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Philosophy of teaching #EDUC5608

October 10, 2015

e-Learning as a community of practice in a Secondary Humanities team

IF WE ARE GOING TO SUCCEED in this rapidly changing world, we face two challenges: making sense of the changes around us, and making progress in an increasingly unfamiliar world (Hagel, Seely Brown & Davison, 2010, p. 3).

Introduction – philosophy

When I began teaching in 1989, the World Wide Web was emergent in the social imaginary, and my final written assignments at university were produced using a Brother electronic typewriter with facility to delete mistakes made in the last 100 characters typed. Text was held in a reserve display for editing before being committed to paper.


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Aside from chalk, the most essential piece of equipment in the school I first joined as a member of teaching staff was an IBM photocopier, housed in the front office. The Gestetner machine had only recently been superseded, and was relegated to a store cupboard in the English department. Personal computers were a rarity for staff, let alone students, and I waited until 1991 to purchase a Compaq stand-alone. At home each evening, preparation involved designing resources using Letraset and fine markers.


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It is astounding to look back and gain perspective of the phenomenal rate of technological innovation, along with its impact on the ecology of learning and teaching since that period. As a beginning teacher with a philosophy that making a difference to students’ future opportunities was my unerring goal, no matter the effort required, tools at my disposal seemed ill-suited to the scale of task which lay ahead: Preparation absorbed hours, and labour was undertaken in isolation.

How dramatically the learning ecosystem has changed.

Currently, as a school leader with ready access to a professional learning network (PLN), I am grateful for mobile connectivity to colleagues in diverse locations, which complements face to face interactions with staff in my local context. By becoming a discerning adopter of mobile technology tools – reading materials aggregated via Feedly and Diigo, participating in MOOCs, listening to podcasts and sharing experiences and insights by blogging – my modified philosophy is adapt or perish. For me, learning is underpinned by social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, forging a community of practice (Wenger,1998) which is marked by ubiquity (Pegrum, 2009) – technology, resources and support.

Commentators have defined what is happening around us “the new culture of learning” (Thomas & Seely Brown, 2011, p. 17). In evidence:

  • Edmodo student groups facilitate asynchronous online chat in password-protected safety;
  • ClassDojo is used as a communication tool between staff and parents;
  • Humanities team processes are posted on TodaysMeet with shared images cached using;
  • students undertake WebQuests, design blog posts using KidBlog or PikiFriends, make slideshows using Haiku Deck or Prezi, and Padlet wall collaborative boards are employed by staff and students alike to share ideas.


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Whereas literacy in the late 1980s was a skillset that the community expected students to demonstrate in English classes by writing with pens on lined paper and reading print texts, digital literacy demands

…changing instructions to focus on 21st-century fluency and thinking skills [which] means there will be a shift from traditional expressions of learning to digital expressions of learning (Jukes, McCain & Crockett, 2010, p. 130).

Despite the volatility of change, my constructivist teaching philosophy sustains. According to Bosco,

A learning environment that promotes the development of creativity, innovativeness and capability for self-directed lifelong learning in students will have a strong flavor of  constructivist learning, rather than one of teacher-dominated declarative learning. Students will be active agents in the construction of their own knowledge, rather than passive recipients of that knowledge from teachers (Bosco in Moyle, 2010, p.iv).

Making a difference to students’ future opportunities can be seen as a necessary focus when designing learning, but what that future looks like is uncertain (Friedman, 2006; Lee & Gaffney, 2008; Weigel, James & Gardner, 2009). Given the predictions of global megatrends which are difficult to determine, where increasing internationalisation necessitates intercultural understanding and competencies, where lifelong learning and flexible arrangements for sustaining connectivity via virtual, networked worlds renders much of what is currently known about ways of doing and being in education in a state of flux, there are many possibilities to contemplate (CSIRO, 2012; NMC, 2015; Ruthven, 2012).


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Flexibility of approach is essential in this dynamic, where teachers are urged to place due emphasis on

the three Ps of e-learning: pedagogy, pedagogy and pedagogy! (Mottram & Ioannou-Georgiou quoted in Pegrum, 2009, p. 5).

Selected references

CSIRO. (2012). Our future world: Global megatrends that will change the way we live. Retrieved October 6, 2015

Friedman, T.L. (2006). The world if flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century (2nd Edition). New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Hagel, J., Seely Brown, J. & Davison, L. (2010). The power of pull: How small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion. New York: Basic Books.

Jukes, I., McCain, T. & Crockett, L. (2010). Understanding the digital generation: Teaching and learning in the new digital landscape. Kelowna, BC, Canada: 21st Century Fluency Project Inc. & Corwin.

Lee, M. & Gaffney, M. (2008). Leading a digital school: Principles and practice. Camberwell, Victoria: ACER press.

Moyle, K. (2010). Building innovation: Learning with technologies. Camberwell, Victoria: ACER. Retrieved September 12, 2015

NMC. (2015). Horizon report: 2015 Higher education edition. Retrieved September 30, 2015

Pegrum, M. (2009). From blogs to bombs: The future of digital technologies in education. Crawley, Australia: UWA Publishing.

Ruthven, P. (2012). A snapshot of Australia’s digital future to 2050. IBM Australia. Retrieved October 10, 2015

Thomas, D. & Seely Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky.: CreateSpace?.

Weigel, M., James, C.  & Gardner, H. (2009). Learning:  Peering backward and looking forward in the digital era. International Journal of Learning and Media,1(1), pp. 1-18.

Wenger, E. (1998). Introduction: A social theory of learning. In Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: University Press, 3-17.


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