What makes a great learning object?

An emphasis on engagement is what Lowe et al. (2010) report as being key to the success of learning objects.  What is going to drive engagement for students with learning objects?  What visual and usability aspects are going to determine the success of a learning object in facilitating achievement of learning outcomes?  In Lowe et al. (2010), “Frydenberg, Ainley and Russell (2005, p. 2) define engagement as ‘energy in action, the connection between person and activity’ and indicate that ‘students will engage with tasks they find interesting, challenging and important’” (p. 229).

For me, a learning object should be the following things:

  • A good balance of visuals and text, more visuals preferably
  • Linear navigation, with transparent links
  • Clear links to curriculum and 21st century skills
  • Practical and easily applicable to something further

What a learning object should NOT be is:

  • A completely text-heavy activity
  • Complex set of hyperlinks to a variety of different areas
  • A long set of pages that do not flow or seem to work towards developing knowledge or understanding, or a specific outcome
  • A collection of videos and images that do not correlate to a common purpose

I feel that a learning object need not be much more than learning outcomes, a brief contextual/content outline, a multimedia file, and reflection activity.  This, in my online learning experiences, is very effective and follows Bloom’s taxonomy as well.

Lowe, K., Lee, L., Schibeci, R., Cummings, R., Phillips, R., & Lake, D. (2010). Learning objects and engagement of students in Australian and New Zealand schools. British Journal of Educational Technology41(2), 227-241.


Critical thinking and problem-solving technology solutions

When it comes to critical thinking, problem-solving, inquiry learning and higher-order thinking there is much that can be facilitated by technology.  First, however, what are the common threads between the models that cover these concepts.

Critical thinking

Criticalthinking.org. (2015).

Problem solving

Cothink.com. (2013).

Inquiry learning

Socstudmethods.wikispaces.com. (2015).

Higher-order thinking

Higherorderthinkingskills1358fst.blogspot.com.au. (2011).

It can be observed in each of these models that there is somewhat of a cycle and a hierarchy to each.  Analysis, inference and evaluation are key aspects of each model, as is reflection and observation.  Each model highlights the need for multiple skills in a range of areas and I do believe that technology support these.  Over the years there has been numerous examples of Blooms taxonomy that have outlined the technology tools and apps appropriate for facilitating critical thinking and problem solving at each level.  The example below shows some of the great online tools that support higher-order thinking.

When I have designed project- or problem-based learning programs, I have always make good use of technology affordances.  PBL is student-centred and student-driven and they are required to find and discover the bulk of information and answers for themselves, and to produce an end product that is a culmination of that learning.  This is more and more effective with the integration of technology for productivity and organisation, as well as for information and creative reasons.  The inquiry process is a little different (see below), however, inquiry learning is still very much about problems and finding a solution. Technology such as Google apps, is always going to be valuable in such activities and units of work.

The BEST method I think I could and have ever used to get my students to think more critically is to answer their questions with a question, and make them think more.  Like leading a horse to water, as the saying goes, we need to stop thinking of ourselves as the information provider and remember that we are a facilitator who should show the way and then help them to discover new and exciting things as they go.  I wish I could get my students to think for themselves all the time and not expect answers and all knowledge to come from others, they have so much more information at their fingertips than we ever had as students but they don’t know it because they can’t find it.  Therein lies another problem of itself.


Cothink.com,. (2013). CoThink – Facilitators & consultants – CoThink. Retrieved 22 March 2015, from http://www.cothink.com/ratio-approach

Criticalthinking.org,. (2015). 2008 Preconference Sessions (28th Intl. Conference. Retrieved 22 March 2015, from http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/preconference-sessions/631

Higherorderthinkingskills1358fst.blogspot.com.au,. (2011). H.O.T.S: April 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2015, from http://higherorderthinkingskills1358fst.blogspot.com.au/2011_04_01_archive.html

Socstudmethods.wikispaces.com,. (2015). SocStudMethods – Stripling Model of Inquiry. Retrieved 22 March 2015, from http://socstudmethods.wikispaces.com/Stripling+Model+of+Inquiry


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.

Redefining the task with technology – an evaluation tool

In an attempt to design a tool that will act as a guide for my colleagues to know where they should try to pitch their tasks and activities when integrating technology, I created the matrix below.  The matrix is a combination of the SAMR Model, the Rigor and Relevance Framework and Bloom’s Taxonomy.  When we utilise technology, we don’t always think intentionally about making the best use of the technology and a task receives little if any changes in its design and the technology is used more or less for the sake of it.  It is my strong belief that we should utilise technology to enhance the learning opportunities and outcomes that students can achieve from completing a task, and in order to do this effectively, task redesign is essential. We often position ourselves in the top left hand corner, of the matrix below, with simply using technology to do what we usually do without it.  However, where we want to be is in the bottom right hand quadrant, facilitating higher order thinking and critical thinking with complete task redesign that makes use of all that technology offers.

The SAMR Model, Rigor and Relevance Framework as well as Bloom's Taxonomy.

The SAMR Model, Rigor and Relevance Framework as well as Bloom’s Taxonomy.

I will need to continue working on this tool and I will experiment with how it is presented but my ultimate aim is to provide staff with something that will assist them to make informed and intentional decisions about how and why they integrate technology into a lesson.

Bloom and Grow Forever

Well Benjamin Bloom probably couldn’t have predicted the long-term relevancy and sustainability of his taxonomy when he coined it in the 1950s but even now in the 21st century, the Blooms taxonomy is still informing work all across educational institutes.  In the midst of planning for a major implementation of mobile learning with iPads, I have been search and contemplating the best practice methods for doing so with both staff and students.  I have written posts on the two best examples of models so far that I’ve found and I remain loyal to these two. However, it is now a matter of how to implement this effectively within professional development that I deliver to my colleagues.

padagogy wheel smallThe iPad is the focus of this new learning adventure because it is to be introduced into classroom teaching and learning for the first time on a more permanent basis. However, I will continue to emphasise it to everyone as I have until now that it is not about the technology it is about enhancing good teaching practise with today’s tools, engaging the minds of 21st century learners in a way that will be of most relevance to them. I want to see good pedagogical practise still be the focus. It is for this Eason that I will be firmly adopting the two models I have mentioned before: The Rule of 6 by Jim Norwood and The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington. These two models to me represent the key foundational principles of good teaching and learning experiences and they can easily provide a scaffold for designing lessons that utilise the iPad as a tool for accomplishing learning outcomes.

So, the first outcome I want my colleagues to achieve is, they will be able to identify lesson within their units of work that can be modified to make use of the apps and affordances provided by an iPad.  They cool,d do this by reading through their units of work and highlighting key verbs that align with the levels of Blooms taxonomy and then use a resource such as The Padagogy Wheel to identify appropriate apps. I also want them to be considering the reason they use apps and the purpose the app serves, reflecting on the SAMR model.

SAMR modelI do not want to force too much on my colleagues all at once so I do not think I will bring up the SAMR model just yet but work on the know,edge and skills they have with apps and knowing when to use them and then progress to using them in a way that modifies or defines the tasks, not just simply substituting other tools with technology or slightly augmenting the task with technology but completely redesigning activities to make effective use of all the iPad offers.

Therefore, it is my plan that I teach them how to identify where in their already established units of work that they can utilise the iPad and then facilitate their learning about news apps that will assist in these areas. The pedagogy and practise is still the focus.

My main concerns at the moment are addressing the needs of everyone, providing enough resources and instruction but not too much, motivating colleagues to seek more knowledge and skills and identifying the most important aspects of the implementation that need to be considered. My colleagues are most concerned about being time-poor and having workloads that are very full and also include implementing a new curriculum next year as well.

Twitter – A World of Knowledge Sharing

  1. I heard last year that as far as social bookmarking sites go, Twitter is the number one site for bookmarking, even though it was not first intended to be for bookmarking.  However, whilst it does not bookmark URLs, images and videos in the same way as Diigo might it has become the main place for global URL sharing.  It’s fantastic!! I love seeing what amazing new bits of information, resources, tools, and quotes I can pick up everyday but also, the connections I can make is extremely valuable.  Anyone who follows my tweets will know that when I am at a conference I take my notes all through my tweets.  I do this because it allows me to put in URLs that are immediately accessible and because if I catch things said and others don’t they can catch it later and I like to contribute to that back-channel conversation.  I have been favouriting more tweets of late too but then thinking, what do I do with them besides bookmarking them in my Diigo account?  I love using Storify so I thought it might be a good idea to regularly reflect on my favourite tweets in Storify and then publish on my blog.  So below are my favourite tweets for the last week or so.
  2. I have only been a Twitter user for the last 18 months but I use it more than I do Facebook at the moment and it is certainly more productive to use.  I get so much from Twitter these days and these tools shared above assist in identifying ways to make the most out of Twitter.  I already use my Twitter account and feed in my blog and in Paper.Li, Flipboard and in Storify but there are other ways I’m keen to explore in making use of my tweets as well.  I would like to try Twups and Tweetwally because of organising my tweets and aggregating are probably two of the more important things I want to be able to do.  The archivist tool that is shown in the second tweet is also a great way to summarise statistics on a hashtag which can be very valuable in conference situations for example.

  3. Assessing student achievement of learning outcomes is a high priority in education and the four tools shared in the above tweet offer different tools and software for assessing this student achievement.  Customisable quizzes and tests, can be designed to suit your individual educational context and provide detailed reports and summaries following the assessment.  I’m currently not in a teaching role but they sound like great resources to try out.
  4. This image was one of the first things that caught my eye when I went to the #flipclass
    results trending on Twitter a few days ago.  It’s a very effective representation of the
    Flipped Classroom, PBL and Bloom’s all in one visual resource.   There
    is so much packed into the image but if I follow a pathway within that
    image its full of great scaffolding for developing learning experiences
    that integrate the Flipped Classroom, PBL and Bloom’s taxonomy. 
  5. Worded in six questions is the ‘criteria’ for what might make an educator innovative.  It’s something I’ve heard debated in many education circles over the last few years, what is innovation and what makes someone an innovator?  I like this article but words can’t put a box around a person or type of person and define them as an innovator or not but it could be an interesting start to what does make an innovator.
  6. I remember learning about metacognition in 1st year university and the many lectures and tutorials that were spent debating what really defined metacognition.  This is a very simple breakdown of what metacognition is, examples of metacognition skills and strategies for the facilitation of self-regulatory learning.
  7. A very well designed Prezi, even if it is still nausea producing to just flick through and get a quick overview.  Worth a look through still 🙂
  8. planejourney
    What Teachers Need to Know about #BYOD ( Bring Your Own Device ) Trend in Education http://shar.es/tfCV2 via @medkh9 #edutech #edtech
  9. The above article strongly advocates BYOD for education.  It’s a risky venture and there are so many implications to consider in integrating such an approach to delivering teaching and learning but would it also enhance opportunities that are sometimes limited by poor school budgets?  As a high school teacher I had very little access to technology and getting a class onto computers to do a task was very painful.  However, I was also in a school where the students came from a low socioeconomic background and could not possibly be expected to bring their own devices to school.  Many of the students did have iPods but then it was the wall put up by the school that said we can’t use mobile devices in class because they aren’t art of learning.  So, it’s a constant battle but I do believe strongly in the value of the BYOD movement because it makes learning meaningful and personal, amongst many other benefits.

    Finally,  a great read below to end this post….

Educational Origami

educationl-origami is a wiki, hosted by Wikispaces, which is simply awesome!!! There are so many wonderful resources on this site about integrating ICT into education and about teaching in the 21st century. There are many guide sheets for teaching others how to use new Web 2.0 tools and other applications. For example, there are start up step-by-step how-to sheets for delicious, wikispaces, voicethread, googlemaps, advanced google search, and so many more. They are set out very simply and easy to understand.

Another fantastic thing I love about this site is the integration and exploration of Bloom’s Taxonomy in the 21st century and its relevance to ICT integration. There is a lot of valuable information on this and how it applies to assessment. Templates are also provided, which are fantastic. The multiple intelligences are also addressed and linked to 21st century teaching and learning as well.

The pedagogical implications of integrating ICT are heavily addressed in this wiki and a highly comprehensive amount of information is shared in a succinct and successful manner. The amount of information on this wiki makes this one my main go-to places for ideas and tools for integrating ICT more effectively in the classroom.