Category Archives: #tiegrad

The Changing Role Of The Teacher In The Digital Age

In my latest #tiegrad class I was invited to discus the changing role of the teacher in the digital age.


Three Distinct Relationship Changes For Teachers In The Digital Age


Richardson, W. (2012) understood the changing role of the teacher when he stated, “In this new story, real learning happens anytime, anywhere, with anyone we like – not just with a teacher and some same age peers, in a classroom from September to June. More importantly, it happens around the things we learners choose to learn, not what someone else tells us to learn.” (p. 1).


In order to understand the changing role of the teacher in the 21st Century, it is important to consider the historical role of the teacher. For centuries, direct instruction was the pedagogy of the day. The teacher held the position of absolute authoritative power and was the holder, and dispenser, of knowledge. Students worked to achieve curricular objectives designed and assessed by the teacher, and were given extrinsic motivators like grades and rewards as reasons to memorize information and demonstrate understanding of taught concepts. In contrast, the digital age represents an important time of educational change. The role of the teacher is evolving as new, digital, epistemologies form in an increasingly connected and networked world. In classrooms and schools around the globe, teachers are changing their methods to better suit the increased use of digital technologies available in education. Advances in technology have led to a more networked and connected world, and has given rise to a myriad of useful resources. Classrooms today are no longer confined to one specific educational theory, or limited by physical space. Education is no longer just about delivering curriculum in a way to actively engage the student in the room; it is about access to information. Active engagement and active learning have now become interactive learning. Teachers and students now co-learn across school districts, provinces, and countries. They share, collaborate and create information with a simple keystroke, click of the mouse, or via video conferencing available on their mobile devices (Thiele, Mai, & Post, 2014). The changing role of the teacher in the digital age can be characterized by three distinct relationship changes; between teacher and student, teacher and curriculum, and teacher and pedagogy.

Teacher with student

One fundamental change teacher’s face in the digital age is the change in the teacher-student relationship. According to Lemley, Schumacher, & Vesey (2014), “The 21st-century student will expect the 21st-century learning environment to provide opportunities creating a different role for the teacher” (p.6). In this version of school, the learning environment is flexible and dynamic. Learning is no longer restricted to the confines of the regular school day. It extends to the home, the community, and beyond. Learners prefer not to have education confined to the classroom, but want to have the freedom to be able to learn at any time and in any place (Rosen, 2011, p.5). Another shift between learner and teacher revolves around exploring curriculum together. Learning is a shared experience between teacher and learner. At one time, the relationship between teacher and learner was hierarchical in nature. The teacher was the dispenser of knowledge and communication between student and educator was one-way. That model no longer provides the best learning experiences for students. In the digital age, teachers are learning with their students through co-learning and collaboration. These methods form the basis of personalized learning.

Teacher with curriculum

Teachers are re-examining their relationship with curriculum and are moving from a teacher-centred perspective to a student-centred perspective. British Columbia’s version of this change in curriculum and pedagogy coined the BC Education Plan. Government of British Columbia (2013) states, “Our education system is based on a model of learning from an earlier century. To change that, we need to put students at the centre of their own learning” (p. 2). A move towards student-centred learning refocuses on the interests of the child rather than others involved in the education process. Teachers are making changes to their curriculum to include periods of inquiry learning. Exploring the path of inquiry learning with students follows a constructivist theory of education. Self-directed in nature, inquiry learning develops critical and creative thinking skills; skills learners will need in order to be successful in the future. Maiers, A., & Sandvold, A. (2010), talk about the importance of student-centred learning in The Passion Driven Classroom. They relate inquiry learning to finding learner’s passions and say, “It will be the passion that students hold, not for every subject, but for the ACT and PRIVILEGE of learning that will allow them to reach rigorous outcomes and excellence” (p. 6). When teachers move curriculum from methods of talk and show to methods of inquiry, they focus on each student’s passions, abilities, and learning styles; thus, allowing the teacher to move from a position of administering to facilitating learning. In addition, when teachers integrate inquiry methods in their curriculum, they honour the importance of student voice and recognise that it is central to the learning experience for every student.

In a student-centred classroom, students choose what they will learn, how they will learn, and how they will assess their learning. Student-centred learning requires students to be active, responsible participants in their learning. This aligns with Thiele, Mai, & Post (2014) findings in their research on learning in the 21st Century, “The implementation of technology can enhance learning by making the classroom more active and student-centered”(p. 1). In the digital age, teachers have a variety of tools and resources available to create curriculum with students, invite learners to discover the pleasures of lifelong learning, and open the classroom up to a global audience. According to the Government of British Columbia (2013), “Curriculum will increasingly emphasize key concepts, deeper knowledge, and more meaningful understanding of subject matter, and give teachers the flexibility they need to personalize their students’ learning experiences” (p. 3). Dewey, J. (1929) also realized the importance of student-centered learning in My Pedagogic Creed when he wrote, “The true centre of correlation of the school subjects is not science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography, but the child’s own social activities” (p. 4).

Teacher with pedagogy

If pedagogy is the art and science of educating (Webb 2012), then the relationship between teacher and pedagogy has changed dramatically in the digital age. Assessment practices, professional development opportunities, and a stronger understanding of how students learn best are reshaping relationships between teachers and their craft. Assessment practices have moved from ‘assessment of learning’ to ‘assessment for learning'; from teacher-directed assessment to peer and self-assessment. All this points to the learner becoming an active participant in the learning process. Advances in digital technologies have created complex assessment experiences, such as game-based assessments and online collaborative problem-solving. A wider variety of participants are invited into the assessment cycle including peers and outside experts. According to Webb (2014) there is, “Increasing evidence that uses of technologies are producing persistent changes in children’s brains and hence changing their capacity and capabilities for learning” (p. 10). Neuroscience is growing rapidly, and teachers are incorporating the latest brain research into their practice, specifically to assist in developing self-regulated learning skills. New digital technologies allow educators to engage in personalized, professional development, strengthen pedagogies, and create learning communities that cultivate professional relationships outside of school buildings. Collaboration in the digital age enables teachers to reach out and connect with like-minded educators. Historically, teachers developed their pedagogy through a combination of curriculum documents, colleagues, workshops, and other professional development opportunities. The digital age has changed the way teachers develop their pedagogy. Networked teachers continue to develop their practice around traditional methods, but also embrace new technologies such as video conferences, social networking services, and online learning communities. Couros, G (2010) agrees with the importance of a collaborative pedagogy, “We must ensure that we are working together as an educator community to continue to move education forward.”


Relationships teachers have with their learners, curriculum, and pedagogy are changing rapidly in this time of digital enlightenment. Early educational theorists such as Dewey and Montessori understood the needs of learners and the constraints of curriculum. Digital technologies have allowed teachers to realize the dreams of early educational theorists. Educators no longer need to work in isolation. They have the knowledge and resources to facilitate learning by exploring curriculum with their learners. When teachers revisit their relationships with learners, curriculum, and pedagogy in the 21st Century, they create innovative change to the education system and encourage children to thrive in a dynamic and rapidly evolving world. They accept that students must be at the centre of a more personalized approach to learning and must be given the freedom to pursue their individual interests and passions in the classroom.


Abrami, P. C., Venkatesh, V., Meyer, E. J., & Wade, C. A. (2013). Using electronic portfolios to foster literacy and self-regulated learning skills in elementary students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(4), 1188–1209. doi:10.1037/a0032448

Couros, G. (2010). The power of working together.  The principal of change: stories of learning and leading. Retrieved from

Dewey, J. (1929). My Pedagogic Creed. In I. D. Flinders & S. Thorton (Eds.), The Curriculum Studies Reader (pp. 34–43). New York: Routledge.

Government of British Columbia. (2013). BC ’ s Education Plan, 1 – 9.

Lemley, J., Schumacher, G., & Vesey, W. (2014). What learning environments best address 21st-century students’ perceived needs at the secondary level of instruction? NASSP Bulletin. doi:10.1177/0192636514528748

Maiers, A., & Sandvold, A. (2010). 1 Achievement gap or passion gap? The passion-driven classroom: a framework for teaching and learning (p. 6). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Richardson, W. (2012). Part 1: old school. Why School? How Education Must Change when Learning and Information are Everywhere (eBook) (p.1). TED Conferences. Retrieved from

Rosen, L. D. (2011). Teaching the iGeneration. Educational Leadership, 68, 10–15. Retrieved from

Thiele, A. K., Mai, J. a, & Post, S. (2014). The Student-Centered Classroom of the 21st Century : Integrating Web 2 . 0 Applications and Other Technology to Actively Engage Students. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 28(1).

Webb, M. (2012). Pedagogy with information and communications technologies in transition. Education and Information Technologies, 1–20. doi:10.1007/s10639-012-9216-x.



Self-Regulated Learning In A Changing Educational Landscape

Point Of View: The Importance Of Self-Regulated Learning In A Changing Educational Landscape.


The landscape of education is on the precipice of change.  Digital technologies have removed the need to follow an educational epistemology based on the pursuit of knowledge.  Montessori (1918) saw the need for change when she said, “We know only too well the sorry spectacle of the teacher who in the ordinary schoolroom must pour certain cut and dried facts into the heads of the scholars” (p. 28). In order to develop higher-level thinking skills, our youngest learners must enter an education system, which follows themes of inquiry and is learner-centred.  In order for learners to be successful in a system built on inquiry, they must develop robust self-regulated learning (SRL) strategies to take control of their own learning, and reach their full potential. Developing students’ self-regulated learning skills can demystify assessment, increase student engagement and motivation, and form the basis of productive collaborative learning communities.


Assessment can be a debilitating experience for many students.  Vaughan found that the four most common words associated with assessment were: fear, stress, anxiety, and judgment (Vaughan, N., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. 2013). Self-regulated learners are able to control their environment, evaluate their work, and determine how to adapt their learning to increase performance.  They understand the assessment and feedback cycle, and use it to their advantage.  Self-regulated learners are also cognizant of their academic strengths and weaknesses, and can fully utilize instructor feedback, as well as engage in peer and self-assessment practices.  Digital technologies such as blogs, wikis, collaborative writing tools, and other social media resources can provide students with increased flexibility and communication opportunities to engage in all aspects of assessment. According to Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, and Garrison (2013), learners cannot observe, analyze, and judge their own performances on the basis of criteria and determine how they can improve without being self-regulated learners. Effeney, Carroll, and Bahr (2013) agreed when they said”Self-regulated learners… monitor their learning by seeking feedback on their performance and by making appropriate adjustments for future learning activities” (p. 774).


There exists in our schools today a motivation and engagement gap in learners.  This gap stems from a disconnect between how students learn best and how instructors teach.  Improving self-regulated learning skills in children from an early age can help bridge this gap.  Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012) found,  “The motivational components of self-regulated learning help students persist in the face of difficult tasks and resist other sometimes more tempting options” (p. 6). Developing the behavioural and emotional states of children is paramount before engaging in any other type of learning. In order for learners to engage with content in the classroom, they need to be present in the learning experience and be active participants.  Regulating behaviour and emotions can help learners to focus, enhance self-belief, and develop the grit they need to embrace success and failure on the way to achieving their goals. According to Clark (2012),  “SRL is predictive of improved academic outcomes and motivation because students acquire the adaptive and autonomous learning characteristics required for an enhanced engagement with the learning process and subsequent successful performance” (p. 205).  Explicitly teaching self-reflection and metacognitive skills to learners can develop higher-level thinking skills, which enhance motivation and increase engagement.


Self-regulated learning skills also form the basis of active collaborative learning communities, and can help develop a successful framework.  Organization, motivation, and collaboration are essential factors in the success of any collaborative learning community.  Borup et al. (2014) found, “Researchers have suggested that without adequate organization, online students will procrastinate, especially students with special needs” (p. 115).  Dewey (1929) says, “I believe that the individual who is to be educated is a social individual, and that society is an organic union of individuals. If we eliminate the social factor from the child we are left only with an abstraction” (p. 34). If learning is socialand involves interactions between learners, instructors, peers, and community, then it is important to prepare students with the emotional, responsive, and reflective skills they need to be successful in these areas.


In summary, if we want the next generation of students to be self-directed, autonomous, and life-long learners, we must instil the strategies of self-regulated learning into all areas of education, including assessment, motivating and engaging designs for learning, and across all collaborative learning communities.  Essential self-regulation skills such as metacognition, self-efficacy, and self-reflection combined with social skills such as regulating emotions, perseverance, and behaviour are key indicators for success in our changing educational landscape.  The increasing use of digital technologies arm the self-regulated learner with the tools, collaborative learning spaces, and resources to reach self-determined goals and targets, and take control of their own learning.



Borup, J., West, R. E., Graham, C. R., & Davies, R. S. (2014). The Adolescent Community of Engagement: A Framework for Research on Adolescent Online Learning. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 22(1), 107–129.

Clark, I. (2012). Formative assessment: assessment is for self-regulated learning. Educational Psychology Review, 24(2), 205–249. doi:10.1007/s10648-011-9191-6

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal learning environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: a natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(1), 3–8. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.06.002

Dewey, J. (1929). My Pedagogic Creed. In D. Flinders & S. Thornton (Eds.),
The Curriculum Studies Reader (pp. 34 – 41). New York: Routledge.

Effeney, G., Carroll, A., & Bahr, N. (2013). Self-regulated learning and executive function: exploring the relationships in a sample of adolescent males. Educational Psychology, 33(7), 773–796. doi:10.1080/01443410.2013.785054

Montessori, M. (1918). A Critical Consideration of the New Pedagogy in its Relation to Modern Science. In D. Flinders & S. Thornton (Eds.), The Curriculum Studies Reader (pp. 22 – 33). New York: Routledge.

Vaughan, N., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Assessment (Chapter 5). Teaching in blended learning environments, AU Press, Athabasca University. [Retrieved from, July 17, 2014.]


20 Research Papers On Self-Regulated Learning

Within the context of k-12 schools, I used to think self-regulated learning was limited to regulating the behaviour and emotions of the students; However, thanks to the likes of Phil Winne, Allyson Hadwin, and Mariel Miller I realize it’s so much more.  In its simplest form, self-regulation speaks to the skills students need to become independent life-long learners.

Phil Winne from SFU Education on Vimeo.

In my latest #tiegrad class I was asked to compile a short bibliography of twenty recent (2013-2014) articles on the topic of my choice – self-regulated learning:

Belski, R., & Belski, I. (2014). Cultivating student skills in self-regulated learning through evaluation of task complexity. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(5), 459–469. doi:10.1080/13562517.2014.880685

Bjork, R. a, Dunlosky, J., & Kornell, N. (2013). Self-regulated learning: beliefs, techniques, and illusions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 417–44. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143823

Butler, D. L., & Winne, P. H. (2014). Feedback and Self-Regulated Learning: A Theoretical Synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 65(3), 245–281.

Cheng, G., & Chau, J. (2013). Exploring the relationship between students’ self-regulated learning ability and their ePortfolio achievement. The Internet and Higher Education, 17, 9–15. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2012.09.005

Clark, I. (2012). Formative assessment: assessment is for self-regulated learning. Educational Psychology Review, 24(2), 205–249. doi:10.1007/s10648-011-9191-6

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal learning environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: a natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(1), 3–8. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.06.002

DiDonato, N. C. (2012). Effective self- and co-regulation in collaborative learning groups: an analysis of how students regulate problem solving of authentic interdisciplinary tasks. Instructional Science, 41(1), 25–47. doi:10.1007/s11251-012-9206-9

Effeney, G., Carroll, A., & Bahr, N. (2013). Self-regulated learning and executive function: exploring the relationships in a sample of adolescent males. Educational Psychology, 33(7), 773–796. doi:10.1080/01443410.2013.785054

Friedrich, A., Jonkmann, K., Nagengast, B., Schmitz, B., & Trautwein, U. (2013). Teachers’ and students’ perceptions of self-regulated learning and math competence: differentiation and agreement. Learning and Individual Differences, 27, 26–34. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2013.06.005

Järvelä, S., & Hadwin, A. F. (2013). New frontiers: regulating learning in CSCL. Educational Psychologist, 48(1), 25–39. doi:10.1080/00461520.2012.748006

Major, A., Martinussen, R., & Wiener, J. (2013). Self-efficacy for self-regulated learning in adolescents with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Learning and Individual Differences, 27, 149–156. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2013.06.009

Marchis, I. (2011). Primary school teachers’ self-regulated learning skills. Acta Didactica Napocensia, 4(4), 11–18. Retrieved from

Metallidou, P. (2012). Epistemological beliefs as predictors of self-regulated learning strategies in middle school students. School Psychology International, 34(3), 283–298. doi:10.1177/0143034312455857

Perry, N., & Drummond, L. (2014). Helping young students become self-regulated researchers and writers. The Reading Teacher, 56(3), 298–310.

Samruayruen, B., Enriquez, J., Natakuatoong, O., & Samruayruen, K. (2013). Self-regulated learning: a key of a successful learner in online learning environments in thailand. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 48(1), 45–69. doi:10.2190/EC.48.1.c

Sha, L., Chen, W., & Zhang, B. H. (2012). Understanding mobile learning from the perspective of self-regulated learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(4), 366–378. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00461.x

Shi, Y., Frederiksen, C. H., & Muis, K. R. (2013). A cross-cultural study of self-regulated learning in a computer-supported collaborative learning environment. Learning and Instruction, 23, 52–59. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2012.05.007

Stefanou, C., Stolk, J. D., Prince, M., Chen, J. C., & Lord, S. M. (2013). Self-regulation and autonomy in problem- and project-based learning environments. Active Learning in Higher Education, 14(2), 109–122. doi:10.1177/1469787413481132

Throndsen, I. (2011). Self-regulated learning of basic arithmetic skills: a longitudinal study. The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 81(Pt 4), 558–78. doi:10.1348/2044-8279.002008

Tsai, C.-W., Shen, P.-D., & Fan, Y.-T. (2013). Research trends in self-regulated learning research in online learning environments: a review of studies published in selected journals from 2003 to 2012. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(5), E107–E110. doi:10.1111/bjet.12017

Wang, C., Shannon, D. M., & Ross, M. E. (2013). Students’ characteristics, self-regulated learning, technology self-efficacy, and course outcomes in online learning. Distance Education, 34(3), 302–323.

Précis: A Critical Consideration of the New Pedagogy in its Relation to Modern Science

Dr. Montessori in the garden of the school at Via Giusti. Image courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania

Maria Montessori presents a critical consideration of the “New Pedagogy” (1912) by discussing the advent and implementation of the “scientific pedagogy” that took root in Italy around the turn of the 20th century. Montessori’s critique focuses on the shortcomings of scientific pedagogy to address the human subjects (and observers) involved in the study of teaching and learning.

In establishing her critique, Montessori finds fault with an overemphasis on the instrumentalization of pedagogy which comes at the expense of a more authentic manifestation of the spirit of learning. This spirit of learning is connected throughout her argument as part of the same pursuit of knowledge that has sustained human progress since the beginning of civilization. She cites examples of rigid student desks and behaviourist means of doling out rewards and punishments as elements of “scientific pedagogy” that run counter to the spirit of discovery that is central to learning.

For a new pedagogy to emerge within this context, Montessori argues that teachers ought to be prepared to engage the act of teaching as one oriented toward “a conquest of liberty” that provides an education in which pupils are seen as future agents of human regeneration. To this end, she proposes educationists elevate the study of pedagogy to that of its own scientific exploration: part of the larger narrative of human progress that is embedded within the histories of science, technology, and the broader humanities, and yet informed by its own unique contexts and possibilities.

Montessori, Maria George, Anne E. (Trans), (1912). The Montessori method: Scientific pedagogy as applied child education in “The Children’s Houses”, with additions and revisions by the author. , (pp. 1-27). New york, NY, US: Frederick A Stokes Company, xlii, 377 pp. doi: 10.1037/13054-001

Curriculum as Black Box

Image from

“…a black box is a device, system or object which can be viewed in terms of its input, output and transfer characteristics without any knowledge of its internal workings.”

In conducting an inquiry into curriculum, the black box may prove a useful metaphor to consider possible avenues of discussion or research. In his essay What is Curriculum? (pdf) Kieran Egan introduces Cicero’s use of the Latin curricula “to refer to the temporal space in which we live; to the confines within which things may happen; to the container, as opposed to the contents.” By applying the metaphor of the black box, we can appreciate the discussion of curriculum as being concerned with educational inputs and outputs, and the black box itself representing the individual experience of the learner.

With the advent of Enlightenment philosophy, society began to orientate itself toward the actualization of a pluralism that assumed an infinite diversity of human minds; here we see the shift of inquiry away from inputs and outputs, and toward the nature of the black box itself.

Egan presents this awakening thus:

“traditional curriculum questions about what should be taught can no longer stand as a distinct question in the fact of discoveries about individual differences. Questions of method are unquestionably relevant to curriculum decisions.”

“The difficulty,” he adds, “in admitting the question, how, into curriculum matters is that there becomes little of educational relevance that can be excluded from the curriculum field.”

Indeed. And as we have become subsumed in a preoccupation with how, we have suffered from what Egan calls “a general failure of nerve, of vision, and of direction.”

“To know what the curriculum should contain requires a sense of what the contents are for. If one lacks a clear sense of the purpose of education, then one is deprived an essential means of specifying what the curriculum should contain.”

B.C. launches Skills for Jobs Blueprint to re-engineer education and training

And so we find ourselves surrounded by curricular initiatives that describe at exhaustive length the hows of learning in the 21st century: game-based, play, outdoor, experiential, collaborative, critical thinking, and various apps, hardware, and learning media aggregate to serve a purpose that is discussed as a forgone necessity. Notions of what should be taught are often presented in platitudinous photo-opportunities operating within the premise that the future will so paradigmatically different from the present or past that any discussion of curricular contents can only be looked upon with the most pragmatic or utilitarian perspective.

In building the altar of how, the means of delivering curriculum have become the ends: we have become singularly focused on what education must be in favour of what it might become. 

Egan would agree:

“This manner of stating the problem exemplifies the failure of nerve: it suggests we have no control over the future; we cannot make of it what seems best to us.”

Image from

In considering curriculum as a black box problem, we might be guided by Schroedinger’s cat thought-experiment. Originally conceived to highlight the paradox at the root of quantum mechanics (basically the uncertainty principle), a simplified look at the analogy finds Schroedinger’s cat inside a black box with a vial of poison that will alternatively be delivered, or not, depending on the state of a subatomic particle.

Until the box is opened, there exists potential for either eventuality to exist: that the cat is still alive; or that it has expired. And so until a definitive measurement or observation can be made, the cat might be thought of as being both alive, and dead.

In our own practice and research, ‘opening the black box’ of individual learning experiences is similarly limited and may be seen to require such a dualist response. “Focus on either how or what at the expense of the other,” Egan writes in his conclusion, “is improper.”

He writes:

“Proportion and good sense demand that we turn our attention increasingly to what questions and present strong arguments for or against specific curriculum content.”

In resembling the black box, our discussion of curriculum traverses the knowable entities of inputs and outputs, and seeks to investigate the opaque nature of individual experience. In this inquiry, as soon as measurement and observation are able to record new points of knowledge they unfold into new inquiries toward an ever-retreating horizon.

As a symbol, the black box represents paradoxes that are at the heart of learning and knowledge, and aligns with Egan’s characterization of bringing about authentic curriculum as a struggle to “summon the nerve to believe that we can make the future what we want and better prepare children to deal with it.”

The Science of Motiviation

photo (46)



How do you stay motivated to continue learning, doing assignments, and progressing as a lifelong learner?


“Humans, by their nature, seek purpose—to make a contribution and to be part of a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.” – Daniel Pink, Drive


Why is it then that many of us struggle to motivate ourselves?  What is the secret behind motivation and learning?  We cannot start to answer these questions without first defining motivation.

Wikipedia defines motivation as: “The driving force that causes the flux from desire to will in life.” Educational psychologists define motivation as, “…the processes that energize and give direction or purpose to behaviour (Wlodkowski, 1989).”  


In simple terms, I think motivation is the internal desire to complete a task one has imagined possible.  I clearly remember the night I decided to run my first ultramarathon.  It was New Year 2006.  I had been trail running for about a year, and could consistently run for a couple of hours on the trails without issue, but the Diez Vista was an altogether different challenge.  I would be required to run non-stop for over seven hours.  Where did the motivation come from to transition from running two hours on a Saturday morning with friends to running 50km?  Looking back there were six key elements to my motivation:


  • Plan/schedule – at the time I was running with friends who had developed a detailed training plan
  • Practice – every time I practiced, I felt stronger and moved a little closer to the goal
  • Confidence – after each training session I had inevitably run longer than I had ever done before, and with that my confidence and belief in myself increased.
  • Overcoming adversity – on our last training run which was scheduled to last about 7 hours.  I snapped the laces on my trail shoes and got lost.  The smaller group I was with turned a 7 hour training run into an 8.5 hour run. At that point i knew I could finish the race.
  • Support – I received and gave emotional support to ten friends for the four months we trained for the race.  I also received coaching, tactical, and nutritional support from my fellow runners.
  • Challenge – for the majority of the time I was training, I wasn’t entirely sure whether I could actually complete the race, and I believe this uncertainty was a driving force behind my motivation.

My mantra throughout my training was an inspiring quote I found in a running magazine in 2006:

Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else; it’s the ache in your lungs, the burning in your legs, & the voice inside you that yells, “Can’t!” But you don’t listen, you push harder. You hear the voice whisper “Can.” and you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are.” - unknown


Motivation and Life-Long In Education

When I think of my own motivation for lifelong learning it stems from a desire to master my craft.  I can see the educator I want to be.  I have a strong mental image of him.  I know exactly what he looks like, his educational pedagogy, how he interacts with his learners and his peers, and how he designs his learning experiences.


A recent Scientific American article titled, Three Critical Elements Sustain Motivation helped me to better understand how I maintain a love of learning, and what keeps me motivated through the process.



Motivation can manifest speedily when we feel like we are the captains of our own ship.  When we have a level of control over the direction of our learning, we are more likely to be motivated to move along the continuum to mastery.  The energy and enthusiasm applied to a given task increases significantly when one is given the freedom to approach a new learning experience in ways that best suits one’s own learning style.  Learner autonomy is important in this phase.  As Dirksen says, “You may be able to influence your learners, but you can’t control them.”



When I compare the most successful learning experiences I have had with my learners with my own learning experiences I noticed that both events have a clear purpose for learning.  When I canvas my learners about learning that is most purposeful I often hear responses such as “Can I use it in real life?” and “Will this help me with…” In order to motive today’s learners the work they complete needs to have real life applications.  It has to be authentic and engaging.  More importantly, the work needs to be purposeful for the learner and not necessarily what the teacher thinks is purposeful.  The only way an educator can achieve this is to spend the necessary time to understand each of his/her learner’s needs.



Proficiency is equally important in the science of motivation.  To maintain motivation levels one needs to feel success on a regular basis.  Going back to my trail running experience for a moment – If I hadn’t see small gains in performance each week, then I’m sure my motivation levels would have dropped to the point that I would have discontinued my goal.  From a learner’s perspective I believe it is important for students to see and measure the progress they are making in order to maintain their motivation levels.  Video gaming is an excellent example of facilitating an ongoing level of progress to maintain motivation.  Gamers are constantly being provided with feedback on their performance.  This feedback enables them to see progress, and they can visualize their goal and maintain their motivation.



Design For How People Learn, Julie Dirksen

Drive, Daniel Pink

What will future learning environments look like?

Well here we are… At the end of another course for another term. I have to say this one was a lot of work but I think I survived but we shall see when the grades come out.

This weeks Blog post is supposed to answer the question, “What will future learning environments look like?” and my short answer is… I haven’t the foggiest.

Actually that is not true, there is one thing I can be certain of. Learning environments of tomorrow won’t look anything like the learning environments of today.

There you have it, the sum of my collective wisdom but I suppose my prof might like a little more insight so I guess I have to give a long answer.

I think it is safe to say that future learning environments will be a lot messier than they are today. For better or worse, the regimented, orderly Victorian school model we were all brought up in  is quickly going the way of the Dodo. The extinction of this 300 year old educational paradigm has caused a great deal of distress for many and for good reason. This is what we know, this is what has worked for 300 years and this is what brought us to this point in history. Why throw it out?

People genuinely feel that we are on the brink of a change that may lead the world to ruin and they may be right or they may be wrong. That is the thing with change, you can never predict the result with 100% accuracy. So where are we headed?

I think the biggest and most immediate changes will being at the top and move their way down to the lower grades and much of this will be driven by the economy not technology. We are already seeing kids question why they should bother going to University if becoming gainfully employed once they are done is a crapshoot at best. A university education is no longer a ticket to a prosperous existence. As a result, young adults are starting to assess their education needs rather than blindly heading to University because that is “just what you do.” The result of this is that the one size fits all on masse education system is crumbling from the top down.

Young adults are now faced with either going through the motions of a traditional university education or doing something that allows them to become gainfully employed without acquiring a mass of educational debt. It is here where you can begin to see the engine behind the personalized learning movement.

If a young adult can become educated in a field that interests them and provides them with gainful employment without 4, 5, 6+ years of university education, then why wouldn’t they take that opportunity? If we can start a young adult down that road when they are 16 and have them become a useful tax paying citizen before they are middle-aged, why wouldn’t we?

It doesn’t take much to see how starting from the top and working our way down the grades, personalized purpose driven education can begin to take hold. The problem is, how deep do we go? Don’t we need a common education by which we can build our society around? If we allow our children to specialize too soon, doesn’t that deprive our children from educational opportunities down the line as they get older?

These are good question that need to be considered but in the same breath, having our population of young adults warehoused indefinitely in post secondary institutions just because “that is the way it has always been done”, isn’t very good for them or society either.

In a world where university dropouts have proven to be just as capable of success as the long tortured university graduate, you begin to wonder if encouraging kids to go through the motions of a lengthy prescribed education program is really the best thing for everyone?

Don’t get me wrong… Education is good. Your odds of living a happy, healthy, productive life still go up if you attend a Post Secondary program but is there a better way?

So back to the original question. What will future learning environments look like? With the aforementioned in mind, here are my predictions.

  1. Learning will become ever more connected and dependent on the internet.
  2. If schools don’t deliver the curriculum they desire, students will develop their ares of interest outside of the school setting.
  3. If skills learned outside of the school setting begin to be recognized by employers as valuable and relevant we will begin to see an increase in High School Drop out and a decline in Post Secondary attendance.
  4. Organizations like Degreed will continue to recognize and give credence to work and learning done outside of the formal setting.
  5. In the digital world, programs like Mozilla Badges and Google’s Certification will continue to grow and allow learners to showcase their learning and skills outside of the formal educational setting.
  6. Hands on learning opportunities will become more in demand and traditional lecture style learning will decline significantly.
  7. Student will have to become more independent and self motivated as teachers stop dragging kids through the curriculum.
  8. Assessment will become more about show me rather than test me.
  9. Thousands of students will be left behind in this transition from old school to new school.
  10. The age of Free Agent Learning will become the order of the day.

For better or worse this is my prediction for the future of learning in the Western World.

There is one factor that may throw a monkey wrench into the who thing, which is probably worth a mention and that is the way we parent our children these days. Today’s parents have this strange compulsive need to engineer their children’s lives and this need for control fly’s in the face of what 21st First Century Learning is all about.

Parents these days won’t let their children be independent, experiment, inquire, free play or god forbid fail. Everything a child does these days has to be a carefully engineered exercise, maximized for optimum learning.

21st Century Learning is about independence and letting go of control over the child. 21 Century Parenting is all about complete control of every aspect of a child’s life. The two are completely incompatible.

My TieGrad Motivation

This weeks topic is MOTIVATION or lack there of.

I am supposed to answer why and how I stay motivated to be a lifelong learner, specifically as it pertains to this program I am currently in. I suppose I should start with the things that will get me bonus marks which consists of a little must see video by RSA. It encompasses all the reasons I am doing this program.

This video looks at a number of motivators that drive us namely Money, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose and is rooted in the research of Edward L. Deci. There is also a very good book by Daniel Pink called Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates us.

I will tell your now that yes one of the reasons I am doing this program is so I can get paid more. I know… greedy no good teachers shouldn’t get paid anything! They should be forced to work for nothing and live in jail like cells, only to be let out for the school day then back in when their work day is done. (how can you tell it is contract negotiation time again?)

But in line with all the “right motivators”, the other reason I am doing this is that I want to become more autonomous in the work I do. In the public school system the only way you can become more autonomous is to do something no one else is doing. As the vice of scrutiny continues to clamp down on teachers and what they do in the classroom, professional autonomy is on the decline. It is my hope that by doing something that most people are not doing and has yet to have a defined role within the school system, I will be afforded more autonomy in my career going forward.

The mastery piece of my motivation is for the most part, well under way. I know stuff about educational technology that most teachers don’t and as a result, I get asked to do stuff for others on a fairly regular basis. The problem is, that I don’t have that piece of paper that says I am a master of this area of expertise. Yes I get a lot of attention and work because of what I know but I would like to further this knowledge and formalize my “mastery”

The purpose piece is easy. I see a purpose in what I do with technology. I do not view myself as a particularly good classroom teacher. To be quite frank, on some days I feel like I am a fish out of water but when I am working with technology and helping others use it constructively, I am comfortable. It is something I believe I do well and so my purpose is to get myself into a position where I can help others effectively use technology as a teaching tool.

The final motivator I will discuss is the one which is driving me to complete this post as quickly as possible. I have a flight to Maui I need to catch and if I don’t finish this post… I am going anyhow.


Gonna put the world away for a minute 
Pretend I don’t live in it 
Sunshine gonna wash my blues away 

Knee Deep – Zac Brown Band




Skills For The 21st Century

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 6.48.47 PMWell here we are once again, typing like a fiend on a Sunday night. Shiraz in one hand Macbook in the other, sitting at my dining room table. There is something therapeutic about this combination but I must say, it is hardly a poetic. Before this program is over my goal is to write something while sitting at Le Dôme in Paris. I will leave you to figure out why this is significant.

If anything, this Masters program is keeping my Google rankings up because I am cranking out content on a weekly basis. Not only am I getting all edumacated, I am moving up the Google charts for a variety of keywords.

As coincidence would have it, this would be an example of a 21st Century Skill that people should have and it is referred to as  SEO or Search Engine Optimization. Recently it has been rebranded for the lay person as the “Positive Digital Footprint”.

I wouldn’t say this is a do or die skill but if you are going to operate in the wired world and get recognized for your work, you need to know how to leverage the net for you benefit.

The problem is that schools spend so much time “protecting” our kids and shielding them from prying eyes on the web, this isn’t really something that schools see as something that should be taught. Yet for an adult who wants to get noticed and make a living these days, it is kinda important to create a positive digital footprint that people can find. See more at Teach Hub

Although I get ragdolled by my colleagues for promoting or trumpeting the importance of my second skill, I still think it is perhaps THE MOST important of 21st Century Skills. That is being a Free Agent Learner. The days of looking at education as a means to an end are gone. There is no endpoint to our education any longer, we have to continually be learning and if you cannot do this on your own, you are screwed.

Actually I think being a Free Agent Learner is more of a composite skill than a skill all of its own. To be a really good Free Agent Learner you need to have three things.

Reading Skills - I do not care what anyone says, the ability to read well trumps all other learning skills and will remain as such until I am long gone. It is such an efficient way to gather information that there is simply nothing even in this high-tech world that can compare.

Communication skills - I was about to put down writing skills but here is an old school skill that has given way to modern technology. Yes writing is the primary communication skill of a Free Agent Learner but it has given way to other means of expression as of late, primarily video and podcasts. Getting the message out seems to be easier than getting the message in.

Will / desire / purpose – Up until today I would have put this down but after seeing the Tony Robins Ted Talk (Yes I said Tony Robins) I would have to say this is the glue that keeps it all together. I think Robins referred to it as “emotion”. Now I don’t think this is actually a skill but it is crucial to being a Free Agent Learner. It is the realization that you have to be dependant on others for your learning and your future. Steve Jobs put it very well in this really short clip 

Problem Solving / Critical Thinking Skills are one of the Trendy 21st Century learning skills that everyone and their dog are espousing as Critical to a child’s future. The problem is, kids are not allowed to problem solve or think critically any longer.

Kids don’t have to  make decisions of even the simplest of kind because we the adults have created a thought free bubble in which they live.  In the 2009/10 season of CBC’s Doc Zone they produced an episode called Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids which masterfully brought to light just how engineered our children’s lives have become, something we now call helicopter parenting.

The irony here is that even though we have come to realize kids can’t think for themselves because we have over engineered their lives, we think the solution can be found through creating even more engineered learning opportunities so they can think critically and problem solve.

I have an idea, how bout turning off the Xbox and throwing them outside for a couple of hours each day so they can problem solve and think critically all their own. See some examples of just how it was done back in the day

Collaboration is the last of the 21st Century skills I will share in this post and I figure I would start with saying I hate collaboration. I know (((GASP))) Take away his teaching certificate! He is a wretched, wretched man for  speaking such heresy… but it is true.

I use to play along with all those collaboration crazed people because I thought that it was what I had to do but then Susan Cain came along and reassured me that not playing well with others was ok.

As Ms. Cain puts it: The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.

I work with kids every day that do amazing work all on their own but stick them in a group they fall by the wayside. Now don’t get me wrong, people who collaborate are important and we need to teach kids how to do this but does it need to be the end all and be all of 21 Century Learning?

There needs to be a place for those who do their best all by themselves. More Susan Cain Quotes

I know there are dozens of other 21st Century skills out there I could have chosen and probably should have included but I gotta go to bed. G night.