INF537 Critical Reflection

It has taken three years to complete my masters. For the first 18 months, I worked full-time in one school. For the next 18 months, I went into six different schools, primary and secondary, state and private, all boys, all girls, and co-educational. The shortest was one day relief teaching and the longest was a six week library contract. While working through the INF537 materials, I have often considered these schools to connect the academic theory with the practical reality.

When learning analytics was introduced (Welsh, 2016), I was in a school starting to mine this field. It should have been on my mind because information professionals are encouraged to collect data to update and review our practices. Though it had slipped off my radar it was highlighted again by the convergence of study and work. The academic mentoring team reached out to classroom teachers, encouraging them to consider the depth of statistics from the LMS, but I observed teachers grapple with data retrieval, and wrote about it on my blog. Busy teachers must consider the pros and cons. Will investing time analysing numbers and percentages benefit their students and improve their classroom practices? Experts say yes (Selwyn, 2014), and clearly analytics is effective in higher learning institutions (Siemens & Long, 2011), but there is concern at the secondary and primary school levels, and we are just starting to ponder the potential for learning. Exciting times!

I also wrote about the participatory web in that blog post. During my three years, almost every course alluded to it, informing my practice. The benefits of joining virtual communities is well documented (Burkhardt, 2009,  Rheingold, 2012, Seimens & Long, 2011), and I have demonstrated better learning when I collaborate and share with my academic peers. In many schools where I worked, the LMS is finally being normalised, and with more reliable hardware and wider bandwidth, there is more opportunity to create safe, private virtual spaces. It is still difficult to get quality student participation. While they share much in personal networks, they treat educational ones with scepticism, or as a place to play (meaning they post ridiculous, irrelevant spam). Teachers aren’t particularly good at moderating these sites yet, tending to either give up too easily, or let the nuisances have too much leeway. I am sure there are teachers who have successfully nurtured productive online discussions, and I am hopeful this area will grow. Exciting times!

But for all that is exciting for schools in the future, it seems the role of teacher librarian is less secure. We are marginalised, or returned to classrooms. In one secondary school, my role primarily was to assist students with their printing requirements. In another school, I was expected to teach Maths to a Year 1 class, even though it was outside my comfort zone and my teaching expertise. In almost every school, I was required to supervise students in study classes. These students didn’t have expectations of me, but neither did they respect or welcome my attempts to assist them. Very few teachers return to study apart from those moving into leadership positions. Yet teacher librarians go back once, sometimes even twice, and become leaders in academic research, educational theory, and immerse themselves in digital environments. Even in situations where I used my knowledge to advise or support, I was often humoured rather than taken seriously. Although my attempts to initiate action based on my academic learning in the different schools has been a challenging, even sometimes demoralising experience, this masters degree has been worthwhile.

References

Burkhardt, A. (2009). Four reasons libraries should be on social media. Information Tyrannosaur. Retrieved from http://andyburkhardt.com/2009/08/25/four-reasons-libraries-should-be-on-social-media/

Rheingold, H. (2012). Toward peeragogy. DML Central, 23 [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://dmlcentral.net/blog/howard-rheingold/toward-peeragogy

Siemens, G., & Long, P. (2011). Penetrating the fog: Analytics in learning and education. EDUCAUSE Review, 46(5), 30.

Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65–73.doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2009.00338.x

Welsh, S. (Producer). (2016, 24 July 2016). Learning Analytics: A Traveller’s Guide. [online colloquium]

 

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