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#ICOT2013 | Breakout exploring a social network site and teacher professional learning
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#ICOT2013 | Breakout exploring a social network site and teacher professional learning

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The rapid shift in learning behaviours towards networked, online and blended models heralds new ways to imagine notions of learning and education. The movement towards increasingly democratized modes ...

The rapid shift in learning behaviours towards networked, online and blended models heralds new ways to imagine notions of learning and education. The movement towards increasingly democratized modes of knowledge making and creating is central to the way our ‘future society’ is developing. Recent years have seen a growing expectation that learners can access materials, resources and networks of experts and fellow-learners in ways that suit their contexts, location, time constraints, personal and professional needs and choice of technology.
In the field of education, e-learning (be it blended or fully online) is increasingly becoming part of both informal, and formal, educational professional learning for teachers. With the growth of social networking, combined with the growing demand for flexible and cost-efficient solutions to professional training, it is vital to understand the limitations and opportunities of the role that social network sites, and their communities, play within educational contexts.
This interpretive, case-based study (scheduled for 2012) will seek to explore the extent to which a New Zealand-based social networking site, the VLN Groups network, can support educators’ professional learning in ways that are meaningful. Findings will aim to identify the affordances and limitations of the VLN Groups social network site in terms of design in the service of learning to make recommendations about how we might improve the design and facilitation to enhance the way the space supports teachers’ professional learning.

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  • Who’s your blacksmith? - Clay Shirky story of specialisms in ‘Here Comes Everybody’ who held the knowledge? who helped you with a new horse? if we can contact all the world’s blacksmith’s what does that mean for our learning? - and what does it mean for the blacksmiths? Quick map on paper.....
  • ‘ shed light on a journey’
  • For the purposes of this literature review, social network sites are defined as: web-based spaces with an identified purpose that privilege the individual (profile page), make connections visible and overt (‘friends’), afford the creation and collaboration of activity through social media (e.g. blogs, link sharing), offer shared spaces for knowledge exchange and development (e.g. groups, activity stream), and support the curation and aggregation of content. It is also important to clarify the difference between ’network’ and ‘community’. A key difference between a community and a social network is that, in the social network site, the individual user is at the heart of the structure – everyone experiences the network through a profile and set of connections that revolve entirely around them. In a community, one’s relationship and commitment to the group is to the fore, and often the relationships are richer for it
  • but does it make a difference?
  • MOE owned space mandated within contracts has a noticeable effect, both positive and challenging on the way teachers are engaging with the site, and how they feel about it in relation to themselves as community members. Stats Estab. 2010, using Elgg open source platform x members MoE contracts inc:
  • While early incarnations of the Internet allowed for communication via broadcast and brochureware, the rapid rise in web 2.0 social software has allowed people the autonomy and agency, within an “architecture of participation” (Kamel Boulos & Wheeler, 2007, p. 2), to drive that communication themselves, in the form of self-publication, sharing of information, and self-expression. We now understand that we can play more of an active role in knowledge creation than ever before (Dawley, 2009) and the onus is on us to play this active role with purpose, not just in creation but in sharing, and, most importantly, critiquing the worth of what is shared and created.
  • While early incarnations of the Internet allowed for communication via broadcast and brochureware, the rapid rise in web 2.0 social software has allowed people the autonomy and agency, within an “architecture of participation” (Kamel Boulos & Wheeler, 2007, p. 2), to drive that communication themselves, in the form of self-publication, sharing of information, and self-expression. We now understand that we can play more of an active role in knowledge creation than ever before (Dawley, 2009) and the onus is on us to play this active role with purpose, not just in creation but in sharing, and, most importantly, critiquing the worth of what is shared and created.
  • While early incarnations of the Internet allowed for communication via broadcast and brochureware, the rapid rise in web 2.0 social software has allowed people the autonomy and agency, within an “architecture of participation” (Kamel Boulos & Wheeler, 2007, p. 2), to drive that communication themselves, in the form of self-publication, sharing of information, and self-expression. We now understand that we can play more of an active role in knowledge creation than ever before (Dawley, 2009) and the onus is on us to play this active role with purpose, not just in creation but in sharing, and, most importantly, critiquing the worth of what is shared and created.
  • While early incarnations of the Internet allowed for communication via broadcast and brochureware, the rapid rise in web 2.0 social software has allowed people the autonomy and agency, within an “architecture of participation” (Kamel Boulos & Wheeler, 2007, p. 2), to drive that communication themselves, in the form of self-publication, sharing of information, and self-expression. We now understand that we can play more of an active role in knowledge creation than ever before (Dawley, 2009) and the onus is on us to play this active role with purpose, not just in creation but in sharing, and, most importantly, critiquing the worth of what is shared and created.
  • Dean Shareski With this evolution of the social web, learners, be they students or educators, increasingly expect to access materials, resources and networks of experts and fellow-learners in ways that suit their contexts, needs and choices of technology. Recent technological advances put personalised models of learning in the driving seat. The trend of ‘anytime, anyplace’ learning is increasingly a key enabler for any institution or organisation that wishes to serve its learners who now expect to use mobile technology and 24-7 connectivity (Johnson et al., 2011). The Value of Social, Shared Professional Learning There is no doubt that effective teacher professional development, that seeks to enhance the way educators support students’ learning, is not a solitary endeavour, but a socialised one that requires on-going commitment to reflection, inquiry, and shared practice, combining informal and formal approaches. Indeed, the impact of teachers’ learning can only rightly be assessed by the way it brings about changes in student achievement (Ketelhut, McCloskey, Dede, Breit, & Whitehouse, 2006). Schlager & Fusco (2003) argue that the professional learning process requires teachers to be part of a “socio-organisational system” (p. 205) in which stakeholders collaborate for the good of the individual.
  • Future-focused reports predict that personalised, adaptive learning environments, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) will tip into the mainstream in the next two to three years, driven by changing patterns in the way people expect to able to work and learn, and by education paradigms shifting towards more blended approaches (Johnson, L., Adams, & Cummins, 2012). It is evident, then, that the time is ripe for educational institutions to review the existing models for professional learning. Existing models, supported by such research as the Best Evidence Synthesis series in New Zealand (Timperley, Wilson, Barrar, & Fung, 2007), emphasise the value of long-term, context-bound professional learning, driven by evidence of student achievement. At the same time, there is a growing trend for teachers to be engaging in a range of virtual professional networks, and an expectation that this will support them with their practice (Rutherford, 2010). Internationally, reports are increasingly indicating that technology can support the development of those personal and professional competencies required to be successful, metacognitive, adaptable learners (Ala-Mutka, 2009).
  • From this to this AND this AND this.....
  • Although teacher learning, driven by students’ needs, must be embedded in a contextualised problem, it does not need to be part of a formalised, taught activity. Change is inevitable and future-proofing impossible; the ability to respond flexibly to a wide range of trends and student needs means that institutions need to support teachers’ learning on-demand, using collaborative and organisation approaches as much as the more formalised approaches (Ala-Mutka, 2009).
  • Given that educators’ professional learning might offer a balance of modes and approaches, characterised by deliberate inquiry into authentic problems, self-autonomy and purposeful connections with colleagues, it is timely to consider what types of technological tools might afford this approach. Social network sites may offer one such avenue. If the New Zealand Ministry of Education is investing in such sites as the Virtual Learning Network Groups (VLN Groups) ( www.vln.school.nz ), it is worth exploring how current literature supports this professional learning policy.
  • There is extensive research into what ‘learning’ looks like - Bransford et al ‘How people learn’ is an invaluable resource here > prior knowledge, application of what we know to new learning, subject knowledge, clear frameworks, understanding the ‘whole’ of inquiry/theory And there is research too into what effective
  • The context of this site as a MOE owned space that is mandated within contracts has a noticeable effect, both positive and challenging on the way teachers are engaging with the site, and how they feel about it in relation to themselves as community members. Stats Estab. 2010, using Elgg open source platform x members MoE contracts inc:
  • Overview of methodology Limitations Selection of participants Limitations: early-adopters in contracts beginning to include sns in their contract, and those contracts have had an e-learning and leadership focus. Not sector representative.
  • It is important, however, to realise that just because studies assert the underpinning nature of various learning theories, this does not necessarily mean that the social network sites will effect professional learning. Might social network sites lack of critical voices that create an echo chamber effect? Could the conversation be too superficial to lead to effective professonal learning? Access to information does not automatically create knowledge or understanding. It can be observed in some social network sites that “the forms of communication available are for the most part one-dimensional, based in collective circulation of artifacts and individual meaning-making, rather than the co-construction of meaning” (Lewis, Pea, & Rose, 2010, p. 6). While this observation need not condemn social network sites outright, this sense of multiple people talking to themselves with only fleeting engagement with others’ online identities creates a problematic situation: how to maximize the opportunities offered by such spaces? To ‘like’ an item, share a resource, or ‘friend’ a colleague do not, of themselves, make for the kinds of deep, knowledge creation that is informed by learning theories.
  • ACTIVITY: Two types emerged, dependent on whether they were involved in a contract or not - Contract: deliberate, bringing people in, posting, starting groups, passing items on back to school; common amongst those who were had both strong and weak ties - Voluntary: dive and grab, driven by interest, emails. Some evidence of strategic search to support in-school inquiry but browsing and cherry picking was far more common; common amongst weakly tied members
  • SUBJECT: The study offers an interesting insight into how early adopter and fast follower teachers are using online networks as part of their professional learning. - 60% primary, 23% facilitators, 29% intermediate, 15% secondary - in-school leaders who need information to shore up their decision-making - contractual schools (ICTPD) and course (NAPP) - connected individuals looking to stay on top of trends, particularly related to e-learning ‘early adopters’ and ‘fast followers’ - extrinsic and intrinsic motivations
  • OBJECT: - grab ideas on peadgogy esp e-learning to help themselves or people they work with make decisions > have questions answered - Stay on top of trends and whole school issues < de-silo - Strategies over curriculum subjects - Broad brush rather than personal reflection
  • TOOL Many different tools but only 3-4 are used regularly Quite a clear division between the ‘early adopters’ and ‘fast followers’: - EA: aware of groups, system-wide space > content drivers but also requirements to manipulate the space on behalf of teachers in their school - FF: email > discussions and out again; Content is driving engagement The most interesting aspect was the way participants felt about the ‘social’ tools > on a conscious level, hardly used, especially by the fast followers. The tools afford them: fast, quick, immediate but also evolving, user-generated, user-control
  • RULES, DoLabour & Community: CULTURE: positive and helpful BUT fear of posting online still present. Respectful. Presence of facilitators who set ‘the norms’ supports a professional safe space. - CONTENT: both like-minded and alternative views were strong themes, access to expertise. Clearly not an echo-chamber, although the focus might be narrow,y on e-learning at the moment. -NZ: valued the local focus but also critiqued it as lacking global people. Valued the Māori and Pasifika content. - CONNECTIONS: were both valued and not, with the majority building on F2F contacts Lots of members drew comparisons with Twitter. Networks not seen as important as contact with individuals or knowing that there were people there to answer question. The structure theoretically affords co-creation but when content is developed, it’s like everyone putting a stone on a pile. Clay Shirky talks about collaboration and then co-ordination > not yet at the co-ordination stage. Some evidence of the network being used at the in-school/cluster level to co-ordinate activities but this is driven by contracts...
  • Some tentative discussion, at four layers, from the individual teacher to the policy-making layer For the teachers: - evidence that such networks can support inquiry but more strategic appreciation for how this might be done effectively would be useful - appreciating the concept of de-siloing and sharing - digital literacy > operating online, managing profiles, navigating networks, managing the information flow is a legitimate skill
  • For schools and school leaders: - reviewing the design of whole school professional learning to allow for user-generated control, which could include self-drive learning - blended learning to afford connections across staff and clusters. - their own digital literacy - appreciating the value of connecting beyond themselves as as way to inform their leadership decision-making in a way that is sustainable.
  • For policy-makers and network designers: - moving from a techno-centric view (the network is a good way to learn) to an appreciation for how it will be integrated into the wider life of professional learning - long-term, planning for a sustainable, coherent, systemic approach to blended learning that gives security to members - appreciating an agile approach > being prepared to allow a network to bend and flex according to its members.
  • - tracking information longitudinally - developing methodologies for a networked environment - understand why non-adopters aren’t adopting - Māori and Pasifika cultural lenses

#ICOT2013 | Breakout exploring a social network site and teacher professional learning Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Can social networking sites support meaningful learning? An exploration of a New Zealand teachers’ network Karen Melhuish Spencer | @virtuallykaren Brought to you by CORE Education, and supported by Massey University
  • 2. No hea au? QuickTime™ and a H.264 decompressor are needed to see this picture.
  • 3. Where’s your blacksmith? Image: by luc legay
  • 4. • The study: What’s your ‘so what - who cares?’• The approach• Tentative findings..• ..and more questions Image: Some rights reserved by Tim . Simpson (CC)
  • 5. What do we mean by social network sites? clear purpose privilege the individual visible connections afford collaboration and creation shared spaces support curation & aggregation of content
  • 6. Converging trends
  • 7. Does it make a difference? | A teacher’s tale …multiple perspectives …and the discussion is there for …reliable advice.. others to • add to …resources to explore.. • learn from and • share in theirto helpful ‘experts’… …connections own networks… …local context, global views… …in under 48 hours…for free Karen Melhuish Spencer
  • 8. The context: New Zealand’s Virtual Learning Network http://www.vln.school.nz
  • 9. Converging trends:the nature oftechnology
  • 10. enablers & amplifiers Images by alexnaderhiggins.com; guardian.co.uk; atlantic.com; OLPC on wikipedia; naterkane.com
  • 11. From publication to participationhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Folio
  • 12. From publication to participation
  • 13. From publication to participation
  • 14. From publication to participation
  • 15. Converging trends:the nature ofprofessional learning
  • 16. Sharing with purpose Dean Shareski - Sharing: The Moral Imperative K-12 Online Conference 2010
  • 17. A complex future teach for diversity, de-silo equity, inclusion personalise sustainlearn to learn co-construct
  • 18. Do we need to edit our learning models? Image by zigazou76
  • 19. Professional learners need agencyImage:Boudewijn Berends Image: ZeRo`SKiLL
  • 20. Convergence oftrendsTechnology asmediator
  • 21. Which tools might work? Image: verbeeldingskr8 - flickr
  • 22. Can social networking supporteffective learning? “It is pretty random professional learning, but sometimes it’s really useful. ” Image by tejvanphotos (CC)
  • 23. study
  • 24. The context: New Zealand’s Virtual Learning Network http://www.vln.school.nz
  • 25. The study• Interpretive, ethnographic study, using mixed methods• Ethics & limitations• Online survey [70 responses, 83.6% completion]• Interviews with 5 educators• Grounded theory analysis, followed by categorisation using Activity Theory framework Image: (CC) Some rights reserved by NoJuan
  • 26. What questions would you pose?
  • 27. ndings, not findings
  • 28. “ I am a lead teacher... I access VLN primarily for: to gain ideas for my own development in practice and to gain practical ideas to take back to ” staff.http://www.flickr.com/photos/dhwright/5874234034/sizes/m/
  • 29. “ Cant live without it! Enables me to keep up with the play and lead the learning of the teachers and students in our school. So accessible and being able to access such a range of topics and expertise makes a difference, especially as we often feel isolated because of physical distance in our place.http://www.flickr.com/photos/34316967@N04/5695457428/sizes/m/
  • 30. “ providing me with real time answers to my questions, real tried and true resources and websites and apps, given me other points of view and access to resources I would not have found ” otherwise.http://www.flickr.com/photos/24289877@N02/6983447819/sizes/m/
  • 31. “I am very much a take user rather than a take and give...I will find a discussion thread that interests me or that’s relevant ... I find it via my emails.. And I can’t even remember how I have got my email set up to send me stuff, it is probably the groups I am in.http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrs_logic/3556644715/sizes/m/
  • 32. “ I had signed up but didnt use it. When I looked for advice about iPads from ICT cluster facilitator she referred me there. It has been very valuable. I had floods of advice from all around NZ when I asked a question. Email advice of posts is also very good. I have even been able to pass on some things Ive learned - pay back.http://www.flickr.com/photos/bertknot/8236396151/sizes/m/
  • 33. So what?
  • 34. So what? : The teachers Karen Melhuish Spencer
  • 35. So what? : School leaders Image: rafal.postcrossing
  • 36. So what? : Policy-makers & network ‘owners’ Image: florriebassingbourn
  • 37. So what? :The researchersThe researchers http://www.flickr.com/photos/kristina06/6130255931/sizes/m/
  • 38. Q&A & takeaway
  • 39. Can social networking sites support meaningful learning? An exploration of a New Zealand teachers’ network Karen Melhuish Spencer | @virtuallykaren Brought to you by CORE Education, and supported by Massey University