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


Parthenon Marbles

A visit to the British Museum  provokes the question – why are these sculptures from the Parthenon in London? What are these artefacts?  Are people like Mrs Clooney right in saying they are in the right place?

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Also worth debating is the explanation of all the friezes and the original state of the building.

Would Greek people feel that the British Museum was the right place for these to be housed?

Brompton Cemetery

A large green space of calm reflection lies just up the road from our accommodation. It holds the evidence of many lives. It is open from early in the morning until 8pm, and people walk there, rest there and visit some of the more recent graves. Crows, pigeons and squirrels share the space with humans. It is heartening to see the volunteers working to maintain this large and old site. An unexpected refuge from the heat and the urban flurry.

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London Musings

First full day of our trip to the UK and Ireland. Much is different since 1976!! Most noticeably for us is that London’s not the cold, dull place it was then. The fact that this is not a winter visit is obviously part of the reason. Trees have leaves on them, and it is the middle of a heat wave. Sights like these were impossible in January:

The buildings have also been cleaned. St. Paul’s gleams, the riverside buildings are spruced up. The buses, while still red and double decker, are clean and rather “green” although the tube is a little tired.

Staying in a hotel brings a stark contrast to home: heating is available, but air conditioning only in the communal areas. No fridge in the room!

Trains are “cooled” by opening windows. Underground is stifling. Most shops seem to just open their doors.

Today’s visits included Lambeth, The Imperial War Museum, and the Thames.

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:

Simkin, M. (2015 e). Article Review. Retrieved from Digitalli:

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

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

Simkin, M. (2015, October 11 h). Final Report. Retrieved from Digitalli:

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.


Let me introduce you

                             to the Learning Management System (LMS) under scrutiny for my case study report.

SIMON (SIMON Solutions, 2009) has been used at the school being studied for about 5 years. It is a relatively local product being created 200 kilometres away from this school by practising teachers. As will be demonstrated later in this blog post, this is a significant advantage compared to other products, most of which cost more money to implement. The school concerned had previously used a Moodle LMS developed to suit its purposes by an ex-student studying information technology at a university in Adelaide. SIMON was seen to offer more features and was inexpensive to introduce. As with any change in technology platforms, the early adopters suffered the greatest impact of this decision.

Who is SIMON

SIMON offers most of the functionality of other LMSs within a customizable framework.



This is the “home” screen – called “Work desk home”, which is customised for each school with name and logo (covered in this image to protect the privacy of the school concerned).

work desk incognito

All other functions link to the work desk in one or more ways. Subject teachers rely on the Assessment and Homework sections:

Assessment view

Teachers can add documents and create folders and students can download tasks and upload their completed work for the teacher to assess:

Topic manager

Ultimately the results and comments from the Assessment module populate the reports – no further writing or reporting package expense is required. This is a great time-saving aspect of the LMS for teachers and of financial benefit to the school.

Teachers can also conduct Forums with their learning areas. Teachers “icons” have a mortarboard to identify their status and both teacher and student icons represent the user’s gender.

Forums incognito

SIMON incorporates the school’s booking system

resource bookings

Like many features, this allows for reports of usage to be generated, although many of these are only accessible to the administrator for security reasons.

Bookings incognitoTwo features, which are heavily used at other schools but not at the school being studied are the Behavioural Tracking (due to a sense that the systems in place prior to SIMON’s introduction were more personalised) and the commendations (something that is acknowledged as good but not yet set up for general use).

Behaviour tracking

Commendations are shown in green while Behaviour Tracking is in red.





Other areas are available for population at the school’s discretion. The Library is represented in three different locations – two directly linked to the work desk home. This is on the left-hand side of the home screen.

Library links











The Knowledge Banks, which cover a range of topics, also has two collections put together by the Library staff (see top left-hand folder in the image below)

Knowledge banks

Inside the Alexandra Library public folder, the Library staff can add items as requested:

Knowledge Bank Alexandra Library

The Junior Campus (Handbury) Library knowledge bank contains less information:

Knowledge Bank Handbury Library






For the school at the centre of the case study the best aspect of using SIMON is that the teachers who have developed the system continue to work on meeting the needs of schools. To facilitate this they run regular user meetings where information is exchanged, and schools have the potential to request additions or alterations. These slides are from a recent meeting:


The need for readily available assistance has been noted and will be built into the next upgrade (due early this term). The underlying principle is to improve feedback to all stakeholders: parents, teachers and students:

Communication cycle

The Learning aspect of Learning Management Systems is considered crucial to SIMON’s success and the teaching background of those behind the product is evident:


Being able to talk to one of the developers, Kevin Brodie, was advantageous in terms of my analysis and in creating the surveys to evaluate teacher and student use of the product. It was also helpful to talk about the vision for the future and to be able to see what the next update will bring to the table.

Looking back over my subject material I found this blog post from last semester: . Getting to know updated systems in technology-rich environments does affect our acceptance of the technology itself!


Brodie, K. (2015, September 9). (M. Simkin, Interviewer)

PowerPoint created by SIMON developers for the May User Group Meeting and from which screen shots of relevant slides have been used with permission of Kevin Brody

SIMON Solutions. (2009). Retrieved from SIMON:

Colloquium 5

Professional Learning and Leadership

The fifth and final visitor led presentation came from Cathie Howe ( who spoke to us about her work as Professional Learning and Leadership Coordinator, NSW DEC, & Manager Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre .


As we have come to expect from a Colloquium, we learned of another example of knowledge networking and digital innovation which is impacting on the skills of teachers throughout New South Wales. Cathie’s work is centred on meeting the needs of C21t learners by improving teaching and learning in the connected age. She shared this image to summarise this philosophy:

C21st learner

As with all of the colloquiums we have experienced, this presentation also revisited concepts from the first subject in our course (INF 530) such as future work skills which is the motivation behind MacICT.

Pic link to 530

(Institute for the Future, 2011)

Cathie’s presentation was delivered with enthusiasm and she was happy to digress in order to answer our questions. The fact that the colloquium continued beyond the allocated time slot was testimony that she had engaged our class with her material.

Despite Internet connectivity issues making themselves known in every session in a range of ways which were annoying rather than terminal, these sessions were a demonstration of the potential for anywhere, anytime learning which was different to the methodology of a flipped classroom or Khan Academy. The latter examples are more akin to sage on the stage teaching while our colloquiums have seen one or more presenters engage with people in real-time and through oral and text connectivity.

Plenty of food for thought in terms of applications to “classroom” teaching where the room has no walls!

Thanks are due to all the presenters for the semester. Thanks too to Julie for finding such a range of fascinating presenters to further our educational program.


Howe, C. [Host] (2015, September 24). Colloquium 5.

Institute for the Future. (2011). Future Work Skills 2020. Retrieved October 4, 2015, from Institute for the Future:

Macquarie University; Department of Education, New South Wales. (n.d.). MacICT. Retrieved October 4, 2015, from MacICT Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre:




What LMS should offer

What should an LMS offer?

By deciding to invest in a Learning Management System (LMS) educational institutions are expecting to see an impact on teaching and learning; they require that it generates a reasonable return for the money spent; that it is easy to use; and that it will provide data that leads to improved learning outcomes (Leaman, 2015, p. 1). Stipulations need to allocate uniform consideration to five necessary aspects: “interoperability, personalisation, analytics, collaboration and accessibility” (Straumsheim, 2015).

Often the reality of the system implemented falls short of the expectations and inherent limitations are often hidden. (Leaman, 2015, p. 2). This occurs because LMS are often set up to treat learning as a series of isolated incidents rather than a continuous process which builds on skills incrementally as the course progresses, and the nature of the learning delivery may be generic rather than personalised  (Leaman, 2015, p. 3).  Instructors may not use many functions of the system, and students do not engage as anticipated which compounds the issues as tangible learning is difficult to ascertain (Leaman, 2015, p. 4).

Viewing LMS in terms of learning enhancement needs to be undertaken with the understanding that an ecosystem of effective learning cannot be provided solely by the LMS, and educational institutions need to use such systems within their limitations (Leaman, 2015, p. 6). New iterations of LMS must focus on creating an environment where the parts fit together similarly to a child’s building blocks (Straumsheim, 2015). Whatever the components: assessment modules, or analytics, or others, support must be aimed at competency-based education (Straumsheim, 2015). If there are weaknesses, educators need to augment them by incorporating other tools and build onto what their LMS can achieve rather than replacing it with a different system (Leaman, 2015, p. 6). It is relatively common for faculty personnel to approach their LMS with caution, in a manner similar to someone involved in a “love-hate relationship” (Straumsheim, 2015).

Schools and universities should be prepared to use systems that enable users to move freely between public and private (or open and closed) spaces, and acquiring evidence of collaborations from anywhere online should be made possible (Straumsheim, 2015). New versions of LMS should be centred on the requirements and preferences of the students, whose learning they are intended to support (Straumsheim, 2015).


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

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




Why Use LMS?

18 Instructional Tasks for Which Instructors Might use an LMS Tool

Schoonenboom published a list of tasks for which instructors might use a Learning Management System (LMS) (Schoonenboom, 2014, p. 248).  This will provide that starting point for a case study on the use of the SIMON LMS tool in one school in regional Victoria.

  1. Meeting – defined as a session run through video conferencing software which may be part of the same proprietary suite or through a different medium e.g. Skype for Business or Adobe Connect (such as our Colloquiums.
  2. Guest speaker – see above.
  3. Probing – using a digital tool such as TodaysMeet  or SMS-poll  or Poll Everywhere
  4. Student questions
  5. Office – fixed “open” hours for chat or discussion through mechanisms such as Skype
  6. Reference lists, or reading lists or information sources
  7. Self-testing using assessment software
  8. Exam – administer testing through digital software either in a controlled lab space or classroom or online
  9. Instructor feedback – e.g. through comments and or reporting
  10. Portfolio – examine and comment on students acquired learning through their presentation of evidence in a digital portfolio system or tool e.g. through SharePoint or Class OneNote
  11. Student discussion – e.g. discussion forum
  12. Collaborative writing – e.g. through Class OneNote, wiki, blog, Google Docs
  13. Peer feedback – e.g. through Turnitin
  14. Blog – e.g. Blogger, WordPress
  15. PowerPoint – or other means of producing teacher based material e.g. Teacher notebook with Class OneNote
  16. YouTube – link to videos on YouTube that might support in class learning programs
  17. Web Lecture – record lessons and make available online (using Office Mix record audio to go with slide presentation)
  18. Instruction – as above or other digital artefacts created specifically for the subject by the teacher


In constructing a survey, it will be important to raise potential uses as well and investigate uses that are more obvious. There is a pressing need to elicit responses which will evaluate usefulness, ease of use and the LMS intention underpinning pedagogical development and methodology (Schoonenboom, 2014, p. 249)


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