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.

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]


Horizon Report 2014 K-12 Edition – Free and open education for all

The further I read into the report, the more I was convinced it was one of the best reports ever, and when I recommend current research to new teachers, I recommend and will continue to recommend this report.  I have had an interest in Open Education Resources (OER) for a number of years and thoroughly enjoyed doing an OER Workshop on WikiEducator a while back as well, it was very informative and valuable.  When I decided to become a teacher, it was so that I could help provide opportunities for others that they might not otherwise have, and OER can facilitate that more than any other type of learning resources I feel.  Education should not become a money-making enterprise (despite the need for money to efficiently run etc) but should facilitate growth in collaboration and sharing across networks of educators.  When I see teachers selling their resources online it gets to me, why do they feel the need to sell their resources and not share?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xGRztrWv-k]

The report highlights that “the goal is that OER materials are freely copiable, freely remixable, and free of barriers to access, cultural sensitivities, sharing, and educational use” (p. 10).  Creative Commons is so new still but it is a great start to ensuring the culture of sharing resources is increased.  Only a mid-range trend, meaning it will become more prevalent within classrooms in approximately 3-5 years.  The thing is, and this is evident even within my own teaching context, that teachers hold very tight to their work and things they create.  However, isn’t any resources we create whilst in another’s employ, owned by that employer and therefore subject to the copyright restrictions of that organisation? Policies, it will all come down to policies but also the education of educators in what OER is and how it can benefit others in the future.

For great projects being conducted in this field, check out oercommons.org

From oercommons.org 2007 - 2014, OER Commons, a project created by ISKME. Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

From oercommons.org 2007 – 2014, OER Commons, a project created by ISKME. Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

What is learning anyway?

I’m the Leader of Learning Technology, and as our journey with 1-1 iPads continues and I plan for the long-term sustainability and development of the program I have been reading up on various things.  One book I am currently reading is Technology Together: Whole-School Professional Development for Capability and Confidence by Renata Phelps and Anne Graham.

Technology Together is a process for developing a whole-school approach to to professional development with ICT.  The book is a fantastic read and I have been getting a lot out of it.  I really want to lead the school in being visionary, competent and risk-taking when they implement and integrate technology.  Chalkboards and whiteboards were once considered ‘technology’ in that they were new and facilitated a different mode of teaching and learning from previous tools utilised.  Whilst 21st technology progresses at a much faster pace, I would love to ultimately see technology such as the iPad, be integrated into the classroom in much the same smooth and seamless way.

Educational leadership cover imageOver the weekend, I was also sent some professional reading to complete for a discussion amongst leaders at school today and it proved to help elaborate and shed light on these issues from another angle.  The article I read was ‘Students First, Not Stuff’ by Will Richardson, from the March, 2013 edition of Educational Leadership.  I loved the article, it was an honest take on how teaching and learning is and always should be about the students, not the tools or the technology.

Some of the other points that were made in the article that really resonated with me were:

“Right now, we should be asking ourselves not just how to do school better, but how to do it decidedly different… Learning is now truly participatory in real-world contexts… But it’s not about the tools.  It’s not about layering expensive technology on top of the traditional curriculum.  Instead, it’s about addressing the new needs of modern learners in entirely new ways.  And once we understand that it’s about learning, our questions reframe themselves in terms of the ecological shifts we need to make: What do we mean by learning?” (p. 12)

So this brings me around to what I’ve been asking myself for many days now: How can I lead my colleagues in integrating technology without focusing too much on the technology but on the teaching and learning?  What does 21st century learning look like at its core? How can staff develop ICT capabilities and become self-directed and motivated to do so? These are questions I really do believe Technology Together will assist in doing.


Graham, A & Phelps, R 2013, Technology together: whole-school professional development for capability and confidence, International Society for Technology Education (ISTE). ISBN: 9781564843258

Richardson, W. (2013).  Students first, not stuff.  Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, Issue 6, p. 10-14.

Edmodo and MOOCs for high school students

I’ve been very keen to get all students at my school to learn more about and develop more skills in both digital citizenship and study skills, however, I obviously cannot physically teach the entire students body all this.  So it was decided that I would focus digital citizenship on a particular year group that really needed to become more aware of the implications of their social interactions online and that study skills would be open to anyone and everyone in the school.  I decided that instead of using Moodle this time I would use Edmodo and simply focus on generating discussion and encouraging students to put into action what they learn.

Having such large numbers in these two Edmodo groups has made me think about it a little more as MOOCs for high school students.  I like the idea of these lessons being learnt across the stages and different year groups.  How have I set them up?  The digital citizenship group has activities added to it that come from Common Sense Media and the amazing curriculum they have developed for Digital Citizenship.  I try and ask a lot of questions and provoke thought, reflection and action.  The study skills group runs in a similar way but follows a little less formal scope and sequence, it is very much about skills.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 7.42.12 PM
Figure 1: This is an example of a post from my digital citizenship group.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 7.52.30 PM
Figure 2: This is an example of an activity given in study skills group.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 7.52.12 PM
Figure 3: This is an example of a polling activity. I use polling activities often to gauge an idea of what students need most.

The groups have only been running for a few weeks but already I have over 200 students across the school involved in them.  It’s rewarding and I feel like I will have achieved successful outcomes from the students if they are able to improve their study habits and exam results, as well as demonstrate more awareness of how to be a good digital citizen in every online environment and activity.  I’m using lots of badges to reward and inspire them but so far it hasn’t caught on but I will continue to develop both groups more over the rest of the year and then restart them next year.

Pedagogy for iPads – ‘iPadagogy’

As I plan for the increased implementation and integration of iPads across the school in which I work, I am constantly pondering what is best practice teaching and learning with this ‘heavy-weight’ mobile learning device.  ‘iPadagogy’ is a term I came across recently in my research and reading but have yet to find the kind of definition and outline of what this explicitly means for the integration of iPads.  However, whilst I may not have termed the word ‘iPadagogy’ I would like to define it for myself and explain how it applies to teaching and learning with iPads.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkoRR670fj8]

So if pedagogy is the ‘art and science’ of teaching and learning what does it mean in the context of utilising iPads?  The video above had an even better definition of pedagogy that might shed some light on this too: “it involves creating an educational process that will lead to knowledge transfer to a new learner”.  The presenter in the video also explains that “the pedagogy is the process of presenting content in the context of learning strategies that connect with a cognitive process. It now generally refers to creation of effective lesson plans for classroom instruction and online education”.  The words I get most from in this video are creating, content, strategies, process, instruction and transfer.

If I’m to go by the key words above then ‘iPadagogy’ is about creating content and developing strategies and processes for delivering instruction as well as allowing the transfer of knowledge to occur between teacher and student, and between different students, with the explicit use of iPads and all that they enable.  Got to do a lot more research and reading I think to define this more for myself and for my colleagues.

Moodle Heaven…. but how to make everyone see it that way?

So its been in the works for awhile but over the last week we (school ICT manager and myself) backed up all the courses from our school’s Moodle 1.9 instance and restored manually one at a time into new Moodle 2.4 instance… 160 plus courses!!! It’s been a tedious and at times very frustrating process as we configured not only Moodle 2.4 but Mahara 1.7 and our authentication process through Google apps and LDAP.  I don’t completely understand all of the authentication stuff but I’ve been handling a lot of the other stuff and it does your head in but the fruits of our labour are now showing… and it’s Moodle Heaven to me 🙂

So what have we got?  Moodle 2.4 with a theme that we will be changing very shortly to be a consistent theme across both Moodle and Mahara, making a Mahoodle configuration complete.  Our Moodle instance also has about 8 different course formats and I am a huge fan of Collapsed topics, OneTopic and Tab Topics format.  We have also eagerly added in many new blocks and modules including:

These are only are percentage of what we have added but I am very excited from the little play I’ve had with them.  However, this does pose the question… how to we train teachers bit by bit and not have them overwhelmed?  How much is a good number to cater for all faculties and experience levels, without being too much?  It’s a hard balancing act but in the past I’ve seen watered down Moodle instances that simply do not engage or motivate staff to take it up so I want to go the opposite way and see if this effects the uptake and motivation to learn more and use more than files and URLs.

Some of my plans so far to tackle the staff training and initial familiarisation with 2.4 is to post a set of times when I have lessons off and they can come to the library and have training with me on Moodle.  I will use the wonderful activity module called Booking, which I’ve had a bit of a play with and it will be perfect for them.  Why would I use a booking system and not just the usual channels of email etc?  Well, I think the benefits of using this booking system will be the email notifications and reminders and ability t add to calendar etc.  Another thing I will be doing instantly is starting an FAQ database that will be in the Learning Technologies courses but also in the staff Moodle page.  I will also keep creating instructional guides as I have and also creating screencast videos and putting them on YouTube for them to learn about Moodle 2.4.

I’m optimistic that it will all work out well and that staff will be very happy by the end of term 2 with the changes and be more confident with Moodle but we will have to see.  It will be a big learning curve for all but I believe that is a good thing… a great thing!!! I also believe that if I put the training for Moodle into the context of learning about something else that they will learn Moodle skills without focusing on Moodle so much that they are overwhelmed.  More to ponder and plan 🙂  No staff need to worry too much about Mahara at this stage as I will be taking every year 9 class through this myself and training them to use it and staff will take it up a lot more slowly.