I have neglected my Blog for a while, but I am looking forward over the coming months to sharing with you the fruits that my abscence has spawned.
Several of my previous posts have hinted at the reasons for my absence and on Monday next our new school building will open its doors for the first time to students. Our Reception children and Y6 Students returning to school as part of a phased induction, with the remaining Primary age children starting back on Tuesday.
The new campus will be one of handful of "through schools" in the UK. and has been developed in part within the Building Schools for the Future Programme. The campus will eventually bring together a number of previously existing educational establishments on one campus site. These include a Primary, Secondary and Special school, and extending the range of learning opportunities provided will also include post 16 and vocational education opportunities through onsite partnerships with FE and one of the city's universities. We hope that bringing these diverse areas of expertise together in one place will create new and exciting learning opportunities not only for the community we serve but in seeing everyone on site as a learner enveloping an ethos that promotes and models learning as a life long process.
The last few months have been incredibly exciting the anticipation and build up. Planning and organising the logistics of rationalising and transferring our 90 odd client network from our old building to its new home, reconfiguring our existing website to support colleague access to tools. But I have to take my hat off to our commercial partners who have worked tirelessly and helped in the realisation of these plans as we set out to lay the foundations on which to build our vision.
Leaving work today I found myself feeling an enormous sense of pride in what has been achieved to date, though I am sure our teething problems are far from over. I wanted to share some of my favourite moments from this week captured in the three photographs scattered throughout the remainder of this post and captured during the coffee break from our VLE session on Thursday. The liberation of Wireless connectivity. Teachers working together in an online classroom, one that exists not in a suite but one of our learning bases, more than that a virtual classroom that exisits somewhere, we are not sure where, but beginning to realise that this may not really be an issue. What is important is the anywhere anytime access to learning tools that this in time will afford. The photos represent for me the value of risk. Starting with colleagues to develop images of 21st century learners, exposing, engaging and presenting contextually possibilities as they explore tools that might make this possible.
All that is mobile or ICT supported is not neccesarily glorious and in this session we experienced the limitations as well as the expansive possibilities of wireless networking, access and mobility at first hand. Yes... we did suffer AP overload and connection drop out, but as part and parcel of the pedagogical experience of engaging with these tools in a classroom. In this situation we were able to experience at first hand, observe the reactions of our peers to this and explore the limitations of the access we had. We had space to think about how this may effect our students and its classroom implications while beginning to equip ourselves with a shared experience of when this happened and how it was dealt with, something we can build on as a "roll back" or reflection point later when considering how these tools might affect our working practices, and the potential pitfalls when we have to work in this way ourselves...
These images are particularly poignant to me because they depict colleagues, engaged in similar types of activities and situations that emerged in my recent MSc research project. In this research process I began to explore and share how it is not just what goes on onscreen that is important as we learn with ICT, but what happens in the spaces we as designers for learning create around the devices. ICTs just like any other classroom tool mediate learning, they can bring people together physically as well as virtually when the situations are intentionally and purposefully designed to do so. They can act as a person plus or scaffold, perhaps even a starting point, but there is still nothing like human interaction as a vehicle to drive forward the process.
In these spaces learning is manifest multimodally, gesture, action and discussion effect what we do as learners. They act to scaffold and suport and extend our onscreen activity as we seek to make sense of and resolve what is occuring dynamically before us. The processes that occur beyond the interface and in the spaces around the devices are as important in evaluating and considering the learning that takes place when we use ICTs, as the outcomes we produce through our interactions with the technologies.
This is one of the key factors I feel increasingly we need to engage with and understand as educators, if the paradigm shift we expect will ever take place. Even in virtual learning networks what we learn is socially determined. Technology does not determine what we achieve indeed it often limits it, so we as social beasts change it, we find work arounds or seek out someone who can to enable the tools we want to use to meet our needs in meeting our intended purpose, the transaction and sharing of meaning between ourselves and others. Understanding how this happens and realising why, requires us to change views and to see ourselves as learners about learning.
Having spent my Christmas holiday celebrating the achievement of my MSc award I am now considering an application to engage with the PHd process. Although interested in the role of ICTs in the classroom, I am have become increasingly interested in how these as tools effect the ecology of learning situations and what learning looks like or how it manifests itself as action in practical and process based learning situations such as those mediated by ICT. How as teachers do we evidence these often transient or momentary learning behaviours? What do they look like in action? Without use of a ticklist how do we evidence and what do we look for beyond student outcomes to "measure" and "share" student achievement within the context of Blended learning situations? This is a very broad question, but is where I feel the next stage of my learning journey needs to begin, not with assessment in its traditional sense, but in engaging with and exploring frameworks that see learning outcomes as multimodal, where all modes of representation have an equal weighting and where learning itself is seen as potential and contingent rather than solely outcome driven within designs for ICT mediated learning,
Happy New Year to you all, and an enormous thank you to all who have followed the learning journeys of myself and students to date.