Third Space
“Third Space” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

One of my focuses at the moment is around online learning. This has involved investigating different spaces, the idea of Communities of Practice, dynamic content to include and the potential of Open Badges as a means of credentialing. It occurred to me that I had not stopped to properly consider what was already out there.

Having spent considerable time online, I naively felt that I already knew what was available and subsequently what may be needed. While some of the ideas suggested include creating a blog connected to a static homepage, I had not stopped to look at the hubs that I already engage with and how each of them is organised.

Here then is a reflection on some of the tribes and communities I engage with online:

EdTechTeam

A global organisation originally associated with GAFE Summits, EdTechTeam have since diversified to include other products and platforms, including Apple, Adobe and SeeSaw, as well as a burgeoning book publishing arm. The mainstay of communication is through their invite only Google Plus community. They also share news and resources on various social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, graphics and pictures of conferences on Instagram, stories and reflections through Blogger, and webinars and keynotes through YouTube. Many of these spaces are brought together through the use of the #EdTechTeam hashtag.

Digital Learning Department

The Victorian State Government’s Digital Learning Department supports the integration of technology across the state. The most popular form of information is through the Global2 newsletter, which provides updates, links and information about various resources and providers, as well as links to professional learning opportunities across the state. This is supported by a Twitter handle, which again shares out various links and resources with a loose connection to the #vicpln hashtag. Neither of these platforms seem to provide very much interaction or dialogue.

Modern Learners

Made up of Will Richardson, Bruce Dixon and Missy Emler, Modern Learners’ mission is to:

To help every school leader become better informed to make better, more relevant decisions for the children they serve in this new, modern world of learning

Originally a paid subscription site, the central space has been a WordPress blog. This has been supported by a regular newsletter sharing links and reflections, a Twitter handle and a Facebook Page used to cross-post, a #modernlearners hashtag, as well as a book series designed to reignite or perhaps even start some important conversations. More recently, they have also started sharing interviews and investigations via a podcast and facilitated a Facebook group with weekly discussions and provocations. Associated with these additions, they published a whitepaper a few months ago, 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning, which could only be downloaded by sharing your name and email. This has allows the team to follow up directly, especially in regards to promoting their new change.school course for transformational leaders.

#EduCoachOC

A monthly chat spun off from the #EduCoach chat, #EduCoachOC is designed to support coaches in Oceania through a monthly chat. Along with the hashtag, there is a central WordPress.com blog with a post published prior to each chat providing context and the questions for people to consider. Afterwards, the chats are archived, using Storify.

TeachTechPlay

A professional learning community, TeachTechPlay aim is to inspire learning through empowerment and engagement with technology. The main space used is a WordPress site (moving away from an initial Google Site). This contains links to community, conference and monthly webshow. The webshow is run through YouTube. There are a number of identities linked to the community, including a Twitter handle, Google+ account and Facebook page. Each is used to cross-post and disseminate links and news. There is also a hashtag, #ttplay, which although initially used for the monthly webshow has grown to become a constant feed of information. More recently, a blog has been added to the site, however the purpose and intent is unclear.

Connected Courses

Run in 2014, Connected Courses focus was developing and teaching online courses that value the open web. Supported by the work of DML Research Hub, it was designed and taught by faculty from diverse higher education institutions. The hub was a WordPress site, with links to the syllabus and syndicated blogs. Associated with this, there were regular webinars, both informative and reflective, housed on YouTube. There was also a hashtag #ccourses to collect conversations across various platforms.

Reclaim Hosting

Founded in 2013, Reclaim Hosting provides hosting support for individuals and institutions that want to build out spaces online for personal portfolios, digital projects and more. It builds on the Domain of One’s Own project. The main source of information is via a WordPress.org site, which includes a range of links, blog, resources and sub-domains. The blog is aggregated from the blogs of Groom, Owens and Brumfield, while links and updates are shared out via a Twitter handle. Discourse is used as both a forum for discussion, as well as a knowledge bank for frequently asked questions. Beyond these associations, there are a number of other connections to such things as the Domains Conference. Interestingly, continuing with the POSSE mindset, interviews and content are not always stored centrally through branded accounts, but instead spread across the various identities connected with the company.

TIDE Podcast

A regular podcast from Dai Barnes and Doug Belshaw, Today in Digital Education is about education, technology and everything in between. There is a central site, built using Podcast Generator, which houses the notes and audio associated with each podcast. Each episode is also shared out to a number of spaces, including Soudcloud, iTunes and Internet Archive. Links are shared out via the Twitter handle which just posts out new episodes, but there is no interaction with this account. In regards to dialogue, there a Slack Community.

Digital Learning – CEWA

A group in charge of supporting teachers with across the Western Australia Catholic archdiocese with everything digital. This includes leadership, curriculum, tools, spaces and coding. The main space is a Wix site, which includes a number of links presented visually, as well as a team blog. There are also courses run through the online learning and teaching site, Udemy. Socially, there are number of connections, including Twitter, Instagram, Yammar and Facebook Chat, as well as a hashtag, #CathDigLearn.

Digital Technologies Hub

Developed by Education Services Australia, Digital Technologies Hub (DTHub) supports educators with unpacking the Digital Technologies Curriculum. The main site is built with Sitefinity and involves a mixture of links and resources, organised around four key stakeholders: teachers, school leaders, students and families. Although there is no space for interacting, there are a number of social media identities associated with the site, including Twitter, Google+ and Facebook Pages. Associated with all of these, there is a hashtag, #DTHub. There is also a monthly newsletters, providing a regular flow of news and updates.

Learning Hubs
“Learning Hubs” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

So what about you? What spaces do you exist in? Maybe there is one that you have designed yourself? What choices did you make? Why? As always, comments welcome.


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Flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

One of the perks of my job is the opportunity to not only support a wide range of schools but also to see some of the awesome things that are already happening. Today I visited a school and in the process was shown around one of the most remarkable learning spaces that I have ever seen.

It would be easy to call it ‘a garden’, but it just feels like something more. Just as calling an innovative learning space a classroom sometimes misses something as it encompasses all of the most traditional notions.

With a strong focus on the environment and sustainability, the space included the following:

  • Fully fledged indoor kitchen, including a pizza oven and outdoor seating
  • An amphitheater built out of recycled materials, including tires
  • Huge water tanks that not only supporting the plants and waterway, but also the school toilets and sporting fields
  • A waterway meandering its way through the space
  • A wide range of wildlife, such as ducks, lizards, sheep, fish, turtles, and chickens.
  • Various plants, ranging from herbs, vegetable beds and fruit trees.
  • Organic waste used as fertilizer, including compost heaps, worm farms, and an aquaponics system.
  • Propagation of plants in a greenhouse.

What was most interesting to me was that the learning seemed to stem from the space, rather than dictating how the space was to be used. The space provides numerous opportunities and beginnings, whether it be lunchtime clubs, regular cooking, and gardening classes or teachers using the space in their own way to provoke learning. Whereas some learning opportunities dictate the environment, what stood out from the conversations was that learning often evolved put of the space.

This focus on the learning made me wonder about the possibility and potential of technology to further enable learning in such an environment. Some of the things that came to mind included:

  • Telling the Story: I am a big believer in documentation as a means of owning the learning. I think that it would be amazing having a collective blog bringing together all the different stories and updates in one place.
  • Automating Processes: I have lost count of the amount of apps that promise to teach you how to code. Yet to me there is nothing better than trying to solve a real life problem. Whether it be creating a time-lapse or collecting data with senses, I wonder about the potential of a Raspberry Pi to make this happen.
  • Showing the Story: I recently stumbled upon a 360 school tour. What struck about the experience was that you could watch it again and again, each time taking in a different perspective. As I walked around the outdoor space trying to take everything in, I could see the potential of a virtual tour.

I remember a few years ago there was a push in the school I was at to investigate permaculture. Beyond getting my head around the concept, one of the challenges at the time was imagining such a space. Today I saw such a space.

What about you? What dynamic spaces have you.been a part of? How was technology incorporated? As always, comments welcome.


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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Space has been something that I have wondered about for a long time. If I am honest, it is probably the last thing that I consider when planning. Maybe because it feels like it is given, already dictated by someone else, or maybe because I lack the imagination to think about what it could be and why. Some people have challenged me, suggesting that I simply need to ask the students. This may well be the case and there are often times when I allow students to move things around depending on what they are doing. However I think that when it comes to wholesale change, that even students are limited at times by what they know.

In a recent chat on Voxer, Jon Corripo provided his suggestions for redesigning a classroom space which again sparked my imagination. His list included:

  • Better Lighting: Blow out the T-Bars and get down lights, which you can get in LED format now making them a lot more cost efficient.

  • A Stage for Students: Does not have to be much, just something that allows them to stand above everyone else when needs to.  

  • Built-in Green Wall: Every room needs a green wall and with this built in lighting.

  • 360 Whiteboard: Removing the focus on ‘the front’ by having whiteboards all around the room. This can be interrupted with versatile slat walls.

  • Flexible Furniture: Get a mixture of skinny flippy flop tables which can be nested when needed, as well as standing cafe tables.

  • Versatile Power: Instead of disrupting the floor space, get electric cord reels that you pull down from the roof.

  • Project onto the Floor: Rather than projecting onto a whiteboard or IWB, mount an interactive projector so that it projects onto the floor and students can sit around it. For example, Epsom now have an LED projector which is only $350.

Moving beyond ‘flexible’ spaces, Corripo provides a clear vision for a different learning space that is still within the confines of solitary classroom that for too many is still the norm.

Although this vision would not necessarily be the answer for every classroom, what Corripo’s list does do is provide a picture for how classrooms can be different. Another interesting perspective is that of Michelle Hostrup who provided a reflection on how she went about changing up her early years space on the TER Podcast. Such examples help develop an idea of how things could be different. What is most important is that in today’s culture of changing work spaces, we owe it to our students to iterate and develop the learning spaces that in some environments I would imagine have become stagnant over time. This starts by asking the question, is the best possible set-up and if not, then what?

So what about you, how are you restructuring your spaces? What steps do you take to extend your imagination beyond the usual. As always, I would love to know. Feel free to comment below.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.