Critical Reflection INF537


Reflection is critical; it is critical to completion of the unit of study, critical to my own understanding of what I have sought to do.  It has taught me again the need for passionate objectivity in any research, especially that which is qualitative in its nature.

Things often make more sense when viewed through the rear-vision mirror than through the windscreen. I set out on this case study to try to discern how a leadership team goes about the introduction of light technology, embedding in in the school’s daily life, to improve learning. I am passionate about the capacity of technology to transform, or merely nudge a little, how kids learn in this day and age (adults, too!).

What I discovered, of course, is that any innovation, any work designed to change culture, requires the same sort of stroking of the community to realign thinking. Shocking people into a different place, mandating ‘new realities’ won’t work.

Leadership is complex and difficult. At the top of the mountain, the wind blows in all directions. School leadership is especially so and it is too easy a pot-shot to have a go and blame the leaders for everything that doesn’t work. Good leaders need good followers. But followers of all kinds need good leadership too.

What makes leadership good? Put simply, and probably too simply, it resides in knowing where the group is heading and why it is heading that way, in having a clear idea of what steps must be taken to make the journey and, cogently, in being able to take your community with you. They must want to go there and to invest scarce time and precious energy in doing so.

I suspect we have reached a delicate stage in this journey. We have spent a couple of decades throwing educational resources into technological innovation. But only a few have worked out what we are doing it for, what is the rich potential for learning that could be the harvest of our labours. Among those few are some missionaries who have brought the good news to life, and others who long to but cannot.

The missionaries who have been part of the colloquia in this subject have been essential to new understandings in our digital futures. We are just scratching the surface of what is possible in learning analytics, as Simon Welsh explained, and we need to be mindful of who we allow access to our data, or at least remain vigilant when someone else holds the key to its access. There are windows to the future of innovative professional learning, humanised by the work of Cathie Howe and MacICT. This image reinforces the brave new digital world where the future of learning lies.

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Harnessing the possibilities of accessible technology to enrich learning demands it be deployed as a means for creativity, for connected dialogue and exchange. Access to information is easy, but learning is now so much more. The participatory nature of this course has been the most enlightening and rewarding, as we learn from each other. Technology then, is a way for human relationships to move beyond the bounds of time and space.

All of which has strengthened my passion. My resolve is not weakened that this is the right way to go. Somehow, somewhere, this little missionary band of online believers will gradually bite into the difficult ground and the cart of new learning will roll gradually forward. And we can carry people with us.


Colloquium #4 Cathie Howe and MacICT

My favourite part of this colloquium was the realisation that for many teachers, pedagogy has become a four letter word! We’re not at uni anymore, they say.

I can’t imagine how they would react if their doctors said, sorry – not learning anymore. I know enough from my training 30 years ago to treat you now! Or the pilots who say, I trained on a DC3 so the A380 will be a snack….It’s no wonder schools have trouble articulating p_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.

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MacICT design professional learning for teachers and schools that encourage collaboration and try to build capacity in teachers and in teams. The concept is to sustain change in pedagogy. They use a highly iterative process, according to Cathie Howe, their Executive Director. Focusing on computational and design thinking, maker spaces, take a strong stance on learning and aim to encourage teachers to be pedagogically fluent. (there’s that word again!)

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How important is being in control?

The best nodes, says Tim Klapdor, are empowered individuals. Who’s in control – of networks, of our data, of your personal identity? It’s probably not something we often think about. This colloquium was an eye-opener. Is Facebook a reflection of your real identity? Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 9.54.30 pm

Perspective is everything. Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. Marcus Aurelius. Stepping back for a clearer view of the networks through which we connect with one another does provide a broader, if not more confronting view.

How do you create your own enclosure, your own system, without giving too much away? When does what you give away outweigh the convenience of outcome? What are the known unknowns?

Good question. Ones we need to keep asking.

Image:   La trahison des images    René Magritte


Case Study questions

Case Study research proposal

Narrowing down a proposal question has been difficult as there are always so many aspects of learning that could be tackled. I began with the Chapter 38 of Wang, which sparked thinking on leadership in schools, and what drives success in technology integration. The questions below are those to be used in interviews with leaders in my school – ICT integrators, Directors of Teaching and Learning, and the Principal.

  1. What is your thinking about the role of embedded ICT to enhance learning?
  2. What is your impression of student readiness for learning with technology?
  3. What professional learning has been instigated in the school and why?
  4. What is the relationship between BYOD and learning success?
  5. If technology is embedded in learning, what does success look like?




Challenges in learning analytics

Access to data creates all sorts of new challenges, whether we want them or not. The art of the possible demands a response. Simon Welsh posed many intriguing questions about how schools and universities approach the data that is available to them. How do new learning spaces represent knowledge? What sort of learning can be measured? How do teachers and students feel about having their data monitored in online spaces? What controls are in place and who makes value-laden decisions in the data selected to capture?

As educators, we make decisions every day about the sort of subjective information we keep about our students. Data is contextual, a “critical value layer” (Long & Siemens, 2011) There is an inherent assumption that we are doing what we can to enhance learning, therefore the decisions made are in that context. Any qualitative data can only complement learning experiences and we should take advantage of its potential. We do assume in schools that we are doing the right thing for the right reasons. Equally, the importance of focusing on collecting the right sort of data, so that we gain valuable insight into what is actually happening in learning (Long & Siemens) and nor just counting the clicks. Quantitative data tempts us to count what we can measure, but not all of that is worth counting. The LMS is a case in point. As Simon suggested, what happens if we are locked into a system that “doesn’t play nicely” with other tools? This is a particularly annoying scenario, as the standard LMS requires a degree of cognitive input that would be demanding for the brightest of IT whizzes. Mine certainly makes me want to take my bat and ball and go home. Please don’t use Google apps for Education, Edmodo etc – the LMS can do all those things and more…but usually in in a clunkier way. Another challenge then, is to remain open and flexible, and not fixed in considering what is possible.


Siemens, G., & Long, P. (2011). Penetrating the Fog: Analytics in Learning and Education. EDUCAUSE review, 46(5), 30.


Colloquium #1 Annabel Astbury

The first colloquium provided rich insights into the work of Annabel Astbury and the ABC Splash website. They took up the challenge to provide high quality resources to the education community, linking reliable Australian content through Scootle and the Australian Curriculum. The site reflects the changing educational resources landscape and resources are pitched at a level readily accessible to primary and secondary students.  The take-up is most popular during the school week, and as the site’s analytical data illustrates, the videos games and competitions are motivating, and usage is increasing. Annabel admits there are challenges in providing quality resources for a relatively small market, if we are to be compared to PBL in the USA or BBC in the UK.

I found Annabel’s thoughts on the relinquishing of control by educators very timely. Students are engaging with the games and competitions, despite the general lack of prizes or extrinsic rewards. Perhaps this is a reflection of the flattening of hierarchy in schools, the encouraging of students to explore resources without constant direction. That would be my optimistic view. It is certainly a terrific example of the art of the possible – drawing together of excellent curriculum-linked resources that are engaging and easy to access.


Reflective statement.

The following reflection adds personal perception to the evaluation which precedes it. This course has certainly enriched my expertise in and understanding of, the tools and strategies of connected learning.  I have been challenged (against my genetic inclinations) to compose something creative in a medium I have never used before. I have been stretched to broaden my own practice in Connected Learning (CL) through the use of forums and online applications that are familiar and await deployment, or which are simply unknown. I have read articles and blogs which have been epiphanies – and some which have stirred me little. I have enjoyed having my own prejudices reinforced and encouraged by the global energy around CL and by the experience of so many open-minded educators who are actually making this stuff work, and who are thus enhancing, some transforming, the learning experience of the kids they teach. Above all, I have been stimulated by the extension of my own PLN to include people in this course who have the foresight, the tenacity and the wisdom to see the possibilities.

The task requires me, however, to place the evaluation of my own learning into my professional context, to make sense of the theory in the praxis that is my daily life.

Much of the material suggested to us and the readings required relate to environments which differ from my own. Many of the readings take us into the realm of primary and tertiary learning. Little is local in its focus. Why is this so?

Perhaps, I ask myself, it just isn’t there. Perhaps the combination of secondary learning in an Australian setting doesn’t draw the passionate practitioners to its portal. Interestingly, I gather from online exchanges with fellow students that all participants in the course at this stage are, or have been, operating in the secondary sector. There is a hunger for a revolution in learning strategies that include, should include, the very approaches that have been at the heart of this course.

So, where to from here? This learning has gifted me with the expertise and the confidence in scholarship to argue more cogently in those places where I have a voice, a blog presence or a twittersphere to make the presence of these possibilities more prominent. The principal challenge (pun intended) is to take others with me. We hear of what can be done ‘in your classroom’. Well, I don’t have one!  My classroom is the territorial prerogative of others. And I can make a difference.

Critical to this happening is the learning culture of the whole community. It is a question of leadership.  Others will not follow unless and until they are led towards new and transforming possibilities, where the central impetus of learning is how more than what, and less still, where.

A central tenet here, to be more precise, is not just that we are connected but how we are connected and what for.  This is the paradigm shift for our educational communities. Mostly, schools have embraced technology with enthusiasm. That is a significant and necessary first step, but it is not a sufficient step. Now, progress will hinge on a thorough and purpose-driven assessment, based on instructional design theory for better learning, of how the connected world can benefit from progress made so far.

The reflective statement brief mandates commentary on “the implications for your role as a ‘connected leader’ within your school community”.  Thus, if leadership is critical, as I have argued, where can I contribute to the leadership needed for effective change to occur?

Personal professional activity is cultural and contextual and is contingent upon shared understandings of leadership.

Leadership theory continues to evolve, along with instructional design, the nature of learning and digital connectivity. The principles of distributed leadership, dispersed leadership have long been deployed in educational circles. As the learning hierarchy flattens, so do models of shared leadership in schools and educational bureaucracies.

Here, the theory and practice of functional leadership rather than positional leadership come into play. This is where I find myself as one without any authority of positional leadership. My activity, my passions are subject to those who supervise my professional work.

It is imperative, therefore, that what authority I can exercise will flow from being an authority rather than wielding positional authority.

There remain, then, two significant implications for my role. First, I must model the virtues and pedagogic benefits of the connected learner. This requires me to continue to be active in my PLN, national and global networks and to bring this into my own school culture. It is an ambassadorial role.

Second, I must continue to promulgate, encourage and support my colleagues in their own growth towards greater connectedness, fully recognising that teachers are time-poor, that the curriculum is ever more crowded and that increasing burdens of compliance weigh heavily upon a teacher’s energy supplies. Here, assisting them wherever possible to save time, to get greater learning advantage from small investment will draw them further into this arena.

Culturally, perhaps one of the greatest challenges is breaking down barriers, penetrating the walls which continue to surround much learning practice. This is endemic to much secondary school work where the silo-esque attitude to curriculum lingers, despite the efforts of the National Curriculum to cross these boundaries. It may, also, be a function of the proprietary nature of schools, and independent schools in particular, where for reasons of identity and market profile there is a reluctance to collaborate. Competitive attitudes are inimical to shared learning and to connectedness. I shall continue to fight this good fight, in the certainty that progress will be slower than I would hope for and that we shall have to proceed in little steps.

This course has provided me with the knowledge base and the theoretical confidence to persist. As well as some wonderful additions to my PLN.



Evaluative Report

Today’s learners seek meaning, as they are bombarded with media and content. We the teachers, who are similarly overwhelmed, are meant to move students from what they need to know for the test, to what they need to know for their lives. (Wesch, 2010)

The image of teachers as learners is slowly impacting education. The solution is in taking control of one’s environment as a learner. Information use is personal, it’s social, it’s ubiquitous and it’s constantly changing. The learning hierarchy is flattening.

There is hope in change, say Thomas and Brown (2011). The required shift in thinking however, is disruptive. Disruptive to current thinking, disruptive to the information network as it exists, and as the network deniers would have it exist.

Our technological tree is outgrowing our cultural roots (Floridi, 2009) Understanding the conceptual and cultural roots is vital to the global and connected information society, and this means understanding that new information and learning environments require transforming the old way of doing things. Being connected is the new black.

This is the new reality for schools. Thomas and Brown show us the new arc of learning, with peer-to-peer collaborative learning permeating online and classroom environments. New media have afforded opportunities for connection that didn’t exist previously. It has become a question of where we pay attention.

Howard Rheingold (2010, 2012) emphasises the value of understanding where we pay attention, how networks work, and what the opportunities are for consumers who are now creators in online spaces. We form new associations with ease, as the networks and connections have allowed us to do, and we can all see the capability of the network to afford social interaction.

We are shifting from an analogue, isolated, generic, physically bounded set of spaces to one which is much more personal and open, laden with creative possibility, (Couros, 2010) digital and mobile are asking learners and teachers to focus on the bigger questions. (Parker 2010, Mitra 2013) What does learning actually look like? What are the features of the new ecosystem? Is knowing anything obsolete, or do you just have to know where to look?

The challenge for educators is that standards of school-based literacy have not really changed. Whenever policy makers feel challenged, we go “back to basics”. We get stuck in particular modes of activity, in the content, in the curriculum but we need to broaden our concept of school-based literacy. That doesn’t mean, “insert technology here”, the mistake that schools often make in making the attempt to rethink learning in the connected environment.

The pedagogy for a different concept of learning is one that lets go of teachers telling, of having all the answers, according to Prensky. (2010) Students must become partners in learning, critical thinkers in the new ecosystem, which is based on challenge and openness. The teacher is a guide, a learning designer and goal setter, and technology is the enabler.

But what about the teacher? asks Gregor Kennedy. Are we designing this very important part of education out of the design of the learning experience?

Educators then, living life in perpetual prototyping (beta, says Jarche, 2011) no longer have the right go back to basics. It’s all changed and there is now no longer a hierarchy in learning. Where we are now demands knowledge management; seeking out the information we need, sensing what is good for our students, then sharing our synthesis of that knowledge, personalizing it. This changes us. Learning changes us. All connection changes us (Kastelle, 2013) We need an information vegetable rich diet, not a junk food one (Pariser, 2013)) To do this, to enrich the lives of our students, we must manage the information. Admit firstly that it’s not possible to keep up!

Building personal learning networks, managing the flow of information through aggregation feeds, relying on the sharing of others, becoming a filter for the info overwhelm is the task for connected educators. People will embrace clarity and we must choose our “digital clothing” (Rosenbaum, 2011) carefully. We engage in, and pay attention to, what we value. Schools have a social responsibility to grow communities of practice, and for the dominant culture to be network literacy.

Schools should support and encourage the establishment of their teachers’ Personal Learning Networks as “mirrors of networked knowledge” (Pegrum 2010)), encouraging teachers to turn the lens both inwards and outwards (Mundkur & Ellickson 2012) Reflection is important in the learning process. In considering the future of networked learning, rich technology integration brings multiple issues to the fore. Deliberate design (an oxymoron?) requires us to imagine the future and then plan for it.

Design is important because it is transformative. If we design online environments for future learning, things will inevitably change. New paradigms such as the flipped classroom, blended learning taking place in online learning environments, all require good connections in learning. All these connections are relational, whether within the classroom walls or across the world. The concept of repurposing time at school is, as Jonson (2012) illustrates, we understand and use the strong connection that exists between online and offline working, while guiding students to become more connected and self-efficacious in their learning,





Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2009). The dark side of information: overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies. Journal of Information Science, 35(2), 180–191.

Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. (2002). Limits to information. In The social life of information (pp. 11-34). Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Couros, A. (2010). Developing personal learning networks for open and social learning. In Veletsianos, G. (Ed.), Emerging technologies in distance education (109–128). Athabasca University: AU Press.

Floridi, L. (2009). The Information Society and its philosophy: Introduction to the special issue on “The philosophy of information, its nature, and future developments”. Information Society, 25(3), 153-158. DOI: 10.1080/01972240902848583

James, J. (2012) With my PLN; I am. Retrieved from:

Jarche, H. (2013). PKM in 2013. Life in perpetual beta. Retrieved from:

Kastelle, T. (2013) Reading this post will change your brain! Retrieved from:

McClure, C. R. (1994). Network literacy: A role for libraries? Information Technology and Libraries, 13(2), 115-125.

Mitra, S. Build a school in the cloud. Retrieved from:

Mundkur, A. & Ellickson, C. (2012) Bringing the real world in: reflection on building a virtual learning environment, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 36:3, 369-384.

Pariser, E., (2013) Beware online filter bubbles. Retrieved from:

Pegrum, M. (2010). ‘I Link, Therefore I Am’: Network literacy as a core digital literacy. In E-Learning and Digital Media, 7(4), 346-354.

Prensky, M. (2010). Chapter 1. Partnering: A pedagogy for the new educational landscape. In Teaching digital natives: Partnering for real learning (p. 9-30). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Rheingold, H. (2010). Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies. Educause Review, 45(5), 14.

Rheingold, H. (2010) It’s the Learning, Not the Technology – Jessica K. Parker. Retrieved from:

Rheingold, H., & Weeks, A. (2012). Net smart: How to thrive online (pp. 111-145). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Rosenbaum, S. (2011) Innovate- curation! Retrieved from:

Wesch, M. (2010) From knowledgeable to knowledge-able. Retrieved from:







It’s all in the design.

Leaders & tech

Instructional designers recognise the importance of focusing on the pedagogy, on the learner, not the teacher. The left column is the easier bit, but often educators forget why they’re doing what they doing. Is it just to use a nifty new tool? Good instructional design brings the learner back to the centre, and make the interactions that are planned for most effective. Richard Culatta has a hefty amount of criticism for online courses that upload enormous amounts of content without considering how it will be perceived and absorbed by the learner – the moral equivalent of writing notes on the board and expecting students to copy them indiscriminately. He wants to know how we include interactions in these new environments that are about the learners and their interaction with one another, and not just with the teacher or the content. The value is building the social interaction in the classroom, because that’s where the deep learning is.

Culatta, R. (2009). Designing online learning. YouTube. Retrieved  from

Debbie Morrison’s view on instructional design, focusing on the importance of good planning for online learning spaces is interesting, given her belief that that the classroom walls somehow created boundaries for instruction and learning.This paints a grim picture of what teachers have done in the past. She is trying to say that online learning spaces can’t be treated as a free-for-all and that pedagogical purpose and design is paramount.

Jon Bergmann, one of the original proponents of the flipped classroom, underlines the importance of the design that needs to go into the learning experience.

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KN artefact critique

Heather Bailie  Get connected with Google+

This digital artefact is engaging, concise, visually appealing and clever in its design.

The initial question puts the audience in a place to embrace what follows. This is the hook that gets the viewer in, followed by an introduction that is unambiguous. The audience knows where they’re heading. There is a problem (You need to learn how to connect), and here’s a solution. (Have I got the solution for you!)

The music harmonises well with the embedded text and the narration. There is a confidence to the presentation that is encouraging for the viewer. Heather has practised what she preaches, in seeking, sensing and sharing ideas from her PLN. The medium becomes the message – together we know so much more.

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Heather’s calm and positive narration imbues the digital artefact with a can-do ethos. This is what connected educators do, she says. They take advantage of the opportunities technology affords to develop relationships with other people.

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The graphics are seamless, and the backgrounds both blend in well and enhance the foreground text and image. The movement of the graphics displays a clever design sense so that the accompanying narration aligns well. The characters that appear at the beginning and the end of the artefact introduce the learning concepts, then draw conclusion to the essential instruction in the middle. The artefact tells the viewer what to do, in simple easy chunks, suggesting some options but then alighting on Google+.

If the imperative is to get people connected and sets out to get people on to Google+, perhaps other tools need not be cast aside. You don’t have to diss Ford to sell Holdens! The Twitter people look a bit sad..

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The concept of community informs the artefact, both in the idea of the community of educators in the global sense, as well as the communities that one can be part of in Google+.The acquisition of the knowledge is made more efficacious in the repetition of the community of practice idea that is at the heart of Google circles.


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This short video would be ideal to view in a staff meeting to kickstart a conversation on social media and Google+, with a follow up online training workshop. My school has iTeas and iToasts for PL for staff and the workshop atmosphere is conducive to trialling new tools and strategies.  It’s not threatening and generally collegial. Alternatively, a backchannelling tool such as Padlet, could collect ideas and suggestions, as well as hosting the video.