Collaborative Model Building

Part of planning for success in a 21st Century Learning organization is understanding and prioritizing the investments in technology. Success is about aligning the work in K-12 schools with the deployment of infrastructure, services, and supporting administrative operations. As we attempt to prioritize our work, such models can direct the planning and delivery of key actions to support personalized learning.

This draft describes the attributes and key change drivers of a 21st century learning organization from a technology perspective (the lens). I would greatly appreciate your comments and feedback. I am interested in collaboratively building and sharing a model that reflects the thoughts of many.


If 21st Century Learning is described as personalized, anytime, anywhere learning, what are its attributes?

*Flexible Learning Platform
Technology empowers the learner by shifting the locus of control. The teacher’s role in choosing appropriate resources and activities, creating resources and framing the environment is supported by the delivery of the learning platform and access to resources. The learning platform can be a loosely coupled collection of tools or a tightly woven software application.

*Connected
21st Century Learning means that knowledge is neither hoarded nor stranded. 21st Century skills include the ability to search, retrieve, critique and expand upon existing knowledge. This can only be achieved in a connected learning environment.

*Data-Driven
Data is necessary to inform the changing practice and focus on individual student achievement. This continuous improvement (or adjustment) cycle requires access to data, capacity in the analysis of data, and the ability to interpret and apply the results of the analysis.

*Effective and Efficient Operations
A 21st Century organization leverages technology to deliver wold-class services. Targeted application systems provide secure and reliable data and transaction processing, and support the information management strategies of providing the right information to the right people at the right time.

*Safe and Secure
The reliability of the technology environment is enhanced when it is secured from unauthorized and malicious access. Reliability is a key predictor of availability. Security also applies to the steps taken to provide an age-appropriate, safe online environment for students.

What are the key drivers of change today in the technology supporting 21st Century Learning?

*Professional Learning and Support
Staff learning is a complex topic. Just-in-time and job-embedded development strategies deliver a change in practice that is both more immediate and more sustained. A support for staff personal learning creates a sustainable model for professional learning approaches.

*Student Access and Connectivity
Students need 1:1 access to the learning platform so that they can participate effectively in 21st Century Learning. This can be achieved through a combination of robust networks, district-supplied computers and connectivity that allows student-owned devices into schools.

*Technology Choices
The size of the technology footprint in a school district is driven by the range of technology choices that the district chooses to support. The technology footprint if not managed has the potential to lead to escalating costs.

*Tools of Web 2.0
A question remains as to whether the flexibility of the learning platform requires flexibility relative to the collection of tools or simply flexibility in the use of the tools. This very discussion is driving change.

*Focus on Green
Elearning, ecommerce, and all the other e’s have reduced energy hogs such as air travel. But on the flip side, data centres and personal computers devour energy. As we teach our students the importance of global citizenship, we need to send the right message about the impact of technology on the environment.


Thank you for participating. I will continue to post iterations of this work.

Can Pre-Built = Personal?

Personal Learning Environments are

a single user’s e-learning system that provides access to a variety of learning resources, and that may provide access to learners and teachers who use other PLEs.


In a recent discussion with fellow grad students and Stephen Downes, Dan made what I thought was a brilliant comparison about two kinds of technology-enabled learning environments. He said that Linux is outrageously customizable while Mac and Windows is outrageously simple to use.

We had just observed Stephen Downes’ highly customized, highly personal learning environment. Stephen had built that environment himself, from scratch.

And I wonder – can teachers create their own highly personalized environments with pre-built tools? Is that an oxymoron?

Not Detached?

It was an article that made me sit up and take notice. The Faculty is Remote, but Not Detached was recently published in the New York Times. In fact, some of the faculty referenced in the article appear to have either taken a detached stand-and-deliver style to the Internet, or won’t move to the Internet at all because they don’t believe it will work (in this case, I don’t either).

Stephen Ruth, professor of public policy and technology management at George Mason University, said that while online classes could be very effective, they were “not on par, in my opinion, with traditional classes at top-tier universities.” One reason is that “the general ambience of the class provides a better experience,” he said.

The writer herself may not understand the power of the enabling technologies of Web 2.0, as evidenced by this statement:

And technology like Web streaming has made online learning more like a real classroom experience.

These are outdated paradigms of what could and should be happening in our classrooms (and beyond). First, there is more than enough evidence that online learning is on par with classroom learning. But more important, engaged learners who are so engaged by virtue of Web 2.0 tools (including streaming) have the potential to do better than in a stand-and-deliver environment.

I invite Ms. Tahmincioglu to visit with some of the teachers she mentioned in her article – Robert Vernon and Terry Baron – and to interview other students and professors who are both highly engaged and interactive in their online space. I might even venture so far as to suggest that there can be more engagement in an online environment that is not bound by time and space.

I for one am taking two online graduate courses this semester. I have never met either professor nor most of my classmates face to face, but through various communications technologies I have had a wonderfully enriching experience and built connections that will outlive the end of the courses.

The Emotion-Charged Debate about Internet Safety

Dean Shareski linked today to an important article about Internet safety for kids. The article debunks the myths that the Internet is always an unsafe place.

Safety on the shelvesIn an environment that is so emotionally charged, it is important that data is presented and this research article does just that. However, there are many creditable agencies that describe the tragedies that do occur with children and adolescents. There is important work to be done that cannot be ignored, in helping our children learn to be Internet-savvy. Interacting online with strangers is potentially dangerous behaviour. It is the same education we have provided our children about being street smart.

But there is much to learn in our world, just as there is much to learn and be connected with on the Internet. The data presented in this report focuses our work as adults in watching for children at risk, preparing all children to be Internet savvy, and then leveraging this amazing resource for all the positive it can be. The paper suggests that the focus should be more on the adolescent and less on the parent. The research also suggests that the prevention focus needs to be with adolescents, who are in a position to act independently.

The Parent’s Edge website describes seven warning signs for parents. This aligns with the research recommendations about prevention and is part of the parent’s role. Controlling behaviour by the parent is seen as less effective than teaching the adolescent directly. But how much of the advice is directly related to individual parenting styles?

I wrote a post not so long ago about defining safety and security as I personally explored this question of “do we worry too much?”. Josie Fraser offers a framework that assesses Internet risk according to contact, content and commerce. I was looking to extend that framework to assessing risk about safety for the user, safe practice by the user, safety of the site, safety of the technology/system from intrusion. The research presented here deals primarily with safe practice by the user, and may suggest that a site itself is not inherently unsafe by virtue of the functionality it offers.

Where to from here? Dean suggests we need to get on with the learning. I suggest we need to present the evidence first – or at least give it a wide public voice to fuel an intelligent debate based more on fact than emotion.

Wikipedia Academia – again

The Wired Campus this week highlights an article by David Parry, an assistant professor of Emerging Media and Communications at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The discussion that follows each article reflects the polarization of views about Wikipedia. Parry argues that dismissing Wikipedia entirely from academic use is irresponsible. Rather than arguing about how/whether to use Wikipedia, we should be more interested in why Wikipedia exists.

Students and teachers alike must understand how systems of knowledge creation and archivization are changing.

Wikipedia itself comments on Academic Use. Any encyclopedia is considered a tertiary source of information, subject to evaluation. Wikipedia is no different in that regard.

Parry makes, in my mind, a more important comment about the role of technology in the democratization of learning:

what is more important is teaching people how this technology changes the social sphere so that students too can be empowered to engage the polis rather than being passive users of Word Processing programs.

Let us understand the role that new media plays in centering the learning around the learner, and making life-long learners of us all.

Identity 2.0

Identity management is a very important part of supporting our Web 2.0 experience. Thanks to a tweet from Matt I just watched Dick Hardt from Sxip Identity, a Canadian company, talk about Identity 2.0. Just as we describe learning with the learner at the centre, Identity 2.0 puts the user at the centre.

Open Source, Open Content, Open Access

Thanks to Glenn, Rob, Lisa, Rick, Dan, and Peter who offered great perspectives to my recent post about the polarization of open source and proprietary software. Not everyone sees open source as the only way to support technology-enabled learning. There is room to explore the range of options and still be advancing a belief in open education.

So what happens if Microsoft buys Yahoo? Google has set the benchmark for open collaborative tools, and recently announced Google Apps Team Edition which will find its way into the enterprise. How will we selectively secure these spaces? When do we need to secure them?

Open source is an option for the learning delivery platform – either hosted or in-house. Open content is critical if we believe that what is important is having access to knowledge and a space to create or co-create meaning or knowledge. Open access is the third leg of the stool, and a potentially dangerous one. Not everything should be public. We have a responsibility to protect confidential information about our students. Where is the line between open access for knowledge and closed access for personal information? Who gets to decide?