The CORE Education eFellowship is based on a strong belief that action research can drive innovative practice. The annual programme, run since 2004, supports up to ten teachers from early years, primary, and/or secondary sectors to be released from the classroom to conduct an inquiry with academic support and mentoring. Over 80 educators are now part of the ever-growing network of eFellows.
The 2014 eFellows are (L-R): Tim Gander, Anne-Louise Robertson, Marnel Van der Spuy, Vicki Hagenaars, Bec Power, Rowan Taigel, and Ben Britton.
Since 2014’s seven eFellows were selected back in October 2013, I have had the pleasure of lurking about at some of their masterclasses (face-to-face meetings). As a bewildered outsider to the fellowship, I observed and conversed with these fine folk in order that one day I might tell the story of their first year as eFellows. Although their first year is not yet over, and their action research will continue even after they share their discoveries at the Ulearn14 conference this October, I thought it might be timely to share with others what this eFellowship thing looks like. This story is for those who, like me, might have wondered: What does the ‘e’ stand for?
What does the eFellowship look like (to me)?
I guess the first thing I’d say is it’s not actually about teachers. While there are definitely some pleasant by-products of being selected for the fellowship (networking, career, and presenting opportunities) it is the learner/ākonga who is at the centre of every story, presentation, debate, discussion, and collaborative Google doc I witness. Voice, diversity, new forms of knowledge and identity are just some of the terms-most-treasured I hear coming from the mouths of these educators. At the first masterclass in Auckland, I recall a palpable desire to transform education — to extend that word ‘education’ into something that means ‘learning which meets the needs of all learners’. I get tingles, my heart beats faster as I tap away at my keyboard, trying to capture the weight of that yearning in the room, and the hope and possibility that go along with it. Tim would later sum up my feeling in this blog post he wrote after masterclass number two, in Christchurch: “Suddenly the thought pops into your head that you know the reason behind why we exist in this world, and as quickly as you feel like you are going to solve all of humanity's problems, it disappears…”
A safe place to wonder
Wherever the eFellows meet this year, virtually or face-to-face, their room is a room of wonderings — even the facilitators and experts share theirs with the group. Louise Taylor, who co-leads the eFellowship programme with John Fenaughty, emphasises that the programme “will be guided by discussions within the group, with contributions from the fellows as much as from the programme leaders” with John adding that “openness and vulnerability [are] crucial starting points for the growth that will take place this year”. Doubts and anxieties are acknowledged, and everyone understands that they have the support of everyone else in the ‘wondering room’.
The eFellows are, afterall, only human: “The more I research, the more I discover I don't know! Will I be able to manage teaching full-time, looking after my 5-month-old baby, and embark on an e-learning fellowship inquiry project? Have I bitten off more than I can chew?” writes Rowan in October 2013.
And yet, they are all happily venturing into some uncomfortable territory: Marnel aims to shed some light on the dark spot that is current research into Modern Learning Pedagogy in New Entrant Environments; Ben is boldly (in his own words) “sailing off in his own little boat” to the nascent world of 3D printing; and Bec was only 15 days into her new role as Deputy Principal at Tatahai Coast School when she attended her first masterclass.
I am in awe of these educators, who have pledged to be more critical and questioning; to maintain an objective perspective; and interpret their data faithfully and honestly (says Anne in this blog post) as well as being open to the criticism of their peers to be challenged in their thinking.
So, this isn’t going to be ‘e’ for easy then…
Not easy, no, but this group don’t take themselves too seriously, and they’re really fun. This somehow makes their task seem less daunting. It’s nice to have someone to laugh with when you realise just how vast the education landscape is — how much there is still left to explore. Perhaps the ‘e’ of eFellows stands for exploration?
Vicki Hagenaars, another of the 2014 seven, wears an ‘evolve’ bracelet, each charm denoting a part of her life’s journey. Cook Strait, Canterbury, Ohakune are there, as well as a koru for the eFellowship. Could the ‘e’ stand for ‘evolution’? Do the eFellows see education as forever on its own continuum of development? Perhaps the 80+ fellows are people who envision education as something that should excite, engage, enable, be equal, encourage, empower, entrust, expand….
Yes, I think the ‘e’ in eFellows stands for all of these things, and more.
What about the ‘e’ for electronic?
I can’t say I learnt all that much about the ‘e’ for electronic from my time with the eFellows — or at least, that wasn’t the most rousing part of their masterclasses. It was their passion and the stories of their learners that gave me goosebumps. The wondering that had led them here, that overrode any tentativeness they had about applying, and spurs them on to uncover more and better ways to help their learners.
If you’re a fellow wonderer; if you have a strong desire to see positive change in your school, kura, and learners; if your ākongo are at the centre of what you want to do in your practice…then the eFellowship is definitely for you. Educators and kaiako, apply here.
Links to further information:
- The start of a journey — where the fellowship could take you: Jo Fothergill (eFellow 2011) and Tara Taylor-Jorgenson (eFellow 2010), presents at Thinking Digital in the UK
- An example of an area of inquiry: 2014 fellow Tim Gander’s blog post — A call to adventure: learner agency in the traditional school
- Dissemination of the 2014 eFellows’ action research will be shared via:
- 2015 applications
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