Sunday, 13 July 2014

Learning is like riding.

I went to the Stampede today; I felt guilty taking myself away from my work but I had an epiphany while I was there. I went to my first rodeo and gained new knowledge and respect for what cowboys do.  In many ways they demonstrate the learning cycle.

  1. They take risks (I wouldn't get on that animal).
  2. They get thrown around (and stomped on sometimes)
  3. There are facilitators who help when they're in trouble with their activity (sometimes I think my students think I'm a clown).
  4. They face humiliation in front of their peers, but most importantly they get up and try again.

It feels like I've been thrown off a few horses this week, but I'm still getting up.  I think we all need to be cowboys (girls) in this program.  Now I really I want a hat.

What would you rather do group work or go to the dentist?

Rather then commenting on articles, I thought I would blog about the insight I gained this week on group work.  In my own classroom, I limit the amount group work in my courses for the following reasons:

  1. students have repeatedly told me how much they "hate" group work, "loathe" group work, would rather go to the dentist then doing group work.  Students have commented that the work load never seems fair and the anxiety levels alway go to extreme levels before due dates.
  1. How do you accurately mark individual learners?  If you mark everyone equally then often you get disgruntled learners who feel that he/she did more.
  1. Late, incomplete or missing sections impacting the mark of those who have produced excellent work.
  1. and then there are the social dynamics of putting people together--even if they choose their group members themselves.
  1. As I teach high school teacher, I won't even comment on the hormonal issues that can get in the way of group work.

Inquiry based learning has been at the forefront of my learning so far,  After reflecting on my own experience this week, I kept wondering if I was meeting Engstrom and Jewett's expectations for helping to foster a learning environment that maximized engagement for our task. Did I add or help to provide clear group expectations so as to create a safe environment to aid in engagement?  but I am also looking through other learning lenses.  I also believe that group work  falls under the category of situated learning.  Group work has provides the added dynamic of what personal previous experiences and beliefs to the project--as these influence the learning outcome. Greeno refers to this his article that, "learning that occurs in one kind of activity system can influence what ones does in a different kind of system (Greeno, 2006)."

Reflecting on the social dynamics of group work, I then found myself in an pedagogical type inner conversation of what came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, what needs to come first before group work can begin connection between the group members or the knowledge to work. Perhaps it needs to be the establishment of boundaries or defined roles. I'm not sure, but then again I can't answer the whole egg and chicken argument either. I think what I did learn is that it is important every member of a group comes with an inner dialogue previous personal and educational experiences. It shapes how they view group work.

The more I thought about my facilitating with group work, the more I wondered how my prior learning experiences shaped my own performance with my group? It ha also left me reflecting how I can make my own learner's group work experiences more positive and productive. I need to explore how I can help to provide the learning environment, knowledge, digital tools and support to scaffold their growth.

Works Cited

Engstrom, M. E., & Jewett, D. (2005). Collaborative Learning the Wiki Way. Tech Trends , 49 (6), 12-15

Greeno, J. G. (2006). Learning in activity. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 79-96). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. (Chapter 6)

Thursday, 10 July 2014

When lens gets a little muddy, does it require action or design?

Last night's readings produced a roller coaster of emotions.

7 pm: frantically googling yet another learning science term--define action, define design, compare design versus action research.

10 pm: clutching head while rereading articles while trying to define a clear definition for action and design research.

12 pm: feeling enough clarity to move on to the next task of the evening (morning).

9 am: Sitting with my group feeling utterly confused and mistrusting my own work from the previous night. Am I demonstrating what could be a stage of action or design based research and then again what is this practice research?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Art of Design

I want the latest gizmo as I know it will change my students' lives!

I think at some point, most teachers have been sucked into some new piece of technology that has been promised to revolutionize learning in the classroom.  The new tool/ technology is taken out, used for the specific activity and then put back in the cupboard as it didn't quite work as during the demonstration at a staff meeting.

A tool could work well in one environment and epically fail in the next one.   Quintana et al.'s article illustrates the importance of  the backward design of technology for the learner.  If a tool is going to be designed for the learner, the learner must first be understood--and not from the perspective of the  ideal skill based learner.  

From the K-12 perspective, it is often reported in the media of how technically savvy today's youth are.    Assumptions are very dangerous thing.  From the technology designer's perspective, if he or she assumes that the targeted learner is computer savvy, he/she could build in computer functionality features that leave some learners confused and disengaged.  For the teacher who may be following a more learner centered practice, it creates classroom management issues as the learner can become more of a distraction then as a collaborator to the learning activity.    From the perspective of the teacher, if the teacher isn't proficient with the tool/technology, then the learner success may become limited  to the ability of the teacher's proficiency of implementing the use of the technology to be used.    It is imperative that the ease of use or learning of the technology is critical for learning success.  From the perspective the designer, checks and balances need to be implemented in the technology initial's build to better meet the learner's varying needs and therefore avoid growing frustration that could lead to abandonment of the technology

I think this is where web based tools (WBLT)have moved towards better meeting the needs of both the learner and teacher.  Help features can be turned on and off depending on the needs of the learner.  As a learner's skill set develops, more features can be added.  This can have a dramatic psychological effect with the student having the ability to master the technology at a basic to advance level.  

Therefore education technology designers must remember that their devices will be used at multi-level and checks and balances must be put in it's place in order to meet the needs of the learner--and teacher.

As budgets shrink, what we don't need is one more device shoved into a cupboard after a few use.  We need devices that are potentially multi-functional and can be successfully operated by learners and educators of varying levels.

Doing your Ed.D Means You Want to Change.

My goals walking into this program is to continue where I left off with my M.Ed program from UOIT.

This isn't where it started.  I think everyone comes into a program coloured by their life experiences.

If I was to describe myself from literary terms, I'm a deconstructionist,   I like to take things apart, change them and put them back together.  I think this comes from being viewed as being different.

I was the first female student to take a technological studies course.  I was one of the first female tech teachers in my school board and am still well in the minority.  Many of the social challenges of my schools got in the way of my learning.  In hindsight, if a more diversified approach had been allowed for my education, my success rate would have greatly increased, but it wasn't the time nor the attitude of that time.  Starting my masters, I believed that I could change education from a micro classroom level, but the more read the more I realize that implementing change at the classroom level, doesn't really change or improve education.  It must be done at the school or preferably the district level.  The question I need to explore is how to work around the politics.

Day 2 Reflections

One of my challenges in this program is to be aware of academic distractions.  I kept finding myself reflecting inward during class as a thought resonated with my own teaching practice.  As we talked about the changing role of technology,  what is learning and how is it evolving, I realized that it isn't the technology that limits learning rather it is the curriculum.   The model that we are following is atequated and based on time when communication technologies were limited and therefore slowed down the learning/teaching pace.  The education model needs to shift away from the need of memorization to that of gathering, assessing and implementing.   The problem in education is so much bigger then I have ever thought.   It lies in the idea that the central point of the classroom is the chalkboard--whether it has been replaced with a white or smart board, it is still based on the principle that the students gather around this hanging piece of technology, listen and react.

My education in Jamaica was very much routed in the more original model of the formal classroom.  More than half of my social sciences classes, for instance, was spent copying copious amounts of notes from the board or from a teacher dictating.  Textbooks were very scarce and expensive--it required a trip into town to purchase them as students have to supply their own books.  Even for students who were lucky enough to own their books,  they weren't using the same edition so notes were necessary to compensate for any discrepancies.  I never really questioned this approach at the time, but in retrospect, I lost half of my year in each course due to the notebooks that I filled up.  We were always being encouraged to hurry up so we learn what we were writing down.  The curriculum that was covered had to be condensed and was more memory rather than learning focused.  I'm starting to see that memorization is an extremely small part of learning.  For instance, I know that Jamaica has one of the richest deposits of bauxite in the world and I think of this often when I drinking from a soda can.  What I wished we had discussed further in geography class was why it would stain our clothes red?

A deeper understanding of a topic allows the learner the opportunity to connect knowledge and then apply it in different or new ways.  In order for the current education system to be improved, we need to turn our backs on the chalkboard and move towards a more collaborative environment that will facilitate deeper exploration.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Reflections From Reading 1

Blog Posting #1

My own personal journey for obtaining a doctorate in education comes from a deep desire to be part of the solution of improving the education model that will drive our schools to meet the needs of learners.  Our society is rapidly evolving from both technological and social standpoint and educators need to address and embrace these changes in a thoughtful manner so as to better prepare students for the 21st century.

Whereas traditionally learning was believed to take place in a classroom and students would reinforce their learning outside, technology has provided a catalyst to facilitate the expansion of the learning environment to move beyond the traditional classroom.   Hoadley and Haneghan recognize and discuss this in their article, The Learning Sciences: Where they came from and what it means for instructional designers, and comment on the importance of educators committing to build solutions for learning to take place both in and out of the formal school setting (Hoadley & Van Haneghan, 2011, p. 11).  Technology is providing new tools to allow learners to become more active and in control of their learning.  A student can sit on a bus and review audio notes from the mobile MP3 players, watch a YouTube video from the comforts of his/her computer or watch an educational television show on a number of school topics for example.   Technology is helping to drive a learner’s curiosity to learn by providing the method to obtain knowledge.

I agree with their belief that the education model of requiring students to be able to regurgitate copious amounts of facts needs to be replaced with one that facilitates students obtaining a deeper understanding of knowledge and skills.  I can’t help think how more districts are adopting the American model of standardize testing rather then moving towards students developing their ability to problem solve, seek knowledge and being more in control of their learning—I don’t believe standard testing facilitates this.

Another area that needs to be recognized is the role of the educator and the skill level that she/he bring to the learning process.  In Bransford, Brown, Cocking’s article, How people learn, they recognize the role that successful teachers have on learning.    The adoption of technology as a teaching tool needs to be based first on the learning/teaching process or there is a risk of the technology becoming more of a toy rather than that as a tool (Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R., 2000 p.6)

Technology has the opportunity facilitate a deeper learning for the learner as the memorization of facts isn’t is as important as he/she can Google facts when necessary.  As discussed by Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, technology not only has affected how learners are learning but the high literacy skills needed in society today.  Another benefit or effect from the adoption of technology is that learners want more freedom and control over their learning.  They are using their tools to seek answers and solutions in a just in time manner.  I see this as an important benefit that helps facilitate developing passionate life long learners.  As discussed in the article, it means that we need to change that is working with students—we need teachers to view themselves as facilitators that work with students rather than pushing knowledge on to learners.  By moving towards guiding students, we can guide students towards a deeper understanding of any given knowledge. 

In the past five years, I have been taking on a great role as a PD trainer.  I offer workshops in a variety of web based learning tools.  At the beginning of my workshops I always like to give the analysis that each WBLT is very much like a pencil crayon in a pencil case:  sometimes we need a red pencil crayon and sometimes we need a purple one.  The important part is being able to recognize and identify the correct tool/technology for the job.  Our readings so far definitely confirm the importance for both the learner and educator to be able to do this.

Works Cited

Hoadley, C. & Van Haneghan, J. (2011). The Learning Sciences: Where they came from and what it means for instructional designers. In R. A. Reiser & J. V. Dempsey (Eds.) Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (3rd ed., pp. 53-63). New York: Pearson.  Online:

Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school (Expanded edition). Washington, DC: National Research Council. PDF copy downloadable at  (Chapter 1 and selected pages).