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.


What is pedagogy? Toolbox or playground?

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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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.

TeachMeeting it up!

I just had my first experience of a TeachMeet and I jumped right in and presented too… it was a fantastic experience!!! My brain is fairly bursting with ideas I thought I better blog 🙂

Matt started us off and talked strategic planning and infrastructure for developing staff at school in ICT.  I love to hear of the approach different people take to this.

Remembering CLAS for DET teachers ICT skills. #tmplane
Wed, Sep 26 2012 02:23:21

I’ve worked with Karran before and her work in the South West Sydney region for the DER is inspiring many teachers.  I have always believed that students are as much teachers as we are and to see such a project empowering our students warms my heart.  Students need to feel valued and like they bring something to the table when it comes to their education.  This project provides so much opportunities for students and I hope the vision continues to grow.

@MsWillisum talking about student centered learning with technology, partnered with volunteering #tmplane
Wed, Sep 26 2012 02:21:29
Karran Williamson talking about Student Technology LeaDERs. #TMplane #planePL
Wed, Sep 26 2012 02:25:12
DOM Dump, Organise and Modelmap. technique taught to Student Action Groups by Karran Williamson #TMplane
Wed, Sep 26 2012 02:26:49
Great idea from Karran Williamson on Student Action Groups. Students leading technology use in learning. #TMplane

Now did this presentation get the brain bursting!! The chat in Adobe connect went nuts with the enthusiasm that ensued.  Augmented reality is a relatively new player to the technology world but its hitting all the sweet spots!  What John presented inspired me and so many others.  I see the potential for teachers to create OH & S and safety experiences to use in TAS and Science classrooms for students to get a firsthand look at the potential dangers they need to be careful of in practical lessons.  Others in the TeachMeet thought of things like interactive art shows at school and an interactive newsletter.  I won’t to take the tool presented, Aurasma, and use it in PLANE to create interactive resources now so watch out world 🙂  (I could stay up and start work now but may not make it to work then lol)

John Clear from the AIS talking about augmented reality application in everyday situations #tmplane
Wed, Sep 26 2012 02:48:52
John Clear from AIS talking about Aurasma. #TMplane #planePL
Wed, Sep 26 2012 02:51:06
John Clear talking about using Augmented Reality in teaching. Use Aurasma free app. #TMplane
Wed, Sep 26 2012 02:51:37

Finally, I presented on Moodle, a great passion of mine and it was so fun!  A lot of what I talked about is already amongst my blog posts so peruse them and you’ll get a sense of what I presented on.

Kristina Hollis, PLANE’s resident Moodle guru speaking about Moodle. #TMplane #planePL
Wed, Sep 26 2012 03:11:13
Moodle often used to replicate traditional teaching instead of using it to full potential #TMplane
Wed, Sep 26 2012 03:30:14

This was only my first experience of TeachMeets but now I’m hooked!! Will look forward to engaging with it again soon 🙂

MOOC Madness = Awesome!

What is a MOOC?  Massive Open Online Course.  How big is massive? Up to several thousand!! It’s taking off as the biggest thing in anywhere, anytime professional development.  I have personally found these types of courses an amazing professional experience and opportunity to learn from all of those exceptional specialists internationally that develop online courses, and from the participants as well.  The MOOC I am participating in presently is the one I spoke of in my previous blog post run by a very dynamic presenter Professor Curt Bonk.  Follow the #bonkopen hash tag on Twitter and see what’s happening in the course or join it yourself.  I have also looked up the #MOOC hash tag on Twitter and found some great links as well.

Observations that I’ve picked up this week of MOOCs is that everyone has different expectations of what they should be doing, how much information they should be trying to digest and how many forum discussions they should participate it.  Nothing is mandatory but there is a badge system set up to guide explicit criteria and goals that participants should aim for in order to get some recognition for their learning.  Badge systems are closely related to games-based learning and it is highly motivating, at least I find it personally motivating.

The biggest issue raised this week was the discussion forums and how huge they became with almost 2000 participants interacting internationally, all day long.  I didn’t find this an issue as I would just go in and read select threads but for participants who really value the personal interaction in this form they might struggle to do enough by their standards.  It is interesting to hear how different people approach this.  The course managers have made it easier after getting constructive feedback and will enable subscription to single threads and they have also employed the assistance of people to compile digests and summaries of the discussion threads, which is fantastic.  The course is a great learning opportunity.

A model for the Instructional Design, Development, Delivery and Evaluation of a Web-based course in Computer Science

T. Cummings and M. Bernard (2002) of the St. George’s University, Grenada and the University of West Indies, Trinidad, respectively have co-written a piece on ‘A model for the Instructional Design, Development, Delivery and Evaluation of a Web-based course in Computer Science’.   This article details a five-step model, the EMBER model for system development and problem solving in information systems.  The article argues that the EMBER model provides solid foundation for web-based development of courses, focused on an audience of secondary students and with the role of the teacher to be predominantly a facilitator.  The model is detailed in precise and succinct language that offers great guidance for planning web-based learning.

EMBER stands for evaluate, model, build, execute and review and is pretty straightforward as far as the steps go.  The design of learning courses is done so by evaluating the syllabus requirements and desired outcomes and this is step one of the EMBER model.  The article continues to detail each step of the model and provides some images to support these. The images are somewhat hard to understand and may prove irrelevant for some readers; however, the descriptions for each stage are brief and very helpful.  The article is short but sufficient in its supply of accurate information and guidance for the design of learning in web-based environments.