Innovate or Transform…

21st Century Digital… What?

We are seventeen years into the ’21st century’, but for education, I’m not sure that we realise this yet.

There is shared agreement that schooling in its current form, is not necessarily synonymous with learning, nor preparing students for what Jan Owen,CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians,
says is a ‘new work order‘.

Old models, which futurist and architect Prakash Nair calls ‘cells and bells‘ will not help students develop the mindset needed to successfully negotiate the worlds of learning, work and leisure as they exist today and into the future.

Connecting through Twitter

Both of these visionary leaders spoke at the 2017 Future Schools conference, currently being held in Melbourne. I could not attend, and yet I was able to share in some of the gems of wisdom and learn from the crowd thanks to their generous sharing on Twitter, using the hashtag #FutureSchools,

and participants such as Brendan Mitchell, who captured the tweets using Storify so that they could be easily perused.

This, to me, is what education and learning is. Of course, it is not as simple as this, but I am fervent in the belief that until we recognise the power and potential of actively connecting and networking with others in order to create knowledge, and time is spent each day by teachers and students, honing and investing in their own personal learning networks, we will continue to see many (wonderful) innovations in education, but few true transformations.

We have the technology.

Earlier this week, as part of ONL171,  I was part of a problem-based learning team meeting, where we discussed how to express our understanding of true online collaborative learning. The members of this team are situated in Brisbane (myself), Toowoomba, Finland, Singapore, Sweden and South Africa. Oh, and did I mention that one of the team members was on his way to Copenhagen, and was participating in the meeting while sitting on a train close to the border of Stockholm?

To achieve this meeting of minds, we needed (fairly low) broadband internet connections, a webcamera and microphone (mostly built into laptops and mobile devices) as well as a time which was accessible for all different timezones. I realise not every school has access to this – but many do. We choose to use Zoom, as it works for users even with extremely poor internet access (such as our South African participant) and is stable even supporting video.

I’m not suggesting every class group races out and starts connecting across the globe as the silver bullet. But I am making the suggestion that if the potential of connected and connectivist learning isn’t being at least explored, then perhaps it should be! We are no longer limited to the information in the textbook and the learning that can occur within the four walls of the classroom; and yet for so many educational experiences, this is still the case.


I learn and am inspired everyday by my personal learning network – a group of people that I have developed connections with over time, drawn together by shared purpose, common interests and a love of lifelong learning. Just today, at 5.30am, I was introduced by Alec Couros, professor at the University of Regina, to Shawn N Fraser – professor at Athabasca University. How did this happen?

True story…

Well, I was sitting in bed, in my PJs, participating in a Tweetchat as part of the Open Networked Learning course I mentioned above. Alec and Shawn are both based in Canada, whereas I am in Brisbane. I saw a tweet from Shawn, and noted he is at Athabasca, which has wonderful examples of open resources, which I have used frequently in my studies. I made a comment to this effect, and, bingo! A connection was made! I learnt that Shawn is also interested in connected learning, and that he embeds it in his courses.

I don’t normally make it my practice to chat with professors at 5.30am; but when I do, I always learn something!

If we can connect worldwide to leading experts in our fields of interest, then why aren’t we offering this opportunity to our students? Why are we limiting them to textbooks? And why are we satisfied when they have access to Google, even if they do not have the search strategies or information literacy to make effective use of it?

Talk Talk Talk

There is a lot of talk about how education needs to change, and perhaps this post is just adding to it. However I’d like to think that by demonstrating just a few ways I have connected and learnt online and through my PLN in the past week, I have opened a window to potentials perhaps not previously envisioned.

Sadly, I’m preaching to the converted. Lovely people who read my blog are usually in the same field as me, and are thinking the same things, and trying to instigate action in the same way. For education to truly be transformed, rather than the renovations our political leaders suggest, and the innovations edtech vendors sometimes encourage us to invest in, every practitioner must understand and value the power and potential of connections and connected, connectivist learning.

I hope my research gets us some of the way at least – because learners deserve and need so much more than textbooks and worksheets! 🙂 /endrant

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