Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Introduction for Session 1 SP4Ed

Hi everyone I'm Sandra Whipp and I am part of the Scenario Planning for Educators course which is in conjunction with the EDEM630 paper I am completing through University of Canterbury here in New Zealand. This year, I have been awarded a study leave award which is for half a year as I had started my Postgraduate Diploma in Education (specialising in e-Learning and Digital Technologies) last year and I will finish it at the end of this year.

 I am a secondary teacher and have been teaching in a co-ed school in Dunedin, New Zealand for the past 13 years. I love teaching - it is a passion – and once it is 'in your skin and under your fingernails' you're hooked!!!! I am constantly amazed by the change in my teaching subject area - Digital Technologies. I have seen the transition of typewriters to computers in the classroom and into BYOD for students, who knows what the future may bring for us all in the future. So that is a very good reason to complete this paper and Diploma in general particularly when we have been introduced to several new communication/collaboration tools already and it is only the fourth week of our course!!! 

It is an exciting time over the next two weeks to see so many people from New Zealand and the 30ish countries around the world collaborating in the online class. This is a new experience for me. The closest I have come to this global experience is my Year 9 students communicating with a class via skype in North Carolina in America as part of their global experience unit of work. 

I look forward to meeting you all online.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

e-Activity - 1st Learning Reflection

“You're participating in a cutting edge course on the fringe of contemporary change with digital technologies in e-learning”. And so I am!

When I decided to venture into another challenge of up-skilling my qualifications and starting (and finishing) a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (specialising in e-Learning and Digital Technologies) and looking at the papers that were on offer, the one that I particularly honed in on was EDEM630. I did note that it was only offered bi-annually and having started my studies last year, was looking forward to 2013 with immense excitement! In the last paper I completed there were several participants who were also contemplating this course and needing a minimum number for the paper to go ahead by UC, we drummed up business between us and encouraged each other to enrol early! So I knew we would be in for some insightful and strategic forum discussions and lots of encouraging feedback as we have had in previous experience in several papers. 

But what I didn’t envisage was the actual environment (or ecological system if you like) in which we would be learning. Looking back prior to enrolling, I am now not sure what my expectations actually were of EDEM630, but one thing is for sure, I am glad I am here! One of the comments Wayne Mackintosh had highlighted in a reply to our group on 17 July was “you're participating in a cutting edge course on the fringe of contemporary change with digital technologies in e-learning”. And so I am! Actually since reading that, it has continued to generate excitement in this course for me with a little sprinkling of anxiety or anticipation to throw in the mix (good anxiety if there is such a thing)!

So the first task of blogging – initial thoughts = this is what my Year 9 class are into, these are what I see regularly in Facebook posts, blogging is out there for all public to see – do I want to be that vulnerable? Week 3 thoughts = I love it! For the initial task in week 1 we could choose Blogger or Wordpress and I chose Blogger as it relates to my school environment of using gmail and Blogger is easily accessible if I want to use in class and use it authentically. It didn’t take me long to navigate myself around – trial and error was called on several times and if I got stuck the tutorials on Learn or YouTube were brilliant as navigation tools.

In between the end of the school term (was also week 1 of this course), having two young boys who are on school holidays (for week 2 and 3 of this course), having to set relief for 13 weeks of my programmes of learning for 5 Year levels at school (as I am now on study leave till November), write 70 senior reports which are due first day of term 3 and continue with life in general, it has been challenging. Sometimes I wish I had 25/8 instead of 24/7 but it’s all about choices and “you're participating in a cutting edge course on the fringe of contemporary change with digital technologies in e-learning”. And so I am! I may have been behind the 8-ball slightly but with time to do lots of reading and re-focus my energy into this study, I will get there. 

I must admit I had struggled with the choice of topic. I know it is to be in an authentic context and it is extremely valuable to suggest this approach for this essay. It means I can relate what I am researching to an authentic situation for school and how it impacts on what we are doing and what I can do further to enhance the learning for our students in the future. I received valuable feedback on zooming in my focus, choosing one social media in particular. This refinement allows me to explore my topic with more depth of understanding. However, it had taken more time than I had anticipated choosing a topic and felt I couldn’t continue with the week 2 or 3 tasks until I had the topic. Now I am able to relate it to what I was learning in weeks 2 and 3. So this has put me behind in task completion a little but catch-up is continuing at a rapid pace!

I was particularly impressed with the introduction to an ecological perspective on change and the Arena of Change by Professor Niki Davis. I enjoyed the concept and understanding the different layers/stands of the ecosystem. As a teacher being in the centre of the arena in charge of a classroom of students seems to be the hub of where it all happens. But being in the centre you don't consciously realise that the ecosystem of the classroom is basically nested within the ecosystem of a department, of the school, in the region, within the nation of the global ecosystem. Everything that happens within the classroom can influence or be influenced by the other parts or aspects of the arena ecosystem. To me ‘it’s all there’ but to see it as an expression of change in the arena context makes sense. Another tool I had been introduced to in week 2 is the mindmapping software bubbl.us. I have not used it before but have often suggested it to students as an option for them to use in brain storming sessions in class. I can see now the benefit of using this free web tool regularly for myself and my students.

The readings which have highlighted the Theories of Change have been insightful. I really enjoyed reading the Diffusion of Innovations by Everett M. Rogers and recognising the five qualities that determine the success of an innovation. Interestingly, as I was digesting the 5 qualities, I was putting certain people’s names in the margins of the readings. I could relate friends/colleagues/family who could sit within any of these categories and from a personal perspective, many of those people’s personality traits could be recognised in the definitions of the qualities. The Concerns-Based Adoption Model can be applied to anyone experiencing change – again it is appropriate for my topic of Social Media/Facebook. Identifying and providing ways to assess the seven stages of concern was also interesting and I can see this being a change model I would use in my essay.

With the readings nearly complete for week 3 I have the outline of my essay plan to post on my blog which I will refine today and post it tomorrow. 

I am excited at our upcoming weeks 4 and 5 with the Scenario Planning for Educators (SP4Ed) and micro Open Online Course (mOOC). What an exciting time for distance learning and open learning and being able to experience it within this paper. With approximately 30 different countries participating in this mOOC it too will be something new to experience in this ever evolving Digital Technologies age.

For the third and final time “you're participating in a cutting edge course on the fringe of contemporary change with digital technologies in e-learning”. And so I am! 

Saturday, 27 July 2013

2.1 e-Activity - Arena of change mindmap

Definition: The arena is a metaphor used to classify and study the ecosystems relating to change with digital technologies in education. Professor Niki Davis.

Professor Davis' video was extremely interesting that I watched it several times - I enjoyed watching the arena and understanding the different layers/stands of the ecosystem. As a teacher being in the centre of the arena in charge of the classroom of students seems to be the hub of where it all happens. But being in the centre you don't realise that the ecosystem of the classroom is basically nestled within the ecosystem of a department, of the school, in the region, within the nation of the global ecosystem. Everything that happens within the classroom can influence or be influenced by the other parts or aspects of the arena ecosystem. The teacher is the keystone species which has influences impacting on them, particularly by the school and more specifically if they are part of a department with colleagues. Other parts of the ecosystem does have impact but they are 'further out in the stands' such as institutional services which come from beyond the school.
I had always realised that being a teacher, part of a department, as a colleague, with management, board members, Ministry of Education, curriculum, global partners etc they were always part of 'the education system' - why we teach, how we teach, what to teach etc but to actually see it as a visual expression as an arena of change really does make greater sense.
Certainly change will have an impact on all parts of the ecosystem - it has to. As Professor Davis emphasises "Digital Technologies education and training are co-evolving together and there are influencing behaviour in all of these ecosystems whether they are at the local class level or at a global level". Change is imminent.

My topic is exploring the educational potential of Facebook to support active learning and collaboration.

 Initial Thoughts Before Venturing into MindMapping!!

So many thoughts about where to start with creating my own mindmap saw me scribbling down lots of ideas from different perspectives. First I thought about the "effects on particular parts of the arena" starting with the central parts eg student, teacher, school, community and international opportunities (because the topic was social media - in particular Facebook). With my topic of 'exploring the educational potential of Facebook to support active learning and collaboration' I wanted to see how change would impact on these areas first and then build from there.

Then realising change is imminent, (next scribbly bit of paper/thinking) what is the flow on effect of this change? With change comes uncertainty and questions, with questions comes a direction, who benefits from these changes, what do we need to consider with regards to the arena of change ecosystem and how does it impact on the influences in the stands?

MindMap created in Bubbl.us by Sandra Whipp for EDEM630

Using the mind mapping free software Bubbl.us I created a mindmap for my ecosystem. Based on the arena of change I colour coded specific areas to identify:
Celebrate The Change!
Green = Commercial/Information Technology Services
Purple = Political
Blue =    Bureaucratic
Red =    Professional
All of these from an ecological perspective can give direct support to the hub of the arena which I believe is the teacher. However, the teacher is not alone to act and teach the class, but is the most influential participant of the ecosystem. The teacher is the keystone specie which enables calm - keeps it all in balance and has support from the other influences from the 'stands'.
Although I did not directly create layers of regional/national/international stands on the actual mindmap, some of those influences are written on paper eg if using Facebook for collaboration and active learning then participation from others such as parents/heads of departments/school management/international collaborating with other classes globally etc all have a place and an influence and impact, and are within boundaries of the areas in the stands of the arena.
As I had said at the start of this post, all these influences in the classroom happen and it seems it happens naturally without really thinking about it (particularly if you have been teaching for several years). When change occurs it can certainly be somewhat disruptive and it can be a complex process to work through. Having the arena of change change can be managed appropriately, be a positive experience for all involved and with change comes active learners - students of the classroom.  

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Refining the Research Topic


   Exploring the educational potential of Facebook to support active learning and collaboration.

I believe Facebook can facilitate collaboration and interaction by providing tools for communication, content sharing and organised groups and such facilities can be used to support educational activities like collaboration and discussion between learners. There is research literature to support this.

I have been looking at a present focus – use research literature what we’ve learned from the past to inform better implementation in the future. I think this fits well with social media - in this instance Facebook. Although Facebook is relatively new eg 2004, it has come such a long way in such a short time. The achievements are remarkable and I think there are many  opportunities for teachers and students to benefit from using Facebook as a collaboration platform and it can be seen as a valuable academic resource for the classroom.

I am very conscious of how Facebook has evolved and the challenges for teachers who are using it and integrating it into the classroom/school environment.  Using social media (FB) in the classroom has undoubtedly highlighted change for the way we teach, how we teach, how the students use it and how they are receptive to it. Does it have the potential to enhance learning, increase teacher-student interaction, increase class satisfaction and create a sense of community? I think it does and there is certainly literature to suggest it does have potential benefits.So my research topic (at this stage) is "Exploring the educational potential of Facebook to support active learning and collaboration".

Reflection of a decision block!

Refining my research topic seems to be a difficult task which I have been grappling with for what seems ages. I don’t see myself moving forward with each week’s tasks until I refine this topic and then can complete the tasks eg mindmap for arena of change, provisional essay plan etc. I have read the info on the arena of change, enjoyed Niki’s video so much I watched it 3 times! I found it so insightful and realising that the arena has been there all along – basically around me within my own classroom ecosystem, just to see it as suggested and how each dimension interacts/intertwines was really interesting.

I have read several times the assignments and whether my topic will be outlined as a research paper (what questions do we need to consider) or a case study (what questions do we need to answer) I’m not sure but leaning towards research paper. Wayne has provided valuable feedback (thank you) about zooming the focus, refining the topic and maybe adopting specific elements which could be challenges for the school/teachers integrating social media.

I have already found a good deal of literature regarding Facebook (which is the media I will use as the specific social media platform) and the literature is varied eg how it is being used, outcomes from using Facebook positive and negative, student achievement outcomes, students engaged and learning, how teachers have coped with change and what to consider as possible guidelines for classroom use. Again, it is a case of refining to particular elements incorporating change/future change.

I have looked at others blogs from the class and obviously many have worked through their topics/weeks really well and have been impressive. I suppose I am feeling a little pressure (and guilt) with the school holidays on at the moment and with 2 enthusiastic boys wanting quality time with mum (I am blessed but stressed!!!!) as well as just starting my ‘official study leave till November’ I still have several hours of catchup work to complete for my reliever at school. Nevertheless, this is a reflection blog today just vetting where I am at the moment and realizing I so want to enjoy this paper and give 100%. If I was running the course, I would look at what is in my blog so far and think ‘limited work completed’. Maybe I should have reflected online earlier instead of just thinking out loud! However, I am here working through it. I will get there. A little more reading this afternoon and stern decisive decision making and I will be away……..
The question is.....

Monday, 15 July 2013

1.2 E-Activity Selecting a Research Topic

Having thought about the research topic I come back to something I am interested in - social media. I am amazed almost on a daily basis of how students are drawn to the variety of social media that is available to them and how they access it, how they use it and what satisfaction - or dissatisfaction occurs. As a teacher I am continuously learning and using web tools in the classroom which makes for very interesting and lots of fun lessons. So I have outlined my thoughts on this for selecting social media as a research topic.  

STATE the research topic.
What is the advantage or educational potential of using social media in the classroom (specifically Facebook).

WHY choose the topic?
Students who are in our classrooms today are often labelled Digital Natives. This label highlights the digital age in which we find ourselves living in and within this evolution inevitably comes change. So how can we use this (social media) to an educational advantage?
Social media offers exciting opportunities for a classroom environment, but I think it should be used based on sound pedagogical principles and driven by empirical research and evaluation, in order to produce effective meaningful learning outcomes and experiences for all students.

WHO are the information providers on this topic?
Students use social media regularly, some even obsessed with it. They are at the forefront of using social media as a form of communication. Some teachers have grasped the concept of using social media in the classroom environment but are they using it to improve student learning or is it just another web tool to use/try? (Maybe this last sentence should be in the next category – what questions).

WHAT are the major questions for this topic?
The way we teach and the way we learn is inevitably changing with technology. How can we adopt and use social media in an educational setting? What are the advantages/learning outcomes for our students? What can we use it for eg collaboration, feedback?How can it be advantageous without stepping out of the boundaries (refer to the 'when' heading topics).

WHERE is your topic important: local, national, international?
It seems that this topic is local, national and international. It also seems, from the research I have come across so far, is secondary and tertiary based where social media has been researched and reported, not as much primary.

WHEN is/was your topic important?
To Friend or not to Friend, Educational tool or distraction, the fine line between exploiting opportunities and unwelcome imposition – these are just some of the research topics which I have come across in the interest of this subject ‘social media – a place or not a place in education’.
It has recently been the ‘hot topic’ of colleagues to investigate social media in the classroom and the advantages of using it. Senior management have also some interest but at this stage is in the early stages of investigation/development/implementation.

I'm interested in any thoughts, comments, refinements.