My Reply To My Discussion Replies

Moodle Reply
Animated Gif by Mark-Anthony Karam (2015)

Grab some popcorn and get comfortable, this is a pretty lengthy reply 😉

I recently posted an article about My role as an educator in the digital age. I received some really great questions from my classmates and faculty regarding my use of technology in the classroom and the technical skills required to put those technologies into practice.

Before I begin answering the questions below, let me start by saying that I believe the degree of technology used by teachers in the classroom should be relative to their profession and or subject(s) that they teach. I do not suggest that all teachers should be up-to-speed with all forms of educational technology. However, I would suggest that being aware, knowledgeable and skilled in the technologies that aid successful development of a students academic achievement should be utilized and put into practice. In this post, I will try to answer the following questions that were asked in reply to my original article:

How do you keep up with technology?

keeping up with technology

In my field of study and profession as a digital designer, it is my job—and a requirement—to keep current and skilled in technology that affects my industry in order to provide my students with the best learning experience. That’s what my students expect when they enter my design program. They want to be taught the latest trends and developments in web design. In order for me to deliver these expectations, I have to keep current with the latest trends in design, application software, development languages etc
 In order to keep up with technology that pertains to my field of study and profession, I am involved in various meetups once a month, instruct project-based workshops and programs such as Techsdale and volunteer at WordCamp conferences to keep my skills sharpened and stay active in the design community. Being a member of a community that shares knowledge with future designers and developers helps me stay in touch with design trends and the latest developments in technology within my field of practice. I learn a great deal from my peers within these spaces and take those lessons back into my classroom to share the experiences with my students. These experiences also allow my students to gain an edge within the job market once they graduate. Employers in the design industry are always looking for talented designers who are knowledgable of the latest technologies and languages to stay competitive. By keeping up with technology, I can transfer what I learn to my students in a rich learning environment that is filled with current information, discussion and creative ideas.

Do you have enough time to develop the skills that will allow you to be an effective teacher?

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When I was 17 years old my father passed away. My father was an auto mechanic for the greater part of his life and would always read about the newest innovations in the auto industry, even after his retirement. He had stacks of auto manuals, auto magazines and whatever else he could get his hands on to keep up with his passion for automobiles. After he retired, he couldn’t stand the fact of being unable to work. When I was 11 years old, he moved back to the Caribbean (Dominica) to help his nephews manage their mechanic shop. Six years passed, and I had planned to visit him in Dominica a couple weeks before his passing. A year later, my sister—who also lives in Dominica—visited me and gave me a book that my father had planned on giving me for my 18th birthday. Apparently, he gave a copy of this book to all of my brothers and sisters when they turned 18. The book my father kept for me was called ‘The Prophet’ by Khalil Gibran. The book is about a man who lived abroad for several years and was on his way home aboard a ship. During his travels, he began to discuss various topics about life and the human condition with a group of passengers on the ship. When the groups of passengers ask the man on the ship about the topic of ‘Work’ the man replied, “You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth. For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons
” (Gibran, 1926). This quote always stuck with me as my father used to emphasize the importance of work. In the digital age, this quote holds even more value to me today than it did in the past. When asked if I have enough time to develop my skills in order to be an effective designer and teacher, my reply to that question is “I make time.” If I want to be an effective designer and teacher to a generation that depends heavily on the use of technology then I must make time to develop my skills and keep pace with technology or else I will become a stranger to it and unable to keep pace with the world of design. I can’t imagine teaching students graphic design using the same techniques as I did when I was a student. I can’t imagine teaching students how to develop photos in a dark room rather than teaching them digital prepress or teaching typography using metal type instead of digital typesetting applications. I probably wouldn’t be considered as a designer in the digital age if I still used old technology. A great woman once told me “Mark, if you love to do something you should make time for it, not wish you had time for it” (My Wife, 2015).

Do you think all teachers should have technical skills?

smithsonianmag.com (2013)
smithsonianmag.com (2013)

I personally think that all teachers should have technical skills, regardless of the grade level they teach. My daughter’s first grade teacher used her iPad to help students learn how to read and practice arithmetic. My daughter’s first grade teacher also kept track of each student’s progress using the Evernote app on her iPad. When we met my daughter’s teacher for our parent-teacher meeting, the teacher showed us pictures of my daughter’s progress and feedback that she had made throughout the term. When it was time to end the meeting, I had asked if we could have a copy of the pictures she took of our daughter so that we could have them printed. The teacher replied (with confusion) that she didn’t know how to extract the photographs from Evernote. My daughter quickly interrupted and suggested to her teacher that she tap and hold her finger on the images so that she could save them to her iPad. My daughter then showed her teacher how to create a photo album for each student using her iPad so that her teacher could easily send photos to each parent via email. It was great that the teacher used technology to help her students learn in a way that was intuitive, engaging and fun for the class. The technology also allowed the instructor to keep all of her reports in one place while helping her stay organized and sustainable, as per the school’s policy. However, there were some things that my daughter’s teacher was not aware of about the technology that she was using. Granted, the teacher took it upon herself to include the use of technology in the classroom as a learning tool but what if she was better supported and learned how the technology she was using could be utilized to it’s full potential?

I see many teachers at the elementary level on both ends of the spectrum in adopting technology. How should they be supported? Should there be a certain mandatory level of technology use in the classroom?

tablets-bts29lf1

In 2015, I would hope that technology in the classroom would be mandated. Today, there are digital classrooms being created and implemented across various school districts and provinces within Canada. Amplify uses Google’s Android-based tablets and Samsung have already started initiatives to deliver affordable mobile devices to educators and their students. With the increasing need for qualified people in tech, companies are taking it upon themselves to educate the next generation of tech leaders. I agree that the use of technology in the classroom should also include mandatory training for instructors. The post-secondary institution where I teach offers workshops and training seminars for teachers every month. The school also has a department dedicated to professional development, which offers workshops on how to utilize technology in the classroom.

WiFi Birds - Techcomic (2014)
WiFi Birds – Techcomic (2014)

I have also taught a few ‘lunch and learn’ sessions in the past. A lunch and learn is where a faculty member or guest speaker instructs faculty on how to use or implement a specific application or resource that may be useful to them during their lunch hour. I recently taught a lesson on how to create a subscription-based Google calendar for instructors who wanted to send push notifications to students about assignment due dates, important events and access to one-on-one meeting signups. Since the majority of our students have a computer or mobile device with their own personal email account, students preferred having reminders sent directly to their device rather than accessing reminders through a third party email account. Using this simple form of technology allowed my students to stay organized and punctual with their assignments throughout the semester.

Summary

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When writing my earlier post on my role of an educator in the digital age, I should have defined the word ‘technology’ as it pertains to my profession and teaching. I don’t believe that teachers need to be up-to-date with all technologies, because I agree that it is an impossible task. However, within the scope of a teacher’s expertise or subject, teachers should become more knowledgeable of the available technologies that affect their subject of expertise to suit the needs of their students. I understand that my perspectives may be different from others in my profession as a teacher. I am a designer first and a teacher second. I became a teacher because I wanted to share my knowledge with others in hopes that they would become as passionate about design as I am. My passion for design allows me to be passionate about teaching design. My personal belief is that students come to me as a teacher of design because they consider me to be an expert in the field that I teach. Therefore, they expect me to answer any questions based on design and the technology that compliments design. Sure, I help guide my students to find their own understanding of what good design is and how to achieve their own academic goals. However, to do so I must also help them become better designers by staying current with the technology and information that they need to achieve their academic and professional goals. In addition, I still see value in teaching the traditional aspects of design that will help them build a solid foundation for their career. Thus, making them better prepared for any future advancements that they may experience.

Reflection Eternal: Looking Back and Ahead of LRNT 501

RRU Welcome
RRU Welcome – Photo credit: Mark-Anthony Karam (2015)

Just over a month has passed since I began my studies at RRU in hopes of becoming an instructional designer. As I look back, after leaving residency, I can’t ignore the fact that I have changed in many ways. I have gained new perspectives on the ways in which I learn and discovered how others acquire knowledge in respect to their beliefs. I have developed a greater understanding of learning theories and synthesized how those theories may be applied in my classroom. Before attending RRU, I have never formally learned about epistemologies or even used the word in a sentence for that matter. I’ve acquired so much knowledge in such a short amount of time that it gives me confidence about what’s ahead. Overall, my learning experience was invaluable during my two week residency at Royal Roads University. However, it is the intangibles that I took away from my RRU experience that have transformed me and developed me into a better student, teacher and person.

Good stress. Bad stress.

Google images (2014)
Google images (2014)

Before arriving at RRU, I have never travelled to the West coast of Canada. It was my first time travelling without my family and leaving them behind. It was also the first time I had lived on campus in a dorm room. I have always lived in housing while away at school—usually with friends that I have grown up with—which made it easier to adjust. Leading up to my travels, I was unaware of what to expect at RRU. I had mixed emotions and felt excited, nervous, eager, scared, anxious, grateful and overwhelmed
 but overall, I had a feeling of being out-of-place. How would I survive two weeks away from my family and concentrate without them? Will my classmates get along with me and visa versa? How much work will we be given and what would my instructors expect/think of me? I had so many unanswered questions swirling in my mind during my 5 hour flight that I was feeling nauseous with doubt about what I was about to embark on over the next two years.

Adjusting

Over time—about a week—I managed to settle in at RRU. I met and worked with some great people who helped me as I learned the concepts within our LRNT 501 and LRNT 502 courses. The community building sessions really helped me adjust to life on campus. It allowed me to let my guard down and communicate with others to build relationships that I would value for the rest of my academic career and lifetime. The support I gained from my group members and faculty allowed me to return home from RRU and offer the same support and guidance to my students and peers at work.

I began to take everything one step at a time and focus on breaking things down into manageable milestones so that I wouldn’t become overwhelmed.”

Royal Roads Gardens
Royal Roads Japanese Gardens – Photo credit: Mark-Anthony Karam (2015)

When I felt unsure of my capabilities, my classmates encouraged me and my instructors motivated me to do better and improve. I still remember being disconnected and feeling guilty for being away from my daughter as I got off the phone with her one evening while she cried, “Daddy, come home
 I miss you” (Nawal, 2015). As I walked back to my group meeting with tears in my eyes, Sarah (2015) turned to me and said, “You’re doing a good thing, Mark.” I quickly remembered why I was there. Achieving my Masters in Education has always been a personal goal of mine but this personal goal is now shared with my family who encouraged me to take on this new challenge and experience the journey. I began to take everything one step at a time and focus on breaking things down into manageable milestones so that I wouldn’t become overwhelmed.

Learning and growing.

Photo credit: Mark-Anthony Karam (2015)
Photo credit: Mark-Anthony Karam (2015)

The group debate was one of the experiences that I enjoyed the most. Not because my group was awarded as the victors of the debate but because it made me work within a group dynamic that allowed me to learn from other’s and gain an experience that I can now call my own. We were visited by Tony Bates, who we read and learned a lot from his book, ‘Teaching in a digital age.’ His presentation was very insightful and helped me grasp a better understanding of learning theories. Our discussion on connectivism by Downes and Siemens (2004) brought upon new perspectives on how we use technology to seek knowledge in our digital world. Discovering the differences between xMOOC’s and cMOOC’s were interesting to discuss as this is one of the paths that I see myself instructing within in the near future. The debate is still open on if connectivism is an epistemology or a learning theory. 😉 Overall, The guest speakers during the course were great; offering valuable feedback and insights on anything from learning theories and open-source texts to graphic recording and thesis research.

Going home.

50 Cent Drive Off Gif
50 Cent Drive Off Gif

Upon returning home, there have been many things that I have reflected about. I’ve reflected about what I have learned, how I learned and what this whole experience will mean to me two years from now. The end of it all seems so far away but in reality, I know it’s closer than I think. Achieving this goal will take sacrifices, compromise and experiencing difficulties along the way but I know it will be worth it in the end and I am aware that I will continue to have help and support from my family, friends, faculty and classmates.

Photo credit: RRU (2015)
Photo credit: RRU (2015)

 RRU Gallery


References

Bates, A. W. (2015). Teaching in a Digital Age. BC Campus.  Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/

Siemens, G. (2004). A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/articles/connectivism.htm

My Role As An Educator In The Digital Age

digital age educator

Upon leaving my residency at RRU, I have a better understanding of my role as an educator. I am able to say that my epistemological beliefs are rooted in interpretivism with a teaching style based on social constructivism and parts of connectivism. As a visual learner, working collaboratively in a group environment while being able to construct my own sense of knowledge is how I learn best. I have found that in the past, I have tried to pass on those preferences to my students in hopes that they learn in the same manner as I. What I gained from my experience at RRU was discovering my epistemological beliefs of knowing and gaining a greater understanding about how the ways in which I learn effect the way I teach; whether tacit of explicit.

It is crucial for an instructor in the digital age to be as technically savvy and skilled as their students in order to provide knowledgable answers for the questions raised by his/her students.

My role as an educator may be more important today in the digital era than ever before. Being in the profession of multimedia and an educator in the field of media studies, it has allowed me to learn and deliver content in a variety of ways. In the digital age, the skills, and demands of this ever-evolving climate are changing drastically at a greater pace than before. “Many educators place critical importance on the social aspect of learning. Ideas are encouraged to be developed between the perspectives of teachers, classmates, peers and colleagues” (Bates, 2015, p. 52). There is no doubt about the importance of the teacher as a facilitator in today’s educational system. However, with the abundance of technological advancement in our current educational climate, the real question is if teachers are equipped with the up-to-date skills necessary to assist their students in learning technologies? In addition, are teachers willing to adapt to the advancements of technology and implement them within their current systems? It is crucial for an instructor in the digital age to be as technically savvy and skilled as their students in order to provide knowledgable answers for the questions raised by his/her students. Moreover, it appears to be even more important for educators to help navigate students through their educational careers to decipher between the good and bad knowledge that is readily available online.

educators in technology
Compass Magazine (2015)

Technology is evolving as we speak. Therefore, teachers must have the ability to grasp new concepts quickly and deliver those concepts to their students. In the scope of web-based-learning, technical skills and critical thinking skills are also important. Teachers must learn new ways for facilitating better learning experiences within traditional classrooms and online environments. They must effectively utilize a variety of learning styles and digital media to enhance student engagement and understanding.

Technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will replace teachers who don’t.”
— Steve Wheeler

After my learning experience on residence at RRU, I realized that in order to be an instructional designer within mobile and distance learning, I have a greater responsibility to fulfill the needs of my students as well as being versed in a multitude of web-based communication tools, languages and learning theories. Although teachers are no longer the primary source of information in the digital age, (which we never were the only source of information) our responsibility is to now contextualize information and guide students in the direction of useful information. Even in the advent of Google, YouTube and Wiki’s, the engagement and guidance of educators scaffolds information in ways that students using technology and peer groups do not.

There is no question that if teachers lack technical skills, they will not be able to contribute effectively with their student’s. However, having conventional teachers with the technological skills to enable the facilitation of knowledge in the digital age is paramount.

References

Bates, T.(2015). Teaching in a digital age. BC Campus. Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/

Compassmag.3ds.com,. ‘TEACHING TEACHERS / Education / #5 / The 3DEXPERIENCE Magazine – 3DS Compass Mag’. N.p., 2015. Web. 13 Aug. 2015.

Conlin, S. [simonconlin]. (2015). Photo [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/andrewsmyk/status/631579119139090433

Cite This For Me: APA Style Citation Plugin

citation-apa-meme

Don’t let APA get in the way (Berry, 2015).

Today I discovered Cite This Form Me; a Chrome plugin that quickly references websites in APA, MLA, and Chicago style formats, including formatting citations for journals, websites and books. The plugin allows you to save an entire bibliography, as well as share, download and embed in-text citations into your APA style documents with ease. The plugin can also check for plagiarized content and comes with a free downloadable Word plugin that can send your citations directly into your Word documents. This is a great tool for keeping track of your academic citations. You can also use the plugin to keep track of any useful references that you intend on logging for future works, such as thesis or research papers.

Try  to cite all your references in APA style format! #RRUMALAT

References

Quickmeme.com,. N.p., 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.

Berry, S., July 2015 , LRNT 501, Royal Roads University. Victoria, BC.

I Teach, Therefore I Am.

epistemology

Epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief.

For our first graduate level paper, we were to discover our epistemological position based on the ways which we believe knowledge is gained as a learner. I never took the time to think about my beliefs in how I acquired knowledge as a leaner. I started out feeling unsure of my epistemological position as a learner and how it may have impacted the way I teach. As I reflected on the reading material, I wondered to myself:

  • Do I even have an epistemological position as a learner?
  • Did I need to define the way(s) I know what I know to be true and
  • what impact would my position have on the way I teach?

Epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? As the study of justified belief, epistemology aims to answer questions such as: How we are to understand the concept of justification? What makes justified beliefs justified? Is justification internal or external to one’s own mind? Understood more broadly, epistemology is about issues having to do with the creation and dissemination of knowledge in particular areas of inquiry.

learning styles
Everyone learns differently. (Shagdora.files.wordpress.com)

As a student and teacher, my epistemological position believes that knowledge is acquired within a constructivist approach. My pedagogical methods of teaching are influenced by my epistemological beliefs and creating learning environments that facilitate participation, collaboration and context to prior experiences are practiced within my teaching methods.

— (Jonassen et al, 1995).

According to interpretivist belief, my learning experiences suggest that I acquire knowledge through a constructivist learning theory. What I have learned through gaining an understanding of my epistemological position as a learner, is that I learn best when actively participating in an environment with peers, teachers and technology to facilitate my own understanding of concepts and topics in context to my prior experiences (Jonassen et al, 1995). Learning in a participatory environment enables me to achieve a high level of academic achievement through asking relevant questions that enable me to think critically about a topic and solve problems.

I also learn best within a collaborative environment where I can develop an understanding of knowledge through multiple intelligences (e.g. auditory, visual, kinaesthetic, digital etc
). Working in a collaborative learning environment, where the teacher facilitates and encourages social interaction and multiple intelligences, develops my understanding and construction of knowledge.

Finally, I recognized that I learn best when knowledge is placed in context to my prior experiences and understanding of knowledge. Engaging students with relevant and meaningful activities—while applied in context to the learner’s experiences—is necessary in a constructive learning environment (Duffy and Cunningham, 1996, p. 178). In media studies, I place emphasis on portfolio-based projects that give a holistic view of student knowledge rather than traditional behaviourist or cognitive theories that emphasize performance based and measurable acquisitions of knowledge. Therefore, “The student’s responsibility is to accurately comprehend, and reproduce knowledge handed down to him/her” (Bates, T, 2015, p.44; Bates, T, 2015, p. 47).

Through these reflections, I am now aware of my epistemological influence within a learning environment. More importantly, I discovered that my beliefs in the ways which I learn dictates the ways in which I teach.  My epistemological belief is that I acquire knowledge through a constructivist learning theory. Active participation, collaboration and learning in context have influenced the way I learn and teach. Using a constructivist approach for learning and teaching, have allowed my classes to become more dynamic and interactive within our digital culture.

M.

References

Bates, A. W. (2015). Teaching in a digital age. BC Campus. Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/

Duffy, T. M., and Cunningham, D. J., (1996). Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction, In D. H. Jonassen, (Ed.) Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology, NY: Macmillan Library Reference USA.

Instructionaldesign.org,. ‘Constructivist Theory’. N.p., 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.

Jonassen, D., Davidson, M., Collins, C., Campbell, J., and Haag, B.B., (1995). Constructivism and Computer-Mediated Communication in Distance Education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 9(2), 7-26.

McLeod, Saul. ‘Behaviorism | Simply Psychology’. Simplypsychology.org. N.p., 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.

memegenerator.net,. ‘Epistemology | Spongebob’. N.p., 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.

Research-methodology.net,. ‘Interpretivism (Interpretivist) – Research Methodology’. N.p., 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.

Shagdora.files.wordpress.com,. Kolb’s Diagram N.p., 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.

Steup, Matthias. ‘Epistemology’. Plato.stanford.edu. N.p., 2005. Web. 28 July 2015.

Teachinglearningresources.pbworks.com,. ‘Teaching And Learning Resources / Cognitivism’. N.p., 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.

YouTube,. ‘Boring Economics Teacher’. N.p., 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.

Cultures Of Inquiry: Research Methods and Reflection

mindful inquiry
Photo credit: Mark-Anthony Karam (2015)

Cultures Of Inquiry

During the first week of our course, we were asked to complete several readings regarding traditional concepts of research methods. We explored and discovered various perspectives and concepts in cultures of inquiry — including, phenomenology, hermeneutics, ethnography, quantitative behavioural science, action research, evaluation research, historical-comparative research, critical social science, and theoretical research. We were also asked to develop a mind map to visualize our findings and reflect on how some of these concepts relate to our experiences.

As a college instructor and program coordinator in the field of media studies—I must admit—I have never had formal training in the above research methods. The notion of contextualizing some of the concepts to my current and or past experiences felt a bit overwhelming at times. After completing the readings and assignment, I found myself connecting the dots and reflecting on past experiences that I had encountered when I practiced many of these concepts. Although, I was unfamiliar with the concepts, I realized that I had applied most of these concepts of inquiry over my career as an educator.

tree in Oakville's 16 mile creek
Photo credit: Mark-Anthony Karam (2015)

Research Methods and Reflection

As I reflected on the readings, I came away with some very insightful information and methods that would help me identify, plan and solve problems that we are faced with within my program and department. Many of our students come into our program with a post-secondary education from notable colleges and universities. Some are unable to find jobs due to their lack of technological savvy, experience with software applications and web-based languages. e.g., HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP etc
. On the other hand, a good portion of my students are categorized as ‘adult learners’. They have been out of school or the industry for some time and have a steeper learning curve to overcome; when it comes to the use of technology in the classroom and workplace. With such a diverse spectrum of learners that occupy my classroom, I often wonder how can I deliver content in such a way that each student—regardless of age, gender, social status, knowledge and experience—can learn the concepts in a clear, accessible and meaningful way that enables them to achieve their personal and or academic goals?

“Interpreting and explaining the way people in a group, organization, community, and society live and experience their ‘real-world’ situations within their environment.”

— Bentz, V. M., & Shapiro, J. J. (1998). Mindful Inquiry in Social Research. SAGE.

Exploring the ethnographic inquiry helped me discover how I developed my own strategy for solving these issues. In my opinion, interpreting and explaining the way people in a group, organization, community, and society live and experience their ‘real-world’ situations within their environment is a key prerequisite to evaluation research and applying an action-based inquiry method. I always found myself to be a facilitator with an action-based approach that tried to guide and influence students in achieving their academic goals and career decisions.

In 2009, I developed an online application system for student applicants who wished to enter my program. The assessment would prompt the students to submit their online portfolio along with a current resume and letter of intent; stating how our program would help them develop their career goals and aspirations. The assessment also had an online computer aided tutorial that would help me understand the applicants level of computer competency. These tools allowed me to not only capture the level of knowledge that our applicants possessed upon entering the program, but it helped me facilitate and deliver meaningful content for the learner as it pertained to their career goals. This made for a better learning environment and allowed for more flexibility in the classroom. I could now instruct the core concepts of design and development but also tailor the lessons and assignments to help our students achieve success in the classroom and beyond graduation.

As I progress in my studies and complete my Masters, I look forward to discovering more about these topics and methods with my classmates and faculty. I can only hope that things get a bit easier to digest as I become more familiar with the methods of inquiries. However, the readings and subject matter of Bentz, V. M., & Shapiro, J. J. (1998). Mindful Inquiry in Social Research. SAGE. has provided me with a solid understanding and beginning to this new journey in Education and Technology.

M.

References:
Bentz, V. M., & Shapiro, J. J. (1998). Mindful Inquiry in Social Research. SAGE.