Category Archives: Methodology

Critical Thinking and the infection of online hysteria

Maiers Literacy Institute Reflections (Day 1)
Courtesy of Mike Sansone on Flikr

If we don’t think critically, then is it helpful to think at all?

One of the powers on an online and networked society is the speed with which information and discussion can be disseminated.  However, there is a danger that – without critical thought – people can get swept along with their communities ‘liking’ and ‘disliking’ simply because that is the prevailing wave of information passing through.

For an easily implemented approach, I really enjoyed the paper by Duron, Limback and Waugh which introduces a five step critical thinking framework for any discipline.  It explores techniques that encourages the implementation of critical thinking within curricula.

For something more complex, the The Foundation for Critical Thinking has identified nine intellectual standards and eight basic structures present in all thinking and has developed an Online Model for learning the Elements and Standards of Critical Thinking.

Regardless of what methodology you adopt, it seems to me that we are remiss if we neglect to include the capacity to be discerning whether online or off.




Duron, R., Limbach, B., & Waugh, W. (2006). Critical Thinking Framework For Any Discipline. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 17(2), 160–166. Retrieved from


Building a “Fundamental Success Philosophy”

Last Sunday I had the priviledge of being the opening keynote speaker for the 2014 Curtin Ignition program.  [More]Group

Ignition is five and a half day intensive program held annually in Perth which prepares delegates for taking their innovation to the business world.  Run by the Curtin Centre for Entrepreneurship, it is based on the successful Ignite program managed and delivered by the University of Cambridge Judge Business School’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (CfEL).

In addition to speaking at the opening on the Sunday, I was invited to take part in the clinics and to sit on the ‘pitch panels’ in the afternoon at the end of the program on Friday. The clinics allow delegates to book a confidential, one on one session with a variety of ‘experts’ who have assisted with the program. The pitch panels are when delegates present their idea to a panel of experts who provided feedback.  So I saw the delegates at the beginning and the end of the program.  Amazing growth both personally and in terms of understanding what was needed for them to bring their ideas to market. The buzz in the centre on Friday was immense.

From an EDU8117 perspective, what was interesting was the number of digital applications that some of the 54 attendees were looking to bring to market.  Digitial technology being used in a myriad of clever and innovative ways; many promising pathways for enhancing education and quality of life.

The experience totally supports why I am doing EDU8117.  Functional use of technology and being comfortable in the online world is essential if we want to stay current and contributing.  So, despite my periodic whinging, I am delighted to be here alongside you all. Thanks David for making it possible.

PS The bottle of champagne they gave me was fantastic too!

Being Critical of NGL

In response to Andrew’s post “Being Critical of NGL” and Deb’s comments

HI Andrew and Deb

I both agree and disagree with your comments.

I’m not sure that people haven’t been critical of NGL.

How much of the early isolation, confusion and frustration expressed by a number of us in the course weren’t a result of challenges with NGL?


Did David err in asking for 4 technologies to be downloaded in the first week?  Was this a result of his underestimating his familiarity with the NGL environment?  Would it have been better to adopt a more graduated approach?  Or was the, “throw them in and see who learns to swim”, a deliberate ploy?  Has our network struggled to get off the ground because of the way the technology was introduced?  Would we feel more connected if we had been moving at similar paces earlier in the program?  Have some of our colleagues been left behind (abandoned) as a result of the way the program has been developed? Are we even really connected now?

Computer Literacy:

Is it reasonable to simply put things down to computer literacy (I am computer literate, however these particular technologies are unfamiliar – so what does literacy mean in this context)?  There is also literacy (familiarity) with the world of NGL with its different ways of operating.

 The Students:

There is also a prevailing assumption of dependency (“ie While an online method of education can be a highly effective alternative medium of education for the mature, self-disciplined student, it is an inappropriate learning environment for more dependent learners“) which doesn’t seem to be founded on fact.  How much of this is simply based on unfamiliarity with the medium and how to operate effectively within it?  If someone was struggling to learn to ride a bike for the first time when they had never seen one before, we wouldn’t be describing them as ‘a dependent learner’.  As teachers, surely we would be reviewing our expectations … and whether we had provided adequate guidelines or instruction.  Is it unreasonable for learners to expect some degree of guidance from the ‘teaching’ authority?  Is this an issue of role expectation and lack of clarity of how that role might be changed in an NGL environment?  Should the facilitator be clear upfront as to what the students can expect/not expect?

Image courtesy of Paul L Dineen on Flickr

Yes, critical thinking is important, however some of what might be going on could be an assumption of SEKK (Surely everybody knows knowledge).

Food for thought!


Me as Teacher and … OMG Rocketboard!

The reason I am undertaking both the MLAD and EDU8117 (as my first unit) is to remain current , relevant and useful as a teacher/trainer/facilitator.  Given that I work in the corporate world, I want to be able to incite, assist and support learning in a variety of settings.

EDU8117 is insisting that I engage with tools that aren’t currently part of my skill and teaching set.  It’s why I am here and embracing the technology (What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, yeah, yeah!).

David in his post – Knowing, learning and teaching in NGL asks us to:

focus toward how and what you might change about your teaching (and your students’ learning) through NGL.

Here is a magic example of how technology can facilitate a better student outcome and how I might change my teaching.

I am a huge whiteboard fan, whether at an organisation, delivering a conference or working with a group on individual.  I believe that the information developed for and with the people involved has greater impact that a more formalised image prepared earlier. They know its for them as they saw and helped the whiteboard evolve.  For instance, currently my individual client notes are photographs of the data developed on the whiteboard during the session.  We both have great recall of what we talked about and it doesn’t require me spending a lot of time transcribing the information into traditional text.

[Reflection:  A downside maybe that when I do transcribe the notes, a secondary level of processing and clarity occurs, however that doesn’t negate the wealth of information captured on the original whiteboard.]

One of the wonderful digital tools for collaborative learning based on my love of whiteboards is Rocketboard.  This fantastic application allows you to convert any drawable space into an online presentation or snapshot.  And others can share theirs.  It is still pre-launch, so if you think this will appeal to you then click on the Rocketboard link.


While not as comprehensive as Hayat’s post “CLEM as teacher“, there is a part of me that does see Rocketboard as pushing my boundaries with networked learning since others can share what I am doing and contribute.

On the other hand Brendon in his post  “Designing Opportunities for Transformation with Emerging Technologies”  points out that;

 “Attempts at integrating technology within education, however, have often focused on enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the status quo, replacing traditional instructional approaches with ones that are technologically reinforced, yet qualitatively similar”

This can be true depending upon how Rocketboard is used.

Then again it might elicit the “fun, excitement,creativity, and aesthetic aspects of instruction” which are “largely lacking in educational technology implementations”.  Thanks Brendon for the summary and reference to  “Designing Opportunities for Transformation with Emerging Technologies” by George Veletsianos.

I’ll just have to try it and see.

Using Mendeley


Although David indicates that we won’t be working with Mendeley to its fullest (2014/08/24), I can see how I need it to explore more of the NGL literature.  So, I spent a number of hours researching Mendeley and thought I would share my discoveries in case anyone else needs a heads-up.

A quick Overview

The five minute Mendeley videos are handy to get a quick start.

In short, Mendeley is a collaboration platform and discover engine for researchers with two main components:

  • The desktop application helps users sort, organise and read research (can drag and drop, read and annotate papers directly within the client and can generate citations using word and open office plugins).
  • The web application helps users collaborate with others online and access content.

Dashboard is a newsfeed on your colleagues’ activity.
My library allows you to access your papers from anywhere in the world.
Public – a database of research (tab = papers) you can search or choose from most popular.  You can add content directly to your library by clicking “save PDF to library”.
The Groups tab lists all of your groups so you can access all of your shared libraries from the cloud.
People – lists all of your contacts or you can search for new ones.

Best YouTube video

Of all the videos I watched on using Mendeley, this is the one I liked best from Boston University:

It’s long at 34.01, but also comprehensive, and answered most of the questions I had;

  • 01.51 Two essential plugins (install web importer; install Microsoft word plugin)
    One allows you to easily add literature to Mendeley from your browser
    The second is the essential MS Word plugin for adding citations to documents.
  • 02.53 How to edit settings so that Mendeley synchronizes attached files
  • 20.50 Creating Folders – think twice! Mendeley can do it , however the search function is sogood that you are encouraged to “Search don’t file”.
  • 29.39 Getting references from Mendeley into MS Word
    Mendeley Cite-O-Matic / Go to Mendeley /Cite / Refresh (if you have changed anything)

Journal Article

Using Mendeley itself (“Well done!” I hear you say), I found a journal article by MacMillan that has a nice coverage of what Mendeley is and using it in an educational setting.  MacMillian makes a number of interesting comments.  I’ve added it to the group (more cheering) for anyone who is interested.

As more and more science research becomes collaborative, and as such collaborations are no longer bound by geographic proximity, tools like Mendeley have become essential to scholarly work, and therefore must become part of post-secondary education.

The ability to track what other researchers have found on a subject introduces a powerful filter to the mass of information available to scholars.

Mendeley’s social networking aspects also suits current and emerging work practices, facilitating collaboration among researchers who know each other through the private groups function and more open sharing of information through public groups and resource lists.

MacMillan, D. (2012). Mendeley: teaching scholarly communication and collaboration through social networking. Library Management, 33(8), 561–569. doi:10.1108/01435121211279902


Other Mendeley Resources

To be comprehensive, here are other sources I viewed:

The Learning Portal

The Mendeley Learning Portal breaks up what you need to know into 7 areas:

  1. Organise
  2. Manage
  3. Read
  4. and Write
  5. Collaborate
  6. Discover
  7. Participate

This I particularly liked as I could target areas systematically.  The social statistics are a feature of “discover” and are mentioned as helpful in both the journal article and the Boston University video.


Something I really enjoyed with the Mendeley site was “Share Mendeley with your Community”.  This section showed you how to teach Mendeley to your friends and colleagues.  Very much an NGL principle.

Hope this helps!

Meddling with Mendeley

Like Laura, I am learning to learn the technology associated with NGL.

So I thought I would share my learning about the various programs EDU8117 uses.  Maybe something I learn will help put things into perspective for someone else.


What is Mendeley?

According to Wikipedia, Mendeley is a desktop and web program for;

  • managing and sharing research papers,
  • discovering research data
  • and collaborating online.

It combines Mendeley Desktop, a PDF and reference management application (available for Windows, OS X and Linux) with Mendeley Web, an online social network for researchers.


Where did the name come from?

It helps me to understand the background of what I am studying.  One of the fun things I found out about Mendeley is that there is a short and a long version as to how the name came about.  The short version is that it’s a combination of the names of scientists Dmitri Ivanovic Mendelyeyev and Gregor Medel.  The long version is more fun and starts with Dracula.

How does this benefit the NGL Community?

Mendeley as a tool fits well with the NGL scene as it incorporates sharing and other social networking features.  It operates across a range of platforms (such as Mac, Windows and Linus) and stores on the cloud.   Most significantly it allows collaboration via public and private groups sharing reading lists.  EDU8117 has a private group.


What cautions?

Now that Mendeley has been purchased by the Elsevier publishing company in 2013, there is concern (such as expressed in the New Yorker) that the open access which is a core feature of NGL and one of the things that set Mendeley apart will be lost due to a fundamental incompatibility with Elsevier’s business model.

Elsevier, on the other hand, is infamous for restricting the flow of scientific information so it can sell research papers for as much as fifty dollars a piece, generating profit margins of thirty-six per cent and netting the company billions of dollars in revenue annually.

A counter argument being that the sharing nature may circumvent copyright.

But to many publishers, Mendeley’s collegial-sharing feature looked awfully close to copyright theft.

So, what alternatives are there?

So if not Mendeley, where else?  Techshout provides a quick overview of seven Other reference management tools with a social network capacity ( both paid and free).

EndNote, Zotero, BibDesk (Mac only), Qiqqa, Papers, JabRef, Refworks.

I have worked with Endnote when studying at Curtin University.  Absolutely loved it, although the sharing capacity wasn’t mentioned.  It was free to students so it is interesting to look at the Endnote “Buy now” page and see how expensive it really is.  Hoping to explore Mendeley based on my Endnote experience and gain a sense of how I can import references into documents and posts.

EDU8117 – Working with Mendeley

Although David indicates that we won’t be working with Mendeley quite as closely as he orginially intended (2014/08/18 and 2014/08/24), I am still looking forward to being able to use its basic functions to access the wealth of literature being added to the group and be able to follow in my fellow students footsteps.


The Dance of Technology and Pedagogy in Self-Paced Distance Education

I really like this post. Not just for the clarity of the layout but also for the clarity of the thinking.

iThink, iTeach, iTeens

Philip shared an article this week “The Dance of Technology and Pedagogy in Self-Paced Distance Education” by Terry Anderson – his blog can be followed via this link.

The key elements can be seen below:

  • The technology sets the beat and the timing. The pedagogy defines the moves.
  • Siemens (2005) describes the following characteristics of connectivism:
    • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions
      • This diversity and abundance of resources in multiple formats is excellent for our learners as we can cater for their preferred learning style and also interests. While on one hand this diversity in options makes a teachers role easier, it can also make it much more difficult as the decision making required to scaffold the ‘cull’ of resources for the students.
    • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources
    • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently…

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