Tech Tools for Learning

I’m a big fan of e-learning and technology in general. I recently ran into a fantastic article from the Institute of Performance and Learning outlining some great tech tools:

http://performanceandlearning.ca/tech-tools/

A lot of these tools are free or low cost, which is nice.

Anyways, it’s a great resource, so check it out!

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PIDP…and me.

Successful businessman Free VectorOver the next week I will be finishing my final two PIDP courses. Boy what a journey it has been! I started this program last July, but it feels like much longer. This is not to say it was not fun. Quite the opposite! The personal and professional growth you experience makes the time fly and seem much longer at the same time.

Reflecting on this time, the most important insight is how diverse the roles in education actually are. At the beginning of the program, I had a lot of difficulties defining my role. I felt uncomfortable with most common labels, such as trainer, professor, teacher, facilitator, as these did not my job. I don’t teach in an institution and I spend very little time in the classroom facilitating lessons. The act of instruction is a very small portion of my job. As a learning and development professional, my role is part instructional designer, part facilitator, part program manager, and part organizational development consultant. While there are times that I do directly facilitate training sessions, much of the time I am consulting with client departments to develop learning programs, which they will facilitate to their teams.

In the beginning, I felt like what Brookfield terms an “impostor”. I was pretending to be a teacher in a teaching program, but did not really belong there. What’s worse, being in the corporate role, sometimes it’s more feasible to use training vendors for particular needs, which I often facilitate. What REAL teacher does that? right?

The fact is just as learning takes on different forms, so does teaching. One of my most insightful moments of the program came after discovering the term “teachers as curators” (Bowen, 2012). Technology, with it’s plethora of content, is driving education to become less a means of content delivery. Why focus on delivering content, when superior content already exists ‘out there’. Class time can then be spent focusing on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of skills. This is what I do as a teacher. I supply learning content–be it what I develop or external content–and create learning experiences where learners develop deeper critical thinking skills. I am a teacher after all! What’s even deeper is that I am a new age teacher. If technology continues to drive education in this direction, I am prepared as I am already practising technically conscious techniques.

So I am a tech savy teacher teaching in a new way that technology is driving forward. I also work in the technology sector. This is my advantage and opportunity. As I develop in my practise I will continue to focus on integrating technology in aspects of my design and facilitation. Academically, this is also the area where my passion lies and I plan to start a graduate degree in this area.

While I am keenly interested in Educational Technologies, I am also aware that this can create a distance between you and the student. E-learning alone can be isolating and you have to work extra hard to stay engaged. Some learning technologies too may make content look pretty, but what guarantees students will actually engage with the material rather than fast forward or click through? This is a core challenge of e-learning. One must stay humble to the basics of engagement strategies and not expect that technology automatically guarantees engagement.

Just as the PIDP was a journey, I expect that my career too will be another filled with just as much growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practise What You Teach: Lifelong Learning.

Learning concept Free Vector

Lifelong Learning is a topic that has been emphasized throughout the PID program and great books like Brookfield’s “The Skillful Teacher.” In order to be a skillful and reflective practitioner, as teachers, we too must continue to learn. This can mean self-study and at times formal study to stay up to date on developments in our fields.

To me, the lifelong learning needed for a skillful teacher can be broken down into at least 2 areas. First, there is our practise as teachers. To continue to improve our teaching we provide our students, we must learn. This includes not only exposing ourselves to new ideas or methods, but also reflecting on our practise and soliciting feedback from students, peers, and administrators familiar with our work.

The second area of life long learning relates to our area of expertise. There are very few fields that are not subject to new developments. What we learned in university most likely only touches the surface of the knowledge we will need to learn in our careers to stay up to date in our fields. This is a particularly potent area for me, as I work in technology. If I do not stay in the loop on technology, my knowledge could be obsolete in a matter of months.

So what do I plan on doing to continue this lifelong learning pursuit in practise? There are tons of options! The first important way is by following a selection of institutions relating to workplace learning and technology. For an example, I plan on becoming a member with the Institute of Performance and Learning. They offer networking opportunities locally, mentorship programs, and a yearly conference.

As I am particularly interested in digital learning technologies and e-learning design, I am an active member of e-learning heros, which is an online community facilitated by the course authoring program Articulate. This platform allows me to connect with other professionals for advice, problem solving, and technical tips and tricks. They also have a weekly project challenge, which are designed to challenge your technical skills with their product.

Finally, I am an avid reader with a very long morning commute. I use this hobby and time to read books and articles relating to my field and practise.

Just as we guide our students that learning does not stop once you leave the classroom, it is important that this advice is also something we follow by adopting lifelong learning practises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inclusion in Learning

In Brookfield’s book “The Skillful Teacher”, he emphasizes the connection between inclusion and learning. As teachers we need to be aware that there are some practises that may inadvertently exclude certain groups of students and this will impact their learning. This is not the same as selecting strategies that are effective for our learnings. Rather, our actions and strategies may position some students as ‘others’, creating a negative or hostile learning environment. While we cannot expect that all learning activities we select are effective, I think it is our duty to minimize exclusionary practices, as this does not foster fairness and justice in our classroom.

Yesterday a perfect example of this popped up on my Facebook newsfeed:

B.C. school’s decision to not celebrate Mother’s, Father’s day in class sparks debate

This article caught my attention for several reasons. First, I grew up in this community, so it’s interesting to watch their educational systems evolve. Second, I was “that kid” who was forced to make father’s day cards and did not have a father. While I survived these card making sessions and my primary years, it was not without much pain.

What’s incredibly interesting about this issue is the debate. I was shocked that most people seem outraged that this school decided to oust the making of mother’s and father’s day cards. Reading through the comments can be heart-wrenching, as some comment “have the kid make a card to take to their parent’s grave” or “why do we need to accommodate a few ‘sissies’?”

Through these outrageous comments, I realize that few understand the objectives and mechanisms of learning. The focus of the debate appears to be anti political correctness, which not at the core of this decision. It’s about Exclusion in education.

Exclusionary practises like this set up students for failure. If a student feels alienated, their learning will be inhibited. A child that is forced to make mother or fathers day cards and comes from a non traditional family will be temporarily derail the student and make it much harder for them to reconnect with subsequent learning activities. This can also disrupt the trust a student has in us as teacher, making them feel unsafe and less likely to take some of the risks learning entails.

In a very similar debate regarding the use of terms like “you guys”, most people immediately jump to debates about Political Correctness. But again, this is exclusion. A term like this invites “guys” which for young learners or ESL this could be taken literally.

It is our duty as teachers to create supportive and positive learning environments. This can only be done with Inclusion, so we need to be aware of any practise we use that may exclude any student.