#INF536 Critical Reflection

The prompt for this blog post is a reflection on how my views, knowledge and understanding of the work of an education professional in digital environments has changed and/or developed. I think however, a lot of my most tangible learnings have not been in the digital realm at all – they have been on me, as a person, and in the physical world.

Here are some of the ways I’ve grown, my knowledge has grown, and my professional understandings have grown. It’s a highlights reel of my most key learnings from this course:

  • A rekindling of my creative confidence! Being creative is rarely that one off “lightbulb” moment, where you are struck with inspiration – you need to work hard to be creative (Gladwell, 2008; Dyson, 2011). Knowing that I didn’t need to get creative pursuits right, or perfect the first time really opened me up to just giving things a go and getting started. Creativity is an amorphous beast though, and takes many forms for many different people.

  • Bringing more ideas out into the real world – making them visual, moveable, actual items – frees them from a range of digital and mental constraints. Elements of thinking can be collected in a Project War Room, where the whole picture, rather than individual snippets can be seen (Kolko, 2010). Links can be made, and patterns can be found. Different organisations or sorting of the elements can occur (such as in a hexagonal thinking activity).

  • Growing a bias towards action (Kelley, 2012). Design is about turning ideas into action (Brown, 2009). I feel empowered now that I understand, and have had practise with, the process.

  • An affinity for collaboration. Much of creative culture, and the Design Thinking process, is enhanced when with, or around others (Siedel & Fixson, 2013). Connect with others, talk things through, share your ideas. But also, don’t be afraid to go it alone when you need to (Thornburg, 2001).

  • Welcoming feedback. Feedback is the gold dust of learning and improving (Hattie, 2013). Be open to feedback, get it early and often, and when giving feedback, make sure it is kind, specific, and helpful (Berger, 2003).

  • Keeping the ‘user’ at the centre. Teaching isn’t about you, it’s about the students. Co-design, and involving students at every stage in learning will lead to more meaningful outcomes. In contrast though, your role as a knowledgeable expert is no less important (Hatte, 2013).

  • Setting my eyes on the horizon. Let your big, audacious, Moonshot ideas out. Experimenting allows unexpected outcomes to emerge, rather than sticking with the same old status quo. Frame your thinking on what could be possible; don’t be daunted by the blocks in the way. At the same time, don’t be afraid to start small (Doorley & Whithoft, 2012).

  • Knowing space is a powerful change agent. It communicates the kinds of relationships you value (Kelley, 2012) and facilitates the kinds of learning experiences – collaborative, creative, flexible, real-life, feedback-laden that are the pillars of effective learning (Claxton, 2009; Hattie, 2013).

In reflection, this is probably the first time over my whole academic career that a paper or course I’ve taken has been so shifting. Mostly, in my experience, papers throughout University are the ‘regurgitate in your own words’ style of showing your learning. Actual, brain-chomping learning however, comes from tackling weighty issues, not pseudo ones (Claxton, 2009). It involves those intense moments of confusion and chaos when everything seems to be too much and you can’t see light at the end of the tunnel. But then you stop, you reflect, you start making connections and finding patterns and a glimmer of hope appears. The sense of accomplishment, at knowing you’ve waded into complexity and turned up on the other side is very fulfilling. And there is NO way this isn’t good learning. And that is one of my central takeaways from Designing Spaces For Learning – the power of this kind of learning process. It’s hard, it’s exhausting, but so much learning comes from the struggle.



Berger, R. (2003). An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. Heinemann, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc., 361 Hanover Street, Portsmouth.

Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. HarperBusiness

Claxton, G. (2009). What’s the point of school?: Rediscovering the heart of education. Oneworld Publications.

Doorley, S. & Whithoft, S. (2012). Make space: How to set the stage for creative collaboration. John Wiley & Sons.

Dyson, J. (2011, August 4). No innovator’s dilemma here: in praise of failure. Wired.com. Retrieved from: http://www.wired.com/business/2011/04/in-praise-of-failure/

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. Penguin UK.

Hattie, J. (2013). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

Kelley, D. (2012). IDEO Founder David Kelley: Bias Toward Action. Retrieved 12th October, 2014 from http://washingtonexaminer.com/ideo-founder-david-kelley-bias-toward-action/video/gm-4965755

Kolko, J. (2010). Abductive thinking and sensemaking: The drivers of design synthesis. Design Issues, 26(1), 15-28.

Seidel, V., & Fixson, S. (2013). Adopting design thinking in novice multidisciplinary teams: The application and limits of design methods and reflexive practices. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30, 19–33.

Thornburg, D. D. (2001). Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century. Ed at a Distance, 15(6), n6.

A Critical Reflection ( / Taking the Red Pill)

Please forgive the overplayed movie reference, but #INF530, for me, was like stepping into “The Matrix”. Perhaps I should say stepping out of “The Matrix” – the computer simulated world humans live a half-life in, and into the “real” world. What I’m trying to get at is that I’ve been floating through life, even as an educator and tech-guy, without knowing what’s really going on. #INF530 has opened my eyes to the undercurrents of technology, knowledge, and information which flows around us, shapes our understandings and pulls us into the future. In taking this Masters program, I chose the red pill; I want to see how far the rabbit hole goes.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pauldineen/2121606903/ – Paul L Dineen – CC BY 2.0

I can honestly say I’ve developed both as a professional and as a person in taking #INF530. Both are intertwined, sure, but it’s not very often you can say that a professional development course or the like affected you at a deeper level. I’ll get to that later. As a teacher and an IT leader though, I’ve developed knowledge which has had an immediate implication on my practice.

Probably the most hard-hitting was a realisation half-way through #INF530 (Reflective Blog Post 3) that I was using:

“what I thought was smart use of Web 2.0 software, a bit of blogging and wiki-learning. It turns out though, I’m probably just engaging students in “low level” learning experiences”

And that was quite a tough pill to swallow. It was also though, a platform. A starting point. An ideal to chase. I’m now much more focused on providing learning experiences which enable connections to occur, for creativity to flourish, and for passions to be followed. It’s up to ME to embody the change that schools need to take, and I’m taking responsibility to do just that.

So I’ve learned a lot ~

Theories of knowledge flow (From Reflective Blog Post 2, on Connectivisim)

“It is a learning theory for the digital age – one which acknowledges we live in a world of multiplicity. Individuals and communities are nodes of knowledge, scattered about, complicatedly connected”

Concepts of linked data, the semantic web, and meta-data (From Reflective Blog Post 4)

“Berners Lee claims there is a latent, largely untapped potential of the world wide web to link data sets and information together. It’s also called ‘the semantic web’ – a “common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries.”

But what I’ve really found to be a development for me, was working in the participatory nature of #INF530. It was amazing to see how quickly people bonded and started talking. We had a shared passion and a shared goal, and were “all in it together”. It was an interesting feeling for someone like myself who is usually quite blasé and “too cool” when it comes to group endeavours. I immediately felt this one was different. And I’m not going to sit here and say it was always easy – I ooh’d and ahh’d a number of times over making comments, posting, and asking questions. I battled with some inner self saying – “what have you got to share?”, “who cares what you think?”, “they already know that!”. But I came to realise (while not always comfortable) putting your ideas out there and connecting with others is vitally important. Setting your ideas free, no matter how silly you think they are, can always lead to other ripples in the pond down the line. It’s altruistic. It benefits society.

So thanks, #INF530. You’ve not only given me oodles of new knowledge and aspirations and ideas to put into place in my classroom, but also an increased propensity to share, connect and collaborate. And that, is a great thing. It was tough getting back into study (time-management wise) but I’m very glad I did, and am looking forward to the next few years and developing even more.