Meeting future learning needs of education practitioners

Knowledge building, literacy and communication in action now take many forms. When Skype was first released in 2003, the global face-to-face contact began to transform communication and collaboration in ‘real time’. Now Apple’s Face-Time, Skype in the Classroom, and Google Hangouts (to name just a few tools) guarantee synchronous engagement, alongside collaborative text platforms such as Google docs. In other words, the mechanisms for engaging with information and processes of learning in the acquisition of new knowledge has become a deeper process of individual and collaborative learning activities, problem solving and artefact development, through an integration of face-to-face and online interactions within a community, involving absorption, integration and systemisation of the information received by the receiver in their own pre-existing cognitive structure, which are the result of personal experience, and earlier knowledge transactions (Trentin, 2011).

This digital information environment demands a new knowledge flow between content and digital connections. While the bibliographic paradigm created textbook learning, the digital information environment of today indicates the need for educators to understand information seeking and engagement within connected multi-media contexts. Computer and mobile device technology environments, social media, and ready forms of online communication drive our newly emerging knowledge ecosystems. Thomas and Brown (2011), who explored what they described as a new ‘culture of learning’, explained how much the Internet has changed the way we think about both technology and information. In this new culture of learning, information technology has become a participatory medium, giving rise to an environment that is constantly being changed and reshaped by the participation within information spaces. They argue that traditional approaches to learning are no longer capable of coping with this constantly changing world. The information environment is a technology environment, which demands adaptation. As information is also a networked resource, “information absorption is a cultural and social process of engaging with the constantly changing world around us” (Thomas & Brown, 2011, p.47).

In other words, our digital information ecology is a remix of different forms of technology, devices, data repositories, information retrieval, information sharing, networks and communication. New technological tools are expanding and continually altering the ways school students, or educators can interact with the world. The implications for education that stem from new means for accessing information, communicating with others, and participating in a community needs a new brand of professional competences to thrive within the changing environment. Haste (2009) recognised the co-construction of knowledge through interpersonal discourse and the tension within pedagogy between a focus on knowledge-based instruction and outcomes, and on praxis-based instruction. “While most pedagogy, of course, recognises the interaction of both in good practice, there is nevertheless an underlying epistemological gap; knowledge-based models are implicitly more ‘top down’ and praxis-based more ‘bottom up’. ‘Knowledge’ implies that the route to understanding is in the structured transmission of information. ‘Praxis’ implies a necessary interaction with materials, actions or other persons as a route to understanding” (Haste, 2009 p.213).

Information ecology at the heart of knowledge

While technology is changing the information environment (including information places and spaces), the transactional nature of information interactions and knowledge flow underpins learning. Information can comprise both physical and virtual parts for operation and interaction. A major challenge for education is to enable and facilitate the generation of new knowledge via an appropriate information environment, to facilitate integration of new concepts within each person’s existing knowledge structure. This is described as an ‘information ecology’.

“Information ecology examines the contexts of information behaviour by analogy with ecological habitats and niches, identifying behaviours in biological terms such as ‘foraging’” (Bawden & Robinson, 2012. p.199). In this context of adaptive and responsive co-construction of knowledge, we can facilitate a viable praxis in digital environments, influenced by concepts of rhizomatic learning. “Seen as a model for the construction of knowledge, rhizomatic processes hint at the interconnectedness of ideas as well as boundless exploration across many fronts from many different starting points” (Sharples, et al. 2012 p.33). By creating curriculum and subject delivery which can be reshaped and reconstructed in a dynamic manner in response to changing environmental conditions or the personal professional needs of students, a digital information ecology provides the opportunity to work with information in the construction of knowledge in more dynamic ways, connecting learning experiences across the contexts of location, time, devices and platforms.

This information ecology also involves the creation of assessments and environments for knowledge building to enhance collaborative efforts to create and continually improve ideas. This approach to knowledge building “exploits the potential of collaborative knowledge work by situating ideas in a communal workspace where others can criticize or contribute to their improvement” (Scardamalia, Bransford, Kozma, & Quellmalz, 2012, p.238 ). In this information ecology we also understand that “the development of critical thinking is a key learning objective in education – particularly higher education – [and that] it entails the ability to make reasoned evaluative judgements when making sense of information sources that contain different (potentially conflicting) findings, perspectives and interpretations of a given topic of phenomenon” (Ford, 2008 p. 59). The use of critical thinking has become particularly important as relatively quick access to a wide range of information means that the user needs the ability to critically evaluate the validity and value of information accessed.

The evidence is that technologies and social media platforms are driving an unprecedented reorganisation of the learning environment in and beyond schools and tertiary environments. These disruptive shifts are already reshaping the workforce landscape and the skills required (Davies, Fidler & Gorbis, 2011), establishing lifelong and life-wide learning as the central paradigm for the future (Redecker et al, 2011).

Our work as educators has to centre on helping to meet future learning needs in courses/programs by fostering a culture of enquiry within a sustainable learning ecology that is shaped by the ubiquity of information, globally responsive pedagogical practices, and driven by collaboration and informal learning in multiple access points and through multiple mediums.

Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2012). Introduction to information science. London: Facet.
Charles Sturt University. (2012). Course Approval Document. Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation Articulated Set). CASIMS, Office of Academic Governance.
Davies, Al, Fidler, D., & Gorbis, M. (2011). Future work skills 2020. Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute: California.
Ford, N. (2008). Education. In Web-based learning through educational informatics: Information science meets educational computing. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Haste, H. (2009). What is ‘competence’ and how should education incorporate new technology’s tools to generate ‘competent civic agents’. Curriculum Journal, 20(3), 207-223. doi:10.1080/09585170903195845
Redecker, C., Leis. M., Leendertse, M., Punie, Y., Gijsbers, G., Kirschner, P., Stoyanov, S., & Hoogerveld, B. (2011).  The future of learning: preparing for change, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, JRC European Commission.
Scardamalia, M., Bransford, J., Kozma, B., & Quellmalz, E. (2012). New assessments and environments for knowledge building. In Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills (pp. 231-300). Springer Netherlands.
Sharples, M., McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Hirst, T., … & Whitelock, D. (2012). Innovating Pedagogy 2012: Open University innovation report 1. Milton Keynes: The Open University.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.
Trentin, G., (2011). Technology and knowledge flows : the power of networks. Chandos Pub, Oxford.

Image: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by katypang: http://flickr.com/photos/katypang/2628074710

Why I FLIP instead of SCOOP

It’s summer here in Sydney, and anyone with any sense is flipping in the water or scooping sand at the beach. I’m not so lucky, being wired to the world via my workdesk. But like many of us I am not alone, and for that reason curating content to revisit, and share along the way is part of what I do.

In the social media sense, content curation is  the organizing, filtering and “making sense of” information on the web and sharing the very best pieces of content with your network that you’ve cherry picked for them .

It comes down to organizing your sources, knowing which of them are trust worthy, and seeing patterns.

So for educators it comes down to  keeping up the pace in adopting these strategies and using tools to publish curated content in the sense of ‘reporting’ what’s happening. So I see myself doing these things:

  • first level curation : curating my own content for myself (my own ‘go-to’ repository with tools like Diigo, Delicious, Evernote, Flipboard, Facebook, Flickr, RSS readers etc, and sharing this because my online tools are socially connected
  • second level curation: curating content for others via targetted tweets or Google+ circles, Facebook pages, Facebook groups, wikis, livebinders,  etc. (Does Paper.li fit in here seeing as it is automated?), so sharing at this level is a direct extension of the first level of personal curation.

Now I can see a reason for educators to move into  third level curation as a form of info-media publishing.  Think of this as dynamic content curation that’s about helping keep up with the news.   The flow of information through social media is changing:

While we’re dismantling traditional structures of distribution, we’re also building new forms of information dissemination. Content is no longer being hocked, but links are. People throughout the network are using the attention they receive to traffic in pointers to other content, serving as content mediators. Numerous people have become experts as information networkers.

Now I can use all my social networking resources and return information back to my social community at the third level of curation.

Social content curation is about collecting, organising and sharing information – in a new package. I’m no archivist. But I am a digital curator of information for myself, and perhaps for others. Back in 2011 I said that  I was interested to see how (what I call) the third level curation evolves. I like the idea of socially connected ways of publishing ‘what’s new’ and ‘what’s newsworthy’ as an ‘aside’ to my ‘go-to’ information repository such as my social bookmarks.

I wrote about Scoop-it, and for quite a time I used Scoop-it quite successfully – for my own purposes and to follow other ‘scoops’.

In 2014 I have largely abandoned Scoop-it – and that is BECAUSE of the way it shares information!  I am totally and completely fed up with finding an interesting recommend in my  FB page  or in my Twitter feed (as and example), from a trusted Scoop-it curator. I completely detest that I HAVE To go to the Scoop first, and THEN to the actual recommended read.  This annoys me so much, that I have abandoned using the tool myself so as not to annoy my curation followers in the same manner! If you use Scoop-it and I see your recommend in my media stream – I’m most likely going to ignore it!

Now I am using Flipboard, because it does the same job, in a much nicer format, PLUS  it doesn’t force a user back to the whole board.  Millions of people use Flipboard to read and collect the news they care about, curating their favorite stories into their own magazines on any topic imaginable. Thousands are using it to create fantastic education resources.

This is magic!  If someone is keen to join or follow a Flipboard, then that’s great.  But in the meantime, we have a perfect tool at our disposal to create a collection for targetted needs.  I’m still experimenting – but I think it’s a great tool.

Endgame. Won.

Thanks to Sue Waters for The flip-a-holic’s ultimate guide to subscribing, curating and sharing using Flipboard. http://theedublogger.com/2013/06/12/flipboard/

Find Judy O’Connell at Flipboard https://flipboard.com/profile/heyjudeonline

Reference: Boyd, D. (2010). Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media. Educause Review, 45(5), 26-28.
Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by David

Creative computing – give Scratch a go!

Creative Computing is a six-week online workshop for educators who want to learn more about using Scratch and supporting computational thinking in the classroom and other learning environments.

The workshop, which is free, begins on Monday, June 3 and ends on Friday, July 12. Check out the FAQ for more information about this learning experience.

Creative Computing is facilitated by members of the ScratchEd Team at Harvard University, and has been made possible with funding from the CS4HS program at Google.

The video makes it sound exciting and very worthwhile. Give it a go!

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by jenny downing

Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age!



Great title don’t you think?  This very title is the name of a new subject – foundation subject no less – that is in the pipeline for 2014 for the new degree that I have been immersed in developing.  As mentioned in my post a while back, I have had my head down and tail up for the last six weeks working live a navvy on scoping this new and exciting degree for next year.

Still a big secret in terms of the whole course program and content of course, because the final approval isn’t through yet.  We still have the last hurdle to face, but fingers crossed, we’ll make the grade. As it happens, the framework, subjects, electives etc are pretty much sorted, as is the focus of each subject.

It’s been a mammoth undertaking in some ways, and not so much in others. Conceptually it’s easy to pinpoint what is needed to fill the gaps in postgraduate learning opportunities to meet our professional learning needs within our networked learning environments. While there are of course many opportunities for professional development in these areas, there is also a need for academic credentialed programs that leverage deep thinking and research, and provide teachers with evidence of their passion, commitment and reasons for choosing them for innovative and/or promotions positions!

The new Australian national curriculum demands a deep understanding of connected learning, particularly if we consider the digitally connected environments that our students are working in.

So the motivation was strong to develop a degree that captured the power of networked learning, knowledge and information environments, learning spaces design, gaming, e-literature and more, in a powerful combination drawing on the disciplines of education, information technology, and information science. We took it on board to examine the key features and influences of global connectedness, information organisation, communication and participatory cultures of learning, aiming to provide the opportunity to reflect on professional practice in just such a networked learning community, and engage in peer dialogue to develop an authentic understanding of concepts and practices for learning and teaching in a digital environments.

So overall, the intention is to allow questioning, review and reconstruction of understanding, with the new subjects framing the challenges of learning in digital environments and setting the context for innovation and change in professional practice.

Everything will be thought-provoking, and will build on the knowledge that teachers bring to the course, rather than being driven by fixed content. By pushing the boundaries, knowledge networking and digital innovation will be the inspiration for this post-graduate program.

So roll on 21 May…..and if all goes well,  I will share all the details of the new degree.  If we hit any hiccups – well, what can I say?  Back to the drawing boards!

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by jah~

Learning in Networks of Knowledge

For me, knowledge networks is what it’s all about!  I was honoured to speak with the staff of the State Library of NSW about the issues and drivers that we consider as we work with students in our tertiary learning environments. Learning in Networks of Knowledge was just the beginning of a bigger conversation.

Thank you to the wonderful innovation team [see my last post] for this opportunity.

gr8 lol ~ Great Libraries of Learning

Support for school libraries in Far North Queensland is gr8!  The team at the Far North Queensland FNQ Learning Development Centre – ICT, have put together a fabulous brochure promoting change and essential development to ensure quality school libraries.  They have allowed me to embed the document here, so that you can download a copy for your own school district.  

There is also a gr8 lol::Great Libraries for Learning wiki to support the document – making it easy to cross-reference within your own online sites.

It’s pretty nice to be quoted in this brochure :-)

A Decade of Databases: Where to from here?

On Friday the 7th August I was proud to participate in the annual UQL Cyberschool Seminar in Brisbane, Queensland: A Decade of Databases: Where to from here?   How lovely to escape cold weather, and to meet new faces in the Teacher Librarian profession. It was the 10th anniversay of the Cyberschool – a service to all schools in Queensland, and to other States in Australia, providing a wealth of information resources and online databases.

The Program of the day included Tanya Ziebell, UQ Library, Patricia Carmichael, a fabulously energetic TL from Concordia Lutheran College, Dan Walker, an inspirational Principal from Brisbane State High School, Dr Mandy Lupton, Lecturer in Teacher-Librarianship, QUT, Lea Giles-Peters, OLD State Librarian, Keith Webster, Director of Learning Services, Professor Phil Long, Centre for Educational Innovation, and of course – myself!

What a fabulous group of people to listen to before my turn came. It was great to have Phil Long talk in detail about the Horizon Project and together with Keith Webster, engage the audience with some interactive online trials using iTouch units on loan from Apple. Keith showed us his masterful way of presenting using CoolIris – loads of fun!

Here are the slides for my presentation. As always, the story is in the telling!  I hope I encouraged some people to think ‘out of the box’, be connected, be comfortable with social networking, and hopefully find ways suitable to their own context to transform school library learning services.