Literacy in the 21st century

The definition of literacy in the Australian Curriculum is informed by a social view of language that considers how language works to construct meaning in different social and cultural contexts. This view builds on the work of Vygotsky (1976), Brice Heath (1983), Halliday and Hasan (1985), Freebody and Luke (1990), Gee (1991, 2008), and Christie and Derewianka (2008), who have articulated the intrinsic and interdependent relationship between social context, meaning and language.

This view is concerned with how language use varies according to the context and situation in which it is used. There are important considerations for curriculum area learning stemming from this view because, as students engage with subject-based content, they must learn to access and use language and visual elements in the particular and specific ways that are the distinctive and valued modes of communication in each learning area. They need to learn how diverse texts build knowledge in different curriculum areas, and how language and visual information work together in distinctive ways to present this knowledge.  (ACARA, 2015)

A common misconception I believe that many people have, is that literacy is just about reading and writing and understanding text.  However, it is much more than this.  As the above states, literacy is about the relationships between context, meaning and language. Therefore, each of these must be understood as a unique dimension of the broader topic of literacy.  When it comes to 21st literacies, the word takes on even more dimensions than the three above as the context is not only physical but also virtual, and the meaning is very ambiguous depending on the context and people in it.

Ernest Morrell (2012) unpacks 21st literacies in some detail in his youth literacy column. He terms it as ‘critical media pedagogy’ in the conclusions he makes that whilst our students are considered digital natives, they are limited in their understanding of the constraints of and affordances provided by the vast technologies available to them. Literacy is the marriage of context, meaning and language , however, 21st century students have invented their own language in many contexts, and it is not consistently implemented across all contexts.  Digital natives have gradually invented a SMS and screen language that is shorter than short-hand, however, when they speak to each other face to face, they don’t use the same terms as much.  It is a very weird culture sometimes that technology has become the catalyst for.

I have been contemplating for a number of years now, the role of a 21st library and librarian in developing literacy in an era of such diversity.  Morrell (2012) has inspired me to think about 21st literacies in more depth, as encompassing more of the following:

  • interpreting and developing an understanding of all text types, e.g. written, imagery, audio, web-based and so much more.
  • decoding and analysing texts, e.g. “television, film, music, the Internet, print media, magazines, murals, posters, t-shirts, billboards, social networking sites, and mobile media content” (Morrell, 2013).
  • producing and reproducing knowledge in multimedia formats
  • creating digital information sources
  • discerning validity of digital information sources

And so much more…


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2015). ‘Literacy – Background – The Australian Curriculum V7.3’. Retrieved 9 March, 2015 from

Morrell, E. (2012). 21st‐Century Literacies, Critical Media Pedagogies, and Language Arts. The Reading Teacher, 66(4), 300-302.

Reflecting on my pedagogical development

I finished my undergraduate teacher training in 2006 and I was taught many traditional pedagogical strategies, however, I was also taught the NSW Quality Teaching Model (QTM) and it was perhaps my first step towards realising the importance of reflection in my teaching practice.  I was constantly reflecting on the lessons I taught and how they were engaging students in aspects of the QTM.  As technology became a bigger part of my teaching practice, it became evident that the pedagogical strategies I implemented and utilised might have to change more as well.  

For a few years now I have been researching and reading up on heutagogy and andragogy.  I am always keen to investigate new ways to teach content and skills to my students.  Technology has been a huge catalyst in me doing this.  I realised early on in my career that technology was entering education institutes at a rapid pace and that there was going to be a need for teachers to develop further skills in ICT integration and that how we taught would also change.  

It was when I did the Intel Teach Essentials Master Trainer course that I realised just what kinds of pedagogical strategies would be required to harness the potential of technology and teach students who were engaging with technology more and more every day.  This PD course looked at problem- and project-based learning and how to integrate technology within it.  This was the first time I had learned about PBL and I quickly saw it as a valuable pedagogical strategy for the 21st century.

What is the significant position and place of pedagogy in education?  What is it in reality?  What should it be?  These questions came to mind as I was reading Lingard et al. (2003),  Zammit et al. (2007) and DET (2003).  Where is pedagogy placed within our current education system?  Is it placed in high enough a position?  I don’t think it is in reality.  When I look at the Australian school system as a whole, the focus is always on content… cover this, cover that and culminate in a test at the end.  Do educators today think of pedagogy as simply the foundation strategies they learned about when they were studying to be a teacher initially, but something that they don’t need to consider as much with experience?  Perhaps they do.

The QLD education department seems to have it going in the right direction when in their ‘Pedagogical Framework – FAQs’ they emphasise that: 

The State Schools Pedagogical framework policy requires every Queensland state school to develop a school pedagogical framework. It needs to be informed by research, yet respond to the local context.  From 2013, each school is required to enact a pedagogical framework that is collaboratively developed with the school community and aligned to state and regional requirements. This requirement is listed in the P–12 curriculum, assessment and reporting framework.” (p. 1).  

However, when I went to the NSW Syllabus website for the new NSW national curriculum syllabus documents, I did not see the word ‘pedagogy’ anywhere.  Where is the value placed on pedagogy in the new Australian curriculum? 

I believe that school plans should be made with pedagogy in the forefront of leaders’ minds.  Pedagogy is not just classroom teaching and learning strategies, it is the ‘art and science’ of teaching.  It is the facilitation of students and teachers alike, expressing and reproducing their learning with creativity and individuality.  It is the psychology, philosophy and specifics of how to teach and learn, how we process information and what we do with that information.  That is more important than the content we teach, because it carries into life beyond the classroom.


DET, N. (2003). Quality teaching in NSW public schools. Sydney: Professional Support and Curriculum Directorate.

Lingard, B., Hayes, D., & Mills, M. (2003). Teachers and Productive Pedagogies: Contextualising, conceptualising, utilising.Pedagogy, Culture & Society.  11,3, 399- 424.

QLD Department of Education, Training and Employment, (n.d.). Pedagogical framework — Frequently asked questions. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Sep. 2014].

Zammit, K., Sinclair, C., Cole, B. Singh, M., Costley, D., Brown a Court, L., Rushton,K. (2007). Teaching and leading for quality Australian schools: a review and synthesis of research-based knowledge.  Acton, A.C.T.: Teaching Australia, Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. LB1727.A8.T45

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, Some rights reserved

Photo by David Jones, from, 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 Some rights reserved

Photo by Alec Couros on 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

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].