23 April 2014

A rush of bilingual blood to the head

Coucou Madame,
I've been thinking.....(as Richard Prebble is reputed to have said) and here is the product of my reflections:

Inspired by a recent stuff article based on a Uni of Auckland Education lecturer, John McCaffery's research into bilingual education, through a case-study of Richmond Road School, I was reflecting on the feasibility/desirability of setting up similar bilingual units in other primary schools around the country. It would necessarily involve only small numbers of students but it might answer a need/ be an interesting enquiry project/ promote sustainable, effective language learning/ be a basis for research into the value of bi-lingualism in cognitive development.

Why would I like to be involved in this process?
  • It seems to me a worthwhile goal, relevant to my aim of encouraging students to share my passion for speaking other languages and experiencing other cultures.
  • It would be a parallel structure rather than something that competes with any existing structures and initiatives.
  • I feel I have a lot of expertise that would be valuable to such an initiative.
  • I have doubts, as does John McCaffery, that the current regime is the most effective way to learn languages.
  • Having taught primary students languages last year, I can see how rapidly they soak it up, even with relatively little time spent on it, and how enthusiastic and uninhibited they are about communicating.
  • The primary level is undoubtedly when students are most receptive to learning languages (other than pre-school)
  • The language required to teach other subjects in the Target Language is no doubt less complex at junior level than it would be at senior
  • At last one would be free of the constraints of having to groom prospective NCEA candidates.
  • Cohorts would be together all day, so it would be easier to be flexible about scheduling.
So, I've made a wee 'carte heuristique' with some preliminary musings which I submit for your input, in case you have a nano-second to think about it????
Am I being totally unrealistic to imagine that one might get something like this off the ground?
Even since I photographed this mind-map just now, I've added new things to it.  Such as:
  • should one target public or private education? 
  • Should it be restricted, as I think Richmond Road is, to families that have a TL speaking parent who can support their child's learning.? (which defeats the purpose of making it accessible to a wider public)
  • Could one conceivably think of offering parallel classes to parents of students in bi-lingual classes to help them support the learning?
  • Could one imagine incorporating virtual classes to make smaller units more viable and reduce costs?
Here are another couple of links to articles that have fueled my enthusiasm, in English and in French
What do you reckon? Am I being pie in the sky? It's a bit more challenging and interactive than sitting at my computer translating, although I'm still working on that idea too. I'm off to sit the C2 in AK on 3 May. Will I be 'à la hauteur'? It'll depend on the subject matter and my ability to process the info super quickly. Never my forte..... On verra.

2 March 2014

Puisque tu nous as posé un lapin hier......

Salut Madame,
Tu nous as manqué hier, du coup j'ai pensé qu'un petit effort de ma part pour rendre compte de la réunion ne serait pas mal reçu..... je continue donc en anglais.

So there we were at AUT for the symposium on all things intercultural. I was surprised it wasn't better attended, as I felt it was very worthwhile. I had come with expectations of getting a stronger handle on what intercultural pedagogy looks like on a practical day-to-day basis. The weekend reminded me once again that mind-shift is an iterative process, requiring repeated exposure to the same ideas, albeit expressed slightly differently each time, in order to be able to move beyond the theory to its incorporation into your practice.
Tony Liddicoat's Friday evening keynote speech covered his intercultural principles which I felt were somewhat more explicit than Newton's. He described processes of
  • Active construction
  • Making connections
  • Social interaction
  • Reflection
  • Accepting responsibility
(rather than elaborate on each one here, I'll wait and share his presentation with you once it has been forwarded to participants next week)
He shared his four-way process for treating texts (be they written or visual) with which I was already familiar  (the flow diagram of NOTICING > COMPARING > REFLECTING > INTERACTING, elaborating on each of these phases.
On Saturday he kicked off with a work-shopped exercise which put us in the position of learners, approaching a series of authentic texts / images in a language we were unfamiliar with, and inviting us to approach them (in pairs and groups) according to the four stages above. The subject was 'school' which is an obvious choice of theme for intercultural exploration. The process necessarily involved no use of oral target language (because we didn't have any of course), and I am still somewhat dubious about the possibility of conducting this sort of activity in target language, especially at junior level. In another session we discussed the development of a target language repertoire in which the same expressions could become part of the transactional repertoire. I mentioned that such expressions could be the subject of a table mat specifically for intercultural discussion.
As I see it, what this pedagogical shift requires is a complete overhaul of the sort of materials teachers commonly still use in their classrooms, much of which offers very limited scope for intercultural exploration and reflection. It would be really good to develop a bank of material suitable for generating 'discovery'. I don't mean detailed 'fiches pedagogiques' with their predetermined learning outcomes, but just a lot of authentic material stored according to theme, which teachers could draw on to get students actively noticing, comparing, reflecting and interacting.
My hopes of finding ways to seamlessly integrate language acquisition with intercultural exploration are still largely unfulfilled, I must admit. When I look at the amount of language that needs to be acquired before students are NCEA-ready, I just can't see how it can be done by consistently basing your teaching around this model. At some point the students need to be drawn to reflect on the linguistic aspects of the language, as much as the cultural, if the aim is to enable them to communicate. I can't quite see how they can be done simultaneously, although the same texts could be used for both cultural and linguistic exploration, I suppose. Images are great for developing intercultural competence. Maybe the language acquisition could come out of the observations that the students make. Au fur et à mesure. I can imagine that a lot teachers would find that approach to language acquisition too ad hoc, although I don't think I would have a problem with it. I'm just thinking aloud here. I know from my own language learning experience, I tend to pick up and retain language better if it hasn't been handed to me on a plate but has arisen out of necessity through an authentic situation and has been followed by my own reflection. But is this because I'm already a competent language learner? How much do I rely on those early years of language learning that took me tediously through the basics, which I now find indispensable to my understanding of how languages work? Is there any way of providing students with a sound linguistic basis, in other words some rule-based competency, without boring them in the process? (Or do I really mean 'without boring myself in the process' :-D ?)  I'm rabbiting on here. Must be the influence of that pink dude above.

In addition to Tony Liddicoat's sessions there were presentations by AUT staff on teachers' understanding and implementation of iCLT principles, leading to their production of a matrix which I can share later, and which teachers may find valuable for focusing their intercultural pedagogy. It looks at what students are able to do, what teachers need to provide and a series of questions to guide discussions (which could possibly be framed in target language).
They followed this up with a session on LIA awards, based on analysis of their report to the Ministry on the effectiveness of LIA awards. It led to some interesting discussion at which I aired my views, of course!
After lunch, in language specific groups we focused on our own experiences of intercultural misunderstandings which was fun and wide-ranging.

It was a well-run, well-catered event and we were made to feel very welcome at AUT. And it was free!!!!!

\ /

^. .^

27 January 2014

PLE ponderings.......

Ah yes..... the PLE. It makes me increasingly reluctant to contemplate a return to a conventional learning structure such as one inevitably finds in schools, with time neatly partitioned into units and little choice about the 'how, why and when', even if there is a certain amount regarding the 'what'.

Reflecting on my own PLE, I recognise that it has always been pretty learner-driven, which has sometimes brought it into conflict with expected outcomes. I have always felt myself to be at odds with any prescriptive approach to learning. As a result, I always responded much better to the open-ended task where the outcome was a product of my own exploration than the task which required me to quote the recognised experts and regurgitate the lecturer's notes.

My PLE is benefitting greatly from having my daughter at home for 6 weeks. She has been helpful in channeling my thoughts about my future career. Whereas I'd been rather lacking in direction, she encouraged me to do a bit of brainstorming to clarify things. For herself she has a sort of mantra of 'Hell, yeah!' or 'Not at all'. In other words, she's keen to eliminate things from her life that she's only half-hearted about. It then requires a lot of effort to create or build on the opportunities that will lead to her being thoroughly in her ELEMENT (Ken Robinson). So, I've been thinking a lot about what makes me feel in my element. It entails using my skills and talents to meet challenges and break new ground. It entails interacting with interesting people, people who are on a similar learning path, possibly, or at least people who believe that existing educational structures need radical overhauling. it also entails a sense of agency (which was sadly lacking last year).

I've identified that I find translation very satisfying (as long as its not drivers' licences and birth certificates) and that I would like to factor it into my future on a more official basis. I've begun by contacting the people I know who work in the area of translation. Out of this I've gleaned some very valuable information to inform the next steps. I had been thinking that maybe the AUT course for translators would be a good starting point but that it may be too elementary, in which case I would be paying fees and wasting time. The most helpful info from a friend in the game, has led me to NAATI, the Australian accreditation organisation for translators and interpreters, which has reputable qualifications. Instead of having to follow a course in order to get the qualification, it operates more like the DELF/DALF, except that you can sit it when it suits you. They have sample kits and books to guide you through the pitfalls of becoming a self-employed translator.

So, the plan of action is taking shape. I'll assess my level according to the sample material and aim to sit the test when I'm ready. I also intend to do the DALF C2 sometime this year, as I think that would add to my credibility.

What about getting oneself out there? Louise is on hand to get me up and running with a web-site, as she is currently doing this for herself. So, once I've got the domain name and Wordpress, I should be ready to roll (well, ready to start marketing my services). I might yet be seen on Twitter !!

You mention the challenge of making boundaries between personal and professional self. I have always found this difficult but it's not something I've ever really been concerned about, as, in the past, my professional interests have been so closely linked with my passions. I don't think it's helpful to have a union-minded approach to these things. I'm happy with periods of intense activity followed by periods of calm and reflection. At the moment I'm enjoying one of the latter. They're vital if you're to avoid just being swept along in the tide of someone else's decision making.

I keep hearing echos of the session on start-ups from U-Learn and thinking about the desirability of having a product rather than a service to offer, but I can't see how this can be avoided in the area of translation. I don't intend it to be a great source of income but more a means of keeping a valuable professional identity and having a continuous challenge to keep me intellectually on the ball. What if it fails? As it doesn't involve a large initial outlay, I'm not really worried about that.  On verra.......
^. .^

25 January 2014

PLE I hear Thou

(cross posted from here)

"- Can you picture and describe your Personal Learning Environment?
- Learning? Isn't that the stuff I had to do at school?
- Yes.. but surely you did not stop learning the day you graduated, did you?
- True… I suppose my experiences, my goals, my thoughts, my responsibilities, my training, my projects, all constitute ongoing learning..
- And it looks you are onto a good thing, so keep with it as "your ability to learn is the only lasting competitive advantage!"
I have been thinking about the place of the ePortfolio in a Personal Learning Environment. ePortfolio and Personal Learning Environment can both be a software system or a concept. I am considering the latter here.

The ePortfolio is a great personal space to collect, select, and make sense of information, throw ideas around and verify the more potent ones.
The Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is a layered, variable, distributed, open, collaborative space.
ePortfolio and Personal Learning Environment are inherently linked, each feeding the development and make up of the other.
PLE is nothing new, but since it is bound with technology its form, shape and purpose continue to evolve with it.
To me a Personal Learning Environment is a self crafted connected ecosystem comprising of people, tools, and spaces:

 - that I build, maintain
 - that grows and adapts to my needs
 - that is both physical and digital
 - that serves my purpose,
 - from which I collect information,
 - with which I experience new learnings, am comfortable with or challenged into doing new things,
 - that lets me engage in conversation around topics of interests
 - with which I interact and share my understanding of these common interests
 - that allows me to chose the media, the time and the place at which any of this happens
 - where I feel "at home"
 - that lets me dream, frame ideas and act on them

My PLE is a mash up of : friends, peers, mentors, with whom I have a relation of trust, clients, influencers that I respect and who I connect with via a range of tools, Twitter, my go to social media for short and sharp info and for just in time conversations on specific topics, ePortfolio as planning and goal setting space where I archive and reflect on flow, blogs, including mine , Feedly where I make up my own reading lists from blogs of interest, online forums and groups,  and google scholar on serious topics, google alerts, Youtube for "how to" do something, curating tools like Scoop It and Pinterest when researching for a project, LinkedIn as my office, Facebook as my playground, Quora as my knowledge base where I sit tight and absorb,  Evernote to keep notes, email where many a one on one conversations are continued and developed, Pocket to save and organise links of interest… Elements in my PLE are public, others are shared with a selected audience, some face to face, others online, some are private to me.

Some spaces come and go, some topics come and go, according to my needs and wants, new people are added as connections widen and grow, interests evolve, opportunities arise. My PLE is a living space.

It is undeniable: the way I learn and work is increasingly project based, individualised, flexible and is also increasingly less structured, less time and space dependent. And adapting to new ways of working and learning require more self discipline, self determination and independent thinking to answer questions such as "how am I doing?" "what problem am I trying to solve?" "how can I do this better faster more efficiently?". Hence my need to articulate my understanding of my own online presence and pin my position in this environment I create.

As I develop the skills and the mindset to evolve in this environment I develop a more open approach to sharing ideas and meeting new people. I engage more in conversations, seeking new information, making new knowledge, and together with my network push my own boundaries. The Internet has multiplied the opportunities to become agent of my learning, transferring knowledge between context and domains as well as people, so I ask myself:

Taking charge of one's own learning is the default attribute so do I want to be limited by institutionalised software?  
Sharing what I know and make it explicit is not an option, do I want to have control of how and when and with whom I do this?

With a device at my fingertips any time any where, it is easy to access an ongoing flow of information, to communicate, to create, share, cross pollinate thoughts and ideas, to participate in a network I build over time,
I can also capture and archive meaningful pieces, organize them for a purpose, and reflect upon them. I blend formal learning with informal, learning is no longer the work of the individual, it is the work of the network! I am "done learning" I am self directing it!

Along the way the boundaries between my personal self and professional self blur and blend.  And with it the need to "develop a strategy to manage the various information streams" and design and organize my own learning, and recognize it happens in different places, with different people, in different contexts.

The challenge for any learning institution, should they be schools, universities, training providers, companies L&D, is to recognize that individuals' access to information, tools, devices, experts and peers impacts on their ability and willingness to drive how, what and when they learn. The learning institution have to adapt their learning design, the tools they provide, to support the development of learner attributes. Through fostering a sense of community, nurturing a stimulating environment and culture conducive to serendipitous knowledge transfer, ideas and solutions generation the learnplace/workplace will start realising the potential of knowledge sharing and the innovation and opportunities it brings about.

The challenge for the individual is to have awareness of their own network, maintain it, grow it and diversify it. And to realise its potential for personal and "collaborational" growth. My PLE is constantly changing making managing time, sources and relationships within it unprecedented and complex. My PLE is constantly challenging, hence my deep engagement with it.


Photo courtesy of: tata_aka_T [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

7 December 2013

The year that has been

The year that has been… I woke up this morning realising today is December 7th. 2013 is nearly over.
There has been some good, some great and some less good and some messy! 

I have:

 - deepened my understanding of the scope and role of ePortfolios, researched and analysed methods of implementation outside of schools, inquired into their potential for employability, professional certifications and acreditations, as well as personal branding.
- dived in to identify and articulate the attributes of the Life Long Learner
- related the building of an ePortfolio to digital identity, digital footprints and key digital literacies.
- made sense of the inherent links between personal learning and social learning and how to scaffold them
- assessed ways of restructuring the way we work to make best use of both personal and social learning
- evaluated a range of online tools and services to support the ePortfolio approach
- started using design thinking
- worked on OpenBadges, instructional design
- realized I am only a technology consumer ...
- had a first go at synthesing this into a minimum value proposition to get started with ThinkAgency
- contributed by invitation to many projects and conversations but failed (so far) to get all the stakeholders I have engaged with to contract me…

This has led me to:
 - identify salient common points between the "world of education" and the "world of work"
-  slowly break away from my "edu" echo chamber and go and listen/participate in other communities
-  discover an engaging and switched on to learning professional community
 - see the need for a common vocabulary when labeling and describing skills, strengths, competence
-  invest in attending conferences where I have listened, participated, presented, met with
-  see and work through others' problem with them
-  value openness as the modus operandi
-  talk a lot around dreams and ideas (sigh…)
-  throw myself in a lot of new related stuff wanting to start to understand OpenBadges potential, IT stuff around metadata, experiencing basic coding...
-  feel frustrated by not staying focus

Which in turns has opened my eyes to:
(the confronting....)
- how limited I actually am to see the big picture: I find it hard placing boundaries around my ideas to have them evolve beyond just that
- the tyranny of too much autonomy! (especially let lose with a connected device)
- how limited my mastery around IT is beyond using/consuming
- how easily I forget I can't assume and must verify all hypothesis...
- how unable I seem to be at actually establishing my own actionable purpose!

Yet fabulous stuff happened such as:

- experiencing the world of entrepreneurship and start ups
- getting a feel for this whole ecosystem and going in with eyes wide open
- drawing some connections to the world as I have known it so far
- acquiring vast amount of new learning (some of it yet to be connected)
- witnessing what truly persuasive and convincing look like in practice
- starting to understand value in a commercial and business sense
- developing solid partnerships

I have maintained and grown lasting existing friendships.
I have worked on balancing my PLN, opened new channels and participated in a range of conversations.
I might have done it with too much gusto….
My teenage-like heart has fallen in love at first sight with many enlightening, supportive, challenging, critical new friends.
I count on time and actions to tell how these influences evolve!
I live with and love the most honest and caring dragon. I must never lose sight of this.

2013 as the "Year of Trying"! 
In the unstoppable momentum I have been saying yes yes and yes to so many things: I have done, got feedback, got knocked, undone, redone.
Today it feels that in terms of accomplishments for the year, well,  it is close to a "not a lot to show for". 
To move forward into 2014 I will need to do less Yes to learning and more Yes to executing.
I have a few weeks before making New Year's Resolution. Phew.

Why am I doing this?
The ability to learn is the only lasting competitive advantage for any organization. H. Jarche
Can I build a business model around this?
I have the ideas, the people, the want and the drive.
2014 will be the Year of the Concrete Steps.