March 31, 2014


What EDUCATIONAL philosophies and approaches to learning design best INFORM me as a teacher?

I borrow from different learning theories and learning designs in my teaching practise, so I really resonated with Kilgore’s quote in Ford (emphasis added by me):

Kilgore (2001, quoted in Wonacott, 2001) notes:

Learning is a process of continuous deconstruction of knowledge, of playing with contradictions, and of creatively and productively opening the discourse of a field to an eclectic mosaic of many truths.  (pp. 59-60)

To me, this best summarises what learning is all about, and thus influences the design of the learning experiences that I plan for the children I teach…

  • Learning needs to be ACTIVE – you need to “get your teeth” into your learning by pulling it apart, putting it back together to see if it works that way, and keep doing this until it looks and feels right, and you just “get it”.  Doing this with OTHER people – peers, mentors, teachers, coaches, experts – in real or virtual spaces makes that learning more embedded and powerful.
  • It involves deconstruction AND construction, and all the agonies along the way that this implies.  Some days everything will work; other days it won’t. And that’s OK.    It’s about taking those risks, experiencing failure and non-completion of tasks along the way, so that you can learn some LIFE-LONG lessons along the way about yourself as a learner.  The content is important, BUT the life lessons about yourself as a learner are MORE important.  FORMATIVE FEEDBACK is a critical part of this aspect of  learning.  I love the analogy of Austin’s Butterfly (which I have recently shared with staff and students, so we now often refer to where we are our learning journey in terms of Austin’s Butterfly)
  • Learning is PLAYFUL and CREATIVE.  It is something we are all REALLY GOOD AT already, and learning helps to make us better people.  Learning should be something we WANT TO DO, something that totally immerses us (Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory).  And while none of us will be GREAT with every different type of learning, ALL of us have the potential to be GREAT at something.  It’s one of my jobs as an educator to help my students find what they are great at…
  • Knowledge EVOLVES and can be questioned and manipulated and presented in many different ways…it is an eclectic mosaic of many truths (what a beautiful turn of phrase that is!).   I want my students to be confident, critical and creative learners who see knowledge like this, not as some “Holy Grail” that is simply given.  I want them to OWN their knowledge for themselves, and present it in ways that are meaningful to them.
  • ECLECTIC is a word that applies to knowledge, to learning and to teaching.  I like to think of my teaching style as ECLECTIC – working with students K-6, it’s important to design MANY DIFFERENT types of learning experiences across the whole spectrum from teacher-directed to student-directed learning; to help them build up that backpack of skills, aptitudes and values that they can apply to their learning.  Having the support of a variety of digital tools really helps with this; as does the open & flexible learning environment I work in (think lounges & cushions & desks and coffee tables in a space that quite comfortably accommodates up to about 100 children)
Inside the Sr Catherine McAuley Library & Contemporary Learning Centre (CLiC) at St Patrick's 2013

Inside the Sr Catherine McAuley Library & Contemporary Learning Centre (CLiC) at St Patrick’s 2013


March 21, 2014

1.6 Digital Literacy

I am a fan of Stoerger’s “Digital Melting Pot” – “a place where all individuals, including those with low levels of competency, experience technology in a way that fosters opportunities without barriers”; and I agree that talk of digital immigrants and digital natives presents an oversimplified dichotomy that is not helpful.  DaCosta et. al.’s research supports Stoerger’s stance that a person’s age does not determine their digital literacy competency, but rather proficient use of information & communication technology is more a question of access and attitude, rather than a generational trait. I too concede that “digital natives” have had a very different experience of life than digital immigrants in that they don’t know life without technologies and rapid change.  That is just how life is to them. But isn’t that true of every new generation – our life has always been different to the life that our parents/grandparents lead.  Maybe change is just faster now than it has been in the past. Assuming that young people are tech savvy just because they are familiar and comfortable with technology is both foolish and dangerous.  We CANNOT assume that just because children can “google” means that they can find and critique information; nor can we assume that they have the necessary life skills and experience to communicate safely in online communities.  Digital immigrants may be more “savvy” in these departments;  whilst digital natives MAY be more “tech savvy”.  A digital melting pot enables this expertise to be shared.

It is important for ALL of us to have a DIGITAL LITERACY mindset –
“…acquiring and USING things found on networked mediums, (and a) …willingness to adapt our new skills to… evocative medium(s)”(Gilster, 1997, in Brawn, 2008)

– rather than thinking of digital literacy in terms of a set of skills to be mastered, so that ALL of us can become what Helen Haste describes as TOOL USERS who are dependent on society AND other tool users, and who in turn INFLUENCE society and other tools users.  We are all part of the same MELTING POT.

I was reminded of Hattie’s research on the powerful effect that TEACHERS have on student learning as I was reading through the materials for this module.  Soloway (2010) in Downes & Bishop pointed out the danger of disregarding teacher attitude and competence when implementing ICT in classrooms, and Stoerger refers to students saying it is the TEACHERS who make the most difference to their academic success, rather than the technologies available at school.

GOOD 21st century teachers need to be TOOL USERS with a DIGITAL LITERACY MINDSET who see themselves and their students as equal participants in the DIGITAL MELTING POT.

February 28, 2014

My first entry

Am working my way through INTRO MODULE for INF530 and trying not to let my head explode!

So many pathways – so many tangents – so easy to get side tracked!  Have to NOT BE SO LINEAR!

Really resonated with Douglas Thomas TED talk – found myself nodding my head in agreement and pre-empting a few of the things he had to share.  I agree with him about the need to create EASY learning spaces – ones that foster and encourage PLAY and FUN – so that our children (who start formal ed as creative geniuses) can blossom into their creative selves.   I have  background in Gifted Education, so the thought of an EASY classroom does tend to have negative connotations, but not any more!!!

I like to think of this EASE of learning in conjunction with Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi’s FLOW THEORY – where we become SO engrossed in our learning – a state of heightened focus and immersion –  that time seems to cease.  It also bring to mind Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and how learning needs to be pitched “in the zone” – not to easy and boring; not too hard and anxiety causing… as Goldilocks would say, “just right”.

I was initially surprised by Thomas’ inclusion of CONSTRAINT as the 3rd element of learning essentials (PASSION and IMAGINATION were no surprise), but recognised the truth in this.  We need deadlines; we need obstacles; we need to fail in order to thrive and innovate.  This clip reminded me of a day I attended last year to hear Yong Zhao present his thoughts around creativity and academic excellence.  I LOVED much of what he had to say and plan to read his book WORLD CLASS LEARNERS as a result.