Postgraduate-Certificate in Technology-Enhanced Learning Bucks New University
Matthew Smith Student ID: 21428704
Reflective Journal - Supporting Narrative This document seeks to provide a ‘supporting narrative’ that forms part of my submission for the PGCert in technology-enhanced Learning (t-eL) and is to be read alongside the materials presented in the Blackboard (Bb) organisation ‘Matthew Smith’s PG Certificate in Technology-Enhanced Learning’ and the blog at http://t-elreflectiveblog.blogspot.co.uk/. Broadly speaking, the submission has been produced with these guidance statements, from the Assignment Brief for the Reflective Journal, in mind: “Essentially, you are using the Reflective Journal to demonstrate your engagement with the course and to show the learning development that has been taking place.”
and: “The most important element for the Reflective Journal is that it is personal to you and the items collected within it have been personalised by you to reflect your journey through the course.”
I had intended to map out the assessment criteria for each of the modules (CO710; CO711; and CO712) and specifically identify where I believe my reflections (e.g., provided in the blog) or my activities (e.g., demonstrated in some of the materials provided in the Bb organisation) showed I had met these criteria. I then realised this might be a challenge too far as the learning development that has taken place over the course has taken me in directions I hadn’t planned (more on that later) and not always with these specific assessment criteria in mind. Instead, I simply highlight what for me have been some of the main learning activities during this time, how they have been supported by the course, and how they relate to my own personal and learning development. The main context for this development has been in developing a ‘distance learning’ (or ‘flexible and distributed learning’) version of the MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP). Alongside this has been the running of a project called ‘Go Luck Yourself!’, which explores how positive psychology ideas might impact people’s experiences of luck. Participants could take part in this project online and so it was an opportunity to reflect on the use of technology to support this. Some underlying themes have emerged for me in this process. First, is the new-found empathy I have for my own students. I now have a much clearer understanding of the challenges involved in undertaking a course of study whilst in full-time employment and with a young family. Time for studying is very hard to come by, and over the course of the past academic year I don’t think that I have been very successful at ring-fencing and prioritising time for this. Second, is the discovery of the types of learning technology (or ways of using technology to specifically support learning) that are out there. Some of those that I mention here (and discuss more in the blog) tend to be focused around communication tools (e.g., Bb Collaborate, Skype, Padlet, Periscope, Twitter) and tools to help create audio and video content for teaching (e.g., Adobe Captivate, Swivl, YouTube, Periscope). Third, and perhaps most significantly, is the concept of ‘community’ as it applies to learning, teaching, and practice. One of the primary questions I have had in mind as I have reflected on how technology can
enhance learning, is how it helps (and hinders) the development of a learning community. A sense of community for a cohort of learners is a vital way that learners can feel supported as they seek to develop their knowledge, understanding, and practice. If they feel part of a community then they may feel safe in exploring new areas and seeking advice, guidance, and support when they need it. The remainder of this document provides further thoughts on each of the above and picks up on reflections expressed in the blog.
Empathy for the learner I have found it a challenge to be a student again. Especially whilst also in full-time employment. As RJ (one of the Course Leaders) noted early in the course, teachers and lecturers can make the worst students in the sense that they have a tendency to put their students’ needs first and so do not prioritise their own learning. This may make it sound more altruistic than it is, but I have found there to be an underlying truth here. Throughout the year I have most definitely NOT prioritised my own learning and I have not been successful in ‘ring-fencing’ time that is dedicated to my studying for the PGCert. And note that I am now quite clearly seeing this as being the PGCert, rather than the just the first stage of the MSc, as I cannot see myself being able to integrate continued study on the programme next year any more effectively than I have this year. One aspect of being a student on the PGCert that quickly helped me to empathise with my own students was the keeping of a reflective journal. This is an assignment type we also use in the MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) and is one of the forms of coursework assessment in the Introduction to Positive Psychology module. I do encourage my students to begin this early and develop ways of integrating this into their daily or weekly schedule so that is can be used in the way intended. Research also indicates the effectiveness of such journal writing in terms of linking theory and practice (e.g., Chirema, 2003; Morrison, 1996; Hall & Davison, 2007). The challenge for the student is to find a way of prioritising this, and undertaking the PGCert brought home to me that this is not so easy when other priorities (i.e., work and family) carry greater urgency and importance. The essence of my reflective journal is provided by way of the blog, and this does convey a sense of a blog that has been kept regularly over the course of the year. However, if the truth be told (!), many of the blog posts were written, re-written, or edited later than the dates indicated as it has only been in the last few weeks (since our own assessment boards in early July 2015) that I have been able to devote any substantial time to this activity and been able to add to, and tidy up, the blog. During those times that I have been able to engage more fully with my studies, I have gained a great deal in terms of my own learning, and I am appreciative of these opportunities. For example, if I had not been on this course, I would not have been encouraged to attend the BETT show (formerly the British Educational Training and Technology show) at ExCel in London. This was a real eye-opener for me in terms of raising my awareness of the sheer volume of activity and resources ‘out there’. I created a short PowerPoint presentation reflecting on my experiences at BETT, specifically reflecting on a talk by Dave Cormier who spoke of ‘rhizomatic learning’. This approach essentially sees the learning process as something that evolves and grows in much the same way as a weed (or rhizome) grows (see also Cormier, 2008; 2011). This idea resonated strongly with me, and is an approach that (a) I find I am drawn to as a learner as I like to see where an idea takes me, and it is not often in the direction that I might have originally intended; and (b) we are broadly trying to support in our approach to some aspects of teaching on the MAPP as students are asked to keep reflective journals and document their learning journey as part of their formal assessment. We also adopt what is effectively a ‘person-centred’ approach to teaching in that we seek to support students in creating their own pathway through the literature that is dependent upon their own interests and aspirations. In this way, we draw upon the work of Carl Rogers who developed the person-centred approach as an
important and underlying approach to counselling and education (e.g., Rogers, 1967; Rogers, Lyon, & Tausch, 2013). This is something we are making more explicit in our framing of the MAPP course and how it distinguishes it from similar programmes (of which there are currently only a small number in the world!).
Technology everywhere! As noted above, I was utterly overwhelmed by the vast range of educational technology on show at BETT and the PGCert has helped raise my awareness of some of this, and the creative ways in which it can be used to support learning and teaching. I often hear myself tell people, “I’m not a techie…” in order to communicate the fact that my interest isn’t so much in the technology itself, and my knowledge of the actual technology is really quite limited. Instead, my interest is in how it can help me in my role as a teacher and how it might facilitate learning. (Interestingly, as I typed the word ‘teacher’, my fingers paused slightly as I contemplated whether I should write ‘lecturer’, but this latter term feels less and less applicable, especially in the context of online learning.) Technology is everywhere. As I type this sentence while sat in my local library, I have free Wi-Fi access that links me to global resources that I can retrieve instantaneously. I can be communicating at the same time with my brother, who is in Manchester; my wife, who is ten minutes away up the road; and, a student who might be in Qatar. Technology makes this possible. This means that our methods of learning and teaching are evolving all the time, and with the speed at which technology is advancing, the speed of this evolution is probably quicker than ever before. As professional teachers, we can either choose to remain ignorant of these developments and wait until our students push us to eventually take these on board, or we can choose to explore these developments and creatively contribute to the dialogue about how learning and technology might be most effectively integrated. As part of this course, I have been drawn primarily to technology that supports effective communication, especially in the context of ‘distance learning’ where the student/learner is geographically separated from the tutor (as well as from other students on the course). Thus, some of the main ones I have explored, and that I discuss in a number of posts on the blog, include Blackboard (Bb) Collaborate, Skype, Padlet, Periscope, and Twitter. Alongside these, I have been actively exploring the ins and outs of some of the tools that help create and present audio and video content for teaching such as Adobe Captivate, Swivl, YouTube and, again, Periscope. I have tried to keep in mind the extent to which any of these specific technologies might aid, or indeed ‘enhance’, the learning experience. It is not simply the case that adding some element of the latest technology will immediately serve to enhance what is already there. As Salmon’s (2000) five stage model of e-learning acknowledges, the very early stages of learning in this context are related to how accessible such technology makes the learning process and that the learner’s motivation for negotiating access is key (and fragile!). Some of the very latest developments in technology that work around mobile technology (e.g., apps) are likely to mean that technology-enhance learning becomes even more accessible to a much wider community, as the technology becomes more and more transparent.
On building community The importance of ‘community’ when it comes to learning, teaching, and as we shall see, practice has become the third, and perhaps the most important underlying theme in my reflections. This has emerged in three main ways.
First, Dave ‘he coined the term MOOC’ Cormier made reference to the idea of ‘communities of practice’ in his talk at BETT. This led me to explore some of the writings of Etienne Wenger and colleagues on the topic who remind us that all learning is, at its heart, social learning (e.g., Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998; 2000) as well as some of the literature critically assessing this approach (e.g., Hughes, Jewson, & Unwin, 2007). Second, Wenger’s name came up in one of the teaching sessions in the context of communities of learning. Some of this discussion related the importance of developing a learning community, especially when this community existed online, with Salmon’s (2000) five stage model. In particular, the importance of working with diversity in order to move towards knowledge construction (stage 4 of Salmon’s model). And third, and this is what eventually brought the concept into greater clarity for me, a select group of graduates from our first cohort of the MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) set up an entity called ‘the positive psychology people’ (the PPP). This was essentially a website1 that was to be designed as a resource for all who had a serious interest in positive psychology, ranging from students to researchers to practitioners. It would be a place where people could discuss positive psychology topics, where students could post blogs, where copies of relevant journal articles could be stored and shared, and where new research opportunities to be linked to. In short, they wanted it to be the kind of resource they wish had existed when they were students on the MAPP. The website was launched in March 2015 (on the United Nations ‘Day of Happiness’) and at the time of writing, in July 2015, there are already over 16,000 registered ‘members’. As I have seen this ‘community’ grow over the past few months, I became increasingly aware that ‘the PPP’ effectively formed the basis of a community of practice and could be developed as such (see also this post on my blog). My aim is to work closely with the core team behind the PPP to help them to develop this further and explore ways of integrating it into the MAPP itself, and encouraging students to engage with the PPP while part of the course. For example, students on the MAPP are asked to keep a reflective journal in three of the four modules that comprise the first year (or PGCert stage) of the MAPP. These could easily be ‘converted’ into blogs for the PPP website, thus encouraging students to disseminate some of their reflections to a wider audience from an early stage, and to increase their level of participation in this particular community of practice.
Conclusion Whilst this may be the concluding paragraph of this document, I hope it is also the jumping off point for the reader to explore the blog (if you haven’t already been coaxed there by the links to it above…) and browse through the materials on my PGCert Bb organisation (if you are an enrolled user which, if you are one of the PGCert assessors, you should be). When read in combination with these other resources, the intention is to communicate the level of engagement with the course and the learning development that has taken place over this time, in terms of developing methodologies in t-eL (module CO710), designing effective resources in t-eL (module CO711) and the development and delivery of t-eL (module CO712). All I can say is, I hope you agree.
References Chirema, K. D. (2003). The use of reflective journals in the promotion of reflection and learning in post registration nursing students. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield. Retrieved from http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/4710/ Cormier, D. (2008). Rhizomatic education: Community as curriculum. Innovate, 4 (5). Reproduced at http://davecormier.com/edblog/2008/06/03/rhizomatic-education-community-as-curriculum/ Cormier, D. (2011). Rhizomatic Learning â€“ Why we teach? Retrieved from http://davecormier.com/edblog/2011/11/05/rhizomatic-learning-why-learn/ Hall, H., & Davison, B. (2007). Social software as support in hybrid learning environments: the value of the blog as a tool for reflective learning and peer support. Library and Information Science Research, 29, 163-187. Hughes, J., Jewson, N., and Unwin, L. (eds.) (2007). Communities of Practice: Critical perspectives. London: Routledge. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Morrison, K. (1996). Developing reflective practice in higher degree students through a learning journal. Studies in Higher Education, 21, 317-332. Rogers, C. (1967). On Becoming a Person: A therapistâ€™s view of psychotherapy. London: Constable & Robinson. Rogers, C. R., Lyon, H. C., & Tausch, R. (2013). On Becoming an Effective Teacher: Person-centered teaching, psychology, philosophy, and dialogues with Carl R. Rogers and Harold Lyon. London: Routledge. Salmon, G. (2000). E-moderating: the key to teaching and learning online. London: Kogan Page. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press. Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7, 225-246.
Reflective Journal (supporting narrative) for Matthew Smith's PGCert in Technology-Enhanced Learning