What we can learn from the past and apply to the future of education?

Going to ISTE2015, it was obvious that the focus of pedagogy and classroom ‘instruction’ has changed so dramatically over time that many teachers are taking a step back and letting students direct their learning and for instruction to come via alternate means.  Many American educators that I heard from during the ISTE2015 conference are facilitating STEM and STEAM learning activities that are student-driven.  STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, with STEAM adding the element of art.

Having had 12 hours in the back of a car yesterday as I traveled from Oklahoma City to New Mexico, I started reading ‘Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom’.  It’s a fantastic read, and it has highlighted to me, just how right the philosophers, educators, mathematicians and scientists of old have been about education. Below is a summary of the beliefs of those key people:

  • Piaget has said that “to understand is to invent” (Piaget, 1976); “… use of active methods which give broad scope to the spontaneous research of the child or adolescent and requires that every new truth to be learned, be discovered, or at least reconstructed by the student and not simply imported to him” (Piaget, 1976)
  • Dewey (1859-1952) advocated for learning experiences that was project-based and connected students with the real world
  • Rousseau (1712-1778) believed that students should be given freedom to develop naturally
  • Pestalozzi (1746-1827) was a strong believer in first-hand experiences being the optimum catalyst for learning
  • Froebel (1782-1852) is the father of the first formal education of young children, known as kindergarten.  He believed that children needed to interact with the world to learn
  • Papert said “Anything is easy if you can assimilate it to your collection of models.  If you can’t, anything can be painfully difficult.  What an individual can learn, and how he learns it, depends on what models he has available” (Papert, 1980)
  • Gardner emphasised that “classroom projects that welcome various problem-solving strategies provide fertile ground for the expression of multiple intelligences” (Gardner, 1983)
  • Montessori said, “the hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence”.
  • “When children are deeply involved in play, they are learning.  Their passion, flow, and sense of timelessness mirror the actions of the tinkerer” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991)
  • “Play creates a zone of proximal development of the child.  In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behaviour; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.  As in the focus of a magnifying glass, play contains all the developmental tendencies in a condensed form and is itself a major source of development” (Vygotsky, 1978)

These great philosophers, mathematicians, educators and scientists of old are more relevant now than ever.  The maker space movement that is sweeping through USA schools is all about play, about inventing, and about learning from experience.  Perhaps we need to step back from programming and curriculum and take a leaf out of the books of these greats before us.

Design-based research

Ever since I became a teacher, I have sort to improve my practice by way of further informal research into topic areas that may impact my professional effectiveness.  Early in my career I engaged in professional development on topics such as behaviour management (with Bill Rogers), project- and problem-based (with Intel), website design, webquest design, action research and so much more.  What is this type of ad hoc research strategy reminiscent of?  After doing some reading and reflection, I believe that my professional practice has seen me develop skills in design-based research, as a facilitator of professional improvement.  The image below shows the difference between traditionally adopted research and design-based research practice.

The way that I approached research was very much to figure out the exact nature of the problem I was facing in the classroom and to then do some internet research to develop solutions for these problems.  Behaviour/classroom management was of course a big issue for me in those early days and determining the main source of the problem was of course not easy, however, the students’ engagement and motivation proved to be a big factor in it.  I sort to explore more technically innovative ways to facilitate students’ learning opportunities to increase their motivation and engagement with the subject, creating Webquests and projects that would give them more autonomy and ownership over their learning.

My work towards finding a solution was not quick, and to be honest, I never mastered it of course, but I tried many different strategies and tools, both technical and pedagogical, to test and refine what might work best.  I always learned a lot from these experiences, and I still do this kind of research in the various roles I have taken since my first classroom teaching position.

I believe that no learning experience is complete without critical reflection and that is part of the design-based research paradigm, and the catalyst for it becoming a cycle that restarts based on critical reflection.

Developing custom learning objects

There are many ways that learning objects are defined, and no one universally accepted definition.  Common elements of learning objects appear to be:

  • Focus on learning objectives
  • A particular structure based on instructional design models
  • Use of metadata
  • Hosted in a database or digital library, providing opportunity for ratings and review
  • Simple interface and complex background infrastructure

So, what is the purpose in designing and developing custom learning objects?  For me, learning objects are designed to serve as learning activities providing content and facilitating experiences that lead to higher order use of new knowledge and skills.  The image below is a great summary of what a learning object is what the question still begs, how will this inform my development of custom learning objects?

For me, using the ADDIE model is the best way to develop a custom learning object.  The image below is great at explaining how the ADDIE model is relevant in this situation.  The analyse phase, is the one concerned with the key concepts in the content and developing the required tasks that will achieve the outcomes.  Design phases break it down into learning activities or steps, e.g. the different stages of a WebQuest.  It may also be appropriate here to design and deliver a pre-test in the learning object to identify background knowledge.  Going one step further, I think the develop stage is about the mode of delivering the learning object, the multimedia involved in engaging the learner. Scaffolding the instruction and developing instructional phases are to be developed in this stage as well, e.g. in a WebQuest this might be making sure that all instructions are clear and written with consistency.

When implementing a WebQuest, or perhaps a SCORM package that is a WebQuest, it will most likely need to be hosted in a learning management system.  This is the implementation phase, making the learning object available to the intended audience.  If there is face-to-face lessons that go with and support the learning object, working out the timing for this is also a key part of this phase.  Managing the student data developed during their completion of the learning activities should be determined here as well.  The final phase is of course evaluation.  Evaluating student data, any assessable objects and feedback given by students is a key part in assessing the effectiveness of a learning object in achieving the learning objectives and outcomes outlined in the first phases.  In a WebQuest or online SCORM package learning activity, I would include a student reflection form at the end of the module to gain feedback.

Learning objects in Scootle

I have know about Scootle since its beginning, and I have browsed it a little but I had not thought to consider evaluating the value of the learning objects being curated and shared in Scootle before.  Tonight I did a bit of browsing and one of the first resources I looked at after searching in Creative Arts > Music was a highly useful resource for visual arts and music lessons.  I have been teaching both of these subjects this term to a number of special needs students and the resource I came across is perfect for them.  I have evaluated the resource based on an checklist in Haughey. Margaret and Muirhead, B. (2005). Evaluating learning objects for schools.  Retrieved 25 March, 2015 from http://www.usq.edu.au/electpub/e-jist/docs/vol8_no1/fullpapers/Haughey_Muirhead.pdf. The resource I am looking at is Visual Art Starters: Painting the Music.

[youtube https://youtu.be/jxXCXZb6m8I]

The resource is aimed at F-2 years in primary schools, however, being that my classes in this instance are special needs and doing lifeskills, this is a suitable resource.  The resource addresses appropriate outcomes and content descriptors and it also says in the teacher guide section that:

“The resource has pedagogical value for the Visual Arts curriculum. The activities provide a framework for students to explore drawing and painting through different elements including colour, shape, texture and pattern, while drawing and painting to music; they offer opportunities for students to work both independently and as a class.”

“The resource can also contribute to students developing the general capability Personal and social capability, particularly in relation to self-awareness and recognising emotions.”

What I loved straight away with this resource was the way the activities were scaffolded under the headings of learn, apply, respond and extend.  These headings are tabs down the left hand side and really support ease of navigation for the users.  Downloadable objects are also very obvious, however, as an advocate for Open Education Resources, I am disappointed that the worksheets are not Creative Commons and available in a format that can be edited for customised usage.

The learning intentions and objectives are very clear in the introductory video for students and the teacher section offers substantial explanation of curriculum links and learning intentions. It is great to find resources that do this for educators.

Pedagogically I believe the resource does a fantastic job of scaffolding the learning experience by introducing the topic and activities with a video that explains the whole process in really easy to follow, simple detail.  The video also helps to make connections with students’ background knowledge and make good learning connections.  The addition of extension activities and a glossary of terms supports the whole activity by catering for differentiation in learning abilities as well.

This activity is great for making connections with students’ personal culture, backgrounds and values.  It is a very open and subjective task that facilitates student expression.

I’ve experienced a digital sharing space where there was the ability for others to comment on how they used learning objects in their own context and I feel that Scootle would be enhanced if there was a more open discussion thread allowed, not just a one-post-only review system.  It is great thought that we can rate and like the resources, and include tags.

Features and qualities important to pedagogical models

I have long had an interest in pedagogical and instructional design models and the elements of them I have looked for, as evidence of their quality, has been guided by these questions:

  • Does the model provide adequate scaffolding for a learning experience?
  • What is considered most important, content or pedagogy?
  • Are students’ getting the opportunity to demonstrate higher-order thinking skills?
  • Is ICT considered as a supporting tool in the process and experience of teaching and learning?
  • Is there room for flexibility, adaptability and differentiation?
  • Is there room for student self-regulation to be facilitated and encouraged?
Photo by David Jones, from Flickr.com, Some rights reserved

Photo by David Jones, from Flickr.com, Some rights reserved

When I consider pedagogical models, I consider all of these and more, often thinking of the NSW Quality Teaching Model.  As a leader in technology integration in teaching and learning, I never consider pedagogical models without considering how it scaffolds ICT integration.  Technology is still such a gimmick and there is still somewhat of a novelty to its use within the classroom, however, it is not always integrated with solid instructional design as its foundation.  That is why my interest has been in models of pedagogical design and instruction that help provide that foundation that both encourages ICT integration and enables it in a smooth and undertaking way.  My most frequently referred to pedagogical models are: TPACK, ADDIE model, the NSW Quality Teaching model, Bloom’s taxonomy, inquiry-based learning model and problem- or project-based learning models.  I find each of these great foundational models for integrating ICT into pedagogy, for reasons outlined below.

TPACK – This model is comprehensive at outlining the connections between pedagogy and technology, between pedagogy and content, and between content and technology, as well as all three intertwined.  It places content as the most important element in this pedagogical model and seeks to establish solid foundation in content and activities before technology interferes.  Technology is seen as the supporting actor, the tool to enhance outcomes further.

Bloom’s Taxonomy – This model does not make suggestions as to how technology should be implemented in the model’s original format, however, the verbs offered in the model, suggest active ways that technology can be utilised.  Students can create, analyse, synthesise and discover new knowledge with technology.

Inquiry-based learning model – This model has stages for creation and for discovery or investigation as well.  Much can be discovered and investigated with resources available on the Internet.  Reflection and discussion are also important features of Inquiry-based learning and can be facilitated through the integration of technology as well.

Problem-based learning model – A model that allows students room to self-regulate their learning and to utilise a number of technologies to assist them in solving a problem or developing a product.  PBL connects students with real-world problems and audiences and leaves room for differentiation and flexibility as well. 

Photo by Alec Couros on Flickr.com Some rights reserved

Photo by Alec Couros on Flickr.com Some rights reserved

In the 21st century, students need to develop a certain set of skills: collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and information fluency (Dede, 2010).  We are said to be in the age of knowledge, the knowledge society, and this requires the development of “1. knowledge construction, 2. adaptability, 3. finding, organising and retrieving information, 4. information management, 5. critical thinking and 6. team work” (Anderson, 2008 in Voogt & Roblin, 2010, p. 1).  Pedagogical models of the 21st century need to include these skills and need to integrate the mode in which 21st century learners most frequently learn and engage with new knowledge and information, which is technology.  I think some pedagogical models cater well for that explicitly and some may only provide a shel from which to interpret the nature of ICT integration.



Dede, C. (2010). Comparing frameworks for 21st century skills. 21st century skills: Rethinking how students learn, 51-76.

Voogt, J., Roblin, N. P. (2010). 21st century skills. Discussienota. Zoetermeer: The Netherlands: Kennisnet.

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 www.tecvariety.com

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.

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?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZL4ssuCDRXs]