Jenny Arntzen PhD

My degree was confirmed in February, 2016. I chose not to attend the graduation celebration. I did attend a closing lunch with my thesis supervisor who managed to get me through the final stages of defending and graduating.

For may reasons, and not unusual in the field of higher education, I graduated without any hope or prospect of actually finding work in my field of study. Also, in common with other recent graduates, I left the academy desperate to for income generating work. I had laboured for 10 years contributing my unpaid time and effort to researching and writing up various topics. I graduated with a deep need to work and be fairly compensated for my time.

I had started work in carpentry as a means to renovate and repair my dilapidated heritage house. By the time I graduated I was working full time as a carpenter apprentice. I thoroughly enjoy building and being ‘on the tools’.

However, my training in graduate studies does not go quietly into an abyss after graduation. My propensity to seek out the absence, the missing piece that operates like a whirlpool vortex – unseen but affecting everything in its sphere of influence, re-surfaced like an irrepressible cork. My experiences being a homeowner, being part of a renovation that careened out of control, being a carpenter, and witnessing inept or non-existent project management practices leading other homeowners to the precipice, have converged into seeking yet one more formal certification: Project Management Professional.

In this endeavour I seek to specialize in residential renovations. Luckily I have my own pre- and post- action research on the go: my own residential renovations identified as Phase 1 (out of control) and Phase 2 (project management best practices).

At present I would like to propose and seek funding for a study of residential renovations: how, when, where, why construction professionals and homeowners (who) use project management best practices in residential renovations.

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this close to being DONE

I have completed the minor revisions as instructed by my supervisor and a committee member. I have an email from my supervisor saying he will sign the form that will constitute approval to submit my dissertation to the faculty of graduate studies once he sees the final copy. I have sent the final copy.

I have completed the cover sheet form that I have to sign when I submit the paperwork showing my dissertation is approved for submission. I have received confirmation that my dissertation meets thesis requirements for formatting.

My fingers are crossed for Monday, that I will get written approval to submit. Once I have that written approval, I must go to the university and physically deliver the forms to my grad secretary. Once I do this, and it is stamped received, I then do something – I’m not actually sure what. I either walk the paper forms to the graduate studies faculty and submit by hand, or I receive permission to submit all the paperwork, including the dissertation, online.

Anyway, I don’t submit a hard copy of the dissertation to the faculty. I receive permission to upload my dissertation into the university repository. Once it is uploaded, it is part of the university collection and I can no longer access it for editing or any changes.

It is hard to believe that day may actually come.

“is it getting worse?”

I defended my dissertation on Friday and passed with minor revisions. My plan is to get those revisions done this week and submit the document by Friday. That is my plan. We shall see how it goes.

The study I investigated for my research looked at the relationship between instructional discourse in a teacher education program and the subsequent emergence of teacher candidates’ disposition toward using ICT in practice.

My findings were counter-intuitive, in that, despite being offered a wide varieties of encounters with ICT during their first year of their teacher education program, the majority of the teacher candidates were not planning to use ICT on their extended practicum.

As part of the study, the teacher candidates were invited to commit to participating to take a more active role in the study. The teacher candidates who volunteered agreed to attend ICT learning sessions outside their regular teacher education programming.

This small sub-group from the main cohort all planned to use ICT on their extended practicum, and, by the end of the study, were in active lesson planning and production to do so.

The data from my study was collected in the 2007 – 2008 school year. One of the questions posed by my panel of examiners was, “Is the situation getting worse or better?” (with regards to educational engagements with ICT in the profession of teaching). And I was sorry to have to answer, “No.”

The reasons for my answer are gleaned from a variety of indicators that all point to a continuing problem in the field of education. These indicators were not collected as part of a study, but simply report my impressions from diverse sources:

  1. Access to digital technology, and the knowledge and skills to use it productively have been deemed a human right in a Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue;
  2. The CRTC is requiring all Internet providers in Canada to offer a basic Internet access package that does not exceed $25 a month;
  3. The Ministry of Education in BC is implementing new curriculum that is dependent on using ICT as integral to learning activities, however, teachers do not appear adequately prepared to implement the new curriculum eg. ‘personalized’ learning is really ‘technologizing learning’
  4. Parents are questioning the new curriculum, and are critical of the burden that is placed on their children and the teachers eg. Questions Parents Should Ask With New B.C. Curriculum;
  5. There are deep concerns about privacy and government legislation with regards to the protection of student data being collected in a province-wide data management system eg. Information about Bill 11 and Student Privacy;
  6. The inclusion of competency learning in the B.C. curriculum indicates a concerning relationship to the corporatization of education and standardized learning eg. Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 8.37.52 PM.png
  7. There are still abiding issues with the use of ICT in education, in terms of learning ICT, learning to teach with ICT, and learning to teach ICT Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 8.33.53 PM
  8. In university settings, educators in higher education, including teacher education programs, are being forced to use online course management systems to track their teaching and student learning but they are not adequately prepared to utilize these systems, and, in some cases, are forming negative dispositions toward using ICT in their teaching and conveying those sentiments to their students (personal anecdote shared with me 2015 11 20);
  9. There is a pervasive and continuing discordant discourse pertaining to ICT in education, wherein it is referred to as a ‘tool’ that is part of a teachers’ ‘toolbox’, and thus, presumably, at the professional discretion of the teacher whether they use it or not; and; it is also implemented as integral to curriculum delivery, course management, pedagogy and assessment;
  10. Sherry Turkle, M.I.T. professor and best selling author on culture and technology was interviewed on CBC, with Anna Maria Tremonti for the Current, a national radio program, saying that ICT in education was a “failed experiment”.

I was able to compile all these examples of the difficulties facing educators’ engagements with ICT in the few minutes it took to write this blog post. In my opinion, the situation is getting worse and we must do something about. The good news is that there is plenty that we can do, and it does not involve throwing billions of dollars of technology at the problem.

There is a desperate need for educators to engage with ICT as a professional responsibility integral to practice, rather than considering it an add on that they can take or leave. Through substantive engagement, teachers could become the social leaders we need to help us, as a society, and within our families and communities, utilize the affordances of ICT to build and sustain productive, healthy lives, while, at the same time, critically examining the downside of our life with ICT. These are not mutually exclusive endeavours, rather, they are co-constructive and necessary to addressing the issues emergent in our time.

the defence draws nearer

It is hard to believe I am finally getting close to defending my thesis. The tentative date is set for November 20, 2015 at 12:30 pm. This is yet to be confirmed. The dissertation is now being read by committee members, external examiner, and university examiners. I feel good about the dissertation. Yes, there are some awful sentences in it still, but, overall, I am proud of the work I did.

The other day I was going through old laptops that still have collections of image files on them that I need to amalgamate into an external drive. I found a whole series of images I developed to explain the mechanisms of social learning networks and how a composite of learners can solve complex issues when a solo learner cannot.

There is great strength in diversity, when we are able to take advantage of difference rather than feel threatened that everyone is not the same as us.

I am in the process of amalgamating those images and will begin posting and discussing them as a way to prepare for my defence. In fact, I can see how posting about my dissertation and the findings will help be become comfortable articulating the work into common vernacular.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 8.28.04 AM

Shouldn’t all teachers consider themselves educational technologists? #edchat #edtech

The fact is that human societies are now being formed and sustained through communication and information sharing digital technologies. There are very few parents among us who are not engaged in daily deliberations with their children and teenagers about how, when, and why we use different technologies for different purposes. Similarly, there are very few teachers among us who are not facing technological complexity in the forms of diverse devices, software applications, and network infrastructures and how these technological resources can contribute to enabling, enhancing and enriching learning opportunities.

The line between formal learning and informal learning is blurring, as we learn more about learning processes. Whether our learning activities are taking place within the environs of educational institutions are without, we are constantly taking in new information, making sense of it, evaluating its relevance to our current needs, and utilizing it accordingly.

It is interesting that the debate in BC education is largely focused on class-size, when the actual composition of a ‘class’ and the locations for learning relationships to form are changing quickly. How many teachers consider themselves educational technologists? How may are comfortable taking advantage of daily incorporation of ICT in their learning activities (for their students, with their colleagues)? How many teachers feel prepared to provide leadership to their students, and their parents, for the educational, and civic, uses of digital technologies for the good of society, for forming and sustaining friendships, for changing society for the better (socially, culturally, economically, energetically)?

How many teachers are ready to step up and provide support to their colleagues as they learn to incorporate ICT into every facet of teaching and learning? To change teaching cultures and teaching practice to meet 21st century societal needs as leaders in their communities?

I know that teachers work very hard to provide the best learning experiences for their students. I also know that the profession of teaching is changing, it must change, to meet the needs of an evolving technological society. How can teachers be supported to make the necessary changes to their beliefs, values, perceptions, and practices?

Technology and Teacher Education #edtech #edchat

I am in the process of writing up a literature review on technology and teacher education. My focus with this review is to scan literature pertaining to the preparation of pre-service teachers’ ICT perspectives and practices during their teacher education programs. In the process of conducting the literature review I have been able to identify a problem that has bothered me for sometime in the field of teacher education and technology, but I could not put my finger on it until now.

Throughout the arduous process of writing up this dissertation, I have read, scanned, and skimmed many, many articles about technology in education. I have attended numerous conferences and I have taught a number of courses. I had noticed an inordinate amount of attention placed on student learning with technology – topics spanning technological, socio-economic, cultural, subject-specific, and social-relational aspects of student learning with and through digital technologies. I always found it frustrating that there was not a commensurate amount of literature investigating and discussing teacher learning with technology. After all, teachers don’t only have to learn to use the technology to enhance their own learning and how to incorporate it into their teaching practice, they are also expected to provide students with exemplary learning experiences enriched and enabled by the incorporation of digital technologies.

This most recent literature review has confirmed what I suspected, that the proportion of interest on student learning with ICT compared to interest on teacher learning (pre-service and in-service) with ICT is in an estimated ratio of 20 to 1, that is, there are approximately 20 studies investigating and reporting on student learning with ICT to every 1 study investigating teacher learning and teacher candidate learning.

extending applicability

For a period of time, more than a year, my dearly departed mother-in-law was confined to her care facility but was still able to talk on the telephone. We lived a continent apart, so face to face visits were out of the question. It was difficult to have conversations with her as she was somewhat depressed and her life experiences were limited to a dulling sameness of institutional routine. Although her body was aging and ailing, her mind was sharp. I sensed that she needed intellectual stimulation, that such stimulation would probably help her cope with the new realities of frailty, isolation, and boredom she was facing. I decided to provide some of that intellectual stimulation by setting up a reading program for the two of us. In the beginning, we took turns reading, page for page. Later, she would simply rest and listen to me reading a chapter at a time.

We read Dickens, Conan Doyle, and P. G. Wodehouse. We read poetry, from Robert W. Service’ ‘Ballads of a Cheechako’, to a collection, ‘Love Poems from God’. Sometimes, after our readings, we would talk about important things, the readings somehow gave us permission to discuss mortality, death, the meaning of life, mothering, family relationships, and how to cope with reduced circumstances. She chose the literature and in so doing introduced me to many authors and stories I would not otherwise have encountered. It was a very special time, a window that closed when she could not longer hold the telephone.

Her health dwindled over many months, and finally, this spring, she was in her last days. Her family had gathered, and though she was unable to hold a conversation, she was able to listen to a story read over the telephone while the phone was held for her. At this point she had been through one health crisis, and given hours to live. But she had rallied, and I was able to talk to her on the telephone and read her one last chapter of Jeeves and Wooster. I gave a rousing reading, animating all the voices in different characters to the best of my limited acting ability. It was great fun, and although I could only hear Helen breathing on the other end of the line, I knew she appreciated it. After the reading ended, her eldest son, who was in attendance, texted me, “That was amazing! She perked right up!”

We know that reading aloud to young children, even babies, is important for cognitive and emotional development. What do we know about the importance of reading aloud to the elderly? What do we know about reading aloud to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients? What do we know about reading aloud to the terminally ill, or those recovering from catastrophic health crisis?

I have been developing a theory of linguistic cognitive domains as a way to explain how our innate drive for connectivity is satisfied through communication – whether we are talking, writing, drawing, painting, dancing, sculpting, etc. We can consider any form of artmaking as a form of communicating, and any from of communicating as satisfying our need for connectivity. The role art plays in fostering and sustaining connectivity is one line of inquiry to explore. Another line of inquiry is the participating in art appreciation as a form of connectivity. In this activity, it is shared appreciation of creative expression that performs the mechanism for fostering conversation and building connections. Thus, reading aloud is an artful expressive event (as we act out the parts we are reading), a shared event (as we appreciate the author’s work) and a connective event (as the contents of the readings inspire conversation after the reading is completed).

It seems to me that there are some very simple, relatively easy programs that we can implement that would create mutual benefit across ages, mobility, socio-economies, and cultures. I would like to see us developing networks of connectivity for reading aloud to each other. The possibilities for an improved sense of community, health and well-being is as close as a telephone with a good book in hand.