A recent participation in an online course got me back into the habit of blogging. When I started to blog in 2011, and it was purely for sharing good practices on technology enhanced learning in my own campus. It was very much of reporting! But now, I enjoy blogging – helps me reflect, share ideas and have conversations with my own personal learning networks, both online and in person. Last week when Adrian suggested using blogs as a tool for academic development to get teachers reflect on their practice in his blogpost, i was skeptical as to how academics will take to it.
But that did not stop me from pondering over the idea, I was suddenly reminded of #blimage challenge. So what is this #blimage? Use an image (For me, the inspiration could be from an image, a video, a book or a reading), and “incorporate it into your blog, and write a post about learning.”
It was early last year when I chanced upon this #blimage challenge. I thought it was such a great idea to get teachers to reflect and share their ideas on education and learning. An image or video can not only stimulate you to have conversations with yourself but can also initiate engaging discussions with others. What is particularly interesting about this challenge is that the focus of reflection is always on a teaching-learning context but with using the image/video as a point of reference.
So it seems like I could use this to get the community around me to get interested in this idea of blogging. Such an activity can help to share ideas, discover new resources, discuss new possibilities, relate to others’ thoughts, make new connections – be it with ideas or with people.
To start with, I am going to take on this challenge myself! i know this is a delayed reaction, but it is never too late. The image that I am going to use is one of #blimage challenge’s first image – “a row of desks with scribblings!”
The first thing that comes to my mind when I looked this image – was that of “learning spaces“. This image also brings back memories of my own desk, a desk with the lid, just like the one in this image. That space was my own personal identity, and I had ownership of it, where I had my favourite photographs pasted on the inside. Maybe it still lies somewhere in the attic of our family home, and maybe i will look for it during my next visit!
In my younger days at school, the desks in my school were also very much similar. Each of us had our own desks in the classroom for the entire year. It gave me a sense of personal learning space, an identity! I could leave my heavy textbooks, notebooks overnight and be assured that they would be safe. However, scribbling on it would mean damaging the desk. But, there was always someone who would secretly do it, wanting to take ownership of the space. The learning was generally confined to the classroom. Learners stay put in the same class, while different teachers came in to teach different subjects. It did give the learners – a sense of belonging!
Fast forward to the present, the learning spaces on my own campus have greater diversity. The learning spaces and facilities at our campus have caught up with the times, and are purpose-built for today’s digital learners. These spaces are designed to motivate our learners, enable collaborative learning, and provide a personalised and inclusive environment. Being in a modular system, our students move from one classroom to another for taking the different courses that they have chosen to read. Does that mean that they do not have their own personal learning space, an identity? Not really! For each learner, the path to real learning differs and their use of learning space varies accordingly.
As a teacher it is therefore important to clearly articulate and how well the classroom spaces and courses are designed and used. The teaching and learning activities should be intentionally designed in such a way that “the convergence of technology, pedagogy and space can lead to exciting models of interactions” (Oblinger, 2005). These physical and digital learning spaces should be able to integrate the design principles of learning spaces – comfort, safety, functionality, flexible, sociability, and enable making of connections both inside and outside. Finally they should be able to reflect the institutional values, providing a sense of belonging to the learners that they can relate to long after they passed out of the university.
The question to ask then is: “How do we merge a culture of inquiry into teaching and learning with a culture of experimentation around new learning spaces (physical spaces) and emerging technologies (digital spaces)?”
If you are reading this, please do take up the #blimage challenge yourself. You can use the same image or any other image to inspire your next blog post!
Diana G. Oblinger, (2005). Leading the Transition from Classrooms to Learning Spaces. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 28(1).