Ebrownorama's Blog

My Learning Journey …


Making Thinking Visible

Everybody thinks, or so we think. But not everyone makes their thinking visible. “When learners speak, write, or draw their ideas, they deepen their cognition. Project Zero’s Visible Thinking approach shows how.” (Ritchhart and Perkins, 2008) The authors outline in their article the six key principles that anchor Visible Thinking and characterize our approach in schools.

  1. Learning is a consequence of thinking.
  2. Good thinking is not only a matter of skills, but also a matter of dispositions.
  3. The development of thinking is a social endeavor.
  4. Fostering thinking requires making thinking visible.
  5. Classroom culture sets the tone for learning and shapes what is learned.
  6. Schools must be cultures of thinking for teachers.

Making thinking visible isn’t for students only–it is also for teachers! As teachers, we must model our learning for our students but do we make our thinking visible? Do we share our ideas in some way with our students? Recently, tweets have been abundant stating that we must ask our students to publish their work rather than handing it in. But do we publish our work? If we will make our thinking visible and give our students the opportunity to make their thinking visible, we will be practicing participatory pedagogy and knowledge building.



Garrison, D. R. (2011). E-Learning in the 21st Century – A Framwork for Research and Practice (Vol. Second Edition). Routledge.

Mclean, A. (2012, 12). Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners – By Ron Ritchart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison. Support for Learning,27(2), 92-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9604.2012.01520.x

Ritchhart, R., & Perkins, D. (2008). Making Thinking Visible. Educational Leadership , 65 (5), 57-61.



Pedagogy is the Driver, Technology is the Accelerator

I saw the text that I am using to title this blog post as a tweet a few weeks ago. The tweet resonated with me and I took note of it and favourited it at that time. Little did I know that I would be delving into research based on this very topic at the outset of my doctoral studies this week! Now having learned about the framework for research and practice from reading a prescribed text “E-learning in the 21st Century” (Garrison, 2011) and research that I am working on for an assignment (Hoadley & Cox, 2009) and (Cochrane and Narayan, 2013) emphasizing that educators must first define the learning outcomes and strategies to be delivered and then choose effective and efficient technologies for the task, the tweet has come back to remind me of its importance. Research supports emphatically that educational technologies should be used in teaching and learning (Jacobsen, 2001), however because “the technology got ahead of the pedagogy” (Garrison, p. 124) many policy-makers are now reluctant to move forward in allowing technologies to be implemented in education. They have a fear of  the technologies being used for the “gee whiz factor” (Garrison, p. 131)  rather than for the purpose of improving learning. I get that point clearly, however, as a beginning researcher, and finding the evidence to support that educational technologies improve learning, I feel that I can’t move fast enough to get the word out so that all students will have the best learning opportunities. I may have to read the introduction and the conclusion for fear of not having enough time to read the in-betweens!



Cochrane, T., & Narayan, V. (2013, 12). Redesigning professional development: Reconceptualising teaching using social learning technologies. Research in Learning Technology,21(0). doi: 10.3402/rlt.v21i0.19226

Garrison, D. R. (2011). ELearning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice (2nd Ed.). London: Routledge/Taylor and Francis.

Hoadley, C. & Cox, C. (2009) ‘What is design knowledge and how do we teach it?’, in Educating learning technology designers: guiding and inspiring creators of innovative educational tools, eds C. DiGiano, S. Goldman & M. Chorost, Routledge, NY, pp. 19􏰀35. 

Jacobsen, D. M. (2001). Building Different Bridges: Technology Integration, Engaged Student Learning, and New Approaches to Professional Development. Paper presented at AERA 2001: What We Know and How We Know It, the 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Seattle, WA: April 10 – 14, 2001.


Reflections on Becoming …

Becoming … is a process. Change … is a process. Learning is a journey.  Journies … are a process. Many changes have taken place this week in regards to my learning. As an educator, it is important to reflect in order to be able to articulate what this change looks like. Here are several reflections on the changes that have taken place this week.

Power of a Cohort – learning doesn’t happen in isolation. I have experienced the power of my EdD cohort at the University of Calgary this week. There is tremendous knowledge and experience in this group of passionate educators. Many ideas have been presented and discussed, many questions have been asked. We are led by amazing educators Drs. Jacobsen, Friesen and Parchoma. The learning is rich.

Learning Journey – the pressures of intense, deep study are present. I remind myself that this is a journey and to enjoy the route–it is scenic, exciting, and challenging, and provides a rewarding destination, a destination that will be a launch for the next journey. Remember, rest stops are there for a reason!

Becoming a Researcher

The tasks that we have completed this week and those that we have begun, have scaffolding in place that have launched us into research. I am beginning to experience the richness of finding information and finding what resonates with me, or not and am beginning to see the opportunities that abound and need to be explored. The “what if” is knocking as I immerse myself for hours in reading–one finding leads to another and there are many questions that need answers but are not available, yet.

The elements of this blog post–connect, create, share–are all elements of an inquiry approach to learning. We are developing a new learning environment. We are building knowledge. We have model teachers.  We are on our way. There is an itch … it is uncomfortable … signs of change and becoming …


Scaffolding – Reaching Higher (or Deeper) in Learning

The term ‘scaffold’ conjures images of cranes and heights on construction sites in the theatre of my mind. Placing the supports accurately is critical on any construction site for without this careful planning and development of any architecture, the building would collapse. As the construction progresses, more supports are put in place so that the building will be strong. All of the supports are not placed at once at the beginning of the construction process, but added along the way as the building rises. This construction analogy can also describe the learning process. It is important that learners have appropriate supports in place as they move along their learning journey so that the learning is attainable and at the same time challenging. This scaffolding structure keeps the learner in the zone of proximal development allowing higher learning (or deeper) as the learning progresses. According to Tools of the Mind, “to successfully apply it (scaffolding) in a classroom, it is important to know not only where a child is functioning now and where that child will be tomorrow, but also how best to assist that child in mastering more advanced skills and concepts.”

There are a number of elements that can be instruments of scaffolding. These include teachers, students, rubrics, and digital technologies.

Scaffolding is a valuable approach to knowledge-building. This is a topic that resonates with me and where I see a huge potential to improve the learning for my students, so as usual, I have more questions at the end of this day. The research has only begun …


Learners as Builders of Knowledge

Several studies resonate with me on the topic of knowledge building. First, Strategies for Engagement by Jacobsen, Lock, and Friesen, who state that “a focus on building and sharing knowledge globally represents a major shift in how we approach teaching and learning.” This supports my blog post from yesterday in that the courses known as options in the curriculum should become the required courses in our education system. The examples illustrated in this research are compelling arguments that inquiry projects can be carried out in any curriculum providing a wealth of learning opportunities for students in the projects. Knowledge Building, by Scardamalia and Bereiter (The Cambridge Handbook of The Learning Sciences) support inquiry projects stating “The driving force is not so much the individual interests of children as their desire to connect with what is most dynamic and meaningful in the surrounding society. That is what knowledge-building pedagogy and knowledge-building technology aim to build on” (p. 113).

Leah Obach and Devon Caldwell, Microsoft Innovative Teachers, in Manitoba, Canada, conduct inquiry projects with their respective kindergarten and grade one classes working collaboratively on real-world community projects and their students contribute to knowledge-building. They practice the “belief that students can deliberately create knowledge that is useful to their community in further knowledge-building and that is a legitimate part of the civilization-wide effort to advance knowledge frontiers.” (Cambridge, p. 113).

Inquiry projects help learners grow their passion and provide opportunities for them that they may otherwise not be afforded. The benefits of knowledge-building in learning environments are huge. My question is: Why isn’t everybody doing it? 

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We’ve Been This Way Before … But Where Are The Breadcrumbs?

There is much discussion and research on changing education–for improvement, of course. The improvement being better learning.

Researchers study education systems and review models that don’t work and models that do work. We are in a rapidly changing environment when we consider educational technology and inquiry based learning. We’ve been in this place before but not in the same kind of way. The curriculum in the K-12 school system and in higher education was set in 1894 and it has not changed. The education system was developed for the industrial age or following the apprenticeship model. We are not in that age anymore. We are in an information age. There are studies that indicate that essential learning comes from studying topics that are not in the prescribed curriculum, i.e., required courses for graduation or certificate/diploma completion. One such study refers to why computer programming teaches so much more than technical skills. It is high time to provide students with the learning that they need for the information age, for jobs that do not yet exist. The curriculum needs to change. Courses that have been optional in the past are the courses that should be the required courses, e.g., technology options.  Examples include prescribed textbooks and resources, the technology of crypt/books, the technology of silent reading which were met with the same criticisms as educational technology and inquiry based learning are facing today.
We’ve been along the road of globalization before–the exchange of culture and monetary systems.
How come it went away? And now we’re back confronted with this again?
Were we not paying attention to what worked and what didn’t work?

We can’t make things work if we aren’t in the classroom with the teacher – we have to be on the front lines.
We have enough research to see what works. Why are we not doing what we know? Good question. Maybe we’ll find out tomorrow …

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Deeper Learning

Dream BIG! Be accused of  being an idealist! And so my deeper learning journey begins.

I have a huge passion for leading and learning! The theatre of my mind has no limits!

As I begin my learning journey, I am reflecting on my thoughts and processes to be able to model pristinely what it means to be a lifelong leader and learner – to my pre-service teachers and to our College instructors (Certificate in Adult Education), and beyond–afterall, a dreamer sets out to change the world!

This reflection on my practices could be in the form of writings and in organizing my spaces, e.g., my ePortfolio, blog, resources, course sites, in discourse with visionaries, in readings and research and who knows where or what else. I need to discern opportunities for my students, what is best and will give them the best learning as I develop projects “on-the-fly” but I would like this to be more discerned, although granted that projects (inquiry) arise and I take advantage of opportunities. While this is my learning journey, I plan on taking others with me, because in the end, it’s not about me, but about ideas and opportunities to change the world!

Improving, no, let’s reword that, reforming teacher education is a huge part of my goal on this learning journey. I am looking to provide best learning opportunities and practices to my students in my courses, but more than this, to provide vision for my Centre for Teaching Excellence, Innovation and Research, and hopefully to other teacher education programs in other institutions.

I have many questions at this point in my journey:

How to be influential to my colleagues, to truly be contagious and inspiring?

CAE program – methods and technology classes – what is the best practice?

How to be influential in helping our provincial education department educate teachers for the future?

Assessment and evaluation for e-learning needs to be solid. I need a good model for this. I am developing a rubric for micro-teaching using a Google Doc and Flubaroo as a small example but am looking for the big picture — remember, change the world!

Students need to publish their work rather than hand it in. What are the assessment strategies for this? Ideas? Peer critique? What are the best spaces to publish their work? How about the nay-sayers, privacy, etc?

Digital citizenship – literacy with ICT continuum K-12 and beyond – best practices for implementation?

I am connecting teacher education programs in collaborative projects–Mystery Skype, Quadblogging – what are other ideas and needs for teacher education programs to research – connect, create, and share?

What are the best practices that North American, and more specifically, Canadian, education systems can glean from other countries’ models? What are the best practices that will work in our culture?

How to make creativity the norm in teaching and learning? Inquiry – authentic approaches?

What is the research to “prove” to skeptics that technology is necessary, not an option? Many teacher education programs require one tech course in a five-year program and teachers are not prepared to teach with technology even at a base level. (ISTE2014– What technologies do pre-service teachers need? Dr. Karl Sprenger, Clarion University) professors who are afraid of technology and don’t want to learn how to teach with technology hide behind excuses, ” we have to remember that it’s not about the technology and that it is about the student” True! So since it is about the student, why are educators depriving the student of the best learning opportunities?  I believe it is critical that decision-makers see the proof to be convinced. This means that I have to develop models of proof.

What is the nugget that I will research to make a huge impact on education? How do I determine this? What are the lead indicators to answer my questions?

We are expecting transformation, we don’t want to be the same–we want to change – we are growing new skin – it’s not comfortable, it’s itchy until the new skin comes in.

And so, I am off and running on my learning journey to change the world. Today I drank from the firehose …