Social networking and communities of practice

I greatly value the potential that social media presents for both my personal and professional life.  In my professional life, the impact has been surprising.  I received one of my job opportunities through social networking and the community created through social media.  I have used social networking to further my own professional knowledge and skills, demonstrating the enormous value that can be gained from social networking and online communities of practice. However, there are still many teachers who are reluctant to see the value of social media in their professional lives and who do not actively involve themselves in online communities of practice, or physical ones for that matter, because they don’t see the value in doing so.

In my leadership positions with technology, I have encouraged many educators in particularly the secondary and tertiary sectors, to embrace the affordances of social media.  I have typically shown them a YouTube clip, like one below, to serve as a catalyst highlighting the benefits that can be gained from social media and networking.


My next move would vary and from my experiences, I think a reflection on previous interactions with social media in an open discussion would be valuable, however, I also like to immerse participants who are learning about a new concept or tool, within an activity that makes use of just that.  Something that I would like to try is:

Get teachers to think about the last time they were involved in professional development and think about what they learned about.  Ask them then, to write a few points on what they learned using 140 characters or less.  Following up from that, get them to find links for supporting resources that relate to the points written and get URLs for those links. Guide them then, in including those URLs in the 140 characters of those points. Twitter is of course the tool I am implying use of in this example.

The aim of this activity outlined above is to demonstrate the ways in which Twitter, and other social media tools can be used, to disseminate professional knowledge and skills.  It provides a purpose for using social media and a way for starting to create social networks.


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

Designing professional learning using the 4MAT Cycle

I’m always trying to refine the format of professional development workshops I run, continuing to strengthen the opportunities it provides for colleagues to produce great ‘take-aways’ for their own professional practice, at the same time offering the time and scope to ‘play’ and collaborate with colleagues as well.  I heard of the 4MAT Cycle very early on in my career and was directed to it when I was really struggling to teach my classes at the first school I taught at but it wasn’t until recently that I revisited it with the view of it refreshing my mindset on professional learning.  Instructional design is a very big interest and passion of mine and I am always keen to explore better ways of designing lessons and professional activities.

The 4MAT Cycle also closely relates to the work of Kolb and his work on experiential learning.  From diagrams such as the one above and other similar representations of the 4MAT Cycle I have come up with a 10-step cycle I will utilise for professional learning workshops in the next term when engaging colleagues in learning about the SAMR Model. The ten steps I have identified are:

  1. Icebreaker – This is intended to both engage and motivate everyone, creating enthusiasm for learning.
  2. Outcomes – To focus the learning activities and provide an idea of where the workshop will head and where it will finish.  Indicates the knowledge and skills participants should acquire.
  3. Knows and need to knows – Accessing participants background knowledge and engages them in thinking about what questions they have and want answered.
  4. Stimulus/thought-provoker – Introduce the content and topic more, provoke participants to start thinking about the content.
  5. Information/content – Present quick, factual, straight-to-the-point information that will help participants acquire the desired knowledge need for the workshop activities.
  6. Reflection – Individual reflection on a given stimulus/lesson/resource.
  7. Group collaboration – Sharing and reflection within small group about the reflection above.  Preparation of something to share, could be simply verbally sharing.
  8. Present back/share – Groups share what they discussed/created/came up with during group collaboration.  Large group discussion.
  9. Group Reflection – Small groups reflect together on what other groups produced and shared with everyone.
  10. Need to knows – review of need to knows and new knowledge and skills acquired, and any that still need to be addressed.

So this is the structure I am going to go with for about 4 workshop sessions and see how it helps my colleagues to learn the SAMR Model.  I want professional learning to be fun, engaging, collaborative and valuable in that participants have the opportunity to develop something they can take away and work on as well as this will often be the focus of individual and group activities.  More to come once implemented…


Preparing for iPadding

My Stop Motion app iconI’ve spent the majority of my school holidays pondering the best ways to assist my colleagues to learn how to effectively utilise the iPad in their classrooms.  I am a firm believer in giving my colleagues a student-experience of something new that they are learning in order for them to understand the technology application from the perspective of a student.  Too often we as teachers plan and plan all our lessons and units of work without putting ourselves in the position of being the student and completing one of the tasks we have set for our students.  Lets face it though, we are short of time but the time we spend on doing one of the tasks we design and set is definitely time well-spent.

So what does this all look like?  It looks a lot like PBL in that you provide the end product at the start and then the students learn new knowledge and skills in their quest to create their own end product.  One of my most valuable experiences as a teacher has been to design a PBL unit that integrates technology and in so doing, complete the assessment tasks designed and set so that I could provide an example to my students.  I had never done this so intentionally before and the value of it has been long-lasting.  I now design my training with that in mind and whilst I don’t always do it very well it is what motivates me to give my colleagues a student-experience in their own professional development. So what does this look like?  It

NOTE: In all of these learning experiences, unless the subject is information technology, the focus must be the concepts/content, enhanced through the integration of technology.  Technology should never be the main focus otherwise quality learning will not occur.



A stop-motion animation is shown that demonstrates the effect breathing in and out has on one organ of the body, specifically the expansion of the diaphragm. Students watch the video and are then given the task of creating their own stop-motion animation that demonstrates a knowledge of the impact breathing in oxygen has on the body’s internal organs.

To complete this task, students would need to gather information about breathing and the effect it has on internal organs such as blood flow. They will then need to organise that information and transform it into a stop-motion animation.  They can then reflect on the effectiveness of the animation to communicate their knowledge of the topic and then finalise their animation for publishing and sharing.  The final step would be to collaborate with colleagues, in the case of this being a professional development session, and discuss how this type of technology could utilised in their own lessons.

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.