Teaching interpretative reading with transmedia narratives – takeaways from a masterclass

Susanna Di Mauro

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana

Early in January I was fortunate to attend a masterclass presented by Professor Len Unsworth on “Teaching Interpretive reading: investigating novel, graphic novel and animated movie versions of the same literary narrative.” It was a great opportunity to engage with research and practice in middle-upper primary and secondary contexts, with Len as expert guide. The day’s discussion on a selection of transmedia narratives and the ensuing conversations afforded by a small group, provided an ideal stimulus for some generative learning and professional reflection.

Having said this, my focus for this post is not on the comparative analysis of the day’s selection of narratives but rather, some ideas and resources and a possible pathway I took away from the day.

“Begin with the end in mind.” Stephen Covey

Applying this habit can mean that starting with the end in mind ‘helps ensure you don’t drift unnoticeably off course.’ Like any planning, before you start, make sure you do your research so you can plan and adjust accordingly. Navigate and explore the curriculum not only to plan for where you are going but also to know what has come before and what is to come after. Plan for focused and explicit teaching to build student’s capacity and portable and transferrable understandings.

Build familiarity.

This goes for both yourself and your students. Check in with your teacher-librarian, colleagues and your students to explore their views and experiences, practices and resources. You might be able to connect with, use, reuse or remix these. Why not opt in for some professional learning, reading or viewing as a refresher.

Mix it up and think ‘extract notion.’

Select strategic excerpts and episodes for comparative analysis but remember your obligations as an Australian educator to be copyright aware. Consider how the power of one, a co-operative learning strategy and the potential of technology (Eg. a visualiser or multi-headphone splitter) to enable shared and individual reading, listening, viewing and a whole range of other possibilities. Here is a list of sites to access video clips.

Be strategic.

Be strategic in selecting, maintaining and updating your repertoire of strategies and resources. Select adaptations that provide interpretative possibilities, not just the book in another format. Look for possibilities and opportunities to investigate the omissions, compressions, insertions and adaptations and what is changed by these.

It’s all about the question!

We all know that well–crafted questions drive thinking and new insights. Effective questions lead to more questions and generate discussion and promote critical thinking. As I took note of some of the questions posed during the masterclass, I wondered about my ‘questioning toolkit’ and if and how the questions I ask provide a framework for scaffolding critical analysis and interpretation. Maybe it’s time for a ‘questioning’ audit.

As I draw to a close on my post-masterclass reflections I am looking forward to exploring the role of music in interpreting narratives. But I think I will let that investigation percolate for a while.

See a  list of resources on Listly

Gamification in the classroom – how to use game elements and dynamics to motivate student learning

by Philippa Branson

As a non gamer myself, when I first heard about Gamification, I assumed that it only had to do with embedding online games into the classroom. However, as I began to read more and more about it I came to understand that it was a powerful tool for learning.

To clarify, some educational institutions define Gamification as the use of gaming software, such as Minecraft, linked with curriculum. What I came to realise is that it can also be the use game dynamics and elements in existing lessons to boost student motivation to learn. As such, rather than relying on gaming software to spice up the learning, you can teach existing curriculum through gaming elements.

Games make us happy. They are challenging, competitive and encourage us to overcome obstacles to reach the ultimate goal. The feeling of achieving that goal is satisfying and rewarding. However, before we can reach it, we must solve problems, follow certain rules and gain skills along our journey to reach the end goal. Now, translate this practice into a classroom environment.

We all want our students to be motivated, engaged and willing to work through problems to be successful in their learning. Games have been a powerful medium since the last century so why not gamify your classroom to motivate successful learning.

Gamifying learning and teaching means to employ game dynamics, mechanics, components and elements. Some of these you may already use in your classroom. These might be collaboration, quests, puzzles, points system, goals, rules, a feedback system and riddles. What combines all these game tactics as a powerful tool for learning is sending the student on a ‘hero’s journey’. Here the reward is learning. What motivates and excites the gamer/learner is to begin the journey with a compelling story.

So, how can this translate into the classroom?


The robots who we named 'Bottie'

The robots who we named ‘Bottie’

I decided to try it out in a Robotics workshop to see if it can really engage and motivate students. Please, do not be turned off by it being a Robotics workshop. I know nothing about robotics (that’s where my sister comes in) but rather focused on transforming a traditionally teacher led workshop into an exciting game for students to learn through.

My sister, Courtney Branson, teaches robotics and we worked together to develop this gamified workshop for year 7s. Here are some of the ideas and resources that we created:

  • Jigsaw puzzle – of the robot labeled
  • An interactive Moodle lesson – questions to answer to guide gamers/students through the game
Interactive Moodle lesson

Interactive Moodle lesson

  • Leaderboard – a feedback system on how the learning was progressing
Helped students to understand their learning  progression

Helped students to understand their learning progression

  • Player pieces (in the shape of robots) for groups to work their way up the different levels of achievement
  • Filming a compelling trailer called, ‘Bottie’s Quest’ – an exciting narrative to capture the student interest
  • Riddles to unlock levels
  • Transforming the classroom into a large grid using masking tape
We masking taped the floor into a grid to capture the imagine of the gamers/students

We masking taped the floor into a grid to capture the imagine of the gamers/students

How will we know if gamifying this robotics workshop was successful? We are hoping that the gamers/students are engaged in the activity, that they understand the process of programming the robot without explicit teacher led instruction and that they are able to move up through the levels on the leaderboard.

Well, we achieved that and a whole lot more!

What we noticed throughout the lesson was that there were no behavior issues. Once we explained the game and the end goal – to become a competent robotic programmer, the students understood what they needed to do. Students commented that they loved that there was, ‘no yelling involved’ (from the teachers).

Students enjoyed the fact that they could work through the problems in their own time through the levels of the game. The physical and collaborative work in the classroom was supported and directed through an interactive lesson on Moodle. Students completed puzzles, deciphered riddles and answered quizzes (on Moodle) and these unlocked the next activity or level. There was no time limit to the levels.

Students working on a puzzle

Students working on a puzzle


Students moving up the different levels

Students moving up the different levels

Students were fascinated with the leader board. When we created this, we knew that it encompassed the ideas of Visible Learning. Students loved knowing how they were going with their learning at all times. What we were surprised by was that students who never usually understand the process of learning were able to be successful at each level and use the language of their learning with teachers. The leaderboard gave a taste of competitiveness to the gamers/students and this motivated them throughout the workshop.

Some feedback was that the group size of 4 or 5 was too many. However they did enjoy choosing their groups and working with their peers. Interestingly, the group who was behind in the initial levels were the ones to come first in the final level.


Students programming the perfect square

Students programming the perfect square

The film, ‘Bottie’s Quest’, was an excellent motivator for students when they failed. When the gamers/students failed, we didn’t have to go and fix up the problem. The students felt that they had already been given the tools to correct their mistakes and try again. Throughout this trial and error phase of programming, they could be heard saying, ‘don’t worry Bottie, we will help you graduate!’ Clearly this shows resilience and a deep motivation to reach the end goal despite failures and obstacles in their way. Mostly though, we were impressed at how self-directed and motivated the students were at this final stage in the game.

At the end, each student was given a Microsoft sticker to identify them as a competent programmer. It was visibly clear that the learning intention had been a success. The students were proud to wear their sticker as a badge.


Students reaction as they finished the game and became a competent robotic programmer

Students reaction as they finished the game and became a competent robotic programmer

As a result of our experience, we would highly recommend embedding gaming elements and dynamics into your classroom. Using quests, quizzes, leader boards, puzzles, riddles, narratives and team work is effective in engaging and motivating students to direct their learning through different levels and processes to achieve an ultimate learning goal. We found students to have a deeper understanding of their learning, the learning intention and felt a greater sense of reward and success at the completion of the gaming workshop. Students demonstrated resilience and willingness to solve problems without teacher direction and enjoyed themselves in the process.

Some further resources about gamification and learning:

Game to Learn


Taking serious games seriously in Education


Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world


Gamification – open learning course



Virtual Reality – Fad or Fabulous?

flickr photo shared by Steve Koukoulas under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Who didn’t spend hours as a child, gazing through their View-Master, clicking around the film cartridges which revealed 3d images of nature, super heroes and classic stories? The View-Master allowed us to escape into an imaginative world in a different way to books or television; by holding it up to our eyes, the whole world disappeared as our field of vision was completely taken up by these tiny slides.

The world has changed dramatically since my childhood, and technology now allows for an immersive experience light years beyond the simple View-Master of the past. Technology such as the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR are bringing Virtual Reality out of science fiction, and thanks to the incredibly cheap Google Cardboard Virtual Reality viewer, into the hands of everyday people. In some areas, virtual reality is seen as the natural next step to how we interact with media content, from gaming to movies and more.

I have written before on this blog about Augmented Reality, and explained the difference between Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Augmented Reality has lots of potential for education, and free apps such as Aurasma and Daqri have enabled teachers to experiment with different ways to enhance learning using it.  However until the introduction of the Google Cardboard viewer, the chance to explore the potentials of VR in education has been extremely limited.

Before jumping into a discussion about whether VR is fad or actually fabulous for education, let’s investigate exactly what it is, and what the technology and tools entail. This video, gives a fantastic, simple explanation for those new to the idea of Virtual Reality. Click the image below to access it on the Time website.

how does vr work

Put simply, VR is the experience of a computer generated simulation or 3D image, made possible by the use of technology such as a helmet or viewer. The ability to ‘trick’ the mind into thinking that the individual is actually ‘there’ within the environment which is in fact ‘virtual’ is the amazing and fascinating aspect of VR, which removes it from other experiences of media. When viewing a VR App which features a rollercoaster ride, users may feel the same feelings of dizziness and displacement that they would when actually riding the real thing.

Of course, the more advanced the VR system, the more fully immersed within the environment the user becomes. Simple apps combined with a Google Cardboard Viewer provide enough immersion to make one feel a little ill, but the lack of audio stimulus and real interactivity limits just how ‘real’ the experience feels. This is a good thing for younger students – being able to pull the viewer away at any moment of discomfort is important. For older or more experienced users of VR, they may wish to trial technologies that provide a much fuller immersion; where sensory stimulation including the sense of touch (e.g. wind blowing through your hair as you fly) and audio (the rushing sound as you soar) as well as the ability to interact with the environment actually makes the computer disappear, as the brain becomes fully engaged with the virtual world. For a deeper explanation about how VR works, a great article that is easy to read is How Virtual Reality Works by

While it seems obvious that gaming will be where a large proportion of development will happen in the VR world, the ability to experience ‘being there’ from the safety of a classroom has obvious appeal for the educator. Having the ability to walk through historical sites, to experience times in history such as World War One or to investigate Outer Space are just some of the most immediate examples of how virtual reality might play a part in learning. The Google Expeditions Pioneer Program and Immersive VR Education sites are currently offering this experience to students – and one can only assume others will follow. For many schools, excursions, school trips and even hands on activities may be limited due to funding or safety concerns; using virtual reality, while not a complete replacement, may allow those students to experience what they would otherwise have never been able.

Research has shown that game-based learning environments, virtual worlds and simulations all result in varying levels of positive learning outcomes (Merchant, Goetz, Cifuentes, Keeney-Kennicutt, & Davis, 2014). However, this meta-analysis admits that the research available is limited in different ways. There is also not a great deal of literature available discussing the effectiveness of virtual reality based learning in the context of retention and being able to transfer the learning from the virtual to the real environment (Bossard, Kermarrec, Buche, & Tisseau, 2008). This is not surprising, given the cost of providing virtual reality experiences to this point. With the introduction of Google Cardboard, all of this is about to change.

These apps are all available on the Google Play store. There are also apps available for iPhones through iTunes.

These apps are all available on the Google Play store. There are also apps available for iPhones through iTunes.

Google Cardboard is a low tech, cardboard viewer, that holds users’ to smartphone, so that the screen of the device is viewed through the lenses. There are a growing number of free and paid apps that are being made available to be viewed through the viewer, ranging from the aforementioned rollercoaster (not for those who experience motion sickness!!), an African safari, several space adventures,and the original Google Cardboard app, which features different experiences including a simple animated story, a tour of Versailles, a 3D artefact that can be examined from all angles and the opportunity to fly over the Earth.

war of wordsOne of the apps that shows the way VR might potentially link to literature is the beautiful War of Words, which features a reading of Siegfried Sassoon’s  poem ‘The Kiss’. This app demonstrates a way VR might be used to engage students in poetry through the immersion in an atmospheric experience that conveys a tone that a simple reading may not provide. Enabling students to almost physically enter the world of the text opens up immense possibilities. A hybrid sitting between the book and the movie, books could include points during the story where the reader is encouraged to put down the physical book and pick up the virtual visor, to experience an adventure along with the characters. Combining the two technologies (book and VR) would enrich the experience, while providing new ways to encourage beginning readers to interpret the text.

Although this article in Mashable focuses less on reading and more on the storytelling experience, those who work with disengaged readers can easily make the links between experiencing storytelling of the calibre described here, and the desire to the engage with text that further extends the story.

cardboardTo support the exploration of Virtual Reality, ResourceLink has purchased a set of six I Am Cardboard Viewers, and will be offering them for loan along with our other Makerspace kits. Teachers will need to provide the phones loaded with appropriate apps, however with most students today owning their own mobile, this might just require some pre-planning. Primary schools wishing to explore might choose to host an afternoon where parents are invited to join in with the learning, bringing their mobile phone with them! Some apps work on iPod Touches, however phones provide the best experience, as generally they are more powerful.

In the kit, I have included two documents to assist users; one outlining tips for using a Cardboard viewer in the classroom, and one suggesting apps to get users started.

Virtual Reality is still in the early stages of adoption, particularly in education. Limitations in budgets, bandwidth and accessibility mean that it may take some time before VR is a commonplace part of learning – an observation supported by Pano Anthos, Founder and CEO, GatherEducation who states:

True virtual reality and augmented reality technologies will be slower to go mainstream, since the effort to put on glasses of any type means costs and changes in user behavior. When such technologies become seamless and unobtrusive accessories, they will move toward mainstream.
(drawn from the article Future Thoughts by Jonathan Blake Huer)

Despite this, teachers, librarians and administrators involved in education are challenged to play with and investigate new technologies. Becoming informed about,and exploring ‘horizon’ technologies such as VR, and observing developing trends in pedagogy helps educators respond more effectively in a changing learning environment, and with students who demand a changing lvr flipboardearning experience.

Intrigued and want to know more?

I have created a Pinterest Board which has a range of links to apps, articles and research, and if you wish to keep up to date, check out my Flipboard, to which I will be adding articles of interest. For Brisbane Catholic Education staff, the Google Cardboard kits will be available for loan through the Oliver catalogue; simply search the lists for Makerspaces, and you will find it, along with all of our other Makerspace kits and resources which you can book for use.


Bossard, C., Kermarrec, G., Buche, C., & Tisseau, J. (2008). Transfer of learning in virtual environments: a new challenge? Virtual Reality, 12, 151-161
Blake Huer, J. (2015, June 22). Future Thoughts. Retrieved 29 October 2015, from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2015/6/future-thoughts
Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. (2014). Effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students’ learning outcomes in K-12 and higher education: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 70, 29–40. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2013.07.033
Newspoll Market and Social Research. (2013). Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media. Prepared for Australian Communications and Media Authority. Retrieved from http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/About%20Cybersmart/Research/~/media/Cybersmart/About%20Cybersmart/Documents/Newspoll%20Quantitative%20Like%20Post%20Share%20%20final%20PDF.pdf

Creative Commons Images in this post used with thanks to:
Oculus Rift – Developer Version – Front” by Sebastian StabingerOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Samsung Gear VR” by http://www.flickr.com/people/pestoverde/http://www.flickr.com/photos/pestoverde/15247458515. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Assembled Google Cardboard VR mount” by othreeGoogle Cardboard. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

SLANZA 2015: Lots to Learn from our NZ Neighbours!

By Kay Oddone

In September, I was honoured to take part in the School Library Association of New Zealand’s biennial conference, in Christchurch. Presenting a workshop and keynote, I was delighted to meet many of the amazing professionals who do a wonderful job managing school libraries across the North and South Islands, many of whom go above and beyond to ensure that NZ students have access to contemporary, effective and high quality information and resourcing services.

The three days passed in a blur of conversations, author breakfasts, conference dinners, keynotes and workshops, and reading back through the three Storify collections I created which collated the huge number of tweets shared (we trended in both New Zealand and Australia on several occasions!), I was compelled to write this blog post to share with others the rich learning that took place.

Below you can access the three storify articles, but for those short on time, and who would like to dip their toes into the learning, I have also created a Haiku Deck slideshow that attempts to capture just some of the themes of the conference. Click on the image below to view the slides.

The keynotes were fascinating in that almost every one raised the pressing issue of workforce change, and how technology, automation and globalisation are rapidly bearing down on us. For educators, we are on the precipice- skills previously valued will no longer be of use, and students live in a world which requires new ways of information management, cognitive load management, higher-level and different types of communication skills as well as the ability to learn quickly, manage constant change and think creatively. Research such as the articles pinned on my Futures Pinterest board all point to the need for a re-think in what students learn, and how they learn it; as jobs are automated, outsourced or radically re-imagined.

The storify collections below contain fascinating reading; take some time to be inspired, to discover and to make connections with the School Librarians of New Zealand; and share your thoughts in the comments below!

storify day 1

storify day 2

storify day 3

Linking Literature to Makerspaces

Libraries seem to be the space where makerspaces are taking off.

a makerspaceThe library is a place of engagement, learning, discovery, belonging, community, creativity and innovation.

A makerspace is a place of engagement, learning, discovery, belonging, community, creativity and innovation.

In schools, the library is the only learning space not limited by curriculum; it is an open learning space, which can be interpreted in many ways, and I suggest that this is why so often makerspaces find their place there. Outside of schools, public libraries are increasingly one of the only ‘3rd places‘ where people can feel free to meet, collaborate and learn, without the pressure to spend (even coffee shops move you along if you linger without a coffee in front of you).  Not to mention that library staff are often the most open to new, exciting and innovative ways of interacting and engaging with learning and technology!

I have written before on makerfaires, resourcing makerspaces and the role of makerspaces in enabling creativity and creation.

However recently, I got to thinking about how there is a natural link between this new development in library culture – makerspaces, and one of the original and most seminal aspects of libraries – books.

There are several types of ‘maker’ books, and this blog will look at each in turn. But first, a description of these maker book categories.

The first and most literal interpretation are books that describe how to make things. These books have existed for as long as anyone can remember, but as the maker movement grows in popularity, have moved back into the limelight. Now, as well as the ever present craft and hobby books, there are also books available on a wide range of project types.

The second type of maker book are those about the maker movement. Either charting its development, or describing how or why you need a makerspace, these books are less in number, but are essential reading for anyone considering moving into this space from an educational or practical perspective.

The third and least considered category of maker books are picture books and other literature that features characters that display a ‘maker’ mindset. These beautiful books are fantastic for inspiring an open mind, a ‘give it a go’ attitude and for reinforcing the importance of persistence and problemsolving.

So – what are some of the best examples of each of these categories of maker book, and how can you use them to inspire young learners to get excited about inventing, innovating and creating?

Books about making things (category 1):

One of the surefire ways to ensure a successful makerspace is to get the students involved and engaged in what such a space might look like, and what local interests it might encourage and enable. So why not inspire them by creating a collection of books that encourage exactly the type of activities you might include in your space? There are literally thousands of ‘how to’ books for every craft, hobby or activity you could even think of; this selection is just a small sample of the wonders that await you at your library or bookshop. Look for books that are highly visual, that offer projects at a range of expertise levels, and that feature activities suitable to your local context. Check out the titles below, and if you would like to see more, have a look at this work-in-progress list for further suggestions.

PicMonkey Collage

Books about the maker movement (category 2):

Anyone wanting to implement a makerspace should spend some time reading and learning about the ideas and thinking behind the concept. Laura Fleming, in her recently published book, Worlds of Making, spends much of the first chapter emphasising the importance of an innovative, empowering, safe culture, where failure is celebrated as a way to learn, and makers feel confident to take risks. Without this, even the most well-equipped makerspaces can fail, says Fleming.

Another essential part of planning a successful makerspace in a school is having a shared understanding of the reasons why it is being introduced – a strong understanding of the learnings possible in a makerspace, as well as how it contributes to the curriculum is how to ensure the makerspace is not seen as just this year’s fad. One of the essential texts which covers this is Invent to Learn, by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, which gives an amazing introduction not only to the practicalities of makerspaces, but also the pedagogical understandings and reasoning informing this movement in schools.  Informing much of the maker movement is STEAM/STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics. Titles that explore this connection include Design Make Play by Margaret Honey and David E Kanter, as well as From STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts by David A. Sousa and Thomas J. Pilecki. 

Beyond these practical texts, those interested in implementing makerspaces might also benefit from a deeper understanding of the maker movement in general, as well as some of the research regarding the importance of innovation, creativity and the need to prepare students for a future unlike anything we currently experience. Titles that you might consider include Creating Innovators and the Maker Movement Manifesto; books that examine what innovation looks like, how to develop innovative thinking and why creating, inventing and just getting your hands dirty making can lead to discoveries not possible through any other type of learning.IMG_0576

So you want a Makerspace is a list of these books and more; it is, as all good curated collections are, a work in progress, but it will put you on the path, and give you lots of food for thought. Almost all of these titles are currently available for loan to Brisbane Catholic Education staff through ResourceLink (link requires staff login), otherwise, try your local library or buy online or at your local bookshop.

Books about the Maker Mindset (Category 3)

The third group of books, and the least well known, are the growing number of picturebooks that have been written with little makers (and not so little makers) in mind. These books encourage the ‘give it a go’ ‘fail = first attempt in learning’ mindset that we want all students to have. From Rosie Revere, Engineer to Monkey with a Toolbelt, to Harvey, the boy who couldn’t fart, who invents a farting machine to resolve his problem, these cute characters encourage children to get hands on with their learning. Beyond being engaging stories, these picture books provide a great starting point to inspire children’s own initiative and inquiry, and can be the catalyst for any number of adventures.

Other titles, for older readers include The Invention of Hugo Cabret (suitable for readers around 10 years of age) and for adults looking for a novel with a maker mindset, why not consider Makers by Corey Doctorow, a sci-fi future tale of technology and enterprise.


Examples of all of these types of maker books can be found on my Pinterest Board, Makerspace Picturebooks (and lists of other inspiring titles):

Why not create a display in your library, and inspire discussion around making, makerspaces and the potential creative use of library space for providing another avenue for learning and discovery; it could be the first step into a larger world!


Images appearing in this post are CC Licenced and used with permission from:

Phillipe Put, Thomas Leuthard, IMagineCup, Hindrik Sijens, Kenny Louie, L’ubuesque Boite a Savon, Sarah Houghton, Stuart Madeley.

Digital and Open Badges – So much more than a sticker chart!

By Kay Oddone.

I was cleaning out my closet last weekend when I found my school port from Year 2. It was a hard blue port, the type that kids in the early 80’s all had, with clips at the front and the tendency to rattle loudly when it was filled with just a lunchbox. Covering the port were stickers. Stickers I had earned from my teacher, and had proudly displayed on my port (yes, I was a nerdy little kid!!).

Digital badges are like super-powered stickers, displaying an achievement of skill; but their super-powers make them much more than glorified reward stickers.
The MacArthur Foundation defines digital badges as:

an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning in both formal and informal settings, and hold the potential to help transform where and how learning is valued.

This short video gives a great introduction to what badges are, and their role in contemporary learning.

In a world where information is everywhere, and learning can happen anytime and anywhere, the way we demonstrate proficiency must change. As social media and ubiquitous internet access puts us into contact with expert teachers and mentors from all over the world, and MOOCs and Connected Learning environments enable us to develop skills and understandings in new and unexpected ways, we need a method of displaying what we know and can do. Traditional, formalised learning opportunities are not the only sources of education, and paper-based certificates just don’t cut it in a digital world.


Created by @BryanMMathers, This work is licenced with a Creative Commons BY-SA Licence

As professional development becomes more learner centred, badges offer a more flexible and personalised method of recognising achievements. Badges allow for modular, learning-centred designs, where multiple learning pathways are accommodated, acknowledging the varying levels of expertise held by participants, and reflecting achievement in short courses, work-based experience, assignments and projects, as well as soft skills such as the ability to collaborate, problem solve or engage in positive conflict resolution.

Created by @BryanMMathers, Licenced with a Creative Commons BY-SA Licence.

Created by @BryanMMathers, This work is licenced with a Creative Commons BY-SA Licence.

Digital badges enable potential employers to check against specific skill and knowledge needs. The ability to capture skills, knowledge and abilities developed from experiences across personal and professional spheres makes sense in a digital and fast changing environment such as education, where many skills need continual updating as recognised by the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

Systems such as the open badges infrastructure developed by the Mozilla foundation address the issues of identity, verification, validation and the ongoing management of badges. Badges created and issued using infrastructure such as this include metadata which is hard-coded (‘baked’) into the badge image file itself. This links back to the issuer, criteria and verifying evidence. Badges are also not necessarily permanent, and can be de-activated after a particular period of time if skills need to be refreshed (such as in the case of the yearly update required to maintain certain first aid qualifications).

Badge Anatomy This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Created by Kyle Bowen

Badge Anatomy. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Created by Kyle Bowen

The Horizon Report (2015) places digital badging as a technology which is likely to enter mainstream use in K-12 education within the next 4-5 years. The report is a well-respected research document which is widely used internationally to shape strategic plans in education in both K-12 and Higher Education sectors. Currently, large corporations such as Samsung, and schools such as Carnegie Mellon, Kahn Academy and Yale have all begun developing and using badges.

If the introduction of digital badging is introduced in a cost-effective way, organisations could see benefits through better management of professional learning, more data on the levels of professional learning of staff and more effective placement of staff through the recruitment and selection process.

Disclosure: This post was written not just to share this information, but also to earn myself a badge! In researching this topic, I discovered #OB101 which is an online course about open badges. The first task was to write 250+ words on the following:

  • What Open Badges are
  • How Open Badges are different from digital badges
  • Some ways Open Badges can be used

Did I meet the criteria? You will have to check my Badge Backpack to find out!

Join in the Open Space Technology revolution – opening up the learning floor to every participant at professional development days

By Philippa Branson

Do you want to run truly successful Professional Development experiences? Nothing has promised so much yet wasted so many hours than PD workshops that do not inspire real change in the classroom. We have all been there!! Those PD days that provided only some small promise of innovation. Some momentary glimmer of hope – for a few at least but not for all.

But how can a PD cater for the needs of every attendee? What if we flipped the conventional PD forum? What if the attendees picked the topics to be discussed? Could this work?

This is the basis for the Open Space Technology (OST) or the unconference conference – a professional development experience that sees the participants as central to the creation of the agenda for the day. This new technology has great promise for staff meetings and in school workshops. It can be used as a powerful tool for change, to enact a shared vision, or devise an authentic strategy to foster community relationships.

Open Space Technology


Why should you use Open Space Technology?

  • OST is an exciting new way of facilitating workshops and meetings that ensures every voice is valued.
  • OST is an empowering process that encourages the exploration of a shared and preferred future for all those involved.
  • OST promotes ownership and accountability to participants as it breaks down hierarchical structures of knowledge and leadership.
  • OST builds a community because it fosters authentic relationships where people can learn from each other and work together to build a shared vision for the future.
  • OST promotes ideals of cooperation, accountability and generosity and works effectively to solve complex and wicked issues as it generates new ways forward, new ways of thinking, and new ideas to nurture.
  • OST cultivates equity and inclusion because all experiences, all knowledge, and all expertise are shared, valued and explored with genuine interest.


So what is Open Space Technology?

Open Space Technology employs a democratic process for establishing a self-organizing agenda during a professional development session. Organizers of the session decide on a theme but leave the setting of the agenda to those in attendance via a collaborative process. In this way everyone, regardless of their background, can learn from each other. It works on the basis of breaking down the invisible barriers between the presenter and participants. No one person can claim to have all the answers. Instead OST offers a new, open and transparent way for surfacing cooperative and creative knowledge when faced with complex and wicked problems. As such, when using OST at a PD day, a staff meeting, or a conference, the session becomes participant driven and ultimately empowers everyone to be actively involved.


flickr photo by tedeytan http://flickr.com/photos/taedc/6351264560 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

How does it work?

To ensure the session is effective, it’s important to have a well-defined objective when using OST. There are some clear guidelines but mostly OST operates on the ideals of choice and flexibility. Facilitators begin the session with a blank agenda wall but with the session times clearly visible. Participants choose what they would like to discuss and add this on a post-it note to the agenda wall. Post it notes are placed in certain session times. This is a very organic process. To achieve success, a climate of relaxed trust and safety is paramount.

On MLK weekend 2011, a community of activists, artists, idealists and technologists gathered in the pursuit of collaboration with the common goal of social justice. It was Social Justice Camp DC.

flickr photo by tedeytan http://flickr.com/photos/taedc/5359528563 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Once the post it notes are on the wall, participants choose to take charge of particular sessions relating to the post it notes that are on the wall. Participants will run the session, take notes and follow up on actions. There might be 20 people attending a session, or only one, or none at all. It doesn’t matter. This just indicates the energy behind the topic, and allows participants to sit and reflect on the topic, or join another session.

On MLK weekend 2011, a community of activists, artists, idealists and technologists gathered in the pursuit of collaboration with the common goal of social justice. It was Social Justice Camp DC.

flickr photo by tedeytan http://flickr.com/photos/taedc/5360138616 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Following this organisation of who’s running what and at what time and where, the Marketplace begins. This Marketplace is based on four guiding principles:

Whoever comes are the right people

Whatever happens is the only thing that could happen

When it starts it’s the right time

When it’s over, it’s over


flickr photo by deanmeyersnet http://flickr.com/photos/deanmeyers/6685423387 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license


The Law of Mobility supports this:

If you aren’t in the place where you are learning and contributing, go somewhere where you can.

What this means is that participants can move from session to session as they please. Hence, there can be “bumblebees” or “butterflies”. A Bumblebee buzzes from group to group cross-pollinating ideas and stinging with some tough questions. Whereas a butterfly takes a while to settle into sessions to float and flitter amongst and through the conversation before finally settling into one of them – but this is okay! Don’t forget the ideals of choice and flexibility.



flickr photo by Tatiana12 http://flickr.com/photos/stella12/7045899425 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


What makes it effective?

OST will work if all communication is transparent and engaging before, during and after the event.

Before the session/event engage participants by creating a poster that includes ideas, topics and, most certainly, the theme. Alternatively, communicate using web 2.0 tools such as a wiki, Weebly or by using social media sites such as Twitter. If you are using Twitter then it is important to create a hash tag and display this on the posters that are created.


During the session/event the provision of ongoing communication through a white board or blank wall helps, and this is something that the venue must be able to provide when choosing a place to host an OST event. Also, Twitter can be helpful in creating an engaging continuous conversation about the ideas being discussed. Here, creating a back channel or a tweet wall would encourage some wider discussion, statements and questions amongst the participants.

capture sheet

flickr photo by tedeytan http://flickr.com/photos/taedc/5599188586 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

After the event the use of storify to capture these innovative ideas would ensure that the momentum is not lost amongst your participants.

So give it a go in your work place and see what possibilities can come from empowering your participants in your next staff meeting, workshop or conference. Unlearn what you know about PD and unconference your next event!

Brisbane Catholic Education staff can contact ResourceLink to find out more about this exciting new way to organise successful PD.