Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

Month: March 2011 Page 1 of 2

Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Weeks 5/6

And now onto weeks 5/6 for the PCK course I’m studying. Within two/three weeks we’ll be heading out into schools, so the content for this week is starting to become fairly central. i.e. what is the curriculum and how are you meant to plan teaching/learning around that curriculum.

Essential learnings for secondary middle phase

By the end we should be able to use the “essential learnings” (i.e. the Queensland curriculum) to plan.

After a bit of reading, brief summary of last week, onto an activity that seeks to aid in unpacking the essential learnings for our teaching areas.

I’m doing mathematics and ICT/IPT/IT. ICT is not an essential learning, at least not in terms of standalone subject teaching ICT. It is instead something embedded within all courses. There is support for a separate course in terms of borrowing from other KLAs. But it’s not real well defined, just yet. Especially for ICTs, those guidelines are “coming soon”.

WoW and K&U

Not World of Warcraft, but Ways of Working. It’s the combination of WoW and Knowledge and Understanding that is the focus of teaching, learning and assessment (apparently). However, individual components may be taught, the aim is to build up to the combination.

Intent is to use approaches to learning that are:

  • student-centred.
  • Active engagement.
  • Learning through investigation.

Unpacking Mathematics

So, the idea here is to use the Mathematics KLA to answer a range of questions aimed at “unpacking” the KLA. In the following I’ve used the questions being asked as a scaffold for my interpretations.

Learning and assessment

Am using this PDF as it gives an overview of the learning and assessment for the mathematics KLA across all the junctures. My main focus will be on the year 7 (what they should know) and 9 (what I’ll have to help them learn) junctures.

Looking for the key messages about what is taught and how it is taught

  • What is the nature of the KLA?
    To teach math!? Seriously, the aim appears to be to build on previous recognition of the connection between math and real life situations and expand the more abstract/mathematical applications. It does appear to have a focus on developing students who are able to manipulate/use/apply mathematics to a range of situations. To be able to see it in context. There is emphasis on collaboration and discussion. There does appear to be aspects of this that connect with the idea of quantitative literacy introduced in the literacy and numeracy course.
  • What are the implications for pedagogy?
    It has to be a lot more than read the book and do the exercises, which is what I remember of mathematics at high school. Which implies that pedagogy is going to require a fair bit more effort. i.e. I’m not confident that I currently could connect much of the content to real world contexts.
  • What does L&T look like in this class?
    Active, social, authentic…etc. But I retain just a touch of skepticism that insists that there should be appropriate levels of direct instruction as a scaffold/enabler.

Assessable elements

Using this document.

  • What are the assessable elements?
    I find it interesting that there is currently no discussion in this of weighting. Are all the assessable elements meant to be weighted equally? A decision for teachers/schools? I’ll copy the “rubric entry” for the A descriptor for each element
    • Knowledge and understanding.

      Comprehensive knowledge and understanding of concepts, facts and procedures

    • Thinking and reasoning.

      Insightful application of mathematical processes to generate solutions and check for reasonableness

    • Communicating

      Clear and accurate communication of ideas, explanations and findings using mathematical representations, language and technologies

    • Reflecting.

      Perceptive reflection on thinking and reasoning, the contribution of mathematics and learning

      Not sure this one is written grammatically correct.

  • How are they demonstrated in K&U and WoW?
    The first three are covered well in both. Though communication may not be quite as obvious, it seems to be there. Reflection is even less obvious in K&U. Both communicating/reflecting are more obvious in the WoW, with actual specific WoW related to the two. However, these tend to reflect activities that students should be doing with the K&U.
  • Are they auditable across both?
    I’m not even sure that make sense to be able to do.
  • What will assessment look like?
    An appropriate mix. Some individual tests/assignments focused on some core knowledge, but lots of authentic assessment to test the real world stuff, group work etc.

Knowledge and understanding

  • What are the conceptual headings for Year 9? What are the conceptual statements in each?
    • Number – Number properties and operations and a range of strategies can be applied when working with integers and rational numbers.
    • Algebra – Variables, algebraic expressions and equations, relationships and functions can be described, represented and interpreted.
    • Measurement – Units of measure, instruments, formulas and strategies can be used to estimate and calculate measurement and consider reasonable error.
    • Chance and data – Judgments can be based on theoretical or experimental probability. Data can be displayed in various ways and analysed to make inferences and generalisations.
    • Space – Geometric conventions can be used to describe, represent, construct and manipulate a range of complex geometric shapes. Mapping conventions can be used to represent location, distance and orientation in maps and plans.
  • how detailed are the concepts, facts and procedures for each conceptual statement?
    They seem to be descriptions of “classes”/collections of problems. e.g.

    Lengths and angles that cannot be measured directly can be investigated using scale, similarity or trigonometry

  • What is the purpose of the examples?
    Mmm, this was stated in the presentation.They essentially offer clarification of what is intended.
  • What is it that you will be teaching as core concepts/facts/procedures?
    Mmmm, the stuff listed under K&U, especially pointed to by the bullet points for each conceptual statement. Am I missing something here?

Ways of working

THe comparison of WoW for the mathematics KLA

  • WoW are processes, generally complex reasoning. What are the implications of this for teaching and learning?
    A significant amount of teaching would have to focus on introducing, modelling, practising and reflecting upon these processes. i.e. how concepts are taught and introduced will need to explicitly draw on these WoW, the students need to see them in action and reflection upon them. They need to practice this. There will be overlap between these. The processes themselves are key ways of learning….
  • They can be used in their entirety or as subsets, what would be the difference for each of these?
    Overall, the complete WoW describe expectations of students at the end of the juncture. Subsets are more likely to be used in developing skills with these processes. e.g. “evaluate their own thinking and reasoning” includes 2/3 applications, only 1 might be covered at the start. Aspects of some WoW may be used as part of another. May wish to highlight these aspects.
  • If WoW are essential, what is the implication for grading students?
    The assessment has to provide students an opportunity to provide examples of the WoW. If you don’t have this evidence, you can grade them on the missing WoW.

K&U and WoW together

Learning, teaching, and assessment are required to focus on develop and deepen K&U through WoW. What are the implications for

  • Type of unit plan.
    Interesting, I don’t recall the concept of “unit plan” being explicitly covered in any of the courses. It’s been mentioned in passing, but…

    So let’s start with an annotated unit plan.

  • Method of assessment.
  • The pedagogy required.

Mmm, not sure I’m getting much out of this activity, not sure I could reasonably get much out of it. Much of the latter stuff gets even a little more opaque, or straight forward. e.g. what philosophy? Well it’s been explicitly stated in the slides – constructivism – though the essential learnings themselves don’t explicitly state this, it’s a fair interpretation.

Planning a nunit

Okay, so this should be interesting. Using an assessment alignment planner to plan a unit. This is the guts of it.

Mmm, gotten tired of terminology duplication for some and lack of standard definitions for others. Incredibly difficult to figure out exactly what is required from the question, how best to go about it, and how much authenticity it has with real practice.

Will have to ask and come back to this later. That’s disappointing.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Week 4

So, only two weeks to catch up on this course.

Curriculum frameworks

This week appears to focus primarily on the curriculum we’ll be teaching to within the state of Queensland: Key Learning Areas (KLAs) and Essential Learnings. Some or much of which will change next year with the introduction of the Australian national curriculum.

Queensland Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting (QCAR) Framework

Aligning curriculum, assessment and reporting. Contain (amongst other things) essential learnings that incorporate national statements. Ahh, the problem of teachers “subverting” curriculum. Interesting language, not talented teachers adapting problematic curriculum.

Queensland School Reform Longitudinal Study (QSRLS) study of what happens in courses: findings:

  • alignment needed – most teachers did not see good assessment as integral to good classroomp ractice
  • effective teachers assert much control and are willing to subvert curriculum learning to gaps
  • Need for PD in assessment and moderation
  • supportive classroom environment – done well, high frequency
  • intellectual quality – ok in some, infrequent, low level
  • recognition of difference – limited, done poorly
  • relevance – infrequent, limited, done poorly
  • efficient school management important, but school leaders must focus on curriculum and pedagogical leadership.

Literature futures, a government benchmark which is no longer easily discoverable online

  • close correlation between socio-economic background and low achievement.
  • Qld has 20% of Oz 0-15 years, but 49% of 0-15 in lowest decile of CSE
  • Traditional intervention models not working for these students.

And now research by Schmoker (2006 I think). 1500 classrooms studied. Lots of “busy” work with no connection to syllabus, assessment, standards, poorly planned lessons, irrelevant worksheets, inequitable classroom practices, little assessment, no feedback…..But why is this? Is it simply that a class with lots of low SOE students is hard to teach and teachers in these contexts are deprived of support, creating a circle of poor practice?

A post here talking about Schmoker’s later work points out the importance of checking for understanding and a classroom with lots of advanced/authentic reading/writing. And suggests avoiding all fads.

QCAR and the four Cs: consistency, continuity, comparability of standards, creating space for deeper learning.

Five elements of QCAR

  1. Essential learnings – what to teach.
    Seen as an agreed core, not the whole curriculum. Common basis for planning. COvers KLAs and key juncture points – 3, 5, 7, 9.

    Three components:

    1. Learning and assessment focus.
    2. Ways of working.
    3. Knowledge and understanding.
  2. Standards – common language to describe achievement
    Link to the assessable elements within the Essential learnings for each KLA, in particular in the learning and assessment focus part.
  3. Assessment bank – quality assessment and resources.
  4. QCATs – Qld Comparable Assessment Tasks (4, 6, 9) – demonstrate what students know…and support consistency of teacher judgements.
  5. Guidelines for reporting – consistency.
    1. Intent is to ensure commonality in what is taught but diversity in how it is taught. Is big on the alignment between: what is taught (essential learnings), what is assessed (Assessment and QCATS), and what is reported (Standards and guidelines for reporting).

      Descriptors of quality

      Find it interesting that the standards are accompanied by the following table that sets out the appropriate words to use as descriptors of quality.

      A B C D E

      ICTs as cross-curricular

      Oh dear, there are powerpoint slides that examine the ICT KLA, which is positioned as cross-curricula. A copy follows, I really dislike this sort of quasi-quantitative camouflaging of fuzzy, often incorrect ideas. I really dislike the automatic assumption that direct instruction cannot develop higher order skills.

      National curriculum

      Of course the really interesting thing is that within a year or two all of the above might be somewhat less than important. Mainly due to the rise of the national curriculum.

      Problem graph

The next step for the LMS?

This post draws on this article about Google’s Talk Guru to argue the need for systems that support people at the point of them carrying out some task.

I think this is one of the more interesting possibilities as the next step/enhancement for an LMS. In fact, it’s one of the few benefits I can see for keeping some sort of centralised/institutional LMS.

Rather than expect people to attend formal training sessions, or worse expect them to access recorded formal training sessions, have an LMS that scaffolds the student/teachers interactions with the LMS. For example, as they start adding a discussion forum to a course, the LMS provides a mechanism through which good practice can be harnessed.

The exact form of that “good practice” is fairly open. But I would suggest that the easier it makes it for that good practice to be implemented, the better.

It would be even better if this approach was not informed by what is deemed theoretically correct by the educational intelligentsia but instead connects with what people are actually doing and looks for ways it can be made better. An informed mix of paving the cowpath and improving it.

And it doesn’t have to be complex.

e.g. a simple addition to the discussion forum tool in an LMS that showed an academic the average number of posts/replies made by the other staff in the course cohort and perhaps more broadly. Put it in a graph and show where that staff member’s posts in the current course fit in the range. Underneath it have some links to literature/blog posts that talk about the benefits of teacher engagement, and some links to information about how other staff are using the forums.


In terms of “paving the cowpath”, I think this is where one of the gaps (potentially a broadening gap) is occurring. The distance between the people who are supporting academics (who know what the cowpaths are), the people who can change the LMS (those who can pave the cowpath), and the people who decide whether or not the paving can happen is growing.

This could be argued as the situated cognition future of the LMS.

Amplify’d from
that just means getting info that people need to them, when and where they need it



Supportive Learning Environments: Week 3, 4, 5 and 6

And now begins a couple of weeks catch up, and hopefully getting up. The following is reflection on weeks 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the course on Supportive Learning Environments I’m studying.

Culture, Society and Difference – Week 3

The focus questions given for the week are

  1. How do our sociocultural values shape our attitudes towards groups of people?
  2. What are the limitations of stereotypes?
  3. What is the relationship between stereotyping and prejudice?
  4. How do racism and discrimination evolve?
  5. Should diversity be accommodated or celebrated?

Already I am thinking of the point about human-beings being pattern-match intelligences . It seems that stereotypes and prejudice are examples of pattern matching, rather than rational decision making at action. We’ll see.


So, we’re asked to write down the following words (with some space in-between, as if the net gen would be using paper!) and write down meanings we associate with them. I feel the immediate need to do some Google work to develop a more formal meaning before expressing my current opinions. Will ignore that for now.

  • Stereotype – an abstract template/description used to describe characteristics deemed common to a group of people, often used as the basis for decision making/treating that group all the same.
    Am wondering what the difference is between this and archetype?
  • Prejudice – a negative belief about someone that arises from a particular characteristics, rather than actual knowledge of the individual.
    I find this meaning particularly weak and ill-informed. Though it matches okay with the provided definitions.
  • Racism – a belief that a particular race/group of people are in someway inferior to another.
    I missed the idea that racism believes that different human races have distinctive characteristics.
  • Discrimination – actions against a person or people that disadvantage them and are based on a particular characteristic(s).

There’s more reading from the textbook, but no

Indigenous students – Week 4

Focus questions

  • What are your own attitudes towards Indigenous peoples?
  • Why has there been an acceptance of poor learning outcomes for Indigenous students?
  • How can teachers attempt to meet the needs of Indigenous students better?

First off is a set of slides outlining what teachers need to know about indigenous students. At the root of all this is the perspective that it doesn’t appear any different from “good teaching”. i.e. every student is different, value and engage with that diversity. There then appears to be a slight tendency to somewhat “stereotype” indigenous students. i.e. that there is some collective set of characteristics that they all have. Though those characteristics are never really mentioned in specifics…

There’s also a pointer to a MACER report on indigenous education. It has a very “Waiting for Superman” section in which it bemoans that lack of challenge to teachers about the on-going lack of improvement fo indigenous students. While not entirely dismissing the problem of some teachers, this response seems to go a bit far and seems to ignore the influence of socio-economic status. i.e. it is known (and oft-repeated) that a low SES environment has significant impacts on learning outcomes + a large % of indigenous students come from low SES backgrounds, which seems to suggest that SES status is a significant contributing factor here. Certainly schools and teachers should be doing more, but there are other needs as well. The report does pick this up a bit now.

There is then a DEST funded study on self-identity for indigenous students. Perhaps not so surprisingly was the finding that self-identity “is complex and multi-faceted: varies with context; it has multiple dimensions that are valued differently by different individiuals…”. But some commonality around “kinship group, sense of history, language, traditional practices, and place”

Students with high support needs

Focus questions

  • What range of characteristics may be associated with students who have ‘high support needs’?
    Basically anyone who requires an additional level of support in order to effectively participate in school. But it does appear likely that they have to fit into one of the established categories. Which is the problem facing folk with dyscalculia. Given that “high support needs” students are defined by disability categories, one answer to this question is to list those categorise: ASD, SLI, HI, II, VI…
  • How do you feel about including these students in your classroom?
    Uncertain, but then I’m uncertain about most aspects of teaching at the moment. Mainly because I haven’t done it yet. It’s a mystery. Obviously, one feeling is that teaching will be hard enough without also having to deal with someone who has “high support needs”. Mostly because it adds yet another level of novelty to the process. After a bit of experience, this would be somewhat lessened, but I imagine the perception of workload would remain. As with all things it seems to depend on the specifics of the context. i.e. having a student with high support needs within a school where this is an accepted practice, would be somewhat easier than some alternatives.
  • How can the teacher feel prepared to accommodate high support needs?
    This appears to mirror good teaching practice. i.e. know your students, know what resources are available, build collaborative networks within and outside the classroom/school

Apparently an area of education replete with acronyms, though I’m not finding too many areas of education that aren’t.

  • EAP – Educational Adjustment Program.
    A program of resource distribution used to support high support needs students. Such students have to fit within one of the categories of disability.
  • IEP – Individualised education plans.
    Based on an EAP, map out what will be done for the student.
  • The categories are
    • II Intellectual Impairment
      IQ of 70 or below. Question: This raises the point about IQ. I thought that IQ was not a measure of fixed intelligence, just intelligence as it currently stands. That it can be improved. In the explanation, the diagnosis seems to focus on genetic problems as the cause.
    • ASD Autistic Spectrum Disorder
    • SLI Speech Language Impairment
    • HI Hearing Impairment
    • VI Visual Impairment
    • PI Physical Impairment
    • IAS – II/ASD

This is where I feel that I am missing something, a slide I’m looking at lists the following three tips for inclusion

  • Find out the specific needs of the student
  • Identify resources available to you
  • Foster social networks and learning activities that encourage interaction and participation by all students

These look like fairly good guidelines for teaching in general.

Inclusive strategies

So, onto some actual classroom strategies to deal with this. Already starting to seem like general good practice.

Focus questions

  • What strategies can be used to cater for a range of abilities?
  • What implications are there for assessment procedures when catering for a range of abilities?
  • What are the potential benefits for students when they participate in cooperative learning?
  • What role does the teacher play in cooperative learning?

A powerpoint slide covering various collaborative strategies- peer teaching etc – and now onto reading Chapter 4 of the text. Oops, that should be chapter 7.

And now an online resource on collaborative learning. It gives an interesting spectrum of learning approaches

  • Co-operative – working together to accomplish shared goals.
  • Competitive – work against each other to attain grades such as an A, which only a few students can attain.
  • Individualistic – students work by themselves towards learnings goals unrelated to those of others.

What about a “network” approach? Somewhat individualistic but connected to the work of others?

Mmm, interesting suggests Lewin refined the notion of a group to incldue

  1. Essence of a group is the interdependence among members.
  2. An intrinsic state of tension between group members to motivate them toward accomplishement of the desired common goals.

Ahh, and now Deutsch suggesting three types of interdependence: positive, negative and none.

In formal cooperative learning teachers’ roles are

  1. Make pre-instructional decisions.
  2. Explain the task and cooperative structure.
  3. Monitor learning and intervene to assist
  4. Assess learning and help students process how their groups functions.

Suggests different approaches: informal cooperative learning, cooperative base groups.

And now 5 essential elements for good cooperation

  1. positive interdependence.
  2. individual and group accountability.
  3. Promotive interaction.
  4. Appropriate use of social skills.
  5. group processing.

And goes onto to summarise large body of research findings showing the benefits of cooperative over competitive and individual approaches to learning.

And now a reading

Conway, R. (2001). Adapting curriculum, teaching and learning strategies. In P. Foreman (Ed.) Integration and inclusion in action (2nd ed.), pp. 262-310. Southbank, VIC: Nelson Thomson Learning.

Problems for teaching scholars

It appears that there is an increasing, ERA driven trend within Australian universities for placing greater emphasis on teaching scholars. These are academics who are no longer expected to do research, apart from engage scholarly with their own teaching practice.

Why is ERA driving this? Well, from a distance, it appears that teaching scholars reduce the number of “research active” staff at a university. The reduction of this pool apparently helps prevent the dilution of ERA “scores” by those academics who have never really gotten into research.

I have significant problems with university management that are pushing this through for the wrong reasons, but I’ll leave those aside. This post from Mark Guzdial highlights the other category of problems. i.e. creating and pushing hard for people to become “teaching scholars” is a significant change. A significant change that is going to require re-thinking various policies and processes within an institution. I doubt very much that university management are engaging in that re-thinking, yet.

Guzdial raises/suggests two points, there are almost certainly many more

  1. Testing ideas in your own classroom is not convincing.
    If any of these “teaching scholars” actually engage scholarly with their own teaching it will almost certain take this form. Try something in my class, run a survey, write an ASCILITE/AACE paper. (The fact that they are being pushed into the teaching scholar role because they aren’t research active does not bode well for the level of scholarly engagement in their own teaching).
  2. Ethics issues around studying your own course.
    For some times, there has been complaints from folk researching their own teaching that the human ethics constraints are too heavyweight. In part, this appears to be due to the “one size fits all” approach to ethics approval. But Guzdial reports on MIT’s much stricter perspective. Researching our own class is an inherent conflict-of-interest, you can’t do it.

It’s going to be interesting watching the law of unintended consequences play its part as the ERA band wagon roles on and what shape Australian higher education will be in at the end of it.

Amplify’d from
My colleague Amy Bruckman told me that, at MIT, the Human Subjects Review Board will not allow a researcher to gather data on his or her own classroom.  There is an inherent conflict-of-interest, if you are studying your class and teaching your class.
Your classroom is a great place to get ideas.  It’s never a great place to test your ideas. You should test your ideas so as to convince others — testing in your class is akin to saying, “See! It worked for me!”  That’s not convincing.



Literacy and Numeracy: Week 4

Week 4 of the literacy and numeracy course.

Hot topics in literacy and numeracy

So, literacy, especially reading, is important. At least back in 2004 when this interview was undertaken. It is of one of President’s Bush advisors.

Another point about about how poverty and its impacts, in this case with such children living in households where reading is not a priority. Also suggesting limitations in terms of discussions in the house. At 4/5 this can be a gap of twice the size, by 12th grade it can be 4.

Reading is not a natural activity.

No improvement program is not equally beneficial for all kids, there is no magic bullets.

Point about a lot of middle/high school kids not being active readers.

Find this comment interesting

You know, programs that taught kids to guess from pictures or from surrounding context. The evidence indicating that that is actually counterproductive is pretty massive.

I have a 6yo son who’s learning to read, and guess what type of books they are using? Books with big pictures that provide context for the couple of words at the bottom. So the point seems to be that such approaches are not inherently wrong, but they do not – by themselves – provide the necessary building blocks.

Teaching reading

And now we are onto a government report from 2005. Going a bit beyond what is asked, I think. Looking at “contemporary understandings of effective teaching practices”.

Suggests two broad approaches.

  1. Whole language.
    So this seems to be the approach criticised by the previous interviewee. It’s the constructivist approach. Ahh, they even have references for the inappropriateness of constructivism as an operational theory of teaching: Ellis (2005); Purdie & Ellis (2005); Wilson (2005). Argument is that this approach is not useful for students with learning difficulties or from low SOE.
  2. Code-based.
    Focuses on explicit teaching of the structure and function of language. The aim being to provide students with the ability to “reflect on and consciously manipulate the language”

Oh, more bashing of constructivism

Sasson (2001) refers to constructivism as ’… a mixture of Piagetian stage theory with postmodernist ideology’ (p. 189) that is devoid of evidence-based justification for its adoption as an effective method of teaching

and Wilson (2005)

We largely ignore generations of professional experience and knowledge in favour of a slick postmodern theoretical approach, most often characterised by the misuse of the notion of constructivism.

I do wonder why these alternative perspectives on constructivism were not given in the ICTs course when constructivism was introduced. Would have been a more balanced view-point.

And now into the reports comments

These observations by Wilson are consistent with expressed concerns that too many faculties and schools of education in Australian higher education institutions currently providing pre-service teacher education base their programs on constructivist views of teaching.


And this comment on the social background issue

fi ndings from a large body of evidence-based research consistently indicate that quality teaching has significant positive effects on students’ achievement progress regardless of their backgrounds.

Engaging with recommendations

We’re being asked to participate in a group discussion about one of the recommendations from this report. The trouble is that the recommendation #2 that I see in the report, is not the one we’re meant to talk about.

Defining New Literacies in Curricular Practice

Another reading

Semali, L.M. (2001). Defining new literacies in curricular practice.

New literacies are defined as those “that have emerged in the post-typographic era”. Implications being

“post-typographic” points to the fact that electronic texts are destabilizing previously held conceptions of literacy and are requiring students and teachers to examine assumptions about reading, writing, books, and what we know — and think we know — about curriculum practice.

Some reflection to do, but laptop power is an issue. Time to go home.

Is high school the next challenge for CS

I’m biased, for other reasons I’m in the process of becoming a high school teacher of information technology/maths. That said, it’s given me the opportunity to think about a problem from a previous live as a University academic in information systems/information technology.

That problem was that, apart from a small period of time around the dot-com boom, the type of students enrolling in these courses was very limited, primarily nerds. This wasn’t a problem because of the students, some very fine people within that group. It’s a problem for Uni IT/IS courses because this group represents only a very small percentage of the population and when enrolment numbers are tanking you worry about this.

The continual response from the University I worked at was to change the program, to make it more attractive. They never seemed to get the fact that by the end of high school, the majority of students have already made their up their mind about IT/IS because of their experiences. And they sure as hell aren’t signing up to do that for the rest of their life.

Which brings us to this quote from an article explaining how on University CS instructor has made his course more interesting by allowing students to work on something meaningful to them. And the quote from someone in the NSF saying that they have the high school CS course to get kids interested, but can’t get it in schools.

This seems to be shaping as the challenge for me in coming years, how to get a program like this into a high school and observe what it does.

Amplify’d from
“We’ll have no problem interesting kids in doing these things,” Cuny said. “The tough part is getting into the schools.”



Literacy and Numeracy: Week 3

So, after a delay due to an assignment in another course and organising a new car, it’s time to catch up on Week 3 of this course. Just as week 4 is starting and the first assignment is due. A few late nights coming up.

Secondary school focus

So, some concrete links to the setting I’ll be teaching in. Am wondering about the structure and content of the course, I don’t feel as if I’m getting much insight from it. Perhaps it says more about me, than the course.

I wish someone would talk to these folk about proportional page width with HTML and Moodle.

Okay, so the point is made about literacy and numeracy in school moving beyond the 3Rs…multimodal, multimedia and – gratuitous Friere quote – “read the words and the worlds”.

If this is the case, then why am I getting such a sense of dissonance between this statement and what I see and hear going on within Australian schools around NAPLAN tests? Perhaps I have the wrong idea of NAPAN?

Literacy after the early years

And onto a reading

Comber, B., Badger, I., Nixon, H. & Pitt, J. (2002). Literacy after the early years: A longitudinal study. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 25 (2), 9-23.

They aimed to produce

  • longitudinal case studies of literacy development among primary-aged kids in 3 low SOE schools.
  • analysis of student development, teacher pedagogies and local application of reforms.
  • resources to extend teachers knowledge.

Findings with 3 focii

  1. What did low SOE students bring to school.
    Students are diverse in the experience, with haves and have nots. Some literacy practices of students not able to used in schools, not recognised.
  2. What did they make of the literacy curriculum .
  3. What is needed to make literacy teaching work.

mmm, I’m not seeing any flashes of brilliance here. A lot of it appears to be known, and I wonder abou the value of such research with a small sample size and that doesn’t give much in the way of evidence/argument about how they reached their conclusions.

In the end the argument is that the following factors make a difference to what children learn

  • recognition – extent to what children do counts and they see that it counts.
  • resources – extent to which schools have resources.
  • curriculum – quality, scope and depth of what is made available.
  • pedagogical – quality of teacher talk, teacher-student relationships and assessment practices
  • take-up – extent to adoption of literate practices by children and what discourses the school authorises
  • translation – extent to which children take practices to new situations.

Am having a sense of “duhh, basically knew that”.

Queensland Education Performance Review

So, getting more practical and examining the state government’s review literacy/numeracy. A review commisioned after 2008 NAPLAN tests and the 2007 TIMSS tests. The review had a focus on primary education.

Mmmm, the last reading was also talking about research at the primary level. I thought this week was focused on secondary schools?

The report emphasised “the importance of high quality teaching and school leadership”.

Mm, much of the report sounds much the same as most of these things in terms of 5 recommendations

  1. primary teachers have to demonstrate through tests literacy/numeracy.
    Government spends money implementing tests, rather than asking why/if existing education practices aren’t sufficient. Nor asking how the new tests will be gamed by student teachers. A bit like the IELTS (english language test) for NESB students. Lots of cramming, pass the test, then revert to practices that contribute to the learning disappearing…..Not to mention the discrepancy between wanting more authentic assessment for students, but inflicting tests on teachers.
  2. More professional development.
    Will it be any better than the old? What are the factors limiting benefits from existing PD?
  3. More funding for specialist literacy advisors.
    Ahh, many targeted at improving NAPLAN performance…..question whether the focus on NAPLAN will impact the quality of the literacy/numeracy skill of students.
  4. Introduce standard science tests at years 4, 6, 8, and 10
    “In principle” support. i.e. too hard for us to do anything, so we won’t.
  5. Review international best practice and importance of leaders.
    New leadership institute….Ahh, talk to Federal government about hosting national leadership development institute.

Australia’s language potential

Another reading

Clyne, M. (2005). Australia’s Language Potential. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. pp. 143-173.

Moving onto “issues connected with new literacies in the English language”. From this and the next reading we’re being asked to engage in a group discussion around the following

  1. What do you believe to be some of the issues surrounding language and global English(es) as raised in these articles?
    Perhaps most obvious to me in this reading, was the influence of broader societal trends. For example, globalisation, economic rationalism, multiculturalism have all had significant impacts on the question of language. In addition, the idea that this is a dynamic, emerging problem, not something that is pre-defined.
  2. What are the implications of this for notions of literacy and numeracy?
    Is there much in particular? Perhaps that these notions will be influenced by the same trends, that they too will form a dynamic, emerging problem.

It’s late and I probably shouldn’t be doing this now, but you get that.

The reading is the 5th chapter of a book, this chapter looks at policy. Starts with the idea of countries based on languages (e.g. European, France etc) arising from policy, including an EC one on minority languages. Leads to the idea that Australia is trying to balance immigrant languages without “sacrificing national cohesion”. Through “a context of mainstreaming cultural diversity” and “promoting unity within diversity”….the chapter looks at the ups and downs of pluralist language policy.

Various researcher abstractions dividing up the evolution of Australian policy.

UP unto the 70s/80s, assimilation was the policy towards immigrants. Bilingual education prohibited.

English language classes for adults started in 1948, bu ESL in schools only in the 60s. Billy Snedden quote “We must have a single culture…We don’t want cultural pluralism”.

But at around this time various factors including the Suez crisis, Britain joining the EC/EU etc generated ideas of Australia as independent state….Then the Whitlam government…..leading to an Australian identity that included cultural diversity….but not uniform, union movement remained concerned about migrant threat to jobs. Also remained difference between some capital as multi-cultural and some regional areas.

Eventually demands for teaching other languages and cultures in schools. Broader societal trends slower, some move with radio stations, especially with multilingual stations set up to education folk about Medibank. Devolution of curriculum planning to schools also helped introduction of community languages.

Through the early 80s, significant expansion of multiculturalism.

Only in 1976 did the census include a question about language, no (good) numbers before that. Linguists began pushing for national language policy. In 1982 an inquiry was held into the need for a “national language”. It generated four guiding principles

  1. Competence in English.
  2. Maintenance and development of other languages.
  3. Provision of services in other languages.
  4. Opportunities for learning 2nd languages.

Some delay federally, filled in by movement in some states. An SA policy identified language maintenance as a right.

Eventually national policy started to be formulated based on a rationale of social justice, long-term economic strategies and cultural enrichment. Policy formulation was responsibility of Minister for Education, hence education focus.

At this stage, economic rationalism enters the picture and the focus turns to short-term economic goals. Education portfolio joined with employment and training. New top-down policy with a focus on English literacy and languages connected to external trade and tourism.

Aside: Got to love the poor OCR of this scan

social mobility and t h e utilisation of their slulls with

Eventually, language policy re-fragmented: literacy, Asian languages, interpretation, translation…suggested that this was in part because of government antipathy to policy development, especially bottom up. First off the rank was Federal policy around economic importance of Asian languages.

Suggestion that many contextual factors in 90s and 2000s prevent development of language policy, including: funding crisis in universities, more broadly economic rationalism and user pays. i.e. no money for translators and other services…suggesting the idea that economic rationalism is the new assimilation. National language policy is seen as a luxury in times of economic restraint.

This creates issues with demographic changes as services not keeping up due to limited funds. e.g. Sudanese arrivals.

Language policy flows from multi-culturalism, so some thought given to that…including Hanson and Howard and the role of fear, economic crisis etc.

Ethical investment and the case for linguistic diversity

Next reading

Singh, M. and Scanlon, C. (2003). Ethical investment and the case for linguistic diversity. Zadok Perspectives, 81: 18-20.

Another great OCR scanning job, apparently WWII was fought in the Pacific between 1942 and 1745.

The Navajo Indian codetalkers used by the use during WWII are used as the evidence for the value of linguistic diversity. And since we have half the languages we had 500 years ago, things aren’t looking good. And that the majority of current languages will be extinct within 2 generations – only about 600 left.

Language death arises from a range of inter-related: political, economic, cultural and social processes. e.g. the rise of the nation state and subsequent cultural homogeneity.

Rise of transnational or global languages and consumerism.

Destruction of local habitats……community survives by making a living from the local environment and a sustainable economic system.

Mentions a range of reasons why language death might be seen as a good thing.

However, point made that language plays a central role in creation and transmission of knowledge. Different languages, different ways of thinking. Also embody intimate knowledge of local surrounds, knowledge that could be valuable.

Of course, I feel this argument about it being economically valuable to be diverse is a losing one. It has to battle the much easier to understand economic value of everyone talking the same language as opposed to a possible, but yet unknown potential benefit.

Has mentioned the importance of some localisation in the overall push to globalisation, i.e. there are different markets. The idea of “linguistic capital”.

IN terms of new technology, the old style “english is language of IT” has been replaced again by localisation.

Mm, interesting comparison. The previous reading used the example of “English only language groups” as a negative example. i.e. folk in the US and other “english” countries campaigning to outlaw other languages in schools and other areas. This reading is using examples of language groups campaigning against “the world-dominating English language” through the use of multi-lingual IT.


Before I finish, I did author two posts to the course discussion forum. May as well share them here.

Google translate and a tendency to homogeneity

Google translate is a fairly good service that offers translations between one language to another.

But if you try to “round trip” the translation – take it from one language, through various others and back to the original language – you encounter some problems.

I heard about this from some presentations by Dave Snowden and tried it for the first time tonight.

I took the phrase

Hello how are you today. Is it raining there?

and used Google Translate to take it from English to French and then fed the French translation (“Bonjour comment allez-vous aujourd’hui. Est-ce qu’il pleut là-bas?”) into Google Translate to go to German. Then the German into Japanese and finally the Japanese back into English. Here’s the final English output

Hello, you specify how today. Is it raining?

For me, in the context of this course, this example reinforces just how hard language understanding is. This suggests that “global english” – possibly defined as a type of english removed of all contextual/cultural references and idioms – is probably not as simple nor useful as some suggest.

Just as Singh and Scanlon argued that the loss of localised languages represent a loss of knowledge, diversity and insight. The loss of cultural idioms and references in global English may represent a similar loss.

Perhaps global English is just another attempt to remove diversity and complexity from the world rather than put in the hard yards to engage and generate value from that diversity and complexity. I do fear, however, given the general nature of human-beings and the pressures of economic rationalism there will be a tendency to opt for homogeneity.

The odd one out

Which of the following three doesn’t fit?

Chicken A cow Grass
Chicken Cow Grass

Your answer?

Might be fun if you posted your answer as a reply before reading too much further.

The theory is that there will be different answers and the differences in answers will be based on the languages and cultures in which people were raised.

For an explanation take a look at this page which also describes where it comes from.

Learning brief – Reflections and conclusions – version 2.0

This is version 2 of an attempt at the first assignment for the ICTs for Learning Design course.


The following offers some reflections and conclusions on three learning activities: profile Wiki, learning theories Wiki, and mobile phones Wiki. The reflections and conclusions are based on a series of blog posts and subsequent comments summarised in Table 1. Initially these thoughts arose from a focus on a Year 11/12 course in Information Processing and Technology (IPT). Consideration was later expanded to include a Year 8/9 mathematics course. The reflections and conclusions are organised around three main components: learning theories, thinking routines (aka scaffolding activities), and e-learning spaces. The rest of this post is organised around those components and closes with some brief conclusions.

Table 1: Summary of reflective posts and comments
Post Description
Profile wiki (Jones, 2011a) Reflection on participation in the profile wikis activity
Learning theories wiki (Jones, 2011b) Reflection on participation in the learning theories wiki activity
Mobile phones wiki (Jones, 2011c) Reflection on participation in the mobile phones wiki activity
Learning logs for week 1 (Jones, 2011d) and week 2 (Jones, 2011e) Logs of thoughts and reflections during completion of regular course work.
A PMI of constructivism (Jones, 2011f) Initial individual thoughts for the learning theories wiki. Including comments from two people external to the course on the topic.
Similarity of knowledge question (Jones, 2011g) A discussion on the similarity of “neuronal” and “networked” knowledge arising from a post about another course. That post generated a question from a reader that lead to a response from Stephen Downes
Version 1.0 of this post (Jones, 2011h) The first attempt at a submission for this assignment.

Learning theories

Most courses in mathematics and IPT appear not to draw heavily on constructivist, let alone connectivist learning perspectives, and they appear to be the worse for it. In terms of mathematics, I am interested in how the “What Can You Do With This” (WCYDWT) approach might be applied. It is described as being “a design method for creating powerful, technologically supported and rich problem-solving experiences in math classrooms” (Meyer, 2010). It appears significantly influenced by constructivist perspectives of learning. I am also interested in Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998) and its Relate-Create-Donate mantra in both mathematics and IPT. In terms of long-term goals, I have an interest in developing a senior IPT course based on students actively participating within the developer community of a specific open source tool such as Moodle or WordPress. Initial thoughts about this idea were informed by connectivism, however, Engagement Theory offers some additional perspectives.

At this stage, I do remain concerned about the limited depth of my knowledge of and experience in applying these learning theories. It did not take long for reflection and discussion around learning theories to delve into murky theoretical depths. A post (Jones, 2011g) posing questions about the similarity of neuronal and networked knowledge within a connectivist perspective arose from in-depth discussions around constructivism and connectivism. The initial PMI of constructivism (Jones, 2011f) completed as part of the learning theories activity also revealed a number of potential limitations of constructivism and literature undertaking more in-depth examinations of constructivism within education (e.g. Davis & Sumara, 2002). It also revealed research suggesting that constructivism may not always be appropriate. For example, the finding that explicit instruction achieves better outcomes for low-achieving mathematics students than constructivist approaches (Kroesbergen, Van Luit, & Maas, 2004).

Thinking routines

Both learning theories and thinking routines – such a Plus-Minus-Interesting – offer guidance or scaffolding for e-learning design. One advantage of thinking routines over learning theories is that they provide explicit guidance and are subsequently easier to adopt. These assignments were my first experience with thinking routines in formal learning contexts and the benefit was obvious. The subsequent interest in applying thinking routines led to a brief literature search which revealed publications such as Ritchhart and Perkins (2008). As with learning theories, it appears that we have only scratched the surface.

At the same time I see some dangers in thinking routines. One problem is what Snowden (2009) describes as the danger of creating recipe book users rather than chefs. A recipe book user can only proceed when there are ingredients that fit their collection of recipes. A chef on the other hand can create dishes with what is at hand. This connects with Mishra & Koehler’s (2008, p. 10) description of an expert teacher as someone who is able to “flexibly navigate the space defined by the three elements of content, pedagogy, and technology and the complex interactions among these elements in specific contexts”.

E-learning spaces

With a background in information technology and a long history in e-learning design (e.g. McCormack & Jones, 1997) I was perhaps most comfortable with this component. This allowed me to focus more on how to effectively marry technology, pedagogy (learning theories and thinking routines), and content. This has been the most useful aspect of this assignment. That said, this is benefit is mainly limited to the IPT teaching context. I am much weaker in mathematical content knowledge and it has been an obvious limitation on my ability to think creatively about e-learning design within mathematics.

The assignment has also highlighted the negative impact on learning from two sources related to technology: poor quality technology and limited user knowledge of technology and its mores. Problems with the Moodle wiki in the profile activity had a negative impact on the attitudes and perceptions of many students, and as Marzano & Pickering (1997, p. 13) suggest, when attitudes and perceptions are negative, learning suffers. Second was the limited technical knowledge of some students or staff with ICTs. In staff, this limited knowledge prevented the ability to provide quick resolutions to student problems and lead to further negative attitudes and perceptions.

As described in my reflections on the mobile phone wiki activity (Jones, 2011c), the limited experience amongst students with collaborative authoring on a Wiki led most to adopt approaches that limited the benefits of the technology.
Mishra and Koehler (2008, p. 2) argue that designing “solutions that honour the complexities of the situations and the contexts presented by learners and classrooms” is an important factor in successful e-learning design. At this point in time, I have very limited knowledge about the contexts within which I will be teaching. My use of e-learning design needs to be constrained by this limited knowledge and designed to help me develop greater insight.


For Mishra and Koehler (2008, p. 2) an expert teacher has a “deep, pragmatic, and nuanced understanding of teaching with technology” that enables them to effectively solve the wicked problem of teaching with technology. This assignment has identified the importance of learning theories, thinking routines and scaffolding to effective e-learning design, both individually and in combination.

From this assignment I’ve identified a number of future tasks, including a need to:

    Develop more effective methods for gathering, evaluating, using, and reflecting upon TPACK associated with my teaching areas.

  • Improve my level of mathematical content and pedagogical knowledge.
  • Spend more time thinking about learning theories and thinking routines.
  • Learn more about the specifics of the learning contexts in which I will teach.
  • While learning about these contexts adopt a more exploratory approach to my use of e-learning.


Davis, B., & Sumara, D. (2002). Constructivist discourses and the field of education: Problems and possibilities. Educational Theory, 52(4), 409-428.

Jones, D. (2011a). Reflection on the profile Wiki: ICTs for Learning Design. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Jones, D. (2011b). Reflection on the learning theories wiki. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Jones, D. (2011c). Reflection on the mobile phones wiki. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Jones, D. (2011d). ICTs for learning design – the first week. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Jones, D. (2011e). ICTs for Learning Design: Week 2. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Jones, D. (2011f). A PMI of constructivism. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Jones, D. (2011g). A question (or two) on the similarity of "neuronal" and "networked" knowledge. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Jones, D. (2011h). Reflection and conclusions: Learning brief. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Kroesbergen, E. H., Van Luit, J. E. H., & Maas, C. J. M. (2004). Effectiveness of Explicit and Constructivist Mathematics Instruction for Low-Achieving Students in the Netherlands. The Elementary School Journal, 104(3), 233–251. JSTOR. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from

Marzano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (1997). Dimensions of Learning (2nd ed., p. 352). Aurora, CO: McREL.

McCormack, C., & Jones, D. (1997). Building a Web-Based Education System. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2008). Introducing technological pedagogical content knowledge. Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (New York, New York) (pp. 1-16). Retrieved March 14, 2011, from

Ritchhart, R., & Perkins, D. (2008). Making Thinking Visible. Educational Leadership, 65(5), 57-61.

Snowden, D. (2009). The chef and the recipe book user. Retrieved March 14, 2011, from

Reflection and conclusions: Learning brief

The following is a first draft of Assignment 1 for the ICTs for Learning Design course I’m taking. Am wondering how much it will change by Friday (submission date). If only to reduce it by about 1500 words to meet the maximum word count.


Mishra and Koehler (2008) view teaching with technology as a wicked design problem (Rittel & Webber, 1973). The topic of this assignment is directly connected with the understanding how to solve the wicked problem that is e-learning design. This assignment has aided in the development of an understanding of learning theories – with a special focus on the constructivist paradigm – Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998), and the value of a number of thinking routines. In combination these provide useful abstractions, or ways of thinking, which appear to be very helpful for a student teacher trying to make sense of what is important when attempting to solve the wicked problem that is e-learning design.

This post consists of three main sections:

  1. What.
    Summarising what was done in this assignment.
  2. Reflections.
    Discussion of various observations and ideas that arose from the assignment.
  3. Conclusions.
    Lessons that have been drawn for my future practice of e-learning design.


This assignment can be said to have three main components: scaffolded learning activities; e-learning spaces; and, learning theories. Each is described in the following sub-sections.

Scaffolded learning activities

Table 1 summarises the three learning activities on which this assignment asked students to reflect. It was required that the reflection on each activity be posted to our blog. The names of the activities in Table 1 are links to the relevant posts on my blog. These blog posts were in turn supported through a blog reflection scaffold.

Activity Description Scaffolding
Profile wiki Share a personal profile, based on a provided template, with members of a group Wiki templates
Learning theories wiki Work with a partner to develop a Plus-Minus-Interesting (PMI) analysis of a reading about a particular learning theory. Each pair would post their PMI analysis to a Wiki. Each pair of different readings served as part of a Expert Jigsaw. Wiki.
Expert Jigsaw.
Mobile phones wiki As a group, share insight about the role of mobile phone in education scaffolded with De Bono’s six thinking hats Wiki.
6 thinking hats.

E-learning spaces

The primary e-learning space used was a Wiki (Leuf & Cunningham, 2001). Each activity had its own Wiki implemented within version 1.9 of the Moodle Learning Management System (LMS). This Wiki is actually a fork of the ErfurtWiki (Cole & Foster, 2007), an older, somewhat less featured Wiki engine. A separate Wiki was created for each activity listed in Table 1.

The scaffolding for each activity was provided through the Moodle course site. Some of the scaffolding (e.g. for the 6 Thinking Hats structure) was embedded within the Wiki for that activity. Student reflections on these activities made use of individual student blogs.

Learning theories

The course readings and activities covered a broad array of theories. The diversity includes four very different perspectives on how learning happens in the form of behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism, and connectivism. There is further diversity within each of these learning paradigms. For example, Steffe and Gale (1995) describe six different versions of constructivism. Diversity was further increased through coverage of theories of a very different type. That is, theories which are not primarily focused on how learning occurs. For example, Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998) is a framework for guiding how to design technology-based learning. Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson et al., 2000) offers a way to classify learning objectives or outcomes.

The release of the design framework (Fasso, 2011) for these activities revealed how the design drew on a specific combination of theories including: the constructivist paraadigm, Engagement Theory and Bloom’s taxonomy.


Each of the following briefly summarise the reflections generated by my participation in these activities.

Benefits of theories and other scaffolds

For me, if e-learning design is seen as a wicked design problem, then it is necessary to have scaffolding that helps a designer understand the strengths and weaknesses of certain approaches. It is useful to have suggestions around what works and what doesn’t. The types of theories, frameworks and collections of thinking routines we have been exposed to within this assignment provide examples of how nuggets of expert knowledge can be packaged and used. In particular, appropriate theories help the designer to “design solutions that honour the complexities of the situations and the contexts presented by learners and classrooms” (Mishra & Koehler, 2008, p. 2). But it is not only the designer that can benefit. Thinking routines provide assistance and scaffolding to students. I particularly found this through the use of the PMI and Expert Jigsaw routines used in the learning theories wiki.

These advantages have shown just how limited my previous educational experiences – as both student and teacher – have been. Looking and reflecting further on how my teaching can draw on the benefits offered by theories and other scaffolds will form an on-going part of my professional development.

Problems with theories and routines

The key benefit of these is that they offer abstractions that reduce the complexity of e-learning design by focusing attention on perspectives that are known to work. There are also some problems that arise from these abstractions. These are summarised as, abstractions can:

  • Be wrong.
    For example, connectivist proponents Downes (2009) argue that the conception of knowledge on which constructivism is based is wrong.
  • Be inappropriate.
    Theories like behaviourism were not developed within the education discipline. As such their migration into education is not without problems (Davis & Sumara, 2002, p 417).
  • Be hard to implement.
    The nature of the tools or the broader context can make it very difficult to effectively implement some of these abstractions. Dalsgaard (2006, n.p.) argues that learning management systems do not support a social constructivist approach.
  • Encourage the law of instrument.
    Kaplan (1998, p 28) framed the law of instrument as “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding”. There may be a danger that e-learning designers, especially novices, will see every learning outcome as a nail for their theoretical hammer.

Complexity, constructivism and e-learning

Approaches to learning based on a constructivist perspective value placing learners in realistic or authentic contexts. This increases complexity for both students and teacher over more traditional approaches. While encouraging deeper learning and more critical thinking skills for students, this complexity also makes such approaches harder.

Adding technology in the form of e-learning adds to this complexity. Especially so in learning contexts, such as this course, where a significant percentage of learners are not all that familiar with technology. Even more complexity is added when the chosen technology is unreliable or difficult to use. An example of this was experience with the Moodle Wiki tool during the learning theories activity.

The need for ICTs with improved functionality

Throughout this experience my background in software development has led me to reflect on the functionality of the available ICTs. While the Wiki concept is tremendously useful as a collaborative writing tool, I am not sure that the functionality of the Moodle Wiki was appropriate to the constraints of this particular context.

For example, I only re-visited the Mobile phones Wiki two times after my initial contribution. Both times were sparked by a need to reflect and blog about the Wiki and revealed new insights about how the Wiki was being used. Had the Moodle Wiki notified me of changes (as some other Wiki engines do) I believe the value I received from the activity could have been enhanced.


From the first week of the course I have been considering the content from the perspective of teaching a senior (grade 11/12) class in Information Technology (IT). The following conclusions have arisen from that context.

Authentic contexts and problems

Too many IT courses rely on simple and narrow problems in order to focus on the principles. The readings on constructivism, connectivism, and Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998) have reinforced the learning and motivational advantages of engaging students in authentic problems.

This is why I envision a two-year senior course in IT that is taught by engaging the students within an active community around a widely used open-source system such as Moodle or WordPress. The chosen system would have to have a fairly active community and a plug-in architecture. An active community provides an existing collection of resources, processes and people on which the students can build networks. The plug-in architecture allows students to independently choose the specifics of their final project.

Value of thinking routines

Active participation in an open source community is far from simple, is often very poorly scaffolded, and requires significant knowledge and experience. The type of thinking routines used in this assignment offer ways to scaffold student entry into this community and potentially lead to changes to the community. For example, the class could use a PMI analysis combined with an expert jigsaw to analyse some aspect of the system or its community. The results of that analysis could be fed back into the community and its operations.

Potential benefits of e-learning spaces

Within such a course, the use of e-learning becomes simpler, more authentic, and central to the course. Students would be using ICTs to participate in the system’s community in order to develop skills in ICT. It is no longer a question of whether to use e-learning spaces but how to better use them. In addition, it would make sense for the chosen system (e.g. Moodle or WordPress) to be used in providing those e-learning spaces. Thus opening up the possibility of students improving the system based on their own experiences.


Many of the typical difficulties with these learning approaches are mitigated by a combination of my background and the nature of the course. There do, however, remain some significant barriers. Not the least would be the sometimes quite significant distance between the experience and expectations of students, parents, and the school system and the reality of this type of approach.
While this assignment has helped significantly in offering guidance about how to design this approach from the perspective of the learning and teaching. The change management issues associated with the implementation of this type of approach within a given school context remain unanswered. At least until more is known about the nature of that school context.


Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., Airasian, P. W., Cruikshank, K. A., Mayer, R. E., Pintrich, P. R., et al. (2000). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloomʼs Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Abridged Edition. Allyn & Bacon. Retrieved from

Cole, J. R., & Foster, H. (2007). Using Moodle: teaching with the popular open source course management system (2nd ed.). Sebastopol, CA: OʼReilly Media, Inc.

Dalsgaard, C. (2006). Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems. European Journal of Distance Education. Retrieved from

Davis, B., & Sumara, D. (2002). Constructivist discourses and the field of education: Problems and possibilities. Educational Theory, 52(4), 409-428.

Desouza, K., Awazu, Y., & Ramaprasad, a. (2007). Modifications and innovations to technology artifacts☆. Technovation, 27(4), 204-220. doi: 10.1016/j.technovation.2006.09.002.

Downes, S. (2009). Learning networks and connective knowledge. In H. H. Yang & S. C.-Y. Yuen (Eds.), Collective intelligence and elearning 2.0: Implications of web-based communities and networking (pp. 1-22). IGI Global.

Fasso, W. (2011). Bloomʼs revised taxonomy / Learning engagement planning framework (p. 2). Rockhampton, QLD, Australia. Retrieved from

Kaplan, A. (1998). The conduct of inquiry: Methodology for behavioral science (p. 428). Edison, NJ: Transaction Books.

Kearsley, G., & Shneiderman, B. (1998). Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Educational Technology, 38(5), 20-23.

Leuf, B., & Cunningham, W. (2001). The Wiki Way: Collaboration and Sharing on the Internet. Addison-Wesley Professional. Retrieved from

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2008). Introducing technological pedagogical content knowledge. Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (New York, New York) (pp. 1-16). Retrieved March 14, 2011, from

Ritchhart, R., & Perkins, D. (2008). Making Thinking Visible. Educational Leadership, 65(5), 57-61.

Rittel, H. W. J., & Webber, M. M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, 4(2), 155-169.

Steffe, L., & Gale, J. (1995). Constructivism in education. Mawah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Week 3: ICTs for Learning Design

Looks like I’m going to be away in coming weeks and the first assignment is due soon, so time to get a little ahead. So the following documents/reflects week 3 of work for the ICTs for Learning Design course.


Looks like we begin examining some technologies. For the purposes of the course their titled “Group 1 tools”. Essentially content dissemination sites with a particular focus on blogs, wikis and static websites. One of which we have to nominate as most use in a teaching context, I’m guessing it will almost certainly be blogs for me.

An aspect of this is how to integrate the tools into learning design. There’s a claim if ICTs are integrated well, students will be more engage, less disruptive and achieve superior results. Well, sorry, I think that just applies for all good learning design, with ICTs or not.

Suggests there are two main categories of ICT use a teacher must be proficient in

  1. Using ICTs to teach, and
  2. Providing opportunities for student use of ICTs.

Actually, I’d add “Using ICTs to learn” as perhaps more important and perhaps preceding the other two.


A couple of vignettes are used to illustrate good usages of ICTs in two separate school settings. They are good examples. However, they do remain somewhat silent on the question of ability with the technologies. There’s a little bit there, but the experience in the course so far is that a few students (future teachers) are having some significant troubles with their Blogger blogs. It would be interesting to hear the reactions of those students to these vignettes.

Another response I had was, “Ohh I wouldn’t do that”, in reaction to how they used technology. There are much better ways of doing some of what was talked about, ways that use the technology to really scaffold the learning.

Read write web

We’re onto blogs and wikis. There is a distinction made between blogs/wikis and a website. Which is, strictly speaking, utterly false. As blogs and wikis are generally implemented as websites.

It’s also claimed that blogs and wikis are owned by students. Well, so far in this course we’ve been using a Moodle based wiki. We don’t own that wiki. The institution does. The institution can shut that down/restrict our access whenever they want, and they probably will do at the end of term. And further down we find that Education Queensland have blocked the use of blogs in schools, but they do provide the equivalent on the Learning Place, not a great solution.

Rather than the paragraph of text describing blogs and wikis, I wonder if pointing to the “In plain English” videos would be a better introduction.

Blogs for learning

Interesting that we’ve been using blogs in the course for 2 weeks and now the material is giving a basic introduction to blogs.

Pointers to resources about using blogs in education: PDF flier about “Blogger in the classroom”, a EDUCAUSE Review article (2004) by Stephen Downes, A list of strategies for blogs, some basics of blogs.

An activity is to have a look at the Beyond School website and look at the interesting ideas for using blogs. This post was interesting in terms of modelling the idea of using/knowing the technology before getting students to use it and the subsequent plus of becoming a daily writer. The Teaching Gallery is full of good ideas.

Looking at this site did make me wonder how many of my fellow students might use pointers to folk like this as an excuse to grow their PLN. I’ve chosen to follow Clay on Twitter. Seems like and interesting and useful way to find out more. Interestingly, now that I am following him, I discover that many of the folk in my Twitter network already follow/are followed by him.

Wikis for collaborative learning

Don’t think I agree with the distinction between wikis (collaborative) and blogs (not). Especially given the last paragraph in the blogs section mentioned group blogs. Nice list of Wiki principles. Pretty light on with resources, not many activities.

That seems to be it for the week.


Ahh, separate set of activities. Essentially, create a blog, a wiki and a website (using Weebly). Not sure I’d call Weebly a website, looks more like a nice content management system, perhaps crossed with a web editor (on steroids).

I’m not going to implement these activities given my background, but will do the reflections, which might involve a little more work.

Week 2: Literacy and Numeracy

And lucky last. This is the course I haven’t gotten into as much yet, hopefully that can start to change. And today’s topic is “A Workplace Focus”.


Not off to a good start, am finding the duplication of having both a “Tutorial sheet” and a eStudyGuide apparently providing a learning sequence and the existence of differences between these sequences not helping the learner develop positive attitudes about the classroom environment and its tasks. Not to mention the fact that Topic 2 is apparently using the same Module in the study guide from last week, but I’m unsure where to start. If this is combined with some of the apparent fear and loathing surrounding the first assignment…..I’m also wondering whether the slight greater emphasis on vocational education that I pick up from some of the readings/comments is clashing with my traditional academic focus?

But then, given I’ve just read about the first Dimension of Learning I know that “attitudes and perceptions influence learning” and that there exist strategies to address this, first by “monitoring and attending to my own attitudes”. Though those are meant for the teacher, not the student. In terms of understanding that “attitudes and perceptions towards classroom tasks also influence learning” then I can use “positive talk” (I love this course, really, I do) and “believing that I can get help and resources needed”. But I am currently wondering how well this course would pass an evaluation based on the remaining strategies under DoL #1.

Okay, it seems we should start on page 19 of the study guide.

How adult literacy became a public issue in Australia

So, we start with this reading

Hodgens, J. (1994). How adult literacy became a public issue in Australia. Open Letter, 4(2), 13-24.

11 pages of reading. Looks like at least another 23 pages in another article plus other excerpts, who said education courses were easy?

From the mid-1970s the was an increase in concern about literacy in Australia. e.g. 10% of adults are functionally illiterate. COuld it be because a hidden social phenomenon was identified? Suggestion is that explanation ignores that increase in student numbers in education, especially secondary and tertiary. A trend that started in the 1950s and which lead to a doubling of post-compulsory secondary enrolments from 1976-1994.

The suggestion is that attending education did not meant that this huge and newly diverse population of students were successful. The article is a historical review and attempts to show how this diversity was seen in terms of deficit and deficiency and subsequently shaped literacy discussions.

The 70s and the context

1970s key period in construction of a literacy crisis in Oz. Both adult and school literacy mentioned in media. The late 1960s importation of ideas such as remedial education contributed. Whitlam from 72 places emphasis on equality and rectifying disadvantage. i.e. through unequal allocation of funds. HIghlighting a difference between conservative views of quality learning being sacrificed to achieve equality. Literacy argued as being related to shifts in the social order (by this author).

Literacy or morality

Illiteracy seen as an afflication, disease shame and leading to prison. Goes hand in hand with an increase in surveys and statistics to show scope of problem, but wild differences in results lead to a move to discussion of trends, rather than numbers.

The cause of illiteracy?

Multiple. There’s the biological/pyschological reason. A focus on lack.

Problems in the home. Over-watching of TV in the home etc.

“Most significant claim” is poor teaching in schools. A range of reasons, including adoption of “progressive” ideas.

Then there is teacher education institutions. i.e. trendy courses, that don’t focus on the basics.

The government.


The problem in all of the above is deficiency, in all of the above. The response being to focus on competence.

Mmm, but doesn’t go onto say much about what is wrong with this perspective. NOt a strong finish.

From training reform to training packages

And now this reading

Smith, E. & Keating, J. (2003). From training reform to training packages. Tuggerah, NSW: Social Science Press. pp. 16-39.

Okay, this is looking at the VET system, not sure how it connects with what we’re doing. Nothing in the tute/guide to tell me either. As it turns out, I’m not reading this, just noting the section headings.

Changes in the Australian economy

  • End of the post war boom
  • Changes in the structure of the economy
  • Changes in technology
  • Changes in the way work is organised
  • Changes in participation in the labour market in Oz
  • Change in jobs for the future

The response to these changes

  • Industry restructuring
  • Industrial relations response: Award restructuring
  • Implications of award restructuring for training

And corporatism and federalism as factors that shaped the form of training reform.

Changes from the late 1980s

  • Enterprise bargaining and Australian workplace agreements
  • The quality movement
  • Working nation: implementation and demise
  • The Karpin report
  • Turn of the century developments – i.e. globalisation etc.

Again a “so what” problem. Yes, all very interesting, but how does this connect with my study to be a high school teacher?

Making the connection

A pointer to an Oz government resource on Workplace literacy. It doesn’t seem that there is much here? No, it’s just the rather confusing user interface used by the government department.

Now a statement of what we will be expected to do (at a minimum)

  • Read competency standards and identify the specific communication skills embedded throughout
  • Relate those communications skills to specific tasks in the workplace (and/or its simulation)
  • Identify learners who may have difficulties with the demands of these tasks
  • Know when a specialist LLN teacher is required and be willing to work with that person
  • Check learning resources for their appropriateness to the abilities of your learners and the Performance Criteria of the Elements of competency (with due regard to the recommended Key Competency level/s, Evidence Guide and Register of Variables also)
  • Design assessment tasks that are also appropriate as above.

But little to no description of what any of this means. What is a LLN teacher? Learning, Literacy and numeracy? What competency standards? Couldn’t see them on the WELL site. Ahh the next section explains, LLN = Language Literacy and numeracy.

Occupational literacy audit

We’re meant to complete a occupational literacy audit for an occupation. It appears this will be related to the first assignment. In fact, it is exactly one of the tasks. Mmm, I can see some intelligent reuse happening here, it’s probably even intended in the course design.

That’s done. 1 of 5 elements for that assignment. I will need to revisit the rubric for the assignment to see how that early work went.

Capturing Key Elements in Multiliteracies Projects

The next bit quotes from key elements in multilteracies from the book “Multiliteracies and Diversity in Education” (Healy, 2008). We are meant to “consider them”. I’m going to interpret that as an excuse to riff, somewhat ill-informed, about them in the following.

They are

  • New learning pedagogy promotes student agency: a say in and control over learning.
    The multiliteracies stuff did talk about “agency” being a key part of its make up. But this seems to suggest something different? Either way, it seems to be sticking with the constructivist orthodoxy that now exists within schools, or at least universities teaching trainee teachers.
  • Learning by Design (Kalantzis & Cope 2005) enables productive text engagement for real purposes and audiences.
    My problem here is I wonder what they mean by “Learning by Design”. Okay, this book excerpt (Kalantzis & Cope 2005) offers this definition

    The Learning by Design approach is also an attempt to imagine and test innovative tools and learning environments in which the blackboard, textbook, exercise book and test are augmented and at times replaced by digital technologies. In the case of Learning by Design, this is not simply a case of ‘digital makeover’ of legacy teaching practices; it is a process of imagining how learning may be different and more effective

    That turns out to be the last of four components. It essentially appears to be a focus on designing learning experiences in which students participate (in a constructivist sense) and a significant consideration of the multiliteracies stuff and the role of technology as stated above. Hence the “real purposes and audiences”. To some extent, Learning Engagement theory might be slight connected as an example.

  • Texts, and the technologies through which they communicate, determine how we interact with phenomenon, idea, message and object – we learn from and contribute to the text environment according to our social and cultural orientations.
    I can agree with that.
  • Texts that exhibit multimodality are designed using collaborations between any of the visual, spatial, linguistic, audio, and gestural information (Kalantzis & Cope 2004b).
    i.e. multimodal media require multiple skills/literacies?
  • Multiliteracies projects provide the scope to bring community practices with text into the classroom.
    I can make some assumptions, but without knowing what is truly meant by “multiliteracies projects” I find it hard to consider this one.
  • Learning by Design has its agendas bound to processes of civic and private activity.
    Again, I need more of an idea of Learning by Design before I can consider that.
  • Student diversity is recognised and celebrated in a learning community ethos.
    yes, that’s good. But again context is missing.
  • Learners have capacities for engaging four knowledge processes: experiencing the known and the new; conceptualising by naming and theorising; analysing functionally and critically; and applying appropriately and creatively (Kalantzis and Cope 2004b). The degree to which these processes are utilised is highly dependent on the learning contexts that teachers design with and for students.
    Okay, that seems a reasonable framework of knowledge processes in terms of literacy, but how does it/is it meant to fit with the rest of the stuff we’re being introduced to?

I have the feeling that I could have done without 20/30 pages of reading about the historical changes that have contributed to literacies, multiliteracies and much more reading about these considerations.


We’re now meant to

Consider the skills you listed in your Occupational Literacy Audit. Now think about students in a secondary school. From your practicum experience, what does secondary school have in place to prepare students for the workplace? How many students have part-time jobs? How many have traineeships? Does your school have Work Education courses? VET courses?

The topic for this week’s Discussion Forum is “What’s the gap between what students know, and what they need to know, to be competent in the workplace?”

Actually, I’m not going to engage. I haven’t been on practicum yet and any knowledge I have of school students and schools is based on very limited knowledge. I don’t think that’s an effective foundation on which to base this activity.

Week 2: Supportive Learning Environments

Two courses down, two to go. The following summarises study and thoughts for week 2 of the Supportive Learning Environments course.

Attitudes and perceptions

Unliked the PCK course, it doesn’t appear that this course offers an overview of what we’ll be covering, at least not beyond the title “Attitudes and perceptions”.

It does appear will be spending more time on the Dimensions of Learning. And if I knew DoL better I would probably have recognised the topics title as being Dimension 1 of DoL. It appears I have more to internalise. We do get some focus questions

  • How can the teacher create a positive classroom climate?
  • How can the teacher encourage positive attitudes towards classroom tasks?
  • What significance do the emotional/social aspects of school life have on learning?

In terms of reading 29 pages of DoL.

DoL – Dimension 1 – Attitudes and perceptions

Not all that surprisingly, the chapter on DoL#1 has two main sections

  1. Help students develop positive attitudes and perceptions (PA&P) about classroom climate.
  2. Help students develop PA&P about classroom tasks.

Funnily enough matching the first two focus questions. Each of these major sections get divided further into sections and then strategies.

PA&P and classroom climate

  1. Help students understand that A&T about classroom climate influence learning.
    Including that it is a shared responsibility (teacher and student) to keep attitudes positive. Given that I have a questioning nature I often come across as cynical of negative, hell when folk get really silly I will be cynical and negative. Shall be interesting to see how I go with encouraging and maintaining positive attitudes. I especially dislike the “example” in the margin of a primary school principal resorting to motivational posters.

    So strategies include giving examples either based on my experience, hypothetical or of famous people using positive attitudes to improve learning and get them talking and thinking abou it.

    Feel accepted by teachers and peers – the next grouping of strategies

  2. Establish a relationship with each student in the class
    i.e. show that you know them and their interests.
  3. Monitor and attend to your own attitudes.
    Avoid bias either way toward students. Oh dear, practicing a form of positive visualisation (Matty Hayden eat your heart out).
  4. Engage in equitable and positive classroom behaviour.
    This one seems to be the practical implementation of the previous one. Various tactics to include all students. e.g. meet the eyes of all, move around the room, give enough wait time…
  5. Recognise and provide for students’ individual differences.
    A no brainer.
  6. Respond positively to students’ incorrect responses or lack of response.
    i.e. if they feel you think they are stupid for being wrong this builds fear of failure into them. Helping my 6yo son with his homework the last couple of days has highlight the importance of this to me.
  7. Vary the positive reinforcement offered when students give the correct response.
    Too much praise can be a problem, some students don’t like it. Various alternatives given.
  8. Structure opportunities for students to work with peers.
    i.e. good group work and encourage feelings of acceptance. Emphasis on the good.
  9. Provide opportunities for students to get to know and accept each other.
    i.e help them break out of the existing social networks and establish new ones, offer opportunities throughout the year. I can see how many of the suggested strategies could be problematic in some contexts.
  10. Help students develop their ability to use their own strategies for gaining acceptance from their teachers and peers.
    Separate strategies, though a lot in common, for teachers and students. Get students talking about strategies and approaches.

    Experience a sense of comfort and order

  11. Frequently and systematically use activities that involve physical movement.
    Keep ’em moving.
  12. Introduce the concept of “bracketing”.
    Essentially the conscious process of putting aside distracting thoughts to focus on something specific. e.g. after lunch, putting thought about the fight that happened until after class. Various strategies to get the students to engage in this practice.
  13. Establish and communicate classroom rules and procedures.
    Factory/assembly line setting much? The idea is that regularity/order help learning. The students knowing what to expect. Get them involved in setting etc.
  14. Be aware of malicious teasing or threats insight or outside of the classroom and take steps to stop such behaviour.
  15. Have students identify their own standards for comfort and order.

I have to admit to some reservations about the focus on acceptance. I can see how being an outcast is likely to be detrimental to learning, but this push for acceptance might have its own problems.

PA&P about classroom tasks

Learners must

  1. Perceive tasks as valuable or interesting.
  2. Believe they have the ability and resources to complete tasks.
  3. Clearly understand what they are being asked to do.

Strategies include

  1. Help students understand that learning is influenced by A&T related to classroom tasks.
    Slight modification of 1st strategy above. In fact, almost a direct copy.

    Perceive tasks as valuable and interesting

  2. Establish a sense of academic trust.
    i.e. students have consistent experience with you the teacher as someone who always sets tasks that a valuable or interesting.
  3. Help students understand how specific knowledge is valuable.
    So, again some commonality. Get the students to identify the connection. Relate it to real life. Preview latter tasks where “all is revealed”.
  4. Use a variety of ways to engage students in classroom tasks.
    Show interest as the teacher, anecdotes, student choice, authentic tasks…
  5. Create classroom tasks that relate to students’ interests and goals.
    Gives an example of a student inventory which asks questions like, if it were possible: what would you like to do? Where would you like to go? What period of history would you live in? What projects are you working on? What would you like to work on?

    Believe they have the ability and resources to complete tasks

  6. Provide appropriate feedback.
  7. Teacher students to use positive self-talk.
    Mmmm, get students to turn ‘I hate this class’ into “I love this class”, even if they don’t believe it.
  8. Help students recognise that they have the abilities to complete a particular task.
    Essentially strategies to show them they have done the preparation, got the knowledge.
  9. Help students understand that believing in their ability to complete a task includes believing that they have the ability to get the help and resources needed.
    i.e. make it okay to ask questions or for help.

    Understand and be clear about tasks

  10. Help students be clear about the directions and demands of the task.
  11. Provide students with clarity about the knowledge that the task addresses.
  12. Provide students with clear expectations of performance levels for tasks.

So, my first experience with DoL. I can see the value, there is nothing new here, but it is structured in a way to help, especially if used consistently across an organisation. I can, however, see how it could become another straight jacket and another set of expectations to be gamed.

What next

Mmm, seems the guide might be missing something. It’s referring to something from the text, but doesn’t say what.

Oh well, question asked on forum, moving on.

The key to classroom management

Now onto this article by Marzano and Marzano – “The key to classroom management”.

Some focus questions

  • According to this article, what is the keystone for all other aspects of behaviour management?
    A Marzano (2003) study found the quality of student-teacher relationships to be the keystone. Teachers with high-quality relationships ahd 31% fewer discipline problems etc.
  • List the characteristics of effective teacher-student relationships.
    Not teacher’s personality, or that the student sees the teacher as a friend. Instead characterised by specific teaching behaviours: show appropriate levels of dominance; exhibit appropriate levels of co-operation; and, are aware of high-needs students.
  • What is meant by “appropriate levels of dominance”? Can you link this approach to other teaching styles described in earlier models that we have studied?
    Where dominance means the ability for the teacher to provide clear purpose and strong guidance regarding bother learning and student behaviour.

    There are connections with some of the strategies in DoL#1, but also elsewhere (e.g. “Time on task” and “High expectations” etc. in the C&G 7 Principles)

  • What are some of the key strategies teachers can use to maintain this “appropriate level of dominance”?
    Establishing clear behaviours expectations and learning goals, and exhibiting assertive behaviour. With various strategies listed under each of those.

On the importance of what teachers do

Research has shown us that teachers’ actions in their classrooms have twice the impact on student achievement as do school policies regarding curriculum, assessment, staff collegiality, and community involvement

And classroom management is one of the most important jobs. With one meta-analysis found it had the largest effect on student achievement.

Does bring up the notion of flexible goals in “appropriate levels of cooperation”.

Awareness of high needs students

Defines 5 categories and some sub-categories of types of high needs students

  1. Passive students – refrain from criticism, reward small successes, safe classroom climate
    • Fear of failure
    • Fear of relations
  2. Agressive students – behaviour contracts, immediate rewards/punishment, …surely more than that?
    • Hostile
    • Oppositional
    • Covert
  3. Attention problems – teaching skills and basic concentration, help with task decomposition, reward, peer tutor
    • Hyperactive
    • Inattentive
  4. Perfectionists – encourage more realistic standards, help accept mistakes, opportunities to tutor others.
  5. Socially inept – counsel about behaviours.

Social and Emotional learning

And now a Powerpoint set from CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning).

Some focus questions

  • How similar or different do you believe this to be from the Australian context?
    In terms of how well the statistics match the Australian context I really couldn’t say. Anecdotally (i.e. solely on my limited experience) I would not be surprised. Given the apparent prevalence of SEL programs in Australian schools (e.g. Queensland it would appear likely.
  • What are some of the practical ideas for how to solve problems with students in a collaborative way?
    There doesn’t seem to be a direct response to this question in the powerpoint. There are a range of ideas mentioned in the DoL literature.

One of the core beliefs of CASEL is the “create a responsible society member” purpose of schools.

15-20% of US students experience social, emotional and mental health problems. 25-30% have school adjustment problems. Rising to 60% in low SOE districts. Link between this maladjustment and later serious problem behaviours. 70-80% of students not getting right mental health services. More stats on risk behaviours (28.3% had 5 or more alcoholic drinks in a couple of hours) and development assets (e.g. 24% think teachers care about me)

Some additional questions arise from the CASEL claims about the ability to “to recognize and manage emotions, develop caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations effectively” as skills that can be taught.

  • How do you respond to such claims?
    To some extent I see these skills as similar to other skills. i.e. it can be learnt and taught. However, they are not the types of skills traditional thought of in a school setting, a setting that tends to place emphasis on the academic or cognitive skills. Given the existence of programs like this it would appear obvious that many people think it can be taught and CASEL’s basis on scientific research gives that assumption some rigour. I think one reason such skills are likely to be more difficult to teach is that not as many folk have set down to analyse these skills and develop insights that can be understood and taught. I imagine this is the purpose of organisations like CASEL.
  • Do you think it is the responsibility of teachers to try to foster these skills in the students they teach?
    Yes, if only because students with those skills will be able to learn much more effectively and be “easier” to teach. If you accept the “prepare good citizens” purpose for school then that provides additional support for the idea that it is the responsibility of teachers to foster these skills.
  • What have your own attitudes and perceptions been towards formal education?
    I have generally succeeded at formal education, played the game. Though my initial forays into undergraduate education suffered due to some poor attitudes and perceptions. 20+ years on, I am wondering how the difference in attitude and perceptions will play out in this program. Being somewhat older and somewhat more opinionated, I have had to (at times) make an effort to be a little more open and reflective on issues that I would generally have ruled out.
  • Can you recall particular teachers who helped you develop positive attitudes? If so, how did they achieve this?
    No, but I think that says more about the length of time since I completed formal education and my memory. Rickie’s slightly repeated use of the “resist impulsivity” DoL mantra during the residential school did cause me to reflect a bit on my behaviour.
  • To what extent is the teacher responsible for the establishment of a positive classroom environment?
    Fairly significant, given the hoped for greater level of knowledge and the responsibility for creating the learning environment I would see the teacher as being largely responsible. That said there remains some responsibility for the student, the parents and especially the school administration (and possibly others) in contributing to both the class environment and the broader environment in which it operates. No classroom environment is an island.
  • What is your reaction to the strategies suggested in Dimensions of Learning?
    There is nothing new there. I was aware of much of it. A small number of the strategies I find a little questionable, but hold my final conclusions in abeyance. Simply getting students to say positive things is not, to me, sufficient. Another reaction is that much of the research evidence supporting these strategies is getting quite old. It makes me wonder if there is more recent research that changes or expands the nature of these strategies.

Schemata and the source of dissonance?

The following is intended to be an illustration of one of the potential origins of the gap between learning technologists and educators. It picks up on the idea of schemata from this week’s study in one course and connects to my point about the dissonance between how educational technology is implemented in universities and what we know about how people learn.

I’m sure folk who have been around the education discipline longer than I will have seen this already. But it is a nice little activity and not one that I’d seen previously.

An experiment

Read the following paragraph and fill in the blanks. If you’re really keen add a comment below with what you got. Actually, gathering a collection of responses from a range of people would be really interesting.

The questions that p________ face as they raise ch________ from in_________ to adult are not easy to an _________. Both f______ and m________ can become concerned when health problems such as co_________ arise anytime after the e____ stage to later life. Experts recommend that young ch____ should have plenty of s________ and nutritious food for healthy growth. B___ and g____ should not share the same b______ or even be in the same r______. They may be afraid of the d_____.

Now, take a look at the original version of this paragraph.

Is there any difference between it and what you got? Certainly was for me.


This problem was introduced in a week that was looking at Piaget and other theories about how folk learn. In particular, this example was used as an example of the role schemata play in how people perceive and process the world and what is happening within it.

I am a father of three wonderful kids. So, over the last 10+ years I’ve developed some significant schemata around raising kids. When I read the above paragraph, the words that filled the blanks for me were: parents, children, infant, answer, fathers, mothers,….and it was hear that I first paused. None of my children really suffered from colic, so that didn’t spring to mind, but I started actively searching for ways I could make this paragraph fit the schemata that I had activated. i.e. I was thinking “parent”, so I was trying to make these things fit.

Schemata are mental representations of an associated set of perceptions etc. The influence how you see what is going on.

I’m somewhat interested in seeing what words others have gotten from the above exercise, especially those without (recent) experience of parental responsibilities.

A difference of schemata

Learning technologists (or just plain innovative teachers) have significantly different schemata than your plain, everyday academic. Especially those that haven’t had much experience of online learning, constructivist learning, *insert “good” teaching practice of your choice*. Even within the population of learning technologists there is a vast difference in schemata.

Different schemata means that these folk see the world in very different ways.

A triumph of assimilation of accommodation

The on-going tendency of folk to say things like (as in an article from the Australian newspaper’s higher education section) Online no substitute for face to face teaching says something about their schemata and (to extend the (naive/simplistic) application of Piaget) the triumph of assimilation over accommodation.

For Piaget people are driven to maintain an equilibrium between what the know and what they observe in the outside world. When they perceive something new in the world they enter a state of disequilibrium and are driven to return to balance. For Piaget, there are two ways this is done.

  1. Assimilation – where the new insight is fitted into existing schemata.
  2. Accommodation – where schemata are changed (either old are modified or new are created) to account for the new insights.

I’d suggest that for a majority of academic staff (and senior management) when it comes to new approaches to learning and teaching their primary coping mechanism has been assimilation. Forcing those new approaches into the schemata they already have. i.e. the Moodle course site is a great place to upload all my handouts and have online lectures.

As I’ve argued before I believe this is because the approaches used to introduce new learning approaches in universities have had more in common with behaviourism than constructivism. Consequently the approaches have not been all that successful in changing schemata.

Week 2: Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Okay, so now it’s onto the second course for the week. The topic for this week is “Learners and Learning”. Looks like we’re learning about the brain, how it works and the Dimensions of Learning (That this link for DoL is on the institution’s website, but with a strange title is interesting. Sure there are some stories behind it).

What to do?

I am wondering exactly what I should do, there is an eStudyGuide which is meant to be used by distance education students, which is essentially what I am. But then there is also a range of resources and activities within the topic on the Moodle site. The apparent duplication is somewhat annoying, especially when there is little consistency. It appears that the study guide is the way to go.

Biological basis for learning

There is acknowledgement of this

e. In a biological sense, learning occurs through the growth of new synapses in one’s brain which becomes part of the complex series of networks / connections that make up ‘the mind’ and through which we are able to ‘do things’ or learn to do new things.

Interestingly, the definition of schema

A theoretical concept describing the current state of one’s mind and the process
that inform it. One’s schema is what is used to process information; to think, to do. One’s schema can be changed or modified and this process of change or modification can be referred to as learning

Seems to suggests a single schema. I would have thought there were possibly multiple, depending on the identity at the fore….more reading to do, this is just the intro.

The task list

  • Reading 2-1. A report from Demos titled “About learning”.
  • Reading 2-2 (which is not a direct link, but some silly use of Moodle resources that doesn’t quite work).
  • Reading 2-3. Learning to go with the grain of the brain
  • Read “The learning program”
  • Reading 2-4.
  • Activity 2-1.
  • Activity 2-2.
  • Activity 2-3.

As mentioned previously, there have been complaints that education courses don’t require enough reading, so how much reading is there for this week: Readings 2-1 (28 pages), 2-2 (3 pages), 2-3 (5 pages), 2-4 ()

About learning

This is a report commissioned by the UK government to (essentially) develop definitions about the concepts of learning in terms of schools. The working group had 7 members including: 3 head teachers, 3 cognitive scientists and a chairman (with a couple of researchers).

One of the points made is that our understanding is evolving rapidly and while questions about this are answerable, it is only partially so. There is a need for cognitive scientists and teachers to work more together. Suggestion that training for teachers emphasises even less of what is known about learning.

Teachers having an explicit, elaborate and expert view of learning depends more on chance than on a planned sequence of initial training and continuing professional development

Bemoans that many teachers aren’t aware of latest research and an absence of common vocabulary.

Is it possible learn how to learn?

We share the approach of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme’s Learning How to Learn Project which treats learning to learn not as a single entity or skill, but as a family of learning practices that enhance one’s capacity to learn. There is no consensus about the membership or genealogy of this family, or even how distinctive it is. Indeed, it is difficult to disentangle learning to learn from just learning,

meta-cognition is seen as “a very important or senior member of the family” of views around learning to learn. It is defined as

the capacity to monitor, evaluate, control and change how one thinks and learns.

Evidence for recent developments

This quote matches my feeling about the importance of reflection to teachers

The best teachers constantly monitor what is happening to students as they set about learning and investigate when things do not proceed as planned or expected.

And also makes me wonder why senior university management just don’t get the need to do this as well.

There’s a bit of talk here about the different approaches between teachers and cognitive scientists about gathering evidence for how people learn. There is a lot made of how the CS folk “test(ed) empirically through methods that are accepted within the scientific community” and then the distinction is made between “scientific evidence” and “practice evidence”. However, do argue that it is best to have both and mention two schemes that have this

A summary of what they say about learning styles, which is interesting in light of their use in this program. There are three problems

  1. Research evidence is highly variable, for many the scientific evidence base is very slender because the reliability and validity of the measures are doutbful.
  2. There is even less evidence of improved learning when applied to classroom situations.
  3. Some use of learning styles is really bad, e.g. belief that styles are fixed and innate. Students are labeled and they internalise this label.

There is the suggestion that learning styles can be used successfully to get students to reflect deeply on their learning and develop meta-cognitive capacities.

What we know: from science

Refer to the book, How people learn: brain, mind, experience and school” which groups implications into the following

  • Learner-centered;
    i.e. starts with the learners’ knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs.
  • Knowledge-centered;
    Environments that aim to provide for learners’ understanding, rather than mere performance. Learners know their way around a disciplinary environment.
  • Assessment-centered;
    Strong on formative feedback.
  • Community-centered.
    Recognise that classrooms are placed within broader communities. i.e. important to have home/family support; enable students to use what they learn in school outside.

Some myths busted

  • There is no right/left brain. Both hemispheres are used in every cogntive task.
  • “critical periods” for learning are over applied in education.
  • There is no support that one type of learning is more natural.
  • Brain plasticity means that learning at any age grows neurons
  • Brain gym has not evidence base in cognitive neuroscience.
    But there maybe educational value.

Some calls for research that gets the scientists hands dirty by working with practitioners.

Reading 2-2: Piaget’s constructivism

Based on this review which focuses on four key concepts: assimilation, accommodation, equilibration, and schemas. I need to look at a few other resources to feel I got this.

Learning or cognitive development is a complex process affected by three ideas:

  • Schema – mental representations of an associated set of perceptions, ideas..the basic building blocks of thinking. Cognitive development arises from the development of new schemata and better organisation of existing schemata.
    These are theoretical constructs though brain research reached similar conclusions. They never stop changing.
  • Assimilation – where new information/ideas from the real world are placed into existing mental/cognitive structures.
  • Adaptation – changing existing schemata to fit new information. Also includes creation of new schemata.
  • Equilibration – the biological drive to maintain a balance between the environment and a person’s cognitive structures.

Reading 2-3: Learning to go with the grain of the brain

Apparently the article appeared in a 1999 issue of “Education Canada”. Starts with another exhortation that 21st century learners needing something. Looks like being a summary of more of what we know about the “bain’s adaptive functions” – learning. Of course, the date means that this article is 10 years out of date.

Reports on (without citing) long term studies that show the greatest predictors of success at university level are

  1. The quantity and quality of discussion in the home before entering school.
  2. Amount of independent reading by the child.
  3. Clarity of value systems as understood and practiced.
  4. Strong positive peer group pressure.
  5. The primary school.

Quotes the Santa Fe institute

The method people naturally employ to acquire knowledge is largely unsupported by traditional classroom practice. The human mind is better equipped to gather information about the world by operating within it than by reading about it, hearing lectures on it, or studying abstract models of it.

There is a bit of support here for the influence of evolutionary development, a quote from HBR

you can take man out of the Stone Age, but you can’t take the Stone Age out of man.

Cites the industrial revolution as going against this influence in creating work that only used a small portion of the brain and requiring other strategies. I assume this has parallels with the factory orientation of schools and they suggest this as a partial explanation for the “crisis in schools”.

Gets stronger. We’ve turned childhood into a virtual holiday. Trivialised adolescence by denying them the opportunity to learn from their experiences. Now making the point about school being based on a factory model and a notion of curriculum from universities that focuses on academic learning. And subsequently many students are not being challenged by school.

And now it gets onto the solution. i.e. schooling based on what evolution prepared us for before this blip of industrialisation.

  • Start with emphasis on young kids growing a range of skills and their growing responsibility for directing their own work.
  • Make them a worker as early as possible, not just a recipient
  • As they get older, intergrate learning in real situations.
  • Classes for 5yo, no more than 10 or 12 students.
  • And harnessing older, retired professional folk to fill the resource gap.

Reading 2-4: Powerpoints on Learning

Starts with the jumbled letter meme.

Ahh, also solves “Activity 2-1” for us. Which is fill in the blanks of the following

The questions that p________ face as they raise ch________ from in_________ to adult are not easy to an _________. Both f______ and m________ can become concerned when health problems such as co_________ arise anytime after the e____ stage to later life. Experts recommend that young ch____ should have plenty of s________ and nutritious food for healthy growth. B___ and g____ should not share the same b______ or even be in the same r______. They may be afraid of the d_____.

What do you get?

Give you a tip, it’s nothing about children or parents, which is what I got.

Reinforcing the message, we can learn both procedural and declarative knowledge.

This program arises from work done on a Bachelor of Learning Management, where management is defined as “design with intended outcomes”, which means Learning Management is “designing learning programs that ensure learning outcomes in all students”

And here come the Dimensions of Learning, 5 of them, where you should start with the first and the fifth when designing.

  1. Attitudes and perceptions
  2. Acquire and integrate
  3. Extend and refine
  4. Use meaningfully
  5. Habits of mind

Mostly applies these to how we should be learning, sure to be expanded later on.

Critical reflection – process of thinking using established research and a series of evaluations in order to learn about something new…and much more

Activity 2-2

Another one to surface scheme, a series of questions about current affairs (from a few years ago) e.g. “The war in Iraq is justified”. We’re meant to compare with someone else and reflect on why there might be differences. In short because we have different schemata, different perspectives, formed by different backgrounds.

Activity 2-3

Using the readings and a Internet search, provide definitions for (wikipedia?)

  • Learning
    The acquisition of new or modification of existing knowledge, skills, behaviours etc implemented biologically as the creation of neurons.
  • Memory
    The ability to store, retain and recall information and experiences
  • Emotions
    “the complex psychophysiological experience of an individual’s state of mind as interacting with biochemical (internal) and environmental (external) influences”
  • Thinking
    ” any mental or intellectual activity involving an individual’s subjective consciousness”
  • The senses
    “the physiological capacities within organisms that provide inputs for perception”

Summarise how this knowledge will inform you work as a teacher…..I don’t really know and at the end of a long afternoon, don’t really care just at the moment. Time to cut and run.

Creating a framework for eLearning design

Another task for the ICTs for Learning Design course. This one is described as

Create a framework using both in combination that you believe will support excellent eLearning design. It is useful to consider Learning Engagement Theory as setting the valued learning context for your learners. And to consider Bloom’s Taxonomy as ensuring that you move your students though a learning design that will support every phase, from knowledge and comprehension to evaluation and synthesis.


Being the type of person I am (generally described as “pain in the arse”), I have some concerns or questions about this task, they include

  • Design is hard and we’re starting with it.
    For me design involves a combination of the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (it’s a framework we’re using here, I’ll use the revised version) analysing, evaluating and creating. Arguably it’s a combination of all, but in this case we’re thinking about a design framework to support eLearning design which means no real application. Which makes it even more difficult, we’re up a meta level. We’re not talking about design, we’re talking about thinking about how we will design. This is higher level thinking, I’m not sure we’re all that prepared for this.

    I would have thought being shown a few more examples of completed learning designs in combination with their espoused design frameworks and being asked to understand and reflect upon those would be a useful first step. There’s been a little of this, but we haven’t yet really seen learning designs and their espoused design frameworks. Some of the questions being asked by other students in the forums seem to be evidence of this.

  • TPACK – limited T, limited P and a bit more C, and little PC, TC or TP.
    TPACK is another framework we’re introduced to this week and it offers another interesting perspective on asking us to perform this higher level task. The TPACK authors suggest that good learning design arises from the interplay of really good knowledge about technology, pedagogy and content. As student teachers in the first 2 weeks of study, most of us have fairly limited knowledge in most of these areas. It would appear not to be a great foundation on which to build thinking about eLearning design. Learning by doing?
  • The missing instructional design theory/framework.
    We’re being asked to work with only two frameworks, which don’t necessarily appear to provide complete coverage for all sets of learning design. Learning engagement theory describes a particular model for a learning process/design: Relate, Create, Donate. Bloom’s taxonomy defines a set of cognitive levels we might want students to achieve while going through the learning process. But neither offer any guidance about how to design learning, i.e. it’s missing an instructional design theory/framework.
  • What are we designing?
    Are we designing an activity like the Mobile phone wiki, a complete lesson, a complete course/unit? It’s possible that these frameworks could be applied at each of these levels, however, if I were working a complete course level, I’d probably be looking for some diversity, some additional frameworks/approaches.

In the end the assessment is set. We have to do it. So, it’s time to work around those concerns and or get answers.

The Framework

The framework I’ll suggest using combines constructive alignment (how to design), Bloom’s taxonomy (learning outcomes) and Learning engagement theory (a conceptual framework for technology-based learning and teaching). After reflection, I would further add the connectivist paradigm and Chickering and Gamson’s 7 principles as frameworks/theories that are likely to influence my design.

The process goes something like this, influenced by a simplistic flavour of constructive alignment

  1. Identify the learning outcomes.
    The assumption is that there are a priori goals or outcomes that this learning design is meant to achieve. Make these explicit. Use Bloom’s taxonomy to state them, the RadioJames Objectives Builder might help here.
  2. Identify how students are going to demonstrate they have achieved these outcomes and how they will be measured..
    A reliance on both learning engagement theory and Bloom’s helps there.
  3. Arrange activities that require students to develop and practice the outcomes.
    Largely learning engagement theory as the basis for the overall learning process, but then using the learning outcomes as a guide to implement specific experiences along the way (e.g. the mobile phone wiki). Additional insights needed in addressing some of the difficulties known about learning engagement theory. e.g. encouraging effective student collaboration and definition of project.

At least for me, underpinning all of this is a connectivist perspective to how I will operate. The ideas that I see or have archived from my PLN will influence some of the ideas about particular activities and technologies. i.e. there will be a tendency to borrow and adapt ideas I see modelled by others. It is also likely that my design of activities in the above would be influenced by that perspective.

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