above Prezi towards the end of Term 1 2013 to both of my school’s Preliminary Society & Culture classes.  I teach one of them.

    Students were then launched into a PBL style unit with the Who Are You Project (pdf).

    To further explain the elements of this project:

    • Explore: This is a summary of the syllabus content
    • Answer: Students were required to respond to these questions
    • Reference: Students were to consult at least one resource within each of the reference categories listed
    • Compose: Students needed to communicate what they had learned about their personal and social identity
    • Present: An edited version needed to presented to the class – the cone of silence refers to the agreement that anything of a personal nature that’s discussed in Society & Culture does not go beyond the classroom

    It was a very successful project with most students engaged and deeply involved with the process. A minority took the more self-directed style of learning as an opportunity to do little.

    Other issues included:

    • The word ‘explore’ – students didn’t understand that these were the concepts needed to be investigated, even after verbal explanation – this will need refinement for next time
    • Explicitly asking questions meant students were inclined to approach the project as a typical Q & A worksheet, answering the questions superficially because they hadn’t investigated the concepts first
    • Some of the items on the reference list did not have a clear link to the project at hand – conducting background research to place subject into context needs to be taught clearly
    • Many students decided to do a PowerPoint (not listed) but generally did it well, some learned how to use Prezi for the first time, some did scrap-books, others did blog posts and the work avoiders wrote out a speech.

    Overall, they really learned a lot about the concepts and terms in a meaningful way because they applied it to themselves and there is nobody they know better.

    I was then away with my Innovative Learning Team on and off for a couple of weeks so during this time students completed more traditional textbook and video worksheets.

    They also watched Yolngu Boy (link includes comprehensive educational resources), followed by an essay completed in test conditions.  The students’ attitude towards this essay made me quite irate.  Many held the opinion that since it wasn’t an assessment task “it didn’t count”.  That earned them a little lecture on what school and education and learning was about.  A singular focus on HSC marks makes me mad!  Despite this attitude or because of my tirade the students produced some excellent essays.

    Finally, for this unit, students were given a Research Assessment Task to perform primary research (questionnaire or interview) to compare their identity development to others (questionnaire) or another (interview).  Unfortunately many students completely forgot all the concepts they had learned from the Who Are You project, the textbook, the videos and from the Yolngu Boy essay in which students had included concepts quite well.   All these tasks had been scaffolded so the concepts were reasonably clear but the link of the concepts to the title of the unit, Personal and Social Identity, obviously hadn’t been made strong enough.  These research assessment tasks were mainly written as if personality equated to identity.  *sigh*

    All that been said, I still think the program is a good one.  Next year the plan is to make the Who Am I project and the Research Assessment Task into one big assessment task with some tweaking.  I want to drop the textbook part altogether but part of the reason it was included was to placate a parent that believes my teaching methods lack the rigour required for the HSC.  You see, I made the mistake at parent-teacher night of saying we had been having fun in the course and hadn’t taught to the test (the first assessment task).  Obviously I should wash my mouth out with soap!

    We are all human, students, teachers and even parents.  I know my students have learned much about themselves and others from this unit.  Hopefully their learning will also be reflected in HSC results in a year and a half’s time.

     

     


  10. Cabin Fever Ramblings

    26 June 2013 by shartley

    TheOffice

    I’m fond of looking at my life from the perspective of an alien on a fact finding mission on the behaviour of Earthlings.  This concept served me well in a Year 12 English assignment that a good friend continues to cite as the moment she knew I should be a writer.

    More than 20 years later and I have written little, in the literary sense anyway.  If an alien had been observing me the last few days it would think I was a sloth, moving only from bed to toilet to kitchen to couch repeatedly.  The toilet visits are quite frequent due to the copious cups of tea and glasses of mountain stream water, delicious straight from the kitchen tap in my holiday cabin.  However, the kitchen visits are also for the naughties I bought for this stay the tiny town of Talbingo.  I consumed half a family-sized packet of lollies the first day and half a packet of Mint Slice biscuits the second, the remainder being consumed by my husband and children who actually earned the calories by skiing each morning at the Selwyn Snowfields while I stayed holed up in our cabin.

    FrozenCar

    My alien watcher would see me flit from phone to book to papers in what may seem a fruitless shuffle.  There is no phone coverage from Optus in Talbingo so I can’t text but through the magic of a wifi dongle I still connect around the globe, even to my dear Twitter friends attending the enormous International Society for Technology in Education Conference in San Antonio, USA.  Other Twitter friends attended a TeachMeet in my home town, Sydney, last night but the commute was too far from here for me to attend.  As they went to a TeachEat afterwards, my family and I walked to the Talbingo Lodge for the All You Can Eat Pizza Night, which was surprisingly pleasant, helped by a bottle of red wine.

    The Talbingo Lodge had been locked up for about a year, looking for someone to love and care for her.  Three months ago a new owner came along, a regular holiday maker in Talbingo, originating from Cootamundra where he has a similar establishment.  Perhaps I should interview the owner, for a general piece of writing, or for a Business Studies case study for my class or for an EdAssist article.  The Talbingo joint is eclectic with various paraphernalia stuck around, like caps and hats hanging above the bar, skis and golf clubs stuck on walls and ceiling, a games room for the kids, including an X Box with a car racing game which won my son over.  He played against a kid he’d never met before.  The Mum approached my thirteen year old to explain the loud competitive eight year old boy was autistic and my son volunteered that it was fine by him because he was autistic too.  The owner was concerned about the loud behaviour of my son’s new friend because people were trying to watch the rugby.  Well, sort of.  It wasn’t a big deal of a game.  That’s tonight.  We’re returning to the Talbingo Lodge tonight for the Stage of Origin, booked our now favourite table, by the fire, in front of the large TV screen.

    Marking

    So here I am, having completed the essential marking of 45 Society and Culture essays in two days, giving myself a reprieve before I tackle the less essential marking.  I’m reading ‘The Office’ by Gideon Haigh and it could be describing me as it provides the history of clerks working irregular hours, fitting in their own writing as much as possible a la Dickens.  Except I seem to do a lot of thinking about writing but not much writing in itself.  I completed a Masters of Arts recently, majoring in writing and literature and discovered I had a gift for script writing (thanks Deakin for the HD).  Unfortunately for my students I’m also excellent at Editing, another HD subject.  I have a couple of scant plots mapped out for scripts but I just can’t seem to find the oomph to dedicate some real slabs of time at it.

    Instead I tend to focus on the here and now, so I end up immersing myself in all things related to school.  This year I am teaching six subjects and am on the Innovative Learning Team (ILT) which is currently constructing a report about the future direction of pedagogy and technology in the school.  The ILT is saving me from being downtrodden by my numerous classes – I’ve never had so many before.  Plus I’ve stepped down from management positions to start afresh at a new school so I’m not used to facing so many students in recent times.  It’s a hard slog!  I’m constantly being encouraged to keep being innovative and try new things in my classroom by two of my four superiors.  One of the others is remote and simply trusts me and another prefers old school, but that’s OK because I just balance traditional with my ‘keeping it real’ style in Business Studies anyway.

    I have volunteered to speak for 7 minutes at a TeachMeet in a month’s time on Chaos Theory, planning for it to be about my Year 10 Geography class where I have a class of 30 boys, most being quite boisterous in nature.  This class was noisy when they were arranged in rows and given traditional worksheet learning so now I conduct it more like Project Based Learning (PBL) and it’s slightly louder.  Less evidence of learning is being produced and they probably won’t perform as well in an exam as the other classes but I believe they understood the concepts much better as a result of the PBL style.

    TMCoast

    The ILT is grabbing my real passion as I like to push students to achieving their best but not in the traditional sense of scoring well in exams.  Since I have a broader goal for students I am a bit of a trumpeter for changing the ways of teaching.  However, I am about balance, having just left a school that was going too far in the one direction, in my not so humble opinion.  Two aims I have just jotted down in my steadfast companion of a notebook are probably not achievable in the near future but I think, wouldn’t it be great if I could help students to map out their own educational path, mentor and guide them, plus help each student create a portfolio of their achievements.  I’ve only looked at a couple of online programs that would do that but they didn’t tickle my fancy.

    One of the other activities I have flitted about on is consideration for my son’s education.  He attends that school where I previously taught and I’m trying to conceive a plan for him to fit into the school, achieve traditionally set school goals and achieve some goals of our own.  Today I emailed a reply to his Case Manager (due to his autism) about a meeting for next term.  I’m hoping to present a mildly radical plan of action for the rest of the year, involving dropping Art and arranging self-directed project time for him instead which he would need to report in the form of Tumblr or the like.

    So here I am, having just spewed out 1000 words in what should be organised into several different pieces of writing.  I’ll let this sit for a while and return to it later.  Perhaps this afternoon, perhaps tomorrow, we’ll see.  I am a procrastinator.  And besides, it’s time for food and a cup of tea.

    [I ended up being distracted by the Rudd/Gillard PM leadership battle and the Texas filibuster so nothing productive occurred this afternoon]