Appraising calibre, authenticating content: (not AC/DC but AC/AC!)

We are living in an era where information is readily available, easily created, generally unedited or moderated, and widely shared. It is vital that readers have the capacity to appraise the calibre of content they encounter. Yet, it would appear that even students entering renowned universities cannot apply even the most basic of filters to images or documents presented to them (Weinberg, 2016).

Some simple starting points:

Based on Some Rules of Thumb – a guide to assessing online news and adapted to suit all types of information (Valenza, 2016).

Without applying a filter, or lens to what we read we run the risk of spreading misinformation, thereby perpetuating deliberately created and often specifically targeted fabrications which may be destabilising to governments or undermining to individuals. Far from choosing to be part of such a process, many are inadvertently passed on because people aren’t taking the time to evaluate sources (Tiffany, 2016).

Teacher-librarians such as Valenza promote their role as critical in educating more news literate and savvy information consumers. Tiffany states that this is more effective the earlier that students encounter such educators (Tiffany, 2016).

Coupled with the relatively recent rise in the spreading of “untruthiness”, is the concept held by many that free press equates to neutral information (Valenza, 2016). History teachers are adept at demonstrating that the underlying perspective of the creator, or interpretation of the historian affects the way in which the information s viewed. Much harder to teach, however, is the effect our own attitudes and biases affect the way in which we read and often lead us to ignore viewpoints that differ from our own (Valenza, 2016).

Teaching younger students about appraising calibre and authenticating content is made a little easier by using a resource such as the TED talk on “How to choose your own news” (Brown, 2014) – an engaging animation.

There is no doubt that there has been an exponential increase in the publication of extreme, untrue and misleading “fake news” since the rise of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, partly due to the fact that the number of clicks may equate to real income for the posters (Garun, 2016). This poses a real issue for the founders of such sites, such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who has expressed concern at the site being forced into becoming arbiters of truth (Liptak, 2016). The sites on which such “untruthiness” is spread have become known for fostering click bait (Zimdars, 2016).

There have also been allegations that social platforms influenced election results in several countries in 2016 (Garun, 2016). This of itself may not be all bad – but it does indicate the serious need for teaching readers how to negotiate the publications of our time by understanding the underlying purpose of the publications to which they are exposed, and to question the authenticity of what they read, in much the same way that commercial transactions advise that the buyer must be aware. It is critical that leading universities such as Stanford do not continue to find that their students are vulnerable to fake news (Weinberg, 2016).

It is crucial that Australian students are able to learn within their own context about the ways this can be an issue locally, as well as seeing information relating to the United States in particular.  We need to be developing Australian resources to support teaching the necessary skills.

As a teacher-librarian and History teacher I am up for the challenge – are you? Join the conversation at #truthinessEDU


Brown, D. (Writer), & Harris-Norico, A. (Director). (2014). How to Choose Your News [Motion Picture]. TedED. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from

Garun, N. (2016, November 14). How social platforms influenced the 2016 election. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from The Verge:

Liptak, A. (2016, November 13). Mark Zuckerberg warns about Facebook ‘becoming arbiters of truth’. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from The Verge:

Tiffany, K. (2016, November 16). In the war on fake news, school librarians have a huge role to play. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from The Verge:

Valenza, J. (2016, 26 November). Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post-truth” world. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from School Library Journal:

Weinberg, S. (2016, November 26). Stanford Study Finds Most Students Vulnerable To Fake News. (K. McEvers, Interviewer) Retrieved from

Zimdars, M. (. (2016, November 15 ?). False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from


Final Report

Case Study Research Report:

Learning Management System utilisation by teachers and students at a regional Victorian school.

How well are the affordances of the SIMON LMS being used by teachers and students in one specified school setting?

Executive summary:


Learning Managements Systems (LMS) are web based products which have been used by most universities for a significant period of time. Increasingly schools, particularly at the secondary level, are also investing in such digital tools. This study compares the potential usage of a specific LMS in a small, regional, kindergarten to Year 12, Victorian Independent School with those aspects that teachers and students are actually using. Information was garnered by use of online surveys, and the findings suggest not only wide acceptance of some affordances by both teachers and students, but also ignorance of the potential of others. The Primary Campus usage is minimal, for a number of reasons. The data were comparable with results obtained by researchers working on LMS reviews in other institutions, predominantly universities.


The Nature and Context of the Case Study:


This case study report presents the results of an empirical inquiry investigating the extent to which the SIMON (LMS) (SIMON Solutions, 2009), as one example of a contemporary educational phenomenon, is being used to improve teaching and learning within the context of a specific regional Victorian school.  The inquiry was framed to discover the degree of usage by teachers and students, the individual uptake of those functions offered by the LMS compared to features not adopted, and the perceived advantages, problems and potential of this specific educational software. The underlying purpose was to understand user needs and perspectives, thereby identifying aspects of usage with which users of this LMS may require support, in order to improve the school’s knowledge networking and opportunities for digital innovation.




LMS, also referred to as Virtual Learning Environments, Digital Learning Environments, Course Management Systems or Electronic Learning Environments are web based applications which are accessible wherever an Internet connection allows (De Smet, Bourgonjon, De Wever, Schellens, & Valke, 2012, p. 688).  While a significant amount of research has been conducted on the impact of such systems in universities, where, for example, uptake in Britain by 2005 was reported at ninety five percent (McGill & Klobas, 2009, p. 496), there are fewer examples focused on schools, and these are not K-12 settings. The circumstances of the chosen setting are therefore different to those institutions reported on in other academic literature.


SIMON is a learning management program, created in 2000 by practicing teachers at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat (Simkin, SIMON, 2015 c). It is now owned by the Ballarat Diocese and the original developers are still involved in managing its evolution. Whilst originally used in Catholic schools within this Diocese, SIMON usage has extended to other educational jurisdictions and Australian states. The school on which this case study focuses, was one of the first Independent Schools to adopt the program, moving to SIMON from Moodle about five years ago. It has also developed a relatively collaborative relationship with the founders of the LMS, by suggesting possible changes; an aspect of the specific context that does not apply to many other schools using the same product.



The decision to focus on reviewing one LMS in a single school, was selected to meet the constraints of the timeframe available for conducting the research, and the stipulations outlined for the writing of the research report. The chosen school has been using SIMON for six years, however employment of the system has been observably inconsistent from both a teaching and learning perspective. There is, therefore, potential to use the findings of this investigation to lead to improvement. Three forms of understanding are required before educational transformation can occur: a critique of the current, a vision of the desired and a theory for guiding the situation from where it is to where it should be in order to achieve better outcomes (Robinson & Aronica, 2015, p. 58). This sentiment encapsulates the intention of this case study research as investing in an LMS should result in measurable return on investment (Leaman, 2015, para 1).

The Process:

Literature Review:

The process necessitated commencing with a review of relevant literature, taking guidance from Thomas, the quality of material and the publications it was coming from were the first criteria,  including following up references to literature reviewed within the sources investigated (Thomas, 2013, pp. 60-61).  Most titles were retrieved from the university library, but one was provided through a Twitter connection which led to Professor Harland (Maleko, Nandi, Hamilton, D’Souza, & Harland, 2013) and another from a colleague, an intriguing and very specific research proposal highlighting issues which apply to segregated education, but which also reminded of the challenges of mixing methodology, and that awareness is not the same thing as use when it comes to LMS (Algahtani, 2014, p. 16).  These papers revealed some common themes surrounding LMS research, as outlined below.



Research has predominantly considered the major LMS providers, notably Blackboard (which now incorporates WebCT and ANGEL (Islam, 2014, p. 252)), but also Dokeos, Smartschool (De Smet, Bourgonjon, De Wever, Schellens, & Valke, 2012, p. 689), Sakai (Lonn & Teasley, 2009, p. 687), Desire2Learn (Rubin, Fernandes, Avgerinou, & Moore, 2010, p. 82) and the popular open source Moodle.  Some papers analyse usage of several LMSs, while others compare the utility offered by different options such as Facebook (Maleko, Nandi, Hamilton, D’Souza, & Harland, 2013, p. 83), and SLOODLE (Moodle incorporated with Second Life as a 3D virtual learning environment) (Yasar & Adiguzel, 2010, pp. 5683 – 5685).


The majority of the literature was based on surveys, so the decision to collect information through online surveys was validated. Given that the SIMON interface is different for teachers compared to students, two surveys were required. These were constructed using Google Forms.



A Parent Access Model survey is being developed for future use to strengthen the evaluation process and enhance the practical application of the recommendations. Lack of time and access to this module for the researcher precluded it from the case study. Use of SIMON by the Primary Campus would benefit from further discussion also. Analysing the purpose and style of the questionnaire was a vital stating point  (Elias, 2015), therefore the main elements of Elias’ work informed the overall structure (Simkin, 2015 a).


Survey Methodology:

Qualitative and quantitative surveys elicit very different information, and the literature review resulted in the decision to incorporate both styles of questioning. Qualitative methodology enables detailed descriptions to be provided that are not constrained by the researcher, enabling the respondents to elaborate on the things that matter to them (Ritchie, 2013, p. 4). The style of qualitative questions accessed aspects of critical theory enabling an understanding of the intersect between material conditions and their influence on human behaviour (Ritchie, 2013, p. 12). For example, the last two questions on both surveys (Appendix pages 23-25; 34-35) were ontologically focussed, aiming to compare realistic responses with idealistic possibilities.


Selecting the right tool for the anticipated outcome also required quantitative data gathering: deciding appropriate topics to assess by checklists (Appendix pages 20 &  ) compared to items that needed to be evaluated through Likert scale questions (Appendix page) followed (Thomas, 2013, pp. 209-215). It was important to set such questions up in a neutral manner, rather than in a way that directed the result to meet preconceived ideas; commencing with the Likert style questions using a scale of one to five (with one the lowest and five the highest level of agreement) allowed participants to proceed quickly through the quantifiable elements while offering a nuanced range of responses (Thomas, 2013, p. 214). This style of “scale” question allows for opinions to be presented easily; for those who like to explain in more detail, and to have open ended and creative thoughts, the qualitative examples were provided later in the survey (Thomas, 2013, p. 215). Questions needed to cover contextual, explanatory, evaluative and generative options (Ritchie, 2013, p. 27) to allow this report to describe and critique the current, suggest what might be possible and enable recommendations that might be educationally transformational (Robinson & Aronica, 2015, p. 58). The final questions were designed to evoke creative responses and raise the potential for the future of LMS for the next generation of learners, where the ideal system should be more of a learning environment or ecosystem, fitted together in the manner of building blocks to suit subject specific requirements (Straumsheim, 2015, p. 7).


In order to ensure clarity and precision (Thomas, 2013, p. 207), the surveys were trialled with fellow university students and work colleagues, including the school’s technical staff, who have strong knowledge of SIMON. Despite this there were some elements that might have offered a different insight: gender and year level of students for example and teaching methods of the staff; such omissions are typical of mixed method research, and hard to avoid in short time frames, especially by relatively inexperienced researchers as myself (Algahtani, 2014, p. 16).


The anticipated findings were targeted at establishing the overall satisfaction and learner engagement with SIMON’s functions in terms of organisation, pacing of work, access to resources, collection of materials, class discussion, and feedback, as outlined in the work of Rubin et al (Rubin, Fernandes, Avgerinou, & Moore, 2010, p. 82). The study had to identify the enabling functions as distinct from the hindrances, and whether they were impacting on design of and access to course materials in a positive or negative manner (Rubin, Fernandes, Avgerinou, & Moore, 2010, p. 82). Ease of navigation and number of clicks to access items can facilitate learning, where the inverse will frustrate users and lead to avoidance of features; this is particularly true of feedback. If Blackboard v.12 took twelve click to achieve something that Moodle could do with one, how did SIMON compare (Rubin, Fernandes, Avgerinou, & Moore, 2010, pp. 82-83)?


Critical Evaluation:

The Survey Findings:

The survey resulted in thirty-three teacher and sixty-eight student responses, or 47% and 31% respectively. All teaching staff were invited to participate, but only one Junior Campus teacher accepted the opportunity. Another emailed and said it wasn’t really relevant to them. Given that these teachers generally only use a small number of SIMON’s features this was not unreasonable. Teachers on small part-time loads were also not expected to participate; therefore this result was better than expected in the last week of term. Students from Year Nine to Year 12, who have one to one device access were the target population, and the number of respondents for the busy last week was also pleasing.


While every recommended avenue had been explored in terms of how to set up a valid survey instrument and pretesting had occurred (Elias, 2015), there were still unexpected outcomes. Omissions and problems arose from the survey’s construction. It would have been helpful to know the gender of recipients given that this has been a factor in a number of other research results, not only Algahtani’s where such issues would be expected (Algahtani, 2014). It would also have been helpful to ascertain the teaching areas of the staff, relative age group of each teacher (or years of experience), and the year levels of the students as was done by Kopcha (Kopcha, 2012, p. 1116).  Including questions to elicit this information would have enabled more targeted recommendations.


The use of Likert scale questions in the introductory part of the survey worked well, and respondents benefitted from having a five point scale. The usage responses indicated that 28% of teachers (see teacher and student results below) believe that they use SIMON to some extent or a great extent, while 53% of students (see teacher and student results below) reported that their teachers used SIMON at this level. This is an example where interpretation of results would have been more meaningful if the subjects being taught were known. Staff and students were generally more positive that SIMON supported their teaching and learning in some manner than they were negative.


Another anomaly of the type referred to above was revealed by the yes or no option relating to the uploading of work question (see teacher and student results below) where 81% of teachers reported that they did not ask students to do this, but 31% of students said that they did provide work to their teachers in this manner. An astonishing percentage of students reported video and audio feedback being provided (71%) where only 24% of teachers said that they provided this (see teacher and student results below). A follow-up question here on which subjects were making use of this facility would have been beneficial in terms of recommendations, especially if responding teachers had been asked to indicate their faculty.


Moving from Likert scale questions and yes or no option to open-ended responses proved valuable on both surveys, as had been anticipated. The number of respondents who completed these optional questions was very pleasing. The slight difference in questions between the two surveys was deliberate to allow for the differing access teachers have to the LMS compared to students. The responses to most of the common questions demonstrated a close correlation between teacher understanding and student use, with a couple of exceptions such as those outlined above.


A summation of feelings towards the LMS elicited by the surveys indicated a strong acceptance of the technology. This has been written about by researchers reviewing usage through technology acceptance models (TAM) (De Smet, Bourgonjon, De Wever, Schellens, & Valke, 2012, p. 689). As the school community concerned is technologically experienced, this was expected.  Results also demonstrated that while many users verbally describe a love-hate relationship with SIMON, the use of survey methodology produced more considered feedback (Straumsheim, 2015, para 3). Of the eighteen affordances Schoonenboom lists as desirable in an LMS fourteen are possible using SIMON; only meetings, online examinations, peer feedback, and open hours are not possible in the same manner as she describes (Schoonenboom, 2014, p. 248). Interestingly, the questions aimed at improving SIMON (17 – 19 for teachers and 18 – 19 for students) did not request any of these aspects be made available.

The broad overview of the findings from the open-ended comments (Appendix page) indicated that teachers enjoy the reporting facility because it links to the assessment module and saves them work. The most frustrating facet for both teachers and students is the number of clicks it requires to access work (51%). Students highlighted the inconsistent usage of the LMS by their teachers, and sometimes indicated that components are being incorrectly used: all student work should be in the “curriculum documents” section but some teachers are placing it in “general documents”. While there is an historic reason that may have led to this, it should no longer occur. Reporting live through assessment tasks should indicate more clearly that work is linked to the curriculum module.


Facets identified:

Five equal facets should  be provided by any LMS: interoperability, personalisation, analytics, collaboration and accessibility (Straumsheim, 2015, para 6), and, according to the findings, SIMON delivers all of these to some degree. Taking interoperability first, it most elearning tools that teachers currently use with their classes can be accommodated, either by linking the document to the system (such as collaborative OneNote notebooks), locating a file in the system, or providing a weblink.


Personalisation is also possible and has led to some confusion as evidenced in the responses.  The school concerned has added a number of links, for example, to library services, which some respondents find bewildering. It does however correspond to the findings reported by Horn et al that a range of “library help objects” and links to resources accounts for user differences and support needs (Horn, Maddox, Hagel, Currie, & Owen, 2013, pp. 238-240).


Analytics are available to teachers for administrative use, such as knowing if a student is present or has submitted their work, and also to the LMS administrator for checking the number of log ins for example. The teacher who suggested that it would be good if SIMON could calculate School Assessment Percentages (currently done through Excel 365) would be surprised to know that with teacher education in derived scores, it could.


Collaboration was not raised by respondents, although some referred to using the forum space. This is probably SIMON’s weakest suite, but looking at what is planned for the next software update, school, parent, student interaction should be improved (Simkin, 2015 c). Lonn and Teasleys’ research indicates that few users used or rated the interactive tools, preferring to comment on the tools that push out to or collect work from students (Lonn & Teasley, 2009, p. 693).  Collaboration through internal communities of practice and self-organising networks should become more common in the near future as more teachers look to make global connections, and the Senior Campus moves to a one-to-one device model in 2006 (Archer, 2006, p. 67)



In terms of accessibility, one teacher, who followed up on his survey by sending an email with more detailed information (Budenberg, 2015), found that most of his issues were due to lack of instruction during orientation. In a meeting to resolve some of his issues, Tim passed a comment that SIMON was like a Swiss army multi-purpose knife, citing almost word for word a comment from Alier et al which alludes to the fact that numerous tools, while helpful, may not offer the best solution for the purpose  (Alier, et al., 2012, p. 107).  His prior experience with Daymap, an LMS with the ability to email parents of a class with one click, was raised face-to-face. SIMON is a much cheaper solution.




The case study has achieved its goal of leading to a number of recommendations for the school under evaluation. Given that no LMS will answer everyone’s needs, it is better to work with the one that is currently provided and maximise its strengths while minimising its weaknesses (Leaman, 2015 para 7).  In this setting there is the added benefit of access to the developers.

The following recommendations will be passed to the designated, relevant groups.

For SIMON developers:

  1. While interoperability between a range of platforms and SIMON is good, retrieval of information in terms of convolution (number of clicks) and lack of search functionality is a hindrance. This requires simplification in some form.
  2. Collaboration through a range of means: chat, peer assessment and an improved forum interface would be well regarded as beneficial to communities of practice.

For the School Executive:

  1. More effective mentoring of new teachers and ongoing in-servicing of all teaching staff would improve usage for students, thereby enhancing learning.
  2. A clear and consistent statement of expectations for usage by teachers appears to be unclear. Teachers need to model SIMON usage to students more effectively.

For the Teaching and Learning Committee:

Discussion is required to consider the following:

  1. Options for the provision of face-to-face assistance with SIMON mastery need to be provided for teachers and students (beyond their faculty or subject teachers).
  2. Opportunities for learning new aspects of SIMON at relevant times, for example when software is upgraded.
  3. Which LMS facets that may be suggested in other systems are missing from SIMON that are considered desirable.
  4. These survey findings – to enable improved practice.


For the Information Services Department:

  • That the location of library related information within the LMS be revisited and evaluated in terms of the most effective location/s for accessing them.



The school studied has been using the SIMON Learning Management System for several years   yet the uptake varies enormously. Some teachers and students rarely use it, others use all aspects of it really well. The reporting package is compulsory and has been effectively used and appreciated by most teachers. Usage of the other features has been inconsistent. This report reveals those elements that have been used, the users’ experience with the LMS, and the outcomes that have been enabled for them through such use.  It is important to determine why some elements have been used, and others avoided. Steps should be taken to improve use, and consider the potential impact of change for learning.


Algahtani, M. (2014). Factors influencing the adoption of learning management systems in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabian Universities by female academic staff. Research proposal for confirmation of candidature (PhD) DR209 16th July 2014. Received by personal communication from Bradbeer, Susan, through a dropbox link provided by a lecturer at RMIT, 17 September 2015

Alier, M., Mayol, E., Casan, M. J., Piguillem, J., Merriman, J. W., Conde, M. A., . . . Severance, C. (2012). Clustering projects for interoperability. Journal of Universal Computer Science, 18(1), 106-222.

Archer, N. (2006). A Classification of Communities of Practice. In Encyclopedia of Communities of Practice in Information and Knowledge Management (pp. 21-29). Informationn Science Reference (an imprint of IGI Global).

Budenberg, T. (2015, September 16). personal email. A request for your assistance.

De Smet, C., Bourgonjon, J., De Wever, B., Schellens, T., & Valke, M. (2012). Researching instructional use and the acceptation of learning management systems by secondary school teachers. Computers & Education, 688-696. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.09.013

Elias, L. (2015, February). Intelligent Questionnaire Design for Effective Participant Evaluations. Training and Development, 8-10.

Horn, A., Maddox, A., Hagel, P., Currie, M., & Owen, S. (2013). Enbedded library services: Beyond chance encounters for students from low SES backgrounds. Australian Academic and Research Libraries, 44 (4), pp. 235 – 250. doi:10.1080/00048623.2013.862149

Islam, A. N. (2014). Sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with a learning management system in post-adoption stage: a critical incident technique approach. 249-261. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.09.010

Kopcha, T. J. (2012). Teachers’ perceptions of the barriers to technology integration and practices with technology under situated professional development. Computers & Education, 1109 – 1121. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.05.014

Leaman, C. (2015, August 20). What If Your Learning Management System Isn’t Enough? Retrieved from eLearning Industry:

Lonn, S., & Teasley, S. D. (2009). Saving time or innovating practice: Investigating perceptions and uses of Learning Management Systems. Computers & Education(53), 686–694. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.04.008

Maleko, M., Nandi, D., Hamilton, M., D’Souza, D., & Harland, J. (2013). Facebook versus Blackboard for supporting the learning of programming in a fully online course: the changing face of computer education. Learning and Teaching in Computing and Engineering, pp. 83-89. doi:10.1109/LaTiCE.2013.31

McGill, T. J., & Klobas, J. E. (2009). A task-technology fit view of learning management system impact. Computers & Education, 496 – 508. doi:10.1016/j.compendu.2008.10.002

Ritchie, J. L. (2013). Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers. Great Britain: Sage.

Robinson, K., & Aronica, L. (2015). Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education From The Ground Up. Melbourne: Allen Lane.

Rubin, B., Fernandes, R., Avgerinou, M. D., & Moore, J. (2010). The effect of learning management systems on student and faulty outcomes. Internet and Higher Education, 82 – 83. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.008

Schoonenboom, J. (2014). Using an adapted, task-level technology acceptance model to explain why intsructors in higher education intend to use some learning management system tools more than others. Computers & Education, pp. 247 – 256. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2013.09.016

Simkin, M. (2015 a, August 17). Article review. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015 b, October 6). SIMON. Retrieved from Digitalli:

SIMON Solutions. (2009). Retrieved from SIMON:

Straumsheim, C. (2015, May 11). Brick by Brick. Retrieved from Inside Higher Ed:

Thomas, G. (2013). How To Do Your Research Project; A Guide For Students in Education and Applied Social Science. London: SAGE.

Yasar, O., & Adiguzel, T. (2010). A working successor of learning management systems: SLOODLE. Procedia Social and Behavioural Sciences 2, 5682 – 5685. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.03.928

Teacher surveys

Student surveys 

Critical reflection

The capstone is now in place!

The Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) has culminated with this Digital Futures Colloquium capstone.  Again, there was a combination of excitement and fear when the course material was released (Simkin, 2015 j). Firstly, the unknown “Colloquium” which revealed itself to be a mixture of online presentation and class discussion hosted by someone of interest to the course. Secondly, there were numerous readings posted for three modules, more than those in preceding subjects. They were, however, the only readings provided: for the assessments we needed to find our own sources. Conceptually, this was a nice segue for anyone thinking about continuing in higher education.

Colloquium One was hosted by Annabel Astbury (Simkin, 2015 a). It revealed career potential made possible by the digital world for teachers with expertise. As a well-organised educator working in information provision across the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, n.d.), the content held something for all members of the cohort.

Colloquium Two, led the group in a very different direction, and eventually led to my case study. Simon Welsh, who made learning management systems (LMS) come alive, and raised the spectre of an interesting future (Simkin, 2015 b). Attending with a dubious attitude, it was a chastening reminder not to prejudge content. The chat comments from my peers furthered the discussion and added intriguing elements and a degree of humour which became integral to this mode of learning. Simon’s words certainly provoked re-evaluation of my use of the school LMS and make comparison with other systems and academic research (Simkin, 2015 h).

The third colloquium was hosted by Julie Lindsay and focussed on her work with Flat Connections,  and the necessity of involving students in global collaboration (Simkin, 2015 c). This colloquium also featured peer input, which was pleasing, despite technical hiccoughs. The penultimate meeting was led by Tim Klapdor, and took us back to some early INF530 issues of networks, nodes and ownership (Simkin, 2015 d). Finally, Cathie Howe presented the work of MacICT and professional learning programs (Simkin, 2015 g). This issue is critical in achieving positive digital engagement.

Past information from earlier subjects recurred and reinforced professional practice and pedagogy, while linking to this subject’s readings. For example, Couros being cited in Veletsianos (Veletsianos & Kimmins, 2012, pp. 109-128), and talking about the types of engagement with which we have been engaged (Simkin, 2015 l).

For the first assignment, the challenge was selecting one aspect of the many introduced as a research proposal. While the actual question took some time to form, and suggestion and helpful counter-suggestion followed, it became necessary to consider how material would be gathered. Surveys, questionnaires or interviews were all possible, and exploration of sound construction followed with a review of the intelligent design of questionnaires both for the researcher and for the participants (Simkin, 2015 e).

The introductory focus of the subject revolved around aspects of our digital world, therefore the second assignment required engagement with one aspect of this twenty-first-century reality. Given the colloquium’s focus on the impact of digital affordances on learning, the topic “Digital scholarship in education, in the context of interdisciplinary knowledge and research” seemed a reasonable choice (Simkin, 2015 f).

LMS became the focus for assignment three: asking why they should be used (Simkin, 2015 o); reviewing what they offer (Simkin, 2015 n) and considering the role of the library in the process of managing learning (Simkin, 2015 k). Finding appropriate academic articles took time, but improved researching techniques (Simkin, 2015 i). Interviewing one of the developers of SIMON, the LMS used at school, was very valuable (Simkin, 2015 m). The report was the culmination of two wonderful years of learning (Simkin, 2015 h).

The value of this course has been immense: new mentors, supportive peers, renewed self-esteem, intense skill development. Thanks to Judy O’Connell, Ewan McIntosh and Julie Lindsay for the amazing journey, and all the classmates who connected with me.


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (n.d.). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability. Retrieved from Australian Curriculum: ICT capability across the curriculum: October 12, 2015

Simkin, M. (2015, July 26 a). #1. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, July 26 b). #2. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, August 11 c). #3. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, August 16 d). #4. Retrieved from Digitalli:

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Simkin, M. (2015, September 6 f). Assignment Two. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, October 4 g). Colloquium 5. Retrieved from Digitalli:

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Simkin, M. (2015, October 9 i). Hunting. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, July 7 j). INF 537 Begins. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, September 8 k). Invisible but vital. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, August 17 l). PLE & PLN It’s Us. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, October 10 m). SIMON. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, September 12 n). What LMS should offer. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, September 11 o). Why Use LMS? Retrieved from Digitalli:

Veletsianos, G., & Kimmins, R. (2012). Networked participatory scholarship: emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks. Computers & Education; An International Journal 58 (2012) 76, 58, 766 -774.

Wang Chp 25

Building Education and Technology Competencies for a Changing Society

This post is prompted by the need to master the chapter of the same name in (Wang, 2014, pp. 331-342) written by three women working at Auburn University in the United States (Witte, Wohleb, & Skinner, 2014). Whilst American in focus, the material embodies a high level of relevance for Australian K-12 and tertiary education.

American college students’ success is being challenged by 3 factors:

3 factors These factors are reflected in 3 trends:


3 trends

To assist this, K-12 educators need to incorporate the everyday use of technology into classrooms to maximise good habits that will assist with lifelong learning. Demonstrated to have a positive effect on tertiary students are these 5 habits:

5 habits

Educators at both tertiary and secondary level need to teach 5 skills:

5 skills


Competent tertiary students need to be:

  • Internationalist
  • Adaptable(Witte, Wohleb, & Skinner, 2014, p. 332)

And they need to graduate with the following 12 skills:

12 skills for graduates


(Witte, Wohleb, & Skinner, 2014, p. 336)

These skills can be developed by K-12 teachers incorporating the following tools into their lesson design:

  • Web-based programs
  • Learning Management Systems
  • Virtual Chat Rooms
  • Web-cams
  • Skype or FaceTime  (Witte, Wohleb, & Skinner, 2014, p. 332).

Technology tools should be capable of assisting teachers to instruct, monitor and assess within a learning environment that is both engaging and motivating for their students (Witte, Wohleb, & Skinner, 2014, p. 333).

The processes that result from such a scenario should be more

  • Individualised
  • Differentiated
  • Specialised
  • Dynamic(Witte, Wohleb, & Skinner, 2014, p. 333).

In all cases the aim should be to reflect the positivity relating to technical incorporation, and such action should be linked to learning, as using appropriate tools is the critical link to student success (Witte, Wohleb, & Skinner, 2014, p. 335).


Wang, V. (. (2014). Handbook of research on education and technology in a changing society. IGI Global. London: IGI Global.

Witte, M. M., Wohleb, E., & Skinner, L. (2014). Building Education and Technology Competencies for a Changing Society. In V. (. Wang, Handbook of Research on Education and Technology in a Changing Society (pp. 331-342). IGI Global.


Evaluative report

Evaluative statement (a):

From the commencement of Knowledge Networking for Educators, there was an expectation of relevant learning, encountering new skills and continuing involvement in a networked community of practice. The learning modules delivered valuable and relevant material, providing challenging and practical experiences for exploration, as well as demonstration. This is best exemplified by referring to Assignment One, which required the development of a digital artefact (a new skill) (Simkin, Digital Artefact and References, 2015). The end product was a short film, but the processes of topic and platform selection (Simkin, Survey Results, 2015), and subsequent artefact creation, were where the challenging practical experience was most evident (Simkin, Artefact Design, 2015). Given the assessment mark allocation gave more credit to the exegesis, the time taken to develop the artefact was excessive, but incredibly fulfilling, despite the compromises that had to be made (Simkin, Exegesis, 2015). Significant learning resulted from mistakes, investigating exciting platforms, conquering fears (for example, peers found hearing their own voice confronting), and technical frustration. Conquering the digital product was a wonderful achievement, celebrated on Twitter by most of the cohort through sharing links. Assessing the work of colleagues for this task also provided a significant, networked learning opportunity (Simkin, Collegial Artefact Critiques, 2015). A valuable addition to this process would have arisen from sharing the exegeses, which described the context, intention and restraints behind the artefact, enabling a deeper level of analysis.

During the course of the semester, this subject presented a range of concepts and required the exploration of a range of knowledge networking tools. Starting with the obligatory introduction (Simkin, Knowledge Networking for Educators, 2015), and progressing to the final module (Simkin, The Future, 2015), the Digitalli blog posts of 2015 document a growth in knowledge mastery, leading to increased wisdom, thereby setting the scene for ongoing growth as a connected educator as defined by Gregor Kennedy (Kennedy, 2014).

The course began by investigating information in the digital age, evaluating the different sources of knowledge, identifying innovative platforms, and challenging participants to re-define terminology and apply it to contemporary learning scenarios (Coutas, 2010). Early in the subject, students encountered a range of digital tools, some new to them, and others well used (Simkin, Digital tools, 2015). This suite of new media tools, covered all aspects of knowledge management from content creation, to content curation, and included collaborative work, and connecting with and developing social networks leading to communities of practice (Simkin, Curation, 2015).

Building on knowledge networking to strengthen school-based classroom engagement and learning was a highly valuable aspect of the course, even for those with prior active involvement in a range of digital platforms (Simkin, 1.1 Connected students, 2015). It enabled both consolidation and revisitation of virtual learning spaces, revived forgotten skills while mastering new ones, and increased overall personal understanding of the philosophies of information management (Simkin, K. C in a C. A, 2015). The crucial need to consider pedagogy, andragogy and learning design when designing tasks was incredibly beneficial. The latter was aptly defined by Tolisano, in scaffolding what learning occurs when a class is involved in an activity such as Skype (Tolisano, 2103).

While the verdict on skills and knowledge gained from this course is overwhelmingly positive, there are some aspects which cannot be evaluated with such a high level of affirmation.  The documenting of networked learning experiences through blogging enables reflection, and ideally, feedback.  The processes required by the learning modules and assessment tasks for INF532, in combination with a very small cohort, meant that the capacity to engage in dialogue through blogging (and the discussion forum) was limited. There was a strong connection between the assessment tasks and blogging, but limited direction to blog within the learning modules. Unlike INF530 and INF536, for example, there was no requirement that peers comment on each other’s blog posts, an attribute that was missed. The digital artefacts were peer assessed, but some people were fairly slow to complete this or did not advise their peers where to find their evaluation (Simkin, Collegial Artefact Critiques, 2015). This was an innovative digital process which did not meet its potential standard for peer learning or the networking expectations held by most participants.

Using a blog to reflect on learning enabled powerful personal reflection, meaningful consideration, and publication of ideas. Sharing links through Twitter resulted in some feedback from followers, but no comments on the posts themselves (Simkin, Tweeting, 2015). This scarcity of feedback was disappointing.

Another aspect of knowledge networking that has been the basis of subjects within this Master of Education course has been the use of the discussion forums. This year information was distributed through the new Interact2 interface, based on the Blackboard learning management system (Simkin, New LMS, 2015). This added a new format for students and staff to conquer. Students found the new discussion format less user-friendly, and feedback was inconsistent. Fewer comments were posted on the forum, and retracing items proved tricky. The email alert within the system did not work as well as last year’s.

Despite these issues, overall the value of this subject is acknowledged. Throughout the semester topics ranged from the playful to the very serious and academic (Simkin, Play & Learning, 2015). Participants developed physical classroom and library spaces, and digital venues such as YouTube channels ( ). Concepts such as the flipped classroom, blended classrooms and flexible learning, which are sometimes just contemporary buzz-words, were productively investigated and compared with personal practice, leading to improvement in learning design (Simkin, Types of Learning, 2015).

Reflective statement (b):

In retracing the course of Knowledge Networks for Educators, there are several components from the learning modules that really resonated. The contents of the first module raised some key issues relevant to personal concern and frustration in attempting to teach twenty-first century skills in a school that remains largely “analogue” in focus despite being well-equipped technologically (Simkin, 1.2 New Culture, 2015).   From dialogue with other students of this course, this is, sadly, too common.

Contemplating the development of digital lives, personally, professionally and for the students encountered in participants’ work, it is hard to imagine that a sound philosophy of communities of practice is not a basic guiding principle in this day and age. Yet for many teachers and administrators, the main focus with technology in classrooms is fear of cyber bullying, rather than the crucial need to model the use of technology and development of C21st skills which include protective behaviours (Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S), 2014). The dichotomy between issues of authenticity and authority in the digital age compared to the past is extreme when considering Floridi’s comment: that humanity has experienced information ages since writing began (Floridi, 2009, p. 153). Modern students need to become the Gutenberg or Turing of these times, by seeking wide-ranging input to create new information (Floridi, 2009, p. 154). Teachers should celebrate the fact that information is socially situated, and socially constructed, and, therefore, instruction needs to be designed to empower people, as opposed to overwhelming them (Lindsey, 2014). Infowhelm is a serious issue with many different names (Bawden & Robinson, 2009). Students should be guided to locate and evaluate information, rather than be restricted to the text-book or teacher notes that many educators insist on mandating as the sole source of information (Simkin, 1.1 Connected students, 2015).

All educators have a unique and critical role to play in assisting their students to develop skills that enable them to cope with the flood of information that is now accessible (Brown & Duguid, 2000, p. 14).  The rapidity of information sharing is well demonstrated by the mesmerising animated gif that introduces the Too Big To Know blog post (Simkin, Too Big To Know, 2015). Infoenthusiasts are excited by the amazing amount of knowledge that may result from this, however, students need to be educated to understand, select, and curate, then network and collaborate in order to problem solve within a learning community, something to which is so well suited to digital information sources and sharing (Floridi, 2009, p. 154).

Thomas and Brown define this as a new culture of learning, invisible, non-traditional in structure and operating within a defined environment (Thomas & Brown, 2011, pp. 17-18).  They acknowledge that playing in such a culture leads to the development of passions and ideas, which, in turn, encourages freedom to research (Thomas & Brown, 2011, pp. 17-18).  The necessity for managed freedom is supported in Douch’s recent blog post, where he postulates that the balustrade at the edge of The Pinnacle (in the Grampians) doesn’t restrict people; instead it is liberating them to go further (Douch, 2015)!

Learning within this new culture cultivates global, digital citizenship, generates feedback leading to improvement for students, and establishes the use of rich and highly textured examples of cross-referencing and communication to form a community of practice made up of the teachers and students within the group (Thomas & Brown, 2011, pp. 22-25). There is a serious problem if teachers are not also learners.

Ruminating on digital artefacts led to an investigation of the best-known creator of such learning objects: Salman Khan (Simkin, Khan Academy, 2015).  Interestingly, while Khan has designed artefacts to teach entire subjects, he does not advocate a world without teachers, rather, he proposes a change to teacher deployment. He proposes that teaching become a team sport where numerous students in a large space collaborate with a number of teachers (Khan, 2012, pp. 197-198). The fluencies of C21st learning are well suited to Khan’s model (Crockett, Jukes, & Churches, 2011).

A thought provoking concept is that of filter bubbles (Pariser, 2013). People must be educated in the manner that algorithms work, and what is typically collected and presented to each one of us separately. The speed at which information is being added to the web in combination with these mining algorithms is a critical C21st skill, that should be included in overall education programs (Simkin, Filter Bubbles, 2015). In fact, Australian teachers are mandated through learning standard 4.5 (Simkin, AITSL, 2015) to use ICT (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2014).

Actor Network Theorists postulate that competence is an effect is passed through organisations as a result of minute translations at mundane levels of everyday knowledge flow patterns (Fenwick, 2010, pp. 27-28). They also state that knowledge must be considered as a rhetoric of contentions (Fenwick, 2010, p. 35). The investigations and analyses of educational processes are more important than the logical meaning of concepts and processes typically applied to analyse education (Fenwick, 2010, p. 44). It is vital that educators think about the accessibility and equity of information (Simkin, ANT, 2015).

Stange’s strange video, filmed through Google Glass, utilises a method of recording that is disconcerting and distracting in the extreme (Stange, 2013). It detracts from the valid points Shirky presents on the premise that knowledge networking is based on having a common interest and working with like-minded people (Simkin, Shirky, 2015). Of necessity, the incorporation of finding like-minded people, connecting with them and following their interests, forms part of this process (Simkin, Shirky, 2015).

New vocabulary has been acquired: glocalisation (Simkin, Fis(c)hbowls etc.!, 2015); “filter bubbles” (Simkin, Filter Bubbles, 2015) and fliperentiated, in relation to excellent design for flipped classrooms(Hirsch, 2014). The latter was shared through the Diigo Knowledge Networks group – a wonderful source of co-created information for members.

In contemplating the growth accruing from the study of Knowledge Networks for Educators, the improvement in and consolidation of personal skills and development of a more focused information philosophy is measurable. It has brought all the learning in this course together to strengthen both educational practice and personal learning connections; a pleasing outcome for those involved.


Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2014). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership:

Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S). (2014). Retrieved March 4, 2015, from Microsoft Education:

Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2009). The Dark Side of Information Overload, Anxiety and Other Paraxes and Pathologies. Journal of Information Science, 35(2), 180-191.

Brown, J., & Duguid, P. (2000). Limits to Information. In J. Brown, & P. Duguid, Social Life of Information (pp. 11-33). Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Coutas, P. (2010, October 8). New Sources of Information. Retrieved from Slideshare:

Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is Not Enough, 21st-Century Fluencies for the Digital Age. Corwin.

Douch, A. (2015, May 28). Why Your School Needs Clearly Defined Social Media Policies. Retrieved from Douchy’s Blog onICT and Education:

Fenwick, T. &. (2010). Actor-network Theory in Education. . Knowledge, Innovation and Knowing in Practice , 24-39.

Floridi, L. (2009). The Information Society and Its Philosophy: An Introduction to the Special issue on “The Philosophy of Information, Its Nature, and Future Developments. The Information Society: An International Journal, 25, 153-158. doi:10.1080/01972240902848583

Hirsch, J. (2014, October 21). “Fliperentiated” Instruction: How to Create the Customizable Classroom. Retrieved from Edutopia:

Kennedy, G. (2014, January 30). Official Ascilite Video: 2013 Conference – Understanding our Present. Retrieved from You Tube:

Khan, S. (2012). The One World School House: Education Reimagined. London: Hodder and Staughton.

Lindsey, J. (2014). 1.1 Information environments. Retrieved March 4, 2015, from INF532 Knowledge Networking for Educators:

Pariser, E. (2013, March 22). Beware Online “Filter Bubbles”. Retrieved from YouTube:

Simkin, M. (2015, March 07). 1.1 Connected students. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, March 8). 1.2 New Culture. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 30). AITSL. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 20). ANT. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, April 28). Artefact Design. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 19). Collegial Artefact Critiques. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 20). Curation. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, April 25). Digital Artefact and References. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, March 10). Digital tools. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 27). Exegesis. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 19). Filter Bubbles. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 24). Fis(c)hbowls etc.! Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 20). K. C in a C. A. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 17). Khan Academy. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, February 16). Knowledge Networking for Educators. Retrieved from Digitalli: /

Simkin, M. (2015, May 26). New LMS. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 20). PKM. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 22). Play & Learning. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 20). Shirky. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, April 29). Survey Results. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 24). The Future. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, April 1). Too Big To Know. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 25). Tweeting. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Simkin, M. (2015, May 24). Types of Learning. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Stange, M. (2013, July 9). Blackboard World 2013 Opening Keynote #throughglass. Retrieved from YouTube:

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). Arc-of-Life-Learning. A new culture of learning, 17-33.

Tolisano, S. R. (2103, January 27). Learning in the Modern Classroom. Retrieved from Langwitches blog:



Learning Management and Knowledge Networking:

Coming to grips with a new learning management system, based on Blackboard, particularly after the long summer break, was a little confronting. Just when I thought I knew where to find what I needed, I found I had no idea.

Discussion forum
Discussion forum

The topics were all there, but the email notifications for responses did not seem to work all the time, and it became a case of checking in at log on and working out which thread had new messages.

Threads on Interact 2 were a little tricky
Threads on Interact 2 were a little tricky

Yes, there were fewer students in the cohort, but few participated in this type of networked learning in the manner peers had communicated in INF530 and INF536.

A sub-group of the subject became very active in their own PLN, using Twitter for regular question and answer sessions, and touching base with issues and concerns.

Tweeting Example


Connected Education Through Twitter:

Twitter is a great space for developing and nurturing a PLN.

I have been a member since 2009

My Twitter avatar
My Twitter avatar

I have used Twitter to enhance my personal interests and my professional life with increasing degrees of success. It is quick and easy and seems to work when low Internet connectivity prevents other means of communication.

My Twitter account

My Twitter account

Since commencing the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation), I have increased all aspects of my Twitter membership as shown in the above image.

Tweeting a range of topics
Tweeting a range of topics. Twitter offers a range of topics from the amazing to the ridiculous. It enables serendipitous discovery of many gems of wisdom and leads to the development of knowledge.Tweeting connection April



Tweeting connection April

Connection with past and present study companions makes the learning journey more enjoyable and deepens understanding when links are shared.Tweeting connections

Tweeting connections May


Reading over the connections through Twitter this semester is another means of reflecting on the nature and depth of learning it has enabled.