Month: February 2014

Information Overload

It is with sheepish reflection that I begin this post.

As an pre-service educator I am in love with the process of learning and creating my own new knowledges. So when my son brings home his homework on homographs I am of course only to happy to help and clarify a few things for him.

Where to look for information that will allow me to explain?  Of course I reach for the closest ‘i-device’. Many, many websites later and the distinction between homophones, homographs and homonyms is as clear as… well mud to be truthful.

Lesson One– It is advisable to have a fundamental understanding of a topic before challenging the ideas of others. Another is the humility one must display when proven to be wrong in such instances.

Lesson Two– Before approaching a classroom teacher to challenge what you believe to be an incorrect interpretation of a definition- check your sources. With so much information available it is important that the quality and credibility of sources is considered.

My enthusiasm or arrogance (you may decide) saw me enter into an academic discussion adamant that my newly purchased Primary Grammar Dictionary 3rd edition authored by Gordon Winch (2013) would prove my case.

What I found was a very generous teacher that had taken her own time during the day to print out the relevant curriculum documents to help clarify my thinking. For those interested the curriculum glossary http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Static/docs/senior%20secondary/English%20Glossary.pdf Why didn’t this occur to me?

Just as students need to be taught to discern between materials I think it is a lesson that we are teachers- all be it in training, need to heed to also.

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Removing barriers to creativity

This video was created using the app Explain Everything. The boy in the video is on the autism spectrum and encounters a great deal of frustration when he is expected to write in class. His IEP (individual education plan) includes the use of ICT to decrease frustration. On this occasion an image was used as a visual stimulus. What resulted was the development of a sophisticated narrative well beyond what would have been achievable without the support of the voice recording technology.

What I found amusing was the relative ease at which this boy navigated the app. I think I encountered more issues trying to upload it to YouTube then he did learning to use it! Whilst great causation needs to be taken to avoid reliance on such technologies and the abandonment of writing completely.

This boy is expected to write 4 sentences before using the app to assist communicating his ideas.

Why are we reluctant to try?

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Reading through the blogs of fellow preservice educators I have begun to notice a trend. Very few people feel confident in their ability to navigate the cavernous world of ICT. Even those few exceptions that always seem to make the rule only acknowledge competence with one or two programs.

Are we as a group of learners so ill equipped that we are destined to fail and as such have already assumed the tuck and brace position as though the plane is about to cash? Surely this can’t be the case for all of us.

The rate at which new technologies and programs are developed leave even the most avid ICT user in a race against the ICT snowball as it’s rapidly gaining momentum rolling down the hill. I think the way education systems have worked in the past should be held accountable.

In classrooms where the teacher has been regaled as the holder of all knowledge and drill and route memorisation reigned supreme where does an environment that requires learners to be in control of their own learning fit?

Teachers are unable to hold all knowledge relating to ICT. Students have more time, motivation and technical skills then many of us who have made it throughout he other side of the chalk and talk pedagogy of the past.

Let’s give in to not knowing. We don’t know. We will never know. Through our own exploration and embarrassing mistakes with ICT we can learn.  A shift in pedagogical practices from viewing the teacher as a knowledge base to learner will go along away in taking back our confidence.

Call for a change in pedagogy

I did some reading today that I felt created some clarity to the debate surrounding a back to basic approach to education.

I understand that students respond better when they are active learners that are able to make connections with personal experiences and prior knowledge. This theory seems to resonate well with me.

What i hadn’t considered is the fundamental change in the way that students actively participate in their world and their learning by default. While what has been deemed the basics such as reading writing and arithmetic dominate the curriculum the new skills students need are being left to the way side. How does one read an interactive website? What is the appropriate way to communicate via a text message? Where does visual literacy fit in outdated notions of text? 

Grammar as a function retains its significance. What is becoming clear is that this is very much context specific. With one of the greatest shifts seeing more text reflecting the spoken word such as instant messaging and text messages. Cope and Kalantzis call this ‘multiple Englishes’ (2009). If education is to reflect society then education must also adapt to cast a much broader web of content.

It is not only the content that is being taught but pedagogy in general that needs to adapt to learner needs. With advancements in technology students are more actively engaged with content then ever before. Visual and audio are being used to enhance and captivate learners.

The notion of active learners is paramount to engagement. In a generation where information is aesthetically pleasing and availably instantly students expect content to draw them in to create interest. They wish to click on hyperlinks and watch short YouTube clips. In an essence they wish to steer their own learning. 

The skill now lies with educators to step back and balance the emerging need for learners to be actively involved with providing appropriate stimulating and engaging learning experiences. Didactic teaching practice should be boxed up with the floral corduroy flares. Only making an appearance when the time is right.

After all as educators are we not taught to meet them where they are at?