Assignment 1 Part 2 | Create, Cultivate, and Reflect on your Digital Presence

by Michael MacKay & Vanessa Tran

June 15th, 2020

I still remember the day I decided to become a teacher; it was one of those powerful memories that a person ingrains in their psyche as a foundational moment that helped shape their persona. I made a goal with myself that day, rather than become someone that delivers the material; I was going to create experiences. Not till much later, nearing the end of my bachelor’s degree, I found the vocabulary to express this teaching style. In the broadest sense of the term, I was a constructivist. As I gained years of experience, I refined my methodology and developed my approach to teaching as such (MacKay, 2016):

  • Foundational Knowledge, the basic vocabulary, concepts, and theories needed to understand the materials being discussed.
  • Skills and Expertise, the skills and expertise necessary to apply foundational knowledge.
  • Application, the teacher-guided application of the knowledge and skills.
  • Problem Solving, a scaffolded application of the knowledge and skills to solve a content-related problem. (see Figure 1)

Following this pedagogy, I experienced professional success and began to implement cutting edge technologies, such as virtual reality, into my classroom. Much to my dismay, I found nearly all of the applications designed for virtual reality to be superficial because they were nothing more than lectures with an interactive background. Hitting the precipice of educational technology, I enrolled in the Master’s of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT) at Royal Roads to develop the theoretical knowledge to explore how to create learning experiences using emerging technologies.

The first course of action was to scrutinize our digital identity and presence and devise a plan to create a persona of how we want to be viewed digitally. Initially, the readings pushed me towards having a separate digital identity because “I want[ed] to be viewed as a knowledgeable expert in the field of educational technology, focusing on the current integration of emerging technologies such as virtual or augmented reality” (MacKay, 2020a). While I did attempt to foster this persona using networks like Twitter, I found that this new persona was so entangled in my professional persona that they merged. What I failed to take into account when deciding this course of action was why I desired to have this digital identity. When entering the MALAT program, I wanted to push the educational field forward by taking my experience and grounding it in the theories and accumulated knowledge that the MALAT program would afford. This budding persona was a personification of this desire, and since it was deeply rooted in my professional persona’s ambitions, their merger was inevitable.

The more I embraced my emerging expert persona, the more my professional experience changed, coworkers were more receptive to my advice and sought me out for collaborative efforts. I struggled to understand this at first. But, the more I reflected, the more I realized that I had changed. First, I have become more understanding of different perspectives and views, even if I do not agree with them; this is not because my fervor for advancing the education system has changed, but because I have developed a healthy respect for productive discourse. Productive discourse needs to be free from coercion to reflect on assumptions and beliefs (Mezirow, 1997, p. 10), and I began to apply this knowledge to my professional interactions. Second, I expanded my idea of the learning environment. As a teacher, I worked hard to create an inclusive environment that fostered risk-taking and exploration, yet in many cases, the culture, structure, and interactions with my colleagues did not reflect the importance of this learning environment. I began to examine how a community-centered (Veletsianos, 2016) group of educators could be dysfunctional to the point of inaction. What I found was the group valued efficiency and was averse to taking risks. Using Veletsianos’ suggestions of transformative learning environments, I began to model and promote the need for teachers to interact in a way that encouraged professional development: (1) that recognized the need for engagement, (2) created a lasting impression, (3) encouraged intrigue and risk-taking, and (4) required reflection (2016). I had an rudimentary assumption that because teachers are professional adults, the application of learning environments did not apply to them, or if they did, it was their responsibility to establish and maintain it.

I began to explore more of my underlying assumptions because, despite having years of professional success in the classroom, I did not experience the same success as a leader. Using Beetham’s digital capabilities framework (2015), I attempted to identify any areas that I was lacking or at least could use improvement. This process was incredibly tedious because I was an early adopter of using technology for learning, and I have been a digital resident (White & LeCornu, 2011) since the early nineties when I taught myself to develop websites. My struggles with self-regulation or managing my own time, attention, and motivation (Beetham, 2015) had a profound impact on my studies in secondary and post-secondary school. While I do not feel I have perfected this aspect of myself, I have accomplished much. The question I had to ask myself during these years of development was not can I do it, but will I do it. I believe I have had so much growth in this area because I identified it, was aware of it, and worked towards overcoming it. Even in the most rigid views, I felt I was proficient or had mastered many Betham’s capabilities (2015), excluding self-actualizing. Betham argued that digital self-actualized individuals use digital media “to foster community actions and wellbeing;… …to manage digital stress, workload and distraction; to act with concern for the human and natural environment when using digital tools; to balance digital with real-world interactions appropriately” (2015). Professionally, I no longer struggled with motivation, but I rarely took into account my workload and work-life balance.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching changed from a highly active physical and mental exercise to a distilled dissemination of knowledge in front of a screen. I had experienced burnout before when I was a young teacher with something to prove, it snuck up on me then, and it snuck up on me during the pandemic. Even now, I am not sure what I could have done differently, but between the workload of this course and my responsibilities as a technology leader and teacher, I began to resent my workstation. Digital detox (TRU, n.d.) would have been a viable solution during normal times, but this was not normal times. Still, I did find small ways to lighten the burden; I encouraged my colleagues to hold in-person meetings if possible and spent more time at the school helping out with the maintenance, technology infrastructure, and discussing implications of the readings and the thoughts they invoked with my colleagues. In hindsight, the situation could have been much worse, but it highlights the need to balance digital and real-world interactions (Betham, 2015).

Much of this paper I have discussed or even applied the concepts, theories, and ideas of the digital world to my real-life practice because I recognized that, in many cases, the digital theories apply or are extensions of the traditional learning environment, which is embedded in the constructivist theory. As an early technology adopter, I have been running a self-developed Learning Management System for the better part of a decade. I viewed it as a tool, an extension of my knowledge as an educator, but not a learning environment. As I furthered my foundation of the digital learning environment, I began to notice similarities between it and the constructivist theory, which is the support of my classroom’s learning environment. At some point, the separation of the digital learning environment and the traditional learning environment became fuzzy. The values vanOostveen et al. suggests for the fully online learning environment: “(a) respects interpersonal relationships; (b) is able to provide critical feedback to community members; and (c) celebrates a diversity of opinion” (2016, p. 7), are the same values I employ in my classroom. I realized that the digital learning environment is rooted in the traditional learning environment, which is built upon the beliefs and values of the constructivist movement (Veletsianos, 2016, p. 242). I concluded that the digital space is an extension of the real world and that the methodology, values, and beliefs I have admired and inspired in my students in the classroom still apply to the digital experience.

In this course, I have explored myself and my practice. Much of what I learned has applied to my pedagogy in both the digital and real worlds. As I look towards the future, I wonder about the merger of the digital and real-world. At some point, the idea of a digital self may no longer be relevant; it will become synonymous with one’s self because new technologies will allow novel experiences ignoring traditional barriers like language, physical location, or even risk of harm. Pedagogical practices and methodologies will change in this new world, but the learning environment will always have a vital, dynamic role for future educators because “an environment that is good for learning cannot be fully prepackaged and defined” (Veletsianos, 2016, p. 242). In this world, for the education system to thrive, “the prominent view of education needs to change from industrial systems of disseminating knowledge to instructions of innovation” (MacKay, 2020b). Educators will need to become constant innovators if they want to create compelling learning experiences because learners are complex entities with different values, beliefs, learning styles, and frameworks. Lectures will no longer be the focal point of the institutional learning process, transformative learning experiences (Mezirow, 1997; Wilson et al., 2008; Veletsianos, 2011) will need to be used to create authentic learning experiences that mimic the application of learning outcomes, and the use of novel technologies will be indispensable to develop these experiences.

Throughout my time exploring the literature and theories enabled by the Learning and Technology 521 course, I have expanded my knowledge of the digital world, my place in it, and grounded it in its real-world counterparts. My reverence for practical discourse and the need to understand all sides of an issue grew, resulting in greater respect for my colleagues’ different perspectives. My schema of the digital learning environment changed from an individual tool used to propagate knowledge, to a living ecosystem that closely mimicked the goals and expectations of my physical learning environment. Further, I hypothesized how the concepts, frameworks, theories, and beliefs instilled in the readings affect the institution of education and how novel technologies could help facilitate this transition. I have overcome hardships, acknowledge areas of weakness, and experienced personal and professional growth. The connections throughout my time in the course have helped transform my understanding of technology and how the learning environment plays a vital role when implementing novel technologies. Thinking back on my original goals when I first became a teacher and the reason I enrolled in the MALAT program, I have made vital foundational progress and have started to gather the theoretical expertise to implement novel technologies to institutional education. I still have a ways to go, but the framework for success has been grounded.

References

Beetham, H. (2015, Nov 10). Building capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency. https://digitalcapability.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2015/11/10/framing-digital-capabilities-for- staff-deliverables/

MacKay, Michael. 2016. Methodology/Teaching Philosophy Draft. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gBeqzu6VqW6JLDFSkXLLj4dmm6KLG0cFMf DJUFiFJ6E/edit?usp=sharing

MacKay, Michael. April 30, 2020a. Create, Cultivate, and Reflect on your Digital Presence. https://malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0158/create-cultivate-and-reflect-on-your-digit al-presence/

MacKay, Michael. June 7, 2020b. The COVID-19 Legacy in K12 Education: A Path of Transformation. https://malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0158/the-covid-19-legacy-in-k12-education-a- path-of-transformation/

Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 1997(74), 5–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/ace.7401 TRU (n.d.)

Digital Detox. https://digitaldetox.trubox.ca/about-digital-detox-2020/

vanOostveen, R., DiGiuseppe, M., Barber, W., Blayone, T., & Childs, E. (2016). New conceptions for digital technology sandboxes: Developing a Fully Online Learning Communities (FOLC) model. In Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2016 (pp. 665-673). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). https://moodle.royalroads.ca/moodle/pluginfile.php/599136/mod_book/chapter/173217/ vanOostveen%2C%20DiGiuseppe%2C%20Childs%20%282016%29%20Developing% 20Learning%20Communities%20in%20Fully%20Online%20Spaces_Prepublication%2 0draft.pdf

Veletsianos, G. (2011). Designing Opportunities for Transformation with Emerging Technologies. Educational Technology, 51(2), 41–46. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44429917

Veletsianos, G. (2016). Digital Learning Environments. In The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology (pp. 242–260). https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118736494.ch14 White, D. S., & LeCornu, A. (2011). Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9). http://firstmonday.org/article/view/3171/3049

Wilson, B., Parrish, P., & Veletsianos, G. (2008). Raising the Bar for Instructional Outcomes: Toward Transformative Learning Experiences. Educational Technology, 48(3), 39-44. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44429577

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