This post is motivated in parts by an article from Maha Bali on “Educational Standards” and by Dave Cormier’s #rhizo15 Week’s 1 topic – Learning Subjectives. Maha is spot on (I am interpreting her post) when she says that learning objectives and standards are very subjective because they are often the views and perspectives of others without much consideration for the context of the learner. Dave’s trigger on Learning Subjectives and the many responses to the topic have helped me think deeper about my role as a teacher and as someone who the establishment might expect to “uphold objective standards”.
I started teaching an introductory level course titled “Computer literacy II” (there was a part 1) to a class of seven (7) teachers. All 7 are fairly experienced teachers, with a class average of 11.5 years teaching. All 7 are either heads of departments or senior mistress. Might I add that all 7 are females. This course has 3 modules: Spreadsheets, Databases, and PowerPoint Presentations. I often wonder what the creators of this course thought about when they added these modules. Were they thinking about who is likely to take this course? Did they consider context at all? And how about previous knowledge of potential learners? Unfortunately the course outline does not say much about these things.
In our first session I spent most of the time becoming familiar with their work, how they use technology, what sort of experience they have, and most importantly their needs. What I quickly realized is how much of a struggle it is for them to change the way things are at their schools. All of the teachers except one have access to technology at school and works in an environment that is supportive of doing things with technology. I also found out quickly that they are excited about doing various things with technology.
So we spent some time (possible mainly because the class is only 7) establishing what it is that we might be able to get done that could benefit them in the long term. We worked out that spreadsheets could help automate grade books which they have always done by paper and calculator. And that spreadsheets could also help with the organization of their class registers and scheme of work. They want to know how to make presentations because they are keen on using it for teaching and for other things. But they also want to know how to learn to use the projector(not in the objectives of the course but i promised to let them set up the projector we use so that they can learn (by doing)). We have not yet worked out what to do with the database module. I can teach it as I do with Computing students but that’s probably not going to work. So I have a challenge to address.
Something very important also came up in our discussion: that they want to learn other technologies and ways of doing things. They are curious about knowing how to better use the web and how to deal with abundance in the age of plenty. But their schools are not yet ready for this and therefore it is work to be done.
By the end of the lesson we managed to set up a simple spreadsheet for our class, added some data, worked a bit of formatting, and used a couple of excel functions to analyze bits of it (for example the average years experience noted above). We parted company with a little homework that we collectively agreed on – that they will set up a register for the classes they teach AND they will also set up a template for the grade books they presently do manually. For the rest of this part of the course we will be working towards fully developing these spreadsheets.
As is often the case, learning objectives set out by a course may not align with the needs of learners. It is important we establish needs early and perhaps as best as we can try to help learners work towards their goals. This is realistic with small classes. It is also important to identify areas that might not be captured under “learning objectives” and find ways to work around them. At the end of the day learning is what matters and learning objectives may get flipped along the way.