Relating this back to the topic of my blog: Cattle fence – How LMS is restricting teacher development and creativity.
Don’t get me wrong, when I say the electric fence teaches the cow’s what the boundary is. There is no electric fence when teachers use the LMS per se. However we are very well aware of how people behave when a new technology is introduced, especially in teaching: apprehensive, fear, what’s the point, I don’t need it, what I am doing works for me and my students, I don’t need to change anything …. we have heard it all – I argue that these factors form the invisible fence for the academics who are just starting to try new technologies in learning and teaching. They find refuge in using the LMS because it is very well supported by the institute, help is only a phone call away! After using the LMS for a few weeks, technology is not bad or difficult to use in teaching after all! Just as the everyday expectation from the cows’ is to be milked and grazed (this routine conditions them) – the use of LMS over a certain period does the same for the teachers. While the invisible electric fence is at work every step of the way. Again just as the cow’s try and break for new pasture, the teacher’s do the same, they go out and explore on the web, however the process of exploring something to materialising may never eventuate. The invisible fence gives them a shock every time they try and finally settle for LMS – where the invisible fence is to some degree negotiated for by institutional support available.
Impact on learning and teaching
Technology itself is not capable of bringing change to teacher pedagogy. While its role in the process of scaffolding teacher pedagogy is of importance, unfortunately technology alone is not the answer to problems relating to learning and teaching. Now, relating back to the opening quote, absolutely, yes, it does not change anything for the teacher or the students rather just makes things easier to manage and control.
Let’s take Moodle for example: the underpinning philosophy is social constructivist but can we positively say that that’s how teachers are using it, absolutely no.
“….. technology is not being used innovatively in education. It is both a strength and a weakness that technology can sit quite comfortably within current approaches to education; it is a strength that we can stay with those educational practices we are most used to, but this is also its weakness.” (Reeves, 1997, p. 220).
While LMS has the potential to enhance learning, the lack of pedagogical knowledge of how to use it perhaps causes more harm than good. By encouraging staff to use an LMS are we in fact nurturing the invisible fence? In my opinion, yes we are and worse, I feel that we are limiting creativity and teacher development as well.
Stat: MootNZ11 Martin Dougiamas while talking about pedagogical progression in using Moodle, outlined that almost (anecdotal) 90% of the users are stuck in the repository phase – meaning use of the LMS is to transfer content.
How often are we likely to come across a new web service on LMS? Probably never! How often do you think we’ll come across other academics who are doing things differently and offer the opportunity to learn from? In my experience of working with academic staff and staff development for over 8 years, for some, the LMS becomes the ‘internet’, it becomes the whole world. This thus creates a fence that keeps the staff from exploring further, exploring the whole world because for them the LMS is the universe. The seductive templates, modules and ease of use factor binds the staff in habitual practices, uploading pdf’s, creating forums that will probably be never used. And before you know it, you are instructing your student’s what to do. This of cause does not sit well with adult learners, taking instructions again!
I myself have a few problem with LMS’s. I first started using LMS in my first year of teaching in 2003 and for me at the time, the LMS meant the whole world, it was the next big thing. I would spend more than 6 hours I day creating things on Moodle … as you do because it is so easy. And after a while you find that design is what is driving your teaching. Everything you know about education goes out the window and whatever is available in LMS becomes the driver. The biggest of all problem for me is student ownership of their own learning and control over the content they create. Helen Barrett (2011) outlines the four critical elements for selecting technology while implementing student portfolio (Student-generated content – they own it, let them manage it.):
- “online space for students to store their work that is either initially owned by the student, accessible after graduation or can be easily transferred to a student-owned space any time (individual documents must be accessible by URL) – Digital Archive
- online reflective journal (blog) where students can keep a contemporaneous learning record, with the ability to contribute evidence in audio, video, images and text from mobile devices or computers (individual blog entries need to be “tagged” or assigned classifications for ease of retrieval) – Electronic Documentation of Learning
- an online system to aggregate and present evidence (artifacts and rationale) of achieving “gen-ed” student outcomes plus requirements of specific majors – Showcase/Presentation Portfolio
- a data management system to collect and aggregate faculty evaluation data of students’ summative portfolios – Assessment Management System”
(Barrett, 2011, n.n)
I would like to add to this list another element that is perhaps equally important:
- student’s ability to network with other students and experts from around the world to build a personal learning network – Connection (Connectivism) – Personal Learning Ecology
While the list above is for teachers to consider while implementing student portfolios, it could be also be used by the teachers for their own development.
Barrett, H. (2011, June 2011). Generic tools requirement for e-portfolio development. http://blog.helenbarrett.org/2011/05/generic-tools-requirement-for-e.html
OECD (2005). E-learning in Tertiary Education: Where do we stand? www.oecd.org/dataoecd/55/25/35961132.pdf
Reeves, T. (1997). Evaluating what really matters in computer-based education. In M. Wild & D. Kirkpatrick (Eds.), Computer education: New perspectives (pp. 219-246). Perth, Australia: MASTEC.
>Today was the first meeting of my community of practice. We started this CoP early last year since then I have seen the numbers grow, shrink and grow again late last year. I was in for a surprise this morning. I couldn’t believe the words I was hearing.
The CoP was formed with staff mostly from the school of built environment. The aim was to up-skill the staff interested on use of technology in education. The ride had been rough and at times thoughts did cross my mind if the CoP was actually serving the purpose it was setup for.
Last year was basically spent laying the foundation having realised that the staff were still stuck in the traditional teaching method. Nothing wrong here it makes sense since most of the staff join the institute straight from the trade sector and didn’t necessarily have any teaching experience. Their only teaching experience is likely to be the one they had, when they schooled (likely to be traditional teaching method, transmission) hence their teaching style would be a reflection of this experience.
Almost all of last year was spent on changing the mindset of the staff involved. It’s a critical stage of the change and from experience a sensitive issue. In some cases I was going to challenge some staff who had been teaching for the past 14 or so years and for them the method has worked, students graduated and also managed to achieved decent success rate so why would anyone change something that was working ‘fine’.
I had tried many approaches from modeling, showcasing the benefits, putting them through a blended learning course (only a 2 hour session) and even bringing an outsider to share her experience with her students in going from traditional to blended and sharing the benefit. It made no difference ….. I could feel the skepticism in the room.
The cows didn’t come home till the end of last week. Two of the staff in my CoP were involved in a week long workshop on CoP with Etienne Wenger and Bev Trayner. The week was full of social activities and use of technology modeled were appropriate. I have to admit the week long workshop was a great showcase of social learning and how to facilitate it.
This morning when I entered the meeting room, things were already underway. The sound I was hearing couldn’t have been any sweeter. I was hearing words like co-create, students don’t need books, tools like Youtube, Flickr and even Second Life were being mentioned. Social learning was being discussed to a great extent, staff were strategizing scavenger hunts involving students going as far as choosing their own projects, bringing some degree of authenticity in the assessment. It just sounded so right that I just seat back and heard the discussion without getting involved.
Reflecting on the past year and this CoP, time sometimes is the key, both allowing the time for the participants to reflect and get a handle on the new concepts and letting it sink in and at the same time having the time to model the approach, obviously 2 hours wasn’t enough. The need/purpose and authenticity is critical as well. My modeling session was perhaps too superficial when compare to the week long session with Etienne and Bev.
We are meeting this week Wednesday to design a blended learning course that would put students in the centre of their own learning.