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.
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.