Thursday, August 20, 2009

Synopsis - Sumo vs Small Fry or David vs Golliath?

This picture demonstrates how I envisioned my technology driven journey to be. When I first read the Course Profile and viewed the Moodle website for Managing eLearning I was completely and utterly overwhelmed. Digital Immigrant that I am it at times took all my strength not to throw my arms up in the air and leave.

What I have learnt along this journey is that there is a wealth of resources and endless possibilities through technology driven learning. After reading Prensky (2001) I gained a greater understanding of where I and students of today stand when it comes to technology. He argues that students thinking patterns have fundamentally changed. This is important to remember considering the Digital Natives : Digital Immigrants found in most classrooms.

Kearsley & Shneiderman (1999) further consider that students activities should involve active cognitive processes such as creating, problem-solving, reasoning, decision-making, and evaluation. This inturn correlates with the productive pedagogies found in Dimensions of Learning by Marzano & Pickering (1997) in that life long learners develop into complex thinkers, creative individuals, active investigators, effective communicators, reflective and self directed learners, participant in an interdependent world and a knowledgeable person with deep understandings. This is achieved through engaged learning where students are motivated to learn due to the meaningful learning environments and activities summarised by Relate-Create-Donate (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1999).

This is certainly true in my own learning journey. The learning was engaging and often confronting in its complexity, although there was a definate journey taking place with myriads of learning experiences. It was interesting to answer questionnaires that investigated personality types, strengths and weaknesses. This is an informative tool considering the diversity of learners. I must note that according to the Jung Typology Test I was assessed to be introverted, which is entirely correct, and because of this, dealing with public forums caused me some angst. It was quite difficult for me to offer opinions and put myself in a vulnerable position to be challenged, criticised or judged concerning my own opinion, although it is also important to note that the audience were themselves in the same position.

It is on these public forums that Netiquette and Cyber bullying need to be monitored and managed. There is risk when allowing students to access the internet and ensure that they are on safe websites with significant protection. With a large debate about how to protect students when using the internet at school, the Australian Government has developed The National Safe Schools Framework and is already addressing these issues. According to Safe Schools, the Government strongly ‘believes that all students have the right to learn in a safe and supportive environment that is free from bullying and victimisation’ so they are developing a pilot program that addresses these issues. There is comfort in knowing that changes will occur within schools.

As a Learning Manager I was incredibly excited about the technologies and resources available. Having access to sites with free registration makes the journey easier than first realised. Sites such as Flickr, Picnik, Wiki, ClassMarker, Slideshare, MediaFire, Wetpaint and Blogspot, to name just a few, certainly create engaging tools and a safe environment for learners.

Of concern is the issue of access. My personal computer was unable to download some of the tools and did not have access to some of the hardware. This needs to be a focus when considering learning in the classroom. Not all children will have the technologies required or requested, therefore modification needs to occur. While most schools already have access to these sorts of technologies not all schools will.

Through the use of technology there is certainly a need to be creative thinkers. Flickr, Picknik, and YouTube are great tools for students to communicate their ideas. For those learners that are shy or reserved, introverted possibly, these technologies are a great resource. The only issue again is access. During my portal task I evidenced students accessing different sites to document and research myths and legends. In my own classroom students would gather information and then generate their own myth or legend, document it using video and create a link to a classroom Blog. Through the use of Flickr or Picnik, students could document a school camp and create a newsletter for parents/caregivers. This would engage the student through real life interactions and connect to a real audience.

Vygotsky (1978) affirms that relationships and cultures impact on a learner’s cognitive development. By engaging the students in pertinent and reflective endeavours and assessment pieces, student will refine and extend their knowledge and understanding (Marzano & Pickering, 1997). So as a Learning Manager I hope to encourage interactions between the classroom and the home.

Throughout my degree I have been challenged through technology, to think outside the box and consider new and inventive ways to present information. Developing a WebQuest at first was incredibly exhausting, although when the project was completed there was great satisfaction. As a Teacher Aide it was necessary for me to create powerpoints for various activities throughout the school. Attaching music files and voice thread was part of the journey. Having access again to free downloadable tracks and software made the job incredibly easy.

This technological learning journey for me was one of the hardest I have experienced to date. It required me to involve all of my cognitive processes. It certainly was a Sumo verses Small Fry scenario in the beginning. There was much advice on the forums about taking it step by step, and to not look at the whole picture, rather at each piece. Sound advice!

As a creative person I can envisage the technologies addressed in Managing eLearning in Art, the challenge is using it cross curricular. Of a great and satisfying surprise was the amount of support given to educators and parents via the internet. One can Google or Bing search and find access to great resources and educational support. Technology is all about engaging the learner to the world around them. The internet has made the world smaller, why not use such a powerful resource and have access to a wealth of experiences?

Computers and programs still hold a healthy fear for me. It is too easy to press a button and lose an entire document, never to be seen again. Viruses, hackers and content also hold concern, although there is strong evidence of change in regard to these issues. At this point in my journey, my attitude towards technology has changed. I will never become a Digital Native although I can certainly evolve my Digital Immigrant status. The term lifelong learning has never been witnessed as much as the progress made through this subject material.

So where to from here. I am so excited about developing units that engage learning through the use of technology. The range of free websites and free registrations certainly makes it more enjoyable although there are some sites such as Picnik where it is worth paying for full registration. Now at the end of my introduction to new technologies I consider that my journey has evolved from Sumo verses Small Fry to David verses Goliath. In the end David won.

Australian Government (2008). The National Safe Schools Framework. Computer citing August, 12 from

Kearsley, G. & Shneiderman, B. (1999) Engagement theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. [electronic version] Version 4/5/99.

Marzano, R. & Pickering, D. (1997). Dimensions of learning: Teacher's manual. Colorado, USA: McRel.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. [electronic version] MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001)

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