Theories in Education

See on Scoop.itconstructivism: the lost art of learning

Paul Moss – teacher, learner‘s insight:

For some time i have been pondering the meaning of it all. At times, i am euphoric in this world, blessed by my insights, my passion, and most of all by my incredible daughters. I must always remember these things.  

Become a story now – but make sure it’s your own

Being yourself. There can be no more important lesson than this. Forget about Maths, English, Science, Technology. They are all pointless unless students understand this most simplest of lessons. Yet in our society, we give away this power so easily. We willingly believe that others have more than us, that they are somehow better, more successful, wiser, smarter. Why?

There are two types of Twitter users: one who uses it to garner professional ideas and develop diverse resources, and another who uses it to promote personal agendas. For the latter, Twitter becomes a seedy smoke-filled dim lit den of iniquity, a place where people play with their self-esteems and personal confidences with reckless abandon, sometimes with a poker face, sometimes showing their whole hand, sometimes betting their life savings. These types of users are the ones who every day find themselves trying to attract a certain ‘famous’ tweeter, soliciting reaction to a comment, trying to be a part of the in crowd, replying to comments that have no interest to them other than advancing their own cause/brand. These are the users you see coming out of long posting sessions looking left then right and over their shoulders. These are the ones you should not turn your back on.

How do I know? Well because I’ve walked this path my friends. As a new comer to the Twitter universe I found myself desperate for attention, addicted to the sound of my email service teasing me to the possibility of an interaction to a comment, a direct message, or, the grand daddy of them all, a follower. I sometimes found myself replying to people’s comments because I thought it would gain me a connection, all the while if I met this person outside of my Tweet deck I wouldn’t have any interest in them, or their ideas. My obsequious behaviour justified in my mind, to promote me, to further my business. The dark clouds amassed, the room became dimmer, the spluttering and coughing from my chest warning me that the thing beating wasn’t right.

Such condition made me consider and reflect. It couldn’t go on like that. I realized that the only time I ever really felt at ease using Twitter or any other social media or communication was when I forget about agenda, and was just myself. A moment of enlightenment. A moment of inner wisdom, desperate to emerge. And it did. Since then, I have made this my religion. And you know the funniest thing always happens now – when I’m myself, I receive more interaction. Hope I can stay so strong.

Students need PLN’s too

Learning to create, manage and promote a professional learning network (PLN) will soon become, if it’s not already, one of the most necessary and sought after skills for a global citizen, and as such, must become a prominent feature of any school curriculum.

Few progressive educationalists would argue that a personal learning network (PLN) is not incredibly valuable and important. Passionate advocates including Murray, Whitby, and Sheninger lead with clarity in such discussions. The wealth of professional development that stems from such a network is quickly defining it as an essential tool for teachers, and will, I believe, replace organised costly professional development undertaken by organisations. However presently, few discussions and promotions of PLN’s venture further than lauding specific benefits for teachers. But why just teachers, and not students? Could students benefit from a network of learners? Considering the importance of exams in determining futures, it seems that professional development for students not only has unbounded potential, but must be taught as a matter of urgency.

Establishing a PLN seems simple enough on the surface, but to do it successfully and optimize its potential contains within in it a challenging and vigorous set of learning opportunities. Curating, managing, and promoting a PLN develops critical, creative, 21st century, and an increasingly important set of socio-emotional capabilities. Integration into modern curriculums would be seamless. Of course the best way to teach is to show, not tell, so here is a list, but by no means a definitive list of the skills that are learnt:

Curating

To curate or not to curate – that is not the question. The question is how good are you at it. In a world where information is amassing exponentially on the internet, becoming skillful at filtering and selecting appropriate information will become imperative, and much sooner than we think. The trend is irrefutable (Rosenbaum), and can facilitate reaching political disruption as Twitter founder Evan Williams notes. Some education companies are emerging (Learni.st, Knodium) who understand the context, but exponents agree that successful curators are those who are able to:

–       Understand a rubric and what texts represent it.

–       Filter information to suit purpose.

–       Evaluate content from the Internet and justify suitability/relevance.

–       Succinctly describe and label choice of texts.

–       Defend choices against criticisms from peers.

–       Be creative in choice of content. Understanding an audience and curating content that will suit it, including considering context, use of humour, use of suitable language.

Managing

Successful managers are those who are able to:

–       Decide on choice of application to aggregate content by ‘shopping around’, scan, browse the web, and listen to peers etc. to ascertain the best solution.

–       Manage time in viewing and responding to posts (come on you Twitter lovers, you know social media can be addictive).

–       Choose who to follow, and how to judge whether they should follow someone who is following them.

–       How to deal with inappropriate posts and uploads and comments, both physically and emotionally.

Promoting

This develops a range of enterprise skills, beginning with knowledge of creating a theme or mood or personal brand. Successful promoters are those who are able to:

–       Know their audience – who is going to provide them with relevant resources, and who is going to connect them to others who have quality resources

–       Know how to attract quality members/teachers to their network. What mood needs to be created, and is it consistent over their posts and uploads?

–       Know the importance of posting good quality content.

–       Know how to post to specific people, and understand specific contact’s style and tone

–       Negotiate meta-language of applications, and utilize specific functions to generate more exposure, including using tags effectively.

–       Know when to post – timing (time zones, time of day in terms of mood etc).

–       Persevere – patience in creating contacts, and hanging in there when people don’t respond (ps – manners are easy).

–       Follow social media etiquette – what’s cool and what’s not.

–       Post for learning and not popularity

–       Reflect on the potential of the network, in terms of immediate learning and entrepreneurial opportunities.

The advantages of learning of such skills are clear, but there is one ultimate perk. The creation of an independent learner, a learner who can adapt to changing contexts by engaging their network, a learner who can confidently navigate through the jungle of the Internet. But let’s not make students wait while teachers themselves come to terms with the power of the PLN. Students already have a very solid prior knowledge of the power and functionality of networks. They enthusiastically engage with them everyday for social and entertainment purposes. The skilled teacher is the one who can take that prior knowledge and enthusiasm and teach students to leverage it to their learning advantage.

Networking is not just a trend, a fad that will die out soon enough. The success of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is not simply a result of cool fashionable technology. Dawson suggests networking is actually very intuitive, and his analogy of it as an organic breathing entity is useful. Indeed, all nature is organised in such a fashion, from DNA and cell functionality to chemistry to successful social interaction. Things benefit from not being in isolation. Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was a warning, not just a story. Let’s not let students leave school in isolation, with only Friday on their minds. Let’s ensure they are well connected, independent, and empowered to learn anywhere, anytime.

Paul Moss has a Masters Degree in Education specializing in integrating technology into the curriculum, and student motivation, and has spent 10 years teaching across the world in Australia, Spain, and the UK. Paul is a passionate advocate of student voice and increasing opportunities for independent learning, and is gaining reputation as a pedagogy watchdog. Paul is the CEO of EDmerger. Paul is the proud father of 3 daughters. Follow Paul on twitter @edmerger, and on Tumblr at paulgmoss.tumblr.com

the voiceless

Let’s take an example of a teacher collaborating with students on a set of class rules. Is this increasing student voice? Not really, and here’s why. The rules that inevitably are arrived at and posted on the wall for all to clearly see are essentially contrived by the teacher, regurgitated school rules that have been indoctrinated into students for years. Coercing students into asking them to take ownership of those rules and then creating a system for punishing themselves for breaking them is hardly increasing student voice, but more a sinister manipulation of their desperate desire to have some voice.

I’ve done this myself. Convinced students that a cooperative classroom is more productive and beneficial to learning which is what students need when they leave school. The rationale is precise, but is seriously compromised if what the students are learning is not actually what they need when they leave school. The irony is of course that in that classroom there is a handful of students that aren’t connected to the learning on offer. These are the ones who break the rules, the ones who see no relevance to their own lives, the ones who despise the other students in the room who have conspired against them in towing the teacher’s line.

Student voice? Hardly.

content curation, money, and change

Content curation and tailoring it to specific needs will become a key skill required by future teachers, of that I am sure. Why? Well professional development becomes attractively cost effective in such a process, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my years of teaching, is that money and budgets are powerful influences on change.

Soon enough, large institutions will realise that the most effective professional development (PD) happens through networks, networks accessed through social media. More PD happens on Twitter for example in one night than a teacher probably gets in a year through conferences etc. Presently, departments of Education around the world spend phenomenal amounts of money of PD, yet they know that the majority of teachers who such development is aimed at gain little from it, and would say the money would be better spent on services. Yet they must provide the opportunities to satisfy current theoretical understandings about teacher training and learning.  It’s a logical sequence that when budgets are looking to be cut, that PD, when it can be gained elsewhere, will suffer the chop.

Not all face to face conference style PD is irrelevant. In fact, attending conferences can be incredibly inspiring and invigorating. But spending a day at a smaller scale workshop and taking in information over 7 hours that you could have received in 1 hour (or 15 minutes ) just isn’t efficient, and when organisations configure a method to monitor personal PD, we may never see such waste again.