Pedagogical innovation using technology: Owston’s explanatory model of sustainability

Contextual factors that sustain innovative pedagogical practice using technology

There are many models for change; however, Owston’s paper is one that I keep revisiting and sharing. A few years ago @sbradshaw and I presented this model through the lens of two  innovations that we had brought in at WAB as we looked for reasons for the success of our 1:1 laptop program and our failure with Interactive Whiteboards.

This is a quick post what will act as a place for me to find and revisit this paper and graphic.


Pedagogical innovation—whether involving technology or not—is shaped by a complex interaction of the innovation with contextual factors such as school and school district policy, leadership, cultural norms and values, teacher attitudes and skills, and student characteristics. This study examined school and classroom contexts in which pedagogical innovations employing technology were successfully sustained. Data were obtained from 59 cases drawn from the Second Information Technology in Education Study—Module 2, a project that examined 174 cases of innovative pedagogical practice in schools in 28 countries. An explanatory model of sustainability was derived from a qualitative analysis of the cases using grounded theory techniques. Essential conditions for the sustainability of classroom innovation were teacher and student support of the innovation, teacher perceived value of the innovation, teacher professional development, and principal approval. Contributing factors for sustainability were supportive plans and policies, funding, innovation champions, and internal and external recognition and support.


Owston, R. (2007). Contextual factors that sustain innovative pedagogical practice using technology: An international study. Journal of Educational Change (Vol. 8).

Case Study Proposal: The Affordances of Digital Tools for the Self-Directed Learner


The Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) defines self-directed learning as ‘teaching students how to learn for themselves . . . [where] learners take responsibility to set goals, access resources and choose strategies for learning’ (2016, para. 2). To support the shift towards a culture of self-directed learning (SDL), high school students are provided with many opportunities for SDL experiences such as three 70-minute blocks of non-contract time in school each week. McLoughlin & Lee (2010) suggest learning technologies in conjunction with appropriate strategies afford greater agency to the student by allowing autonomy, a key characteristic of SDL (Du Toit-Brits & Van Zyl, 2017) through, for example, the promotion of social and participatory learning experiences and the use of rich digital media. WAB is technology-rich school where students and faculty have access to a wide range of digital tools and systems, many of which could or have already been purposely configured to support self-directed learning experiences.

Research Question

How, and to what extent, can digital tools support self-directed learning experiences in a high school?

Expected Outcomes

  1. Insight into the characteristics and attitudes of a self-directed learner (Du Toit-Brits & Van Zyl, 2017).
  2. An understanding of the types of digital tools, in conjunction with appropriate strategies, that support self directed learning experiences (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010; Robertson, 2011; Song & Hill, 2007) leading to the creation of a SDL Digital Tools & Strategies Map.
  3. Exploration of what and how digital tools currently support students involved in SDL at WAB.
  4. Insight into the challenges and barriers faced by students in using digital tools to support SDL in general and specifically at WAB (Lee, Tsai, Chai, & Koh, 2014).
  5. Recommendations to promote the use of digital tools at WAB, and potentially for high schools in general, to support self-directed learning that may include new tools, coaching and training for teachers and students, repurposing existing tools, training guides.

Proposed Research Plan

Dates Tasks Resources
Aug 11 Submit case study proposal submission

Continue literature review/scan to define self-directed learning and the general features, skills and/or characteristics.

Journals, blogs
Aug 20 Continue literature review/scan

Formulate draft of SDL definition and skills for SDL

Discuss with WAB curriculum leaders (f2f) and with PLN (online)

Refine SDL definition and skills.

Participatory research may include: use of Twitter for discussion, posting of blog post for feedback from PLN, face-to-face interviews.
Aug 27 Create SDL Digital Tool & Strategies Map: Use secondary research and consult with PLN to create map of types of digital tools and strategies to support skills for SDL

Compile list of digital tools at WAB that support SDL Digital Tool & Strategies Map.

Consult literature and PLN for SDL Digital Tool & Strategies Map.

At WAB: Interview(s) with eLearning team, IT support and other experts

Sep 3 Conduct interviews with 3-4 students to confirm/test WAB digital tool kit and to add further suggestions from students.

Analyse data to create a survey

Students TBD
Sep 10 – 17 Disseminate survey to student group and collect data Student group TBD

O365 forms

Sep 24 CHINA STUDIES WEEK – No students on campus
Oct 1 – 11 Analyse data, write up findings and after discussions with experts, determine the recommendations

Final edit and proofing of report

Oct 11 Submit Case Study Report


Du Toit-Brits, C., & Van Zyl, C.-M. (2017). Self-directed learning characteristics: making learning personal, empowering and successful. Africa Education Review, 1–20.

Lee, K., Tsai, P.-S., Chai, C. S., & Koh, J. H. L. (2014). Students’ perceptions of self-directed learning and collaborative learning with and without technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(5), 425–437.

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. W. (2010). Personalised and self-regulated learning in the Web2.0 era: International exemplars of innovative pedagogy using social software. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(1), 28–43.

Robertson, J. (2011). The educational affordances of blogs for self-directed learning. Computers and Education, 57(2), 1628–1644.

Song, L., & Hill, J. R. (2007). A Conceptual Model for Understanding Self-Directed Learning in Online Environments. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 6(1), 27–42.

Western Academy of Beijing (Ed.). (2016). Targets. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from

Image from:

Embarking on a Case Study: Looking at Self-Directed Learning (SDL)

I am presenting a case study for my final assignment in my final subject in my MEd KNDI where I will be examining the extent to which our students entering the High School are prepared for self-directed learning (SDL). The following are some of my reflections as I start this journey.

Interpretation: an essential component of research

One of the first preparation readings provides good examples to show what research is and, more importantly, what it isn’t. I know that I need to learn more about SDL and as tempted as I am to suggest that a quick scan of journals and websites might be described as research, in reality this is just a quick dive or perhaps ‘information discovery’ (Leedy P. & Ormrod, 2013, p. 1). As I rummage around further in the readings to cobble together a better understanding of SDL, this is still not research but an ‘exercise in self-enlightenment’ (p. 2). Even when I pull out and begin to form a list of characteristic and features of a self-directed learner, this is still not research but perhaps more aptly described as ‘fact organisation’ (p. 2). According to Leedy & Ormrod (2013), the essence of research is the interpretation which is something I have yet to do with this data.

Cognation vs Metacognition

In my readings, I discover that both cognitive and metacognitive strategies are both important characteristics of SDL. What, therefore, is the difference between these two terms? A great example is given here on a website (Cognition vs. Metacognition) that does lack authority (see the citation below); however this example was somewhat supported after a another quick scan (Anderson, Betts, Ferris, & Fincham, 2011). A cognitive task may be to use find the sum of a set of numbers. A metacognitive task may be to add the numbers up again. The cognitive task is knowing how to reach the goal, in this case add up the numbers, whereas the metacognitive task is to check that the goal has been reached, in this case check the answer. Therefore, for my case study, I may need to gather data on both cognitive and metacognitive strategies which I will then need to analyse and interpret to determine the level of readiness for SDL.


Anderson, J. R., Betts, S., Ferris, J. L., & Fincham, J. M. (2011). Cognitive and Metacognitive Activity in Mathematical Problem Solving: Prefrontal and Parietal Patterns. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 11(1), 52–67.

Cognition vs. Metacognition. (n.d.). Retrieved August 09, 2017, from

Leedy P., & Ormrod, J. (2013). The nature and tools of research. In Practical research : planning and design (pp. 1–26).

Featured Image:

This entry is an slightly edited version of the post in my CSU blog. 

Making sense: digging deeper, classifying & visualising

I’m on my last subject in my MEd Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation at Charles Sturt University. This week in the readings, the online discussions and the colloquium with Bruce Dixon, I came across a range of terms, concepts and practices that initially seemed unfamiliar to me. It was like these were jigsaw pieces that seemed to have strayed from other puzzles. So I’ve been doing some digging to try to fit these pieces into this dynamic and evolving mental map of my learning and find that many of these were known to me albeit in other guises or ‘unnamed’. Here are some examples:

Socratic Circles Augmented with Technology

The readings touch the use of Twitter in socratic circles, using the tool as a shared platform for ‘back channel’ device for wider commentary. This was certainly something we experienced with in Monday’s colloquium where there was a lot of commentary and questions posed; however, one point to note was from @hunch_box ( about the potential distraction of the back channel in that we may lose our focus on the discussion.

Backchanneling is hard for me, I can only focus on one thing at once. I think research supports this on multitasking?

With socratic circles, the learning experience comes from the inner circle and the discussion in the outer circle moves the class forward through the stages of reflection, self-assessment and goal setting (Copeland, 2005, p. 77). As we experienced in our colloquium, a shift occurs when technology is introduced. Of course this experience was not set up as a traditional socratic seminar; however, we can note that the outer circle discussion was in real time and simultaneous with the inner circle discussion and the inner circle was a mix of slides, oral debate/comments and questions and comments added to the chat. Therefore the chat tool, a key tool for the outer circle, allowed the communication to be synchronous and visible to all participants with far more agility in moving the conversations forward, branching in different directions and, most importantly, perhaps, responding to the needs and questions of the participants. Circling back to the distraction element, if we experienced this in a more traditional setting would the conversation move more quickly? Would we have more or less take-aways? Would our learning experience be more or less richer? This is something I would like to explore with my students in the future.

Visualising Learning

To make connections and make sense of the learning experiences presented to me, I often have to reformat, remix or mash up elements. I wanted to see if there were any central or recurring concepts in our back channel and so took the rtf of the dialogue from the chat of our colloquium with Bruce, removed all the names and any keywords that dealt with the mechanics of the session (for example, sound, thanks, mic) and then put into a word cloud (below). I’m not sure if there is anything significant that stands out in the cloud. Besides the obvious LEARNING, STUDENTS, TEACHERS and SCHOOL, SCAFFOLD prompted me to revisit that non-linear discussion of the challenges of over-scaffolding versus providing new directions for students; likewise, the term FAILURE prompted me to revisit the discussion (just search for FAIL in the rtf and you will see the discussion intermingled with other threads and themes) where the tension was raised between students’ negative perception of failure versus the positive role of failure in the learning process. Overall, for me, sometimes making a conversation visible using a cloud generation tool, such as tagcrowd, can often trigger further thought and connections.

Open Learning
This is a new term for me and was posed in the colloquium and in the discussion forum:

The term ‘open learners’ is replacing the term ‘21st century learners’. What does the term ‘open learners’ mean to you – and is it a useful term?

I am wondering if this is a term that is used widely in Australia or I have missed/ignored it up until now.These are my initial questions:

  1. What is an ‘open learner’?
  2. What are the characteristics of an open learner?
  3. Where did the term come from?
  4. Where is the term being used?
  5. What is the connection (if any) between an open learner and/or open learner models and/or open learning?

Interestingly, others jumped in with some confirming that they too were unclear. Although it’s early days, this certainly is a lively and responsive group and so it’s interesting to note the lack of immediate replies with the exception of a reference to the paper Beyond Learning- as-Usual: Connected Learning among open Learners passed by @lisanash9. Although there was no explicit definition, the initial mini-case study revealed open learning through this example:

Reflective Blogging
The paper from Ross was an interesting but quite challenging read as I struggle with the rich scholarly vocabulary and I want to explore her work further to get a better understanding of the concepts of spectacle and placeholder in reflection. What resonated with me was how she linked tags to wormholes:

Each time I reuse a tag – knowingly or unknowingly – I am producing a link, a wormhole between my experiences and present and someone else’s (which might be a past self) (Ross, 2012, p. 263).

I have had a blog since 2010 but rarely have I used tags effectively although I do revisit posts to see how my thinking has developed or changed over the years. In #inf530, my final assignment (Connectivism in a K-12 Blogging Environment) looked at the role of blogs in a K-12 connectivist learning environment and have since presented this in two k-12 conferences; however, despite the availability of blogs and online environments for learning (in international schools, which is my area of practice), I do think that blogging has a long way to go before we see it as an embedded and sustainable practice with students. As I prepare for the new academic year, I really do want to rethink the approach to blogging with students, by exploring further.

Carfagna, L. (2014). Beyond Learning-As-Usual: Connected Learning Among Open Learners. Irvine, Ca. Retrieved from

Copeland, M. (2005). Socratic circles : fostering critical and creative thinking in middle and high school. Retrieved from

Ross, J. (2012). The spectacle and the placeholder: digital futures for reflective practices in higher education. {…} of the 8th International Conference on {…}, 260–265.

This entry is an slightly edited version of the post in my CSU blog.

Image: Creative Common from

Days 7 & 8: Temples 21 to 23

Lots more walking up to temples and down into valleys and then back up again. Thank goodness for leg support socks, a knee sock and a big stick – protecting my legs on the inside trying not to tear a ligament and on the outside – fear of  those pesky snakes – unlike Crocodile Dundee with me who just wears shorts.

Some wildlife:

And some images around the temples:

And some lovely views now we are at the coast:

Days 5 and 6: I think

The signposting is not great and we’ve got seriously lost in the past couple of days. Yesterday we decided to take a more obscure route over a mountain instead of through a city/town and ended up hiking up and up and thinking we had definitely got higher than 140m and eventually came out on a road and ended up walking for miles down the hill only to find we had gone completely wrong. Damage: about US$25 for about 10km ride! Today was the same, we were supposed to start at temple 18 but somehow missed it and had to come back on ourselves then we did it again at temple 19 and somehow manage to bypass it without noticing in the pouring rain. This time we were given a ride back to the temple from the service station. Then off again to temple 20 and looking forward to getting some snacks at Lawson (like a 7-11) and it was closed! However, one again a young man on his moped helped us out – asked us to wait 5 minutes and went and got his car and drove us 5km to the next 7-11 type store. For our final challenge up to temple 20 – a mere 550m climb – I decided to take my chances on the 5.5km wiggly road and let Stephen race up the 3.5km walking track (more like ladder). I won! I cheated as a kind old man stopped and offered me a lift straight up to the temple door! Had a lovely hour lying on a bench, drying out my shoes and socks and listening to BBC podcasts! Here are a few photos:

Days 3 & 4: From Temple 11 – 13

I have to say that had I known what was in front of me, I would never have done these two days! To get from 11 to 12 was about 12.8km BUT required a three massive consecutive climbs with no break in between. From temple 11 was a climb up to 600+m then down to 500m then back up to 800m then down again this time to 400m then back up to 700+m to temple 12 then another descent to our ryokan at what seemed like below sea level! It was supposed to be about 16km all up – but my iPhone recorded 22.3km. 

Not feeling amused! This was a killer!

The next day was not as bad but slow – we had to do one small climb then the rest of the day on the flat but my legs were sore! 

A lovey Japanese man gave us these bags of lollies and crackers – it was like Christmas!

Day 2: Temples 6 through 11

The health app on my iPhone tells me we walked 21.7km today and 18.6km yesterday. Today we only took day packs as we are staying at the same place. It’s low season and not as many accomodation options so we organised to get picked up and dropped off so we can walk from temple to temple. No rain today either! Shikoku is famous for odon noodles and we had an excellent bowl  at temple 7. It’s super quiet unlike the Camino which was buzzing with pilgrims; however, we are enjoying the peace and quiet. Most of today’s walk was through small villages on the side of the very quiet and narrow lanes. Here are some photos:

Day 1: Our Shikoku Walk

After a minor hiccup (we got on the wrong bus at the airport) we made it in the rain to Tokashima and stayed in a small business hotel – nothing special. This morning we jumped on another bus to start at temple number 1 and then walked about 18km all the way to temple 6.  There are very few people walking and most travel by bus or car around the temples. It’s also the rainy season so we didn’t encounter many people at all. Here are a few pictures from today.

Off On Another Long Walk

We are getting ready for our walk this summer. This time we are off to explore the  Shikoku Henro Trail which is Japan’s famous 88 temple pilgrimage, a 1200km loop around the island of Shikoku. Just getting this blog ready so I can post as we go.