Collaborate with Organisational Key Players for e-Inclusion
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has pushed teachers and students alike in a state of emergency remote teaching and learning. For teachers, this came with an urgent demand for new knowledge, e.g. on innovative pedagogies, for new competences, going from attaining very technical/digital skills to rethinking soft skills as communication and organization in a digital setting, as well as for new attitudes, e.g. how to take care of students in the midst of chaos. For the students in turn, this meant keeping up with and adapting to various ‘new and often hastily invented’ teaching styles, on top of keeping up their academic performances.
In the aftermath of this ‘emergency remote teaching and learning time,’ and we can fairly say this was a most experimental time, it is time to reflect on the lessons learned and think of how to strategically and structurally collaborate towards an inclusive digital education. In this micro-module, we will explore how to identify organizational key players in inclusive digital education and how to find strategies to collaborate with them.
Before diving into the process of identifying key players within your organisation and exploring ways of how to collaborate with them, let us first take a look at the competences or knowledges needed for inclusive digital education.
The TPACK model shows there are several domains of knowledge required, Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge, if as a teacher you purposefully want to integrate technology in your teaching while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. When it comes to inclusive education, Equity Knowledge will be the needed knowledge if you want your teaching to be inclusive to all kind of students that make up the current student body. Equity Knowledge can be added to the TPACK model, making it the I-TPACK model, consequentially redefining all knowledge that makes up the TPACK model. A prerequisite for this module is to familiarise yourself with these various knowledges of the TPACK model and the ways in which the different knowledges shift by introducing Equity Knowledge to the model. From this understanding, you are well equipped to move on to undertake concrete steps towards a more inclusive digital education.
(1) First, identify yourself as a key player, for both before as during the pandemic, you gained many insights and competences, and through trial and error you now have quite an idea of what works and what does not. You have also come to understand that you as just one individual, have limited capacity when it comes to training all the competencies needed, staying up to date with innovative pedagogies and technologies, and (re)designing courses. A good way to start building alliances then is by knowing yourself better and identifing how well you are mastering the different distinctive knowledges integrated in the I-TPACK model. Check yourself with peers in your field of expertise for Content Knowledge, or with education staff for Pedagogical Knowledge. Take a scan, or a selfie, to see where you are at when it comes to Technological Knowledge. Go through Modules A and B to get a better picture of your Equity Knowledge.
(2) Next, scan your courses by explicitly formulating if and how you have integrated the different knowledges and evaluate whether this was done successfully. Take time to zoom in and reflect critically on some specific instances that have occurred during one of your courses. This might help you to understand where you are at and identify what you could concretely do to grow in your teaching.
(3) You now know where your strength lies and in what aspects your knowledge is insufficient or lacking. As your capacity is limited, think of ways to enforce your strengths, focus on domains in which with little effort you become an ‘expert’. Next, seek out colleagues who are ‘experts’ in other domains, complementary to you. Start by connecting to people you already know, e.g. colleagues in your own field or faculty. Then, broaden your scope and seek out colleagues outside of your own field or faculty, and explore their practices. Note that this endeavour might turn out to become an unintended start of the building of a network.
(4) Build a team that will co-create or co-review (a) course(s) within your own field or faculty. This will elevate the quality of the course(s) under examination, and through cross-over effects in this learning process other courses will grow in quality as well. Identify courses that make up a learning line and align the teaching methodology and learning activities in these courses so that it becomes easier for students to navigate through the different courses.
So far, we have discussed a bottom-up approach, with a focus on how as a teacher to find other key players within your organisation and to collaborate with them as to grow and strengthen your teaching with regards to inclusive digital education. Note that these are just some suggestions to undertake. Depending on your situation, there are for sure more or other steps to be taken.
Throughout this process, however, you might also embark on the top-down approach in which the management of your faculty and/or institution is shaping inclusive digital education. Here are some suggestions:
(1) Professionalisation organised from the top can be more strategic. When teaching teams go through professionalisation together, the learning becomes more effective, since teams are growing together and pushing their collective capacity even further. This collective knowledge thus will be more sustainable.
(2) Push the management of your faculty and/or institution for collective professionalisation, but also push for time and space needed to learn, implement and improve the courses and/or the entire curriculum. Their support and engagement will be key. One way to go about it is to apply for grants on innovative education/projects both within and without your organisation so to create the needed time and space to gain knowledge and to try and test ‘good practices.’
(3) From your experiences, strategically make known your gained insights to the management of your faculty and/or institution, so to influence education policy and other decision-making organs/processes relating to inclusive digital education.
Next to these approaches, teachers need meaningful support from the flanks:
(1) In the event you did identify a network with other ‘expert’ key players, be it within or without the scope of your own field or faculty, seek ways to set up a more formal learning network. This way, you can continue the learning process and the strengthening of your courses, as well as be a reference point to turn to when others are seeking help or assistance. Find ways to go beyond colleagues who are teachers or academic staff, but include other kind of key players, e.g. staff from central services, (education) support staff etc. who can grow with you in the process and who can incorporate the learnings of the network in more formal and fundamental principles within the institution.
(2) Within these networks, don’t only ‘show’ good practices on specific occasions, but reflect with others on those practices in a structured way and help others to critically reflect on their own practices. Again, include, or more so request key players from central services, (education) support staff etc. to formalise and facilitate these processes and activities. Charge them with the task to strategically set up formal learning networks with the intention to build a critical mass of teachers that invest in inclusive digital education so that in due time, it will become the generally accepted way of going about education.