Saturday, June 24, 2017

Continuing professional development habit - Blogging as portfolio

It's really hard to form the habit of continual development without a formal qualification to drive you. I've been thinking this through in the context of the Erasmus Future Teacher 3.0 project that I'm currently working on as part of Learning Apps (see About FT 3.0 tab)

The plan is to create a Digital Thermometer to help people measure where they are on their digital teaching journey. Then there's a Digital Compass to direct them to a set of Digital Journeys they can take. 
How do we keep people going through a cycle of journeys after the project ends?

After completing my CMALT, I should have continued to use the core areas of competency to reflect on my on-going journey, but I didn't. I'd reached an 'end' to the journey. Refreshing the portfolio in 3 years' time felt like I had lots of time to relax and to do other things. I didn't develop the habit of continuing to blog as a result of CMALT because it wasn't part of the qualification requirement.

I then embarked on the MSc TEL a few years later to continue my professional development journey (gaining my Prince2 and Agile project management qualifications in between).

What I'm now curious about is whether I can get into the habit of continually developing my portfolio. I recently had to curate my recent works as evidence of my ability to meet a person specification. I had a fun time going through my back catalogue of presentations, materials, and reflections, but it was also time consuming. Much better if I could keep on top of things and feel like I could reflect my professional capacity more easily at any time, and not just at one point in time.

I also miss the habit of blogging (triggered by my very active life as an e-learning consultant) and the fun we had in creating podcasts with the likes of David Sugden, James Clay, Ron Mitchell etc). Ron, Alistair and I are currently recording our audio discussions as they lend themselves to being a podcast. It's great to be able to hear people's thought processes when they are designing a lesson for you! (View the Future Teacher link above to listen to the discussions which have been added to the learning objects.)

I looked into ways of triggering the habit of adding to a portfolio and in the end, it boils down to this. It has to:
  • be easy to add to
  • allow me to categorise entries so I can curate when I need to
  • be easy to share with others when I need to
And so, I've come back to my slightly neglected blog! Email into blog is one of the easiest ways to add things to a visible site. If I want to, I can keep things in draft until I'm ready to share it. It allows me to tag stuff, so I can find it again easily. I could go through items and tag it with a new tag if I need to group it for a new audience. Curation sorted!

Very pleased with this idea. What I need to do now is to determine a set of tags for each area of competence that I would like to keep adding to, set reminders on my calendar or aim to add to it every day, and then have regular reviews to ensure I'm not focusing too much on one area of competence over another. I'm also keen to cycle through different models of e-learning for reflection purposes to deepen my understanding of their principles (or work out what works best when). TPACK might be a useful starting point, but for learning technologists, would we be using Learning Technology as our subject specialism for our Content Knowledge? It may not work so well for us.

In terms of accountability, I'm thinking of asking other learning technologist friends to start the journey with me. Maybe we can make part of the journey "read someone else's journey and provide them with feedback". This could be a really hippy but fun experiment for my Masters project.

It certainly ticks the box in terms of being based on intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation.If we can build this into our Erasmus project with the ultimate aim that people continue on their journey after we have 'finished with them' (you know what I mean!), then I might feel like my day's work is done!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rethinking pedagogies, reusing pedagogies

When it comes to delivering training, my preference to use a social constructivist approach is based on my belief that everyone has something to contribute and that I am not necessarily the expert, or the only expert about a topic. I like to harness the ‘resources’ of other people’s expertise in my teaching. I feel that people generally gain more satisfaction and active learning from participation than absorption. This feeling is supported by years spent delivering training and getting feedback; being involved in their own learning has been very gratifying for many teachers. (There are also many comments from these teachers that their students don’t care to be active learners. They just want to be fed the answers. That idea is for another blog post.)

I came across an interesting piece of research via a New Yorker article called “Why facts don’t change our minds”. Two professors, Sloman and Fernbach, found that “when it comes to new technologies, incomplete understanding is empowering.” Our incomplete knowledge about stuff actually helps to protect us as a group. We use a “division of cognitive labour” to help us make progress; if we all spent time working out how to programme the web before we used it, we wouldn’t have gotten very far. The ability to accept someone else’s thinking or outputs and to use it stops us from being in the dark ages. This is where people are willing to accept being trained or mentored by others they trust (The idea of social capital to be discussed in yet another blog post :-)). They essentially piggyback on others to get a step up. There is no point reinventing the wheel; just use the knowledge others can provide. Luckily for us as trainers, this behaviour means we have many attendees in our upcoming webinar on ‘Online learning: What works?’. This is part of the Future Teacher 3.0 series of webinars that you are welcome to join.

This trait can also work against us as people can have strong feelings about things they don’t understand, and talking to others with similar feelings can reinforce misconceptions. Many of my fellow trainers have encountered naysayers in our groups, or people who are so resistant to new ideas they are practically ‘dismantling the wheel’. This can also be dangerous in a community of knowledge where misconceptions can be spread like wildfire due to ‘confirmation bias’. Sloman and Fernback suggest that to counter such aggressive ignorance, people should be challenged to explain their thinking based on facts and research. I remember a teacher who proclaimed that using technology didn’t work since there was no improvement in his classes. This teacher had simply brought laptops into the class, but did nothing more. He didn’t redesign his learning activities to take advantage of the affordances of the technology. This is why we are approaching the topic of online learning ‘from the ground up’ by looking at strategies for designing active learning, rather than describing how to use online tools. We’ll be looking at ‘visible learning’ and ‘effect sizes’, a concept researched by John Hattie and I hope to have time to introduce Puentedura’s SAMR model. The latter has been criticised for not being based on empirical research, but some tools are useful despite not knowing their pedigree ;-). If it helps a teacher to evaluate their approach to learning activity design and to make a difference to the learner, a blunt instrument is better than no instrument at all.

This brings us full circle to the idea of using a social constructivist approach to the upcoming webinar. Much as I would like to have lots of discussion and chat over a ‘presentation-style’ webinar, the numbers attending mean that this is going to start off more like an interactive lecture, than a small-group discussion. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; there are possibly some threshold concepts we need to communicate before people can have a reasonable discussion. Rather than continuing on my preferred ‘teaching style’, I am going to practice what we preach and consider the best alignment of practice with the optimum learning gains we can achieve. My co-presenter, Alistair McNaught, and I look forward to seeing you online on March 31. Future sessions will also feature my esteemed colleague, Ron Mitchell.