Light Offerings

Archive for September, 2014

Balance, Focus and Flow in Digital Age Education

Posted by jturner56 on September 21, 2014

This week I looked Clay Shirky’s blog post “Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away.” Shirky is a professor of media studies at New York University, consultant on the Internet, and writer (of Here Comes Everybody).

Shirky’s analysis of Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of the elephant and the rider to highlight competing demands of emotion and intellect. and the negative impact of multitasking, concludes with his decision to use whiteboard markers as preferred teaching approach complemented by a ban on digital use by students.

His post did highlight the importance of developing educational opportunities that can advance focus, balance and cognitive flow.

Clay is writing about post-school students who are expected to be more independent learners. How much harder it must be working with K-12 students whose emotional control is not expected to be as matured. Particularly when also taking into account the complex teacher diversity in play. This is what social media has brought to us, and how we respond will determine how much we can fulfill the potential of learning for a Digital Age.

It is not insurmountable.

  • used under Creative Commons license (from

    used under Creative Commons license (from

    focus lies with developing tasks, strategies and teacher pedagogies appropriate for the Digital Age

  • cognitive flow is achievable with the right tasks in the right environment for valued outcomes (personal and systemic)
  • balance requires understanding that not all tasks require digital (“lids down” is an acceptable strategy, as long as it is part of professional student engagement strategies)

There is a similarity to how cars enhanced transportation a century ago by making sure the roads, rules, engineering, support (ie mechanics) and required driver skills advanced in sync. Yet never supplanting the need to walk, keep fit, and address environmental issues. We have a way to go, with several barriers, including domination of hand-written exams defining value, still to  transcend. Challenging yet necessary.

(Shirky’s post was also re-posted by Larry Cuban here. I have provided a short response there)

Week 1: Bridges
Week 2: Busyness
Week 3: Beliefs
Week 4: Build (1) School Community + Digital Learning Ecosystem
Week 5: Blog (cross posted here)
Week 6: Build Learning Opportunities
Week 7: Balance


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Building Learning Opportunities for the Digital Age

Posted by jturner56 on September 15, 2014

ca1What would be the response if you asked your students, how could they learn better?

Perhaps the traditional response of work harder, ask more questions, manage workload or time better, be more organised, etc. All well supported by traditional priorities. But with the danger of checkbox learning towards a  means to an end motivation (or lack of) that can only retard the potential of learning.
In the digital age, however, there is more emphasis on better understanding how one learns, and from this how to move forward.

It is education’s role therefore to be instrumental to help student learn how to learn.

One way is to create learning opportunities that build skills and understanding through processes valued by today’s curriculum such as inquiry, active reflection, active learning and researching.An example is through a WebQuest, which is not new, but provides a good example of a mechanism to advance information literacy by getting students to challenge their thinking. Apart from digital literacy skills such as digital searching, evaluating information and using it productively, WebQuests can also connect learning through the creation of contestable media products, which can lead to next stage questions.

iFolios are one mechanism for supporting this through connecting, communicating and debating.

Inquiry processes, active learning approaches and formative feedback systems are needed if depth is to be achieved. Contemporary research into the nature of learning and learning how to learn also reinforces the importance and potential of digital tools in such processes.

It may sound convoluted, but the simple question “How can you learn better”, approached through a commitment to build deeper understanding, should be a core part of the visible teaching and learning of any digital age school.

Five Rules for writing a great Webquest (LLT 2001)
The nature of learning: using research to inspire practice (OECD 2010)
Learning how to learn – in classrooms, schools and networks (TLRP 2006)
Helping students develop effective study skills (ELES 2010)

So what does your task for students to help them explain how they learn look like?

Week 1: Bridges
Week 2: Busyness
Week 3: Beliefs
Week 4: Build (1) School Community + Digital Learning Ecosystem
Week 5: Blog (cross posted here)
Week 6: Build Learning Opportunities

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Week 5: How blogging can be a core part of schools in the Digital Age

Posted by jturner56 on September 9, 2014

This week saw us supporting students to set up their Middle School iFolio blogs. An important step to assist the teaching-learning process through making learning more visible for constructive feedback, formative assessment and learning from each other.

if1This is the latest iteration of a commitment to use blogs to progress learning that dates back to the middle of the last decade within the school and as a research consideration (see here)

What was of particular interest this year was

  1. support from the curriculum leadership at all levels enabling the development of a through-school system of student iFolios (This includes Grade 1 students blogging, which we will return to later on in the year)
  2. the value technical support which saw an xml file being created to speed up menu construction
  3. the increasing opportunities for students to personalise their learning journey while meeting curriculum requirements. This includes personal blogging to further develop digital identity, as well as ideas to extend, through supporting clubs and activities through blogging
  4. the in-classroom support by students to enable a flatter approach to problem-solving and skill development.
  5. teacher and subject support that is crucial to frame learning opportunities

A powerful coming together of key stakeholders to help build and embed a stronger use of technology.

We now look forward to curriculum journeys being constructed that can support better conversations about learning (including with parents), stronger reflections and connections, and wider systems of reporting of learning.

Blogging may not be the only way to achieve this, and Helen Barrett provides a wider research-based consideration, but for us it’s a powerful way.

Week 1: Bridges
Week 2: Busyness
Week 3: Beliefs
Week 4: Building (1) School Community + Digital Learning Ecosystem
Week 5: Blogging (cross posted here)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »