Getting back to this….

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Well, it has been a wild journey since the last post with a few interesting employment experiences in between and a revisit to the Doctorate.  The end goal for the Doctorate is in sight!

Many thanks are to be given to the support network that prods me along, keep nutrition and reality high on the list and generally ensure I don’t lose any social skills during this time.

The goal is to submit at the end of 2017 and graduate with no debt. Then we will see what happens next……

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Engaging students

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“sigh”

When I first watched this video my reaction was more about the irony than the reality I face each day working in higher education. As a “sessional casual contract hired educator” I am not paid to do many of the points raised in this video although I want to. When I have submitted time-sheets for these hours I am politely reminded of the contract I signed which doesn’t cover these types of requirements in delivering a course: student engagement! The situation is compounded if the Professor in charge of the course is also time-starved and reluctant to engage with students because of the time required to foster that engagement. There is another side to this story that needs to be addressed!

A Vision of K-12 students today

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As an Aunty and “Extra Aunty” to the children of my friends, the comments expressed in this video are on message. My young friends are often shocked if I can do something like ‘make a blog’ or ‘upload a video to YouTube’ because often they can’t and haven’t, but they will try without hesitation. It is a bit like holding your breath and jumping into the deep end of the swimming pool, which is always a lot colder as well!

I do admit that learning these new technologies is a lot more fun than first anticipated…..

I want to run an online course

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The sad reality is I have witnessed this conversation in this video below many, many times. Online courses take two fundamental forms – (1) flat-file and distance based with no interaction and (2) engagement driven in real-time with substantial interaction. An online course does not have to be a Power-point dump of someone’s already questionable teaching in the classroom. Who listens to endless droning while 100’s of Power-point slides slip by? It doesn’t work online either.

The best online design comes from people who have been online students AND delivered teaching online as a Lecturer – there is credibility and authenticity they are designing from the student experience perspective. If a Lecturer has never been an online student then they have missed the point of an online course completely!

I have yet to meet a Lecturer who has taken their own “Power-point poisoning online dump course” – maybe if these Lecturers “ate their own dog food” then the quality of their online educating would improve substantially. If these Lecturers would reflect on the practices they use to develop themselves professionally then perhaps they could then use those same practices to help others learn in their course!

How Entrepreneurs see the “unexpected”

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When I taught entrepreneurship in South Korea, many of the Korean students expressed the conflicts they balance between wanting to be an authentic entrepreneur and participating in a non-entrepreneurial education system. This article from the Seattle Times highlights this point in the words of the young “treps” featured when they state “if we were in the US they would have dropped out of school and done a start-up” (without the shame of not finishing their schooling). I can imagine the stress associated with ‘doing the bare minimum to pass’ and not being the typical robot Korean student that families create.

While I was involved in the South Korean treppie community much of what I saw was window dressing for the outside world looking in, with little true entrepreneurship occurring. These guys in the Seattle Times article are different and hopefully emblematic of the new generation that can blaze a new path. They really have seen the ‘unexpected’ and I truly wish them well!  http://ecubelabs.com

http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2021127653_skoreastartupsxml.html

And from the Kauffman Foundation – another insightful commentary on the cool way entrepreneurs do things. If only we could make education half as entrepreneurial in some way. . . . . . . .

The Entrepreneurial Learner

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As I strive to create an environment where students can become entrepreneurial in their learning, there is always a struggle with the institution that houses the experiential program. It is not just about the students shifting their mind-sets, but the faculty and the administrative leadership also need to become entrepreneurial learners to succeed as well.

A New Design for Education

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My passion and research is in redesigning what I see as a broken system for education. My goals and ambition for my experiential course model are simple – make every student feel as if they own their learning!

There are many unique and authentic experiences in our experiential model – you get one-on-one attention from me because you are online. You write an email and I respond – you won’t always receive that attention from me in a face-to-face class or an auditorium lecture.The course is not a “one-size-fits-all” – it is not an assembly line. Instead it is a massive, intricate, continuous and complex networking experience and ALWAYS extremely interesting and creative BECAUSE it is driven by contributions from every participant as they discover their talents, ideas and passions. If the course content is not customized to suit every individual in that course, then I haven’t done my job! It is easy to customize when the student creates and curates that unlimited content through their interests and expertise! There is no spoon-feeding, exams, tests or quizzes – just contributions and collaborations! Hopefully this experience will stay with the students through-out their journey of life-long learning.

This video offers a way forward – it all comes down to technology in the palm of your hand!

The Networked Student

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It is one confident position to state that I design experiential courses. It is quite another (perhaps confident) position to identify the necessary skills to create an entrepreneurial and networked student that gains the most from an experiential course. Most students are a product of the broken system they have been in for decades. They complain about the process but they are also part of the process and consequently are part of the problem. It was the same system when I was a student – all assembly line, where it is  easy to ‘read, write and submit’ my essay. Did I learn anything then? Not much. Would I learn anything now? Probably about the same non-amount, although I would probably pay someone to write the essays for me in this academic era.

The first couple of weeks of our experiential class are always painful as students realise they have to unlearn their academic Pavlov Dog behaviours to be able to learn in a new way that is meaningful for their future. As the educator, all I can do is stand attentively at the side as they struggle, get angry, fight the process then finally embrace what is happening and become immersed. It is like taking the training wheels of a bicycle for the first time.

It always works!

The future of learning – as simple as letting the students ACTUALLY LEARN?

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Being immersed in higher education at the moment, there are many days when all I see are the enormous gaps between academics and students and the system they are participating in. Sometimes this gap is created through a jostle for control and authority, often creating misplacement of interests and in conflict between the agenda’s of the different stakeholder groups.

Why can’t learning be more entrepreneurial and allow students to find the answers for themselves? When students do this, they truly do retain what they have discovered! Why can’t academics trust their students to find their potential and personalize their learning? When students do this, they truly do retain what they have discovered! Why can’t students be more engaged in their own learning by customizing what they learn towards their passions and interests? When students do this, they truly do retain what they have discovered!

The question of technology within education is as polarizing as ever, perhaps polarizing in the context of ‘everyone’ sees the need to integrate technology into education, yet there is still incredibly dogmatic resistance towards this integration from academics AND from students alike. Both sides can be faulted – one for feeling threatened that (because of technology) their livelihood could be jeopardized and the other side for feeling frustrated that (without technology) their livelihood remains indefinitely at arm’s length. It is a comfortable position for both sides to take because there is always an excuse to support either view. It is always a disappointing conversation….

The system that fosters learning as we know it today can change. As the video asks, “why can’t schooling now, be just a little bit better?”

Our Microfinance course and Web 2.0

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When the Micro-finance course was redesigned from the online perspective first with face-to-face as the add on feature, many early enrollees were not fans of this new type of course structure or this approach to learning. As students un-enrolled, many comments received fell into the category “I didn’t sign up for an IT course – I wanted to learn about Micro-finance”. Well, we persevered together, as students learned about micro-finance AND new technology and tools for delivering their message and understanding of micro-finance! The results are spectacular and great additions to any ePortfolio they are creating as they commence their professional careers.

In early May this year McKinsey & Company published their research on what technology and tools are used in the business place and are increasing in use and adoption. I am thrilled to note that we incorporated 12 out of the 13 technology and tools in that report, based on the technology and tools the students identified in a pre-course survey.

Our MIcro-finance course is a living, breathing, experiential example of how an academic course can be designed to deliver great content and learning experiences (with the right pedagogy!) AND develop student skills that also makes their learning relevant to Main Street, where they are heading to start their careers!

http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/business_technology/business_and_web_20_an_interactive_feature

Link to the interactive feature: http://www.mckinsey.com/tools/Wrappers/Wrapper.aspx?sid={D582D6EB-2CC7-45F0-8BD5-49464985E816}&pid={52FA595C-7E8B-401F-9FEF-3E4096867DBC}

It aint all sweet roses though. There are plenty of times when academia looks and sounds like this when it encounters technology: 

The irony of ‘teaching and learning’ in an education system that doesn’t

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Highlighting the irony and ‘obvious’, Sir Ken shares his observations on what is wrong in the education system in the USA. Much of the downside that he states applies directly to what I am living through in Australia – especially the bit at the 13:00 minutes mark about the teaching profession not being respected. (In Australia, it is possible to earn more income on unemployment benefits than as a professional educator tutoring a single course in higher education in a 14 week semester – which as a part-time/casual sessional teacher is about all some educators are hired for!). I think that some of his information is a bit off base when Sir Ken comments about the education sector in South Korea – obviously he has never taught in that system!

His example of being a parent of two children and noting how different they are, yet how both children are pushed through the exact same education system does deliver a strong metaphor! Dah! Sir Ken finishes up with his observations on why students drop out of school and education!

Early this week, this video below went viral and ‘says it all’ from the students (Jeff Bliss) perspective!  Kudos to the student for his uncomfortable but truthful rant, saying it as it is. His follow up interviews in the US national media are also absolutely on message! What you won’t know from watching his rant is Bliss’s Mum is a teacher, and he had dropped out of school for some time and then returned. It was as a drop-out, that Bliss began to appreciate the value of education. As Bliss tweeted on 10 May: jeff bliss @Real_Jeff_Bliss

“Every one I’m not standing up for my education I’m standing up for OUR education.”

Watch his rant/criticism here:

Smart class-mate for posting online!

So far, not a single word from the teacher at the desk except ‘bye’       ‘bye’           ‘bye’

FOOTNOTE: Added Sunday 12 May, here is a link to another US media piece on this story with Jeff Blisshttp://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/05/touch-his-freakin-heart-student-rants-at-teacher-in-viral-video/

Learning the tools and skills for (re)making tomorrow

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I am frequently asked to respond to a question that I think can be ridiculous – “what are the 21st skills we need to teach students?” Nobody can predict this and if you scour the media chat chat, you will find numerous articles running with a theme of ‘today’s graduates will invent their job that doesn’t exist yet’. Who knows what these “21st century” skills are or should be?

Skills are not static or finite and learning is incremental and infinite: two fundamental principles that academic institutions often overlook. Incorporating technology into a course through digital tools and processes reliant on technology (such as collaborating online globally) does provide useful transferable skills and experience in incremental learning that can be built upon: from any perspective (faculty and student). You can build upon what you already know and if you are experiencing the technology for the first time. There is a high probability that you will catch-up or leapfrog very quickly to the same levels as others in the course.

Here is one example from my class a year ago where a significant amount of coursework work was completed using Skype multichannel (with the group subscription) and a student base scattered across 20+ different countries and timezones. By using this platform, participants quickly adopted the following skills:

  • Find, download, install and update the Skype application on their desk computer,  laptop, smartphone or tablet
  • Establish their user accounts and identities and then create and maintain their contact list (using a search process to locate these contacts)
  • Install and update a webcam and microphone or a headset with a microphone, including completing audio and visual checks prior to every call
  • Know how to send and receive chat text messages, uploading and downloading files being shared, record the session for replay, incorporate screen-sharing with multiple other participants and participate by audio stream (talking into their microphone)
  • Troubleshoot any technical issues that impacted their participation

Other valuable skills also emerged as the participants developed experience in communicating through technology with a single user or groups/multiple participants – very asynchronous/synchronous in nature, requiring universal common sense, good manners and a form of patience and understanding. The participants had to establish their online personality to deliver their message and communicate effectively, often reflecting on feedback such as are they talking too softly or are too shy to be understood through technology? They also developed an innate sense in accessing and evaluating content, learned to work in teams effectively in a wide variety of real-time scenarios and to use critical thinking and problem solving skills in equally very innovative ways.

Next time I am asked that same (ridiculous) question my response will be simple: I am doing everything I can with technology TODAY so that participants have a vocabulary to draw upon as they create their next experience TOMORROW. Academic institutions can do a lot to build that bridge between today and tomorrow, if they catch the real meaning of ‘today’.

Sometimes someone says it as it can be:

Technology in learning and what can you do with a paperclip?

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This semester I have the privilege of tutoring a graduate course with a strong emphasis on technology. The technology is relied upon for delivering the learning content and integrating  opportunities to create new learning and content (through the topic of micro-finance and development).

The challenge faced in this type of class is finding the “magic way” to help students become comfortable with the changing face of education (including technologies being introduced) and connecting to the changes the students are experiencing personally as technology sublimely seeps into their lives. There is always great inspiration when someone suggests an alternative point of view, questions a paradigm or expresses divergent thinking, demonstrates a fresh perspective or gives a wake-up call to any number of assumptions we all get lazy with. In our model of learning we are using this semester, uncovering the collective potential of a cohort is the goal, where every individual can contribute from their strengths instead of forcing a ‘one size fits all’ approach top down upon them. As Sir Ken Robinson says:

“These are among the core skills that students now need: They need to be creative. They need to be able to communicate. They need to able to work in teams. They need to be cultural literate, and they need to be able to respond to other people’s points of view and to empathize.”

The insights and observations that come from the students in this course are inspiring as much because of their authenticity as for the value they contribute from their busy, time scarce unbalanced study and professional lives. Without this new type of course design we wouldn’t be learning from each other, creating networks or discovering individual perspectives. That is the privilege I speak of – learning from each other, creating networks and discovering the individual perspectives that automatically makes a single topic and discussion full of creative, innovative rich dimensions.

When you watch the animated presentation (11 mins) capturing the wisdom of Sir Ken Robinson he mentions paperclips   There are many other videos on YouTube and TED.com showcasing his perspective.

Mind(ing) the gap in higher education…

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Recently I asked a colleague (also a tutor) about what technologies the tutor uses at work. The response was swift – email, scanning, printing, video conferencing, collaboration projects in online spaces (wikis), facebook (uploading marketing videos and images), youtube channel (where the keep their mission related videos), twitter handle, company website, company blog, online newsletter….

Then I asked how many of these technologies does the tutor incorporate into their graduate level course. The response was equally swift – just one. Email.

So, why is there such a gap between what the student experiences in higher education and what they are working with daily in their professional role? And why does academia ask the student to turn their technology off when they come to class?

MIND THE GAP!

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Creating an experiential micro-finance course

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Under the guidance of Professor Reina Ichii, we have redesigned the micro-finance course. With an emphasis on helping participants develop professional skills and be able to carry their coursework evidence with them, the course includes experiential elements such as blogging, peer evaluations, creating an ePortfolio, collaboration-based projects, creating presentations using digital story-telling, and extending the presentation experience beyond the walls of the classroom.