Webibliography: Learning to Collaborate, Collaborating to Learn
Webibliography: Educational Technology Revolution
Collins and Halverson (2009) bring attention to the wide swath of daily life which has been transformed by technology. Work, leisure and home life have been fundamaentally transformed by the inclusion of technology and the free acceptance of technology tools. The field of education is the last holdout in the digital revolution that has touched people from todlers to geriatrics. Failure to make a change in how we educate could have real, lasting consequences for our students.
Since much of what a student learns is outside of the classroom, educators should be prepared to challenge students using the tools with which they are already familiar and comforatble. This embracing of unteathered technology will push education beyond the four walls of the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom, and challenge students to observe the world around them in a more wholistic manner.
To bring the change that is needed, educators must tackle various challenges which include the struggle between uniform learning and customization; viewing the teacher as the expert as opposed to opening the door to a multitude of various expert sources of understanding; competition between standardized assessment and specialization; the difference between learners holding the necessary knowledge in their head as opposed to having access to resources; learning by acquisition as opposed to learning by doing among other points.
Collins and Halverson (2009) see the seeds of a new paradigm growing in the future. In this new model, the construct of a central learning platform will be less ubiquitous. The future learning model will include multiple, varied options for the learner. Online learning, adult education and learning centers are just a few examples of a new approach to deeper understanding for the learner.
A central issue I have with the underlying current of this article is the authors’ assumption that we can truly escape the binds of a central educational structure. The brick-and-mortar foundation of our current educational paradigm is deeply engrained into the consciousness of the American learning community, both on the side of the learner and the instructor. Homeschooling is presented as an exemplar. This model falls short of showing the path forward for k-12 education in that it is still not widely embraced.
Real, effective change takes time to prepare, establish and endure. As lobbyist for Florida Right to Life, I remember dreaming out loud with legislators and friends about what the pro-life movement’s goals would be a decade ahead. This exercise was helpful in focusing all of us toward accomplishing the minute goals that would move us toward larger change. Incremental change tends to draw more disparate extremes toward the same goal. I was often surprised at who came to work beside me on legislation.
All of this in mind, Collins and Halverson (2009) still offer a well-stated discussion on the need of educators to think outside of the box for the benefit of our students. Technology is here to stay.
Webibliography: Learning to Collaborate
Collaboration among educational profeesionals is a skill that must be cultivated(Musanti & Pence, 2010). In their longitudinal qualitative study of certified English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors, Musanti and Pence (2010) discover that inasmuch as collaboration requires flexibility and open-mindedness, the study of collaboration requires the same dexterity. This study stands on the foundational idea that knowledge is gained by human social interaction; and that collaboration is is a synthesis of connectedness, joint purpose and conflicting thoughts and values. This synthesis is what drew the project administrators away from a rigid adherence to the original goals of tracking teacher response to prescribed activities, toward a better understanding of what it means to collaborate and all which that entails.
The concept of professional development (PD) as comonly viewed has a strong and negative stigma. The idea that PD is a means of “fixing” teachers transfers into the realm of collaboration as well. Colaboration as a means of PD is a powerful tool, but like any tool, it must be handled skillfully and maintained to remain in good working order. Teachers need to learn how to collaborate. Study organizers discovered that each individual brings to the discussion certain pre-existing knowledge and emotion to the process of collaboration. This is a long process that requires buy-in by all involved. It requires an individual, long-term commitment to the goals and vision of the larger group. One individual in the collaborative group with intransigent emotional attachment to one way of instruction can cause deeper issues for the rest of the group.
Along the way, Musanti and Pence (2010) discovered that resistance to peer evaluation and deflection are two obstacles to be overcome in the process of collaboration. This is not an easy process for all, but the benefits reach far beyond the classroom.
The findings of this study have real, practical implications for daily practice. First, the value of collaboration as a means of building better practice in the classroom is beyond the traditional idea of PD. In an authentic collaborative environment teachers openly share about what works in context while they are genuinely open to the possibilility of changing the way they do things. This openness must be present within the collaborative process. Without it the process grinds to a halt for both the individual and the group. Second, the idea that collaboration must be learned. Each individual brings to the collaborative effort certain notions that can cause problems for the effort. These include the idea that the teacher is a self-made construct, and that the teacher is a repository of all knowledge. Both of these ideas naturally build barriers between the teacher and collaborators.
This study brings to light some of the root causes of collaborative failure. In the school setting, collaboration is a powerful tool for improving practice and bringing students to deeper unerstanding. To protect the organization building a collaborative model for PD, new staff must be carefully vetted to ensure adherence to the concept of collaboration.
In their flexibility, Musanti and Pence (2010) put into practice the ideas that their study highlights. Openness to new ideas and a new way of seeing the process can bring about great results.
Webibliography: Collaborate and Document to Learn
Parnell (2011) notes the power that collaboration brings to the process of educating students. In his descriptive research study of a group of teachers at the Helen Gordon Child Development Center at Portland State University, Parnell (2011) notes that collaboration must include all members of the learning community. The purpose of this study was to determine what meaning could be found in collegial discussion and collaboration between parents, students and teachers. To be effective, this collaboration must be intentional, and teachers must avoid operating within a “membrane of isolation.” The process of colaboration is not always easy, but intellectual disagreement can be viewed as a positive process because deliberation can lead to individual growth.
The study also points out the real value of documentation. The impact of most of the learning events discussed in the report were not realized until they were reviewed the following year. They could not be seen until the full impact was realized long after the event concluded. Returning to a documented event in a collaborative environment allows for emotional separation form the event and a clearer perspective on the impact of the event on the learning environment.
Parnell (2011) notes three narratives that drive the conclusions of the study: a) “Hardship, Ideas, and Inspiration,” b) “Change and Uncovering a Moment” and, c) “Reliving the Experience One Year Later: A Collaborative Session Reveals the Extraordinary in the Everyday.” These three bring out cogent points about the value of collaboration. The idea that opening the door to newopportunities holds power. Happiness can be a real result. These results were not evident in this study until one year folowing the initial study when subjects were gathered to reflect upon the experiences. By learning to listen and collaborate, teachers were able to see extraordinary results of what might be viewed as ordinary events.
This study brings to the forefront the concept that documentation si often necessary for a clear perspective on our collaborative successes. Although he does not state it, documentation can lead us away from weak practices in the classroom as well. This is the biggest problem with the report on this study. Non-examples or failures deserve reflection and consideration. Without understanding the real hows and whys to both the positive and negative outcomes it is difficult to build a true picture of what may or may not happen. Inasmuch as there are activities that are viewed as mundane in the moment, but later proven to be of real value to students and teachers alike, there are incidents of learning events which seem to have real impact in the moment, but in retrosepct prove to be of little impact.
The question, then, revolves around how to best guage the real impact of these learning events. If future reflection is to be the guage how do we accurately judge the latter events without applying the emotion noted at the time the event was documented. Developing tools to guage the impact of learning events is a big part of the equation that seems to be missing from this study. Without them much of the value of past learning events could be viewed through the lens of affective outcomes rather than the congnitive benefits.
All-in-all, Parnell (2011) helps to focus our attention on the deep impact of collaboration both today and into the future. Collaboration requires an open perspective. It requires us to look at our own practices from different points of view. It also calls us to look back on those experiences and determine what worked and what needs to be improved.
Webibliography: Collaboration Builds Confidence and Beats Isolation
Grossman and Arnold (2011) look into the root causes of the problem surrounding teacher retention in their study of tech savvy undergraduate students and instructors at Emory & Henry College. They asked two basic questions: 1) Does the process of partnering students with experienced teachers result in the teacher adapting more technology, and; 2) when students are compelled by a course to collaborate with experiences veterans, does that result in students adopting the practice later on? As it turns out, the results may help resolve a good deal of the problem of slipping new teacher retention.
Grossman and Arnold (2011) note several studies that support the notion that people from baby boomers to millennials use social media for a wide range of purposes. Professional collaboration can be enhanced with the adaptation of social media. Younger users uss social media for engagement. Technology is a natural part of their daily lives, while older teachers are beginning to catch on the ease of use and power of the medium for collegial discussion and professional development.
Teacher isolation is the most discussed reason for failure of teacher retention. Simply put, new teachers (within the first three-to-five years) feel isolated from their peers so they “don’t feel that they make a difference” in the classroom, or they feel that their voice has not been heard by colleages. Collaboration by means of social media can, according to this study, alleviate a great deal of these negative feelings and provide an avenue for feedback and input from the teacher next door to educators around the world. These tools are part of everyday life and readily available, just waiting to make a difference in the green teacher and seasoned veteran.
Iron sharpend iron. It is true. Grossman and Arnold (2011) bring attention to the big, green knuckle-dragging gorilla in the room – the failure of teachers to connect. Retention is a very real and pressing problem. As an exercise, try to find a High School French teacher who is an evangelical. Good teachers are a rare commodity, good veterans are gems as well. We must do a better job of getting both of these groups to collaborate, kibitz, share, blog and voice concerns. The readily available social media offers a great opportunity for administrators and teachers to advance to purpose of solid collegial discussion that will benefit educational professionals far beyond campus.
This study will and must be revisited over the years to track the full impact on both the green teachers and veterans. Like any other good practice, collaboration takes time to perfect. It is a good “habit of mind.” Certainly, the students in this study agreed that the experience will better help them to use technology in their educational strategies, while the veterans were grateful for the opportunity to share and study others’ experiences. It will be interesting to see the long-term results.
Webibliography: The Master Technology Teacher
Wright (2010) cites the notion that for many and for a long time, educational technology has been treated as an “add-on” to the general curriculum. However, a better result can be drawn form the educational process if, as the TPACK model suggests, technology, pedagogy and content knowledge converge. Wright (2010) formed teams of teachers which were deemed Master Technology Teachers (MTTs) that were able to a) establish practices within the faculty that offers a wealth of collaborative opportunities; b) bring attention and awareness to new and emerging technologies that might be of use in the classroom; c) extend professional development opportunities to staff; and d) focus on best practices in the use of technology in the classroom. In short the MTT was challenged to seek out new and innovative ways of applying technology along the lines of current and emerging pedagogy.
Implementation was slow at first in that teachers, first had to learn how to use the technology. As the comfort level of the teachers grew, the program was able to focus on new technology. It was not until the fifth year into the program of developing teacher comfort and adeptness that the program could be viewed as sustainable. Currently, the MTTs are well on their way into helping teachers implement strategies that employ web 2.0 tools across the curriculum.
The primary fiscal concerns that the program started with began to dissipate by year 10, when tech savvy teachers were demanding less in the way of technical assistance and traditional materials like pencils and paper. Paperless classrooms had sprung up across the curriculum. Both students and teachers were working together to develop projects that challenged the students and used technology.
This study brings to attention to the critical concept of collaboration between the IT team and classroom teachers. Up close, progress was painfully slow at the onset of the program as teachers were presented new tools and technology and instructed how to use them. As the program matured, teachers grew in their confidence and ultimately began operating autonomously within the Web 2.0 realm. This process works. It takes time and a long-term investment by the entire institution. All stakeholders must buy into the concept — from principal to teacher to student to parents.
As with other qualitative longitudinal studies, this kind of program needs time and resources to take rood and flourish. In time real evidence can be shown in the academic development of the students finishing the programs at the school.
It is clear that teachers benefit from this kind of investment. Students are the ultimate beneficiaries of this collaboration between IT members and classroom teachers. Picciano (2011) notes that outcomes can and must be data driven and aimed at a common pupose. Without these two core elements in place, the effort will distracted and confused at best. Additionally, the planning process for professional development should be viewed as an ongoing porcess. Technology is always changing and adapting to the way that people use it, therefore, educational ideas concerning the use of technology should change accordingly(Picciano, 2011).
Collins, A. and Halverston, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology: The digital revolution and schooling in America. New York: Teachers College Press.
Grossman, E., Arnold, D. (2011) A Habit of Collaboration: Using Technology While Building Professional Relationships during Teacher Preparation. International Journal of Instructional Media. 38.(4) P. 311-321.
Musanti, S., & Pence, L. (2010) Collaboration and Teacher Development: Unpacking Resistance, Constructing Knowledge, and Navigating Identities. Teacher Education Quarterly. 37(1). P 73-82.
Parnell, W. (2010) Teacher Collaboration Experiences: Finding the Extraordinary in the Everyday Moments. Early Childhood Research and Practice. 13(2). P 71-81.
Piccianno, A. (2011) Educational Leadership and Planning for Technology, Fifth Edition. Pearson: New York, NY
Wright, V. (2010) Professional Development and the Master Technology Teacher: The Evolution of One Partnership. Education. 131. (1). P 139-149.