:: ed(ge)ucation design ::

learning about design ::: from experience

Moving on

*Change, *EDge bulletins November 15, 2009

I’ve decided to pack up my blog bag and move permanently over to my wordpress.com blog.

http://margoconnell.wordpress.com

I hope you’ll join me there. Cheers!

Reflections on sustainability: where to from here?

*Learn May 30, 2009

I’ve been thinking about the notion of sustainability, based on a post by Leigh Blackall (and subsequent comments). I’ve been reading some texts and other stuff to get my head around the notion of sustainability and its origins in order to develop a better understanding of the idea of a sustainable curriculum. Some questions going around in my head right now:

  • Can we tie sustainability to flexibility (as in flexible learning)?
  • How can we measure sustainability in education where we remain critically reflective of the ideological frameworks in which we operate (e.g. economic-rationalist and corporatism)?
  • Might Lincoln and Guba (1985) offer some other frameworks that bring in an emergent design, via naturalistic inquiry?

The work of Derek Ownes (1998) and others asks more questions about a sustainable curriculum, but where has this work taken us so far?
Image069.jpg

Here are some links and texts that I’ve found useful in uncovering aspects of sustainability in education so far.

I’d also like to talk with our Curriculum services team and look at drawing together Sustainability and the Employability Skills Framework (ESF) (PDF is here), which embeds generic (work) attributes for learners within the competencies of a program, so that learners can demonstrate their ability to adapt to workplace forces and changes. It seems to me that the ESF needs to include aspects of sustainable practice for learners, regardless of what they are studying. More on this again soon.

I love Google Books!

*Connect, *Grow, *Learn, *Research May 26, 2009

I’ve been pretty tied up with my two Masters subjects this semester and on reflection one would have been more than enough! However, the end is in sight and I’ve learned a greaat deal along the way – mostly about myself (as seems to be the case) as well as having lots of support in many forms, online and physically speaking.

Google Books

One such help has been access to Google Books. What a fabulous service! I’ve always dipped into Google Books on occassions and then have used either my institute’s library or online databases to grab the actual book or journal article if available. However, as I’ve been studying my Masters by distance (supplemented with online resources and interactions), I’ve had less than ideal access to key texts in many cases. Google books has come to my rescue! I have built up a library of books I’ve been reading over the last few months and have added labels/tags for quick searching when I’ve needed to return to a book or theme, such as ‘critical pedagogy’. The extension tools also look worthwhile; adding your booklist or library to your blog or sharing via an RSS feed, or even posting a review if you feel the urge.

In addition to Google Books, I’ve also been keeping a collection of sites, videos and articles via my delicious account. Here’s an example for my subject, Education for Social Change. Both services have been invaluable not only in collecting information, but in organising and collating information in meaningful ways, through tagging, adding notes (often I include an abstract from the site or article) and combining tags to drill down into the information I’ve collected over time. I use keyword tags together with time/date type of tags to help narrow down information (very helpful as I’ve managed to stretch my Masters out over 3 years!).

Erich Fromm (Wikipedia)
My next and final essay is for the subject, Education for Social Change. I’d like to explore the idea that the rise of social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and other sites has inadvertantly served to further embed us as ‘automaton conformists’ (Erich Fromm). I could look at Chomsky and the role of mass media, as sites like these are often owned by large corporations in many cases, but I’m more curious to explore Fromm’s notion of ‘fear of freedom’ and a phrase my lecturer, Rick, mentioned on a recent discussion thread, that is, ‘group think’. It also calls for a rethink in education about digital literacy and developing the digital citizen for a connected future.

This is close to my heart, with regards to my work, where we often promote social networking tools like blogs and wikis to ‘open up’ a teacher’s approach to teaching, but often we see there is limited uptake, especially by students, and various colleagues around the country seem to be seeing similar results – there are not many exceptions to the rule, highlighting the challenges in seeing Web2.0 as a ‘freeing’ view of the Web, for the people and by the people, and as a legitimate learning medium.

More soon…

Museum of Australian Democracy opens in Canberra

*Grow, *What is? May 10, 2009

The Museum of Australian Democracy has just opened in Old Parliament House in Canberra. It

showcases key historical figures, events and decisions that have influenced the democracy we live in (Parkes, ‘Panorama,’ The Canberra Times, May 9).

There’s more than just Australia’s democratic history on display, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington feature amongst others.

[image: RiotACT]

Curator, Johanna Parker, reckons we’ll be challenged by what the museum exhibits and the various points of view shown. It’s also described as a “museum of ideas not of objects” and we’re asked to consider what we think about events and people in our history. I’ll be visiting soon and I’m especially interested in the balance between little ‘d’ democracy and bit ‘D’ Democracy. Parker assures us that there’s a fair share of both:

“There is something about democracy, social reform, liberty and fighting for the voice of people that just inspired ordinary people to do such incredible things” (ibid).

There are other Museums of Democracy, most noticeably the US Museum of Democracy. Then there’s the Cyberhall of Democracy and Human Rights, and I’m sure plenty of projects about democracy (particularly, I’d imagine, across the US), its expression, history and activities.

And a final word from Senator John Faulkner on the Museum’s opening:

“democracy isn’t words on a page, or numbers on a ballot paper, but a day-to-day lived experience.”

The Museum officially opened yesterday.

a paradox in a thousand words or more

*Limen, *Moments May 6, 2009

paradox

This via Digg.

Awesome.

The Educational Point of View: The teachable moment

*Change, *Grow, *Limen, *Moments April 3, 2009

It is an educational practitioner’s role (I argue) to engage with social media, to look beyond the surface layers of services like Youtube and get beneath it, to create accounts and subscribe to new content feeds, to favorite and comment and connect, and to realise the deeper layers of what is available in social media collections, and to help identify quality information and resources and help it to emerge and rise above other content. Further, if by chance that teacher notices something missing, or something in need of correction, to see that need as an opportunity for them to create the additional or corrective media and add it back into the social media so that it can play its role in that wider collective context. Its “teachable moment”.

The Educational Point of View « Learn Online

I reckon Leigh’s hit the nail on the head here. And the contested role of the teacher as facilitator is all the more apparent. If I look to bell hooks’s work with popular culture artifacts, this is another demonstration of using social media to generate ‘teachable moments’. Mitra’s work is also a good example – a social experiment contesting the role/need of the classroom as a ‘prerequisite’ for learning.

Our learning, as with our teaching is iterative, messy, frustrating, serendipitous and we often fight to control it so as to make it neat and tidy (as we’ve been expected to do), especially in conventional educational contexts. This is why I like the notion of ‘hot action’ that David Beckett (1995, 2001) writes about – it acknowledges the work done ‘on the fly’ with a confidence and a grasp of knowledge that enables someone to push forward to pick up a new skill, strategy or process, whatever it might be. It validates what people develop, understand and learn ‘in action’, whilst working, living, playing – whatever it is that makes up our day (although Beckett talks about the workplace as the context for ‘hot action’).

There’s also the acknowledgment of the body and bodily understanding in Beckett’s notion (not a new thing if you look at work by Merleau-Ponty for example). This isn’t about ‘muscle memory’, repetitive actions refining practical skills, it is more about how our bodies carry and dispense social cues and facets of power (see Foucault’s Power/Knowledge and work by McLaren (1986) and Turner (1982) on the body and ritual for example). This is how we BE, our Self within a social context loaded with power, social politics – the body politic, ‘regimes of truth’ (again, see Foucault). We don’t just teach, we are the embodiment of teaching, likewise a student, a mother, a singer, a carpenter. We don’t simply take on the role – we BE, through our veins, our eyes, our voice, our skeleton.

And so to Leigh’s final paragraph:

I am beginning to let go of the idea that the education sector will ever make an impact on the development of social media for education and that either something else will fill that opportunity, or that darker elements such marketing and shallow entertainment will take advantage of the illiteracy and ignorance that the education sector permitted to exist. This is no reflection on the people at Orange by the way. Its just that after 5 years of doing this, I can’t see anywhere near the level of change in the educational mindset, and the wider society to that measure, that I thought should have taken place by now. Others more senior and more experienced than I assure me that a significant change is happening, but that the education sector can only respond when those changes are prevalent throughout society, rather than be the one to make the change or prepare a society for the change. And that is a fact that I am beginning to see the fairness of.

I don’t for a second believe that “the education sector” should be waiting until the “greater society” shows prevalent change – we ARE the greater society aren’t we? How can we dissect society in this way? Is change about taking turns? What makes education sit outside the greater society? Since when do we need some sort of permission to “respond when those changes are prevalent”? Who will tell us when that happens?

Stick to your guns Leigh – the proof is in the practice. Surely a critical mass of ‘teachable moments’ must at some point amount to a revolution?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. –Margaret Mead

Refs:
Beckett, D. (2001) ‘Hot Action’ At Work: Understanding ‘Understanding’ Differently, in T. Fenwick (ed.) Socio-Cultural Perspectives on Learning Through Work. New Directions for Adult and Community Education Series. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

Beckett, D. (1995) Adult Education as Professional Practice. PhD thesis. http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/dspace/handle/2100/337

McLaren, P. (1986) Schooling as a Ritual Performance. Taylor & Francis.
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=mYcOAAAAQAAJ

Turner, V. (1982) From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play. PAJ Publications.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Turner

bell hooks: politics of difference through popular culture

*Grow, *Learn, *Research March 24, 2009

bells hooks: cultural criticism and transformation

6-minute talk by hooks on the accessibility of popular culture items such as films, to engage people in critical thinking about society and difference.

I’ve been reading a bit of hooks’s work, particularly ‘Teaching to Transgress‘ (1994), as part of my MEd studies this semester, as we undertake an exercise in defining, describing, critiquing and writing about our own educational philosophical stance.

hooks didn’t see herself as a teacher, more a writer – but ended up a teacher writing about her teaching experiences and the (dis)engagement with learning along the way. She refers to Freire as an influence as well as feminist theorists, as well as her own learning experiences, as driving the development of her educational philosophy.

Paulo Freire

Image: Freire on Infed

She writes so that her thoughts are accessible to a continuum of readers or audiences. And, she sees learning as an expression of excitement and engagement for its sheer pleasure! A refreshing view these days. It draws suspicion when one shows an eagerness to learn – I’d add that it also exposes the teacher/facilitator to also rise to the challenge in (enthusiastically) supporting that eager learning (–you expect me to develop curricula on a shrinking resource base and low salary AND you want me to enjoy it too?)! “To enter classroom settings in colleges and universities with the will to share the desire to encourage excitement, was to transgress” (hooks 1994: 7, my emphasis).

hooks also notes the learning ‘struggle’ as a real and necessary part of learning, yet in the context of minority groups, means a highly stressful learning setting – and yet can still be exciting, if the will to learn is strong. As with Freire, hooks sees education as the practice of freedom.

To ask the ‘why’ questions can be confronting and at times show-stopping. How do you encourage your students to ask why?

Grasping the participatory web (or, throwing a net over jelly)

*Change, *Learn, *Limen March 15, 2009

I think we are missing the real (and potentially revolutionary) story of the participatory web (Web 2.0 if we must call it that) if we focus on seeking and ensuring “expertise” before we proceed.

Jennifer Maddrell makes a good point here, something that I struggle with when posting to my blog. I have so many posts in draft form, I wonder whether I’m actually keen to post or whether it’s the actual writing process itself that is helpful. This is a valid point, more generally, I think. I for one write to not only express my point of view, but to articulate it in the first instance — from the mind to the world via the fingertips.

In my work, Jennifer’s point rings all the more true when you consider the so-called ‘walled garden‘ approach that is still alive and kicking around most education institutions. Changing mindsets when it comes to the participatory web is not all roses and frilly bits! Is it to do with change, enacting a change process, or, is it more than that? Organisational culture? Individual values, beliefs, preferences?

I, along with others, have been developing the web presence for the Action Learning, Action Research Association and this is certainly one of the key factors that has not only impacted our progress, but has also brought our traditional association structures into question – a good thing, yes, I think so, but at that same time, the transition is untidy, frustrating, and for the most part NONparticipatory! Kind of ironic when you think about what the association stands for. Then again, we’re all subject to the same human flaws I suppose. It’s also a bit of an intergenerational thing. Engaging new members means offering new ways of doing and of being, and there lies a tension between answering to that call and maintaining a place in which more traditional members feel acknowledged for the valuable work they do.

Transformer

How does participation itself occur? How does one encourage participation? Engage people of their own free will, with little coercion? When is it OK to force the horse’s nose into the trough?

And who can say; perhaps Gill Scott Heron was right, the revolution will not be televised! Still, I’m with Maddrell, just get in there and DO it.

Note: sincere thanks to a work colleague for the subtitle to this post (arising from a discussion about implementing a change process)! :o)

Lifelong learning as calm learning?

*Change, *Grow, *Learn, *Moments July 22, 2008

I had a fabulous weekend in Bowral back in the last weekend of May, attending a Calmbirth workshop with my husband. Consequently, our first bub is now due in a couple of – ahem – days! :)

a labour of love

This is one reason I haven’t posted in a long while – too much going on and my brain has become more cottony than I had first anticipated! :)

Anyway, I’m moved to write following this amazing weekend experience as I see some links to lifelong learning, a phrase that seems to have dropped out of circulation of late (for whatever reason). Let’s first revisit the phrase and then I’ll draw some connections from the Calmbirth workshop itself. In essence, this is an ‘appreciative exploration’ of some thoughts really!

Lifelong learning, particularly as espoused by the OECD, champions the idea of learning for holistic personal, professional and workforce development, which occurs in various learning settings, informal and formal. Closer to home, DEST (now DEEWR) exercises a policy they claim is based on the OECD assumptions:

The lifelong learning policy agenda is built on assumptions about the importance of skills in the new economy. Almost all industrial sectors are increasingly ‘knowledge-based’ and economic returns are obtained from a range of ‘intangible’ inputs, one of which is workers’ skills. Participation in education and training is increasing and economic rewards are flowing to people with high skills…

…which in fact draws a parallel between productivity and further education, and extends further to lifelong learning and the ‘whole person’, especially where the VET sector is concerned. However, in today’s economic rationalist world we are not seeing this in its entirety. We are contending with the worker-learner and have yet to move to the whole person, in reality.

So how does this thinking link to what I experienced as ‘calm birth’ then? Well, from my view it means starting with the person, rather than the system in which the person likely operates. in essence it’s redefining what we have assumed to be learner centred approaches to teaching and learning. Still, we seem to take this as meaning providing options TO the learner to support and enhance their learning; rather, we should take the learner-at-the-centre approach and start there with their networks, their predispositions, their experiences, and so on. We require more discussion around the apparent preoccupation on separating ‘the system’ from the users/producers/agents (see for example, Mejias 2005).

person vs system

Thus, the science behind Calmbirth (as laid out in the workshop booklet and the various parents’ stories, where mums especially are co-teachers), contends with the human design, participatory methods, holistic therapies and healing work, beliefs and attitudes (e.g. Errington, 2004), cultural values and awareness, as well as the health sciences of midwifery and obstetrics.

So what is out there in terms of calm learning practices? How can we progress this to lifelong learning status? For example, Calm Kids, Smart Kids uses

…a mixture of:

  • Physical exercises proven to reduce hyperactivity & increase brain functioning and integration
  • Emotional stress release to help reduce anger and frustration, improve communication and increase self esteem
  • Unique Nutrition Plan identifies allergies and deficiencies specifically for your child.

What is of some interest here is the links made to factors that influence children’s ability to learning and grow, as discussed also in the Calmbirth workshop and booklet, particularly a stressful pregnancy, a traumatic birth, and medications and operations, as well as accidents, family trauma, and allergic reactions. As Peter Jackson stated in the Calmbirth workshop, ‘it all begins in the womb’. Check out Lyn Schaverien’s work on developmental learning (biological aspects of learning) too.

We may also draw links to appreciative inquiry (see also Cooperrider, et al, 2008) and inquiry-based learning which champions the inherent (and essentially positive) motivations of the learner from within. For me this also conjures links with schooling approaches such as the Montessori movement. We could effectively read open learning into this too. These approaches tend to focus on the learner’s self-guided interests, reminding me of a quote by Freire that champions the learner as teacher (as ‘learning by teaching’):

The teacher… is taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught, also teach.

I understand that I’m touching on a lot of potentially disparate areas of education here, but I think it’s worth noting that whilst we delve into supposedly ‘new’ thinking around learning and teaching, much has been developed in earlier times that remain credible and applicable today – in fact, possibly more so than they did in the past. The time for elements of schooling and education is ripe for change but not always to new and original ideas, but back to ideas that are now seen as befitting our current contexts.

Where can learning go from here? How do we continue to facilitate learning in ways that are relevant to our times? These are some loose connections which I hope to think more deeply about in coming months. I also see connections to networked learning here too, a draft essay of which I will post shortly (this essay picks up on action learning, ‘hot action’, and other action research frameworks that I’ve related to an investigation into VET pedagogy and practice).

References

Errington, E. (2004) The impact of teacher beliefs on flexible learning innovation: some practices and possibilities for academic developers, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 41(1), 39-47.

Cooperrider, D, Whitney, D & Stavros, J (2008), Apreciative Inquiry Handbook: For Leaders of Change (2nd Ed), Crown Custom Publishing Inc: Brunswick OH.

Business of learning and learning futures

*Future, *Grow, *What is? July 16, 2008

I have a presentation lined up next week and have been reviewing my thinking on flexible learning and learning futures generally.

So far, I’ve returned to two slideshows I loaded to Flickr some time earlier this year and will likely focus my thinking on ideas from these for my presentation.

1. Quality through personalised learning
Slide01

2. The business of learning (or, 21st century learning)
slidea01business.jpg

I think I’ll focus on learning futures and how flexible learning is defined and can be promoted through this thinking. Some of the key themes I’d like to draw out include:

  • learner as teacher
  • business IS learning
  • the learning design process is a collaborative one with the learner

I’ll start with that and see where I head – shall post an update soon! What do you reckon?