Peer review

How I planned, generated and responded to reviews of my design based research proposal

I planned to generate feedback around some general ideas first and give myself time to contemplate those.  I did this through face to face conversations and on the blog.  I then asked specific questions to refine what I was going to use as an intervention.

My first post was to generate general feedback around how to work with teachers to increase digital literacy.  I wanted to know whether or not my ideas were logical and/or fair.  One comment supported my general ideas and another warned me about how I framed it.  Was I focusing on individuals or the institution?  Most of the comments made about this post talked about how much change is occurring in the institution and how the institution needs to be supportive of the increased workload and pressure due to these changes.  I was asked what factors are contributing to this problem and I can think of many.

  1. Not enough time. Surely there are some who aren’t great at time management, but when 90% of staff are saying the same thing, this is a problem.
  2. The institution experienced an amalgamation which changed roles, hierarchy, reporting structures, educational documents, and information storage areas.
  3. Vast changes in training packages. Although this is usual to ensure training is industry relevant, this year has included more training packages and more far-reaching changes than before.
  4. Many staff recently moved physical locations. Some more than once and sometimes into less favourable environments.  There has been uncertainty about which campuses will stay open and where training will be delivered.
  5. Government funding has changed.
  6. Delivery mode has changed. Every faculty is adopting blended learning and teaching in some way.
  7. The learning management system (LMS) is changing as are other support, information and management systems.
  8. Teaching requirements in VET have changed. This added two new mandatory courses for all teaching staff.
  9. Although a Teaching Community of Practice (CoP) was created, it was online and in the new LMS. Considering that it is new and that an LMS doesn’t support open networks (David Jones blog), teachers have been unable to easily connect with others using this method.

This led me to look into institutional change and the role of the institution during periods of change.  See the diagram about change below from Finding Marbles.


Repeated change means that people don’t have the chance to integrate and adopt a change properly before the next change is required, leaving people with the feeling that they cannot keep up and decreasing resilience.   The Australian Public Service Commission (2013) describe a number of strategies to build and maintain resilience in individuals, teams and organisations in the face of challenge and change.  The article posits that management of the institution have a large role to play by providing leadership, encouraging team cohesion, offering support, providing role clarity, recognizing progress, communicating effectively and encouraging a work life balance.

The second part of gathering feedback after this was in a post where I asked “What kind of PD can help”?

One person stated that although the idea of a CoP sounds good, it works for specific issues, rather than dealing with the gamut of change I mentioned above.  He talked about the idea of ‘Champions’ sounding good as it means there is someone available to work with teachers to directly address concerns.  Another person stated that this was the type of support and learning that she preferred as well, and if the organisation supported that, it would be really helpful. Another comment reiterated the delicacy of the CoP, pointing out that it depends on how people view its use, to whether or not it will be beneficial for teachers.  It was also mentioned that people need to have meaningful connection which won’t come about by implementing more PD.

This feedback confirmed my thinking and research about how digital literacy and its use, was a responsibility of all in the institution.  Teaching staff needed to feel support rather than pressure, appreciation rather than condemnation, and management needed to provide multiple means for teachers to learn, be supported and teach effectively.  I think that the DBR I have posted provides some information about how this can occur.


My DBR Proposal

My Design Based Research Proposal

My role is to train and support teachers in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector around the educational technology they need to use, and teaching practices around blended learning and inclusivity. In the course of my work I have identified that there is a lack of digital literacy among some teachers which is causing problems in the support that they can provide to students in a blended learning environment to learn these skills.  These are a broad range of skills as shown in diagram below from The Design Studio at Jisc.

The seven elements of digital literacy


Figure 1. The seven elements of digital literacy (Jisc, 2014)

Most teachers are not teaching courses about digital literacy, hence it is important that they can demonstrate and encourage these skills in other ways for the students’ benefit during and at the completion of their studies.  Knowles (2013) posits that digital literacy (DL) underpins our capacity to provide social opportunity and participate in the digital economy.  Knowles also points out that the groups of people most likely to be lacking in DL skills include those on low incomes, without tertiary qualifications, and from diverse areas of disadvantage or marginalisation such as being in older age groups or having a disability.  Many students in these circumstances are studying in VET with NCVER (2015) stating that 5% identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, 18% are over 45 years of age, 8% have disclosed a disability and 18% speak a language other than English at home.


My overall question for this designed based research (DBR) proposal is:

How can Networked and Global Learning (NGL) be used to support an increase of digital literacy in teachers as individuals?

The aspect of the teacher as an individual means taking into consideration their personal circumstances, needs and abilities.  It is illogical to demand that a team of teachers attend the same professional development (PD) activity on DL because there will be differing levels of confidence, ability, availability, needs and interest. Standardised PD for teachers often doesn’t work for these reasons (Green & Ruutz, 2008; Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada & Freeman, 2015) and providing individual training to each teacher is impractical as the resources are not available for such an endeavour.

To support teachers to consciously build the use of networks and understanding of technology brings up various questions such as:

  1. Which elements of networked learning can support development of DL?
  2. Which aspects of NGL are best used to support VET teachers?
  3. What responsibility does the institution have to support teachers in developing DL?

Literature Review

The Australasian council on open, distance and e-learning (Acode, 2104) state that DL is absolutely necessary in education to be able to function effectively.  Acode points out many of the different areas of DL, similarly to the Jisc diagram above,  such as understanding which tools, sites and information is credible and useful, creating a digital identity and enhancing cognitive and collaborative outcomes, comes about by teachers understanding and using the technology.  Kivunja (2015) also states that it is imperative to be teaching students how to use digital technology to discern which tools and information can be used for particular situations as many are “intricately tethered to the Internet” (p.166).

The problem is that not all teachers have levels of DL that are supportive of developing these skills in students (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada & Freeman, 2015).  Hicks and Turner (2013) discuss ways that teachers can improve digital literacy for students through advocating for DL to be used, trying out new things, interacting in networks, creating your own content, and inviting students to do the same.  Green & Ruutz (2008) point out how teachers are being expected to remain experts in their field whilst also increasing their educative abilities in things such as inclusive teaching, and online and blended learning.  Many educational institutions recognise the need for better use of DL and are beginning develop and utilise professional development programs for teaching staff to address the issue, yet for teachers to really improve, they need ongoing connections, training and substantial leadership (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada & Freeman, 2015).  Deakin University (2013) have incorporated the development of DL into the course curricula and assessments, and have teaching staff modelling the use of DL in their teaching and research practice.  It has taken considerable work by Deakin University to ensure that DL is built into teaching and the criteria of assessments measure elements such as the appropriate, efficient and effective use of technology, effectively accessing quality, credible and relevant resources, online collaboration, developing a digital identity, and discriminating between opinion and information.

Although it is important for teachers to have effective DL skills to benefit themselves and students, it isn’t necessary they be experts.  Recognising teachers as professionals, with different types of industry and responsibilities towards students, can help institutions to equitably divide the responsibility of learning DL between the teachers and the institution, and there are many ways to do this.

NGL is a useful method of learning when DL is a key objective.  Goodyear, Banks, Hodgson and McConnell (2004, as cited in Goodyear 2005) define NGL as:

Learning in which ICT is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners; between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources .”


To support teachers through networked learning would mean that teachers need to be able to connect with each other, the teacher trainers, administrative staff, teachers, trainers and experts across the world, and to various resources that support them and their teaching.   They can access and utilise the information that comes through those connections to copy, modify or transform what they have learned.  These days the discussions about NGL generally include ICT, but they do not have to.  Goodyear (in Goodyear and Carvarlo, 2014) demonstrated that networks have historically had a significant effect on people regarding learning, trading and development of ideas and technology.  In this research proposal, the utilisation of NGL will be approached in the broad sense (not limiting it to the use of ICT).

Inclusivity is an important aspect of teaching in VET.  Teachers need to ensure they are using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles of multiple means of representation, engagement, action and expression to provide the best chance for students to be able to learn (CAST, 2014).  The guidelines are embedded in the booklet “Inclusive Learning – A Way Forward” (Queensland VET Development Centre, 2012), which is the basis for training teachers how to ensure that all learners are provided the means to reach their potential.  Brown and Reushle (2010) state that it is critical to ensure that learners feel supported and valued, that everyone is clear about roles and responsibilities, and that learning should be contextualised with multiple means of engagement and representation.  It serves to reason that teachers should be provided the same opportunities to engage and learn in the PD that is provided by the institution.   This would mean that teacher’s current knowledge is taken into account, they have multiple ways to engage with the information and resources available, there are multiple ways in which to demonstrate their knowledge and skills, the knowledge and skills they need are made explicit, as are timelines, and they are aware of the people and networks available to support them to meet goals.

A personal learning network (PLN) that is supported by the institution is a logical way to ensure that teachers have these opportunities to engage and learn the DL they need.  Teachers will already have some sort of PLN in place, but they may not be aware of it or using it to its full potential.  Couros (2010) defines a PLN as the connections, value and benefits from facilitating and developing a personal learning environment that allows people to manage their own learning.  Marc-Andre Lalande (2012) provides a succinct explanation of the PLN in the following clip.

Burt (2014) takes people through the steps of how to build their own PLN pointing out that the key aspect is that it is individually decided how, who by, what and when learning occurs.  He discusses the point that the online network is what can really enhance the PLN and provides ideas similar to Couros (2010) such as reading and creating blogs, attending webinars, using collaborative and bookmarking tools and joining online networks or communities.  When teachers are aware of their PLN they may be more likely to be able to draw on people and information in their network and collaborate with people who can support them at the appropriate times.  A PLN for VET teachers could include other teachers and staff of the organisation, a Teaching Community of Practice, professionals from their area of expertise, video sites like Youtube or Vimeo, bookmarking sites like Diigo, professional networking sites like LinkedIn and various blogs such as Edublogs, The Innovative Educator, or Free Technology for Teachers.


Communities of Practice (CoPs) can form an integral part of a PLN because they are formed by people who are interested in the same types of things and want to learn from each other.  Wenger (1998) defines CoPs simply:

“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”

He explains the CoP well in the following clip, especially learning partnerships and community of practice (1:12 to 2:00).

CoPs can be difficult to maintain in educational institutions for reasons such as the need for administrative and technical support, the time required for leading or participating, differing values and practices, and employment conditions (Green & Ruutz, 2008).  McDonald (2014) found that if these issues are addressed with the CoP adequately resourced and facilitated using the CoP elements of community, sharing practice and growing knowledge (a social artist, Wenger called it in his talk above); CoPs are able to provide an alternative to specialised professional development programs.

Another way to improve teachers’ PLN, and address the issue of specialised PD programs, is through the use of ‘champions’.  Given the amount of staff in the institution, it would be reasonable to assume that there could be a DL champion in each teaching team.  A champion is a trusted colleague who provides positive leadership, effectively communicates with everyone, recognises efforts made, supports and encourages others, and promotes engagement (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2013; Murphy, 2013).  Considering that a champion will spend considerable time to do this, the teaching staff member who is chosen would not be able to sustain a full-time teaching load and this would need to be negotiated with management.

Another useful part of a PLN for teachers that differs from a specialised PD program, is the use of continual open sessions for staff to attend to address any DL question or need that they have.  This would mean having teacher trainers, technical support staff and/or champions available in a suitable space at different but consistent times across campuses.  For example, Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon at campus A, Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons at campus B, and Tuesday afternoons and Friday mornings at campus C.  This could be “advertised” in the email newsletters, on notice boards, in lifts, on the Intranet, the LMS, in meetings and in the CoP.


The Intervention

All of these methods of working with teaching staff to increase DL involve networking, both online and in person; they also need investment from the institution in order to be effective.  To help teachers develop their PLN to incorporate their DL responsibilities, the institution could create a checklist and/or guide for teaching staff to understand what sorts of digital literacy skills are crucial, or helpful to have and to teach.  This would also include the available methods and programs on how to develop those skills, people to contact for each skill and/or resource, networks and communities to interact and learn with.

The following is a basic example of a checklist and guide for teachers to enhance their PLN and develop their digital literacy skills in ways that are suitable for their style and circumstance.  They can rate each of their DL skills from 1 to 3 for reflective purposes and for the biannual professional development planning meeting with their manager.  1 is being able to use the LMS and at least one other platform for teaching and learning activities for self and students; 2 (includes 1) is being able to use multiple technologies for teaching and learning activities that provide opportunities for collaboration, and 3 (includes 1 and 2) is being adept at multiple ways to collaborate, learn and teach that provide new opportunities of learning (Hughes, Thomas & Scharber, 2010; Mirriahi, Alonzo & Fox, 2015).  The checklist should include names and contact details where possible.


DL skill from Jisc diagram in order of importance Examples of technology available People to contact PD sessions available for all types of DL Online networks and CoPs for all types of DL Self-Rating
Communication and collaboration LMS









Google Docs

Adobe Connect


Teacher Training team

Team champion




4/year PD week formal training – on Intranet


Weekly open door sessions – On Intranet


Team training online or F2F by request to teacher training  team




Teaching and industry specific CoPs – local, statewide and international.








Connected Educators



Information literacy Diigo



Search engines like Google scholar or citeulike


Library staff

Team champion


ICT literacy Computers, laptops and iPads

Multi-access classroom technology

Web conferencing tools

Internet, Intranet, apps & LMS



IT team

Teacher Training team

Team champion


Learning skills LMS




Khan Academy





Team champion


Teacher training team

Library staff

Media literacy Mendeley








Teacher training team


Team champion

Career and identity management LinkedIn








Team champion

Digital scholarship Diigo






Team champion

Teacher training team


For DL to be fully incorporated into an institution, multiple strategies are necessary and all staff need to take responsibility.  To implement these forms of professional development would mean that all teams and faculties are involved.  The teacher training team can work with managers for creating a timetable to implement the formal professional developments sessions every term as well as the weekly open sessions.  Management in each faculty will need to decide who the team champions could be and allocate mentors to all new staff or staff requesting a mentor.  They will ensure that every teacher and tutor is emailed information about a PLN with a checklist and guide and an explanation of the expectation of its use for the bi-annual professional development planning meetings.  Information will also need to be placed on the Intranet and in weekly newsletters (something different each week) for staff about Communities of Practice, the role of team champions and mentors, locations and times of open sessions, times for formal PD sessions, inclusive learning and teaching, and Personal Learning Networks.

Providing multiple avenues to learn and practice DL, with ownership accepted by both the institution and the teaching staff, is imperative for all teaching staff.  The skills and knowledge necessary to engage students and afford them with an integrated model of digital literacy, ensures students will have the skills needed to function effectively in the digital world.  It will also provide teaching staff with new strategies to transform learning, and comfort in knowing that students finish courses having had every opportunity to develop skills and knowledge suitable for their careers in the 21st century.


Reference List

Brown, A. & Reushle, S.E. (2010). People, pedagogy and the power of connection.  Studies in learning, evaluation, innovation and development 7(3), pp.37-48.  Retrieved from

Burt, R. (2014).  Edublogs Teacher Challenges.  Building your PLN.

CAST (2014).  Universal design for learning guidelines.  Retrieved from

Couros, A. (2010). Developing personal learning networks for open and social learning. Retrieved from

Deakin University, (2013). Deakin Learning Futures Agenda 2020: Stage 2: Assessment and learning design.  Retrieved from

Goodyear, P. (2014). Productive Learning Networks: The Evolution of Research and Practice. In L. Carvalho & P. Goodyear (Eds.), The Architecture of Productive Learning Networks (pp. 23–47). London: Routledge.

Goodyear, P. (2005). Educational design and networked learning: Patterns, pattern languages and design practice.  Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. 21 (1), 82-101. Retrieved from

Green, W. & Ruutz, A. (2008). Fit for purpose: Designing a faculty-based community of (teaching) practice, in Engaging Communities, Proceedings of the 31st HERDSA Annual Conference, Rotorua, New Zealand.  Retrieved from

Hicks, T. & Turner, K.H. (2013).  No longer a luxury: Digital literacy can’t wait.  National Council of Teachers of English.  English Journal 102 (6) p58-65.  Retrieved from

Hughes, J., Thomas, R., & Scharber, C. (2006). Assessing Technology Integration: The RAT – Replacement, Amplification, and Transformation – Framework. In C. Crawford, R. Carlsen, K. McFerrin, J. Price, R. Weber, & D. A. Willis (Eds.), Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2006 (pp. 1616–1620). Orlando, Florida: AACE. Retrieved from

Jisc, (2014).  Developing digital literacies.  Retrieved from

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.  Retrieved from

Kivunja, C. (2015).  Unpacking the Information, Media, and Technology Skills Domain of the New Learning Paradigm. International Journal of Higher Education.  Vol.4, no.1. doi:10.5430/ijhe.v4n1p166

Knowles, M. (2013).  Innovation and Business skills Australia. Digital literacy and e-skills: participation in the digital economy.  Retrieved from

Marra, M. (2014).  Institutionalising digital literacy – Acode 64 resources.

McDonald, J., (2014).  Community, Domain, Practice: Facilitator catch cry for revitalising learning and teaching through communities of practice.  Retrieved from

Mental health commission of Canada (2013).  A leadership framework for advancing workplace mental health.  Retrieved from

Mirriahi, N., Alonzo, D., & Fox, B. (2015). A blended learning framework for curriculum design and professional development. Research In Learning Technology, 23. doi:

Murphy, E. (2013). Creating change champions in your organisation.  Retrieved from

NCVER (2015).  Australian vocational education and training statistics: government-funded students and courses — January to June 2015, NCVER, Adelaide.  Retrieved from

Queensland VET Development Centre (2012). Inclusive learning: A way forward.  Retrieved from

Wenger, E., (1998).  An introduction to communities of practice.  Retrieved from


What kind of PD can work?

Many of us are aware that the digital literacy of teachers needs to improve to ensure that students learn skills that will serve them well in the future.  There are very few people who have no need of learning and communicating through technology but digital literacy isn’t just about the tools or activities that are technologically based; it is also about the critical thinking, filtering and organising of the information.  You can check Clay Shirky’s talk – It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure, for an example of this.

The New Media Consortium release the Horizon report every year for the K-12 and Higher Education sectors.  This year has shown both reports including low digital literacy of teachers as being a key challenge.  They also point out that it is a solvable challenge.  There is much that can be done but not every strategy is going to have great outcomes.  In the Higher Education report, it is pointed out that a standardised type of PD for teachers or academics is not likely to work well.  This makes sense to me; I am working with teachers and know the vast differences in digital literacy, amongst other things,  between the almost 300 teachers I work with.  I also teach inclusive practices so I am well aware that what helps one person learn, doesn’t necessarily work for another.  Brown and Reushle discussed methods of working with such diversity and pointed out how important it is to take individual learner needs, expectations and prior learning into account when developing courses and facilitating learning.

So my question is – How can NGL be used to support an increase of digital literacy in teachers as individuals?  I have a number of ideas I will put into a framework of sorts that will be based on a self and/or peer assessable checklist such as what is discussed by Mirriahi, Alonzo and Fox in their report on blended learning.  I will look at how Communities of Practice can help, how to provide accessible individualised and just in time learning, and how best to work with teams so they learn digital literacy in the way they need.

It would be great to hear what others think of this. No doubt you have had both kinds of PD – the type that you are glad you went to and the type where you walk out upset that you will never be able to reclaim those wasted hours.  Do you like the idea of ‘champions’ in a team or do you think everyone should be on the same page?  Will teachers find time to engage in communities of practice and should educational institutions become more realistic about the amount of support and training needed for staff (and provide more PD and time)?

Starting my own design based research

I have a number of things that I would like to spend time researching and developing my skills on so thankfully there is direction to concentrate on my own role as a teacher.  It narrows it down a little.

  1. My role is teaching teachers in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector. I support teachers to learn about the educational technology they need to and can use, and the teaching practices around inclusivity. This includes strategies to support the principles of everyone being able to learn, everyone learning differently, everyone bringing prior knowledge and skills to the learning and the five core skills from the Australian Core Skills Framework.  The problem I notice, is that many teachers are lacking in digital literacy (DL) hence are unable to support student’s learning in or through DL.  This is a problem for many reasons such as, but not limited to, the lack of the inclusivity principles in action, teachers could be better supported and supportive by and of each other, DL is a necessity for students when they finish their studies and it would be of great benefit whilst they study.
  2. What I want to be able to do is to increase the DL of teachers to increase teachers’ effectiveness and relevance. This brings up various questions such as: what kinds of networks can teachers utilise to support their learning and teaching; what types of technology do they need to use and what is likely to increase their effectiveness and relevance; what aspects of digital literacy do they need to use best to teach effectively; what aspects of NGL are best used to support VET teachers; and how can teachers encourage students to learn using NGL?
  3. The literature I am likely to focus on will be around TPACK, inclusivity in education, developing Personal Learning Networks, Communities of Practice, digital literacy, technology use in higher education, Networked and Global Learning (NGL), learning theories, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Toolbelt theory.
  4. I will then look at what sort of intervention is most likely to be beneficial for teachers (and students) in the VET context and put together a plan for implementation.

I still need to work on exactly what my first question will be to lead all of this but I am getting close. No doubt some of the above will change, disappear and be built on during the next few weeks.   I would appreciate any feedback from others about fine tuning these ideas and questions.

In the meantime, here is a TedX clip by Emilie Wapnick where she explains what “multipotentialites” are and how their three best skills are much needed in our changing society.  It is titled – Why some of us don’t have one true calling.

Design Based Research

The instruction for assignment two is to utilise design based research (DBR) to complete the second assignment – developing a theory informed plan to integrate networked and global learning (NGL) in my role as a teacher.  Barab & Squire (2004) describe DBR as

A series of approaches, with the intent of producing new theories, artifacts, and practices that account for, and potentially impact learning and teaching in naturalistic settings.

In this short clip, Barab talks about some DBR he was involved in.

You can read more about DBR from the Design Based Research Collective if you like.  I like the idea of blending the empirical educational research and the theory of designing learning environments.  It may be pleasant or stimulating to discuss theories but if they aren’t able to implemented, utilised and appreciated, I’m not interested.  Yes, I’m quite pragmatic and that will be useful here 🙂

Given that there isn’t time in this course to do everything, we are to concentrate of the first two parts of DBR.  These are:

  1. Conduct an analysis of a practical problem in collaboration with researchers and practitioners.
  2. Develop some solutions informed by existing design principles and technological innovations.

As my previous post of using NGL as a teacher points out, I am passionate about ensuring teachers have the necessary digital literacy skills to ensure that students leave their studies with the skills necessary to function in a digital world.  This is quite broad and will need to be refined, a lot.  I will develop a research question or rationale, develop more research questions, conduct a literature review, construct the theoretical framework and methodology.

Once I decide on an area to narrow it down to, I will essentially be answering the following:

  1. What is the problem/challenge/focus?
  2. Why is it a problem?
  3. Who says, or, who agrees and doesn’t agree?
  4. What has been done so far to deal with this?
  5. Who tried it and what were their results?
  6. In light of all this, what else could be done, and what will be best for this particular problem?
  7. What makes this idea viable?
  8. What process of implementation will work best, and why?

How NGL can inform my role as a teacher


Networked and global learning and connectivism were two things I hadn’t thought much about before starting this course.  Whilst progressing through the course, I have been able to see how they are already a big part of my life, both personally and professionally.  Goodyear, Banks, Hodgson and McConnell (2004, as cited in Goodyear, 2005) considered networked learning to be that which uses information and communication technology (ICT) to promote connections between those who are learning, those who are teaching and the resources.  Networked learning is not a new idea; Goodyear (in Goodyear and Carvarlo, 2014) point out that networks have historically had a significant effect on people regarding learning, trading and development of ideas and technology.  My personal and professional life has always involved networks for learning and I am now looking for ways to encourage this in others, most particularly in my role of training teachers.

A major aspect I would like to develop in my work is teaching digital literacy within networks which Siemens (2004) considers simply as connections between entities. If I can help others to see the benefits and utilise those networks or nodes needed to access knowledge, I am attending to what Downes (2012) sees as a connectivist learning approach.  See this clip by Erin Jonesrebandt for how connectivism for learning works.

A great aspect of ICT is being able to access information as needed but a key issue in education is the digital literacy of both teachers and students (NMC, 2015).  Teachers have a responsibility to lead the way for students and prepare them for the workforce.  There are very few jobs that don’t expect staff to utilise digital forms of communication, research, data collection, reporting, etc.  The problem is, if the teaching staff are reluctant or unaccustomed to using ICT, how can we help them to connect and teach using ICT?

Although many educational institutions are recognising this and starting to incorporate training programs for teaching staff to address the issue, the NMC (2015) points out that generalised PD programs do not work because staff are all at different levels of digital literacy and they will learn at different rates.  I have experienced this difference with teaching ICT such as web conferencing.  If web conferencing has never been used before, some teachers read a little, ask a few questions, “play” around with it, ask a few more questions and then get on with using it effectively.  Other teachers take weeks, even months of meetings, readings, links and “playing” around with it before they are willing to try it out.  Confidence and general digital literacy appears to make a big difference in how well people will use another type of technology.

Utilising networks for building confidence and gaining exposure to ICT is useful because networks can be accessed at any time, can move from strong to weak connections and change as a person’s needs and interests change.  Learners may have connections to other learners, to experts, and to resources, which are as strong or weak as is sought out.  They are able to access and utilise the information that comes through those connections to copy, modify or transform what they have learned.  For teachers to really improve, they need ongoing connections, training and substantial leadership (NMC, 2015).  Modelling the use of technology in teaching is helpful but it certainly isn’t enough.  Providing optional workshops during class or session breaks, and mandatory training for new systems before class are helpful too, but it isn’t enough.  It doesn’t spark enthusiasm for teaching or ICT.  It seems that the closest one usually gets to enthusiasm is when teaching staff realise they have to know something about the training on offer in order to keep their job, so they work on it until they can do what they need to (obviously not enthusiasm).

A transformation I would like to develop is for teachers to feel comfortable, effective and knowledgeable in their constantly changing role.  They need to master many skills in Vocational Education and Training (VET) such as how to create and use educational documents to suit students and regulatory bodies, how to teach diverse students effectively, how to use various technological systems for teaching and administrative duties, keep current and connected in their field of expertise and in VET, utilise various delivery modes for training and effectively communicate with a wide variety of people.  It is almost understandable that they roll their eyes when they are told there is something new they must learn for their role.



Understanding how people operate and connect in the institution can be helpful in supporting their roles.   Dron and Anderson’s (2014) explanation of sets, nets and groups could be a beneficial avenue to understanding some of the challenges of training teachers in ICT.  The institution as a whole is a set; people work in the same environments, for similar reasons, but don’t know many other staff.  They can utilise the intranet to learn about implemented changes, opportunities or support, but most teaching staff only use this when absolutely necessary.  Groups are the teams or faculties who connect regularly in meetings and common areas, know many others in the same team and have a common understanding in some area.  The nets traverse teams, faculties and the institution.  People are linked by common interests, purpose and challenges, and communicate in different ways.  Nets are often searched out when challenges or new projects arise.  People try to connect with those outside of their usual team to learn something new or gain support but this desire often dissipates after the challenge disintegrates, only to be frantically sought for again when the next issue arises.

I am going to work on a way that I can “sell” this idea of networking better to reduce the need to frantically search out nodes in networks when under pressure.  This will involve increasing digital literacy because teaching staff work across various campuses and don’t have much time to connect with each other regularly.  This will also provide avenues to work on the other topic I am passionate about; teaching staff to utilise technology and various teaching practices to work more effectively with students in order to help students develop the skills needed to participate effectively in the workforce.

IMG_0075 IMG_0085IMG_0089Learning spaces at TAFE Queensland Gold Coast

 Photos taken by me 🙂

The physical structure of where and how people learn and work is shifting; it needs to (Siemens, 2008).  This has been identified in my workplace and student learning spaces are changing, but this change in physical structure needs to occur for teaching staff too.  If there are to be transformations to the way staff teach and learn, they need to have multiple methods of catering to their changing learning needs.

Transformation of education technology changes how teachers teach, how they learn and even how they think about a subject matter (Hughes, et al, 2006).  When thinking about or trialing new teaching practices or technology, teaching staff who expect to utilise various networks and ICT will be transforming their way of thinking, which will affect the way in which they prepare students to be ready for the digital world.



Dron & Anderson (2014 ). A Typology of social forms of learning.  Teaching Crowds: Learning and social media.   doi: 10.15215/aupress/9781927356807.01

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Goodyear, P. (2014). Productive Learning Networks: The Evolution of Research and Practice. In L. Carvalho & P. Goodyear (Eds.), The Architecture of Productive Learning Networks (pp. 23–47). London: Routledge.

Goodyear, P. (2005). Educational design and networked learning: Patterns, pattern languages and design practice.  Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. 21 (1), 82-101. Retrieved from

Hughes, J., Thomas, R., & Scharber, C. (2006). Assessing Technology Integration: The RAT – Replacement, Amplification, and Transformation – Framework. In C. Crawford, R. Carlsen, K. McFerrin, J. Price, R. Weber, & D. A. Willis (Eds.), Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2006 (pp. 1616–1620). Orlando, Florida: AACE. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2008). New structures and spaces of learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism, and networked learning. Actas Do Encontro Sobre Web.

Suarez, J. (2012). A conversation with Stephen Downes.

As a learner, participation in NGL was useful for me.


me studying 2

When starting the Networked and Global Learning (NGL) course, I was a bit taken aback at the question, “What do I want to learn using NGL?”.  I thought blogging to start with as I was sure there was plenty of information available but I had to do this anyway.  I just bought new chickens and had to learn more about them too, so I chose to learn about how to keep the chickens naturally happy and healthy.

I assumed there would be information galore but wasn’t sure how I would connect with others using NGL for chickens, I no longer know anyone who has chickens.   Well I learned quite a bit and it was a bit easier than I thought.

I was quite right about how much information there was available on the web about chickens but it wasn’t so easy to ensure that I was getting correct information that was really about natural methods to care for chickens.  One example of that was when I was looking for how to create a dust bath to put in the pen.  I almost made a dust bath that could hurt them and was lucky that the key ingredient many people mentioned as being useful is actually quite difficult to buy.  In the time it took me to find that online, I also found information about how dangerous it could be.  When I looked further into that, there was plenty of information about what could happen if I used that product, much of that through Kathy the Chicken Chick and avian vet Dr Mike Petrik.  Kathy also has other people posting on her website and links to others such as Susan Burek, a herbalist, also had words of warning about the pesticide.

This reminded me how careful I should be when researching information through NGL.  Using the web means instant, or almost instant, information.  As I tend to be a little hurried at times, I like this instant and constant source of information but it could work against me.  I need to remember to look for other information which Kivunja (2015) would say means I still need to work on my digital literacy.  Alternatively, or maybe as well, I could work on my patience through the Personal Tao site and others which doesn’t always come easy for me when there are so many things to do.

I definitely developed some networks in this process.  I call them networks because they have emerged as I have gone searching and participating for them and they are fluid (Dron & Anderson, 2007).  These networks include caring for chickens, managing chickens in small or urban environments and plain appreciation or amusement of chickens.  These networks have developed through Pinterest, online forums, web searches and Facebook .  What impressed me most was when one of my chickens (Rush) got sick and how others were willing to read my queries in the Backyard Poultry forum and respond to me.  There were a number of ideas put forward by a few people, they also followed up to see how Rush and I went got through it.  I did not expect NGL to be easy in that way.  I guess that is because I have not been a great contributor on the net, more of a lurker.  Realising how helpful it is when people get involved and respond encourages me to do the same.  The clip posted by David Jones in the week 6 blog, “Obvious to you, amazing to others” by Derek Sivers points this out too.  It was a useful reminder of how one can label their thoughts as glaringly obvious which restricts the opportunity for others to appreciate and or learn from them.  I also really liked this 3 minute clip from Derek Sivers – Weird or just different?  He makes some great points about assumptions and how we may be unaware that we even have them.

Incorporating the “as a learner” section to the course made connections with others in the course a bit easier.  It put some extra interest into the course and provided an avenue where we could get to know each other a little, or at least not focus on study, whilst still learning and studying (clever).  I enjoyed watching how Bec and Rebecca were aiming to increase their fitness and run a certain distance; how Alex started learning how to code; how Lisa started learning javascript; how Murra Mumma went about safely making kraut; how Angela looked at a MOOC on learning how to learn and changed to lucky bamboo; and how David also started with a MOOC and moved to learning a musical piece with his son. Whilst distracted by my curiosity of how everyone was progressing in their personal endeavours, I learned better navigation skills, how to comment on other people’s blogs, how to link to other people’s blogs properly and a little about all of the things they were learning.

On the whole, NGL was a useful tool for me to learn how to care for my chickens naturally.  Maybe as more people use it, the technology will open up even further avenues for learning and communicating like Dron and Anderson (2012) speculate with the Web 3.0.  I have been involved with distance learning back when the workbooks came in the mail and I posted assignments and have been appreciative of the change to varying degrees of networked learning.  Regarding my chickens, avian vets are few and far between so maybe specialised vets will have online sessions for consultations.  That would be helpful.



Anderson, T. and Dron, J. (2012). Learning technology through three generations of technology enhanced distance education pedagogy.  Retrieved on 4-08-15 from

Jones, D. (2015). An experiment in networked & global learning.

Kivunja, C. (2015).  Unpacking the Information, Media, and Technology Skills Domain of the New Learning Paradigm. International Journal of Higher Education.  Vol.4, no.1. doi:10.5430/ijhe.v4n1p166

Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2007). Collectives, networks and groups in social software for e-Learning. In World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education (pp. 2460–2467).