My intervention in action!

It feels like ages ago that I submitted my DBR proposal. In the meantime, I didn’t allow the grass to grow under my feet, as I jumped in and implemented my plan straight away! I started a blogging process with my five grade eleven IB Visual Arts students, and the response has been quite amazing.

Have a look at my summary of about 3 weeks of blogging activities from the IB Visual Arts classroom. This blog post also includes links to the students’ individual blogs. I am kind of following David‘s example, adapting it to the appropriate high school grade level.

Please feel free to tell me what you think… or to offer any suggestions.

Cheers,

Mari

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My DBR proposal

How can NGL be employed to transform assessment practices in the IB Visual Arts classroom?

The aim of this design-based research (DBR) proposal is to present a theory-informed plan for using NGL to transform my teaching practice. The structure of this proposal is based on the first two phases of a DBR project as described by Herrington et al (2007).

 

PHASE 1: Analysis of practical problems by researchers and practitioners in collaboration

1.1 Statement of problem and context

Background

Digital technologies have changed the way people relate to each other and how information is created and shared (Lepi, 2014; Rosen, 2014; Siemens, 2005, 2008, 2011). Learners are now capable of forming global learning networks, which enable them to extend their learning environment beyond the traditional classroom walls (Siemens, 2008, 2011). These developments influence the power structures in education, where learners are becoming more in control of their own learning. This has required educators to rethink what they do for their students and what students can do for themselves (Anderson, 2008; Downes, 2013; Siemens 2008, 2011).

 

My educational context

As an International Baccalaureate Visual Arts (IBVA) teacher for students in grade 11 and 12 at an international school in India, my teaching practice has naturally been affected by the developments described above. A one-to-one iPad program was implemented at my school 2 years ago, which means that all students and teachers have access to an iPad or laptop for participation in NGL activities. The one-to-one program has encouraged teaching and learning approaches associated with a blended learning (BL) model and the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

 

Statement of problem

Despite all the transformations in education mentioned above, there still seems to be a significant divide between the developments toward a more student-directed and autonomous learning experience for high school students and the realities posed by a standardized international diploma program such as the International Baccalaureate (IB). “While networks have altered much of society, teaching, and learning, systemic change has been minimal” (Siemens, 2008, p.2).

At a first glance, the IB organisation’s (IBO) mission statement, aims and strategies may seem in line with new developments toward student-centered pedagogies. However, it is still, to a large extend, embedded in traditional approaches to teaching and learning, with “rigorous assessment” (IBO, 2014b, para. 6) strategies that rely heavily on traditional pen and paper summative examinations. Doherty et al. (2012, p. 10) claim that the IB’s highly prescriptive courses of study in traditional disciplines, and high stakes external examinations resonate with neo-conservative approaches to curriculum. Such high-stakes assessment strategies tend to stimulate approaches of “teaching for the test” (Morrison & Tang fun Hei, 2002; Wolf & Pistone, 1991) rather than “for learning” (Stiggins, 2002).

In the arts disciplines, this is made even more difficult by the perceived (and to some extent, actual) subjective nature of judgments of quality. There is a long history of a problematic relationship between visual art education and assessment. Victor Lowenfeld’s foundational book in the art education discipline “Creative and Mental Growth” stated that “grading in art has no function” and that “the art room should be a sanctuary against the school system…without the imposition of an arbitrary grading system” (quoted in Gruber, 2002, p. 14). Furthermore, “for many art teachers the artistic process remains associated with emotions, unpredictability, and individual quality whereas assessment and evaluation stand for rationality, predictability and quantification…[S]tandardized examination are criticized because of their restrictive impact on art instruction” (Haanstra & Schönau, p. 439).

For the past seven years, IB Visual Art students had to complete investigation pages in a visual journal (pen on paper). Scanned copies of these pages were mailed to the IBO to be assessed by an external examiner. The students’ studio artworks were examined by external Visual Arts examiners who visited the schools. In 2013, this process was replaced by an electronic submission of the scanned investigation pages in PDF-format and the photographed studio artworks in a range of digital formats. From 2016, students will submit a comparative study, process pages and studio artworks as digital files, created in layout and presentation software such as Prezi, Apple’s Keynote and Microsoft’s PowerPoint. This definitely is an improvement from the previous requirements, moving toward a slightly more dynamic way of displaying students’ learning paths. There is also good merit in the IBO’s argument that the external examiner is not just judging a final product, but that the series of process pages provides a full picture of the student’s process and development of ideas over two years.

However, it still leads to a relatively static product (PDF file), which cannot include any dynamic media such as animations or videos. Also, it ends up being one document that is only viewed by the external examiner and the teacher and the only feedback received by the student after the final examination is a number on a scale from one to seven. By the time students receive this grade, they don’t have another opportunity to make improvements, so they will most likely not learn much from their final assessment. This seems out of line with the practice of arts education, where assessment is ongoing, holistic in nature, integrated into instruction, completed in multiple forms, evaluates a wide variety of factors and products, and is used as a learning tool (Wolf & Pistone, 1991).

 

1.2 Consultation with researchers and practitioners

 

1.3 Research questions

From the problems stated in the section above, the following questions arise:

  • How could alternative ways of assessment be developed that could do better justice to learning in the IBVA domain?
  • What is the role of the IBVA teacher in ensuring student growth and autonomy through authentic formative assessment activities within a blended learning model?
  • How can IBVA teachers influence the way the IBVA assessment system may change in the future by starting the implementation of an online student blog system in their own classes?
  • How could such blogs serve as a dynamic formative assessment tool, as well as a way to stimulate collaboration and dialogue between students, teachers and parents – within and outside of the school setting?
  • How would IBVA students benefit from presenting their creative pathways for formative assessment purposes in the form of an online blog, as opposed to static formats?
  • How would art teachers benefit from following their students’ progress through a blog? Could it give them better insight into their students’ intellectual pathways?
  • Upon completion of this intervention, do teachers and students report any transformative change in their teaching and learning experiences respectively?

 

1.4 Literature review

Who/what is the International Baccalaureate?

“The International Baccalaureate® (IB) is a non-profit educational foundation, motivated by its mission, focused on the student. Our four programmes for students aged 3 to 19 help develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world” (IBO, 2014a, para. 1).

“The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right” (IBO, 2014b, para. 5).

At the high school level, the pressures of graduation requirements and university entry have lead parents, students, and administrators to hold teachers responsible for sustaining a fair, reliable, and justifiable grading system. Over 40 years, the IB has created a recognized global brand and a strong reputation for academic consistency that leads to its popularity and consumption. It is marketed as a credential that supersedes the local certificate and is accepted by prestigious universities across the globe (Cambridge, 2002; Doherty, 2009; Doherty et al, 2012, p. 5). This often translates into an over-reliance on rampant testing systems, which has been widely documented to “exert a negative effect on curricula, student motivation, self-esteem, creativity, higher order thinking and flexibility” (Morrison & Tang Fun Hei, 2002, p. 289).

 

Blended learning model

An investigation into the available literature on the definition of BL, reveals a wide variety of responses, which refer to different things “being blended.” For example, it could mean the blending of delivery media, the blending of instructional methods or the blending of online and face-to-face instruction (Driscoll, 2002; Graham, 2006; Singh, 2003). For the purpose of this study, I will focus on the third of the 3 themes offered above, which describes BL as “the combination of instruction from two historically separate models of teaching and learning: traditional face-to-face learning systems and distributed learning systems” (Graham, 2006, p. 3). This definition also emphasizes the vital role of computer-based technologies in BL (Driscoll, 2002; Graham, 2006).

 

Blogging as an authentic assessment tool

There is a wide range of literature (Hernandez-Ramos, 2004; Huffaker & Calvert, 2005; Jonassen, Carr & Hsiu-Ping,1998; Leslie & Murphy, 2008; Nardi, Schiano & Gumbrecht, 2004) discussing the relevance, advantages and disadvantages of using blogs with secondary students as an authentic assessment tool in a NGL environment. Most of these sources highlight the idea that blogging has the potential to be a catalyst for self-directed learning and authentic assessment through collaborative learning and self-reflection practices (Barrett, 2007; Downes, 2010).

The following advantages of using student blogs as authentic learning tools could be extracted from the literature review:

  • Student work can easily be shared with peers, teachers, parents and others, and feedback could be provided through a single electronic device (Wade et al., 2008)
  • Blogs provide a platform for reflective processes (Barrett, 2007; Hernandez-Ramos, 2004), which is a relevant practice for IBVA students. As part of the IBVA syllabus, they are required to use reflection to synthesize theory, practice, and the individual (themselves).
  • Blogs may help students to take ownership of their work and create their own learning communities by using the social networking model (Barrett, 2007; Downes, 2010). This may further encourage the development of specific skills and mindsets that will enable students to direct their paths in a networked society (Siemens, 2008, p. 6).
  • By sharing their own experiences, problems and resources with other learners, students may become more engaged and develop a sense of confidence and belonging (Joinson, 2001; Jonassen, Carr & Hsiu-Ping, 1998; Tosh & Werdmuller, 2004).
  • Blogs can be powerful devices for learning when used for formative assessment purposes, rather than summative evaluation (Barrett and Carney, 2005). Black & Wiliam (2005) say that e-Portfolios are a type of formative assessment when they include active feedback that enables students to keep modifying and improving their work as they compile their portfolios. More than just being a formative assessment tool, this type of working e-portfolio promotes assessment for learning, as opposed to assessment of learning (Stiggins, 2002).
  • Blogging supports collaborative learning exercises, where less proficient students develop skills with the help from more competent peers. This relates to Social constructivist pedagogies that is focused on groups of learners, learning together with and from one another (Anderson & Dron, 2012; Vygotsky,1978).

Using blogging in the secondary classroom can also present its obstacles. Frequently discussed issues in the literature are those associated with students’ misconceptions regarding their online identities and digital footprints (Christensen, 2014; Common Sense Education, 2014a, 2014b). When students’ work is made public, they are also exposed to inappropriate material, sites or cyber bullying (Edudemic Staff, 2014; Fleming & Rickwood, 2004). Such exposure may have a negative impact on students’ futures (Common Sense Education, 2014a, 2014b; Krause, 2004) if they have not learned the skills and responsibilities associated with proper digital citizenship (Davis, 2014; Dunn, 2012; Lepi, 2013).

However, most sources argue that students, within a safe learning environment, could benefit from online exposure. Students, with the aid of a teacher and peers, could learn about online safety and etiquette (Christensen, 2014; Common Sense Education, 2014a, 2014b) and develop strategies and procedures to follow when finding unsuitable sites (Edudemic Staff, 2014; Rosen, 2012). These are relevant life skills to develop, considering that social networking and sharing platforms have become an integral part of youth learners’ lives (Dunn, 2012; Lepi, 2013; Ripp, 2011; Rosen, 2012).

In an NGL environment, the teacher takes on a different role, which is one of a facilitator who doesn’t need to have all the answers, but who needs to guide students to connect with various sources of knowledge and learn by themselves (Downes, 2013). Recent literature concerning the use of student blogs as a NGL tool also reveals that students need some initial assistance when applying Jarche’s (2014) seek/sense/share phases of networked learning. Open-ended tasks could lead to more productive outcomes when students are given some guidelines. Otherwise the task may become too vague and overwhelming, which may lead to learner disengagement (Brummelhuis & Kuiper, 2008; Krause, 2004; Siemens, 2011; Voogt, 2008).

Before getting engaged in NGL activities, it is recommended that students form an understanding of the web tools and where the information they access online comes from (Schreiner, 2014).  Furthermore, it is important for students to be made aware of their responsibilities with regard to academic honesty and the importance of crediting their sources of information (Creative Commons, n.d.; Schreiner, 2014).

 

Crowdsourcing and the visual arts

A large group of people participating in an online activity, are believed to form a collective intelligence that is more significant, in terms of problem-solving and creativity, than the intellect of any single member of the group. Surowiecki (2004) defines this concept as “the wisdom of crowds,” while Kroski (2005) labels it the “hive mind.”

“Crowdsourcing” is a term coined in 2005 by Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson, editors at Wired Magazine, following conversations about how businesses were using the Internet to outsource work to individuals (Howe, 2006). “Crowdsourcing is the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers” (crowdsourcing, 2014).

The introduction of digital sharing has enabled opportunities to challenge traditional ideas about authorship and creativity Literat, 2012). It has also given participants a liberating vehicle for self-expression (Literat, 2012). Furthermore, its possibilities of widespread participation and global interconnectedness have helped to democratize art production (Stoddart 2009).

“Online crowdsourced art is the practice of using the Internet as a participatory platform to directly engage the public in the creation of visual, musical, literary, or dramatic artwork, with the goal of showcasing the relationship between the collective imagination and the individual artistic sensibilities of its participants” (Literat, 2012, p. 2962).

Increasingly, visual artists, writers and musicians are using social media to enable participation in their art projects (Kessler, 2010; Stoddart, 2009). Examples comprise the crowdsourced visual arts project PostSecret (Warren, 2004-2014), the writing project We Feel Fine (Kamvar & Harris, 2005-2014), and the music project Virtual Choir (Whitacre, 2009-2014). More examples of such crowdsourcing art initiatives include The Million Masterpiece (Million Masterpiece, 2006-2014), SwarmSketch (Lennon, 2014) and 1000 Tears (Young & Kocis Edwards, 2014).

 

Crowdsourcing initiatives in secondary education

New media platforms with crowdsourcing capabilities can be used in educational practices to help students and teachers create ideas beyond their own perspectives (Rosenthal Tolisano, 2014). Part of the challenge is to learn which kind of images or prompt questions spark inspiration and which do not (Rosenthal Tolisano, 2014). An example of such a new platform is the sketchnoting network Mix by FiftyThree. Mix is a new edition to the iPad sketchnoting application Paper by FiftyThree. Once a sketch done in Paper is uploaded on Mix, it is visible to other members of the Mix network. Members can star the sketch, then open it on their Paper application and remix it, which then gets shared back to the platform.

A recent initiative to generate an authentic and global audience for student blogs is Quadblogging, explained in this short video by its creator, David Mitchell. After signing up, a class using a blogging system is allocated a Quad four schools/classes (from anywhere in the world). Each Quad has a coordinator who is responsible for making sure each of the quad members understand the schedule. Each week one school’s class blog is the focus blog with the other three blogs visiting and commenting during that week. This is repeated until each of the classes/schools has had their week in the spotlight. The cycle is then repeated. However, this time, the students know what to expect and they will most likely work harder in order to get content on their blog (Mitchell, 2012).

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PHASE 2: Development of solutions informed by existing design principles and technological innovations

2.1 Development of draft principles to guide the design of the intervention

The IB’s assessment strategies seem to be entrenched in the program’s responsibilities to maintain its reputation for academic rigour and to enable entrance into prestigious universities. A strength of the IBVA assessment system is its flexibility, which allows IBVA teachers to implement individual assessment strategies that may increase the relevance of assessment for students. From this observation, one could extract the draft principle that IBVA teachers need to find innovative ways of improving their assessment strategies within the constraints of the program’s external examination requirements.

Further observations from the review of the literature around authentic assessment, NGL and the blended learning model, revealed that there would appear to be some significant benefits to exploring the use of e-portfolios (in the form of student blogs) as an authentic assessment tool in IBVA.

Another design principle that was extracted from deeper investigation into the potential of crowdsourcing and digital sharing in visual art, is that it would benefit IBVA students if their assessment could involve tasks that are aligned with their futures. For example, tasks that would prepare them to become active contributors and collaborators in an increasingly complex twenty first century world.

 

2.2 Description of proposed intervention

The focus of the proposed intervention will be on improving assessment strategies in the IBVA classroom, while keeping in mind the requirements of the IBVA program’s external examination. The aim of this intervention therefore is to work within the IBO guidelines to create a more authentic and meaningful learning experience for IBVA students.

One could argue that if students were going to put in all the effort of displaying their creative and investigation processes through images and text in digital format for their final external assessment, it may be more productive for them to do it through a dynamic platform such as an online blog. These blogs could serve as a dynamic formative assessment tool, as well as a way to stimulate collaboration and dialogue between students, teachers and parents – within and outside of the school setting. This could be a great opportunity for students to start from an early age to communicate and get feedback on their ideas beyond the classroom walls and it could also assist art teachers in their own internal assessment tasks.

Instead of focusing so much on the final submissions for the summative assessment, more focus will be placed on getting students engaged in learning and motivated to communicate their ideas beyond the IBVA course and classroom. When students start to understand the relevance of reflective practice and collaboration with a community of learners, they might be less concerned about the grade and more motivated to learn for the sake of learning, and not for the sake of earning high grades to enter university.

 

2.3 A plan for implementation

The plan is to start small by implementing an e-portfolio system with a group of five IBVA students who will each create an individual blog at the beginning of their 2-year IBVA course. They will use the blog as a platform to write reflections that could evidence their creative process while working on their studio and investigation projects. This documentation of their learning should gradually transform into the digital layouts that are required for their final submission of process pages and investigation work. Throughout the whole process the teacher would be modeling the process of blogging to students by also creating a blog, which would be used specifically as a means of communication with the IBVA class. The teacher and students will be interacting by following one another’s blogs and responding to posts.

 

Getting set-up and safety procedures

The first stage of the implementation would involve the administrative procedures associated with choosing an appropriate blog platform and setting up student blog accounts. These procedures would include an evaluation process to determine which blogging software would be most advantageous to use with students in terms of its functionality and student protection capabilities. Students would also need to be made aware of their online identity, digital footprints and the consequences of over-sharing online. At the beginning, students will be asked to make their blogs private. These settings could be changed at a later stage provided that students have developed the necessary skills to participate appropriately and responsibly in online conversations. They also need to feel comfortable with sharing their work to a wider audience. The IBVA teacher may need to evaluate the situation with the specific students to determine when or whether students are ready to share more publicly. The teacher would also need to set up an agreement (signed by students, parents and the school) that stipulates appropriate and safe use of the blogging tools.

 

Assessment tasks through the blog

The second stage would be for the teacher to create assessment tasks through the blog. A task could be broken up in stages that include formative and summative assessments. Formative assessment stages could include peer-assessments as well as comments and recommendations from teachers and classmates. Summative assessment stages could include a more finished product at the end of a task, where the feedback, received during the formative assessment stages has been applied. It is important that not all of the tasks get graded, as blogging is meant to be a way to practice communicating ideas to an audience and learning to respond to critique. If the whole idea of the intervention is to get students’ attention away from “the grade” blogging certainly should not feel like something they do for grades.

Examples of authentic assessment tasks would be to ask students to write a certain amount of blog posts on topics that are relevant to them and appropriate to IBVA. A next step could be to ask them to embed an image and/or video into a post. During a later stage, students could even be challenged to make use of a crowdsourcing platform (such as Mix by FiftyThree) to share their ideas and participate in creative collaboration with sources beyond their IBVA classroom.

 

Generating dialogue and digital sharing

The third stage of the implementation of blogs would be to encourage students to generate feedback and dialogue through their blogs. For example, students would be asked to create links to their peers’ blog posts and post comments on others’ blogs.  They may also be encouraged to seek feedback from sources outside of their own IBVA class and go through the process of learning how to form a personal learning network through reading what other learners and teachers have written about similar topics. Initiatives such as Quadblogging could also be trialed as a way to generate an authentic and global audience for student blogs.

 

Challenges and implications

The implementation of student blogs in this IBVA class will be an experiment and the teacher will need to learn how challenging it is for students to learn and use the technological tools associated with blogging. This would certainly have an impact on their level of enthusiasm and engagement in using their own blogs as a learning tool. It will also determine how much time the IBVA teacher needs to allow for setting up the blogs during the initial stages. Time constraints may pose problems due to the heavy workload associated with the IBVA program.

Another aspect of the implementation that may pose problems for students is the challenge of generating relevant feedback and dialogue through their blogs. The role of the teacher is especially important in this respect, to teach students how to comment and blog effectively and for motivating students to keep posting regardless of how many people respond. IBVA teachers could help students to get started by responding to their blogs and by creating links for them between different students’ posts. Students need to learn that even though these new digital technologies provide them with great new learning opportunities, it still takes patience and effort to learn and master the tools effectively.

 

Evaluating the success of the intervention

The success of the intervention could be evaluated by assessing the level of students’ participation and engagement within the blogging platform. As part of their assessment tasks, students could be asked to reflect on their experience of learning through the process of blogging, which could illuminate problem areas or suggest solutions. Similarly, teachers could model this process by reflecting on their own teaching and learning experiences during the process.

 

Closing thoughts

Apart from providing a means of cultural expression by a networked and global society, new media in visual arts are also used in support of democratic change (Jenkins, 2014). IBVA teachers may not be able to enforce any immediate systemic changes in terms of the institutional power structures that sustain the IB’s assessment policies. However, I do believe that the implementation of an online class blog system in a few IBVA classes, could be the start of utilizing the power and “wisdom of crowds” (Surowiecki, 2004) within the global network of IB schools. Such a network has the potential to provide IBVA teachers with the kind of agency that could eventually influence how the IBVA assessment system may change in the future.

 

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Literat, I. (2012). The work of art in the age of mediated participation: Crowdsourced art and collective creativity. International Journal of Communication, 6, 2962-2984. Retrieved from http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/1531/835

Million Masterpiece. (2006-2014). The one million masterpiece. Retrieved from http://www.millionmasterpiece.com/

Mitchell, D. (2012). QuadBlogging – linking learning to global audience [Video]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/w8J8Jrr_eq4

Morrison, K., & Tang Fun Hei, J. (2002). Testing to Destruction: A problem in a small stateAssessment in Education, 9(3), 289-317. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/8176526/Testing_to_Destruction_a_problem_in_a_small_state

Nardi, B., Schiano, D., & Gumbrecht, M. (2004). Blogging as social activity, or, would you let 900 million people read your diary? Paper presented at the 2004 Proceedings of Computer Supported Cooperative Work. Retrieved from http://home.comcast.net/~diane.schiano/CSCW04.Blog.pdf

Ripp, P. (2011, May 28). 14 Steps to meaningful student blogging [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://pernillesripp.com/2011/05/28/14-steps-to-meaningful-student-blogging/

Rosen, D. (2014, August 19). From Chalkboards To Chat Boards: What Will eLearning Look Like In 2075? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/chalkboards-chat-boards-will-elearning-look-like-2075/

Rosen, L. (2012). Dr. Larry Rosen interviewed [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEMH0LeeC2k

Rosenthal Tolisano, S. (2014, October 14). Crowdsourcing Answers to: What Is Your Reason For Not Sharing As An Educator? [Web log post]. Retrieved from
http://langwitches.org/blog/2014/10/14/crowdsourcing-answers-to-what-is-your-reason-for-not-sharing-as-an-educator/ | Langwitches Blog

Schreiner, D. (2014, October 25). Creative Commons from a student’s perspective [ Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/creative-commons-from-a-students-perspective/

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: Learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1). Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm

Siemens, G. (2008). New structures and spaces of learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism, and networked learning. Actas Do Encontro Sobre Web. Retrieved from http://elearnspace.org/Articles/systemic_impact.htm

Siemens, G. (2011, December, 14). Sensemaking artifacts [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.connectivism.ca/

Singh, H. (2003) Building Effective Blended Learning Programs, Educational Technology, 43, pp. 51-54.

Stiggins, R. J. (2002). Assessment crisis: The absence of assessment FOR learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(10), 758–765.

Stoddart, J. (2009). Arts participation online and social networks. Engage, 24, 44–53.

Surowiecki, J. (2004). The wisdom of crowds. New York: Anchor.

Tosh, D. & Werdmuller, B. (2004). Creation of a learning landscape: weblogging and social networking in the context of e-portfolios. Retrieved from http://benwerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/learning-landscape.pdf

Voogt, J. (2008). IT and Curriculum Processes: Dilemmas and Challenges. In J. Voogt & G. Knezek (Eds.), The International Handbook of Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, pp. 117-128. New York: Springer.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wade, A., Abrami, P. C., Meyer, E., & White, B. (2008). ePEARL supporting learning using electronic portfolios. In F. A. Costa and M. A. Laranjeiro (Eds.), e-Portfolio in education: Practices and reflections (chapter 8). Retrieved from http://digifolioseminar.org/pt/?download=ePortfolio_in_Education.pdf

Warren, F. (2005-2014). PostSecret. Retrieved from http://postsecret.com

Whitacre, E. (2009-2014). Eric whitacre’s virtual choir. Retrieved from http://ericwhitacre.com/the-virtual-choir

Wolf, D.P. & Pistone, N. (1991). Taking Full Measure: Rethinking Assessment Through the Arts. New York: College Board.

Young, R., & Kocis Edwards, H. (2014). 1000 tears: Crowdsourcing regrets for an art installation. Retrieved from http://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/64855/64856

Peer review of my proposal

Consultation with other practitioners and researchers helped me in developing a design-based research (DBR) plan for using NGL to transform my teaching practice. These practitioners and researchers included course participants in the USQ course Networked and Global Learning, colleagues at the international school in India where I teach IB Visual Arts, and one new connection made through the blogging platform.

 

Phase 1 – Statement of the problem

During the first phase of the research project, I formulated a draft statement of the problem which I posted on my blog with a request to NGL course participants to respond by adding their comments to this Google Doc. I also approached a few colleagues at my workplace. Over the course of about two weeks, I generated comments from three course participants and 2 colleagues. Even though I had limited comments to work with, the feedback was helpful and caused me to reconsider some aspects of my initial ideas and stated problem.

In terms of the problem I identified with the nature of assessment in International Baccalaureate Visual Arts (IBVA), I received varied feedback through the Google Doc. Most practitioners (for example the course participants Brendon Willocks and Annelise Mitchel, as well as Melanie Kells – Dean of Studies and Apple Distinguished Educator at an international school in India), who have had experience with the IB curriculum, agree that the IB’s assessment is problematic in the sense that it is not authentic and that its bureaucratic powers are stifling the creativity of teachers and inhibiting learning for students. Then there are practitioners (such as Rob King – High School Principal and former IB teacher at an international school in India) who felt that there is some merit in the IB Organization’s (IBO) argument that the external examiner is not just judging a final product, but that the series of process pages provides a full picture of the student’s process and development of ideas over 2 years. I explained in this blog post how I needed to consider whether I didn’t focus my problem too much around the IBO’s assessment strategies, instead of looking at the wider context within which it is embedded.

Melanie Kells, an Apple Distinguished Educator, who has initiated the 1:1 iPad program at my workplace, offered good suggestions in terms of possible challenges that one may encounter when starting a class blogging system. For example, she pointed out the important role of the teacher in educating students how to provide meaningful comments. She also mentioned the difficulties in getting parents involved and that they should also be educated about the new technologies that now forms part of their children’s educational world. I used some of her comments to inform my plan for implementation.

Another major influence in my consultation with other practitioners was the blog posts of Theresa Christensen, a secondary English teacher with specialization in technology at a 1:1 iPad school in the USA. I found her blog post Lucky 13 Steps to Meaningful Student Footprints very helpful in determining the steps of my own plan of intervention. Her class blog also provided useful information such as rules that students can follow when writing comments on their peers’ pages. Furthermore, her personal blog TLC – Technology Literacy Collaboration offered links to other relevant websites, such as Rosenthal Tolisano’s blog site and the concept of Quadblogging which I used in my literature review. I formed a valuable connection with Christensen through her blog, and our plan is to have our students connect through their blogs once my student blog system has been fully implemented. The most powerful thing about this connection is the fact that it could be an ongoing one, where I could keep sharing ideas and learn from a practitioner who has more experience in a specific area of ICT integration in the secondary classroom.

 

Phase 2 – Draft principles, Proposed intervention, and Plan for implementation

After reworking some of my initial ideas around the statement of the problem, I compiled my draft principles, proposed intervention and plan for implementation. As with my first draft, I asked the NGL course participants via a blog post to access my second draft Google Doc and leave their comments. By approaching three specific participants via email to ask for their feedback, I was able to generate prompt responses of good quality.

During this phase, all participants commented on the clarity of my stated problem, draft principles and plan for implementation. There were a few responses that had quite a significant impact on my project. Anne Trethewey gave me the idea of developing a statement (that I used in my description of the proposed intervention) into a powerful concluding statement. This led to the ‘Closing thoughts’ of my proposal. Trethewey has also reminded me about the importance of including an evaluation to measure the success of the intervention. I responded to this feedback by adding the following question to my list of research questions: “Upon completion of this intervention, do teachers and students report any transformative change in their teaching and learning experience respectively?” I also included a section ‘Evaluating the success of the intervention’ as part of my ‘Plan for implementation.’

Brendon Willocks suggested that I could use an evaluation based on specific criteria to determine which Blogging tool to use with the students. I have applied this idea by adding such an evaluation to the first stage of my implementation plan. Willocks has also given me the idea to make mention of the fact that the teacher would model the blogging process with the students.

Annelise Mitchel‘s recommendation to create an assessment task that was more aligned with my students’ futures, caused me to think of how one could generate an authentic and global audience for student blogs. As a result of her suggestion, I researched new crowdsourcing platforms appropriate to the Visual Arts, and came upon very interesting resources, listed in more detail under Crowdsourcing and the visual arts in the Literature review section of my proposal.

Initial reflections on my consultation with researchers and practitioners

Consultation with course participants in the USQ course Networked and Global Learning, colleagues at my school and other new connections made online, shed some light on a first draft of my DBR proposal and caused me to reconsider the essence of the stated problems.

In terms of the problem I identified with the nature of assessment in IB Visual Art, I received varied feedback in this google doc. Most practitioners (such as Brendon Willocks, Annelise Mitchel and a colleague Melanie Kells), who have had experience with the IB curriculum, agree that the IB’s assessment is problematic in the sense that it is not authentic and that its bureaucratic powers are stifling the creativity of teachers and inhibiting learning for students. Then there are practitioners (such as another colleague, Rob King) who felt that there is some merit in the IB Organization’s (IBO) argument that the external examiner is not just judging a final product, but that the series of process pages provides a full picture of the student’s process and development of ideas over 2 years.

I needed to consider whether I didn’t focus my problem too much around the IBO’s assessment strategies, instead of looking at the wider context within which it is embedded. I took another good look at the IBVA assessment strategies and had to admit that in principle, it does attempt to include ways of not only assessing a student’s end result, but to also look at the process and the building of ideas. This happens through the process pages that are submitted as a pdf file.

After further reflection and literature reviews, I came to the conclusion that the IBVA assessment does place a good amount of emphasis on a student’s learning process. I could even agree with many of their assessment strategies. However, it seemed like the real issue was the fact that one needed to put a number to the subjective and creative process of art-making. I decided to revise the statement of my problems in such a way that it doesn’t simply come across as a criticism on the IBO’s assessment system. I wanted to place more emphasis on the fact that my problem was more about the impact of having high-stakes summative assessments (in general) with a number to match a student’s “success.” I would then present the IBVA assessment strategies as reminiscent of such an approach and consider the consequences of such an approach on student’s learning experience.

Examples from my experience include situations where IBVA students have become so obsessed with their final grade/number that they tended to focus more on what to do to answer to the examiner’s preferences, than to focus on their own personal learning and creative process. They kept asking me for a kind of “formula” of how to achieve a certain grade in IBVA, instead of enjoying the process of discovery and learning in Art. At an IBVA workshop in Singapore, I’ve had conversations with many IBVA teachers from prestigious international schools all around Asia. Most of these teachers revealed that they did not adhere to the IBO’s instructions about the level and amount of guidance a teacher is allowed to offer to IB students. Most teachers claimed that they did much more for their students than they were supposed to. One teacher from a prestigious Hong Kong school said: “We could all be ethical about how much we are allowed to do for our students and let them get 3’s; or we could help them to get a 6 or 7!”

This goes to show that the importance of grades does not only change the way students are learning, but also the way teachers are teaching. The more pressure there is on students and teachers to produce good results, the more teachers tend to do for the students in order to ensure that they get those results. This has negative consequences, as students will not become independent thinkers and learners when someone else is doing the learning and work for them.

My aim is to figure out how to use NGL to draw their attention away from the grade and help them to get engaged in a deeper and more meaningful learning experience… The biggest challenge is to do all of this within a system where grades still DO matter and probably will matter until much bigger systemic changes fall into place.

Seeking feedback on phase 2 of DBR project

Since I’ve shared my first rough draft of my DBR proposal, I’ve gained valuable new insights from consultation with other practitioners. This has helped me to rework some of my initial ideas and to find some very useful new resources that led me to more ideas. I am now seeking feedback on the next stages of my project.

Please find below (between the dotted lines) a shortened version of the background information, educational context and problem that forms the focus of my project. Below that section, I will continue with describing the draft principles that were extracted from my literature review and my proposed intervention and plan for implementation. I would appreciate if you could leave your comments as a reply to this blog post or on this google doc:

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Background

Digital technologies have changed the way people relate to each other and how information is created and shared (Siemens, 2005, 2008, 2011). Learners are now capable of forming global learning networks, which enable them to extend their learning environment beyond the traditional classroom walls (Siemens, 2008, 2011). These developments influence the power structures in education, where learners are becoming more in control of their own learning. This has required educators to rethink what they do for their students and what students can do for themselves (Downes, 2013; Siemens 2008, 2011).

My educational context

As an International Baccalaureate Visual Arts (IBVA) teacher for students in grade 11 and 12 at an international school in India, my teaching practice has naturally been affected by the developments described above. A one-to-one iPad program was implemented at my school 2 years ago, which means that all students and teachers have access to an iPad or laptop for participation in NGL activities. The one-to-one program has encouraged teaching and learning approaches associated with a blended learning (BL) model and the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

Statement of problem

Despite all the educational developments mentioned above, there still seems to be a big divide between the developments toward a more student-directed and autonomous learning experience for high school students and the realities posed by a standardized international diploma program such as the IB.

At a first glance, the IB organisation’s (IBO) mission statement, aims and strategies may seem in line with new developments toward student-centered pedagogies. However, it is still, to a large extend, embedded in traditional approaches to teaching and learning, with “rigorous assessment” (IBO, 2014b, para. 4) strategies that rely heavily on traditional pen and paper summative examinations. Doherty et al. (2012, p. 10) claim that the IB’s highly prescriptive courses of study in traditional disciplines, and high stakes external examinations resonate with neo-conservative approaches to curriculum. Such high-stakes assessment strategies tend to stimulate approaches of “teaching for the test” (Morrison & Tang fun Hei, 2002; Wolf & Pistone, 1991) rather than “for learning” (Stiggins, 2002).

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PHASE 2:

2.1 Development of draft principles to guide the design of the intervention

The IB’s assessment strategies seem to be entrenched in the program’s responsibilities to maintain its reputation for academic rigour and to enable entrance into prestigious universities. From this observation, one could extract the draft principle that IBVA art teachers need to find innovative ways of improving their assessment strategies within the constraints of the program’s external examination requirements. There seems to be a degree of flexibility within the IBVA assessment system, allowing IBVA teachers to implement individual assessment strategies that may increase the relevance of assessment for students.

Further observations from the review of the literature around authentic assessment, NGL and the blended learning model, revealed that there would appear to be some significant benefits to exploring the use of e-portfolios (in the form of student blogs) as an authentic assessment tool in IBVA.

Another design principle that could be extracted from my consultation with other practitioners, is that it would benefit IBVA students if their assessment could involve tasks that are aligned with their futures.

2.2 Description of the proposed intervention

The focus of the proposed intervention will be on improving assessment strategies in the IBVA classroom, while keeping in mind the requirements of the IBVA program’s external examination. In other words, the idea is not to change the IBO’s assessment strategies, but to work within its restrictions. The aim is to deliver a more authentic learning experience to IBVA students, despite the pressures posed by the IBO’s rigorous summative assessments and focus on final grades.

One could argue that if students were going to put in all the effort of displaying their creative and investigation processes through images and text in digital format for their final external assessment, they might as well do it through a more dynamic platform such as an online blog. I believe that IBVA teachers may even influence the way the system may change in the future by starting the implementation of an online class blog system in their own classes. These blogs could serve as a dynamic formative assessment tool, as well as a way to stimulate collaboration and dialogue between students, teachers and parents – within and outside of the school setting. This could be a great opportunity for students to start from an early age to communicate and get feedback on their ideas beyond the classroom walls. This could also assist art teachers in their own internal assessment tasks.

Instead of focusing so much on the final submissions for the final summative assessment, I will be focusing more on getting students engaged in learning and motivated to communicate their ideas beyond the IB course and classroom. When students start to understand the relevance of reflective practice and collaboration with a community of learners, they might be less concerned about the grade and more motivated to learn for the sake of learning, and not for the sake of earning good grades to enter university.

2.3 A plan for implementation

I’m planning on starting small and implementing an e-portfolio system with a small group of five IBVA students who will each create a blogs at the beginning of their 2-year IBVA course. They will need to write a certain amount of reflections per week to show evidence of their creative process while working on their studio and investigation projects. The idea is that their blog pages could gradually transform into the kind of digital layouts that are required for their final submission of process pages and investigation work.

The second stage would be to create assessment tasks through the blog. A task could be broken up in stages that include formative and summative assessments. Formative assessment stages could include peer-assessments as well as comments and recommendations from teachers and classmates. Summative assessment stages could include a more finished product at the end of a task, where the feedback, received during the formative assessment stages has been applied. It is important that not all of the tasks get graded, as blogging is meant to be a way to practice communicating ideas to an audience and learning to respond to critique. If the whole idea of the intervention is to get students’ attention away from “the grade” blogging certainly shouldn’t feel like something they do for grades.

The third stage of the implementation of blogs would be to encourage students to generate feedback and dialogue through their blogs. For example, students would be asked to create links to their peers’ blog posts and post comments on others’ blogs. They may also be encouraged to seek feedback from sources outside of their own IBVA class and go through the process of learning how to form a personal learning network through reading what other learners and teachers have written about similar topics.

The implementation of student blogs in my IBVA class will be an experiment and I will need to learn how challenging it is for students to learn and use the technological tools associated with blogging. This would certainly have an impact on their level of enthusiasm and engagement in using their own blogs as a learning tool. It will also determine how much time the IBVA teacher needs to allow in the initial stages for getting set up. Time constraints may pose problems due to the heavy workload associated with the IBVA program.

Another aspect of the implementation that may pose problems for students is the challenge of generating relevant feedback and dialogue through their blogs. The role of the teacher is especially important in this respect, to teach students how to comment and blog effectively and for motivating students to keep posting regardless of how many people respond. IBVA teachers could help students to get started by responding to their blogs and by creating links for them between different students’ posts. Students need to learn that even though these new digital technologies provide us with great new learning opportunities, it still takes patience and effort to learn and master these tools effectively.

Furthermore, an important aspect of this intervention would be to make students aware of their digital footprints and the consequences of over-sharing online. Teachers would need to set up an agreement for the appropriate use of the blogging tools that needs to be signed by students and parents.

Could you please offer feedback on the specific questions below (as a reply to this post or by going to this google doc):

  1. Do you think that the draft principles are clearly aligned with the stated problem and focus of this proposal? If not, could you offer any suggestions for improvement?
  1. Do you think the proposed intervention is clearly aligned with the draft principles and relevant to the stated problem and focus of the proposal? If not, could you offer any suggestions for improvement?
  1. Any additional ideas, comments or suggestions?

Thank you so much in advance for your help! I promise to return the favour.

Mari

Feedback needed on some initial ideas for a DBR project

I am exploring the topic of design-based research (DBR) as part of the course EDU8117 Networked and Global Learning and would appreciate feedback on my initial ideas from other practitioners in the educational field. DBR is a particular approach to research that seeks to address practical problems by using theories and other knowledge to develop and enhance new practices, tools and theories. My task will be focused on improving practice. This will be done by writing up a proposal for the first two phases of a design-based research project as described by Herrington et al (2007).

PHASE 1: Analysis of practical problems by researchers and practitioners in collaboration

For a more detailed description of my educational context, identified problems and possible research questions, please go to this google doc. Feedback would be greatly appreciated – in the google doc itself or as a comment to this post. I would especially like to know whether you think that my problem is relevant within the context of NGL?

Here is a summary of the main points in the google doc:

Context:

As an International Baccalaureate Visual Arts (IBVA) teacher for students in grade 11 and 12 at an international school in India, my teaching practice has naturally been affected by developments in digital technology and power structures in education. A one-to-one iPad program was implemented at my school 2 years ago, which means that all students and teachers have access to an iPad or laptop for participation in NGL activities. The one-to-one program has encouraged teaching and learning approaches associated with a blended learning (BL) model and the integration of ICTs.

Statement of problem:

Despite all the educational developments mentioned above, there still seems to be a big divide between the developments toward a more student-directed and autonomous learning experience for high school students and the realities posed by a standardized international diploma program such as the IB.

At a first glance, the IB organisation’s (IBO) mission statement, aims and strategies may seem in line with new developments toward student-centered pedagogies. However, it is still, to a large extend, embedded in traditional approaches to teaching and learning, with “rigorous assessment strategies” that rely heavily on traditional pen and paper summative examinations. At the high school level, the pressures of graduation requirements and university entry have lead parents, students, and administrators to hold teachers responsible for sustaining a fair, reliable, and justifiable grading system. Such high-stakes assessment strategies tend to stimulate approaches of “teaching for the test” (Morrison & Tang fun Hei, 2002; Wolf & Pistone, 1991) rather than “for learning” (Stiggins, 2002).

There is a long history of a problematic relationship between visual art education and assessment.

Moreover, the modernist Western art is challenged by postmodernism, non-Western art movements and the use of new technologies (especially in popular art). These developments in art unsettle the conceptions on which many student assessments are based” (Haanstra & Schönau, p. 439).

In IB Visual Art, students need to complete investigation pages in a physical visual journal (pen on paper), which is then submitted as scanned pages in a pdf document for external assessment by the IB. It leads to quite a static product, which cannot include any dynamic media such as animations or videos. Also, it ends up being one document that is only viewed by the external examiner and the teacher and the feedback comes in the form of a single number on a scale from 1-7. By the time students receive this grade, they don’t have an opportunity to improve the work, so they will most likely not learn much from their final assessment. This seems a bit out of line with the practice of arts education, where assessment is ongoing, holistic in nature, integrated into instruction, completed in multiple forms, evaluates a wide variety of factors and products, and is used as a learning tool (Wolf & Pistone, 1991).

 

From these problems, the following questions arise:

  • How could alternative ways of assessment be developed that could do better justice to learning in the IBVA domain?
  • What is the role of the IBVA teacher in ensuring student growth and autonomy through authentic formative assessment activities within a blended learning model?
  • How can IBVA teachers influence the way the IBVA assessment system may change in the future by starting the implementation of an online student blog system in their own classes?
  • How could such blogs serve as a dynamic formative assessment tool, as well as a way to stimulate collaboration and dialogue between students, teachers and parents – within and outside of the school setting?
  • How would IBVA students benefit from presenting their creative pathways for formative assessment purposes in the form of an online blog, as opposed to static formats?
  • How would art teachers benefit from following their students’ progress through a blog? Could it give them better insight into their students’ intellectual pathways?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read through my initial scribbles. Hopefully, with some collaboration, these ideas will grow into something more focused, refined and viable for research purposes.

Mari

References:

Morrison, K., & Tang Fun Hei, J. (2002). Testing to Destruction: A problem in a small stateAssessment in Education, 9(3), 289-317. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/8176526/Testing_to_Destruction_a_problem_in_a_small_state

Stiggins, R. J. (2002). Assessment crisis: The absence of assessment FOR learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(10), 758–765.

Wolf, D.P. & Pistone, N. (1991). Taking Full Measure: Rethinking Assessment Through the Arts. New York: College Board.

 

How NGL can inform my role as teacher

Digital technologies have changed the way people relate to each other and how information is created and shared (Siemens, 2005, 2008, 2011). Learners are now capable of forming global learning networks, which enable them to extend their learning environment beyond the traditional classroom walls (Siemens, 2008, 2011). These developments influence the power structures in education, where learners are becoming more in control of their own learning. This has required educators to rethink what they do for their students and what students can do for themselves (Downes, 2013; Siemens 2008, 2011).

This blog post explores how networked and global learning (NGL) can inform my role as International Baccalaureate Visual Arts (IBVA) teacher for students in grade 11 and 12 at an international school in India. A one-to-one iPad program has been implemented at this school for 2 years. This means that all students and teachers have access to an iPad or laptop for participation in NGL activities. The one-to-one program has also encouraged pedagogical approaches that integrate information and communication technologies (ICTs).

My own participation in EDU8117 Global and Networked Learning at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has helped me to form a clearer picture of how NGL may inform my role as IBVA teacher.

Implementing the use of student blogs

An important element of networked and global learning that I plan on implementing within my teaching is the use of e-portfolios in the form of web-based blogs that contain students’ reflections and work in progress. I have experienced blogging to be a catalyst for self-directed learning and authentic assessment through collaborative learning and self-reflection practices (Barrett, 2007).

Through my own experiences as a student in EDU8117, I have identified a few advantages of using a blog as a learning tool:

  • Student work can easily be shared with peers, teachers, parents and others, and feedback could be provided through a single electronic device (Wade et al., 2008)
  • Blogs provide a platform for reflective processes (Barrett, 2007), which is a relevant practice for IBVA students. As part of the IBVA syllabus, they are required to use reflection to synthesize theory, practice, and the individual (themselves).
  • Blogs may help students to take ownership of their work and create their own learning communities by using the social networking model (Barrett, 2007; Downes, 2010).
  • By sharing their own experiences, problems and resources with other learners, students may become more engaged and develop a sense of confidence and belonging (Tosh & Werdmuller, 2004).
  • Blogs can be powerful devices for learning when used for formative assessment purposes, rather than summative evaluation (Barrett and Carney, 2005). Black & Wiliam (2005) say that e-Portfolios are a type of formative assessment when they include active feedback that enables students to keep modifying and improving their work as they compile their portfolios. More than just being a formative assessment tool, this type of working e-portfolio promotes assessment for learning, as opposed to assessment of learning (Stiggins, 2002).
  • Blogging supports collaborative learning exercises, where less proficient students develop skills with the help from more competent peers. This relates to Social constructivist pedagogies that is focused on groups of learners, learning together with and from one another (Anderson & Dron, 2012; Vygotsky,1978).

 

I have also identified potential obstacles and possible solutions:

Exposure to inappropriate material and cyber bullying

A potential disadvantage of making students’ work public, is exposure to inappropriate material, sites or cyber bullying (Fleming & Rickwood, 2004). Dines (2014), a course participant of EDU8117, raised another important concern about the dangers of not being aware of one’s online identity. She says that students may have an online identity before being aware of the implications. However, one could argue that students, within a safe learning environment, could benefit from such exposure. Students, with the aid of a teacher and peers, could learn and develop strategies and procedures to follow when finding unsuitable sites. This is a relevant life skill to develop, considering that social networking and sharing platforms have become an integral part of youth learners’ lives (Rosen, 2012). This has also made me more aware of my responsibility, as a teacher, to teach my students about online identity before they start participating in an NGL environment.

Crediting sources of information

Similarly, students would need to be made aware of their responsibilities with regard to academic honesty and the importance of crediting their sources of information. As a student in EDU8117, I have learned more about searching for images on Creative Commons and how image credits work. I will also implement these good practices in my IBVA classes.

Lack of systemic change to support a networked approach to learning

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, one of the biggest issues surrounding NGL that I have identified during my participation in EDU8117, is the big disconnect that still exists between the real world and the school system, and how more technology does not necessarily mean big enough change in our pedagogy. “While networks have altered much of society, teaching, and learning, systemic change has been minimal” (Siemens, 2008, p.2).

Employing NGL principles within my context as an IBVA teacher, would probably also present its challenges, as the IBVA program is still embedded in traditional approaches to teaching and learning. For example, as part of students’ external summative assessment by the IB Organization (IBO), students need to complete pages in a physical visual journal (pen on paper), which is very time consuming. One could argue whether it is viable to spend all the time creating an online blog together with a physical one in a real book. Since an e-portfolio is so much more dynamic than a paper-based one, I would still like to integrate the two approaches by having students take pictures of their visual journal pages and posting these images in an online blog. This would be the only way for them to communicate their ideas beyond the classroom walls.

Recognizing the importance of play

Play, according to Levasseur (2012) has become a relevant pedagogical tool for education in the twenty first century as it allows learners to continually redirect their paths through experimentation, pattern recognition and making mistakes. Another important aspect of NGL practices that I would like to incorporate in my own teaching is the encouragement of students to take risks and to learn from making mistakes. As explained through two earlier blog posts (1 and 2) creative problem-solving involves a learning process of trial and error. I would like to allow my art students more freedom and time to “tinker with and dwell in their ideas” (Seely Brown, 2011). A practical application of this approach could be to incorporate the “20% time” or “Genius Hour” concept, as highlighted by the course participants Anne Trethewey and Brendon Willocks.

Leading by example

In an NGL environment, the teacher takes on a different role, which is one of a facilitator who doesn’t need to have all the answers, but who needs to guide students to connect with various sources of knowledge and learn by themselves (Downes, 2013). During my participation in EDU8117 I have gained good insight into my role as teacher by observing the way David Jones has facilitated EDU8117, which was an “experiment in global and networked learning.” I want to implement some of his strategies in my own classes. One such strategy is to lead students by example. By giving students access to his personal blog and the EDU8117 course blog, they could form a better understanding of how to approach the tasks themselves. I would also like to give my IBVA students access to a class blog and my personal blog, and start some waves for them by commenting on their blogs and linking their blogs to some of my posts. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, students need some initial assistance when applying Jarche’s (2014) seek/sense/share phases of networked learning. An open-ended task is not a bad thing, but it does help if students are at least pointed in a fruitful direction with some guidelines. Otherwise the task may become vague and lead to learner disengagement (Krause, 2004). My goal would be to follow a balanced approach of providing enough guidance without being too prescriptive, allowing students to also become autonomous learners.

 

Authentic assessment tasks

I would aim to set authentic assessment tasks (Boud, 1990) that are meaningful and relevant to students (Harlen & Deaken-Crick, 2003) and give them a sense of ownership of their learning (Dutt-Doner & Maddox, 1998). These tasks should also encourage the development of specific skills and mindsets that will enable students to direct their paths in a networked society (Siemens, 2008, p. 6). Through participation in NGL, I have learned that a task is useful when it enables the student to figure out how to manage new NGL tools. Examples are tasks such as embedding a video within a post or creating links to other students’ posts.

Creating more opportunities for critical thought

In an earlier blog post, I looked into the relationship between the characteristics of NGL and critical pedagogy. I am planning to employ NGL tools, such as the blog, to help students develop critical thinking skills. As art students, interacting with a wide variety of sources in online communities, they will need to develop a more critical approach to others’ opinions and “make problematic what is taken for granted in culture” (Nichols & Allen-Brown, as cited in Friesen, 2008).

Differentiation

Discussions between the course participants Trethewey (2014), Mitchel (2014) and myself with regard to the introvert/extrovert debate within a NGL context, made me more aware of the importance of embracing different personality types in my students. My aim is to balance face-to-face discussions with virtual ones, using NGL tools, such as blogging and chat room discussions in critique sessions where nobody speaks out loud. This would enable both introverted and extroverted students to express themselves in their medium of preference.

In conclusion, the aim is to create the kind of memorable educational experiences that are “enriching, joyful, and transformational… They enrich students with increased knowledge and skills, provide them with a satisfying sense of accomplishment, and reshape their expectations” (Shneiderman, 1998, p.25). My goal is to use NGL strategies to provide a platform for my IBVA students to discover and reflect upon their deep interests, develop a clearer awareness of who they are, and a willingness to take greater responsibility for their own learning.

References:

Anderson, T. & Dron, J. (2012). Learning technology through three generations of technology enhanced distance education pedagogy. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 2. Retrieved from http://www.eurodl.org/?p=archives&year=2012&halfyear=2&article=523

Barrett, H. C. (2007). Researching electronic portfolios and learner engagement: The REFLECT initiative. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(8), 438-449. doi:10.1598/JAAL.50.6.2

Barrett, H. C., & Carney, J. (2005). Conflicting paradigms and competing purposes in electronic portfolio development. Submitted to Educational Assessment, an LEA Journal, for an issue focusing on Assessing Technology Competencies, July 2005. Retrieved from http://helenbarrett.com/portfolios/LEAJournal-BarrettCarney.pdf

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2005). The formative purpose: Assessment must first promote learning. In Wilson, M. (Ed.) Towards coherence between classroom assessment and accountability. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Boud, D. (1990). Assessment and the promotion of academic values. Studies in Higher Education, 15(1), 101-111.

Dines, G. (2014, September 7). Week 7: Being critical [Web log post]. Retrieved 8 September, 2014, from http://ggdines.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/week-7-being-critical/#like-106

Downes, S. (2010, December 6). The role of the educator. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://huff.to/g7Orh9

Downes, S. (2013, July 25). Connectivism and the primal scream [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://halfanhour.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/connectvism-and-primal-scream.html

Dutt-Doner, K. M., & Maddox, R. (1998). Implementing Authentic Assessment, Kappa Delta Pi Record, 34(4), 135–137. doi:10.1080/00228958.1998.10518751

Fleming, M., & Rickwood, D. (2004). Teens in cyberspace: Do they encounter friend or foe? Youth Studies Australia, 23(3), 46-52.

Friesen, N. (2008). Critical theory: Ideology critique and the myths of e-learning. Ubiquity, 9(22). Retrieved from http://ubiquity.acm.org.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/article.cfm?id=1386860

Harlen, W., & Deaken-Crick, R. (2003). Testing and Motivation for Learning. Assessment in Education, 10(2), 169–207.

Jarche, H. (2014, February 10). The seek > sense > share framework [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.jarche.com/2014/02/the-seek-sense-share-framework/

Krause, S. D. (2004). When blogging goes bad: A cautionary tale about blogs, emailing lists, discussion, and interaction. Kairos, 9(1). Retrieved from http://english.ttu.edu/kairos/9.1/binder.html?praxis/krause/index.html

Levasseur, A. (2012). The pedagogy of play and the role of technology in learning. PBS Mediashift. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2012/01/the-pedagogy-of-play-and-the-role-of-technology-in-learning003/

Mitchel, A. (2014, August 13). Being an “extravert” in an online world [Web log post]. Retrieved 14 August, 2014, from http://lifechanginglearning.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/being-extravert-in-online-world.html

Rosen, L. (2012). Dr. Larry Rosen interviewed. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEMH0LeeC2k

Shneiderman, B. (1998). Relate–Create–Donate: A teaching/learning philosophy for the cyber-generation. Computers & Education, 31(1), 25–39. doi:10.1016/S0360-1315(98)00014-1

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: Learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1). Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm

Siemens, G. (2008). New structures and spaces of learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism, and networked learning. Actas Do Encontro Sobre Web. Retrieved from http://elearnspace.org/Articles/systemic_impact.htm

Siemens, G. (2011, December, 14). Sensemaking artifacts [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.connectivism.ca/

Stiggins, R. J. (2002). Assessment crisis: The absence of assessment FOR learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(10), 758–765.

Tosh, D. & Werdmuller, B. (2004). Creation of a learning landscape: weblogging and social networking in the context of e-portfolios. Retrieved from http://benwerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/learning-landscape.pdf

Trethewey, A. (2014, August 18). Trying to find a place for an introvert in NGL! [Web log post]. Retrieved 19 August, 2014, from http://astrethewey.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/trying-to-find-a-place-for-an-introvert-in-ngl/

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wade, A., Abrami, P. C., Meyer, E., & White, B. (2008). ePEARL supporting learning using electronic portfolios. In F. A. Costa and M. A. Laranjeiro (Eds.), e-Portfolio in education: Practices and reflections (chapter 8). Retrieved from http://digifolioseminar.org/pt/?download=ePortfolio_in_Education.pdf

As a learner, participation in NGL was useful for me

I’m ignorant. I know practically nothing. But in knowing my own ignorance I know more than most of you. Let’s talk. Let’s see how, in sharing good talk, we can together learn more and turn ourselves into better people (Socrates, as cited in Gregory, 2001, p.87).

Connectivism suggests that the competence to create knowledge and sustain relationships in a network is more important than what is actually known (Siemens, 2005). When I started out as a learner in the USQ course EDU8117 Networked and Global Learning, I did not know much about networked and global learning or oil painting techniques. However, as I submerged myself into the practice of NGL, I was taken on a journey of exploration and discovery, which has changed my conceptions of learning. According to Kligyte (2009) one of the characteristics of threshold concepts (Meyer and Land, 2003) in relation to networked learning, is that it is irreversible and impossible to “unlearn” once it is understood. This understanding is transformative and changes previous perceptions of the discipline. “By its very nature networked learning has a strong practical component; it has to be tried and experienced in depth to be fully understood” (Kligyte, 2009, p. 541). As a learner in EDU8117, active participation in NGL was very useful for me. It has equipped me with life skills and mindsets that are essential for learning in a networked era (Siemens, 2005, 2008a) and which I will continue using long after I’ve completed the course.

One of the assessment tasks in EDU8117 was to utilize the tools and strategies associated with NGL to learn about any topic. My objective was to learn how to use oil paint as a medium in visual arts. I was curious about this medium, as it was the one painting medium that I have not explored during my undergraduate and post-graduate studies in Fine Arts. Also, since I teach Visual Arts to grade 11 and 12 students in the IB diploma program, I would like to be able to assist those students interested in working with oil based media.

I realized very early in this process that NGL demands that learners are autonomous, by developing their own network of knowledge sources (Downes, 2010; Downes, 2011). Therefore, I started making connections with a vast array of knowledge sources framed around Jarche’s (2014) seek/sense/share approach to networked learning. This has helped me to construct an individual Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) routine (Jarche, 2011). Having a PKM routine supported me in making sense of this new topic and work more effectively. My initial PKM plan, as explained in an earlier post, highlights some of the sources and networks I approached in my search (the seeking phase of Jarche’s framework) to find out more about oil painting techniques. Before this learning exercise, I was signed up with art education networks (such as Art Education 2.0, iPad Art Room and Inthinking) and even had a Twitter account. However, it was only once I started engaging in the learning activities of EDU 8117 that I discovered the true potential of utilizing these networks in my own professional development as a life-long learner. Participation in NGL within the context of EDU8117, helped me to establish a PKM workflow that became a daily routine.

During the sensing phase of Jarche’s framework I found myself in a “liminal space” which, according to Kligyte (2009) results from a lack of understanding of a threshold concept at the beginning of the learning journey. Such lack of understanding prevents learners from moving forward until they discover what ontological shift or change in practice would be necessary to cross the threshold. My frustration resided in my disappointment with the knowledge I accumulated through my personal learning networks and the fact that I did not encounter any surprising information during my learning process. In fact, the technique of oil painting seemed to be embedded in outdated approaches and ideas about art-making. I realized that I needed a mind shift and change in strategy with regard to networked learning in order to move forward and exit this liminal space. “Learners need to find their own unique pathway to transformative understanding of networked learning. There’s no simple and straightforward way to mastery that can be taught” (Kligyte, 2009, p. 541).

A major breakthrough was when I formed a better understanding of the integrative aspect, as a threshold concept of networked learning (Cousin, 2006; Kligyte, 2009). I came to the realization that my initial topic of learning (oil painting) was only a starting point for forming new understandings and making new connections with a wide range of related topics. The dispersed world of knowledge all of a sudden seemed to be coherently connected and started to make more sense (Norton, 2014; Siemens, 2008b).

For example, while learning about one painting medium, my learning path has diverted into other avenues, such as questioning the role of artistic media in conveying the message of an artwork. This, in its turn, sparked a reflection about the old debate of whether McLuhan (1964) had a point when he coined the phrase: “The medium is the message.” This debate had relevance to me as a learner, since I was trying to come to terms with a slow-paced traditional art medium, while being submerged in a fast-paced and contemporary NGL environment, associated with cutting-edge technological tools/media. My new learning objective was to decipher how a traditional medium could communicate a message in a way that would be relevant to a 21st century audience. I reflected on a few ideas about capturing the conflicting nature of traditional media in a 21st century networked world. An example would be to exhibit a wet oil painting of a locked iPad screen and invite the viewer to swipe or touch the painted screen.

Through engagement in social networks (such as Twitter, Facebook groups and Pinterest), and searching the Internet, I came upon very interesting contemporary art forms that integrated technology and spoke to a networked audience. Examples are painted portraits done as QR codes, an experimental online exhibition space and social media art. I realized that I was not the first artist to explore the potential of technology associated with NGL as an artistic tool to communicate complex and relevant ideas.

By forming connections between the creative process of art-making and the nature of NGL, I could develop a more complete picture of the interconnectedness of knowledge and the expression thereof. “By grasping the interconnectedness of so many facets of our being, we appreciate how much learning is a product of everything that we are” (Cain & Cain, 1991, p. 36).

As explained in an earlier blog reflection, I began to understand that parts and wholes always interact. Cain and Cain (1991) refer to “knowledge being “embedded” in other knowledge. For example, art uses the knowledge of chemistry and science to create its paintings, sculptures, or pottery” (p.36). The brain has a huge instinctive aptitude to deal with parts and wholes simultaneously and should be encouraged to deal with such an interconnected world. By teaching the brain to memorize isolated facts and skills, would be to limit its potential (Cain and Cain, 1991). Similarly, by only learning how to work with oil paint, and ignoring an investigation into the meaning imbedded in the medium, would be to limit the potential of a NGL experience.

This realization marked the symbolic “death of the painting” and the rebirth of an engaged and active learner, making connections within an authentic learning community (Downes, 2010). The most valuable aspect of the participation was to have the ability of sharing my learning experience “in the making” (Bigum and Rowan, 2013) with an online community of practice (Wenger-Trayner, n.d.) by means of networking tools such as my very first blog.

To conclude, I didn’t become a master of the medium (oil painting) I set out to learn more about, but NGL has given me the kind of agency that I needed to change my conceptions of learning. Sherman and Kurshan (2004) claim that “learning begins with learners’ existing conceptions, growth comes from changing and expanding their existing beliefs” (p. 10). Participation in NGL has increased my awareness of my own “becoming” as a learner, rather than being focused on my “knowing” (Siemens, 2008a, p. 6). It has been a very useful and life-changing learning experience.

References:

Bigum, C., & Rowan, L. (2013). Ladders, learning and lessons from Charlie: Exploring the potential of public click pedagogy (No. 2). Retrieved 30 August, 2014, from http://chrisbigum.com/downloads/LLL-PCP.pdf

Cain, R. N., & Cain, G. (1991). Teaching and the human brain. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD Publications. Retrieved 10 September, 2014, from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED335141.pdf

Cousin, G. (2006). An introduction to threshold concepts. Planet, 17. Retrieved 1 September, 2014, from http://www.gees.ac.uk/planet/p17/gc.pdf

Downes, S. (2010, December 6). The role of the educator. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://huff.to/g7Orh9

Downes, S. [Downes]. (2011, September 28). Autonomy is what distinguishes between ‘personal learning’, which we do for ourselves, and ‘personalized learning’, which is done for us [Tweet]. Retrieved 10 September, 2014, from https://twitter.com/Downes/statuses/119001912736620544

Gregory, M. (2001). Curriculum, pedagogy and teacherly ethos. Pedagogy:Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture, 1(1), 69–89. Retrieved 15 August, 2014, from http://digitalcommons.butler.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1203&context=facsch_papers

Jarche, H. (2011, July 12). PKM – Personal Knowledge Mastery [Web log post]. Retrieved 30 August, 2014, from http://www.jarche.com/pkm/

Jarche, H. (2014, February 10). The seek > sense > share framework [Web log post]. Retrieved 30 August, 2014, from http://www.jarche.com/2014/02/the-seek-sense-share-framework/

Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the Ascilite 2009 Conference. Retrieved 10 September, 2014, from http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/kligyte-poster.pdf

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. New York: Signet Books.

Meyer, J.H.F., & Land, R. (2003). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: Linkages to ways of thinking and practising. Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses, ETL Project, Occasional Report 4. Retrieved 15 August, 2014, from http://www.tla.ed.ac.uk/etl/docs/ETLreport4.pdf

Norton, Q. (2014, August 8). Seeing like a network [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://medium.com/message/seeing-like-a-network-114c5a13fe0d

Sherman, T., & Kurshan, B. (2004). Teaching for understanding. Learning and Leading with Technology, 32(4), 6–11. Retrieved 5 September, 2014, from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/EJ697287.pdf

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1). Retrieved 1 September, 2014, from http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm

Siemens, G. (2008a). New structures and spaces of learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism, and networked learning. Actas Do Encontro Sobre Web. Retrieved 1 September, 2014, from http://elearnspace.org/Articles/systemic_impact.htm

Siemens, G. (2008b). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. Paper presented at the University of Georgia IT Forum, Athens, GA. Retrieved 10 September, 2014, from http://bit.ly/170fVM

Wenger-Trayner, E. (n.d.). Communities of practice – A Brief introduction [Web log post]. Retrieved 1 September, 2014, from http://wenger-trayner.com/theory/

As a student, participation in NGL was useful for me.

Over the past two years I have completed 7 subjects in an online Master of Education at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). My formal learning experiences prior to this online program were based in traditional, authority-based and lecture-oriented settings, where all knowledge was held in one space. Consequently, when I started the program, I found the online learning environment to be an overwhelming network of information. Siemens (2011) says when “learners enter complex information settings, the first experience is one of disorientation” (para. 2). However, through “joint processes of sensemaking and wayfinding… learners begin exploring and negotiating the domain of knowledge” (Siemens, 2011, para. 2). I found the process of learning through online collaboration enjoyable and gradually got more comfortable with the fact that learning was an unpredictable process of discovery (Bigum & Rowan, 2013).

However, as stated in an earlier blog post, I still felt that the focus in many subjects was directed too much on the end product. For example, only a few of my efforts to write reflections or participate in forums were rewarded. There also was not much scope for using other network and connectivity tools. A students’ success in most subjects seemed to depend on their ability to assimilate the course content into a well-crafted academic essay. In such cases I could agree with the argument that “e-learning was simply translating the classroom into a virtual classroom using technology” (Bonzo & Parchoma, 2010, p. 914). This approach to assessment did not support the development and observation of students’ thinking and actions, which Darling-Hammond and Snyder (2000) consider a fundamental part of authentic assessment. The lack of active participation in networked learning activities caused me to focus more on meeting the assessment criteria than on learning.

In contrast to my learning experiences mentioned above, the experimental learning space created for the USQ course EDU8117 Networked and Global Learning was much more aligned with my expectations of an authentic networked and global learning (NGL) environment.

NGL is a way of learning where people construct knowledge and knowing through social interaction, collaboration and networking on a global scale (Siemens, 2008a). This is made possible by using a wide variety of media and devices, especially mobile ones (Goodyear et al, 2014). More attention is given to “learning in the making” than “ready made knowledge” (Bigum & Rowan, 2013) and learning becomes more integrated with everyday life (Goodyear et al, 2014). By connecting the learners in the subject EDU 8117 through a course web log (blog) and individual student blogs, the course developer and facilitator David Jones set up an authentic learning space where we, as students, could participate in real-life NGL activities. We did this through collaborative processes of discovery with other learners as we explored and negotiated the relevance and possibilities of NGL as a learner, student and teacher in the 21st century (Siemens, 2011).

As a student in EDU 8117, participation in NGL was very useful for me. This blog post aims to identify and explore the significant aspects of the participation.

Blogging as a daily routine

Integration of knowledge, skills and attitudes through interaction

By creating an online blog, I was challenged to publicly reflect on my own learning and participate in group discussions with other students on a regular basis. This has proven to be a very useful and effective tool for myself, as student, to share information and construct knowledge through interaction and dialogue. As these activities formed part of the assessment, I was required to demonstrate my learning and integrate knowledge, skills and attitudes in a situation that replicated professional practice. It corresponded with Darling-Hammond & Snyder’s (2000) and Gielen et al.’s (2003) ideas of authentic assessment practices.

Honoring multiple intelligences

Seely Brown (2002) says that our concept of “literacy” before the Web was focused on text, boosted by the technology of the typewriter. It only valued one kind of intelligence, while the Web enables all learners to become engaged in their preferred way of learning. For example, it could be abstract, textual, visual, musical, social, or kinesthetic (Seely Brown, 2002). I found that, as a visual learner, I could communicate my ideas much clearer through a blog than through an academic essay. It enabled me to make use of my own drawings, images from online sources, videos and infographics to explain and make sense of complex concepts.

Making connections between ideas

Kirschner & Erkens (2006) say that technological tools and learning environments have progressed from being mere tools to becoming intellectual partners that aid the learner in thinking more critically. Beyond its properties of being a technological tool, the process of blogging helped me to make connections between my own and others’ ideas. For example, I could link my own ideas about knowledge construction with the ideas and information (on the same topic) gathered by other course participants, such as Trethewey (2014) and Mitchel (2014). Another example is when I linked my ideas about the importance of play in innovation with Seely Brown’s (2011) ideas, retrieved from a video interview shared by Size (2014).

Peers assisting peers in their learning

The level and quality of peer participation during the course EDU8117 produced a much more positive and motivational experience than what I’ve experienced in other USQ subjects. This was influenced by the fact that we were working in small groups where most members were active participants in the process and where there was room for developing relationships of trust (Hsu, Ju, Yen, & Chang, 2007) and common learning goals (Brindley et al., 2009; Hall & Graham, 2004).

This relates to Vygotsky’s (1978) Zone of Proximal Development principle of using collaborative learning exercises where less proficient students develop skills with help from more competent peers. In EDU 8117 the participants had varied levels of experience with regard to NGL activities, which means that more experienced group members were able to assist the less experienced with their questions or insecurities.

In some cases, I formed a better idea of complex concepts by seeing how other students made sense of the topic. In other cases, I could apply my experience to assist peers such as McGrath (2014) who struggled with the process of making connections with others through blogging.

Autonomous learners

Such interaction with fellow students felt meaningful and gave me a sense of autonomy in my own learning process. In an earlier blog post I referred to a tweet by Downes (2011, as cited in Richardson, 2012): “Autonomy is what distinguishes between personal learning, which we do for ourselves, and personalized learning, which is done for us.” As a student in the subject EDU 8117, I could relate to this statement, because I have experienced both types of learning. From my experience, most online courses still take the personalized learning route, where the course contents is presented and prescribed in a linear and static way. EDU 8117 is the first online course I’ve participated in, where there was good opportunity for personal learning through participation in meaningful NGL activities such as blogging.

Not being afraid to make mistakes

The public nature of blog posts provided me with good opportunities for learning through taking risks and making mistakes. In my blog post “week 1 minute paper” I drew a parallel between Wittgenstein’s ladder of progress in learning (as referenced in Bigum and Rowan, 2013) and the board game snakes and ladders. Participation in NGL gave me a better understanding of learning as a game where learners could climb ladders, make mistakes, “slide down snakes” and start over multiple times, until a concept was fully understood. In learning, making mistakes should not be treated as failure, but rather as motivation to “start a new game.”

In her blog post “Taking risks and making mistakes” Smyth (2014) refers to Yurkiw’s (2006) exploration of how blogging challenges pre-service teachers to become risk takers and turn student failure into an eventual success. I found that the more mistakes I made in my initial blog posts, such as omitting image credits, the more I was encouraged not to make the same mistakes in my next post.

Developing a Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM)

Participation in NGL has helped me to develop and articulate a successful PKM routine (Jarche, 2011). In an earlier blog post I have explained my initial PKM routine, which has improved as I further engaged in the NGL course activities. The titles of my posts “When a PKM workflow becomes a routine” and “My new addiction… blogging!” are testament to the way participation in NGL has become an integrated routine in my everyday life.

Conquering the challenges of NGL

As mentioned in an earlier post, my demanding work and life schedule, associated with challenging time constraints, was a major contextual factor that influenced the way I responded to the EDU8117 networked learning environment. During the first few weeks of the course, I have found it challenging and time-consuming to divide my efforts between various learning networks, while focusing on independent research. Brindley et al. (2009) say that collaborative projects “require that learners be present on a particular schedule, reducing the flexibility and convenience factor in online study and may cause anxiety and/or resentment” (p. 14). I think that similar issues apply to a course structured around NGL activities. As I’ve pointed out in a previous post, NGL makes you stay “signed in” at all times, making it a daily activity rather than a weekend “catch-up.” One of the course participants, Dines (2014), mentions in a blog post: “One of the challenges of learning in a decentralised environment is that it requires more time commitment than a centralised and more traditional approach.”

Most participants seemed to have faced similar challenges. Tretheway (2014) mentions in a blog post that she “feels swamped by information coming from every direction and… haven’t managed to find an organisational system to handle the flow.” Mitchel (2014) says in one of her blogs: “I don’t think the drowning feeling will forever go away but at least I know now that I am definitely not alone in navigating this open sea.” Even though this course has presented me with more challenges than previous courses, it has given me an opportunity to practice and develop important life-long learning skills, such as the management of complexity, ambiguities, and large capacities of information (Siemens, 2005).

The challenges presented by NGL also taught me how to manage under conditions of uncertainty. In my post “When you’re stuck in a jar” I referred to a video of Snowden (2014) talking about the necessity of today’s learners to manage under conditions of uncertainty. He uses the image of exaptation in Biology where “managing for luck is more important than managing with a clear set of objectives if you want to innovate” (Snowden, 2014). This, to me, really captures the essence of the processes I needed to go through as a student in the course EDU8117. It is a process of uncertainty, characterized by “safe-to-fail experiments” rather than a “fail-safe design” (Snowden, 2014). This process has helped me to discover my deep interests and develop as a whole person. Siemens (2008b) captures this nicely when he talks about a person’s “becoming” as opposed to their “knowing.”

As a student, participation in NGL has provided the push of waves mentioned in Jones’s (2014) blog post that I needed to get started as an active networked and global learner, surfing the Web in a vast ocean of knowledge. Not only have I learned to ride on “the waves” of knowledge initiated by others, but also to create my own “waves” through active involvement in the NGL process.

 

References:

Bigum, C., & Rowan, L. (2013). Ladders, learning and lessons from Charlie: Exploring the potential of public click pedagogy (No. 2). Retrieved 30 August, 2014, from http://chrisbigum.com/downloads/LLL-PCP.pdf

Bonzo, J., & Parchoma, G. (2010). The paradox of social media and higher education institutions. In Networked Learning: Seventh International Conference (pp. 912–918).

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From today, painting is dead

While I’m waiting for the oil paint to dry…a few more thoughts about my frustration with learning about oil painting…

As a learner of “whatever” I wanted to learn about, I’ve chosen to learn how to work with oil paint. The more I think about my choice, the more I am getting annoyed with myself for choosing the slowest and most archaic medium possible while dealing with a course that is all about fast-paced, connected living in a global and networked world. What was I thinking? 😉 Nobody “on my networks” was talking about oil painting… they’ve moved on to more exciting forms of art such as video art, interactive installation art and social media art!

Well, at least this got me to reconsider the relevance of a traditional medium such as oil paint in a 21st century world of fine arts. I was thinking about how one would make it approachable, communicative and appealing to an audience that is used to new and digital forms of art!

I was breaking my head over this, realizing that it was much more fun putting together another blog than to wait for a stupid oil painting to dry! I realized that to simply learn a new technique was not enough for me. I needed to be able to use this technique to create something unique and to communicate a message, and that the medium (in this case) was literally “holding me back” in doing so.

I am still stuck, and as a learner I need to figure out how to make this work. Today, I feel like saying, as the painter Paul Delaroche did in 1839, when he first saw a daguerreotype:

“From today, painting is dead.”

blogWe all know that this never happened. Each medium rather seems to make a unique addition to the collective body of communication and cannot be completely replaced by a subsequent one. But still… as a learner, I want to learn about something that I enjoy, and right now, I’m having trouble with the medium.

Am I just going to give up? How is NGL going to help me with this?