Final Report

Case Study Research Report:

Learning Management System utilisation by teachers and students at a regional Victorian school.

How well are the affordances of the SIMON LMS being used by teachers and students in one specified school setting?

Executive summary:

 

Learning Managements Systems (LMS) are web based products which have been used by most universities for a significant period of time. Increasingly schools, particularly at the secondary level, are also investing in such digital tools. This study compares the potential usage of a specific LMS in a small, regional, kindergarten to Year 12, Victorian Independent School with those aspects that teachers and students are actually using. Information was garnered by use of online surveys, and the findings suggest not only wide acceptance of some affordances by both teachers and students, but also ignorance of the potential of others. The Primary Campus usage is minimal, for a number of reasons. The data were comparable with results obtained by researchers working on LMS reviews in other institutions, predominantly universities.

 

The Nature and Context of the Case Study:

 

This case study report presents the results of an empirical inquiry investigating the extent to which the SIMON (LMS) (SIMON Solutions, 2009), as one example of a contemporary educational phenomenon, is being used to improve teaching and learning within the context of a specific regional Victorian school.  The inquiry was framed to discover the degree of usage by teachers and students, the individual uptake of those functions offered by the LMS compared to features not adopted, and the perceived advantages, problems and potential of this specific educational software. The underlying purpose was to understand user needs and perspectives, thereby identifying aspects of usage with which users of this LMS may require support, in order to improve the school’s knowledge networking and opportunities for digital innovation.

 

 

Terminology:

LMS, also referred to as Virtual Learning Environments, Digital Learning Environments, Course Management Systems or Electronic Learning Environments are web based applications which are accessible wherever an Internet connection allows (De Smet, Bourgonjon, De Wever, Schellens, & Valke, 2012, p. 688).  While a significant amount of research has been conducted on the impact of such systems in universities, where, for example, uptake in Britain by 2005 was reported at ninety five percent (McGill & Klobas, 2009, p. 496), there are fewer examples focused on schools, and these are not K-12 settings. The circumstances of the chosen setting are therefore different to those institutions reported on in other academic literature.

 

SIMON is a learning management program, created in 2000 by practicing teachers at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat (Simkin, SIMON, 2015 c). It is now owned by the Ballarat Diocese and the original developers are still involved in managing its evolution. Whilst originally used in Catholic schools within this Diocese, SIMON usage has extended to other educational jurisdictions and Australian states. The school on which this case study focuses, was one of the first Independent Schools to adopt the program, moving to SIMON from Moodle about five years ago. It has also developed a relatively collaborative relationship with the founders of the LMS, by suggesting possible changes; an aspect of the specific context that does not apply to many other schools using the same product.

 

Constraints:

The decision to focus on reviewing one LMS in a single school, was selected to meet the constraints of the timeframe available for conducting the research, and the stipulations outlined for the writing of the research report. The chosen school has been using SIMON for six years, however employment of the system has been observably inconsistent from both a teaching and learning perspective. There is, therefore, potential to use the findings of this investigation to lead to improvement. Three forms of understanding are required before educational transformation can occur: a critique of the current, a vision of the desired and a theory for guiding the situation from where it is to where it should be in order to achieve better outcomes (Robinson & Aronica, 2015, p. 58). This sentiment encapsulates the intention of this case study research as investing in an LMS should result in measurable return on investment (Leaman, 2015, para 1).

The Process:

Literature Review:

The process necessitated commencing with a review of relevant literature, taking guidance from Thomas, the quality of material and the publications it was coming from were the first criteria,  including following up references to literature reviewed within the sources investigated (Thomas, 2013, pp. 60-61).  Most titles were retrieved from the university library, but one was provided through a Twitter connection which led to Professor Harland (Maleko, Nandi, Hamilton, D’Souza, & Harland, 2013) and another from a colleague, an intriguing and very specific research proposal highlighting issues which apply to segregated education, but which also reminded of the challenges of mixing methodology, and that awareness is not the same thing as use when it comes to LMS (Algahtani, 2014, p. 16).  These papers revealed some common themes surrounding LMS research, as outlined below.

 

Commonalities:

Research has predominantly considered the major LMS providers, notably Blackboard (which now incorporates WebCT and ANGEL (Islam, 2014, p. 252)), but also Dokeos, Smartschool (De Smet, Bourgonjon, De Wever, Schellens, & Valke, 2012, p. 689), Sakai (Lonn & Teasley, 2009, p. 687), Desire2Learn (Rubin, Fernandes, Avgerinou, & Moore, 2010, p. 82) and the popular open source Moodle.  Some papers analyse usage of several LMSs, while others compare the utility offered by different options such as Facebook (Maleko, Nandi, Hamilton, D’Souza, & Harland, 2013, p. 83), and SLOODLE (Moodle incorporated with Second Life as a 3D virtual learning environment) (Yasar & Adiguzel, 2010, pp. 5683 – 5685).

 

The majority of the literature was based on surveys, so the decision to collect information through online surveys was validated. Given that the SIMON interface is different for teachers compared to students, two surveys were required. These were constructed using Google Forms.

 

Limitations:

A Parent Access Model survey is being developed for future use to strengthen the evaluation process and enhance the practical application of the recommendations. Lack of time and access to this module for the researcher precluded it from the case study. Use of SIMON by the Primary Campus would benefit from further discussion also. Analysing the purpose and style of the questionnaire was a vital stating point  (Elias, 2015), therefore the main elements of Elias’ work informed the overall structure (Simkin, 2015 a).

 

Survey Methodology:

Qualitative and quantitative surveys elicit very different information, and the literature review resulted in the decision to incorporate both styles of questioning. Qualitative methodology enables detailed descriptions to be provided that are not constrained by the researcher, enabling the respondents to elaborate on the things that matter to them (Ritchie, 2013, p. 4). The style of qualitative questions accessed aspects of critical theory enabling an understanding of the intersect between material conditions and their influence on human behaviour (Ritchie, 2013, p. 12). For example, the last two questions on both surveys (Appendix pages 23-25; 34-35) were ontologically focussed, aiming to compare realistic responses with idealistic possibilities.

 

Selecting the right tool for the anticipated outcome also required quantitative data gathering: deciding appropriate topics to assess by checklists (Appendix pages 20 &  ) compared to items that needed to be evaluated through Likert scale questions (Appendix page) followed (Thomas, 2013, pp. 209-215). It was important to set such questions up in a neutral manner, rather than in a way that directed the result to meet preconceived ideas; commencing with the Likert style questions using a scale of one to five (with one the lowest and five the highest level of agreement) allowed participants to proceed quickly through the quantifiable elements while offering a nuanced range of responses (Thomas, 2013, p. 214). This style of “scale” question allows for opinions to be presented easily; for those who like to explain in more detail, and to have open ended and creative thoughts, the qualitative examples were provided later in the survey (Thomas, 2013, p. 215). Questions needed to cover contextual, explanatory, evaluative and generative options (Ritchie, 2013, p. 27) to allow this report to describe and critique the current, suggest what might be possible and enable recommendations that might be educationally transformational (Robinson & Aronica, 2015, p. 58). The final questions were designed to evoke creative responses and raise the potential for the future of LMS for the next generation of learners, where the ideal system should be more of a learning environment or ecosystem, fitted together in the manner of building blocks to suit subject specific requirements (Straumsheim, 2015, p. 7).

 

In order to ensure clarity and precision (Thomas, 2013, p. 207), the surveys were trialled with fellow university students and work colleagues, including the school’s technical staff, who have strong knowledge of SIMON. Despite this there were some elements that might have offered a different insight: gender and year level of students for example and teaching methods of the staff; such omissions are typical of mixed method research, and hard to avoid in short time frames, especially by relatively inexperienced researchers as myself (Algahtani, 2014, p. 16).

 

The anticipated findings were targeted at establishing the overall satisfaction and learner engagement with SIMON’s functions in terms of organisation, pacing of work, access to resources, collection of materials, class discussion, and feedback, as outlined in the work of Rubin et al (Rubin, Fernandes, Avgerinou, & Moore, 2010, p. 82). The study had to identify the enabling functions as distinct from the hindrances, and whether they were impacting on design of and access to course materials in a positive or negative manner (Rubin, Fernandes, Avgerinou, & Moore, 2010, p. 82). Ease of navigation and number of clicks to access items can facilitate learning, where the inverse will frustrate users and lead to avoidance of features; this is particularly true of feedback. If Blackboard v.12 took twelve click to achieve something that Moodle could do with one, how did SIMON compare (Rubin, Fernandes, Avgerinou, & Moore, 2010, pp. 82-83)?

 

Critical Evaluation:

The Survey Findings:

The survey resulted in thirty-three teacher and sixty-eight student responses, or 47% and 31% respectively. All teaching staff were invited to participate, but only one Junior Campus teacher accepted the opportunity. Another emailed and said it wasn’t really relevant to them. Given that these teachers generally only use a small number of SIMON’s features this was not unreasonable. Teachers on small part-time loads were also not expected to participate; therefore this result was better than expected in the last week of term. Students from Year Nine to Year 12, who have one to one device access were the target population, and the number of respondents for the busy last week was also pleasing.

 

While every recommended avenue had been explored in terms of how to set up a valid survey instrument and pretesting had occurred (Elias, 2015), there were still unexpected outcomes. Omissions and problems arose from the survey’s construction. It would have been helpful to know the gender of recipients given that this has been a factor in a number of other research results, not only Algahtani’s where such issues would be expected (Algahtani, 2014). It would also have been helpful to ascertain the teaching areas of the staff, relative age group of each teacher (or years of experience), and the year levels of the students as was done by Kopcha (Kopcha, 2012, p. 1116).  Including questions to elicit this information would have enabled more targeted recommendations.

 

The use of Likert scale questions in the introductory part of the survey worked well, and respondents benefitted from having a five point scale. The usage responses indicated that 28% of teachers (see teacher and student results below) believe that they use SIMON to some extent or a great extent, while 53% of students (see teacher and student results below) reported that their teachers used SIMON at this level. This is an example where interpretation of results would have been more meaningful if the subjects being taught were known. Staff and students were generally more positive that SIMON supported their teaching and learning in some manner than they were negative.

 

Another anomaly of the type referred to above was revealed by the yes or no option relating to the uploading of work question (see teacher and student results below) where 81% of teachers reported that they did not ask students to do this, but 31% of students said that they did provide work to their teachers in this manner. An astonishing percentage of students reported video and audio feedback being provided (71%) where only 24% of teachers said that they provided this (see teacher and student results below). A follow-up question here on which subjects were making use of this facility would have been beneficial in terms of recommendations, especially if responding teachers had been asked to indicate their faculty.

 

Moving from Likert scale questions and yes or no option to open-ended responses proved valuable on both surveys, as had been anticipated. The number of respondents who completed these optional questions was very pleasing. The slight difference in questions between the two surveys was deliberate to allow for the differing access teachers have to the LMS compared to students. The responses to most of the common questions demonstrated a close correlation between teacher understanding and student use, with a couple of exceptions such as those outlined above.

 

A summation of feelings towards the LMS elicited by the surveys indicated a strong acceptance of the technology. This has been written about by researchers reviewing usage through technology acceptance models (TAM) (De Smet, Bourgonjon, De Wever, Schellens, & Valke, 2012, p. 689). As the school community concerned is technologically experienced, this was expected.  Results also demonstrated that while many users verbally describe a love-hate relationship with SIMON, the use of survey methodology produced more considered feedback (Straumsheim, 2015, para 3). Of the eighteen affordances Schoonenboom lists as desirable in an LMS fourteen are possible using SIMON; only meetings, online examinations, peer feedback, and open hours are not possible in the same manner as she describes (Schoonenboom, 2014, p. 248). Interestingly, the questions aimed at improving SIMON (17 – 19 for teachers and 18 – 19 for students) did not request any of these aspects be made available.

The broad overview of the findings from the open-ended comments (Appendix page) indicated that teachers enjoy the reporting facility because it links to the assessment module and saves them work. The most frustrating facet for both teachers and students is the number of clicks it requires to access work (51%). Students highlighted the inconsistent usage of the LMS by their teachers, and sometimes indicated that components are being incorrectly used: all student work should be in the “curriculum documents” section but some teachers are placing it in “general documents”. While there is an historic reason that may have led to this, it should no longer occur. Reporting live through assessment tasks should indicate more clearly that work is linked to the curriculum module.

 

Facets identified:

Five equal facets should  be provided by any LMS: interoperability, personalisation, analytics, collaboration and accessibility (Straumsheim, 2015, para 6), and, according to the findings, SIMON delivers all of these to some degree. Taking interoperability first, it most elearning tools that teachers currently use with their classes can be accommodated, either by linking the document to the system (such as collaborative OneNote notebooks), locating a file in the system, or providing a weblink.

 

Personalisation is also possible and has led to some confusion as evidenced in the responses.  The school concerned has added a number of links, for example, to library services, which some respondents find bewildering. It does however correspond to the findings reported by Horn et al that a range of “library help objects” and links to resources accounts for user differences and support needs (Horn, Maddox, Hagel, Currie, & Owen, 2013, pp. 238-240).

 

Analytics are available to teachers for administrative use, such as knowing if a student is present or has submitted their work, and also to the LMS administrator for checking the number of log ins for example. The teacher who suggested that it would be good if SIMON could calculate School Assessment Percentages (currently done through Excel 365) would be surprised to know that with teacher education in derived scores, it could.

 

Collaboration was not raised by respondents, although some referred to using the forum space. This is probably SIMON’s weakest suite, but looking at what is planned for the next software update, school, parent, student interaction should be improved (Simkin, 2015 c). Lonn and Teasleys’ research indicates that few users used or rated the interactive tools, preferring to comment on the tools that push out to or collect work from students (Lonn & Teasley, 2009, p. 693).  Collaboration through internal communities of practice and self-organising networks should become more common in the near future as more teachers look to make global connections, and the Senior Campus moves to a one-to-one device model in 2006 (Archer, 2006, p. 67)

 

 

In terms of accessibility, one teacher, who followed up on his survey by sending an email with more detailed information (Budenberg, 2015), found that most of his issues were due to lack of instruction during orientation. In a meeting to resolve some of his issues, Tim passed a comment that SIMON was like a Swiss army multi-purpose knife, citing almost word for word a comment from Alier et al which alludes to the fact that numerous tools, while helpful, may not offer the best solution for the purpose  (Alier, et al., 2012, p. 107).  His prior experience with Daymap, an LMS with the ability to email parents of a class with one click, was raised face-to-face. SIMON is a much cheaper solution.

 

 

Recommendations:

The case study has achieved its goal of leading to a number of recommendations for the school under evaluation. Given that no LMS will answer everyone’s needs, it is better to work with the one that is currently provided and maximise its strengths while minimising its weaknesses (Leaman, 2015 para 7).  In this setting there is the added benefit of access to the developers.

The following recommendations will be passed to the designated, relevant groups.

For SIMON developers:

  1. While interoperability between a range of platforms and SIMON is good, retrieval of information in terms of convolution (number of clicks) and lack of search functionality is a hindrance. This requires simplification in some form.
  2. Collaboration through a range of means: chat, peer assessment and an improved forum interface would be well regarded as beneficial to communities of practice.

For the School Executive:

  1. More effective mentoring of new teachers and ongoing in-servicing of all teaching staff would improve usage for students, thereby enhancing learning.
  2. A clear and consistent statement of expectations for usage by teachers appears to be unclear. Teachers need to model SIMON usage to students more effectively.

For the Teaching and Learning Committee:

Discussion is required to consider the following:

  1. Options for the provision of face-to-face assistance with SIMON mastery need to be provided for teachers and students (beyond their faculty or subject teachers).
  2. Opportunities for learning new aspects of SIMON at relevant times, for example when software is upgraded.
  3. Which LMS facets that may be suggested in other systems are missing from SIMON that are considered desirable.
  4. These survey findings – to enable improved practice.

 

For the Information Services Department:

  • That the location of library related information within the LMS be revisited and evaluated in terms of the most effective location/s for accessing them.

 

Conclusion:

The school studied has been using the SIMON Learning Management System for several years   yet the uptake varies enormously. Some teachers and students rarely use it, others use all aspects of it really well. The reporting package is compulsory and has been effectively used and appreciated by most teachers. Usage of the other features has been inconsistent. This report reveals those elements that have been used, the users’ experience with the LMS, and the outcomes that have been enabled for them through such use.  It is important to determine why some elements have been used, and others avoided. Steps should be taken to improve use, and consider the potential impact of change for learning.

References

Algahtani, M. (2014). Factors influencing the adoption of learning management systems in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabian Universities by female academic staff. Research proposal for confirmation of candidature (PhD) DR209 16th July 2014. Received by personal communication from Bradbeer, Susan, through a dropbox link provided by a lecturer at RMIT, 17 September 2015

Alier, M., Mayol, E., Casan, M. J., Piguillem, J., Merriman, J. W., Conde, M. A., . . . Severance, C. (2012). Clustering projects for interoperability. Journal of Universal Computer Science, 18(1), 106-222.

Archer, N. (2006). A Classification of Communities of Practice. In Encyclopedia of Communities of Practice in Information and Knowledge Management (pp. 21-29). Informationn Science Reference (an imprint of IGI Global).

Budenberg, T. (2015, September 16). personal email. A request for your assistance.

De Smet, C., Bourgonjon, J., De Wever, B., Schellens, T., & Valke, M. (2012). Researching instructional use and the acceptation of learning management systems by secondary school teachers. Computers & Education, 688-696. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.09.013

Elias, L. (2015, February). Intelligent Questionnaire Design for Effective Participant Evaluations. Training and Development, 8-10.

Horn, A., Maddox, A., Hagel, P., Currie, M., & Owen, S. (2013). Enbedded library services: Beyond chance encounters for students from low SES backgrounds. Australian Academic and Research Libraries, 44 (4), pp. 235 – 250. doi:10.1080/00048623.2013.862149

Islam, A. N. (2014). Sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with a learning management system in post-adoption stage: a critical incident technique approach. 249-261. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.09.010

Kopcha, T. J. (2012). Teachers’ perceptions of the barriers to technology integration and practices with technology under situated professional development. Computers & Education, 1109 – 1121. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.05.014

Leaman, C. (2015, August 20). What If Your Learning Management System Isn’t Enough? Retrieved from eLearning Industry: http://elearningindustry.com/learning-management-system-isnt-enough

Lonn, S., & Teasley, S. D. (2009). Saving time or innovating practice: Investigating perceptions and uses of Learning Management Systems. Computers & Education(53), 686–694. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.04.008

Maleko, M., Nandi, D., Hamilton, M., D’Souza, D., & Harland, J. (2013). Facebook versus Blackboard for supporting the learning of programming in a fully online course: the changing face of computer education. Learning and Teaching in Computing and Engineering, pp. 83-89. doi:10.1109/LaTiCE.2013.31

McGill, T. J., & Klobas, J. E. (2009). A task-technology fit view of learning management system impact. Computers & Education, 496 – 508. doi:10.1016/j.compendu.2008.10.002

Ritchie, J. L. (2013). Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers. Great Britain: Sage.

Robinson, K., & Aronica, L. (2015). Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education From The Ground Up. Melbourne: Allen Lane.

Rubin, B., Fernandes, R., Avgerinou, M. D., & Moore, J. (2010). The effect of learning management systems on student and faulty outcomes. Internet and Higher Education, 82 – 83. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.008

Schoonenboom, J. (2014). Using an adapted, task-level technology acceptance model to explain why intsructors in higher education intend to use some learning management system tools more than others. Computers & Education, pp. 247 – 256. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2013.09.016

Simkin, M. (2015 a, August 17). Article review. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/08/17/article-review/

Simkin, M. (2015 b, October 6). SIMON. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/10/06/simon/

SIMON Solutions. (2009). Retrieved from SIMON: http://www.simonschools.net/about-simon.html

Straumsheim, C. (2015, May 11). Brick by Brick. Retrieved from Inside Higher Ed: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/05/11/educause-releases-blueprint-next-generation-learning-management-systems

Thomas, G. (2013). How To Do Your Research Project; A Guide For Students in Education and Applied Social Science. London: SAGE.

Yasar, O., & Adiguzel, T. (2010). A working successor of learning management systems: SLOODLE. Procedia Social and Behavioural Sciences 2, 5682 – 5685. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.03.928

Teacher surveys

Student surveys 

Critical reflection

The capstone is now in place!

The Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) has culminated with this Digital Futures Colloquium capstone.  Again, there was a combination of excitement and fear when the course material was released (Simkin, 2015 j). Firstly, the unknown “Colloquium” which revealed itself to be a mixture of online presentation and class discussion hosted by someone of interest to the course. Secondly, there were numerous readings posted for three modules, more than those in preceding subjects. They were, however, the only readings provided: for the assessments we needed to find our own sources. Conceptually, this was a nice segue for anyone thinking about continuing in higher education.

Colloquium One was hosted by Annabel Astbury (Simkin, 2015 a). It revealed career potential made possible by the digital world for teachers with expertise. As a well-organised educator working in information provision across the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, n.d.), the content held something for all members of the cohort.

Colloquium Two, led the group in a very different direction, and eventually led to my case study. Simon Welsh, who made learning management systems (LMS) come alive, and raised the spectre of an interesting future (Simkin, 2015 b). Attending with a dubious attitude, it was a chastening reminder not to prejudge content. The chat comments from my peers furthered the discussion and added intriguing elements and a degree of humour which became integral to this mode of learning. Simon’s words certainly provoked re-evaluation of my use of the school LMS and make comparison with other systems and academic research (Simkin, 2015 h).

The third colloquium was hosted by Julie Lindsay and focussed on her work with Flat Connections,  and the necessity of involving students in global collaboration (Simkin, 2015 c). This colloquium also featured peer input, which was pleasing, despite technical hiccoughs. The penultimate meeting was led by Tim Klapdor, and took us back to some early INF530 issues of networks, nodes and ownership (Simkin, 2015 d). Finally, Cathie Howe presented the work of MacICT and professional learning programs (Simkin, 2015 g). This issue is critical in achieving positive digital engagement.

Past information from earlier subjects recurred and reinforced professional practice and pedagogy, while linking to this subject’s readings. For example, Couros being cited in Veletsianos (Veletsianos & Kimmins, 2012, pp. 109-128), and talking about the types of engagement with which we have been engaged (Simkin, 2015 l).

For the first assignment, the challenge was selecting one aspect of the many introduced as a research proposal. While the actual question took some time to form, and suggestion and helpful counter-suggestion followed, it became necessary to consider how material would be gathered. Surveys, questionnaires or interviews were all possible, and exploration of sound construction followed with a review of the intelligent design of questionnaires both for the researcher and for the participants (Simkin, 2015 e).

The introductory focus of the subject revolved around aspects of our digital world, therefore the second assignment required engagement with one aspect of this twenty-first-century reality. Given the colloquium’s focus on the impact of digital affordances on learning, the topic “Digital scholarship in education, in the context of interdisciplinary knowledge and research” seemed a reasonable choice (Simkin, 2015 f).

LMS became the focus for assignment three: asking why they should be used (Simkin, 2015 o); reviewing what they offer (Simkin, 2015 n) and considering the role of the library in the process of managing learning (Simkin, 2015 k). Finding appropriate academic articles took time, but improved researching techniques (Simkin, 2015 i). Interviewing one of the developers of SIMON, the LMS used at school, was very valuable (Simkin, 2015 m). The report was the culmination of two wonderful years of learning (Simkin, 2015 h).

The value of this course has been immense: new mentors, supportive peers, renewed self-esteem, intense skill development. Thanks to Judy O’Connell, Ewan McIntosh and Julie Lindsay for the amazing journey, and all the classmates who connected with me.

References

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (n.d.). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability. Retrieved from Australian Curriculum: ICT capability across the curriculum: October 12, 2015 http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/information-and-communication-technology-capability/introduction/ict-capability-across-the-curriculum

Simkin, M. (2015, July 26 a). #1. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/07/26/1/

Simkin, M. (2015, July 26 b). #2. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/08/03/2/

Simkin, M. (2015, August 11 c). #3. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/08/11/3/

Simkin, M. (2015, August 16 d). #4. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/08/16/4/

Simkin, M. (2015 e). Article Review. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/08/17/article-review/

Simkin, M. (2015, September 6 f). Assignment Two. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/09/06/assignment-2/

Simkin, M. (2015, October 4 g). Colloquium 5. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/10/04/colloquium-5/

Simkin, M. (2015, October 11 h). Final Report. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/10/11/final-report/

Simkin, M. (2015, October 9 i). Hunting. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/10/09/hunting/

Simkin, M. (2015, July 7 j). INF 537 Begins. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/07/15/inf537-begins/

Simkin, M. (2015, September 8 k). Invisible but vital. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/09/08/invisible-but-vital/

Simkin, M. (2015, August 17 l). PLE & PLN It’s Us. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/08/17/ple-pln-its-us/

Simkin, M. (2015, October 10 m). SIMON. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/10/06/simon/

Simkin, M. (2015, September 12 n). What LMS should offer. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/09/12/what-lms-should-offer/

Simkin, M. (2015, September 11 o). Why Use LMS? Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/09/11/why-use-lms/

Veletsianos, G., & Kimmins, R. (2012). Networked participatory scholarship: emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks. Computers & Education; An International Journal 58 (2012) 76, 58, 766 -774.

 

Assignment 2

Digital scholarship in education, in the context of interdisciplinary knowledge and research.

Across millennia, scholarship’s enduring, traditional form has focused on individuals acquiring knowledge from books and lecturers, within single disciplines inside the walls of monolithic institutions which monopolise learning to create and maintain power (Buckley, 2012, pp. 333-334) .  Defining scholarship as acquiring scholastic knowledge within learning institutions (The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary, 1996, p. 969) is, however, currently being challenged. Modern academia is undergoing, but inconsistent, transformation due to opportunities provided by web-based communication and behaviour enabled by twenty-first-century digital affordances (Ayers, 2013, pp. 24-28).  Digital scholarship is a term defined as encompassing both scholarly communication and using digital media and research (Libraryowl, 2013), which is increasingly being used to describe this shift, yet it is also a concept with a contested definition requiring deeper investigation (Scanlon, 2011, pp. 177-179).

Understanding digital scholarship, which partially results from economies of information scarcity transforming into profligacies of abundant learning resources, requires examination of the meaning of academia and the measures by which it has traditionally been evaluated (Weller, A pedagogy of abundance, 2011, pp. 85-86). Consideration of its implications, in terms of the future of both higher and school education, should assess whether such changes, are, in fact, desirable, or indeed truly as different as some attest (Baggaley, 2015).

The critical difference between conventional and digital scholarship is connectivism (Veletsianos & Kimmins, 2012, p. 770).  Traditionally, academic knowledge generated by staff employed by a single university has formed the largest percentage of an institution’s market value (Buckley, 2012, pp. 333-334). This ideology has been based on individual research, intra-faculty or, sometimes interfaculty across similar institutions, within a culture of monographic orientation; this model has allowed individual practitioners to add to the conversation around their specialty, while protecting them from departing the norm (Ayers, 2013, p. 28). Connectivists, in contrast, view learning as negotiated, inter-connected, increasingly interdisciplinary, and social; they situate it in complex environments, embracing open values and peer-to-peer networking (Veletsianos & Kimmins, 2012, p. 770).  This dichotomy poses a challenge to faculty members who perceive such an approach as diminishing the hard won traditions of both scholarship and teaching, and also risky. (Ayers, 2013, p. 30).

Despite existing for several decades, it is relatively uncommon that academics and school teachers engage in connectivism; the majority still need to be convinced of the inherent value such practices offer, let alone their inevitability (Scanlon, 2011, p. 177).  There is a philosophical divide between those who have recognised, and are embracing, the potential of technological affordances, and those who are yet to investigate them to any degree (Scanlon, 2011, p. 178).  Those who believe that digital scholarship merely implies copyright free or open access to materials, email interaction, online libraries, employing technology and some online tools, present a diametric contrast to participants in communities of practice: those who have invested in developing or participating in Massively Online Open Courses (MOOCs); learners who collaborate on investigations; and scholars who publish their research in digital format, either individually or together, and invite comment (Ayers, 2013, pp. 27-28).  The former pursue the goal of publishing printed monographs in academic, peer-reviewed journals or theses; the latter consider achieving a doctorate through blogging (Ho, 2015).

Each aspect of digital scholarship at its broadest definition requires examination. Scanlon refers to the seismic shift in patterns of user behaviour, whereby relevant technological and online tools are utilised to lead to new types of collaboration based on openness and interdisciplinarianism (Scanlon, 2011, pp. 178-182).  She identifies the skills of collection, curation, collaboration, creation, and publication as those enabled by digital scholarship, and links the need for such skills to both higher and secondary education (Scanlon, 2011, p. 180). These fit well with the twenty-first century skills now considered so vital for school students that they are embedded in the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, n.d.), and promoted by the International Society for Technology in Education Standards for teaching and learning with technology (International Society for Technology in Education, n.d.).

Scanlon refers to an ecological approach to learning  (Scanlon, 2011, p. 179). Ayers promotes similar concepts: ongoing, ever-growing digital environments which generatively enhance the essential aspects of monographic erudition while simultaneously enabling things that could not have been done in print; networking is a prime example of this (Ayers, 2013, p. 34).

Networked participatory scholarship, an exemplar of generative digital ecology, (Veletsianos & Kimmins, 2012)  operates within communities of practice (Archer, 2006), using technologies of cooperation (Saveri, Rheingold, & Vian, 2005). It emerges from an understanding that digital scholarship is something that goes beyond using information and communication technologies to research, teach and collaborate; it also embraces open values, ideology, the potential of peer to peer networking and so-called “wiki ways of working” (Pearce, Weller, Scanlon, & Ashleigh, 2010).  Such scholarship engages with this emergent scholarly practice of using technologies that specifically favour participation in various forms of social media, not only to share concepts, but also to reflect upon them, invite criticism of them, seek suggestions for improving them, validate their worth, and take scholarship further through publication in media that allows for feedback (Veletsianos & Kimmins, 2012, p. 778). Communities of practice, in this sense, have developed in order to manage and grow knowledge as an asset, enabling knowledge exchange in order to improve understanding (Archer, 2006, p. 67). Archer identifies four classifications of such communities: internal, networked within organisations, formal and self-organising (Archer, 2006, p. 67).

These organisational communities of practice networks differ from personal learning networks in that the former entail a level of company or organisational direction while the latter are established by individuals.  There have been a number of examples of open and social learning opportunities for individuals to more formally develop personal learning networks, and many of these have been offered by universities as MOOCs, such as The University of Melbourne’s Coursera on the French Revolution, a subject entailing a blend of traditional and contemporary styles (McPee, 2015). This is very different to the MOOC offered by Regina University: Education, Curriculum and Instruction, taught by Alec Couros, in that the former is content driven while the latter is focused on process (Couros, 2010).  This further illustrates the problem of defining exactly what digital scholarship entails.

The formality of organisationally directed networks is very different from the informality of personal learning networks, and perhaps would be better labelled as professional learning networks. The former often occur randomly within social media circles: Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus; they grow and shrink as people join or lose interest and they persist because of the efforts of the passionate; they rely on open access to the platforms on which they depend and often lead to participation in MOOCs (Couros, 2010, pp. 111-112).  Couros’ course demonstrated the potential for leveraging education through such courses by its cohort: twenty students registered, but more than two hundred others freely interacted with the material under discussion (Couros, 2010, pp. 109 -110). Digital scholarship, as this example illustrates, enables the collection of information for investment in furthering collective knowledge, involves sharing of appropriate tools for collecting and analysing the information found, and may result in the generation of new creating and authoring tools (Weller, The nature of scholarship, 2011, pp. 42- 43).

Some key issues arise from these new ways of learning: the comparability of digital scholarship with the work of “scholarly primitives”, the comparison of open access and publishing with closed and monographic dissemination; the differing pedagogies or andragogies required to deliver them, and the tensions within academia that these cause (Weller, A pedagogy of abundance, 2011, pp. 41 – 47). The tasks traditionally undertaken by the “primitives”: discovering, annotating, comparing, referring, sampling and representing share some similarities to those of digital scholarship; the biggest difference, however, lies in the greater sense of equality for scholars in the truly digital world (Weller, The nature of scholarship, 2011, p. 42). The integration of the knowledge gained (often referred to as emerging from liberated data), its application to wider circumstances, and the teaching that it enables, are seen as threatening the established understanding  of knowledge capital as something residing in published, peer-reviewed articles with restricted circulation within the tertiary sector (Weller, The nature of scholarship, 2011, pp. 43 – 44).

The emancipation of data facilitates unexpected applications (often created in a similar fashion to crowdsourcing) and allows others to integrate the learning in new ways sometimes using new or repurposed tools (Weller, The nature of scholarship, 2011, p. 44) . Opening access to information and publishing the knowledge that is subsequently generated online is a quick and easy process, far removed from the time lag and cost of traditional dissemination of material, especially when subjected to the peer review process (Weller, The nature of scholarship, 2011, p. 45). Speeding up this process offers advantages to universities who can adjust their information generation methodologies, and facilitates an edge in the higher education market (Buckley, 2012, p. 334). Quicker broadcasting of new ideas and ways of collaborating to achieve them, in turn affects application, and all of these processes impact on teaching (Weller, The nature of scholarship, 2011, pp. 45-47).

Possible andragogies and pedagogies in universities and schools intending to adopt digital scholarly practices have been identified as resource-based learning; project based learning; constructivism; communities of practice; and connectivism (Weller, A pedagogy of abundance, 2011, pp. 88 -89); some institutions have also adopted flipped learning approaches, considered to be innovative (Baggaley, 2015). Educators adopting any one of these teaching styles, or a blended combination of two or more, have demonstrated digital resilience (Weller, Digital resilence, 2011, p. 168). Those who are reluctant or resistant are often suffering from techno-angst, risk-averse mindsets, or scepticism (Weller, Digital resilence, 2011, p. 168).  Reasons for anxiety around innovative concepts and practices may be found in disengagement caused by ubiquitous learning management systems and virtual learning environments, through their implicit restrictions; and the tenure system, whereby some staff have ongoing employment that they wish to keep, while others are contracted and know that effluxion of time will end their role (Weller, Digital resilence, 2011, pp. 170 – 171). Pressure to achieve publication in the classic form of peer-reviewed journals or theses may be another factor (Weller, Digital resilence, 2011, pp. 170 – 171).

Issues such as these may be resolved by disassociating government funding from teaching practices, institutions, faculties and individuals must be assured of security if they innovate in terms of their knowledge sharing, development and generation (Buckley, 2012, p. 335). The first step in this process is the building of trust, critical for knowledge creation, and the crux of long-term social relationships which enable powerful collaboration to this end (Buckley, 2012, p. 335). Educators in schools and universities need to develop and employ digital age competencies, which requires mastery of information navigation, connectivity in its broadest sense, and critical evaluation of sources within a trusting ecology  (Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009, p. 249). While tertiary educators such as Couros (Couros, 2010) and teachers such as Gail Casey (Casey, 2013) embrace the concept of communities of practice, and immerse themselves and their students in social and participatory networking, and others engage globally through flat connections (Lindsay, 2015) utilising the full extent of digital scholarship, they are still in the minority. The students lucky enough to encounter such educators at school or university, will benefit from an education that will aid them to develop their digital identity, a recent cultural process made possible by the participatory web (Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009, p. 251). The greatest benefit identified by Couros’ student Jennifer, is that such learning is truly life-long (Couros, 2010, p. 127).

Digital scholarship is evolving as the technologies of cooperation increase in number and format, and adoption by universities and schools across the world slowly increases (Saveri, Rheingold, & Vian, 2005, p. 1). More research is required to assess and harness the presumed potential of digital technology, and, ensure that the processes being touted as new really are novel, and not just new terminology for older practices, as identified by Baggaley in his somewhat flippant assessment of flipped learning (Baggaley, 2015, pp. 4 – 5). His identification of self-promotion through registering websites, and copyrighting their own terminology is a clear warning for the need for academic rigour (Baggaley, 2015, pp. 3-6).

More academics need to avoid passitivity (Weller, Digital resilence, 2011, p. 170) and become organised participants, possibly by adopting a commando-style role in correcting errors in Wikipedia (Baggaley, 2015, p. 8).  The history of the term digital scholarship in Wikipedia may be an example of such tactics (Libraryowl, 2013). By addressing critical issues of value in relation to risk, and actively engaging in the conversation relating to digital scholarship, academic writers and researchers have the potential to change the politics of educational technology provision and practice (Selwyn, 2010). Once universities endorse the best elements of social participatory networking and its ability to contribute meaningfully to knowledge generation, educators in schools will also embrace a learning ecology perspective, benefitting from the fusion of formal and informal learning, spanning contextual boundaries for self-sustained learning (Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009, p. 248) .

References

21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn. (2010). Bloomington: Solution Tree.

Archer, N. (2006). A Classification of Communities of Practice. In Encyclopedia of Communities of Practice in Information and Knowledge Management (pp. 21-29). Information Science Reference (an imprint of IGI Global).

Ayers, E. L. (2013). Does digital scholarship have a future? Educause Review, 24-34.

Baggaley, J. (2015, May 29). Flips and flops. Distance Education, 1-10.

Buckley, S. (2012). Higher education and knowledge sharing: from ivory tower to twenty-first century. Innovations in Higher Education and Teaching International, 49(3), 333-344.

Casey, G. (2013, September). Interdisciplinary literacy through social media In the Mathematics classroom: an action research study. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 57(1), 60-67.

Couros, A. (2010). Developing personal networks for open and social learning. In Emerging Technologies in Distance Education (109–128). Athabasca University: AU Press.  (pp. 109-128). Athabasca University: AU Press.

Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., & Hughes, J. E. (2009). Learning, teaching and scholarship in a digital age. Educational Researcher, 38(4), 246-259.

Ho, C. (2015, August 26). Blogging Your Way To A PhD. Retrieved from The Thesis Whisperer August 27, 2015: http://thesiswhisperer.com/2015/08/26/blogging-your-way-to-a-phd/

International Society for Technology in Education. (n.d.). ISTE Standards. Retrieved from ISTE August 29, 2015: http://www.iste.org/standards

Libraryowl. (2013, July 30). Digital Scholarship. Retrieved from Wikipedia  August 30, 2015: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_scholarship

Lindsay, J. [host] (2015, August 6). Colloquium 3: Flat Classrooms.

McPee, P. (2015). Class Central: The French revolution. Retrieved August 29, 2015, from Coursera: https://www.class-central.com/mooc/1705/coursera-the-french-revolution

Pearce, N., Weller, M., Scanlon, E., & Ashleigh, M. (2010). Digital scholarship considered: how new technologies could transform academic work. in education, 16(1 Spring), 33-14.

Saveri, A., Rheingold, H., & Vian, K. (2005). Technologies of Cooperation. Palo Alto: Institute for the Future. Retrieved August 15, 2015, from www.iftf.org

Scanlon, E. (2011). Digital futures: changes in scholarship, open education resources and the inevitability of interdisciplinarity. Arts And Humanities in Higher Education, 177-184.

Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning(26 (1)), 65 – 73. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2009.00338.x.

The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary. (1996). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Veletsianos, G., & Kimmins, R. (2012). Networked participatory scholarship: emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks. Computers & Education; An International Journal 58 (2012) 76, 58, 766 -774.

Weller, M. (2011). A Pedagogy of Abundance. In M. Weller, The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice (pp. 85-95). London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Weller, M. (2011). Digital Resilence. In The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice (pp. 168-184). London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Weller, M. (2011). The Nature of Scholarship. In M. Weller, The Digital Scholar, How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice (pp. 41-51). London: Bloomsbury Collections.

 

Evaluative report

Evaluative statement (a):

From the commencement of Knowledge Networking for Educators, there was an expectation of relevant learning, encountering new skills and continuing involvement in a networked community of practice. The learning modules delivered valuable and relevant material, providing challenging and practical experiences for exploration, as well as demonstration. This is best exemplified by referring to Assignment One, which required the development of a digital artefact (a new skill) (Simkin, Digital Artefact and References, 2015). The end product was a short film, but the processes of topic and platform selection (Simkin, Survey Results, 2015), and subsequent artefact creation, were where the challenging practical experience was most evident (Simkin, Artefact Design, 2015). Given the assessment mark allocation gave more credit to the exegesis, the time taken to develop the artefact was excessive, but incredibly fulfilling, despite the compromises that had to be made (Simkin, Exegesis, 2015). Significant learning resulted from mistakes, investigating exciting platforms, conquering fears (for example, peers found hearing their own voice confronting), and technical frustration. Conquering the digital product was a wonderful achievement, celebrated on Twitter by most of the cohort through sharing links. Assessing the work of colleagues for this task also provided a significant, networked learning opportunity (Simkin, Collegial Artefact Critiques, 2015). A valuable addition to this process would have arisen from sharing the exegeses, which described the context, intention and restraints behind the artefact, enabling a deeper level of analysis.

During the course of the semester, this subject presented a range of concepts and required the exploration of a range of knowledge networking tools. Starting with the obligatory introduction (Simkin, Knowledge Networking for Educators, 2015), and progressing to the final module (Simkin, The Future, 2015), the Digitalli blog posts of 2015 document a growth in knowledge mastery, leading to increased wisdom, thereby setting the scene for ongoing growth as a connected educator as defined by Gregor Kennedy (Kennedy, 2014).

The course began by investigating information in the digital age, evaluating the different sources of knowledge, identifying innovative platforms, and challenging participants to re-define terminology and apply it to contemporary learning scenarios (Coutas, 2010). Early in the subject, students encountered a range of digital tools, some new to them, and others well used (Simkin, Digital tools, 2015). This suite of new media tools, covered all aspects of knowledge management from content creation, to content curation, and included collaborative work, and connecting with and developing social networks leading to communities of practice (Simkin, Curation, 2015).

Building on knowledge networking to strengthen school-based classroom engagement and learning was a highly valuable aspect of the course, even for those with prior active involvement in a range of digital platforms (Simkin, 1.1 Connected students, 2015). It enabled both consolidation and revisitation of virtual learning spaces, revived forgotten skills while mastering new ones, and increased overall personal understanding of the philosophies of information management (Simkin, K. C in a C. A, 2015). The crucial need to consider pedagogy, andragogy and learning design when designing tasks was incredibly beneficial. The latter was aptly defined by Tolisano, in scaffolding what learning occurs when a class is involved in an activity such as Skype (Tolisano, 2103).

While the verdict on skills and knowledge gained from this course is overwhelmingly positive, there are some aspects which cannot be evaluated with such a high level of affirmation.  The documenting of networked learning experiences through blogging enables reflection, and ideally, feedback.  The processes required by the learning modules and assessment tasks for INF532, in combination with a very small cohort, meant that the capacity to engage in dialogue through blogging (and the discussion forum) was limited. There was a strong connection between the assessment tasks and blogging, but limited direction to blog within the learning modules. Unlike INF530 and INF536, for example, there was no requirement that peers comment on each other’s blog posts, an attribute that was missed. The digital artefacts were peer assessed, but some people were fairly slow to complete this or did not advise their peers where to find their evaluation (Simkin, Collegial Artefact Critiques, 2015). This was an innovative digital process which did not meet its potential standard for peer learning or the networking expectations held by most participants.

Using a blog to reflect on learning enabled powerful personal reflection, meaningful consideration, and publication of ideas. Sharing links through Twitter resulted in some feedback from followers, but no comments on the posts themselves (Simkin, Tweeting, 2015). This scarcity of feedback was disappointing.

Another aspect of knowledge networking that has been the basis of subjects within this Master of Education course has been the use of the discussion forums. This year information was distributed through the new Interact2 interface, based on the Blackboard learning management system (Simkin, New LMS, 2015). This added a new format for students and staff to conquer. Students found the new discussion format less user-friendly, and feedback was inconsistent. Fewer comments were posted on the forum, and retracing items proved tricky. The email alert within the system did not work as well as last year’s.

Despite these issues, overall the value of this subject is acknowledged. Throughout the semester topics ranged from the playful to the very serious and academic (Simkin, Play & Learning, 2015). Participants developed physical classroom and library spaces, and digital venues such as YouTube channels (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaJmkTMf7-74nzRUDW4e9pg ). Concepts such as the flipped classroom, blended classrooms and flexible learning, which are sometimes just contemporary buzz-words, were productively investigated and compared with personal practice, leading to improvement in learning design (Simkin, Types of Learning, 2015).

Reflective statement (b):

In retracing the course of Knowledge Networks for Educators, there are several components from the learning modules that really resonated. The contents of the first module raised some key issues relevant to personal concern and frustration in attempting to teach twenty-first century skills in a school that remains largely “analogue” in focus despite being well-equipped technologically (Simkin, 1.2 New Culture, 2015).   From dialogue with other students of this course, this is, sadly, too common.

Contemplating the development of digital lives, personally, professionally and for the students encountered in participants’ work, it is hard to imagine that a sound philosophy of communities of practice is not a basic guiding principle in this day and age. Yet for many teachers and administrators, the main focus with technology in classrooms is fear of cyber bullying, rather than the crucial need to model the use of technology and development of C21st skills which include protective behaviours (Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S), 2014). The dichotomy between issues of authenticity and authority in the digital age compared to the past is extreme when considering Floridi’s comment: that humanity has experienced information ages since writing began (Floridi, 2009, p. 153). Modern students need to become the Gutenberg or Turing of these times, by seeking wide-ranging input to create new information (Floridi, 2009, p. 154). Teachers should celebrate the fact that information is socially situated, and socially constructed, and, therefore, instruction needs to be designed to empower people, as opposed to overwhelming them (Lindsey, 2014). Infowhelm is a serious issue with many different names (Bawden & Robinson, 2009). Students should be guided to locate and evaluate information, rather than be restricted to the text-book or teacher notes that many educators insist on mandating as the sole source of information (Simkin, 1.1 Connected students, 2015).

All educators have a unique and critical role to play in assisting their students to develop skills that enable them to cope with the flood of information that is now accessible (Brown & Duguid, 2000, p. 14).  The rapidity of information sharing is well demonstrated by the mesmerising animated gif that introduces the Too Big To Know blog post (Simkin, Too Big To Know, 2015). Infoenthusiasts are excited by the amazing amount of knowledge that may result from this, however, students need to be educated to understand, select, and curate, then network and collaborate in order to problem solve within a learning community, something to which is so well suited to digital information sources and sharing (Floridi, 2009, p. 154).

Thomas and Brown define this as a new culture of learning, invisible, non-traditional in structure and operating within a defined environment (Thomas & Brown, 2011, pp. 17-18).  They acknowledge that playing in such a culture leads to the development of passions and ideas, which, in turn, encourages freedom to research (Thomas & Brown, 2011, pp. 17-18).  The necessity for managed freedom is supported in Douch’s recent blog post, where he postulates that the balustrade at the edge of The Pinnacle (in the Grampians) doesn’t restrict people; instead it is liberating them to go further (Douch, 2015)!

Learning within this new culture cultivates global, digital citizenship, generates feedback leading to improvement for students, and establishes the use of rich and highly textured examples of cross-referencing and communication to form a community of practice made up of the teachers and students within the group (Thomas & Brown, 2011, pp. 22-25). There is a serious problem if teachers are not also learners.

Ruminating on digital artefacts led to an investigation of the best-known creator of such learning objects: Salman Khan (Simkin, Khan Academy, 2015).  Interestingly, while Khan has designed artefacts to teach entire subjects, he does not advocate a world without teachers, rather, he proposes a change to teacher deployment. He proposes that teaching become a team sport where numerous students in a large space collaborate with a number of teachers (Khan, 2012, pp. 197-198). The fluencies of C21st learning are well suited to Khan’s model (Crockett, Jukes, & Churches, 2011).

A thought provoking concept is that of filter bubbles (Pariser, 2013). People must be educated in the manner that algorithms work, and what is typically collected and presented to each one of us separately. The speed at which information is being added to the web in combination with these mining algorithms is a critical C21st skill, that should be included in overall education programs (Simkin, Filter Bubbles, 2015). In fact, Australian teachers are mandated through learning standard 4.5 (Simkin, AITSL, 2015) to use ICT (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2014).

Actor Network Theorists postulate that competence is an effect is passed through organisations as a result of minute translations at mundane levels of everyday knowledge flow patterns (Fenwick, 2010, pp. 27-28). They also state that knowledge must be considered as a rhetoric of contentions (Fenwick, 2010, p. 35). The investigations and analyses of educational processes are more important than the logical meaning of concepts and processes typically applied to analyse education (Fenwick, 2010, p. 44). It is vital that educators think about the accessibility and equity of information (Simkin, ANT, 2015).

Stange’s strange video, filmed through Google Glass, utilises a method of recording that is disconcerting and distracting in the extreme (Stange, 2013). It detracts from the valid points Shirky presents on the premise that knowledge networking is based on having a common interest and working with like-minded people (Simkin, Shirky, 2015). Of necessity, the incorporation of finding like-minded people, connecting with them and following their interests, forms part of this process (Simkin, Shirky, 2015).

New vocabulary has been acquired: glocalisation (Simkin, Fis(c)hbowls etc.!, 2015); “filter bubbles” (Simkin, Filter Bubbles, 2015) and fliperentiated, in relation to excellent design for flipped classrooms(Hirsch, 2014). The latter was shared through the Diigo Knowledge Networks group – a wonderful source of co-created information for members.

In contemplating the growth accruing from the study of Knowledge Networks for Educators, the improvement in and consolidation of personal skills and development of a more focused information philosophy is measurable. It has brought all the learning in this course together to strengthen both educational practice and personal learning connections; a pleasing outcome for those involved.

References

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2014). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership: http://www.aitsl.edu.au/australian-professional-standards-for-teachers/standards/list

Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S). (2014). Retrieved March 4, 2015, from Microsoft Education: http://www.microsoft.com/education/en-au/leadership/Pages/assessment.aspx

Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2009). The Dark Side of Information Overload, Anxiety and Other Paraxes and Pathologies. Journal of Information Science, 35(2), 180-191.

Brown, J., & Duguid, P. (2000). Limits to Information. In J. Brown, & P. Duguid, Social Life of Information (pp. 11-33). Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Coutas, P. (2010, October 8). New Sources of Information. Retrieved from Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/pcoutas/new-sources-of-information

Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is Not Enough, 21st-Century Fluencies for the Digital Age. Corwin.

Douch, A. (2015, May 28). Why Your School Needs Clearly Defined Social Media Policies. Retrieved from Douchy’s Blog onICT and Education: https://andrewdouch.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/why-your-school-needs-clearly-defined-social-media-policies/

Fenwick, T. &. (2010). Actor-network Theory in Education. . Knowledge, Innovation and Knowing in Practice , 24-39.

Floridi, L. (2009). The Information Society and Its Philosophy: An Introduction to the Special issue on “The Philosophy of Information, Its Nature, and Future Developments. The Information Society: An International Journal, 25, 153-158. doi:10.1080/01972240902848583

Hirsch, J. (2014, October 21). “Fliperentiated” Instruction: How to Create the Customizable Classroom. Retrieved from Edutopia: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/fliperentiated-instruction-create-customizable-classroom-joe-hirsch

Kennedy, G. (2014, January 30). Official Ascilite Video: 2013 Conference – Understanding our Present. Retrieved from You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnilKymnPmo&feature=youtu.be

Khan, S. (2012). The One World School House: Education Reimagined. London: Hodder and Staughton.

Lindsey, J. (2014). 1.1 Information environments. Retrieved March 4, 2015, from INF532 Knowledge Networking for Educators: https://interact2.csu.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-289790-dt-content-rid-490057_1/courses/S-INF532_201530_W_D/S-INF532_201530_W_D_ImportedContent_20150211062159/module1/1_2_Discover_philosophy_info_digital_environ.html

Pariser, E. (2013, March 22). Beware Online “Filter Bubbles”. Retrieved from YouTube: http://youtu.be/4w48Ip-KPRs

Simkin, M. (2015, March 07). 1.1 Connected students. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/03/07/module-1-1-being-a-student-in-the-connected-world/

Simkin, M. (2015, March 8). 1.2 New Culture. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/03/08/1-2-a-new-culture-of-learning/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 30). AITSL. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/30/aitsl/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 20). ANT. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/20/ant

Simkin, M. (2015, April 28). Artefact Design. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/04/28/artefact-design/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 19). Collegial Artefact Critiques. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/19/collegial-artefact-critiques/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 20). Curation. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/20/curation/

Simkin, M. (2015, April 25). Digital Artefact and References. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/04/25/digital-artefact/

Simkin, M. (2015, March 10). Digital tools. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/03/10/the-digital-tools-used-in-inf532/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 27). Exegesis. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/27/exegesis/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 19). Filter Bubbles. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/19/module-4/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 24). Fis(c)hbowls etc.! Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/24/fischbowls-etc/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 20). K. C in a C. A. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/20/knowledge-construction-in-a-connected-age/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 17). Khan Academy. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/17/khan-academy-digital-artefacts-and-the-one-world-schoolhouse/

Simkin, M. (2015, February 16). Knowledge Networking for Educators. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/02/16/knowledge-networking-for-educators /

Simkin, M. (2015, May 26). New LMS. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/26/new-lms/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 20). PKM. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/20/398/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 22). Play & Learning. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/22/play-learning/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 20). Shirky. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/20/shirky

Simkin, M. (2015, April 29). Survey Results. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/04/29/survey-results/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 24). The Future. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/24/the-future/

Simkin, M. (2015, April 1). Too Big To Know. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/04/01/too-big-to-know/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 25). Tweeting. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/25/tweeting/

Simkin, M. (2015, May 24). Types of Learning. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/05/24/types-of-learning/

Stange, M. (2013, July 9). Blackboard World 2013 Opening Keynote #throughglass. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNyksYKniJY

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). Arc-of-Life-Learning. A new culture of learning, 17-33.

Tolisano, S. R. (2103, January 27). Learning in the Modern Classroom. Retrieved from Langwitches blog: http://langwitches.org/blog/2013/01/27/learning-in-the-modern-classroom/

 

Exegesis

Exegesis:

Below is the text for Assignment 1, which accompanies the Digital Artefact.

This exegesis evaluates the digital artefact: “Social media in your classroom”, a short animation, constructed using Sparkol VideoScribe software (http://www.sparkol.com/)  (Simkin, 2015).  This platform was chosen because it contains copyright free sketches and music, offers effective conversion of text and photograph to hand drawn images, and renders into upload-ready film. Scribing animation has been proven to attract and hold viewers’ attention, an important requirement for the artefact.  (Air, Oakland, & Walters, 2014). Content was developed using appropriate design principles, based on ADDIE (ADDIE Model, n.d.), selected for simplicity, and application to andragogy. A broad application of knowledge networking theory: physical connectivity, and developing collaborative communities of practice, democratising learning, was the intended message  (Price, 2015).

Design commenced with ADDIE’s analysis phase; this clarified instructional objectives, identified the learning environment and acknowledged the audience’s pre-existing knowledge and skills. Informed by the school’s technological vision, the artefact needed to stimulate technology inclusive pedagogy, for 2016.  Its purpose needed to be effective, accessible and developed at minimal cost. Modelling a product that could be re-used, or stimulate creation of new artefacts was important.

 

The form and function needed to engage teachers with the content of the artefact. The selection of VideoScribe over Powtoon, or Office Mix for PowerPoint was made because this style of video is persuasive, and well received (Air, Oakland, & Walters, 2014, p. 3).  A comparison with these other products made it a clear winner (Simkin, Artefact Design, 2015).

 

One of the advantages of scribing is the stimulation of viewer anticipation (Air, Oakland, & Walters, 2014, p. 17). By using drawings to convey meaning, questioning is encouraged, and an element of playfulness produces a positive emotional response (Barrett, 2013, pp. 53-56).

Content was structured to avoid the pathology of Information overload  (Bawden & Robinson, 2009, p. 182).  Being mindful that teachers’ primary focus is facilitation of the learning was critical for selecting the drawings and words included in the animation. The message that the connected world lies at the heart of the curriculum was crucial (Zuckerman, 2013, p. 266).

Technological challenges affected design. Overall length was reduced to enhance rendering to film and reduce upload speeds.  Some desired elements had to be removed, and the spoken narration abbreviated  (Simkin, Artefact Design, 2015). Human resources were stretched in terms of pre-existing skills, time and looming deadlines, which impacted quality of the finished product. Such factors will always affect teachers creating digital artefacts for their learning communities.

The context for any digital artefact is the most critical consideration. The region for which this artefact is intended suffers patchy Internet access, so brevity and file size were critical. The clientele comprises a school community seeking to implement higher order technology skills though incorporation into lesson design. The teachers are academically focussed and technologically competent. For the last eleven years, they have used tablet laptops, s their students from Years 9 upwards since 2012. Next year this will extend from Years 6 to 8 with iPads. Recent meaningful change in technological pedagogy in some classes, has sparked momentum on which to build.

Professional learning has offered limited opportunities for meaningful exploration of twenty-first century fluencies, or consideration of the importance of global digital citizenship, the background of core values and personal identity on which all other fluencies depend (Crockett, Jukes, & Churches, 2011, pp. 79 – 82). Some believe that teaching such skills is not the responsibility of subject teachers, however, the Australian Curriculum defines such skills as cross–curricular capabilities (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, n.d.). A professional learning day focussing on technology in the classroom is planned for the beginning of Term 3.

Artefact design commenced amidst discussion centred on the type of devices, which cannot create student centred learning environments themselves. The value of technology, with its ability to access, store, manipulate and analyse information, comes from creating a student-centred learning environment, and it is this that must be explored (Wong, Hanafi, & Sabudin, 2010, p. 389). Implemented well, social media ensures that students will spend less time gathering information, and more time reflecting on the objectives they have set, and the learning they have achieved  (Wong, Hanafi, & Sabudin, 2010, p. 389).

This artefact, therefore, is aimed at andragogy, which identifies different learning needs to pedagogy (Couros, 2010, p. 113). Motivation for developing new skills is enhanced by adults’ life experiences, so it is vital to consider these needs, and present content of relevance (Couros, 2010, p. 114).

The starting slide was chosen to cause a positive response; smiling before you start recording your voice-over makes you sound upbeat, seeing a smile engenders a degree of optimism (Air, Oakland, & Walters, 2014, p. 46).  With scribing, there is also the anticipation of what will appear next: why is this person smiling at me? The evaluation team has reported that this design element is successful.

Adult learners also draw constructive conclusions from mistakes (Couros, 2010, p. 114). A slight slip up in recording the voice-over remains, partly for this reason, but also because of the impending deadline. In the professional learning workshop this will provide a teachable moment. The effectiveness of this cannot yet be evaluated.

Educators face constantly altering expectations, from authorities rewriting curriculum, to administrators changing expectations, and alterations to school policies that cover every aspect of their working life. Therefore it was important that the message imparted by the artefact introduced a new way of working that was easy to adopt, and which offered a way of fulfilling current programs as outlined by the school’s professional learning policy documents. The recently introduced foci on considerations for successful learning experiences within a positive education framework have been effectively woven through the artefact (Grift & Major, 2013).

The social media focus was chosen for its personal familiarity to many teachers; it offers a range of options and is something that can be supported by current “nodes” of networked educators within the college learning community. Richardson recommends that these impassioned teachers have the capacity to assist others to become part of knowledge networks, a powerful way to deal with the vast quantities of accessible information (Richardson, 2010, pp. 295-296). Trials have proven the artefact’s efficacy in arousing interest.

The development phase reflected the need to justify trying social media rather demonstrating how to use it. Such Instruction will follow the viewing of the artefact, and will be able to unfold as participants require. While blogging is the specific media covered within the artefact, it is presented as an option, thus allowing for the ensuing discussion to lead to other examples. The skills of sharing authentic publications, reflecting on progress, creating positive digital footprints and co-learning through collection, curation and evaluation of information are the skills that matter, and which have been clearly articulated throughout the artefact (Richardson, 2010, pp. 297-301).

Social media has the capacity to be applied to any content, as indicated in the artefact. The specific example of Gail Casey will be raised in the ensuing discussion. She promotes a social and participatory approach within her face-to-face Mathematics classes, and builds on her students’ life experiences  (Casey, 2013, pp. 60-63).  Her work supports the considerations for learning design raised by Grift and Major (Grift & Major, 2013), and the power and multimodality of social media strengthen interdisciplinary literacy (Casey, 2013, p. 60). Brevity constraints precluded the inclusion of such justification for using social media.

Contrary to popular perception, students struggle with interpreting, thinking with, or building multimedia communications and need guidance to develop a multimodal literacy. (Lemke, 2010, pp. 250-251).  Many myths abound in relation to older and younger users of technology; while younger people use social media in many forms, they do not realise the potential for learning and knowledge building that it offers (Higgins, ZhiMin, & Katsipataki, 2012, p. 20). Some wonderful images supporting this point had to be removed to allow successful rendering. The message that platforms are so varied and information access so big that no users can know them all could have been more effectively delivered (Weinberger, 2011).

Several invitees have been approached to review the artefact and give feedback as to its value; their comments support VideoScribe’s claim that scribing attracts and holds viewers’ attention (Air, Oakland, & Walters, 2014, p. 3). The artefact has been described as awesome, but assessing the delivery of the message has been difficult. The most evaluative comment identified the core message, and stated a need for more examples and information on how to get involved (Statt, 2015). This indicates that the intention of raising awareness and arousing interest in further involvement has been achieved for this viewer.

Rheingold identifies three aspects relevant to the power of knowledge networking through social media and thriving in an online environment. Firstly, attention, sometimes referred to as multi-tasking, or hyper-attention (attention splitting) (Rheingold, Netsmart: How To Thrive Online, 2012). This aspect of using digital devices is a concern for many teachers. Rheingold suggests that the solution lies in teachers’ design of learning experiences, which should include training as to when and how to apply the “high-beam light of focussed attention” (Rheingold, Netsmart: How To Thrive Online, 2012). In contrast, Andersson et al. report that students feel that laptops have substantially increased distractions and reduced face-to-face social interaction (Andersson, Hatakka, Gronlund, & Wiklund, 2014, pp. 43-44). The narration within the artefact successfully refers to the importance of social media for teaching students appropriate use and meaningful interaction as part of a range of strategies, thereby offering solutions for such concerns.

Secondly, becoming an active citizen in the online space, not a passive consumer, creates a literacy of participation (Rheingold, Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies, 2010).  Collaboration moves combined efforts from merely co-operating to really working with others; collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour is referred to as communities of practice (Wenger, 2012, p. 1). It is the potency of this mix of ages, experiences and knowledge seeking that is so attractive within social media options. The artefact presents this concept through images of face-to-face talking, and circles around the globe, supported by the narrative discussing the links to the world beyond the classroom, irrespective of time and location. The link between these processes, and their current use by universities and workplaces, clearly reinforces the importance of such skills (Christozov, 2013, pp. 1-3).

Finally, Rheingold nominates critical consumption, an issue raised by many others  (Rheingold, Netsmart: How To Thrive Online, 2012). Knowing how to use social media to cultivate and utilise networks for learning must be modelled and encouraged by educators. This presents an exciting proposition, offering fulfilment of great hopes while simultaneously challenging many concepts of traditional schooling; the artefact presents this quite well. (Richardson & Mancabelli, Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education, 2011, pp. 7-8).

Blogging, the example focussed on within the artefact, has developed into a serious means of communication, which for many readers supersedes traditional news media (De Saulles, 2012, p. 15). It offers authentic publication, and a means of quickening the dynamic exchange of ideas, taking teachers from isolated classrooms to virtual spaces where generation of ideas propels innovative ways of becoming involved (Davidson & Goldberg, 2010, p. 176). The potential of connecting with a world-wide network of professionals for support and learning is successfully conveyed by this digital artefact according to viewer feedback (Wheeler, 2015).

Including research findings indicating a correlation between effective technology integration and improved learning outcomes has also resonated  (Picardo, 2015). The artefact’s content inclusion, quality of product and download speed have been successful, however, the educational impact is unknown. The real value will only be observable after the workshop if it results in implementation of social media within this targeted school community.

 

 

References

ADDIE Model. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2015, from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADDIE_Model

Air, J., Oakland, E., & Walters, C. (2014). Video Scribing; How Whiteboard Animation Will Get You Heard. Sparkol Limited.

Andersson, A., Hatakka, M., Gronlund, A., & Wiklund, M. (2014). Reclaiming the Students – Coping With Social Media in 1:1 Schools. Learning, Media and Technology, 39(1), 37-52. doi:10.1080/17439884.2012.756518

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (n.d.). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability. Retrieved from Australian Curriculum: F-10 Curriculum: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/information-and-communication-technology-capability/introduction/ict-capability-across-the-curriculum

Barrett, T. (2013). Can Computers Keep Secrets? How A Six-Year-Olds Curiosity Could Change The World. Edinburgh: No Tosh.

Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2009). The Dark Side of Information Overload, Anxiety and Other Paraxes and Pathologies. Journal of Information Science, 35(2), 180-191.

Casey, G. (2013, September). Interdisciplinary Literacy Through Social Media In the Mathematics Classroom: an Action Research Study. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 57(1), 60-67.

Christozov, D. (2013). Knowledge Diffusion via Social Netwroks: The C21st Challenge. International Journal of Digital Literacy and Digital Competence, 4(2, April-June), 1-12.

Couros, A. (2010). Developing Personal Networks for Open and Social Learning. In Emerging Technologies in Distance Education (109–128). Athabasca University: AU Press.  (pp. 109-128). Athabasca University: A U Press.

Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is Not Enough, 21st-Century Fluencies for the Digital Age. Corwin.

Davidson, C. N., & Goldberg, D. T. (2010). The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. Cambridge: MIT Press.

De Saulles, M. (2012). New Models of Information Production. Information 2.0: New Models of Information Production, Distribution and Consumption., 13-35.

Grift, G., & Major, C. (2013). Teachers As Architects Of Learning: Twelve Considerations For Constructing A Successful Learning Experience. Moorabbin: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Higgins, S., ZhiMin, X., & Katsipataki, M. (2012). The Impact of Digital Technologies on Learning. Durham University. Durham: Education Endowment Foundation. Retrieved from Education Endowment Foundation: http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/uploads/pdf/The_Impact_of_Digital_Technologies_on_Learning_(2012).pdf

Lemke, C. (2010). Innovation Through Technology. In C21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn (pp. 243-274). Bloomington: Solution Tree.

Pearce, J., & Bass, G. (2008). Technology Toolkits: Introducing You to Web 2.0. South Melbourne: Cengage Learning.

Picardo, J. (2015, March 22). What Impact? 5 Ways to Put Research into Practice in the 1-to-1 Classroom. Retrieved March 23, 2015, from Educate 1 to 1: http://www.educate1to1.org/technology-impact-research-into-practice/

Price, D. (2015, March 23). Six Powerful Motivations Driving Social learning by Teens. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from MindShift: Http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/03/six-powerful-motivations-driving-social-learning-by-teens

Rheingold, H. (2010, October 7). Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies. Retrieved March 21, 2015, from Educause: http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/attention-and-other-21st-century-social-media-literacies

Rheingold, H. (2012). Netsmart: How To Thrive Online. London: MIT Press.

Richardson, W. (2010). Navigating Social Networks as Learning Tools. In 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn (pp. 285-304). Bloomington: Solution Tree.

Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2011). Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press.

Simkin, M. (2015, April 28). Artefact Design. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/04/28/artefact-design/

Simkin, M. (2015, April 27). Social Media in Your Classroom. Hamilton, Victoria, Australia. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YS39JMf6iwA

Simkin, M. (2015, April 29). Survey Results. Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2015/04/29/survey-results/

Statt, T. (2015, May 1). History teacher. (M. Simkin, Interviewer)

Weinberger, D. (2011). Too Big To Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That The Facts Aren’t Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, And The Smartest Person In The Room Is The Room. New York: Basic Books.

Wenger, E. (2012). Communities of Practice a Brief Introduction. Retrieved from Wenger Traynor: http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/

Wheeler, S. (2015, March 21). Making Connections. Retrieved March 23, 2015, from Learning with ‘e’s My Thoughts About Learning Technology and All Things Digital.: http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/making-connections.html

Wong, S. L., Hanafi, A., & Sabudin, S. (2010). Exploring Teachers’ Perceptions of Their Pedagogical Role With Computers; a Case Study in Malaysia. Procedia: Social and Behavioural Sciences, 2, pp. 388-391.

Zuckerman, E. (2013). Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection. New York: W.W Norton & Company.

Digital Artefact and References

References relating to the power of social media, which informed my Videoscribe narrative:

Andersson, A., Hatakka, M., Gronlund, A., & Wiklund, M. (2014). Reclaiming the Students – Coping With Social Media in 1:1 Schools. Learning, Media and Technology, 39(1), 37-52. doi:10.1080/17439884.2012.756518

Barrett, T. (2013). Can Computers Keep Secrets? How A Six-Year-Olds Curiosity Could Change The World. Edinburgh: No Tosh.

Evidence and Data Teaching and Learning Toolkit. (2015). Retrieved March 23, 2015, from Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit: http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/toolkit/

Gerstein, J. (2015, March 29). Sharing: A Responsibility of the Modern Educator. Retrieved April 1, 2015, from User Generated Education: https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/sharing-a-responsibility-of-the-modern-educator/#comment-17771

Gerstein, J. (2015, January 2015). The Other 21st Century Skills: Educator Self-Assessment. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from User Generated Education: https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/the-other-21st-century-skills-educator-self-assessment/

Grift, G., & Major, C. (2013). Teachers As Architects Of Learning: Twelve Considerations For Constructing A Successful Learning Experience. Moorabbin: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Hawkins, W. (2015, March 29). When Risks in the Classroom Lead to Rewards. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from Edsurge: https://www.edsurge.com/n/2015-03-29-when-risks-in-the-classroom-lead-to-rewards

Higgins, S., ZhiMin, X., & Katsipataki, M. (2012). The Impact of Digital Technologies on Learning. Durham University. Durham: Education Endowment Foundation. Retrieved from Education Endowment Foundation: http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/uploads/pdf/The_Impact_of_Digital_Technologies_on_Learning_(2012).pdf

Kanter, B. (2011, October 4). Content Curation Primer. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from Beth Kanter: http://www.bethkanter.org/content-curation-101/

Lemke, C. (2010). Innovation Through Technology. In C21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn (pp. 243-274). Bloomington: Solution Tree.

Mewburn, I. (Ed.). (2015, March 25). This is Not Just a Post About Instagram. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from The Thesis Whisperer: Just Like the Horse Whisperer But With More Pages: http://thesiswhisperer.com/2015/03/25/this-is-not-just-a-post-about-instagram/

November, A. (2010). Technology Rich, Information Poor. In 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn (pp. 275-284). Bloomington: Solution Tree.

O’Connell, J., & Groom, D. (2010). Virtual Worlds: Learning in a Changing World. Camberwell: ACER.

Pearce, J., & Bass, G. (2008). Technology Toolkit: Introducing You to Web 2.0. South Melbourne: Nelson Cengage.

Peeragogy Team. (2013, December 19). Forward. Retrieved March 23, 2015, from The Peeragogy Handbook: http://peeragogy.org/forward/

Penny Stocks. (n.d.). The Internet in Real-Time: How Quickly Data is Generated. Retrieved from Penny Stocks: http://pennystocks.la/internet-in-real-time/

Picardo, J. (2015, March 22). What impact? 5 ways to put research into practice in the 1-to-1 classroom. Retrieved March 23, 2015, from Educate 1 to 1: http://www.educate1to1.org/technology-impact-research-into-practice/

Rheingold, H. (2010, October 7). Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies. Retrieved March 21, 2015, from Educause: http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/attention-and-other-21st-century-social-media-literacies

Rheingold, H. (2012). Netsmart: How To Thrive Online. London: MIT Press.

Richardson, w. (2010). Navigating Social Networks as Learning Tools. In 21st Century Skills: Rethinkig How Students Learn (pp. 285-304). Bloomington: Solution Tree.

Walker, J. R., Blair, K. L., Eyman, D., Hart-Davidson, B., McLeod, M., Grabill, G., Vitanza, V. J. (2011). Computers and Composition 20/20: A Conversation Piece, or What Some Very Smart People Have to Say about the Future. Computers and Composition , 28, pp. 327-346.

Wheeler, S. (2015, March 21). Making Connections. Retrieved March 23, 2015, from Learning with ‘e’s My Thoughts About Learning Technology and All Things Digital.: http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/making-connections.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed:+blogspot/cYWZ+(Learning+with+’e’s)

Wong, S. L., Hanafi, A., & Sabudin, S. (2010). Exploring Teachers’ Perceptions of Their Pedagogical Role With Computers; a Case Study in Malaysia. Procedia: Social and Behavioural Sciences, 2, pp. 388-391.

 

Literature Critique

 

Wordle of my work

Wordle of my work

Texts Critiqued:

Badke-Schaub, P., Roozenburg, N., & Cardoso, C. (2010). Design Thinking: A Paradigm On Its Way From Dilution To Meaninglessness. Design Thinking Resource Symposium 8: Interpreting Design Thinking (pp. 39 – 50). Sydney: Faculty of Design, Architecture & Building University Of Technology Sydney.

Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. New York: Harper Collins.

Burdick, A., & Willis, H. (2010). Digital Learning, Digital Scholarhip And Design Thinking. Design Thinking Resource Symposium 8: Interpreting Design Thinking (pp. 89-98). Sydney: University of Technology Sydney.

Grift, G., & Major, C. (2013). Teachers As Architects Of Learning: Twelve Considerations For Constructing A Successful Learning Experience. Moorabbin: Hawker Brownlow Education.

IDEO. (2012). Design Thinking For Educators 2nd Edition. Retrieved August 9, 2014, from Ideo: http://www.ideo.com/by-ideo/design-thinking-for-educators

Melles, G. (2010). Curriculum Design Thinking: A New Name For Old Ways Of Thinking And Practice? Interpreting Design Thinking, 299-308.

Surveying the literature constructed around design thinking, reveals few direct intersects between theories of design and theories of learning, particularly in designing real and virtual spaces for learning enrichment through best practice. Design thinking has evolved to augment innovation, intending to enhance life itself (Pilloton, 2009, p. 6). Consequently there have been numerous attempts to describe a formula which will enable such thinking, particularly for professionals, including teachers, who are not explicitly trained in design. The question is, how applicable is design thinking to education, and in what context?  Whether design thinking is part of design theory, or something different there has been little practical adoption within Australian schools.

The selected titles entail varied definitions for a mixture of design theory, process, thinking, pedagogy. They reveal a range of methodologies applied by design thinkers working in numerous fields, and educators approaching learning design from different perspectives. The literature enables engagement with the cognitive aspects of design, especially as applicable to innovative change. Theoretical structures underpin all titles, and deep thinking is unanimously viewed as important. The overall impression is piecemeal, leading to tensions, contradictions and discord, which hamper the adoption of design thinking as a practice. Confusion defining design theory compared to design thinking, potentially restricts the adoption of relevant aspects to non-design fields including education.

The first key tension arises from analysing the varying definitions and processes presented in the texts. Brown recommends diffusing design thinking through organisations by presenting a number of mental matrices outlining the flow of processes (Brown, 2009, pp. 62-86). He draws the path through the “feel” of the different and overlapping spaces he defines, showing the changes in levels of hope, confidence and insight as the process unfolds (Brown, 2009, p. 65). He then delineates the divergence and convergence of creating and making choices, in which the flow moves from a broad concept into a narrower concentration which leads to prototyping and solutions (Brown, 2009, p. 67).

In contrast, the model proposed by Hatchuel et al is constructed as a design square, where concepts and knowledge interact with each other. (Hatchuel, Le Masson, & Weil, 2004, pp. 1-4). They suggest two typical innovative contexts:  scientific and creative. Their design square appears to be all encompassing, whereas Brown acknowledges the need to revisit and reframe any or all parts of the process he outlines. Indeed, he notes that integrative thinkers (essential to this process) see non-linear and multidirectional relationships as a source of inspiration (Brown, 2009, p. 85).

The model presented by IDEO in their toolkit for educators has education as a specific focus. Their process is represented as sinuous and organic, with a broad starting point, a narrow waist, another bulge and a further narrowing indicating forward flow and narrowing of considerations leading towards a solution (IDEO, 2012, p. 15.). Brown is the chief executive officer and president of IDEO, and yet the process is not identical in both publications, causing further confusion.

Badke-Schaub et al, create more tension by questioning whether the design thinking paradigm has become diluted to the point of meaninglessness. They criticise Brown’s construct as prescriptive, idealistic and without empirical supporting evidence (Badke-Schaub, Roozenburg, & Cardoso, 2010, p. 41).  They challenge Brown’s methodology, stating that three issues need reconsideration: the roles of emotion and motivation; focus on teams of designers rather than individuals, and use of case studies and protocols as evidence of a successful design thinking pattern (Badke-Schaub, Roozenburg, & Cardoso, 2010, p. 47). Their own processes are multiple, and more complex than Brown’s.  A semantic approach is taken by Lindburg et al, who avoid this paradox by referring to working modes rather than process steps (Lindburgh, Gumieny, Jobst, & Meinel, 2010, p. 243).

The writings of Burdick and Willis, Melles and IDEO, all specifically apply design thinking concepts to education; these writings move from concepts towards educational practice. Burdick and Willis triangulate concepts: digital learning, digital scholarship and design thinking (Burdick & Willis, 2010, p. 90). These issues are pertinent to digital pedagogy, which must cater for strong visual communication skills, in addition to servicing generations accustomed to inductive discovery (Burdick & Willis, 2010, p. 90).  Interestingly, Melles questions whether any of the current design propositions actually improve or innovate curriculum design, or whether they are all semantics (Melles, 2010). He does concede however, that many aspects of visualisation co-design can lead to a better environment and thence to quality outcomes (Melles, 2010, p. 301).

The final title, by Grift and Major, builds on the work of renowned educators, and is focussed on centralising the students in intended curriculum design (Grift & Major, 2013). They raise the dichotomy between Marzano’s intended, implemented and attained curriculum and outline twelve considerations which they recommend as the basis for pedagogical design (Grift & Major, 2013, p. 12). Their strategies are based on three fundamental goals: successful student learning, the role of teachers’ mindfulness, and learning through action and reflection (Grift & Major, 2013, p. chp 1). Recent views of learning are presented as tabulated summaries and compared to optimal learning outcomes (Grift & Major, 2013, pp. 24-29). Their design provocations indicate loose relationship to the design theories and processes described by the other authors (Grift & Major, 2013, p. chp 15).

While definitions of design are important, they need to avoid oversimplifying the amazing richness of multiple perspectives; the conceptual framework needs to be fundamental enough to provide an anchor for the broad extant descriptions that abound (Dorst, 2010, p. 131). The most important consideration, therefore, is whether broad aspects of design as presented in this literature have been, or should be, adopted for education in terms of process, and spaces in order to improve learning outcomes. It is also important to ascertain and evaluate any examples of implementation.

Innovative teachers are skilled at applying appropriate concepts from almost anywhere to a lesson, a unit of work, redesigning their classroom (or library) space, or layout of a virtual space. They often work in collaborative teams, additionally making the best of time and budgetary constraints. One focus of modern teaching is aimed to empower the learners, and typically many teachers draw on esoteric sources to improve their practice. For example, a book focusing on products that empower people, may resonate (Pilloton, 2009). Teachable moments arise from than just the educational tools section (Pilloton, 2009, pp. 152-183). Individuals in almost all schools are able to apply concepts like this to innovate in their own lessons, but for adoption to be effective, a strong understanding of purpose is vital. Many teachers would consider the design thinking concepts and structures espoused by most of the selected authors as too esoteric. They are naturally confusing and complex, although they can also be exhilarating.  Conversely, the range of definitions and processes is positive for education as it leaves room to adapt and adopt, rather than needing to master a specific set of steps.

Educators consider deep thinking, as referred to by all selected texts, to be one of the most critical aspects of their work. There is a significant intersect between design thinking and teaching. Brown resonates with teachers planning a unit of work by outlining everything that is pertinent to a topic, then narrowing the focus to fit a range of criteria or constraints (Brown, 2009, p. flyleaf). Constraints include the age of students, the physical and virtual teaching spaces and time available. There is also some value in the design square, as educators work in both the scientific and creative realms  (Hatchuel, Le Masson, & Weil, 2004, pp. 1-4).  Referring to integrative thinkers and inspiration, Brown is applicable to the ebb and flow of curriculum design, innovating in teaching processes and considering learning spaces. Ideation is one area of overlap with the practice of teaching synthesis and evaluation, particularly relevant for History (Simkin, Designing Thinking Tasks, 2014).

Brown also refers to constraints, desirability, viability and feasibility (Brown, 2009, pp. 18-19), concepts familiar to educators, but the generalisations preclude large scale educational application.  Educators require concepts that specifically translate to classroom and or learning design because any discussion that falls outside the parameters of student learning is a distraction from the teacher’s core work (Grift & Major, 2013, p. 1). Teachers generally have many such “distractions” prohibiting them from conquering one process and then embedding it in practice.

From the plethora of new pedagogies, modern teachers increasingly aim to develop collaboration fluency, especially important in a century of ubiquitous digital tools (Crockett, Jukes, & Churches, 2011, pp. 69-78). The role of the group as accepted as more important than the individual. Consequently, unlike Badke et al, few teachers would argue with Brown in terms of this aspect of his design thinking construct (Badke-Schaub, Roozenburg, & Cardoso, 2010, p. 41).

Assessing practise through case study is also considered powerful by most educators. Brown’s requirement for nimbleness, reinforces a degree of inherent value in applying design thinking to education (Brown, 2009, pp. 16-18).  University research is definitely enhanced through knowledge networking and digital innovation, with collaboration improving learning (Simkin, Collaborative Ideation, 2014). Collaboration may also lead to additional research possibilities for learning improvement.

Design thinking is a useful basis for implementing a change in practice, or in applying innovation to education.  It has been introduced in varied formats by individual teachers to enable productive collaboration and brainstorming (Simkin, Designing Thinking Tasks, 2014). This works really well for subjects where a range of interpretations is vital. Brown’s rules: defer judgement, encourage wild ideas, and stay focussed encourage active participation by all. (Brown, 2009, p. 78).

Design specialists such as Brown are of lesser value for individual educators, schools and school systems by virtue of their focus on broad definitions of design processes. In evaluating and potentially adopting design thinking, educators therefore may consider Burdick and Willis, Melles and IDEO who specifically apply concepts to education. They are more likely however, to prefer resources such as Project Zero which look at thinking processes from a purely educational perspective (Harvard Graduate School Of Education, n.d.).

There is obvious discord within the design literature, broad educational theories and also between the literature under consideration and aspects of educational practice. Extrapolating the common themes indicates that applying broad design principles can benefit education. There are too many recent examples of significant expenditure intended to create major disruptive change for improving learning actually having the opposite effect due to no application of broad design thinking to the process.

Physical buildings usually begin with a design brief. Brown comments that a well-constructed design brief allows for serendipity, unpredictability and capricious whims of fate – all of which are familiar to teachers (Brown, 2009, p. 23). Many teachers are engaging in redesigning their physical learning spaces and measuring the impact of their actions on their students’ learning, utilising a range of techniques and learning beliefs (Simkin, Further changes To Our school Library, 2014). Some are working with a design brief of some sort, while others are brainstorming and prototyping. These examples are isolated in terms of one teacher, department or one school rather than pervasive in education.

Planning for a new or renovated building usually commences strategically, ensuring needs are on the grid for further development in the next master plan. Strategic design briefs are based on big ideas, and spell out the needs with a broad brush rather than in fine detail (Simkin, Submission To The Strategic Planning Architect For the Next Series Of Capital Planning, 2014). The number of people involved in this process depends on the nature of the school’s management team. Once the proposal becomes imminent, fine details will be discussed and a detailed brief prepared.

In many cases, this second design brief is actually created in isolation from the clientele. Finished buildings fall short of educational needs and practical inclusions: a bench designed for four computers has two power points; laptop storage spaces built into student lockers do not enable charging; an orchestra pit has no capacity to illuminate the music during a production. Need-finding often resides in executive only; classroom teachers, students and parents are not included in ideation processes. Excluding most of the stakeholders, omissions become the norm. Too many new buildings of recent time do not lead to improved educational outcomes. This occurred at a large scale with the Australian Building the Education Revolution (Karooz & Parker, 2010, p. chp. 9).  In stark contrast, The Works utilised a holistic approach to developing their future school, involving teachers, parents, the community and the architects in the planning (The Works At Walker) . Their process considered all wants and needs, leading to a unified report covering both physical and virtual spaces (The Works At Walker, pp. 7-28). Starting from their ethos and proceeding to what they therefore needed to provide, a coherent design brief, based on people and processes resulted. Their elaboration of the process reveals elements of both design theory and thinking applied as part of a four step theoretical framework (The Works At Walker, pp. 14-15). This appears to be a rare example of a multidisciplinary approach.

Another major consideration for education is tapping into the affordances of the digital age. This resonates with 21st Century Fluencies (Crockett, Jukes, & Churches, 2011), a crucial focus in many of today’s schools developing their 1:1 computing programs. This is another government initiative resulting in minimal pedagogical change and innovation in learning and teaching. At present there is a number of schools changing the device they want students to use, not because a better outcome can be achieved but because teachers have not embraced the power offered by the device currently supplied. The desired outcome of any device is not the starting point. Any device will fail with lack of professional learning opportunities and real support at a practical level.

New media educators prefer interpretive, rhetorical, networked, user oriented and solution focused learning design (Burdick & Willis, 2010, p. 91). In practice, despite devices being issued free to teachers by many schools, there has been little improvement to learning outcomes in the last ten years. Schools prepared to take risks such as Northern Beaches Christian School, home to the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning are still too rare (SCIL Home, n.d). To hear a Principal speak passionately about encouraging his staff to take chances with their spaces and their concepts is most unusual.

Education is design dependent in terms of lesson and unit planning, attention to national curriculum, and learning space set up. This is where Grift’s work is inherently more valuable for most teachers (Grift & Major, 2013). Too many school managers engage teachers in constant acts of creative destruction – imposing the latest theory without embedding the concepts to ensure measurable improvement from adopting one new practice before introducing the next.  Grift is critical of the many major distractions within the profession; the focus should be specific to the intended outcome and implemented and embedded before moving to the next initiative (Grift & Major, 2013, p. 3). Well-designed professional learning activities, particularly if design thinking processes were applied in their construction. The work of The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership provides exemplars for pedagogical design throughout professional advancement and may foster improvement in adopting relevant aspects of design processes (Education Services Australia, 2014).

Whilst many schools are attempting to undertake some form of ideation process using post it notes, wonder walls and prototyping, very few have the physical space to donate a whole wall, let alone a room, to allow for shared reflection, refocus and reorganisation of concepts. The Stanford Design School has several floors of such space allowing it to be an ongoing prototype of the educational process itself (Brown, 2009, p. 224). The best that most schools can offer is a short term planning time (maybe a couple of days) for teachers to participate in such a process. There is also a great reluctance to include the entire teaching staff in such a process, let alone parents, students and community members (Simkin, What Is Your School’s Innovation Strategy?, 2014). This is a serious concern as “there is nothing more frustrating than coming up with the right answer to the wrong question” (Brown, 2009, p. 237). All design thinking literature supports the power gained by including strangers in the process. Strong educational leadership identifies who should be involved at any given point in the process.

So, there is a degree of concept transfer from the literature critiqued, but there is an unacceptably large gap between systems, schools and individuals that have applied such theories to demonstrably improve student learning outcomes, and those that function disconnected from educational research. New buildings have led to some changes, but in many settings teaching is very traditional, indicative of the absence of educational design thinking. Any new building or renovation should be planned backwards from the desired end point, a How Might We.. focus and involve all stakeholders at some point in the process (Method Card: How Might We Questions). Current educational research should also be incorporated in the preparation phase.

Access to the Internet has impacted some educators and some administrative practises, but many teachers are afraid of taking a step into virtual teaching spaces. Pre-service teacher training is also lacking as many graduates are not strong in their content methodology, and appear to have little practical exposure to digital technology for delivering lessons. More research is required into gains achieved by Australian virtual learning spaces. The resources being developed by The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership offer hope, describing and illustrating the standards expected from each level of experience, and consider professional learning as vital (Education Services Australia, 2014). This website should be utilised by every school to further all aspects of teaching. This site fulfils Grift and Major’s desire for teaching to be the focus.

Many older schools consist of spaces that were designed for the days when teachers did try to push knowledge and wisdom in one direction, when connection to wireless was unheard of, and there was little need to connect to electricity beyond lighting the space. Learning gains provided by spaces that foster curiosity, creativity and collaboration need to be further investigated. Improvements should lead to better teaching and learning, and preparing for renovation or renewal can only benefit from a degree of application of design thinking. The same applies to virtual learning spaces, which should be increasingly part of our pedagogy. The broad concepts presented by this literature can improve educational processes but the links need to be more clearly defined for specific academic application.

References

Badke-Schaub, P., Roozenburg, N., & Cardoso, C. (2010). Design Thinking: A Paradigm On Its Way From Dilution To Meaninglessness. Design Thinking Resource Symposium 8: Interpreting Design Thinking (pp. 39 – 50). Sydney: Faculty of Design, Architecture & Building University Of Technology Sydney.

Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. New York: Harper Collins.

Burdick, A., & Willis, H. (2010). Digital Learning, Digital Scholarhip And Design Thinking. Design Thinking Resource Symposium 8: Interpreting Design Thinking (pp. 89-98). Sydney: University of Technology Sydney.

Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is Not Enough, 21st-Century Fluencies for the Digital Age. Corwin.

Dorst, K. (2010). The Nature Of Design Thinking. Design Thinking Resource Symposium 8: Interpreting Design Thinking (pp. 131 – 140). Sydney: Faculty of Design, Architecture And Building, University of Technology Sydney.

Education Services Australia. (2014). Professional Learning Support. Retrieved from The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership: http://www.aitsl.edu.au/professional-growth/support/professional-learning-support

Grift, G., & Major, C. (2013). Teachers As Architects Of Learning: Twelve Considerations For Constructing A Successful Learning Experience. Moorabbin: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Hatchuel, A., Le Masson, P., & Weil, B. (2004). C-K Theory in Practice: Lessons From Industrial Practice. International Design Conference – Design 2004, (pp. 1-13). Dubrovnik.

Harvard Graduate School Of Education. (n.d.). Project Zero. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from Harvard Graduate School Of Education: http://www.pz.harvard.edu/

IDEO. (2012). Design Thinking For Educators 2nd Edition. Retrieved August 9, 2014, from Ideo: http://www.ideo.com/by-ideo/design-thinking-for-educators

Karooz, C., & Parker, S. (2010). The Education Revolutionary Road: Paved With Good Intentions. In C. Aulich, & E. Mark, Australian Commonwealth Administration 2007 – 2010; The Rudd Government: (p. Chapter 9). Canberra: A.N.U Press.

Lindburgh, T., Gumieny, R., Jobst, G., & Meinel, C. (2010). Is There A Need For A Design Thinking Process? Design Thinking Resource Symposium 8: Interpreting Design Thinking (pp. 243 – 254). Sydney: Faculty of Design, Architecture And Building, University of Technology Sydney.

Melles, G. (2010). Curriculum Design Thinking: A New Name For Old Ways Of Thinking And Practice? Interpreting Design Thinking, 299-308.

Method Card: How Might We Questions. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2014, from Design School Stanford: http://dschool.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/HMW-METHODCARD.pdf

Pilloton, E. (2009). Design Revolution:100 Products That Empower People. New York: Metropolis Books.

SCIL Home. (n.d). Retrieved August 29, 2014, from Sydney Centre For Innovative Learning – Lead The Change: http://scil.com.au/

Simkin, M. (2014, August 15). Collaborative Ideation. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2014/08/15/collaborative-ideation/

Simkin, M. (2014, August 13). Designing Thinking Tasks. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2014/08/13/designing-thinking-tasks/

Simkin, M. (2014, July 30). Further changes To Our school Library. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2014/08/05/further-changes-to-our-school-library/

Simkin, M. (2014, July 30). Submission To The Strategic Planning Architect For the Next Series Of Capital Planning. Retrieved August 26, 2014, from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2014/07/30/2013-submission-to-the-strategic-planning-architect-for-the-next-series-of-capital-planning/

Simkin, M. (2014, July 30). Using a Design Process to Effect a Change. Retrieved August 26, 2014, from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2014/07/30/using-a-design-process-to-effect-a-change/

Simkin, M. (2014, August 29). What Is Your School’s Innovation Strategy? Retrieved from Digitalli: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/msimkin/2014/08/29/what-is-your-schools-innovation-strategy/

The Works At Walker. (n.d.). Dear Architect: A Vision Of Our Future School. Retrieved July 25, 2014, from http://www.ournewschool.org/assets/pdf/Dear_Architect.pdf

My Scholarly Book Review

David Weinberger’s intriguingly titled: Too Big To Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That The Facts Aren’t Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, And The Smartest Person In The Room Is The Room is a 231 page paperback (also available as an e-book) published in 2011 by Basic Books, New York, ISBN: 9780465085965 (Weinberger D. , 2011).

This relatively recent publication includes many brief commentaries such as those provided within it (Weinberger D. , 2011, pp. i-vi).  Few reviews are locatable, mostly popular, and some formal – detailing contents without evaluation (Kirkus Reviews, 2012). It received two international awards in 2012, details of which are retrievable from the author’s blog (Weinberger D. , 2009). A brief quote from John Seely Brown proclaims that the work is a true tour-de-force (Weinberger D. , 2011, cover). With such enticing recommendations, expectations are raised that the discourse that follows will fulfil the academic needs of a scholar of Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation by meeting the following criteria:

  • provoking deep thinking about the content,
  • broadening educational perspectives,
  • engaging the reader in debate,
  • encouraging or enabling practical change in an educational setting.

Weinberger’s prologue outlines his underlying contention that there is a crisis of knowledge in terms of volume, quality, context and sub-text (Weinberger D. , 2011, pp. vii – xiv). It contains a barrage of questions: “How wide is the inevitable gap between our perfect theories and their mechanical imperfection? …How much does accuracy matter? What are the positive aspects of the fallibility of human knowledge? (Weinberger D. , 2011, pp. vii-viii). This frenetic flurry of questions is followed by more perplexing queries relating to what knowledge actually is and postulating that there is no longer any authority deciding what constitutes “knowledge” and what does not. These questions are given lengthy rather than deep consideration throughout the remaining pages and enabling some deep and educationally meaningful thinking.

The impact of the Prologue’s fourteen pages is almost overwhelming.  The overall premise for this work: “The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it” is superficial as the network obviously joins the people not the room itself. At this stage Weinberger is meeting the criterion of engaging the reader in debate to some extent, but in a frustrating rather than captivating or enlightening manner.

Weinberger proceeds by establishing today’s information ecology in comparison to that of the past. He uses unnecessarily lengthy segments to prove this point. The first two chapters, “Knowledge Overload” and “Bottomless Knowledge”, assess a number of aspects of traditional mediums of reporting and recording knowledge (Weinberger D. , 2011, pp. 1-43). It takes ten pages to develop the premise that there is too much knowledge for humans to know. This is indisputable, and widely reported by other authors over the last two decades (Starkey, 2011, p. 21). Lack of elaboration in relation to: “filters are crucial content. …they reveal the whole deep sea” is disappointing (Weinberger D. , 2011, pp. 11-13). An author involved with ShelfLife and LibraryCloud should have elaborated further (Harvard University, 2012).

To prove his point about bodies of knowledge in the past differing from those in the present, Weinberger compares the painstaking investigative work of Charles Darwin to the website hunch.com (now part of ebay): (Hunch.com – This Website Helps You Make Decisions, 2007).  Comparing the incomparable, he comes up with such points of difference as: Darwin’s work is hard won and finite in topic, while Hunch is fast and fun (asking twelve questions per minute) and purposefully unconstrained (Weinberger D. , 2011, pp. 31-35).

“An Introduction to the Rest of the Book” provides more detailed elaborations on “The Body of Knowledge”, (Weinberger D. , 2011, p. 43). While this may broaden educational perspectives to some extent, a scholar of information and communication technologies does not encounter conceptually new material. Never-the-less there is academic value in continuing to read.

“The Expertise of Clouds”, and “A Marketplace of Echoes?” broaden the discussion into the new spaces and connections that The Internet allows (Weinberger D. , 2011, pp. 47-93). Weinberger offers some interesting insights into the dynamics of, and changes to methods of working, sharing and saving knowledge. This becomes thought-provoking when the danger of echo chambers is raised and elaborated on throughout the rest of the book. (Weinberger D. , 2011, pp. 81-)

Echo chambers develop when like-minded people always work together, therefore limiting their own knowledge. This consequently diminishes overall contributions to the world’s knowledge banks; an idea worthy of consideration. Avoiding echo chambers should be considered as an underlying principle by educators developing curriculum in the twenty first century. Their relevance to creating and performing collaborative tasks cannot be overlooked. This is one aspect of this work that meets the criteria of provoking deep thinking and encouraging practical educational change.

There is a more effective commentary on echo chambers in Rewire, Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection, written by Weinberger’s colleague, Zuckerman (Zuckerman, 2013, pp. 260-262).  In addition, this information is transmitted within three pages than Weinberger’s twenty four.

Comparatively, these Harvard professional collaborators, present opposite views. Weinberger presents issues and concerns, focusing on the problematic. Where Weinberger’s book spends many pages detailing problems from all angles and giving many ad hoc examples, Zuckerman focuses on recommending actions that result in positive outcomes, explaining when and where these solutions have worked. Zuckerman utilises an optimistic and solution based approach, far more valuable in broadening educational perspectives and potentially improving teaching and learning.

“Long Form, Web Form” gives an interesting comparison of the structure that books force knowledge into, compared to the shapelessness of the Internet. This is engaging, and covers an aspect of information that seems to be obvious once the chapter is read, but which may be novel for graduates of book-based education (Weinberger D. , 2011, pp. 93-104). In a section sub-titled Book-Shaped Thought, the author is forced by his own arguments to justify his choice of format for this work. (Weinberger D. , 2011, p. 101). He acknowledges his own hypocrisy, then apologises, citing his age (sixty), generation (one “that takes the publication of a book as an achievement”), “book publishers still pay advances”, and “the privilege of holding the floor for … 70,000 words” as his excuses (Weinberger D. , 2011, p. 97). This levity permits a view of Weinberger’s sense of humour and encourages perseverance in reading. It also challenges the paradigms of current educational methodology.

Fortunately “Too Much Science” does not labour the points as much as much as his early chapters. For example, it includes another aspect of Darwin’s work, but this time it fits into a page (Weinberger D. , 2011, p. 153).  Weinberger also addresses his claim, that “the smartest person in the room is the room” (a point which should contain the obvious qualifier that the room needs to be networked) (Weinberger D. , 2011, p. title). The “final product of Science is now neither final, nor a product. It is the network itself – the seamless connection of scientists, data, methodologies, hypotheses, theories, facts, speculations, instruments, readings, ambitions, controversies, schools of thought, textbooks, faculties, collaborations, and disagreements that used to struggle to print a relative handful of articles in a relative handful of journals” (Weinberger D. , 2011, p. 156).

Specific suggestions, which may be appropriate to educational practice, occur in the final two chapters. The mysteriously titled “Where the Rubber Hits the Node” (Weinberger D. , 2011, pp. 159-171) presents the benefits of hyper-connectivity, referring to the examples of West Point (Weinberger D. , 2011, p. 161) and Wikipedia (Weinberger D. , 2011, p. 163).  Seven benefits of networking are strongly made on the basis of these two institutions’ work (Weinberger D. , 2011, pp. 169-170). These are potentially adaptable to teaching, thereby meeting another of the criterion of an educational researcher.

Finally, in the acknowledgements, there is another glimpse of the nature of the author. “All mistakes and errors are solely the responsibility of Wikipedia”; another example of humour from an author whose background is in philosophy (Weinberger D. , 2011, p. 167).

This book adds little that is new in relation to the role of the web, as Aitkenhead (2010) cited in Gonzalez’ chapter states: “Is the Internet a good thing or a bad thing?” We are done with all that. It’s just a thing (Gonzalez, 2013, p. 20). Neither does it add much innovative perspective to “Ideas about ‘knowledge’ [which] appear to be changing from something that is found in the heads of individuals or in books to something that is not fixed, is debatable, accessible through a range of media and created through networks, connections and collaboration (Bereiter, 2002; Gilbert, 2005; Siemens, 2004)” (Starkey, 2011, p. 21). Weinberger does outline some strategies for adoption, but only in the closing pages of the last few chapters, and not readily adaptable for education.

While small in size, this title encompasses a topic potentially as massive as it is long. Despite using too many words in so many chapters to make his contentions, Weinberger’s book, at times, meets the criteria for provoking deep educational thought. There are a few occasions when a broadening of educational perspective occurs, and there is some potential for practical changes to educational practice.  Many of his statements cause reflection and some lead to deep educational thinking.

This book is, however, too esoteric in style and wide ranging in content to be highly recommended. It provides minimal original material to the debates about our information-rich world, and, ironically, uses a very long-form manner of writing in which to do so. The style of writing does not flow as easily as many of the other books on this type of topic. The would have been more suitably presented as a blog, allowing hyperlinks to replace multiple pages of unnecessary information, and enabling debate to occur as points are raised. Cynically, and somewhat paradoxically, investigating many of the recommendations provided with this book, it seems that Weinberger could also be accused of working in echo chambers.

References

Gonzalez, F. (2013). Knowledge Banking for a   Hyperconnected Society. In How Internet is Changing Our lives (pp.   12-36). OpenMind. Retrieved April 7, 2014, from https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/book/19-key-essays-on-how-internet-is-changing-our-lives/

Harvard University. (2012). Retrieved April 10,   2014, from The Harvard Library Innovation Page: http://librarylab.law.harvard.edu/

Hunch.com – This Website Helps You Make Decisions. (2007). Retrieved March 30, 2014, from   KillerStartups : http://www.killerstartups.com/web20/hunch-com-this-website-helps-you-make-decisions/

Kirkus Reviews. (2012, January). Weinberger, David:   Too Big To Know. Expanded Academic ASAP. Retrieved April 9, 2014, from   http://www.kirkusreviews.com/

Starkey, L. (2011). Evaluating Learning in the 21st   Century: a Digital Age Learning Matrix. Technology, Pedagogy and Education(20:1),   19-39. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2011.554021

Weinberger, D. (2009, December 27). Too Big To   Know But Not Too Big to Blog About. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from Too   Big To Know But Not Too Big to Blog About: http://www.toobigtoknow.com/

Weinberger, D. (2011). Too Big To Know:   Rethinking Knowledge Now That The Facts Aren’t Facts, Experts Are Everywhere,   And The Smartest Person In The Room Is The Room. New York, New York,   United States Of America: Basic Books.

Zuckerman, E. (2013). Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans   in the Age of Connection. New York, New York, United States of America:   W.W.Norton & Company Inc.