When does the learning stop being fun?

When do we stop knowing how to have fun while we learn…or is it that the passion for learning is overshadowed by the way in which we are taught?

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Changing things…slowly…

Three Carriage Train for ChangeIn many school situations, change takes time. Demonstrating good practice and specific examples of how technologies and different strategies can positively alter the learning environment is an effective way of helping others to see the possibilities.

Change often represents challenges that people find hard to embrace…this does not mean they don’t want to understand how things can improve – many just feel overwhelmed by the extraordinary range of technologies and ideas and do not know how to “sort” through these.

The video in this QR Code has been made by Ray Nashar and Jim Hayden (Apple Distinguished Educators in Australia) to share their ideas for affecting change.

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Aligning technology with learning

Technology has to be aligned and integrated with the behavior you want out of the learners – this includes the processes that helps drive those behaviours.  Effective use of technology supports learning and provides different avenues for  students to quickly diagnose and understand what they should be thinking about.

As educators, we want engagement and high levels of student activity.  But we must also remember that there is also the requirement for learning that involves context, detail and  depth.

For an real learning to take place those involved need to have a common understanding of the mission, and practical understanding of the consequences of non engagement and the benefits of success.

Effective consolidation of technology and pedagogy relies on eliminating wasteful practices, or simply eliminating meaningless, less productive (or counter-productive) functions.

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Thinking about Learning

As we venture into using the technologies available in 2012+ to change the way in which learning takes place, consider observing the way in which children “Turn Learning Inside Out” when they are not obstructed by pre-conceived structures.

With technologies and a fascination for constructing meaning, children draw from different elements and sources to demonstrate their understanding of learning – with access to technologies, they to are able piece together essential aspects in ways that educators might not have considered.

Observing this may challenge the way in which we currently believe  learning takes place – and may help us to think and ask the questions differently – and create opportunities that exist using the resources now available.

Watch young people demonstrating powerful learning as they weave from one technology to another in a seemingly seamless manner – creating responses that might not have been previously considered – and teaching us, a great deal about learning.

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Immediacy and technology

The technologies that are available to us today have the potential to open up numerous possibilities when it comes to teaching and learning. However, it appears that for many, the major focus is what the device can “do”,  how it can “help” and what apps should we be using. The danger here is that educators will continue to teach the same as they have before, only with new forms of text.

Consider instead, not being so concerned with the apps that can be used for “x” or the way in which these devices may or may not “help” handwriting, learning etc in a direct way…but rather, how the immediacy that they enable is what may really make the difference.

To unpack this further….

Example 1:  If I am reading a text on a mobile device, within this text is the ability for me to create my own notes, highlight sections of importance, define words as I come across them, search for words in the text and analyse them according to their context and if desired, immediately search the internet for greater levels of definitions, research or other aspects of information that may assist my understanding of the text. The immediacy of access is what makes the difference –  I am finding the information at the time when I am most interested in obtaining it and when it will make the greatest impact on my learning.

Example 2: A simple, but good example…I am in a fabric shop looking for a particular type and colour of fabric, chenille. I’m unable to find the fabric of choice, so I immediately open up my mobile device, search for “how to make chenille” and within seconds, I have the directions and fabric requirements. Within minutes, I have made my purchase and am now able to continue with my activity in a different, but nevertheless successful manner.

Example 3: I am teaching a science prac class – in this class, students use note taking apps (it doesn’t matter which one), add images and annotate as the prac continues. Notes and images are immediate, consolidating readings with findings. Throughout the lesson, students have the ability to record, analyse and write responses – the completed findings can be shared with other students or the teacher in a timely fashion…consolidating the concept being discussed.

These examples focus more heavily on what you are “doing” or trying to achieve, rather than the particular “app” that will make something happen…The immediacy enabled by technologies today should be the focal point of “how” we are using these devices in the learning environment. The interplay between technology and pedagogy is the focus – technologies should support learning….not dictate it.

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Making good choices

Small people like everything that makes a noise, is bright and colourful and has lots of things to tap and move. Our world today is filled with technologies that apparently will do all manner of things like this to keep toddlers occupied for a period of time. Their little brains are not only ravenous for stimulation, but that they are also forming at an alarming rate, and will be attracted to anything that provides stimulation regardless of its long-lasting value.

So, how do we, the adults who care for these little people and their brains, ensure that they have access to fun technologies that will stimulate in the “right” way and not simply overload the senses and “babysit”.

Consider the mix of educational value and fun – learning should be embedded into fun activities that engage and have the child eager to participate further. Apps that encourage play and discovery along with opportunities to learn – and for parents to interact  are great choices.

Apps that also include notes to assist parents or carers with ideas for not only interacting with the app itself but also for how to extend the experience into other activities in the day and include descriptors of the learning processes taking place. Ways to encourage exploration and discovery and how the app is reinforcing essential elements of development add to selection criteria for good apps.

The touch screen of a tablet or iPad is a significant change in technology access for young people – the real benefits come from choosing apps that are created with a visible understanding of cognitive development and are both engaging and focused on learning.

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When educators allow a small child to explore the ways in which they might use the technologies and encourage them to demonstrate how they put things together…the possibilities are endless!

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