Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why schools seem unwilling to adopt new technologies (#change11)

Oftentimes people point to research conducted in a university context to ask why teachers aren't implementing social media services into their teaching practice. The simple answer is schools are different to universities, our clientele is different. The clientele of a university is it's students - the clientele of a school is society in general and parents in particular. Before we try and convince teachers to grasp change in education, it is always necessary to convince parents that it is safe to do so.

I wonder what parents' first reaction would be if they knew that their child had 2000 people reading their child's blog. From my experience as a teacher there could well be a reaction of fear. The idea that 2000 strangers were watching their child would frighten some parents, especially parents who are unaware of blogs and their uses. I think this is part of the reason why we are slow to adopt new technologies in schools. Here is one principal's recent reaction to Facebook. The comments about the article speaks loudest of all about why social media is not being used in schools.

Ten years ago I was teaching students how to use email using Hotmail. Within a very short time Hotmail and other web based email was blocked by the school system I work in, and it took a number of years before an email service was provided to each student. Why was email blocked and then released under strict control? Because of the fear of students sending inappropriate messages to each other. YouTube is blocked. Why? Same reason, only its video not messages.

No doubt, in a few years time all manner of social media services will be available to students under strict, filtered conditions. In the meantime teachers will be unable to fully implement Personal Learning Networks for their students.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Connectivism or not? Its not either/or.

There seems to be a false divide between a fully open, connected teaching style and the more traditional content focussed teaching style. Mrbrenlea expressed this divide with his concern with giving students freedom to build connections:

"But, do I believe it should be up to each individual to follow only what interests them: hardly. Reflecting on my own interests as a child, if I had only followed the nodes that allowed me further to develop my knowledge of areas of interest, then I would have wound up learning nothing except how to put on a show, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?,” and perhaps the 100 reasons why cats are better then dogs."

In the above statement, Mrbrenlea has taken a general principle and applied it to a specific group - children. But would he apply the same principle say, to a 35 year old grad student? Probably not. Each person has different learning needs at different stages of thier lives.

I don't think teaching is a profession that can use conclusions from ideas across the whole profession. Mostly because, as a profession, we deal with all ages. And teaching is a bit like parenting - at first the baby is given very little freedom but they are allowed to experiment with the environment under very controlled circumstances. Over time the child is given more freedom to explore, until finally adulthood arrives and the child is making decisions for him or her self. But parenting is more than controlling the immediate environment (content) of the child, it is also about preparing them for what lays ahead (connectivism). We teach them skills like resilience, even though we would never let them come to fatal harm. We teach them about sex, but we would never want them to act on that knowledge immediately.

But we also teach them how to talk, read, jump, run, swim, all sorts of things that they may not be interested in. And they learn it. Not necessarily because they want to but because small children will learn what they are taught. But as they get older we use more sophisticated methods to teach them what they don't want to know and we also stop trying to control everything they learn.

So to with Connectivism. We can teach children how it is done within a controlled environment when young and slowly loosen the contol as they get older. Where are the key points along the way for increasing Connectivism? This is where the debate should be happening. Not on whether one or the other method should be used.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

MOOCing!! (Said in your best Jim Carey voice)

This week I started the Change: Education, Learning and Technology MOOC. For those unfamiliar with the acronym, a MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course.

Feeling excited about it at this stage but already starting to feel a little apprehensive about it all as well because there is already so much to take in - particularly how I'm going to go about creating and using a cohesive set of tools to collate and organise the information(learning).

Last night I went off, as I usually do, following links as I pleased and ended up where I usually do, in a headspace that was struggling to make sense of what I'd seen and read. So now I am going to try and document my cyber travels.

At this stage of the course we are in Orientation, which means we are finding our way around the idea of a MOOC. As a first step I bookmarked an article using Diigo. I am not the most reliable bookmarker, I never have been, so it will be interesting to see how long I keep that up!

The article, How to participate in an open online course, did just that, with an outline of what not to expect and some tips for getting started. Here are a couple of responses:

Step 1. Somewhat define your goals. What is success for you? - In this course I will be happy if have put together a modest portfolio of resources and contacts that are organised in a way that is easily retrievable.

Step 2. Declare/define yourself. Where can people find you? Twitter? Your blog? Give enough information so people can connect with you. An image never hurts. - Obviously, I will use this blog. But I will also use Twitter and probably Google+.