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Archive for the ‘professional learning’ Category

DEANZ Conference 2012 reflections

DEANZ 2012 logoAnd so the DEANZ Conference has come to a close. It has been both refreshing and enriching having three days out of the office to be immersed entirely in the world of distance learning. Events such as this are a wonderful celebration of distance learning and show that, although we all work for different organisations, we share a common goal: quality education that is accessible for all learners. So many of the sessions I attended reflected my own experience of distance learning and teaching; so much so that I sometimes wondered if the presenters were actually talking about my work! One of the many things I love about distance education is that it can occur anywhere and at any time, that is, access to learning is not dependent on location or a particular timetable. It certainly makes sense in today’s increasingly busy society.

For me, the biggest highlight of this conference (and most conferences) was the opportunity to engage and interact with so many others working in the same field. I enjoyed meeting many people whom I have ‘worked with’ or encountered virtually over the years. I also enjoyed catching up with current and past colleagues, former managers and chief executives, students (former and current) and those who taught me back in my teacher training and university days. The education community is a rich tapestry and I am thrilled that my professional learning network is continually growing.

A big thank you to the organising committee for making this event happen. I look forward to continuing our professional conversations in the days/weeks/months/years to come. 🙂

Becoming a 21st century school

This afternoon’s DEANZ Conference keynote was delivered virtually via video link from Tuscon, Arizona – truly modelling distance learning. Ken Kay from EdLeader21 gave a presentation entitled The 7 steps to become a 21st century school. There is much that tertiary education can learn from the schooling sector and these ideas easily apply to all levels of learning – we all face the same challenges.

What is 21st century education?

We’re already 12 years into the 21st century, but it seems like we are still trying to define what education in this century is all about. Ken pointed us to a framework on the P21 website. He talked about blending the 3Rs with the 4Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. These are otherwise known as student outcomes, or attributes that students should aspire to, and these also need to be demonstrated by teachers as models for effective pedagogy. The 4Cs very much reflect the key competencies that support the New Zealand Curriculum.

21st century student outcomes

What are the 7 steps for implementation?

Embracing the 4Cs in principle or rhetorically is not enough to make them work. This is where an implementation strategy is necessary and Ken introduced the 7 steps model before unpacking each step in detail.

7 steps modelKen challenged us to go home and complete the MILE Guide self assessment survey and find out which elements of our practice are from the 19th, 20th or 21st century. Gulp!

I was interested to hear Ken’s thoughts about how professionals should be using the 4Cs in their own practice (and not just for teaching students). He argues that the 4Cs can and should be used as a measure for hiring, compensation, evaluation and promotion.

Ken concluded his virtual keynote by sharing a video called The 4Cs: Making 21st century learning happen, featuring student and teacher voices.

DEANZ Conference 2012

DEANZ 2012 logoA group of colleagues and I are attending the Distance Education Association of New Zealand (DEANZ) Conference this week. The day’s proceedings began with mihi whakatau with Open Polytechnic (as tangata whenua) welcoming the manuhiri (guests) to the conference. It is good to be able to make use of the wireless internet here at the venue by tweeting and blogging from the event. You can follow updates via the Twitter hashtag #DEANZ2012.

The opening keynote address was given by Professor Paul Bacsich, who we hosted at Open Polytechnic last week. Paul continued talking about his research into models for virtual schools and colleges (VISCED) and shared three institutions who are considered successful: Sofia Distans in Sweden, Interhigh in Wales and Brisbane School of Distance Education in Australia. He has generated a list of ‘Multeversity features’ for universities and tertiary institutions in the future, including bridging into and from upper secondary school learning to reduce the drop-out while still leveraging school-level knowledge. As teachers, we are constantly looking for ways to make connections with learners’ prior learning and experience and it would be good to see mechanisms in place to support this in the tertiary sector.

Professor Niki Davis and colleagues gave an invited presentation entitled A scenario guide to effective tertiary education for New Zealand in 2016. Four scenarios were unpacked: articulation, the ‘supermarket’, quality branded consortia and self-determination. Each has its benefits and limitations and ultimately the exercise is about maximising the overlap and relationships between the four quadrants to provide the most effective learning solutions. Coming from a background in “self-determination”-styled learning as a primary e-teacher, I would love to explore strategies that would enable this approach in the tertiary learning environment.

I will continue to blog and tweet throughout the conference … or for as long as my laptop battery lasts. 🙂

Virtual post-secondary institutions

Paul BacsichOn Monday 2 April, Open Polytechnic was pleased to host Professor Paul Bacsich as our guest. Paul has been involved in a wide range of EU and international e-learning projects during the past 20 years and is a visiting fellow at the University of Canterbury e-Learning Research Lab during 2012. He is also a keynote speaker at the upcoming Distance Education Association of New Zealand (DEANZ) Conference in Wellington next week.

Paul’s first session was a keynote presentation for all interested staff and was entitled Virtual post-secondary institutions – Where next? With a particular focus on virtual schools and colleges (VISCED), including those considered to have dual-mode (ie blended) delivery, Paul gave us an overview of the successes, partial successes and failures of distance and virtual universities around the world and briefly introduced us to one successful model, the Open Universities Australia consortium. Various issues affecting the success of these institutions are similar to those faced here in New Zealand, including student retention, completion rates and performance-based funding.

Paul also held informal discussion sessions during the afternoon for our Faculty and Learning and Teaching Solutions staff to attend. The Faculty session was an opportunity for staff to ask Paul more questions about his work as it might relate to Open Polytechnic as well as give him an idea about the structure of programmes we offer. Paul believes that the biggest barriers to learning occur between the compulsory and post-compulsory education sectors – which is not necessarily the same thing as the gap between secondary and tertiary education.

Indigenous literacies

Te Wananga o Aotearoa logoOn Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending Te Pae Ako Adult Literacy and Numeracy Symposium at Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Porirua. The symposium was a celebration of the journey educators are taking in supporting literacy and numeracy in tauira (students), particularly in a Maori context. Excellent addresses were given by two keynote speakers (the third was unable to attend due to events relating to the Christchurch earthquake) and a range of workshops were presented by staff from various wananga and institutes of technology around the country. More than anything, energy and inspiration came from interacting with a group of people who were truly dedicated to improving learning outcomes for their tauira, particularly through empowerment in the areas of literacy and numeracy.

Indigenous literacies

I have always thought there is a lot more to literacy than reading and writing, yet these seem to almost exclusively encompass what we understand about being literate. So what does it mean to be multi-literate? Who decides? As part of his opening address, Dr Shane Edwards introduced the concept of colonial functional vs indigenous literacies, as summarised here:

Colonial functional literacies Indigenous literacies (pae ako)
Reading
Riting
Rithmetic
Respect
Relationship
Reciprocity

Multiple literacies

It was stressed that indigenous literacies apply to everyone, and not just indigenous peoples. Also, in no way do they undermine the importance of what we have traditionally seen as the 3 Rs; multiple literacies strengthens everyone’s ability to be literate and benefit all of society. By taking a (k)new approach to science and literacy, we are valuing and developing skills from a position of strength by recognising and building on the cultural capital of each learner.

Highlights and challenges

As with any quality professional learning experience, there were a number of highlights and thinking points that emerged throughout the day, some of which provided great challenges to my own ideas about literacy, numeracy and learning. Dr Manulani Aluli Meyer, Associate Professor at the University of Hawai’i was particularly challenging and inspirational. Here are some ideas I am pondering:

  • Experience doesn’t come from words. Words flow from experience.” – Nityananda. How often to we value the written (or spoken) word over experiencing something first hand? Why does education seem to reflect and promote this?
  • An over-reliance on literacy will be the downfall of Western society as we know it. I am still struggling with this statement. It is not undermining the value of literacy, rather its function and how we have elevated its status in Western society.
  • Language is the medium in which understanding occurs … understanding only occurs in interpretation.” – Gadamer. Merely speaking or writing means little unless it is understood.
  • Context is within. Content is external.” – Roxanne Kala. Without an authentic and meaningful context, knowledge is simply external and short term.

Courses are dead

I love that title! 😀

I have been reading and re-reading parts of Informal Learning by Jay Cross. Naturally, a heading such as Courses are dead is going to be provocative, partly because it is such a blanket statement, but also because there is an element of truth in it. Cross is referring to courses as the solution to corporate training, often simplistically seen as an easy way to upskill staff and meet learning needs in one go.

When I first started teaching by distance, I attended a full day training workshop about the technicalities of using Blackboard as a learning management system. Making the move from classroom teaching to online distance learning was a challenge I was both anxious and excited about. However, I became increasingly uneasy during the training day when learning was referred to as ‘developing a course’. I was going to be teaching Y3-4 students; they don’t take courses! It became clearer that course was the technical term used to describe whatever we were teaching. It took several years of using different terminology, namely programme of learning, to start seeing a shift in how staff thought about their teaching and, as a result, their students’ learning.

Pill bottle imageThis year, the New Zealand tertiary education sector is charged with the task of embedding literacy and numeracy strategies into all level 1-3 courses. Embedding explicitly involves not sending students off to complete an external course then come back with their learning needs ‘fixed’, leaving them ready for the ‘real’ learning they are enrolled for. True, they are invariably still participating in a course of learning, but hopefully the embedding strategy will help address students’ learning needs in a more holistic manner rather than ‘popping a learning pill’ of sorts.

I believe the same concept applies for professional learning in the workplace. Expecting staff to attend a series of courses pre-determined by management might not be the best way to address individual or personalised learning needs, nor recognise prior learning and experience. Establishing a baseline of essential knowledge and skills for all staff to demonstrate can be a helpful way to approach professional learning as long as there is enough flexibility to be able to effectively customise elements of the programme. I am in the process of developing a professional learning programme that is online and modular, with components that are interchangeable and based on an inquiry based learning approach. The framework consists of modules from six strands and is grounded in reflective practice. It’s early days yet, but it is very exciting developing a model which I believe will explore in depth and strengthen the fundamental knowledge and skills required for successfully teaching in our learning environment. Watch this space!

Online thinking spaces

This morning, I revisited the EDtalks video by Paul Reynolds: Living and learning in the cloud. Paul, formerly of McGovern Online, was a dynamic speaker and a pioneer in internet development who sadly passed away in May 2010. His talk stimulated my thinking in several key areas.

Recently, we have been talking about professional learning with reference to the 2 Cs: content and context. Paul talks about “dancing with the 3 Cs“: connection, capability/confidence and content. The 3 Cs expands context by adding connection to the list and coupling it with capability/confidence, essentially giving them equal weighting with content. They acknowledge the affective domain, which refers to people’s reactions and emotions in relation to their learning. Connecting also supports ideas around social networks of learning, imperative to effective learning in changing times, an area which George Siemens talked about during his visit on Monday.

Paul talked about digital literacy. Now, more than ever, it is vital that we teach our students how to process and making meaning from the flood of information they can access, otherwise they are simply drowning in it. He referred to the contentious question raised by Nicholas Carr: Is Google making us stupid? Floods of skeptics would love to reply, “yes”. I’d be far more hesitant to make such a broad claim. The debate refers to the depth of thinking and processing information that goes on in a Google-world. In an age where information is readily accessible in a ‘drive-by’ or ‘takeaway’ form, Paul asks, “Where are the spaces for deep, reflective thinking?” What do online thinking spaces look like? And, if they existed, would you use them? This is where equipping our learners with the skills and strategies they need in order to become digitally literate comes in, enabling deep, critical, reflective and creative thinking to occur.

Watch Paul’s video here.