Personal Learning Statement 2: Reflection

Posted on: November 7th, 2013 by Alexander Stanuga No Comments

Since my previous statement I have finally been able to complete one of my two prescribed Teaching Practicums. This was an interesting experience not least because I had the opportunity to flex my teaching muscle in front of several classes of unwitting (actual) high school students, but all the theory covered during countless lectures and tutorials was finally tested.

Despite the predictions regarding the uptake of digital devices by the younger generation, outlined in the NMC Horizon Report, I was met with something quite different. Located in the North Western outskirts of Sydney, amongst both rural farming land and the suburban sprawl, I found a majority of the students at my prac school either not interested, or lacking in digital technology. Despite some encouragement on my part, I found that very few of the students were really interested in engaging in online learning.

Some digital infrastructure was already in place on the school level, such as a WiFi network which is predominantly used to support teachers implementation and management of an Academic Management System (AMS) Edumate. During my brief time I also noticed that the IT department was busy preparing for 2014, when all secondary students are to be issued school laptops. The students had been informed that refunds were available on the current years textbooks, as all future textbooks were to be downloaded onto their new laptops. At this stage however, there was a blanket ban on the use of smart phones or digital devices at the school (except in the case of students with learning difficulties) and I saw little evidence that efforts of digital incorporation had yet gone beyond the level of Substitution.

I was however fortunate that my supervising teacher was interested and allowed me scope to integrate digital pedagogies into my own lessons. The classroom came equipped with a SMART Board and I soon had most of the students in my classes signed up to a LMS, (Learning Management System) Edmodo. Schoology was initially considered due to its more functional apps, and I had become familiar with it during my research project, though after some discussion Edmodo was chosen as a handful of the teachers had already used it. This ultimately allowed my supervising teacher the opportunity to take over when I completed my time.

As it was now complete, I now had the opportunity to road test our recent inquiry project The Art History Timeline with a class of year 9 students (few {2} of the students actually participated). By way of introduction, 'A brief history of POP Art' was created as an aide in order to convey Pop Art in an historical context, it was displayed in horizontal format making use of the touch screen function on the SMART Board. The students then each chose a specific Artist from either the Abstract Expressionist or POP Art movement (to provide variety and context) and asked to create a timeline with a minimum of 5 events in that artists life, I gave them some free reign over what the events were to be and allowed things such as life, death and artworks. Once created they were asked to share their timelines on the class Edmodo wall and provide each other feedback.

Integrating the timeline into the classroom worked reasonably well as it helped bring context to the Pop Art movement and I was able to ask directed questions as the class moved through each event. As a demonstration during lesson time however, there is still a limit to what can be achieved when the only person in the room allowed a computer is the teacher. I also got the impression that the students were also expecting me, to be the unquestionable holder and dispenser of all relevant knowledge in the lesson.

This realisation came as somewhat of a surprise. On a personal level if I have an unanswered question, my first response is to jump online and search for answers (multifarious), determining the most appropriate as the one that best fits the context of the question. I have become so accustomed to this approach and the availability of available digital resources in my own life, that I was a little stumped when I was faced with a whole class that looked to me in order to provide all the information required.

Interestingly, digital technology can also be regarded as part of the 'Postmodern Frame', which is an important aspect of understanding Visual Arts within the NSW Syllabus. I would argue that many Artists today are exploring how digital technologies are impacting their own art making practice, and experimenting with both social media and the internet in general. It is a commonly understood that Artists use the technologies available to them, this is evident when we look at Art History, prior to the renaissance many paintings were created on walls and ceilings (Fresco's) using merely pigment and water embedded into wet plaster. Egg yolk was discovered as a good binder, which ultimately led to Tempera painting, then once artists learn't how to make oil paints there was no going back. Today almost anything is perceived as being Art, the Artists toolbox is practically limitless, in order to reach people where they are it makes sense to include the digital materials and tools. As a Visual Arts teacher we can't ignore the impact this has on learning about contemporary Art.

Growing up in affluent areas of a capital city it is easy to take for granted access to the foundation stone of digital technology, 'the internet'. It would be merely utopian to think that all our cities could follow the example of the American town of Chattanooga, which completely transformed itself and it's fortunes by establishing a comprehensive high speed Broadband network. As a teacher, my future scope of employment is broad, I could potentially be working within a community with restricted internet access and students without adequate means. It is some comfort to note that the apparent digital divide in Australia is slowly breaching, though this will take time, but those with means have embraced the archetype and will always be ahead. As new scheme teachers we are entering the profession during a time of great social change, almost, if not as great as the industrial revolution about 250 years ago. Information and content is progressively becoming digitised and available from a broad array of online sources, knowledge has ceased to be defined as definite, rather, in a state of flux. Thanks to sites such as Wikipedia, which could not have existed before web 2.0, History is no longer written by the victor, but contributed to by all with an internet connection and an interest in having their voice heard. We have a responsibility to understand what it is that captivates our students and instead of feeding them with hard facts, equip them with the ability to make judgements and create non linear links across a broad field of subject areas.

Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy from Punya Mishra on Vimeo.

Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy. A keynote presentation by Punya Mishra & Matthew Koehler at the SITE 2008 conference, Las Vegas.

By using the TPACK model (Technological, Pedagogical And Content Knowledge) devised by Matthew J. Koehler and Punya Mishra, we can create great learning experiences that take advantage of digital technology, and in doing, provide The whole PACKage. But are we all ready for it? Currently Australia is in the throes of deep political debate regarding the future of a National Education Curriculum and a National Broadband Network. The outcome and implementation of both will have a critical bearing on the success or failure of an inclusive and relevant education policy.

As previously stated, digital tools have become synonymous with daily and professional life, whether we like it or not, educators recognise this and are making inroads. Another big shift associated with the internet's impact, is Language. The proliferation of digital applications such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the english language indefinitely, the schoolyard is full of the rumblings of this new syntax, and we ignore this at our own peril. The path to digital citizenship needs to begin with teachers, by keeping an open mind and embracing changes we stand a greater chance reaching students on a level at which they find meaning IRL (In Real Life).

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