21st Century Pedagogical Approaches using Innovative Technologies
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Denise Germaine Taylor
30 March 2014
Introducing 21st Century Pedagogical Approaches using Innovative Technologies
What was your role in the story?
I am an advisory teacher in Kazakhstan and was the organizer of this one-day workshop for local teachers. I was requested to organize a series of six workshops scheduled to be run at interval of two or three weeks apart as a course of workshops to introduce modern pedagogical approaches using innovative technologies to local teachers who are mostly practice traditional teaching methods, such as the teacher talking ‘at’ students for extended periods of time.
Describe the physical, social and intentional factors that define the design space. E.g. where and when did this occur? In what kind of space? Who were the key actors, and what were the relations between them? What where the beliefs and desires which shaped their interaction?
Twenty local teachers of very different ages (some very young teachers and also some very old teachers) had signed up to attend my workshop for the day. There were more females than males. Originally the workshop was meant to be run on a normal school day to be held from 8.30 am until 5.30 pm with two 15 minutes tea break and an hour’s lunch break. The workshop was subsequently postponed a few times and it was eventually run on a staff training day when students were not scheduled to be in for that day. It was the first day back from a big national public holiday of a week long and teachers were relaxed and focused on learning new pedagogical approaches. Some teachers were also excited about experimenting with new technologies. I was requested to shorten the programme by starting an hour later and finishing two hours earlier than originally planned. I had hoped to be placed in the Assembly Hall but with the small number of participants we had to be in a normal classroom. I had asked the IT manager to ensure that we had a good internet speed and that laptops should be left ‘open’ so that teachers could download any necessary software they might need. The blinds didn’t block the light out sufficiently to enable teachers to view the whiteboard very clearly. The sound system worked very well. Each teacher had access to a laptop connected by an Ethernet cable to the internet. Teachers each had a hardcopy programme printed handout given to them. Teachers from each of ten different subject departments were represented (English, Russian and Kazakh; Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Global Perspectives, Economics, Geography and Physical Education). Most teachers could only speak Russian or Kazakh and only a handful could speak English. One of the teachers from the English department acted as an interpreter for the day and another teacher from the Mathematics department also helped out from time to time. Teachers chose to sit close to their colleagues in subject groupings.
What were you trying to achieve? What was your measure of success?
The intention of the workshop was to introduce some of the latest pedagogical approaches using innovative technologies to teachers who were largely practicing traditional teaching methods. This school is one of a group of special schools for Kazakhstan’s elite and gifted students and their teachers are also amongst Kazakhstan’s best. They are all selected on merit and undergo many testing regimes to constantly train staff and students to be the best. Foreign expert teachers are recruited to introduce more modern pedagogical approaches and this workshop was one of such training events. Success for this project would be if local teachers would begin to adopt some of the many more modern teaching practices.
List the actions you took in chronological order, note their effects – expected and unexpected. Highlight any obstacles you encountered, and explain how you tried to overcome them.
All teachers arrived punctually at 10.00 am and I started with a talk on “The Classroom of the Future”, which included a podcast in English and a few short video clips from YouTube and other sources. Teachers liked the variety of sources but it took longer than expected because we had to pause the podcast and videos in order to translate them. I had expected that teachers would ask questions but there was not any time for this. However, teachers did make comments to each other throughout. We also demonstrated how teachers could login to the blog we would use for reflections throughout the day and for teachers to post the resources they wished to share with the whole group. All the resources for the day’s workshop was posted up on this blog so that teachers could refer to them in their own time afterwards and for use within their own departments. They were expected to cascade their knowledge and newly learned skills with their colleagues within their own departments afterwards. Before they had their first tea break teachers wrote their reflections of what they were expecting from the workshops and also how they were coping up to this point in time. During the break, I looked at their reflections and noted that not all twenty teachers had written a reflection. This was not an option but it was an expectation. I suspected that not all of them had understood how to use the software because of the language differences
Teachers arrived up to 10 minutes late after the tea break and this was unexpected. One of the presenters was also unable to attend which meant that I had to adapt this session at the last moment. I tried to incorporate two sessions into one longer session. I also decided to omit some sections of the first part of this session because I had forgotten to build in extra time for the translation. The first of these two sessions involved introducing innovative technologies. Teachers were divided into groups according to subjects and were each given different tasks to carry out such as exploring Khan Academy, Coursera, EdX, Udacity, Wolfram Alpha, TED Talks, YouTube videos as tools to enhance teaching and learning. They had to feedback to the whole group about how useful they believed this technology might be for their teaching practice, if at all. They could conduct these discussions in Russian, Kazakh or English. I expected the older teachers to show some resistance to the adoption of some of these technologies and this was true. When asked whether the presence of programmes such as Wolfram Alpha would lead to a situation where students would not be required to do any more computation in Mathematics in the future, the older teachers were not convinced that this should be allowed to happen. I tried to explain to them that this technology was not going to go away and that more of these types of technologies would probably be used much more frequently. The younger teachers agreed with me and the debate took a lot more time than was expected. However, I decided the best way forward was to allow teachers to argue about how useful or useless the technologies were because this could be interpreted as some type of ‘shift in their thinking’ about how they might have to use such a technology to ‘teach’. I also decided to have teachers consider the idea of ‘teaching’ versus ‘facilitation of the learning process’. They did not engage well with this idea. There were no questions or comments. They were asked to write their reflections on the blog again and again not all of the teachers did so. Teachers went for their lunch break for a period of one hour.
All teacher returned before the end of the lunch break and many were asking questions about how they could be using certain technologies in their lessons on an individual basis. When the time came to begin the last session for the day, I asked those with more queries to stay behind afterwards so that we could continue the discussions. The afternoon session also had to be adapted slightly to fit into the shortened time slot of just one hour instead of two. The aim of this session was to introduce teachers to the Flipped Classroom and Lesson Study Pedagogical Approaches and to use collaborative technological tools. I had created a wiki in WikiSpaces and a Blog using Blogger.com. However, the blogger account did not allow teachers in, so I had to change to the blog we were using for the reflections in the workshop, by adding a new blog page. Teachers had to view YouTube videos or use the internet to find resources on the Flipped Classroom and Lesson Study and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each of these pedagogical approaches for about ten minutes. They had to swap during the next ten minutes to comment on each other’s comments. Thereafter they had to physically move into a different group to explain how wikis and blogs could actually be used to enhance their teaching and learning experiences.
This session worked really well and teachers really engaged with the technology despite having to change from blogger.com to trello.com in the middle of the session. During the discussion period, they did seem to be having heated discussions with some of the older teachers appearing to be more negative about its possible uses and the younger teachers trying to convince them otherwise. My understanding of all the threads of their discussions was limited only to what the interpreter told me. The flow of ‘heated’ discussions could not be interpreted fast enough to fully understand everything they were saying.
List the expected and unexpected outcomes of your actions. To what degree did you meet your objectives? What additional outcomes did you engender? Provide evidence to back your claims.
Reflect on your experience. What transferable insights did you gain?
Transferable insight gained from this experience was that one has to be adaptable and keep an open mind as to the outcomes of workshops because there are many factors that can affect the outcomes. Such factors include the physical working environment, the internet connection and speed for watching videos which one might be using during presentations. Alternatively one needs to ensure that such videos have been downloaded onto a local disk so that such technicalities do not hinder one’s progress or possibility of a successful outcome. One also needs to be extremely well prepared. Every minute of the time needs to be fully prepared for and if things do not materialise as expected one needs to have a contingency plan at hand.
One also needs to be aware that changing mind-sets can be part of a much longer term aspiration and wouldn’t necessarily be a very measurable outcome in the short term. The reason is that older teachers would have developed habits of working that have been formed over many years in their careers and they would find it much more difficult to accept changes to some of their habits without very strong messages getting through to them. The older teachers would also require a bit more time to become more familiar with the newer technologies, both hardware and software. Time was an issue in trying to deliver such an ambitious programme within such a tight time schedule. Next time, I would focus on fewer themes and allow enough time for deeper thinking, investigation and arguing to take place during the same time schedule. I would also halve the time to allow for translations. Mixing groups so that at least one English speaker is available for each group would be useful.