A 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. 🙂
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.
I 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?
I am a primary teacher by trade. Although I have held, and currently hold, other positions related to education, my roots are in teaching and I’m very proud of that fact. Throughout my career, I have had experience in working with educators and leaders from all sectors (early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary, including special needs educators). This has allowed me a very privileged view of each of the sectors, observing how they operate, how they are similar, and how their subtle nuances reflect and ultimately complement each other. There are many, many areas which overlap, as one would naturally expect.
On Thursday, I attended a professional learning session that was given by early childhood staff. They were talking about how their tutors work together as a team to deliver their degree and diploma level programmes in an open distance learning environment. Their philosophy for working is based on the five strands of the New Zealand early childhood curriculum policy statement, Te Whāriki. As a primary teacher with junior school experience, I am aware of the principles underpinning Te Whāriki; it was good to able to revisit these today.
What became clear to me during the session was the way that Te Whāriki makes a philosophy for teaching and learning explicit through its five strands: belonging, well-being, exploration, communication, and contribution. For me, these are the fundamental principles for effective teaching and learning in all contexts, no matter what sector the students belong to. The five strands are a way of walking the talk, or putting the philosophy into action.
What was new to me was the concept of using child voice questions to articulate each strand. These are the possible questions that children might ask, if they are able to, in relation to each strand. For example, the communication strand could be represented by the child voice question, “Do you hear me?”, and the belonging strand could ask, “Do you know me?”. It seems to make so much sense.
I am a firm believer that learning is an ongoing journey, not a destination; there is always somewhere else to go with learning and the possibilities are endless. Learning never ceases to excite me and this has underpinned my philosophy throughout my career in education. A few weeks ago, I embarked on another leg of my learning journey when I took up the role of an online professional learning advisor in a tertiary education institution. I am excited about the many opportunities and challenges ahead and am bursting with ideas that I would like to explore personally, with my colleagues, and in my work.
Much like Dr Seuss, there are many places I’d like to go with my learning. But, most of all, I want others to fall in love with learning like I did as a child. I want people to be as excited by new concepts and ideas as I am. I want my colleagues to enjoy the wealth of knowledge, skills and experience they have created for themselves and that of everyone around them. I want to introduce everybody to the global education community we have at our fingertips where help, advice and food for thought are just a few clicks away.
So, why Turning the Kaleidoscope? For me, it provides a visual representation of reflective practice, which I believe is essential for effective learning and teaching to take place. Much like the fragments of coloured glass and beads inside a kaleidoscope, ideas can shape and reform themselves in new and exciting ways. If we look at something from a different angle, or move our perspective even slightly, we can see things in a whole new way. That’s one of the many fascinating things about learning – it’s constantly changing and developing and there is always something new to think about.
This is my journey and I’d be honoured if you join me on the ride. This blog is intended to be reflective by nature, documenting and exploring my thoughts and ideas in relation to concepts I come across in the course of my work – kind of like taking a snapshot of my thinking at a point in time.