Meeting future learning needs of education practitioners

Knowledge building, literacy and communication in action now take many forms. When Skype was first released in 2003, the global face-to-face contact began to transform communication and collaboration in ‘real time’. Now Apple’s Face-Time, Skype in the Classroom, and Google Hangouts (to name just a few tools) guarantee synchronous engagement, alongside collaborative text platforms such as Google docs. In other words, the mechanisms for engaging with information and processes of learning in the acquisition of new knowledge has become a deeper process of individual and collaborative learning activities, problem solving and artefact development, through an integration of face-to-face and online interactions within a community, involving absorption, integration and systemisation of the information received by the receiver in their own pre-existing cognitive structure, which are the result of personal experience, and earlier knowledge transactions (Trentin, 2011).

This digital information environment demands a new knowledge flow between content and digital connections. While the bibliographic paradigm created textbook learning, the digital information environment of today indicates the need for educators to understand information seeking and engagement within connected multi-media contexts. Computer and mobile device technology environments, social media, and ready forms of online communication drive our newly emerging knowledge ecosystems. Thomas and Brown (2011), who explored what they described as a new ‘culture of learning’, explained how much the Internet has changed the way we think about both technology and information. In this new culture of learning, information technology has become a participatory medium, giving rise to an environment that is constantly being changed and reshaped by the participation within information spaces. They argue that traditional approaches to learning are no longer capable of coping with this constantly changing world. The information environment is a technology environment, which demands adaptation. As information is also a networked resource, “information absorption is a cultural and social process of engaging with the constantly changing world around us” (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p.47).

In other words, our digital information ecology is a remix of different forms of technology, devices, data repositories, information retrieval, information sharing, networks and communication. New technological tools are expanding and continually altering the ways school students, or educators can interact with the world. The implications for education that stem from new means for accessing information, communicating with others, and participating in a community needs a new brand of professional competences to thrive within the changing environment. Haste (2009) recognised the co-construction of knowledge through interpersonal discourse and the tension within pedagogy between a focus on knowledge-based instruction and outcomes, and on praxis-based instruction. “While most pedagogy, of course, recognises the interaction of both in good practice, there is nevertheless an underlying epistemological gap; knowledge-based models are implicitly more ‘top down’ and praxis-based more ‘bottom up’. ‘Knowledge’ implies that the route to understanding is in the structured transmission of information. ‘Praxis’ implies a necessary interaction with materials, actions or other persons as a route to understanding” (Haste, 2009 p.213).

Information ecology at the heart of knowledge

While technology is changing the information environment (including information places and spaces), the transactional nature of information interactions and knowledge flow underpins learning. Information can comprise both physical and virtual parts for operation and interaction. A major challenge for education is to enable and facilitate the generation of new knowledge via an appropriate information environment, to facilitate integration of new concepts within each person’s existing knowledge structure. This is described as an ‘information ecology’.

“Information ecology examines the contexts of information behaviour by analogy with ecological habitats and niches, identifying behaviours in biological terms such as ‘foraging’” (Bawden & Robinson, 2012. p.199). In this context of adaptive and responsive co-construction of knowledge, we can facilitate a viable praxis in digital environments, influenced by concepts of rhizomatic learning. “Seen as a model for the construction of knowledge, rhizomatic processes hint at the interconnectedness of ideas as well as boundless exploration across many fronts from many different starting points” (Sharples, et al. 2012 p.33). By creating curriculum and subject delivery which can be reshaped and reconstructed in a dynamic manner in response to changing environmental conditions or the personal professional needs of students, a digital information ecology provides the opportunity to work with information in the construction of knowledge in more dynamic ways, connecting learning experiences across the contexts of location, time, devices and platforms.

This information ecology also involves the creation of assessments and environments for knowledge building to enhance collaborative efforts to create and continually improve ideas. This approach to knowledge building “exploits the potential of collaborative knowledge work by situating ideas in a communal workspace where others can criticize or contribute to their improvement” (Scardamalia, Bransford, Kozma, & Quellmalz, 2012, p.238 ). In this information ecology we also understand that “the development of critical thinking is a key learning objective in education – particularly higher education – [and that] it entails the ability to make reasoned evaluative judgements when making sense of information sources that contain different (potentially conflicting) findings, perspectives and interpretations of a given topic of phenomenon” (Ford, 2008 p. 59). The use of critical thinking has become particularly important as relatively quick access to a wide range of information means that the user needs the ability to critically evaluate the validity and value of information accessed.

The evidence is that technologies and social media platforms are driving an unprecedented reorganisation of the learning environment in and beyond schools and tertiary environments. These disruptive shifts are already reshaping the workforce landscape and the skills required (Davies, Fidler & Gorbis, 2011), establishing lifelong and life-wide learning as the central paradigm for the future (Redecker et al, 2011).

Our work as educators has to centre on helping to meet future learning needs in courses/programs by fostering a culture of enquiry within a sustainable learning ecology that is shaped by the ubiquity of information, globally responsive pedagogical practices, and driven by collaboration and informal learning in multiple access points and through multiple mediums.

Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2012). Introduction to information science. London: Facet.
Charles Sturt University. (2012). Course Approval Document. Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation Articulated Set). CASIMS, Office of Academic Governance.
Davies, Al, Fidler, D., & Gorbis, M. (2011). Future work skills 2020. Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute: California.
Ford, N. (2008). Education. In Web-based learning through educational informatics: Information science meets educational computing. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Haste, H. (2009). What is ‘competence’ and how should education incorporate new technology’s tools to generate ‘competent civic agents’. Curriculum Journal, 20(3), 207-223. doi:10.1080/09585170903195845
Redecker, C., Leis. M., Leendertse, M., Punie, Y., Gijsbers, G., Kirschner, P., Stoyanov, S., & Hoogerveld, B. (2011).  The future of learning: preparing for change, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, JRC European Commission.
Scardamalia, M., Bransford, J., Kozma, B., & Quellmalz, E. (2012). New assessments and environments for knowledge building. In Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills (pp. 231-300). Springer Netherlands.
Sharples, M., McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Hirst, T., … & Whitelock, D. (2012). Innovating Pedagogy 2012: Open University innovation report 1. Milton Keynes: The Open University.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.
Trentin, G., (2011). Technology and knowledge flows : the power of networks. Chandos Pub, Oxford.

Image: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by katypang: http://flickr.com/photos/katypang/2628074710

New Badge for CSU and NoTosh

Just when you think academic life is getting boring, along comes another opportunity to play nicely with friends!  In this case, my most excellent colleague Ewan McIntosh is in the middle of working with a good bunch of lucky students who are busy in our new subject Designing Spaces for Learning, which is part of our  in our fab new degree in 2014 Master of Education (Knowledge Networks & Digital Innovation).

This needs more than just a tick for a subject completed!  This is why! This is what has happened!

We’ve got a badge!  But we need to tell the story of the context and why we have the badge first!

F3939 Badges_DesignSpaces_Exp_NotoshEwan masterminded the writing of the subject to fit the profile of our degree, and the students are encountering  challenges almost on a daily basis. Together we have been pushing the boundaries in traditional academic processes, and assessments. The most recently completed task (no marks, just challenges – that’s different!) has been a creative coffee morning experience.

In fact students were challenged to undertake a coffee morning, afternoon, evening beer, meeting the criteria of the task.

This assessment is undertaken in three parts:

  1. The creation and undertaking of a Creative Coffee Morning in your community.
  2. The online publication of photos, video, a Twitter hashtag archive, Storify and/or blog post which shows the activity that occurred during your Creative Coffee Morning.
  3. After completing your own task, you must provide kind, specific and useful feedback on at least three of your subject.

The upshot has been a wide range of activities, in a variety of settings.  But I’m sharing here the Storify #INF536 Creative Coffee Morning: A meeting of creatives to discuss creativity, design, design thinking and the design of learning spaces, of an event that took place in Melbourne, because I was very lucky to be able to attend!

You get the drift?

This degree and this subject is not your regular experience, even though it does get structured around the traditional framework of an online degree. It’s new, and because it’s new, we wanted to see what else we could do.  Some of our students are also just doing this subject, as ‘single subject study’ and others are here for the long haul of getting a fab new degree.  So why not do more??

Charles Sturt University (CSU) has seen the potential for digital badges and are running an innovation project involving a number of faculty pilots in 2014. The benefit of digital badges for the Earner is that they can profile themselves online through displaying their badges and highlighting their most recent and relevant continuing education and professional development achievements. So in our case, the Faculty of Education,  has partnered with the global leader and CEO of NoTosh, Ewan McIntosh (expert and international keynote speaker on innovation, design thinking and creativity) to offer a digital badge in Designing Spaces for Learning. This badge recognises the successful demonstration of an earner’s ability to design spaces for learning through engaging in theory and collaborative practice, and fits beautifully into the participatory intentions of the  Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation).

I hope that this will be the first of many digital badges that will be offered, but for now  we can learn from our experience of designing and issuing a badge, and improve on this for our next offering.

Experimentation with digital badges is gaining momentum across Australian universities with various trials and projects being announced including Curtin University’s Curtin Badges and Deakin University’s Deakin Digital.

I’m excited to be involved in actualising digital badging at CSU with NoTosh!

We’ve been connected online since a TeachMeet in Glasgow on the 20th of September 2006 (Judy beaming in via Skype at 2am).  By the way, did you know that TeachMeets were conceived in the summer of 2006 in Edinburgh, Scotland, under the name “ScotEduBlogs Meetup. The new name TeachMeet was created by Ewan McIntosh and agreed upon by the attendees of the first event. The 2nd Edition was held in Glasgow on the 20th of September 2006.

Want to join us in 2015 for this subject, or in the whole program – you’ll find that enrollments are open for March. Come join us :-)

 

 

 

 

Launching Designing Spaces for Learning – our new subject!

Our newest program/course/degree (terminology depends on the part of the world you are in) has been keeping me very busy.  Here at Charles Sturt University I  launched the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) in March 2014.  We have just completed some of the subjects, and I will have to share the outcomes.

But before I do share this, I want to welcome my good friend Ewan McIntosh of NoTosh fame,  to CSU as a newly minted Adjunct lecturer – all ready and engaging as of this week with a new clutch of students. We have people from all around the world, who will be pulling and teasing ideas around with Ewan in the first iteration of the grand new subject.

Ewan said:

When most people find out that they are in line to create a new physical or virtual environment for their school, few have really driven deep into what the research says, and how it might pan out in practice. And, with deadlines in place, and architects producing their “masterplans” based on what they have been able to squeeze out of school communities, the clock is ticking too fast in most cases to begin that learning journey in a timely fashion.

School principals, deputies, librarians and innovator educators can base multi-million dollar decisions on hearsay, gurus’ say-so, and what the Joneses have done with their school. For the initial cohort of students on our inaugural Masters subject on Designing Spaces for Learning at CSU (Charles Sturt University), the story will be very different.

Do visit his blog post Launching a new Masters: Designing Spaces for Learning #INF536. and check out his wonderful welcome video.  Visit the course Facebook Page too!

Perhaps you would like to join our course and his subject in 2015?

Creativity and education


A regular criticism leveled at education is the function (and sometimes the lack of) creativity in motivating and inspiring learning.  Creativity these days is seen as something ‘special’ and worth capturing.

However, when it comes to creativity in education, there are many aspects to consider. Every student is creative in some way, and the job of educators is to release and support that creative talent in an appropriate manner. Of course, not every student is a  musical Mozart or a scientific Stephen Hawkings. That is not the point for educators. The point is capturing creativity to empower knowledge transactions and in so doing also help prepare students for the digitally diverse and changing nature of our society.

A working definition of creativity is offered by Faultley & Savage (2010, p.6), which does capture nicely the transactions taking place in a learning environment such as a classroom.

Creativity involves mental processes;  can involve action; is within a domain; is purposeful; and is novel (to the individual – ‘everyday’ creativity)

Teaching creatively and for creativity entails taking students on a creative journey where their responses are not predetermined. Teaching for creativity means that students will be producing ideas that may well involve novelty and possibly, experimentation. Teachers and students involved in teaching for creativity will be engaged with processes and although products may well be important it is in the process of creation where the true focus lies.

Craft (2005, p 42) identifies that teaching for creativity involves:

  • the passing of control to the learner and the encouraging of innovative contributions;
  • teachers placing a value on learners’ ownership and control, when innovation often follows;
  • encouraging students to pose questions, identify problems and issues;
  • offering students the opportunity to debate and discuss their thinking;
  • encouraging children to be co-participant in learning, resulting in further control for learners over appropriate strategies for their learning;
  • being at the least considerate and ideally ‘learner inclusive’, thus prioritising learner ‘agency’;
  • encouraging ‘creative learning’, the construction of ‘creative learners’ and ultimately the ‘creative individual’.

So then what is meant by creative and critical thinking in education contexts?

Langer (2012 p. 67) proposes two major purposes that help shape our expectations, both of which result in “mind in action”, meaning-making moves with distinct functionality and motivation.

  1. to gain information and build concepts. (motivated primarily by an information-getting, retrieval, connecting and/or applying purpose)
  2. to engage in a more fluid and open-ended experience where we are not sure to where it might lead. (motivated primarily by a search to see purpose)

Together they contribute to intellect, and it is their joint availability that permits us to engage in the kinds of flexible cognitive interplay that supports intellectual functioning and intellectual growth.

Exploring horizons of possibilities, in a creative experience, we are guided by the open-ended search for ideas. To do this we not only call on what we can imagine,  but also what we cannot yet imagine, in response to ideas or stimuli that we meet along the way of our search.

I can imagine that all these aspects of creativity have a good chance of being unleashed at the Pegasus Bay School.  They want to broaden their horizons!

References

Craft, A. (2003). The limits to creativity in education: Dilemmas for the educator. British journal of educational studies, 51(2), 113-127.

Fautley, M., & Savage, J. (2010). Creativity In Secondary Education. Learning Matters Limited.

Langer, J. (2012). The interplay of creative and critical thinking in instruction. In Dai, D. Y. (Ed.). (2012). Design research on learning and thinking in educational settings: Enhancing intellectual growth and functioning. Routledge.

Image: GoogleTV by lynetter

Design Thinking – an opportunity not to be missed!

From the very first moment an education institution begins the process of even thinking about the construction of a new space for learning, be that physical or digital, the process itself sets a course for potential error.

It is with this very proposition that Ewan McIntosh from NoTosh begins the learning journey in a  14-week challenge to learn and engage with Designing Spaces for Learning, a new subject to be delivered by Ewan in the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation).

The biggest challenge for educators is not, in fact, understanding the technical skills of the digital or buildings architect. The biggest challenge is one of scope, of seeing the possible rather than seeking the “not possible” of budgets, building constraints and “real life”. In short: the challenge is learning to think like a designer, to think differently about the world around us, and recognise which elements of our expertise in other domains lend themselves to the design process.

Ewan is more than an innovator – he is one of those global leaders in education who is genuinely making a difference in the concepts and practices we need in a digital age to empower organizations in all sectors to be responsive to global change needs in education.  NoTosh has flourished since late 2009 into one of the world’s most innovative education companies, working around 40% with creative industries, and the rest with schools around the globe.

NoTosh has created significant impact on student performance in schools in Europe, Asia and Australia. No other consultancy on the planet is managing to work daily with both creative firms and with schools, bridging the gap between design thinking and robust formative assessment, research and practice.

See what Ewan had to share at TEDx, London.

You may not be a student in the MEd(KN&DigInnov) but you CAN be part of this learning experience with Ewan.  You may enroll in this subject, as a single subject enrollment at Charles Sturt Univeristy, and take advantage of all the benefits of engaging with Ewan within the participatory experience with other students.

Single Subject Study at CSU: https://www.csu.edu.au/distance-education/study-options/
single-subject-study

The subject code is INF536  The Subject name is Designing Spaces for Learning.

This subject would provide automatic credit into the new degree if you take up admission in 2015.

Image: CC BY-NC 2.0  Ewan McIntosh

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