Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age!



Great title don’t you think?  This very title is the name of a new subject – foundation subject no less – that is in the pipeline for 2014 for the new degree that I have been immersed in developing.  As mentioned in my post a while back, I have had my head down and tail up for the last six weeks working live a navvy on scoping this new and exciting degree for next year.

Still a big secret in terms of the whole course program and content of course, because the final approval isn’t through yet.  We still have the last hurdle to face, but fingers crossed, we’ll make the grade. As it happens, the framework, subjects, electives etc are pretty much sorted, as is the focus of each subject.

It’s been a mammoth undertaking in some ways, and not so much in others. Conceptually it’s easy to pinpoint what is needed to fill the gaps in postgraduate learning opportunities to meet our professional learning needs within our networked learning environments. While there are of course many opportunities for professional development in these areas, there is also a need for academic credentialed programs that leverage deep thinking and research, and provide teachers with evidence of their passion, commitment and reasons for choosing them for innovative and/or promotions positions!

The new Australian national curriculum demands a deep understanding of connected learning, particularly if we consider the digitally connected environments that our students are working in.

So the motivation was strong to develop a degree that captured the power of networked learning, knowledge and information environments, learning spaces design, gaming, e-literature and more, in a powerful combination drawing on the disciplines of education, information technology, and information science. We took it on board to examine the key features and influences of global connectedness, information organisation, communication and participatory cultures of learning, aiming to provide the opportunity to reflect on professional practice in just such a networked learning community, and engage in peer dialogue to develop an authentic understanding of concepts and practices for learning and teaching in a digital environments.

So overall, the intention is to allow questioning, review and reconstruction of understanding, with the new subjects framing the challenges of learning in digital environments and setting the context for innovation and change in professional practice.

Everything will be thought-provoking, and will build on the knowledge that teachers bring to the course, rather than being driven by fixed content. By pushing the boundaries, knowledge networking and digital innovation will be the inspiration for this post-graduate program.

So roll on 21 May…..and if all goes well,  I will share all the details of the new degree.  If we hit any hiccups – well, what can I say?  Back to the drawing boards!

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by jah~

Purpose/ed: Unlocking education, unlocking minds

It’s worth stopping and thinking back to some of the most exciting times in your learning life – to feel once again that cognitive buzz that energized your spirit and made you want to know more.  I mean something deep, visceral, urgent, demanding – like a child building and rebuilding a set of blocks with persistent fascination.  What have these learning moments been for you?

I still feel the utter disappointment of having found only dried macaroni inside the rocking clown that I demolished. I have so many memories from when I was a kid that remain charged with positive frustration (learning) and wonderful, sizzling amazement.   How many of them can I attribute to a learning experience as a by-product of formal education?  How many can you? Honestly!  What about our learners in schools today?

Learning and knowing cannot be separated, and relies on transactions and interactions with information. However, different people, when presented with exactly the same information in exactly the same way, will learn different things. Most models of education and learning have almost no tolerance for this kind of thing. As a result, teaching tends to focus on eliminating the source of the problem: the student’s imagination!

The purpose of education is surely about cultivating the imagination, for without imagination there would be no knowledge, no development, no scientific discovery, nothing. Most of us at some stage in our lives have had the thrilling experience of seeing a new solution to a problem, not necessarily in lofty theories of the professional world, but perhaps in making something, or cooking, or gaming, or solving a social conundrum. You don’t have to be Einstein to experience that wonderful feeling of a strong sense of uniqueness through a new insight or idea – making a connection that you’ve never made before.

For me, this is the challenge and purpose of education – nurturing ‘eureka’ moments for every kid. Not only are Eureka moments extremely exciting, they also reinforce an inner conviction of being special, someone worth having around.

So when it comes to our digital environment, we must work with existing and emerging media tools to promote creative and reflective learning. The challenge is to go beyond the constraints of the classroom and to push the understanding of what is possible. You only have to look at projects like the Flat Classroom Project to appreciate the possibilities.

No-one likes to grow old – but hiding in the 20th century mindset won’t stop you aging!! In fact it will definitely give you digital dementia, and simultaneously disenfranchise your student’s right to learn at the same time.

It’s time to go beyond worksheets, pathfinders, and lock-step learning. We’ve been saying it for years now, but many schools still ‘throttle’ young minds with essays, exams, cross-form marking and more.  It’s not curriculum that’s the mind killer – it’s what teachers do, or are forced to do with it that’s the problem.

I wonder what you could do today to unlock learning and energize the minds of your students?  Eureka!