Dr. Paul Leslie
In an effort to offer support to my curriculum vitae - AKA my narrative of learning - over the past 22 years of teaching, I am offering this voiced presentation that discusses my philosophy of teaching and learning and how this philosophy informs both my research and my pedagogy - what I do in the classroom.
Through this presentation, I also endeavor to give a glimpse of my vision of what I hope to achieve in the near future through my research into the scholarship of teaching and learning.
Linda Liukas, in her Ted Talk, discusses her vision of the future where computer languages become the next second language that children will learn as they grow. She is not the only one. Code.org also offers computer programming lessons that start at age 5 for KG children and then lets them progress up through increasingly complex actions, but all done in informative and interesting ways.
In her Ted Talk (below), at 4:32, she comments, "unless we give them (children) tools to build with computers, we are raising only consumers instead of creators". She then goes on to discuss the internet of things and how young children can think of the most amazing uses for computers.
She also makes a very interesting comments about getting "back to basics". As an advocate of technology in education, I hear this refrain quite often. Lets get back to basics in Education and not worry about all this distracting technology. However, to Linda, back to basics means lets strip away all the layers of wonderful media and get to computer basics - how do they work and what language do they speak?
In the UK, computer programming will start at age 5 and in Nova Scotia, all schools are now using Google Apps and other such tools throughout the school system. These tools are becoming a second language to the students.
I cannot imagine where all this technology will lead, but I am very excited to find out.
Reading through the regular influx of emails and reports that I receive about Education, Technology and Development, I am struck by a couple of thoughts. One issue is that we have a shortage of teachers. According to the UN Global Education First Initiative report,
"Globally, we need an additional 1.6 million teachers to achieve universal primary education by 2015. The shortage of teachers, combined with absenteeism and the lack of qualifications, is a major barrier to learning. We need a strong cohort of both female and male teachers who are paid well and respected in their communities." - See more at: http://www.globaleducationfirst.org/219.htm#sthash.LCJxig27.dpuf
The report lists many other issues as well, not least of which is access to supportive technologies and ICT resources. There is a connection between this lack of teachers and the consequent lack of education among these various populations and some of the troubles we experience in parts of the world.
I also read a significant amount of reports about the use and growth of technology in Education. I am particularly interested in mobile technologies. One reason is that in many parts of the developing world, mobile connectivity is the only option. The UN Mobile Learning site tells us that, "Today over 6 billion people have access to a connected mobile device and for every one person who accesses the internet from a computer two do so from a mobile device." They also note that, "over 90 percent of the [world's] population is blanketed by a mobile network."
My Poll Everywhere page: https://pollev.com/pleslie
During my current sabbatical year, I have been applying for a number of positions all over the world. Some of the applications requirements requested include essays, presentations, references, teaching philosophy and research statements. One recent position requested a video repsonse to a question, which I thought was a very interesting method of getting to know the applicant.
Like many people, I am not always comfortable watching myself on video because we have a tendency to focus on the 'warts and all' of our person. Of course, others see these all the time and perhaps do not notice them. We however, can see every single little flaw and these revelations are often quite shocking. At any rate, here is my video, below, 'warts and all'!
This gallery shows a cross section of visual text projects as envisioned by one of my former colleagues. My colleague came up with the great idea and then we bashed out the details including the description, outcome mapping and the rubric. Please have a look at the assessment document or download it by clicking on the link below.
I have been revisiting the notion, coined by Marshall McLuhan (1964), that the 'medium is the message' in the light of what we might call 21st century media - that which is freely and readily available to most people, and certainly to teachers and students. In my own research around another notion of making our thinking visible to our peers, students and stakeholders, I am thinking about how to research and then promote our ability to display our thinking more thoroughly, or perhaps in a more readable manner.
I love to listen to a good speaker. I also love to read a good book. These are two media employed to convey thinking, notions and ideas. They are great and they are useful. However, they are also linear and perhaps not always the best way to convey an idea.
Medium is the Message
This concept map expresses the notion that the audience is central to our choice of media in supporting and shaping the message that we want to convey. We need to consider who comprises the audience, what tools they may have, even how much time do they have to devote to receiving the message.
During my research into displays of competency, the participating teachers spent a great deal of time to consider the media that they would use to design their displays. Although we had discussed the notion of the medium is the message, they seemed to instinctively focus on what media they should use.
Competency to Goal
As they progressed with their work, the teachers began to become increasingly selective about their media tools.
The teachers reported that they spent considerable time to determine just the exact media to use to demonstrate their various competencies. In these examples, the media in itself is a demonstration of competency as far as it shows their ability to use media to display various messages. They were also very clear in their descriptions of how they wanted their work to be perceived. The teachers were highly cognizant of the non-reflexive potential of the portfolio. They were aware that others would view their work without them present to explain the various features of processes involved in the work and so went to great efforts to ensure that the work represented their intentions as clearly as possible.
The teachers developed a very clear set of rules for demonstrating the various goals. Firstly, they determined that the evidence for any particular goal must not be dispersed through the portfolio. Stakeholders must be able to see the competency, goal, and evidence all at once. This highlights the need for the correct or best media for this purpose. They seemed very conscious of the fact that they were not just demonstrating a competency for the sake of demonstration but that there was a very ‘real-world’ consequence of this demonstration. Given the high-stakes nature of demonstrating these competencies, it is very interesting to note the attention to these details.
It is also important to note that this process was socially constructed over a period of time through the development of associated skills. They were determined to make the process easy in order to focus on the demonstrations of competency and not on the media. They were clear that the competency determined how the media would be chosen and used, and that the media would not determine how they demonstrated the competency. In a positive feedback cycle, the more adept they became at manipulating the media to their goals, the more motivated they became to learn about the media tools in order to give themselves better options for displaying their competencies.
The Medium is the Message
During teaching sessions, I place links to each course in the area where you found this link. Below you can see links to the blog entries for each of the courses I taught during the last semester at Sharjah Women's College.
Along with links to the semester courses, there are several other links. You can have a look at my video discussing just how the site works. Starting from the left of the menu is a calendar, which is in fact a Google (Google, 2014) product as are several other features. Click on it to see how easily the calendar embeds into the site and provides a practical access point.
The calendar is a very powerful administrative tool for use with students and for stakeholders at all levels. For example, the calendar is used to monitor teaching placement visits. Permission to edit the calendar has been shared with the members of the various student cohorts so that they are able to make appointments for me to visit them in their placements for formal, assessed observations. Since this calendar is publicly available, other students can see the calendar and appointments. They can then more easily plan their own dates for me to visit and in many cases, negotiate with students at other placements to arrange the schedule to their benefit. An added features of using the web calendar is that I can share and the ‘push’ the calendar to my students mobile devices in order to remind them of various activities that fall outside of our regular classes.
My supervisor also has access and since I use the calendar for all of my professional duties, I can provide a level of transparency to my actions that inspires confidence and trust. In fact, throughout the department in which I teach, the faculty have adopted a centralized calendar in order to manage these activities much more readily and to add a greater ease to collaborative activities. This simple tool reduces my administrative load considerably allowing me to spend more time in pursuits that are more productive or perhaps more socially constructive.
The series of numbers in the menu represent my classes, and each of these menu items links to a blog dedicated to that class. The class blogs operate in a standard blog format, placing the latest post at the top of the page for that particular blog, and pushing the last blog post down. Generally, I create blog posts weekly, but often update posts mid-week to reflect or add the ideas and constructions that were achieved during our class time. Students are then free to return to the blog at any point to review the notes or access comments that may have been explained during the class time. Each post can also hold downloadable documents or other files.
The students can also see the progression of an idea that was developed communally and perhaps take some pride of ownership. If they do not, they will certainly understand it more readily for having been the originators of some of the language in the notes and subsequently in the diagram. These blogs also contribute to, and may comprise a subset of the professional commentaries that support cognitive apprenticeship (Kopcha & Alger, 2014; Oriol, Tumulty, & Snyder, 2010).
Refined board notes
Following the course links, is a link to files that are shared with the audience using Google Drive (Google, 2014). Although this example highlights a Google product, there are a number of similar cloud storage products that are freely available. One advantage of Google is that they offer a suite of cloud products that help the less technically inclined users minimize the number of different accounts and tools they need to master.
These files include journal articles, administrative documents, and various other documents. One benefit of using cloud storage to make these documents available is that they are then available all the time, or at least until they are removed from the library. These archived folders are very useful for all concerned, especially the practitioner in order to provide them ready access to these materials during class time. Also, most cloud storage tools allow a synchronized copy to exist on the document owner’s computer. Thus, while there was some effort to create and make links to the library, once these initial tasks are completed, any of the documents therein can be edited from the convenience of the owner’s laptop, or from any access point to the cloud library.
A side benefit of these features of cloud storage is the ability to easily share assessment documents with students in an ‘assignment drop box’ arrangement. The instructor can simply make a folder in Google Drive and then share that folder with students. The students then create a folder inside the main folder and share their folder only with the instructor. The result is a password secure assignment drop box that show the date and time of the last edit or addition to anything inside the folder. Figure 21 shows how this arrangement would look.
The next link in the top menu takes the user to imagery that is produced either in class as board notes, or for classes in the form of concept maps or other graphics. Again, these images are stored in the cloud, in this instance, using a photo storage service called Flickr (Yahoo, 2014). Figure 22 shows the interface for the photo storage.
This library holds the board notes for all the classes. The strength of this process is that much of it is automated and can be done in one or two minutes with most photo storage services and with the use of a smart phone or web-enabled tablet. Since the album has already been embedded in the portfolio, it will automatically and instantaneously update with the new images. This feature also provides the practitioner with an instant recall of notes made in previous classes or tutorials, which can then be called up during class time for further support when explaining a topic. The fact that the students can see the actual notes made in class helps to trigger memories and understandings created during that class time.
The top menu also includes a link to annotated web links that have been accumulated through several years of teaching in this program. Reference lists, bibliographies and lists of web links are nothing new, but in this context at least they are consistent and familiar to the students. As many of the students have accessed this list before, they have become familiar with it and can benefit more readily from it. The page has been hit 2935 times since it was first created in September, 2012.