Selena Woodward
Chief learner, Uni lecturer, Co-founder and mum. Passionate about empowering my students, myself and my colleagues so that we can be the best we can be.
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Learning Architect – Learning Technologies.

April 16, 2016 | Focus Areas: | | | 0 COMMENTS


At the annual EdtechSA AGM, Paul Clapton Caputo gave a talk on the subject of the Learning Architect – Learning Technologies.

Throughout his talk his words seemed to focus on managing and influencing teachers to help them understand and progress with their use of technology in the classroom.  He reminded us that we were the people, with a membership to a state organisation, who’s mission was much the same. That.”Everyone in this room is a learning technologist”.

He began his talk by discussing what he referred to as two paradigms in teaching.  One a paper paradigm, the other a digital one.

“There is a an old paradigm around teaching that we need to do some work around changing and shifting”

He wanted to address the following two points:

How we “Create impact, influence through the purposeful use of technology as learning design” and “What are the obstacles between us and this outcome?”

He discussed how, in his view, some educators saw digital technologies as an optional extra.  They liked to remain within their, safe, comfortable “paper” Paradigm whilst being a afraid of moving into a new “digital” one.  As he was talking I was reminded of the many conversations I have had over the years on the same subject.  It honestly saddened me that, as a leader in the department of Education for South Australia, he was able to suggest that there  are still practitioners who feel this way.

It brought to mind this youtube video in which a monk is grappling with the move from scroll to paper.  It made me consider the impact of leaders in the Department on this subject and wonder why this sentiment still holds value.

He then talked about how to address this attitude.  Talking about the tendency of some leaders to feel overwhelmed by the amount of new digital pathways open to them.  He reminded us that the brain is usually unhappy when bombarded with too much information and urged us not to overwhelm our new adopters.

He asked us to consider ourselves in their shoes.  He mentioned that, although those in the room surrounding him, were often comfortable in that digital paradigm that 70% (and I am unclear as to where that stat came from) felt as though they were drowning.

He echoed, what is certainly my belief, that every young South Australian must have access to digital technologies and the learning surrounding that, but urged us to remember not overwhelm those we work with.

He went on to talk about moving our focus from input (things like social media etc) to outputs. Reminding us that completing a long list of tasks does not necessarily mean that outcomes are being achieved.

I was slightly surprised that he needed to point that out to us.  After all, as teachers, surely this sentiment is echoed in our everyday work.  We are always required to focus on our objectives, our outcomes and to consider the pathways we will choose to ensure that these outcomes are achieved and achieved with meaning. I would suggest that, just as we must consider the pedagogical purposes for the use of technology in our classroom for our student’s learning the same consideration must be afforded when considering the learning of our colleagues and their use of digital tools.

WavesOne metaphor he used which I really liked involved the notion of surfing.  I’m not a surfer myself but I could understand what he was suggesting when he pointed out that as we move forward,  “There will be a lot of waves.  Choose your waves carefully.  Which one will you catch and why?”

He moved on to discuss how this focus could be achieved. Suggesting that we narrow down our focuses by viewing our plans and intentions like this:

  • what can you do in 1 day (today ),
  • 7  days(this week)
  • 28 days (1 month)
  • 12 months (1 year)
  • in 5 (years)

He suggested that we focus on one thing you can bing to influence others you work with and plan for the impact we can have.  We did so using #newbasics.   However, I am left considering whether, when operating in a ‘digital paradigm’ a 5 year plan is a far too long.  In fact, when you consider the current employment circumstances of most of my colleagues within the ‘department’ setting, short contracts often mean they are given little time to work through and encourage these changes within their organisations.  My experience has been that it takes at least 3 years before a cultural change starts to become evident in an organisation and that it takes more than one person to affect a change. I am often left perplexed by a system that seems to favour such short service periods and wonder how they overcome such challenges with what seems an ever changing work force.

It’s also worth considering what kind of goal would stand the test of time with 5 years in mind. It would not be sensible to set a 5 year goal around the implementation of one technology. I hope that this nods to the fact that we should avoid being so technocentric  – that would be something I would most definitely welcome. However, if the goal was to explore and encourage a pedagogical or cultural change or influence on staff or students (and you were able to work in the same place for that length of time) it might well be possible.  I guess your goals would expand its reach and begin to delve deeper into organisational change as time went on.  However, your impact may even be seen in small ways well before you expect it to be.

To help encourage us to make this journey, Paul suggested a raft of interesting reading and documentaries that might be used in support of a move towards a more “digital paradigm” These included:

  • The Melbourne declaration – refer them back to that and refer to the goals set in there
  • Weinberger – Too Big to Know
  • Sam Abersman’s  – The Half Life of Facts in which he explores how facts are affected by a growing digitised world.
  • Humans need not apply a 15 minutes video which talks about how the industrial revolution is very different to the current digital age   He suggested that watching this video will inspire change in the  the way we teach.
  • Everything is a Remix – documentary
  • Seely-brown  The Global One Room School House    Keynote about fluency, entrepreneurial thinking and learning.  This is one I am particularly interested in watching and learning more about.
  • The NMC Report- Due out June 2016.  This document is always full of information about which technology trends are having and will have an impact in the future.   It’s actually something I tend to read every year.  Mostly because I love to see which technologies are/ will be impacting on learning.

Either way, he told us of that his favourite phrase was that as a teacher “20% of what you are doing today, is something that you couldn’t do 2 years ago”.  That certainly inspires teachers to consider the growth in practice.

IMG_0317He mentioned the impact that collegial relationship and networks might have on these goals.  Referring to Hattie’s research which (before most of us were connected with Social Media) suggested an increase of 0.93 in teacher efficacy through such connections.  He discussed how wonderful it might be to see the impacts of collaboration between teachers who met regularly to share ideas and measure the impact  of their work.  The is exactly the consideration I am exploring in my research and work around “Reflect Growth“.

As I write this post, my three year old son, is exploring number using an app called “Touch Counts” recommended to me by a colleague at Flinders uni.  He is busy exploring what happens when you squeeze two numbers together (they add) or pull them apart (they subtract). He can see, hear and touch those basic maths concepts that some might consider him too young to explore.  That is his world.  However, we have also spent a lot of time with cards, papers, books and more.  He is a future generation who operates in both of the paradigms Paul described – the digital and the paper.  Educators need to be too.

A screen shot from one of my past workshops with Teacher Trainees at Flinders
A screen shot from one of my past workshops with Teacher Trainees at Flinders

I wonder whether it is not as simple as there being two camps –  now choose.  It can’t be.  The talk left me considering what seem to be my favourite consideration about technology integration at the moment.  How loudly is the conversation about how and why we choose to enter the ‘digital’ paradigm being heard?  If Paul believes that so many teachers feel the ‘digital’ paradigm is optional how and why is that the case? Perhaps if we were talking about the HOW and WHY they would be able to engage more with the conversation? I’ve been having conversations with teachers for 10 years about this subject  – that pails into comparison with a paper written in  the 80s in which the term “techno centric” was first shared.  Why is that we can not confidently say that we are all moving towards an understanding of how the real world needs to be evident in our classroom? How handing an iPad to a kid and asking them to get on with it will NOT improve standards of learning… how we need teaching profesionals to see making judgements about digital technologies as vital as the paper based one they may be more comfortable with.

Perhaps the Digital Technologies curriculum will help to address this.  The ICT General Capability (Which has been available to us for 6 years) has apparently failed to do so.  Maybe the ICT elements within the AITSL standards will? Perhaps, changes to teacher training courses which now involve far more ICT will help too?  At least we’re having these conversations, however, after hearing this talk, I can’t help consider the impact that they are having in South Australian, public schools.

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