Reflection on Practice

How my Pratcice has been shaped by the MSc. in Applied E-Learning Programme.

A Short video I gave to the LTTC to use as a testimonial.

A reflection I wrote summing up the programme and my practice.
There are different ways that I could look at this section but in the end I decided to take a look back over each module I completed and how it related to, and indeed influenced my own professional practice.

Really my first question is why did I do this course? I suppose I was at a point in my career where I knew what I knew, but not what I didn’t know. Teaching and how people learn are more than a job to me, they interest greatly. This motivation, as Fuller (1969) identified as a key element to teaching and learning success, prompted me to seek out a course which could answer my questions or at the very least put me on the right path,

My first introduction to the module was the professional development module which prompted me to take a step back and look at my teaching career so far, and the direction I wanted to take. As an exercise it was invaluable because understanding my teaching “roots” and influences helped to clarify my style of teaching and my attitude to learning and learners. I have seen my emphasis move from myself to the learners as described by Conway & Clark (2003) and this outward focus has fundamentally changed the way I approach teaching. This analysis led me to identify influences such as sir Ken Robinson, and in particular his TED talk on creativity. It was definitely a talk that spoke to me and one that I felt I could identify with. Starting with the premise that every learner is different and has the capacity to learn has influenced me to look at my own practice through a different “lens”.

The practice of reflection has now become part of my working week and I have used technology to prompt me on a daily basis for articles I have read or sites I have visited which may affect or enhance my teaching. A prime example of this is the curation of two online resources, one for network security (www.scoop.it/t/network-security-by-padraig-mcdonagh) which is a resource for my students, and the other is for teaching and learning, and is shared with two of my peers from the Masters (https://goodbits.io/emails/015ceb88-18c4-40ec-9d9d-5133cf528253).

The professional development module also helped me to create a learning strategy, a direction to take and provided a focus for the modules and my studies. My personal learning goal became not to identify a particular technology and use it for the sake of possible improvements, but to analyse my practice and see where technology could fit in. As part of this examination I identified areas of my teaching that I would like to change and could possibly use technology to support this. I also realized the need to connect with my peers, both face-to-face and online , as Vescio, Ross & Adams (2008) observed, participating in Personal Learning Communities (PLCs) is beneficial to teachers and has a positive effect on student results.

Learning theories
The learning theories module was a perfect introduction to the ethos of the course as it clarified for me techniques that I was already using, and revealed a body of knowledge to support and enrich my understanding. The works of Bruner, Dewey, Piaget, and Vygotsky put my own practice in context and it was enlightening to identify where I was using behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism in my teaching. I now evaluate learning opportunities and practice using these theories and they have shaped my creation of notes, assessments, and exams. I can see a concrete link between theory and practice (Jordan, Carlile, & Stack, 2009) and feel I can create meaningful, appropriate resources.

The Instructional Design and E-Authoring (IDAEA) module was initially one which I did not think I would learn much on. I thought I was aware of the main concepts of the subject having taught web design and used Moodle and other virtual learning environments (VLEs) in the past. The module was a revelation in terms of my shortfalls and how to address them. Working in a group brought great diversity and collaboration and reflecting on the relationships between us and how it helped foster a small community of practice (Wenger 1998) was an outcome I could not have forseen. Subject matter experts such as Nielsen and his treatment of usability design (1994) and my first introduction to Sweller who wrote much on cognitive load (1994) expanded my views and helped to justify my design decisions and technology selections.
IDAEA also taught me the value of personas and how putting yourself in the position of the learner can create a better learning resource (Pruitt and Adlin, 2010). The artefact that the team designed (https://eastmsc.wordpress.com/) was well authored and although I saw the value of the resource I realised that the linear nature of the material was not one that appealed to my own personal teaching style. This was one of many points in the course where I examined the nature of my teaching practice, theories taught on the course, and the ever-changing dynamic between the two.

Supporting Virtual Communities (SVC) was one of the most intense, yet enjoyable modules on the course. On it I learned the value of feedback and online moderation and came to appreciate techniques and models such as Salmons five-stage model (2004). I was once again involved with teamwork, and when faced with an issue with a team member found papers to help solve the issue (Borg et al. 2011), an approach I would never have thought of prior to commencing this course. The example set by the tutors on this module really set a high “bar” in terms of standards, and the constant guidance and support they offered illustrated the amount of work required to manage online courses.
Creating the Wiki as part of the module was a first for me as I had never taken notice of Wikis as a teaching and learning resource and I came to appreciate their usefulness, particularly for online courses (Parker and Chao, 2007). I also learned some valuable strategies for managing online work such as peer support discussions. I have applied some of these to my own teaching which is primarily face-to-face, but which I think would benefit from flipping (Tucker 2012) certain classes.

Research methods at the end of semester one provided the basis for my research project in semester two. It equipped me with the tools and techniques to conduct a research project and taught me the importance of academic integrity and robustness. The sessions we had on information searching highlighted the connectedness of research and this was illustrated perfectly for me with the citation map I generated for Dennis Frezzo, an authority on Packet Tracer, the program I use for teaching computer networks and also a pivotal part of my project.

Citation map of texts related to Dennis Frezzo and Packet tracer
Citation map of texts related to Dennis Frezzo and Packet Tracer

Research methods prompted me to identify key texts and authors in the areas of interest which led me to Frezzo (2009), Sweller (1994), Norton (2001), and Sugar, Brown, and Luterbach (2010). These texts, and their authors, helped to validate my choice of project, ensure the value of it, and clarify my methodological approach. They also provided the insights which have shaped my practice and approach going forward. Defining and refining my research question, and choosing an appropriate methodology and methods has helped me to complete the second year in a structured and valid fashion.

My reflection on the year 2 project itself including a “celebrity” interview, can be found here.

Borg, M., Kembro, J., Notander, J., Petersson, C., & Ohlsson, L. (2011). Conflict Management in Student Groups-a Teacher’s Perspective in Higher Education. Högre utbildning, 1(2), 111-124.
Conway, P. F., & Clark, C. M. (2003). The journey inward and outward: a re-examination of Fuller’s concerns-based model of teacher development.Teaching and Teacher Education, 19(5), 465-482.
Fuller, F. F. (1969). Concerns of teachers: A developmental conceptualization. American educational research journal, 207-226.
Jordan, A., Carlile, O., & Stack, A. (2008). Approaches to learning: a guide for teachers: a guide for educators. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
Nielsen, J. (1994, April). Usability inspection methods. In Conference companion on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 413-414). ACM.
Parker, K. R., & Chao, J. T. (2007). Wiki as a teaching tool. Interdisciplinary journal of knowledge and learning objects, 3(1), 57-72.
Pruitt, J., & Adlin, T. (2010). The persona lifecycle: keeping people in mind throughout product design. Morgan Kaufmann.
Robinson, K. (2006, February). Ken Robinson: How school kills creativity [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html
Salmon, G. (2004). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online. Psychology Press.
Sweller, J. (1994). Cognitive load theory, learning difficulty, and instructional design. Learning and instruction, 4(4), 295-312.
Vescio, V., Ross, D., & Adams, A. (2008). A review of research on the impact of professional learning communities on teaching practice and student learning. Teaching and teacher education, 24(1), 80-91.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge university press.

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All my material from my MSc in Applied E-Learning

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