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Dream big, start small

April, 2015

  1. Dewey’s digital age? Blog task 2

    April 29, 2015 by meghastie

    The dream of wellbeing, dreamt until now by a few, is not sustainable for all. We have to change. We have to learn to live better, consuming fewer environmental resources and regenerating the contexts of life. (Manzini, 2009)


    Questions around the skills students need to survive, thrive and flourish in society is one that has been under increasing discussion.  Whether called “literacies” “skills” or “fluencies” (Crockett et al 2011), educators, governments, and business alike, identify the necessity of shifting our understanding of how and what we learn.   Whilst some of our core values—inquiry, creativity,  critical thinking, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection—are not specifically digital values, our context and the rapid rate of technological advance has caused there to be a disconnect with more traditional modes of learning and skillsets, as the graphic below suggests.


    From John Seely Brown (2006) New Learning Environments for the 21st Century: Exploring the Edge, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 38:5, 18-24, DOI: 10.3200/CHNG.38.5.18-24

    From John Seely Brown (2006) New Learning Environments for the 21st Century: Exploring the Edge, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 38:5, 18-24, DOI: 10.3200/CHNG.38.5.18-24

    What does it means to learn in the 21st century?

    Terms such as digital literacy, 21st century learning skills, connected learning and Education 3.0 are amongst the terms used to try and encapsulate how and what schools and learning should look like, and the types of skills we want students to walk out into the world with.  What are the “survival skills” as Wagner (2008) coins it, or to frame it more positively the skills student need to thrive?  The new ways of learning and teaching, the “new pedagogies” as Fullan and Langworthy call them (2014) are more than teaching strategies:

     “They are powerful models of teaching and learning, enabled and accelerated by increasingly pervasive digital tools and resources, taking hold within learning environments that measure and support deep learning at all levels of the education system.”


    What skills?

    As indicated, there has been a significant shift from teacher and schools as repositories of knowledge, to facilitators of skills and attitudes.  But what skills do students need?  Again, there has been a significant transition from fairly linear approaches to information literacy and Bloom’s taxonomy  to a more fluid and complex concept of around 21st century skills, digital literacy, connected learning and  Education 3.0 is emerging.

    Not only are we surrounded by advocates for digital literacy, embracing new technologies and the ubiquitous nature of the internet and connectedness, but we are once again thrown back into a discussion around values.  Whilst information and early models of digital literacy had a strong focus on technical skills (Bawden 2008), a parallel paradigm has run from Gilster (1997 quoted in Bawden 2008) through to the likes of Eshet-Alkalaia (2004), Meyers, Erickson & Small (2009),  Eschet (2012)  and Ng (2012).  Their works all highlight not only the technical aspects, but also the affective, socio-emotional and ethical aspects of digital literacy. These are skills that are beyond a value-free view of the world and promote a heightened engagement with issues such as equity, access, transparency, honesty, collaboration and sharing.


    Values-driven learning

    One of the most interesting aspects of the research around the new ways of envisioning learning through Education 3.0 is that personalised learning centred on the relationship between the mentor / teacher and the learner, is pivotal.  On the discussions around connected learning is the vitality of collaboration and the capacity to work in groups – whether physically or virtually present.  Similarly, the prioritising of ethical and moral aspects of digital literacy learning may seem surprising to any who went through teacher’s colleges in the mid-late 20th century, where neo-Marxist attitudes around faith, spiritualty and ethics were derided as outmoded thought structures of the Eurocentric patriarchal hegemony.

     “Deep learning’, in the way we will describe it, develops the learning, creating and ‘doing’ dispositions that young people need to thrive now and in their futures. Premised on the unique powers of human inquiry, creativity, and purpose, new pedagogies are unleashing students and teachers’ energy and excitement in new learning partnerships that find, activate and cultivate the deep learning potential in all of us.”  (Langworthy & Fullan 2014)

    After several decades where such values have been dismissed in the great experiments of free education, they are suddenly front and centre of education debate.  It has become increasingly clear that without values, without some sense of citizenship, of having a responsibility to broader community.  As Tett (2009) noted the dominant capitalist values of consumption (as an end in itself) and greed drove the Global Financial Crisis.  Those who created this situation – the now disgraced business and financial leaders – are successful products of our schooling systems, not its failures.   Over a decade earlier, Postman (1995) suggested that the current educational system had failed to provide students with a translucent, unifying “narrative” like those that inspired earlier generations. Instead, today’s schools promote the false “gods” of economic utility, consumerism, and resentment. Postman defines literacy as “the set of skills that enable individuals to encode and decode knowledge and power via speech, writing, printing and collective action, and which, when learned, introduce the individual to a community. In this construct, literacy links technology and sociality” (Rheingold 2013).  He takes this further by calling this new approach a “participative pedagogy”, leveraged by digital media and networked communities. The goal is to activate, inspire, nourish, facilitate, and guide literacies essential to individual and collective life in the 21st century.

    Just as importantly, some of the significant international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) also recognise the need to globally challenge the traditional structures of schooling, particularly if we are to bring global equality.  They advocate that education is the fundamental transformative power in the global community, especially for emerging economies. Numerous social entrepreneurial bodies, such as the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE),  and the Global Education Leaders’ Project (GELP) have been established to explore innovation in these (and other) areas that helps challenge traditional ideas of schooling, by drawing in experiences from outside of education and learning from some of the innovative explorations globally of how to “do education” in poor, badly-resource economies.  The work of Charles Leadbeater (eg 2008, 2012), is amongst the most significant, as well as exploring how alternate models of education such as schools such as School of Everything, Eastfeast and High Tech High break through the education disconnect felt by so many marginalised groups in the western world (Hannon 2009)

    It has been noted that unlike the developing world where the drive to learn is dominant as a way to escape disaster, students in the first world have become progressively more disengaged with learning, as its relevance to their daily lives seems increasingly remote.  Again, part of the solution to this woe is seen to make learning authentic, real-world consequences and public.  Again, as Brown (2006) observedJean Lave’s theory of situated cognition focuses on learning as enculturation into a practice, often through the process of “legitimate peripheral participation.”  Anyone who has been around for long enough will hear the echoes of the old apprenticeship system of times past.  However, learners are no longer limited by time and space, nor the need to adhere to a single “master”.  The connectivity and flexibility is central to these kinds of learning.

    Important ways of transforming education through concepts such as connectvisim, (as developed by Siemens and Downes) comes the more formalised concept of “Connected Learning”.  This came from research by the Digital Media and Research Learning Hub (DMRLH). Unlike constructivism, that locates the initial motivation to learn within the individual, Connected Learning highlights that learning is a social activity and intrinsically embedded within culture (Ito et al. 2013).  The “disconnect” for many modern teenagers is that the current education models do not reflect their reality, resulting in disengagement. Ito asks formative questions such as “Why do we assume that kids socialising and play is not a part of learning?”  “Why can’t schools have a spirit of entertainment and play as a part of what they do?” (DMRLH 2011)

    DMRLH’s research explores how to employ new media in ways that connect young people to their passions, and supportive communities to foster academically challenging learning.  As an approach, it is still in its infancy and the case studies cited follow individuals, a collection of interest groups and a small number of innovative schools.  Connected Learning carefully contrast themselves from blended learning their aim is to not just make school-based learning available in a range of environments, rather it is about  “connecting and translating between in-school and out-of-school learning (p46) to create rigorous student engagement.  It is a direct challenge to the behaviourist modes of education that focus on extrinsic and standardised inputs, rewards and testing, that mediate most of our current schooling exit-points.  Whether this model can gain traction in an education forum where governments increasingly develop policy and practices that are oriented around standardized testing as a process of validation, is yet to be seen. Additionally, this paradigm challenges popular opinion that digital technologies isolate and detract from social relationships; this is also supported by Hattie’s work that advocates the benefits of utilizing digital technologies – when employed collaboratively (Hattie & Yates 2013 p195ff).

    As noted in Connected Learning (2013) “Rather than center on a top-down design of a specific product, technology or curriculum …. [21st century] learning environments are a complex alchemy of designed and emergent elements in a process of experimentation and flux” (p63).  The education system in the Western world is at a critical junction.  The rate of technological and social change is exponential and the ways new technologies will continue to interact with culture is unpredictable. Ironically, just as some aspects of time seem to “speed-up” the time allowed to thoughtfully adjust to these changes must be increased.

    After a decade of focussing on how technology might drive the change, pedagogy has been put back in its’ rightful place as an important agent, a tool, but not the source of change.  Repeatedly, the qualities valued – curiosity, inquiry, creativity, collaboration, problem-solving and reflection (Seely Brown 2006)

    “What needs to happen is that we take advantage of the huge potential the digital technologies offers in terms of the variety of learning opportunities, formats for creation, and spaces for expression for independent and interdependent learning and production that were not previously available” (Brown 2006)


    Hannon (2009) envisions that we can now start to use connected learning to support

    “A different vision of the good life, based on community, equity and values of spiritual awareness and reverence for the planet, presents new challenges for how schools regard their objectives and, in turn, how they motivate and connect with young people today.”

    “Education used to be a wheel – the instructor was the hub of the wheel. Well, the instructor is still vital, but it’s not the same…” George Siemens



    Bawden, D. (2008). Digital literacies: concepts, policies & practices,  Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

    Brown, John Seely (2006) New Learning Environments for the 21st Century: Exploring the Edge, in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 38:5, 18-24, DOI: 10.3200/CHNG.38.5.18-24

    Chase, Zac and Laufenberg, Diana (2011) Digital literacies: Embracing the Squishiness of Digital Literacy, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 54(7) pp. 535–537 doi:10.1598/JAAL.54.7.7

    Crockett, Lee, Churches, Andrew and Jukes, Ian (2011), Literacy is Not Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age, Thousand oaks: Corwin Press

    DMLresearch Hub, (2011) Cultural Anthropologist Mimi Ito on Connected Learning, Children, and Digital Media Retrieved from:

    Eschet, Y. (2012). Thinking in the digital era: A revised model for digital literacy. Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology, 9, 267–276.

    Eshet-Alkalai, Yoram  (2004) Digital Literacy: A Conceptual Framework for Survival Skills in the Digital Era, Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia 13(1),93-106

    Fullan, M. & Langworthy, M. (2014) A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning, London: Pearson.

    The Global Education Leaders’ Program Innovation unit (2013) Redesigning education:Shaping learning systems around the globe, Booktrope editions[Kindle Digital Version] from

    Hannon, Valerie (2009) ‘Only Connect!’: A new paradigm for learning innovation in the 21st century, Centre for strategic education Melbourne available at

    Hattie, J & Yates G. C. R. (2013). Visible learning and the science of how we learn. London: Routledge.

    Ito, Mizuko, Gutiérrez, , Livingstone, Sonia, Penuel, Bill, Rhodes, Jean Salen, Katie, Schor, Juliet, Sefton-Green, Julian, Watkins S. Craig,. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, Accessed September 1st 2014

    Leadbeater, C. (2010, April). Education Innovation in the slums, Retrieved from:

    Leadbeater, C. (2012). Innovation in Education: Lessons from Pioneers around the World. WISE.

    Leadbeater, C. & Wong, A. (2010). Learning from the Extremes. Cisco. Retrieved from:

    Manzini, E (2009) Sustainable Everyday Project, Ezio Manzini’s Blog, accessible at

    Meyers, E. M., Erickson, I., & Small, R. V. (2013). Digital literacy and informal learning environments: an introduction.Learning, Media and Technology, (ahead-of-print), 1-13.

    Ng, W. (2012). Can we teach digital natives digital literacy? Computers & Education, 59(3), 1065–1078. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.04.016

    OECD (2011) Building a High-quality Teaching Profession: Lessons from Around the World,

    Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris.

    OECD (2013), Innovative Learning Environments, Educational Research and Innovation, OECD Publishing.

    Postman, Neil, (1995) The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School, New York: Vintage Books

    Rheingold, Howard (2013) Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies in The Particpatory Cultures Handbook Delwiche, Aaron & Henderson, Jennifer Jacobs (eds.) New York: Routledge

    Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing knowledge. Lulu. com.

    Siemens, G. (2008). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers.

    Tett, G (2009) Fool’s Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a Catastrophe, Little, Brown Book Group, London.

    Wagner, Tony, (2010) The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need – And What We Can Do About it New York:Basic Books,

    World Economic Forum Global Education Initiative, (2009), Educating the next wave of entrepreneurs: Unlocking entrepreneurial capabilities to meet the global challenges of the 21st Century, Switzerland,

  2. Creativity, flexibility and the digital world – Task #1

    April 6, 2015 by meghastie

    What I know so far…

    I am passionate about learning and creating vibrant learning communities for students and teachers. How students learn has been my passion for a number of years.  I have always seen technology as an important tool but one that should be guided by good learning.  Whilst I still hold strongly to that, it is becoming increasingly important to engage creatively with how to use technology to help foster lifelong learners who are creative, collaborative, resilient and flexible.

    I love the work of Thomas and Brown (2011), who focus on the importance of play, creativity and imagination – at the time when many people are obsessing with technology, they explore the paradigms that need to shape learning for the future.

    Each day that passes, it seems to me we cannot deny how essential it is to engage with the digital environment.  There is a need to envision a more complex relationship than we have previously with the digital world in learning, and to explore more actively how learning can be enhanced through the digital environment.

    One of my biggest concerns is that in many schools I have seen (and experienced) that the digital roll-out has been poorly integrated into the learning of the school.  That staff (and students) have not been adequately prepared, and the results have been to create cynical and suspicious staff.  Similarly, the technology has been conceived simply as a replacement to paper and pen, failing to see the bigger changes in learning that are inevitable working with students who are immersed in digital worlds, and where the rate of technology change is astronomical.

    I am at a school in its second year of a 1:1 .laptop program in the High school, and where a whole school (Pre-K – 12) Learning Management System is  now a central platform for delivering learning and communicating with families.   I have also found myself in a new role this year where I am helping drive pedagogical frameworks in learning – across all aspects of the school from learning enrichment (support and extension) through to the library and the digital programs, and probably most critically, staff professional development.


    What I’ve learned so far….

    I have always struggled with the simplicity of the division between “digital natives” and “digital immigrants”. It was a comfort to read  Kuehne’s observations (2012), and hear someone articulate more clearly than I could, some of the questions and queries I have had around this idea – students today may be comfortable using technology, but they are not necessarily adept at navigating it critically or creating digital products.  I have noted in my own life that some of my older friends are far more comfortable using technology than some of my students – in fact some students hate it – or hate using it for learning anyway!  Kuehne also comes up with a non-age-specific terminology of “Visitors” and “Residents” – I’m yet to commit to that!  Additionally, other researchers have identified  that many younger people are often are not skilled in using IT for learning, and without the adequate technical assistance some students won’t engage (Nasser, Cherif & Romanowski 2011, ECAR 2007).

    In the reading so far, I have been fascinated by some of the discussions around storing and managing knowledge in the digital era.  As I am not working in the information management field, these were new ideas to me – I had assumed that the digital world had made it easier than ever to store and manage our documents. Whilst the wonderful work of the Vatican demonstrated the wonderful capacity to make some very old documents available to the present world, it became increasingly obvious just how much information we are now having to navigate and therefore how easy it is to lose control of our past.

    As a student and teacher  of literature and history, the importance of maintaining our texts, our key to the past, of keeping records has been a real passion of mine.  Our past is our key to our future.

    I have also been encouraged by the concepts that creativity, flexibility and critical thinking are central to future-focussed learning.  These are not reliant on any technology, and have been a core platform of my pedagogical focus.  These core metacognitive skills are still at the heart of good learning for life.

    Equally as fascinating has been reading the work of the Institute for the future on Future 2020 that explores the requirements of workers for the future and change agents such as the ageing workforce, smart technologies – the graphic tells the whole picture.

    future work skills


    Similarly Haste’s explorations of young people’s need to be tool-users  and the essential  “five competencies”  they need for the future (2009) also highlight the need for adaptability and complexity.  Significantly, these are character traits rather than technical competencies. Having said that, the digital world opens up so many more possibilities to help students be creative, be imaginative, produce wonderful new ideas collaboratively and share them easily.   This is particularly true with technology – staff need to be regularly supported and trained (Sutherland et al 2013, Buchan 2009).

    As I’m fairly new to the digital concepts and practices, I found Bawden’s (2208) discussion around the nature and complexity of digital literacy very helpful. His discussion on Gilster’s early but seminal work helped frame my understanding of the “squishiness” of the concept.  Particularly his observation –

    Digital literacy in this sense is a framework for integrating various other literacies and skill-sets, though it does not need to encompass them all; as Martin (2006a) puts it, we do not need “one literacy to rule them all.”…

    Following on from this, another key reading for me in this early stage was Downes and Bishop’s 2012 study on integrating technology into learning.  They also confirmed the importance of training staff in the integration of new learning technologies, drawing on the work of Norris and Soloway (2010)  and Cuban (2003), identifying phenomena I have seen on a number of occasions across a number of schools –

    While there certainly have been effective attempts at educational technology integration, school reformers too often expect educators to know instinctively how to incorporate technology into their teaching.… [Furthermore] poorly implemented technology integration is unlikely to benefit learners and, in fact, can detract from proven, less expensive, and more readily applied education reforms.

    Yet again, ignoring staff training and staff preparation is dangerous in introducing systemic, technological or pedagogical change (see also the works of Fullan eg 1991, 2013).

    I hope to learn by the end of the course…

    Some of my personal goals for this subject are to

    1. Forge a stronger connection between my current pedagogical knowledge and innovative concepts and technologies that can be used to enhance learning
    2. Take some risks in exploring new approaches and new ways to learn in a digital world
    3. Gain a stronger sense of familiarity with a range of digital tools
    4. Stronger insight into the nature of the how knowledge is stored and maintained in a digital environment

    My ultimate goal is to

    Gain a clearer insight into planning today’s learning for a future-focussed learning environment.  That means being able to articulate and help lead school-wide and systemic change by training and equipping staff in

    1.  how the digital environment can enhance creative and imaginative learning
    2. how to create more flexible learning experiences for students through the digital environment

    As always, I dream big, but need to start small and plan effectively…




    Bawden, D. (2008). CHAPTER ONE: Origins and concepts of digital literacy. In Digital literacies: concepts, policies & practices (pp. 17–32). Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

    Bollacker, K. D. (2010). Avoiding a digital dark age. American Scientist, 98(2), 106-110.

    Buchan, J. (2008), Tools for survival in a changing educational technology environment. Where are you now in the landscape of educational technology? Proceedings Ascilite Melbourne 2008 Melbourne., L. (2003). Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Dahlstrom, Eden, Davies J.D., Dziuban, Charles, (2013), ECAR Study of Computer use in education, Educause,

    Davies, A., Fidler, D., & Gorbis. M. (2011). Future work skills 2020. Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute: California

    Downes, J. M., & Bishop, P. (2012). Educators engage digital natives and learn from their experiences with technologyMiddle School Journal, 43(5), 6–15.

    Fullan, M.G., (1991), The new meaning of educational change. 2nd edition. London: Cassel Education Ltd

    (2013) Stratosphere: Integrating technology, pedagogy and change knowledge , Pearson, Toronto

    Haste, Helen (2009) – Technology and Youth

                           Problem-Solver Vs Tool User (Part 1 of 4), Harvard Education,  Retrieved from:

                           Five competencies (Part 3 of 4), Harvard Education, Retrieved from:

    Ito, Mizuko, Gutiérrez, , Livingstone, Sonia, Penuel, Bill, Rhodes, Jean Salen, Katie, Schor, Juliet, Sefton-Green, Julian, Watkins S. Craig,. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Digital Media and Learning Research Hub,

    Kuehn, L. (2012). No more “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants.” Our Schools / Our Selves, 21(2), 129–132.

    Nasser, Ramzi; Cherif, Maha; Romanowski, Michael. Factors that impact student usage of the learning management system in Qatari schools. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 6, p. 39-62, sep. 2011. ISSN 1492-3831. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 02 Oct. 2014.

    Norris, C., & Soloway, E. (2010). One-to-one computing has failed our expectations: The laptops are being used as add-ons to existing curriculum [Electronic Version]. District Administration, Retrieved from

    Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for digital age. Retrieved from

    Sutherland, R., Sutherland, J., Fellner, C., Siccolo, M. & Clark, L. (2014). Schools for the future: subtle shift or seismic change? Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 23(1), 19-37. doi: 10.1080/1475939X.2013.869975

    Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011).  A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

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