It’s been a while since I found time to sit, reflect and put my thoughts down in this space. Sometimes finding the time to do all three is challenging, especially when life gets busy. Today I noticed that I have been away from Tasmania for 137 days, I am over one third of the way through the Hardie Fellowship. Things have been busy and I have been learning lots. The learning has occurred in many spaces, online and face-to-face.
Today I find myself in Lansing Michigan at the Meaningful Play Conference. It’s focus is on gaming, I will talk more about that at a later date – once it has finished and I have had a chance to reflect.
Lately I have been learning about the methodology of qualitative research. I have really enjoyed this, as it is a type of research that digs deep into the phenomena with regard to the question being investigated. This leads me to the importance of listening to people’s stories and gaining meaning from them. Recently I have been chatting to a range of people about student loans and what they look like here in America. I have been doing this for the TER Podcast and it will form part of a podcast towards the end of this year. As a result of doing this one thing has sparked my attention. The concept of education providing opportunity, yet sometimes accessing education is the barrier. Often we cite money being the barrier for people engaging in further education, yet is it? Is money really the barrier. Do fees associated with courses present the barrier we perceive?
If fees alone presented a barrier for people accessing further educational opportunities providing a loan system, whether it be like that in America or the various fee help currently available in Australia, should eliminate this. Well does it? This is something that these conversations have explored indirectly. Accessing education in a space that is alien from the social structure that you have grown up in presents identifiable barriers and hurdles that need addressing. These are often unspoken and present significant issues that can stop one from pursuing further education. Maybe the use of the word ‘unspoken’ is unwise of me, as sometimes by merely speaking a barrier is created.
Educational spaces are social spaces and they have social norms, expectations and values inherently attached to them. If you are not aware of these then accessing the social space and the affordances that it brings can be difficult, and in some cases too hard. The barrier cannot be penetrated.
Providing a means of reducing the barrier and enabling it to become a minor hurdle where one you can jump over it requires much thought and effort, not just from the person wishing to access the educational opportunity but also from those providing it, to enable equity regarding access. One of the programs that hopes to provide this is the Kids on Campus Program offered at Ohio University. The concept of this program has now been picked up and is being explored by Katrina McNab, who is a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania. It is nice to know that I have had the opportunity to link Katrina up with this idea and that she has the enthusiasm and desire to explore it further from a Tasmanian perspective. It really makes me see the value of spending 137 days in the USA so far. Not to mention the value of being connected on Twitter (it is connected educators month) as it was through twitter that I learnt about the Kids on Campus Program and connected with Katrina. Katrina saw one of my tweets and that led to an exchange of DMs due to her interest being sparked and being in a position where she could explore the potential of this idea.
I personally have a strong connection to reducing the barriers and making them into mere hurdles that present an achievable challenge for others who desire to further their education. I value the support that those around me provided when I was younger, which enabled me to achieve my goals with regard to furthering my education beyond high school. I also value the support that those around me now have provided, which has enabled me to have this opportunity to access learning here in the USA. It is only through the support of others, combined with a strong desire to achieve the gaol that it can be done when there are hurdles that exist.
How can you help remove barriers to learning and provide support to others so they can jump the hurdles that are presented to them?
I noticed the other day that the invite for the announcement regarding the next round of Hardie Fellowships arrived at my Tasmanian address. I wish to pass on a my congratulations. It is a great honour, experience and opportunity to be awarded a Hardie Fellowship.