Says who?

While the election campaign was going on, I found it increasingly difficult to decipher the truth. Claims are made all over the place without any backup. I think it is dangerous for the people reading and listening who may not have the skills to critically question things. We put our trust in various sources, perhaps erroneously, to provide us with information. We often assume that these people have done the research but the fact is that too many people take information at face value without questioning it.

I think that is the biggest shift that I have seen in myself since beginning this master’s program. I now question everything I come across. Everything I read, I look for citations (in proper APA of course) and find myself constantly asking, “says who?”. I am proud of this new tendency and it is making me a better learner and better educator for it. Full disclosure here, I recently had someone review a paper for me that came back with several instances of “says who?” in the margin. I also have no idea if I need citations for these two items in quotes here.

I was at a professional learning community on assessment last week. We did a couple of readings, and I found myself questioning certain claims. In one of these readings, Anne Davies states that

We all know that business and community leaders as well as researchers are saying that the challenges of our future demand that today’s students be problem solvers, able to work as part of a team, create knowledge from information, and apply ideas in new ways to design solutions to emerging problems. Think about it (p. 160).

Okay Anne, I thought about it and I am questioning where this information that we all know is coming from. You haven’t provided a reference so I am hesitant to believe this claim you are making. When I voiced this question to the group, someone told me [jokingly], “to put my master’s brain away” (J. Doe*, personal communication, October 15, 2105). I was taken aback by this statement. Doing readings for my program is not the only time that I need to be critical. We were talking about teaching practices and information that we might adopt for educating our students, so why would we trust something that was not grounded in research? That is exactly the time that I need to be critical and ask for the evidence.

*name has been changed

References

Davies, A. (2007). Leading towards learning and achievement: The role of quality classroom assessment. In J.M. Burger, C. Webber and P. Klinck (eds.), Intelligent Leadership, (159–182). Springer.

Becoming Connected

After writing the post Blogging and IdentityI shared the link to the post on my twitter account which was a bit nerve-wracking. In that post, I described the feelings of vulnerability that come with putting your thoughts and opinions online and sharing it on twitter invited even more potential readers. It was an interesting experience after that when I received notifications that people I didn’t know had favourited my tweet or replied to indicate that they thought it was a great post. It was a relief and also a bit surreal to realize that someone, with whom I had no connection, had taken the time to read my blog and even quote it through their own twitter account. I exchanged tweets with one person and the interactions were really exciting somehow. I found myself hoping that I would get more reactions or comments so that I might engage with responders and it made me see what I stand to gain from this blog and my willingness to share my thoughts publicly. The interaction serves as a vehicle to develop a shared understanding and to connect with people that your would not otherwise have the opportunity. I think the link between my blog and social media is a useful tool because it allows me to invite more people to read my blog. As a scholar, a future researcher, and an educator, I see the opportunities to connect with other people in my field to engage in discussion or debate about topics and ideas that interest me. Following my social constructivist views, this interaction is necessary to deepen my understanding and construct meaning.

One of my former teachers, and the current Superintendent of School District 45 – West Vancouver, has a blog called Culture of Yes. He writes on all kinds of issues in education and is passionate about technology integration. His blog is the first education related blog I read several years ago and I have always really enjoyed reading it. In a post last fall, he discussed the challenges that modern educators face when it comes to blogging and why more of them don’t. But he finishes the post by referencing and article called Eight New Attributes of Modern Educational Leaders (Kennedy, 2014). I then proceeded to read this white paper and it’s a really worthwhile read. The first attribute listed is, “They are connected to and engaged in online networks”. He states that, “The best, most current, most relevant ideas for teaching and learning today are no longer in books and magazines; they’re online in blogs, Twitter streams, YouTube videos and more” (EML, 2014, p. 2). I am starting to agree in many ways. The world we live in today is faster than the speed of publishers and by the something has gone through a review process and has been published, there are new ideas and new research being done. He discusses this further and asks the question of why need need to connect and the answer seems simple and clear.

“Why connect online with other educators who share your interests or passions? Because, in short, these networks and communities in which we participate on the Web are powerful places to learn, and they represent in some form the future of learning for our students” (EML, 2014).

As Asselin (2011) explains, blogging offers the opportunity to have an ongoing conversation and for an unlimited amount of participants to engage in this discourse. The shift away from a more linear model of education provides possibilities and technology has changed the way we communicate (Asselin, 2011; EML, 2014). I have already begun to make myself more connected by I am committed to making it a priority so that I am a part of this culture of online communication and social media and I am able to benefit from the opportunities that it provides. I have to admit that I was skeptical about the task of blogging when we started but as is evident in my post, I am embracing it and excited about continuing the dialogue.

References

Asselin, K. (2011). Blogging: The remediation of academic and business communications. Ann Arbor, Michigan: ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. (UMI No. 1452706).

Kennedy, C. (2014, November 13). Blogging and Modern Education Leaders [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://cultureofyes.ca/2014/11/13/blogging-and-modern-educational-leaders/

EML Educating Modern Learners. (2014). Eight New Attributes of Modern Educational Leaders [White paper]Retrieved from http://modernlearners.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/The-eight-new-attributes-of-modern-educational-leaders-9.pdf

Responding to Blogs

My response to Lori’s blog post: Trust the Process

Original post can be found here: http://lorikreflecting.blogspot.ca/2015/08/trust-process.html#comment-form

I have really enjoyed reading Lori’s blog and this one in particular resonated with me. Incidentally, prior to residency “resonate” would not have been part of my every day vocabulary but it has somehow become part of my repertoire when it comes to reflecting on my reading or new concepts and ideas. When you talk about trusting the process, I can identify many moments when I have not done so and yet, in the end the process works. We have been exposed to so many new words and concepts and questioned extensively on our own beliefs and ideas and I have countless moments of second guessing myself throughout. In the end, having to support our ideas and defend ourselves is what has brought me clarity on various topics. For me, trusting the process will be about recognizing the value in these moments of frustration and complete confusion because eventually, the pieces will fall into place and the dots will connect. While we worked on our scholarly communities assignment, I was very overwhelmed. But, in our team conversations, it was really interesting to see how we could identify themes and common assumptions that we hadn’t been able to at first. I remember having our back and forth sharing of ideas and finally beginning to pull out words and pieces that pointed to various theoretical frameworks and cultures of inquiry. It was such a great “Ah ha!” (Grant, 2015) moment to finally gain some understanding of what we were even looking for. Working through that was a valuable lesson for me in being able to step back, put things into perspective and hopefully next time I will trust the process more along the way.

Continue reading

Looking back at LRNT 501

I thought I understood learning theory before I began this course. I mean, I was a teacher after all? When I pulled out my readings on the plane on July 6th I didn’t know what to expect and I’ll admit that I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of reading to be done. I was pleasantly surprised when the first few readings were really interesting and I immediately began to make connections to my own practice and to my psychology background. What quickly became clear was that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. Despite my prior education, I had limited understanding of learning theories and I had no concept of what epistemologies more, let alone what my own beliefs and views were. Epistemology. I love that word. This might seem strange but I like what it means and the rich conversations that stemmed from it. I have enjoyed figuring out where I fit in the epistemological and learning theory debate and I know these beliefs will continue to evolve as I continue on this journey.

I struggled at first to articulate which epistemology I identified with but I had a lot of ideas about knowledge and it’s origins. It just wasn’t clear to me where they fit within these paradigms. I began to look at how I thought we learn best and as I described my thoughts without the theoretical labels, I recognized that I was describing a constructivist perspective and I was able to continue to build my position from there which eventually led to my identifying with the social constructivist theory and the epistemology of interpretivism. We have all been surprised and proud of ourselves throughout this course and the fact that I can write this reflection and use words that I had not even heard of 5 weeks ago shows how far I have come in a short time. It gives me a sense of comfort to be able to ground my beliefs in theory and understand the history behind their origins. I read a significant amount of Mind in Society (Vygotsky, 1978) this week and it has been very interesting, though I have a lot of questions for him!

As I worked towards situating myself within these theories, Miriam and Mark both listened at great lengths to my ideas and both of them said to me, “So, you’re a constructivist” (personal communication, 2015). I resisted and continued to read until I eventually had my lightbulb moment and realized what they had heard in my dialogue. It was valuable to hear different perspectives and recognize what makes me not identify with other theories and why. I found it helpful to recognize that these theories evolved from each other so there are still pieces of cognitivism in constructivism and even glimpses of behaviourism (S. Berry, personal communication, 2015). It was also interesting to see where classmates situated themselves and to see how that translated in their approach to learning and team projects. Lori describes herself as a cognitivist and explained that she is a very linear thinker and likes to have things clearly laid out. She used an example of liking an agenda for meetings so she can see where things are going (personal communication, 2015). I don’t often approach things in this way and think in more of a zig and zig and spirals kind of way.  At the same time, we connected through our conversations and these helped me to construct my own meaning of learning and knowledge.

Throughout this course, the discussion with my classmates was rich and engaging. Even at lunches and dinners, the conversations continued as well as we tried to collectively make sense of the influx of information.

IMG_0685

Photo credit: Sarah Grant, 2015

References

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. London: Harvard University Press.

Blogging and Identity

Being comfortable expressing my opinions on a blog under my actual name is daunting. It feels very vulnerable to put my thoughts, beliefs and ideas out there for public consumption and potential criticism. Having said that, I know that criticism and debate will continue to be a part of my academic life but on a blog it feels more personal and thus, increases the feelings of vulnerability. Estes (2012) discusses having made the choice to use her real name on her blog and that this “public persona” would be, “one I would feel comfortable with friends, colleagues and family members stumbling across” (p. 974). This part is where I have trouble, and it probably comes from a lack of confidence or even fear of what the reception would be to my writing. I have always written for myself and shared it with a select few but when it comes to sharing it publicly, there is much trepidation. There are many issues and opinions that I am passionate about but I very rarely engage in discussions about or broadcast these views because I don’t necessarily want to present that part of my identity with everyone. Estes talks about how for her, blogging is where she takes a very activist stance on environmental issues that she can’t when she is teaching courses at a University (Estes, 2012). In a undergraduate student bloggers, many of them indicated that they don’t share their blogs publicly. “38 percent indicate that they password-protect most of their entries, and another 50 percent indicate password-protecting at least some of their entries” (Nakerud & Scaletta, 2008). This suggests that students are not necessarily comfortable with having all of there thoughts and opinions made public and choose to have a selective audience for some or all of their posts. In the past, I have had this type of relationship with my writing and have resisted merging my identities for the purpose of expressing myself. It is interesting to note that only 5 percent of the student bloggers surveyed claimed that public opinion was a motivation for having a blog (Nakerud & Scaletta, 2008) which again reflects the very personal nature of the activity. 

I think as I become more aware of my own beliefs and determine what theoretical frameworks I am working from, I will begin to have more confidence in my identity as a scholar and researcher. As a result, it will make me more comfortable with taking risks with my thoughts through blogging and exposing myself to potential criticism and questioning of my beliefs. Vygotsky (1981) wrote, “it is through others that we become ourselves” (p. 161). He goes on to explain that “the individual develops into what he/she is through what he/she produces for others” (Vygotsky, 1981, p. 162). If I apply these ideas to blogging and putting your thoughts out for public viewing them it seems that he is saying that it is a necessary process in order to continue to really develop my self-concept and different identities – scholar, researcher, blogger, activist, etc. It makes me wonder what Mr. Vygotsky would have thought about blogging and social media? After spending a good part of my weekend with him, I think he would have jumped on board and embraced the opportunity to engage in [heated?] debate with contemporary theorists about education today.

Note: Vygotsky image was retrieved from, http://www.glogster.com/austudent/lev-vygotsky/g-6k1k01qt3jjhvre1ee6598r and edited by Sarah Grant.

References

Estes, H. (2012). Blogging and academic identity. Literature Compass, 9(12), 974-982. doi:10.1111/lic3.12017

Nackerud, S., & Scaletta, K. (2008). Blogging in the academy.  New Directions for Student Services (124), 71-87.  doi:10.1002/ss.296

Vygotsky, L.S. (1981). The genesis of higher mental functions. In J.V. Wertsch (Ed.), The concept of activity in soviet psychology (144-188). Armonk, NY: Sharpe. Retrieved from http://people.ucsc.edu/~gwells/Files/Courses_Folder/documents/VygotskyHigherMF.pdf

The Evolving Educator

I used to think I had some awareness of what my beliefs were about learning and knowledge but the truth is, I only had a vague idea of what these works meant in relation to my teaching. I am now beginning to understand what my beliefs are and I can already see the potential implications it will have on my teaching. It will shift my position in the class, both literally and figuratively, to become more of a partner in learning and facilitator of experiences. I have always had moments and certain projects where I take a constructivist approach in my teaching and I have seen that those are often the most rich opportunities in terms of learning and engagement. Vygotsky (1978) explains that children are capable of achieving much more learning within a group or with the help of more capable peers or adults. Shifting the role of the teacher to that of a guide who can provide support and direction as students work together to construct knowledge. However, I will admit that it is easy to fall back into the traditional lecture format when there are 24-30 sets of eyes and ears on you and this is where the transition is incomplete. I think that for many educators, we are so used to learning through transmission that it comes natural and seems like it is an efficient way of disseminating information. Unfortunately, simply receiving information does not equal knowledge and understanding so there is a disconnect. I think that this transition will continue and that technology is adding a new dimension to the shift and the digital age is demanding that we accelerate the process somewhat (Bates, 2015).

I think that the changing role of the teacher along with exploring new technologies presents a new set of challenges for teachers. One of these challenges is how we teach kids to behave online and the notion of character education in digital environments. Students are now immersed in the digital world and social media is now a main form of communication. I think teachers already have a responsibility to guide students through the appropriate use of these tools as well. In the future, I would like to be able to provide act as a mentor to teachers as they work to include technology in their teaching and navigate technology-mediated learning environments. Kopcha (2012) found that mentorship as part of long-term professional development can improve teachers perceptions of the barriers to technology integration and I am interested in exploring this further.

Arriving at my current understanding of who I am as a scholar, a teacher and a potential researcher took a lot of reflection, discussion, questioning, frustration and reading. I also know that it will continue to evolve as I move forward. Being aware that of the beliefs and assumptions that I hold will be important as I plan research and continue my teaching practice. It is also critical to recognize that not everyone shares these epistemological views nor approaches teaching from the same perspective. I do think that it is important to teach from a place that is authentic to me because this is the place where I will be most comfortable and confident which will translate positively to my students. I think this is my biggest obligation to my students, to provide the best learning environment I can and create an atmosphere where students feel it is safe to take risks and have the support to stretch themselves being their current capabilities (Vygotsky, 1978).

References

Bates, A. W. (2015). Teaching in a digital ageBC Campus. Retrieved from, http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage

Kopcha, T.J. (2012). Teachers’ perceptions of the barriers to technology integration and practices with technology under situated professional development. Computers & Education 59, 1109-1121. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.05.014

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

I think I might learn to like you, Research!

I am no longer intimidated by research. I am still confused at times and overwhelmed but not intimidated. I like reading articles and knowing that I can provide back up for my beliefs or opinions. My ideas become grounded with theories, however messy that might get. The analogy that Elizabeth uses of, “What are the shoulders you’re standing on?” (Childs, 2015), offers a clear image of this notion of having your thoughts grounded to something. Who else do you have supporting these beliefs? Are they reliable? Have they done research? Is it primary or secondary research? What evidence is do they have? It is exciting to read an article and see the say that someone approached a question and understand the assumptions they have made and to have the confident and the knowledge base to question their methods or whether they have clearly defined the terms of their research. I find that I recognize grammatical errors and incorrect apa format which interrupts the flow of the reading. Being able to be critical of what I read just shows how far I have come just in a few short weeks. Over these past few weeks I have found myself pondering my teaching experiences as they apply to the topics covered in class and suddenly a little voice inside my head yells, “Ooh, Ooh! Research question!” (Grant, 2015). While doing the readings for assignment 3, I came across several articles that address the barriers affecting teachers willingness to incorporate technology into their teaching. At first I was disappointed because it has already been done and then I was excited that my question was something that other researchers had also thought of and published (which would mean that I could to). Yet another example of the ebb and flow of emotions as we travel this road. When they talked about the ebbs and flows of this program, I didn’t really expect to have so many within the first few weeks but being immersed in all of this literature and discourse every day, really sends me for a loop sometimes. I alter between being confident that I could conduct my own research to hesitant to flat out terrified but I usually come back to being excited of the potential and I am becoming mindful of the beliefs and assumptions that I hold as I consider the process more seriously. As I wrote this I recognized the parallel between Elizabeth’s analogy and my own journey to get to this program that we told through our graphic recording exercise. My story was centred around the support network that worked to lift me towards this goal and these supports will continue to be a part of the metaphorical shoulders that I stand on.

So what’s your research question?

I have been thinking a lot about research and possible research questions as I continue with my readings for both LRNT 501 and LRNT 502. I liked Lori’s blog post titled, “A research topic already?” and definitely understand where she is coming from. Her first line is, “What? – I’m supposed to be thinking about my final research paper already? But isn’t that over a year away? I thought I had lots of time to figure that out” (Kemp, 2015). These were precisely my sentiments when we were told to start thinking about it and that applications and proposals were due in the next few months. My feelings about research have fluctuated significantly and sometimes I feel like my head is spinning. I come across amazing articles to read and think up big projects I could do and then I remember Elizabeth’s advice so I put a pin in the bright shiny object and refocus my attention on my current readings and assignments. I know there is plenty of time for all of those grand plans AFTER I walk across that stage. The decision about a thesis is a bit pressing though and I am trying to filter through the different ideas that I have in between readings and assignments. I see now that this is where the blogging comes in. Touché, Elizabeth!

I am really interested in doing a thesis because I think it would be a really interesting to embark on conducting my own research. Collecting data, working with actual human subjects and immersing myself in a question that I am really passionate about would be a very valuable experience as I move forward and possibly pursue a Ph.D down the line. I have a few ideas for research questions that I keep coming back to but they are constantly evolving. One is the question of access to technology that Mark, Miriam and I brought up in our approaches to research assignment. Examining access from a socioeconomic standpoint and exploring the digital divide and its impact on student achievement.

A second question that I have been considering is, what are the barriers to teachers incorporating technology into their teaching? I have personally heard many complaints and concerns from teachers about the inclusion of technology in education. Similar feelings and perceived barriers were also found in the articles I read by Kopcha (2012) and Mumtaz (2006). The general trend is that teachers don’t see the benefit to using technology and don’t feel supported so it is not worth their time and energy. I would like to explore what those barriers are in actuality and identify the specific problems that teachers face when they want to tackle the incorporation of technology. But, if that has already been done of if I have already identified that these feelings exist then do I move onto a question of how can we facilitate or alleviate some of these barriers?

I have also been thinking that I could go into a classroom that uses no technology and incorporate blogging. I could examine student motivation and engagement with a novel study project with blogging responses as the mechanism for sharing ideas. The Global Read Aloud project that Miriam (personal communication, 2015) presented would be a good vehicle for that to take place in.

I might approach the blogging question through action research because it would enable me to change my practice or support another teacher in changing her practice (Waters-Adams, 2006). An ethnographic approach would be suitable for the question of barriers and find out the experiences of teachers and what their experience has been with technology. With both of these questions I know that my assumption that there would be a benefit to using technology is coming through already and I will need to be mindful of this going forward (Bentz & Shapiro, 1998).

Clear as mud?

References

Bentz, V. M., & Shapiro, J. J. (1998). Mindful Inquiry in Social Research. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications, Inc.

L Kemp. (2015, August 8). Trust the process [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://lorikreflecting.blogspot.ca/2015/08/trust-process.html

Kopcha, T. J. (2012). Teachers’ perceptions of the barriers to technology integration and practices with technology under situated professional development. Computers & Education, 59, 1109-1121. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.05.014

Mumtaz, S. (2006). Factors affecting teachers’ use of information and communications technology: A review of the literature. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 9(3), 319-342. doi:10.1080/14759390000200096

Waters-Adams, S. (2006). Action Research in Education. Retrieved from http://www.edu.plymouth.ac.uk/resined/actionresearch/arhome.htm

World Cafe, Technology and Future Leaders in Education

The world cafe was a really great experience and a fantastic opportunity to speak with and share ideas with a variety of people in a short period of time. There were so many aspects of the afternoon that were thought provoking and it was fun to have a graphic facilitator recording our ideas as we went. It was also really neat to see the diverse nature of the people who make up the advisory council as well as meet alumni from previous years of the MALAT program. I look forward to being able to participate in the event another year as an alumni.

Because there is such a large group of students in the education and leadership program in comparison to our cohort of ten, there were usually two, sometimes three of them at any given table during the discussion rounds. In my conversations with several of these students through the week in dorms or in class there has been this competitive edge to comments and dialogue. I often find it to be a very one-sided conversation. When witnessing conversations between their cohort members, there is often this palpable tension that I suspect comes from them all wanting to be the leader among leaders which unfortunately seems to translate to a desire for power over a group. In the setting of the world cafe, much of this tone continued which I expected. What I didn’t expect was the level of negativity that many of this group expressed when we discussed the integration of technology into education. At one point, it was said that technology would eventually destroy human beings’ ability to be social and that were were headed in a direction of creating mindless and soulless beings. Zombie apocalypse anybody? I never saw World War Z (despite it starring Brad Pitt) but this is how I picture it. At this point in the day, I decided that I would not engage in a debate because I clearly wasn’t going to make an impact on this particular individual. Instead, I sat stunned. I was grateful that Elizabeth was at this table because without a witness, I am not sure that I would have even believed what I had just experienced. Following the session, Elizabeth pointed out that these were the future leaders and administrators that we would be working with in our careers. My initial reaction was to be very discouraged. I have encountered a lot of resistance to the integration of technology and lack of understanding about the program that I am taking but as the members of my cohort know, this one really floored me.

There has been research done on the barriers to the inclusion of technology in teaching learning and it identifies the role of the principal as being pivotal to successful adoption of technology in schools (Schiller, 2003; Afshari, M., Bakar, K. A., Luan, W. S., Samah, B. A., & Fooi, F. S., 2009). In my experience, there are many teachers that are apprehensive about using technology or don’t even want to try. Yet, we are at a point in our culture where we don’t have a choice anymore. It worries me that these negative attitudes are so prevalent. School leaders, current and future, have the ability to foster environments where technology integration is seen as a positive experience and where teachers feel supported and well prepared for the transition. As I have said previously, I hope that going forward I am able to provide some of this support and encourage change in a positive and productive manner.

References

Afshari, M., Bakar, K. A., Luan, W. S., Samah, B. A., & Fooi, F. S. (2009). Technology and school leadership. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 18(2), 235-248. doi:10.1080/14759390902992527

Schiller, J. (2003). Working with ICT: Perceptions of australian principals. Journal of Educational Administration, 41(2), 171-185. Retrieved from https://ezproxy.royalroads.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/docview/220428612?accountid=8056