20 SES 04, Inclusion Related to Innovation; Bringing Arts Like Photo and Music and Online Learning Environments into Play
In recent times, the access to information and communications technology (ICT) has created new demands and opportunities for online student teacher learning, which has presented challenges for teacher educators in responding to those demands and seizing new opportunities. The study presented here recounts how we, four teacher educators, responded to these demands and opportunities by developing a learning environment for online teacher students to participate alongside their peers who were studying on campus.
The School of Education, at the University of Iceland, has for more than two decades offered distance education for undergraduate and graduate students. One such course offered is Working in Inclusive Practices (WIP) with a diverse group of pupils. The WIP course is an elective course at graduate level designed for student teachers and experienced teachers at pre-school, compulsory school and upper secondary level, working on their master's degree. It is taught over one term or 13 weeks and is 10 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) points. It is a blended course taught online with two intensive sessions of two days on campus and in the last four years between 40 and 80 students have chosen to attend the course each year.
The focus of the WIP course is on inclusive practices, as it builds on theories of inclusion, multiculturalism, diversity and innovation education. Through innovation education strategies, the emphasis is on exploring different holistic and creative ideas in creating an inclusive learning environment that cares for all pupils well being and learning. Furthermore, there is a focus on teaching strategies and educative assessment that works well for diverse groups of pupils.
The aim of the course is to prepare participants to employ their resources to work with diverse groups of pupils. The course draws on the ideology of inclusive education and innovation education where the emphasis is on a holistic and creative approach to preparation and teaching is in the forefront. Inclusive education (IE) is an educational policy that involves consistently developing a system that offers equal learning opportunities built on students’ resources. The ideology builds on universal inclusion, accessibility and participation of all students in the school system. The attitude towards diversity in the student population is positive and all students are welcomed to school (European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, 2014; UNESCO, 2008, 1994).
The purpose of this study was to figure out how we could create an active online learning environment that was embedded into the course. Our intention was to give students opportunities to participate in meaningful learning moments applying creativity and knowledge to solve problems that they identify working in inclusive practices. The goal of the study was to understand and learn about the opportunities the online space affords. Thus, the research question was: How can we create meaningful learning opportunities online?
Findings from a study on hybrid courses conducted at UI (University of Iceland) indicate that online students tend to want fewer meetings on-campus, and to use the time on-campus for discussion and collaboration but less for listening to presentations (Jóhannsdóttir & Jakobsdóttir, 2011). In a further study on the quality of these hybrid courses, findings indicate concerns with class schedule organization, conflicts between courses, expenses, poor use of time and disorganization (Jóhannsdóttir & Jakobsdóttir, 2012). Intensive sessions on-campus are thought to be important for networking, collaboration and hands-on work and we need to have that in mind also. Learning through social interactive processes and developing community through cooperative group discussions have become part of our teaching practice. Through reflection and dialogue, students gain the opportunity to develop new understandings and shape their learning (Farren, 2009).
Self-study methodology that builds on the notion of action-reflection-learning-action guided our inquiry (Bodone, Guðjónsdóttir, & Dalmau, 2004). We gathered data over five years, in spring the years of 2013-2017. The participants are four experienced teacher educators and groups of online distant students (ODS) including both experienced teachers and student teachers. Sources of data include minutes and recordings of meetings (preparation and analytical meetings) and professional dialogues, e-mail communication, tickets out of class (TOCs) documentation from the online program and students' tasks, discussions and projects. Data gathering has been ongoing through these years and the analyzing of the data going along at the same time. After each class we discussed and critically reflected on the teaching and learning and in so doing the data analysis began to form. We pondered on how the flow and continuum of the course was designed and what kind of educational experience we had devised. As analysis was continuous we regularly discussed emerging issues gradually combining and expanding findings. After each school year we also had analytical meetings going through our data trying to make sense of it holistically and to see how we can develop our teaching building on our interpretation. We did not only reflect on our practice but generated questions about our teaching and how we could respond to the challenges we faced teaching online (Korthagen and Kessels, 1999). By focusing on our collaboration, planning and teaching as well as students' participation and learning, our understanding of the affordances of online teaching began to emerge. We examined what we were doing, how, and why in order to further understand our practice and to foster our development in becoming critical and responsive at the same time. To understand our practice more deeply and to support our interpretation as self-study practitioners, we use the voices of our students as they provide the evidence for our claims (Pinnegar & Hamilton, 2010). We sought answers to how we could create constructivist teaching and learning community online. The importance of using the new technologies in a structured way and giving students the opportunity to participate through teleconferencing or online conferencing are emphasized in the findings and are matters for us to consider as we develop WIP. In our findings we describe how a course on inclusive education using innovation education as an approach developed through challenges we encountered and the solutions we designed.
The online learning environment consisted of discussion threads, the readings, presentations, different tasks or assignments. Students were satisfied with on-campus sessions, they liked face-to-face lessons, interacting with others, experiencing multiple teaching strategies, hands-on activities and direct support. We are were used to teach in class. However, we decided to move and translate the versatile teaching methods and tasks to an online environment. This became a challenge. In spite of being very satisfied with the course as a whole I found the system online confusing. There was a lot going on in Moodle both in discussions and turn in tasks and projects. I was constantly afraid I would miss something. (Student, 2013). This view was common with the ODS because they had to turn in a number of hands-on tasks and different small projects that other students finished in on-campus sessions. We have responded to these comments by working on the limitations of the Moodle environment. The ODS appreciated the online learning environment. Salvör was one of those who felt it had empowered her: I listened to all the recordings and they were well organized. They were immediately uploaded and that was helpful as I could then work right away. I found it rather easy to do those lesson-tasks alongside listening to teachers' presentations. I loved reflecting and contemplating on the different issues and tasks such as making artifacts and things with my hands. (Student, 2015) By focusing on our collaboration, planning and teaching as well as students' participation and learning, our understanding of the affordances of online teaching began to emerge. Our challenge was to move and translate the versatile teaching methods used on campus to an online environment. As well as becoming one of our challenges, it also opened up for solutions that expanded student learning opportunities.
References: Bodone, F., Guðjónsdóttir, H., & Dalmau, M. C. (2004). Revisioning and recreating practice: Collaboration in self-study. In J. J. Loughran, M. L. Hamilton, V. K. LaBoskey, and T. Russell (Eds.), International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices (pp. 743-784). Dordrecht: Kluwer. European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (2014). Five Key Messages for Inclusive Education. Putting Theory into Practice. Odense: European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. Farren, M. (2009). Co-creating an educational space. Educational Journal of Living Theories, 1(1), 50-68. Retrieved from: http://www.ejolts.net/biblio Jakobsdóttir, S., & Jóhannsdóttir, Þ. (2011). Samkennsla stað- og fjarnema við Menntavísindasvið Háskóla Íslands: Reynsla og viðhorf kennara og nemenda - togstreita og tækifæri. Netla - veftímarit um uppeldi og menntun. Retrieved from http://netla.hi.is/menntakvika2011/033.pdf Bodone, F., Guðjónsdóttir, H., & Dalmau, M. C. (2004). Revisioning and recreating practice: Collaboration in self-study. In J. J. Loughran, M. L. Hamilton, V. K. LaBoskey, and T. Russell (Eds.), International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices (pp. 743-784). Dordrecht: Kluwer. Jóhannsdóttir, Þ., & Jakobsdóttir, S. (2012). Samkennsla stað- og fjarnema í grunnnámi í Kennaradeild við Menntavísindasvið Háskóla Íslands 2010-2011. Háskóli Íslands Menntavísindasvið. Reykjvík: RANNUM. Korthagen, F., & Kessels, J. (1999). Linking theory and practice: Changing the pedagogy of teacher education. Educational Researcher, 28(4), 4-17. Pinnegar, S., & Hamilton, M. L. (2010). Self-study of practice as a genre of qualitative research: Theory, methodology and practice. Dordrecht: Springer. UNESCO (1994). The Salamanca statement and framework for action on special needs education. Salamanca: UNESCO and Ministry of Education and Science, Spain. UNESCO (2008). Inclusive education. Brussels: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/ themes/strengthening-education-systems/inclusive-education/
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