Way back in the mists of time I studied in the UK both face-to-face and distance (using good old text books, and experiencing all the loneliness etc.). I then worked for the Open University there, and started to build on the awareness that learning is often social and that conversations are essential; also, support at a time when you are struggling can turn your engagement in a programme of learning right around. It was really formative to me to see how a more tailored approach that recognised how varied my students’ backgrounds, experiences and requirements were.
I emigrated to NZ about 12 years ago, worked with exceptionally gifted children (with Rosemary and Rory Cathcart at the George Parkyn Centre), did some time in industry, and then trained as an ESOL tutor before heading over to the Middle East for 6 years (Doha initially and then Dubai). Working with a huge range of learners gave me an an ever growing awareness of the importance of culture, learning preferences, and literacy and numeracy challenges and how they impact learning. Just over 10 years ago I started to work with ICT enhanced learning and teaching, and it was then that I gradually came to realise how social networking, multimedia, ePortfolios etc can empower learners of all ages and backgrounds – recognise and celebrate their experiences and expertise, as well as scaffold their learning journey. As a learner myself – I was studying an MA in Applied Linguistics with the University of Waikato in distance mode – my epiphany was when one night after a long day at work I was just trying to get my head around my final research paper. My tutor at the time had not provided a marking rubric to indicate what he was looking for, nor had he provided models, examples, or guidelines, and I was ready to weep. Luckily, one of my classmates was completing another paper in the early hours of the morning in NZ and I popped into chat. She was amazing!!! She had completed this paper the year before for this tutor, and was able to give me some great guidelines, and let me have a copy of her paper to give me an example of the type of thing that was being looked for. It turned me around. Through this experience I learned a huge amount about designing online and blended programmes (and have developed the ICTELT model, framework and suite of tools) especially around building in scaffolding / using multimedia and trying to disrupt the hierarchy of power but without leaving learners stranded, as well as the importance of communication, a strong community and peer support.
As an aside, it was in the Middle East that I also became really interested in ePortfolios (click here to find out about work with ePortfolios at DMC and Unitec NZ), and designed a fully integrated Computer Research Skills and Projects (CRSP – click here to read a paper) Freshman blended learning programme that scaffolded students in the development of an ePortfolio. After returning to NZ I then worked with Unitec NZ with staff who wanted to develop their own ePortfolio, as well as with students.
At the beginning of 2010 I set up Ethos Consultancy where I am working (and/or planning to work) across sectors (including ITOs). Two projects I am involved in are 1) the Virtual Professional Development project (click here for a video overview, and here for the draft paper) with Eddie Resich where I am working with ten teachers in a community of interest space and Moodle site). 2) I am also involved in the design and development of the blended ELLINZ (English Language Learning in NZ – click here for a video overview, and here for a student scenario / model) programme for students entering schools but who require language and literacy skills to engage in mainstream classes, and where there may be limited or no ESOL support. As well as these two big projects I’ve been working with the Australian Flexible Learning Network around ePortfolios (click here for an example), and with other institutions with designing and building distance and blended learning programmes. Exciting times!!