15 July 2013

Living a Life in Beta

I sometimes have tried remembering a time in my teaching career when I felt that yes! I had achieved what was necessary to know in order to be a "worthy" educator, an educator who was worth working with learners. At each moment, I failed miserably, aware that there was always something new to learn, some new approach to try in class, a different game, a more exciting way to engage students' attention and add value to their learning progress. The novelty of learning kept me endeavouring constantly; a constant search for perplexing questions on how the brain learns, how individuals learn and how learning can be joyful. 

Today, more than ever, I live my professional life in permanent Beta. From social networks to journals, from PDs and informal exchanges with colleagues, I bow my head with thanks to so many who teach me daily. Today was one of those special days. 

As perhaps some of you may know, Vance Stevens holds Learning2Gether on a weekly basis, either with participants in a G+ Hangout or Elluminate session. Even if you miss a session, Stevens then records the event and it is freely available to all to watch/listen to at a later date. 

Among other learning tools and features, today I learnt about Instreamia
- a great platform for students learning languages. Student focused and definitely fun for either individual or pair work, students can improve their language skills through gap-fills and translations. 

Online and also available as an app for Edmodo, Instreamia  offers lessons with a twist of pleasure and learning. 

As I have often said, it is not the digital tool which is the focus of learning, but the learning which that tool may enable. For students who relish challenge,  a sense of empowerment in their learning,  and being the centre of their learning, Instreamia seems to me, to be a great way to engage learners. 

And so my life in Beta continues; learning and practising new tools and platforms, reflecting on how best to use them for the sake of learning and how my students may achieve better outcomes with those tools. Or not. 

As an educator, there is a deep sense of humility living a life in Beta. There is equally, a sense of satisfaction in learning,  a profound sense of gratitude to colleagues who share, reflect and teach me; and endless wonder when seeing how quickly students grasp and create  products of knowledge with new digital tools. 

Digital tools are not the "be all" - they are the means to learning. Edtech is no longer an option and to conclude today, I'd like to quote Tom Whitby who so eloquently summed it up in a recent post:

"Education as much as any other industry has been deluged with technological tools for learning, communication, collaboration, and creation. These tools represent and are used with everything that we teach and hold dear. Some are good and some are not. Our choice as educators should be between the good and the bad, the useful and the frivolous, the productive and the time wasters. As educators we no longer get to choose whether or not we use technology. If our goals, as well as we as educators, are to be believed, and we truly are preparing our students for the real world, we must concede that that world abounds with technology and there are no other choices. We would be more than remiss in our obligation as educators if we chose not to employ technology where it fits. There are times when it may not."

How about you?

Living in Beta or content in Alpha?


Stevens, V., Learning2Gether - A Space Where Educators can Learn Together

Whitby, T., 2013, The Big Lie in Education 


  1. Ana,

    Loved this question ;-)

    Being a "male of the species", I wanted to say Alpha (LOL) ;-)

    But, on second thunk...I wondered whether living a life in Beta is so bad after all. I mean "beta" is the state of feedback, reflection, tweaking...3 ingredients of LLL (see, I did not mention LEARNing...whoops)!

    Or - did I miss the point?

    Be good,


  2. Tony Hocam, thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts; Yes, I suppose living in Beta is all that you said - a perpetual movement towards understandings, learning and reflection. Even when I know how to use a digital tool very well, there will be a Beta phase with each new group of learners, which in turn, puts me back into Beta phase as I need to learn and understand why they may reject using that tool (or hopefully not).

    For all the light talk of "digital Natives", students are definitely in Beta when it comes to using digital tools for learning. Teachers too, as there are always new platforms and digital tools coming out on the market. Learning how to use them, knowing whether they aid or hinder learning is a process.

    Each new academic year when I face new groups of students, I am again in Beta - how am I going to seduce/persuade them into being the best they can be? Not only as a learner in a certain level but how to instill in them a love of learning, a love of achieving and confidence?

    You speak often of "learning" while I still think a lot of "teaching" - perhaps the perfect blend is accepting being in Beta, learning, reflecting, improving and sharing with others (our students and colleagues).

    Alpha? Never. I continue having too many questions, too much to learn to ever reach Alpha ;-)

  3. Agreed 100%. I guess being in "beta" is a choice of being aware, but sometimes it can slip to a state of panic, overacting, some sort of neurosis. I like to think I win this fight. Besides, it's just fun to try new things, and sometimes (but rarely) they are better than things we are accustomed to. BTW, I'm sure 'alpha' precedes 'beta'. In software versioning 'alpha version' is earlier, more 'bugged' one. Then comes 'beta', then 'release candidate", and after that - a 'final version'. I never think of myself as a of 'final retail version' ;) A horror of our times is that web apps are very often overheated in constant beta. I can't count years Diigo is in beta, for a clear example. What's OK about people, is not when regarding software. I don't think it's honest to take money and say "oh, but I haven't finished it yet" at the same time. Best, Mariusz.

  4. Hi Mariusz,

    I, in turn, confess that living in Beta is neither simple nor pacifying; perhaps closer to living on the edge of a neurosis as you mention. However, for me, when speaking of living my life in Beta, I mean that I am constantly learning, constantly trying out new digital tools, wondering whether they are suitable for my learners, whether they will add to learning and knowledge. It is a motion of being, of perhaps never really arriving, but spending a whole journey of learning and discovering.

    When young, I dreamt of the calmness of knowing, definitely not everything (how boring! what would there be left to explore?) but at the time, I did not realise how experimental education and knowing could be. It certainly is like that now, and perhaps has always been, depending on the myriad of learning contexts.

    As for software, another matter and entirely agree with you! :-)

    Thank you for your time and shared reflections - much appreciated as always.