Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Academic honesty should never be ambiguous

Ok, I know I have a somewhat ambivalent stance on what constitutes plagiarism and the value of collaborative and cooperative learning but one thing I'm clear on is academic honesty.  If you used something that someone else made just say that you did that. And depending on your age and level a simple copy and paste of the link is sufficient.

I recently went around our G5's exhibition project and was thoroughly impressed at their work. I did sneakily ask a few for their sources and most could point to at least a page of attribution as to where they'd got their numbers and facts.  Well done (here is a great video of it by the way).

G5 Exhibition Video 2015 from UWC South East Asia on Vimeo.

Fast forward to early this morning. I'm putting the washing in the machine and the kids are getting ready for school and finally my daughter lets me see the video she's been working on for the last 4 days - one holidays and festivals in the middle ages. It's a great video with her narrating the festivals of the year with lovely pictures and music from the middle ages in the background.  And then at the end "Thank you for watching" and black screen.

I told her I thought it was great, but that she didn't have to thank anyone at the end, and instead a list of attribution for the images and music would be good. "Our teacher said we didn't have to do it" was her reply. I told her that she knew that I expected it of her, and she then showed me that she had in fact made a list of the URLs but hadn't put it into EasyBib to get into MLA format. I asked why not, and she came with some story about how citations / attribution hadn't been in the original assignment nor in the rubric and the teacher didn't want to add it on afterwards. I was a little annoyed at this. I said she could at least put it at the end of her video, but she didn't think that would be "fair" on the others who didn't. Fair? How about the fairness of the people to whom the images belonged? OK they're all long dead now, and perhaps most of the images are in common domain, but still, it's the principal.

I was annoyed at myself being annoyed at her, when actually I should be annoyed at the school. How can they go from being citation semi-stars in primary school to not having it expected at middle school. This is not the first instance, it is one of many, many, many in both my children's grades across all subjects - academic honesty really does need to be institutionalised and inside every single assignment across the board! I'm at least glad my ranting has had an effect on my kids and they're at now keeping lists to show me - but if it's only for me for how long will my influence last?

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Activity and paralysis

Reading, reading, reading. I know I should start trying to write, but I'm in a kind of simultaneous paralysis and activity. Each new reading I do, I discover a whole field of knowledge and information that I know way too little about. Today I discovered the LEA (language experience approach) to teaching reading and writing. And the relevant (for me) "cousin" D-LEA (i.e. with digital). I'm sure every single teacher in the world is totally familiar with this and today was the first time I'd encountered it - academically at least. I'm pretty sure it's what they do at school and that my kids experienced it, I just didn't know the name. Duh. So this has kicked off a new round of activity - frantically learning more about it and how it relates to my topic; and paralysis - not being able to start writing my assignment yet. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Slow Progress is still Progress

I guess that will have to be my mantra for now. I spent from  Friday to Sunday at the UWCSEA Multilingual Conference (#mlconf2015 if you want to follow the tweets – although not many people tweeting besides yours truly and a few others). Besides the fact that I was giving two sharing sessions, as you know it’s both a topic close to my heart and close to my digital essay theme! .... see more

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Does academic equity even exist?

I've just finished reading through Yvette Slaughter's PhD thesis: The study of Asian languages in two Australian states: considerations for language-in-education policy and planning and what an eye-opener it was. And not for the reasons I thought it would be.

I'm really interested in language-learning ecology/(ies) and since hers mentioned this, I decided to take the plunge and wade through the 372 pages. And what I found was rather interesting. Aside from all the detailed analysis, the most interesting chapter was on  "Is Asian Language Study Equitable" - she has written a paper on it, which unfortunately doesn't seem to be easily accessible (i). (Just tried to find her on twitter to see where I can get a copy...).

And that's where I met my enthusiastic educational idealism face to face.  I am so naive. Yes I know all about the digital divide. I know that having a higher socio-economic status (or at least your parents) give all kinds of benefits such as extra-curricular, extra tutoring etc. But never would I have expected the vitriol around the supposed benefits Asian students have in studying Asian Languages. Even though I've experienced it first hand... does that sound absurd? In our HKU Chinese class we were separated between heritage and non-heritage learners (with Korean & Japanese bundled in with heritage due to their writing advantage), in fact, I switched to their class because I'd had a few years of stop start chinese classes and the mono-lingual anglo-saxon class was going a bit too slowly for me. And yes it was easier for them, but never once did I think it was not equitable. It just was. And I had to cope with it. And I just had to work a bit harder. A lot harder. But they were a nice bunch of people, and I'm still good friends with a few of them 7 years later.

There is so much background noise in the learning ecology that a rational person just would love to discount - however, it can seriously derail higher ideals. Looking at the example of our school. I really am a passionate champion for mother tongue. I'm a passionate champion for learning of languages in general, for everyone. But there are a lot of structural, emotional, financial and particularly attitudinal variables getting in the way of this ideal.

I have two children learning language at a native level, and they're two different languages, one we speak at home (Dutch) and the other was acquired in a dual language immersion program (Chinese). The attitude of my daughter when 2 native speakers joined her class this year? "At last! They've made the standard go up considerably, and they're showing up the laziness of the heritage kids and the weaknesses in the curriculum".  My response - nothing. If that's the way she felt, then I was fine with it. If she'd moaned and said it was unfair, I guess my response would have been that those kids were probably struggling in the rest of the subjects, so it was just as well they had a little respite from academic stress all week.
Maybe I've just been living in Asia for too long and have become one of those tiger mums. Or maybe language is important enough for me that I make sure the necessary time and effort goes into it.

Or maybe I don't care that much about grades. Ok, we're only in middle school in this household, and I'm not feeling the stress of university acceptance and IB results. I know for myself I do want to do well in my courses. But more importantly is how interesting, how relevant and how stimulating they are. Getting a good grade for largely arbitrary assignments (except the ones where I can choose the topic and have some lee-way to localise them - which so far at CSU has been most of them), is a side issue.   Ok, maybe I don't so much not care about grades as I'm ambivalent about the whole academic competition thing and putting a number on learning.  Except to indicate where you are in the learning / knowledge continuum for a particular subject.  I totally get homeschooling, and personalised learning, and entrepreneurial learning (except for the small but significant detail that I'm likely to commit infanticide should i ever have to educate my own brood). I hate putting kids of the same age in the same class - I love Seely Brown's Global one classroom thing -

For me the point of learning a language is to learn the language. Not to pass an exam. Not to get a diploma or certificate. To learn the language. To communicate. To access the culture. To pay homage to your own culture. To understand yourself and others. Anything else are pleasant externalities. I fear I may be in a small minority in this view.

I need to go and read some more. Leo van Lier's "Semiotics and ecology of language learning" awaits. Language is political. Who would have thought.


Slaughter, Y. (2007). The study of Asian languages in two Australian states: considerations for language-in-education policy and planning. PhD thesis, School of Languages and Linguistics, The University of Melbourne.

Van Lier, L. (2004). The semiotics and ecology of language learning. Utbildning & demokrati, 13(3), 79-103.

(i) Slaughter, Y. (2005). Public perceptions of Asian languages in Australia. In May, S., Franken, M., & Barnard, R. (eds.), LED2003: Refereed Conference Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Language, Education and Diversity. Hamilton: Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, University of Waikato.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Deep research diving

I'm going to either become very quiet or very noisy in the next few weeks as I dive into my next research topic for my last (yikes, how fast did that go) assignment for INF530.

This is my research proposal:

1. Proposal Topic
Language learning and the new digital information ecology
2. Proposed digital tools and/or spaces to be used
This is a tool I've wanted to experiment with for a while, and I think it can be used to encompass all the multi-media affordances required for this essay. Eventually I'd like to expand on it and turn it into a resource for our students, educators and families.
3. Rationale
Previous research has indicated that successful language acquisition is the result of the combination of optimising factors relating to the child (student), family, school and community. These can be considered to operate in inter-relationships in a knowledge ecology. 
The affordances of digital technology in education combined with global connectedness allow unprecendented opportunities to leverage the connected learning principles of 
  • production centered
  • openly networked 
  • shared purpose
within language learning, however the current structures of education may ignore or limit these opportunities due to institutional (or familial) fear, ignorance or perceived loss of control. 
This essay will look at the work of Seely, Hatie, Bawden, Ng, Siemans, Downes, Ford, Perrault etal. to examine learning design and the information environment and discuss how the learning systems and constituents allow for zones of intervention within the language learning ecology to leverage learning - sychronous and asynchronous, local and global and allow students and their families a greater locus of control over language learning. 
A particular focus will be mother tongue learning, an area often neglected by schools, who state they unable to justify supporting a large number of minority languages formally. I will argue this may be the result a failure of imagination and the application of digital technology and collaborative learning rather than a lack of resources.

So far I've been collecting some research and readings into (search terms - yes I do start with google scholar and then the university federated search and then the bibliography/citations of the articles I read that are worth while). My quest right now is to find the expert(s):
to mention a few, and I've come up with a wealth of articles and research studies. Seems I'm not the first to join the party here! (duh, as if). 

My ultimate goal is to create an iBook (of which this digital essay will be but a small 1,800 word part) geared to all the stakeholders in the language learning ecology of an international school (specifically the one I'm working at). 

So, a call out to everyone and anyone with useful leads for me to follow up (besides the 30 odd articles and one book - "Social networking for language education" I'll be digging into in the next week)

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Unfair Advantage

Following the release of the results of our first assignment, there has been some soul searching and discussion on how better results can be attained and what went wrong etc. I’ve seen this on various Facebook groups I’m a member of too. I’ve referred earlier to the whole privilege thing, and I’ll say it again.  No one mentioned it, but of course some of us (myself included) had an unfair advantage. When I write “the whole privilege thing” and then so easily reference the exact article, it’s because I’ve read it, and stored it on Evernote, and can easily access it.... read more
Last night's Sichuan dinner in Chengdu - picking through the peppers!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Open, Social and Participatory? Who's driving the bus?

In this week’s module we were posed the following questions:
  • How would curriculum change if our priority approach was on critical, creative, and collaborative thinking?
  • What does the reality of the modern age of information– this age of Google –suggest that we “teach”?
  • Can we simply “update” things as we go, or is it time for rethinking of our collective practice?

I was forwarded this very provocative article from the Atlantic by my boss this week = “The deconstruction of the K-12 teacher” It ties in quite nicely with the theme of this module, but it also turns the questions on their heads... 

Who is driving this bus? I get the feeling that many educators are feeling like passengers, some willingly paid for the ride, some were forced to embark, some think they’re the conductor or the ticket collector,  But who has set the itinerary, and is there a driver or is it a unmanned ground or cloud vehicle?
(Read more)