Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reflection: How did I get here?

My mother was a secondary teacher, so one of the things I always promised myself growing up was that I'd never be one myself... which is a shame, because I L-O-V-E teaching, I just couldn't stand be a school teacher (!) I love learning new stuff, finding things out I didn't know before, testing my understanding and my thoughts against what other people know, and I love helping other people to discover the thrill of doing that.

Somehow though, that's not what school-teaching is all about. ECE, postgrad, workplace, anywhere else is fine - but schools and undergraduate university study are generally not. *sigh.*

When I left university with an Honours degree in economics I had had enough of formal study & promised myself I wouldn't ever go back. (It was a mediocre degree, university didn't engage or challenge me any more than school had. I've always regarded it as a double major - in Economics and Nightclubbing. As a consequence, the result didn't do me or the university in question much credit really. )

The thing that drove me back to education was having kids. In New Zealand we have a wonderful co-operative Early Childhood organisation called Playcentre (one word) where parents train to work as ECE 'teachers' learning child development, observation skills the ECE curriculum etc alongside their children. You get a very different perspective learning ECE pedagogy to support your own child and your friends' and neighbours' children from what you might otherwise. It can't help but be learner-centred. (Besides which, working in ECE settings is like herding cats - first of all you have to figure out where they want to go, then you work with that.... otherwise you're sunk!)

Once my kids had both gone to school I worked for about 5 years doing project management of course materials in a distance education institution, and as part of my PD there I began studying online in the University of Southern Queensland's M.Ed programme.

Postgrad rocks! You're allowed to have an opinion again - and to question and challenge and THINK FOR YOURSELF! I don't think it was just that I had learned by then to work to my own satisfaction, rather than anyone else's (although that was part of it), a big part of it I am sure was a difference in attitude on the part of the course leaders from what I had experienced in formal education anywhere before.  I loved it! Haven't finished my M.Ed yet, but I will (one day)...

The feral learning idea grew out of an assignment I did for a paper in Instructional Design. I once heard Marc Prensky quote his game designers as saying "You give an idea to an instructional designer and they'll suck all the fun out of it..." Frankly, I think they have a point - and not just instructional designers, professional educators across the board tend to fall into the same trap. And you know, none of those andragogy, pedagog or other-gogies actually describe how I learn, although Jack Mezirow's transformative learning is close (although he doesn't understand kids), and so is Linda Silverman's visual-spatial model. Why on earth not?

I was very fortunate to find myself participating in a group at CABWEB with Jan Visser of the Learning Development Institute (LDI), who was editing a book, "Learners in a Changing Learning Environment". Jan invited me to submit a chapter on feral learning (which I'd been holding forth on at some length) - so the ideas got formalised and incorporated into the book... which I'm very proud of.

So here I am... in a bit of a hiatus at the moment because Real Life has taken over again for a while - and developing my own PLN through interesting sites like Change the SchoolsEdutopiaAEROShifting Thinking and the like.

I wonder what's around the next corner?