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The Time is Now: Thoughts from a Further Education Teacher Educator about Sustainability and Digital Pedagogy in the post-COVID era

By Joyce I-Hui Chen

Twitter Handle: @joyceihuichen1

In the summer of 2022 in the UK, the MET Office confirmed the new record-high temperature of 40.3 °C and a new highest daily minimum temperature record. Whilst enjoying the sunny weather, I could not stop thinking that this is an alarming reminder that the climate is changing, and we are all in this together. The Ukraine-Russia crisis is an ongoing cruel reminder that humankind is challenged and we as humans have yet learnt how to treat each other with compassion, kindness and love, despite the fact that history seems to repeat itself over and over again.

I recalled how the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown back in 2020 and 2021 in the UK somehow brought humankind back to our communities. Neighbours, friends and people, who we do not often have opportunities to make connections with, started out by setting up support groups online to help each other get through the darkest and toughest times. At work, I set up wellbeing initiatives and activities online to support teachers and educators to talk with each other through crafts such as origami and mindfulness. Technologies enable us to make connections and build communities beyond the physical space. Through the experiences of the last three years with the continuing pandemic and global crisis, we have learnt so much about the importance and values of being human – compassion, love, kindness, thoughtfulness and communities. Human beings are not perfect, but we should learn from what is around us and take actions to stop doing more harm to each other and the planet we are living in.

Being a teacher educator, I constantly reflect on what education means and what it is for. In the last three years, digital pedagogy and sustainability have been my main areas of professional development and learning. A really insightful report, published by the Association for Learning Technology, highlights key motivators which underpin digital pedagogy in further education and vocational education: developing ‘a learner-centred community model with values, identity, beliefs, purpose and needs’, balanced with ‘digital design strategies, tools and learning environments’.

For me, education should be grounded in co-creating communities with multidisciplinary skills, knowledge, perspectives, and cultures. Through continuing co-constructive communities, we build trust, openness and agency to be creative and innovative. Digital pedagogy builds on existing pedagogy informed by educators and learners. Through pandemic, I personally experienced the empowering effects of digital participative pedagogy in action. Online communities such as #JoyFE, #FEResearchmeet, the Learning and Skills Research Network, Women’s Leadership Network CIC, and #AmplifyFE have brought practitioners together for shared values and passion to support each other and drive social purposes. The importance of

these communities is to support and develop sustainable learning for educators and practitioners. One major learning from all the different communities is the culture of thinking and how the practice of thinking environment has brought innovative ideas in an equal and anti-competitive space such as an Ideas Room. As Nancy Kline (the originator of thinking environment) says, ‘The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first. The quality of our thinking depends on the way we treat each other while we are thinking’.

Sustainability requires all of us working on ourselves about how we treat each other, the living things, the non-living things, our planet, the environments and beyond. The time is now!

This blog was written as a draft formulation of the author’s ideas before submitting her contribution to the new open source journal Future FE Pedagogies. Joyce would welcome your thoughts, ideas and comments to help her extend her thinkpiece. You can share them via a Mentimeter poll here:

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