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Setting for eLearning #EDUC5608

October 24, 2015

Our Humanities team  undertakes professional learning as a community of practice (Wenger, 1998).


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Weekly team meeting agendas are devised collaboratively with the aid of TodaysMeet, and the role of chair is rotational, with staff members leading colleagues in discussion of what is working in our ecosystem.  Visual images are cached using, and staff are able to include these resources in portfolios to document their collaborative processes against AITSL standards (AITSL, 2012a).

A culture of sharing is fostered asynchronously online, and reinforced daily in our classes. Instructional rounds are the means by which best practices are embedded; coaching conversations are conducted with reference to walkthroughs during which student work samples become reference points for learning (City, Elmore, Fiarman & Teitel, 2010). Ironically,

Most institutional leaders today will maintain with great conviction that developing talent is one of their highest priorities. Yet, as the continuing popularity of the Dilbert comic strip and the television series The Office shows, the stultifying effect of our work environments is very real. There is a wide gap between rhetoric and reality. Institutions designed for push cannot easily accommodate pull (Hagel, Seely Brown & Davison Lang 2010, p. 25).


This paradox can create dissonance for teachers: While expectations of compliance and passivity are pervasive (Timperley, 2015), processes of planning, reflection, teaching, assessment and moderation all appear as fluid components of student-centred pedagogy within our team; colleagues remark that the team processes are a source of uplift.

New managerialism and performativity, on the other hand, are experienced as unwelcome accountability measures (Ball, 2003). Over time – and with careful cultivation of trust – what emerges is continual learning about our student learners despite glocalised norms of quality teaching (Dinham, Ingvarson & Kleinhenz, 2008; Hattie, 2009; OECD, 2009).  The challenge remains as a leader

to change compliance to agency and passivity to deep curiosity (Timperley, 2015, p. 6).

Drawing on awareness of social learning theory, where new behaviour patterns are acquired either through direct experience or observing practice (Bandura, 1971), Humanities staff can be seen as both curious and engaged. Four graduates commenced this year, joining three experienced teachers, and bringing diverse experiences in relation to both pedagogy and use of technology. Potential for rich coaching conversations exists. Flexibility of approach is essential.

According to the literature,

Teacher pedagogies will determine the extent to which the possibilities offered by technology are realised in education settings (MCEETYA, 2005, p. 3).

In 2013, with possibilities for improving student learning in mind, we embarked on action research using the SAMR model to gauge levels of technology integration which existed (Puentedura, 2011). Review processes revealed substitution was the most common mode of usage. Staff expressed confidence designing learning activities which encouraged students to produce PowerPoints and Word documents, while the internet was accessed largely for research. Anxiety about change processes underway was expressed and, in particular, expectations of technology integration clouded the ecosystem with varying degrees of fear and awe (Bax, 2011).


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Risks were perceived as threats, and upheaval generated perturbation. Gradual movement from acquisition to participation metaphors of learning has taken time to build, and shift being made emerges from foundations of relational trust (Sfard, 1998).

At present:

  • Edmodo has been successfully incorporated into senior school curriculum delivery;
  • Twitter professional links extend beyond the school’s geographical boundaries to include colleagues who have moved on to other contexts, and Twitter for beginners lunch sessions promote connectivity online;
  • a few staff have participated in TeachMeet workshops,
  • and the majority are subscribers to relevant Connect online learning communities to access curriculum resources and updates.

These effective strategies indicate that motivation and engagement for staff as well as students are achieved with the aid of mobile learning tools (Pegrum, Oakley & Faulkner, 2013). Although mobile tools are still perceived as special, our team processes reveal that

together we “strive for normalisation” (Chambers & Bax, 2006, p. 465).

By contrast, ineffective strategies highlight challenges which remain.


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Failure on my part to ameliorate differences which existed in staff skill levels and confidence with technology serve as useful signposts to design future just in time learning opportunities. Considering these differences are apparent within a broader context where national standards of performance apply (AITSL, 2012a), and continual improvements are expected (AITSL, 2012b), further challenges emerge. For example, a team member who was revered for their pedagogical skills was also incapable of accessing department emails without support. Of what use to them was the Wiki cache of curriculum resources I had prepared to promote student learning?

Conversely, an experienced and technologically proficient colleague who had conducted peer to peer mentoring in previous roles was keen to transfer these skills into our context, and confidently drew on mobile presentation tools with students and staff. How could my persistent sharing of resources via Pinterest, WordPress and mitigate her feelings of being stifled by pedagogical emphasis of direct instruction?

Skillsets, stability, attitudes and expectations – these complex attributes persist and are transmissible beneath the tip of a school’s cultural iceberg (Bates and Plog, 1990), thus they demand attention if we are to build sustainable practices.

Selected references

AITSL. (2012a). Australian teacher performance and development framework. Retrieved September 10, 2015

AITSL. (2012b). Australian charter for the professional learning of teachers and school leaders. Retrieved September 10, 2015

Ball, S.J. (2003). The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 18(2), pp. 215-228. Retrieved September 26, 2014

Bandura, A. (1971). Social learning theory. New York:  General Learning Press.

Bates, D. & Plog, F. (1990). Cultural Anthropology. New York; McGraw Hill.

Bax, S. (2011). Normalisation revisited: The effective use of technology in language education. International Journal of Computer-Assisted Language Learning and Teaching, 1(2), 1-15. Retrieved September 30, 2015

City, E.A., Elmore, R.F., Fiarman, S.E. & Teitel, L. (2010). Instructional rounds in education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Chambers & Bax, (2006). Making CALL work: Towards normalisation. System 34(4), 465–479.

Dinham, S., Ingvarson, L. & Kleinhenz, E. & Business Council of Australia. (2008). Teaching talent: the best teachers for Australia’s classrooms. Melbourne: Business Council of Australia. Retrieved October 8, 2015

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.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London and New York: Routledge.

Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA). (2005). Pedagogy strategy: Learning in an online world. Carlton South, Victoria: Curriculum Corporation. Retrieved October 10, 2015 from le.pdf

OECD. (2009). What makes a school successful? Retrieved September 12, 2014

Pegrum, M., Oakley, G. & Faulkner, R. (2013). Schools going mobile: A study of the adoption of mobile handheld technologies in Western Australian independent schools. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 29(1), 66-81. Retrieved October 5, 2015

Puentedura, R.R. (2011). A brief introduction to TPCK and SAMR. Workshop slides. Ruben R. Puentedura’s weblog. Retrieved October 2, 2015

Sfard, A. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one. Educational Researcher, 27(2), 4-13. Retrieved September 29, 2015

Timpereley, H. (2015). Leading teaching and learning through professional learning. Australian Educational Leader, 37(2), 6-9. Retrieved October 16, 2015

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

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