Month: September 2016

The power of the humble rubric


Small steps by Afro Samurai. Creative Commons License. Retrieved from Flickr.

Many schools are working through the challenges of a paradigm shift towards pedagogy that harnesses connection, collaborative processes and a growth mindset; working out how to place standardisation into its compulsory box, whilst embracing opportunities for authentic inquiry and student direction. Amongst this mix, there are many teachers who are not yet ready or not yet convinced that a shift in their process might be beneficial, but what about when students themselves are challenged by such a shift?

Recently a colleague spoke with me about her stagnation in shifting her own classroom practice due to the backlash from her students. They had articulated a clear preference for a model where she led them, told them what they needed to know and assessed them in the ways that they are used to – they sought traditional written assessment without the  inclusion of creative, collaborative and/or reflective processes.

Such reluctance from students reflects fears that may align with those of their teachers. What if this doesn’t work? What if I fail? What will people think if I don’t succeed? In a college where high levels of achievement are the norm and where students trust that what their teachers tell them to do will ensure their success, it can be a challenge for students to imagine successful learning where they take the lead, collaborate with their peers or produce assessment work using new tools and processes.

Enter the rubric. As an important tool to guide assessment expectations and achievement, it is worth considering how the rubric might be used to benefit teachers and students in their progress towards a paradigm shift. Tweaking the language of assessment to value experimentation, collaboration, iteration and process rather than relying on the final product; providing opportunity perhaps for resubmission, refinement and then evaluation; incorporating the “not yet” language of the growth mindset could all powerfully shift the focus for achievement-oriented students. This had been one of my suggestions for my colleague to reinforce the worth of her pedagogical practice – build the pedagogy into the assessment to secure its value in the eyes of her reluctant students.

The University of Texas Rubric document provides some clear guidelines and ideas about designing rubrics to ensure their value. However, whilst they recommend finding existing examples on which to base rubric structures, the value of an existing rubric for different tasks, learning environments and indeed cohorts of students must be considered. What do my students need that is unique? The learners in my current school setting are completely different to those in other schools in which I have worked and therefore, the language of my rubrics needs to reflect the setting as much as the specific task to be assessed.

Might a similar process be used to assist teachers in their own progress into what might seem like an an uncertain pathway? The California State University QOLT instrument, whilst designed to assess the instructional design of online learning programs, provides a structure that could be adapted to classroom assessment in the high school context. Might teachers self-assess their own assessment instruments against such a structure in order to evaluate their learning potential? Whilst initially an added time pressure, evaluation of assessment in this way may support a confident response that assessment items and the assessment instrument will ultimately support optimal learning outcomes.

Not rocket science here, but these ideas have fuelled my own thinking about evaluating these aspects of teaching and learning that, in the busyness of school life, may not be a primary focus in the overall design of instruction for learning. Small steps in design can have a big impact in supporting progress.



Rubrics. (n.d.). Center for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved April 29, 2014 from

Rubric for online instruction. (n.d.). California State University, Chico. Retrieved April 29, 2014 from

Connected Education: INF532 Artefact and Exegesis


Artefact URL: ‪ ‪   

The artefact, “Connected Education”, is designed to convince time-poor educators that Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are worth their time and to encourage steps to develop and leverage networks to expedite learning. The artefact website hosts videos and links to supporting resources; it includes a pathway from definition and rationale, to forging local connections and finally to building an online PLN. Other site elements are designed to visually engage, showcase the creation tools and consolidate an understanding of the merits of networks for learning.

The artefact has been designed as a beginner’s guide to building networks. It aims to tackle challenges and support the needs of a specific workplace; however, these are circumstances common to many schools. In this context, it is evident that many are overwhelmed with new learning and an array of systemic changes, therefore an acknowledgement of infowhelm is included, whilst prompting the thinking that connection might ultimately be beneficial. In this context, voluntary professional learning sessions have been poorly attended and compulsory professional learning may be without recognition of diverse needs and occurs at times when the learning need is distant; therefore, the artefact aims to offer accessible, relevant professional learning, that teachers may access in their own time.

The central elements are designed to be instructional guides for teachers, but double as examples of a creation tools or processes they might use with students. The artefact makes use of Spark (website and videos), Keynote (animated video), Canva (design), Sway (Microsoft presentation tool), QuickTime (for screen recording) and Twitter. Whilst as a design, a more cohesive use of tools may appear more unified, the included examples are intentionally broad, showcasing a diverse range to prompt creative learning and collegial conversation. The artefact includes sample tips, however the recommendation is made that others might contribute, adding to the peer learning over time. Interaction on Twitter has been instrumental in the development of ideas and use of tools for the artefact; it therefore seemed a logical culmination to promote the social networking tool for other educators.

The artefact is located online as a site using Adobe Spark, it links to other content housed online through Spark, Microsoft Sway and YouTube. In line with the shift from ‘broadcast technologies’ to ‘everyday technologies’ defined by Thompson (2013), the artefact uses freely available tools that, unlike sophisticated design products, are simple and intuitive, making them ideal creation tools for teachers and students alike. Creation enables learners to make a personal connection to information (Couros, 2015) and become a producer, rather than simply consumer, of information (Nussbaum-Beach, 2012). Presenting work to an online audience reinforces the need for quality (Couros, 2015). It is hoped that these artefact inclusions will scaffold implementation of rich learning experiences.

Rather than philosophical objections, a significant component of teacher reluctance to adapt practice is based in fear of the unknown and many are immobilised by lack of exposure (Rachardson & Mancabelli, 2011). Consequently, there is a resulting need for professional learning exploring new pedagogy and tools, without which schools are unable to maintain relevance and support their students’ needs. John Dewey’s famous 1915 quote is a somewhat ironic reminder of the need for teachers to reconsider practice for a post-industrial, digital world. Today’s employers are looking for digitally literate employees, adept in communicating, problem-solving and creative thinking (Miller, 2015; Wagner & Dintersmith, 2015); Miller identifies a disconnect between the workforce and education system where educators continue to apply an industrial model (2015). However, where students see teachers modeling their own self-guided approach to lifelong learning, they may develop their own metalearning (Couros, 2015).  It is necessary that educators progress their practice, foster network literacy, incorporate a mindset where everyone is a learner (Couros, 2015) and design pedagogically-sound learning experiences to meet future societal needs (Pegrum, 2010).

An immersive, available, contextual approach to professional learning within a PLN may make learning for educators more meaningful. Embracing web 2.0 technologies to facilitate learning accelerates the process and reinforces the immersion. As Tolisano notes, learning should not occur in isolation, it needs context and purpose (2011); professional learning delivered without context does not always enable connection with prior learning and a trajectory for future application. George Siemens’ connectivist position that learning happens through connection (2004) can have two-fold relevance. Connecting new information with existing understanding is strengthened by learning alongside a PLN to contextualise and consolidate understanding. Nussbaum-Beach asserts that people learn best from each other, as they are not limited by the constraints of independent thinking (2012) and fill gaps in each other’s knowledge through individual approaches and perspectives (Siemens, 2013). Small steps together can allow educators to punch their fears in the face (Miller, 2015) and incrementally shift their practice. The cycle of information from the individual connecting their understanding within the organisational network or PLN allows educators to retain currency amongst constant change (Siemens, 2004).

Whilst without the captive audience of a formal professional learning experience, the opportunity to learn through PLNs may empower individuals; formal learning is no longer the dominant model of learning with digital technologies enabling rich, informal learning experiences (Siemens, 2004). Ritchart identifies that when network members are motivated by interest and shared vision, deeper cultures of thinking emerge. Furthermore, George Couros notes that empowering just one person may be enough to push an entire group and therefore, pockets of networked learning may flow-on to stimulate change in the broader school community without expensive, ill-timed, one-size-fits-all professional learning (2015). Michael Wesch’ “litle bird who saved the world” analogy, where small steps of a few inspire a larger impact, is applicable through use of this artefact (2010). George Couros articulates the important idea that teachers do not need to be on identical learning trajectories. Using empathy to acknowledge differing needs and offering choice and scaffolds within professional learning can empower educators to pace their own meaningful learning (Couros, 2015).

The artefact elements focus on learning by doing. Wagner and Dintersmith (2015) note that the greatest contributors in history honed their craft through apprenticeship, not notetaking; thus immersing oneself in the process is likely to illicit more powerful learning. The experience of self-guided, self-paced, collaborative learning that is modelled and recommended through the artefact may enable educators to visualise parallel contexts for students. Such opportunities are aligned with Miller’s description of relevance in contemporary schooling; where students may be guided to ask the right questions, learn to seek answers and be adaptable (Miller, 2015); knowledge-able rather than knowledgeable (Wesch, 2010).

As the needs in this large college context are varied and multidimensional, it was considered important to make the resource accessible to teachers in multiple ways. The overall Adobe Spark site hosts the other artefact elements, providing some level of cohesion around the range of included tools.

Whilst a layered scaffold for this artefact was desired, the range of inclusions may risk overwhelming reluctant users rather than empowering them (Brown & Duguid, 2002). For these reasons and inspired by Couros’ (2015) suggestion to take small steps, ‘how to use this site’ tips were included to highlight differentiated options for use.

Whilst initially one component, the two Spark videos were split to break up the presentation of key ideas, allowing a mental pause to digest the concept of connected education prior to the significant investment in considering its worth. Many educators will not have a context for the terminology, thus the basics have been outlined to frame the artefact and a series of quotes and statements created using Canva, visually communicate key concepts as part of the persuasion process. Frequently-sited educator concerns in this context about time, pressure, purpose and challenge informed the decision to conceptually weigh challenge against need; thus the remainder of the artefact is designed to promote small changes that may contribute to a big difference over time.

The ‘Local Connections’ section of the site includes suggestions for activities within an internal Community of Practice (CoP); such groupings allow structured communication to drive strategy, implement new ideas, solve problems and develop skills (Archer, 2009). The button links were initially embedded content; however, it was decided that the weight of these amongst the other elements was too great and therefore they were de-emphasised to form a secondary layer that might be explored over time. Inspired by Joel Speranza’s (2016) flipped classroom approach, the instructional links provide short, accessible snippets of learning rather than a full session or overload of ideas. Microsoft Sway is featured on the first link, exposing artefact users to a presentation tool that allows collaboration in real time, creative commons learning and an online audience. The Canva tutorial features the online design tool to support learning through reflection. There are various ways that this this sharing could be circulated, however the chosen elements aim to promote anytime, anywhere access, allowing and modelling differentiation through user selection and self-regulated learning.

Internal CoPs can promote connection and growth, however they can also stagnate with myopic thinking (Jarche, 2013). Pegrum sites a shift in information seeking to social networks rather than search engines (2010). Citing Siemens and Tittenberger, Pegrum notes that PLNs will increasingly enable members to filter information and cope with overload. Aligned with this beneficial feature of PLNs in a web 2.0 context, the practice of many connected educators has turned to Twitter, with considerable scope for meaningful digital connection and learning with a global PLN (Lindsay, 2016).

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-8-36-12-pmThe diverse PLN opportunity provided through global networking enables what Justesen (2004) refers to as ‘Innoversity’ – the intersection of innovation and diversity – allowing for unique ideas through the merge of divergent thinking. At a glance through the Twitter flow in a carefully-pruned network, one can access ideas, links and insights for significant learning; this may be amplified with extended use of Twitter through organised chats or other networked events. Explored synchronously whilst in progress, and/or asynchronously through archives after the event, such networking again allows differentiation for the learner. This final inclusion makes use of Keynote animation processes, fortuitously learnt through interaction on Twitter. This also connects the idea that is featured throughout, that learning can best happen in our own time through the PLN with the support of digital tools. This potentially inexpert teaching and learning experience may well be mirrored in our classrooms where our paradigm shift from content expert to facilitator and mentor, is becoming ever more prevalent and necessary.

The artefact does not include suggestions for global collaborative projects or networks beyond a beginner level, allowing potential users to benefit from a steady start to build their skills and comfort (Via, 2010). From this starting point, teachers new to networking could extend to more connected processes with students, using their online network to foster new globally connected possibilities (Lindsay, 2016).

The artefact, Connected Education, is designed for a large, traditional school context, where the needs of the community are diverse and professional learning can be seen as a challenging add-on. The artefact offers instructional guidance, nurturing both a mindset and behaviours that will encourage PLN involvement (locally and digitally) for learning. It uses multiple design and presentation tools to articulate concepts and showcase digital tools. It is scaffolded to introduce those reluctant to shifting their practice to the concepts of networking and offers examples of pathways through which educators might connect and go about building and developing their professional learning network.


Archer, N. (2009). Classification of communities of practice. In N. Kock (ed.), e-collaboration: Concepts, methodologies, tools, and applications (67-77). Hershey, PA

Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2009). The dark side of information: overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies. Journal of information science, 35(2), 180–191. Retrieved from

Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. (2002). Limits to information. In, The social life of information (pp. 11-34). Boston: Harvard business school press.

Couros, A. (2010). Developing personal learning networks for open and social learning. In Veletsianos, G. (Ed.), Emerging technologies in distance education (109–128). Athabasca university: AU Press.

Couros, G. (2015). The innovator’s mindset: empower learning, unleash talent and lead a culture of creativity. Dave Burgess Consulting. San Diego.

Jarche, H. (2013). PKM in 2013 [Blog post]. Life in perpetual beta. Retrieved from

Justesen, S. (2004). Innoversity in communities of practice. In, P. Hildreth, & C. Kimble (eds.) Knowledge networks: Innovation through communities of practice (pp. 79-95). Hershey, PA.

Lindsay, J. (2016). The global educator. Hawker Brownlow. Moorabbin, Victoria.

Miller, M. (2015). Ditch that textbook. Dave Burgess Consulting. San Diego.

Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Hall, L. R. (2012). Defining the connected educator. In The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age (pp. 3-24). Solution tree press. Bloomington, IN.

Pegrum, M. (2010). I link, therefore I am’: Network literacy as a core digital literacy. In E-Learning and digital media, 7(4), 346-354.

Rajagopal, K., Joosten-ten Brinke, D., Van Bruggen, J., & Sloep, P. B. (2011). Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and the networking skills needed to optimally use them. First Monday, 17(1).

Rheingold, H. (2010). Attention, and other 21st-century social media literacies. Educause review, 45(5), 14.

Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2011). Introduction: The power of networked learning. In Personal learning networks: Using the power of connections to transform education (pp. 1-14). Solution tree press. Bloomington, IN.

Ritchart, R. (2015). Creating cultures of thinking. Jossey Bass. San Francisco.

Rosenthal Tolisano, S. (2011). Langwitches blog. Framing a skype learning experience. Retrieved from

Shirky, C. (2010). Means. In Cognitive surplus: Creativity and generosity in a connected age. (pp. 31-64) New York: Penguin Press.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2013). Connecting learners: technology, change and higher education. Retrieved from

Speranza, J. (2016) Joel speranza [blog site]. Retrieved from

Thompson, C. (2013). The new literacies. Retrieved from

Via, S. (2010). Personal learning networks for educators. Retrieved from:

Wagner, T & Dintersmith, T. (2015). Most likely to succeed. Scribner. New York.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. M. (2002). Seven principles for cultivating communities of practice. In Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge (pp. 49-64). Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Retrieved CSU ereserve

Wesch, M. (2010). From knowledgeable to knowledge-able. Retrieved from:

Musings on the artefacts of others

The recently submitted artefact assessment for INF532 has not surprisingly encouraged a considerable range of responses, employing a diverse range of tools and processes to encourage resource users to become more connected. I have included below some ideas about some of the resources that were most different in context and concept to my own artefact.

Jacques Du Toit designed an instructional ten step process for educators to connect. The artefact includes depth of resources, ideas and instructions to make the project achievable, whist all the while connecting via the hashtag, #connected10, to share the journey. The range of tools recommended are scaffolded for those new to their use with instructions and achievable steps. The concepts of connection and exploring new tools is reinforced through the variety of means, via which elements within the artefact have been created. Instructional design is evident through the careful sequencing of activities, building connectedness through potentially passive social media contexts right through to the reflection, sharing and participation of blogging.

Sean Bint’s connected educator app is a little like the Swiss army knife of connected educator resources. It shows considerable thought about the functionality and resources one might need to connect, providing inbuilt access to social media and other relevant links, as well as functioning as a curation tool. It is a concept I could see streamlining the challenge of managing information overload by providing a one-stop tool that incorporates the essential needs of the connected educator/learner.

My own approach focused on developing connections for educators, but others including Cameron Innes focused on connected education and PLN development for students; an important consideration given that they are the next workforce for whom the skills in connection will be such an imperative. Cameron draws together an analysis of concepts for students that provide the chance to consider more about themselves as learners in the digital learning environment; not assuming his students to be digital natives, but acknolwedging and encouraging their learning in the many ways it may occur.

Yvette Drager contextualises the concept of the PLN in the familiar story of the three little pigs. The appropriation of this story to the context of building a PLN uses a light-hearted approach to encourage action. Amidst humour and fun, Yvette provides encouragement and recommendations to create and maintain networks, curate and manage information and to share and collaborate in order to learn and support the learning of others.

The INF532 PLN have provided each other and their own extended networks with some amazingly deep and useful resources.

Distance vs online – a changing perspective on university study.



Image attribution: Distance by Daniel Horacio Agostini, Retrieved from Flickr, Creative Commons licence.

As a student undertaking the study of a Masters by ‘distance’, Todhunter’s report made me question my own assumptions about the mode of study with which I am engaged.

The semantics involved in the difference between distance education and online education are quite significant. Distance education by its linguistic meaning infers there is physical distance, which for most participants is true; but if we put on our global educator hats, our new context would suggest that the power of online connection (through the forums, blogs, Twitter chats, online meetings, hangouts, shared documents and other modes of online study connection) is anything but distant and in fact quite connected.

At no point have I felt unable to connect with my peers and lecturers despite their presence (at times) on the other side of the globe. With a little thinking around time zones, the online environment has minimised the sense of distance.

Todhunter discusses the perspective that the prospect of online study may be disparate to some learners’ views of a suitable learning environment. On the contrary, my current work and home life prohibit me from studying in any format other than online, so I see the choice to be able to study off campus as an inclusive alternative. The author posits that the mode of study must:

  • Be compatible with the student’s situation
  • Provide valuable learning experiences
  • Provide an accessible support process

I would argue that these aspects have all been present in my current degree and infact, in many ways, more so than in my undergraduate, on campus mode of study; for example, contacting lecturers via email/forums is often a quicker means of achieving an answer than my past days of tracking down the person during their work day.

I would be interested in the comparative analysis of under and post graduate study, as perhaps for those new to university level, the more independent nature of fully online study is not so compatible. As Todhunter implies, the informal social connections and impromptu learning scenarios are important and may make more of difference in the undergraduate context.

The various modes of study discussed will each appeal to different people due to their differing needs and lifestyles, and, as we might suggest for our own students, providing students with options about how, where and when they learn in the university context is more likely to meet the diverse needs of the student body. For me, online study is definitely a challenging road, but it is no longer a lonely journey.


Todhunter, B. (2013). LOL — limitations of online learning — are we selling the open and distance education message short? Distance Education, 34(2), p.232-252

Connections for Learning Part 2

I posted recently about my plans to connect Year 6 PYP students with experts relevant to their lines of inquiry. This week’s exhibition brought together a notable result of connecting these learners with an amazing person. This particular group were inquiring into access issues for people with a disability and I was able to arrange a meeting with a man who both has a disability and whose engineering pathway has led him to start an incredible company who advocate and foster design and awareness for disability access in Australia and through parts of Asia. He was the Young Australian of the Year for the ACT in 2014 and has a string of awards and notable achievements.

The young students were able to ask important questions of their guest, hearing his stories first hand and with a chance to consider what it means to design for access and meet needs for all people through a design-thinking process.

Following the meeting, the students were inspired to plan the remainder of their exhibition presentation with their new perspective in mind, developing a concept that emphasised an experience of empathy, which paralleled the processes our guest uses with his own colleagues and university students to improve design outcomes, equality and access.

Without the chance to meet in person and ask their questions, the students may not have gained the insight that they were subsequently able to incorporate into their final presentation.


To Diigo or not to Diigo



Image attribution: Lock, by Toni Verdu Carbo. Retrieved from FlickrCreative Commons Licence

OK Diigo, I tried you out again, and I’m not a fan! Perhaps I am not a skilled operator and others will testify to your worth, but I personally have found you an underwhelming curation space 😉

I think I signed up to Diigo two years ago when I started my masters, made a couple of obligatory entries and then had not opened it until the Module 5 requirement to add case study examples. I can see why I had not returned!! Bookmark vs Topic? I couldn’t decide, but the fact I could not (seem to) add a link within topic left me bookmarking. I added my information, but wanted within one post to present further relevant linked resources. If it is possible, it was not immediately obvious to me. As it doesn’t (seem to) have the level of functionality I would like, I can’t see myself continuing to use it.

On the upside, I can see worth in collating a shared curation of tools and resources and my recent interaction has made me actually notice the regular Diigo alert emails I receive to indicate updated input from others on the Knowledge Networks group. Will I maintain awareness? Perhaps a little more than I did … maybe.

Not Drowning, Waving! … I think!


Image attribution: Sinking Meeting Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig. Retrieved from FlickrCreative Commons Licence.

So, one week to go before Assignment One submission time and not going to lie, I feel a bit overwhelmed. Procrastinating by blog writing? How did you guess! I am nearly finished the creation process for my artefact, but feeling pretty uncertain about its value at present. My goal has been to create a convincing resource for reluctant teachers to assist them in the process of improving their connectedness, both within their local space and beyond via Twitter. It has been challenging to know how to approach this task, as my desire has been to create something that is useful for my workplace, where having only started there this term, I am still working out the needs and logistics of what strategies will work.

I think that in order to kickstart motivation to connect, I need to formally acknowledge the challenges that become the barriers to teacher self-improvement: time, motivation, needing to see the worth before the investment. I feel as though in my workplace, there are many who are at the beginning of their connected educator journey, whilst others have made progress and are ready for extension.

For these reasons, I have created (or at least started) quite an array of examples in various tools, slowly working out in the process what to actually incorporate. Wanting my resource to have value for most has lead me to the creation of an artefact with multiple components, some of which I probably still need to eliminate.

So now, time to step back and write my exegesis (“exe-what?” was my first reaction!). Let’s hope I don’t get too carried away there too and have to spend all of next weekend deciding which precious words to cull (yes, word reduction is my usual enemy in the days before submission!) alongside the elimination process for the artefact itself.

OK – back to it!

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