Unit 6 : Changing practice in a digital environment

Citizenship                                                                                                                          Technology – How has it changed the way I learn and shaped my professional practice?

After teaching full time for 17 years I took a break from the profession to start my family. It was May 1997 and I had just spent the last 7 years building up a Primary school library to where I thought it should be; it was now refurbished , the collection was updated and had reached the recommended stock levels and I had recently automated the entire collection. The students had all been trained to search the new on-line catalogue and the staff had spent the last couple of years implementing an integrated curriculum using the Curriculum Standards Framework . We had just begun using computers. Little did I know what was about to happen in the next decade!

My own progression with technology initially was a very isolated learning experience. Because I had chosen to become a full time “stay at home Mum” with no immediate family living in the same city, the first 8 years were relatively slow and it was only through becoming involved on kindergarten and school committees that I began to start using technology. Working 5 years for the Australian Electoral Commission as an Electoral Educator in the mid 2000’s also gave me the opportunity to use one of the first interactive whiteboards and develop an interactive room filled with the latest technology, enabling students to explore the history of democracy. We worked with a team of tech savvy experts in designing interactive games for students to play for half an hour, in between two rooms – one presenting the history of democracy including a short film we had scripted using Melissa Hetherington from the channel 9 show – “Getaway” and participating in a mock election in the third room using the interactive whiteboard to demonstrate preferential voting. The interactives ranged from 3D boxes you could spin around on a screen to find the answers… to a game for three who had to press a buzzer to choose the correct level of government for the icon that appeared on a flat screen…a bit like Sale of the CenturyAll pretty exciting stuff! Since then working in schools has helped me to catch up and progress with technology at a more rapid pace. Self motivation has been a key factor  because I believe teachers and teacher librarians in particular, need to keep abreast with technology in order to stay relevant and in touch with their profession which has been the driving force. I learn in perhaps a less rigid way than I did before, I was always mindful of including weekly professional reading in the past and sharing it at staff meetings in my role as Curriculum Co-ordinator, however I tend to be more receptive and have allowed myself more time and space to stumble across new material, ideas and other ways of teaching. I think as a profession we are becoming more collaborative and share ideas globally which has to be a good thing. It’s exciting to find someone who has used resources that have worked well with a particular age group whether it be on-line or not and this has added greater enthusiasm to my professional practice in the quest to engage students in a more meaningful and relevant way. On-line citizenship has to be managed carefully in the teaching profession just as being a teacher and citizen in the mid 1970’s was, particularly in Catholic Education – we are role models in the community for our students off line and on-line which can often make us more vulnerable- thus maintaining privacy is crucial. I wouldn’t consider being friends with students on Facebook as I respect their privacy and my own. Now rather than using hard copies of journals to catch up on my professional reading, I am now overloaded with information on my iPad! I still however use a paper diary and don’t know if I’ll ever change and would much prefer to use a wall calendar to keep organised! When I discussed attitudes to privacy with my own two daughters aged 16 and 13 neither had any concerns about their on-line reputation as they both believed they had taken the necessary steps by using the highest privacy settings and were friends with only people they knew. Neither used multiple personae (that I know of!) and the eldest uses Facebook, texting and Viber to stay in touch whilst my youngest daughter uses Facebook, Instagram , Kik, Snapchat and Cinemagram to stay in touch. Perhaps she will use less tools when her studies increase!  Both strongly disagreed with the idea of teachers and students using the same social media tools for their learning, they both felt it was an invasion and explained that it should be kept separate and teenagers needed to have their own space socially- “you have your own tools let us have ours!”

The impact of technology.

There is no doubt technology has had a huge impact on us as citizens. When I look back at the life of my eldest daughter and the changes that have happened since her birth 16 years ago the change has been enormous. You would have to agree that technology has brought the world closer, we have never been more connected than before, in particular Australia as an isolated continent and our standard of living with the use of technology has made our lives more simple. No matter which profession or hobby we are involved in our learning has been enriched with information globally and we have all become life long learners… we are constantly learning. Even my 82 year old father uses Facebook and completed an on-line course just recently! When students can talk with an astronaut currently circling the earth, or follow him on twitter with photo’s and more, the impact of technology is mind blowing! But has the impact of technology made us smarter with time management, kept us better organised and enhanced our lifestyles? How will this present generation look back at the implication of technology in their 80’s? Will they know any difference? I do think we spend more and more time indoors and work much longer hours than we ever did before. With the advancements in technology and in particular it’s mobility we are now accessible 24/7 and our students/children along with it. The pressures on secondary students have increased and their lives are a lot more complex than a decade ago. Technology has also brought with it a multitude of distractions and adults and children alike have to have the self discipline to stay focused and remain on task and on the other hand enjoy a complete break at times. We may be more connected on-line but has face to face interaction lessened, are we becoming “too busy” to interact in real life? I must admit the short you tube video The Internet: A Warning from History from Jenny Lucas blog was hilarious but still food for thought. Will we look back in 50 years time and think we lost 11 years of our lives watching the Internet 90 hours a week!! I recently attended a presentation from Steve Biddulph on raising daughters, he reminded the parents in the audience that our generation is the product of 30 years of television and explored the many ways we have been impacted by this and the fact that television has become the third parent in our children’s lives-they are also being taught and given messages through role models on the television often without our knowledge.

Using technology in learning and the role educators play in modelling the use of technology.

On reflection I think the models used back in Unit 4 such as the SAMR model are excellent strategies to go by. As educators we need to put the horse before the cart and examine the learning outcomes for our students and the best tool/technology to use for this. Don’t let the technology drive the curriculum but rather enhance the learning. How is the student going to increase their level of learning through using this tool?

I do agree parents choose schools not only for their academic records but their teaching of life skills and pastoral care. In some ways as educators we do need to catch up, technology in the classroom can be too controlled or too directed and teachers are trying too hard to fit in with students social media. On the one hand we need to teach students the protocols of social networking but we don’t need to invade their social space. Students today are in a vulnerable position using technology to research a myriad of topics but they don’t have the insight to understand that the personal information they exchange on -line is not always private and they can be at risk and need protection. Schools I believe have a duty of care to do more in this area in partnership with parents and the role of the teacher librarian should be a major player in this field. If we are going to educate our students to be life long learners it is equally important to teach them how to manage social networking and their on-line reputation outside and beyond the school . What  I found exciting about this unit was discovering all the great resources available for teaching digital citizenship. The schools I have been involved with through both teaching and as a parent in Primary and Secondary education have covered this area well, often bringing in experts in the field to run information nights. However I think it’s now time for TL’s out there to continue the role and add this to their information literacy tools. The parent workshops run by Yr 12 students I thought was a brilliant idea. As one reply to Richard Wilkinson’s article – Teach Facebook Now stated “the issue is not Facebook but teaching Civics and Citizenship in the modern digital era.” The issue isn’t technology but we need to relate it all back to morality and character. Rather than focusing on the details- strive to teach students to become critical thinkers aware of the bigger issues such as personal responsibility, privacy and legality in order to enable students to deal with the everchanging world of technology. Educators need to be good role models and perhaps using Edmodo or Google + in the classroom as a platform is the smarter way to go. I remember one good lesson my mother taught me  –Never put in writing anything you wouldn’t want others to see… that lesson is still appropriate today!

An Effective Learner today

Organised: I think today more than ever, in order to learn you need to be constantly gathering relevant information and being able to use it when needed. Because of the overwhelming depth of information out there an effective learner needs to use technology tools like Evernote to work more efficiently and tag that information in order to have access to it at anytime and anyplace.

Connected: Today’s learner can no longer learn in a vacuum and the word collaborative has been used a great deal in education during the last few years. We learn when we connect and share ideas with others and as teachers we need to promote this aspect of learning amongst our colleagues and incorporate this into our teaching programmes with students. There is much to be gained by learning through connections and tools such as Diigo, Learnist, Blogs,Websites, Facebook, Twitter…the list goes on… help us stay connected to become life long learners! We can interact and learn from others globally and have access to great minds -something that was not possible a few years ago.

Adaptable: The goal posts keep shifting in this present learning environment with rapid changes in technology and information . The effective learner needs to adapt to those changes in order to remain relevant and up to date as a learner. Just as learning in the 21st Century requires a very different method of teaching and learning as in the past, we have to be flexible and receptive to future changes. Again being in a group such as Diigo or on Twitter with like minded colleagues or PLN groups keeps us in tune to those changes. The key for Educators has always been Professional Development and with the abundance of on-line resources we have to be open to change to remain relevant.

Inquisitive: An effective learner today also needs to be curious, a problem solver who is persistent in their search for the answer. To be effective in our teaching and learning we need to encourage the learner to wonder and probe deeper in their search for knowledge. Using the Inquiry Based Learning Model in Education today has ensured this will happen, you don’t need to look too far to find thousands of articles on the subject. On the website- Eduwebinar there is a list of over 70 web tools to support inquiry based learning. Ranging from the Inquiry phase, Exploring and locating information to sharing and evaluating that information.

Focused: There are so many distractions around us today and with the avalanche of knowledge and information out there, it is very easy to become preoccupied or overwhelmed by it all – especially through hyperlinks and social media! To remain an effective and efficient learner we need to stay focused on the task and I love the phrase Kelly used…“the grass is always greener in a new tab!”

Predictions of the future.

I vividly remember having to write an essay in the early 90’s as part of my Grad Dip course in Teacher Librarianship at Melbourne University – “Libraries without walls”…it seemed a slight possibility then and look at the advances in Technology now…so I can’t possibly imagine what is in store for us in the future..one can only dream and imagine!    We just have to ensure as a profession that we are an important part of that future.

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2 Responses to Unit 6 : Changing practice in a digital environment

  1. Catherine HAINSTOCK says:

    “The issue isn’t technology but we need to relate it all back to morality and character”
    It’s taken a while but society and educational institutions are finally coming to this conclusion as well. It is easy to blame the tools but I like to look at the online world a little like the Wild West; it is a new frontier and it doesn’t matter how we get there, once we’re there we can act like bandits or try to create peaceful productive places to live and grow.

    The wonderful thing about stopping to reflect at this point of the course is that it really seems to help us focus our sights on ‘where to go next’.
    Good luck, only one unit left!\
    All the best,
    Catherine (for the PLN team)

  2. Thanks Catherine for the feedback- I agree this unit has helped me to reflect and decide where to go from here – I am looking forward to sharing my ideas with students and will be very interested in their thoughts.

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