Tag Archives: learning

Professional development for teaching with technology

Teacher workshop

Teacher workshop

Integrating technology into learning and teaching is a complex and demanding process.

Teachers and lecturers need effective professional development in order to transform learning and teaching with technology. Ineffective professional development is a waste of resources and may even have a negative effect by de-motivating and discouraging teachers. This narrative illustrates some of the issues and problems experienced by teachers.

What is good practice in this area? Professional development for teaching with learning technologies should be sustained, collaborative, experiential, relevant, situated, and evaluated.


  • Professional development  should be sustained over time – one-off work shops may provide for training in technical skills but do not allow teachers to effectively change their practice.
  • It should be incremental, allowing teachers to build on their skills and experience over time.
  • It should incorporate long-term strategies in addition to workshops – for example mentoring, coaching and other forms of support over time to allow teachers to incrementally develop skills and expertise in incorporating the technology into teaching and learning.


  • Professional development should be closely integrated with collaborative planning of how technology is incorporated into teaching and learning. It should also involve collaborative planning of the professional development process itself: this will help ensure its relevance for the range of needs.
  • It should involve sharing of good practice in the organisation or teaching team to allow those who are advanced in incorporating technology into learning to share their expertise with the rest of the team.
  • Many schools around the world have made very effective use of expert students as technical support providers to teachers . This allows the teachers to focus on the educational use of technology.


  • Professional development should be experiential and provide direct hands-on experience in using the technology.
  • Experiential professional development also depends on reflection: teachers need to reflect on the their hands-on experience and their developing skills and expertise.


  • Professional development  should be curriculum focused, with strong links to the curriculum and how teachers can incorporate the technology in meeting the needs of students
  • It should be focused on outcomes – ie focused on what specifically the teachers will be able to do achieve in terms of enhancing learning and supporting the needs of learners.
  • it should be targeted and allow for the diverse range of skills and expertise amongst the teaching staff. For example, there will be teachers who are early adopters as well as teachers who are resistors or technophobes.
  • It should be realistic and avoid hype: it needs to acknowledge limitations and potential issues as well as the benefits.


  • Professional development  should be located within the organisation rather than externally. External people can be engaged as consultants and advisors but as collaborators rather than ‘outside experts’.
  • External organisations can be useful as exemplars, but need to be understood from inside and at ‘ground level’, not just as a high-level or impressionistic aspirational model.


  • Professional development  should be evaluated effectively. While it’s useful to get feedback from workshop participants on their immediate impressions, it’s essential to also evaluate the overall effectiveness of the professional development in transforming practice. Evaluation at levels 3 and 4 of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model should be considered.


Kolvoord, R (no date). What Happens After the Professional Development: Case Studies on Implementing GIS in the Classroom. Retrieved from http://spatiallearning.org/publications_pdfs/kolvoord_GISbook.pdf

Left, P (2011). PD Scenario. Retrieved from http://www.verso.co.nz/mw/index.php?title=Stories/5

Unknown authors (no date). Donald Kirkpatrick. Retireved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Kirkpatrick

Vrasidas, C (2010). Why Don’t Teachers Adopt Technology? Retrieved from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=1785590

Image: Jasonspera

Challenges for an online community for teaching and learning

imageUnitec’s Diana Ayling (pictured) spoke at an Elearning Community workshop about an online community she’s involved with which focuses on teaching and learning. These are my brief reflections on her presentation.

Diana and audience members identified some challenges for members of a teaching and learning community:

  • Teachers take time to develop a voice online because creating and managing content is a complex skill set. There is a growing need for teachers to develop ‘real-world’ technology skills such as working with social network technology. We need to ‘go to where the learners are’ so need to move beyond the institutional  Learning Management System.
  • Teachers have varying levels of resilience – when something goes wrong such as a technical problem, some are inclined to give up straight away while others see it as only a temporary setback.
  • There is a tendency to form splinter groups, as some are more comfortable with interacting a small group. This may have the effect of decreasing overall activity and interaction.
  • Data protection and copyright are ongoing issues as teachers move to more open technologies such as social network tools.
  • Online safety and privacy is an issue for both teachers and learners. Separating the personal and professional online presence is complicated but necessary.
  • When working with teachers as community members, we should not make assumptions about their level of technical skills – patronising them is a real turn-off.
  • Finding time to contribute actively to multiple communities and online spaces is difficult for busy teachers. RSS is a great tool for managing all the sources you read, but it doesn’t really help with contributing through writing.


Online Learning Communities: resources and references

A bibliography of useful books, articles and online resources

Australian Flexible Learning Framework. Effective Online Facilitation. Downloaded 5 January 2010 from http://pre2005.flexiblelearning.net.au/guides/facilitation.html

Australian Flexible Learning Framework. What are the conditions for and characteristics of effective online learning communities? Downloaded 5 January 2010 from http://pre2005.flexiblelearning.net.au/guides/community.pdf

Brook, C Oliver, R (2003). Online learning communities: Investigating a design framework. Downloaded 4 April 2010 from http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet19/brook.html

Cann, A et al (2010). Google Wave in Education. Downloaded 2 march 2010 from http://newsletter.alt.ac.uk/1civo6vnixg

Carr T, Jaffer S, Smuts J. Facilitating Online: A course leader’s guide. Downloaded from 6 February 2010 http://www.cet.uct.ac.za/files/file/Facilitating_online.pdf

Chatti M A. LaaN vs. Situated Learning. Downloaded 18 February 2010 from http://mohamedaminechatti.blogspot.com/2010/02/laan-vs-situated-learning.html

Chromatic. Building Online Communities. Downloaded 5 January 2010 from http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2002/10/21/community.html

Clark, RC, Mayer RE (2003). E-learning and the Science of Instruction. Wiley & Sons.

Downes, S (2007). Learning networks in practice. Downloaded 25 February 2011 from http://www.downes.ca/files/Learning_Networks_In_Practice.pdf

Garrison, D., & Anderson, T. (2002). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice. Routledge Falmer.

Green, P (2010). How to create a live online learning event. Downloaded 2 March 2010 from http://newsletter.alt.ac.uk/ovsn7pmtanz

Left, P (2010). 8 tips for online learning community activities. Downloaded 20 June 2010 from http://www.verso.co.nz/learning-communities/832/8tips-for-online-learning-community-activities/

Left, P (2010). Evaluating online community activities. Downloaded 20 June 2010 from http://www.verso.co.nz/learning-communities/780/evaluating-online-community-activities/

Left, P (2010). Planning online learning activities: problems with technology. Downloaded 20 June 2010 from http://www.verso.co.nz/learning-communities/735/planning-online-learning-activities-problems-with-technology/

McKeachie, W. J. (2002). McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers. Houghton Mifflin Co.

McPherson, M., & Nunes, M. B. (2004). Developing Innovation in Online Learning: An Action Research Framework (Open & Flexible Learning S.). Routledge Falmer.

Nussbaum-Beach, S. The Art of Building Virtual Communities. Downloaded 5 January 2010 from http://21stcenturylearning.typepad.com/blog/2007/08/the-art-of-buil.html

Palloff, R. M. (2003). The Virtual Student: A Guide to Understanding and Working with Online Learners. Jossey Bass Wiley.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2004). Collaborating Online: Learning Together in Community. Jossey Bass Wiley.

Palloff, R M & Pratt, K. Beyond Facilitation. Downloaded 5 January 2010 from http://xroadservices.com/home/download/webenhancedmoda.ppt

Siemens G. Learning Ecology, Communities, and Networks: Extending the classroom. Downloaded 5 January 2010 from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/learning_communities.htm

Wenger, E., McDermott, R. A., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Harvard Business School Press.

Wenger, E. Communities of practice: a brief introduction. Downloaded 5 January 2010 from http://www.ewenger.com/theory/index.htm

Wenger, E. Communities of Practice: Learning as a social system. Downloaded 5 January 2010 from http://www.co-i-l.com/coil/knowledge-garden/cop/lss.shtml

Wenger, E. and Trayner, B. Frequently Asked Questions. Downloaded 5 February 2012 from http://wenger-trayner.com/map-of-resources/

White N. How Some Folks Have Tried to Describe Community. Downloaded 5 January 2010 from http://www.fullcirc.com/community/definingcommunity.htm

White N. Communities, networks and what sits in between. Downloaded 5 January 2010 from http://www.fullcirc.com/wp/2009/08/06/communities-networks-and-what-sits-in-between/

Games, models and real-world complexity

Stephen Downes recently commented on a critique of the use of Powerpoint for presenting highly complex information. The original critique used the example of a model of the factors involved in the conflict in Afghanistan. Downes comments that:

The reason games change this equation is that you can actually model the relations between the entities.

I agree that games which model interacting factors can be a great way to provide an immersive experience for learning about a complex situation. However:

  • The problem is not with the diagram but with how it is used. As a tool to ‘impart information’ it is way too complex to be understood by a passive audience. But the real value of such a diagram is to the understanding of those who develop it. Indeed, developing such a diagram could be seen as an essential step in developing a game or simulation*.
  • I don’t believe most games which successfully engage players / learners are anything like as complex as the real-life situation which the diagram attempts to model. Games which don’t provide regular reinforcement for successful progress towards reaching the solution tend to lower the motivation of the learner. I suspect any game which modelled more than just a subset of the diagram would be unplayable by most learners.
  • Games tend to lend themselves to simpler situations where decisions result in immediate consequences. Note that the game described in the original article seems to have a strong tactical focus where the diagram seems more concerned with strategic factors.

* Just as developing a PowerPoint resource is often of most value to the presenter as a way of organising their own thoughts in preparing for the presentation.

8 tips for online learning community activities

Augustin Théodule Ribot: The ConversationIn a purely social community, collaboration and communication can be very open and unstructured. But when incorporating online community approaches into courses, we normally need to adopt a more structured approach to meet needs of the curriculum and the learners.

Here are some tips for this situation:

  1. The start of the activity is important – so welcome people and set a positive tone. Don’t overload people with information – start gently!
  2. Focus on participant needs – so exploring and sharing existing knowledge is often a great place to start.
  3. Give clear instructions and information about the activity – break the activity into digestible chunks so participants can focus on one thing at a time. Move supplementary information (ie info which is not key to the activity) to subsidiary pages.
  4. Use triggers to build engagement – eg provide a video or a link to an online survey, then follow with a directly-related question.
  5. Use open questions – eg ‘why do you think…?‘ These are more likely to generate higher-level thinking and in-depth discussion.
  6. Be a bit provocative – a trigger or question which is controversial is likely to generate engagement. But avoid topics which are too risky as these can lead to dangerous conflict – if you’re inexperienced as a facilitator this can be hard to deal with.
  7. Consider the flow of the activity – it is often preferable to deal with one question at a time, allowing participants to focus on one question at a time. You can start with prior experience or knowledge, then move in a developmental sequence to more in-depth questions. If you pose multiple questions from the beginning, especially with smaller groups, the community focus can be easily dissipated and lose momentum.
  8. The end of the activity is important – you should at least farewell participants and thank them for taking part. Consider also how the key points that arose can be summarised and published – true collaboration is not just discussing but generating new and powerful knowledge that should not be lost. You might ask for a volunteer to do this.

Image: Augustin Théodule Ribot: The Conversation