A Very Big Hurdle

Helen Haste’s concept of people as problem solvers rather than tool users resonates with me. I have long held the belief that technology is only a tool and it is what we do with it that really matters. I struggle with the value of setting students a task and then mandating the output that proves the task e.g. create a PowerPoint. I try to encourage teachers to offer the task and a rubric and let the students design their own responses in any format that is accessible by the teacher.

In Curriculum meetings there is much frustrating discussion about mandating the way we write courses and the content that we have to teach, but it is impossible to move the discussion to C21st skill sets.

It seems obvious that, as Helen Haste says, students need a new brand of competencies to thrive within a changing environment. I really like Helen’s  summative drawing of the potential power of collaboration :

Collaboration of problem solvers

Collaboration of problem solvers                     

Her diagram showing problem solver organisation  has no arrows because the individual is constantly changing directions according to the process of their problem solving interactions – individual to society and back again.


This is a continual pyramid not a directional one.

This is a continual pyramid not a directional one.

From: http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news-impact/2009/06/technology-and-youth-a-remix-that-is-changing-the-education-landscape/#ixzz2przhEdQF

The two definitions are also very powerful:

  • dialogic This means that everything anybody ever says always exists in response to things that have been said before and in anticipation of things that will be said in response. In other words, we do not speak in a vacuum.
  • dialectic The dialectical method is discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject, who wish to establish the truth of the matter guided by reasoned arguments.

From <http://digital.csu.edu.au/inf530/module-1-the-information-environment/1-5-global-connectedness/>

Competence isn’t just about skill but about adaptation.

5 competences

  1. managing ambiguity
  2. Agency and responsibility
  3. Finding and sustaining community
  4. Managing emotion
  5. Managing technological change

It is important for us to teach ambiguity so that students do not feel anxious by not knowing what the right answer is. They need to understand multiple perspectives.

Young people are encountering strangers and even non people in their online connections and we need to assist them with this process.

These competencies are what young people need for the future; they must be mandated within education.

Social change is not linear and everyone needs to work with that fact.


How do we bring our colleagues on board with these types of beliefs so that we are not creating classrooms as Nathaniel Bott describes: in the early part of this clip: “ boredom and disengagement is too big a part of the modern classroom”  http://youtu.be/UI9TiuVHc0A ?

This is one of our biggest hurdles as educators.

6 thoughts on “A Very Big Hurdle

  1. gregmiller68

    Firstly, I too agree that an Assessment Task should not mandate HOW a student demonstrates their learning.

    To answer your overall question about creating classrooms which avoid “boredom and disengagement”……. I found that developing an overall vision and repeating, repeating, repeating it and then repeating it some more, assists teachers. When they experience a lesson, unit, experience which resembles the Vision, then they share it with their colleagues. Also, to ensure the vision is being pursued in an authentic manner, students MUST be given the opportunity to provider feedback on the learning experience.


  2. msimkin

    Thanks for the comment Greg. Being in the Library I get to see a lot of teaching across the curriculum. I don’t see much evidence of high level use of devices or resources. My students are always amazed when I incorporate ICT into serious learning activities e.g. Typepad, poll everywhere, QR codes etc.
    The general comment I get from my colleagues is: “it’s ok for you, you are good at IT.” How did I develop this skill set? By hard work in my own time! I also think that many people feel insecure because they don’t how to do things themselves. This is the real power, when you can let go enough to learn with your class. Making mistakes teaches valuable life skills too.
    I am not excusing lack of preparation for a task, rather I see subject teachers as needing to be ready to deal with content related questions while giving students enough leeway and support to produce exciting solutions using IT applications that they know or find.


  3. gregmiller68

    This has driven us for the last 3 years. Ultimately it is is about the technology supporting the appropriate pedagogy.

    Here is the vision statement….

    The overall aim is for students to become ‘self-directed learners’ through the provision of learning opportunities which provide students with greater choice of subject matter, learning methods and pace of study. Such a commitment has resulted in students being more involved in decision‐making processes, extensively using digital technologies and increasingly ‘learn by doing’ with relevance to the real world.

    It has served us well.


  4. gregmiller68

    We don’t have a ‘traditional’ library and nor do we have a traditional ‘Teacher Librarian. Some 4 years back we reviewed the then school library. Out of that came a “Resource Centre” with a new position called the Learning and Technologies Leader who on 0.2 teaching load and runs the RC. She is a qualified TL and is supported by a Curriculum Resource Assistant whose role is to support teachers and students to develop the skills to access the ‘right’ resources.
    End result? Students and teachers who are better (not perfectly) equipped to discern the usefulness of online resources.

    We are @materdeiwagga on Twitter or


  5. msimkin

    Our buildings are quite old and look quite traditional, but I like to think our programs are C21st. I am titled Head of Information Services! The link is handy! thanks.


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