A new culture of learning
The new culture of learning described by Thomas and Brown resonates with many aspects of the Master of Education Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation course that many students of this subject are undertaking. They define this culture as invisible, without traditional structure but operating in a defined environment which encourages the freedom to research (Thomas & Brown, 2011, pp. 17-18). Acknowledgement is given that playing in such a culture leads to the development of passions and ideas (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 18). This style of framework for learning cultivates citizenship, generates feedback leading to improvement for future students, and establishes the use of rich and highly textured examples of cross referencing and communication to form a learning community from the teachers and students within the group (Thomas & Brown, 2011, pp. 22-25).
So many new “friends” who are also peers and collaborators have been introduced to each other in a virtual sense through the shared work on the study modules that guide our learning. Sharing a “creative coffee” for INF536 proved incredibly valuable in ways beyond imagination (thanks Deborah and Liz!). Encouragement from Heather Baillie saw me enrol in this subject, and commentary through Twitter #feeds (Simon Keily) supported me through frustrations and celebrations. Sharing blog posts and video footage of our concepts and workplaces was akin to a site visit (thanks Matt Ives), and gentle encouragement from our subject coordinators provided a platform from which to launch our own practical applications. For me, as a lone practitioner in a small regional school, the new culture of learning has provided a much loved and respected “faculty” from which to draw inspiration and strength.
For students in my Year 12 History Revolutions class, I have attempted to create a similar environment. Working through collaborative learning activities using a range of techniques in 2014 was amazing, and similarly to Douglas Thomas, I felt that my students taught me far more than I taught them (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p. 25). This year a new tool, collaborative Microsoft OneNote, is encouraging a valuable mix of formal teacher notes (like those provided in CSU’s Blackboard), individual student notes, which are visible to me as the teacher, and shared working space which has superseded the Interactive Whiteboard activities paper-based work of the past. Giving feedback through audio recording that moves down the student’s page as aspects are identified for improvement or congratulations is amazingly powerful.
In terms of difference from the case studies provided by Thomas and Brown, my one formal class is restricted because it is a VCE course examined externally in November. This precludes a higher degree of personal control than Sam experiences through his involvement in Scratch, Douglas’ Massively Multi-player Online Games course, or Allen’s self-taught programming skills (Thomas & Brown, 2011, pp. 22-28). It also makes creation of an online sharing community such as Diabetes Daily more problematic (Thomas & Brown, 2011, pp. 29-30). The very nature of the Australian Tertiary Assessment Ranking system makes students at this level very wary of sharing too much due to a fear of reducing their own results or enabling another to supersede their position within the statewide cohort. Even teachers guard their own material closely, and in some schools Principals are reluctant to allow their staff to share work in case it affects enrolments in a negative fashion.
Within the more open library skill based programs offered to both teachers and students, however there is a glimmer of potential through such a culture of learning.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). Arc-of-Life-Learning. A new culture of learning, 17-33.