21st Century Learning

An idea on how to do things differently.

Education faces huge challenges today. To “just teach” is no longer enough. A number of new expectations have rissen along the way. We need to inspire, guide, support and all of this not only cognitively, but also (and ever more so) socio-emotionaly. Also, the world we live in is not static. We are being bombarded with new stimuli that influence our expectations. Being flexible in that kind of society is essential, but how do you learn this? How do you prepare students for a job that is inherently bound to constant change or that doesn’t even exist at the moment? Wat does a person require to actively participate in this world of constant change? The answer can’t be found in a few tips and tricks, but demands a clear vision on how to transfer knowledge and skills and what resources to use in that process.


Experts are looking for new ways to educate students. Not only do they look to the curriculum, but even more so to the way this curriculum is being implemented in the classroom. The rise of schools that adhere to some kind of educational reform is a clear example of this trend. Not only experts, but also parents and students themselves feel that new ways of learning should be looked into, to become proficient in a certain area.

Traditional education still uses a method that has been considered the norm for more than a hundred years. Usually this means that a teacher teaches the curriculum and students memorize this information. Throughout the years, this tactic has been tweaked here and there, but a profound, fundamental change in learning has yet to be considered.

The current model sends children through a linear system where they have to comply to the same standard, regardless of their innate talents. Discussions on the standardized curriculum versus a personalized curriculum is therefor more topical then ever.


In the search for a different model of learning, other needs surface that suggest that pure understanding of knowledge is no longer sufficient. Handling new information creatively or being able to find multiple solutions to a problem appear to be essential.


According to Bloom’s revised taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl 2001), remembering, understanding and applying knowledge is merely the start. Trying to analyze, evaluate and create new information stimulate higher order thinking skills that enable deep learning.

An overview:


This new interpretation of Bloom’s taxonomy clearly demonstrates their usefulness in the classroom. Pure knowledge is no longer the norm, being able to create original content, being flexible, is. This pedagogy also emphasizes working and thinking independently. Students drawing their own conclusions based upon the available information both inside and outside the classroom is important. This is also evident in the professional workspace. The importance of compliant workers that do as they are told is diminishing, but people who are comfortable thinking outside the box to find solutions for our 21st century problems are highly sought after.

This translates into the following skills and attitudes (source: Alberta Education):


The traditional values of pure knowledge gathering and conformity are clearly less prominent. They gave way to more flexible ways of cooperation and creative thinking, combined with digital and social skills. At the moment, these skills are less emphasized in the classroom, yet desirable if students are to be successful in our society.

Other resources

To support this new way of learning, we can use a vast array of different media. Computers, software, books, images, sound clips, newspapers, etc. The difference now is that all these resources are in our pocket. By means of numerous ‘smart’ technology one is able to access this flood of information.

Technology takes it even one step further. They offer interesting ways to create new information, insights based upon what you have learned (cf. Bloom’s revised taxonomy, Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001) and even accommodate teachers to differentiate between students working at different speeds.

These are inspiring times to live in, given the possibilities for education that lie before us. A kind of education that cultivate every individual and every talent.


A particularly actual technology is the tablet. It sets itself apart by its ultra-mobility, flexibility en user friendliness. They find their way into eduction by adding a collection of interesting apps to the equation.


The integration of new technologies demands new didactics. To simply introduce new technologie into an existing environment of education, will never work. The tablet is not a goal in itself. For example, it doesn’t make any sense to digitize a book and put it behind a glass screen in the form of a PDF. It demands a different way of teaching whereby the tablet is used in a supporting way, one that opens up the classroom to the rest of the world.

While thinking of 21st century skills, one can see that tablets lend themselves to developing these qualities. It is more than capable to take on said supporting role and even surpass it, using the proper apps and techniques.

Step by step

In spite of the many advantages of tablets, it is most important to create the proper setting to make this integration successful. Mishra and Koehler’s TPACK-model (2006) clearly explains the question of how to implement new technologies in the classroom.

They speak of three sorts of knowledge that, if combined, create the ideal circumstances for an proper and contemporary learning environment. The domains are: content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and technological knowledge.

The overlap between domains demonstrate a combined knowledge that emphasize different aspects of different courses.

  • Pedagogical Content Knowledge combines the right set of didactics to every lesson contents.
  • Technological Content Knowledge explains how course subject can be influenced by the use of technology.
  • Technological Pedagogical Knowledge gives insight in what way technology can impact the method of teaching.

Finally there is the very hearth of the TPACK-model. It combines content, pedagogy and technology. Mishra and Koehler (2006) articulate it as such:

Quality teaching requires developing a nuanced understanding of the complex relationships between technology, content, and pedagogy, and using this understanding to develop appropriate, context-specific strategies and representations.

Working with smart-technology demands a different workflow. In preparation of this integration one has to really consider all options. Where lie the advantages in using the device in the learning process? How can technology help achieve deeper learning? Which learning activities stimulate analyzing, evaluating and creating new knowledge. Start by looking for simple opportunities that can be enhanced by technology. These can grow (at a pace you are comfortable with) into larger class projects that can even differentiate between students of different speeds. Giving extra support those who are struggling and challenging students who are ahead.

It’s important that students receive proper support in this kind of endeavor so that they too can grow in use the technology for their assignments. Some like to work via audio-visual media, others love to pick up their (digital) pen. Providing freedom of choice of tools they work with can stimulate individual talents and reveal opportunities for personal remedial teaching.

Finally, remember to give parents a voice in the project. They too are eager to be involved in their child’s education. Where we used to have a primarily one-way form of communication from the teacher to the parents by means of notes, rapport cards, parent-teacher appointments, etc. current technology provides the means to let parents take a closer look at the evolution of their child. They  can have a front row seat to their educational career. Communications in dialog instead of a one-sided statement of facts.

Implementing technology in the classroom is no small step. Communication about what is going on, involves all the partners mentioned above. Everyone should feel they can have a say or ask questions. This involves being open to criticism and resistance, offering support in whatever shape or form is needed, but most of all building a solid vision of what it is your organization is trying to achieve.

Let this be an opportunity to look for a project that enables talent. Find the courage to do things differently. Not only because it’s fun and challenging, but also because it’s necessary!


  • ANDERSON, L.W., & KRATHWOHL, D. R. (EdS.), e.a. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York, Longman.
  • BLOOM, B.S. (Ed.), ENGELHART, M.D., FURST, E.J., HILL, W.H., & KRATHWOHL, D.R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. New York, David McKay Company.
  • MISHRA, P. and KOEHLER, M.J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054.
  • ROBINSON, K. (2006). School kills creativity. [online]. Van TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html
  • ROBINSON, K. (2010). Changing education paradigms. [online]. Van RSA Animate: https://youtu.be/zDZFcDGpL4U
  • VOORWINDEN, R. (2016). Model van 21ste eeuwse vaardigheden. [online]. Van kennisnet.nl: https://www.kennisnet.nl/artikel/nieuw-model-21e-eeuwse-vaardigheden/

Apple Education Leadership Summit 2016

My very first Apple Summit! I was invited for this venue as part of an iPad-project I’m currently developing for the institute I work at. It’s our first year of equipping students with iPads and actively integrating them in the classroom. Our local Apple Premium Reseller and Education Solution Expert is helping our school in this endeavour and asked me to participate in this global community of educators.


Once enrolled, I counted the days to this extraordinary summit. To prepare for the event, Apple sent me an email containing a link to an iTunesU course. This thing was packed with information about their vision on education, the changes we need to implement, different pedagogies that advocate a technology enhanced way of learning and so on. It made for a very enriching preparation that effectively set the stage for what was to come.

And then the day came to set out on this adventure…

I travelled to London with a small group of teachers from different parts of the country and the resellers’ education managers. First of, was a visit to the Richard Challoner School, who have been working with iPads for quite some time now. They described their process of implementing the devices and invited us to have a look at a couple of classes in session. It was very interesting to see how this school made use of the iPad and how the students benefitted from that.

We got the rest of the afternoon off for some leasure time. During a stroll through London, I tried to organize my thoughts about some of the things I had seen. As a teacher, I constantly try to translate new ideas to my own classroom. Some of them work out, others don’t. But that’s part the journey: figuring out what will work for you!

While visiting the Apple Store at Covent Garden I was overwhelmed by a very positive vibe that filled the place. Somehow, just being there kindled a sense of eager anticipation. How was I to know that the philosophy at the very heart of this company, would be unveiled to me the next day… well, at least just a tiny bit…

apple store covent garden

D-day. We walked over to King’s Place and registered at the event. Equiped with a badge and a customized iPad, I entered the main exhibition area where teachers and students were demonstrating different skills using iPads. After some fiddling around with the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil — I was thoroughly impressed — I proceeded to a couple of students who were demonstrating capturing video with a green screen. I had read about this more than once, but always kind of dismissed the potential of this activity. Not this time! Seeing the kids in action, without any help of the teacher, was impressive. I hope to try this out in my classroom in the foreseeable future.

Big Ideas

Mark Nichols talked about ‘Big Ideas’. He asked us to think about what drives us. What big ideas would we like to see become reality? Personally, I would love to see a revolution in education into a 21st century environment for open learning — I think that qualifies as a ‘big idea’…

He continued with the possible challenges when trying out your big idea. He stressed the importance of a common language. Thinking about what words to use to describe the change you want to implement proved very important. Words can have different meanings for different people, so making sure you are ‘on the same page’ creates the foundation for a good collaboration.

Finally, Mark showed us how to take action. How do you actually implement your big idea? He told us to worry about the ‘why’. The what, where and when will take care of themselves, but make sure you know why you want to do something. Investigate, network design and don’t be afraid to fail!

Break-out Sessions

During our first break-out session I got to know the river Thames from a historical, geographical and economical point of view. Using GarageBand, Maps, the Camera app, Explain Everything and Keynote a somewhat ‘traditional’ subject was enriched by the iPad, in such a way that students were both stimulated to learn and challenged to think for their own. Very impressive!

The second one thought me a couple of things about the iPad’s built-in possibilities for visually impaired students, students with dyslexia, highly gifted students and students that speak a different language but are otherwise at their age-level. In the settings menu a lot of visual and speach related options provide the necessary accessebility. It was evidence of how empowering the iPad can be.

One more thing…

To cap it all off, Joel Podolny, vice president and dean of Apple University, explained to us what makes Apple Apple…

Starting with the WWDC2013 introduction video, we were taken, word by word, through the process of how Apple works.

if everyone is busy making everything, how can anyone perfect anything? we start to confuse convenience with joy, abundance with choice. designing something requires focus. the first thing we ask is what do we want people to feel? delight, surprise, love, connection. then we begin to craft around our intention. it takes time…there are a thousand no’s for every yes. we simplify, we perfect, we start over until every thing we touch enhances each life it touches. only then do we sign our work.

What do you want people to feel? Apple pays a lot of attention to emotion. For example, Joel told us that when you open the box of a new iPhone, due to the sucktion it creates, the process takes about 5 seconds for it to open. Why? Because it builds up your anticipation for what’s inside the box. It’s like opening a Christmas present. And this is just one of the examples that demonstrate the level of attention to emotion and detail that goes in to creating the best user experience, from opening the box to using the product.

Empowerment is another thing Apple invests in. This is best shown in the 2013 Christmas Add ‘Misunderstood’.

In this beautiful add, it is made clear that Apple looks for empowerment through creativity, not through productivity. Enabling people to do things that ‘just work’, without the hassle of figuring out how to do them is key. Technology…

…for the rest of us

Lastly, he talked about simplicity, which is a very thing hard to do. Yet, simplicity creates intuitiveness. The reason behind the one-button mouse is a great example to illustrate this. Chosing the easier one-button approach instead of the more powerful multi-button device.

Joel added one more feature about Apple’s philosophy: beauty. For me, this is probably one of the most important aspects of Apple’s way of doing things. Not settling for the average box, but going the extra mile to put time and effort in the things you sometimes can’t even see.

joel podolny

So, what does this amazing story bring to education? As Steve Jobs placed Apple at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts, the philosophy that they place at the heart of their company is, I think, transferable. In education, we can learn from this. We can take away these core ethics and embrace them in the way we teach.

  • What do you want teachers and students to feel?
  • What about the educational experience supports (or detracts) from those feelings?
  • As leaders, what can you do to shape the educational experience so that it evokes the desired feelings?

I left the summit invigorated, wanting to double my efforts to enable the change I talked about earlier. I felt rekindled, enriched. And the biggest reason for this was this incredible positive atmosphere that was present at the summit. You could feel the opportunities opening up. Everyone was so engaged. This is something that I crave for constantly. I need an environment where a person just by being there, is sparked into having great ideas. A place where you are challenged to create, change, make your mark…

TELIC Conference 2015

Yesterday, I attended the 11th TELIC conference at Hasselt – Belgium. It’s a gathering of students and graduates from the Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change MSc. course at Sheffield-Hallam University. We come together to talk about new theories and tools in the field of education and technology. This year the main subject was MOOCs, accompanied by a couple of practical sessions on a wide range of insights from the community members. Yesterday proved another successful edition.
A while back we got the unfortunate news that SHU will no longer be offering the TELIC-course which got us thinking about keeping our community (of about a hundred people) alive. With a repository of 84 dissertations and experts in a wide range of fields (educational, technological, pedagogical …), we felt the need to go on with our research and find ways to share this knowledge in a more open way. Therefor the TELIC community will be publishing its first journal: “The Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change” – ISSN (online) 2049-7385. Through this journal, you will get the opportunity to access the community’s work.

Scaling Down – One Year On…

Exactly one year ago I wrote about scaling down the number of apps/tools I wanted to use (link). I came up with this list:
  • Social Media: Twitter, LinkedIn
  • News Aggregators: Flipboard, Zite
  • Blogging Platform: WordPress
  • Cloud Storage/Note-taking: Dropbox, Evernote
As this is a constant work in progress, I wanted to take the time to give you an update and the benefits and struggles I’ve encountered…
Today my list is as follow:
  • Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram
  • News Aggregators: Flipboard, Pinterest
  • Blogging Platform: Postach.io
  • Cloud Storage/Note-taking: Dropbox, Evernote
  • Journaling: Day One
What has happened?
Facebook is back on the list and Instagram joined as well. As I described last time, I tried to drop FB because I didn’t use the service that much and strived for one platform. In reality this proved difficult, because of certain links I didn’t want to lose, but also didn’t exist on other platforms. Second, I found that working with one platform for all my communications and social links, proved counter-productive. Why? One word: context! Let me explain by describing how I use the different platforms today. Twitter still is my primary social medium, and probably will be for a long time. I like the way information keeps finding me (instead of the other way around) and how convenient it is to use. I still have a BIG problem with Twitter still not showing all the search results when looking for a certain hashtag for instance. I use it primarily for my professional relations. Everything concerning education and technology will probably be in my Twitter-account.
Facebook re-joined the club because now this is the place for my “personal” relations. I connect to friends and family that primarily have a non-professional link to me. People whom I like to connect with on a personal, casual level.
Off course there is some overlap. I follow a number of musicians on Twitter as well. Just like I also created a couple of FB-groups to connect with my students and co-workers. The goal is to get things done, regardless of the platform I’m using, so sometimes exceptions must be made.
Instagram joined the club because I really wanted a place to post my photos. I didn’t want a huge library like Flickr, but looked for an easy way to share my love for photography. I decided to create a closed account, so I have total control over who gets to see my images, and who doesn’t. Again, the primary reason is that I’m looking for more personal connections here.
Pinterest comes and goes, but is here to stay for a while now. I used the service a couple of times, especially in the classroom, but always quit my personal boards. Today, taking on a more casual approach, I use it to share information with my students through one board and use the others just to gather information for personal temporary project/interests.
WordPress has lost its battle. I’ve been using the blogging-platform for some time now. I even hosted my own site for a while, but a number of glitches made me switch to a more simpler way of sharing information. I have decided to go all-in with Postach.io. This service has a lot of potential if you’re an Evernote-user like me. It’s so easy to be able to blog from the same place that I primarily use to work. Although not without its flaws (there are some syncing issues once and a while), I like the simplicity and the straightforwardness of it. I must admit I have looked for alternatives like Medium and SquareSpace as well and while they have a certain appeal, I decided that a smooth workflow would be better for my needs.
Although Evernote would be perfect for my journalling needs, I opted for another app called One Day. This gorgeous app is so easy to use on my iPhone and provides me with a separate space for my innermost thoughts that I gave up using Evernote for this specific task. It is like entering a quiet place to reflect on the day and just write about whatever I want. Evernote has a different vibe…
My Google and Microsoft accounts are forever out the window. Not because they are bad services but just because we live in a platform-based world nowadays. I am completely immersed in an Apple environment (Mac, iPad, iPhone), which offers me a lot of tools and services to communicate, collect, create and share information and most of all automatically sync’s all this data on all my devices seamlessly. Working with multiple platforms at a time, cripples this workflow.
Platforms vs services
Where you used to choose for app A, B and C, people (like me) tend to base these choices on the platform they are on, which is normal and perfectly okay. I just wish that the different platforms were more compatible. I’m well aware that I’m shooting for the moon right now, but wouldn’t it be great if I could start a document in Pages on my iPhone, share it with my students who edit it in Google Docs or Microsoft OneDrive? Luckily there are different ways of sharing documents with people outside of the service but to enable a good workflow you should be able to import any document into any service. It’s just like email. In the early days you could only send an email to people off the same provider (ex. AOL to AOL). Now, we can communicate with everybody, without the need for multiple accounts. This shift from closed platforms to open protocols should happen on a wider scale. I know this is not going to happen any time soon, but I would love to see services evolve towards this kind of utopia.
Feel free to share your experiences!

DS The End

I’ve passed my dissertation and therefore my master in Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change at Sheffield-Hallam University. It has been an incredible ride! I learned a lot, met interesting people and gained a better understanding about technology and education. I still want to expand my knowledge and experience, but I’m glad that this part of my journey is complete.

I’m proud of my work. I got to write about the things I hold very dear and want to see used in education in a more balanced way than is now the case. My research on the connected educator made me think about the process of implementing technology and especially the necessary skills teachers need to have. A different mindset about how we will teach and what is to be expected of our students is one of the things I found to be very important. 21st skill are different from last century’s. We do need to consider using different tools to prepare our students for that new world that is emerging. So, try to connect to other interesting people out there through various social media. Engage with them. Ask questions. Experiment in your own classroom and try to do “the other thing”. It’s worth the effort, you’ll see!

DS Submission Time

That’s it! My work is done. After painstakingly constructing and adjusting my dissertation, I have finally submitted.

A big thank you to everybody involved, without you this could not have been possible.
This ride has been epic! Never having done this before, I’m proud that I’ve reached the end of the line. Working on my dissertation was very educating and exposed me to many different theories and opinions that will have forever changed me. My future educational work will never be the same, in fact, I feel encouraged to continue the search for a different kind of education.

DS Tutorial 3

Submitting my first draft was an empowering feeling. I felt like I had accomplished something. Proud of my work, I awaited prof. Merchants remarks. He was pleased with the results so far, but also had some suggestions for improving my work. We talked about the literature review, referencing and trimming down the rough edges of the text. Next up was my research itself. It was made clear to me that I needed to divide my work into sections as to create a better picture of what I had done, why I had done it and what the results were. I sort of got most of that in my first draft, but all this information needed its own place. We discussed how I should be going about that and came to an understanding.
These tutorials truly are an important part of this dissertation. I always feel that talking with someone who has a fresh and unbiased view on it, puts everything into perspective. I tend to notice my own flaws while discussing the overall work with the professor. Reflecting on what I have already done, also proved interesting since I needed to keep track of everything. This in itself, creating this roadmap, was also an important step in the creation process. It offered clarity and a purpose.
Currently working on the last pieces of text for my final draft and at the end of the month, the TELIC course will come to an end.