I have been asked to reflect on the impact that two of my professional connections have had on my practice and professional community. I have done this after I have created a professional connections map which demonstrates my current and potential professional connections.
My professional connections map
I used an app called Ideament1 to create the following diagram. Out of respect for the privacy of my professional connections I have not expanded the map to make individuals identifiable. Click on the image for a larger version.
The map is organised according to my communities of practice, identified in a previous post. I have decided to add my social media professional learning network (PLN) as a separate branch in order to show how it is connected to my three communities of practice, i.e. “teaching technology”, “teaching Christian Living” and “using digital technology”. I value my social media PLN but I find that I relate differently to professional connections that I only know from online interaction than to the people I rub shoulders with every day. I will now briefly reflect on the impact that two of my professional connections have made on my practice and professional community.
Year 0 – 2 Team Leader (Using digital technology → Junior Campus Teachers)
The year 0 – 2 team leader and I regularly discuss the effective use of digital technology in her team. Since she and her team teach level 1 and 2 of the New Zealand curriculum, she asks questions about the use of digital technology that tend to be foundational to the pedagogically-sound use of it in the classroom. This has had a significant impact on my contribution to the professional communities I am part of.
A comment that she made in a conversation last year led me to complete a literature review that explored the question, “How might the use of digital technology enable active interaction with knowledge for students at a primary school”. This literature review helped me to better understand how to explain to all of my colleagues why and how we should use digital technology in the classroom. You can read my literature review by clicking here2.
These interactions show the rich conversations that happen when two people from two different levels of schooling are able to discuss pedagogical challenges. The year 0 to 2 team leader teaches a completely different level of the curriculum and she has a strong background in literacy. My background is in intermediate and high school science, mathematics and technology. We have been able to design an inquiry project that will explore whether doing things with knowledge using the iPad’s ability to record audio, photographs, video and annotated video will develop students’ thinking skills. One could argue that we are attempting through this inquiry “to connect the student with the abstract world of disciplinary knowledge (in this case science and literacy) and the real world of experience”3 using the possibilities that the iPad brings into the classroom. We believe the outcome of this inquiry can be beneficial for most, if not all, of my colleagues at Elim Christian College.
Head of Department for Digital Technology
My relationship with the head of department for digital technology at the senior school is another example of how professional connections across different levels of the curriculum can have a positive impact on one’s practice and the professional community you are part of.
The past two years I have been involved with starting an introduction to computer science track with years 5 to 8 students. The high school, years 9 to 13, have not been offering a computer science track due to staffing constraints. The head of department and I started discussing the possibility of trying to start such a programme for the year 9 students who showed an aptitude for the subject in year 8. This has led to a number of interesting developments.
I heard of the CS4HS conference4 at the University of Canterbury and I let the head of department know that funding was available for scholarships. The two of us applied for scholarships to attend the conference and both of us got accepted. The conference helped us realise that there are some unfortunate misconceptions about computer science as a learning area and as a consequence promising candidates didn’t consider it as a career. Computer science also suffers from a lack of diversity due to stereotyping that is rooted in misconceptions about the field. We reported this to the principal after the conference and he has encouraged us to raise an awareness of computer science amongst the high school students. A direct result from this directive is that I now team-teach year 11 to 13 design and technology students with the head of department. This relationship is enabling me to get a better understanding of NCEA requirements in this learning area, something that I am presently quite inexperienced in. It is challenging him to find ways to promote the computer science achievement standards with the older students, especially year 10 students, in an effort to grow the programme over the next few years.
Our connection has made a subtle but positive impact on our colleagues in other departments of the high school too. A number of them are now considering how they can integrate computer programming into their courses in an “interdisciplinary approach”5 and some of them also want to learn the basics, a win-win for both students and teachers.
So I encourage you to form professional connections with people outside of your teaching context. It will add value to your practice and the professional communities you are part of.
References and notes:
1. Ideament can be found in the iOS app store at https://itunes.apple.com/nz/app/ideament-formerly-idea-sketch/id367246522?mt=8
2. Blom, B. (2016). Knowing with digital technology. Retrieved from https://app.box.com/s/yj9nsgm0vzr6bxmwsh6h215w2yozh6pb
3. Mathison, S. & Freeman, M. (1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Retrieved from http://www.albany.edu/cela/reports/mathisonlogic12004.pdf
4. CS4HS Christchurch 2015. Retrieved from http://www.cosc.canterbury.ac.nz/cs4hs/2015/index.html
5. Mathison and Freeman3 define an “interdisciplinary approach” as “always consciously combining two or more disciplines and keeping them distinct and in focus. It has clear objectives that include both critical thinking skills and in-depth content, and is typically teacher directed but may welcome student input.”