Lecturer in Early Years Education
My area of teaching and learning is Early Childhood Education and Care. As a former early-years practitioner I strive to support students to make connections between theory and practice by drawing on my professional practice experience. A significant aspect of my teaching role is to support students to engage in reflective practice. This shapes my teaching and learning practices through the development and incorporation of teaching strategies, such as in-class discussion and peer learning activities, that support the development of reflective practice. I currently teach: Inclusion: Partnerships, Child Pedagogy, Literacy and Numeracy in ECEC Inclusion, Equality and Diversity, and Social Research Methods. I also contribute to modules on Placement: Following the Child and Montessori Dissertation. Within the module ‘Montessori Dissertation’, I provide supervision to undergraduate students completing their final year dissertation. Within the module ‘Placement: Following the Child’, I visit, support and assess students who are out on practice placement in early-years settings. This role encompasses a student mentoring approach.
As an educator I have two key aims; to develop students’ knowledge base, and to support the development of students’ critical thinking, information literacy, and writing skills. The development of these critical skills are, for me, of central importance to teaching and learning and guide my approach and objectives within and outside of the classroom. Educating for critical consciousness (Freire, 1974) plays a central role in my teaching philosophy. While imparting information to students I strive to do so in a manner that allows students to engage with it in a critical manner, to consider, evaluate and analyse information in light of prior learning, academic literature, political and policy agendas and issues of social justice. Technology assists me in this endeavour by allowing me to deliver content in an interesting and accessible format and to promote students’ critical engagement with the material presented through technologies that support both individual and collaborative construction of knowledge both inside and outside the classroom environment.
Canvas, Blackboard, PowerPoint, Email, Mobile phones, YouTube, Socrative, TurnItIn, Dropbox
While Blackboard is a VLE that has many affordances, I find that I have only used it to upload documents and presentations for the students to access. It has, therefore, served to create a one-way flow of information from me, the lecturer, to the students. My recent introduction to and engagement with Canvas has led to a more interactive engagement with the students on a VLE. Rather than the VLE serving as simply a repository, students can now contribute questions and comments resulting in the possibility of multiple flows of information. For example, students can leave comments in relation to the assignments I post and even comment on each other’s comments. The discussion feature of Canvas also enables class discussions outside of class time. This will be useful to my dissertation and placement students as it will enable peer learning and mentoring outside the college campus/timetable. The Canvas app, and in particular the push notification feature, has also served to increase students’ engagement with the VLE. PowerPoint, I find, forms the basis for many of my classes, however, while in the past I relied more heavily on slides, as I become a more experienced lecturer I have begun to decrease the number of slides I use during a class in order to create a greater space for interaction and discussion. I also use YouTube as a tool for teaching and learning. Students enjoy short relevant videos on topics we are exploring as it adds variety to the class. These videos enable me to present new and diverse ideas and perspectives for discussion, as well as providing examples of early years practice to critique. The use of Socrative is a new venture for me. The response and feedback from the students have thus far been very positive. They enjoy using their smart phones to contribute their voices in an anonymous manner. This app has proved particularly useful in providing short quizzes at the beginning of class to test the students on the contents of the previous class, thus supporting continuity. I am looking forward to using Socrative in my ‘Inclusion, Equality and Diversity’ class next semester as I feel that enabling the students to contribute their perspectives anonymously will support their engagement with and discussion of sensitive topics such as bias.
The use of technology has allowed me to: Provide material for in-class discussions (YouTube) Reduce plagiarism (TurnItIn) Receive students’ questions and comments outside the classroom space (email, Canvas) Gain knowledge regarding the students’ understanding of a topic (Socrative) Provide access to the students to relevant material (Canvas/Blackboard) Structure a lecture and provide a road-map of key issues within a given topic so that students can engage in further self-directed study (PowerPoint) Engage with the students outside of class times (email, Canvas) Access my teaching material from any device, to share this material with my colleagues and to collaborate with colleagues on projects (Dropbox) Technology has enhanced my teaching practice by allowing me to provide a more interactive learning environment, to extend the learning environment beyond the classroom and to facilitate the student voice. In addition, technology supports the co-creation of knowledge and active learning within my teaching practice.
Undoubtedly, the most challenging aspect of using technology in teaching and learning is the unreliability of technology. Arriving into a classroom to find that the projector is not working or the computer is missing is always an unwelcome challenge.
While YouTube tutorials are the main source of training resources I utilize, I have also availed of and benefited from in-house training in both University College Cork (UCC) and Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). In UCC I have attended various training seminars, organized by the SPEEDS project coordinators, that I have found both useful and inspirational, while in CIT I have attended training sessions offered by the Technology Enhanced Learning team that have proved very beneficial.