Multiple Perspectives, Multiple Voices
Hello and Welcome to the Blended and Online Learning and Teaching (BOLT) multi-author blog. To help understand our orientation and contributions to the world of digital pedagogy for K-12 educators, please read on…
Why a multi-author blog about BOLT? As educators at all levels and areas know, teaching and learning in the digital age is dynamic. The shifts in educational technologies and the concomitant digital competencies required for both teachers and their students demands a thoughtful and ongoing examination of emerging concerns, issues and trends, not to mention the technological innovations that unceasingly appear within education. And rather than having ed tech vendors, academics or other stakeholders driving the questions and answers of the implications of digital pedagogies, the BOLT multi-authored blog marks a contribution by educators immersed in these ongoing and constantly changing discussions of what it means to teach and learn today.
Who are the contributors and why do their voices matter? The initial contributors have participated as students in one or more of the BOLT professional learning modules, part of an initiative created by Athabasca University’s Centre for Distance Education and its partnership with the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC). Through these various modules, these K-12 educators have created blog posts as part of their professional learning coursework. Unlike most graduate papers, where the efforts of hours of critical reading and thoughtful writing produces essays that are evaluated, returned, and essentially ended in their perceived usefulness, the BOLT blog will be a location for these well-crafted explorations. Covering the gamut of blended and online learning and teaching concerns – from tech product reviews by practicing teachers, such as Isabel Rempel’s frank exploration of using Adobe Connect with seven-year olds, to Emily Wong’s weighing out the pros and cons of Open Educational Resources (OER) for K-12 teachers – these posts will be as unique as the various authors. Reflecting practicing teachers’ lived experiences, their expertise, and their self-reflective individual wisdom, the ongoing contributions will create a sum much larger than the parts.
How will the blog reflect on-going professional learning? Frequently, teachers who embark on some form of post-baccalaureate credentialing connect deeply with their fellow peers but once the workshop, course, certificate, or graduate degree is finished a void opens and the community of learners, described so effectively by the Community of Inquiry framework, disintegrates and disperses. Although some of the dispersal is necessary and to be expected, in the connected digital world some degree of ongoing learning past and beyond these formally organized experiences is possible through avenues such as the BOLT blog. The learning that began together as a group within a prescribed structuring may carry on in a flexible and dynamic exchange through posting, reading, commenting, and more. The BOLT blog offers multiple paths to ongoing and time-sensitive professional learning.
Do teachers have time to locate, read, and thoughtfully consider the newest educational research? One of the greatest pressures felt by practicing K-12 educators is that of time. Teachers do not have enough time for all their demands and this time pressure is especially felt with professional developments and needs. Fear of Missing Out – FOMO – is a real concern for most teachers, especially when considering the continual need to develop and refresh digital competencies. Throughout the educational research and guiding frameworks such as the Alberta Government’s Learning and Technology Policy Framework, teacher professional development is being more closely tied to thoughtful examination of current educational research. Educators at all levels, from the chalkface to leaders in the school jurisdictions, are moving toward an ongoing habit of critical reading of and contributing to educational research as part of their ongoing professional practices. The Canadian research from Butler and Schnellert (2014) suggests that “educators value resources that offer new ideas and approaches that might help them address the questions or ‘problems’ they have taken up – but that choice in how to access and work with these resources is also important. … Having choices in resources, and how to access them, enables educators to select what fits best with their preferred modes of learning, the contexts in which they are working, and the time they have available”(p.22).
Engaging with research and having choices discussed by peers are two of the intentions, among others, behind the BOLT blog posts. Practicing educators will weave current relevant educational research and academic perspectives into their applied professional contexts of where they teach. With the ease of hyperlinks, teachers may be able to also read and reflect upon the most current or applicable research and evidence-based practices, just as the blog contributor initially considered the ideas. Additionally, the lived experiences, , the praxis of being a teacher – today in the digital age with the range of educational possibilities and the accompanying demands – is, in part, what makes these blog posts more than objectively useful.
The practice of teaching has frequently meant a colleague to ask for advice, i.e. a more experienced teacher passing on his or her ideas. In the age of digital pedagogy, the new teachers may be the ones sharing their experiences of technology integration while the hours of exposure working with young learners may temper and inform the application of digital tool within the blog post of a more experienced teacher. However, creating and maintaining a blog requires a continual effort that most educators are not able to extend. In this way, the publishing of posts by many and varied teaching voices will make the BOLT blog unique within the world of K-12 digital pedagogy.
The BOLT blog, infused with a Canadian flavour, aims to encourage a thoughtfulness regarding educational technology and its application toward teaching and learning in this changing world. Educators can easily connect and learn from others, each according to their emerging and highly contextualized professional learning needs. And so, from this inaugural posting – we look forward to sharing out multiple perspectives and multiple voices through the BOLT multi-authored blog.
Can others contribute? Yes – we are interested to support a rich discussion and exploration for Albertan, Canadian and international K-12 educators in their professional learning journeys. Please locate and read “How to Contribute” to explore such an option. Comments and sharing out the BOLT blog link to your colleagues and members of your Professional Learning Network are also means to contribute to this multi-authored blog. We have been working to ensure that the design and hosting is a sustainable endeavour, and we anticipate that additional components may be part of this site. We hope you find the BOLT blog an integral component to keeping pace with the ever-changing world of blended and online learning and teaching.
Schnellert, L., & Butler, D. L. (2014). Collaborative inquiry: Empowering teachers in their professional development. Education Canada, 54(3), 18-22.
Contributor bio: Dr. Connie Blomgren is an Assistant Professor who teaches in the Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca University. She has been a leader in the development and offering of the Blended and Online Learning and Teaching (BOLT) professional learning initiative. Currently she also is overseeing the creation of podcasts and videos to support K-12 Open Educational Resource (OER) awareness and use for graduate students who work in K-12 education.