More updates soon on Trip to South Africa and Kenya with Teachers Without Borders.
First of all, I would like to thank all of you who emailed me with concern over the very offensive hacked blog post that went out a couple of weeks ago. I was able to catch it right away and delete it, but could not stop the rss feed from going out (is there a way to recall rss feeds??). I have since taken measures (changed password, upgraded security measures, etc.) to prevent such an awful thing from happening again.
I can barely believe a whole month has gone by between posts. While it has been a busy month, it has been one of much introspection as well as I consider what paths to explore after I return from Africa with Teachers Without Borders. I have learned a great deal this year while designing curricula for the online school, but I have really missed having access to students. At the same time, I believe I am ready now to get back into academic studies. So in the last few weeks, I have been exploring both of those possibilities. I am excited and optimistic about the future!
Over and above my regular responsibilities, I have also become involved in two studies: a provincial-wide study examining the professional development needs of teachers and a self-initiated qualitative study (with Dr. Cheri Toledo) about the use of back-channeling as a learning tool. While I am not able to discuss the results from the PD needs survey, I can say that the results are very interesting, though not terrifically surprising in some respects. It is very apparent that many educators have not yet discovered the tools and environments of the Internet in order to further their own professional growth in a way that is self-initiated and self-sustaining. Those of us who are using online tools and shared learning spaces have a hard job ahead of us to get the word out. It seems, still, in many educators’ minds that professional development is something that is done “to them” once or twice a year at workshops or conferences. The concepts of lifelong learning and professional development are not connecting with many teachers.
The conversations I have had with participants in the backchanneling study have been amazing and inspiring. What a privilege it was to speak with nine innovative educators (from across a wide spectrum of experiences) to hear their thoughts on how backchanneling has enhanced their learning experiences, as well as their observations of constraints and caveats. Cheri and I are now collating the data and moving forward with the next step of examining the data for the themes. We are hoping to publish our results in a peer-reviewed journal and perhaps present our findings at some upcoming conferences.
Backchanneling practices have really exploded in the last year and are one more of the many collaborative approaches that the tools of the internet have afforded users. As with any of these tools, we must be careful not to use it because it is new and different, but carefully think through its practice, that it matches the pedagogy of the learning opportunity, and is a seamless fit into situation (that is, not a distraction away from the “main event”). I have enjoyed the opportunities to be an active listener as I have listened in on speakers and presenters. Sociality often plays a role in backchanneling – this will be another facet to explore as we look at our conversations with backchanneling educators.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas about backchanneling – negative or positive!