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.


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


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.