Wrestling with Hurricane Digital Age – #INF530 Critical Reflection

For a few years now I have aspired to be a Digital Leader by ‘Wrestling with Hurricane Digital Age’ at a local school community level. The rapid change that comes with new and emerging digital technologies is obvious with every click on a Twitter link, each reading of a professional blog, or the latest email from an educational organization. Each provides something more to think about. It really is mind blowing how much change is taking place. Because it is impossible to keep up, the challenge for teachers and principals willing to wrestle with the change, has been to know what is important.

Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age, #INF530, has introduced me to the latest thinking about education and schooling and further equipped me for the ongoing, relentless and continuous ‘Wrestle with Hurricane Digital Age’. There is much information out there for teachers regarding the latest trends in education; however, #INF530 has:

–          affirmed my push for creativity in classrooms;

–          confirmed the need for students to develop their learning networks; and,

–          introduced me to connectivism, the learning theory for a Digital Age.


The future of students lies in being able to communicate, share and use information to solve complex problems, in being able to adapt and innovate in response to new demands and changing circumstances (OECD 2006; Cisco Systems 2008; Partnerships for 21st Century Skills 2010). This will require students as adults to marshal and expand the power of technology to create new knowledge and expand human capacity and productivity (Binkley, Erstad et al. 2010).

It is pleasing this is recognised in Australia. As part of the implementation of the Australian Curriculum General Capability for Creative and Critical Thinking (ACARA 2010) students are required to explore and organise information to generate ideas and actions. #INF530 has confirmed that it is necessary for teachers to understand the creative learning process, which starts with student ideas and imagination which then leads to students ‘creating’, ‘making’ and ‘designing’ for their real world with the possibility of innovation being the end product.

Networked Learning

Mimi Ito’s Video – Connected Learning: Everyone, Everywhere, Anytime (2012) impressed me greatly. Her comment “anybody can help somebody else get better at something” means everybody has a part to play in the education of a learner, child or adult. It is now an essential skill for teachers as learners, and students as learners, to access expertise. This will require all learners to establish, develop and maintain learning networks and learning nodes that respond, update and regularly change .

Antero Garcia’s paper (2014) confirms youth expertise can be networked, amplified and accessed globally with new digital media tools. I see it as important that teachers, as facilitators of learning, harness this ever increasing opportunity for students to develop networks to assist them with their learning.


#INF530 formally introduced me to connectivism. Whilst I can identify the elements of connectivism, I now have a deeper understanding of it as a valid learning theory applicable to a Digital Age. The Learning Theory of Connectivism brings an academic rigour and substance to learning in a Digital Age. Connectivism literally “connects” and “joins the dots” of contemporary learning. I am obligated to introduce this to teachers within my school, teachers within my system and spread the theory among my global network. An academic approach striving for a scholarly understanding of the “Connectivism” as a Learning Theory, will bring credibility to the process of teachers and school leaders responding to the demands of a digital age.

Therefore, as an education professional in digital learning environments, I am obligated to

i)                    Maintain a commitment to the creative learning process;

ii)                  Encourage all learners to develop their learning networks; and,

iii)                Promote connectivism as a valid learning theory for a Digital Age.

Yes, it is challenging for teachers, principals and school systems to ‘wrestle with Hurricane Digital Age’; however, #INF530 has my ability to confront the challenge.



ACARA (2010). “Australian Curriculum.” Retrieved 24 April 2014, from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Pdf/Critical-and-creative-thinking.

Binkley, M., O. Erstad, et al. (2010). Draft White Paper 1 Defining 21st century skills; A report to the Learning and Technology World Forum 2010 in London as part of the Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills project created by Cisco, Intel and Microsoft. U. o. Melbourne. London.

Cisco Systems (2008). Equipping Every Learner for the 21st Century: A White Paper.

Garcia, Antero, ed., 2014. Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.

Ito, M. (2012). “Connected Learning: Everyone, Everywhere, Anytime.” Retrieved 12 March 2014, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viHbdTC8a90.

OECD (2006). Think Scenarios, Rethink Education.

Partnerships for 21st Century Skills (2010). “Framework for 21st Century Learning.” from www.P21.org.



Rethink Collective Practice or Rethink Schooling?

Early on in Module 3 #INF530 students are asked ….. Can we simply “update” things as we go, or is it time for rethinking of our collective practice?

Well, the answer is a resounding “YES! We need to rethink practice.” In the Video – Connected Learning: Everyone, Everywhere, Anytime Mimi Ito, informs us that expertise is widely distributed and “anybody can help somebody else get better at something.” This means anybody and everybody can play a part to play in the of education of a student. Now that everybody has a part to play, classrooms cannot deliver teacher centred lessons.

In Antero Garcia’s paper we read that learning is centered around youth interests in many out-of-school contexts and whilst this may not be new, what is new, are the ways youth expertise can be networked, accessed and even published globally with new digital media tools. Therefore, as part of our rethinking around practice, it needs to be acknowledged that each student has access to expertise and assistance way beyond what a teacher can offer within a one classroom.

With exponential increase of, and accessibility to information via mobile technologies comes the need to educate students to develop information literacy skills. Increasingly students need to become discerning about the sources of information and then appropriately use digital tools to gather, evaluate and use information. Thankfully, digital information literacy processes have been offered to teachers as early as 2007 via the ISTE standards (ISTE 2007). Recently, in Australia as part of the implementation of the Australian Curriculum General Capability for Creative and Critical Thinking (ACARA 2010) students are required to explore and organise information to generate ideas and actions. Furthermore, they are required to reflect by analysing, synthesising and evaluating learning processes.

The Guided Inquiry learning process (Kuhlthau and Maniotes 2012) is one that lends itself to promoting information literacy skills and offers a new way of practice which acknowledges the student as a co-creator of knowledge by framing their own questions. It is a process which has assisted teachers @materdeiwagga to engage in pedagogy which acknowledges the changed paradigm of learning offered by this new digital age. I can firmly recommend it.Guided-Inquiry-Poster-ymb3r2.jpg

According to aitsl’s 21st Century Education video (AITSL 2012) there is change to collective practice taking place around the world. For example in South Korea, digital textbooks are being mass produced to support anywhere anytime learning. In Denmark, students are able to use the Internet when taking exams; could you imagine that for the HSC? In the USA some schools are adopting personalised learning approaches which allows students to develop their own timetables with teacher time freed up to mentor and advise students. Is it time then to rethink schools? If students can learn anywhere, anytime, why can’t we afford them, in senior years at least, more time at home where online hours are registered as school attendance? Why can’t we give them the choice to use school travel hours as learning time at home? Whilst the students are at home, teachers could be at schools, working in teams, to design learning experiences that increasingly acknowledge the possibilities of a digital age.

Is it time to just rethink collective practice or is it also about rethinking schooling?

I would appreciate your thoughts.




Garcia, Antero, ed., (2014). Teaching in the connected Learning Classroom. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.

ACARA (2010). “Australian Curriculum.” Retrieved 24 April 2014, from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Pdf/Critical-and-creative-thinking.

AITSL (2012). 21st Century Education. Australia, YouTube.

ISTE (2007). “ISTE Website.” Retrieved 22 April 2014, from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards-for-students/nets-student-standards-2007.

Kuhlthau, C. C. and L. K. Maniotes (2012). Guided inquiry design: a framework for inquiry in your school, ABC-CLIO.

A Great Forum on Twitter

Yesterday, I received an invite from Jon Andrews @jca_1975 to participate in the #learningfrontiers forum on Twitter. Through @aitsl , Jon arranged an ‘active forum’ for one hour between 8 & 9 pm on Wednesday 19 March 2014. At around 8 pm educators from around Australia jumped onto Twitter, entered #learningfrontiers in the search tool and PRESTO, we were instantly connected in a virtual discussion room for the next hour.

Jon was invited by @aitsl to lead the forum by posing questions. As host, host Jon types in thw question starting with “Q1” and concluded his 140 character tweet with the hashtag #learningfrontiers.  When responding, people led with “A1” and also included #learningfrontiers in the response.

Jon’s first question was…. “Engagement is a community priority. Give E.G’s of HOW Sch L’drs & community partners create conditions for engagement?” The next 3 questions can be seen in the picture below.

Questions for #learningfrontiers 19 March 2014

The hour long forum was frenetic, inspiring, affirming, enriching, challenging and engaging – all in one! In that time I offered responses to questions, had some of my tweets retweeted, retweeted the tweets of others, answered one tro one questions put to me by forum participants, and also had my tweets favourited.

As part of this forum, I also engaged in ‘side conversations’. At one point I was offering colleagues a copy of our Pedagogy Leader Role Description. At another point, I shared a link to a video clip with @danhaesler & @stringer_andrea about teachers as coaches. From that conversation I was introduced to a blog which, in turn, saw me send the following email to @materdeiwagga teachers…..

Hello All,

Following on from our metaphor for this year ‘TEACHER AS COACH”, I found this when participating in the most recent #learningfrontiers forum on Twitter.
In the spirit of Professional Learning, it would be great if you responded to this blog. However, just reading the blog for 30 seconds or less would be great.

As part of the Forum, I was introduced to some excellent initiatives occurring in schools across the country. One of them included a school where teachers invited students to the Department Meetings. So, with a title of “Random Idea”, I sent this email to teachers…..

Hello All,

What about inviting students to the KLA Meetings next week?
Leave it with you.

No doubt I will get some interesting looks from teachers when I get up to speak at briefing in the morning.

In conclusion, #learningfrontiers reaffirmed my strong belief that Twitter offers an excellent professional learning network for anyone who wishes to participate in this virtual learning community. People are encouraging and supportive but also ask questions which challenge and occasional disturb me, in a good way!



Part of the Learning Journey

I am principal of a regional Catholic co-educational secondary school for 750 Year 7 to 12 students in regional New South Wales. I was appointed fort the start of the 2008 school year, the year of the Digital Education Revolution (DER) as introduced by the Rudd Federal Government. Since then my professional learning has been focused on leading teachers to explore the potential of digital technology to enrich student learning.

Very quickly, principals were required to be digital leaders. In May 2011 I engaged Delphian Learning to conduct an audit of infrastructure and digital learning. In September 2011, and after interviewing and surveying teachers, students and parents, an eLearning Plan was developed. The aim of the eLearning Plan was, and still is, ”for students to become ‘self-directed learners’ through the provision of learning opportunities which provide students with greater choice of subject matter, learning methods and pace of study.” The willingness of a majority of teachers to rigorously pursue this aim has resulted in students being more involved in decision‐making processes, extensively using digital technologies and increasingly ‘learn by doing’ with relevance to the real world. This is evidenced by:

  • 1:1 laptops for all students, including Year 7 & 8;
  • extensive fibre optic and wireless infrastructure which is reliable;
  • the Year 7 TED Program in an agile flexible learning space containing portable furniture without a teacher’s desk;
  • an online,  school developed Studies of Religion course using blended learning principles which compresses a two year course into one;
  • a school developed, game-based program for Year 8 French;
  • adoption of Moodle and extensive use of Google Drive for teacher and student collaboration;
  • team teaching approaches to Religion, English and HSIE courses in Year 8 for 146 students; and,
  • teachers globally connecting through Twitter and publicly reflecting through blogs. I was obligated to engage in this and that is how http://gregmiller68.com/ and  https://twitter.com/gregmiller68 came about.

Along the way there have been challenges; one of them being the apparent conflict between the HSC and Inquiry Learning; the other being the delicate balance between pursuing aim whilst responding to the government agenda of Australian Curriculum, NAPLAN and MySchools. INF530 provides an opportunity to address these challenges as the lead learner in one school community. INF530 will challenge me to reflect on my role as a ‘digital leader’; where I/we have been, and where I/we are going. Viewing Tim Burness Lee in The next Web of open, linked data reaffirms the need for students to develop the skills to use information to collaborate and solve real world problems (Rogers, 2002) as emphasised in the The Re-Working of Work, 2011.

As a principal, being immersed in the professional dialogue of INF530 will enable me to hear from thought leaders, develop leadership thoughts and express them via this blog. Reading further about Trends in Technology Environments will assist me in responding to the inevitable reorganisation of schooling that John Seely Brown discusses in The Global One School House. Seely Brown contests we need to completely rethink the learning landscape and that working as individuals is not enough. Knowing that is one thing, leading change in a school context is a complex challenge. That is why I have requested to read Eric Sheninger’s, Digital Leadership: Changing Technology for Change-Savvy School Leaders.