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.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 5.27.48 pm

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


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?




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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 10.11.50 pm



The modern classroom

The Skype experience that Tolisano brings to her students is well and truly embedded in her connected educator thinking. It required activation of prior learning, careful consideration of roles and of digital citizenship, as well as reflective journaling afterwards. This was a process that engaged the students in a holistic and integrated learning experience, designed and mapped carefully, but with some allowance for the serendipitous. Equally, Miller has used online learning spaces and tools to enhance the learning experiences of her primary school students.

It’s interesting that both Tolisano and Miller are working in a primary context. They have a missionary insight into the potential for learning when knowledge networking is embraced. Shared learning is not about the answers, but about the process of learning. How can this be changed until we change our thinking about assessment?

In an ideal world, secondary and even tertiary learning might be as integrated and learning focused as primary pedagogy tends to be. The reality on the ground (at the secondary chalkface as it were) is substantially different. The secondary curriculum, by its nature, creates firewalls between subject disciplines which are still closely guarded by content-focused specialists. Online learning implies a greater fluidity. Connectedness with the outer world assumes an inner connectedness that is far from the reality of too many working in the secondary arena.

One of the obstacles is that secondary assessment has its end point embedded in a kind of competitiveness. The ATAR is a rank, not a score. It sets one learner against another. Yes, as Tolisano says, we do need a revolution in assessment, one that reflects the modern classroom, and what the true purpose of education has always been-  not a competitive enterprise, but the coffee shop, where we build on each others’ ideas.

Thus educators need to embrace the revolution that focuses on what we are learning to achieve. The migration to collaborative learning environments is still too much of a work in progress.


Michael Fullan underlines this in The Moral Imperative of School Leadership. The moral imperative will never amount to much, unless school leaders take it on the road.

Michael Fullan

Connected teachers and information specialists can act as the fulcrum between the learner and the leadership, where collaborative and connected learning must be embraced.


Recurring dreams.

There are so many engaging conversations happening about education at the moment. Flipped, blended, global, problem-based, connected, student-centred, peer to peer, guided and blended learning abounds in Google+, Twitter hashtags and wikis everywhere. Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 11.25.47 am

Gregor Kennedy’s question and the points he proceeds to make emphasise the role of the teacher in learning. Has the pendulum swung too far he asks? Much of what I have read about the different types of learning does emphasise the learner  – their role, their questions, their interests, their motivations – and the question as to whether this is to the detriment of the teacher/ student relationship is a thought-provoking one. Kennedy suggests we are doing well at using technology for dissemination of information, but that this is low-level, uneven and sporadic. We are over-emphasising interaction with the content and under=emphasising the teacher.

Steve Wheeler says the cognitive energy it takes students to manage the learning management system in the school detracts from learning. My experience with the LMS at my school certainly bears this out. There is a similar experience for the teachers, who spend their time trying to manage the LMS, leaving little energy for the true creative art of teaching.

Or as Keith Brennan describes the overwhelm…

Cognitive load

We’re failing to focus on what truly matters in the teaching and learning experience – that of relationship. The value is going into the technology and not necessarily the relationship required to facilitate teaching and learning. It’s hard, says Kennedy, it requires time and effort. And attention. Because it matters. The teacher does still matter.



Digital artefact

This digital artefact

sets out to provide an introduction to the concept of a PLN, and I think it does this quite effectively. However….

  • I wish I had attributed more to sources of inspiration – those people with whom I’m already connected.
  • It flows well, but it would have been better to have provided some pauses in the commentary for ideas to sink in. The narrative doesn’t really stop – pauses would have provided the opportunity for visual reinforcement and for preparation in what is to come. A more punctuated presentation might have been more “grabby”.
  • Inserting more text interspersed with the images and animation would have emphasised the points more.
  • I used only my own images and those freely available on Creative Commons through Flickr and Pixabay which required no attribution, but I omitted to explain this at the end of the artefact. In retrospect, I should have added this to the last part of the artefact. It looks rather naked without attribution.
  • I have learned to use Powtoon which I really liked. I took up the Teacher offer subscription ($24 a year) which allowed much more flexibility in upload, animation tools and resolution.
  • I don’t like the sound of my own voice and would need much convincing to do this again!

How do you design for aliveness?

An excellent question from Etienne Wenger et al. They suggest a community of practice needs something alive in them to keep them buoyant, and, just as space design encourages a certain type of interaction, so a well-designed  community of practice allows for a particular ecosystem to thrive. What does drive teleological organicity in an ecosystem? Wenger et al have described 7 principles that embody thoughtful design, design that works, that focus on the value derived from a network of practice. Such communities exist within many areas of social networking, but particularly in Twitter. Therein exists different levels of participation, there are both the familiarity of followers, as well as enthusiasm for new people, and there is an inherent rhythm. It is a living thing, a network that acknowledges the importance of relationships. The value lies within the sharing, the common goals, but also in the commonly held belief of network users that there is learning in collaboration, the “social co-participation” (p.295)

(Preaching to the converted.)

Howard Rheingold understands the importance of our social media literacies. We need to counter the entitlement students feel to direct their attention wherever they want, so that they learn to exercise “mindful deployment” in order to be a critical consumer. Where we give our attention is central, along with how we participate, with whom we collaborate, and what new literacies are demanded in the changing information landscape.


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

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. M. (2002). Seven principles for cultivating communities of practice. In Cultivating communities of practice : a guide to managing knowledge. Boston : Harvard Business School Press.

Wenger, E. (2012). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Retrieved from