Teachers are Learners too

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Teachers are Learners too

Here we are 16 years into the 21st century and still there is an imperative to integrate digital teaching and learning into our educational institutions with few making much headway. So why are we spinning our wheels? One suggestion involves the lack of appropriate professional development.

Looking at the well-respected Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge Framework, known as TPACK (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) there are some glaringly obvious omissions in the way that much of the available professional development for teachers is structured, that is with a technology focus.

Why we should be revising TPACK

Don’t be concerned that TPACK is itself 10 years’ old, the beauty of the framework is that it transcends time, unlike some technologies. So, using TPACK to inform how professional development should be evolving, the focus must be on demonstrating how educators can develop sustainable strategies to integrate digital teaching and learning into the classroom.


TPACK (Mishra & Koehler, 2006)

Strategies will continue to encompass the three areas of technology, pedagogy and content as espoused by Mishra and Koehler but in a contemporary context at any given time.

Technologies will be chosen based on the affordances that they offer to learners. An affordance is an action that learners can perform with a technology that enhances learning and these affordances must typify needs of modern learners, for example learners require skills in communication, collaboration, creativity, imagination, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making. While building these skills, they will also build initiative, self-direction, adaptability, leadership and responsibility.

Chosen pedagogies will also expose learners to affordances through their learner-centredness, for example project based learning, enquiry based-learning and Socratic questioning. They will promote autonomy through personalisation and in the process build learner self-efficacy and resilience.

Lastly, the outmoded focus on provisioning learning content to learners who assume a passive role in the learning process is replaced by content creation. The Web contains a vast bazaar of content in a number of formats. Locating, curating, remixing, repurposing and re-sharing content, accounts for deeper learning episodes which is preferable to pushing selected learning content to learners. While this concept alone causes dread amongst many educators, which is largely due to accuracy and safety concerns, closing access is not the answer, digital citizenship is the answer. Learners must learn how to check the accuracy of the information that they are accessing as well as a number of other key lessons in this area such as respect, literacy and protection.


Professional Development

Until professional development for educators encompasses more than digital tool use, the wheels will continue to spin. Existing staff development is found to be boring, irrelevant and abstract. Some teachers also report that the focus of some of the technology training will not function at their site due to resourcing such as bandwidth, equipment and funds. Further, there is little ongoing support to hone newly learned skills.

Rather than isolating particular technologies for staff development, the focus must be on assisting teachers to identify affordances, select suitable tools that meet their individual requirements and chose pedagogies that will enhance learning.

In a progressive professional development program, learning will be shared by educators in a professional community of practice to minimise stress associated with continual change in digital teaching and learning as well as provide opportunity to practice new concepts before integrating them into teaching.

Teachers like their students, require a comprehensive understanding of digital citizenship so they can assume the roles required of modern educational professionals in supporting learners. We cannot assume this teacher knowledge ….. teachers are learners too.

Louise is an educational technologist and founder of CloudEd at cloudeducation.com.au.

Remedy for stress: 5 steps to structure in digital teaching

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It’s of little surprise that burnout and stress are causes of teachers leaving the teaching profession with over 53% of primary and 58% of secondary leavers citing heavy workload as their main reason for leaving.

With an imperative to introduce digital teaching and learning in Australian education, we focused on the technologies and content with little thought to learning, and the innovators and early adopters moved ahead with the few resources they had. Then we did something really wrong, we gave the innovators and early adopters the role of mentoring all the other teachers, mostly without release from teaching or support. Through their goodwill many acquiesced, but their heavy workloads meant that the process was slow and some late adopter teachers felt lCure for teaching stress is structureeft behind and marginalised. Presently, we are in a state of limbo, not moving forward with adoption and no real guidelines to support institutions. The ad hoc processes of the past have left many teachers with bad tastes in their mouths and the thought of implementing learning technologies is stressful.

So how do we move forward from here so that institutions adopt technologies effectively and inclusively?

Structure is seen as antidote to stress outside work hours, but this applies to during work as well, particularly in the teaching profession and particularly where innovations are being implemented.

The Remedy for Teaching Stress is Structure

Attempting to implement a change as transformative as digital teaching and learning without structure and support yields little. What is required is inclusiveness, strategy and change management.

While these concepts may seem uninspiring to some, here are five steps to help you transform to digital teaching and learning, no matter where you are up to in the process.

  1. Do you have a vision? Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare (Japanese proverb). If your institute has a wider vision, narrow it down for digital teaching and learning. Include all teachers and stakeholders in its creation and seek feedback. Teachers need to see their place in the big picture and be fully engaged from now.
  2. Now is also the time to commence your change management process. Rally those innovators and early adopters to form an organised coalition of sponsors with the educational management and promote the change. Develop a change management plan and once again, include all stakeholders.
  3. With an inclusive approach, build a strategy by developing goals and objectives, seek input from stakeholders and publish. If you already have a strategy, customise it for your site. From here, you will build an implementation plan which details the: who, what, where, when and how to move forward at your site with digital teaching and learning.
  4. Do not forget the teachers, as sharing ideas and the load limits stress. Without teachers, the strategy will fail. Alongside steps 2 and 3 you must foster your community of practice at the institution so that all staff can be empowered to join in. This community will review technologies, trial teaching strategies and build self-efficacy in the process. Leave this step out at your peril. Individual mentoring is important here too, as some teachers will grasp concepts faster than others.
  5. Finally but very importantly, celebrate successes. Everyone has worked hard and this needs to be acknowledged. At this time, also take time out to review the process, seek feedback and start again.

You will find that this approach to adoption of digital teaching and learning may need tweaking along the way to suit your individual situation. The key is always to adopt an inclusive approach and remember that the antidote for stress is structure.

About the Author:

Louise Lewis has a Master of Education (ICT and digital learning), she is a certified change manager and she has 15+ years’ experience working with teachers and institutions to adopt digital teaching and learning. Louise’s consultancy, CloudEd is an endorsed provider of QTC professional development addressing the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. She has mapped these 5 steps to courses (www.cloudeducation.com.au/cloud-practice) so that teachers can claim professional development hours from their participation.

When it’s gone it’s gone – the missing resident of digital citizenship

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Have you ever lost something for good on the Web? In his technology blog titled Raiders of the Lost Web, If a Pulitzer-finalist 34-part series of investigative journalism can vanish from the web, anything can, Adrienne Lafrance  laments that until you lose something that you treasure on the Net, the concept of this type of loss is difficult to understand. The problem is maintenance. As soon as a site ceases to be adequately maintained, then it starts to fall apart and the risk of loss is high. Downes (2015) agrees, if a large entity like Facebook decides to ‘pull the plug’ one day,‘*poof* it’s gone’.  Worse still, he mentions that valued artefacts such as coursework, discussion posts and everything that is posted to third party sites online is at risk.  He concludes by warning us to keep this in mind.

Lafrance’s article is a must read, he eloquently describes the work and effort put into a documentary of a tragedy in Colorado by Kevin Vaughan who was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize as a result. Desparingly however, over time the documentary was lost on the internet due to the very issue of lack of maintenance when the publisher went out of business. The story he cites is touching and the message is clear. As Lafrance puts it, ‘It is not just access to knowledge, but the knowledge itself that’s at stake’.

But what of all the valuable information that Governments store and share, surely that is safe? Think again, when Governments and their policies change, have you noticed that web pages are pulled down and their contents are often impossible to find? This happened to me recently when I was building an educational piece for my business. The information was not obsolete but because the Government had changed, it was no longer considered relevant (to them). I would imagine that most people could describe a similar example of this occurring with a favourite site.

ClockWe can be grateful for the forethought demonstrated by Jason Scott, founder of the not for profit Wayback Machine, an internet archive which is capable of saving tens of petabytes of data. Scott and others are busily archiving as quickly as they can and Lafrance has identified the cause of Wayback Machine as extraordinary, but it has not been able to keep up with the ever increasing growth of the Web. Remarkably though, they did archive the missing information that I required for my business and I retrieved it by placing the old URL in the search box. For a NFP that relies on donations to survive, this is pretty good!



Digital Citizenship

What is the relevance to digital citizenship, especially for our young people then? Well, Lafrance points out that the Web was never meant to be a library, it was primarily built as a short-lived messaging system and now it is used as the main source of information. Further, he cautions that there are no ‘robust mechanisms for libraries and museums to acquire, and thus preserve, digital collections’. Now I’m hearing alarm bells, if much of the information contained on the Web is at risk of being lost and there are no clear guidelines or official archiving mechanisms, then what becomes of information access for following generations, shouldn’t this be included in Digital Citizenship?

sand-footprintAs a component of digital citizenship, we counsel young people about the risks associated with publishing their material on the Web including creating digital footprints which ‘are forever’. In doing so, we elicit a false sense of security in that we are not also warning them that their treasured work, records and artefacts are at the whim of caretakers. Further, the work of authors, professionals and innovators who publish, store and backup information digitally may also be lost to future generations such as in Vaughan’s case. It’s true that in the ‘old days’ we were all encouraged to back up our work on secondary storage devices and that may still apply in some organisations, especially the large ones, but many of us rely on the cloud to backup up our work.

At the very least, we should update the narrative surrounding digital citizenship and permanency of information on the Web and for now we should also be promoting use of archiving sites such as Wayback Machine so we can capture as much as we are able until these issues are addressed.

Louise is an educational technologist and founder of CloudEd at cloudeducation.com.au.



Downes, S. (16 October, 2015) Raiders of the Lost Web, Commentary [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.downes.ca/post/64589.

Lafrance. A. (2015) Raiders of the Lost Web, If a Pulitzer-finalist 34-part series of investigative journalism can vanish from the web, anything can. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/10/raiders-of-the-lost-web/409210/.

Wayback machine http://archive.org/web/


Sand footprint http://summitcountyvoice.com/2012/02/10/morning-photo-sand/

Weird Clock http://cdn.topsecretwriters.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/weird-clock.jpg

What 21st Century Skills?

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Much has been written about preparing learners for 21st Century work contexts and the skills that they require to be successful in such contexts. Today’s workforce entrants are likely to have an average of 17 different jobs during their working lives (Brown, 2015), so it is plausible that many of these skills relate to resilience and independence but what of other skills, and are they new or have they just undergone metamorphosis? While a number of these skills are frequently mentioned e.g., resource sharing, collaboration, personalisation and content creation, two common examples are communication and aggregation.

Are the skills different or new?

It could be argued quite easily that some skills required by workforce entrants are not new, but it can also be argued that they are different. In the example of communication skills, 15 years ago job entrants were required to possess good writing skills, speak confidently and participate effectively in the workplace. In a modern context all of these are still important, but communicating with others through a number of different synchronous and asynchronous means, often spanning different time zones, cultures and with access to growing numbers of people on different devices, is also commonplace. Another major difference in today’s communication is the speed and frequency at which dialogue is conducted, which appears to be increasing with every device upgrade.

Other skills have increased in importance, for example aggregation skills. Where a worker could previously attend a library, or consult journal or newspaper articles for resources, they are now presented with many different mediums from which to find information. Further, as job entrants may not have previously had these responsibilities, it is now normal for all workers to search for information to ensure currency and to provide up to date information to customers.

Another key difference between present-day information aggregation and the past is that much of the curation aspect was undertaken for workers e.g., by libraries, through peer review and publishers. In modern contexts, workers are often left to discern the validity and credibility of the sources, prompting requirements for an enhanced aggregation skill set including digital citizenship.

Therefore, while communication and aggregation skills are not new, they are more detailed, complex and frequently rely upon other connected skills to be effective in modern contexts.

21st Century Skills Morphed 

Caterpillar to Chrysalis https://www.flickr.com/photos/sidm/

Caterpillar to Chrysalis https://www.flickr.com/photos/sidm/

These examples represent many other ‘21st Century skills’ that are deemed necessary for modern contexts. While many are not new, they have undertaken some metamorphosis such as in the example of communication, or they have connected with other skills and increased in importance within workplaces as they spread amongst a wider pool of employees for example, aggregation.

The next step is to adjust teaching methods to foster 21st Century skills commencing with known skill requirements and applying them to modern contexts. Like the learners, teachers are faced with different pedagogical approaches not necessarily new pedagogies. Changing the mind-set may assist educators to commence the journey to modernising approaches for digital teaching and learning.

I am interested to know what you think.  




Are skills required in 21st century workplaces mostly new, morphed or gained significance from those required in the last century?

They are new
They have just morphed
Most have gained significance
Please Specify:

Quiz Maker

Louise is a 15+ year veteran of digital teaching and learning and founder of CloudEd.


Brown, R. (2015). More than half of students chasing dying careers, report warns. ABC News. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-24/next-generation-chasing-dying-careers/6720528

Rahimi, E., Berg, J., & Veen, W (2015). A learning model for enhancing the student’s control in educational process using Web 2.0 personal learning environments. British Journal of Educational Technology. doi 10.1111/bjet.12170

Salmon, G., & Wright, P. (2014). Transforming Future Teaching through ‘Carpe Diem’ Learning Design. Education Sciences. doi: 10.3390/educsci4010052

Why Digital Learning Adoption Decisions are not Simultaneous Amongst Educators

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Have you ever wondered why educators don’t all adopt digital teaching and learning at the same time? Why do some seem to jump right in, while others wait to see the results of implementation of an innovation before testing the water? We advise our educational managers to consider these questions.

The answers are the same as the reasons why a one-size-fits-all approach to preparing educators for digital teaching and learning doesn’t work either. That is, each educator will make their individual decision when to adopt an innovation which is based on a number of factors including organisational, past experiences and their propensity to adopt change.

As educational institutions often find themselves floundering to remain abreast of successive changes in digital teaching and learning, they rely on the innovators and early adopters to lead the way, but this is a flawed approach as the complex needs of other groups of educators who require support and mentoring are not being met. This is essentially why digital teaching and learning in Australia is not being adopted efficiently and effectively to meet the needs of our 21st century learners, k-12 and beyond.

In search of some alternative approaches to encourage adoption of innovations, Rogers (1995) diffusion of innovations bell-shaped curve provides some useful hints on how we might handle educator support. It will also confirm why a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work simply because of the dominant characteristics of five distinctly different groups of educators, innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. Recognising the various characteristics of these groups and their position on the adoption curve is a start. The next step is to move individuals to a stage of adoption so that all learners will benefit from digital teaching and learning. Through review and experience, these are the characteristics of each of the groups and approaches to assist with adoption of digital teaching and learning which have proven invaluable to us at CloudEd. Characteristics and Approaches

There is a case for 21st Century Learning

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Andreas Schleicher

Andreas Schleicher, OECD Education Directorate

Schleicher talks about the need to break free of our single-discipline silos and make the paradigm shifts required to ready learners for 21st century work. It’s a 360 degree shift from teaching disparate parts to encouraging learners to connect the parts.  He laments that previously we chunked our problems into manageable bits but that we need to synthesise them once again, even to the point of connecting what was thought to be previously unrelated. Competency-based learning immediately comes to mind when I think about this comment. Universities are looking to adopt CBT but this appears to be in the opposite direction to that suggested here.  Aren’t disparate parts the basis of CBT?

Schleicher makes the important point that curation skills are paramount and there is also reference to horizontal rather than vertical knowledge acquisition, eloquently described. Vertical refers to push-style consumption of knowledge from teacher to learner, where horizontal knowledge acquisition results from the learner being connected to a range of different networks from which they pull information. The idea being that learners will be more engaged in knowledge building and be more likely to retain it if they work with others rather than being instructor-fed.

A good summary article but I believe that one last paragraph could be added that relates to the benefits to learning content creation skills both individually and in groups. Unpacking newly acquired knowledge, perhaps applying that learned through horizontal knowledge acquisition and then feeding forward to the networks once again in any number of different formats, would add to the description of the place of the learner in this new paradigm.

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