Please tell us about yourself
My name is Alison Mann and I live in Toronto, Canada. I have been a teacher for 20 years, but it doesn’t feel like that long! I have a background in Fine Arts with a focus on Film and Media Studies. Currently, I’m in my 5th year of a PhD in Curriculum Studies at the University of Toronto, and I am an instructor in the Bachelor of Education program at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. But my two daughters, aged 10 and 12, are what keep me busiest of all.
I started teaching the IB Film Studies when the pilot course was first offered in 2009, and began teaching it online with Pamoja in 2013. Before that, I hadn’t even considered teaching IB Film Studies online as a possibility.
What has your experience with Pamoja been like so far?
Since my start with Pamoja, I have been fascinated by the many developments and iterations the Film course has taken, and I look forward to seeing where we go in the future. When curriculum is understood as a dynamic process rather than a static one, we are open to change, new technological developments, collaboration, feedback, and reflection on best practice. I feel like this is something we are always doing in the Pamoja Film department. Currently, we’re experimenting with the creation of instructor videos as a way to further personalise the online experience for our students.
For me, one of the most exciting facets of teaching with Pamoja has been the diverse global community that the courses bring together. My current class is made up of students from New Zealand, Australia, Mozambique, Argentina, Peru, and me, teaching from Canada! This global context has been the inspiration for my PhD dissertation that looks at the intercultural competences and skills required to collaborate in culturally diverse online learning environments.
How does online learning (and technology in general) facilitate collaboration between your students?
Collaboration in online learning environments is noticeably different from collaboration in face-to-face classrooms. Some of the distinct challenges can include the adjustment to asynchronous learning, the varying degrees of student engagement and interaction online, time zone differences, and learning how to navigate social and teacher presence in online learning environments.
Despite some of these obstacles, I think online learning affords new opportunities for our students to engage and collaborate with peers across the globe in meaningful ways. In many of our courses, this means engaging across cultural and social boundaries, and is certainly an opportunity to develop intercultural understanding and communication. Currently, my November 2019 Film class is collaborating in small groups to produce short films based on social justice issues relevant to their lives. For example, one of the groups has chosen to make a short film about women’s rights in their respective countries of Peru, Argentina and Australia. They will each be filming segments from their countries and will edit a storyline collectively. The groups use shared documents, online discussions, email and live lessons to work on the planning and development of their production. There have been some technical challenges along the way, but the students have been adaptable to change.
Overall, it has been very exciting to watch the students working across cultures to collaborate. In a remote live lesson just a few weeks ago, I watched two Spanish-speaking students from Argentina and Peru work together to translate some complex theories about women’s rights into English for their peer in Australia. In another live lesson, a student from Mozambique remarked how exciting it was to chat with his peers in New Zealand and Peru about creating their film together. We have yet to see how the films turn out, but I can say that so far it’s been an exhilarating experience.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about?
I strongly believe it is our task as teachers to help nurture and develop future generations of learners to become critically-minded and creative thinkers who are able to collaborate and to cope within a vastly changing technological world. When I began teaching Film and Media years ago, I recall the challenges of accessing a video camera, uploading videotape footage to a shared computer, and having large groups of students editing in front of one monitor. Never could I have imagined getting to the stage in which global students could interact and collaborate remotely, and in real time, to shoot a film on their phones and edit on the cloud. How times have changed!
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