Lifelong learning and growth

One of the courses I am doing for my Master of Educational Leadership this semester is ‘Learning Technologies in Practice’.  I have been a keen educational technology practitioner for a number of years now, however, I don’t think we can ever stop learning in this area so I thought it was a good opportunity to continue developing and also share with colleagues as well.  Something I have been really reflecting on of late, and how it fits into the classroom, is Google Apps.  The DEC has released Google Apps to all NSW DEC schools (see previous blog post) and I think its fantastic, however, where do they fit into what DEC schools are currently doing?

I think I will focus my first EDCN865 assignment on a PBL-based unit of work that makes effective use of Google Apps as I really want to help my colleagues better understand how they can make use of these tools in their own classroom.  The ability to be creative and collaborative is what I love the most about Google Apps.  The apps are also one of the best ways to create/facilitate student-centred learning experiences.  This is something I am extremely passionate about and really want to encourage more in classrooms. Teachers are so comfortable with the ‘chalk and talk’ method (or variations of), however, we are not doing our students any favours by spoon-feeding them with notes, lectures and wordy Powerpoint presentations.

Technologies such as Google Apps, afford educators the opportunity to provide differentiated learning experiences that are created and driven by students for the most part.  Ownership and accountability for the work can be given to students too with the ability to track revision history in apps such as Google Docs.  Problem- or project-based learning (PBL) is also the perfect platform to showcase this in.  PBL is inquiry-based and student-centred and Google Apps provide students with the essential tools to independently manage this.  So, this is where my thoughts are heading for my assignment, but also for how I want to encourage and work with my colleagues as school.

I have implementing Google Classroom with two of my Year 8 Visual Art classes who are completing a research task and I have been exploring the potential of this app as a learning management system substitute (albeit limited) because my current school does not utilise Moodle very much.  I have found that students picked up the knowledge and skills of how to access the classroom very quickly and did not need very much, if any, further instructions on how to use the system. They were very good at following my instructions and navigating the app and it has been easy for me to access their assignments, comment and give marks back.


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.

Horizon Report 2014 K-12 Edition – Going deeper with technology

Another area of learning technologies that I am very passionate about and would like to see more prevalent and competently integrated in all educational contexts is the second fast trend identified in the K-12 Edition of the Horizon Report 2014, which examines the growing emphasis on deeper approaches to learning.  These approaches can include, but are not limited to: project-based learning; problem-based learning; inquiry-based learning; challenge-based learning; and, other active learning experiences.  I have observed that most educational institutes will utilise one of these methods, but will be of the mindset that one approach is enough, or it is all that is possible.  However, I believe elements of each approach can and should inform planning and preparation for teaching and learning experiences.  Many of the approaches overlap in their elements and overall intent, however, there may be some differences in the practical aspects of implementation.  The report says that deeper learning approaches can be defined as:

“… the delivery of of rich core content in innovative ways that allow them to learn and then apply what they have learned.” (p. 8)*

This is not only the definition of deeper learning approaches, but in my opinion, this is how all teaching and learning experiences should be.


Deeper learning approaches appear to be fundamentally about facilitating learning experiences that lead to practical application and real-world relevance.  However, the problem is that much of the syllabus and curriculum requirements dictate large volumes of content that teachers need to cover and they feel that it is not feasible to cover it any other way than through traditional methods more often than not.  The time needed to plan and implement deeper learning approaches is most likely the biggest deterrent to its increased uptake but there may also be the issue of lack in professional development and the clear understanding of what it is and how to implement it within the classroom context.

Whilst it is encouraging to read in the report that policies are being developed that will embed these deeper learning approaches into education more, what will it take to have it more universally implemented in national curriculum?  Another aspect of deep learning that was also raised in the report was that of competency-based learning.  Universities often outline graduate capabilities that students should be able to demonstrate at the completion of their degree, and syllabus documents outline learning outcomes that students should be able to demonstrate in primary and secondary education.  However, the report raises the question of students receiving credit for each competency achieved.  I am of the mindset that students should be rewarded/recognised for all new knowledge and skills and sometimes assessments only assess knowledge.  Of course skills are tested in different ways but if it is a skills that is developed in a cross-curricula context, should there be some way for students to receive credit and/or recognition for their achievement that goes above the other curriculum outcomes?  I will be interested to find out if there are schools that implement models that achieve such for their students.


So how is this achieved and facilitated by technology?  Well, if we go back to that definition of rich core content, that is presented in innovative ways and facilitates learning and application, technology plays a very important role.  In the 21st century, technology provides both students and educators have access to rich core content in the form of video, infographics, and other digital media.  These options are providing multiple ways for each learner to access core content in ways that not only suit their individual learning styles, but also in a way that is creative and often very innovative.  Teachers need to be curators of rich core content and creators as well, that is an essential role for a 21st century educator.