Connected Learning and Digital Literacy – Assessment item 3 # Blog Task 2

As we fast approach one-fifth of the twenty-first century, ‘connected learning’ and ‘digital literacy’ are two terms linked with the advent of the 21st-century learner. These two terms are dynamic in character and aim to provide a more ‘intune’ educational experience that caters to the exponential changes in technology and the impacts these technologies have on our culture.

“What happens to learning when we move from the stable infrastructure of the twentieth century to the fluid infrastructure of the twenty-first century, where technology is constantly creating and responding to change?” (Thomas & Brown 2011)

Thomas & Brown (2011) believe that we need to shift from previous assumptions in that for learning to take place there needs to be teaching. When I reflect upon the twentieth-century models that were founded from the industrial revolution, the role of a teacher was linear in that the focus was on a transferal of information from the authoritative figure (teacher) to the subordinate (student). But as society continues to evolve this transferal model will not meet the needs of current and forecasted workplaces.

Connected learning is about drawing on resources and using tools critically to build knowledge, create products, acquire skills and share knowledge or products to contribute to a community of learners. It draws on what Thomas & Brown (2011) would call the ‘collective’ to access knowledge networks and absorb knowledge through participatory modes. The teacher within this model is seen as the ‘orchestrator’ of learning. Connected learning acknowledges that learning is a collaborative task that can take place within or beyond the school context on various mediums at any state of the day. These mediums could involve searching a community forum, following an academic on Twitter, subscribing to a youtube channel or a blog to name a few. The connected learning model also acknowledges the learner’s passions. This element is key, especially when taking into account Wilson’s (1999) information seeking behaviour model because all learning begins by acknowledging a lack of understanding. When this pursuit of knowledge is driven by passion not only is learning relevant, it becomes fun.

Figure 1. The Components of Digital Literacy. From ‘3.1 Components

Of Digital Literacy’ Hague, C. & Payton, S. (2010). Digital Literacy Across the Curriculum (Futurelab Handbook). Bristol: Futurelab. p19.
Digital Literacy is a multifaceted concept that takes a variety of components into account (see Figure 1). When viewing digital literacy within the context of connected learning, some potential issues and skills need to be addressed. For example, online safety, critical selection of tools, collaborating online need to be addressed. There is also a need for the student to think critically about the technology tools and approaches. If students were to engage in the online ‘collective’, there is a need to ensure this approach is safe – in both environment and engagement. For a composer of digital content, a digitally literate student requires a developed disposition that allows technology to be viewed as instruments of creativity, communication and community. For a viewer of digital content, a digitally literate student will critically select and consume based on the identified value of information. Critical thinking skills are necessary to acquire considering the current nature of information within the economic, occupational, technological, political, socio-cultural, theoretical and open societies as outlined by Bawden & Robinson (2012).

Within my current role, two frameworks have guided the successful implementation of technology; The SAMR (Puentedura, 2009) model and TPACK (Mishra & Koehler 2006) model. Both of these models are valuable from a teacher’s perspective when identifying technology integration into a classroom. I still wonder how well this incorporates the digital literacy competencies or the collective resource that can support students who seek information autonomously? As an educator and implementer of such models, I am learning that is my role to accept the ecosystem of frameworks and studies that guide our educational landscape. So as we fast approach the completion of two-fifths of the twentieth century and remind myself that education is to prepare students for a world where change is the norm, learning takes place whenever and wherever and digital literacy competencies will best prepare students for change but also embrace change.


Bawden, D. & Robinson, L. (2012). Information behaviour. In Introduction to information science. London: Facet.

Hague, C. & Payton, S. (2010). Digital Literacy Across the Curriculum (Futurelab Handbook). Bristol: Futurelab.

Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record 108, 6, pp 1017-1054

Puentedura, R.R. (2009) As We May Teach: Educational Technology, From Theory Into Practice.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace.

Seely Brown, J. (2011). By Design with Fenella Kernebone: Conversation – The power of tinkering. Phone Interview retrieved from
Wilson, T.D. (1999). Models in information behaviour research. Journal of Documentation, 55(3) 249-270

8 comments on “Connected Learning and Digital Literacy – Assessment item 3 # Blog Task 2Add yours →

  1. Digital literacy could be viewed through the lens of SAMR or TPACK – as there are varying levels – for example at the substitution stage Digital literacy is about access to tech skills while at the redefinition stage Digital literacy is about higher order thinking mixed with how (for example) VR or AR can be used.
    Some considerations:
    * caption for the graphic needs to be directly under the graphic or attached it it.
    * APA referencing requires the title of the book or the journal to be italicised
    Ensure that all references can be located eg where would the phone interview with Seely Brown be? if it is on a website you need to add that to your reference.

    1. Thank you for this post Christopher!
      I found myself doing a mental “yes!” when I read your comment about the shift from previous assumptions that for learning to take place there needs to be teaching. Are we ready to be facilitators of learning?

  2. Hi Chris,

    Great post.

    How have you incorporated SAMR or TPACK at your school? I’m aware of a Catholic High School in Sydney who have spent numerous staff development days and KLA meetings unpacking the SAMR Model and applying it to their program revisions and assessment tasks. The SAMR model is part of their assessment and program templates and is often featured in the school newsletter to ensure parents and students understand the terminology.

    I would like to plan to integrate a model at my current school to ensure that technology isn’t a ‘ticked box’ or ‘add on’ but drives planning, content development and assessment. I’m leaning towards the Digital Age Learning Matrix (Starkey, 2011) as I feel that many teachers will embrace the model as a reimagined Blooms Taxonomy for 21st Century Learners.

    What differences have you experienced in the understanding and inclusion of SAMR and TPACK at your school? Have your colleagues preferred one over the other?
    You mention, Thomas & Brown (2011) and his reference to the ‘collective’ in accessing knowledge networks in addition to teachers as ‘facilitators’ and learning as ‘participatory’. I couldn’t agree more and this is why I believe that amongst the integration of a model to drive planning the Library or Resource Centre (as we call it) is integral to creating a collaborative, connected and safe environment for both students and staff. While sadly it’s not the case in many schools, I believe that Libraries are becoming more important than ever. I believe that the Library could be the driver of change in many schools today. If the Library supports students in the development of their critical and digital literacy skills it will become a place of refuge and hope for many students who are looking for engagement beyond that offered in their classrooms and the ability to belong to a ‘real’ (as in non-virtual) community.
    Does your Library have a role in the implementation of SAMR and TPACK?


    Starkey, L. (2011). Evaluating learning in the 21st Century: A digital age learning matrix. Technology, Pedagogy And Education, 20(1), 19-39.

    Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace.

    1. Thanks Jessica,

      The SAMR model specifically focuses on technology and can potentially be used diagnostically to understand areas of curriculum development and professional understandings of technology and network use within a learning space. For me, the TPACK model takes into account the curriculum needs, professional practice and the use of technology. I’ve always thought the visual intersection of the TPACK model is a powerful visual but how is it effectively guided planning within a learning context? With an abundance of models and frameworks to subscribe to, are there areas of convergence? (see Fig. 1) Essentially, for me, both models are teacher focused. Because of this point, I like your thinking around the Digital Age Learning Matrix (Starkey, 2011) as it is an iteration of Bloom’s Taxonomy but also, it is students focused. Did you feel that the Digital Age Learning Matrix (Starkey, 2011) had more of a constructivism within its DNA?

      An underlying skill across each mode is critical thinking. As educators are we to ensure that critical thinking is also exercised when choosing a model or framework to subscribe to?

      Students need access to specialist teachers, which is why I agree that libraries are more important than ever. But with many physical structures now overlooked for the database or repository, and new / up to date information created at an exponential rate I wonder if it is an opportunity to reimagine the role of the librarian as a ‘node’ within the knowledge network available to students?

      1. Thanks Chris – love the idea of the TL as a ” ‘node’ within the knowledge network available to students” I may steal that phrase 🙂 ….with your permission of course…

      1. Thank you June. What an excellent Wiki, it’s been bookmarked. What I find most useful from the wiki (at the moment) is the list of Digital Approaches to each Taxonomy Element ( – what a great table to suggest digital tools to help teachers plan specific learning activities targeted at a level of thinking. This type of table or suggested Web 2.0 tools is especially important at the moment as many KLA’s are beginning to program for new HSC syllabi in NSW.
        You have reminded me that at my previous school we distributed copies of the Web 2.0 Pedagogy Wheel ( and displayed them around the staff room- I must do this again.

  3. Thanks Christopher for a clear expression of some of the challenges that educators face in the digital age. As you identify, our definition of learning as knowledge transmission from teacher to student has expanded in the 21st century to focus on helping students make sense of the information abundant world in which they live and this reflects the constructivist approach being adopted more widely by teachers. The paradigm of a learning community is, “to advance the collective knowledge and, in that way, support the growth of the individual” (Watkins, 2005, p.48) but it is apparent that some schools are better at establishing classrooms as learning communities than others.
    Two information models, TPACK and SAMR, were identified as being useful to successful integration of ICT into teaching and learning in your blog. However, I would be interested to know if this has been embraced as a whole-school approach or whether the models are used only by individual teachers in order to provide themselves with a framework and context. Garrison identifies the culture of the school created by the leadership group as being an integral part of the successful operation of a collaborative community of inquiry. He asserts that teachers are ‘notoriously private’ and ‘need ongoing support to implement change and re-design’ (Garrison, 2015, p.109). Therefore, it places a focus on the leadership of the school to create and develop a lasting collaborative culture in a school both among teachers on the staff and in the classroom between teacher and students. This process of adapting to change with the disruptive introduction of ICTs with a collective philosophy seems to be one of the keys to success.
    Another important challenge of participatory technologies that you identified is the subtle shift on the role of the teacher. The role of the teacher as the ‘orchestrator of learning’ certainly has shifted and become more extensive and demanding in many ways. In the past learning could be assessed with an exam to identify a student’ knowledge and a teacher’s role validated. However, Bowman (2015, p.40) asserts the skill of the teacher will be seen in ‘bringing learners together around ideas and hypothesis-testing ideas’. Seely Brown endorses this in his comment that teachers must cease being “the sage on the stage” and become something more like a mentor”. By taking on the role of mentor, the teacher contributes to creating the learning community by providing structured educational goals and activities, as you identified. However, teachers are also required to establish amongst their students the motivation to participate in discourse and to appreciate the diversity of opinions within a learning community in order to challenge and test their own ideas, as well as the ideas of students in a supportive community. These are difficult skills for teachers and not all are good at directing discussion and supporting the learning processes (Garrison, 2016, p. 80) which indicates a need for good professional development opportunities for teachers in order to be facilitators of learning.
    One other aspect that I would like to see included in the pedagogy of digital literacy is metacognition although it could be argued that it is a subset of some of the features identified in the diagram presented. Garrison defines metacognition as ‘a product of interaction between an individual and individuals and a surrounding context’ (2016, p.64). This is supported by Watkins’ (2005, p. 58) assertion that shared metacognition develops the process of learning through writing, responding, discourse, planning, regulating and evaluation. Self-reflection by the learner certainly deserves more attention in the construct and development of constructivist learning opportunities.
    Bowman, R.F. (2015). Learning in Tomorrow’s Classrooms. The Clearing House, Vol.88, pp. 39-44. doi: 10.1080/00098655.2014.992383

    Garrison, D.R. (2016). Thinking Collaboratively: Learning in a Community of Inquiry. New York: Routledge.

    Ray, R.H. (2006). ‘Learning without barriers’: the MIT-Microsoft iCampus connection celebrates innovation. Retrieved from:

    Watkins, C. (2005). Classrooms as learning communities: a review of research. London Review of Education, Vol. 3, No. 1, March 2005, pp.47-64. Doi: 10.1080/14748460500036276

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *