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Digital Literacy Workshops in Doha

Posted by jturner56 on March 8, 2013

This week I was fortunate enough to be invited to lead teacher workshops as part of the ICT in Education Conference at the College of the North Atlantic in Doha, Qatar (see for more)

It was a well run conference with some excellent keynote presenters on robotics (Daniele Benedettelli and Dr. Ethan Danahy).

What I learned or had confirmed was

  • that teachers are interested and willing to progress their level of digital literacy to add value to the educational experiences they provide to their students.
  • in any workshop, as in any school, there are a range of expertise that has to be accommodated. Students supporting each other, and communicating with each participant to determine their needs, are crucial aspects of any digital literacy approach
  • the potential of Google apps to democratize learning was apparent. While I don’t like to advocate any one software, the value of Google apps to support higher-order thinking as identified by Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy and the ISTE NETs was a clear take-way for me. This was amplified by the no-cost and personal account uses of Google.
  • I remain concerned that in many schools the traditional limitations of problems with access to technology, support for new ideas, and conflicting priorities, hold back teachers and students. This seems to also be linked to trust concerns at all levels. Perhaps with powerful software, such as Google Apps, and a lessening of centralised controls, such as through BYOT, new dynamics and values for creation can emerge to finally overcome this. The feeling of hope in all participants was noteworthy. It will be in the end a leadership issue.

Where to? Like the movie Field of Dreams we as educators can only hope to build opportunities and hope our students come to what’s offered. So too for school leaders and system administrators. Teachers are not, and should not, be viewed as passive tools. They can lead by example if supported. We need to celebrate the small progresses and not just expect external deliverance.



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Whither formal learning in the Digital Age?

Posted by jturner56 on February 10, 2013

In recent times the issue of whether 21st Century learning or digital literacy are passé terms

While I will leave the uncertainty of what digital literacy is to my recent paper, I feel that formal education’s responsibilities needs clarification on where we stand, and where we wish to head in an era where digital technologies are at-hand. Good education has always been, and still is, about looking beyond with hope.

Are we in a significant time for education wrought by digital technologies? The ever-changing nature of digital technologies, pushed on by Moore’s Law and hyper-connectivity has led to a cacophony of noises that can easily find bedfellows seeking comfort.

The first point to make is human progress and therefore education is cumulative, building on the thinking as far back as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The second point is that it is contentious. The second decade of the 20th century is apposite, as the progressive thinking led by John Dewey ran up against the psychology of science led by Thorndike which still resonates. Courtesy of the hyper-connected world it is increasingly difficult to clarify who is merely barrow pushing, who is merely supporting this or that status quo (in new clothing), who is saying we live in new times requiring new dynamics, and those who have something to say that transcends the complexities and uncertainties that underpin the world. Regarding the third point, John Seeley Brown ( has already defined digital age learning. But does it speak to the fourth point where schools are responsible for working within strongly defined boundaries and expectations? Larry Cuban ( would say this gap has led to decades of unrealised expectations. I would say we have not yet resolved how formal education should value digital technologies as an optional tool, a cognitive enhancer, or surrogate teacher (first highlighted by Robert Taylor in 1980). Perhaps, though, a fourth consideration is needed, social connectiveness.

A lack of social context has undermined what schools are and could provide. As a social institution schools provide a structure for socialisation and personal realisation that is unparalleled, even against on-line connectivity. But social value needs to be considerate of the competitive nature and finite resources that drive much of human endeavour, even while acknowledging school’s potential for promoting equality and social empowerment. In the digital age citizenship has inter-connected technical and non-technical aspects.

Learning in the digital age remains like learning at all times. What is changing is that digital technologies support learning that can be more personalised, more mobile, more flattened, and across wider social connections. Digital technologies require problem solving, choice, collaboration and communication. It provides opportunities to create and construct to wider audiences and feedback systems. It therefore can be more real and shared, rather than built on what if, superficial, didactic priorities. Balance and choice will be determined by what is valued and to what end. As was the case 100 years ago the choices are there. We need to move beyond 21st Century Learning towards what learning we want to systematically value for the future we want.

Where are the leaders and drivers for this? Ideas as always welcomed

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Digital Literacy Thought

Posted by jturner56 on February 3, 2013

In Google+ I came across David Wees question “At what point do we stop talking about ‘digital literacy’ and recognize that people who cannot apply their literacy in digital situations aren’t really literate any more?”

See for it and some interesting responses.

My response received a ‘technical error’ send back, so I am publishing it here:

If we think of ‘digital literacy’ in superficial terms akin to reading literacy re those who can read and those who can’t read then we will continue to limit our conceptual understanding, and miss the depths of  literacies for a future  we should as educators be supporting our young to achieve. This is about what value and structures we wish to systematically apply to formal and informal learning. We have both a long way to go, and are already there when it comes to DL. Confusing times indeed.

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Learning Technologies in Schools through an educational research lens

Posted by jturner56 on October 26, 2012

As we approach Evidence month in looking at the effectiveness of our use of learning technologies it is convenient to consider what educational research has to offer to our perspective.

Two publications I recently came across, Educational Technology Research that makes a difference, and Improving student engagement, I think, offer interesting insights.

What they say is that

  1. “technology changes so quickly that it is difficult to build a body of findings over time”, leading to a lack of an “organised and persuasive body of evidence on technology’s benefits to classroom practice”
  2. In addition to the importance of respectful relationships and interactions, classroom practices that utilise inquiry-based, problem-based and exploratory approaches, and relevancy to real-life scenarios, multimedia and technology can assist learning to move beyond the classroom’s four walls.
  3. Further to this, constructivist pedagogies will be more fruitful that didactic approaches, even if “uncomfortable for some educators.”
  4. Finally, new literacy and skill demands require consideration of digital information literacy being infused into core content and processes.

I would add just a couple of riders from personal observation and reading

  • the change from industrial education, built on teachers passing on their specialist knowledge to their students, to a digital age where some student digital expertise will be more adept than their teacher’s, and with information/knowledge a click away in many cases, thus requiring more flattened approaches to classroom learning.
  • this in turn requires more connected and collaborative approaches, in line with workplace changes
  • and finally digital technologies can facilitate more personalised learning opportunities to cater for the diversity unrecognised in industrial models
  • which ultimately means a greater importance on social learning

In a nutshell then, as we consider learning technologies at our disposal, we need to be driven by our student learning intentions, seeking new ways to make this happen, support shortfalls in whatever ways are at our disposal, and be clear and honest in what we seek to achieve, where we are on our journey, and what our next steps will be (and why).

This needs to be considered across three levels, student learning, teacher teaching and school direction. This has always been so, with willpower the overriding determinant.

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Igniting vision at ISTE June 2012 Annual Conference

Posted by jturner56 on May 25, 2012

Recently I posted the  video below on the ISTE 2012 Conference Ning.
It’s available at
ISTE ignite are 5 minute sessions where 20 slides are presented over 15 seconds each to ignite thinking in key digital education areas.
My aim was the engender some feedback to improve the thinking on the importance of vision to broaden digital literacy horizons.

Your response / input would be appreciated and of value.

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