All posts by missspink

Metaphors for Digital Learning Spaces

Have you ever wondered about the name for your computer desktop, trash can or recycle bin and folders? Probably not because that terminology is something we take for granted- well at least I do. Through my studies for INF536 I read an interesting article, Instructors as Architects- Designing Learning Spaces for Discussion-Based Online Courses (Wang & Chen, 2011) that discussed the use of metaphors to describe learning spaces in virtual environments.

A little while ago I posted about how I had made a change to the staff professional learning space at my school. It has been going great, there is lots of discussion and sharing happening. Initially a lot of it was about tech stuff…basic how to questions. I set up a group called ‘Techie Sharing’ so those conversations could be added to that group. I remembered the article and decided I would make a couple of changes to the space again. Given my reading I created some more groups and really thought about what I wanted to see or happen in that space and named each group accordingly, I also added some Canva inspired graphics.

At this stage the groups which are currently being used are:

It's a BBQ (1)
Techie Sharing Lounge – A relaxing place to chat, share and ask questions about teaching and learning with technology. We also have a 10-15 minute Techie sharing session after our staff meetings on a Monday. The virtual space supports these sessions.
Writer’s Haven – A safe space to develop understandings during professional learning about writing, many discussions in this space were initiated by leadership- encouraging reflection and discussion.
Bloggers cafe
Blogger’s Cafe – A casual space to share class, teacher and student blog posts and share thoughts about educational blogging in general.


CBL Sand Pit – A place to play, build, make mistakes and learn collaboratively about Challenge Based Learning, a relatively new whole school initiative.
There is also a general space for conversations that do not fit into these areas.

I have not wanted to put too much ‘stuff’ into our Yammer space, but when I do, I try to generate discussion. Considering the whole purpose of this change of space was to develop a sense of community, collegiality, staff learning potential and collective intelligence, I want it to be driven by them.

The most gratifying thing I have noticed is the confidence staff are displaying when sharing. From their posts I can tell that many are happy to share what they are doing and feel the space is supportive enough to ask questions about something they are unsure of. Further to this, given my role in the school I get to spend a lot of time in classrooms supporting and coaching teachers…I have seen the conversations from the virtual space transcend into the classroom, having a positive impact on classroom practice. My favourite part is when staff post questions and others get in and respond and answer before I do…this was not happening before, I was usually the first stop and I love that the confidence of staff is developing.

My PLN is the most important part of my professional learning and I hope that through this use of Yammer, more staff at my school will continue to develop the confidence in sharing and learning in an online space, just enough to maybe, one day break out of the walled garden and begin to develop their own.


Wang, Y., & Chen, V. (2011). Instructors as Architects- Designing Learning Spaces for Discussion-Based Online Courses. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 39:3, 281-194. Retrieved from

But I’m not a designer…changing a problem space!

At the beginning of the year, I set up a Google Site to replace our old staff intranet. The site has served its purpose well- a landing page which provides quick access to the most necessary links for staff at my school. At the time, I thought it would be a good idea to add some pages to document, share, discuss and reflect on the professional learning we undertake as a staff each week. I still think this is a good idea…but it hasn’t happened, and I definitely have not facilitated it well. As you can see from the screen shots below the pages have just become stagnant, and some were empty! As a result, they serve no purpose at all for developing and sharing professional learning amongst staff.

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This space is in need of some thinking on the design as it is currently serving no function for learning at all! Temple (2010) explains that design shapes ideas into practical solutions for users. The process of design converts an idea into form (Kuratko, Goldsworthy & Hornsby, 2012). I think I had a good idea when I put this in place, but it is obvious that my idea has not been successful, and it the current form it is not helping the learning of anyone.

The important take away for me during this task was connecting the concept of problem-solving to design- a natural and ubiquitous activity (Razzouk & Shute, 2012). For me, this meant that I could be (a little) more logical and enquiring than what I originally perceived as ‘design’. Razzouk & Shute (2012) describe design thinking as the analytic and creative process that one engages in to create new opportunities, experiment, prototype, attain feedback and redesign. With this design thinking process in mind, I felt a little more at ease with the task.

I defined the problem space-

Evernote Snapshot 20140801 082825

Thinking like a designer requires inspiration, being inspired to change up this space was easy! In my research from #INF530, I looked into social learning and the use of social media and online environments to create new learning opportunities and experiences. Knowing the value of this type of learning and how online tools and spaces can have a direct impact on developing employee learning potential, building communities, developing a positive learning culture and growing collective intelligence (Bingham & Conner, 2010), I knew that the changes to the current professional learning space could engage staff in a social element. I decided to come up with a generative topic title as discussed by Ford (2013).

Evernote Snapshot 20140801 082829

Once this was decided, I started thinking about solutions and jotted them down. As soon as I did this, my thinking automatically turned to ‘but’ statements. But…I don’t have time to spend hours designing a new site, but…staff already have a lot on their plates, but…it is hard to encourage some staff to talk about their learning, but…I am not a designer, this subject hurts my brain, but…and so it continued.

I persevered and started thinking of a few ideas. I put my solution ideas on a pink Post-It and a couple of thoughts (positive or negative) on a yellow Post-It, then I left it alone and came back to it later. I needed to think aloud and ended up chatting to some staff about it.

Evernote Snapshot 20140801 082833Evernote Snapshot 20140801 082836

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Evernote Snapshot 20140801 082847Evernote Snapshot 20140801 082851

After chatting to a few staff members, I decided to go with option three. Even though it would most likely be a completely different tool to a Google Site. It meant that my time was freed up, I didn’t have to spend much time creating something from scratch, staff could sign up using their existing school email, it is private- staff are not required to sign up to Google+ and they know it is a network for our school staff only. After some research into the right tool for the job, I decided on Yammer.

I have already begun to set up some groups to share resources and reflect on professional learning- but at this stage I don’t want to overload it. I just want staff to get in and have a look and get a’feel’ for the space. The design of Yammer is similar to other social networking tools so I think that will enable ease of use- especially for reluctant staff.

I emailed staff:

FCE89449-47AC-4C89-A9B2-7A0D2C708EA7 I am hoping that this new virtual space for teachers will enable them to recognise that the idea of social learning is not something that is considered an ‘add-on’ or an extra. I hope that over time, as staff engage with each other and their ongoing professional learning in this online space, they develop a greater depth of knowledge, build on their insights and reflect on and interpret information (Bingham and Conner, 2010).


Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 4.03.56 pm

So as it stands the Google Site  for our staff landing page is still there, I just deleted the ‘professional learning’ pages and added a link to our Yammer on the front page. I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out and if the changes I have made do in fact impact on the learning.

Ford, P. (2013). NoTosh – Design Thinking: Immersion 1 | Develop a generative topic title. Retrieved, from
Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in Innovation acceleration : transforming organizational thinking. (pp.103-123). Boston : Pearson.
Razzouk, R., Shute, V. (2012). What is design thinking and why is it important? Review of Educational Research, September, 82 (3), 330–348.
Temple, M. (2010). The design council: A review. Department for Business, Industry and Skills (UK). Retrieved from:

Twitter for Digital Citizenship

On Friday I read this article, published in the local Leader Newspaper. The article was based on a complaint made by an older sibling of a student at Roxburgh Homestead PS about Twitter being used in a year two classroom…which to any reader probably sounds like an irresponsible thing for a school to allow. These views were backed up by “cybersaftey expert”, Susan McLean.

I have been a longtime advocate for using Twitter in education, in fact, it was more than three years ago now when I started using Twitter to model and teach authentic global digital citizenship. It has been almost two years since this article was published in The Age, celebrating the positives use of such a tool in a variety of educational contexts.

What worries me the most is that this conversation still needs to be had. Educators who understand the importance of modelling and using social media with students in a positive way, and at the same time as teaching them the required skills to allow them to be safe online are constantly fighting an uphill battle when negative articles like this one are published.

Susan McLean, the “cybersaftey expert” and former policewoman suggests that “the problem is you’re exposing children to a world that technically they’re not supposed to be in”. I agree, yes children are not ‘technically’ supposed to be using social media at a young age but it is naive to assume that this would be their first exposure to it. The fact is many children are already using social media and most times without any supervision and guidance. A study conducted by the Queensland University of Technology found that Australian children were on average a little under 8 years old when they began using the internet (Green et al., 2011). Given that there are 2.8 million Twitter accounts in Australia (Christensen, 2014), my guess is more than a few were started and are used by kids.

I think it is important to explain that the use of classroom Twitter accounts does not mean students just get to go off and Tweet about anything without teacher supervision. It is a modelled and guided experience closely monitored by teachers. A lot of the time classroom Tweets are co-constructed as a class and replies are read in similar ways. Through classroom Twitter accounts not only do students have the opportunity to share their work with an online audience but they get to learn about digital safety and citizenship authentically, and as any teacher knows- these ongoing authentic experiences far outweigh any ad-hoc, tokenistic ‘cybersafety’ days and one off lessons. While these days and sessions led by experts still hold a valuable place, they only offer a bandaid solution.

I wholeheartedly disagree with McLean’s claim that this use of Twitter is “not protecting children’s safety” and argue that it does, in fact, offer a way to teach children how to behave and interact safely and appropriately in an online world.

So many students under the age of 13 are already using a variety of online tools and social media. Much of the time this is done without parent supervision or permission. We can not hide students away from social media or bury our heads in the sand and pretend they are not using it. It is true that children are faced with many risks when online, as educators I believe it is important that we acknowledge this, be progressive and do something about it. Green et al. (2011) also noted that “while a minority of children are upset by online risks, many benefit from the advice and tools available to them. The risks and opportunities of the online world go hand-in-hand for children and it is important that we avoid being overly restrictive”. 

Sure, we may not be able to prevent everything negative before it reaches children but through the use of Twitter, the conversation is open and we can show them what to do if they are feeling unsafe and how to block and report unwanted contact. We can discuss privacy settings and share strategies and positive use cases. But we don’t do this as a one off, box ticking lesson- it is an embedded practice in the classroom.

Classroom Twitter accounts are a monitored, secure and protected experience for students to learn how to become responsible and safe social media users and global digital citizens. So instead of slamming the use of Twitter in education, let’s celebrate teachers like Jess from Roxburgh Homestead PS and congratulate the school on taking a stand to support the ever increasing need for positive examples of social media in education.

Some more great examples of class Twitter accounts:







DEECD Resources-

Twitter- Digital Deck

Digital Learning News- Twitter

Examples of Social Media Use

Communicating to Parents

Additional reading about Twitter in the classroom-

Are you Tweeting in class yet? 

Teaching the Social Media Generation

Twitter in my classroom

Tweeting the Prime Minister

A chance Tweet



Christensen, N. (2014). New study suggests there are 2.8m Australian Twitter accounts. Retrieved from

Green, L., Lumby, C., Cunningham, S., Bennet, T., Thoo, M. (2011). Risk and safetfy for Australian children on the internet. Queensland University of Technology. Retrieved from


Teachers: Modern Knowledge Workers for the 21st Century

This essay was completed for the subject- INF530 Concepts and Practices for the Digital Age, as part of my Masters of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) studies.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Image: creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by missspink1

Image: creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by missspink1

It is the 21st Century. Traditional teaching and learning is changing to keep up with the rapid developments and changes with digital technologies and ever expanding online learning environments. Students today are faced with a differentiated set of skills, attitudes and actions that they will need in order for them to be prepared for, be successful in and meet the challenges of a digital economy (21st Century Learning, 2009). The following video from AITSL (2012) outlines the changing educational paradigms in light of the 21st century.

To be an effective teacher in the 21st century, teachers need to be able to engage and interact with a wide variety of information from an ever increasing range of sources. Wesch (2009) suggests that the media environment educators are currently faced with can become vastly disruptive to traditional teaching methods. Teachers today need to become lifelong learners in an information society where information flows freely, is instant and infinite (Wesch, 2009). For this to occur, teachers and students alike need to develop strategies for engaging with, working with and constructing new knowledge, or as Wesch (2009) describes, moving from being just knowledgeable to knowledge-able. 

But do teachers realise this? Teachers need to be equipped with ever-increasing skills and competencies to manage this hyper-connected, knowledge environment in order to best prepare students for the 21st Century, a world where the only constant they know is change. Redecker et al  (2011) describes generic, transversal and cross-cutting skills to be the most important in enabling both students and teachers the flexibility and pro-activeness needed to respond to these fast paced changes. The video below examines some of the changes and unique challenges that are happening in the world today. Whilst it was specifically created for a Canadian school district, it is still relevant to education and the need for teachers to be prepared and develop their skills. 

Today, teachers are constantly challenged to develop their own thinking and practice to prepare students for active and successful participation in a knowledge society, by developing students who are effective knowledge workers and competent citizens for the future (Skilbeck & Connell, 2004). It is because of this that the need for teachers themselves to become modern, productive knowledge workers is crucial for education in 21st century learning environments.

Image: creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by missspink1

Knowledge workers have high levels of education; they are workers who think for a living, whose main role surrounds developing and using knowledge. Knowledge workers are highly motivated, possess factual and theoretical knowledge, find and access information effectively, curate and organise information. Teachers are an example of a knowledge worker (Cooper, 2006). In this developing knowledge economy, it is becoming apparent that teachers are faced with the need for higher level skills, flexibility and entrepreneurial teaching and learning (Skilbeck & Connell, 2004). Given this expectation and the description of a knowledge worker, it is obvious that the time for teachers to ‘level up’ is now! 

The following ‘Portrait of a Knowledge Worker‘ (Le Borgne, 2012) illustrates the myriad of characteristics that pertain to knowledge work. 


Image: Portrait of a Knowledge Worker (Le Borgne, 2012).

When exploring the idea that teachers need to become modern knowledge workers in 21st century teaching and learning environments it is important to consider the following characteristics and traits associated with knowledge workers.

Image: creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by missspink1 

Drucker (1999) identifies innovation as a key characteristic of a knowledge worker. He suggests that if knowledge workers continue innovation and change, those around them come to see change as an opportunity, therefore, having a positive impact on a larger amount of people. In order to continue innovation, a teacher must continue to learn. Moving beyond traditional assumptions of learning as an individual process, 21st century teaching and learning environments are changing the way educators (and students) learn (Nussbaum-Beach & Hall, 2011). In considering the changing scope of today’s learning environments, social learning methodologies should be embraced. Teachers today need to develop dynamic learning mindsets and embrace learning that is social, collaborative and self-directed, these concepts shared in the following video outlining social learning in the 21st century by Lab SSJ (2010). 

Social learning allows emphasis to be placed on real-world interactions between people and the learning process (Ford, 2008). Subsequently, teachers are able to develop their learning and knowledge acquisition through social media tools. Such tools are able to create higher levels of social learning given the faster and wider access to people and resources (Coleman and Lenox, 2010). As a result, teacher learning can happen anywhere, anytime, revolutionising their current knowledge networks.

Significantly, the following explanation and excerpt from the Ted Talk ‘How Web Video Powers Global Innovation’ by Chris Anderson exemplifies how social learning- creates accelerated innovation through crowd sharing and collaboration (Fuse Universal, 2011). 

With continuous, personalised and autonomous learning, punctuated by social learning methodologies, teachers become life-long learners who are abreast of changes occurring in the education realm and know how to apply these changes to their current contexts (Whitby, 2013). Highly effective teachers are successfully able to analyse increasing amounts of information, and model knowledge acquisition, many teachers are doing this through the development of Professional Learning Networks (Trust, 2012), or more commonly referred to as a Personal Learning Network (PLN). 

A significant element of an effective PLN is that it is personalised, teachers – knowledge workersdetermine their own needs and goals and use their connections and networks to acquire information and develop their knowledge (Whitby, 2013). Correlating to this, in ‘Management Challenges for the 21st Century’, Drucker (1999) explains the importance of knowledge workers defining the ‘task’, by asking themselves- What is the purpose? What do I want to achieve? Doing this enables a PLN to become an incredibly unique, tailored experience that allows teachers to engage in powerful learning experiences (Exley, 2011). As teachers endeavour to create and engage in a PLN they continuously ask themselves these questions in order to personalise their knowledge growth.

Another essential point in evaluating the need for teachers to become modern knowledge workers for the 21st century is the idea that knowledge workers desire different working environments (Tucker, 2013). They are ambitious and yearn for self management; they have to have autonomy (Drucker, 1999). When teachers take control over their own learning through developing a PLN, this autonomy in what they want to learn and how they want to learn becomes apparent. Through this versatile and autonomous learning, they are developing higher skills, leveraging and building knowledge and continuing self-development (Jayasingam & Ren Yong, 2013). Importantly, Stevens (2010) emphasises that teacher autonomy, through continuous lifelong learning needs to be a skill practiced and mastered before applying similar concepts with students. 

The following image from Seitzinger (2010) effectively illustrates common tools and design elements of effective PLNs. 

Image: creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by catspyjamasnz

As teachers embrace becoming modern knowledge workers in 21st century teaching and learning environments they, as described by Berry, Byrd and Wieder (2013), are encouraging and exhibiting the full extent of collective innovation and creativity. 

Sir Ken Robinson below explains this notion of innovation and the importance of creativity in education.

Creativity is essential for preparing students effectively for a digital, information and knowledge based economy. In order for them to be successful in a workforce where many jobs do not even exist yet, they need to think differently. Teachers need to become productive modern knowledge workers who embrace this level of education and adopt a more unconventional approach to thinking and creating (Wooten, 2013).

Image: creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by mrsdkrebs

Teachers as knowledge workers think beyond traditional education paradigms. They act as a coach, coordinator and mentor as described by John Seely Brown in the Global One Schoolhouse video. (DML Research Hub, 2012). He describes the importance of learning and teaching happening simultaneously in environments that are full of play, imagination, tinkering, making, change and webs of connections. It is entrepreneurial learning.  

Continuing innovation as a teacher, knowledge worker, in 21st century teaching and learning environments means taking risks. This is crucial for the future of education and a significant catalyst for change (Heick, 2013). In order to teach creative and innovative thinking, teachers must have the skills to think differently themselves. They need creative spaces and tools and a range of frameworks that help to develop their own criteria of achieving quality and success (Heick, 2014). Taking risks and generating change is attune to what is known about entrepreneurs (Berry, 2013). Teachers, knowledge workers, are self-reliant, highly optimistic, they embrace and lead change, they generate new ideas, they innovate.  They are ‘Teacherpreneurs’ (Berry, 2013).

Image: creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by missspink1

The need for teachers to become productive, modern knowledge workers in 21st century teaching and learning environments is essential. Given the fast paced digital, information and knowledge based society in which traditional educational paradigms are being challenged, teachers need to change and keep up so they can best prepare students for the future. Developing the skill sets to become knowledge workers allows teachers to embrace the changes and challenges they are faced with. Teachers who commit to ongoing and dynamic further learning mindsets, making the most of the affordances of social learning methodologies and cultivate a desire to embrace change and think differently are modern and productive knowledge workers. Drucker (1999) once described a productive knowledge worker as one that works hard to improve and is valued as a capital asset. Thinking in this way, teachers as knowledge workers could have the potential to become the most powerful and valuable assets for the future of education.  

Image: creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by missspink1

21st Century Learning [White paper]. (2009). Qatar Academy.

Berry, B., Byrd, A., & Wieder, A. (2013). Teacherpreneurs: Innovative teachers who lead but don’t leave. John Wiley & Sons

Coleman, M., & Lenox, M. (2010). Using social networks: to create powerful learning communities: today’s electronic social media tools allow for far greater and swifter access to people and resources than was previously possible. Computers in Libraries30(7), 12+. Retrieved May 18, 2014 from

Cooper, D. (2006). Knowledge Workers. Canadian Business79(20), 59.

DML Research Hub. (2012). The Global One Room Schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (Highlights). [Video File]. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from

Drucker, P. F. (1999). Management challenges for the 21st century. New York: HarperBusiness.

Edge, K. (2013). Rethinking Knowledge Management: Strategies for Enhancing
District-Level Teacher and Leader Tacit Knowledge Sharing, Leadership and Policy in Schools. Retrieved May 18, 2014 from

edSurge. (2014). How Teachers are Learning: Professional Development Remix. Retrieved May 25, 2014 from

Exley, S. (2011). Connect, communicate, collaborate. The Times Educational Supplement Scotland, (2245), 26. Retrieved May 18, 2014 from

Flanigan, R. L. (2012). Professional learning networks taking off. Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, 77(7), 42-45. Retrieved from

Ford, N. (2008). Education. In Web-based learning through educational informatics: Information science meets educational computing (pp. 75-109). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Retrieved from:

Heick, T. (2013). What You Need to be an Innovative Educator. [Blog Post]. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from 

Heick, T. (2014). Are You Teaching Content or Thought. [Blog Post]. Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

Jayasingam, S. and Ren Yong, J. (2013) Affective commitment among knowledge workers: the role of pay satisfaction and organization career management, The International Journal of Human Resource Management. Retrieved May18, 2014 from

Lab SSJ. (2010, September 9). Social Learning. Retrieved from

Le Borgne, E. (2012). Portrait of a Knowledge Worker. Retrieved 2th May, 2014, from

Loughran, J. (2010). What expert teachers do: Enhancing professional knowledge for classroom practice. London: Routledge.

Nussbaum-Beach, S. & Hall, L.R. (2011). The Connected Educator. United States: Solution Tree. 

Raelin, J. A. (1989). Teacher autonomy and managerial control. The Education Digest, 54(8), 16. Retrieved May 18, 2014 from

Redecker C, Leis M., Leendertse M., Punie Y., Gijsbers G., Kirschner P., Stoyanov S. and Hoogerveld B. (2011). The future of learning: preparing for change, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, JRC European Commission.

Skilbeck, M. and Connell, H. (2004) Teachers for the Future- The changing nature of society and related issues for the teaching workforce. Retrieved May 11, 2014, from 

Stevens, V. (2010) PLN: The paradigm shift in teacher and learner autonomy. Puertas Abiertas (6). En Memoria Académica. Disponible en:

Trust, T. (2012). Professional Learning Networks Designed for Teacher Learning. Journal Of Digital Learning In Teacher Education28(4), 133-138. Retrieved

Tucker, M. (2013). Tucker’s Lens: The Teacher as Professional: Confirmed! Retrieved May 18, 2014, from

Wesch, M. (2009). From knowledgable to knowledge-able: Learning in new media environments, Academic Commons, Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts, Wabash College, Crawfordsville, IN

Wootten, R. (2013). 7 Characteristics of an Innovative Educator [Blog Post]. Retrieved May 28, 2014, from

Whitby, T. (2013). How do I grow my PLN? [Blog Post]. Retrieved May24, 2014 from

Dinosaur Adventures with Prep C

Prep C has another iBook on the way, coming to an iPad near you- Dinosaur Adventures!


After the success of the ‘In the School’ series by three prep classes I have been working with, I decided to hand over the decisions to students. They all agreed on writing another book, creating it in Book Creator and publishing it to the iBooks store.

We brainstormed story ideas and topics and dinosaurs was a clear winner. We then brainstormed what they knew about dinosaurs which prompted some great discussion.

Students decided that they wanted their book to be funny, that we should write about ‘silly’ dinosaurs. I showed the the AR Dinopark app and that was it. Students came up with different things dinosaurs can ‘do’ at our school.

Students also created Popplets to show what they can ‘do’. In this activity, students were encouraged to use the supports around the room to write the words correctly as well as writing all of the sounds they could hear.

It was their first time using Popplet so we created an anchor chart for them to refer to. The colours also matched the colours of the buttons in the app.

Working with Prep students and introducing them to iPads in the classroom has been such a rewarding (and sometimes crazy) experience. I am constantly blown away by their abilities to show their learning and create meaningful products for an authentic audience!

The New Social Learning- A Scholarly Book Review

I completed this review as part of my studies for INF530- Concepts and Practices for the Digital Age, the fifth subject in my Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation).

While the book is not specifically written for the education field, it is as relevant for teachers as it is for businesses. I would recommend having a read!

Bingham, T., & Conner, M. L. (2010). The new social learning: A guide to transforming organizations through social media. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

The New Social Learning: A guide to transforming organisations through social media’ by Tony Bingham and Marcia Connor (2010) presents an extensively researched, theoretical based analysis of social learning and social media that was written to provide organisations with practical ideas and advice on harnessing the potential of learning through social media. Through interviews and case studies, readers are presented with authentic examples of how the direct and open use of social media in the workplace can positively impact learning amongst employees. Bingham and Conner (2010) have delivered a book that goes against the usual ‘marketing focussed’ social media perspective to review a range of social media tools including micro-blogging, video sharing, collaborative tools such as wikis and immersive environments and virtual worlds. The authors comment on how each of these tools has a direct impact on developing employee learning potential, building communities, developing a positive learning culture and growing collective intelligence. Moving away from the marketing focussed perspective of social media allows the reader to gain insight into the deeper theoretical underpinnings of this ‘new’ social learning. Social learning has now become a strategy that encourages knowledge transfer and allows people to connect in ways that were not previously possible (Bingham & Conner, 2010). This review will analyse the two key themes presented throughout the text, social media as a tool for social learning and the changing workplace and the nature in which people learn. Bingham and Conner (2010) have included sections titled ‘Respond to Critics’ in which they attempt to articulate helpful ways of responding to critics who have negative views of social media as a tool for learning. While their suggestions could be considered helpful, these sections lack depth and detail and offer only a few practical solutions for dealing with tenacious critics. In reviewing this text, these ‘critics’ sections will be analysed for their practicality and usefulness.

Social learning is learning that occurs with and from others. Rightfully so, this text describes the ’new’ social learning as a fundamental shift in how people work, leveraging how people have always worked in the past, augmented with new social media tools (Bingham & Connor, 2010). Research suggests that social learning theories place an emphasis on authentic, real-world interactions between people in the learning process (Ford, 2008). Social learning is not new, and Bingham and Connor (2008) identify this, suggesting that social tools become the ‘building blocks’ in a way that development and learning is enabled in organisations. This concept is reiterated in a discussion by Coleman and Lenox (2010), suggesting that social media tools enable a higher level of social learning as they have the ability to allow for faster and wider access to people and resources. Social media tools allow people to connect and collaborate despite geographical boundaries. Having these resources so easily accessible in a learning context can provide people with greater access to knowledge. This easy access to knowledge can revolutionise previous theories of social learning as learners can and will come to expect that learning can take place anytime, anywhere and with people they have never met before (Brooks, 2009).

Bingham and Connor (2010) rightly explain that social learning is not at odds with formal education and training, nor is it synonymous with informal learning. This idea of social learning is important. Social learning should not be something that is considered an ‘add-on’ or an extra. As Bingham and Conner (2010) propose, when learners engage with others, they are able to build on their own insights, reflect and interpret information in greater depth allowing for higher order learning to take place. An important point to consider from ‘The new social Learning: A guide to transforming organisations through social media’ (Bingham & Connor, 2010) is the emphasis placed on not just allowing people to use the tools and then getting out of the way, but designing an inclusive model where all learners are encouraged to use tools to create, publish, remix and repurpose their learning. As an example, Bingham and Connor (2010) discuss how micro-sharing sites such as Twitter allow users to access the ‘right’ people, no matter where they are. They go on to propose that learning often involves people asking questions, generally, of those around them regardless of whether or not they know the answers. According to other sources, using sites like Twitter allows learners to ask questions and gain insight from a dramatically larger audience, becoming the lead tools in sharing knowledge (Brookes, 2009) across the globe. With this evidence elaborated, it can be confirmed that Bingham and Connor’s (2010) idea that new social learning through social media tools can allow organisations to have the ability to build positive online communities, connect and collaborate globally and develop positive learning cultures. The discussion presented about social learning by Bingham and Connor (2010) is factual, and their ideas are synonymous with other research in this area. The connections they make to social tools enhancing and strengthening the learning process are research driven and allow readers to gain a deeper understanding of how social tools can have a positive impact on the way people are already learning.

A key theme in ‘The new social Learning: A guide to transforming organisations through social media’ (2010) is the changing nature of the workplace. Bingham and Connor (2010) suggest that people are already using social media to collaborate and learn; they are working together more effectively and using these tools to create more vibrant learning communities and opportunities. In discussing this ‘changing workplace’ Bingham and Connor (2010) share the idea that Generation Z (those born after 1997) are about to enter the workforce. Suggesting that his generation is more accustomed to online technologies and, as a result, demand instant answers and constant connectivity. For organisations and educators, this understanding is momentous. Coleman and Lenox (2010) explain that one of the most overlooked concepts of social networking is the ability to “do your job”, that by allowing learners and workers access to this technology they are allowing them to create, research, develop, deliver and evaluate projects. Using social media tools in this way enables workers to create their own ‘personal knowledgebase’ or Personal Learning Network (PLN). Learning in this way can enable a deeper level of tacit knowledge transfer. Workplaces that develop ways for their employees to share this tacit knowledge widely through the means of social media gives them a unique resource and competitive advantage (Johnson, 2009). Modern workers are driving economies, driving technological advancements, making decisions, solving problems and driving innovation, they are communicating and collaborating with others in order to meet the needs of their customers (Libin, 2013). The changing scope of workplaces are ‘punching through’ walls and using technology to enhance the learning space (Bingham & Connor, 2010). This is the same for schools, allowing students to develop these networks and learn in this way can develop higher order thinking and the opportunity to enhance and access greater knowledge across subjects. Bingham and Connor (2010) are successful in their connections between enabling the new social learning and how this can have a successful impact on the changing nature of the way people learn.

Throughout the text Bingham and Connor (2010) question and respond to the ideas of critics and the ‘learningfulness’ of using social media. These sections offer an element of positive insight into what to say to critics when it comes to social media for learning, but lack depth and sustainable ideas. Bingham and Connor’s (2010) views almost seem flippant when comparing being critical of social media to suggesting that critics think it is “dumb” or “dangerous”, going on to suggest that people should not just quash social media because they do not understand it, rather, learn from those who do. These are key points; however, it should not be forgotten that those who question the effectiveness or are critical of social media as a tool for learning may not see it in a negative light, but are viewing it with a more well-rounded scope, where both positives and negatives are conceptualised (Brooks, 2009). Gotten and Woodrow (2007) also suggest that ‘believers’ may not always listen adequately to those who have critical views, in fact, they go on to say that critics are well in their rights to have these views, and sometimes their concerns are correct. Being critical of something does not always mean that people think what is happening with social media is dumb or dangerous, Bingham and Connor (2010) needed more substance to hold these sections together to offer more depth in their advice. Brooks (2009) discusses the notion that stakeholders often embrace or reject technology before they have a clear vision of how it can complement or confound pedagogical approaches, they go on to suggest that stakeholders work together to change or shape policies so that social media can be used effectively and that all involved can take advantage of the tools and the level of social learning they can provide.

When analysing the state of play in this new idea of social learning in education, especially when it comes to when it comes to critics, educators, organisations and stakeholders could benefit from the advice of renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow (1966), where he discusses the ancient proverb “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. Maslow (1966) describes the ‘fear of knowledge’- when people take something new on board they need to have trust in the knower, overcome their fears and become growth motivated. Those who are open to social media as a tool for learning need to have a well rounded understanding which can help fight the resistance, Maslow (1966) explains that, without this understanding, there will be resistance. Offering a deep understanding to critics is the first act, the advice given by Bingham and Connor (2010) in the ‘Respond to Critics’ sections are the initial understandings and relevant ideas needed to overcome the resistance.

Overall Bingham and Connor (2010) are successful in presenting a book that offers a theoretical underpinning of how social learning through social media tools can have positive influences on learners. Their discussion of the new and changing workplace, and the new generation of learners is thorough and synonymous with relevant research. They have presented relevant ideas, case studies and practical advice to dealing with critics and nay-sayers of social media for learning, however, may only be scratching the surface.


Reference List

Brooks, L. (2009). Social Learning by Design: The Role of Social Media. Knowledge Quest, 37(5), 58-60.

Coleman, M., & Lenox, M. (2010). Using social networks: to create powerful learning communities: today’s electronic social media tools allow for far greater and swifter access to people and resources than was previously possible. Computers in Libraries, 30(7), 12+. Retrieved from

Ford, N. (2008). Education. In Web-based learning through educational informatics: Information science meets educational computing (pp. 75-109). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Retrieved from:

Golten, M. M., Smith, M., & Woodrow, P. (2007). Hammers in Search of Nails: Responding to Critics of Collaborative Processes. CDR Associates, Boulder.

Johnson, J. D. (2009). Managing knowledge networks. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Libin, P. (2013). Day Two Keynote. Evernote Conference 2013. San Francisco.

Maslow, A. H. (1966). The psychology of science; a reconnaissance. New York: Harper & Row.

Using Evernote for Professional Learning and Development

Being a passionate and inquisitive teacher in a digital, globally connected environment opens up so many opportunities for professional development. Like many teachers, I thrive on extending my knowledge in multiple areas, I want to know everything I can in order to make me better at my job and life in general. I am constantly seeking ways to inspire and better myself, other teachers at my school or in my wider PLN and importantly, students I engage with and teach. In an age of ‘infowhelm’ it can be hard to manage, truly engage in and learn from so much information.

That is unless you have the right tools.

I have said many times that I truly believe that using Evernote makes me a better teacher. Sometimes I receive funny looks, rolled eyes and “here she goes again” comments, especially when many don’t understand how powerful Evernote can be to manage all of this information. Other times, there are people who also thrive on learning and education in the same way as I do and want to know all they can about how and why Evernote is so amazing. For me, Evernote is more than just a file storage tool, it is exactly as Evernote describes it, my ‘external brain’ the place where I ‘remember everything’, store any of my thoughts, ideas or wonderings, a place where I can save information in a variety of formats from anywhere and have access to it in a matter of seconds on multiple devices. Wherever, whenever, however, I want.

Last year at the Evernote Conference in San Francisco, Evernote’s CEO Phil Libin spoke about ‘knowledge workers’, describing them as people who think for a living. These types of workers are driving economies, driving technology, making decisions, solving problems and driving innovation. Knowledge workers are people who, in their daily lives and work environments make decisions, communicate and collaborate with others and understand and meet the needs of their customers. Any modern, digitally connected, passionate teacher I know would have resonated with those comments. Our customers, however are our students. In order for me or any other teacher to meet the needs of our students, to prepare them for such a socially connected digital world and prepare them for jobs that don’t even exist yet- we need to take advantage of as much learning as possible.

Have you ever been to a professional learning day or conference and been so inspired that you just want to get back to school and start straight away? Yes- excellent! But what happens when you get back to school and things may not go to plan- days and weeks pass, you forget what you learnt, and the inspiration dwindles. It happens all the time. I see so many teachers go away for professional learning, talk about how much they loved the session, but do nothing with that new knowledge. Things stay the same, no change, no innovation. Their notes are written down in a book or stored in a word document that will get lost or never be opened again. I know this does not always happen, but from what I have seen it is a common occurrence.

Enter Evernote. How about we do something with all of that information. Take what you have learnt, have it accessible and put it into practice. Refer to it, make changes, add thoughts and ideas, receive feedback. Innovate. Develop. Learn. Repeat!

Evernote makes me a better teacher because it is a tool I use that enables me to successfully manage all of my learning. I want to share with you some ways I use Evernote to do this. There is a lot. My advice- choose one thing you are not already doing and have a go! Evernote is such a personal tool, everyone I know uses it differently, they have their own pro tips, tweaks and ideas. If the ways I use Evernote do not work for you, change it, make it work so it does. You won’t be sorry!

Evernote Web Clipper

First step- get the Evernote Web Clipper and clip this post. Once clipped, highlight the parts or ideas that resonated with you the most. Add to the note by identifying a couple of new things you want to try. The Web Clipper is a tool I use on a daily basis; it is especially wonderful in Chrome. I use the web clipper to save articles and websites to Evernote that I want to keep and refer to. I also use it for general bookmarking. I have a ‘Professional Learning’ Notebook Stack, within that stack I have Notebooks set up for different categories. I like my Notebook organisation, when I want to clip a page, I can select the Notebook easily and also add tags for further searching capabilities later. I clip and save many blog posts, news articles and lesson ideas. Sometimes, if I want to get fancy, I’ll add an Evernote Reminder to the clipped note straight away to remind me to read it later or do something else with it. Reminders are a great feature- I am an extremely forgetful person, I love that I can be nudged to look at and act upon my clipped notes on given dates and times.

My Professional Learning Notebook Stack-


Another way I manage my love of collecting and reading inspiring and engaging articles and blog posts is Feedly. When reviewing my RSS feeds I can automatically send articles to Evernote that I want to save. When using Feedly, the notes are saved in my default Evernote Notebook, my ‘inbox’. I hate having notes in my inbox, so I ensure I make time to act upon those notes- I follow a ‘not so strict’ version of the GTD process (Getting Things Done by David Allen). When notes are in my inbox, I have to do something with them. This works well for me because instead of just sending things to Evernote to never be look at again I choose to share it with others, add it to my session ideas, reflect on it and make some comments, write a blog about it…whatever is important for that article. Using this process ensures that what I am sending to Evernote is not just left stagnant, I am constantly changing things up and reviewing my notes and acting on my ideas or things I have learnt from others.

Twitter and IFTTT

I am a self-confessed Twitter aficionado. I love it. I describe Twitter as the BEST free professional development tool available for educators. I love that when scrolling through the Tweets from my PLN I can easily save favourites- this could be links to posts, ideas, anything really. I use IFTTT to automate sending my favourites into Evernote. They go into a dedicated Notebook. Again, lots of people do this- but I always wonder what they do with those Tweets once they are in Evernote. I have set up a short cut, not to the whole Notebook of Tweets, but a saved search. I used Evernote’s powerful descriptive search to search for my ‘twitter favourites since last week’, this brings up only the notes that are tagged with ‘twitter’ (which IFTTT automatically does) and were created in the last seven days…Cool, yes? What I have then done is saved that search and added it to my Shortcuts (thank you Troy Malone for that tip). All of my favourites are the easily accessible and the most recent ones are one click or tap away. Again, I make sure I do not just leave them there…Once a week, usually on a Friday afternoon before I go home, I go through the notes saved from this search and do something with them…Add them to my Tickler file or Next Actions, write more, read more, add a reminder- whatever suits for the given Tweet or context. I also do this for my latest pins on Pinterest.

Saving Kindle & iBook Notes and Highlights

It is very rare that you will see me read a hardcopy book these days; the only time I do this is when I am reading to children. All of my personal, professional development reading is either done on my iPad or iPhone using the Kindle or iBooks apps. Recently I read about how to save my notes and highlights to Evernote…which, as you could imagine, made me very happy. Vickie Davis (aka @coolcatteacher) has some great guides on how to do this on her blog here and here For anybody undertaking professional readings, using this process is great. I love that I have everything saved in Evernote for easy access. When I want to refer to a reading, I do not have to trawl through my notes in other apps or programs.

School Staff Meetings & Conferences

I know I live in a world where people still love paper, I suspect many still especially like photocopying many pages for people to read. Every school based, staff professional development session we have, we are given handouts…And I hate them. This is commonly known as well, I also don’t take a pen to meetings. I use the Evernote document camera to snap an image of my handouts quickly, any notes I want to write I can add underneath or can quikly and easily annotate the images to makehighlights or handwritten notes straight from my iPad.

This process works well for conferences too. Although with conferences I always save the conference agenda and use note links to link to my notes taken at each session.

Travel & Study Tours

Last year I travelled to America as part of a personal study tour and this year I am travelling again with the Australian Council for Computers in Education ISTE Study Tour (keep up to date with us on Twitter when we set off in June- #STACCE14). To keep track of the organisation leading up to this I have saved my itinery and calendar, all of my reciepts. I use my unique Evernote email address to easily forward important emails stratight into my study tour notebook. I have clipped all of the ISTE sessions I would like to attend, as well as the websites and information of some of the places I know we will be visiting. There are so many notes in this notebook and to add another layer of organisation I have used the ‘Table of Contents’ feature to create lists of note links so everything is easily accessible, I then pin those notes using Reminders. While I am away I will be using Evernote to take notes and write blog posts.


I am studying my Masters of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) through Charles Sturt University. Evernote has been a saviour when it comes to organising my study and assignments for this. I previously wrote a blog post about how I use Evernote in study which you can read here. Reminders are the best too, great for important dates!

Performance and Development and Professional Learning Journal

I keep track of my professional learning goals and reflections in Evernote. In the past I have found that if I don’t refer to my goals regularly, I can become sidetracked. Having my goals in Evernote allows me to regularly update and document my progress towards achieving them. I also use Evernote as my professional learning journal, allowing me to document my throughts and reflections for ongoing professional learning.

There are so many ways Evernote can help you manage the information flow and allow you reflect, learn and develop.