Educators, Social Media and Networking: A Serendipitous Relationship

“We need, first, to take charge of our own learning, and next, help others take charge of their own learning. We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves. It is time, in other words, that we change our attitude toward learning and the educational system in general” (Downes, 2010, para 16).

The concept of socialisation in learning has long been acknowledged as essential to knowledge building and attainment in the field of education (Belbase, 2011, p.3; Cobb, 2005, p.41; Dewey, 1910; Perkins, 2009, p.7). In the Digital Age, as educators and students alike begin to favour models of connected learning over the static environment of the traditional classroom, socialisation in learning has begun to establish itself through the use of social media and networking applications, “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content” (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010, pp. 61). These innovations and technological developments that allow for online collaboration and socialisation, enable us to expand our knowledge-building ecosystems and move away from the concept of the classroom teacher as the owner of all knowledge and information (Pink as citied in Bingham & Conner, 2010, loc. 177).

Moving away from traditional model of learning where the teacher acts as holder of all knowledge to a social, networked approach to learning where all participants are part of the learning process (Grout, 2013).

Moving away from traditional model of learning where the teacher acts as holder of all knowledge to a social, networked approach to learning where all participants are part of the learning process (Grout, 2013).

Thus as educators, whether we like it or not, we must embrace social media and networking within our own learning ecologies so that we can extend these learning opportunities to our students of the Digital Age. Just as businesses of the twenty-first century have been forced to up-skill and transform their business models to avoid losing currency, educators cannot ignore the pull of social media and networking to meet the natural drive of socialisation as these emerging technologies, “allow us to embrace the needs of changing workplace demographics and enable people of all ages to learn in ways that are comfortable and convenient for them” (Bingham & Conner, 2010, loc. 184). In echoing the sentiment of Downes when he suggests we must first take charge of our learning before assisting others with their learning, the time has come for educators to embrace social media and networking in their own learning so that they can benefit from, participate in and model this learning for both their peers and their students (2010, para. 16). Whereas traditional education has taught us that learning only happens in the classroom, the rise of social media and networking has proven that learning happens in a variety of ways and places beyond the classroom, opening doors for citizens in the digital age to be, “more effective, more knowledgeable, more energised, and more efficient as professional educators,” and ultimately, as learners (Whitaker, Zoul & Casas, 2015, loc. 205).

Opening the door to learning beyond the classroom (Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest, 2015).

Opening the door to learning beyond the classroom (Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest, 2015).

As Perkins suggests in Futurewise: Educating Our Children For A Changing World, We must consider what constitutes our learning ecology and ‘go beyond’ the world of traditional education to ensure our students are prepared for learning that is ‘lifeworthy’ – “likely to matter in the lives learners are likely to live” (2014, loc 395), and ‘lifeready’ -“ready to pop up on appropriate occasions and help make sense of the world” (2014, loc 694). This learning will only be possible when we consider learning collectives in networked environments, rather than learning in our traditional hierarchal classrooms (Schravemade, 2015, para. 4).

What is different about teaching and learning using social media and networking is that we are working in environments that we cannot control. The traditional learning relationships we had with our peers and students took place in physical environments, however in the digital age, they are happening in front of an audience we cannot monitor, mandate or select. The notion of connected learning is not one we can learn from a textbook, it involves educators stepping out of their comfort zone and, not only reading or viewing the work of students, but adopting a mindset that places them in the position of learner as they participate in the processes involved with, not only their individual learning, but also that of their peers and students (Whitaker et al., 2015, loc. 248). If, “social learning happens using social media tools and through extended access and conversations with all our connections – in our workplaces, our communities, and online. It happens when we keep the conversation going on a blog rich with comments, through coaching and mentoring, or even during a workout at the gym,” as Bingham and Conner suggest in The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media, then we as educators must ourselves be comfortable with and understand how to participate in such environments (2010, loc. 340).

This is where teaching and learning using social media and networking constitutes a serendipitous relationship with educators. Piaget asserted that, “cognitive conflict created by social interaction is the locus at which the power driving intellectual development is generated” (Perret-Clermont, 1980, p. 12). In this sense, cognition is a collaborative process, and the mind of the learner creates meaning, knowledge and understanding through dialogue, interaction and conversation with others (Ernest, 1995). Research such as that by Bell, Grossen and Perret-Clermont (1985) affirms this social practice, as they assert that students who are actively engaged in working with their peers display greater cognitive growth than those working alone. This promotes the idea that, “personal experiences of individuals become social and collective experiences when they are shared, interacted, and retained as knowledge” (Belbase, 2011, p.3). It is essential then, that as educators we examine how our pedagogy encourages students to participate and be guided by others in their learning. In the twenty-first century, we must embrace trends in technological development such as social media and networking to provide learning experiences reflective of the Digital Age. It becomes innate for educators to continue their serendipitous relationship with socialisation in learning through the participatory culture that is social media and networking.

In the video below, Helen Haste articulates the collaborative nature of information gathering and knowledge development in the twenty-first century (2009).

Social media and networking present the perfect platforms to encourage collaborative an co-operative perspectives through technology use. It is our role as educators to embrace these in our learning so that we can model, participate in and extend this opportunity to our students. The first step in this process as educators is to become digital citizens and connected learners ourselves, so that we can effectively and successfully extend this opportunity to our students. The interactive infographic ‘Getting Started With Digital Citizenship: Social Media and Networking’ shared in a previous post  provides a bank of resources for educators to use as a guide when they begin their journey as connected learners, exploring digital citizenship through social media and networking.

Reference List

Belbase, S. (2011). Radical versus social constructivism: dilemma, dialogue, and defense [Online Submission]. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED525159).

Bell, N. Grossen, M. Perret-Clermont, A.N. (1985). Sociocognitive conflict and intellectual growth. In M.W. Berkowitz (Ed.), Peer conflict and psychological growth. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bingham, T., & Conner, M. (2010). The new social learning: A guide to transforming organizations through social media [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Social-Learning-Organizations/dp/1605097020

Cobb, P. (2005). Where is the mind? A coordination of sociocultural and cognitive constructivist perspectives. In C. Twomey Fosnot (Ed.), Constructivism: theory, perspectives and practice (2nd Ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Dewey, J. (1910). How we think. Boston: DC Heath.

Downes, S. (2010). A world to change. Huffpost Education. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/a-world-to-change_b_762738.html

Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. (2015). Open white door floating plaster wall [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest http://quest.eb.com/search/165_3338382/1/165_3338382/cite

Ernest, P. (1995). The one and the many. In L. P Steffe & J. Gale (Eds.), Constructivism in education (pp. 459-486). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Grout, M. (2013). Teaching strategies [Image]. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/y28yncf_uu4b/teaching-strategies/

Haste, H. (2009, June 25). Technology and youth: rethinking the landscape of education (part 4 of 4) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZt9rEnAvew

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Business Horizons, 53(1), 59–68. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003

Perkins, D. N. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Perkins, D. (2014). Future wise: Educating our children for a changing world [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Future-Wise-Educating-Children-Changing/dp/1118844084

Perret-Clermont, A. N. (1980). Social interaction and cognitive development in children. Academic Press.

Schravemade, K. (2015, March 29). ‘Lifeready’ and ‘Lifeworthy’ learning: go beyond the traditional [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://theprivateteacher.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/lifeready-and-lifeworthy-learning-going-beyond-the-traditional/

Whitaker, T., Zoul, J., & Casa, J. (2015). What connected educators do differently [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/What-Connected-Educators-Do-Differently-ebook/dp/B00ULQN564/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1428829250

From Hierarchical to Networked: Ensuring Lifeready and Lifeworthy Learning in the Digital Age

-John Dewey

Introduction

The relentless pace of change of the twenty-first century has framed learning as a cultural phenomenon as globalisation, technological advancements and the rise of the digital age have created a need for citizens to become lifelong learners who are constantly up-skilling in order to survive and thrive (Douglas & Seely Brown, 2011, loc 50; Jarvis, 2009, p.15).  The digital age has removed many of the physical restrictions placed on learning, as technologies allow us to travel around the world and access a ubiquity of information at the click of a button (Selwyn, 2013, p.2).

The Future of Learning (Redecker et al., 2011, p. 9).

The Future of Learning (Redecker et al., 2011, p. 9).

The image above provides a conceptual map of the future of learning and the influence of drivers and Information Communication Technology (ICT) trends on education means that, more than ever, teachers are expected to be adept at a variety of technology-based pedagogical practices in order to promote twenty-first century learning experiences for their students (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada & Freedman, 2014, p.6). In response to the ever-changing notions of learning in the twenty-first century, Perkins suggests that educators must begin to provide learning experiences that are both ‘lifeworthy’- “likely to matter in the lives learners are likely to live” (2014, p. 8), and ‘lifeready’ – “ready to pop up on appropriate occasions and help make sense of the world” (2014, p. 24).Consequently, as educators in this society, to offer lifeworthy and lifeready learning to our students, our classrooms must become what Boccini, Kampylis and Punie describe as ‘live ecosystems’, environments that constantly evolve and change to suit the context and culture of which they are a part (2012). It becomes essential then that we meet the learning needs of students by creating, “a sustainable learning ecology that is shaped by the ubiquity of information, globally responsive pedagogical practices, and driven by collaboration and informal learning in multiple access points and through multiple mediums” (O’Connell, 2015). The greatest challenge for educators in the digital age becomes how to alter their pedagogy and curricula to provide lifeready and lifeworthy learning for students that will be likely to matter to them in their future (Perkins, 2014). Therefore networked concepts such as expert amateurism and connected learning are essential starting points for educators in ensuring the learning that happens in their classrooms is future-proof.

Lifeready and Lifeworthy Learning

In the video above, Alan November poses some important questions about the role of teaching and learning in the digital age.  He emphasises that we must accept the idea of ‘digital natives’ as a myth and acknowledge the fact that, just because today’s learners were born into the digital age, they are not necessarily prepared for learning in the digital age. Thus, we must accept that our society of ubiquitous information access does not make redundant the role of the teacher, as information access does not equal knowledge attainment (Seely Brown & Duguid, 2000). Rather, it becomes the role of the teacher to ensure that all learning experienced in the classroom is genuine, viable and future-orientated.  This is where Perkin’s notions of lifeready and lifeworthy learning become, essential for educators of the digital age in ensuring the currency and relevancy of what they are teaching.  Traditionally, education in schools has been concerned with educating for a known future, where tried and true hierarchical structures were dictated by curriculum organised into disciplines. Perkins asserts that while a hierarchical structure offers advantages of simplicity and organisation, it does not aptly reflect the learners of the digital age, who are living in an increasingly networked and globalised world, calling educators to rethink the how, what and why of teaching to incorporate the expanding measure of what is worth learning (2014, p.41).  Similarly, Douglas and Seely Brown suggest that we must consider the change in learning that happened with the move from the stable infrastructure of the twentieth century to the fluid infrastructure of the twenty-first century (2011, loc. 50).

Traditional Hierarchical Structure of Education (Perkins, 2014, p.41).

Traditional Hierarchical Structure of Education (Perkins, 2014, p.41).

Networked Structure of Education in the Digital Age (Perkins, 2014, p.42).

Networked Structure of Education in the Digital Age (Perkins, 2014, p.42).

Thus, a more networked approach to learning that incorporates lifeready and lifeworthy learning is essential as, “a network structure mirrors today’s multiplicity of engagements and serves today’s learners better: disciplines related to one another, teachers collaborating with one another, students interact richly with one another, drawing on diverse information sources, addressing twenty-first century skills, and engaging life and world problems and opportunities” (2014, p.47).  It becomes evident then, that educators must begin to consider how the influence of networked environments reshapes the learning that is valued by students in their classrooms and the relevance the learning that takes places will have in the lives their students are likely to live.

Expert Amateurism

The video above articulates perfectly the decreasing value of knowledge attainment alone in a world where we can access all of the information we need online.  What is more important is knowing how to ask the right questions and building the skills we need to assist us in knowing what to do when we do not know what to do.  Therefore, considering a networked curriculum that caters for expert amateurism, becomes a way for educators to provide lifeready and lifeworthy learning that will enable them to succeed beyond their time at school.  Perkins states that an, “expert amateur understands the basics and applies them confidently, correctly and flexibly” (2014, p.38). Furthermore, this notion of expert amateurism serves much of the learning we do outside the school environment in our everyday lives.  While not devaluing the role of specialisation and traditional disciplines, expert amateurism has the potential to play an appropriate role at the foundation of our curricula in the digital age.  It allows us to practice the skills of lifelong learning as we apply what we know to look outwards towards the networked world around us, instead of inwards towards our insular scholarly disciplines.  Of course, our traditional focus on building expertise in each discipline by way of advanced technical content has value later in life as individuals choose to specialise in areas that interest them, however, in our school environments, this is unlikely to have much value to the majority of students in the lives they are likely to live (Perkins, 2014).  Embracing expert amateurism allows us to ensure that the students in our classrooms are able to make connections outside of specific learning areas and connect their learning to build greater understanding, just as they do in their everyday life outside of the classroom.

Expert Amateurism works to provide lifeready and lifeworthy learning (Storm, 2013).

Expert Amateurism works to provide lifeready and lifeworthy learning (Storm, 2013).

Redecker et al., state that two of the biggest challenges in providing lifeready and lifeworthy learning are: providing transition between the worlds of school and future employment, and focussing on permanent re-skilling to enable all citizens to adjust quickly to new environments (2011, p.10).  As educators in the digital age then, we must work to build and model expert amateurism for our students to ensure that learning in the classroom is lifeready and lifeworthy.  When we consider the role of expert amateurism in a networked approach to learning, we are providing learning that allows students to use what they know to make connections and reflect best-practice in the digital age, as students are able to go beyond the insular walls of their classroom.  Expert amateurism provides students with the basics they need to thrive and survive in the twenty-first century as they navigate their way through an ever-changing and digital world.

Connected Learning

Connected learning provides an approach to teaching and learning that assists educators in building expert amateurism and move away from a hierarchical structure towards a networked structure of learning in their classroom.

The ever-present change of the twenty-first century means that educators have to seamlessly adapt their practices to suit new technologies, skills, learning environments and the needs of their students  (Cantrill, et. al., 2014, p. 4).   Outside of school, our students are learning, engaging and producing in productive and collaborative ways, using digital media and networked environments (Cantrill, et. al, 2014, p.6).  Thus, while not born in the digital age, the principles of connected learning are befitting of it, as it promotes student-driven connection that requires active participation and collaboration in front of a real-world audience (O’Connell, 2015b).   With the world at their fingertips, students of the digital age have diverse pathways in which they can access connected learning, enabling connections between their learning at school and their networks and interests outside of school, providing learning that is both lifeready and lifeworthy.  Embracing a connected learning framework in our pedagogical approaches enables us to draw focus away from particular technologies that often take precedent in the digital age, and instead, focus on the value of learning through, “purposeful integration of tools for social connection, creations and linking the classroom, community and home” (Ito, et. al., 2013, p.33).    As evidenced in the infographic below, connected learning encompasses production-centred, openly networked learning, that is driven by interests and shared purpose and allows for collaboration and academic growth.

Connected Learning (Connected Learning, 2013).

Connected Learning (Connected Learning, 2013).

The Connected Learning Framework below demonstrates the ability of connected learning to allow students to look outwards from curricula and create and build connections naturally, based on their interests.  With educators both guiding and modelling connected learning, there is much potential to provide learning that is lifeready and lifeworthy and conducive to the digital age.

Connected Learning Framework (Ito, et. al., 2013, p. 12).

Connected Learning Framework (Ito, et. al., 2013, p. 12).

The video below provides an authentic example of connected learning in practice. The combination of a student demonstrating the notion of expert amateurism combined with connected learning principles in this example attests to the power of learning that is both lifeready and lifeworthy.

Conclusion

The highly networked society of the digital age means that students are coming to school indoctrinated by our culture of lifelong learning, and if we are not careful, will be met with out-dated models of teaching and learning that do not promote engagement of lifeready and lifeworthy learning.  By foregrounding the way we learn in the digital age, rather than focusing on knowledge attainment and expertise alone, and embracing concepts such as expert amateurism and connected learning in our teaching practice, we will provide our students with the skills and ability to continue learning in their life beyond school.  We must begin to turn away from traditional hierarchical structures of education that could be seen to value what was already prescribed and valued knowledge and focus on building skills in learning that prepares students for learning in the world they are likely to live (Starkey, 2011, p. 19).  Siemansarticulates learning in the digital age as, “a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning… can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing” (2004, para. 23).  As educators, if we begin to explore the notions of expert amateurism and connected learning in our classrooms, we will be well on the way to meeting the needs of digital age learning.  If we continue to value the hierarchical practices of traditional education that value knowledge attainment alone, without evolving to more networked structures  promoting transferable knowledge and skills, we will not ensure that we are preparing students for lifeready and lifeworthy learning necessary of the digital age. We must begin to embrace a culture of learning indicative of twenty-first century practices in the digital age so that we are preparing students for their future, and not the future we thought they would have.

Reference List

Bocconi, S., Kampylis, P. G., & Punie, Y. (2012). Innovating learning: Key elements for developing creative classrooms in Europe. Joint Research Centre–Institute for Prospective Technological Studies. European Commission. Publications Office of the European Union: Luxembourg. doi: 10, 90566.

Cantrill, C., Filipiak, D., Garcia, A., Hunt, B., Lee, C., Mirra., O’Donnell-Allen, C., & Peppler,  K.  (2014).  Teaching in the connected learning classroom (ed. A. Garcia).  Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.

Connected Learning.  (2013).  Connected learning infographic [Image].  Retrieved fromhttp://connectedlearning.tv/infographic

Connected Learning Alliance.  (2014).  Connected learning: The power of making learning relevant [Video file].  Retrieved from
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quYDkuD4dMU

Ericsson.  (2012, October 19).  The future of learning, networked society – Ericsson [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quYDkuD4dMU

Institute of Play.  (2013).  Charles Raben, 9th grade student at quest to learn [Video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/59098372

Ito, M., Guitierrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K., Schor, J., Sefton-Green, J., & Craig Watkins, C. (2013).  Connected learning: an agenda for research and design.  Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.

Jarvis, P. (2009).  The Routledge international handbook of lifelong learning.  Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A.  (2014).  NMC horizon report: 2014 K-12 edition.  Retrieved from New Media Consortium website http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2014-nmc-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf

O’Connell, J.  (2015a).  INF530 Concepts and practices for a digital age: Module 1.3.  Retrieved from https://interact2.csu.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-249311-dt-content-rid-635329_1/courses/S-INF530_201530_W_D/module1/1_3_Trends_tech.html

O’Connell, J.  (2015b).  INF530 Concepts and practices for a digital age: Module 1.6.  Retrieved from https://interact2.csu.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-249311-dt-content-rid-635329_1/courses/S-INF530_201530_W_D/module1/1_6_Principles_connected_learning.html

Perkins, D.  (2014).  Future wise: Educating our children for a changing world. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Redecker, C., Leis, M., Leendertse, M., Punie, Y., Gijsbers, G., Kirschner, P., Stoyanov, S. & Hoogveld, B.  (2011).  The future of learning: preparing for change.  Retrieved from http://dspace.ou.nl/bitstream/1820/4196/1/The%20Future%20of%20Learning%20-%20Preparing%20for%20Change.pdf

Seely Brown, J. & Duguid, P. (2000). Social life of information. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.<span “font-family:arial;mso-fareast-font-family:=”” “times=”” roman”;mso-ansi-language:en-au”=””>

Selwyn, N.  (2013).  Education in a digital world: Global perspectives on technology and education.  New York: Routledge.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from elearnspace website http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Starkey, L.  (2011).  Evaluating learning in the 21st century: A digital age learning matrix. Technology, Pedagogy and Education 20(1), 19-39. doi: 10.1080/1475939X.2011.554021

Storm, S.  (2013, December 10).  #truth #tlap #COLchat :pic.twitter.com/vwd9lUjw3k [Tweet].  Retrieved from https://twitter.com/sstorm01/status/410233387987636225/photo/1

The Brainwaves Video Anthology.  (2014, May 5).  Alan November – who owns the learning? Preparing students for success in the digital age [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOAIxIBeT90

Thomas, D. & Seely Brown, J.  (2011).  A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change [Kindle version].  Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/New-Culture-Learning-Cultivating-Imagination-ebook/dp/B004RZH0BG/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1432974655&sr=8-1&keywords=douglas+and+seely+brown+a+new+culture+of+learning

West, D. M. (2012).  Digital schools: How technology can transform education [EBL version].  Retrieved fromhttp://reader.eblib.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/(S(l1ttps5hfzo3orl3txdevkfo))/Reader.aspx?p=967462&o=476&u=aIXo0ZBzSmXukM8fp%2fN7GA%3d%3d&t=1432971270&h=423E42B21547D82EE9EE051B312973CF2B315A45&s=36581639&ut=1443&pg=1&r=img&c=-1&pat=n&cms=-1&sd=2#

Getting Started with Digital Citizenship: Social Media and Networking

Social media and networking present the perfect platforms to encourage collaborative an co-operative perspectives through technology use. It is our role as educators to embrace these in our learning so that we can model, participate in and extend this opportunity to our students. The first step in this process as educators is to become digital citizens and connected learners ourselves, so that we can effectively and successfully extent this opportunity to our students.

The interactive infographic below provides a bank of resources for educators to use as a guide when their begin their journey as connected learners, exploring digital citizenship through social media and networking.

Click on the image to interact with the resources via Thinglink

Considering Purposefully Connected Curriculum in the Enactment of Australian Curriculum

As secondary teachers, the importance of our chosen teaching areas/disciplines has been engrained in us since our teacher training and our natural instincts to ‘protect our own’ are strong. Unfortunately, what many of us fail to consider is that, our own interests are leading to unrealistic teaching and learning experiences for our students, as we force them to separate what is normally integrated in their world outside school.   I stumbled across the image below on Twitter and can’t help but think it illustrates this notion perfectly.school:life

 

With the preparation for Year 7 into secondary in QLD in 2015 in full swing at my school, I have been engaged in and witness to much discussion around how we can plan a curriculum that will effectively cater for the ethos and values of the school, while incorporating relevant national curriculum and state government requirements. Although we are a school that has been long utulising an inter-disciplinary approach across some core subjects, the addition of Year 7 into the college, has presented an exciting opportunity to rethink the approaches to curriculum enacted within the school. We have begun to ask those ‘What if?’ and ‘Why not?’ questions as we investigate how best to provide an engaging curriculum for our learners.

One key consideration in our planning is how best to incorporate the Australian Curriculum in our teaching and learning in cohesion with our pedagogical approach of inquiry-based learning.  The three-dimensional design of the Australian Curriculum in its catering for, “discipline-based learning areas, general capabilities as essential 21st century skills and contemporary cross-curriculum priorities” is somewhat overwhelming for many educators who are struggling to accommodate the requirements of this in their teaching (ACARA, 2012, p.15). Thus, the concept of ‘purposefully connected curriculum’ as discussed in Jennifer Nayler’s paper, Enacting Australian Curriculum: Making connections for quality learning (2014) presents a worthwhile option for consideration in Middle Years environments.

Purposefully connected curriculum involves planning for the integration of two or three learning areas or subjects, as an alternative to the usual ‘single-subject curriculum’ approach (Nayler, 2014, p.3). While multi-disciplinary integration is not a new concept in curriculum design, often it is misjudged by educators who believe they will be sacrificing areas of their own subject area in trying to build links to other subject areas with little relevance. This is a valid concern, as without a clear link between the purpose of a learning experience and the skills and content being covered, lines become blurred regarding the integrity of the learning. As Nayler suggests, it is essential to be purposeful in curriculum connections and ensure a tessellation between ‘student-focused’ and ‘subject-focused’ curriculum (2014, p.12). With this in mind, connected curriculum provides a solution to the curriculum ‘over-crowding’ we often experience as educators, and allows for the development of, “a set of knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions, or general capabilities that apply across subject-based content and equip [students] to be lifelong learners able to operate with confidence in a complex, information-rich, globalized world” (ACARA, 2012, p.15).

The pairing of connected curriculum with inquiry-based learning seems a logical correlation, as the exploration involved in inquiry lends itself well to the development of understanding and skills not confined to one particular discipline. Nayler makes an important distinction between confusing the notion of common themes with focused inquiry as this practice leads to the creation of more of a single-subject curriculum as the overarching questions and links are not clear (2013, p.19).   Additionally, it is essential that necessary skills of a particular discipline are not blurred as distinction must be maintained between the difference in interpretation of understanding and skills across each learning area/subject (2014, p.20).

Nayler’s paper provides realistic considerations and insight into the planning and enactment of the Australian Curriculum. I would recommend this reading as a starting point for discussion on the benefits inter-disciplinary curriculum and inquiry-based learning in a Middle Years environment might have on our teaching and learning practices. Secondary educators perhaps need to be more open to the influence purposeful connected curriculum could have on providing realistic teaching and learning that mirrors the real-world environment for their students.

Reference List

ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority). 2012. The shape of the Australian Curriculum (4th ed). Retrieved from ACARA website http://www.acara.edu.au/verve/_resources/The_Shape_of_the_Australian_Curriculum_v4.pdf

Nayler, J. (2014). Enacting Australian curriculum: making connections for quality learning. Retrieved from https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/downloads/p_10/ac_enact_ac_paper.pdf