Month: December 2019

The Struggles of Innovation

In any group of teachers, you are bound to see some differences. But are there really?

If you take a closer look, I feel like you would see far more similarities. Generally speaking, teachers value education. They are organized (even if the way they organize is different), they have a goal for learning and a clear path to achieve that goal. A+B=C

 

I have seen a strong shift over the last decade or so, where teachers use creative and innovative methods for teaching and learning.  However, there is still an end goal and a clear path (created by the teacher) of how to get there.

 

Creative and innovative education does not come easily. It takes a lot of time, resources and effort by individual teachers to implement. Often, I find that I myself fall short of the glorious advances that could be happening in the classroom. Despite great intentions to transform education, teachers have been successful in a traditional classroom setting and therefore can find themselves slipping into a more traditional delivery method. But then where’s the interactive engagement students are so desperately seeking.  Maybe this is our biggest flaw.

 

Not that reinvigorating educational pedagogies is a lost cause; I just think that some oversimplify the changes that educators are struggling to make.  Even though researchers want to map or outline this process I would say it’s near impossible. Teaching is messy and unclear, there is no straight line of A+B=C. There are too many factors that contribute to the failure and success of any given pedagogical practice. I feel that sometimes research puts additional pressure on teachers to make changes to their class before they are prepared to do so. And research doesn’t account for the uncontrollable environmental factors that influence the success of educational pedagogies.

WHAT ABOUT K-12?

Open educational resources are a hot topic in education. But most (if not all) of the research is examining how open resources impact post-secondary education and further research. Yes, open access is a great idea. Providing universal definitions or information on basic levels of understanding, but how does this impact the K-12 world.

Working in a blended learning model high school, online resources are key to making our program work. We are given a basic online course from WCLN and then have the freedom to make changes. However, with the most recent updates, WCLN has changed some of the information pieces so that they can control the content. However, this means that as teachers we have less autonomy of what students can and cannot see, and therefore how much we can change within the course. Although this is an open resource, it limits what we as teachers can control in the course.

Personally, I like to have full control of the content covered in my class. My first thought is to create a resource, rather than spend the time to find a ready-made resource to use in the class. I also think that previously developed resources inhibit the individualization of education. When I develop a resource, I know it is specific to my course, my lesson and the students that I am teaching.

But there are barriers to this method as well. For one, developing resources takes a lot of time. Maybe I’m the only teacher that has been in this position, but you can’t develop a quality resource the night before. Second, it isn’t always easy to think of new and creative approaches to content.

So, what does this mean for K-12 educators. The use and effectiveness of open educational resources changes drastically between different grade levels. Furthered by the fact that the current research focuses on post-secondary. Hopefully, future research will look into open educational resources for the K-12 world.

if it aint broke, don’t fix it.

There’s this bed, it’s around 50 years old and has been well used within my family. It started as a bunk bed for my father and his siblings and is now a single bed (no top bunk) in the family summer home. And although we have not used the top bunk in several years, we still have all the parts and the mattress just in case. It is referred to as the ‘taco bed’ because it has a special way of bending in the center that allows the user to feel like they are folded in half.

In order to “fix” the bed, my grandparents decided to throw the second mattress on top and tried to convince everyone that it made it “better”. Let me assure you, a second 50-year-old mattresses stacked on top of the first, does not fix the problem. More than a few years ago, I questioned their logic, asking how an old mattress would fix a broken and uncomfortable bed? They responded with things like, more cushion, and you couldn’t feel the springs of the first mattress. Sure, this makes some sense, but the top mattress has the same issues, so what is going to fix those.  Despite my effort to understand and address the issue nothing has changed.

Oddly enough I was reminded of this incident while reading Twenty Years of EdTech by Martin Weller. “Attempting to convince educators that a complex technology might solve a problem they don’t think they have is therefore unlikely to meet with widespread support” (2018, pp.46) The pushback I received when trying to fix a mattress, is similar to the pushback from teachers to implement new technologies in the classroom. I can’t help but think of the phrase, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.” Why at any point would an educator completely change what they are doing if it’s a) working or b) the alternative seems over complicated and irrelevant.

First, educators need to recognize that there is a problem in the educational field. If there is no problem, then there is no willingness to change. Second, educators need to be given the time and resources to DEVELOP technology that will SUPPORT their new PEDAGOGY. I can’t help but notice a top-down trend in educational technology. Where new amazing technologies are developed and then teachers try to force the technology to “fit” the traditional educational model.

I believe the next step in innovative and applicable education is starting with pedagogy, then looking at curriculum and ending with discussing what technologies are needed in order to make it happen.  This way we can re-invent education and learning, to cater to 21st century needs and skills. A key to successfully restructuring educational environments is understanding what has changed in open and distributed learning over the past few decades.

As educators we need to critically reflect on our practices and continually adjust and improve our pedagogies. It is crucial that education changes at pace with society in order to meet the needs of a diverse set of learners.