EDCI 515

The Journey: Narrowing Down A Lit Review Topic

The journey of narrowing down a topic for my lit reviews has not been easy.  Fraught with indecision and a stubbornness to find the perfect topic, the delays have been frustrating.  One on one chats with my professor forced me into thinking carefully about what I was looking for in a lit review and subsequent project, and here are some of my musings.

I started to think about what I was looking for in a project and came up with a short list:

  • It may sound simplistically obvious, but I want my lit review to be personally relevant.  I have to be jazzed about the idea.
  • I also need the topic to be meaningful to my practice.  I do not want to complete a lit review and project just for the sake of it.  The information I read and process in the lit review has to, somehow, enhance my practice and help me become a better educator.
  • Selfishly, it also has to be a topic that will help me create opportunities outside of the k-12 classroom.  I cannot see myself working solely as a classroom teacher for the next 20 years.

Next, I started to consider some of the issues I see in education and use this as a driving force to change.  Some of the challenges I see are as follows:

  • The model of school – The more time I spend in education, the more I get excited about the learning aspect of school and the more disheartened I get about the miscellaneous aspects of school.  I often feel that school gets in the way of learning.
  • Another issue, I see in schools, is the culture.  Rank and sort, grouping students by age, individual classrooms, grades, award systems, compartmentalized subjects, and inequity work against a model of learning and inquiry.
  • I believe more and more students are starting to question the personal relevance of their school experience.

When thinking of lit review topics and possible masters projects four themes have started to emerge:

  1. Multi-access Learning – Learning does not always occur between the bookends of a typical school day.  There is an opportunity to develop more freedom for students of all ages to access learning at a time that is personally convenient.  Flexible attendance may take the pressure of certain students and allow for more focused instructional time, and opportunities for asynchronous delivery may reduce anxiety for others. One major disadvantage of choosing multi-access learning as a topic is making it meaningful to my practice.  I don’t think this is a model for elementary school students that we see anytime soon.
  2. Game-based/Simulation-based Learning – According to NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition, “Game-based learning has grown in recent years as research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness for learning. Games for education span the range from single-player or small-group card and board games all the way to massively multiplayer online games and alternate reality games.” (Johnson, Adams, & Haywood, 2011)  I am hesitant of choosing game-based learning as a lit review topic because of the stigma associated with the use of games in education.  Even though I see the value of game-based learning in education the term ‘edutainment’ comes to mind.  I can foresee some of the emails I might receive from parents condemning more of their children’s time allotted to gaming.  I am also slightly conflicted about the reward aspect of gaming.  As an educator, I am very conscious about the destructive nature of reward-based systems as a method of obtaining results.
  3. Open Education – Open education and open practices cover a broad range of subtopics.  The idea, that intellectual property can be shared for the benefit of everyone, is an exciting prospect.  I believe that education can and should be available to anyone at anytime, and there exists opportunities to reduce costs in education by using open educational resources.  One of the greatest challenges I see in pursuing Open Education masters project are the overly restrictive privacy laws in British Columbia.
  4. Inquiry/Personalized Learning – This is the topic I am most excited about right now.  Last year I introduced a block of time set aside each week called C.H.O.I.C.E.  Children Have Ownership In Choice Education (C.H.O.I.C.E) was modeled on #geniushour, Passion Time, and 20% time.  Essentially, it allows time in our weekly schedule for students to direct their own learning, explore areas of personal interest, develop a sense of inquiry, and have an outlet for their own brand of creativity.  It did not go so well when I introduced because I gave my learners too much freedom and did not adequately scaffold the inquiry process.  I believe I can learn from my mistakes and help others avoid some of the schoolboy errors I initially made when I introduced it.

I also need to consider an overarching learning theory to support my project.  Inquiry learning and the learning theory of Constructivism compliment each other.  “Constructivism states that learning is an active contextualize process of constructing knowledge rather than acquiring it.” (“Constructivism,” n.d.)

References:

Constructivism. (n.d.). In Learning-Theories. Retrieved January 17, 2015, from

http://www.learning-theories.com/constructivism.html


Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Haywood, K. (2011). Horizon Report > 2011 K – 12 Edition. Methodology (p. 36). Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2011-Horizon-Report-K12.pdf

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MEd Research Focus: An Exploration In Networked Learning

This blog posting marks the first in a series of posts documenting the process of narrowing down a research interest and developing a research question for my Masters of Education in Educational Technology final project.  You can follow my journey by selecting the tag, ‘Research Focus’ on the sidebar.

Educational technology combines learning theory with science and technology resources to assist learners to meet individual and collective goals.  I see the power educational technology can have on our world when we use it to create more efficient and effective ways of doing things rather than use technology as a substitute for an existing task.  I like to think that our world is a little more connected.  Thanks to technology and science, learning can happen anytime and anywhere across cultures and, time zones, political boundaries, and languages barriers.

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At this point of the journey, I have several areas of research interest, which include networked learning and the sharing of knowledge, motivation, engagement, and inquiry learning.  I am fascinated by what the future of schools might look like as we continue to make advances in science and technology, and I am inspired by leaders in my field such as Will Richardson, Sugata Mitra.  Will Richardson envisions a different kind of school than that which exists in many public schools in North America today.  He champions a school based on discovery rather than delivery.  I agree with his philosophy about, “Asking questions, working with others to find the answers, doing real work for real audiences, and adding to, not simply taking from, the storehouse of knowledge that the Web is becoming.”  Sugata Mitra’s work with The School In The Cloud and his research on self-organized learning is also intriguing.  Gaining learner attention and attempting to sustain it through intrinsic motivation is one of the most challenging aspects of my job.  I believe part of the problem is that school isn’t relevant enough for some of the students I teach.  Technology and science can, in my mind, work towards making school more relevant when combine with inquiry and choice learning.

One idea I am currently exploring for my final project focuses on the sharing of knowledge. I often end up asking myself the question, who has the knowledge? And how do I access it?  An idea I am pursuing involves developing a skill/knowledge repository or database that would connect teachers, students, parents, and their community together.  For example, let’s say I am a teacher who is looking to develop their numeracy practice.  Who has the knowledge/skills in their school, district, or community, and how do we connect those people together.  If I have a classroom teacher and one of my students expresses an interest in animal biology, who can I connect them with, in the community, so they can continue their passion for learning about the subject.  It boils down to my belief that it takes more than a classroom teacher to educator a child.  I believe that there are people within and outside of the education system with valuable skills and knowledge who would be more than willing to share their knowledge and time, free of charge, if they knew what they had to offer was sort after.  A skill repository database would allow teachers to mentor each other and work on their craft.  For example, if I am a teacher looking to rework my science lessons based on new brain research or changing Ministry of Education curriculum guidelines, but science is not my speciality I could use the database to find a local teacher to mentor me.  In contrast, those offering to share their knowledge and have their skills included in the database would have the freedom to advertise how they would like to mentor.  I imagine some people would be more than happy to open up their classroom and invite teachers/students in to see work in practice while others might be more conformable meeting at a coffee shop to share resources.  Flexibility and convenience are the keys to developing such an idea.

There are many learning theories, which complement my pedagogy and represent a suitable framework from which to pursue my project, but I’m having difficulty narrowing them down. Educational technology lends itself well to the constructivist and motivational and humanists learning theories.  I like Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s Flow Theory were participants who are engaged in an activity that is suitably challenging experience of sustained periods of focus and active engagement.  In this mental zone, learners stay motivated and experience high levels of enjoyment.

I have made the decision to share, openly, the process of developing my MEd document and final project, and it can view here.  There isn’t much in it now, but by this time next year it should be well on the way to being completed.