Reflective Professional Development: A Literature Review

Yesterday I submitted my latest M.Ed assignment: RPD: Literature Review [Google Doc]

It is part of a Reflective Professional Development module. We were required to submit:

A literature review of 3 – 5 books, articles or papers which have influenced your practice or understanding and have helped to shape you as a professional.

Each of the texts I chose to include made me sit up and reconsider both my values and beliefs about education as well as informing my approach to teaching and learning in the classroom.

The texts are as follows:

I hope that you find it to be a stimulating read. Comments are welcomed.

If you would like to know more about the MA in Education that I am studying towards, look here.

Reading Productivity

Having spent more than a year improving my personal productivity, I can sum up what I’ve learned in a single sentence: “Pick one task and do it”. However, that would do a disservice to the journey and to the great people who helped me along the way through their writing on the subject. So, without wishing to encourage you to spend more time reading about productivity than being productive, here are three books that really helped me reach a place where I can stay focused on doing ‘the work’.

Focus – Leo Babauta

If I had to recommend one book this would be it. It has really made a difference in helping me become more productive. The books’ strength lies in its brevity and the fact the Leo doesn’t over do the GTD stuff. Instead, he focuses on the underlying issues that may be stopping you from doing ‘the work’. It reads well. Eloquent prose, set out in well-structured essays that challenge you to reflect deeply on the way that you prioritise and use your time. Particularly, useful was the focus on changing and replacing habits. By replacing bad habits with useful, more productive ones, I have seen a huge difference in my productivity.

Highlights include:

  • You don’t need to respond
  • Going with the flow
  • Single tasking and productivity

Keeping It Straight – Patrick Rhone

Patrick is one of my favourite writers on the web and his work translates really well to the structured, thematic nature of a book. Keeping it Straight is Patrick’s first book – a collected set of essays that deal with personal productivity, minimalism, mindfulness and motivation. Again, this is not a long read; perfect for the daily commute or for dipping into when the moment arises. This book is very personal, much of the content gleaned from Patrick’s journal, it adds a level of authenticity that I find is often missing from books of this ilk.

Highlights include:

  • Don’t Worry
  • Doing The Dishes
  • Email (And Other Things That Go “Ding”)

#uppingyourgame – Doug Belshaw

Doug is a friend who has been fantastically supportive, helping me on my blogging journey. He has also (although he may not have realised it) had a significant impact on my approach to personal productivity. His approach is a pragmatic one and as such he begins by getting to the heart of why we should care about being productive in the first place. This is refreshing, as many productivity related texts assume that the reader already has this figured out. Like the other two books, this is a well structured, well designed text, placing emphasis on the authors voice.

Highlights include:

  • What does productivity look like?
  • How to find your personal well of motivation
  • Productivity killers
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As I mentioned above, it is easy to spend more time reading about productivity than actually getting on and being productive. However, while I’m on topic, I thought I would share some of the other material that has contributed to my journey. This is not an exclusive list, just a selection of the ones that come to mind as I sit writing this.

Manifesto: Inbox Zero

Idea: five.sentenc.es

Essay: Making the Clackity Noise

Essay: Cranking

Essay: The Noise

Essay: the beauty of the ellipses

Essay: Purpose Your Day: Most Important Task (MIT)

Essay: Do One Thing Well

Essay: How I Became an Early Riser

Essay: How to ‘chapter’ your life to make it more productive

Essay: The hidden power of a gift

Book: Mindfulness in Plain English

Video: Just This

Podcast: Enough: The Minimal Mac Podcast

Podcast: Back to Work

#mainedu: One module down, two to go…

Having begun the MA in Education, promising to blog my learning journey, I have found that time has been at a premium and thus blog posts have been in short supply. With that in mind, I have squared away a moment or two to provide an update.

As tweeted out earlier last week, I have completed Module 2: Assessment for Learning, achieving a distinction. I subsequently tidied up the corresponding page on this blog to include a summary of the unit; the texts that influenced my understanding and impacted on my assignments; and also added links to both my 1000 word critique of Black and Wiliam’s: ‘Inside the Black Box’ and Action Research Assignment.

While I may be finished with the module, AfL remains an area of significant interest to me. Particularly, because of the way that I have been using Google Docs with my students. Moreover, this is the focus of my School Based Enquiry, for which I continue to collect data.

Based on the feedback I received from my Module 2 tutor, I am planning a trip to Oxford Brookes University Library over the half term break to expand my reading; there are some texts that look useful but I am struggling to find in PDF format online.

Module 3: Developing eLearning began earlier this month. This module will likely prove to be the most enjoyable of the three. As an area of education that I am significantly immersed in, I hope that it will afford me the opportunity to broaden my understanding and refine some of my current practices.

In order to ensure that I don’t simply fall back on tried and tested tools however, I completed an audit of the technologies that are embedded in my current teaching practice and those that are not. It is my intention to develop a series of lessons wherein one of these technologies will be used to facilitate the learning in some way.

Reading for the module has also commenced and for me a number of the texts are old news but nevertheless I will revisit them, making the necessary notes in Evernote to use later in my assignment. We have been given the already well critiqued Prensky articles: ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’ and ‘Do They Really Think Differently?’ (Digital Natives: Part 2) to read. For some up to date debate on the concept of digital natives, these posts from Simon Bostock and Doug Belshaw are definitely worth checking out:

Finally, I hope that as the unit eveolves I will get the chance to tie in some of the material I have been reading and writing about recently with regards to learning technologies, taxonomies and literacies. Only time will tell.

Busting a hole in the wall (the purpose of education)

purposed-badgeWhen Sugata Mitra put a computer inside a hole in the wall of the NIIT building in New Delhi, he took the first step in proving beyond a shadow of a doubt, that education was a universal connector craved by people the world over; and that the traditional notion of classroom education was by no means the only way to do it. Now, more than ten years on from the beginning of the HITW experiment, the lessons remain unheeded by many of the people involved in mainstream education. In fact, concepts such as ‘self-directed learning’ and ‘the student voice’ are still scoffed at as Dawn Hallybone was reminded this past week, attending a debate on the National Curriculum review.

Are there still that many people connected to education that truly believe, we, the adults know what’s best for the next generation and the one after that? Nick Dennis spoke of the need for us to focus on principals in this debate and at first I disagreed, as principals like ‘purposes’ are rarely universally shared. However, I now see where he was going, and while I appreciated Doug’s question about whose “better” was Nick referring to, I think Nick’s conviction was what was most important. He asked the big questions about what we want education to be and what we are doing for each other as a community, not as definable roles but as human beings.

It is make or break time for humanity and we have a responsibility to draw a line in the sand, admit our mistakes and create a system of education that can begin to undo the harm that we have done to the world. For all the talk over the last twenty years of the ‘global village’, it has not stopped us continuing to destroy our planet, to wage wars and to continue to ignore the inequalities in society. What is the purpose of education? Surely, it is to create unity by helping future generation to recognise the values that humanity share.

Fred Garnett grapsed this when he argued that new (social) media can foster “collaborative, discursive learning, the kind of learning that creates a healthy, open and participative society.” Is this the extension of Mitra’s experiment? Is social media the natural evolution bringing learners to the stream rather than the well? Some of us embrace change, recognising the merits of experimentation and creativity; others fear it, seeing new as dangerous. I’m not suggesting that we should plunge head first into wildly unstructured models of learning but if it were not for people who dared to be creative, who dared to experiment, we would not be able to stare into the vast ocean that is our solar system, or be able to listen to Mozart on a device, so small, it can fit into the palms of our hands.

When Mitra began his experiment he was giving education back to the people and his observations of the children showed happy, creative, collaborative learnings, the sort of learning Tom Barrett hopes his son will continue to experience. I’d intended to say that education is about more than opening doors; it’s about what you do once the door is open. Now I’m asking who needs doors? Why not work together and bust a hole in the wall instead?