Category Archives: education 2.0
Another holiday, another trip up to Auckland to attend a conference.
This time around it was Google Apps For Education (GAFE).
Conferences have a two-fold purpose for me. The first is obviously to hear new ideas but the more important one is to renew links with all the teachers I interact with on a regular basis on twitter and also to connect with new people. GAFE definitely ticked both of those boxes however it would have been fantastic to have the event last longer than a day.
I hope that GAFE returns to New Zealand and will definitely be looking to apply to any Google Teacher Academy that comes close to New Zealand.
In the spirit of GAFE, I’m determined that my day at ASHS isn’t just a talk-fest but actually leads to some concrete actions.
So where to from here?
- Do a series of 1 minute ‘what’s going on in your classroom?’ video. Review with my tutor teacher to look for improvements in teaching practice. Post reflections to my blog for input from a wider audience.
- Contribute to the digital citizenship project.
- Institute a daily google challenge to improve my class’s digital literacy (thanks Wendy Gorton for the book, I also plan to write some questions relevant to my New Zealand context).
- Design an app for my class to communicate more effectively with my parents/students. Students and parents to have input into key functions.
- Use google maps to develop a virtual tour for incoming year 7s for next year.
- Hold an end-of-term ‘innovation day’ based on the principles behind google’s 20% time.
Term 4 looks to be a frantic one at just 9 weeks with camp in week 2 and my school undergoing a major refurbishment so perhaps this list is a bit optimistic and ‘go with the flow’ will definitely be my mantra but so too will ‘follow your passion.’
In the spirit of action, I am going to be of blatant self-promotion. The ‘learning to make a difference‘ project is in the finals for the New Zealand Interface magazine awards in the ‘best teaching with ICT’ category. I would appreciate your support by voting for the project here.
How do you implement ideas from conference into your teaching?
Do you engage with conference organisers about the effectiveness of the ideas you’ve picked up at a conference?
The Commerce Commission released an interesting report back in January on the implementation of high speed broadband into New Zealand schools. The report itself is worth a read for a general overview of the potential that high speed internet will bring to the New Zealand compulsory school sector. However the area of greatest interest to me was the report’s scathing assessment of New Zealand’s teacher education providers’ ability to prepare new teachers for the opportunities and challenges of teaching in the digital age.
I imagine this part of the report has generated a bit of debate as Teacher Education providers felt the stinging criticism of their teacher methods was entirely unjustified. However what seems to be missing from the debate which sees industry perceptions coming into conflict with institutions view that they aren’t doing that bad is the experience of teachers coming out of pre-service teacher education into teaching.
As a bit of background I completed my first ICT in Education paper online way back in 1999 and finally got around to finishing my teaching credential as an online student last year. So I’ve been around long enough to be part of the first wave of Education students experimenting with using html to code basic webpages for students to access from outside of school hours back in the late 1990s through to a recent graduate of a teacher education programme just entering the school sector with all the tools of web 2.0 now at my fingertips.
What amazed me about re-entering the university system was that despite the vast changes in the internet over the last 10+ years in terms of the number of users and devices, the speed at which we can access the net, the ability for users to interact and the amount of content that circulates through the world in a given day how little my experience as an online student within the university structure has changed..
In fact even the most basic stuff at some Teacher Education programmes seem mired in old school techniques. Most New Zealand Colleges of Education require a handwritten form and all student Teaching Experience documentation is done via pencil and paper (my simple request to submit digitally was firmly rebuffed). Although there were some videos and discussion boards, most of our learning was still firmly rooted around the old style of learning; lectures and textbooks.
Very rarely were we asked to find our own resources and discuss the implications of those rather than simply responding to the content we were given and outside of one assignment there was very little time for creating digital content. Some lecturers were fantastic about using the internet to engage with students, regularly posting individual feedback on comments posted to bulletin boards but there too many dreaded group response emailed off after the week was finished and in a lot of cases feedback was not received at all.
Perhaps most concerning aspect of teacher education is current assessment practices. I sat six pencil and paper exams which accounted for a large proportion of my final grades. And although my essays emailed off, they were printed out and returned by post meaning that the opportunity to add a rich multimedia dimension and interactivity that web 2.0 offers was lost. If we want to prepare students teachers for 21st century teaching practices, then institutions need to stop examining them using 19th century assessment practices.
Part of the problem is that the New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standards make only a passing reference to ICT stating that graduating teachers having ICT proficiency relevant to their professional role. This vague statement could mean a teacher can print a word document to demonstrate proficiency when we know ICT has moved a long way from word processing. Perhaps New Zealand needs to follow Australia’s lead and develop ICT standards for graduating teachers.
For me the biggest take-away from experience as an online student is that using ICT, using ICT to learn and teaching with ICT are fundamentally different activities and I don’t think Teacher Education providers have cottoned on to the latter two in particular. Having course content available online does not mean students know how to implement e-learning pedagogy into their teaching practice (although perhaps we’ve been given an example of what not to do).
I say that because right now I feel like a bit of failure.
I’m someone with a huge amount of interest and enthusiasm for using the internet to learn yet I’m little ashamed to admit that the computers in the classroom haven’t had much use by the students yet. That’s not to say I haven’t identified the moments where ICT could have enhanced our classroom activities but right now I’m working on the real basics of classroom management. Modulating the tone my voice, thinking about body position, getting kids moving the classroom, thinking about how we talk to each other. All teaching 101 stuff but without those fundamentals firmly in place I can’t effectively embed ICT into my practice.
Even just the basics of ensuring that the devices in the classroom are well cared will take me time to effectively establish. My digikids (computer monitors) need to be trained up, we need to think about how the computers are cared for, charged, where you can use them and that’s before even a single device is turned on.
Of course right now everything seems so overwhelming because right now I’m in new teacher survival mode. I’m sure I will look back on this year and this first term in much the same way a new parent does when their children reaches their first birthday, in a hazy blur wondering where the last year of my life has gone.
The first few months of teaching are tough.
There’s no shallow end to dip your toes into and getting to grips with the ins and outs of building relationships with the kids and their families, administering and analysing student assessment and even how your school runs means that a lot of new teachers, myself included, retreat into what we know. Not included in what we know is how to implement e-learning practices and pedagogy.
But what scares me is however difficult I’m finding it to integrate this new learning style into my practice I have it relatively easy. I spent last year as an online student and a lot of my downtime was spent immersing myself in the world of social media in education. Although I didn’t know it when I started blogging and tweeting gave me a crash-course in how to learn digitally when my own education history was largely analog. What will get me to that next step of embedding my own learning into the classroom is my school.
I’m fortunate to be beginning my career in a school which has embraced the use ICT for teaching and learning. However there are hundreds of Beginning Teachers starting out who don’t have the professional learning environment to support e-learning initiatives. I think one of the biggest mistakes policy makers and indeed everyone involved in education is repeated making by propagating the idea of younger teachers as ‘digital natives’ who know how to use ICT for learning and inside their classrooms.
This isn’t always the case.
Even something as simple as responding to blog comments is something that I’ve learned a huge amount from reading the likes of @kathleen_morris and her fantastic classblog. Kathleen has fundamentally changed how I respond to content and has provided a great model for how to create effective digital learning environments for students in my class. I didn’t come across Kathleen through any sort of university channel but through trawling the internet for teacher blogs. What concerns me is that there seems so little online activity from the New Zealand tertiary education sector available online for pre-service and in-service teachers to access.
Why aren’t student teachers commenting on class blogs? Where are their Graduating Teacher Standards wikis that can be used to develop a digital portfolio? Can anyone name a New Zealand tertiary researcher who drives debate and connections on social media like @courosa ,@timbuckteeth, @tomwhitby who runs #edchat or @dianeravitch on twitter?
Because when I think about it so much of my education about e-learning took place outside of the university system at educamp, on twitter and through blogging yet those same social media channels which I learned so much on were the same ones where student teachers were told ‘danger! Will Robinson Danger!’ I wasn’t the only one whose learning migrated away from my institution. Outside of the compulsory postings, a large number of students from my course ended up ditching the student management system to communicate with each other in favour of hybrid Facebook group and dropbox.
Which brings me to a brief comment around managed student learning environments.
At present there’s a lot of money and energy being dedicated to implementing various online learning environments around the country at the moment. However based on my experience as an online student the most vibrant and active communities are the ones that live outside of the digital gates of the university. I think that as there is a fundamental shift occurring in education especially for online study and the future is likely to be a far more devolved concept of what online engagement by teachers might look like.
Currently most students need to assume different digital identities to visit institutions. However to be successful in the future I think institutions will need to take their learning to the places where their students interact online. What the implications of this for younger children I’m not sure. But I think one of the challenges and opportunities for ultrafast broadband is the creation of individual digital identities but questions remain in my mind over how will retain ownership over the identities and how portable those identities will be.
This post has covered a lot of ground and I’m not sure if I’ve done much than ramble some incoherent ideas but as some conversation starters:
Are Teachers Colleges preparing new teachers to teach digitally? What could they do differently?
Should a separate set of Graduating Teacher Standards in ICT be developed?
Are managed student learning environments are future innovation or likely to be a relic of the past within the next decade?
This week has been the week of the essay. One big huge 5,000 worder, a portfolio on my teaching philosophy. Considering that this blog is a living, breathing artefact of my teaching philosophy the assignment in theory should have been cinch. After all I churn out 1,000 words posts several times a week.
But this assignment put up a fight. Things weren’t going well and at some point I’m sure we got into a ‘you shut up, no you shut up’ fight in my head. Part of this drama undoubtedly came down to me being well over my studies and in need of a well-earned holiday.
The other part was that all through the marking criteria I was reminded that I needed to justify my ramblings with ’the research.’
When I looked at my paper, and I had hardly used any of the readings put on course reserve in my paper. Instead I found myself mentioning members of my PLN, used classroom blogs, teacher’s blogs, or the authors of works that were recommended via social media.
None of this seemed to fit with the model we are all so familiar with education. We go to school to learn because that’s where the books are and the books have the information. What if the information we are being given is so out of date it almost seems dangerously irrelevant?
One of the readings on the reserve talked about the importance of fostering professional learning communities within schools. Now don’t get me wrong learning is good and I think the more people you have contributing to your learning, the better. However the authors were still conceptualizing learning need to take place within this institutionalized framework. You go somewhere to learn something from somewhere. You need to be at the right place and the right time to learn.
As an almost-teacher this makes sense. I’ll be given a group of kids for a year and we’ll be learning together for the next year in a classroom during school hours and I have colleagues to learn from.
But as an online student this seemed so counter-intuitive. All I need is internet connection and I’m immediately plugged in not just to information, though information is important, but I’m plugged into a network of people who can contribute to my learning, my Personal Learning Network.
When I look through my twitter feed I start to realize how diverse a group is plugged into my learning. Although the majority are teachers from New Zealand, there’s university professors from Canada, other student teachers from Australia, the UK, the United States and even friends who will challenge my ramblings on the blog. But what is missing is the linkages from my university. I don’t think anyone from the University on the Hill uses social media professionally while all the content and students are locked up behind digital gates. Of course University on the Hill is no different from most institutions, we keeping students and thoughts hidden well hidden from the outside world.
What if instead of viewing institutions as the place you go to learn, they were hubs in a giant network of learning. What if instead of viewing teachers as merely ideas masters they are also there to connect students with people who will help shape their learning.
I guess to some teachers this is a rather scary proposition. If students can get information from somewhere else, what purpose do teachers have in their life? The simple answer is relationships. We are there, amongst other things, to help students develop relationships with ideas, concepts and most importantly people.
Far from being scary letting go of the idea that teachers are in charge of only content knowledge is hugely liberating. Even with my eclectic range of hobbies, there’s no way I could even begin to cover the breadth of interests that the 30 kids in my class next year will bring into the classroom. But what I can help them to do is learn how to crowd source their education, look for people and ideas which will help them to discover and nurture their talents.
Since I started my journey to be a teacher I keep hearing the same words of ‘advice’ given to student and beginning teachers about social media.
- Be careful what you do online, university officials are watching and you might get in trouble.
- Be careful what you do online, principals might be watching and you won’t get job.
- Be careful what you do online, ANYBODY might be watching and your teaching career could be over.
This fear-based social media advice is becoming old and as I’ve found out really, really wrong.
- Far from being a barrier to study, my social media presence has been a place to learn from educators around the planet.
- Far from hindering my job search, my PLN helped land me a teaching job.
- Far from my blog being something to be ashamed of people finding, I hope that my work on the Graduating Teacher Standards might be used as a model for someone somewhere.
We desperately need to change the conversation we’re having with students whether they be tertiary students through to primary about online activity.
Social media in and of itself isn’t bad, in fact when used effectively it is one of the most powerful forms of learning out there. Yet we spend so much time worrying about all the potential threats that we lose sight of all the awesome learning opportunities out there not just for would-be teachers but for kids around the planet.
Every day my twitter feed has a teacher asking for people to comment on their students blogs. I try to comment as much as I can but I could spend pretty much all day commenting on student blogs. I do so for two reasons. One as a pay it forward for my students so that when we start blogging there’s already an online community in place to support our efforts. But more importantly the kids already blogging need to know that their voices are heard and the way that can happen is through comments.
As a blogger I love getting comments. I know I have written more because there is an audience who reads this blog. If people weren’t commenting or retweeting my posts would I write as often, if at all? Probably not.
Now imagine you are a eight year old kid who might not have even left your own town getting a comment from someone half way around the world about something you’ve written. Those comments are going to have a far greater impact on their learning and motivation to write.
So why don’t we get an army of student teachers out there commenting on class blogs, individual blogs, finding out about the world outside our institution? It will help give the kids who need an audience for their writing a massive signal boost but more importantly it opens new teachers up to a world of ideas to implement in their classroom. A simple search of #comments4kids will immediately bring up a list of kids blogs looking for comments. It’s so easy to do yet the fear-driven ‘don’t do that’ limits our conceptions of what possibilities social media has for learning.
I realize I’m probably shouting into the wind on this. Every time a story about inappropriate online comment or picture gets a teacher in trouble it makes bureaucrats squirm and wish for a simpler day where the place for most youthful hijinks was in the archives of student magazines. These days doing silly things has the potential to be beamed around the world in a series of quick clicks. So our institutions respond through scaremongering students about the dangers of online activity and think they have done their job.
I don’t think they have.
Last week sat through a lecture where amongst other things hundreds of new teachers were given a talking to about the dangers of social media. What was amazing was in the next five minutes the speaker talked about the importance of collaboration and weekly journaling as a way for new teachers to develop professional competency. But there was no connection made between using social media inappropriately and using social media to enhance new teachers’ professional practice.
It was during the speaker’s spiel about the importance of backing up your professional evidence files that I had a sudden light bulb moment. This person probably doesn’t use social media for professional learning purposes. In fact this person probably doesn’t use social media at all. So how can they seek to give advice on a medium they don’t use?
Because if the speaker did use social media they’d know that blogs are great as a way to journal your thoughts. They’d know that twitter opens up a world of learning to teachers. And they’d know that cloud computing is a great way to avoid losing content if your device is stolen or destroyed.
No wonder all the speaker could see is the pitfalls of social media. If you don’t use it, then you don’t see all the potential for learning and collaboration when the medium is used wisely. You just see the pitfalls of bad decisions.
The problem with the powers that be who keep giving these dire warnings of an online life being the death knell of a teaching career is that they are driving new teachers, the very people who need a supportive community, behind digital gates where they can’t interact with a world of educators with ideas and support to help them with their learning.
But more importantly by failing to engage with the medium the powers that be in effect have relinquished their responsibility to model what effective online engagement for professional purposes might look. And then they wonder why students of all ages are getting into trouble for their online presence.
Because it isn’t just the kids who need to learn about cyber citizenship.
At the end of Educampakl I asked the question do geeks learn differently? I thought this would be an excellent topic to explore for the Virtual Learning Network’s November e-learning challenge to answer the question:
“What kinds of skills/knowledge/attitudes do teachers – and students – need if we are going to use technology effectively?
A geek will think nothing of sending you an instant message even if you happen to be sitting next to them. Non-geeks find it a bit weird or downright rude for someone to whip out their device in the middle of an important meeting or conversation and start checking their twitter feeds. However geeks think their conversations partners shouldn’t be limited to the people in the room.
Geeks have imaginary friends
Whether on facebook, bulletin boards, twitter or blogs geeks think nothing of spending the day interacting with people they’ve never met. In fact if you ask a geek who their best friends are they are more likely to give you twitter handles as names. The bonus of imaginary friends is that geeks always have people on hand to help them with their learning not to mention free tour guides sprinkled across the globe.
Geeks take risks
Geek might be chic but being early adopters of anything can also make you might unpopular. Gallielo had trouble getting invites to cocktail parties after declaring the world was round. Likewise geeks tend to engage in stuff like blogging which some people think is weird.
Geeks are curious
Geeks love to play with new gadgets and the internet is fill of all these clicky links that take you to different people and places. Because of this curiosity geeks don’t need large content-filled lectures just in time learning suits our needs far better.
Geeks love to share
Whether by blog, tweet or facebook update geeks love to tell the world what we are reading, writing and thinking about. Geeks are content creators rather than just consumers.
Geeks are superb information navigators
Contrary to popular opinion geeks don’t necessarily spend much more time on screen than non-geeks. But they work smarter when they are online. They’ll have RSS feeds, twitter PLNs which means that they don’t find relevant information, the information finds them.
Geeks come together for collaboration rather than content
Those big fancy conferences with important people are all fine and dandy but what geeks really come together for is the connection with others. Chances are a geek will have googled you and read your twitter feed before you’ve met. But this means the quality of our interaction is better when we do meet face to face.
So there you have it. Geeks aren’t that different from normal people. Think of them as a Facebook Friend you haven’t met.
“Once you go mac, you never go back.” – The battle cry of the apple groupie.
When I posted on the Orewa College debate a few months ago,I found myself incensed that most of the focus seemed to be on the device itself rather than on what the kids could do with them. However the flip side to the ‘ZOMG why would students ever need an ipad to learn’ teeth gnashing are Apple groupies who will tell you repeatedly about how wonderful their iphone/ipad/ipod is.
Let me state from the outset that my beef isn’t about the product Apple produces. The first computer I ever used back in the 1980s was a Macintosh and I continue to be impressed that my 2nd gen nano is still going strong after 5 years of brutal use. However the reason I found myself ‘back’ to PC was quite simple, I started paying for my computers. And once I started paying I quickly realized that a PC will fit my needs for a couple of hundred dollars less than an Apple which means more money for plane tickets to awesome places.
This is where Apple’s propaganda kicks in. Apple has long been really popular with graphic designers and the release of final cut pro made it the go-to brand for film editors. Hence why my film editor brother and graphic designer sister are apple users while I’m plugging away on a PC.
What the company has been brilliant at cultivating is the idea that PCs are for lowly, poor and unimaginative people with boring jobs while Apples are for clever, creative types who like modern music and don’t wear suits to work. It’s a genius marketing ploy really. Apple uses its popularity with the creative industry to fool the rest of us into thinking we can be hip through consuming their product and gets the user to do its advertising. Somehow sending an email or a posting a facebook update seems so much cooler when it is done on an ipad than a boring old PC.
This isn’t just a problem within education or unique to Apple.
In an era of global mass-production humans don’t compete for resources they way we did in the past. We no longer locally produce items by hand, instead we pick from the same selection of goods as everyone else on the planet. When I bought my nano in Seoul I knew it would be the same as the ones on offer in New Zealand and New York. And because of this global standardization of product people often define their personalities on how good their taste is, or how clever their choices are.
Having a dissenting opinion on food, books or clothes, or computing device is the way middle class people fight each other for status. We can’t out-consume each other because we can’t afford to, but we can and do compete with each other about making the ‘right’ consumer choice.
I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past. I looked down my blogging nose at people using blogger. High-volume traffic blogs use wordpress so I must be clever for using wordpress aren’t I special snowflake lalala. Of course people don’t come to my blog or yours on account of the blogging platform used, they come from content and connection. The platform doesn’t matter its what you do with it that counts.
Likewise if you’ve read this far, I’m sure you don’t really care that I’m writing my rant on a Dell Inspiron. I doubt anyone would take me seriously that my writing is better or more my blog more creative because I’m using a bright pink laptop to create it. Because ultimately we know blogging is about a creative thought process not consuming the ‘right’ product. Which makes me wonder when people start waxing lyrical about devices if they know why they purchased the thing in the first place.
To be clear, I don’t see consumption as a bad thing and I don’t really care if you put your iphone on the mantle next to a 5 dollar note and a picture of Steve Jobs for daily worship if you think the device meets your spiritual needs. But I do think that educators need to clearly articulate what is driving our consumer values rather than extolling the virtues of the device in and of itself.
Perhaps you’re after getting large numbers of devices into hands of students in which case you’ll be going after generic netbooks rather than branded Interactive White Boards. Maybe you are passionate about your students developing code in which case you want another brand of tablet from ipad so your students can use open source software. Or maybe having a bunch of touches is great so that your kids can use some great maths apps. Consuming isn’t the problem, mindless consumption is.
A few generations ago the things people owned were usually things either they handmade, or were things other people made by hand. In that era people were often defined by their work, by their output, not what the tools they used. Hopefully in a few years we’ll look back on the turf wars between computer brands and wonder what the fuss was about.
Because it’s about the learning, not the brand.
A few weeks ago my Dad found a photo album which contained a number of photos that I had never seen. My favourite is this one right here. I can’t decide what I love more about the photo. The way I’m looking towards my beloved grandmother or the huge line of people waiting to see the Empire Strikes Back in 70mm!
Apparently my Dad wanted to take a picture of the scene as my parents and grandparents couldn’t believe that people were queuing around the block for a movie. I would love to make a Dear Photograph of this scene but I have no idea if the cinema, which is located somewhere in Toronto, still exists.
Looking at that photo it’s not just the markers of fashion and movies that give rise to the time that the photo taken but the technology itself. Camera companies have recently stopped making film cameras for the movie industry as digital movie-making is now so commonplace.
This picture is quite poignant as my parents welcomed their first grandchild into the world less than two weeks ago. My parents are now grandparents and this baby’s reality will be so very different from my reality as the first-born child of my parents. I can’t even begin to predict what the world will be like when this baby starts school. But I do know one thing. The ipad we were taking pictures and videos of the baby will be considered old fashioned in five years time when he starts school.
So it depresses me to no end that we continue to have debates about the idea of students using technology in school. The idea that kids might be using technology for their learning is greeted with incredulous sniggers at the usefulness of the tool by the adults. We didn’t need those tools learn they cry so why do the children of today get these toys?
This is not a generational jealously problem. It is a learning problem. I grew up in a time when much of today’s means of communication was not even a dream Yet I am almost a teacher. I recognize that what was commonplace in my world, cassettes, film cameras, floppy disks, has nothing to do to the children of today let alone the ones starting school in 5 years time. If I want to meaningfully engage with my students I need to so with tools for learning that they will use. Yet this year I was using cassettes for a listening post activity. We need to do better than that.
We need to be more visionary about how we teach. I used to read encyclopedias for fun as a child but compared to effectively using the internet the encyclopedia is the record player of research. We need teachers to be able to guide kids in using these technology learning tools.
When the problem of cyberbullying rears its head our knee-jerk reaction seems to be to ban it rather than ask how can we help out students be responsible digital citizens? Solving the answer to that problem is obvious. All of us in education need to be good digital citizens ourselves. We need to model what we teach.This is not generational digital native versus digital immigrant thing. Old and young can give up on learning. But ultimately it is our job as teachers to educate for their future, not our past.
For a variety of reasons it wasn’t feasible for me to attend #ulearn11. Fortunately hundreds of wannabe and bonafide edugeeks are on hand to help facilitate my learning. So from the comfort of my lounge I ambled into the #ulearn11 conversations. And what a feast of information there was out there.
Alongside the twitter stream which had brief lulls due to network problems there were Google docs of major keynotes from Jack Bacon, Graeme Aitken, Dr Jan Herrington as well as conference breakouts from @MrKempnz, Cheryl Doig and I really loved @mrwoodnz google apps site.
Was it the same as being there?
I don’t get to partake in the offline conversations, the fun, the frivolity and the buzz that comes from attending big conferences but I still got some quick learning bites and had a few twitter conversations along the way.
However this might not always be the case .
InternetNZ tweeted that the online attendance for their
#net11 debate was 20 times the physical audience. With ulearn11 I was definitely in the minority of virtual attendees but will there be a tipping point when more of us will be at home in our PJs browsing our twitter feeds for conference tidbits?
Our conferences no longer have walls but what about our classrooms?
Because the potential for this type of back channeling in education is huge. Even one of the Perth-based members of my Personal Learning Community tweeted that he was enjoyed the links being generated from #ulearn11. What I think is the true power of back channeling is a true democratisation of conferences. It means anybody, from the important person giving the keynote address through to the student teacher sitting in her PJs in Auckland, are contributing to the conference.
This video really makes me homesick for South Korea. Having lived there for four years, I’ll probably always have a soft spot for the country (and its neighbour to the North where I spent a fascinating week locked inside). I love how Tesco have used the internet and technology to bring its stores to the places people gather and interact. My question how do we the same to the world to education?
In some ways I already am.
I’m completing my teaching diploma via distance meaning I can study when I want and where I want. If I feel like spending the afternoon having a paddle board lesson, I can. If I’m going away on holiday, so long as I have access to an internet connection my studies don’t have to suffer. My university’s placement office has done a fantastic job of ensuring that in both my teaching experiences I have ended up with my first choice of schools. In short I’ve tailored my higher education to fit my needs rather than having to work my life around institutional demands. I’m guessing that as time goes by more students will making the same demands of our institutions.
How long will be before more students give up on the lecture-based model, which is the staple of undergraduate teaching, will last? Do universities really need to invest in large lecture halls when a student can access the best minds on the planet via podcast or you tube? What place does higher education have in the digital age?
1. Social connections
Alongside learning the theorists great works and how to write essays, perhaps the most useful part of my undergraduate degree was making connections with people who have turned out to be life-long friends. I also had access to some amazing lecturers during my time at university. The best course I have taken in my university career was a Women in Politics where our lecturer decided we would spend out class time on the grounds of Old Government House discussing the likes Mary Wollestonecraft, Harriete Mill and Bell Hocks under trees.
In order to enter a lot of professions, you need the piece of paper to say that you have the requisite skills and knowledge to be a doctor/lawyer/teacher/engineer/pharmacist etc. Generally the only place you can gain both the knowledge and piece of paper is at university.
3. Local content
I would argue that perhaps one of the buffers that universities have against the digitalisation is that institutions are important repositories of local expertise. There would be a lot of content in New Zealand teacher education that is irrelevant to overseas educators conversely gaining a teaching qualification in another jurisdiction might leave me with significant gaps in my knowledge to operate effectively within a New Zealand context.
In my case my current foray into the world of education serves one purpose: credientialing. In order to teach in classrooms, I need to fill some gaps in my knowledge and get the piece of paper saying I have done so. I haven’t made as many friends within my course as I did the last time around. However I have a small group of friends based in Auckland doing the course and an awesome online Personal Learning Network. A lot of my network have no connection at all with the university though some may have graduated from there, I think this is perhaps the most powerful aspect of online learning, the capacity for learning to take place outside of not only classrooms and cities but borders as well.
My main reason for choosing a New Zealand-based university is because I’m a New Zealand citizen which makes it a lot more cost-effective place to gain a qualification due to (relatively) cheap tuition and now that I am officially old I also get a student allowance. However globalisation is making people’s lives a lot more fluid. I’ve lived in three countries during my lifetime and there’s a chance I’ll live in more.
My main criticism would be that the institution is still relying very much on education 1.0 models. A lot of the information is hidden behind digital gates, the platforms that the course uses aren’t ones that students use or for that matter like. While some lecturers have been great about using online forums to interact with students, with others it feels like the content was cut and pasted from lecture notes and that’s all the interaction there is. There’s not much use of you tube nor of social media. Simply put it feels like the university isn’t part of the space I inhabit as a digital citizen. That’s not a good place for an institution to be in, yet I know that my university isn’t alone. But perhaps all educators, no matter the age of the students, need to ask ourselves this question: if your students can get their answers from somewhere else, what purpose do you have in their lives?