Self-Curatorship as a Reflexive Learning Tool

This week I have been on a mission; making connections between two of the schools that I will be running my teaching and learning sessions in. It is intriguing to note that what works in conjunction with technology is the ethnographic approach to building relationships. The virtual world lends itself to a brilliant platform to collaborate and connect educators to engage and enhance the learning experiences for our students. If you add an altruist dimension to the sharing of content and technology with an underlying  robust foundation of pedagogy, then I believe the links forged are stronger.

Now that the team has grown from two educators to three, we are asking ourselves the pertinent question of what is the point of all of this learning; is the context and the content reaching our audience, the students of two culturally diverse classrooms (Mishra & Koehler, 2009). Since food, culture and language itself form a vibrant and integral part of language, I visited the Jellie Park Cultural festival, co-hosted by the refugee council and treated myself to a preview of the sounds and sights of the multicultural classroom I will be entering soon.

Dumplings

Afghani Dumplings

 If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much more powerful is the multimodal experience, query Mishra and Koehler (2009) in their article ‘If you give a Kid a video camera…’. They mention that it is an even more powerful tool as teachers themselves make one minute videos of vocabulary resources to be use on iPods. Linking into my own journey of four sessions, with the 2 diverse classrooms, we will model the use of making videos from a pedagogical premise; situating it in the context of the mock restaurant setting. Designing menus using the vocabulary (on (Quizlet), advertisements (Animoto), Apps for recipes and a meal as a final presentation will be the progression of learning hosted on Wikispaces/Edmodo (VoiceThread Planning Journey), as the reflexive journey becomes embedded in each step.

John Potter (2011), writing about digital self-curatorship, says that we are provided with a tremendous opportunity to use participatory multiliteracies to redesign creative learning environments. Looking at ways of mapping the informal networks onto educational settings, he turns to diverse networked theories of learning; social capital and identity theory adding to the framework. As I explore digital media through the lens of self-curatorship, a pedagogically reflexive exercise both for my research and the mini project, I focus on both the ‘anchored and transient’ self as presented by the learner (Potter, 2011).

References:

Potter, J. (2010). Embodied Memory and Curatorship in Children’s Digital Video Production. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 9(1), 22-35.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Too Cool for School? No Way!.Learning & Leading With Technology, 36(7), 14-18.

Writing Out Loud; “You mean someone is reading this?”

I think we have progressed well from chaining books to desks; If you think back to the debate over the printing press you would have been shocked to hear how resistant people were to the printed word. However, what it did do was revolutionize the way people thought about writing and the printed word. My own background is tied up with the printing press in India, when it was first introduced by William Carey and I have always enjoyed delving back into the family history to inquire more and more till I reached a dead end. Then as I was leaving to go to Jordan, I wanted to leave my car with someone and came across a young doctor, who needed one. As conversations do, they meandered though familiar topics and I discovered that he was William Carey’s grandson. To say I was excited would be an understatement! I plied him with questions and finally got to unravel the history of his family and where they are today. Authentic and real situations compel us to explore further. I discovered my own family artifacts, the museum that held information about Carey and personal stories of his triumphs and failures as told by people that were close to him and how they carry his legacy.

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The Learning Journey with Signposts

To be steeped in the story and search the depths, so I could write and share it was based on the authenticity of what I was researching; it was close to my heart and I understood what Max, in Kadjer’s(2007) article was trying to articulate when he called his blogging ‘2 am writing’. What an amazing insight into the world of someone who writes to communicate and get ideas on the go and genuinely seeks to learn the ‘parts that he doesn’t know’ as yet. Writing as you can see is personal; it brings with it images, ideas, thoughts opinions and colours that weave through to make it rich and give it depth. The multi-modal media assist words to be painted into being; it teases out ideas that are conceptual and in their infancy and gives them a persona, so to speak. I have often used Quentin Blake’s video as he illustrates characters for Roald Dahl‘s books from TES Connect to hook in thinking about characters and used it as a scaffolding tool. However, very quickly I realised that the students and I wanted more interaction and I discovered that iMovie and digital storytelling tools brought out a different kind of story. Freed up to narrate and collaborate, I could count on a richer product and ownership which bore the stamp of the authors.

When I moved to teaching middle and High school students in an international school in Jordan, I could not keep up with providing the tools and we had very few resources so sharing devices became the way to go. The projects were authentic; setting up businesses to raise money for a centre that had been flooded in by the snow. We rolled up our sleeves and had just as much fun cleaning as planning the businesses from scratch. Business cards, folders, websites, bake sales, shopping trips to buy supplies; all became a part of a literacy learning, culture immersing journey. I am sharing one of the presentation movies (with stop gap photography) made with a regular camera by one of the teams. They were Grade 8 Students and this was the final presentation, after a semester worth of work.

As peers step into the online learning arena students, I feel, need a bit of space to interact, flex their thinking and make meaning of new ideas being thrown around. This might look messy in the beginning, which I discovered the hard way, but given time and with a bit of perseverance, the ‘interaction allows students to create knowledge and negotiate meaning, thus making the interaction both more engaging and more rewarding’ (Bibeau 2001). If you step back and watch this unfold, you will notice that out come the phones and tablets; I call this the ‘getting comfortable stage’. Then they proceed to the main task at hand and hone into the task if there are pointers or signposts along the way of what it should look like and directions for the next step. I call this the ‘moving around stage’– which can be accomplished very easily with some QR codes stuck around the room. The learning is accelerated with ideas being thrown around, photographed, texts being sent on Facebook and lots of conversation about how they want it to be different and ‘innovation’ usually features somewhere along the line. Entwined right through is ‘the helping to track stage'(notice I say helping): I have found Pam Hook’s talk on ‘anyone can learn to learn’ extremely powerful and usually demonstrate this using a skateboard (though I am no orator or a skateboarder) and open up the dialogue for taking skills to the next level; learning and practicing what you don’t know. And yes, there have been a few falls!! This of course lends itself extremely well to humour and setting up ePortfolios (Pathbrite), so they can see the step by step progression. Of course now having discovered Blendspace as a repository and a fantastically collaborative tool, I am sure it will find its way into my collaborative classroom.

Oblinger (2003) says that expanding the learning outside the geographical and temporal boundaries may bring on a positive response from the learners. I know we personally don’t limit our learning to time-and-space bound activities and perhaps providing students the authentic ability to interact with real world issues that are ubiquitous might be successful in contextualising their learning (Ellison, 2008). As argued Mishra and Koehler (2006) and quoted by Ellison (2008), blogging will not automatically increase students’ learning and must be augmented by content and pedagogy. I personally blog to inform and share but the richness is always in the responses and the collaborative negotiation of thought and ideas that I share with my colleagues.

 

Reference:

Ellison, N.B. (2008). Blogging in the Classroom: A Preliminary Exploration of Student Attitudes and Impact on Comprehension. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 17(1), p. 99-122

Kajder, S. B. (2007). Unleashing potential with emerging technologies. In K. Beers, R. E. Probst & L. Rief (Eds.), Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice (pp. 213-229). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.