Saturday, October 01, 2011

Humanism and Modern Technology - another fabulous SEETA course

For a couple of weeks in September I participated in an online hosted discussion on Humanism and Modern Technology, led by Hanna Kryszewska and hosted by SEETA, the South Eastern Europe Teachers Associations

I was prompted to write a post about this course after reading Janet Bianchini's wonderful feedback post on this SEETA online hosted discussion.  As is often the case with the best learning experiences, we've both come away with different highlights from the course. The focus of interest for me was how to help, support and guide teachers to integrate technology. This was mostly because this is part of my current role and I want to find a way to understand how to best support teachers with a fear or anxiety of using technology and also get through to the sceptics. So our early discussions around anxiety and how to overcome it through creating an unthreatening atmosphere, and fostering, nurturing and promoting self growth, were very enlightening for me. It was wonderful having Janet there as an example of someone who overcame an initial fear of technology to become a role model to us all!  It was an excellent opportunity for me to reflect on how perhaps I could be a model for other teachers in using technology and in directing my own learning. And also, how I can more effectively use the very different learning styles and preferences of my teaching colleagues to tap into their creativity while I am teaching them how they can use technology in their classes.

Something that was very useful for me for my reflection in this discussion was that it coincided with the SLanguages conference in Second Life (SL). I've 'visited' SL a couple of times in the past, but have never really learnt much about how it works, have never really 'got' it or had a reason to try to!  Since one of my colleagues at work is planning a very small project in SL and I am keen to support him as much as possible, I had the motivation to try again, motivation being one of the key words we'd discussed in the first part of the course.

While I wouldn't say I felt at all anxious or fearful delving into SL again, I did experience a lot of disorientation and found I had no idea of what I was doing.  I was able to get online help for most things, but couldn't find the venue, but fortunately I was able to call on the help of a member of my PLN, who was one of the organisers of the conference. and she got me into the right place in SL.  The lesson here being the importance of asking for and getting help.  When I returned to the SLanguages conference the following day I felt a little more confident.  In one of the sessions I attended, someone typed this comment into the text chat which was very relevant to our discussion on humanism... "we can't push sl on others. they have to be interested in it.... and we help them" (Jayjay Zifanwe - avatar name).

Back on the SEETA course discussing my experience, Janet pointed me to a link to a blog post from Barbara Sakamoto called Why Every Teacher Needs a Second Life. These comments from Barb really resonated with me:
  • Learning to live in Second Life is a lot like learning a foreign language.
  • It allows us to remember what it feels like to be a beginner.
  • After years of teaching, it’s easy to forget what it feels like to be totally lost. Regaining that feeling is worth the learning curve of trying something difficult.
  • Mistakes are good. They help us learn.
In our discussion about this Janet pointed out that this type of difficult, anxiety-inducing experience can lead to some people just not persevering and mentioned that it can be good to try it "with a group of friends or colleagues, as you can learn together and support each other along the way". As it turned out, we had the opportunity to put this into practice just last Wednesday, when the #ELTchat birthday party was held in SL.  This time I WAS amongst 'friends or colleagues' and was able to get help every step of the way.  To tell the truth, when I say 'friends or colleagues', I've never met any of the people attending this, but have been chatting with them all year on Twitter, Facebook and in other online forums, and feel I know them.  The most satisfying part of the evening was when I was able to offer a helping hand to Janet, who had been 'inspired' by my SL adventure that she wanted to come to the party too.  Unfortunately she wasn't able to join us for the #ELTchat birthday cake, but it wasn't her will that gave way, it was her computer! 

Back to the SEETA Humanism and Modern Technology course, there were many other discussions, which I will continue to unpack and reflect on.  Janet's fabulous post highlights another learning from the course, that humainism values creativity.  I haven't yet mentioned Hanna Kryszewska excellent facilitation of the discussions, and the other participants.  It didn't feel like a course but rather an informal discussion amongst a group of colleagues learning together.  I am now working my way through some of the articles in Humanising Language Teaching, a free online magazine edited by Hanna.  And I found these videos and links from Hanna's presentation at the International Conference in TESOL earlier this year - well worth a look!

I am very indebted to SEETA for opening this and their other fabulous short courses to teachers outside of their 'catchment area', especially this teacher who is VERY south-east of Europe! I also liked the format of 2-days of discussion for each topic. I managed very well with the m-Learning course which had a new activity each day, but only because I was on my summer break at the time. I've found it difficult to keep up with the other ones though, so I appreciated having 2-days to respond to each discussion topic, read other participants' responses and respond, etc. It is extra important when I am on the other side of the world to most of the participants who are posting while I am sleeping - usually by the time I read the posts and respond, the discussion has moved on!

1 comment:

Janet Bianchini said...

Dear Lesley

What a truly excellent, insightful post this is, summing up the course we participated in perfectly!! Thank you so much for mentioning me here.

The course was indeed fantastic, thanks to your input and help, along with our super course tutor, Hanna and fellow participants.

You have included things that I have not touched upon, so this adds a great element to what was covered. I am going to add a link to your post so that a fuller picture and a different perspective will emerge, if that is ok.

I look forward to sharing more ideas with you and maybe, maybe delving back into Second Life and meeting up with you there one day...I am sure Arabella would appreciate it :-)

Many thanks, Lesley!!

Best wishes