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.


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.

PBL World (Australia) – Day 2

PBL World (Australia) – Day 2

Today’s keynote was from Glen O’Grady of the Republic Polytechnic in Singapore.  He had some great thoughts to share on PBL but particularly raised the issue of research and the validity and successfulness of PBL.  He had a lot of evidence for the value of PBL but as many will testify, the proof is in the pudding of student work.  There were many other great points that came out of the presentation too.

  1. Powerful Learning: Studies Show Deep Understanding Derives from Collaborative Methods – incls research #pblaustralia
  2. Does pbl work? how do you define work and what is the criteria used to judge. Maybe look at the end product-students #pblaustralia
  3. “Problems need to be iterative in one problem, one day” Glen O’Grady #pblaustralia
  4. Glen O’Grady is presenting interesting ideas about liquid learning, fast & slow knowledge at #pblaustralia today at Parramatta Marist
  5. Theme of students WANTING to be their best, we just need to allow them. PBL Structures support student doing their best. #pblaustralia
  6. “PBL is just the manifestation of certain principles about learning.” Glen O’Grady #pblaustralia
  7. No longer about just the amount of knowledge, but the velocity of knowledge- O’Grady #pblaustralia
  8. The John Hattie researched pegged immediacy of feedback as powerful. #pblaustralia
  9. “Habits are developed by regular, interactive actions over a an extended period of time.” Glen O’Grady ANU #PBLaustralia Keep PBL regular!
  10. #pblaustralia teachers don’t tell they ask ?’s for students to develop their own strategies and be more self-directed
  11. “The enemy of innovation is perfection” Glen O’Grady. I’m a perfectionist but cannot I be an effective innovator too? #pblaustralia
  12. PBL forces us to come to terms and deal with the issues our students are facing so we can really teach #pblaustralia
  13. “PBL is philosophy… Not just method… How ppl should learn and classrooms operate and needs to b examined” Glen O’Grady #pblaustralia

And some of our questions were clarified too…

  1. An alternate word for problem is hook. What can we do to make learning intrinsic to the learner #pblaustralia
  2. Checklists are for quantity. Rubrics are for quality #pblaustralia

More great resources were also shared…

  1. I’ve got a prototype taxonomy of 4 elements for innovation – #pblaustralia not just edu but any field at all

PBL World (Australia) – Day 1

PBL World (Australia) – Day 1
Questions to ask in PBL
So many questions came out of today and like the start of every PBL project, there is many questions that we need to know the answers to in order to complete our project.  In this case our project is to learn about and plan effective PBL projects.

  1. #pblaustralia Is your project a MAIN course or a DESSERT? Can we ‘renovate’ our dessert projects 2 b more encompassing of the curriculum
  2. ‘Who in the adult world would need to know this content and how would they use it?’ Thanks @OlaDoctorGina !!! #pblaustralia
  3. How much should we as teachers monitor the work students are going? Management of work. #pblaustralia
  4. How can you create buy-in for students to hook them into the project? Build their motivation? #pblaustralia
  5. “Who am I and what do I contribute to the world” PBL philosophy #pblaustralia
  6. Stimulus resources vs stimulus experiences to prompt further inquiry… Which is more appropriate? #pblaustralia
  7. What real world topic should your class tackle? Students deciding = engagement, passion, & ownership! #pblchat #pblaustralia #PBLStyleChat
  8. What essential questions do students need to be able to answer before answering the driving question #pblaustralia
  9. Is the new innovation missing? We usually start with renovation, making incremental changes. #pblaustralia

Great take aways

For me there have already been some great take away statements and resources that will help me a lot in planning PBL but also in helping my colleagues do PBL as well.  Here are some below.

  1. Best take away… “You do not know what your students can do” @gregwhitby #pblaustralia I love giving students scope to demonstrate this
  2. Cross-KLA planning for new teaching and learning programs… Luv it! #pblaustralia
  3. Good PBL: Plan collaboratively. Spark student interest. Exhibit student work for the public #pblaustralia
  4. “A common intellectual mission…” #pblaustralia
  5. “Standardisation…the death of innovation” Luv it! #pblaustralia Larry Rosenstock
  6. “Uncovering material not just covering material” Larry Rosenstock #pblaustralia
  7. @Pblaustralia Larry Rosenstock giving us gold…produce, keep it simple, all students & adults learn, uncover not just cover #PBLAustralia
  8. Do the higher order all the time and lower order takes care of itself. Production takes care of consumption #pblaustralia
  9. Do the PBL first… Not at the end of ‘Chapter 5’… Begin with the end in mind #pblaustralia

My own project begins

I’m planning a project that will facilitate learning about digital citizenship and responsible online and digital interactivity.  I particularly want this to include implications of the law.  My target group is Year 9 with a product that will target a Year 7 audience eventually.  I’m a little different in that I am not a full time classroom teacher as such but this will definitely be a good project to use with Year 9 in iPlan lessons I hope.

The student we all hope results from these PBL experiences 🙂

Looking forward to PBL Australia

Looking forward to PBL Australia

The first ever PBL conference for Australia I think, at least one of this kind and I’m not yet there but have been watching the tweets. Some conferences I’ve been to have very little backchannel happening in the way of people tweeting but already this one is flooding my tweet feed.

  1. The first ever PBL conference for Australia I think, at least one of this kind and I’m not yet there but have been watching the tweets.  Some conferences I’ve been to have very little backchannel happening in the way of people tweeting but already this one is flooding my tweet feed.  So I thought I’d reflect on some of the great tweets so far and what it says about the essence of PBL.
  2. Larry Rosenstock “I love a project where people are in disbelief that a kid did it” #pblaustralia
  3. PBL is about giving students the scope and freedom to express their learning and understanding in ways we don’t dictate.  It’s then that they go the extra mile and produce work that just shocks us and I love that about projects.
  4. Create more, consume less. Similar/Different to ‘production not consumption’ of #pblaustralia Creation for self & others #workingonit #ethos Mon, Nov 11 2013 22:53:34

Production is so much more higher order than consumption is.  We don’t want our students just processing information in a remember and understand way but we want them to use knowledge to produce and create.

  1. Are our students doing work that has value to them? #pblaustralia
  2. LOVE the idea of taking abstract concepts in history and physically manifesting them #pblaustralia
  3. Changing the subject. Exploring through PBL encourages the curriculum to come to life and engage in the community. #pblaustralia Mon, Nov 11 2013 22:34:28
  4. PBL allows us to take the curriculum and make it real life and relevant to students.  We can take concepts and topics in the syllabi and facilitate opportunities for students to use it in their life.
  5. “Develop and defend” – key learning strategy #PBLAustralia Mon, Nov 11 2013 22:56:51
  6. #pblaustralia innovation isn’t tinkering around the edges, it smashing the product and creating an even better product #thought Mon, Nov 11 2013 22:45:04
  7. #pblaustralia Larry Rosenstock. Thank a good teacher. Quality found in collaboration, personalization and engagement Mon, Nov 11 2013 22:51:35
  8. Integrate the world beyond through Fieldwork, Internships and Service Learning! #PBLAustralia Mon, Nov 11 2013 22:31:39
  9. #PBLAustralia technology for production and not consumption Mon, Nov 11 2013 22:43:24
  10. @johnqgoh I’m in 🙂 Flexible teaching, flexible learning, an authentic life #pblaustralia Mon, Nov 11 2013 22:40:06
  11. Observation, reflection, public presentation. Another tool for growing constant improvement in education. #pblaustralia Mon, Nov 11 2013 22:39:25
  12. #pblaustralia follow passions by embracing different combinations of learning
  13. ‘The purpose of learning in this century is not to learn it but to transform it’ #PBLAustralia #ACUtech Mon, Nov 11 2013 22:30:48
  14. Content is irrelevant. Reacting to the content is. #pblaustralia Mon, Nov 11 2013 22:29:20
  15. PBL is learning redesigned and redeveloped to allow students to have a voice, to engage in learning in a way that motivates them and gives them the most relevant outcomes.  It also helps them learn 21st century skills and future career-based skills.

PBL with Moodle and Mahara


Over the last two days I have been involved in professional development at school on project-based learning (PBL).  I have done PBL training before when I did the Intel Teach Essentials Online Master Trainer Course a few years ago.  That experience for me was one of the most valuable in my entire career thus far.  In that course, I learned to program units of work for PBL in a way that transformed my teaching completely.  Whilst the PBL I designed did not get successfully implemented, I still maintain that it was an extremely valuable course.

Throughout the last few days as I went through the PBL inservice at school, unlike other colleagues, I was not working on a particular unit of work but was observing and planning, designing and developing a Moodle course on PBL that uses technology.  It was great to hear the ideas my colleagues came up with and the fantastic progress they made as well as the two days continued to shape their ideas into products.

Each step of the process and each element of the PBL plan and resources sparked in me many ideas about how Moodle and Mahara could be utilise for the purpose of supporting the management and development of the project.  Below are some of the aspects of the PBL and how they might translate into Moodle, Mahara and other online technology:

PDF iconENTRY DOCUMENT – The entry document need not be an actual document such as a letter but could be a stimulus such as a video embedded within a Moodle page that has text but focuses on the video element.  You could also use a podcast as a stimulus and with audio files so easily embedded within Moodle now.

google-buzzTEAM CONTRACT – The team contract could be designed as a document template or form in Google Drive and accessed by students there to discuss and fill in with details needed.  Students could share it with their teacher but they could also download a copy of the document and submit it as an assignment or into a database set up with groups in MaharaMoodle.  It would also be a great idea to maybe instead set up a template in Mahara with a team contract and get students to complete the portfolio page with their details and write a statement of agreement in the comments section before submitting to a group or sharing with their teacher.  This contract is then readily accessible at all stages throughout the PBL and added to a collection of pages developed throughout the project.

table_headerRUBRICS – The rubric for the PBL task could be produced in the wonderful new assignment rubric creator in Moodle.  I love the rubric grading tool inbuilt into the Moodle assignment!! It is one of the best plugins in Moodle ever! It is easy to use and flexible.  Other tools that could be utilised from online include; RubiStar, iRubric and teAchnology.

briefcasePROJECT BRIEFCASE – The database in Moodle!! I love the database activity in Moodle and I’m constantly trying to use it in different ways and come up with new templates/presets to explore how it might be used.  The database is the prefect way to provide students with a project briefcase of resources throughout their PBL journey.  You could also create a briefcase in Mahara if you wanted to in a portfolio page shared with the class.  I would probably go with the database in Moodle as most of the learning is probably best kept in Moodle and the process, product planning and mapping etc could be in Mahara.

project-planPROJECT PLANNING AND MAPPING – Mahara 🙂 Mahara 🙂 Mahara 🙂  I’m a big fan of what tools are provided in Mahara and the simplicity of them as well.  They are user-friendly and easy to set up and use.  With the use of the Mahara journal, plans and notes sections, students could keep very detailed records of their project and planning.  They can also produce periodic portfolio pages to summarise their progress and show work samples of where they are up to.  I think that the integration on Mahara and Moodle in PBL is a great asset to all involved.

I have all but finished the course in Moodle that I have been working on during the last two days but it certainly won’t end here.  I will continue to work on further resources for supporting the intentional integration of technology into PBL.

Moodling by Design – Design by Moodling

In my research into and consideration of adult learning and andragogy, I came across learning by design (LBD).  This was not necessarily a new idea to me but I did start thinking more about how it applies to teaching and learning in Moodle.  In a nutshell, learning by design is project-based inquiry.  I have trained in the Intel Teach Essentials Online Master Trainers course in project-based learning (PBL) and have studied the inquiry learning model as well but what is the difference in it being termed learning by design?  A number of sites specifically identify learning by design as pertaining to science as well, a project-based inquiry approach to science.  Another thing to consider in its translation into Moodle.

Kolodner et al. (2003) is quoted on EduTech Wiki as saying that the design of LBD:

“ […] has been to use what we know about cognition (see, e.g., Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999) to fashion a educational approach for middle-school science appropriate to deeply learning science concepts and skills and their applicability, in parallel with learning cognitive, social, learning, and communication skills. Our intention was that the approach would lay the foundation, in middle school, for students to be successful thinkers, learners, and decision makers throughout their lives, and especially to help them begin to learn the science they need to know to thrive in the modern world”.

This post from Kendra Shimmell entitled ‘Learning by Design: It’s Not What You Know, But How You Think‘ sums it up for me perfectly.  Learning by design is designing for individual and optimal learning experiences, catering for the different needs of the students, based on how they learn.  It’s helping learners to become more aware of their own learning and to enhance metacognition.  I can relate a great deal to the post in that I often found it hard to learn in the traditional way at school but left to my own devices, I would seek out learning in my own way and succeed more than in class.  Once I got to uni and learned more in educational psychology about how people learned, I harnessed it and my learning has become easier in many ways.

So, what does it look like to cater for individual learning needs in Moodle?  and to integrate inquiry-based learning and project-based learning?  Conditional activities come to mind straight away, as does groups.  If you have not yet experienced these or utilised these in Moodle, make it your mission to take it on!

Groups, if labelled specifically, could define the custom string of activities a learner goes through based on their selection or choice.  For example,  get your students to do the Multiple Intelligences test and then set up groups with the title of each element from the multiple intelligences.  After students have determined what their predominant intelligence is, ask them to enrol in the group of that name.  Those groups can then have tasks specifically designed to cater for that intelligence, and that’s not to say that the tasks can’t be used by another intelligence group but each group will not need to see all of the materials for every other intelligence group either.

Conditional activities can help scaffold and guide the learning experience as well.  Inquiry-based learning and PBL rely a lot of good questioning techniques and scaffolds.  PBL is very methodical and sequential.  Set it out in steps using conditional activities so that students do the tasks required, in the order required.  Also, by setting it out on Moodle like this, you can provide as much or as little help as you wish.  We started PBL tasks in class today at school and we do not plan on giving any answers to questions as we want students to develop minds that inquiry and seek to know and explore for themselves.  If this was set up in Moodle, we could even just mark the role and sit back to observe amazing learning take place.  I would find that extremely exciting!!

Design your learning to take advantage of Moodle and all it offers.  Don’t limit what you do because the online environment doesn’t seem flexible enough.  Create your own flexibility and cater for all differences.  Get to know Moodle better and play around with what is possible.  Stretch the boundaries and go outside the box!  Design your teaching and learning by Moodling 🙂