Challenges…lay ahead! Designing a 21st Century Classroom.

Picture by Frankeleon licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

Picture by Frankeleon licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

During the past 6 weeks as part of the MAET course I have explored many teaching and learning ideas and how we integrate technology successfully into the classroom. The course has been both challenging and rewarding and it has allowed me to find practical direction for many issues that educators face in the 21st Century. In this final assignment I apply all this newly acquired information to design my ideal classroom.

As a primary school principal in the process of double streaming and embarking on a building program, classroom design is a very pertinent consideration for me. Current educational philosophy sees me moving away from an architect-type notion of, “let us deliver you a great building” to “let us work together to change the way we teach and learn in this place, with the building as one of its foundations” (McIntosh 2010). Being an educational leader and innovator places great responsibility on my shoulders to get the infrastructure right! I want to be in line with current educational philosophy and I want to be faithful to what I know to be important in the education process.

Friedman (2013) discusses Passion Quotient (PQ) and Curiosity Quotient (CQ) and how important they are in an individual’s ability to adapt in a rapidly progressing world. Without them, he argues that technology progresses – the pie gets bigger but we get a smaller slice. I agree with Friedman. If we are to adapt in this rapidly progressing world, “It will require more individual initiative …it will be vital to have more of the ‘right’ education … [and] skills that are complementary to technology”. (Friedman, 2013) I would sum up Friedman’s concept in an algorithm: CQ + PQ = Ability to Adapt. The ability to adapt is greater than IQ.

CQ is the thirst to ‘find out’, the ability to fathom that possibilities are endless. It is the ‘what if?’ factor.
PQ is the passion, the ‘fire in our belly’, giving us courage to follow our convictions.

We need both CQ and PQ if we are to adapt to the demands of the 21st Century, and we need to inspire them in our students. These qualities embolden us to ask questions, push boundaries and embrace technologies. Today’s students are ‘digital natives’ to whom digital technology is second nature. We owe them an education that leads them to becoming technology-rich, innovative, life-long learners. The design of a classroom reflects the technological, pedagogical and content (TPACK) (Mishra & Koehler, 2009) beliefs of the teacher. A classroom (or school) cannot be viewed as a great building, but as a place where our students become great learners.

Taylor (2009) quotes Barron’s idea that, “New ways of teaching demand different spaces. With new technologies comes the need for new and different skills – collaboration, integration of technology … and more project-based learning.” In the SketchUp Program task I developed a classroom that:

  • was open, flexible and adaptable;
  • included a range of areas suitable for collaborative learning, individual learning, small group work and support services;
  • had all possible appropriate existing technologies seamlessly incorporated to maximize their use;
  • was resource rich and environmentally sustainable;
  • provided spaces to allow good learning opportunities;
  • incorporated modern furniture, flexible/changeable for use in a variety of ways; and
  • maintained the capacity in the infrastructure to allow for emerging technologies.

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“Good design and good teaching complement each other” (Thomas, 2013), fostering cooperative and individualistic teaching and learning approaches. I incorporated Campfires (areas providing for whole group instruction and activities), Water holes (areas promoting small group activities) and Caves (areas promoting individual activities). Collectively, these foster independence and intra-dependence within the students. The design and arrangement of the furniture allows the teacher to move easily around the classroom, providing guidance and feedback to the students, both of which rate highly on Hattie’s (2014) Effectiveness Learning Scale. Desks can be used individually or grouped together as required, taller desks/benches were added catering for students who prefer standing. I aimed to create a physical environment that contained technology, furniture, materials and spaces that encourage curiosity, investigation and wonder.

As an administrator I am passionate about the implementation of technology in all classrooms. Like Buckner and Kim (2013) I agree that, “A key limitation to many ICT projects … is the lack of integration between pedagogy and technology. Simply placing technology hardware into classrooms is not a comprehensive solution to bridging the digital divide” (p.3). Mishra and Koehler’s (2009) TPACK Framework needs to be implemented into classrooms, aiming for the ‘sweet spot’, where technology, pedagogy and content combine seamlessly to create an optimal learning situation. In such an environment, learners are in touch with authentic situations to explore, observe, investigate, create and solve problems. Students will begin to take ownership and move towards self-directed learning, ultimately developing responsibility for their own learning. This is the foundation for the growth of CQ and PQ and is the basis for developing life-long learners.



Buckner, E. & Kim, P. (2013). Integrating Technology and Pedagogy for Inquiry Based Learning: The Stanford Mobile Inquiry-based Learning Environment (SMILE). Retrieved from

Connor, D. (2013). Teaching and Technology: Campfires, Caves, and Watering Holes. Retrieved from

Davis, A. W. & Kappler-Hewitt, K. (2013). Australia’s Campfires, Caves and Watering Holes.  Retrieved from

EXPLO. (2014). Thomas Friedman: On Passion and Curiosity for Future Success. Retrieved from

Friedman, T. L. (2013). It’s the P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as the I.Q. Retrieved from

Hattie, J. (2014). 138 Influences Related To Achievement – Hattie effect size list. Retrieved from

Hewes, B. (2010). 21st century learning space; cave; watering hole; campfire; dernsw; classroom; technology; education. Retrieved from

McIntosh, E. (2010). [ #cefpi #tep10 ] Clicks & Bricks: When digital, learning and physical space meet. Retrieved from

Mishra, P. & Koehler. M. J. (2009). Too cool for school? No way! Using the TPACK framework: You can have your hot tools and teach with them, too. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(7), 14-18 Retrieved from (2014). Classroom Furniture / Educational, School and Library Furniture. Manufacturers & suppliers of Educational/School and Library Furniture in Australia. Sebel Furniture. Retrieved from

Taylor, R. (2009). Learning space turns school design inside out> Swinburne Magazine. Retrieved from

Thomas, K. (2013). A classroom for the 21st century: where are the best places for learning? Retrieved 14 August 2015, from (2015). Retrieved from


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single strum!!! NLP Post #3


On my way to international ukulele super-stardom!

As part of our Master of Arts in Educational Technology Program from Michigan State University we were set a challenge. This challenge forms part of our Networked Learning Project.

My challenge, which started three weeks ago with my first Network Learning Projectwas to learn a song on the ukulele using only YouTube and Online Help Forums. I have always wanted to play the ukulele, but have been too busy to learn. As a primary school principal, I spend my days and evenings with the administration of a school and in meetings. I chose the ukulele as something completely different, for relaxation and pure enjoyment. I must admit that learning to play the ukulele was more challenging that I expected, but in the end, I did learn and play a song. Although, frustrating and quite challenging at times I feel pleased that a personal goal has been achieved.

It would be a gross understatement to say that my ukulele learning journey was a smooth one! The journey has been characterized by bumps and potholes and sharp, unexpected turns … but I was FINALLY able to play “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz on the ukulele (not well, but I played it!).

When I first chose the ukulele challenge, I thought it would be relatively easy and kind of relaxing – neither turned out to be true! After visiting numerous websites and YouTube tutorial videos I got my ukelele tuned.

Woo hoo – success! I’m on the way to ukulele stardom!

And then the trouble started…
My first hurdle was that I just could not get the rhythm of the strumming patterns! I thought it might be jetlag, as I had just arrived home to Australia from the USA, but even after two fairly solid days of practise I was still not great – it didn’t bode well for success. When I was finally what could only be termed ‘reasonable’ at strumming, I had trouble mastering the chords – my fingers seemed too big for the small spaces between the strings and the chords never sounded ‘sharp’! I practised for another 2-3 days and I could play several basic chords ‘mostly proficiently’, but I was still struggling to change from one to another quickly. This problem was never really rectified despite a LOT of practise. I believe the term for this is “musically challenged”!

I went around in circles for days with competency of strumming OR playing chords but not both mastering together …and I jumped from YouTube clip to YouTube clip looking for a song that I would be able able to play with the time frame. I had little success!

Then my hard drive failed AND two days of storms left our entire town with sporadic internet availability! So, well behind on work and assignment commitments I did not play the ukulele for three days. Aaaargh!!! When I picked it up again, it was like I was right back at the beginning! I could still laugh about my incompetency, but my ukulele assessment was looming closer and I had to be able to play a ukulele song ON FILM! FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO SEE! The frustration set in! The harder I tried, the less capably I seemed to be able to play. So I did the only thing I could do …

I reverted to the song with the least complicated strumming pattern and the chords that I could ‘mostly master’ (“I’m Yours”) and decided to make the best of a musical catastrophe!

Although I do not rate my actual ukulele playing as a resounding success, I did learn a great deal …

  • I learned to tune a ukulele, strum and play chords – and I learned to adapt what I learned to make it easier for me to succeed.
  • I learned to value musical talent – it’s not as easy as it looks!
  • I learned that practise doesn’t make perfect, but it does make progress!
  • I learned that there are different sizes of ukuleles and I need a ‘man-sized’ one!
  • I learned not to chew your thumbnail right before you have to video yourself showing strumming proficiency.
  • I learned that experiencing true difficulty in a learning situation, despite a desire to succeed and despite practice, helps us understand the frustrations of our students who find it difficult to learn.
  • I learned to enjoy small successes and to re-establish goals so that they are attainable.
  • I learned that there are MANY YouTube ukulele clips and each one holds some parts of the key to success.
  • I learned that it’s OK to be completely incompetent, even if it goes viral!  But …
  • I’ve also learned that it is infinitely better to be a primary (elementary) school teacher than a high school teacher when you have to post your ukulele performance online for your students to see!

Positives of online network learning.

– I could learn at a time that suited me – not everyone can fit into a teacher/tutor’s time scheduling.
– I could keep replaying the clips without fear of frustrating a teacher/tutor.
– I could jump from one site to another to get different viewpoints if one or other strategy wasn’t working for me.
– I found that having the person in the clip playing with me helped me to keep the rhythm.
– I found that some skills are easier to grasp if you’re being shown rather than being told how to do it, or having to read about it. This is particularly pertinent for visual learners.

Negatives of online network learning.

– Although a couple of sites offered some feedback on recorded playing (guitar) most YouTube and online clips do not offer personalized feedback.
– A teacher could have tailored learning to my ability (or lack thereof).  Instead, I had to do trial and error to adapt the learning to suit my needs and I wasn’t always sure I was on the right track (or just teaching myself bad habits!).
– When the internet is down, you can’t use online forums to learn.
– Things that I had to work out and struggle through would have been easier (and possibly more accurate) if I had been able to ask someone who knew the answer, instead of checking a multitude of sites and possibly not getting my question answered.

Network learning and online accessible resources definitely have great value, but also limitations. There are many types of learning that would be suited to this forum and would benefit from online accessible resources, particularly any kind of skill development or proficiency that requires visual or oral learning. The volume of information is mind-blowing and depending on the type of learning, reputability of the site would need to be validated. I also believe that the effectiveness of networked learning potential increases when coupled with access to human resources. Stehlik (2003) states that, “learners still need a certain amount of human contact and social interaction not only with teaching staff but with other students, and that the virtual online community does not always satisfy this requirement” (p.1). If students are able to access network learning and follow it up with face to face contact with someone who is knowledgeable about the subject, who can address particular issues and or questions, then learning should increase dramatically.

In planning ahead with my staff in mind, and having lived the positives and negatives of network learning first hand, I can see great value in this type of learning. As we are a country school, three hours away from the closest major city, getting staff to and from professional development is a time consuming and costly process. By encouraging staff to undertake online professional development and accessing Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC), I would be able to provide strong, current, relevant professional development at a fraction of the current cost and teachers would be saved time away from their families (often overnight), travel time and frustration. Friedman (2013) writes, “I can see a day soon where you’ll create your own college degree by taking the best online courses from the best professors from around the world ….It will change teaching, learning and the pathway to employment”. This will also be true for teachers with their ongoing professional development.


Duhring, J. (2013). Cutting the Strings: MOOCs and the Unbundling of Online Education. Retrieved from

Friedman, T. L. (2013). Revolution Hits the Universities. Retrieved from

JustinGuitar. (2013, December 12). Get started on Ukulele! Easy chords, strumming and songs! (Uke Beginner Lesson UK-001) [Video file]. Retrieved from

Live Ukulele. (2009). How to Play ‘Ukulele – Beginner Lessons. Retrieved from

Stehlik, T. (2003). Professional development in online learning and flexible delivery in the VET sector–Issues for assessment and evaluation. Paper presented at the ATN Evaluations and Assessment Conference. Adelaide, South Australia, Retrieved from

The Ukulele Teacher. (2013, March 6). How to strum a ukulele! [Video file]. Retrieved from

ukulenny. (2011, July 23). Ukulele Tutorial – I’m Yours (Easy Version in C) [Video file]. Retrieved from

ukulenny. (2013, January 22). Easy Ukulele Songs – Stand By Me (Uke Tutorial) [Video file]. Retrieved from

Innovation…a Leap of Faith: A Wicked Problem.


Photo by Alastair Creelman used under the Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 4.0

What are wicked problems?

They are “issues that are extremely difficult and even seemingly impossible to solve because of the complex or ever-changing environments in which they arise,” (2013 Horizon Project Summit Communiqué).

‘Because we have always done it this way’, possibly the most dangerous phrase in the English language! How do we make innovation part of the learning ethic when creative learning areas are not highly prioritized due to increasing curriculum requirements in our education systems?

Being an educator in a 21st Century environment can be quite a daunting responsibility. Today, teachers are expected to be more facilitators of learning than simply providers of knowledge. They need to encourage and show students how to think critically and learn by doing, acting as a resource while their pupils discover and master new concepts. Teachers today need to teach the students to be:

  • Critical thinkers;
  • Problem solvers;
  • Good communicators;
  • Good collaborators;
  • Information and technology literate;
  • Flexible and adaptable;
  • Innovative and creative; and
  • Globally competent.

For this to happen our education systems need to change their mindshift. Until we make this “Mind” (Gee, 2013 p.165) shift, we do not have the capacity to shift what we do. If we do not think differently, we will never do differently!

Today’s students want an education that meets their individual needs and provides opportunities that connect them on a global scale. The Technological, Pedagogical, Content Knowledge (TPACK) theoretical framework (Mishra and Koehler, 2009) explores the interrelatedness and complex interaction of these three domains in teaching and learning. It provides parameters within which they intersect creating a “sweet spot” where innovative teaching can make our learning environments more exciting, creative, challenging and rewarding.

In tackling this ‘wicked problem’, our group, David Propst, Hayley Johnson and I first had to define the word innovation. The Merriam-Webster dictionary (2015), defines innovation as,  “a new idea, device, or method;  the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods” and Berkun (2013) describes innovation as a “significant positive change“. 

By taking on this positive change we decided to explore Genius Hour and Google’s 20% time and for the purpose of this wicked problem assignment we have re-named it ‘Tinker Time’. The Oxford Dictionary (2015), describes tinker as, “to play around, to make small changes to something in order to repair or improve it”.  We specifically chose this title as it describes a new and exciting learning environment where all students will be challenged.    

Tinker Time will be student centered and dependent upon student inquiry, investigation and self-reflection. According to Kuech (2004), “Informal learning environments promote student interactions that include reflection and recall, inter-subjectivity, and elaboration and questioning” (p.40). The benefit of Tinker Time and its informality is to increase student learning and questioning. Students are able to choose their own projects and outcomes that are of interest and relevance to themselves. Tinker Time provides students with an opportunity to create, explore and fail in a safe and secure environment.

Did we solve this wicked problem? No probably not, but throughout our research, online investigations, discussions (I might add was difficult as I live in Australia and Dave and Hayley live in the USA) , brainstorming and collaboration, I believe and hope that in our own little way we have taken our small step in the right direction. As Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. I ask, was putting a man on the moon a wicked problem? If we can put a man on the moon in 1969, then surely today, we can bring innovation into the learning ethic!

You can view the full results of our Wicked Problem, ‘making innovation as part of the learning ethic’ on Blendspace here.


Berkun, S. (2013). The best definition of Innovation. Retrieved from

Communiqué from the 2013 Horizon Project Future of Education Summit | The New Media Consortium. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Innovation | Definition of innovation by Merriam-Webster. (2015). In Dictionary and Thesaurus | Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from

Kesler, C. (2013). What is Genius Hour? Retrieved from

Keuch, R. (2004). Collaborative and Interactional Processes in an Inquiry-Based, Informal Learning Environment. Retrieved from

Koehler, M., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)? Contemporary Issues In Technology And Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Retrieved from

Oxford Dictionaries. (2015). Oxford Dictionaries – Dictionary, Thesaurus, & Grammar. Retrieved from

Von jan, K. (2011). Demand Google 20% Time at School. Retrieved from

Technology Survey – Community of Practice

Colourful people survey by Oncall. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Colourful people survey by Oncall licensed under Creative Commons.

Death by survey! It’s another educational survey!

This week I created my Communities of Practice Survey, dealing with technology integration practice within my school. Wenger-Trayner (2015) suggests that, “Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour” (p.1). In my MAET course I was asked to design and implement this survey to gain quantitative data on my staff’s knowledge of technology, their aspirations for technology integration, their ideas on what support they needed for integrating technology and their use of technology within the school environment, specifically within their classrooms. By creating this survey and distributing it to my staff, who are also part of my Professional Learning Network (PLN), I hope to gain a much greater understanding of the uses of technology (digital media) within my school.

The series of questions were developed to be answered by the staff to gather information in regard to the following aspects of technology within the school:

  1. Specific technology tools that are currently being used;
  2. Integration of technology into teaching/learning practices;
  3. Level of comfort with technology in the school; and
  4. Current and future professional development of staff.

In understanding and analyzing the data from the respondents, I hope to be better able to support my students, staff and the school community to better integrate technology in the future. Far too often we base what we know or want to know about educational technology simply on anecdotal interactions we have with our colleagues. Eli Pariser’s TED talk (2011) discusses “filter bubbles” describing them as our own online personal universes. He goes on to discuss that it is imperative to maintain a balanced information diet and if we don’t get this balanced diet then we are likely surrounded by “information junkfood”. We need the complete picture in order to develop a road map for the future direction of our schools and especially our students. In order to do this we need to break down the “freeze thought”, (Gee, 2013, p.93) and explore what we can do better!

Mishra and Koehler (2009), discuss that, “By their very nature, newer digital technologies, which are protean, unstable, and opaque, present new challenges to teachers who are struggling to use more technology in their teaching (p.61). With this thought in mind and with the relatively new approach to technology integration that the school has undergone in the past few years, especially with the introduction of a 1:1 iPad program in the middle and upper primary, it is now important to survey the staff, to gauge how technology integration has progressed in the classroom and what further professional development may be required to ensure continued integration success.

The initial results returned by staff indicate that 84% see the value and importance of the use of technology and say that it is actively promoted and used within the classroom, with 28% of the staff stating that it is essential within their classroom. Interestingly, 17% or three staff members see it as optional and say that they have no use for technology within their classroom. It is likely that these respondents are teacher assistants whose role does not require use of digital media with students. This may be an area in the future for possible professional development with these teachers / teacher assistants emphasizing the importance of technology within the classroom.

You can view my report, with the full survey results here.

The data supports the view that teachers are comfortable and capable in using a range of different technologies within the school and the classroom, but are not utilizing the full capacities of the digital media available to them. It appears from the data collected that the teachers are applying a ‘top down’ approach to the integration of technology within the classroom and not fully embracing the principles of 21st Century Fluency. They are implementing technology as required with digital media usage within the classroom, but are not readily transferring digital fluency to their own manipulation of information.

It is very apparent from the data supplied that the staff are still wanting more professional development in the area of technology and technology integration. The data clearly shows that respondents are requesting more professional development (67%) and greater amount of time provided for the staff (61%) to better integrate technology into the classroom.  44% of recipients have noted that there is not enough support time provided with the integration of technology into the classroom. One respondent provided a comment that, “I.T. Specialists [are needed] to further develop the children’s skills and overall awareness of technology.” This would assist the staff with integration of technology within the classroom simultaneously.

In summary, the teachers are generally very open and active in the integration of technology into their classroom, but would like a greater amount of professional development and PLN time in which to better understand digital media and its applications. They identified professional development and IT specialist assistance as useful in their own personal learning and in the achievement of the school’s technology goals.



Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Pariser, E. (2011). Eli Pariser: Beware Online “Filter Bubbles” [Video file]. Retrieved from

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Retrieved from

Wenger-Trayner, E & B. (2015) Communities of practice. A brief introduction. Retrieved from

Qualtrics: Online Survey Software & Insight Platform. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Wicked Problems: Blog update


Photo by Sigurdur Jonsson used under the Creative Commons License CC-BY-2.0

A “wicked problem” is defined by the New Media Consortium (2013) as, “issues that are extremely difficult and even seemingly impossible to solve because of the complex or ever-changing environments in which they arise” (p. 1). Gee (2013) in his book, The Anti-Education Era, discusses synchronized intelligence and affinity spaces, where a group of like minded people create a collective in order to source new ideas and solve problems, “affinity spaces have been, and will be ever more in the future, the source of new ideas, new solutions to hard problems” (p.178). Gee (2013) discusses that the collective Mind is more powerful than any single mind within the group.

The ‘wicked problem’ that our group (Alan Morrison, David Propst, & Hayley Johnson) were faced with was how to Make innovation part of the learning ethic.

“Innovation springs from the freedom to connect ideas in new ways. Our schools and universities generally allow us to connect ideas only in prescribed ways — sometimes these lead to new insights, but more likely they lead to rote learning. Why is it that when one asks a first grade class which of them can draw, all of them eagerly raise their hands, but ask the same question of a high school class, and only one or two admit to having artistic skills? What convinced those who decided they could not draw? Why do we not encourage everyone to draw, even if they do so in their own ways? Great artists break the rules — and new ground — all the time. That is how they become great artists. We need schools and universities to be places where innovation happens routinely. Instead we share stories of how the great innovators left school to allow themselves the freedom to pursue their dreams. Turning this around is not equivalent to pruning the branches of the education tree — it is akin to grafting a new root system to it, and we have yet to develop the techniques for wholesale reinvention at that level. We must innovate to even begin to understand where to start, and that recursiveness makes this challenge wicked indeed” New Media Consortium (2013, p.1).

As educators in the 21st Century we all want to create a learning environment that promotes the development of creativity, innovation and self-directed lifelong learning for our students. We want our students to be active agents in the development of their own knowledge, rather than just passive recipients of information from their teacher. The characteristics of a 21st century classroom is focused on students developing higher order thinking skills, effective communication skills, collaboration skills, adaptability with the use of technology and involved in self-directed learning where mistakes are considered a natural and valuable element in the learning process.

Being an educator in a 21st Century environment can be quite a daunting responsibility. Today, teachers are expected to be more facilitators of learning than simply providers of knowledge. They need to encourage and show students how to think critically and learn by doing, acting as a resource while their pupils discover and master new concepts. For this to happen educators need to change their mindshift. Until we make this “Mind” (Gee, 2013 p.165) shift, we do not have the capacity to shift what we do. If we do not think differently, we will never do differently!

As an administrator, I see it as an important part of my role to help provided the best learning environment in my school to ensure that innovation is part of the learning ethic. Both myself and my staff need to ensure that we do not follow the collective. Gee (2013) promotes, “School is all about little minds, not big Minds” (p.165). Our group is focusing on Genius Hour or as our group has re-named it ‘Tinker Time’, as our initiative of making innovation part of the learning ethic. Tinker Time allows the students to explore their own passions, interests and encourages creativity within the classroom. It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during the school week. Tinker Time means that the classroom teacher is interacting with the students during this time on issues that each student has identified as research worthy. But Tinker Time is only the tip of the iceberg! This kind of Mindshift really requires that innovation is applied to all aspects of the classroom and that teachers are models of change, demonstrating and allowing their students to be innovative in their learning.

Does an innovative curriculum situation mean that we ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’? Is there any longer a place for memorising and rote learning of information? Should numeracy , literacy, the Humanities and the Arts still be ‘studied’ in this new Mindset? Of course! This type of learning will always have a place in education. It is the platform of lower level thinking skills and abilities that give students the tools to be able to formulate and explore their own questions. An innovative curriculum situation simply takes this foundation to the higher order thinking skills. It no longer demands that students simply stand on the platform of information, relying on what is known and what is solid, it encourages them to jump! Only when we ‘jump’ can we explore what is ‘possible’.

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”                          John Dewey


Click picture to link to our Blendspace.


Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kesler, C. (2013, March 29). What is Genius Hour?. Retrieved from

20 Time in Education Inspire. Create. Innovate. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Alex. K. ( 2006, May 18). Googles “20 percent time” in action. Retrieved from

Communiqué from the 2013 Horizon Project Future of Education Summit | The New Media Consortium. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The Bubble has Burst! My Information Diet

Bubble Burst by Rodger Evens 2014 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Bubble Burst by Rodger Evens 2014 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

“There always has been more human knowledge and experience than any one human could absorb. It’s not the total amount of information, but your information habit that is pushing you to whatever extreme you find uncomfortable.”
Clay Johnson

James Paul Gee in his book The Anti-Education Era, writes that “affinity spaces” are places of “synchronized intelligence” that combine “multiple tools, different types of people, and diverse skill sets” in a way that makes “the space itself a form of emergent intelligence. The sum is more than its parts; the collective is smarter than the smartest person in it” (Gee, 2013, p.174). I now see these affinity spaces as valuable sources of learning as well as a means of gaining expertise by interacting with the knowledge shared by others within the space. Whilst this is true and I can see the benefits of using affinity spaces as discussed by Gee (2013), as an administrator I must take off the ‘rose colored’ glasses and view all perceptions from aspects that both support and challenge my beliefs.

The first of the readings that both confronted and challenged some of my views on technology in education came from the blogs, Education Stormfront: Forecasting the coming storm in Education, and Both blogs discuss the fact that technology is moving too fast in schools and we are simply chasing technology for its own sake, instead of mastering its use in the classroom and applying it to achieve our desired goals? Westsyde principal, Sean Lamoureux, is quoted as saying, “I see the technology in the classroom as the wave of the future”. I can honestly say that I agree with Lamoureux (despite the fact that he was being quoted to show erroneous fundamental technology beliefs). I can, however, see the point made in the blogs that educators must be careful in their endeavors with digital technologies in the classroom. I found this thinking challenging because I too have focused on the technology rather than content and I can now see the need to ascertain why we implement certain aspects of technology. Gee (2013) discusses “freeze thought” (p.93), where we are sometimes afraid to take the next step, break down the barriers, move out of our comfort zone. The question we must ask ourselves is, who are we doing this for, ourselves or our students? I have always introduced technology for the students’ benefit, but after reading these blogs I question whether that is fully true or whether there is an element of chasing technology for my own and for the school’s gratification?

Eli Pariser’s TED talk (2011) discusses “filter bubbles” describing them as our own online personal universes. He goes on to discuss that it is important that we need a balanced information diet and if we don’t get this balanced diet then we are just surrounded by “information junkfood”. Just as in a dietary sense we cannot eat only what we ‘like’ we must also eat what is ‘good for us’, in a technology sense we cannot only engage with what is comfortable but must also be open to that which provides nourishment of thought for growth. After viewing Pariser’s TED talk (2011) and reading Gee’s (2013) chapter on Institutions and frozen thought, it struck me that Gee is correct and that, “We humans sometimes fear thinking – it might lead to results we don’t like – and, as we have seen, soothe ourselves with comfort stories” (p.93). It’s not that I fear thinking it is just that I like my comfort zone! But I cannot claim to hold an informed opinion if I only interact with those who agree with me.

While attending #Flipcon15 @flipcon15 at Michigan State University, I met and spoke with Jon Bergmann @jonbergmann, one of the founders of the flipped classroom and was truly inspired with this idea and the potential benefits for students. Although I believe in theory that flipping a classroom would have many benefits, I must take into consideration all the pros and cons of flipping a classroom before I introduce it into my school. While searching the internet I stumbled across a blog called, The Flip: End of a Love Affair posted by Shelly Wright @plpnetwork. Initially a strong advocate for flipped classrooms she has changed her opinion stating, “It simply didn’t produce the transformative learning experience I knew I wanted for my students”. Within this blog, Shelly provides valid reasons as to why she removed flipped lessons from her class. With my bubble now well and truly burst, this post made me stop and reconsider whether flipped classrooms would really benefit the staff and students at our school. Maybe a question for a ‘wicked problem’? Either way, the process of discernment is a good challenge for the introduction of any technology into a school.

In reading the blog talentlms @TalentLMS, I find myself having to critically re-evaluate my thinking on the use of digital media and elearning. I understand the theory and research behind elearning, but need to ask myself if this is the best way for me, or my staff, or my students to learn. Turrof (1995) puts forward the idea that, “Once we free ourselves from the mental limits of viewing this technology as a weak sister to face-to face synchronous education, the potential to revolutionize education and learning become readily apparent” (p.211). I have always been an advocate for elearning and have encouraged my staff to participate in elearning as part of their professional development. Yong Zhao (2015) @YongZhaoOU in his blog, A World at Risk: An Imperative for a Paradigm Shift to Cultivate 21st Century Learners discusses that, “Technology has advanced so much that it is a reality that one can learn anything, at anytime, with anyone, from anywhere”. The challenge that I face with the sheer volume of elearning is: Does it really work? Do our students learn better with constructivist learning (elearning) versus the traditional classroom?

In education, especially as an administrator who provides direction in education, we are constantly bombarded with the latest and greatest digital media available and what needs to be done to dramatically improve a school’s academic results. I can appreciate that to ensure the health of my infodiet, it is important to ‘burst the bubble’ and view all the aspects of given issues, not only those that sit comfortably with me. Gee (2013) states, Collective intelligence…allow people to be creative even when working on problems…do not always have clear-cut or rigorously testable answers” (p.179). This also applies to the infodiet. We have to be creative and open to alternative viewpoints in order to make fully informed decisions about educational direction and goals.


Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Jenkins, H. (2011, August 4). Media Scholar Henry Jenkins on Participatory Culture and Civic Engagement. Retrieved January 30, 2015, from

Turoff, M. (1995). Designing a Virtual Classroom. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1(2), 245-262. Charlottesville, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved August 1, 2015 from (p.211)

Pariser, E. (2011, March). Eli Pariser: Beware Online “Filter Bubbles” [Video file]. Retrieved from

Zhao, Y. (2015, April 6). A World at Risk: An Imperative for a Paradigm Shift to Cultivate 21st Century Learners[1]. Retrieved from

Technology in the Classroom Is NOT the End Goal | Education Stormfront. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Does Technology Move Too Fast for Schools? | Education Stormfront. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Johnson, C.A. (2011). The Information Diet. Retrieved from

Networked Learning Project: Uke 101


Casey lovingly handing over her ukulele to me

My first big hurdle in playing the ukulele was convincing my daughter that I could be trusted with her ukulele, her prized possession.

Great, I have a ukulele and I’m ready to start playing.

It seems, it’s not as simple as that. When researching as to where I should start, there was so much information on the net that I decided to break the learning process into different parts.

1. Tuning the Ukulele

Before I started I had to tune the ukulele. I found readily the following sites to help me with this process. The problem with these sites was that you have to do the tuning by ear and that the sound (note) emitted by plucking each string was slightly different on each of the two websites. I then found an app on iTunes that was very helpful to me in the tuning of the ukulele. I eventually did get the ukulele tuned as close as I could get it by ear. I’m glad I found this app as I found that I needed to tune the ukulele every time that I played it.

2. Holding and Strumming the Ukulele

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Mastering the ukulele hold.

The next hurdle that I had to overcome was holding the ukulele. As the ukulele is quite small I found that trying to hold and strum the ukulele was quite difficult and my hands seemed to be too large for the small instrument. I experimented quite a bit with positioning so that I was able to strum the strings rhythmically. There are many YouTube sites that deal with strumming the ukulele. This was both a solution and a hindrance as there were so many clips that it can become quite confusing and contradictory in methods and styles. I eventually found a YouTube clip on strumming that suited me. I also found out that you strum a ukulele in different ways depending on the song that is chosen to play. Just another hurdle that I must overcome, and my song choice might well depend on what strumming style I am able to master.

3. YouTube Tutorial

This then led me to choose a song to play and learn from the tutorials provided on YouTube. The song that I eventually have chosen to play is called Stand By Me by Ben E. King. This song was not my original choice, but was chosen after I was having difficulty with the chord changes on my first choice.

Gee (2013) discusses reflective learning in his book, The Anti-Education Era. He discusses the fact that reflective learning is not taught formally in schools and that, “Much of formal schooling is devoted to listening to and reading language, not to taking actions in the world that are relevant to them” (p.16).  and that, “…students can see no clear and compelling goal for learning in formal classrooms” (p.16). With this in mind as I was practicing the tuning and strumming techniques with the ukulele I found this to be accurate. If there was no ultimate goal to achieve in a student’s learning then the knowledge/skill presents itself as learning for learnings sake with little or no practical application. But with my ultimate goal of learning to play a song on the ukulele I could see that by doing the formal learning before hand, this in turn helped me in achieving my goal.

While attempting to complete this challenge and in contemplating Gee’s (2013) reflective action, he states that, “Real learning requires new experiences connected to goal-directed actions and to ways of properly assessing the results of our actions in terms of our goals” (p.208). I also found this to be true in the sense that by taking on this challenge, which I thought would be relatively simple, I have had to constantly review and adapt in order to achieve my network learning challenge. Did I overestimate my skills? Yes!

Gee (2013) talks about digital learning being profound but when combined with face to face interaction the learning has greater potential to produce the best results. I believe that this would be true. The challenge prevented me from seeking help from my daughter (a competent ukulele player) and I feel that had she been able to provide personalized advice with the particular difficulties that I was experiencing, the learning would have been quicker and probably more effective. Although some would argue that the process of working it out yourself embeds the knowledge more deeply, I would argue on this occasion, that to be shown the skill accurately from the beginning would result in better learning. Because the YouTube tutorial was not interactive and I was having difficultly with the strumming technique, there could be no diagnosis about where I was having problems. The YouTube clip was simply an instructional video offering no interaction between user and instructor.


Gee, J. (2013). The Anti-Education ERA: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning (First ed.). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan

Free Ukulele Lesson – How to Tune and Hold Your Ukulele – Video Dailymotion. [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

UkuTuner – Keep that thing in tune! [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Ukulele Tuner on the App Store on iTunes. [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Ukulele Lessons – Right Hand Strumming Beginner. [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

How to strum a ukulele! [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

#MakerFaireEL – LED Name Badges



You too can make an LED Name Badge. Its simple and they look Awesome!

The MAET Year 1 cohort, has been looking at and preparing for our own Maker Faire (#MakerFaireEl) at MSU. The activity that our group developed was to make LED Circuit Name Badges. We chose this Maker Faire activity because it would teach the participants about circuits. In the process of making an LED name badge, the participants will be constructing and learning about how simple circuits are made and how they work.

Materials required for LED Circuit name badge.

#MakerFairEL Name Badge (white cardex 220gsm: 10 cm x 14 cm / 4 inches x 5.5 inches approx)
Tiny LED Lights ($12.50 for 80 assorted colored lights)
Double-sided Scotch Tape ($6.49 for a 3 pack)
Scotch Tape ($6.49 for a 3 pack)
Conductive Foil Tape ($2.95 for 50 feet)
Scissors ($9.99 for a set of 12)
Coin Battery (CR2032 3V Coin Cell Battery, $30.99 for 100)
Paper Punch ($10.51 for a set of 3)

LED Circuit Name Badge Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Color and decorate your name badge.

Pre-cut Name Badge

Pre-cut Name Badge

2. Decide where you would like to place the light.  Punch a hole in that place with the paper punch.


3. Plan out your circuit. Decide where to place the battery and check that your conductive foil tape will reach the LED leads (small metal rods extruding from LED globe). For this project we pre-cut the conductive foil tape to lengths of approximately 5 cm or 2 inches and was cut in half, lengthwise to conserve the tape.

4. Look at the picture of the simple circuit as an example of how a simple circuit is constructed.

Simple circuit

Simple circuit

5. Examine pre-made examples of a circuit (if required).

Pre-made circuit

Pre-made circuit

6.To make the circuit, place the LED globe through hole punched hole and spread out the LED leads (small metal rods extruding from LED globe).


7. Peel off the sticky side of the conductive foil tape and stick across one of the leads. Making sure that it reaches the other piece of conductive foil tape and the battery.


8. Lay the coin battery on top of the first piece  tape, positive(+ve) side up.


9. Position the other piece of conductive foil tape so it connects with the positive (+ve) side of the battery (the top). Peel off the sticky side of the conductive foil tape and stick across the other lead. Making sure that it reaches both the first piece of conductive foil tape and the battery. Use Scotch tape to stick the battery to your name badge.



10. Make sure a firm connection is made. Stick all components down firmly with Scotch tape.


Troubleshooting section:

If not working check the battery that the positive (+ve) side is up (facing you). If LED does not light, check the connections between the conductive foil tape and the LED leads.

11. Stick all parts down with Scotch tape making sure conductive foil tape has a good connection with the LED leads and the battery.

12. Cut a piece of yarn and pace through the card.


13. Using double-sided Scotch  tape seal both sides of the card to enclose the circuit inside the LED name badge.

14. Place yarn around your neck and wear your new LED name badge with pride.



Helpful Hints:

When working with younger children, create a simplified version of the circuit. Explain to them that there is a positive (+ve) and a negative (-ve) side to the battery (show battery) and also a positive lead (the longer lead) and negative lead with the LED light. Show the children that when we use the LED and the battery in a particular way the LED works and lights up. If we reversed the LED or the battery the LED would not light up. This method is very quick and ‘always’ works. The participants, especially the younger ones need something quick and simple that works.

IMG_2384 IMG_2386 IMG_2387

Lesson Plan – Version 5.0: Final Revision

In reviewing my lesson plan for a professional development day of staff, it is clear that modifications were necessary. As the Principal of a primary school I deliver a lot of professional development to the staff and I can now see that it is imperative for the staff (as learners) that I provide the best possible professional development, by ensuring that the principles of TPACK, Universal Design for Learning and Professional/Personal Learning Networks are covered, also ensuring that I model good digital citizenship and the use of Creative Commons are employed on all media displayed. I will discuss these in greater depth and detail during my blog.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)

MAETEL1 provided me with many new ideas and methodologies, one significant concept that I learned is called TPACK. It stands for Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge, (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) and it is an educational framework used to design classroom instruction that combines the three principles of Technology, Content Knowledge, and Pedagogy into a single framework. This is what I believe all teachers strive for with each of their lessons, especially when adding technology to create 21st Century learning environments. I used this framework to modify my original lesson plan, ensuring that all aspects of TPACK were incorporated into my lesson of teaching the staff to enter notes of commendation and notes of concern into the school SEQTA system.

“Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by

Firstly, I had to ask myself, why am I making the staff enter notes of commendation and notes of concern into the school SEQTA system? This question demonstrates content. The staff needs to see a clear purpose and rationale for the use of this data, and how it will benefit themselves, fellow staff and the school in the future. Of course as principal, I could easily just tell the staff that this is what will be done, but the staff needs to take ownership of this process in order for it to be continuous and effective.

When considering the pedagogy of Lesson 5.0 compared to Lesson 2.0, it caused me to think about how I would teach this lesson to my staff. I revised my original lesson to take into consideration the different learning styles and abilities of each staff member. Koehler (2006) expresses that, “Effective technology integration for pedagogy…requires developing sensitivity to the dynamic, transactional relationship between these components of knowledge…no single combination of content, technology, and pedagogy will apply for every teacher, every course, or every view of teaching” (p.37). With this in mind, my lesson was revised to consider all the different learning styles for my teachers.

The process of adding of notes of commendation and notes of concern to the school SEQTA system is the what of the lesson, and will require the use technology i.e. iPads and/or computers. With the addition of technology to the professional development day I must now consider the multitude of different ICT literacy levels of each staff member as this will have a major impact on the functionality of the day and the effectiveness of the learning outcomes in terms of how well future data continues to be entered. Initially this was not considered, but with revision, staff members who need it will be provided extra time and support from myself, the assistant principal or their peers. Mishra and Koehler (2009) clearly states this “…these technologies have the potential to fundamentally change the way we think about teaching and learning” (p.15). This will be a huge mind shift for many members a lot of my staff and each need time, guidance and leadership in order to master this digital technology.

Universal Design for Learning


UDL Bodies 2013. by Chrissie Butler is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Another important aspect to take into consideration when planning or designing lessons to teach, whether to students or adults, is the Universal Design for Learning. By applying the three UDL principles, Multiple Means of Representation (the “what” of learning), Multiple Means for Action and Expression (the “how” of learning) and Multiple Means for Engagement (the “why” of the learning) to my original lesson plan, I felt that some modifications to the lesson plan needed to be made as one size does not fit all and my original approach did not take into consideration the individual learning styles of all staff members. One major aspect that I did not consider was to provide a hard copy printout to staff of the digitally presented information on the day. Another aspect that I have added is to allow staff members to collaborate amongst themselves to help and show each other strategies and techniques as we progress through the day. These changes address individual ICT literacy levels and learning styles. When these three principles are applied in an educational context it provides all students, including staff members, equal opportunities to learn. In turn, assessment and evaluation needs to be individualised, ensuring that each staff member progresses to the intended outcome, whilst acknowledging growth and assistance required during the process.

Professional / Personal Learning Networks

Professional Learning Networks Caroline Bucky is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Professional Learning Networks Caroline Bucky is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Covarubias (2014) states that, “In order to create and lead effective schools, principals need quality professional development and the best way to do that is through an ongoing professional network” (p.11). This statement must be applied to all staff working within the education system. By seeking help and assistance from outside sources, be it work colleagues, consultants or a form of digital media I am able to ensure that the information I present on the day will be accurate, up-to-date and relevant for the staff. I can use these networks to seek additional information about the best way to present information to the staff in order to help them be in the best position be an effective learner.
Covarubias (2014) points out that, “Teachers spend most of their time working in isolation away from each other in self-contained classrooms with no opportunity to engage in continuous and sustained learning about their practice in the setting in which they actually work” (p.25). By allowing time during the professional development day for teachers to collaborate amongst themselves or by seeking digital information is then allowing them to further develop their professional learning networks.

This process of reflection and revision on all the different elements of a lesson plan is what can raise a good learning situation to a great one. It provides an assurance that the goals and outcomes will be achieved; evaluation and assessment before, during and after the lesson ensure the quality of the achievement. By no means is this a complete summary of what needs to be reflected on and continued revision will always have to be done as the needs of learners constantly change, whether it is staff members or in the classroom.


Covarubias, M. (2014). Comparative study of the networked principal vs. the isolated principal. Retrieved from

Mishra, P. & Koehler. M. J. (2009). Too cool for school? No way! Using the TPACK framework: You can have your hot tools and teach with them, too. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(7), 14-18.

TPACK Explained | [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

TPACK.ORG. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Networked Learning Project – A Challenge!!

A challenge you say…Bring it on!

Ukulele koyama s11 and other from Cebunal. George79 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ukulele koyama s11 and other from Cebunal. George79 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The challenge that I have been set, is to learn something that I have always wanted to learn but have never gotten around to learning it. And, to make the challenge a little more interesting, I will only be able to use YouTube and Internet Help Forums for information about how I will learn my new skill. I say, bring it on!

The challenge that I have set myself is to lean to play a song on the ukulele. I have watched my daughter playing her ukulele on many occasions and have always want to pick it up an play a song on it, but I have always found some excuse to avoid sitting down and learning to play the ukulele.

In order for me to learn the basics and ‘actually’ playing a song on the ukulele, I will definitely have to reach out to my personal learning networks, as I currently have no idea of how to play the ukulele. During this time I will  watch Youtube tutorials clips seeking information about holding, strumming and selecting notes on a ukulele. I will watch tutorials that are posted on YouTube, and I will use help forums on the internet if required to help me succeed with my challenge.

I have found some possible links that will help me with this challenge, so that I will be able to play a song on the ukulele.

Youtube clips:

There are also lots of tutorials on YouTube that will teach you to play a song. Here are just a few of the multitude of tutorials available.

Some other links that I may use in my endeavor to play a song on the ukulele: