“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
-Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
The recycle logo with the text ‘what,’ ‘so what,’ and ‘what next’ superimposed over it. That is a framework for reflection that I am happy to embrace so without further ado, let’s go!
I am a social person but when it comes to work and other serious matters I have a tendency to want to go it alone. I never played team sports, I wrestled instead. my current obsession, rock climbing, requires a partner but when I am on the rock I feel alone. 32 weeks ago I had taken my first steps towards collaborative practice, but they were baby steps. We had planned the unit together and students worked with both of us to complete their project but there was no actual collaboration in terms of our teaching. The ‘what’ of my Mindlab experience was developing an understanding of the potential of and for collaboration and connectivity. Collaboration means more than breaking up a task and sharing out the pieces, in fact, it is almost the complete opposite. I now understand it to mean working together with others to create something new and beyond that which I could create on my own. The value of this understanding as an educator attempting to create engaging, relevant and productive learning experiences for young people is obvious. Connectivity refers to the ability that I have to make connections, and in doing so create opportunities for collaboration, with likeminded people in my school, in the community and nationally and internationally. Digital technology has a role to play in this process but it is still a tool, the fundamental determinant of one’s ability to make connections are your attitudes and values, not your tech savviness.
I have now been exposed to different ways of thinking and pedagogical practices. My understanding of collaboration and connectivity has changed, as has the value I place on these concepts and the role they play in shaping my understanding of teaching and learning. When I think about best practice in my classroom, the goal posts have shifted, as has the means by which I will get there. Thinking in terms of Osterman and Kottamp’s model of the experiential learning cycle (1993), I have been able to move through the first three stages: “observation & analysis, abstract conceptualization, active experimentation” and now need more” concrete experience” before I can begin to move through the cycle again and develop, refine and internalise my new understandings and realise this understanding through my professional practice.
What next for me is not about technology. As a specialist digital technology teacher I am reasonably competent with a range of digital technology and feel confident that I can share this knowledge with my students. I have computers, arduino, 3D printers and laser cutters at my disposal. However, more than my technological competence and IT resources, My next step as a teacher and learner is refining my practice so that it allows for the creation of learning communities. In doing so I will be able to work towards achieving Practicing Teacher Criteria and e-learning Criteron 5: “Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning.” Being actively involved as a participant and perhaps a leader in the creation of physical and online communities of learning is one key way in which I can ensure that my practice will continue to develop. I want to be able to leverage a range of digital technology that will allow the learners who pass through my class to achieve to the best of their ability by making connections with me, with their peers and with as many sources of information, instruction and inspiration as possible. This is essential to realise Practicing Teacher Criteria and e-learning Criteron 6: “Conceptualise, plan, and implement an appropriate learning programme.” Designing and impementing a more connected programme that reflects the highly digitally connected world that we have found ourself in is necessary in order to consider my programe “appropriate” and relevant.
I wish to be part of a community of learners that will inform and enrich both my practice and the experiences of my students. It is now time to become part of that community.