- through the eyes: eg.reading
- through the ears: eg.listening
Image by Chräcker Heller from Pixabay
This year sees a new venture added to my retirement activities. An unexpected invitation came from the UK Future Teacher 3.0 team and this was too good an opportunity to turn down. The small UK team are an absolute powerhouse, a great example of how much can be achieved with the right blend of experience, and expertise and a shared commitment to inclusive practice in teaching. Lilian, Alistair and Ron have orchestrated monthly webinars for teachers in HE and FE since 2017 firstly as part of an Erasmus Plus funded project but now unfunded and undaunted! I have had the privilege of contributing to several sessions over the years and I really value the network and the resources they create as OERs.
Using an open source tool called Xerte they are able to create reusable learning objects which include interactive content and are media rich and accessible.
Of course, one of the bugbears of doing anything at the "bleeding edge" is that new tools and approaches are constantly being developed but the FT3 UK team have even turned this to an advantage! The second iteration of webinars was Reactivated -bringing new ideas to enhance the earlier recordings and this current series is Reflected, where the focus is on building upon what we have learned through reflection "because future teachers never stop learning".
In my final years at Warwick I led a course for final year students who were considering teaching as a career. Central to my course design was both virtual exchange and reflection. We used an open source tool Mahara as a private reflection space and students were able to keep private journal posts every week which could, if they so wished, be used as part of their assessed eportfolio. This process of regular reflection incorporated into the course design helped to establish the importance of reflection to those working in time constrained and often demanding roles in teaching. Taking time to take account of how you are feeling and to, over time, develop a picture of the direction you wish to take - these things are so important in life. Sharing some of these thoughts with others can also help to strengthen your professional network and can even lead to unexpected outcomes such as new connections.
I'm not great at sticking to routines but I do use my blogs to think things through and it has been helpful over the years. Reflecting through writing on a diary or a blog can really bring my thoughts into focus and help me find a way forward. I look forward to reading reflections from others who have been part of the Future Teacher network.
|Screenshot of point of "badge" issue|
English is my first language but I have never been interested in teaching it. I loved learning other languages and chose to specialise in teaching French and Spanish. So where had this badge come from and why had it come to me?
If we are going to bust myths about #edtech we have to see behind the magic curtain. Ask better questions of your tech support and students- what happens to the student data? How much did this platform cost? who cannot access? #innoconf21— Teresa MacKinnon (@WarwickLanguage) September 17, 2021
If we are to carve out something using technological tools that carries our values and priorities we have to be more confident that we understand what we are doing. There is a risk that otherwise our work will be carved up.
Such great work is already happening in languages, driven by practitioners who love to learn and who are willing to collaborate in order to create great learner experiences. I shared examples on our padlet board of produsage (using extracts from media to create exciting learning opportunities) and virtual exchange (international collaborations between practitioners and students). Wider adoption of innovative assessment techniques such as blogging, wikipedia editing and eportfolio use would also be welcomed as they provide meaningful ways of acquiring skills which will shift the balance from students as consumers to students as producers of knowledge. See links document.
Connecting with folk already doing these things, according to what you think you can change this year will be a useful shortcut to build upon their expertise. My experience of these folk is that they welcome those who take an interest in their work. They are generally open to human centred approaches, we all need to be if we are to sustain our influence and our role in the future of language teaching. It really is in our hands. We need to bear in mind that great carving takes time, Google tells me that even experienced sculptors can take up to 80 hours to make a relatively simple piece. So identify your priorities for the new term, get informed and connected and then make your own masterpiece.
I'm very excited (and a little nervous) about my next challenge. I will be opening tomorrow's #innoconf21 which is hosted by Reading University with a keynote which will address the use of educational technologies (edtech) in language teaching. I am very grateful to the organisers for giving me this opportunity to curate resources, reflect and present my insights into the work of language teaching and I hope that by the final plenary we will all have a clearer vision for how the next 5-10 years of language teaching could look.
Here is the abstract for my keynote:
Carving a better future from dark matter.
A dramatic turn of events beset our lives in 2020, a global pandemic. Everyone had to face a new and daunting reality that touched every aspect of our lives, both personal and professional. Our working lives faced huge disruption and, in order to continue to function at all, we all became more reliant on technical “solutions” to connect us to each other. For some this was a continuation or extension of familiar territory, for others this was a new endeavour. For all it brought huge challenges, long days and complicated negotiations with students and colleagues. The “pivot online” revealed many areas of university teaching which were unresolved, from “delivery” to assessment. Intensive innovation was the order of the day and such rapid change is not without pain. As we face an emerging reality in which ongoing disruption is likely, how can we be better prepared for a more positive future in which our processes and pedagogies support learners and staff alike?
In this keynote, I will not shy away from the very real challenges we face. I will however offer hope for a more sustainable future for language educators through collaboration beyond our usual hierarchies and borders.
In my preparation I have drawn on the work of many people, curating a padlet wall of resources which includes links to additional sources for those who want to dig deeper. I will be inviting participants to join the conversation in the zoom chat and also respond to some shared questions through the vevox poll. My slides will be shared online tomorrow morning, look out for the #innoconf21 tag.
The pandemic has of course been hard for everyone. Many are now gearing up for further challenges in coming academic year. As I stand on the sidelines now I am hoping to use this platform to inspire and support my colleagues.
In keeping with our focus on shaping the future for modern languages I would like to encourage all participants to arm themselves with the tools to carve out their future, both individually and collectively so we can sustain our important role in connecting the populations of the world for the huge challenges hurtling towards us. Use the force!
This is a great initiative from ALT, encouraging the open sharing of our different learning teach contexts throughout June through social media. Although I may not be able to keep up the pace every day I was reassured by David's tweet!
The VLE in my life - well there are multiple VLEs I have used over past years and as I have now retired it may be expected that I no longer have to use VLEs, but I do (mostly Moodle/Mahara/Google workspace/Canvas/Blackboard/Ning). I was responsible for procuring and implementing a VLE in the Language Centre at Warwick University back in the day, it was based on Moodle and Mahara (a mahoodle no less!) and was called Languages at Warwick. The focus was upon creating course spaces which encouraged interaction. I wrote about the development in this book chapter. We were ahead of the institutional curve by several years and when Moodle finally became a central initiative our platform was "dissolved". My colleagues still tell me though they are glad they had access to their own VLE prior to the wider implementation as they upskilled as a result.
Moving to a central VLE came with some serious losses though. We had previously been able to create "managed holes" in Languages at Warwick courses in order to admit students from other institutions to participate in our virtual exchange initiatives. This was lost and we relocated this work to our Google Suite over which we still had control. Virtual Exchange is a proven approach to online learning which helps to build capacity for online teaching, supports interdisciplinary and intercultural learning and thanks to recent research through projects such as EVOLVE and EU initiatives involving the academic organisation (soon to be not for profit org) UNICollaboration , has gained significant traction. We were at the forefront, but faced with lack of institutional support we moved into the wilds. There we found personal learning networks (PLNs) and created personal learning environments (PLEs) of our own.
VLEs have their place, they are private, institutional spaces generally. However, real life requires knowing how to navigate not just the private, secure digital spaces but also the broader "wilds" beyond. That journey requires greater critical expertise, a form of digital fluency which ideally comes with a deeper understanding of digital ownership, profile management, appropriate behaviours... a whole raft of "soft skills" and expertise which is best acquired through activity alongside others, a community of practice. My situation is very comparable now to that of Sheila and I was so delighted to read her post and see her use of the French word "dérive". I have described my journey through learning technology in the past as being that of a "flaneur" , wandering through online spaces to see how they affect my interactions, how communications change, who feels uncomfortable, who is excluded. This has become central to my critical digital practice, focussing on open educational practice using social media spaces for example.
Being able to flow between spaces is a huge advantage. This water feature created with recycled television screens captured that feeling for me. Each VLE needs to suit the needs of those who are using it, it needs to make us welcome and protect what is dear to us. Otherwise we just move on and find our own spaces. The challenge now before all institutions in the post pivot era is to co-create spaces which are suitable for today's needs. Sustainable, equitable, welcoming, accessible, fair spaces. It should allow for continued learning beyond the institutional experience: portability of resources and acquisition of knowledge and skills to address online intellectual property confidently. This is more than any one VLE can offer. Like Sheila, I am keen to continue this reflective journey and I'm thinking about what I could contribute to the next #SocMed conference...
I am delighted to see more educators engaging with OpenEducation or at least taking a greater interest in things "open" but I think it would be helpful to have a sort of beginner's guide to the many forms of open which are relevant to educators. I do not profess to be an expert in all things open but, as chair of the Open Education Special Interest Group and as an open education practitioner, I feel I could contribute a little to demystifying some of the terminology which comes under the banner "open". Here goes.
Probably the first term most academics engage with as it relates to academic publishing. Essentially this is a category of publication which is accessible to anyone rather than being restricted to those who are registered with a university. Some publishers require APCs (article processing fees) in order to make publications available to a wider public. For more detail see Jisc's useful guide. Librarians are often experts in this area.