uLearn17 – Eric Mazur

Keynote #1 – Innovating education to educate innovators

Eric Mazur keynote (collaborative notes) was a story that captured his journey from being under the illusion that he was the best Physics lecturer to someone that reformed his approach to teaching.


As a Physics lecturer at Harvard, Eric was repeating the teaching style that he had experienced as a student. Transmitting knowledge by lecturing to the class. He told humourous stories of approaching teaching with a textbook such as finding a textbook that was out of print so the students couldn’t just teach themselves from their own copy. If you have the same textbook as the students, what do you teach them? If you are just going to hand out the lecture notes at the end of the class, what was the point of the class?


Learning, he proposed, is a two step process:

  1. Transfer of information
  2. Assimilation of that information

For example, the keynote transferred information, and the dialogue I had with colleagues after the presentation and the writing of this blogpost is an opportunity to assimilate that information. The assimilation is the hard part, but it’s the part that gets the least attention. How can we shift our pedagogy to focus more on assimilation. The curse of knowledge is that once you understand something it’s hard to remember the difficulty of learning it. His framework is displayed on the right. It is explained fully in this blog.  The learning takes place in the discussion phase.

At times I found myself wandering into a cynical state of mind listening to these ideas. I was listening for innovation, but all I heard was the learning process being broken down into a simple understandable formula. These moments were quickly challenged by reflection on my own classroom as I realise how little assimilation space I’m providing. Eric’s ideas seems simple because they should be. However, the default is transmission, and too often do I revert back to this. I feel very enlivened by Eric’s ideas and also confident that this is going to make a big impact on my practice.

Takeaways and Observations

  • If you are explaining something on the board – you aren’t engaging with your students. Face them.
  • Relationships again affirmed. Emotional engagement in the learning another key theme.
  • Mentimeter is a tool to help facilitate the framework; perusall is the platform Eric suggested.
  • How much are students dependent on a correct answer for emotional investment in a question? How do open ended questions fit in the framework? And most importantly: what skills do students need to be able to actively engage in this way?

uLearn16 – Digital and Learner-Centred Delivery

‘Digital and learner-centred delivery: what’s different and how does it work in reality?’

By Cornel Fuhri (Scots College) and Shanan Holm (iQualify/Open Polytechnic)

When learner experience is put at the centre of learning design at a platform level, what changes? In this technological age, when students have constant access to devices, how do we teach them in a way that they want to learn, and that we can manage to teach? Is there a balance between pre-packed learnings and just-in-time teaching and learning? What changes are needed in tools to support assessment in this world? How do we make sure key concepts are covered while allowing for flexibility and discovery? This session will explore these questions and provide ideas on how they can be achieved.

Raised some general questions about e-learning and what digital learning looks like. Breakout covered familiar territory in terms of this area. But this neatly moved into a sales pitch for iQualify which is focused on the L in LMS. Effectively, it’s a really polished and sexy version of moodle. The perspective was a well worn pathway of contemporary thinking around digital tools. The selling points o the system logostem from:

  • Learning experiences
  • Flexibility
  • Digital Assessment

There were some interesting points and reminders about good practice. The comments on assessment contained strong ideas, deconstructing the notion of summative assessment as authentic, affirming that assessment needs to be early and often. It also provoked my thinking around using a Learning Management System and the restrictions that are imposed by locking down a course. The focus on learning outcomes is something that sits uncomfortably with me as the learning is so teacher-directed. Why determine the learning outcomes before meeting the students? The presentation didn’t offer much clarity in terms of differentiation and how this promotes learner agency or student voice. The tool claimed to be learner centred, but I’m cynical as a student who can determine what pace they go at doesn’t necessary get to be at the centre of their learning. I don’t think the tool supports this – it is still the teacher and their philosophy who dictates how agentic their classroom is.

What is frustrating about this breakout is that the conversation was directed into practice around the tool, investigating how to deal with the unexpected and the ins and outs of how the tool works including how to share URLs with students. This confused space between pedagogy and practical wasn’t particularly supportive to a deep learning experience, but it really did just shape itself as a sales pitch. I feel like jumping into a LMS like this closes off the learning experience rather that opens it up. Great for a Polytech – not appropriate for my classroom.

Pam Hook Keynote – Teacher Only Day

Pam presented SOLO Taxonomy to the staff several years ago and today’s presentation built on this learning in particular with the school’s new initiative of introducing the ‘active learning‘ programme.

  • SOLO’s structure focuses on the observed learning outcomes not the learner themselves. Both surface level or deep level outcomes but the taxonomy also provides language for students to improve their outcomes.
  • Connected learners. Every time a learner makes a connection, they achieve deeper learning.
  • SOLO provides a different mental model for students that have a fixed mindset or a negative attitude to learning. It challenges the idea held by some students that working hard and failing is more embarrassing than not trying and failing. Looking dumb opens yourself up for put downs. SOLO can resist this tendency by individualising the learning process.
  • SOLO taxonomy is a spiral – it never stops spinning. Once you reach extended abstract you begin to access pre-structural ideas as well. Learning is a continuous process.

Do we overvalue engagement? If you just teach for engagement, do we ever achieve deep learning? This is a real challenge to my philosophy. Reflective question: Have we got a whole lot more engagement or have we got deeper learning outcomes? We risk teaching abstract concepts sometimes when they aren’t engaged. If you are putting SOLO against the active learning model, use it to label the learning outcome – not the kid.


Final thoughts shared in the finale for the day:

  • See…think…wonder… 
  • Student inquiry leads to shallow outcomes – a weak pedagogy – you see a lot of stuff collected and presented but not a lot of deep inquiry. Guard against a student collecting and presenting through using the Learning Intention Generator.
  • School is about learning. Everything you are charged to do in your classroom is about achievement outcomes. SOLO can be the measure that you gauge how effeimagective this learning is if you can make these concepts real in your classroom.

And finally, the day was finished with a reminder of the hexagon strategy. We wrote words that were associated with active learning and then combined with others to form a map of the topic, making connections and investigating these through learning dialogue. A great collaborative activity.

uLearn – The Modern Connected Learner

From Chris Bell and Andrew Cowie – presentation

Honeymoon phase of digital technology – ICT have tended to be just tools for consumption. What is the next step? Technology is an engagement tool – that’s a given. Technology is not replacing the face-to-face.

Networked communities reflecting meaningful online and face to face connections. We have to make sure that the face to face connections are still central to the learning process.

Irresponsible to use the phrase “anywhere, anytime” – because we need to be purposeful with technology and set boundaries. Right tool for the right purpose.


What are the challenges of the modern learner in your school?

  • Attitude of teachers
  • Access and equity
  • Parents – unfamiliar with the modern learning environment
  • Understanding the range of how students learn online

Digital literacy is the ability to:

  • Navigate & evaluate information
  • Understand & create meaning with digital languages & in variety of context
  • Use technology and media to share ideas, tell stories, and provoke thought & emotion


Session then looked at a number of tools and examples:

10 E-Learning and Online Learning Ideas – Where I’m At!

Claire Amos put together a list of tools to make the most of BYOD and learning online. Here are the tools and here is where I’m at.

1) Use Moodle to access class resources and activities

No convinced by the power of moodle – still exploring now that the school has upgraded to Moodle 2.0. Just downloaded the MyMoodle app and hopefully will see that giving me more access to the Moodle world. Google Drive is where I’m sharing most resources.

2) Create an online exercise book with Google Docs

I would consider myself being advanced with Google now. I’ve established assessment dropboxes, I’m designing engaging collaborative tasks, and I’m actively supporting students with their online organisation through this tool. It’s going very well.

3) Create a portfolio with Google Sites

Have dabbled with Google Sites. I saw this as a great place to build a e-portfolio, however, the cross over

4) Create an online folder of web resources with Live Binder.

I’m doing this, but using Storify as the web resource. I’m finding its visual

5) Create/co-construct an online text book using Wiki-Educator

Other schools and classes are starting to co-construct their own textbooks on Wikieducator. This could be a great way to approach a text study. I’m not sure it will happen this year, but this is something I will keep in my back pocket.

6) Manage your time with a Google Calendar

I’m doing this very effectively for my planning and organisation at the moment. I’ve finally got everything synced so that I can effectively use the desktop as well as Ipad – thanks primarily for this link. My next step is to start creating calendars to share with students and perhaps even parents.

7) Put your Mobile phone to good use

This is happening all the time. Photos of the board, google searching and information at my fingertips, sharing beyond the classroom. I could be using the video recording and audio more often and sharing more things with the world.

8) Create a FaceBook group for your class or study buddies!

I’ve been using closed facebook groups for four years now. The issue is that it is like creating a classroom online and keeping the walls up. I am more interested in breaking down these barriers. The Newlands Media page is one way of doing this but I’m hunting for others as well.

9) Create an online portfolio using MyPortfolio

I’ve created an impressive MyPortfolio, but my frustration was that there was no one else in my institution actually using it. This was annoying.

10) Use Twitter hashtags to have class related discussions

I’ve gone way past hashtags. I’m beginning to build a PLN online through Twitter. I’m sharing all of my learning through #filmthoughts, #2MED, #3MED #ncmedia and #Noscars2014. I’m still working at getting more students signed up for twitter and discovering what is out there.

Storify – ICT Tool

Through the magic of twitter I’ve stumbled upon Storify. This is a great tool that collects images, video, text from around the net and embeds them into a tidy looking page that unifies your thinking about a particular topic. The information can be ordered and a narrative can be created. I see it having huge potential for searching a new topic that I plan to teach and creating transparency with all my sources for my students. It could also act as an extension tool, providing students with a hub to find resource to help them go deeper into their thinking and further challenging their learning.

To play around with the tool I used my first media topic, a genre study on found footage, to play with the tool and created this. It took very little time at all, and while I was largely ordering content that I have already found, the search tool helped me come across some new material that I am excited by.

I wonder what this generates? Is it helpful for students to have sources organised like this? Should I be using the tool and helping them to generate their own stories on our topics? Will it be better served as a revision tool? What does Storify allow me to do that Moodle, or a google doc doesn’t? Stay tuned for answers, or more musings…