Saturday, December 11, 2010

Architects of Innovative Learning Environments: A Descriptive Case Study

The Case: How do teachers make sense of their experiences with new and emerging technologies such as the iPad to enhance their teaching practice?

· It is hoped that this study will clarify the complexity of teacher experience as they engage with innovation and change.

· It wishes to gain insight to inform future strategies to support teachers

· It may potentially inform future school reform and professional development opportunities for teachers

· It is an inquiry to promote understanding of teacher experience, and thus take the form of a descriptive case study.

· My interest is intrinsic.

· The emphasis will be on my interpretation within an already familiar landscape (elementary school use of technology).

1. My Role

· Participant observer with a position of privilege and familiarity

· I am interested in understanding the ongoing experiences and perceptions of teachers in the iPad project

· Spend time (2 months) in the classroom environment during planning and instruction time in order to establish a narrative relationship and make observations within a natural teaching environment

· My experience is one voice among many

2. The Setting and Actors (Bounded and Natural)

· In one elementary school already selected to meet the criteria of the iPad project

· One or two willing teachers already involved in the iPad project.

· No recruiting - part of an existing study

· Include conversations with other staff that support the teacher (principal, IT)

· Both unique and common (family resemblance)

· Three dimensional inquiry space

3. Artifacts of Interest

· Look at choice of apps

· Look at how the iPad is used in teacher administration such as lesson plans, day plans

· Take note of classroom organization, how is the iPad used in instruction and the documentation process of inquiry

· Look for opportunities to personalize the iPads use

· Keep dual field texts supported with digital pen recordings of observations and conversations (natural language description)

· Include Teacher thoughts and insights from project journals

· Include photos to describe setting and iPad use

4. Method

· Case Study with emergent design

· Naturalistic and Interpretive

· Continuous dialogue, listen and interpret teacher stories of experience

· Enter the scene with familiarity

· An inquiry to promote understanding of ‘case’

· Study the particular and capture complexity in it’s natural setting

5. Assumptions

· Knowledge is gained through social construction (experience happens narratively)

· Learning is contextual and fluid

· Tacit knowledge while difficult to articulate is critical for understanding

· Qualitative research turns the world into a series of representations in order describe and open an understanding

· Interpretation is concerned with re-generation of meaning that comes from new understanding within the already familiar (prior knowledge)

· Technology changes quickly, new and experienced teachers will regularly come into contact with technology that they have no experience with.

· Becoming architects of learning requires teachers to teach differently than they were taught

· We are connected through story, we make sense of experience by telling stories (narrative mode of thinking and knowing)

· People not technology will be the solutions to problems

Friday, December 3, 2010

Personal Beliefs and Assumptions about Educational Technology

1. The Technology itself (A Tool to get work done)

a. Technology changes quickly

- New and experienced teachers will regularly come into contact with technology that they have no experience with.

- It is helpful if teachers are open to potential experts within their classrooms. (Students may come with unique skills)

- We should not assume young teachers have more skills with technology.

- We need to develop strategies for teacher learning and sharing of ideas of innovative uses, as they become available e.g. professional learning networks, twitter.

b. Technology has a ubiquitous presence

- At what point do we stop talking about past technology (the over head projector). When do we either take it for granted or cast it aside? Is this cause for needless expense?

c. Technology can hold information for us to collect when wanted

d. Emphasis needs to be placed on good tasks, not the technology that serves them (Papert, constructionism)

- Technologies may extent and expand human capacity.

- Technology may shorten the path to efficiency but placing too much emphasis on efficiency will lead to pressure for teachers to master the tool and not the job that needs doing. (Feenberg)

Not just a tool to get work done, but also the place where we meet to do it. We can be connected in and with technology (Actor Network Theory).

2. Technology may Connect us (Not just a tool but a ‘place’)

a. A means through which we might relate and participate with the world (Digital Citizen)

b. Digital technology enables us to have a ‘presence’ even at a distance

- Personally I believe the best learning happens in a face to face, hands on, I need to know learning situation, but I recognize that good learning can still happen at a distance made possible by digital technology.

c. We can tell our stories and have feedback from others without physically being there (YouTube)

d. With collaborative technology students can meet to co-create, explore and work on a common task (Google Groups)

- In this ‘place’ teachers can begin to be concerned with creating learning environments that connects student’s questions to a world full of meaning.

We cannot understand technology merely looking at how it functions or by separating it from the experience of using it.

3. The Experience of using Technology in teaching and learning

a. Learning is contextual (constructivism)

- Technology should be introduced and explored in context

- Vygotsky, Piaget, Dewey, Rorty, Bruner

b. There are unintended consequences (Not a neutral tool)

- Both good and bad and everything in between. We need to be aware and responsive when needed, but being afraid is not helpful for innovation.

c. A professional literacy and skill is required for teachers

- General home experience with technology is not sufficient for the classroom.

- Developing a professional literacy is a personal, complex process. One size does not fit all.

- Teachers are busy people they need professional time to expand all of their teaching skills, including technology.

- Placing expertise (Help Desk off site) too far away is frustrating for teachers and leads to reluctance of use.

d. Learning is social

- We do not live in a vacuum we make sense of what we learn by telling stories about it.

e. Tacit knowledge is critical and difficult to express in text (Experiential Learning)

- We convert the lessons learned in experience into practical knowledge for future use (Dewey)

f. Lived Knowledge is a temporal affair (Dewey)

- The tools of technology will come and go. We should not get stuck or distracted by them.

g. Integration critical, not an add on subject

- We are talking about the need to integrate technology by connecting it in multiple ways to a curriculum and personal inquiry at an appropriate grade level, skill level and subject. (Connectivism)

- Need drives learning, the choice of ‘tools’ we use to support learning need to be readily accessible to support what we want to know when we want to know it.

h. Good teaching and learning needs to be the focus

- Technology should be in the background. We should not neglect the nature of knowledge in educational technology.

- We should shift the emphasis from what are the barriers for teachers to integrate technology to what are the barriers for teachers developing philosophical thinking about the nature of knowledge in educational technology.

Much of education reform seems to be connected to the idea of ‘teacher proofing’. It is the idea that a teacher can be given laptops but not given administration of them. It sends the message that teachers are not competent professionals and the experts are better able to make decisions about technology. If we want teachers to use technology for exploration we need to open a place for them to explore and permission to think of themselves as explorers. We do not make it easy for students by making it difficult for teachers!

4. School Reform and Change Assumptions

a. Change needs to come from a teacher enabling, reflective participation (Willis, Schön)

- Teachers are the key agents for change in the knowledge society (Hargreaves)

- Change needs to be more than correctly implementing a plan developed by someone else (personalization, differentiation)

b. Site based

- Solutions are not universal

c. Collaborative and Emergent vision

- Don’t begin with the end in mind

d. Theory should not be separate from practice

- Teacher’s questions tend to be of a practical nature.

e. Technology should not be thought of as a catalyst for change

- We cannot assume technology has an autonomous power to change teacher’s philosophy of knowledge.

The work on this blog post reflects my many experiences as a technology lead teacher, student and my doctoral candidacy exam. My memories were awakened after reading the following:

Willis, J. (2001). Foundational assumptions for information technology and teacher education. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, [Online serial] , 1 (3) . Available:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Philosophy of Technology: Tool?

I have just received my candidacy questions. The following is my first attempt to write about what my philosophy of technology is in response to one of them. Have you taken the time to write about yours yet? I hope this might get you thinking:
My task today is to construct my own story of understanding and share it with you in the hopes that it might echo with your own story of experience. To do this as Ihde (2004) explains, we need to not just ‘study’ philosophy but to also ‘do’ philosophy. It is more than compiling facts into bits and pieces. We need to think deeply and organize these bits critically for ourselves, then we need to talk to each other so we can reorganize the new bits.
So as I begin to unpack the philosophy of technology as it is packaged for me, at first I see a paradox or a double edge sword. It is common to hear people speak of hope and possibilities with technology while others speak of danger and warnings. The good or bad uses of technology. As John Dewey points out, “Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites” (1938, p. 17). Yet initially most of us see technology as a neutral tool to extend human capacity. Simplistically we believe that it is a means to end human suffering. If the technology isn’t working it is because we need to get better at using it. We should not question the technocrats because they know more than us.
I wonder If I am going to discuss technology from the standpoint of a tool I need to go deeper into my philosophy of technology, my philosophy of teaching and learning, as well as my philosophy of educational technology.
Before I began my doctoral studies I never thought much about philosophy, let alone my philosophy of technology. Even with a masters degree in Educational Technology I largely took for granted my philosophy of all things technological. My thinking at the time was that philosophy was a subject, something people paid money to study at university. My philosophy of technology was something either invisible or just out of focus for me. I never felt capable or even invited to do so nor did I have a place to do it.
To begin, is technology in the classroom a tool? Is it an applied science? Is it a system of correlated means and ends? For that matter can we call it a place? At first glance the term tool implies a neutrality. Meaning that technology is simply a human invention that may be used in good or bad ways. But who must take responsibility in how it is used, maintained, and repaired when broken? Are the tools of technology really separate from us and what we value? Using and choosing technology for a purpose is a specific value choice in itself is it not. I do not believe we can understand technology by looking at how it functions.
If it is an applied science then it is a human activity. This might also indicate a neutrality. Is technology something we go out and do?
If it is a system then we can think of it as a pattern. Patterns do not exist in isolation. Hardware can hardly function without it’s human, and humans must learn how to operate the hardware. Are people and their technology not connected in a system somehow? Do we learn from technology, learn with technology or learn in technology? What is it we mean when we say as teachers we want to create a learning environment?
Perhaps it is a little of all of these things, the use of technology given the choice of how to use it becomes more than just a means ‘to’ an end. Rather it becomes a means through which we might relate and participate with the world. I write this blog you might respond. In this case technology may be thought of as a place. Feenberg (1999) and Franklin (1999) have used the metaphor of a house, “The house is not a devise but an extremely rich and meaningful life environment” (p. xi). In our houses we have many tools that we use to help us enjoy life and connect to each other. The tools of technology have built a structure around us. He continues, “That the real world of technology is a network, not a system, but a network that encompasses a system within it” (2008, p. 22).
I believe philosophy is a personal way of thinking about and acting in the world that we wonder about. For that matter it is something we are all capable of doing to some extent. I think that it is important the I participant with my philosophy as I come to understand it, as nothing really seems to become visible until we take the time to intentionally interact with it. I am drawn to this wonder in the hope of creating wisdom. So for this purpose I wish to use the expression “go native”(Ihde, 2004, p. 91) with my philosophy of technology to become an informed participant in a more global (wide angle) discussion of it.
I believe all teachers have a philosophy of technology but not many have taken the time or been given the space to think deeply about how and why they use technology in their classrooms and personal life. Often they are told they just have to. It shows up in how they allow their students to interact with technology and the language they use.
More will follow in the coming days...

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York, NY, USA: Kappa Delta Pi.

Dusek, V. (2006). Philosophy of technology: An introduction. London: Blackwell. Retrieved from

Feist, R., Beauvais, C., & Shukla, R. (2010). Technology and the changing face of humanity. Ottawa, Ontario: University of Ottawa Press.

Franklin, U. M. (1999). The real world of technology. CBC Massey Lectures (2004th ed.). Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc.

Ihde, D. (2004). Philosophy of technology. In P. Kemp (Ed.), World and Worldhood (pp. 91-108). Printed in the Netherlands: Springer.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Response to Inspiring Education

What is ahead for tomorrow’s learner in Alberta?
A response to “Inspiring Education: A Dialogue with Albertans
While reading through this 52-page document I am indeed inspired. It speaks to my foundational question, “How do we live well together in a knowledge based economy?” I question, as it does the role and responsibility of schools in this society. Do we have a clear request of teachers in this place? It is aligned with my core belief that we learn through experience and that knowledge is a key resource for all participants in the global community.
The problem for my study also fits comfortably into what the report describes as the vision of “three E’s”. The vision’s first “E” is that our school system should instill in our young people the ability to think critically about how to use technology to learn, innovate, communicate and discover. The second is our system needs to encourage young people to be ethical citizens that contribute to the community and the world. The third is that the system needs to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit and create opportunities for young people to be innovative. I see a tension for teachers here. Is there not a gap between what teachers have experienced and what they are being asked to provide for their students in this vision?

The report veers from my views in its outline in how to make this vision possible. While the report recognizes the need to involve the community in the learning environment, it states that children must be at the centre of all decisions related to learning. Yes but I think we need to begin by recognizing the teacher as the key agent for change and that teachers themselves are key learners in this community. I believe that we will not get students to learn well by making id difficult for teachers to learn. The report suggests that the role of teachers needs to shift from that of knowledge authority to an architect of learning. It states that teachers need to be innovative and it questions, as I do how we prepare teachers for this new experience. My concern with all of these “teacher should" statements in this report is that teachers will once again find themselves blamed for not keeping up with the kids. If we want these things from teachers we will need to be rather intentional about how to give it to them first. The report comes close when it states, “to truly transform education, the system must empower innovation throughout the province” (p.18). How do we do this without first empowering teachers to transform their own learning? It supports my thinking when it states that these qualities can be nurtured by a less restrictive curriculum and meaningful professional development and building structures that allow for regular exchange of ideas (p.27). The purpose of my study will be to explore in narrative with expert teachers as they live the experience of becoming what the Calgary Board of Education refers to as “digital citizens”. This experience would give teachers a chance to be reflective practitioners; place teachers in the drivers seat and give them a chance to participate in their own learning of the vision mentioned in this report. I wish to invite teachers into a conversation to explore these possibilities.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Very Brief Proposal

Empowering the Potential of Digital Citizenship in Teachers through Narrative

My Foundational Question:
How do we live well together in a knowledge society?
Some would say we should to do this by participating as digital citizens. What is the role and responsibility of schools in this society? If education is a social function to make for a brighter future, do we as a democratic society have a clear request of teachers?

Problem: Building a theory
As governments and school boards move to embrace the demands of the knowledge society, teachers are being called upon to radically change their practice and to embrace a rather abstract notion of digital citizenship. I see a tension for teachers. A gap between what they are expected to provide and what they actually are able to impart. They find themselves on the front line of preparing students to be digitally connected in society as critical thinkers and ethical participants, yet they themselves do not appear to have much experience as digital citizens and have little opportunity to talk to each other about it. I believe that we will not get students to learn well by making it difficult for teachers to learn. How can we best support teachers take ownership of the learning required to make this change? I also believe it is possible that teachers could be the key agents for change if given the chance to be reflective practitioners? I wish to invite teachers into such a conversation.

The purpose of my proposed study is to explore in narrative with veteran teachers as they live the experience of becoming digital citizens after years of experience in the classroom. Following Dewey my goal is to look for connected experience, not to go chasing after certainty but to tell a reflexive story that others can imagine themselves in. Dialogue seems to me to be the right place to start but not the right place to stop. The hope of the study is to describe for others the possible tensions and triumphs that teachers face as they attempt to create learning environments that allow students to connect and participate ethically in a digital age.

Emerging Questions:
How does your schools digital citizenship strategy impact you and your teaching?
What is digital citizenship?
What do you feel you are a citizen of? Why does this matter?
How are you introducing it in your classroom? How do you want it to look like?
What supports will you use to expand your knowledge?
How are you able to share your understanding of it with other teachers?
How do you connect or interact in it?
How has your understanding of global citizenship changed in the last few years?
How have you come to understand this?
How important is it for your teaching for your students?
What skills do you think your students need in the future? How will you support them?
What do you think Canada’s role is in a knowledge society?

Please add to my list of questions!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Storytelling in a digital landscape

We are a storytelling people and we live in a story telling landscape. That is if we choose to participate. I first noticed this when I was a young mother and I would tell my childbirth experience to other mothers, they always came back with an interesting story of their own. Over the years I have heard many stories each of them weaved and connected with shared experience. We live our life stories like bubbles blowing in the wind, floating between all alone yet never far always seeking each other. In the nod of a head we may gently cradle fragments of each other’s story in relationship for brief moments and connect what is similar our lived stories. “There is a reflexive relationship between living a life story, telling a life story, retelling a life story, and reliving a life story”(Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 71). Following Dewey my goal is to look for connected experience, not to go chasing after certainty but to tell a reflexive story that others can learn from. With my inquiry I want to be active or rather participate with my own curiosity. What makes me curious is my confusion. Teachers are being asked to become digitally confident and to create learning environments were students could develop fully as digital citizens. What confuses me is how teachers are expected to gain confidence when many teachers report that their students know more than they do about the digital landscape. When teachers have no personal experience with technology they also worry about the time to learn something new. They also complain that it takes so long to get IT help when the network goes down and they are not able to personalize computers by adding new applications when they feel they need them. There are many barriers for teachers using technology in the digital landscape but none more frustrating than attempting to give something you do not have. I hope that my research may reveal possible paths to smooth the crumpled tension I believe many teachers experience daily as they endeavor to teach digital citizenship to students.

The place I wish to situate my research is in a reflexive landscape because I believe in the power of lived knowledge best described in experience. Yet I fear that standing in the middle of this ever-changing vista may cause me to loose my balance. As a reflexive narrative researcher I expect an unending negotiation to maintain my flexibility and openness. I think it best to settle in, to work alongside teachers and make myself useful. I risk perhaps putting myself out on the edge like an uninvited guest, while I explore the gap between the teachers narrative experience and my own. I understand that the negotiation of the most precious research relationship is ongoing and unending throughout the whole inquiry but in the end is only a snap shot, a brief moment in time. “Good narrative working relationships carry with them a sad and wistful sense born of the possibility of temporariness”(Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 72).

Clandinin, D. G., & Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

How do you become a participatory citizen in a digital society?

(Updated from last week)

The tools of technology have built a system, “a house” around us (Franklin, 1999, p.1). I believe it has become a place with potential, a “fixer upper” provided we keep the renos up. Just as I live in my house on my street it is a place we may or may not want to participate in, regardless it is there all around us. A participant is not only a citizen that inhabits a place but also one that socially engages in activities that benefit all people that belong. Before this house was built you had to physically be there in order to learn and interact with others. With this technological network there are many other ways to “be there” and learn from each other. Almost one hundred years ago Dewey (1916) wrote about his philosophy of the importance of democracy and education. He believed that schools and its teachers were responsible for building a productive and responsible democratic society. He spoke about communication as a way in which we discover what we have in common in order to form a community. “Any social arrangement that remains vitally shared is educative to those who participate in it” and that the very process of “living together educates”(p.6&7). With that in mind I wonder in the year 2010, in a digital community, how do we live well together? Is it really all that different than what Dewey described oh so long ago? How is it different for teaching and learning? How do we teach students how to participate well, if we ourselves have no experience in this newly renovated house? Who will tell them to pick up their socks? What concerns should we have as parents and teachers if our children live and grow up in a house without us? I am reminded of an old Star Trek episode “Miri”(McEveety, 1966) in which children known as “onlies” (a contraction of only ones left) grew up without grups (“grown ups”). Their life without parental influence had devastating consequences. Dewey speaks of a self-renewal process that he believes occurs in education largely in transmission through communication. What effect would muted voices have on this self-renewal? Dewey would say that life goes on in continuous sequence and the continuity of life means a constant re-adaptation of the environment. Those that do not readapt die out. I am not saying we are in danger of dying out but rather we are in danger of disconnecting with our students and missing the opportunity to participate in an important part of their social lives. I believe we, as teachers need to be there with our students participating as digital citizen for without us how does our wisdom pass on?

This is all well and good yet I do not believe that even if teachers want to learn to become digital citizens that it is easy for them. Teachers are not comfortable not knowing. There is a stirring as if something has disturbed the water. It is in this potentially empowering yet scary place of tension that I want to explore in narrative with teachers as they live the experience of becoming digital citizens.

Dewey, J. (2005). Democracy and education. Stilwell, KS: Publishing.

Franklin, U. M. (1999). The real world of technology. CBC Massey Lectures (2004th ed.). Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc.Google Books

McEveety, V. (1966, October 27). Star Trek: The Original Series. Miri. Retrieved from

Until we do it for ourselves...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What is Digital Citizenship?

Empowering the Potential of Digital Citizenship for Teachers in Narrative

As I sit with my colleagues in our staffroom and listen as the new digital citizenship strategy is revealed, I see a wave of fear and confusion slowly spreading across the faces of the teachers in the room. What is it we have to do now? What is this digital citizenship stuff people ask? Why can’t kids just get up off the couch and talk to each other? They’re going to bring computers from home? Who’s going to fix it when it doesn’t work? I don’t know how. Being an educational technologist I am quite familiar with all of the terms but the others are not. They are uncomfortable and confused as to what is being asked of them.

On it’s website the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) states that it is committed to helping its students thrive in the 21st century and that digital technologies are a key component for students to reach their full potential within the CBE and beyond. That digital citizenship should be practiced in every course, throughout the school and at home.

Given the reaction from my staff I wonder how teachers have come to experience what the CBE is calling digital citizenship in their professional lives? As teachers what opportunities do we have to personalize our learning? Are we able to choose who and how we collaborate with other teachers? Much research and effort has gone into examining the barriers for teachers in using technology in their classroom but have we really taken the time to explore the tension that is creative for teachers when we ask them to give something they have little experience doing? My experience as a classroom teacher and a doctoral student has opened an awareness of the need to describe the lived experience of teachers as they endeavor to create these safe, personalized and collaborative learning environments for their students within a digital landscape.

The CBE and the university of Calgary are currently involved in a research project around digital citizenship and mobile learning that are similar to my interests. So while the CBE’s research focus questions are:
1. How can the use of mobile devices inform the CBE's digital citizenship strategy?
2. How might mobile learning support the personalization of learning?
3. What impact on student achievement will these devices have?

I wish to explore possible tensions between what teachers are being asked to provide for students and what they have experienced for themselves regarding the democratic use of technology in their classrooms. My research questions would highlight the teacher’s experience and voice:
1. How does the digital citizenship strategy impact you and your teaching?
2. As a teacher what you feel you are a citizen of?
3. What ways do you use technology to collaborate with other teachers?
4. How are you able to participate and personalize your learning what digital citizenship means?

I will bring many voices with me on this journey but the theoretical landscape in which this work lives has grown out of the work of John Dewey in experiential learning and democracy in education. To fully uncover the stories teachers have to tell of their experience I believe will best be told through narrative inquiry.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Research Out on the Edges

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) have defined Educational Technology as such, “The study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources” (Januszewski, A., Molenda, M., 2008 p.1)

Initially I struggled with the language in this brief definition. I found it linear and hinted towards a dedication to the value of efficiency and perhaps a data driven scientific tradition. As a researcher in the field of educational technology my goal is to come to a collective point of view that includes and values my experience as a classroom teacher. This experience is not linear and has led me to believe that efficiency and the separated notion of cause and effect will not be of much assistance in my understanding of my story of who I am as a teacher/technologist. I do not separate thinking from doing. It is a dialogue with understanding. “To recognize the dialectic is to recognize that realities are never isolated entities standing in a linear, causal relationship to one another” (Crotty 1998 p.118). So digging deep towards the boundaries in this definition I do find something I can grab onto. If I define the word facilitating as creating an environment that is suitable for exploration and the democratic use of technology, and not the control as might formally be the case, then I can connect to this definition. I struggle with our societies desire to improve performance with a need to be efficient about collecting data that demonstrates measurable achievement. My study will not measure performance, on the contrary it will be more about making connections in a more nebulous way. It is hoped that the understanding that will be revealed from my work will be knowledge constructed and connected in the activity of shared understanding in the power of stories.

That being said I would like to bring my sense of self and my confusion to this definition and place all of it out on the edges of this framework where it may reside within the words study and reflective practice. “That is study refers to information gathering and analysis beyond the traditional conceptions of research” (2008, p. 1). Out on the edges on the boundary of what Clandinin & Connelly (2000) call a formalistic view. Here I feel the tension between worlds.

References Today are:

Clandinin, D. G., & Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Crotty, M. (1998). The Foundations of Social Research: Meaning and Perspective in the Research Process. London ; Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Januszewski, A., Molenda, M., & Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (2008). Educational technology : a definition with commentary. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

21st Century - you know...

I wish we could call it something else but this video fills me with hope. I wonder when we will think like this in Alberta?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Self-Study Method?

The Problem:
“Why when we are asked as teachers to be innovative with technology we are not?”
The Question:
“What conditions need to be in place to support an innovative technology classroom?”
The Method:

I have been called an innovator when it comes to student use of technology in my elementary classroom yet I feel more pressure each day to teach and measure my students work by traditional methods, as well I doubt my own strengths and abilities for integration. My ideas and concerns seemed to be trapped in my own classroom. In the Alberta Programs of Studies (1995-2009) teachers currently are being asked to make a fundamental shift in our practice away from a teacher centred delivery of content to a more generative and collaborative exploration of content. This shift the curriculum requests requires a major adjustment of the traditional power relationship between myself and my students. We are also being asked in the Learning and Technology Policy Framework to “develop the competencies to integrate technology successfully into their teaching and to guide students in the use of technology to achieve learning goals”(2004).Even though I am willing why is it so difficult for me to connect my student’s questions to the current read and write tools I know are available through technology and how do I share my story with others? There have been many arguments for and against the use and cost of technology in classrooms but all of that in my mind is completely beside the point. We live in a technological world and all of us need to learn how to participate in it and that means learning to use the authoring tools available through web 2.0 technologies, yet if seems so hard. This question is extremely personal, yet I do not believe that I am alone with this question. I am not looking for a universal truth but a shared one. I also believe the only way to get inside of this problem is to reflect on the borders of my own practice and experience and mix it up with dialogue with teachers who are attempting to be innovative .

Given my assumptions as a teacher/researcher I believe the method I need, will involve collaborative dialogue where I bring my experience as a classroom teacher along as a resource. I think it will be kind of an improvisational critical autoethnography. Too wordy I know, but in using the term improvisational I am not referring to jazz music per say. It just means that the way I am looking at my problem is coming from the interpretive nature of social research; it will allow me to be reflective about my own situation and contains the notion of shared understanding and lived knowledge. I use the word critical to mean that it is not enough to merely describe this issue; I hope to bring about change. And autoethnography speaks to the first hand knowledge I need to answer this question and the need to examine my question with others in the place it exists. However this place is personal, I am the subject (knower) and also the object (place) so while I need to bring my own voice I will not understand without the inclusion of other voices. Explanations may contain the seeds to solutions but people are the solutions to the problems that confront us. I want to see if a narrative study with other teachers can be not just a meaning making event but a catalyst for change in our own practice.

I could also approach this problem from a narrative inquiry tradition. Can I make myself (the narrator) the protagonist as an actor in this story? As I am to understand a narrative inquiry is verbal action, “a process of collaboration involving mutual storytelling and re-storying as the research proceeds. In the process of beginning to live the shared story of narrative inquiry, the researcher needs to be aware of constructing a relationship in which both voices are heard” (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990 p.4). This description underlines the importance of relationship in research and social construction, a relationship in which both teachers and researchers feel cared for and have a voice with which to tell their stories.

Then again the method that seems to be the most functional fit at this point is self-study. Self-study is an extension of both narrative and reflective practice. It goes beyond normal professional development and it speaks to a much wider audience and consideration of ideas (p. 106 Craig 2006). In the end I need to take my practice somewhere else because of this experience. It is important to tell my story but to be changed by the telling. What makes this method useful to me is that it is a sequence of reflective moments. It will allow me to place my personal problem out in public. There with collaborative, critical voices it can be reframed and redefined in community because of this participation. It will be a shared adventure. It will not be an expert-novice relationship or just critical friends. In this case I need to assume a ‘working with’ stance through narrative threads. In self-study, “The participants will be jointly involved in developing the study and learning through collaborative experiences (Loughran, J., & Northfield, J. 1998 p.14-15).

Critical Questions:

Can I create the kind of collaborative experience that is required for self-study? Can I make my personal struggle to make sense of my practice with the current ICT curriculum public? Who will share it with me? How will I find my critical friends? What will they get out of this experience? How will I measure what I gained at the end of my research?

Any thoughts anyone?

Some theoretical roots

• Teacher as ‘knower’
• Knowledge is embedded in situation revised through social interaction and adapted over time
• Reflective practitioner

Alberta Learning. (2000-2003). Information and communication technology, kindergarten to grade 12: Program of studies. Curriculum Standards

Alberta Learning. (1995-2009). Programs of Study.

Alberta Learning. (2004). Learning and technology policy framework.

Craig, C.J. (2006). Change, Changing, and Being Changed: A Self-study of a teacher educator’s becoming real in the throes of urban school reform (pp.105-116). Houston: Routledge.

Connelly, F. M., & Clandinin, D. J. (1990). Stories of experience and narrative inquiry. Educational
Researcher, 19(5), 2–14.

Ham, V., & Davey, R. (2004, June). Are we the very models of the modern teacher educator? Paper presented at the fifth international conference on Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices,
Herstmonceux Castle, England

Loughran, J., & Northfield, J. (1998). A framework for the development of self-study practice.
In M. L. Hamilton (Ed.), Reconceptualizing teaching practice: Self-study for teacher education
(pp. 7–18). London: Falmer Press. Google Books

Monday, February 15, 2010

Does your work belong to you?

A question for teachers: Does your work or your learning belong to you?

While attending my teacher’s convention this week I was sitting with a question, “Does my work belong to me?”. I had been reading about critical inquiry from a Marxist heritage. However I live in this world as a teacher who was looking for professional development so everything I read I placed around my situation carefully. Since my work is learning, it was not long before the question changed itself to read, “Do you own your own learning?”. While I carted my laptop around looking for wireless connections so that I could connect to my professional learning network I realized, no I do not. While many speakers this year spoke about the power of social networks for student learning no one thought about wireless networking for teacher learning. If what we want from people today is to live well in a connected world full of ambiguity we need our teachers to become learners and connect them to each other and the information that they want when they need it.

I believe something is a miss in the world of teaching and learning, something that needs to change for teachers to feel autonomous in their own workplace. Margaret Weatley says, “People are the solutions to the problems that confront us (2009 p. 23). I have been reflecting on this interpretively as a doctoral student and classroom teacher. Michael Crotty (1998) relates that interpretive research merely seeks to understand, and does not challenge, it reads a situation in terms of interaction and community not in the terms of conflict or oppression, it also accepts a status quo and does not seek to bring about change (p.113). That fills me with concern. I have been thinking interpretively about school reform and technology integration. While I do not believe teachers are oppressed in any way I do see many ways they are alienated in a world full of one way musts. Why is it so hard for teacher’s questions to be asked? It is my wish to awaken and understanding the complex situation teachers find themselves in. I want deeply to do this in terms of the conflict that I see teachers living in. I wish to describe, analyze, and open to scrutiny what otherwise might lie hidden out of sight without my participation. I wish to revisit the assumptions we have about teachers using technology in their classrooms for inquiry because I believe something needs to change and I do not think anything will change unless we treat teachers as learners and invite their voices into research by using a method to collect and connect wisdom from each other in reflection.

While at convention and seeing fellow teachers I had lost track with, I was reminded of the power of community and connections to each other as people. As a researcher I am drawn to a dialectical method as a tool to collect data from teachers. This method with all its variations generally views the whole of reality as an evolving process. As I understand it the premise of a dialectical argument is that participants, even if they do not agree, they at least share some common ground of meanings and experience. Connections then need to be shaped by me. I am not interested in an objective depiction of what some might call a stable “other”. There is nothing stable about teaching in today’s classroom. Instead, I want to encourage reflection in a collaborative fashion that would give teachers multiple opportunities to dialogue, in a kind of improvisational critical ethnography about technology use and the assumptions we have about it in the classroom.

In my current work environment at a recent professional development session the administration introduced us to something called, “Fierce Conversations”. I can't say that I really understand this fierceness but according to author Susan Scott you are either: Successful, flat lining or failing. Is that it? Scott is quoted as saying that interpersonal difficulties - at work and at home - are a direct result of our inability to communicate well. Perhaps, if all we want to do is talk at people without listening to them, but a good life is complex, this linear thinking does not describe the many ways we can be successful. “To recognize the dialectic is to recognize that realities are never isolated entities standing in a linear, causal relationship to one another” (Crotty 1998 p.118). The truth is that teaching comes from a servant-master tradition. The ones in charge have the ideas that are communicated toward the one doing the work. As teachers we have been expected to listen to what is said to us not the other way around. I find this thinking like driving on a road where traffic can only flow in one direction. There is not a lot of choice in where you end up. A good place for top down reform possibly, but where on this road is a place for pausing for reflection and opening a place for fierce listening? Life is nebulous and the world of teaching is complex. Complexities need to be recognized and nurtured. To look at teaching as this, that and the other thing, is not very prosperous. Scott speaks from the corporate world of business. Business is rightly concerned with data driven decision-making because it makes sense if you are only concerned with the bottom line. I wonder what place this philosophy has in schools. Is it our place as teachers to put achievement and accountability before our responsibility to support our students to become democratic citizens and encourage voice in our students? According to the government of Alberta’s guide to education (2010) “Our education system must simultaneously prepare the citizens of tomorrow while equipping our students with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in a rapidly changing economy and society” (p. 5). How do we do this with out doing it our selves? At the end of the day I wish to take back my work from all of those that tell me it belongs to them. I want also to feel comfortable to ask questions in my place of work in order to personalize my teaching and my own learning.

This thinking has been inspired by

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Teacher as Learner?

The following is a critical reflection to reading, “What did you do in school today?” Teaching effectiveness: A framework May 2009, sponsored by the Canadian Education Association, in partnership with the Canadian Council on Learning and school districts across Canada. They focus on the idea of student engagement in the classroom, and explore the relationship with adolescent learning, student achievement, and effective teaching. They make a clear distinction between intellectual and academic engagement. On their website they remind us that. “Students have a better educational experience when teachers and students actively collaborate in the process of improvement.” A lived knowledge of self with embedded assessment. In addition, “Teaching is incredibly complex and today’s teachers are called upon to work with their colleagues to design learning environments that promote deeper engagement in learning as a reciprocal process among teachers and students”.

Throughout my 26-year career as a teacher there has always been a push for some sort of school reform. In the Alberta Programs of Studies (1995-2009) teachers currently are being asked to make a fundamental shift in their practice away from a teacher centred delivery of content to a more generative and collaborative exploration of content. They also are being asked in the Learning and Technology Policy Framework to “develop the competencies to integrate technology successfully into their teaching and to guide students in the use of technology to achieve learning goals”(2004). All of this requires a major adjustment in not just the traditional power relationship between teacher and student but also a shift in teacher as transmitter, to teacher as learner. It is not clear to me that we recognize the depth of shift in practice and the skill required by many generations of teachers relating to the infusion of digital technologies into learning and teaching let alone inquiry. To add to this complexity, in the program of studies teachers are asked to build a learning community and develop capacity for personalized learning, while demanding a standardized practice. There have been major shifts in our thinking of knowledge in the post-industrial age. In her brief history of ideas about teaching Friesen speaks of the traditions our current education system was built on. Many in education today still value scientific management as a model for teaching and learning. In the article chapter one reminds us that standardized practice is dedicated to the value of efficiency. Sorting learners into levels for learning and judging them through a standard method. It seeks higher and higher goals in what may become a data driven, top down non-negotiable environment. In this place knowledge is seen as something that can be improved through repetition and validity comes from being able to do it again.

Teaching for today’s world alerts us of the need for change. Many researchers have the same concern. In “Teaching in the knowledge society”, Andy Hargreaves (2003) argues that teaching in the knowledge society involves cultivating these capacities in young people; developing deep cognitive learning, creativity, and ingenuity among students”. He believes also teachers need to work in networks and teams, and pursue continuous professional learning. He feels they need an environment that promotes “problem-solving, risk taking, trust in the collaborative process, ability for to cope with change and commitment to continuous improvement as organizations” (p. 3). He also cautions that teachers can not make this shift without the support of good professional development. The kind of support that happens in a culture of caring, grounded in long-term relationships of trust, foundations of security, and commitments to active care (p. 170). Not top down reform that seems empty of shared wisdom, a place of musts, where teachers are told they must do things the same, they must collaborate rather than opening conversations to allow it to occur naturally. A standard place where diversity is ignored. In this place a teacher may feel disconnected from their own learning and decisions being made around them. A place where others think deeply and you just do what you are told.

Knowledge is now seen as flexible and ever expanding. It has shifted from being a thing or something to go and get and prove you have on a test to a kind of energy and a key form of work (Gilbert 2007). Historically in school we have focused on knowledge as a thing in academic engagement and done a poor job dealing with the capacity of knowledge and intellectual engagement. We have also focused mainly on student engagement alone and not teacher as learner. In order for this shift to take hold in our classrooms, teachers need to not just think of themselves as learners they need also to be treated as such. They also need to feel connected to the questions they have about learning and not be blocked from digital connections such as social networking. I argue that the shift required in education must include the teacher shifting from deliverer of content, to demonstrator of how to learn what we want to know, when we want to know it. How to manage and organize one’s knowledge (information literacy) becomes a new skill for this century. Students today do not want to memorize information. They want and need to build their own personal knowledge, and thus need to know how to retrieve it when required. They need to develop multi-modal literacy, in order to be seen, heard and read by other both synchronous and asynchronously. Learners are finding flow in their personal lives outside of school and boredom inside. Finally what good is knowing something without doing something with it or sharing it with others in our connected world. I believe at the most important thing we need of schools in the 21st century is to teach our students to become participatory citizens. In this they do need to learn academically but they also need to feel connected to what they learn and each other. Not a linear cause and effect world, but a nebulously connected world.

Referenced in this post:

Alberta Learning. (2000-2003). Information and communication technology, kindergarten to grade 12: Program of studies. Curriculum Standards

Alberta Learning. (1995-2009). Programs of Study.

Alberta Learning. (2004). Learning and technology policy framework.

Jane Gilbert. (2007, July). "CATCHING THE KNOWLEDGE WAVE" REDEFINING KNOWLEDGE FOR THE POST-INDUSTRIAL AGE. Education Canada, 47(3), 4-8. Retrieved January 23, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1296660451).

Friesen, S. (2009). What did you do in school today? Teaching effectiveness:A framework and rubric

Hargreaves, A. (2003). Teaching in the knowledge society. Teachers College Press.

Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow state is a special detached state of consciousness, in which you are aware only of the moment, of activity and of the sheer enjoyment. To find flow one needs to find the right balance between challenge and skill.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Teachers as Catalyst

A question I keep returning to, the one that seems to be at the root of all other questions is; how do we live well together? With all the complexities of contemporary life with all the diversity required for a good life, how do we learn to get along, and how do we as teachers prepare our students to be participatory citizens in the 21st century? At times it feels that our society has squeezed the democracy out of school. With so much emphasis on getting ahead, keeping up and doing it faster are we really interested in taking care of each other? I found myself recently on top of a ski hill with this thought about community. Skiers and snowboarders will know that moguls are carved slowly through a season of collective effort; they are formed as a kind of “collective intelligence” if you will in the snow. There is no power of one here only the many that have left a whisper of their presence behind. It is in the voices of the many we may find connection to each other. Dialogue and the sharing of our stories in narrative also over time form a shared understanding. Expert skiers will tell you that they trust the wisdom of previous skiers and follow their path laid down before them while at the same time leaving something of them selves behind. The wisdom that is left behind for me in my research will make up my literature review.
In a previous post I discuss the need for school in the 21st Century. I wrote, “teachers are being asked to make a fundamental shift in their practice away from a teacher centred delivery of content to a more generative and collaborative exploration of content.” Yet as a classroom teacher I find myself in a place between this and what appears to me a data driven, top down non-negotiable environment where I struggle as a teacher to find my autonomy and creativity. A place empty of shared wisdom, a place of musts, where I am told I must collaborate and personalize learning. I am disconnected from decisions and the authority that says I must provide students with choice, yet I wonder where is my opportunity for choice?

What should I call this place? Andy Hargreaves (2003) refers to this as teaching for a knowledge society, a professional paradox.

To add to this, Alberta teachers will soon find a new technology in education policy to work with. In the rational of the draft of this new policy states, “To achieve success and fulfillment as citizens in this ever‐changing complex society, students need to be self‐directed lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and problem solvers. Communication and collaboration skills will be essential. Students will also need to be flexible, creative and innovative as they adapt to the changes around them… Preparing students with these competencies requires that educators design a variety of relevant learning experiences that engage students in productive inquiry through the use of technology.” In addition the first goal of technology in education it mandates the development of digitally confident leaders and educators (p.12). I am left to wonder what professional development plans are being made to support teachers in this confidence?

Hargreaves states that, “Deep professional learning involves more than workshops… it requires time to understand, learn about, and reflection on what the change involves and requires” (p108). This process involves more than just doing what you are told and applying what other have taken the time to think deeply about. It is about taking ownership of your own learning by have choice in the first place in what you want to be curious about. You can’t be a confident learner if you are constantly shoulder checking who is watching. Planting the seeds of change in this soil would give it shallow roots.
Technology has the potential to be a democratic tool to understanding, and teachers have the potential to be a catalyst for change. Is it not time to stop blaming teachers from the hallways of schools for their lack of confidence with technology and being barriers for student digital citizenship and get into the classrooms and start talking to them? What can we learn and perhaps understand by dialoguing with teachers about this place?

I was unable to find a direct source of the Alberta Education Draft Technology in Education Policy but the ATA has published an initial response in the form of a PDF to it at:

Hargreaves, A. (2003). Teaching in the knowledge society. Teachers College Press.