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One of the most enjoyable and inspiring books I have read this year has been Sir Ken Robinson's "Out of our Minds"  and my ref...

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

More stories of connection

And so to phase 2 of my Clavier story for Simon +Simon Ensor 

When you look at the literature around the use of technology in education you will soon come across references to disruption. Having been an early adopter of technology in language teaching I have experienced this and my Master's research (on the user perceptions of voice over the internet) also identified that embedding technology in learning design does require a return to first principles if it is to be embedded successfully. As such it is a useful mechanism if you need to focus teacher attention on why we do what we do. This perspective from IMS Global on disruption clearly assumes that there is something inherent in the existing status quo in education which needs a shake up and gives an industry insight into learning technology in the business of education. Many of us working "at the chalk face" felt that disruption was "a good thing" I'm sure. After 30 years in education the never ending re-invention of wheels and flow of buzz words takes its toll. However, taking a more critical stance we need to challenge that underlying assumption - what do we value about education that needs to remain in place?

The next phase of my Clavier journey saw new connections, collaborations and co-creations. (This story is not chronological you may have noticed, it is thematic). The serendipity of networked practice together with a heightened attention to the importance of protecting the place of human interaction in education resulted in many conference presentations and publications . The Clavier experience had ignited a spark which fed an intellectual curiosity. Central to this was a realisation of my own agency in progressing educational opportunity for all. I decided to be an open educational practitioner and again my network - an international collection of educators in many different contexts - were reliable in getting involved. This internal event about teaching excellence at Warwick saw staff exploring physical and virtual spaces, connecting virtually with Marcin Kl├ębin @makle1 in Poland; the doors to the EuroCALL conference were opened this year thanks to collaboration with Maha Bali +Maha Bali and Virtually Connecting, my students have created open educational resources and even contributed to online conferences, the WIHEA #knowhow project (see https://storify.com/WarwickLanguage/warwick-window-on-teaching) produced resources and connections to help others decide on a path to opening up their work. Having found my voice in the academic community and a means to engage in the meaningful deployment of my abilities across institutional and national boundaries thanks to the open internet, I have made yet another career "modification" - one where I can pass on a new perspective to students considering teaching languages.(https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/modernlanguages/applying/undergraduate/crossschool/ln306/) I do not wish to be a "teacher trainer" but rather a co-learner in order to support the sustainability of a profession which I have loved throughout my career. Clavier has been part of that unexpected sequence of events and the network which has stretched around the world has seen me working with colleagues in Egypt, Poland, Sweden, Australia, the USA, Spain, Finland, Canada and the UK! 

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Stories of connection

The paths we take as we travel through life are sometimes the result of conscious decision making, sometimes the inevitable result of our behaviours, sometimes directed by others, often a complex weaving of all of these and more. Simon has asked me to reflect on my Clavier journey and as I have captured much of it through my writing, publications and discussions I have decided to weave it here in my first blog. 

CLAVIER is more difficult to define than the acronym may appear, as I recall Simon and I discussed the choice of letters as I traveled back from a trip to London for a UCML meeting. At that time I was working with this umbrella group for languages to support communications using social media and to raise awareness of the need for better government support for languages in the UK.  I have always been a passionate advocate of language learning, although my understanding was irrevocably changed when my first son was diagnosed with a language disorder back in the 1990's. 

The first connection with Simon came (as you can see in the artefact shared at the top of this post) in 2011. A supportive intervention in what was becoming a rather bad tempered exchange online. This serendipitous meeting on Steve Wheeler's blog back then was the spark that led to the creation of connected network at a point when I had recently developed an online space using moodle for supporting the teaching of languages at Warwick's Language Centre. The opportunity therefore to connect our student cohorts meant that we could set about creating a shared, large scale virtual exchange

The background to the years since then has been the "elevator music" of the skeptic. Public discourse full of condemnation of social media, a "bad thing" for promoting trolling, anti-social behaviour, even terrorism. I have to say that apart from the negative physical effects of all the time spent sitting working on a screen (which I should have counter balanced more actively through resistance and greater emphasis on physical wellbeing) the connected approach to learning and teaching has been overwhelmingly positive for me. In 2014 I reflected on the happenstance arising from digital connectivity.  

My background coming to this project was quite different from that of Simon. Language teaching has been my career since I left university, I completed my Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) back in the 1980s at Warwick and I had worked for 15 years in secondary education rising to a leadership role before joining the Language Centre as a part-time tutor when my children were still young. I had been an early adopter of learning technologies and when I returned to Warwick I was able to complete further learning including an e-learning award and a Masters in Post Compulsory Education which had provided lots of opportunities to reflect through blogging. I reconnected with the EuroCALL community finding Graham Davies online (sadly now passed away but not before he agreed to deliver some staff training through his Second Life presence, a real highlight for me) and this inspired me to research through my teaching and this community. The learning was further extended through becoming part of the Association for Learning Technology where I have increased my technical and theoretical perspectives in learning technology. 

So that's phase one of Clavier for me...the next post will cover the next phase.