It is getting close to the end of the school holidays; only three weeks to go as of tomorrow. I have had a very good summer vacation this year. Traveling throughout China and Japan was an amazing, and eye-opening experience, both personally and professionally. More about that in another post perhaps.
You would think that with three weeks left in the summer vacation I would be out enjoying myself, living it up, and soaking up the marrow of life. That is what I would like to do. However, tomorrow I have to give up two weeks of my summer to sit, for roughly six hours a day, in a school library on my computer, taking summer classes as part of Simon Fraser University’s LTT program. It is something that I, and many of my colleagues did last year as well. We know what to expect and we are not looking forward to it. Primarily because it robs us of the last few weeks of a summer vacation already ebbing away.
But getting ready to go back to this course, in the role of a student, got me thinking about a number of things. How I learn and how I teach in my own classroom in particular. The goal of the LTT program (or Learning and Teaching with Technology) is to be able to integrate technology into our teaching practice, which we have already done throughout the course of two field studies. It is also about understanding how students and teachers will operate in a networked environment, and throughout the course I have found myself subscribing to, and signing up for innumerable websites and programs as a result of being in this course. I have, however, continued to use only a handful of these due to personal time constraints, as well as the practicality, and overall usefulness to my teaching practice of the various sites and applications.
I have also found that the greatest learning I have accomplished while taking this course has not been as a result of the course…as one might expect the case to be when you are paying a large percentage of your income to a post-secondary institution. Most of my learning has come through following other people`s blogs, and tweets, and talking with them about their ideas etc. It has led me to question if it is worth, after this part of the course is complete, to pursue a master`s degree in this field, considering that I have no aspirations of becoming an administrator. To me it seems that I would learn more by not paying for the costly piece of paper.
Bill Gates has noted as well that internet learning will, in the next five years, become more important than university learning (http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/bill-gates-internet-more-important-than-university-in-five-years–708608). His reasoning is that internet based learning will be more affordable for more students but I think that it is more than that. I think that internet based learning offers people a more meaningful experience, self-guided learning about a topic that is of interest to the learner is more valuable than someone telling you about what you should learn and in what time-frame you should learn it.
The LTT program itself is undergoing a major overhaul as myself and my colleagues are in the midst of completing it, and this therein is one of the main problems that I find with the program. Though the objectives seem to have been stated above, I, and many others, do not really know why we are there in some cases. Objectives as to why we are completing assignments are not always made clear. The “why are we doing this” question that many students often ask often comes to mind. In addition we are also asked to sign up for various websites of which there appears to be very little significant value. For example in the last term we were asked to join Ning (which since became a paid service for some of its aspects) and create a Netvibes page among other things.
In itself these do not seem like unreasonable requests, however, since signing up for Ning I have had very little time to go on and join in any discussions, and despite being asked by our instructor I have yet to create a Netvibes page because it appears to me to be little more than another version of IGoogle, though perhaps one with some Sharepoint features mixed in. I like IGoogle and am perfectly happy sticking with that. If anything I would appreciate more assistance with using our districts Sharepoint software.
The previous version of this course seems to have been more practical and self-directed in nature. Other colleagues of mine who have taken this course were allowed a greater freedom to explore the various technologies, whether it be webquests, sharepoint etc. I can only wish that this version of the course was more like that. Too many directed readings and directed self-reflection have got me annoyed as I find that I am wasting my time and energy. I could be learning about things that are of interest to me and that can be directly implemented into my classroom. The other issue with directed readings is that not all of them are relevant, and even readings that I find are not necessarily useful. Too many scholars are not directly connected to the classroom. Their writing might be relevant and even interesting but not always is it applicable to a classroom setting. Some of the academic writers are too removed from actual classrooms.
But again it leaves me looking back at the way I teach. I would like to be able to give students an option about what they choose to study, albeit difficult in the confines of a curriculum. I would like to ensure that they are learning about things that are of interest to them and that allow them to be creative and original – I do not want to mandate to them what they need to do. I would like my students to know why they are learning what they are learning, and connect it to relevant content in their lives. This is the way I would like to learn, and I am learning that this is the way in which I would like to teach.