Thinking about ‘self’- extending mind and body to incorporate technology

One of my longtime friends and colleagues shared a clip on Facebook from a TedX talk and invited comments. I opened it up a new tab and this morning I had a chance to watch the 15 minute clip. I am writing these details because, if you reflect on my blog you will notice that it is becoming an example of what David Chalmers is talking about in this clip. People do ask me why I blog, and the key reason is that it is another way of using the ‘cloud’ and technologies to remember for me. I can write and reflect on various topics, all relating to my journey in my PhD and life at this time. It is stored in the ‘cloud’ and I can look at it when I need, and access links, and information (like my recipes) when I need them.  In time, I will be able to reflect on my whole journey, hopefully see growth in my writing and ideas as I emerge at the other end of this intensive learning journey.  So I invite you to watch and ponder the clip that got me thinking, thanks to the ‘extended consciousness’ now available via Facebook and my generous friend and colleague.

What did you think? Did David’s metaphor resonate with you? I liked the notebook, it is a reminder that humans have always relied on external storage for ideas and memories. The existence of the smart phone is making the storage of this information more secure (if you sync that is). I know my smartphone has reduced the level of stress in my life, as my appointments, phone numbers and Evernote are input and synced without me having to remember…and should the phone get stolen/lost I have it all backed up in the cloud.

I am also interested in how we identify ourselves using this technology. David touched on the idea that ‘google is making us smarter’. Indeed I feel less pressure to remember the trivia I used to, and know that I can use the expanse of the internets’  “collective consciousness” to find out anything I need to know in a ‘just in time’ capacity. From this paragraph perhaps you can see that I feel connected to and a part of this collective consciousness.  In my emerging self as an academic,  my self as a mother and wife, my self as a teacher, friend, and tatter, I draw on the ‘affordances’ of technology. This means that I use technology (my laptop, smartphone and internet for example) to store, source and synthesise a wide range of things in my life. Years ago I used notebooks and post-it notes, now it is mostly my smartphone, yet all of this has the same end purpose: to store and support my brain in recalling things important in my life.  I wonder how you ‘identify yourself’ using technology? Do they form an integral part of your life or professional identity?

Happy Father’s day to My Dad, WH and all the dads out there

Fiona T



Squire’s Affinity Spaces: My example

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” (Buddhist Proverb)

This is the quote that was in my head as I woke up this morning. Last night I read more of Kurt Squire’s: Video Games and Learning and pondered the section on ‘Affinity Spaces’ as examples of ‘Participatory Spaces’ for learning. An online affinity space is a place to voluntarily share knowledge and expertise, it is a participatory place as those joining need to contribute to it (Squire 2011). The larger and longer running of these become known as ‘Communities’.

Squire’s (2011) examples reflect upon spaces for students as well as his experiences in creating and enacting them as an adult. In my life as a teacher and teacher educator I have been active in creating and maintaining my classroom (and beyond) as affinity spaces. As I was reading I was quickly realised that I am part of a few participatory affinity spaces. First to mind is Facebook, where I am active in contacting and conversing with friends, and playing games. Second to mind is Twitter, where I am getting more active in participating in PhD and Academic circles. But my best ‘real life’ example of an affinity space is the online tatting group ‘intatters’.

I have been a keen crafter for a long time, and have been tatting (lace making, using a shuttle and knots), or attempting to, for nearly 20 years. Having no one nearby who could help me with the nitty-gritty questions was frustrating and isolating,  causing me more than once to put the threads and shuttle back in the cupboard. Around 10 years ago I figured out the ‘flip’ needed to create the stitches needed and I began tatting again with renewed vigor! By then we also has a great internet connection and I began looking at ebay, blogs and other places I could find patterns, inspiration, and advice. It was only last year I ‘found’ and joined the online tatting guild (there is a guild in Victoria, but they meet around an hour away from me, so I haven’t pursued this community link).

As an affinity space and participatory space the opportunities in this free forum abound. It was the opportunity for me to share my knowledge and ideas, and an even greater opportunity to draw on the ‘collective intelligence’ of tatters from all over the globe. I have been involved in ‘exchanges’ (tatters send each other items, there are about 4 of these a year), forums and chats. I have also been active in classes to learn how to use designing software to diagram and write my own patterns. There is also an online tatting class to learn shuttle tatting. These are run as free classes, and the teachers volunteer their time to put together course work every week. The tatters who organise these classes are creating wonderful learning experiences and are the drivers of these affinity spaces. There is a sense that we are all learning together, and I feel that we are good friends (I have been doing the classes for nearly 10 months now). As a whole this guild and associated classes have been running for a long time, and last year (when I was ready to be involved in them) I jumped right in.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” is as true today as it was years ago, it is just a bit easier to find the teacher using the wonders of the internet. When you are ready to learn anything today, you can easily use the online world to find an active affinity space to participate in. LT starts with you-tubes, I start with blogs, WH starts with ted talks and my BB starts with twitter.  Where ever you start, you will be able to find a place where you can be a learner and a teacher. Squire’s chapter explores the next step too, and says, if the affinity space you are looking for isn’t already there, digital media affords us the power and means to create it.  As a teacher I have seen students in schools active in creating affinity spaces, starting with their own classroom and then extending these spaces to the broader community. Knowing about and participating in these spaces goes hand in hand. Within my role as a teacher educator our team is modelling and exploring  how we can create, maintain and use these spaces for our own learning and that of our students.

I would be interested to find out about your examples of affinity spaces you are part of, or have been involved in creating. Please share stories and/or links in the comments.

Until next week,

Fiona T

Creating New Spaces for Students and Teachers to Learn.

The last couple of weeks have seen me working with my students on reflections on their teaching journey and the learning of their students. I am also reflecting on a range of aspects of my study as it emerges, and what I want to address in my learning journey. So it is probably no surprise to you that I’m a big fan of reflective practice.  Here is a reflection on reflective practice by an Australian educator…A PLPeep’s reflection from the Australia Community | Powerful Learning Practice. I did find it a while ago, but it still resonates with me. So have a read, then pop back here…I’ll wait for you 😀

Ok, so now you are back…what did you think? I like to think of the challenges that pop up on any learning journey as an opportunity. I also liked her lines: “Learning is the trips, stumbles and falls on the journey not the arrival at the destination.” and ” Student voice is powerful“, these are two ‘mantras’ all beginning teachers should have, and things we need to model and instill in our students also. Perhaps what I like most about the blog above is the honesty, we can see the shift in Margo’s thoughts about what the best PD is and what it really means to ‘learn’.

At this point in my journey I know how lucky I am to have this time and space to research and reflect upon education; my own (past and present), my WH’s and my sons’ (LT), and even that of my current students (young and old). I have blogged before on games, play, blogging with students and how they can be used as, of and for learning. These are all examples of things that I think are simple tools that can wield great power for students to start to build the skills they will need for their future, whatever it may hold.

Here is a link to a school in the US that has taken up this challenge. They have designed real curriculum (meets their state mandated curriculum) around World of Warcraft. It also has a you-tube of the students talking about their experiences in this class. I was excited to read and see the range of skills the students have developed by being involved in this unit, beyond just being engaged and motivated to research. The skills students have experienced include being active in an immersive world, collaboration with students in their class and students beyond, working at their own pace and challenging themselves too. Their teachers have successfully merged an online game and mandated curriculum. Most of all, they (students and teachers) have had FUN…they have enjoyed their learning experience and they want more!

This is what excites me about the future of education…it is an adventure in itself.

Fiona T

Teaching our future citizens: Engage Me! – YouTube

The link Engage Me! – YouTube gives voice to children at school today. They express their desire to learn and be challenged using the tools available to them, both in and outside the classroom. I have seen a similar you-tube, but with tertiary students as the focus.

I have been thinking deeply on the goals stated by the children, they resonate with me as I am ploughing through marking assignments and talking with teachers and student teachers about providing unique learning opportunities and personalising the learning for every student in our care. I hope this video stimulates your own thoughts and perhaps even create a discussion about catering for the learning needs of our digital natives.







Opportunities In Education

My reflections this week have been around providing opportunities to students and children, opportunities to experience things they may not encounter otherwise. The links below all highlight a slightly different angle of this idea.

First a link to a clip from Ted Talks, about the ‘hole in the wall’ study by Sugatra Mitra. His study began with providing a computer in a wall of slums in India. What the children (who would not have had this experience otherwise) learned was amazing, and then they taught others too. How this study has grown is also very interesting and the end use of Skype to form the ‘granny cloud’ is such a great way to give the children new and different learning opportunities.

Second is more of a science example, but also highlights how things like You-Tube can be used to really expose children to complex educational experiences. This is really well scripted and enables each option t be explored by kids and repeated as necessary for them to test their developing understanding. When I showed this to my son, LT, he wanted to then go and test other things in our house. So we set up a big pyrex bowl and tested lots of things, he even developed a table and drew pictures to record his hypothesis. Another bonus was that he now can use the word ‘hypothesis’ confidently and correctly, all because he has had this experience that was tied to language.

And third is one I read this morning, from i-mum, talking about how our children take up technology around them: I am a great believer in allowing our children a range of opportunities and encouraging them to do what they enjoy. Technology part of a broad life landscape that we can’t ignore. There is a lot of rubbish out there too, but finding the best and most valuable games, apps and clips can actually be used to our (and our children’s) advantage.

Whether it is having access to some sort of technology they wouldn’t have had, access to ideas they may not have experienced, or having a guided experience with an adult to learn how to use something new, there are many educational opportunities we, as parents and teachers, can provide for our children.  What are some of your favourite educational clips, apps or games?

Until next week

Happy Learning!


Past Posts

May 2021
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