Andrew Churches – Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age

Educational Origami

21st Century Fluencies

I have heard Andrew before – he usually presents in quite a dynamic way utilising graphs, images, quotes and video in quite an expert manner and today was no different.

He started by talking about 1992 and what happened in this year.  It was the birth of the world wide web.  He talked about the iphone of today compared to the computer of 1992.  He talked about Facebook and a few stories of a negative nature in terms of facebooks influence and pervasiveness.

It is quite easy, he said to talk about the negatives…….and then he showed a few positive stories related to facebook including one about some little kids who wanted a puppy “Two Girls and a Puppy”.

Competencies that we need to teach so our students can survive in this world:

  • persistence and resilience
  • thinking creatively and collaboratively
  • digital citizenship
  • problem solving
  • analytical thinking
  • communicating
  • ethics, actions and accountability

General Capabilities in the National Curriculum – the above are all addressed in this.


We have to start with engagement.  Engagement is quite different to entertainment.   It has a learning component. The impact of engagement is permanent whilst the impact of entertainment is fleeting.  Engagement has high relevance whilst entertainment has low.  Engagement should include problem solving.  We need to include the capacity for creativity.  Engagement is proactive versus entertainment which is reactive.

Where do we start with all this?

Let’s start with technology.  Tech should be an enabler and it should open the world up.  How are we teaching?  We need to differentiate and recognise that all our learners are different.   If we use just audio – low level of retention.  If we use just visual – level of retention slightly better.   If we link them both together – much better.

This is all still passive however.   We need to move up towards higher level thinking.  Kids need to be discussing, making, doing accessing multi-sensory materials.

Let’s include relevance and context

Let’s highlight feedback

Let’s understand the importance of exercise.  We have designed our classrooms around a notion of learning that is outdated and based on sitting still for 8 hours.  The brain craves exercise.

Let’s celebrate failure

Technology should be like oxygen






Challenge Based Learning at Wonga Park State School

Adele Brice from Wonga Park Primary School had quite an inspiring message in her keynote addressing her school’s journey towards Challenge Based Learning.

The school’s website

A video

Download an iBook which sets out their journey

Adele very quickly in her keynote brought up some key questions a school should ask itself:

  • What opportunities are you providing for authentic student voice?
  • What questions did you ask your students last week?
  • How does redefinition look in your school?
  • How are you making the technology invisible?

Where they started:

  • labs were absorbing tech time
  • net books not being used well
  • inquiry learning not new to them but they needed a whole school approach
  • they knew that a whole school approach was vital
  • they employed david anderson as an inquiry learning consultant
  • INTERACT – was great for inquiry learning
  • They decided upon a whole school approach – Challenge Based Learning
  • They followed the Victorian iPad Trial closely and with interest.
  • They wondered about starting BYO ipads in Year 4 or 5 or Year 6 but then discussed why the children should have to wait for the experience.


  • Whole school transformation through challenge based learning.   CBL encourages children to leverage technology to solve everyday problems through the use of great questions.
  • the use of the tech (Ipads) encourages conversations and flexible spacing.
  • they had an agreement with the parents – core set of apps that don’t change and an amount of money for apps that does not go over a certain limit.
  • they almost immediately saw engagement and excitement and conversations happening at home about the learning that was going on.
  • today they see children who are engaged 100% of the day.
  • they use showbie to set learning intention and to provide feedback with audio recordings and written comments.
  • they use iBooks and iTunesU



Tony Vincent

Tony from LearninginHand spoke a lot about ownership even if this is a psychological ownership and the need to give students a sense of ownership of what they do. Psychological ownership is the feeling that something is theirs.

He discussed how ownership is empowerment and that this can lead to engagement.   He talked about how ownership means we feel responsible and that we feel attachment – we feel accountable and then we feel confident.  The same applies to teachers – if they feel owernship of what they are teaching – then they feel more accountable and connected to what they are teaching.

University of Hull – Personal ownership is the single most important factor for successful use of technology.   This was from the Technology Enhanced Learning Research Group, led by Kevin Burden.


We live in an era of personalised technology.  One way that we can take advantage of this is to allow them to create their own media.  Steve Jobs encouraged us to ‘make a dent in the universe’ and our kids should feel empowered to do this.   They should have ownership in their own learning and we should give them things to do that make a difference.

We should give them an audience and we should provide them with choice.  A Harvard business review found that when we choose for ourselves we are far more committed to the outcome by 5 to 1. This does not have to be movies – this can be learning games, quizzes or podcasts.

Harvard also talks about ‘The Ikea Effect’ as something which demonstrates how much value we find in things we create ourselves.  Article 2

Tony talked about spoon feeding for young children as opposed to allowing them to feel themselves – that it can be messy and take longer but that it allows the user to control the flow and that you are less likely to regurgitate and that you have more ownership of the process.

Terry talked about the power of making a student every day into a reporter which means that by the end of the school year, they have a complete log of everyday written by the students..  They took pride in the writing because they knew their writing was for a real purpose.  Kidblog is a safe blogging site for kids.


To finish:  a quote by Terry Heick:  “In contrast with simple compliance, or vague engagement, ownership implies something broader and more cohesive – a tone of interaction between a student and their work that is meaningful and enduring – something bigger than the assignment itself.


Interesting article which I came across while writing this post.

Tony’s blog about his session

Tony’s “Teacher’s Pet” post



Graham Brown Martin – “Learning Without Frontiers”

Graham Brown Martin is a thought provoking key note speaker and his presence is indicative of the nature of the thinking that has occurred as part of this Slide2Learn’s team’s ongoing preparation for these annual conferences over the last few years.

He is currently on a journey as part of the “Learning (Re)Imagined” project.   He was chosen to write the next book for the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE). Accompanied by a couple of talented young photographers,  Graham will travel to places all over the world to research into how the connected society is transforming learning.

He is interested in the social, cultural and historical perspectives and has worked to get different views about education and to gain insights that can be represented in the book.  During this journey he is searching for transformative uses of technology.  He talked about the way that he thinks the terms ‘disruptive’ and ‘transformative’ are getting a bit overused and that  he was aiming to explore that which was genuinely inspiring.

He is writing a book about his travels which will showcase what he has seen and learnt.  This book will be beautifully illustrated and printed and will feature an app for smart phones and tablets that will ‘reveal an evolving digital layer of rich media hovering above the pages”.

His blog on this journey is something I have dipped in and out of since he has been writing as he often tells people he has done an update via Twitter.  Many of the posts are quite fascinating.  I had previously enjoyed reading about his visit to QuestToLearn, for example, which is a school in New York which has long fascinated me.  It is  based around the idea of gamification, and is a bold initiative that redesigns the curriculum and teaching practice to provide experiences for students where learning is placed in applied context and where collaboration is encouraged within SOLES (self organising learning environments).

An important thing they have learned in their 4 year journey is:

“initially we imagined that teachers would essentially be content specialists supported by designers but it soon became clear that there was for more to teaching than simply knowing the subject……specifically their ability to engage learners by being engaged themselves”.

A storify of some tweets from this session

He has reached 5 conclusions as a result of this global journey:

  • Context is king in terms of what is transformative practices are necessary or possible.
  • Environment matters and if transformation is going to occur, the environment must be conducive to creativity and design.
  • Engagement matters
  • The digital can be a catalyst for change.
  • The future is what we make it.

Key Questions and issues for conversation/debate:

  • Can we ‘fix’ education with technology?
  • What is education for?
  • Where are we going?
  • Is education really about prosperity?
  • The purpose of education has always been to maintain the status quo.  Should education be about this now?  It was important to maintain the status quo when we needed factory workers.  But is it now
  • Technology is offering us wonderful tools but we should be mindful that we are not replacing ourselves……the computer can not do the teaching.
  • Technology can be a catalyst – but what kind of catalyst do we want it to be?
  • It can be a catalyst that allows teachers to perform their jobs in transformative ways.  Are we going about this in the right way?   You need to decide why you are using technology.

Key people he spoke to during his global journey:

Seth Godin  (creativity, curiosity – we need to allow these to flourish)

Chomsky (we need to ask what is education for today.  It is no longer to produce compliant workers)

Ken Robinson – click for more.

That’s why I always say that teaching is an art form. It’s not a delivery system. I don’t know when we started confusing teaching with FedEx. Teaching is an arts practice. It’s about connoisseurship and judgment and intuition. We all remember the great teachers in our lives. The ones who kind of woke us up and that we’re still thinking about because they said something to us or they gave us an angle on something that we’ve never forgotten.


 Examples of genuine transformative practices in his global journey and an example of the opposite:

1.  Ghana in Africa  – click here to read more

Technology intervention was based around using kindles for reading and literacy as their education is based around the use of books and they simply did not have books.  They engaged in the ‘World Reader Program’ and this includes many local authors.

2.  India – click here to read more

BBC media action.  This program identifies different type of media/technology that can be used to intervene.   It is the biggest mobile learning project in the world.

They focussed around child care and child birth.  The intervention was based around the use of very basic mobile phones.

3. Hi Tech High – San Francisco   Click here for more on this

This school felt like a design studio and it was obvious that the line between the teacher and the student was blurred.  The physical space played a part in this as the line between common areas and classrooms was unclear.

Larry has a coffee mug that states his aim of “nurturing creative noncompliance” which pretty much sums up the exciting learning environment he & team have created.

Click here for an audio from the CEO from HighTech High

4.  Dubai – click here to read more

Chemistry lesson which was a 3D lesson which was meant to be impressive for the parents and visitors but in essence, nothing had changed.  The lessons were essentially all about the teacher and not the learner.

Education should not be about delivering content.

Interesting:  Can we use technology to craft technology rather than mass production?

Slide2Learn 2014 – Sydney

Slide2Learn was a conference I had been keen to go to for a few years.   This year it was in Sydney which was an attractive option so off we went – myself and three teachers from my school in the first few days of our holidays.

My feeling at the end of two fairly major PD experiences this year (Slide2Learn and Edutech) is that all I am getting now is affirmation.  Nothing is a revelation to me and I guess that I need to feel the confidence and conviction in my own outlook and in the outlook of progressive educators around me – some of whom exist  only in an online context for much of the year – to continue with direction, clarity, energy and strategy.

Within following posts, I summarise some of the other sessions, especially the keynotes,  but will pinpoint my key take-aways first.

My take-aways:

  • My feelings about technology as a catalyst is supported by many others.  What we have to decide as a school is what we want it to be a catalyst for.  Graham Brown Martin from Learning (re)imagined discussed this in depth when talking about his global journey to discover ways in which a connected society is transforming learning.  (see my separate blog post about this).
  • Experimenting with giving students more control is something that proactive educators the world over are doing.  Sometimes this does not go smoothly.  Whilst I was at slide2learn I was also following the ISTE tweet stream and since last year’s ISTE, many teachers have experimented along these lines. The reasons it might not go smoothly are diverse and one reason is that students are uncomfortable with student directed projects because they haven’t yet learned the strategies they need to have to be able to take charge of their own learning.  As teachers, we also need to get to a point where the strategies we know will support directed projects are ones we introduce and explicitly teach.  Inquiry learning is a model of teaching employed by the Australian National Curriculum throughout Science, History and Geography.  I wondered about whether we are approaching it in such a way that genuine inquiry (which many see as a pedagogical approach)is supported and scaffolded to the point where students are able to take an inquiry approach to real and important things by the time they reach the end of Primary School?
  • Engagement DOES matter.  When we engage students this is completely different from entertaining them.   Technology can often be a tool that you can use to spark this interest.   Technology can also be the tool that offers them choice in how they explore and communicate.
  • Ownership is empowerment and empowerment can lead to engagement.
  • Authentic audience is key and currently we are severely restricted (because of a number of factors) in being able to give our students an authentic audience.
  • We need to host a ‘showcase’ event by the end of this coming term to showcase some of the things we have been doing in the BYO class.

My overall feelings at the end of the 2 day conference:

  • the affirming nature of being around people who ‘get it’.    I think that conferences like this are important even if I am not learning anything really new and the reason for this is that there is enormous value in connecting with inspiring people.   Once a year is not enough however and I am aware that Twitter is an invaluable tool for continuing the momentum.  Possibly communities of people in my city should be sought after also.
  • the sense of companionship in being with people who will return to my school with me after the conference having experienced similar things and who have had the opportunity to explore, think, discuss and experiment. Teachers don’t get to do this enough.  Schools are busy places and it seems within hours of a new term starting, people get on a fast track conveyor belt where it is understandably difficult to see beyond and outside.
  • the journey we are on as a school and as a staff is a good one and one that we need to continue.  There are challenges – that is clear.  But we need to continue with strategy, confidence and faith.