Monday, March 24, 2014

How do people learn eLearning?

How do you learn eLearning?

I'm going to look at this question from several perspectives.  Firstly, as a teacher who attempts to utilise eLearning in my practice I have historically relied on "gut intuition" and anecdotal experience to decide to utilise those technologies I am most comfortable with myself in my teaching.  In particular, Google Apps for Education (Drive, YouTube etc) seem to meet a lot of needs that just seemed to make sense to me as well as engage the students and result in (apparent) motivation.  Of course what I have not considered enough is whether or not doing things in this way actually improved educational outcomes for the students.  Carrying out a detailed inquiry into the impact of these activities seemed a very daunting task given all the other work that keeps piling up.  So - in short - it seems like a lot of guesswork really, tempered by critical reflection to the extent that I thought "Did that seem to work?"

I think in the first place I've been lucky in that I've never struggled to get a grip on the technology in the first place.  Particularly cloud-based apps such as Google Drive, which allows students real-time collaboration, and Google Sites, which allows students to easily build portfolios of their learning and teachers to easily coordinate blended learning approaches etc.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Blended e-Learning with Google Apps for Education

For me, learning is best described by Senge (2006) as enabling people to do something that previously we were never able to do (or in some cases, not do very well), allowing them to “re-perceive the world and our relationship to it”. An extra, essential layer on the learning process involves critical reflection on the learning experiences (Jonassen, Peck, & Wilson, 1999) which in my opinion may also contribute to learners developing a greater and passion to learn, by enhancing feelings of competency in the learning process itself. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Using New and Emerging Technologies To Improve Educational Outcomes: An Analysis Through The Lenses of the HPL Framework

My school, like many schools, has recently implemented a BYOD policy which has been shown to increase student access to information and engagement in their learning (Lai, Khaddage, & Knezek, 2013). Consequently, the majority of my students now bring smart devices such as smartphones and laptops to school to support their learning. 

Initially I figured that the BYOD policy would improve educational outcomes for my students with minimal effort from me. I assumed that since new and emerging technologies (NETs) including smart devices and Web 2.0 apps (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) are ubiquitous in students’ daily lives, they would know how to use them to support their learning. 

Unfortunately, just because NETs are present in the classroom does not mean that they will be utilised effectively to improve educational outcomes (Laurillard et al., 2013). My students that use them to support their learning generally do so for simple purposes only, such as a dictionary or research tool. The majority of my students however use their devices only in break times for purposes unrelated to their learning.
After reading Anderson, Brown, and Murray (2008), I asked myself to what extent I “tame or exploit NETs for [my] classroom purposes?” (Anderson et al., 2008, p. 138). I realised that I have not taken full advantage of the affordances that NETs offer. Rather, I use technology in a very low-tech and formulaic way, causing a “digital disconnection” (Anderson et al., 2008, p. 136) between what I see as appropriate and expected use of NETs and what my students perceive that to be. Consequently, I must critically analyse my practices and rethink how I employ NETs to strengthen the relationship between teaching, learning and the curriculum, particularly given the digital age in which we reside (Anderson et al., 2008) and the apparent disillusionment many of my students seem to be experiencing. Therefore, the learning and teaching challenge which I will be analysing and responding to is to better integrate NETs into my teaching practice.

Bransford, Derry, Berliner, Hammerness, and Beckett (2005) argue that we need to challenge our assumptions by making them explicit and thereby thinking more critically about them; otherwise we risk them becoming self-fulfilling and negatively affecting how we interact with our students. They developed the How People Learn (HPL) framework (Bransford et al., 2005) to “provide a way of thinking that can help educators to improve their efforts to teach” (Bransford et al., 2005, p. 41) and challenge their assumptions by analysing learning through four separate yet overlapping components or ‘lenses’. In order to teach effectively and help all students succeed “teachers must learn to balance and integrate all four components of the HPL framework…” (Bransford et al., 2005, p. 41). 

This report will analyse my teaching and learning challenge through each of the four HPL lenses. Each analysis will be followed by a planned response which details how I will change as a result of the analysis. The learner-centred lens will receive particular attention because of its focus on the teaching and learning process and will form the bulk of the response I will detail, underpinning the other three lenses in this case. 

The questions being addressed in this report are:

1. How can I better develop twenty-first century competencies, specifically digital literacy, using NETs? (Knowledge-centred lens)

2. What pedagogies should I employ to ensure that twenty-first century learners are engaged and motivated and able to use NETs in both formal and informal settings to maximise their educational outcomes? (Learner-centred lens)

3. How can I use NETs to increase my students’ engagement with their learning community? (Community-centred lens)

4. How can NETs be used to improve the assessment practices in my classroom? (Assessment-centred lens)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Impact of E-Learning on My Teaching – Evolution, Revolution or Status Quo?

The adoption of e-learning tools and strategies implies more a modification of my current teaching practices (i.e., an evolution) rather than an extreme change in my teaching (revolution) or merely practising more of what I already do (status quo). I consider myself to already employ a range of e-learning strategies in my day-to-day teaching to increase achievement, although I recognise that I still have a considerable journey before I fully realise the potential of the technology available. Therefore, it is not so much a revolution as an evolution from a solid standpoint now - where I consider myself to utilise technology in a variety of interesting, effective ways - towards a future where technology and e-learning strategies are more well integrated into my practice, improving the impact learning has on my students as the efficiency and effectiveness of their learning experiences improve. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Defining 'Learning'

How do I define ‘learning’?

What an interesting question to consider - especially after being a teacher for over a decade! Perhaps more interesting though is that even after that length of time supposedly teaching people, I struggle to define the very term that I’m trying to accomplish in others. Fascinating.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Critical Thinking

Lipman (2008) describes the criteria used when thinking critically as being “part of the apparatus of rationality” which function dynamically and critically when they are “at work in the process of inquiry” (p. 429). Several general criteria are listed in the reading which might be used when thinking critically and making judgements (p. 428) such as standards, laws, principles and ideals. These are further refined depending on the context in which the critical thinking is taking place, while ensuring stereotyping, bias and prejudice are understood and prevented from negatively affecting the judgements made (Lipman, 2008, p. 430).

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Suspicions Confirmed... A Nurturing Perspective

I just took the Teaching Perspective Inventory (TPI) at As you can see from the results below (click to enlarge image), I came out with a strong nurturing perspective, followed closely be a developmental perspective. This is in agreement with my self-analysis which I have written in recent posts:

and most recently:

Click image to enlarge

Views of Teaching

What are the similarities and differences between my views of teaching and my teaching practice?

I view teaching as the process and practice of assisting the development of skills and knowledge in learners so that the development is as effective and efficient as possible given the context and environment in which it is occurring. As a teacher, I do not see myself as the “knowledge holder” who must fill the empty vessel with my knowledge; rather, given the age of technology in which we live, as teacher I view my main role in the teaching and learning process as facilitating knowledge and skill development, guiding learners through the education landscape in a way that is most efficient and develops the learner to their greatest potential. I am there to help “frame” the learning experience and sometimes to realign the learner with the objectives of the learning experience.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Critical Pedagogy: Asking Why?

Through my postgraduate studies, I have been introduced to the practice of critical pedagogy, as explained in the short video below by the Freire Project.

One cannot watch this video without reflecting on their own practice as a teacher and/or involvement in the world as a global citizen. I ask myself, to what extent do I unthinkingly recapitulate the modern state of society? How do I raise the awareness of my students so that they start asking the questions that are constantly the elephants in the room, yet often ignored in favour of less critical thinking?

A Bit of 'em All...

After reading Pratt (1998), I find that I choose to be a different teacher and use a different perspective to view the teaching depending on a variety of factors that affect me at the time. For example, the topic that I am teaching may require me to view the teaching from a more transmissive perspective in certain circumstances, whereas at other times the topic I am teaching may allow me (or even require me) to take a social reform perspective. I find this more the case now that I am a homeroom teacher and teach across a larger variety of curriculum strands, compared to when I was a Science and Biology teacher. As a Science and Biology teacher, I still changed my perspective on the teaching depending on the topic that I was covering and the extent of the content that I was “required” to get through in a limited amount of time - many topics allowed for teaching that involved getting the students to think about the status quo, and right and wrong (eg genetics).