Archive for February, 2018

OUA Marketing Opportunities Report

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018


Image source 

In January I did some work for the Open University of Australia for their Marketing Opportunities Overview. Open Universities Australia’s (OUA) focus is on the opportunities associated with OUA’s digital marketplace and growing the participation of Australian Universities to enable greater choice for more students. The document aims to: 

  • Provide insights in to what their students are looking for, as well as what is happening in the broader landscape to assist with planning and decision making around new programs for 2019.
  • Provide information on doing business with OUA and the various mechanisms we have in place?to encourage greater participation in the marketplace.

My section was on explore the market horizon and in particular how an evolving technology, combined with an increasingly sophisticated consumer, continues to shape the environment in which education is delivered. My contact at OUA sent me the proofs to the report; it is certainly substantial and has lots of interesting and insightful material. The report should be out next mouth after which I hope I can write a blog post summarizing my section. 

International Women’s Day

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018



Debbie Holley from Bournemouth University has asked me to give a talk at their International Women’s Day on 8th March. I remember doing something very similar at Bath Spa University a few years ago. In the talk I reflected on the key moments and challenges associated with my career and in particular the transition from Chemistry to e-learning. It was a really interesting talk to do; it was nice to have the opportunity to reflect on my career. Overall I have been extremely lucky; I have been involved with great project, worked with fantastic people and traveled all over the world. Talking to Debbie this morning about the focus of the talk, she asked me to articulate the challenges and opportunities associated with my work and my career. She also wants me to emphasis the importance and value of being part of an international community of peers, through conferences and relevant professional bodies. To this I would add the value of using social media effectively, and certainly I value my network of colleagues and friends through social media such as facebook and Twitter. I’m really looking forward to the event and hope there will be time to have a conversation after the talk. 

Transforming education

Friday, February 9th, 2018


 Image source

This week one of the things I have been doing is preparing for a CLICKS webinar I am doing on Sunday. The outline of the talk is:

  • The impact of digital technologies and wicked problems in education
  • 21 Century competencies and digital literacies
  • Key issues in learning and teaching
  • Future trends
  • The changing roles of teachers and learners
  • Transforming education

The impact of digital technologies and wicked problems in education

Digital technologies offer a rich variety of ways in which learners can interact with multimedia resources, and ways in which they can communicate and collaborate. Key technology trends include: the increasing importance of mobile devices and the opportunity to learn anywhere, anytime, learning across boundaries, the potential of learning analytics, emergent technologies such as augmented reality and Artificial Intelligence. A Horizon summit brought together international experts to consider the future of education. Some of the challenges the group identified included: the need to rethink what it means to teach, the need to re-imagine online learning (and I would argue face-to-face learning), the importance of allowing productive failure, and that innovation should be part of the learning ethos. I would argue that there are three key ‘wicked problems’ facing education today. Firstly that there is a gap between the promise and the reality of what technologies can offer learning. Secondly that teachers and learners lack the necessary digital literacy skills to harness the potential of technologies for both teaching and learning. Thirdly we need to change our teaching strategies and recognize that we are teaching learners to do jobs in the future that don’t even exist today. Therefore we need to shift from knowledge recall to the development of competencies and to help learners develop metacognitive skills and learning to learn.


21st Century competencies and digital literacies

RVS has developed a list of 21st Century competencies based on the principle that education must prepare students fully for their lives as individuals and as members of society - with the capacity to achieve their goals, contribute to their communities, and continue learning throughout their lives. These learner competencies are a set of intellectual, personal, and social skills that all students need to develop in order to engage in deeper learning — learning that encourages students to look at things from different perspectives, to see the relationships between their learning in different subjects, and to make connections to their previous learning and to their own experience.

  • Critical Thinker: Critical thinkers engage in reflective reasoning to build deep understanding that is supported by evidence.
  • Problem Solver: Problem Solvers identify strategies and tools to develop, evaluate, and implement solutions.
  • Innovator: Innovators put elements together to form a new pattern or structure.
  • Communicator: Communicators understand, interpret, and express thoughts, ideas, and emotional connections with others.
  • Collaborator: Collaborators build relationships and work with others to achieve common goals.
  • Globally Aware: Global awareness is the understanding of an interconnected world and a citizen’s role within society.
  • Civically Engaged: Civic engagement reflects a commitment to democratic governance, social participation, and advocacy.
  • Self-Directed: Self-directed individuals take ownership of their learning.
  • Media and Information Literate: Individuals who are information and media literate use technology to explore and build knowledge in an ethical and responsible way.
  • Financially and Economically Literate: Individuals who are financially and economically literate understand and evaluate personal and global economic issues.

Jenkins et al. list a complementary set of what they refer to as the digital literacies needed to be part of today’s participatory culture, these are:

  • Evaluation
  • Transmedia Navigation
  • Multitasking
  • Distributed cognition
  • Networking
  • Visualisation
  • Metaphors
  • Collective intelligence
  • Play
  • Digital identity management

Key issues in teaching and learning

A recent EDUCAUSE report lists the key issues facing teaching and learning. These include:

  • Academic transformation: innovative learning and teaching models
  • Accessibility and universal design
  • Faculty development
  • Privacy and security
  • Digital and information literacies
  • Integrated planning and advising
  • Instructional design
  • Online and blended learning
  • Evaluation of technology-based instructional innovations
  • Open education
  • Learning analytics
  • Adaptive teaching and learning
  • Working with emerging technology
  • Learning space design
  • Next Generation Digital Learning Environment and Learning Management Systems

Future trends

In terms of the future trends facing education that designers of learning opportunities need to be cognizant of include:

  • The changing nature of work and the fact that in the future it is likely that many people will have multiple careers.
  • We are seeing a spectrum of learners, from the demands of the ‘now’ generation who want flexible and adaptive learning opportunities personalized to their individual needs through to those who are learning for leisure reasons rather than for work purposes.
  • We are seeing the emergence of new forms of accreditation, such as digital badges, certificate of participation, micro-credentials, and most recently the potential of blockchain technology to enable learners to document and record their learning across different contexts.
  • We are seeing an unbundling of education, in the future learners may not opt to do three-year degrees, but instead pay for: resources, support, guided learning pathways or accreditation.

21st Century teaching and learning

The above has implications for how teaching and learning is adapting and needs to change.  Will Richardson argues that:


We need teachers who are masters at developing learners who are adept at sense making around their own goals. Teachers who are focused on helping students develop the dispositions and literacies required to succeed regardless of subject or content or curriculum


For teaching there are a number of aspects. Teachers need to focus on the development of higher order skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. They need to help learners develop lifelong learning habits. Technologies are increasingly important and teachers need to develop the digital literacy skills to harness them appropriately in their teaching. Finally, they need to find ways to motivate their learners by providing experiential, authentic and challenging learning experiences.


The office of Ed Tech states that:


[In the future we need] learners who master agency [which] lays the foundation for self-directed lifelong learning, a critical skill for thriving in a rapidly changing world and for our nation to remain globally competitive.


21st Century learning means that leaners now how more choice on how and what to learn. As mentioned before we are preparing them for an uncertain future to do jobs that don’t even exist and the likelihood that they will have multiple careers. As with teachers, they need to know how to use technologies effectively and more importantly how to use them for academic purposes. They need to have ownership of their learning and be able to document and curate demonstration of achievement of learning outcomes.


I have talked in a previous post about the changing role of teachers and learners, and also a critique of criticisms voices over the concept of lifelong learning.  


Churchill (2017) considers the ways in which practice is (or needs to) shifting from a focus on teacher-centred to learner-centred.




Learning of facts and declarative knowledge

Memorising information

Teacher is central

Passing exams

Drilling of right questions and routines

Learning to pass exams

Focus on information presentation to passive learning

Technology as a media channel

Learning from resources and technology


Learning of conceptual knowledge

Working with information

Activity is central to learning

Applying knowledge, theoretical thinking and demonstrating generic skills

Problem-solving, design, project work and inquiries

Learning how to learn

Focus on how learning occurs within an activity

Technology as intellectual partner in learning

Learning with resources and technology


Couros lists the following as indicates of student success:

  • Student voice – learn from others and share their learning
  • Choice – how and what they learn
  • Time for reflection – to reflect on what they have learnt
  • Opportunities for innovation
  • Critical thinkers
  • Problem solvers
  • Self assessment
  • Connected learning

Transforming education

For me to meet the needs of all the above there are two important aspects: new approaches to designing for learning and the use of learning analytics. We need new approaches to design that:

  • Enable pedagogically informed decisions that make appropriate use of technologies
  • Shift from knowledge recall to development of competencies
  • Student centred and activity based
  • Help develop meta-cognitive skills
  • Assessment: process rather than product based

We also need to harness the power of learning analytics; so that teachers can identify and help learners who are struggling and to help learners to develop learning strategies and benchmark against their peers. To conclude we need to implement innovative pedagogies that:

  • Support self-reliance, resilience, agility, adaptability
  • Encourage meta-cognition and reflection
  • Utilize the affordances of digital technologies
  • Enable technology-enhanced learning spaces
  • Develop competencies to deal with an unknown future


Churchill, D. (2017), Digital resources for learning, Springer: Singapore

Is the concept of lifelong learning a reality?

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Conole clicks webinar 11 February 2018 from Grainne Conole


I am giving an online webinar on Sunday for clicks entitled ‘Traversing the digital landscape: reflecting on the implications for learning and teaching’. I shared a couple of the slides on fb on the changing role of teachers and learners, which provoked a ‘lively’ discussion! In particular people were unhappy with my use of the term lifelong learning. The debate prompted me to rethink my presentation and in particular to focus on the changing landscape of education, the implications of digital technologies and the changing roles of teachers and learners. The latest draft of the presentation is on slideshare. Note I have not included images as I won’t be using the slides. Any comments welcome. Gotta love the power of fb!!!

The changing role of teachers and learners

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018


As part of the preparation for a talk I am doing at Limerick Institute of Technology next week I had a discussion with the person who invited me Brendan Murphy. One of the things he wanted me to focus on was the changing role of teachers. So in this post I am going to summarise my thinking on this and also the changing role of students. A recent report by Educause lists the following as key issues in education:

  • Academic transformation
  • Accessibility and universal design
  • Faculty development
  • Privacy and security
  • Digital and information literacies
  • Integrated planning and advising
  • Instructional design
  • Online and blended learning
  • Evaluation of technology-based instructional innovations
  • Open education
  • Learning analytics
  • Adaptive teaching and learning
  • Working with emerging technologies
  • Learning spaces design
  • Next Generation Digital Learning Environment and Learning Management Systems

The shows that today’s educational environment is complex and dynamic and each of these facets has implications for the roles of both teachers and learners. In terms of peering into the future there are a number of important factors. Firstly the changing nature of work; it is likely in the future that people will have more than one career change and we are teaching students for an unknown future to do jobs that don’t even exist today. This means that we need to move beyond knowledge recall to teaching students the competencies they need to be lifelong and adaptive learners. Secondly there is now a complex array of learners from the younger generation of those who demand flexible and personalized learning to an older generation who have different learning needs to their younger counterpoints. Thirdly there is now a spectrum of learning opportunities from learning through free Open Educational Resources and Massive Open Online Courses to the one-to-one Oxbridge tutorial model. New forms of accreditation are arising, such as digital badges and micro-credentials. Finally we are seeing an unbundling of education; learners in the future may choose to pay for: resources, support, a guided learning pathway or accreditation.

So how does all of this impact on the role of teachers and learners? For teachers there are a number of aspects. Their role is shifting from one of delivery to facilitation. Furthermore, they need to harness the power of digital technologies to facilitate communication, collaboration and reflection. For this they need new digital literacy skills. Learners also need to develop new digital literacy skills, and although they are technological savvy they don’t necessarily know how to use technologies for academic purposes. They want personalized and flexible learning and need to harness the potential of being part of a connected global community of peers. In future it is likely that learners will learn across a range of contexts, therefore they need to take control of evidencing their achievement of learning outcomes through e-portfolios or more radically through the use of blockchains.>

The future of education is likely to continue to change and co-evolve with technologies and needs to meet the challenges of a complex future. Some have argued that the role of teachers will diminish as the use of technologies becomes more prevalent and as we see the impact of Artificial Intelligence. I disagree, I think the role of the teacher WILL change but will be increasingly important to help learners navigate their learning and make effective use of technologies.

Reflecting on the concept of digital literacies

Thursday, February 1st, 2018


Image source


I was recently asked to participate in a Delphi study exploring Technology Enhanced Learning and digital literacies, which prompted me to dig out some work I did in the past. I summarise some of the readings around digital literacies below.


Goodfellow and Lea (2014) suggest that by digital literacies we mean activities around textual production – texts and practices – which taken together are recognized as typical and purposeful for a community. They stressed the social character of textual communication, its complexity and diversity, and its ultimate provenance within the practices of all. The concept of literacy was originally around print-based reading and writing, but has now been expanded to include the notion of text to encompass meaning-making in and around the multiple modes associated with digital media. They suggest that there are a multiplicity of social practices involved in creating, communicating and evaluating textual knowledge across a range of modes, in other words, the use of ‘literacies’ emphasizes the multiplicity of contested and contextual, social, and cultural practices around reading and writing.


McKenna and Hughes (2013) argue that digital technologies and environments offer many affordances in terms of texts and practices. Text can be reproduced and distributed. They can be searched for and made searchable, and they can be fragments, reconstructed, and curated. Furthermore, social networking spaces are giving rise to alternative ways of articulating and responding to academic knowledge. The resultant texts tend to be open, inter-textual, and reliant upon audience engagement. They suggest it is important to look beyond texts to what people actually do with literacy (i.e. reading a map to get to a destination, looking at a map to plan a holding, using a map to plan a business trip).


Friesen, Gourlay and Oliver (2014) argue that digital literacies is a contested term with mismatching theoretical reference points and implicit views of practice. These range from New Literacies Studies (NLS) derived a view of literacies as situated social practice, through to a use of the term literacies more associated with generic skills and capabilities.


Beetham, McGill and Littlejohn (2009) state that governments are recognizing the foundational nature of digital literacies and their importance in supporting new ways of working and employability. They go on to state that increasingly the significance of digital literacy is due to socio-political, cultural, and technological changes, such as new work and learning practices, changing employment patterns, transformations in the nature of knowledge, alongside increasing fragmentation of knowledge across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries. They list a set of emerging work practices around digital literacies including: bricolage (aggregation of incongruent resources to create novel outputs), localization (adapting knowledge and expertise to a localized problem), crowdsourcing (posing problems or questions to a diffuse network of experts to generate a range of novel solutions).  Critical to all three are the concepts of open knowledge practices and co-innovation and co-creation of knowledge.


The term digital literacies is still contested and the nuances of it are adapting all the time as we co-evolve with the affordances of digital technologies. What is certain is that the development of digital literacies is essential for both academics and learners and for the later also the development of academic digital literacy skills; i.e. being able to use technologies effectively for their learning.



Beetham, H., McGill, L. & Littlejohn, A. (2009) Thriving in the 21st Century: Learning Literacies for the Digital Age (Llida Project), [online] Available online


Friesen, N.; Gourlay, L.; Oliver, M.. (2014) Editorial: scholarship and literacies in a digital age. Research in Learning =Technology. 2014. vol. 21, 23834


Goodfellow, R. and Lea, M. (2014), Literacy in the digital university: critical perspectives on learning, scholarship and technology, London: Routledge


McKenna, C. and Hughes, J. (2013) ‘Values, digital texts and open practices - a changing scholarly landscape in higher education’ in Robin Goodfellow and Mary Lea, eds. Literacy and the Digital University: researching and teaching academic knowledge in the internet age. London: Routledge.