The Modern Connected Learner

At the end of 2011 I had left my position as e-Learning Director at Wellington College and during 2012 worked as an e-Learning consultant and trainer to a number of schools and e-Learning PD clusters around New Zealand. It was a stimulating year where , having visiting a range of schools, I have been able to observe how different schools have faces similar challenges and adopted a range of approaches to enhance their e-Learning capabilities to advance teaching and learning. This has been informative for me having only taught at the one school during my teaching career until now. Another thing this year has illuminated for me is that I do miss the classroom and the community of the school environment. I now look forward to a new challenge in 2013 and am taking up the position of Director of e-Learning at Palmerston North Boys’ High School. This is a school with a proud tradition, committed and enthusiastic staff and fantastic boys. Their motto “Nihil Boni Sine Labore” which translates to “Nothing achieved without hard work” is something which I firmly aspire to and so look forward to making a positive impact on the school over the coming years.

modern connected learner

From what I have learnt over the last 2-3 years experience and as I look ahead to 2013 I have come to the conclusion that for a school to move ahead with their e-Learning capability they need to recognise the needs of the modern connected learner. My thoughts are summed up in the 4 points below:

  1. The internet has transformed learning
  2. There needs to be appropriate learning tools and a support infrastructure in place
  3. The role of the teacher needs to change
  4. Pedagogy is at the heart of the use of technologies

1. The internet has transformed learning

The internet has transformed the ways by which learners’ access information and our schools and their teachers must respond or they will become irrelevant. Teachers with their specialist subject expertise are no longer the only sources of knowledge. Where teaching used to be about filling up our students as empty vessels with knowledge and then testing their retention, we must now explore new ways of thinking about teaching and learning. Individual students need to be given challenges and opportunities to pursue relevant answers to questions themselves and to develop life-long learning capabilities as well as subject knowledge. Schools will become more relevant by showing adaptability to this new world of the way that we access and share information. But before this can happen…

2. There needs to be appropriate learning tools and a support infrastructure in place

Teachers and Learners need to not only be well connected but also be provisioned with well-chosen tools that enable genuine collaboration, communication, creativity and innovation – ie to open up new and different ways of learning to occur (p36 NZ Curriculum). Learning tools should be cloud-based and low or zero cost to enable easy access for all students from anywhere and at any time. The ICT infrastructure must be an enabler, rather than a disabler which can frustrate and impede progress – teaching & learning, as opposed to administration, management or other, must be the priority when choosing tools. Student devices (BYOD) are now not an option but are an essential component for students to access their online tools to enable their ability to learn from anywhere and at anytime. Their devices should work seamlessly at school and from home. With appropriate learning tools and infrastructure in place…

3. The role of the teacher needs to change

With the changing role of the teacher, we have never been more important with the best of us being  continuous learners who operate within the strong disciplinary framework of our subject areas1. We are living in a technologically fast changing world where, as teachers, we need to be models of adaptability to our students. Good schools create the professional space for genuine teacher reflection and learning and acknowledge and support teachers who are at different stages. They also give the space and permission to teachers to take acceptable risks to explore new approaches in a supportive environment. In short, a teacher needs to become a modern connected learner himself/herself and embrace the tools and see the potential of how they can open up new and different ways of learning in their curriculum area or year level. Until they do that, little will change. With this in mind it is important to remember that…

4. Pedagogy is at the heart of the use of technologies

Learning tools should be utilised purposefully with individual teachers having clearly stated and well understood learning objectives when choosing an ICT tool2 to meet a particular learning need. In other words, teachers have a clear understanding of why they are using a tool. Students are being given authentic and challenging tasks to extend their thinking skills and ability to cope in an increasingly complex and connected world of growing information, multiple ideas and perspectives and with the increasing need to communicate and collaborate effectively. Teachers’ disciplinary thinking is enabling students to critique the information and misinformation and to develop and construct their own knowledge and ideas with opportunities to present their work to authentic audiences. We have enabled the modern connected learner who is engaged in authentic tasks. Just remember, it’s the learning, stupid!


1Though directed more toward secondary teachers (subject specialist), could apply to primary teachers

2Choosing an ICT tool could equally mean choosing an activity or other tool within an LMS such as Moodle

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