Important aspects for education and for a curriculum in the C21st

In one of my uni courses this week we were asked to reflect on the question: “What do you see as some of the important aspects for education and for a curriculum in the C21st?”.  It’s something I often think about but here are some of my thoughts at present.

71878108_709b04c40d_mIn July of this year, I attended the annual Ann D Clark lecture at Penrith’s Joan Sutherland theatre.  This year’s speaker was Presidential Chair and associate dean for Global and Online Education, Yong Zhao.  Yong was very thought-provoking and inspiring and spoke a lot about current aspects of education and curriculum and how they are not necessarily appropriate for the need to create entrepreneurial and creative students.  He raised some very valid points and in his book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, he dedicates an entire chapter to why a common curriculum and set of standards will not help our current and future generations of students.

The mission statement provided in the newly implemented Common Core State Standards (CCSS) of the US indicates that one purpose for its implementation is “to compete successfully in the global economy” (Zhao, 2012, p. 26).  Should the 21st century curriculum and other aspects of education be focused on the economy?  Well, I guess that it is the economy that keeps jobs alive and generally helps society to keep going as it has for so long.  Zhao also goes on to delve into the newly implemented Australian National Curriculum, and when he compares it to the US CCSS he finds that they have very similar rationales, being that they intend to create “equity, efficiency, and quality for all students to compete successfully in the global economy” (Zhao, 2012, p. 28-29).  The globalisation aspect for education and curriculum appears to be critical in the eyes of some.  Does the Australian National Curriculum foster and enable this?

3620335406_691b16543e_mWe are in the knowledge management age and that of globalisation as well so I believe personally that education, and certainly the National Curriculum, should provide opportunities for students to enter into this world with the knowledge and skills needed to be creative and entrepreneurial citizens.  Chinnammai (2005) says that students need to become global citizens, “intelligent people with a broad range of skills and knowledge to apply to a competitive, information based society” (p. 1).  Does the new national curriculum provide a broad enough scope of skills and knowledge applicable to an information-based society?  I don’t think so, I think it is far too content heavy and that students and teachers alike, get lost in the content and learning for the sake of exams, that they do not develop the necessary skills required by a global citizen.

Chinnannai (2005) also points out that “The introduction of technology into the classroom is changing the nature of delivering education to students is gradually giving way to a new form of electronic literacy , more programs and education materials are made available in electronic form, teachers are preparing materials in electronic form; and students are generating papers, assignments and projects in electronic form” (p. 2).  However, what guidelines are included in the national curriculum to guide the expectations of what students should be able to do with technology when they leave school, in order to be global citizens.  I believe that technology is a critical part of 21st century education and beyond.  Any national curriculum should include a continuum of skills that students develop as they progress throughout their schooling, that will guide their acquisition of technical skills required when they leave school.  It can’t be all content focused, we have to be realistic about what they crucially require when they enter the workforce and other study areas.  I therefore also believe that 21st century education systems, and certainly the national curriculum, needs to provide scope for differentiation and individualised pathways of learning and development to cater for all students’ needs, abilities and future endeavours, regardless of a special needs or giftedness.


Chinnammai, S. (2005, November). Effects of globalisation on education and culture. In ICDE International Conference.

Zhao, Y. (2012). World class learners. Educating creative and entrepreneurial students.

Education up in the clouds

Watching a TED talk this morning by Sugata Mitra, on a project I had heard about before, reaffirmed my own beliefs that our current school system is not set up to cater for the 21st century.  Sugata is a software engineer, innovator, pioneer and educator who resisted the pull of the schooling system that the British empire initiated and that has become the norm, and he tested the boundaries of expectations and discovered amazing possibilities if we just put aside the default settings of teaching and learning.  In his TED talk, ‘The Future of Learning’,  Mitra boldly proclaims that “school as we know them are obsolete” (Mitra, 2013, 2:55) and “the education system is wonderfully constructed but not needed anymore… it’s outdated” (Mitra, 2013, 2:56).  I believe he is right.

Mitra (2013) placed one computer in a hole in the wall of his office and let the local children engage with it in an unguided and free way.  What ended up happening was that students started to teach each other how to browse he internet.  He tried the experiment again and again, getting similarly surprising responses.  When he eventually decided to create a serious hypothesis and test it out the results were astounding.  He placed a computer, with lots of information downloaded onto it about DNA replication, in a remote Indian village and hypothesised that none of the Tamil-speaking children would be able to learning about DNA replication with materials only provided in English.  After several months, some periodic testing, and an older student providing prompts in the form of questions, the children were able to achieve 50% on their DNA replication test.  There was no teacher, the students taught themselves and taught each other and they broke down the barriers that we might think would prevent them from learning the material.

Do we have this same approach and mentality when we teach? No we don’t.  Do we provide a stimulus, and then let them go for it, digesting and discovering resources for themselves and making meaning from it? I really want to be the type of teacher who enlarges the territory of learning for all of my students, who knows no limits in terms of what students might achieve.  Who are we to say what they are capable of?  The ‘hole in the wall’ experiment Mitra conducted went against all expectations and educational norms but it produced astounding outcomes and results.  He goes onto say in the later half of his video that the notion of the Grandmother method and encouragement proved to be the key in the experience of he DNA replication project.  The Grandmother method, he explained, was the addition of a 20-year-old student who stood behind the children engaging with the resources on the computer screen who asked them questions as simple as, “what are you doing now?” and “how do you do that?” and encouraging them.

From that one experiment with the older student, Mitra decided to engage as many British grannies as he could for another project.  The Granny Cloud, as they have become known, are available via Skype whenever a child needs them and simply provides encouragement and questions to encourage in this ‘self-organised learning environment’, which Mitra (2013) says “are basically broadband, collaboration and encouragement put together” (16:56).  It is from this that Mitra (2013) has determined his vision for the future of schooling. “My wish is to help design a future of learning by supporting children all over the world to tap into their wonder and their ability to work together. Help me build this school. It will be called the School in the Cloud” (19:32).  It’s a fantastic idea and the ideal way to take hold of the potential we have to learn collaboratively in the cloud.



Mitra, S. (2013). Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Sep. 2014].

Philosophy for teens?

Another question I asked myself yesterday as I was reading was, ‘Should philosophy be taught in high schools?’.  I asked myself this question in response to a sentence I read in Kalantzis and Cope (2012) that said: “The logistics of their form [test] are such that they end to measure discrete knowledge items distilled to clear-cut and isolable facts and aphorisms drawn from theories and, specifically, items that can be adjudged right or wrong.  These may not be the best things to be measuring in an era when the questions are at times complex and ambiguous, facts contestable and theories open to interpretation.” (p. 86)  We are in an era where the prevalence of information, stimulus materials and theories are running rampant and in which teenagers are exposed to much more thought-provoking materials in the media than ever before.  I asked myself, whether it was an age in which it might be appropriate to equip students with some knowledge and skills in philosophy?

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia at, philosophy can be defined as: “the general science of things in the universe by their ultimate determinations and reasons; or again, the intimate knowledge of the causes and reasons of things, the profound knowledge of the universal order”.  We are living in the ‘knowledge society’, the ‘knowledge economy’ and the era of knowledge management so it seems appropriate that we address the need for our next generation to take hold of the knowledge of these things. Apparently, according to my research, there are many high schools in Europe teaching philosophy and one site, called PLATO, gives this reason for doing so: “Philosophy can and should be taught in high school because this is the ideal time for students to engage its questions, arguments, and methods of thinking.” (, 2014).

In some ways, we are already teaching students about philosophy and equipping them with philosophic knowledge and skills in the implementation of ethics classes, religious education, and in other pedagogical practices such as inquiry-based learning and problem-based learning.  However, how can we extend the philosophy skills students develop and be intentional in teaching it?  Well, in Victoria, The Victorian Association for Philosophy in Schools (VAPS) has a vision to see students learn to be philosophers, “stimulating open and inquiring communities of philosophical exploration, in which students develop the art of questioning and acquire conceptual and reasoning tools” (Gelonesi, 2011).  VAPS have been crusading as well for the inclusion of philosophy in the new Australian National Curriculum, with the justification that “if young Australians are to be successful learners who are able to think deeply and logically, then young Australians will need to acquire the basic skills of philosophical inquiry: logical thought is, after all, the special provenance of philosophy” (VAPS, 2013).

It’s such a big discussion, and I could go on and on exploring and writing about it, however, for now it has got me thinking and I definitely want to pursue more philosophy study and would support and advocate for it within schools.  Much of the general capabilities in the Australian curriculum have been founded on philosophical principles and are related to philosophic concepts, therefore, it would be highly possible to be more intentional in integrating such important skills into our students’ learning.  Would love to hear what others think about this topic?


Gelonesi, J. (2011). High school philosophy. [online] Radio National. Available at: [Accessed 11 Sep. 2014]., (2014). Teaching High School Philosophy : PLATO: Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Sep. 2014]., (2014). The National Curriculum: The Case for Inclusion of Philosophy in the National Curriculum. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Sep. 2014].

A new 21st century pedagogical model

This is something I have pondered for years, a new model, a 21st century model, for understanding and implementing best practices into teaching.  We were asked to consider this in the course I’m doing called ‘Advanced Pedagogy’, and as an online learning designer, I have been very heavily into instructional design models and models for creating new learning experiences.  I’ve explored many of these, and other learning models, on my blog over the years but the few that have particularly stood out to me are:

  • The TEC-VARIETY Model
  • Hybrid learning model

In the 2014 K-12 Edition of the Horizon report, hybrid learning was outlined as a mid-range trend, and this involves utilising a range of teaching and learning modes to facilitate experiences for students that produce quality learning outcomes.  A quote I found particularly valuable from the report said:

“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)

I think that any model we utilise pedagogically needs to be flexible, agile and adaptable to the needs of all learners.

Another point I think is important in any model is that it is progressive in nature or provides some sort of continuum on which to base the starting point of learning about something new and the mastery of something.  I think that students need to have something to aim for, so having a model that presents a continuum will provide teachers with guidelines on which to frame learning and progression of.  Like the progression through syllabus stages, e.g. stages 1-6, however, more micro progressive.

The TEC VARIETY model is one that was developed to address motivation and engagement in online learning, but which I feel is applicable to all teaching and learning if considered in the right light.  The model is an acronym for the following: tone/climate, encouragement, curiosity, variety, autonomy, relevance, interactive, engagement, tension and yields.  Each of these elements have been researched and proven to have significant effect on engagement and motivation.  More can be read at

The TPACK model is also a favourite of mine and one that I feel is crucial in the 21st century.  It is a holistic model that comprehensively covers how to work seamlessly with content, pedagogy and technology in curriculum design and its about understanding how each combination of the three work together to create a model for 21st century learning.

Will work on visuals for my combined ideas and the most important ones but as I was reading another one of the course readings, it mentioned other elements that I thought might be relevant for a new pedagogical model.  Kalantzis and Cope (2012) conducted research that was published under the title of ‘New learning: a charter for change in education’ and in it they said: “The transformed economic system emerging from the current financial crisis will require human capacities that only education can nurture, based on deep knowledge, practical imagination, creative participation, intellectual inquisitiveness and collaborative commitment” (p. 83).  These words immediately stood out to me as essential elements in a new pedagogical model for the 21st century but what would they look like in the classroom?



Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 K-12 Edition . Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium

Kalantzis, M., & Cope, B. (2012). New learning: a charter for change in education. Critical Studies in Education, 53(1), 83-94.

The evolution of policies framing ICT integration

A reading I did this week was titled ‘Framing ICT, teachers and learners in Australian school education ICT policy’ (Jordan, 2011), and it serves as a study of the evolution of ICT policies in Australia since the ICT was first included in the vision for Australian education, over 20 years ago.  It was a very interesting read and I observed a few things as I read that were quite provocative.  Below is the timeline essentially, of the policies developed:

  1. In 1989, the National Goals for Schooling, developed by State, Territory and Commonwealth Ministers of Education in Hobart, followed by
  2. The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for schooling in the 21st century came along in 1999, then
  3. In 2000, the Ministerial Council for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) endorsed the Learning in an Online World: The School Education Action Plan for the Information Economy.
  4. In 2005, MCEETYA reinvented it as Contemporary Learning – Learning in an Online World, as well as,
  5. Pedagogy Strategy – Learning in an Online World (MCEETYA, 2005).
  6. A political campaign drove the implementation then of the A Digital Education Revolution in 2007, endorsed by Rudd et al.
  7. MCEETYA followed up the DER with The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for young Australians in 2008.

Here is a little more detail on each:

  1. National Goals for Schooling (1989)
    1. “provision for students to develop ‘skills of information processing and computing'” (p. 417)
  2. The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for schooling in the 21st century (1999)
    1. “Goal 1.6: that upon leaving school, students should ‘be confident, creative and productive users of new technologies, particularly information and communication technologies, and understand the impact of those technologies on society'” (p. 418)
  3. Learning in an Online World: The School Education Action Plan for the Information Economy (2000)
    1. Supported the above goal from 1999
    2. Aligns ICT directly to the idea of an ‘innovative society’
    3. “Harnessing these technologies for learning is vital. Australia’s future as an equitable, imaginative and economically strong knowledge society depends upon it.” (p. 420)
    4. Specialist skills are needed that are appropriate for the information economy
    5. Students will be engaged in ICT-rich programs and students gain employment-related skills for the information economy
    6. ICT integration needs to be purposeful and involve intentional and explicit teaching of skills
    7. Teachers need to commit to the vision of ICT implementation in education
    8. Teachers need professional development
  4. Contemporary Learning – Learning in an Online World (2005)
    1. Statements and strategies formed the ‘Learning Online Suite’, a part of a broader action plan
    2. Aligns ICT directly alongside the 21st century
    3. ICT creates new possibilities and opportunities that are both local and global
    4. Bullet points are used to show certainty
    5. Engaging with ICT is second-nature to young people and they need interactivity in learning
    6. “Learners are dependent on teachers having ICT skills” (p. 427)
  5. Pedagogy Strategy – Learning in an Online World (2005)
    1.  ICT integration is foundational to the economic and social prosperity of Australia and will transform education and training
    2. “A framework to assist teachers to plan and implement ICT into pedagogical practice” (p. 423)
    3. ICT drives change
    4. ICT is an outcome of change
    5. ICT is most applicable to the efficiency activities of teachers
    6. Teachers have to ‘catch up’ with students
    7. Teachers are the one who “will determine the extent to which the possibilities offered by technology are realised in educational settings” (p. 428)
    8. ICT transforms pedagogy
  6. A Digital Education Revolution (2007)
    1. “We need to ensure that Australian schools are able to provide students with the tools they will need to live and work in a world shaped by technological change” (p. 419)
    2. “Aligns ICT with notions of a ‘world class education'” (p. 420)
    3. Limits the transformational nature of ICT to the classroom education and learning
    4. “Constructs a utopian representation of a future education enabled by ICT” (p. 422)
    5. Uses both words that imply certainty and ‘possibility’
    6. Prepares young people for the ‘jobs of tomorrow’
  7. The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for young Australians (2008)
    1. Claims ICT as a critical part of successful learning
    2. Aligns ICT directly alongside the 21st century
    3. “[...] learners are motivated to use ICT, suggests that teachers ‘should take advantage of this [students'] increased motivation [to use ICT] to achieve more equitable educational outcomes for all” (p. 427)
    4. ICT will enhance the outcomes of students

There are many commonalities throughout the policies, such as the emphasis on the notion that ICT will enhance learning and that there is a need for new skills to be developed.  The discussion in the article about the language used was interesting and how there was often the use of strong, certain language, juxtaposed with language that demonstrated some level of uncertainty, e.g. ‘possibilities’ and ‘potential’.  It seemed to progress from the earlier policies of considering the potential of ICT, to the DER, which claimed with an abundance of certainty that it’s policy would be revolutionary in preparing students for their entire future.  There was a varying level of focus placed on the future in each of these policies as well.

A lot of the policies seemed to take the position that students find the use of ICT second-nature and that there is no problem on their part, engaging with technology in their education.  However, much of the responsibility and need for change was placed on teachers and the education system as a whole in most of the policies.  Its not as clear cut as they would like to convey and it should be considered that if we assume students are tech-savvy, they could be left behind and be caught playing ‘catch up’ as much as they claim teachers to be doing.



Jordan, K. (2011). Framing ICT, teachers and learners in Australian school education ICT policy. The Australian Educational Researcher, 38(4), 417-431.

What do you know, its the age of knowledge

I think I have chosen the best two courses to study together this semester for my Masters degree, Advanced Pedagogy and Leadership for Learning.  When I think about the foundations of teaching and learning, I think about pedagogy, but how often do we actually discuss, intentionally, pedagogy within our school contexts?  For most schools, I would hazard to guess that it is very little.  We get caught up in organisational structure, politics and curriculum requirements.  Well in my readings this week, in both courses, the same concept came up, and that is knowledge management.  This is not simply about information management, it is about a lot more than that.  Kalantzis and Cope (2012) write in their article, ‘New learning: a charter for a change in education’, that we are now a “new ‘knowledge society’ [...] marked by a decline in the relative need for unskilled labour and the increasing economic significance of knowledge management systems” (p. 83).  They say that we need to be teaching “knowledgeability” (p. 84).

I discovered in my readings, that knowledge management is considered as highly important and significant in 21st leadership contexts.  There are both pedagogical and organisational implications to a quality knowledge management system, which has implications for expectations of educational leadership.  Dubrin, Dalglish and Miller (2006) define knowledge management “as the systematic sharing of information to achieve such goals as innovation, non-duplication of effort and competitive advantage” (p. 152).  They also quote Garvin (1993), who says that “managing knowledge well helps an organisation to learn.  A learning organisation is one that is skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying behaviour to reflect new knowledge and insights” (p. 152).

These points made, emphasise the need for a leader to cultivate a sharing community and encourage both discussion and dialogue to begin the transfer of knowledge and modification of behaviour.  There are many different models of knowledge management (I have pinned some on Pinterest) that offer suggestions for processes that generate a learning organisation that shares knowledge, creates knowledge together and uses knowledge for the good of those around them.  In order to cultivate further, the ‘knowledgeability’ of teachers and leaders, Kalantzis and Cope (2012) share these five things we need to do:

  • “be participant-researchers or action researchers”
  • “become transformative leaders of change”
  • “become good citizens” (autonomous and collaborative)
  • “contribute to a productive diversity”, and
  • “build a capacity for innovation”.  (p.84)

However, the question then is, what skills do our students need to be quality knowledge managers?  What is knowledge management for students?  Labbo (2006) begins answering the question by outlining the position that Osborne and Wittrock take in their Generative Learning Model (1985), which states that “the process by which learners acquire knowledge and then use that knowledge to keep learning” help students to learn how to generate new knowledge.  Therefore, teaching students about the processes by which they acquire knowledge and use knowledge will help them move towards quality knowledge management.

This is a topic area I have only just started to consider in light of pedagogy and leadership, but which has been on my radar under alternate terms, however, much more reading is needed for me to fully grasp this and apply it into my own context further.



DuBrin, A., Dalglish, C., & Miller, P. J. (2006). leadership: 2nd Asia-Pacific Edition.

Kalantzis, M., & Cope, B. (2012). New learning: a charter for change in education. Critical Studies in Education, 53(1), 83-94.

Labbo, L. D. (2006). Literacy pedagogy and computer technologies: Toward solving the puzzle of current and future classroom practices. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, The, 29(3), 199.

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. 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: [Accessed 15 Aug. 2014].