The winds of change!

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Building 288 Biomedical Sciences

Winter is settled in, and with it has come a lot of change in my personal and professional life – hence my social media comment recently – “there’s a blog post in that!”

So what is going on?

First up, we sold our home of 27 years (yippee) and moved house to a brand new apartment in the inner west.  One complicated change- tick. How did that go??  One third of our possessions were either given away or disposed of, another third came to our apartment, and the last third was placed into storage ready for the house we are building in country Albury.  Another change underway – tick.

Albury /ˈɔːlbəri/ is a major regional city in New South Wales, Australia, located on the Hume Highway on the northern side of the Murray River. This is our tree change for 5-10 years, though we also have an apartment in Sydney of course.  It’s a quick flight from Albury to Sydney or Melbourne, so we will be back in Sydney a lot, or popping into Melbourne by way of a (shopping)  change.

I also heard that my teacher librarian team and I are to receive a Faculty of Education citation for academic excellence. I’ll travel to Bathurst in a couple of weeks for that, and am honoured to have gained this second award since being at CSU.    Yes, there has been a tremendous amount of work done, and some of it has had significant influence beyond our own team.  Good work – tick.

Finally, if you have been ‘reading between the lines’ on social media you will know that I officially commenced in a new position a week ago – moving completely our of the Faculty of Education after leaving the School of Information Studies earlier in the year.

I’ve moved into the Faculty of Science. #gasp Don’t worry – I’m not claiming to be a scientist, chemistry boffin or pharmacist. The focus of my new role is still on e-learning and/or online learning as part of a quality learning and teaching project from the u!magine Digital Learning Innovation Laboratory at Charles Sturt University. Here we are working on a range of things, including change and innovation in the elearning space which is also being shaped up at CSULX | Online Learning Exchange.

We have a new three-faculty structure at CSU as of July 2016 (another big change) and I’ve stepped into the Faculty of Science position, working with my #globaleducator friend and  Julie Lindsay in the Faculty of Arts and Education.  That has to be another  good tick!

Right now I am immersed in the Bachelor of Medical Science, soon to be followed with the Bachelor of Nursing for some intensive elearning design work. I’m glad that none of the scientific terminology is new to me at all, as my first ‘real’ professional work early in my career was as sub-editor of the Australian Medical Journal, followed by editorial assistant on the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery.

So curious how things have come full circle in a way – and how technology change has been at the heart of it in some practical ways. For example, it’s amazing to reflect on how complicated my editing work was  back then, because typesetting was pre-digital so pre- press work meant a need for extreme editing accuracy and quality presentation of content prior to typeset.  That was a real challenge I recall with some bemusement – particularly when I remember the editing the work of a noted Australian medical figure who also happened to be dyslexic.

So winter has really been a period of change – and one that I hope heralds a beautiful and calm spring ahead – oh and moving to our new home in Albury before Christmas.  Tick!

Good bye to all my students in the various degrees that I have worked with in the last 5 years.  Thank you for your friendship and passion for learning – please do stay in touch.  You know where to find me on social media 🙂


flickr photo shared by simon.morris under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Critical connections: power for your mind online

Ideas are central to our need to connect and communicate – and technology has become a pivotal process or tool in that social and intellectual process of connectedness. Has it transformed learning in higher education? Not so much!

Let’s be clear – using technology and/or technology tools does not equate with empowerment of the learning/knowledge formation experience –  unless the technology connection allows for critical knowledge connections to form, or transform, the experience of learning.  This is a huge challenge, and while I understand that technology is around us (and that in my case I deliver all the learning experiences in my degree programs with technology) I am not convinced that I know yet what online learning is all about.

For example, Steve Wheeler re-iterated the often-stated importance of technology in schools in his recent post Talking Tech:

The personal, mobile device has started to transform learning in both formal and informal contexts. Learning in any place and at any time is going to gain traction in the coming years, and the emphasis will be on personal learning. Students can gain access to any amount of resources and connections that will help them to learn; they can use their mobile phones to connect with others; and also create and share their own content with potentially huge audiences outside and beyond the walls of the classroom. The value of this is immeasurable.

Trouble is, this does not convince me at all that we have made significant progress in understanding exactly what we are aiming for.  Tim Klapdor expressed this very clearly in reflecting on the current state of mobile learning:

The reality is that institutions (and the entire edtech industry) have under estimated the paradigm shift required to embrace mobile. It’s still treated as just a feature, or a nice to have rather than the future of computing.

Tim pins down the practicalities of mobile learning in higher education, and mirrors my experience (and huge challenges) of trying to shift a university environment past the bleeding obvious integration of mobile (there’s an BB App for that) (it’s clunky at best).

I prefer to treat mobile as the tool for daily, fast interaction within a  cohort of curious learners.  It would be arrogant of me to claim to know everything about the subject areas that I may be working in – and so I see learning as a peer education experience.  So mobile is vital for ease of connection, and engagement with the very essence of our critical connections – people, information, tools, communication, and more. How else can we genuinely power our minds?  How else do we move past the more traditional higher education experience of “I have the content, now you learn it please” model of engagement?

What we have is a an information interconnection between us which can be conceptualized as complexes of activities, tools and values, and for this the personal learning environments we create for students in the higher education experience must represent learning and inquiry that is responsive to these new information landscapes.

More easily said than done – as we are hamstrung by systems and practices that make it hard to liberate the potential of technology and mobile learning. Add to that the culture of openness that has had a significant impact on the educational sphere, as shown by the rise of open educational resources (OER) and open access (OA). While a complete transition to information openness has not yet been realised, educational practices that are entirely focused around traditional, closed and proprietary knowledge systems are in tension with these changing information landscapes.

So I find myself wrangling with BlackBoard, and horrified by the constraints that the Blackboard CSS places on the learning experience.  What a contrast to read GitHub for Academics: the open-source way to host, create and curate knowledge which was orinally published back in 2013 at Hybrid Pedagogy. I read it then, and read it again now, and (depressingly) realise that in the normal day-to-day work I am involved in, pure, focused and genuine innovation is well-nigh impossible. Unless of course you are head of an innovation unit, or in some other fancy role, and have time and money to throw at the project of transforming higher education.

I wish!  Academics like me don’t get that kind of opportunity.

All I can do is work with my students in my newest degree program, and hope that in some small way we can make critical connections, power our minds together, and move learning forward to the future!

Live long and prosper.

Image: Spock creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by doctorlizardo

Innovating Pedagogy Report

Once again the Open University has provided another Innovating Pedagogy report – the third report in it’s series. This series of reports explores new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world, to guide teacher and policy makers in productive innovation.

Download the 2014 Innovating Pedagogy Report

Produced by the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University, the report identifies ten educational terms, theories and practices that have the potential to provoke major shifts in educational practice in the near future.

Featured in 2014’s annual report:

  1. Massive open social learning
  2. Learning design informed by analytics
  3. Flipped classrooms
  4. Bring your own devices
  5. Learning to learn
  6. Dynamic assessment
  7. Event-based learning
  8. Learning through storytelling
  9. Threshold concepts
  10. Bricolage

While MOOCs and other theories covered in this year’s report are not necessarily new, the report aimed to examine how they can gather momentum and have a greater influence on education.

I find the greatest value of this report is to see the changes taking place – a litmus test – of what is considered relevant/important and/or of note. I would also juxtapose the findings against the series of NMC Horizon Reports, which cover a range of school, tertiary, and library sectors.

Look out for other annual reports in your country, sector, or region too!

Image: creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by Intersection Consulting: http://flickr.com/photos/intersectionconsulting/7537238368