Unit 6: Learning here and now

The concept

We bet you’ve heard or read a lot of things about technology and education, ’21st century skills’, flipped classrooms or all those blog posts listing urgent things you have to do IMMEDIATELY to turn you into a Captain Kirk of the classroom or circ desk.

But let’s face it, learning and technology intersect, time and time again through history – each creating innovation and enabling the other.

So we’re going to look at the skills that apply to learning at any time, whether now or in the future. Then we can think about how technology can support, alter or augment those skills.

Put simply we’re going to consider this statement:

[Making effective use of technology requires] acknowledging that students are entitled to an education that fits the way they interact with today’s world.

Importance of pushing digital education, USA Today.

(Thanks to our very own Inkwell Monitor for sharing this article in the VicPLN Facebook group.)

The task

Let’s start with a pretty simple question:

What are the characteristics of an effective learner?

If you had only five phrases to summarise the characteristics of an effective learner, what would they be?

We put the question out on Twitter and Facebook and here were some of the responses:

Think back to the model of fluency that we looked at in the previous task (how, what, when, why). Interestingly, plenty of the words above relate to those higher order tasks (such as when and why). And many of the responses given also emphasise that missing word on the spectrum – who.

Look at the five characteristics you selected and feel free to edit your list based on the response of others. When you’re happy with your five characteristics, think about whether those characteristics relate to how, what, when, why, how or who.

Now we want you to take those five characteristics, and think about ways in which digital tools can be used to support those characteristics (if at all). Here are a couple of examples from the PLN team to get you thinking.


Curious: The wealth of information available online can only feed our curiosity. The hyperlink is the most important aspect of the web for feeding this. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve started reading one article and ended up with 15 tabs open as I follow interesting link after interesting link. It’s incredible, and only feeds that curiosity more.

Organised: I’d love to say that technology is going to be able to help us be completely organised and efficient, but even with the incredible tools available (like Evernote) I think that the incredible amount of information available online from multiple sources means we are destined to always feel a bit disorganised. But the convenience of these tools and cloud based services means that learners are able to not only find information but put it in the right place for when they need it later.  On the flip-side, I’ve also seen people who become less organised as they feel like whatever they need they can just do a quick search for it.

Open-minded: The web can connect us to a range of people with a the full spectrum of opinions. It’s perhaps the most liberating but also challenging aspect of this technology. The web has democratised options like never before. A quick Twitter search on a particular topic lets you gauge the thoughts of people you would never have the chance to meet. That doesn’t mean it’s always pleasant, but it can be thought provoking!

Creative: Though I tended to associate this word with artistic pursuits like drawing and painting (which I am terrible at) I’m beginning to see the value of technology in the creative process. I don’t think has changed the creative process of writing but when I see the way students can use technology to make artwork, comics,  professional looking videos, radio shows, word clouds and storybooks, it makes me wish that I’d access to tools like this when I was in school. I had the words, but didn’t ever have the skills to make these products.

Collaborative: It’s pretty difficult to learn much in a vacuum, so being able to work with others, listen to their thoughts, share opinions and gather feedback is critical. It’s why educators are so important, and why classrooms should be filled with the sound of chat. When we write the PLN course we use online services to streamline the collaborative process, and using social media allows us to reach out to other people in our network. I think we’re only seeing the beginnings of what is possible, as it can only strengthen our personal learning networks.



Honest: To be honest, Cam stole all the good terms for his list, and I’m resisting the temptation to plagiarise them. At a basic level, that’s what online honesty is about (and yes, there are apps for that), but more broadly it’s about expression, public debate and discourse, ethical approaches and engagement. Sharing our ideas, our creative work, our experiences – whether we publish on a blog, on social media or in some other form – can only, in the long-run, enhance our own learning and that of others … and possibly the world. (Just ask Gutenberg or Caxton.)

Mindful: We all know how easy it is to get overwhelmed by floods of news or information, distracted by social media, led off task or off topic. The grass is always greener in a new tab. But having good management tools and the discipline to use them is key to staying on purpose with your learning tasks. I even lock myself out of social media (with the Chrome extension called Nanny) when I’m supposed to be doing research or writing, so I’m not tempted.

Receptive: Being mindful of your tasks doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the joys of serendipity.  We need to allow space and time for stumbling across new material, ideas, images, music, technologies – anything. Being in a Diigo group or following certain hashtags on Twitter opens us up to new sources of information and ideas. I allow myself the odd half hour scrolling through Pinterest or looking at the latest Retronaut capsules for ideas (OK, maybe more than half an hour sometimes). It’s fun to lose yourself in searching far and wide, and you can do it much more easily when you have a system for organising the things you find and sharing them with others.

Engaged: I admit it. I’m an introvert who’d quite happily never leave the house. But on Twitter I can engage with researchers, historians, librarians, writers, editors, philosophers – people I’ve never met, who might live on the other side of the world – all of whom enhance my own learning and help me get tasks done. It’s not a one-way thing, though. It’s important to give back, to share resources and respond to ideas or news, otherwise it’s not engagement it’s just listening.

Fascinated: Oh, it’s all just so interesting. Don’t you find?

Right then. Enough from us.

Now that you’ve considered the impact of technology on our projects, citizenship and learning, it’s time to bring all of your thoughts together into a reflective blog post.

Think about:

  • Your own progression with technology. How has it changed the way you learn and shaped your professional practice?
  • Your feelings about the impact of technology on us as citizens
  • Your thoughts about the use of technology in learning and the role educators play in modelling the use of technology
  • How technology can be used to support your chosen 5 characteristics of an effective learner
  • We’d also love to read your predictions about how technology will change the way we learn in the future.

Submit your assignment in Edmodo and keep an eye on the responses of others in their blog posts. And take a little rest, you’ve earnt it.