The Importance of an Adaptable Mind

This clip was set for viewing as one of the first tasks in CSU’s 23 digital things challenge, which I stared this morning.

It is a beautifully created visual and auditory stimulation of what is takes to make our world a better place.

The list of vital skills for our modern world contains five qualities that machines can never have:

  1. Curiousity
  2. Creativity – in the sense of liberating human energy -based on Howard Gardner
  3. Initiative
  4. Multi-disciplinary thinking – not multi-tasking but multi-asking
  5. Empathy

It left me with the question: What human skills can I offer the world?


Shlain, T., Steele, S., Goldberg, K. (Producers), Shlain, T., Steele, S., & Goldberg, K. (Directors). (2015). The Adaptable Mind [Motion Picture].




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


Survey results

Current technology use in the classroom
Current technology use in the classroom

This question did not give me any indication of what aspect of technology to target for my artefact.

Adoption of Social Media

This supported my personal observations and discussions with teachers and students.

1 = not at all 5 = to a great extent

This indicated that there was some understanding of what could be achieved by developing some social media components for teaching.

1 = not at all 5 = to a great extent

Of all the possibilities blogging seemed to be the most likely target social media to succeed in classrooms.

1 = not at all 5 = to a great extent
1 = not at all 5 = to a great extent

Teachers at my school are generally very disinterested in Twitter. Only two others that I am aware of have accounts.

1 = not at all 5 = to a great extent

This gave me confidence to proceed with my proposal for the artefact.

1 = not at all 5 = to a great extent
1 = not at all 5 = to a great extent

Like me, my colleagues use Facebook more for personal connection rather than professional.  Interestingly our school has a very active Facebook following which the marketing review realised was well worth tapping into. Some teachers use closed Facebook groups through this medium, but many students are not comfortable sharing this space with their teachers.

3 4 5 11 12

The answers overall confirmed that Social Media was an appropriate focus for the artefact, and blogging was the best platform to emphasise.

The next phase was to consider the best platform to use for artefact creation – a time consuming and frustrating process! Products evaluated are presented here.

Here is the artefact.








Too Big To Know

Click the animation to open the full version (via

If you didn’t already get it, this animated image really shows you – David Weinberger really was correct (Weinberger, 2011). Those of you who studied with me in INF530 might remember that I was not a fan of his “Too Big to Know “, and yet I keep acknowledging that his thesis in relation to the amount of data out there is accurate – he just pushed the point too much. How can we, as educators, hope to keep abreast of such massiveness as this animation indicates?

This graphic, as much of any of the reading we have been undertaking, proves to me that the days of sage on the stage should be declared gone. There is even a point where groups within classrooms should not consider one person in that group the only guide on the side. We really need to think of classes as collections of learners gathered together for a common purpose – to learn more about whatever the content is deemed to be at a given point in time.

Jackie Gerstein

(Gerstein, The Other 21st Century Skills: Educator Self-Assessment, 2015)

The next sentence is not intended to diminish Jackie’s work. She provides us with many wonderful graphics such as this one on her blog, but the image above, and others like it, are focused on the teacher, what they establish,  and the various ICT tools and concepts to which they expose their students. It’s time to look at such constructs from a learning perspective, where the students are co-creators of the program (as far as mandated curriculum allows) and everyone shares the leadership and the solutions – which can be many and varied.

Here are two examples of student work (VCE History Revolutions) where building blocks were placed in the room in two piles with whiteboard markers nearby. Excitement came first, then question: – what do we do with them? Answer: what are we studying at the moment? Statement: let’s make timelines of our learning so far. Only imposition: write on one side of the blocks only (aiming for brief summary). Once the timeline was made, the suggestion was to change the order of  the blocks – ranking by importance.


Note the rows of small blocks deemed more significant than some of the bigger blocks
Note the rows of small blocks deemed more significant than some of the bigger blocks


this group used all their blocks
this group used all their blocks

Last year I had the amazing experience of working with a class where the students got the whole “sharing concept” and where the students taught me many things while I exposed  them to the VCE History Revolutions course. I blogged about the type of activities we did here: . I had taught many of these students in Year 9 (see and the learning from that experience had lived on.

QR codes in Historyy

In typically frustrating fashion, the class I have this year, a small group of 4 boys, 3 of whom were part of the same Year 9 cohort, won’t give any of these kinds of activities a go. I guess this is part and parcel of educating in a time of significant change. What do you think?

For my artefact for this subject I hope to create a film clip that will encourage my colleagues to have a go at connecting, collaborating and co-learning. Next year all our students will have a device in their hands, so, no doubt our school will be contributing to the data shown by Penny Stock in the graphic at the top of this page. With some judicious planning the data may also contribute knowledge to the wider learning community that is now accessible to most people on earth.


Gerstein, J. (2015, January 2015). The Other 21st Century Skills: Educator Self-Assessment. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from User Generated Education:

Penny Stocks. (n.d.). The Internet in Real-Time: How Quickly Data is Generated. Retrieved from Penny Stocks:

Simkin, M. (2012). Retrieved from My Learning Journey:

Simkin, M. (2014, August 13). Designing Thinking Tasks. Retrieved from Digitalli:

Weinberger, D. (2011). Too Big To Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That The Facts Aren’t Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, And The Smartest Person In The Room Is The Room. New York: Basic Books.





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.


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 <>

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” ?

This is one of our biggest hurdles as educators.

Quick post: Tweeting into space? Tweeting for collaboration.

Interesting to see, courtesy of Twitter, how many people viewed my posts this week. According to Twitter

the number of views on the posts tagged #INF530 was 60, 66 and 78.

This is what I posted and was hoping for some feedback on:

1. So are we seeing the death of edited and curated content in this era of Internet? This is one of Weinberger’s contentions.

2. Read David Weinberger “too big to know”? Interested in opinions/comments about the power of crowdsourcing & knowledge thru Internet #INF530

I would have liked some responses, but I plan to copy David Weinberger into the next one! Connectivity is one thing, but to have two way communication is the ultimate as it helps you expand your thinking and take in other perspectives on the same topic. Intellectual debate makes learning so much more valuable. Anybody want to trial a collaborative tool to collate some thoughts based around texts we are reading for our scholarly book review? (I don’t have a specific tool in mind but happy to suggest something).