When I first visited my physiotherapist, he was bending and stretching my leg in the way only physios can. He asked me to “relax” my leg and knee so that he could assess the range of movement. I thought I did, but he asked me several more times to relax. He then asked “are you a teacher”? When I replied “yes”, he said “we have the same problem with all you teachers – you need to be in control”.

resistanceI wonder if this need to be in control is part of the reason for the resistance we feel when trying to adopt different approaches to teaching and learning? As mentioned in my paper #2 for this CCK08 course, the Australian Vocational Education & Training (VET) sector is now driven by a competitive funding agenda. Training institutions are increasingly funded on their ability to show outcomes based on the national curriculum, responsiveness to customer needs, flexibility and effective industry partnerships. This is a major shift. Like it or not many things have changed and teaching will need to change with it.

A couple of observations:

  • our ageing workforce has meant a large number of teachers continue to teach the way they always have and appear totally disinterested in looking at other ways
  • in many regions the IT infrastructure is a cause for resistance. Too often the IT bureaucracies control the way things are done rather than reacting to the needs of the educationists and truly being an “IT support” unit
  • f2f will remain the predominant delivery mechanism – the new teaching and learning approaches will need to happen in these spaces. Can change happen within in these spaces (Siemens2008)? Will teachers be willing to lose some of their control?
  • there are early adopters of technology but a number of chasms have prevented the mainstream adoption of these innovations.

Marie Jasinski (2007) published a very significant piece of research related to embedding of innovation. She found that 3 chasms prevented the embedding of e-learning innovation into the mainstream:

  1. the chasm between early and mainstream adopters and their varying motivations
  2. the support structure chasm where mainstream needs a good reason to change
  3. the technology – pedagogy chasm where the technology advances have outstripped the pedagogical.

adopter_chasm_jasinski

Jasinski tells us that “the best system to enable innovation to thrive is a complex system, which is adaptive, largely self-organised, networked and highly connected, where interactions are fluid and interdependent and there is flexibility to embrace both radical and incremental changes” (Executive Summary p3). Lots of links in this one quote to connectivism. The emphasis is on embedding the innovation i.e. making the change part of mainstream practice rather than introducing innovation.

choices1

Despite this apparent doom and gloom, there are many practitioners taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the new technologies to change the teaching and learning paradigm:

  • teachers are supporting others to introduce new technologies, there has been a considerable growth in mentor networks both formal and informal.
  • an increasing amount of teaching is happening outside the classroom in blended formats and in the workplace.
  • the pockets of early innovation are percolating through the ranks – often students are the catalysts when they see one teacher doing something “cool” then the others can be under pressure too.
  • baby steps are important steps – one teacher I know is using wikis as a course management mechanism (much the same as the wiki for this CCK08 course). Students have access to course documents and lesson materials – important needs are being met and the teacher is freed up from admin tasks and can spend more time discussing the important things with students. The collaboration and other technologies will come next now that the ice has been broken.

The quantum of the uptake is also encouraging. The Australian Flexible Learning Framework found in 2005 “6-8% of VET activity involved technology, which rose to 17% in 2006 and now 29% in 2007. This could be in the form of computer-based learning resources, online course activities, using the internet, mobile or voice technologies, or online enrolment and assessment.

The resistors have taught me a number of things:

  • don’t assume anything – often the things I take for granted or get excited about are either new, unintelligible or of no consequence to others
  • provide training opportunities but make sure they are followed up
  • sometimes too much choice is a problem – one group of teachers I worked with told me: “stop giving us choices, just tell us what you want us to do”. The range of new technologies is sometimes overwhelming, many have become paralysed trying to decide.
  • in many places there is no culture of sharing. This one gets to me – I and my direct colleagues have always shared ideas and resources – I really don’t know how I can assist to change this culture apart from constant “nagging”.
  • was Stephen’s use of the “God switch” on the Moodle forum in Week 8 (thanks Bradley Shoebottom for the descriptor) any different to many of our practices in a f2f classroom?

This course has proven we live in spaces with weak ties and easy connections. A number of my colleagues have stopped even lurking – they basically needed stronger (social) ties and fewer connections. All of this despite a deep felt interest in the aims of the course. I would agree with Lisa’s question about the concept of knowledge – is it the content that is important or is it the life long learning skills that now assume much greater importance? Different contexts will require different answers – a training course for triage nurses (strict processes) will look very different to a course for web designers (creativity) even though both require serious problem solving skills.

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