To Be or Not To Be Connected? Is Technology Needed To Be Educated?

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When reflecting on recent readings for my International & Global Distance Education course, the theme of providing education for all (Bates, 2013) and the need technology (specifically, Internet access) in developing and underserved countries caught my attention. While the shift to remodel learning environments and equipping them with modern technology; therefore spawning new and innovative teaching methods seem as logical solutions for those living in a modern society (Gulati, 2008), I have become conflicted with the notion that our biases and presumed need for global access to a connected world is necessary to provide education for all. I agree the use of technology can produce positive outcomes such as creative learning and efficient productivity, access to an abundance of web tools and information etc…. However, what good is a connected world without affordable access to technology that enables others to become connected and participate? What benefits does a connected infrastructure provide to people who cannot afford the devices to connect? What benefit is a connected device if the user is unable to operate the device or maintain it? Could the idea of establishing a globally connected world without providing affordability, opportunity and access to contextually appropriate information for the people increase the educational divide within developing countries and underserved societies?

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I’ve been wrestling with what the term ‘education’ means to those who provide it versus those who receive it. Are we educating or indoctrinating others to adopt our ways of learning, producing and innovating through the use of technology? With these biases of a connected tech savvy utopia, I wonder what other biases and influences will be passed on to societies with differences in culture, language, economy, etc…? How will these biases and influences affect what is learned? What will the side effects of online or tech-based learning produce in the future? Will this form of connected education sustain a population’s current cultural identity alongside the information delivered through the use of tech-based education? How would that conformity change a cultures perspectives on innovation and alter their creative ingenuity that their cultural identity has provided the world to date? To presume that education and the models that deliver knowledge is a one-size-fits-all approach is to assume that education processes like the very machine that we believe will provide education for all and improve learning. Education is not as absolute as an algorithm. If so, It possesses many if and then statements with infinite loops.

There are so many complex factors (other than providing broadband internet) involved in order to provide education for all and improve learning in developing countries and underserved populations. I hope to discover and contextualize these factors upon further research as I move forward into our future readings and discussions.

References

Anon – Not Sure If (2016). I2.kym-cdn.com. Retrieved from http://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/437/437/a19.png

Bates, T. (2013 June 23).  MIT, learning technologies, and developing countries: lessons in technology transfer.

bmo GIF – bmo AdventureTime anxious GIFs. (2016). Tenor. Retrieved from https://www.tenor.co/view/bmo-adventuretime-anxious-nervous-scared-gif-3561125

Gulati, S. (2008). Technology-enhanced learning in developing nations: A review. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(1).

LRNT 513 – Learning Journal: Leading Through Fight or Flight Conversation Styles. Entry #4

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My Observations

During Assignments #4 and #5, I explored complex challenges that impacted leadership in a community based youth program for gaming and web development. I discovered much more about the challenges faced by leaders within the program by asking powerful questions, and suggesting applicable solutions based on what I had observed during an informal learning interview. I conducted a synchronous interview with the cofounder of the program individually and later within a team dynamic. Both experiences were valuable as they required similar but yet different skills and processes to execute a successful and meaningful interview with positive outcomes. In hindsight, while conducting the interview individually, my personal and unconscious biases surfaced versus my approach when placed in a team dynamic. Allowing others to contribute to the process allowed me to externalize my own beliefs and accept the perspectives of others; whether it be culturally, geographically and experiential. Leading a team allowed me to experience and view the role of leadership through various perspectives. In addition, my initial assumptions; in respect to ‘what makes a good leader‘ were affirmed as some of my initial characteristics of a leader were practiced during this experience. The biggest takeaway from these experiences were the effectiveness of our team conversations. I decided to take the fight or flight approach in communicating this time around in our team assignment. In order to arrive at suitable solutions for our client, as a collective, our team conducted a series of conversations while accommodating to the strengths of each member, which lead to some tangible ideas that would become possible solutions for our client’s long-term challenges. Allowing each member to contribute their thoughts and perspectives while voicing their ideas made for a positive learning experience and outcome.

My Reflections

Cross, (2007, p. 122) defines the fight and flight conversational styles as “The fight conversational style is competitive; a “win” conversation. The flight style is accommodating….” During our first meeting, we decided to have an open forum and presented our preferences for communication, contribution deadlines and had a conversation about our teams strengths and learning opportunities. This initial form of communication provided our team with a foundation for conducting a positive virtual working environment and an engaging learning experience. It was important to voice these concerns and be transparent with members of the group; as I found that we developed a mutual understanding of responsibilities, roles and team goals.

Lessons Learned

My approach to initiating an accommodating flight conversation style allowed our group to identify team strengths and learning opportunities that helped us develop a strong team dynamic that produced meaningful conversations and resulted in positive contributions from all members of the group while keeping them engaged in the process. Wheatley, (as cited in Cross, 2007, p. 124) said it best when describing the cultivation of change through human conversation, “I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not mediation, negotiation, problem-solving, debate or public meetings. Simple, truthful conversations where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard and we each listen well”.

References

Cross, J. (2007).  Informal learning: Rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance.  San Francisco CA: Pfeiffer.

LRNT 513 – Learning Journal: Constructing Powerful Questions for Innovation and Change. Entry #3

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The linguistic architecture of powerful questions diagram [adapted]. The Art and architecture of powerful questions. Vogt, Brown, & Isaacs (2003, p. 3).

My Observations

I’ve attended and held many meetings surrounding the topic of change, innovation and professional development over the past 10 years as an instructor and program coordinator in media studies. In the past, many decisions that were made to initiate change within our department, program and courses were dictated by management without consulting staff and or faculty. Decisions were frequently implemented without consensus among our team and lacked insights and contributions from experienced members. Newly devised and implemented plans or strategies usually fell apart because these decisions were not thought through or simulated with input from experienced members or industry collaboration. Throughout my Leadership, Learning & Technology course I have learned that leaders—instead of delegating a plan of action—should be more inclusive when developing ideas and strategies for change, innovation and professional development.

“Questions open the door to dialogue and discovery. They are an invitation to creativity and breakthrough thinking. Questions can lead to movement and action on key issues; by generating creative insights, they can ignite change”
— Vogt, Brown, & Isaacs, 2003, p. 1

My Reflections

During Unit 3 of the course, I explored how to construct powerful questions to foster authentic and meaningful conversations. Cross, (2007) refers to this process as The World Café and references insights maintained by Brown and Isaacs (2005) publication, The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter. As I began to reflect more about the process of The World Café, I could imagine implementing this process during staff meetings or even during student feedback sessions. I then discovered that constructing powerful questions to provoke creative thought for innovation should start with a focused goal in mind. Giving clarity and context to challenges through the use of real-life issues and questions would allow participants to engage in collaborative, in-depth exploration and innovative thinking (Cross, 2007, p. 115). Vogt, Brown and Isaacs (2003) maintain that “Questions can lead to movement and action on key issues; by generating creative insights, they can ignite change” (p. 1).

Within ‘The Art of Powerful Questions’ article, Vogt et al. (2003) present the three dimensions of formulating powerful questions. Construction of a Question, The Scope of  Question and The Assumptions Within Questions. Discovering these dimensions has been very enlightening for me in my role as a program coordinator; as it has allowed me to think critically about the underlying challenges that my program, students and staff are faced with on a daily basis and within our industry. These formulas gave me a different perspective on the various system archetypes within our cluster of certificate and diploma programs and courses. In the past, I would experience questions that would evoke a defensive response, were too broad in scope or had presumed assumptions about a challenge. “When constructing powerful questions, queries should stimulate reflective thinking in order to spark deeper conversation” (Vogt et al. 2003, p. 4).

Consider the following questions and view how they move from broad in scope to becoming more focused in structure:

  • Are you satisfied with our program?
  • When have you been most satisfied with our program?
  • What is it about our program that you find most satisfying?
  • Why might it be that that our program has had its ups and downs?

Lessons Learned

Considering these new insights regarding the three dimensions of constructing powerful questions,  I now have a solid foundation to help my team clarify the scope of complex challenges while creating an environment for inclusion, deeper thought, and creative solutions. “As with any new skill, the best teacher is experience, and the best coach is a thoughtful listener” (Vogt et al. 2003, p. 6).

References

Vogt, E., Brown, J., & Isaacs, D. (2003). The art of powerful questions: Catalyzing insight, innovation and action. Mill Valley, CA: Whole Systems Associates.

Cross, J. (2007).  Informal learning: Rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance.  San Francisco CA: Pfeiffer.

LRNT 513 – Learning Journal: Cultural Perspectives of Transactional & Transformational Leadership. Entry #2

 

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My Observations:

During Assignment #2, I explored various cultural influences that impacted leadership, such as values, beliefs and perceptions of leadership. I discovered these influences from a transactional leadership lens versus a transformational leadership perspective.

My Reflection:

During my discovery, I identified the differences between Transactional and Transformational Leadership Theories and found relevance in these approaches within my day-to-day working experiences. Discovering these theories through systems thinking and complexity allowed me to relate direct and indirect consequences that arise when making work related decisions that may affect cultural factors. Discovering these theories allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of coping with complexity from a management perspective and coping with change through a leadership perspective. Peter Senge (n.d.) states that “Leadership is the capacity of a human community to shape its future. People who believe they can shape their future are passionately engaged”. If leadership is disconnected from cultures and communities, systems can become fragmented. It is beneficial to gain insights from people who have different views and perspectives in order to develop, adopt and apply alternate behaviours and approaches through triangulation. Senge (1990), identifies this concept as ‘collective intelligence’. “The concept of smart is not about individual learning, it is collective intelligence that produces value and change for social, economical and ecological well-being” (Senge, n.d.).

Not being able to see the connection between systems archetypes and our actions can lead to consequences which invoke an unintentional cultural reaction to the consequence. This form of systems ignorance is the result of failing to see the bigger picture, which causes us to react with our own self-interest in mind.

Resources:

Senge, (n.d.) What Makes A Great Leaders? YouTube [Video] Retrived from https://youtu.be/1aYaj2-GZqk?list=PLBRuTleUYDwrY3P7Zh92GcMvZ3TI8bLyP

Senge, Peter M. (1990, revised 2006) The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization New York: Doubleday Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?id=b0XHUvs_iBkC&pg=PA69&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false

The Right to Education: Quality Impacts Opportunity.

Photo Credit: http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.ca/
Photo Credit: http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.ca/

Sometimes my mind wanders and I tend to think critically about what messages are being delivered through media, educational institutions and society as a whole. I may read too deeply into things at times and wonder what the intended agenda behind the messages really are. I’ve always thought deeply about what ‘The Right to Education’ really means. I would presume that most people agree that everyone has the right to an education but what level of quality does that education provide? What is the cost of the education and how accessible is the education that we agree should be obtainable for all? These questions all depend on how a person defines the words ‘right’ and ‘education’. How would you define the terms accessible or affordable? What does quality of education mean to you? We all define these terms differently, so the phrase means different things to different people based on their understanding and experience.

Defining Education.

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Photo Credit: http://thechaishop.in/indiansys/

On a broad scale, education can be defined as “all activities, which a person or group transfers information to its descendants as a body of knowledge and skills to enable a person or group to subsist” (Beiter, 2005). Hmm, that sounds like a pretty general definition. However, that last word in the quote is what really intrigues me. Subsist. Subsist could also have varying definitions; depending on who you ask. The Merriam-Websters dictionary defines subsist as “to maintain or support oneself, especially at a minimal level.” A minimal level? Okay, this is where my mind starts to read deeper into things and I start to ask myself a series of questions.

  • Does the right to education mean that people have the right to a minimal level of education?
  • How does this definition and the use of the term minimal impact the quality of education?
  • What rights are included in a minimal education?
  • At what point does a minimal education commence?
  • Assuming that a minimal level education consists of K–12 education levels, how does one support oneself with a minimal level of education in a world that demands a higher level of education to succeed and support ones life or the lives of their families?
  • If the goal behind the right to education is to provide a minimal level of education for all; are there standards that a minimal education adhere to?
  • Does a minimal level of education allow a person to obtain a good quality of life beyond educating themselves?
  • What does ‘quality of life’ mean?… See how my mind wanders?

My Redefinition.

Denzel Washington — The Great Debaters.

The Right to Education—in my opinion—should be one that is inclusive, equal in scope, accessible, and prepares a person to progress beyond a “minimal level” of education. I believe that the right to education should not have limitations. I would hope that most people agree that a minimal education does not go very far in the competitive landscape that we currently live in. The right to education should not simply include teaching children how to read, write and do arithmetic based on low standardized checklists. Don’t get me wrong, the fundamentals are necessary. However, in the 21st century, I have experienced students who are expected or assumed to be intellectually advanced—by way of their birth date (Millennials)—yet they possess an inconsistent quality of learning of these foundational skills. They may also be assessed differently. It is a shame that not all students experience reading, writing and mathematics with equal quality. However, there are many other fundamentals of learning that students experience poorly or not at all. If we accept providing people with a minimal education, this means that we accept the quality of education to be minimal as well. How can we expect people to succeed in the current world if their educational experiences are of lesser quality than the demands made by higher levels of education? If a minimal level of education is not granted at an equal level of quality then the right to education will prohibit people from pursuing higher education; and shouldn’t people be granted the right to higher education as well?

The Right to Education in the 21st century.

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Photo Credit: http://www.sadhguruudupi.com/

I may not be able to provide students with financial accessibility for their educational path but I can redefine what the right to education includes in my classroom. I believe everyone should be given the right to a quality education that prepares them to pursue their passion and potential. Students should have the right to think freely, objectively and critically about the messages and information delivered to them and how they apply to their lives and the lives of others. I’ve met many students in my 10 short years of teaching at the post-secondary level and I have to say that I’ve seen many students arrive in my classroom incredible talents and abilities. Most of them come into my class with different levels of education and experiences. Even those who presume their education is of equal standing find out that there are differences in how they experienced the “same” education offered to their peers. I am also aware of the many incredible students that I have not met or those who had to leave my classes that may have excelled at the post-secondary level but were not afforded or granted the same opportunities and quality of education as other students; for whatever reasons. As an educator, professor, teacher, facilitator, mentor… whatever category I fit in, no matter what level of education I provide, I will always strive to nurture and provide students with a quality education that is inclusive and prepares them to reach their potential with meaning and fulfilment.

Idris Elba — Speech on Diversity.

 

References

Beiter, Klaus Dieter (2005). The Protection of the Right to Education by International Law. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. p. 19. ISBN 90-04-14704-7.

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