Assessment item 8 Part B – Critical Reflection

It’s not you, it’s me

Early in March I used the word ‘trepidation’. I still feel the same. I am not giving myself the time I need to truly engage with the course material. I need to allocate large chunks of time to go through the material, and this is difficult on a screen that is a distraction given it is linked to the world. Perhaps my husband’s suggestion to replace my lumbering slow PC tower with a laptop isn’t the worst idea in the world. I could then move away from my desk, turn off the wi fi and not to have print off a tree. (Who am I kidding? I have my iPad for that!) I find that I cannot concentrate if I stay at my desk for endless hours. I still take notes by hand though, and believe the physical act of putting pen to paper allows to me to retain and comprehend much of my reading.

The following blog posts allowed me to synthesise my thinking from the module readings, and it’s interesting to see the common thread that runs through my writing: the gap between reality and academia. I still haven’t settled totally into this higher learning mindset, and I realise that it’s because this course wants us to rethink education in the digital age in a positive way, and I find it hard to reconcile what I see every day in my school, my classroom, my library. Returning to complete my masters gives me hope, to see possibilities, to know that I can make a difference to my students in a small way. I note my posts get more optimistic, using words like ‘will’ instead of ‘should’, which demonstrates my (sub)conscious attempts to move forward with my learning.

I wasn’t sure of the term, Personal Learning Network when I started this course. I thought it meant following some highly regarded digital innovators on twitter and retweeting their tweets to my followers. I understand now that is only one element. A PLN has to involve many more online communities than just twitter and it must, absolutely must, involve me participating and contributing regularly and with careful intent. I learnt this from Module 2.5 ‘Thinking in Networks‘, from reading what was written on the forums, and following the INF530 hashtag on twitter. Clearly I am not as big a contributor as I could be (evidenced by this post). And I am conscious that my other sources of information might inform this lack of interaction. I find I get most of my professional knowledge by subscribing to newsletters from communities such as Scoop.it and Wikispaces, companies like Pearson and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and publishers like Random House and Allen & Unwin. This weekly drop to my inbox gives me a quick source of updated material, but it is, in effect, a one-sided conversation. (Replying in order to win a book doesn’t count, does it?) Twitter is blocked on the school network, so I mine other areas for relevant and interesting content. This system works for me although I do have other ways to contribute to a professional network – the OzTL and Qld TL listserves are extremely active communities and where I can support other TLs.

Apart from Module 2.5, my other two favourites are 1.6 Digital Literacies and 3.1 Open, Social, Participatory media (interestingly, ones that captured others’ attention as well). The readings coalesced my scattered ponderings, and gave meaning to so many of my unstructured philosophies of pedagogy (Downes, 2012). It gave labels to types of learning that I observed or wanted to imagine possible (Siemens, 2008). Beginning this study has dovetailed nicely for me with the introduction of a subject at our school called Research & Tech (R & T) that I teach with the eLearning coordinator. Theoretically she takes the so-called ‘tech’ lessons and I take the research. In actual fact, it hasn’t always worked out like that and it’s been great to be able to apply aspects of this unit to my teaching. I was able to discuss the changing attitudes to Wikipedia with Year 8s, and just last week, the Year 9 classes created their own wiki to curate a range of sources (which they will annotate) to assist them to prepare for their History exam on World War I. Finally, I start to believe in the power of the digital age (#tookmelongenough).

I have always enjoyed writing and felt it was a strength I could bring to an academic life. I love to read other people’s writing especially when it is quirky and clever, so that’s what I aim for in mine. I think I write with passion, but apparently it’s persuasion. I need to learn to write in different ways for different audiences. My hope is that once I complete this subject, I can rethink my style for the next one.

References:

Collaborative Society. (Producer). (2014, 15 May 2014). Howard Rheingold: Network Awareness. Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/86182564.

Downes, S. (2012). Essays on meaning and learning networks. National Research Council Canada.

Siemens, G. (2008). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. ITFORUM for discussion.

 

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