Thursday, May 24, 2012

#fslt12 Reflective Writing

I feel that it is important that a number of points are understood before the following response is read:
  1. As my Introduction of Self indicates I come from a strong English heritage, yet my genealogy goes back almost 200 years in Australia.
  2. Since visiting Lajamanu in 2009 I have found myself questioning many assumptions underlying my undestanding of Indigenous cultures and my own English culture. A lot of what I write now looks at that space that I find myself in, between the two cultures in Australia.
  3. I see a strong correlation between MOOCs and Indigenous Ways of Learning.

Metaphors of two cultures of learning

Below are two different metaphorical views of knowledge and learning that will inform my response to the Reflective Writing activity in the First Steps into Teaching and Learning 2012 MOOC. The pyramid symbolises the Western view of knowledge, where knowledge is an edifice which is built brick by brick and stored as a separate place. Once built it becomes difficult to traverse. The aim of Western education is to collect building blocks with the goal of building a personal pyramid. The 8 Aboriginal Ways Ways of Learning diagram represents Aboriginal ways of learning where knowledge is continuously built and reshaped through interaction with others. These types of designs can be drawn in the dirt with fingers or a stick. It also views knowledge as a landscape that can be traversed and where context is important to understanding.

8  Aboriginal Ways of Learning - Yunkaporta 2009

Like much of Western educational symbols the UK Professional Standards Framework 2011 uses a triangle to symbolise a solid edifice that is meant to be long lasting. There are arrows symbolising links between the three dimensions but it seems to indicate that it is from a base of Core Knowledge and Professional Values that Area of Activities is built. Although it would be possible to analyse all three dimensions using the 8 Ways model, this reflection will focus on the dimension of Professional Values.

V1 Respect individual learners and diverse learning communities

Overall, respect for learners and their communities starts with a belief that there are many valid ways to view and interpret the world around us, that no single worldview is superior or inferior to other worldviews. The 8 Ways element of Story Sharing is the place for building respect for learners and their communities by building understanding of the different worldviews present in the place of learning. One way of achieving this is through introduction:
The protocol for introducing one's self to other Indigenous people is to provide information about one's cultural location, so that connection can be made on political, cultural and social grounds and relations established (Moreton-Robinson, 2000. Quoted in Martin, 2008.)
The above protocol for introducing one's self is much easier to achieve in an online environment than in a lecture hall. An online forum can allow space to be given for students and teachers alike to share stories to attain an understanding of each other's background. The lecture hall only gives this opportunity to the lecturer, creating a distance between the learner and the lecturer's knowledge from the outset. The opportunity to share stories online can spread beyond the forum to blogs and their ensuing comments, and social media tools.

Respecting diverse learning communities has the problem of either inviting the learner into the pyramid or of imposing the culture of the pyramid onto another culture. Traditional learning involves being indoctrinated into the ways of the dominant culture (Gramsci, 1971). The learning is a one-way transmission from expert to novice and the learning involves more than the transfer of ways of doing things, it also involves a change in the ways of being. This method of teaching poses problems for communities that are trying to preserve their culture. A way to overcome this problem involves the teacher taking a different stance in relation to the learning. By making links with the community on a basis of equality, the teacher can explain how they do things, leaving the community to integrate the new knowledge into their ways of doing things. The teacher also takes away what the community has taught them to integrate back into the pyramid.

V2 Promote participation in higher education and equality of opportunity of learners

This point seems to imply that higher education is something that someone enters, much like entering a pyramid and that the doors to the pyramid should be open for all to enter and be transformed. There does not seem to be a recognition of the part that the communities mentioned in V1 have to play in the development of human knowledge. It is almost like the point is saying, "Promote the imposition of higher education on communities equally." The point would be better worded to fit in with Indigenous Ways by saying, "Promote links between communities and higher education to better foster the development of human knowledge."

V3 Use evidence-informed approaches and the outcomes from research, scholarship and continuing professional development

My teaching has always been informed from these three areas but it also involves my own experience. I come to education with a range of experiences, both as a teacher and before teaching, which are my own. Although these experiences fall outside the purview of research and scholarship, they are informed by research and act as a lens through which I view any research I come across, and they form a large part of my continuing professional development.

MOOCs are a good example of learning practice that can take place outside of the pyramid. By accessing open resources and interacting with a range of teachers and researchers from around the world, I am able to use the outcomes from research and scholarship without having to subscribe to a certain way of seeing the world in order to attain recognition for my learning.

V4 Acknowledge the wider context in which higher education operates recognising the implications for professional practice

Living in Australia involves coming to terms with its Indigenous history. The biggest difficulty in doing this is the concept of progress and where this places Indigenous culture in the mind of teachers (Langton, 1993). The idea of progress presupposes the leaving behind a way of doing things because these ways are primitive or backward. This presupposition leads to a disrespect and dismissal of Indigenous culture, leaving the culture out of the conversation about human knowledge. Dismissing the culture of a student means dismissing the student, leaving them isolated from the learning. I believe there is a need for a deeper understanding and respect for Indigenous cultures in Australian higher education and professional practice.


Gramsci, Antonio. (1971). Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Edited and translated by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. International Publishers  New York.

Langton, M. (1993). Well I heard it on the Radio and I saw it on the Television ...". Woolloomooloo, NSW, Australia: Australian Film Commission. Accessed 23/5/2012.

Martin, Karen L. (2008). Please knock before you enter: Aboriginal regulation of Outsiders and the implications for researchers. Post Pressed. Teneriffe, Qld.

Yunkaporta, Tyson. (2009). Aboriginal pedagogies at the cultural interface. PhD thesis, James Cook University. Accessed 19/5/2012. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Introduction of Self

My name is Allan Quartly. I am the second (and last) child of Ronald and Beryl Quartly (nee Gibbens). I was born and raised in Balmain, a suburb of the city of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. I am a Balmain boy. 

My parents were both born in Sydney, my father in Bondi, my mother in Balmain. My mother’s mother was born in England and migrated to Australia in the early decades of the 20th century, where she married my grandfather. My father’s parents were both born in Australia, but my great-grandfather Quartly migrated to Australia from England. And so it goes, all the way back to early colonial times, every second generation at least, an Australian born ancestor marries a British born ancestor from England or Northern Ireland. My own children are the first in my line that do not have at least one parent or grandparent born in England. It is for this reason that, although I feel a great love for this country Australia, my ancestral home is both England and Australia.

In 2009 I was fortunate enough to attend Milpirri Festival in Lajamanu with a fellow teacher, Lance (Jangala) Box. This trip transformed my understanding of Indigenous Ways and started me on a complex journey of discovery about Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations. It is also where I was given the Warlpiri skin name, Jampijinpa. I now live and work in Katherine and surrounding communities in the Northern Territory as the ICT Support Teacher. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Initial thoughts on #fslt12

The First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (#fslt12) MOOC asks us participants to reflect on our overall experience to date as a teacher; what kinds of students we have taught, what we have discovered from the experience, and what we have most enjoyed in our teaching? A fairly taunting task.

For me, teaching has been a journey, both physically, socially and intellectually. I have taught in a number of schools in Australia and the UK. The schools I have worked in cover a wide spectrum of socio-economic and cultural settings - Independent, Catholic and Public systems; low socio-economic, urban, regional and rural; high socio-economic, inner-city; remote Indigenous communities. My roles have been classroom teacher, teacher trainer and computer network administrator.

What I've learnt most from the experience is that teaching is a social endeavour and the role is determined by the community the teacher works in. The learning activity is a negotiation between the subject, teacher and student. Relationships are formed, positive and negative, between the three which enhance or inhibit the learning. Getting students to see the intrinsic value of a subject, getting them to learn for learning sake, is half (if not all of) the battle. Getting teachers to see the intrinsic value of IT in the classroom is a different battle.

What I enjoy most about teaching are the thank you at the end of a lesson from students who tell me how much they dislike school when they first meet me. Its that excitement in their eyes when they get that concept that puts everything together in their mind. I also enjoy watching students and teachers working together excitedly as they learn new technology together. When teacher and student connect in a way that rarely happens when a teacher is up the front commanding the learning.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The being-with role in learning

 Being-with is the relationship between entities.

The Self is a being-with creature. 

We are how we be-with the world. 

Our identities are bound up with the way we be-with the world, how we interact with Others. 

Our interchanging identities are our Selves changing between relationships. 

We are not atomised Beings that form and aggregate separate from the world, we reflect our relationship to the world. 

Every millisecond of experience reforms and reshapes our neural pathways to form a shape of the world around us. Our identity is this continuously reformed understanding of the world. 

Without this reformed view we would trip over as we walk upon uneven ground, we would be unable to catch sight of falling leaves. 

We are where we are. We are the relationships we have with things, both living and non-living, around us. 

In the free-flowing world of the internet it is hard to fully grasp our own identity because of the fast changing relationships. The picture in our minds of the world change so fast on the internet that we become disjointed. We find it hard to pin down a recurring image of the place that we sit in in the online world. We sit in multiple places at once. Each tab on the browser represents a different aspect of oneself interacting with others. In any one day we sit as broadcasters, friends, intimates, eavesdroppers and audience, oftentimes switching between modes of being-with within seconds.

In the past the roles in education were fairly distinct between learner and the learning - the student was the audience, the teacher was the broadcaster. But these roles aren't as clear cut any more. The learning process is a lot more fluid on the Internet with learner(s) and teacher(s) (inter)acting as broadcasters, audience, eavesdroppers and even friends simultaneously. Everyone is privy to the discussions and sense-making taking place both inside and outside the learning space, with participants never fully aware of their audience. Without knowing who is in the room it is hard to know which stance to take.

Traditionally, educators set a path to knowledge where we would say, "Here is a body of knowledge. Memorise it, analyse it and then build upon it." Now we have bodies of knowledges and we place the student in the middle of it all and expect them to create their own pathways. We are in danger of abandoning our children in a forest of knowledge and expecting them to find their way home. Part of the reason for the abandonment is because the elders aren't in the forest, they're afraid of it because they don't understand it. Another reason is because pathways haven't been properly developed yet, significant landmarks are yet to be built, creation stories are yet to be told. Relationships with the knowledge and between the knowledge-holders are yet to be established.

As being-with creatures learners build relationships with the subject and the learning process. How often do we hear students say, "I hate Maths" or "I love group work"? It often took an inspirational teacher to turn the negative learning relationship around to a positive one. (Example) These relationships inform students about their identity: "I'm not a Maths person", "I'm more right brained", "I'm good at essays". At the moment it is unclear what relationships are to be formed with this new learning and hence what identities are to be taken up by learners in the process. "I'm a good blogger", "I'm a good commenter", "I like to lurk" and many more identities and roles are yet to be formalised amongst online learners. And amongst all this we are yet to place relative values on these roles in learning.

Big thanks to Bonnie Stewart and her Six Online Identities sessions during the #change11 MOOC this week. Check out her blog for more background.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Integrating the classroom into ICT and the rise of the virtual pedagogue - #change11

For years now we have been talking about integrating ICT into the classroom. At first this meant using applications like word processing, spreadsheets and databases to do traditional classroom tasks. This was quickly followed by the use of the Internet to do traditional research tasks. Then along came YouTube to replace the VCR. And lately we have social media and the like to replace the traditional classroom discussion.

None of this transforms education. It merely automates and digitises it. We are trying to put a round peg into a square hole.

Thinking outside the box which is the classroom, we can see a plethora of learning opportunities. But what we fail to see is the teacher outside this box. The moment a new tool becomes available teachers quickly build fences and walls around the tool to create learning spaces and then place themselves firmly in the middle, demanding attention and control.

What if we truly flipped the classroom and put it out into the real world? What if teachers acted more like celebrities and less like prison guards, gathering followers instead of corralling charges? They could become teachers to a thousand Emiles, taking them on virtual journeys through the landscape of knowledge. Parents could assign their children to virtual pedagogues that escort them between virtual and physical learning spaces.

The traditional classroom reflects the industrial society of the 19th and 20th centuries. There would be a place of work for them to attend each day as adults, so there was a place of work for them to attend each day as children. They would be told which tasks to perform and how to do it at work, so they were told the same at school. The work would be procedural, so the learning was procedural.

For the modern "classroom" to reflect society today it must be accessible anywhere, exist in the cloud, be able to be navigated and allow for both impromptu and planned gatherings. Learning must happen as it is needed. In this learning space the teacher looks at scenarios, both real and predicted, and creates assessments that capture learning gaps and directs students to learning resources. These learning resources would be created specifically for the situation or linked to by the teacher. Further assessment refines the learning as needed.

Just as the bells, classroom layout and lesson structure of the traditional classroom taught the processes of work, the modern classroom must reflect the ad hoc nature of today's society. At the very least this means that timetables for learning cannot be set at the beginning of the year. They will probably need to be set, at a minimum, daily, and reflect the learning needs of the child at that point in time. The learning spaces the child attends will vary according to their learning needs at the time, with various adults in attendance (ie. parents, teachers, non-teaching supervisors), in various locations (home, school, library), and with various learning tools (teachers, experts, devices, simulations).

Movement between these spaces will need to be coordinated, which is where the true transformation of education can take place. This coordination role can be in the hands of either a central education authority (as it is now) or it can be returned to the parent (as it was in pre-industrial times). If it is returned to the parent then we will most likely see the return of the Athenian pedagogue, the person who escorts the child from teacher to teacher. Except this time, the escorting can be done online, or at least the organisation of the mode of escort (taxi, buses, website, Google Hangout) can be done online.

And it can all be automated. A virtual pedagogue could emerge.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Where will learners gather to learn?

Today we had a discussion about the effectiveness of lecturing over at G+. Below is one of my responses. Meg Tufano originally suggested that online learning was the way forward.

+Meg Tufano I agree that online looks like the way to go but I'm not sure on the approach yet. As a learner I find online a smorgasbord of things to learn but, like +Michael Franzwa I'm a very independent learner, I can learn with or without others. But I think we are a rare breed. Most people need some sort of community to follow in order to learn and that takes a lot of interaction. Being forced to sit in a lecture hall or study group ensures group connections, not necessarily good ones but connections nonetheless. Even the discussions about how boring the lecture was is a time of reflection. Knowing that others feel the same way about the terrible lecture gives a learner confidence because they know they are not alone. How do we emulate that community online? Remembering, of course, that most learners do not understand their own needs for community while learning.

The elder Indigenous people of Australia used to sit and sing songs about the environment around them. They would layer knowledge onto the land, sky, animals and waterways, knowing that at some point in the future the child who could hear them, but was not listening, would remember the knowledge when the time came. As the child grew and walked the land they deepened their knowledge. As they strengthened their bonds with the people and land, they strengthened their understanding of the interconnections of the knowledge. When the child showed the beginning of understanding they were initiated into and given access to the next level of knowledge. These initiations continued through life until they too become an elder.

In our cultures we build the knowledge as libraries and edifices. A lot of the knowledge is gathered and stored, a thing to be dug up. This is why we have lectures. The learner sits in the spray of knowledge, collects the droplets and then goes away to imagine how these things interconnect. Sometimes these interconnections are written down and then added to the library. The Dewey system and other ways of organising knowledge are like the pathways of old. The professors the elders.You could happen upon knowledge while wandering the corridors of the library. Happen upon a book in a section while looking for a different book. It is a solitary endeavour unless you imagine the books as friends which a lot of good learners do. Having access to professors and the vaults of deeper learning depends on the learner proving their worth via exams and papers. Graduation is the initiation ceremony, except only a few are actually allowed through. Most leave the edifice with the label "educated".

Where are the pathways through online learning? Where are the elders sitting? Where are the gathering places? Where are the ceremonies that celebrate initiation? Who are the people that the learner needs to connect with to gain deeper understanding?

I've yet to see a truly online learning environment that answers these questions. It all just seems like a clumsy attempt to digitise the lecture hall, classroom, study group and associated materials. We have the new social environment online and we have the new data stores but where do the people gather to learn?

Monday, January 09, 2012

Knowledge as landscape.

Looking around at a landscape one experiences the shapes and context of the physical environment. As we sweep our vision across the vista we take in the different views and develop a picture in our mind of what it is that we are seeing. We never see the whole vista at once, yet in our mind we can piece it all together. We move our vision across, imagining the parts now out of sight as we see the parts that are coming into view, piecing it all together by blending memories and vision into a cohesive whole. It is this built vision of the landscape that we know, not the actual landscape itself.

Knowledge of a landscape can act as a metaphor for knowledge itself. It can be something outside of ourselves that we can traverse and experience. It doesn't have to be something we own, it can be something we interact with. And like the physical landscape, we can build pictures of different detail and perspectives of that knowledge. The knowledge we build in our minds is not the things we know, it is our interpretation, or vision, of that knowledge. The more we traverse the landscape of knowledge the richer the experience becomes.

When knowledge is viewed this way the debate on the importance of content in education become superfluous. The content is the landscape. Do we shackle learners to stand facing a certain direction so that they learn only that content? Or do we point out the importance of the different aspects as they themselves scan and move about within the landscape?

Image: EA /