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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Feed and Nourish and the Grass Roots will Flourish (CCK08: Paper 3)

and all be well in the land of Ed :-)

Writing this paper i feel incredibly upbeat about new connectivist technology and pedagogy. I've included a musical metaphor to convey my feelings. for Music read 'connection'. It's a bit if a weak tie, but i thought as it is the last paper and the course is coming to a close, we might as well go out in party style. Hope you enjoy it.

There ain’t no stopping us now!
My experience is primarily with higher education and in this arena I believe there are fantastic opportunities to adopt different teaching and learning approaches. By this I am referring to the use of technology because this is where the greatest innovations and benefits can be found. The reason that the greatest benefits can be found, is due to the ability to share and disseminate good practice easily using new technology. I am sure that there are numerous examples of good face to face teaching that occurs, but who knows about that, who learns from that - perhaps a few close colleagues and the lucky students.

Fortunately in higher education, online safety is not such an issue that it need interfere with online teaching and learning strategies. So the most fantastic thing is that there are enough HE institutions playing with and benefiting from innovative new approaches that those that do not join in the game will know about it – via decreasing recruitment figures. Arguments from HE Institutions with regard to safety, security, privacy, guaranteed delivery of service, etc will not be at all strong enough to stop the powerful combination of new technologies and new pedagogies for teaching and learning.

Resistance and barriers to change are 1) HE Institutional leaders and managers that are not sufficiently interested or aware enough to change a learning organisation into an organisation that learns (or to put it another way change a learning organisation into a learning organisation :-)) and 2) Teachers who fail to see the benefits, cannot spare the time or be bothered to see the benefits. Firstly just to say the whole thing with regard to embracing pedagogical and technological change is a no-brainer to me and to be fair to unenlightened colleagues they need exposing to the new ways with formal/informal support and compulsory professional development.

The only thing stopping us is me and you (not for long though)
The no-brainer benefits mentioned previously are primarily around the fact that social and active learning facilitated by new technology is more interesting, enjoyable and enhancing than isolated, incredibly slow feedbackish ways that do not take advantage of new technology. Delivery of education will be enhanced by new pedagogies and new technologies and it will be led from the grass roots and it will be too powerful to ignore.

In the short term there are two difficulties to overcome:

1. Teachers who don’t get it i.e. the benefits and
2. Teachers who give up too easily, when use of new technologies and new ways, do not work instantaneously.

Both can and will be solved by professional development opportunities. In particular I think it is important to remember that good practice in traditional methods of teaching have been built up over many years. It would be wrong to think all new online initiatives are going to work smoothly in any given situation and context. Teachers need support to take some risks. The good thing is teachers can be supported much more easily through the use of new technology and new ways of delivering professional development.

What kinds of opportunities can we embrace if we are able to make fundamental and systemic changes?

A few Ideas:
  • The widespread dissemination of good practice
  • The Speed with which this dissemination can occur
  • The speed of feedback both to learners and for professional development
  • Much higher levels of enjoyment in learning
  • Better productivity, by teachers through collaboration
  • Easier access to influence decision makers (subtly by actions, results, student feedback and promoting the benefits of the new ways publicly
Resistance is Futile?
The tools are phenomenal; people’s imaginations, goodwill and knowledge are phenomenal, what we can learn from voices of resistance is that we can easily overcome their objections by action. If you believe in the tools, use them, promote them, record your success and learn from perceived failures. Help others – good will wipe the floor with resistors. The resistance is futile :-)

We have the power!
We need strong ties, we need to collaborate. We need support, we need to know when we need deep learning to achieve our life, work and social aims. We can do all of this if we choose to strengthen ties and connections

As i write this i must add that i think about this primarily from a distance learning perspective. For those face to face teachers that also employ social and active learning techniques i am in total agreement with this. If you are a face to face teacher that thinks that they do not need to bother with new technologies and online pedagogies because you are already doing a great face to face job, then you are doing your students a dis-service

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