Living in the future

“Connected” by marcoderksen is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 

It’s the time of year when everyone is connecting. In person as old friends and family visit, or, as I connected with my brother who lives in Canada on Christmas day, by the wonders of the net.

I was born in 1970 in a world without computers or the internet, As I grew, so did technology and by the time I left university in the early 1990’s the web had been born. Shortly after that I got my first mobile phone. Now my phone is my mobile office, classroom and my connection to the wider world. I love technology and the connectivity it brings but I sometimes feel like I am living in a sci-fi movie or the future.

I attribute this to having a 1970’s analogue brain, one that was born in a world of book pages rather than electrons. I feel it goes deeper than that, even so-called digital natives have primitive analogue brains evolved over millennia that have to adapt to a digital world that has existed for just 30 years. Clever technology design takes advantage of this and rewards the connections we make.

I’ve been thinking about connections from a learning context a lot recently due to my current MA module. In H818, The Networked Practitioner, we work openly and socially to create our assessed work. We are encouraged to create and increase connections and networks. It’s scary and liberating in equal measure. This blog is another way I am trying to connect with the wider world.

I could argue that all learning is about making connections. Between facts and between theories. Technology facilitates these connections by making it quicker and easier to ‘join the dots’. Education is moving from being taught in a classroom to a set syllabus (pedagogy), to self-directed (andragogy) and self-determined (heutagogy) learning. Self-determined learning can be all about following the connections you make, and can result in amazing discoveries or those ‘rabbit hole’ moments.

It’s not all positive. The connectiveness of the modern world creates paradoxes. Putting yourself out there can be tricky. More connections means more exposure and greater risk. How we navigate this risk is a nuanced constantly changing negotiation with ourselves, and the wider world. Deciding what to share becomes the real question.

Having decided that I want to be more open with the world, more connected, how much risk am I willing to take? Quite a lot it turns out.

So, despite having an analogue brain, I plan to take full advantage of this digital connected future I find myself living in and hope you’ll join me on my journey.

What I do…

Graduation 2015

I’m often asked what I do. And my answer is often vague. I’ll mention that I work with parents to explore birth and early parenting, then I might say I also teach yoga for pregnant women, and also for postnatal women with their babies. I will mention I work for NCT, and then have to explain that it used to be called National Childbirth Trust. It is the UK’s largest parenting charity, and makes a difference to thousands of parents every year. It’s campaigned over the years on issues such as Dads’ being allowed in labour rooms to support their partners , women being able to feed their babies in public and, most recently, perinatal mental health with the Hidden Half campaign.

Hold on! I hear you say. I thought you worked for a university, how does that fit in with Birth and Parenting education?

Ah yes, I’m an Associate Lecturer with University of Worcester. I work with an amazing group of women to train NCT Practitioners to work with parents before and after they have their babies. It’s a foundation degree course and taught across the UK. In order to become a NCT tutor I had to study adult education in some depth over several years, as well as being an experienced NCT practitioner in my own right. It led to a second degree (see graduation photo above) and a Postgraduate Degree in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

I’m not surprised if you haven’t heard about how NCT trains it’s practitioners. We are, as an educational organisation, not great at telling the world what we do. Perhaps NCT Education suffers a little from impostorism at an organisational level. NCT tutors are educators and academics. We have decades of experience in adult learning, group theory and facilitation theory. We are reflective practitioners at every level, grounded in evidence led educational practice. But we don’t share this with the world. A few of my colleagues have published articles and papers about our work, but they are the exception. When we look for evidence about adult learning we look outside our own organisation. Yet we know how adults learn. We see it in our own practice all the time. We underrate our experiences and knowledge.

This weekend I was at our annual Education and Practice Weekend and I had the opportunity to speak to my colleagues about my current studies. I had been inspired by thinking around open pedagogy and digital scholarship. I mapped Bronwen Hegarty’s attributes of Open Pedagogy (2015) against NCT educational practice and showed my colleagues the many parallels to how we work. I then asked them to consider how they could work more openly? What might be the benefits and risks? How they could share their knowledge and experience with a wider academic audience? To my surprise they were enthusiastic and open to the ideas I proposed and I look forward to reading and sharing their contributions to adult learning and education theory.

In future, I hope that when I’m asked what I do, no one is surprised by NCT’s academic side. That we become known, not just by our contributions to birth and parenting but for our depth and breadth of knowledge about how adults learn.