Messy Learning

The following presentation by Nathaniel Bott speaking on gamification in education (TedX, 2013) is a must watch for any educator currently on a journey to adapt to 21st Century education.

Which brings me to my day yesterday with a class of Year 8 students. This class has a bunch of characters with learning behaviours that Nathaniel describes in his TedX talk.  It was one of those exhausting days where you perhaps feign classroom control and expend a lot of energy guiding the cohort with heaps of encouragement.

On these days I always see myself as a pirate on a pirate ship, me the captain . We work together collaboratively but the weather is choppy and the crew unruly. Mutiny is in the air. 🙂

Student work

Student work

In the last session for the day when all can deteriorate very quickly,  I guided the students towards an activity that could link into a Humanities unit of Geography. Students were to choose a country of their choice and with a few guiding question communicate to me why they would want to travel there.

I love it when you stand back and all goes well.

The little glimmer of success in this busy day was a handful of curated and published content from my students.   Some  chose to use Pic Collage to communicate their research, an example of which is the above page on Canada.



The real glimmer was four boys using Minecraft to create a scene from the U.S.A.  This group of four worked beautifully together to build a replica of the Statue of Liberty. They found an image of the statue and to the best of their artistic ability build a virtual copy.  At the feet of their Minecraft constructed statue sat a plaque that presented in text form, some interesting information about the U.S.A.

As is mentioned in the above clip, we need to Think Big and look for ways to allow students to explore as they choose, to be creative. If we as educators do not allow this, then students will choose that path anyway, following their own passions and  pathways.

If you want to explore further, this classroom experience also illustrates the thinking of Helen Haste (Harvard Education, 2009) who describes the human being as “tool user”.


“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that cannot read and write, but those that cannot learn, unlearn and relearn” Alvin Toffler

The above TedxTalk mentions:

Gamification: ”The use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non game context to engage users and solve problems”




Harvard Education (2009 Jun 26). Technology and Youth: Problem Solver vs Tool User (Part 1 of 4) Retrieved from

Tedx Talks (2013 Dec 5). 21st century learning: Nathaniel Bott at Tedx Launceston. Retrieved from






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Concepts and Practises for a Digital Age

What is my current knowledge and understanding of concepts and practices in a digital age; within the context of being an educator and participant in global networks? Good Question … what do I know? Certainly, as the attached word cloud shows, at present I am trying to grapple with many concepts. 🙂

Let me start with a self realisation: My learning has been consistently informed by an exploratory nature. I view myself as an “entrepreneurial learner” as is described by Seely Brown (2012).

Words in my head.

Cloud summary of my thinking and notes.

A maker and tinkerer.

I am inquisitive by nature and look for new ways and new resources to learn new things.   Seely Brown, also states “We tend to underplay how important this is.” I am beginning to realise how this tinkering ability has allowed me to become comfortable in the digital medium and its participatory culture.

A willingness to learn has allowed me to build transferable skills that can be utilised in many  settings. Since leaving my University studies, I have always lived in a digital world where I needed to learn how to manipulate new technologies. (I might ponder that it was not until I left institutionalised learning that I really learnt how to become an independent learner.)  Within the context of working in a University and research environment, on a daily basis I had to tinker with emerging digital technologies. In more informal settings, I also tinkered with chat rooms when they first appeared; clumsy but fun, and lots of laughter. I learnt by playing games online with my children experimenting with games such as Draw Something for hours, weeks, months. These games were collaborative, required imagination and relied on digital networks to work.

More on the tinkering, I first attempted to use VoiP technology in 1999 when I was employed by a technology company in Florida, USA to run a distributorship for them in Australia. We thought VoiP would be a novel but powerful way to communicate with each other across the globe. The software we played with proved to be a disaster but we had fun and learning occurred. In summary, as I entered teaching in 2003, I had the mindset and growing ability to teach with emerging technologies.  I quickly had students tinkering with internet research well before school networks could cope with this reality.

With an interest in technology, and a passion for teaching I found myself in Victoria’s first government school to adopt a 1:1 use of laptop technology (see earlier post) and then moved into the private school system to spend another five years in a “laptop” school. This more formal context of learning in digitally rich classrooms allowed me to develop my own professional philosophy towards teaching and learning with emerging technologies.

In 2009 I first introduced my students to a learning process that involved them collaborating to curate content sourced from the internet and their own collected digital data, so as to create digital artefacts that communicated their learning.

Click the following link to see an example of student generated digital content:

Student produced digital content

A well discussed approach to digital pedagogy is now the three C’s of Create, Curate, Collaborate … in addition to communicate.  As is presented by O’Connell (2012) “acquisition of knowledge has become a deeper process of individual and collaborative learning activities.”

I now realise that I was playing with and contributing to a new culture of learning by calling upon my students to create digital content. They were creators not just consumers. Reflection on this approach allowed me to learn that when my students were called upon to convert one medium into another e.g. text to voice, or text to images, or images to text … they are forced to make decisions and I suspect this deepened their learning experience.

Therefore, I enter this course as an effective user of technology to support learning, but with the aim of developing a deeper understanding  of new information environments.

My knowledge and thinking is being challenged and developed by this course and I must say I am feeling highly engaged and yet overwhelmed by the many new concepts and practices being presented here.

So, I have a few aims:

  • Think more on the repercussions of global social networks and become more conversational about creative cultures and ways of doing, such as design thinking.
  • Work towards deepening my awareness of future work places such as those presented by Davies (2011) and the repercussions this has for education. 
  • Strengthen my ability to critically view, the quickly changing paradigms of education as exemplified by Chen (2014) who discusses enticing students with content.  He also declares “Finally, disruption has come to education.”  This is very exciting to read. The risk  I see is that digital technologies have unfortunately made it easer to throw content at students.
  • Develop a more evidence based approach to my teaching practice.
  • Share my ideas more openly; and learn by doing so.

There is much to learn.


Chen, M., (2014) Future of Learning: From Assigning to Enticing with Content. Retrieved from Institute For The Future. Future Now. The IFTF Blog:

Davies, A., Fidler, D., & Gorbis. M. (2011). Future work skills 2020. Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute: California

O’Connell, J. (2014). Trends in technology environments [ETL503 201430 Subject Outline]. Retrieved from Charles Sturt University website:

The Global One Room Schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (Highlights from JSB’s Keynote at DML2012). (2012, September 18). Retrieved March 15, 2014, from



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Clearing the clouds..

Is that almost Week 1 done and dusted!

I think I am only just beginning to acknowledge that I am actually ‘doing’ my Masters. I think I should say ‘engaging’ in learning. As I settle in, I can now see an enjoyable albeit challenging learning experience ahead. This Masters course is very relevant to my professional journey: –
a) classroom teaching – technology rich classrooms
b) education officer in the museum sector – where we regularly discuss learning in a digital age.

What have I achieved so far:

I am studying two subjects: Digital Citizenship in Schools (ETL523) and Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age (INF530)

Life will be busy! I have begun to engage in the copious amounts of reading and  YouTube videos while recording my personal notes and reflections into Evernote, for example see my raw notes on Digital Citizenship. I will come back and process these over time and add deeper reflections. Evernote will be my place to download my thoughts! I have also inserted a study timetable into Evernote that I can update as need be.

A Flipboard magazine titled “Digital Citizenship In Schools” has also been created.  I will use this to aggregate and share subject content that I have or am about to engage with. I learn by doing (participatory learning) and thus need to undertake these activities to promote my own personal engagement.

On a side note, Graham Clark has built a Flipboard magazine titled “Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age“. Graham has very smartly called his blog “Clouding Around“.

I have been busy on social media but that has been a part of my professional life for a few years now. However, the decision to engage in this course has provided direction to my readings and thoughts. I am already thankful for that. My challenge now is to freely share my thoughts and practices on digital education.

If interested please follow and contribute to both subject discussions on twitter via the following hashtags:

#INF530 :: Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age


#ETL523 :: Digital Citizenship in Schools

Highlights so far.

1) Digital Citizenship – A Global Perspective :: An online discussion about Digital Citizenship.

2) Organising and publishing this wiki :: I had to get it ‘just’ right and learnt a few technical things along the way.

Already I am thinking about the the concepts and practices offered by these two subjects as I go about my daily life either at school or at Scienceworks.

I am wondering what everyone else has been up to?  See you all in the forums or else on twitter.

Happy learning.


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