Reflecting on learning and seeing the world in exciting new ways.

Posts tagged ‘learning’

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. 🙂

A changing alphabet

A colleague sent me these graphics this morning; I see they have been doing the rounds via Twitpic this week. They cleverly highlight the key differences between the traditional education most of us would have experienced and the kind of education children growing up in our digital world are experiencing now.

It got me wondering … what will these graphics look like in ten years’ time? Five? Or even next year?Alphabet most of us got to learn ...

Alphabet taught to kids today

Who are our priority learners?

There is much talk in the tertiary sector about foundation, under-served and developmental students. Collectively, they are described as priority learners and comprise approximately 100,000 learners in the New Zealand tertiary education system who are enrolled in a programme designed to lead to further educational or better employment activities. This includes:

  • level 1-3 programmes
  • targeted training programmes
  • level 4 bridging programmes.

Why priority learners?

So, what does this mean? And why focus on priority learners? Data shows that a large proportion of this group are aged 40+ and currently hold either School Certificate (or NCEA level 1) or no qualifications at all.  There is also a large proportion of Māori and Pasifika students represented in these figures. Ensuring that this part of our tertiary system works well will ultimately have flow on effects for the rest of the sector, but in particular, focusing on priority learners can enable:

  • improved outcomes from Level 1-3
  • more Māori and Pasifika enjoying success at higher levels
  • more young people moving successfully from school into tertiary education
  • more young people achieving qualifications at levels 4 and above.

What is being done?

During the past week, two expert forums have been held as part of the Ako Aotearoa Increasing educational attainment for TES priority learners project. There is a three-fold approach to this project, which focuses on teaching and learning practice ‘in context’ and aims to:

  • understand where our system is working well and where there seem to be issues
  • identify and promote examples of good practice
  • provide recommendations as to how our system can better suit the needs of priority learners, and targets we should be striving to reach.

Educators can find out more about the project by reading the background information and discussion papers available here. In time, educators will have the opportunity to contribute to online discussions in the priority learners area.

Learn, unlearn, relearn

I am interested in Alvin Toffler’s statement about learning:

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Converging coloured jigsaw pieces imageI see learning as a continuous process which develops and evolves with every single action, reaction, or non-action we take. It’s impossible to turn learning off. Its cyclic nature allows us to constantly conceive of concepts and ideas, allowing them to converge or diverge as more information is added and processed, then start all over again. However, as this quote suggests, how we learn will ultimately define our ongoing success and effectiveness as learners. I don’t believe that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I do acknowledge, though, that it can be difficult to get an old dog to change or modify their current tricks.

What does this look like in practice? As I was giving a colleague a ride home from work yesterday, she told me about her driving lessons. She wishes she’d learned how to drive when she was younger and had less fear about all the damage she could potentially cause in a car. I wonder if her fear of danger is something she’s always had, a natural human reaction to managing hazards in our works, or has it developed and grown over the years? What might have contributed to it? What effect does media reporting about road crashes, or an awareness of statistics about road safety, have on our psyche? Where is the fine line between acknowledging fear as a protective mechanism and overcoming it? Feel the fear and do it anyway, we’re told. This, in itself, is a huge concept.

In 2012, all New Zealand drivers are going to have to relearn one of our traffic rules as the right-hand intersection rule is changed to align us with the rest of the world. Introduced in New Zealand more than 30 years ago, the right-hand rule is no longer used in any other country which drives on the left side of the road. Just as New Zealanders had to cope with the change back in 1977, they will need to adapt and adjust their driving to accommodate a shift to a new law. For some drivers, this will involve relearning the driving practice they changed from in 1977. For many drivers, this will require unlearning the only intersection rules they have ever known. New drivers will have to learn the new law from drivers who will either have to unlearn or relearn it themselves. Will this be a problem? It’s hard to predict, but this motoring column suggests that it will be no big deal.

I’m wondering who is going to face the biggest challenges with this rule change: the new drivers who have to learn what to do at an intersection, the current drivers who will have to unlearn the only rule they have ever known at intersections, or the experienced drivers who will have to relearn an old rule they might have once already known?