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Ubiquitous Devices, Ubiquitous Learning and Ubiquitous Education May 29, 2010

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education.
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from Jorge Reyna

The way people learn is changing and it will change continuously due to new emerging technologies. Learners now have the choice to decide when, where and how they learn. These days it is easier, quicker and cheaper for users to access, create and post content through the mobile web. These web technologies offer many opportunities for learners and learning activities. I do believe that our mission as ‘next practice’ educators is to provide the resources to ensure ubiquitous learning is encouraged within our teaching units in our education programs.

Learners need to be able to access content on campus and also in their social spaces, such as coffee shops, gyms, work, and bus stops. They need to be able to access that learning using a device of their choosing, such as a laptop, netbook, smart phone, iPod, or iPads. It is in these places and spaces that social learning and collaborative learning can take place in an active manner.

Sometimes people believe that mobile learning is an individual activity. Mobile technologies such as 3G and Wi-Fi allow groups of learners to work together in a mutually convenient location, such as a cafe. There are many opportunities for learners to access learning wherever they are. Connectivity and mobile devices allow learners to access learning when travelling by train or bus, but also when waiting or queuing. Many may not consider a learner learning at home to be engaged in mobile learning, but that learner is still making a choice about how, where and when they want to learn. They may have chosen to come to the university, or meet with their peers in the library, or a café; however, they have chosen to learn at home. Mobile does not necessarily always mean ‘moving’, but simply engaging in the flexibility of mobility.

Employers will have a special interest in mobile learners who are able to access learning at a time and place to suit both the learner and the employer. A learner able to access learning at the office can save on time and travel costs and make it easier for employers to “release” employees for learning opportunities. We live in a world that is changing dramatically, a world in which the traditional barriers of time and space no longer apply. Are we ready to accommodate our pedagogical approach to the ubiquitous learning revolution?

Personally I believe that ageing occurs when we close our minds to new technology due to fear of the unknown. This is natural, especially in these times when it is getting hard to be up to date with the latest technologies. This can create anxiety in people as they feel they are behind new technologies. The key here is to identify the potential applications that can be used within our teaching units and to find valid references in journals/conference papers that give us a sign these technologies can be embedded in educational settings.

Next practice is discipline innovation, and this allows us to be creative and to break barriers to give our students a better way to learn. Technology itself is not learning, it needs to be supported by a pedagogical approach. Technology will never replace a good teacher; it will simply make that teacher able to reach more students and to deliver knowledge in more effective ways that suit student’s lifestyles. To watch a visual representation of this please visit the video I developed about ubiquitous devices, ubiquitous learning, and ubiquitous education (http://www.vimeo.com/9258419)

Jorge Reyna is an E-Learning Technical Officer and PhD candidate in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia

How a primary school teacher in a Western Sydney school used blogED with his class May 18, 2010

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education.
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From Jane Hunter

A few people have asked me about “the snapshot” of how a primary school teacher in a Western Sydney school used blogED with his class**.

 Here it is …

 “Imagine a classroom where there are no silent voices?” Mitchell Hooper, Assistant Principal at Blake Road Public School posted a comment on the ‘bloglog’ (used by the blogED project team to capture teacher feedback during the trial). The post said “Empowerment! I have a number of children who rarely contribute to classroom discussions. The blog has given them a voice. They’re impressed and so am I”.

 Mitchell continued his commentary a few days later, “the posts and comments students made demonstrate that the blog was their preferred forum for expressing views and providing information – the fact that they could post from behind an avatar (and an) alias gave them more strength”.

 Mitchell produced three class blogs for his Year 3/4 class of 28 students: 

 1. a ‘private’ blog[1] that recreated the First Fleet voyage; a whole term activity that simulated Cook’s journey. Each day students made decisions and kept a ‘ship log’ of the voyage on the blog, they wrote about which course to set, weather patterns, food shortages, mutinies and disease;

 2.  a ‘public’ blog for parents to view their child’s ‘ship log’. Mike said, “parents were very impressed with both the standard of writing and the depth of knowledge and information the children were learning from the sailing simulation”; and

 3.  another ‘public’ blog to communicate with a students in a class at Barnes Primary School in the United Kingdom. Its purpose, “was to share and exchange cultural information about our two schools and countries. We have achieved some success and we built on this in the later part of 2009”. 

 Mitchell captured the experience in his short film, “A Day in the Life of Blake Road Public School”. In the film students describe, “being able to upload all kinds of photos, download homework” and “how the blog improved typing skills as well as being able to get answers to questions from peers”. The blog enabled Mitchell to embed many elements of the NSW Quality Teaching Framework, he used engagement, metalanguage, higher order thinking skills, narrative and connectedness, but particularly substantive communication. He said,

“the substantive communication aspect was very strong. I noticed that the children were able to slip very easily into the language of the blog and could readily discuss posts and comments. With minimal instruction, each child was able to log in and navigate his/her way around the blog. Many became adept at uploading files, their photographs and homework. It was often the reluctant ‘paper submitters’ who were the first to use the blog”.



Using a blog for teaching and learning differs from other pedagogical approaches. Mitchell explained, “the potential for blogED is huge. Different interest/ability groups can be set up. For example, podcasts of a musical piece could be uploaded so that instrumental music students could practise with their teacher, outside knowledge experts from places like NASA could be invited to post and comment. The blog, in part, re-creates the child’s digital bedroom at school. In the hands of a passionate pedagogue, it is a powerful learning tool”.

** Names in this piece are pseudonyms. The conversation was recorded during the DET blog trial with teachers in 2009. The full release of the blog occurred in early March this year, to date more than 400 schools have signed up to use it.

An extra aside here – you might like to have a look at a new book on Australian blog writing edited by Karen Andrews “Miscellaneous Voices #1” – it’s quite stunning!

[1] A ‘private’ blog operates within the DET Intranet, with appropriate permissions to make a blog ‘public’ it is available on the Internet where others can view and comment (with owner moderation) but not post.

Transformative Learning for Progressive Change May 8, 2010

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Educational Leadership, Social Justice and Equity through Education.
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from Professor Stuart B. Hill

Transformative learning is learning that enables irreversible, profound, emancipatory change for the better – in our values, world views, beliefs, perspectives, understandings, and frameworks (or ‘meaning schemes’) for imagining, thinking, designing, planning and acting; and in our day-to-day living and relating (to self, others, and the built and natural world). It is the ‘highest’ level of learning: above “refining or elaborating our meaning schemes, learning new meaning schemes, [and] transforming meaning schemes” (Jack Mezirow 1994, Understanding transformation theory, Adult Education Quarterly, 44(4): 222-232; p. 224). It is the sort of foundational learning that is needed globally to enable individuals to contribute significantly to addressing our many current crises and, more importantly, to enable us to progress as a species (and as communities, businesses, groups, families and individuals) towards ways of being and doing that are supportive of wellbeing, ecological sustainability, social responsibility, caring, meaning and joy. It may be precipitated by a challenge or crisis not solvable by one’s ‘old approaches’, or by a longer-term sequence of less challenging experiences that eventually cross a ‘critical threshold of enough’ to require such a profound change. Such changes may be self-initiated or enabled by others (including trusted and caring family members, friends, mentors, teachers, therapists and personal development facilitators), directly and/or indirectly (through books, articles, the media etc). The environments, contexts and circumstances in which we live also play a major influencing role.

Depending on one’s personality preferences and beliefs, such changes may be experienced as primarily involving thinking, feeling, behaviouristic, intuitive and/or spiritual experiences and processes. Thus, whereas some theorists have emphasised critical reflection as a core part of the process, others have documented the potentially equally important role of feelings, intuition and unconscious (and ‘spiritual’) processes. All agree that dialogue with others and deep reflection are essential parts of the process, as is deconstruction of the inadequate ‘old’, often involving a process of profound ‘grieving’, and construction of a more holistically enabling ‘new’. Such transformation often includes gaining a more profound understanding of the interrelationships between power, gender, work and play, biology and ecology, and psychology and sociology (including the full range of historical, linguistic, political, economic, scientific and technological aspects).

Decisions and transformations may range from all-encompassing values changes, to related acceptance of responsibility and letting-go, to the implementation of new initiatives and the abandonment of old no longer appropriate attitudes and activities. Broader psychosocial outcomes may include a more aware, empowered, purposeful and discerning, grounded sense of being (living more proactively from the inside-out, and less reactively from the outside-in); also progress towards more holistic expressions of peace, caring, love, equity, community, wellbeing, meaning and joy (all in the broadest sense). This has most profoundly been described as progressing towards being in a [co-evolutionary] process of mutual synthesis with one’s [living and non-living] environment (G Scott Williamson & Innes H Pearse 1965, ‘Science, Synthesis and Sanity’, Repr. 1980, Scottish Academic, Edinburgh, p. 23). Teachers may best enable such transformation by providing a “sense of safety, openness and trust”, and by supporting “autonomy, participation and collaboration”, and “activities that encourage the exploration of alternative perspectives, problem-posing, and critical reflection” (Edward W. Taylor 1998, The theory and practice of transformative learning: a critical review, ERIC, Columbus, OH, pp. 53-4).

My particular approach to this type of learning is described in more detail (as ‘Learning Ecology’) in Hill et al. (2004) and Sattmann-Frese and Hill (2009). Hill, SB, S Wilson, & K Watson, 2004. Learning ecology: a new approach to learning and transforming ecological consciousness: experiences from social ecology in Australia, in EV O’Sullivan & M Taylor (eds.), Learning Toward an Ecological Consciousness: Selected Transformative Practices, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp. 47-64. Sattmann-Frese, W & SB Hill, 2009. Learning for Sustainable Living: Psychology of Ecological Transformation, http://www.lulu (http://www.lulu.com/content/2589181)

NAPLAN testing, teacher bans, and the prospect of ‘league tables’ May 1, 2010

Posted by Editor21C in Education Policy and Politics.
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from Associate Professor Steve Wilson

The temperature is rising as both the Australian and NSW governments insist that the National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) testing should go ahead in May. This is despite teacher union threats to ban teacher participation in the testing because the test results, published on the My School web site for the first time this year, have led to the construction and publication of school rankings or ‘league tables’ in national print media.

 So, who is right? Our governments, which are committed to making school performance data public through the My School government web site? Or the teacher unions, who cite overseas experiences of how ‘league tables’ are used in a misinformed way to denigrate the performance of schools, teachers and students in low socio-economic status communities?

 The answer is that they are both right, but that ultimately there is a higher principle to be considered which strongly suggests that teachers should not impede the national testing program. This principle relates to the availability of information in a democratic society, and the right of the public to access data of all sorts, including data about schools and student academic achievement.

 Clearly, ‘league tables’ are simplistic (they only report results in basic literacy and numeracy, and clumsily attempt to rank schools on a simplistic and narrow construction of academic quality). Because of this, schools that have more students from educationally advantaged backgrounds inevitably look better in these tables. ‘League tables’ are open to misuse and abuse when their limitations are concealed or remain unexplained. Additionally, the NAPLAN tests do not capture many of the outcomes schools strive to achieve and which are very valuable to young people – creativity, their physical and emotional development and so on. However, though it could clearly be improved, the current NAPLAN testing regime is internationally applied and accepted, and it is quite correct for governments to conduct these tests to have some measure of educational outcomes. After all, we make a huge investment in our education systems, and all young people rely on its success to secure their own futures.

 Some of the concerns about the most recent ‘league tables’ published in Australia will be overcome by the  fact that, in future, the My School site will publish student ‘academic growth’ data – the progress students have made – rather than simply comparing performance data in which the most advantaged schools and students often do well. This is a welcome improvement as it will enable the recognition of every poor school which adds value to its students’ learning. From now on, any media outlet which continues to publish ‘performance’ tables, and ignores ‘improvement’ data, will be discredited.

Irrespective of this, we do need to defend and support the NAPLAN and My School systems, which allow us to have access to valid data about our schools and to make our own judgements. Teachers should not try to force the government to stop the media publishing results from the My School site. It would be far better if they contributed their energies to making the public more aware of, and more critical of, the dangers of simplistic ‘league tables’. Teachers should help empower us to effectively interpret educational data – not obstruct our access to it. We need to be educated – not subject to censorship. This is the key principle in this debate.

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