What is pedagogy? Toolbox or playground?

I remember when I was in my early years of university, studying my undergraduate degrees to become a teacher and learning for the first time about this word pedagogy.  I loved the word straight away, but did I know what it meant?  It was explained to me that it meant the ‘art and science of teaching’ or the ‘teachers toolbox of tricks (strategies)’.  However, now that I’ve been teaching (or working in other education projects) for almost 8 years, I have come to see that pedagogy is more of a playground.






What once was characterised by some basic wooden features that allowed a child to slide and swing, is now site to a stimulating experience, limited only by the imagination.  Wooden playgrounds, like the one pictured above,  were simple but fun.  There were swings and slides, a way to climb and a platform or two to stand on and pretend you were at the helm of a private ship.  But nowadays, a child may have to sit back and observe/take in a background some before they interact with it, making sense of the myriad of colourful and creative constructions in it before they take off and journey into exciting new adventure worlds.  This is very much like pedagogy to me.

Karin Brodie, in an article entitled ‘Pedagogy is a three-ring circus’, defines pedagogy when she says: “A good education rests on the relationship between knowledge, teaching and learning.”  Her article in the Mail & Guardian on August 8th, juxtaposes the perspectives and theories of Chris Waldburger and Meshach Ogunniyi, who both had articles in the Mail & Guardian on July 25th.  Authors Waldburger and Ogunniyi, look at the nature of the progressive or ‘child-centred’ curriculum that is taking shape in the 21st century.

“For Waldburger, academic, classical knowledge must be the core of the curriculum, and for good reason: this knowledge has stood the test of time and has been found to be powerful and empowering for many.

Ogunniyi questions the notion that classical Western knowledge is empowering for all learners, and indeed research has shown that many learners find disciplinary knowledge, as taught in schools, disempowering rather than empowering.” (Brodie, 2014)

However, what Waldburger fails to do is take into consideration learning and the notion that we can only develop new knowledge when linked to background knowledge, whereas Ogunniyi does recognise this, even though he fails to recognise the full scop of children’s knowledge.  Both authors fail to demonstrate and outline the role the teacher plays in all of it as well.  Students can embrace and be empowered by new subject matter and experiences if their background knowledge is accessed.  If they enter a new playground, one with 21st century design ideas, they will observe and access their background knowledge to make assessments about what each section may require them to do to have fun and ‘play’.  How do they have these skills?  How are they taught to play? If we liken this to learning some more, yes students can do rote ‘learning’ tasks such as close passages and comprehension, but can they face a new problem and access their background knowledge and skills, observe and then develop new knowledge and skills to solve it and thereby create a new foundation for future learning?

The concept of pedagogy and what it is opens up all sorts of conversations amongst educators but as this article highlights, the relationship is between knowledge, teaching and learning.  Dictionary.com defines pedagogy in these words:

1.  the function or work of a teacher; teaching.
2.  the art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods.
But it is so much more than this.  More questions arise from this in my mind that I will be contemplating as I study further in this area.  What is the core work of teachers?  What is the difference between the ‘art’ and the ‘science’ of teaching?  What is the scope of instructional methods that a 21st century teacher has to play with?


Brodie, K. (2014). Pedagogy is a three-ring circus. Mail & Guardian. [online] Available at: http://mg.co.za/article/2014-08-08-pedagogy-is-a-three-ring-circus [Accessed 15 Aug. 2014].


BYOD vs 1:1 – What do you consider in making the decision?


This is a question I’m pondering more and more at the moment… what is the best device for educational implementation?  But today, I thought a little deeper and took it down into the level of, what is the ideal format for device implementation pedagogically?  BYOD or a 1:1 program?  I know that digital pedagogy involves a lot of scaffolding, but would it if students were able to BYOD, a device they were more familiar and comfortable with? Should the ideal mode of implementation take into consideration things like the Quality Teaching Model?  Productive pedagogies?  Effective instructional design?  These questions only give way to more and more questions, however, I would like to say that from my experience, I am leaning more towards BYOD now because personal learning through digital technology should be facilitated through a device of personal choice.

When I started uni, the NSW Quality Teaching Model (QTM, 2003) had just been delivered and I was spoon-fed portions of it for my full four years at Newcastle Uni, and by the authors themselves as well.  I still refer to it now on many occasions and when I started thinking about BYOD vs 1:1 it came to mind again.  The three core elements of the QTM are intellectual quality, quality learning environment and significance and these are foundational aspects of the pedagogy in all educational institutions, whether referring to the QTM or not.  It is the 18 sub-elements within these three categories, I feel, that would inform and assist me in making the decision about BYOD and 1:1.

Essentially, the elements underneath both intellectual quality and quality learning environment are supported by both BYOD and 1:1, however, it is when I get to the significance element that I start leaning towards BYOD, let me explain why.  Significance is an element underpinned by these sub-elements: background knowledge, cultural knowledge, knowledge integration, inclusivity, connectedness and narrative.  If a students’ background knowledge and cultural knowledge are to be considered in creating new learning experiences, would it not seem right to take into consideration that they may not have experience with the device you choose for a 1:1 program and therefore not have the necessary background or cultural knowledge needed to competently take it up as a learning tool?
The digital revolution is a cultural shift, its perhaps not often thought of when we think of the cultures in educational settings today, however, the “digital natives” have created their own culture of LOLs and selfies that need to be engaged with sometimes.  Students are attached to their device in a “culturally ritualistic” and significant way and disentangling them from these under any circumstance can prove very detrimental.  I don’t have any hard facts or research stats to support this right now, I am merely making observations and conclusions based on the context I work in, but I believe I’ve seen evidence that would suggest that if you try and change this culture of who their “learning buddy” (their device) is by dictating a particular one, then their is a loss of confidence in learning that wasn’t there before.  If we don’t let student pick the device they use for their learning, are we being culturally ignorant?

However, then I came across this post: “Are BYOD programs simply an excuse not to fully invest in 1:1?“, and was forced to think of it another way.  Are BYOD programs just a lack of commitment and laziness on the part of educational institutes?  I personally think not, but someone thought it.  If you read the comments on the post mentioned above, it is interesting how the world of business comes into play as well.

I’ll leave you with this video as a final thought… what do you think is the right decision for all?


Flash a-ah! Android goodness galore…

Testing the Samsung Galaxy Note more, seeing how it does everything I have regularly done on my iPad Air, has been very fruitful.  I have successfully accessed documents stored on a USB by connecting a Micro USB Combo by Amicroe to the Samsung.  I found that the USB wouldn’t register, however, if the USB itself was not already attached to the combo in one of the USB ports.  I was then unsure as to how to disconnect the USB safely but discovered that if I swiped down and got the notifications menu, then tapped on the USB notification, it disconnected it safely so I could remove the combo from the device. When the USB registered in the device initially, it automatically pulled up the My Files app and revealed the USB and its folders within the app.  The files were all easy to navigate and search too.

What I then wanted to be able to do was open a PDF in S Note and annotate it.  This was a little tricky to figure out at first but I soon realised that if I went into S Note and then tapped on the Menu button, it would bring up options that included Import.  After tapping on Import I was given three options, Google Drive, Samsung account or My Files.  I tapped on My Files and then on PDF file and selected a PDF file by tapping on the select circle.  (Tapping on the file itself opened it in a preview sort of version and didn’t import it.)  It then successfully brought the PDF file into S Note and enabled me to annotate, highlight and write on the PDF file.  This is brilliant and so much less fuss than the way I’ve tried to facilitate this process being done on iPads at school this year.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 2.10.26 pmNow the cream on the coffee! Flash a-ah! So many iPad users, particularly educators, lament over the lack of Flash capabilities on the iPad. Flash is not intuitively part of the Samsung either, however, I installed the app Photo Flash Player & Browser.  Once I started this app, and tapped on a small lightening bolt icon in the bottom left hand side of the screen, I was able to start a Flash-based session on the Internet.  So I went to my Jacaranda Plus account bookshelf and successfully opened up the Knowledge Quest game online, which is entirely flash-based.  It worked great!  The only potential problem with using this app would be the RAM and CPU it takes to run and the pressure that it would put on the wifi and bandwidth, however, it is very helpful and will facilitate better connectivity to valuable resources.

Yay! A transparent filing system on tablets…

In my comparison of iPad Air vs Samsung Galaxy Note, there is one thing that really makes the Android experience even better.  The transparency of the filing system!! It is brilliant!!  For years I have used the iPad and tried to navigate numerous apps in the hope of figuring out an easy file management system and workflow for completing school documents etc.  Students are always dealing with documents such as Pages, Keynotes, PDFs and images but they have no one place where they can manage and store these with ease and use them in other apps without having to re-download them.  Yes, you can store everything in your Google Drive and use them as you need from there, however, you then have to download them again and this requires an internet connection.  I’m sure there is things that the iPad can do that manage files better, however, file management and storage should not be something a user has to think twice about.


A default folder amongst the apps and folders on the Samsung reveals the above apps.  All of them are very useful but for now, I am loving the My Files and Downloads apps.  On my MacBook, I have my Desktop, Documents, and Downloads folders etc, but these are not something found on the iPad.  However, on the Samsung, I can find these within the My Files app and the Downloads app and what that visually looks like is a lot more intuitive and transparent, almost like it were a computer desktop.

Screenshot_NormarAppImage (2)

Not only does the file system/folder on the Samsung organise my files into categories accessible from one app, it also links to my Dropbox and allows me to easily navigate those files and open them on my Samsung tablet.  It’s so much easier to manage!  The breadcrumbs underneath the categories (seen above) are also very helpful for navigating the file system.  Another huge benefit too, is the fact that the space taken by each category of items/files stored is clearly visible, which makes the management of my 16GB tablet’s storage a lot easier as well.

I haven’t played around with all of the features yet, but I have the ability to create my own folders within this filing system and create shortcuts as well.  Another thing I have yet to explore is the connectivity with a USB and an external microSD card to add further storage space to the device but I will cover that one soon.Screenshot_NormarAppImage (1)

I’m converted… from iPad Air to Samsung Galaxy Note

I’ve been a Mac/Apple ‘convertee’ since about 2009 when I got my first MacBook, and as far as computers go I am still convinced that the MacBook is definitely the best way to go for laptops… HOWEVER… drumroll please…. after being so immersed in the world of iPads as the ‘tool of the future’ for education, I am now convinced that Android, and particularly Samsung are superior in the affordances and features it offers for classrooms and students.

It’s only taken one night of playing on my new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1″ last night to realise what should’ve come a lot sooner had I not be ingrained in the sect that is allegiant to Apple only.  I have never used an Android device for more than a few minutes of maybe trying to hack into my sisters Facebook on her Android phone (before I convinced her to go Apple iPhone ironically), so last night was a totally new technical experience and I must say that the UX was fantastic!!! I struggled a little sometimes but overall, I was getting so excited by the way I was able to get timely responses from the device and all of the functions and features.

Anyways, I got a lot more playing to do with my device and there will be MANY MORE posts to come about this flip from Apple iPad to Samsung Galaxy… feel free to share tips, tricks and comments galore…

The Horizon Report 2014 K-12 Edition – Going hybrid

I bought a Toyota Prius last year and I love it!  Its a hybrid, and as such it runs on two a combination of electricity and petrol, powered by two different batteries.  The common misconception is that I must have to do something to charge the hybrid battery, however, it charges itself just like the other battery.  Whenever my car is running under 20km/h it runs on the hybrid battery and when it is not revving very high it runs on the hybrid battery, meaning it does not use any petrol.  I do not have to do anything, it knows what to and makes the switch as needed.  Overall, the fuel efficiency of my car is incredible and I will get at least 800 km out of a tank of petrol, averaging 4.5L/100km :)  So why the big spiel about my car (well I do love it)?  Hybrid learning designs were identified by the Horizon report as a mid-range trend in K-12 education and this involves utilising a range of teaching and learning modes to facilitate experiences for students that produce quality learning outcomes.

“Schools that are making use of hybrid learning models are finding that using both the physical and the virtual learning environments to their highest potentials allows teachers to further personalise the learning experience, engage students in a broader variety of ways, and even extend the learning day.  Hybrid models, when designed and implemented effectively, enable students to use the school day for group work and project-based activities, while using the network to access readings, videos, and other learning materials on their own time, leveraging the best of both environments.” (p. 12)

My school does use a learning management system (LMS) and of course a lot of face-to-face learning.  However, utilising a LMS does not mean that online learning models are being implemented.  They have tried the flipped classroom learning model but I am not sure to what extent.  The effectiveness of a hybrid learning model is based on the balance between web-delivery and face-to-face time collaboration.  Hybrid learning can be achieved effectively through the flipped classroom model, which has students engage with some sort of online learning activities, often times a video, before class allowing more time in class to apply the newly acquired knowledge and skills in a collaborative activity.  Homework is given to students in most schools, following many lessons, however, what I have found is that homework is given to followup the lesson just completed and further cement in the knowledge and skills acquired into students’ long-term working memory.  With that said, to adopt a hybrid learning model more, homework could be set that not only follows up the lesson but prepares students for the subsequent lesson, adopting a flipped classroom model.  If the homework also makes use of the LMS (not just for the sake of it), engaging students in online learning activities, then hybrid learning is achieved.

My perceived issues with hybrid learning and why there is not a great take-up of it within primary and secondary contexts is:

  • Takes ‘too much’ preparation time
  • Requires more professional development for teachers to achieve
  • Not enough knowledge of hybrid learning designs
  • More instructional time online and outside of classroom time means relinquishing control
  • Collaboration is harder to assess and monitor

Just like my hybrid car, who when it starts runs on the electric battery and when it slows down to under 20km/h, a hybrid learning design will often start and end with an online learning activity.  The best of two, or more, worlds are combined to create a new design and that is what we see in good hybrid learning designs, the combination of and complementary use of both online and face-to-face learning activities.  Universities have been engaging with hybrid learning for some time, but how can K-12 learn from them and bring it into their contexts.

Open Education Resources – Experts modelling

If an academic, or two, work for over 4 years on a book that offers a solid framework/model for engagement and online motivation, including 100+ activity suggestions you would think they would be charging a substantial amount for such a resource right?  Such books as Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction by Rita-Marie and Teaching Reading in the 21st Century (5th Edition) by Michael F. Graves, Connie F Juel, Bonnie B. Graves and Peter F Dewitz sell for upwards of $20 on Amazon.  However, whilst the newly released Adding some TEC-VARIETY is being sold on Amazon for a mere $10-14, it is also made freely available by the authors on the website of the same name.  Check out the image I create below, that outlines the key elements of Dr Bonk’s TEC-VARIETY Model.


One of the authors of the book is Dr Curtis Bonk, professor of instructional systems technology and educational psychology at Indiana University and President of CourseShare, has authored a number of books and delivered many significant presentations and keynote addresses worldwide but has made the majority of his presentations and resources freely available on his site TrainingShare.  Whilst his work is not Creative Commons licensed, it is a far cry from the attitude so often seen for most academics who, apart from published works, do not necessarily disseminate a great deal of materials and resources freely in order to facilitate more education and learning experiences for others.  I applaud Dr Bonk’s immense generosity in making these types of resources available because such resources have definitely enriched my own professional learning and development.

What will it take to encouragement more of this type of sharing amongst experts of the field?  How can educators facilitate greater sharing worldwide?