I’ve just been preparing for Wilson Waffling Live, reading an article about the correct use of the comma. Normally I would just add the title of the waffle without much thought, but I am currently wondering if I have actually punctuated it correctly. To actually waffle about punctuation and/or literacy would probably not be a perfect choice, due to my lack of expertise within this area. So this week’s waffle is not about books like last week’s or even writing. It’s all about Martinis!
Well if that didn’t hook all the people who grew up in the 80s then nothing probably will. I used to quite enjoy drinking Martini and lemonade, sadly not even shaken or stirred, before I went T-total and stop drinking alcohol all together. Why is this waffle about Martini? Well it’s not actually, but I read an article this weekend about using technology to help students learn and the essence of the article reminded me of the Martini advert that used to grace our television screens. If you remember the wording of the advert it included the phrase – “Any time, any place, anywhere” and this I thought was a good analogy of how and when technology could be used to support learning. Technology is allowing us to learn and engage with the learning process at any time we want. This is clearly a positive, but what are the negatives of this approach?
Do we want to? – I’m a great fan of Twitter. I’ve spoken to many colleagues about it and encourage students to follow me and share tweets using the hashtag #ysjprimed. Throughout the year there are times that students might want to check that I am in my office or available for a chat, or might just have a question which will fit nicely into 140 characters. With mentions turned on to vibrate my phone when I receive them, mentioning me in a tweet is almost akin to texting me. Many colleagues might be shocked and concerned by how available I am via this method of communication, however for me it is not the method which could be seen as fault here but rather how I engage with it. Often I will receive a tweet which I will not instantly reply to or even engage with until I am back in the office. Sometimes I’ll just reply with a tweet that I will email. Students are very good at realising that I need a break from work and only really tweet me when it is really necessary or when it is during ‘working hours’. My point here is that I engage with my twitter if and when I want to and feel it is appropriate. Technology means that learning is there all the time and rather than saying it is accessible all the time, saying that it can be accessed at any time is probably a better way of seeing it. The question, however, still remains, do we or the learners actually want to engage with it. With this blog, my personal blog and both my professional and personal YouTube channels, I work on the premise not that people want to access it all the time, but rather than they can access the content at any time, including waiting until those breaks within their work schedule to watch pass episodes or waffles. We naturally are curious and want to extend our learning with the limiting factor being more related to time rather than desire. I think we all have good intentions, and want to engage with learning via technology, its probably just that we need the time – or I could be being completely naive.
That ‘swotty’ label – I’m not a great fan of labels. I’m not referring to washing or sizing labels here, more the labels which we allocate to people due to their interests, appearance or preferences. One of the reason I dislike labels is because I think they either lead to or encourage people to act within stereotypes, for example – just because I wear glasses doesn’t make me a geek – oh wait, that’s probably a bad example but you can hopefully see what I mean. Through the use of technology, I like to provide a range of additional learning opportunities for students to engage with. These might be forum posts, the live show or just micro blogs via twitter. When I was growing up I often used to lie (I know it’s bad) when asked if I had done the homework, revised or even read a book saying that I hadn’t done any of these even though I actually had. Now, in my case, it didn’t make that much of a difference when you look at my academic achievements when I was a teenager, but I think I lied about my actual engagement with the additional learning because of the label that would be associated with this and the other stereotypical aspects of this label that I would have to live up to. Technology does allow learners to engage with the resources anonymously, but when it comes to visually and openly demonstrating that engagement then this becomes less anonymous which can lead to a lack of engagement. Whether this lack of engagement is due to the judgemental possibilities of the interaction or the possibility of being assigned a label is not clear. It might be, that I am still assuming that the labels that existed when I was growing up are still around now – see my glasses blog for confirmation of this! However this might be a factor which needs to be considered as technology provides these additional learning opportunities and might actually account for the variance in engagement.
Keep it traditional – There is something quite reassuring about routine. I should know I live my life within them. Often we grow up doing something a certain way which becomes routine and accepted. Education and learning are often viewed in the traditional way and this can be seen as a reason why they should not change. Change can be scary and is not always for the better, although it is only through change which we actually improve. Often I think that we feel secure and happy with our current systems and routines but these could be viewed as once being change. It is only because we have only experienced the system as it is that we do not actually acknowledge it as change. For many people, learning happens within rooms and buildings, at a set time with a designated person who, as they stand usually at the front, imparts or instructs the learners in order for them to achieve a common goal. This goal could be increased knowledge of a subject, the passing of an examination or achieving, usually by the end, a qualification. This is not the waffle to engage with the positives and negatives of this approach, but it is the waffle to say that yes, this is traditional, but it is not necessarily the best way to learn. (pause…calmed down now? I’ll continue). Learning via technology requires a different skill set including the ability to use the technology. You need to be intrinsically motivated to engage and, more importantly, the confidence to interact. The latter is also needed to put your hand up to ask or answer a question within the traditional system, but at least then your comment or response will only last for a minute or so – with technology it could be there for some time. Traditional methods are fine, and I would never want you to think I am against these since this is not the case. What I really want people to think about is that just because technology is not traditional it doesn’t mean that it is not effective. You never know, by engaging with it, we might find it is actually more beneficial for our learning and teaching.
As I sit with my latte in a coffee shop writing this, I wonder whether what I am writing will actually be engaged with. I wrote a blog post about my weird life on my personal blog which generally gets more views than anything which I waffle about on this blog. It might be that the content is not up to par and it might be that I am just feeling less motivated to write at the moment. There could be many variables at work here, but there does appear at times to be the desire to move away from certain topics, especially if we live our working lives within that area, to engage with other areas of interest. Technology has the advantage of working alongside this enabling producers like myself to write and film content at certain times knowing that you, the reader/watching/listener can engage with it at any time you want. I’m not sure what you are currently doing but the fact that technology has allowed you to engage either which this blog or any other learning opportunity can only be seen as positive and, although there is no Martini at the end of this, there is that consideration that you have been waffled.
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Have fun and I’ll catch you later