Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

Starting the re-design of EDC3100

Today marks the formal start of the process of re-designing the course EDC3100, ICTs and Pedagogy. This afternoon is the first meeting with the LITE team (Learning Innovation Teaching Enhancement) and I need to get my head around the process and think about what might make sense to do.

Where are the really good examples?

Just about ever teacher preparation program in the world is likely to have some sort of course designed to engage pre-service teachers in the use of ICTs. An important step in this process will be identifying the good examples and stealing ideas being inspired by their example.

So, if you know of some good examples, leave a pointer in the comments below.

What follows is some initial thinking.

Faculty focus

Somewhat necessarily the re-design needs to meet with organisational requirements. Here’s what I can make of those.

A major focus is on “ensuring compliance with AITSL and QCT professional standards and an important component of this is encouraging the embedding of ICTs within the pedagogy of the courses.

If there is a course within the faculty that should have ICTs embedded within it, EDC3100 should be it. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that EDC3100 should be leading this push.

Apparently there is a “tool” to help embedding ICTs within courses that align with the professional standards. It appears that this is a table in a Word document that helps map activities and resources from the course against the standards. Given my prior thinking around alignment and mapping projects, I’m not convinced that this sort of is a really big help as it never becomes integrated into everyday practice. It’s a good first move, but has known problems.

I will have to engage with the tool and will aim to do so publicly. But first I’ll have to ask permission to make the tool public.

Current problems

What follows is an ad hoc list of the problems, there is overlap, I see with the course

  • Big assignment.
    A 70% final assignment places too much pressure on students and encourages surface learning.
  • Limited feedback.
    The 29% first assignment is due around week 7 meaning that students get little feedback on their learning in the first half of the course.
  • Traditional pedagogies and walking the walk.
    In a course that talks about the use of ICTs to transform learning and teaching, the learning and teaching in the course has been fairly traditional.
  • Under engagement of students in using ICTs.
    This is a 3rd year course, the students have generally done a fair bit of teaching on prac and theory about teaching in courses. I’m not sure the course currently encourages the students to engage with a broad array of technologies. This lack of awareness of technologies limits what they can use in their teaching. There’s a similar query around the depth of engagement, there’s value in gaining deep experience/knowledge with a tool.
  • The students don’t see themselves as, or act as teachers.
    Mentioned briefly here. There’s a lot of factors here, but the nature of the assessment and the pedagogy doesn’t help.
  • The breadth of sectors.
    Students in this course range from early childhood through to VET teachers. The absence of a direct connection to their context/interest impacts on engagement/motivation etc.
  • The students are generally confined to the course.
    Recent changes in the assessment have addresses this to some extent, but too much of what the students do in this course is still confined to performance for the teachers of the course in the confines of the University environment. Not necessarily reflective of the changes being wrought in society by ICTs.
  • Do the synopsis, rationale and objectives fit and serve a purpose?
    It’s probably sensible to assume that if we’re mapping this course against AITSL and QCT standards, then the objectives, synopsis and rationale of the course should probably have some connection with those standards. After all, that’s fundamental to this alignment theory thing.
  • The professional standards mean nothing to the students.
    If these are seen as important, then they should be more prevalent through the course.
  • The constraints of the LMS and institutional eportfolios.
    From some perspectives, the institution and its perspective of e-learning seems somewhat stuck in the “industrial e-learning” paradigm. The LMS and the institutional policies seem to want to keep online learning constrained to the institutional systems. I’d like to break out of that (see the bit above about walking the walk).
  • Multiple campuses.
    There’s a tendency for students in multiple campuses to be separated into groups. This does provide some benefits, but also some tensions.
  • The tyranny of 250+ students.
    Being flexible and innovative with 10 students is much easier than with 250+. Size does matter. Both individually in terms of workload but also because of institutional risk aversion and the subsequent pressures that brings. Many of the systems and processes around this course don’t work very well with 250+ students leading to a lot of busy work.

An early vision

What I’d like to do will be impacted upon by a range of constraints including organisational factors, time etc. What follows is an early vision based solely on my prejudices and unsullied by practical concerns or reflection.

  • Students create and maintain their own personal portfolio (on a blog etc.) where they do most of their work during the semester.
  • Assessment may be some variation on contract marking (e.g. Dave Cormier’s approach here) or some other approach that gives the student the ability and responsibility to identify purposeful assessment for them.
  • Perhaps have some sort of badge system (i.e. criteria/standards) outlining the type of learning the students have to demonstrate with an existing set of activities they could do, along with the possibility of creating their own.
    e.g. the professional standards might fit in here “Use ICTs to empower students from diverse backgrounds….etc”
  • Incorporate some form of self and peer assessment into all of this.
  • Have some significant flexibility so that students could choose to focus more on some of the standards. e.g. a special ed teacher might want to focus a bit more on “diverse backgrounds etc” than a more traditional classroom teacher.
  • Have at least some of these tasks require collaboration and also the creation of publicly useful artifacts.
  • Have no fixed sequence in the course, instead structure what resources/activities there are against the standards/statements and allow the students to pick and choose how they attack it.
  • Move the academics role in this course away from giving lectures, running tutorials and marking assignments towards participating in the network and responding to student needs.
  • Have some form of technology that supports both the students and the staff in all of this.
    As a man with a hammer (as in “if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail”) I can see BIM being able to do this with a few tweaks. Seems a logical extension.

I’ll wake up now and think about something that won’t kill me with overwork and threaten both the students and the institution with its difference.


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  1. OK. Like the vision. The constraints are… well… from the 1990’s or earlier…. why is education the only field still trying to embed, integrate this stuff into what they do?

    This stuff, computing and related technologies, is for doing things. So, for me, the key question is what are these folk doing, what are they building/making/thinking about etc. So it’s not a matter of “adding” this stuff to some pre-existing task, something schools have kept doing for decades (Yes I know the Einstein line about doing the same thing over and over and hoping it works “one day”).

    So a focus, a project, something useful (which might be done via a blog) is the begin point. But they have to justify what they are doing, why it matters etc. And, here would be a beautiful kicker, that they are encouraged to fail early and often (see, e.g. or if you prefer paper: Schrage, M. (1999). Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.)

    The trick here is to ignore the technology completely, forget it, wear t-shirts that ban thinking about it etc. So the the question is what might they work on – might be a project at a local school, might be a collaboration with kids in other parts of the world, who knows. It might be a reading program for a group of disadvantaged kids… in formal schooling there is no shortage of neat challenges and problems. The only trick is to step outside the mindless orthodoxy of the system and get them to think differently. Here, I’d be tempted to try the wonderful piece by Cleese on creativity.

    Then or in parallel, an audit of the current set of what I like to call digital habits that the kids have. My hunch is that there will be a broad and surprising set “to hand”. This is more to encourage a little self help in groups, across groups, a little taste of how the pros operate, i.e. they are damn good at a small set of stuff but that is complemented by a huge network that provides support as they need it. They know who knows what. Imagining teachers will build some uber set of skills knowledge simply reflects how little the powers that be understand this game.

    And, during all of this they are writing about it, thinking about what is going on, what they are learning, what they are teaching, what they are stuffing up etc. I wouldn’t use the P word. 🙂 , in short they are playing in the space that is replete with pedagogy (not the weird kind so abstracted in schools) but with the stuff that is the bread and butter of those who work in bit space.

  2. An update – the institution’s leader has just announced some progress on the new strategic direction/vision of the institution. It appears that “personalised lifelong learning” will be an important component of this,

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