A Shifting Learning Environment

A Shifting Learning Environment: What You Need to Know for the Post-Industrial Age/Knowledge Age/Digital Age/21st Century

There may not be agreement on what to call our current and future society, but regardless of the name, similar ideas have arisen. I will elaborate on four perspectives of a shifting learning environment.

Four Things You Should Know

1. Charles M. Reigeluth and the Post-Industrial Age

According to Charles M. Reigeluth (2012), “the main problem with our educational and training systems is not the teachers or the students, it is the system – a system that is designed more for sorting than for learning” (p. 75). As a former teacher, I am not in full agreement with this over generalization, but it does make me consider the idea that we are still comparing students to each other for reasons that are assumed rather than based on what seems to work according to research findings. Why do we try and push all the circle and triangle children through a square mold? In an industrial age, this made sense. According to Reigeluth (2012), we needed to sort students – or rather, we needed students to fail and default to the menial tasks of the assembly lines.

Reigeluth (2012) goes on to posit dichotomies between the industrial age and postindustrial age, prefacing that dichotomies are usually false and that “postindustrial thinking is characterized more by ‘both-and’ than ‘either-or’” (p. 77). The following are presented:

  • Postindustrial vs. industrial
    • Learning-focused vs. sorting-focused
    • Learner-centered vs. teacher-centered
    • Learning by doing vs. teacher presenting
    • Attainment-based vs. time-based progress
    • Customized vs. standardized instruction
    • Criterion-referenced vs. norm-referenced testing
    • Collaborative vs. individual
    • Enjoyable vs. unpleasant
  • New roles for teachers, students, and technology in the postindustrial paradigm of instruction
    • Teachers as guides, designer of student work, facilitator of the learning process, and caring mentor
    • Students as the worker, self-directed and self-motivated learner, and teacher
    • Technology as record keeping for student learning (standards inventory, personal attainments inventory, and personal characteristics inventory), planning for student learning, instruction for student learning, and assessment for (and of) student learning

2. Carl Bereiter & Marlene Scardamalia and the Knowledge Age

A related view is held by Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia. They call our current climate the knowledge age society. Focusing on the need to educate people in a world where knowledge and innovation are pervasive, Scardamalia (2002) identifies twelve principles of knowledge building, including a focus on authentic problems, community knowledge, collective responsibility, and transformative assessment. Check here for more information and details about the twelve principles.

3. International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Digital Age

ISTE (“International Society for Technology in Education | Home,” 2011, April 29) created the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for digital-age learning. According to ISTE, “NETS for Students (2007) help students prepare to work, live, and contribute to the social and civic fabric of their communities”.

In addition, the standards point to “higher-order thinking skills” and “digital citizenship” as “critical” for effective, lifelong learning and productive living in a global society. Students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate creativity and innovation
  • Communicate and collaborate
  • Conduct research and use information
  • Think critically, solve problems, and make decisions
  • Use technology effectively and productively

4. Route 21 and the 21st Century

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (“Welcome to Route 21,” 2011, April 29), through Route 21, offers many resources to address 21st century skills. In addressing the learning and innovation skills, an overlap can be seen with the NETS above. According to the Route 21 website, “A focus on creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration is essential to prepare students for the future”. See the full P21 Framework Definitions Document.


As we continue teaching in a shifting landscape and as technology breaks down the traditional classroom walls, a beneficial ecology of learning can be guided by the principles and standards cited above.

Learn More

To learn more, click on the links and resources above or read the following below. In addition, you can read about the five things you should know about the Future of Teaching with Technology.


International Society for Technology in Education | Home. (2011, April 29). . Retrieved April 29, 2011, from http://www.iste.org/welcome.aspx

Reigeluth, C. M. (2012). Instructional theory and technology for a postindustrial world. Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (3rd ed., pp. 75-83). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Scardamalia, M. (2002). Knowledge building principles. Unpublished manuscript.

Welcome to Route 21. (2011, April 29). Retrieved April 29, 2011, from http://www.p21.org/route21/


The Future of Teaching with Technology

In current times, the question is no longer should I integrate technology in the classroom, but rather, what instructional strategies (technology assumed) reap the optimal learning outcomes? See Tamin et al.’s (2011) study for information regarding the past forty years of the impact of technology on learning. Furthermore, we must recognize that a single set of instructional strategies cannot move us on a path to some sort of ideal learning environment. Michael Hannafin (2012) states this directly when responding to Richard E. Clark: “No single design methodology is sufficiently robust to address the diversity and complexity of all learning goals” (p. 377).

Teaching is an ill-structured endeavor – the variables in this equation cannot be boiled down to simplistic measures, but rather need to be addressed in context. So let me create a context – one that may or may not describe your particular classroom.


It’s 2011 and in most schools in the U.S., wireless technology is the norm. Elementary-aged students operate Smartphones and one can see two-year olds using iPads in the grocery store. Students no longer search for information using a card catalog, they Google it! Seeing as how 2001 and 2011 differ more drastically than 1991 and 2001, one would probably have an exceedingly hard time predicting 2021. It’s equivalent to imagining a fourth-dimensional world. Yet, A Roadmap for Educational Technology (Woolf, 2010) was created by the Computing Community Consortium to consider the future of education and in particular the role of tech­nology and computer science in education. According to the report, it “articulates a comprehensive vision of education technology towards 2030 and identifies specifically what the education community and policy makers might do to realize that vision” (p. 4).

The GROE Roadmap focuses on the following: personalizing learning, assessing student learning, supporting social learning, diminishing classroom boundaries, using alternative teaching methods, enhancing the role of stakeholders, and addressing policy changes. I will attempt to summarize their 2030 vision below:

  • Future systems will make informed recommendations; if a student shows weakness in a skill, it will suggest remediating tools; if she shows an interest in X, and many people who like X also find Y interesting, then it will suggest Y (p. 19)
  • Systems will ultimately facilitate communities of learning. They will ensure that instruction is constructive (encouraging students to learn) rather than discouraging (telling students they are “not good” at an activity) (p. 20)
  • Systems will also be self-improving, i.e., policies about when and how to provide advice will change as the system works with large numbers of students and learns which students profit from which advice (p. 20)
  • Skills such as creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, information literacy, and self-direction will be required of 21st century citizens (p. 21)
  • Learning environments will prepare students for life-long learning by focusing on cognition, meta-cognition, and affect (p. 22)
  • Learning communities will be distributed across space, time, and contexts, and will not be defined by dichotomies (p. 24)
  • Learning will no longer be isolated in schools – learning will be highly distributed and valued by the typical citizen and will sustain value in and of the community (p. 25)
  • A person’s career will be valued not only for what they earn, but also for how much they learn (p. 25)
  • The distinction between formal and informal education may disappear – in part by technology (p. 26 – 28)
  • Rich interfaces will support life long learning and ubiquitous experiences (p. 27 – 28)
  • In addition to providing students with the ability to handle more complex, realistic problems, we need rich environments that have the potential to develop students’ communication skills and creative abilities as they become exposed to diverse cultures and viewpoints (p. 29)
  • A fundamental change is required from teaching strategies in which authorities bring information and knowledge to students to strategies in which individuals are responsible for obtaining and shaping knowledge for themselves (p. 29)

The present and future state of 21st century learning should make us question the still prevalent focus on industrialized education systems. Sure, we integrate technology, but are we really setting our line of sight far enough ahead? It’s not about having students watch their teacher present lectures in “innovative” Power Points or conducting a web quest about a foreign country. This is a fundamental shift of power! Our students will not be expected to pass multiple choice tests to function as knowledge-age/21st century citizens, they will be required to think meta-cognitively and evolve with rapidly changing ways of knowing, being, and communicating. This is not fully supported with only a discrete set of skills to master! In my next blog, I will elaborate on what Charles Reigeluth refers to as the post-industrial learning environment. I’ll attempt to clarify the underpinnings of the 21st century skills proposed above (creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, information literacy, and self-direction).

For now, I leave you with this Ted Talks video of Michael Wesch titled From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able.

Screen shot 2011-04-14 at 8.45.37 PM


Clarke, R. E., & Hannafin, M. J. (2012). Debate about the benefits of different levels of instructional guidance. Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (3rd ed., pp. 367-382). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Tamim, R. M., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Abrami, P. C., & Schmid, R. F. (2011). What Forty Years of Research Says About the Impact of Technology on Learning. Review of Educational Research, 81(1), 4.

Woolf, B. P. (2010). A roadmap for education technology (pp. 1-80). Amherst, MA: Global Resources for Online Education.

A Proposal for the Knowledge Age: Let's Stop Educating for the Past

Smoke stacks

Alfred T. Palmer (1942), Library of Congress

While writing down some preliminary thoughts about a possible research agenda, I came upon Savery’s (2009) Problem-Based Approach to Instruction. The alignment with my personal beliefs as an educator was striking. As a math teacher, I’ve always striven to support students capable not only of solving complex problems, but able to identify future problems. This inquiry mindset is, in my opinion, a requirement for twenty-first century learners. To think of education as merely the learning of skills and discrete knowledge sets has little value to me or to the students I’ve come to know. Why do we as a society push for educational outcomes desired in an industrial age? How many of our students are we really preparing for the knowledge age society? Why is graduate school the first time many students are asked to be identifiers of problems? Does it come back to the way we were taught? Do we really value discrete knowledge sets? Is it that we settle for easily measurable goals? Do teacher education programs prepare teachers for functioning in a knowledge age mindset? How will we evolve our teaching to reconcile the new demands placed on future generations?

Today’s students seem anxious when assignments are left open-ended and when students are asked to reflect on their own solutions or to identify new problems. Will these students really need to wait until pursuing a doctorate to decide the direction of their inquiry? What will happen when they join the workforce – will they be viewed as followers or leaders?

I have met criticism in my line of thought, such as:

  • You can’t ask students to move to step Z if they haven’t been taught A-Y. Really? Why can’t the teacher facilitate D, F, and R when it’s needed? How many of you still know how to solve quadratic equations? Do the problems you seek to solve or even identify require this knowledge? Maybe, and I hope you had the benefit of learning it in context or “just-in-time.”
  • What if you don’t know the answer to student’s wonderings? My response, these are the best moments to be a teacher. How exciting to join the journey of inquiring minds. This creates an opportunity to facilitate leadership among our students. They realize that no one has a lock on truth and knowledge. We can all contribute. Am I really the only one in a room of twenty to judge their solutions? Creating an environment of critical discourse – more realistic of our society – seems a facet we are okay ignoring. Isn’t this the grounding that allows students to move ahead?
chandra.harvard.edu (2010)

chandra.harvard.edu (2010)

As I hone in on a research project for my dissertation, I’ve been giving thought to creating a virtual space that supports problem-based instruction. Projects in the past (Cognition & Vanderbilt, 1990; Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992) have looked at anchoring instruction. Giving students a realistic problem context and asking them to identify possible paths, missing information, and even extraneous information is great for supporting students problem-solving capabilities. But I want more. I want students to identify the problem, not just be supplied with them. It seems important that students know how to identify a problem and desire the investment necessary to sustain interest, even through frustrating findings. Sounds a lot like graduate school! How do we create this space, train our teachers, and even demonstrate the value to curriculum writers, teachers, schools leaders, and policy makers?

It will be important to think about the barriers I may face from the onset. For example, I think one component of the space would benefit from the inclusion of wikis, blogs, podcasts, or some other means of connecting to ideas and receiving feedback on ideas, proposals, and solutions. This will allow the students to escape the bounds of classroom walls and gain access to a world-wide community needed to move their thoughts forward.

In terms of exploring barriers or supports to make this possible, I will consider recent research findings investigating technology integration issues in the classroom have focused on teacher factors and user factors. The most important factors affecting blog usage (Hsu & Lin, 2008) is perceived enjoyment, ease of use, altruism, and reputation. In terms of intentions to blog, community identification was the main factor. Perceived enjoyment ranked highest by far, indicating that an incorporation of blogging into the design must be enjoyable to the students. Other factors, such as altruism and community identification seem in line with characteristics of knowledge society learners.

Teachers, on the other hand, may not choose to integrate technology, such as blogging, into the classroom. Why? According to Inan and Lowther (2010), of all the factors examined in their path model, teacher readiness to integrate technology had the highest total effect on technology integration. (p.146 & 148) “Overall support and computer proficiency had the second and third strongest effects on technology integration” (p.146).

How would this look? Kopcha (2010) recommends a systems-based mentoring model for technology integration.  He proposes four stages of technology integration in which each stage deals with mechanics, systems, culture, and curriculum:

1. Initial Setup
2. Teacher Preparation
3. Curricular Focus
4. Community of Practice

According to Kopcha (2010), “Using a systems-based approach to technology integration creates a teacher-centered process for integrating technology. The mentor provides just-in-time support, modeling, and apprenticeship that is situated in the context of the teachers’ classrooms. This is important because it could translate into more complex and substantial uses of technology for learning” (p.186).

It is apparent that teachers will not use a technology in the classroom if they themselves do not feel comfortable using it. This makes me wonder about the idea of problem-based instruction in general. Besides addressing the technology integration issues, such as having students blog, teachers will also need to address pedagogical issues.


Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper Experiment: An Exploration of Issues in Learning and Instructional Design. Educational Technology Research and Development, 40(1), 65-80.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1990). Anchored instruction and its relationship to situated cognition. Educational Researcher, 19(6), 2–10.

Hsu, C. L., & Lin, J. C. (2008). Acceptance of blog usage: The roles of technology acceptance, social influence and knowledge sharing motivation. Information & Management, 45(1), 65–74.

Inan, F. A., & Lowther, D. L. (2010). Factors affecting technology integration in K-12 classrooms: a path model. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(2), 137–154.

Kopcha, T. J. (2010). A systems-based approach to technology integration using mentoring and communities of practice. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(2), 175–190.

Savery, J. R. (2009). Problem-Based Approach to Instruction. In C. M. Reigeluth & A. A. Carr-Chellman (Eds.), Instructional-Design Theories and Models. New York, NY: Routledge.

Integrating Technologies that Facilitate Student Reflection

Why should instructional designers and educators care about integrating technologies that facilitate student reflection? Is it necessary? Do traditional paper and pencil or oral exchanges provide the same results as a blog or podcast? Can teacher feedback on a student performance equate with the growth a student might experience analyzing their own performance through video analysis? In terms of Human Performance Improvement (Stolovitch, 2007), does the value of the result outweigh the cost?

Video Analysis Tool (VAT)

These are a few of the questions I’d like to explore as I think about goals for a current design project. A colleague and I have completed an initial design proposal for the Fanning Institute Mediation Training. Analysis of the current performance gaps show that students left the training ill prepared for conducting an effective mediation. Role-playing the part of mediator, although included in the current training, is limited by time constraints. Student reflection on the process is conducted with a group of twenty and is limited to whole class discussion. Student reflection is almost absent from the current model. I propose that the value of a video analysis tool (VAT) to improve the performance of the mediators will outweigh the costs involved. I intend to provide more specifics in my next blog entry about how this research would be designed, but for now, I’d like to set the stage for it’s conception as a viable instructional strategy.

Screen shot 2011-01-23 at 10.47.59 PM

An Ill-Structured Setting

According to Jonassen, Cernusca, & Ionas (2007), “learning sciences apply theories to the design of technology-enriched learning environments that engage and support learners in accomplishing more complex, authentic (contextually mediated), and meaningful learning activities with the goal of meaningful learning and conceptual change” (p.47). Further, “learning outcomes…tend to focus on knowledge building, conceptual change, reflection, self-regulation, and socially co-constructed meaning making” (p.47). As the student is role-playing the part of a mediator, they are immersed within an ill-structured problem. The learning outcome for mediation training is to equip the learner to effectively mediate conflict resolutions between two parties. The end result will almost always differ depending on the parties involved, but certain outcomes are desired, such as avoiding court enforced rulings and future conflict. This requires the development of specialized skills on the part of a mediator. How better to build this knowledge base, change misconceptions, encourage self-reflection, and collaborate with other mediators-in-training, than to integrate a VAT in the design of the training.

Design-Based Research (DBR)

The Fanning Institute client accepted the proposal option, which incorporates this technology into the design, and is eager to implement the technology as soon as possible. In relation to the adoption decision process (Straub, 2009), the client is nearing the fourth stage of implementation. It seems to follow that this implementation can be framed within the first iteration of a design-based research (DBR) agenda. In creating a DBR agenda, the following characteristics will be useful as a guide:

Five Characteristics of “good” Design-Based Research (According to The Design-Based Research Collaborative)

“First, the central goals of designing learning environments and developing theories or “prototheories” of learning are intertwined. Second, development and research take place through continuous cycles of design, enactment, analysis, and redesign (Cobb, 2001; Collins, 1992). Third, research on designs must lead to sharable theories that help communicate relevant implications to practitioners and other educational designers (cf. Brophy, 2002). Fourth, research must account for how designs function in authentic settings. It must not only document success or failure but also focus on interactions that refine our understanding of the learning issues involved. Fifth, the development of such accounts relies on methods that can document and connect processes of enactment to outcomes of interest” (2003, p.3).

Ely’s Eight Facilitative Conditions

It will be important to consider Ely’s (1999) eight facilitative conditions that contribute to implementation: dissatisfaction with the status quo, knowledge and skills exist, availability of resources, availability of time, rewards and/or incentives exist, participation, commitment, and leadership (Surry & Ely, 2007, p.108). The client has been dissatisfied with the status quo for some time, yet there is one facilitative condition that will need attention as we move forward: knowledge and skills. For the training facilitator to implement a tool, such as the VAT, she will need specific training that not only prepares her for navigating the tool, but preparation in how to facilitate it’s use by her students. Ensminger (1999) writes that “according to Ely, this condition consistently ranked among the most important conditions in previous research” (p. 50). Further, “the more familiar the user is with the innovation the less fear it produces and thus, allows the user to remain open to change” (p.50).

Future DBR Iterations

It is also possible that student reflection can be facilitated with other reflective technology strategies. It may be beneficial to design future iterations that explore these other options, such as blogging as self-reflection to determine the best strategy to close the performance gap.


The Design-Based Research Collective. (2003). Design-based research: An emerging paradigm for educational inquiry. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 5–8.

Ensminger, D. C. (1999). Using Ely s Conditions During the Instructional Design Process to Increase Success of Implementation. Leadership, 1990a.

Jonassen, D., Cernusca, D., & Ionas, G. (2007). Constructivism and Instructional Design: The Emergence of the Learning Sciences and Design Research. In Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Stolovitch, H. D. (2007). The Development and Evolution of Human Performance Improvement. In Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Straub, E. T. (2009). Understanding Technology Adoption: Theory and Future Directions for Informal Learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 625 -649.

Surry, D. W., & Ely, D. P. (2007). Adoption, Diffusion, Implementation, and Institutionalization of Instructional Innovations. In Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

A New Understanding of Constructivism


A recent move back to Athens, Georgia and the start of my doctoral program in Learning, Design, and Technology has caused me to reflect on what “knowing” means to me and more importantly the assumptions/lenses through which I view the world. I’ve always wondered if the blue I see is the same blue another might perceive. This is one question science will never be able to empirically test. I’m happy for this simple mystery.

In a qualitative research class, I have been asked to reflect on my beliefs about epistemology (what is knowing?). We bring certain assumptions with us as researchers and it is thought best to be upfront with such things because it will most likely determine the type of research we find important. It not only affects the methodologies we are drawn to, but the way we design studies and even our interpretations of them. I have been told that quantitative data is less interpretivist because it deals with numbers, “hard facts.” I do not believe this to be the case anymore, as numbers cannot explain the human condition and are limited in the context in which they were formed. I don’t mean to say that we can’t talk about 2 apples and both have the same mental image, just that empirical evidence is skewed from the onset as we make assumptions to base “evidence” on.

I don’t want to sound too philosophical and I realize that all my blabbering is only my perception anyways. I have been more interested lately in the idea of constructivism and the ways people around me interpret this world. As a teacher, I have always viewed constructivism as a way of teaching and setting up learning situations. The basic premise: we all construct our own understanding/knowledge through interacting with our environment. (Versus instructivism…knowledge is given to one, usually from a teacher.) I’ve never been a fan of traditional teaching and see it as a waste of time. I’m sure there are points in time where we hope that learning happens through this “transmission,” and I’m sure something happens…it just seems bland and boring. I can only imagine what it seems to kids today who are inundated with multimedia stimulation.

Recently, I found out that constructivism is actually considered to be an epistemology, it is a way to describe how we come to know things. It isn’t really a way of teaching. Even so, if you believe that we construct our understandings through our interaction with the world, there are fundamental ideas teachers should consider:

1. Piaget talks about Assimilation and Accommodation in learners. As we teach students, they are either going to assimilate new experiences into their existing schema because it works or they are going to accommodate their existing schema to make room from the new experience. Worst, they don’t see something fitting in to their existing schema, so continue to carry on an incomplete/maybe faulty schema. As teachers, we have to create experiences that allow students to assimilate and accommodate the world. This can be hard! We want to hold fast to our beliefs and we need multiple experiences to see that our present schema may need adjusting.

2. Vygotsky emphasized the social environment as a facilitator of development and learning, stressing the interaction of interpersonal (social), cultural-historical, and individual factors as the key to human development.  Through these interactions, we learn the habits of our culture through which we derive meaning and which affects our construction of knowledge.

Just recently I had to create a power point for a psychology class. I decided to present about the implications of constructivism for teaching problem solving in mathematics. I started to dig up some interesting ideas about constructivism that I want to share. I had no idea there were so many “sects.” I also didn’t know there existed a community of radical constructivists, who see this idea permeating every aspect of being. I’m not going to go into detail here, but I think this website is a great place to start:

The Key to Radical Constructivism (and others)

Reflecting and Learning Podcast: Part 1

Thing 23: Reflecting on K12 Learning 2.0 Course

This will be my last blog about the K12 Learning 2.0 Course. My journey over the past few months has been filled with excitement and frustration. Colleagues at school have been asking me about the course and wondering if it is worth their time. I find myself urging them to dedicate their limited time with this endeavor. Not only did I learn a tremendous amount and reap immediate benefits in my teaching, I enjoyed the on-line format and ability to choose the best time to engage in this learning. I always finish what I start, so I had no worries about completing the course work, although there were times when I felt a little overwhelmed. Learning independently can be frustrating at times, but with persistence, not impossible.

My next steps unfortunately take me out of the classroom. I am going to be starting graduate school at the University of Georgia. I feel this course will benefit me greatly as my studies are in Learning, Design, and Technology. I look forward to creating new tools for future classrooms and would love feedback or ideas.