Friday, June 8, 2012

Interview on Down the Hall Podcast

Graphic Used Under a CC By-SA 2.0 License
I recently had the privilege of being invited to be interviewed on the Down the Hall podcast. Down the Hall  is produced by the External Programs and Learning Technologies (EPLT) department of the University of British Columbia. I have networked on Twitter and on this blog with one of the podcast hosts, Dave Roy (@UBCMET), a Senior Program Assistant for EPLT, and it was Dave who asked me for an interview after hearing me in another recent podcast appearance.

It was exciting to be part of a program whose purpose is to reach an audience including "EPLT/Faculty of Education stakeholders (students, prospective students – especially at the graduate level, faculty members, prospective academic and/or social media contacts, and those interested in educational technology & social media in education)."

Dave and I had a great conversation, and I hope you will take time to listen to Down the Hall Episode 36: Developing the Practice. (Special "guest" appearance by one of my dogs thrown in as a bonus! Kudos to Dave for really good editing on that one!)

One aspect that made taking part in this podcast enjoyable for me was the fact that Dave provided questions for me ahead of time, so I could think through the ideas I would like to share. Even though I got to think about my responses prior to the interview, it did not take away from the natural flow of the professional conversation we had, because neither of us strictly followed a script.

Below, I am posting the questions Dave sent me, and the notes I made for myself to refer to during the interview. You'll see if  you listen to the podcast and read my notes that what I said and what I wrote don't exactly match. You'll also see there are three questions, but in the podcast, we only discussed the first two. As I've admitted several times before, I am long-winded!

I hope you enjoy listening to and reading this information. And that you will share any thoughts it provokes in the comments.

Q1.    One of the areas of interest you mention in your bio on your blog is “educator professional development,” and many of the things you talk about on your blog and on Twitter are about resources for teachers to use in their classroom. How important of a resource are various social media for doing this? How can teachers enhance their own development by forming networks online and sharing resources? 
·        Social media can be a very valuable source of information and professional development for educators. What I love about it is it is a constantly flowing stream of knowledge, and you can drink from it as much and as often as you are comfortable doing so. And there are multiple entry points – Twitter is a very lively example, but educators can follow other professionals on Facebook, or find teachers with similar interests using tools such as Pinterest, Diigo,, or the innumerable blogs written by practicing educators. At first, they may just “lurk” and watch what others are doing, but eventually they will try some of the things they are exposed to and hopefully contribute back to others’ learning. 
·         Teachers who make efforts to learn from their colleagues online through social media are nurturing their own continuous learning and growth, and adding to their professional practice in this way is of great benefit to their students. No longer do we have to wait for just the right workshop to come along or attend a great staff development experience in the summer only to have it fade in importance by the time school starts. In the age of social media, I can be exposed to a new teaching technique or tool online, ask questions about it, and try it out as soon as tomorrow with my students. I can then share my efforts back out to my online network and get feedback on what went well and what I can continue to improve. Another teacher may learn from and enhance what I just tried today in their classroom tomorrow.

Q2.    You have 19 years of experience in education. How has the increasing use of digital technologies changed the K-12 classroom in your opinion? In your opinion, does it make it even more important for teachers to work on their own development to stay ahead of the curve?

·         First I need to point out that the quality and quantity of digital technology use varies widely from classroom to classroom, school to school, and system to system depending on the resources available and the quality of staff development that is provided.

·         But in places where digital technologies are being used well, teachers and students have unprecedented access to tools and information which make differentiation in instructional delivery and the ability to demonstrate learning through product creation far more possible than ever before. Teachers can now find text, visuals, audio, even simulations, for delivering required content to students to reach the multiple learning styles in every classroom. In places with access to easily updatable websites or learning management systems, they can even provide the content for students to consume or study at home, then work one-on-one or in small groups in the classroom the next day to customize the learning of the content for each child.

·         Complimentary to the ability to deliver content in a wide variety of mediums, students with access to digital technologies can demonstrate their learning by creating products using text enhanced with graphics and video, collaborating on blogs and wikis, designing web pages or apps. The possibilities are staggering. The digital K-12 classroom is no longer confined to the four physical walls surrounding it. When the resources available are leveraged properly, the resources for learning and the audience for witnessing student outcomes are literally without limit. And the exciting thing is no one teacher has to be an expert in all of these areas – the web gives access to teachers, both informal and formal, all over the world, and students and teachers can co-learn together.

·         I believe it’s vastly important for teachers to continuously develop themselves to stay ahead – or more accurately with the curve. The curve moves so fast now that staying ahead is almost impossible. But continually keeping up with what others are doing, tweaking their ideas to work in your situation and trying something new, is extremely doable with all of the information available through networking online with other educators and education entities.

Q3.    We’re familiar with blended and online learning at the post-secondary level, with UBC being heavily involved in implementing such courses with programs like the Master of Educational Technology. How do you think blended and online learning can benefit students at the K-12 level? What form would this kind of learning take?

·         At K-12 there are multiple ways blended and online learning can benefit students. Online learning can bring otherwise unavailable courses to students who are perhaps in smaller schools or systems that do not have capacity to provide instruction in on-site subjects like certain foreign languages. For example, in Canada you may have an overabundance of French teachers and we may have numerous Spanish teachers here in Texas. Students in each of our areas can benefit from instruction half-way across the continent. Similarly, homeschooled students can take higher-level courses that might otherwise be beyond their resources. Online learning can also benefit students who are not successful in the regular classroom. I’ve read about successful initiatives which bring students into schools to work in a self-paced online environment with certified teachers available onsite to assist with questions when face-to-face assistance is needed.

·         Blended learning also offers opportunities for students in more traditional settings to achieve at higher levels. We have had a few teachers in my district work online discussion boards into their traditional classrooms. They report that students who are less likely to participate in class discussions often put more effort into online posts. They also are thinking about learning outside of the traditional school day. One of my favorite examples was a high school English course I had access to mostly for technical support purposes. My email box was getting hit by discussions of Hamlet at 11 pm and 6:30 am. What teacher does not want to see that kind of engagement in students outside of the hour or so they see them during the day?