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.

uLearn16 – Assessing Deep Learning

uLearn16 – Assessing Deep Learning

By Margot McKeegan and Derek Wenmoth

Deep Learning is the key focus of an international collaboration led by Michael Fullan, involving clusters and networks of schools working together to build knowledge and practices that develop deep learning and foster whole system change. In this workshop participants will be introduced to the measures being used to evaluate the deep learning in this programme, and experience how these are applied in a practical way to form judgements about the learning that is occurring.

Notes below are a bit sporadic representing the sort of spitfire nature of the session where Derek threw out a lot of provocations. The notes written here are largely responses captured from my own thinking or something contributed from the group attending the workshop. Lots of things to continue unpacking.

Key questions:

  • What is deep learning?
  • How might we measure it?
  • What evidence would we use?

What is deep learning? Collaborative padlet. No one was talking about tests or national standards etc. Connecting this to the learning stories that we’ve experienced. What indicators do we use?

What does deep learning look like? What does it sound like, look like, feel like? When learning is deep it will feel hard and frustrating. The challenge of overcoming something because it is hard is what makes the learning worthwhile. It will involve emotion where the students and the teachers are excited – mutual respect. Zone of proximal development – it stretches people. Challenge for educators thinking about scaffolding the processes so that the learning is accessible. It sounds like students being about to articulate their learning, using their voice.

How is this measured? Consider the models of Bloom’s Taxonomy, SAMR, AsTTle, and SOLO Taxonomy. How do you know if someone is successful? Co-construct the success criteria with the students. Allows deeper learning of ourselves – how has the learning changed you as a learner? The idea of self-empowerment and leadership allowing the learner to become more self-aware and global citizens.

Connection to the movement in the media whereby news stories are about the soundbite or the headline. Do we still value the 6 o’clock news? Is news coverage now surface level, or deep.pedagogies-for-deep-learning

New pedagogies foster deep learning. It has to occur in four dimensions: pedagogical practices, leaning partnerships, learning environments, leveraging digital. Building precision. The focus of most of the workshops discussion was pedagogical practices.

This image on the right is taken from this blogpost which unpacks the new pedagogies for deep learning. The model below gives criteria and indicators that can be used (and were used) to assess a lesson plan:


While it is easy to be critical of something in this context, the challenge is to apply the same critique to our own lesson plans.

If you think you’re already doing it. Ask for a second opinion

uLearn16 – Keynote #2 – John Couch

‘New Dimensions in Learning’

John leads the Education business at Apple – his more than 40 years as a computer scientist and his advocacy for the use of technology in education has revolutionised learning in the classroom. At Apple, our dedication to learning has always been a part of our DNA.

John captured the shift in education – defining it as a movement from education to learning. He reminded us of the ‘memorisation era’ and what has since happened to transform practice. School used to be a place where one could memorise their way through, but this is no longer the case. Education is what people do to you; learning is what you do for yourself.

So… we need to have a vision. A vision clairfies one’s mission. Vision is inspirational; mission is measurable. Why does your school exist. Can you articulate the why? Creativity allows us to think differently and provide environments where a student can be engaged. If the student is engaged, they’re going to learn.

How are we creating a learning environment around technology?  We look at technology as a tool. Digital natives see it as an environment. We used to call it cheating, now we call it collaboration.

All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time – Steve Jobs

Think about Apple Education and their leading example:


Knowledge is…something that emerges from the students’ own curiosity-fueled exploration. – Joshua Davis

wp-1475722668894.jpgPersonalised learning environment works just as well inside and outside the classroom walls. If content is free, whats your value? How do we reframe knowledge and make it purposeful and relevant? The Zone of Proximal Development suggests we need to develop collaboration. The great the knowledge and greater the zone.

So how to reframe education? One framework is Challenge Based Learning (CBL). It has a familiar feel to it (and relates a lot I guess to the design process and PBL) but sets out a strong structure to position knowledge in a process where learning is the driver:

Framework CBL.JPG

John critiqued the tendancy to teach to the middle. He demonstrated this with a couple of graphs that hit close to home. No student is average; any institution that is based on average is doom to fail. Todd Rose talks about this more in his TED talk:

Another way of visualising this is through the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who argues there is a space for optimal learning when challenge and skills are balanced. This argues once again for a personalised learning approach:

Fundamental flaw of the education system is that we still can’t meet all the individual learning needs. But John Couch’s ABC’s could help!

  • Access
  • Build
  • Code


The keynote wasn’t full of anything that was remarkably new or controversial to my thinking and philosophy. However, what it gave me was ammunition. It contain language and examples that will be powerful to use in my journey. The overall message seemed to be that we need to move beyond education and unleash learning. And I am very excited about this.

uLearn16 – Keynote #1: Larry Rosenstock

‘It’s Time to Change the Subject’

Larry Rosenstock is the founder and CEO of High Tech High, a network of public charter schools focused on project-based learning.

0ef17ccdd1663a8668abab4d7ebb017cLarry used the idea of education as a mosaic that we are all part of. No part is perfect, but every part contributes to the overall

I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think – Socrates

Larry talked about retrieving our educational history. He outlined different aspects of the past as learning has moved over the years as talked about mis-assumptions and aspects that needed revisioning. For example, he noted the decision of putting students that are the same age together is something that needs to break down. The pathways situation is also problematic – pushing students into vocational or academic pathways. He drew the ethos from pedagogy of the oppressed and spoke of equity in education. Sometimes you need to treat people differently in order to treat them equally.


Segregation of subjects was spoken about. ‘Its both, not either or’ claiming that all subject exist in every topic. Where’s the maths? You don’t have to make false choices of the segregation of curriculum areas. Isolation of the disclipines. He championed the connected curriculum, and one that is socially constructed. This has an emphasis on students take complex concepts & making them accessible to other students.

Expeditionary learning – super resource to help support project based learning.

It struck me that Larry is the type of person – he didn’t have a very structured presentation – that his creativity wasn’t knocked out by his education. Ken Robinson talks about how school’s kill creativity, but the way that Larry spoke about education it reminded me of a young child talking excitedly about learning. He didn’t strike me as someone bogged down by buzzwords and edu-speak, he just seemed very clear about a philosophy of education that was hands on with students at the centre. And he walked the talk, showing a huge range of student work throughout the presentation.

There are two kinds of people in this world; those who think there are two kind of people in this world and those that don’t


uLearn16 Preparation

Before uLearn15 I took some time to synthesise lots of information about the conference and found it quite helpful for developing some more prior knowledge in order to get more out of the conference. This is just a post to process some of the prior information about the keynotes and key threads to get me in the zone. I’m doing this in a self-beneficial way but something might be interesting here – the preparation for ulearn16 post that Anne Kenneally put together is a much better general audience resource.

Key Themes

  • Connect: Sharing knowledge and ideas
  • Collaborate: Working together and developing relationships
  • Innovate: Innovation and sustainability

Conference Strands

In the lead up to the conference I found reading Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching: A New Zealand perspective extremely insightful. It contextualises the shifting paradigms of education and sets forth emerging principles to guide our thinking. It reinforces these three themes and is full of fascinating thinking around contemporary education issues.

Keynote #1: Larry Rosenstock

‘It’s Time to Change the Subject’

Larry Rosenstock is the founder and CEO of High Tech High, a network of public charter schools focused on project-based learning.

Something that really struck me is the comment that teachers are measured by the work that their students work. The HTH website is full of this as well. Student work represents the philosophy, not pages of justification for the controversial model. I want to know more about being a teacher in this environment, what that might look like.

And in this TED talk Larry talks about  paradox therapy – design principles of personalisation, real-world connection, and common intellectual mission:

Schools are based on mis-predictions on who can do and can’t do. Dualities structure schools: who you let in or who you don’t let in; personalisation or individualised; who is listening the students or the teachers. Break down the dualities!

Keynote #2: John Couch

‘New Dimensions in Learning’

A bit of Apple to spice things up:

John leads the Education business at Apple – his more than 40 years as a computer scientist and his advocacy for the use of technology in education has revolutionised learning in the classroom. At Apple, our dedication to learning has always been a part of our DNA.

He took part in an interesting discussion here:

He speaks about a education ecosystem that allows the students to be creative. That sounds superb, but then offers little new about how a school should look. His comments on analytics are interesting, but that’s an interesting alternative to Rosenstock’s project based environments. I’m hoping his uLearn keynote will have some interesting anecdotes. Regardless, I’m happy to start using the word ecosystem for education from now on.

Keynote #4: Michael Fullan

‘Early lessons from implementing New Pedagogies for Deep Learning’

Our work on School Leadership, Professional Capital and Coherence is becoming deeply integrated and embedded in the clusters and networks of schools that are engaged in implementing ‘new pedagogies’. I will identify some early lessons concerning how leadership for deep learning differs when it comes to digitally accelerated innovations. There are also some surprising new findings about the role of students as change agents relative to pedagogy, school organisation, and even societal change.

Fullan holds an epic CV and its very exciting to be only a couple of days away from seeing him in action. There are some really nice themes that emerge from his website: a focus on humanity and learning, cluster-based collaboration, and of course his big selling point: guidance around leadership.

Googling Fullan reveals a well known book – “Six Secrets of Change” that seems to be considered a bible for leadership – briefly explained in the above video – and listed here:

  1. Love your employees
  2. Connect peers with purpose
  3. Capacity building prevails
  4. Learning is the work
  5. Transparency rules
  6. Systems learn

Keynote #4: Karen Spencer

‘Beyond the echo chamber: The extraordinary possibilities of a networked profession’

Karen will take you on a provocative journey to explore the rapid rise in innovative professional learning. From ‘done to’ staff meetings to collaborative, agile investigations into what’s happening for our learners, the way educators improve and grow has evolved rapidly in recent years. She’ll explore new insights into professional learning, best ways to embrace change, and invite you to think about how we can transform what we do for our learner.

I’ve always enjoyed Karen‘s blogposts and her thinking around education. I last saw her present a Core breakfast last year on future focused learning design which was provocative. Looking forward to her closing things off.

uLearn – Keynote #3: Pat Sneddon

The transformational journey to improve student achievement through public good partnerships in Manaiakalani at Tamaki – Manaiakalani Trust Website

Link to the ULearn conversation. From his ULearn bio:

In 2011 Snedden helped to establish the Manaiakalani Educational Trust…The Manaiakalani Programme was set up to tackle learning challenges and offer full ‘digital citizenship’ to 2,500 primary and secondary students living in the lowest decile areas in New Zealand, 95% of whom are Maori and Pasifika.

The primary investors became the parents who funded their own child’s digital device through the trust. This commitment attracted the support of corporate and private donors, with the objective of not only improving educational results but also realising the potential for enhanced employment and life outcomes.

Pat will share his knowledge and insight into what has happened in over three years since the launch of the Trust and programme.

Key messages:

Whakapapa gives responsibility for manaakitanga. When rangatiratanga affirmed kawanatanga effective

Ask: how truly connected are our schools to our people? How effusive is the rangatiratanga?

Ban all deficit thinking. Look for what’s right and what’s possible.

Manaiakalani is digital advancement for kids that is highly sophisticated and a shift in pedagogy. It is not a program of netbooks for kids.

Sharing of learning through blogs at Pt England School. Casey’s song and individual example. Manaiakalani digital teaching academy – a course to address the gaps in the digital pedagogy of beginning teachers graduating from universities.

If education could have fixed education on its own it would have by now, so clearly new partners are needed

-Russell Burt, Principal, Pt England School

uLearn – Keynote #2: Ann Lieberman

What do we know about Teaching Leadership, and what’s to gain? 

Globalization challenges for schools

  • teaching to learning
  • passive to active involvement
  • rote to teaching for understanding
  • solo artisans to members of a professional community
  • anecdotes to evidence
  • aligning policies with practices

Learning in Practice

Learning to lead in a Network

  • Approaching each colleague as a potentially valuable contributor
  • Honouring teacher knowledge
  • Creating public forums for teaching sharing, dialogue and critique
  • Turning ownership over to learners
  • Situating human learning in practice and relationships
  • Providing multiple entry points in the learning community
  • Guiding reflection on teaching through reflection on learning

Discussion around the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program. Teacher propose and apply for budget to deliver PL. Three key reflective questions:

  1. What did you learn?
  2. What did you learn about leadership?
  3. How did you share what you learned with others?

What can we learn from TLLP?

  • Teachers can learn leadership by doing it
  • PL needs to be a combination of inside knowledge and outside knowledge
  • We need to share our knowledge beyond the school
  • Culture of learning is essential


  • Twitter is essential to sharing teaching and learning.
  • Are we talking about changing the dialogue from general nice feedback to deep critical review?
  • Making teaching public is such a powerful idea. How do we get more people on this bandwagon?
  • This is the future! Inside Teaching – archive of teaching practice. With more online presence of practice how do we ensure this doesn’t become saturated? Is there a risk that the best practice will become buried. I believe in the meritocratic structure of the internet, but this is a challenge worth thinking about. The twitter feed for #ulearn15 for instance is so overwhelming the best stuff can be missed. Do we need more readers or contributors, comment-makers or blog posters?
  • The TLLP is a program that sounds great, but are the structures here in NZ? How can this kind of thinking change how PL is delivered in my school? I’m not sure what the next step is here as our PL is already co-constructed. But how effectively is it co-constructed. Maybe we need to inquire more into this and re-examine the way material is presented. Could we really address the criticisms (muddled, too much whole staff, not focused) through the TLLP model.
  • Why was the keynote so short?!