Dr. Paul Leslie

Dr. Paul Leslie

In my last post, I wrote about digital literacy and the mundane idea of document storage. The point, which I may not have actually mentioned, is that we need to be able to make our thinking visible to others. I have written about this topic several times (here and here for starters). 

In the video below, Steven Johnson comments at about 3:45 that an idea is not a single thing, but rather a network. This is interesting but might be a bit misleading. We can debate the existence of complex ideas or simple ideas, but nevertheless I think that individual ideas exist and can be externalized into a visible format through the use of media to create meaningful narratives of learning. 

narratives of learning

We then take those ideas and string them together into networks of ideas. In the video, Steven Johnson talks about several notions surrounding the question, where do good ideas come from, including the 'slow hunch'. But, basically he says good ideas come from people sharing their ideas with others and beating them about, and bashing them against others' ideas and preconceptions about the world. He concludes by saying that, "Chance favours the connected mind". 

So, how do we share our ideas more effectively with those around us and how do get others to share their ideas with us.

Watch the video...

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 20:23

Digital Literacy

I am working with my new team at WSU to review and find means of helping students to manage the many varied tasks and challenges involved in being a successful learner. One of the issues that has arisen in my work is the challenge of managing our documents and pieces of information. Document storage may seem like the epitome of mundane tasks, but I consider documents to be physical repositories (even with virtual or soft copy documents) of our ideas. Hence, storage and nomenclature become second only to the contents of the documents. If we cannot find each other’s ideas, then we are poorer for that.

An integrated approach to file storage and naming can serve a number of purposes. The architecture alone of a clear folder system can indicate the relevance or documents without even having to open a document. Document retrieval is also greatly enhanced, almost as a side effect, although we might argue that said retrieval is the primary purpose of a clear filing protocol. Often, we start be trying to find one document and end up looking in a dozen different places for it.


However, ideally, we want to start with a dozen different carefully itemized locations and quickly delve into the exact location for the one document we want to find.

folders reversed

However, the most important effect of being able to efficiently access our documents is to enhance our ability to access our ideas. As I have noted elsewhere, one form of practice for practitioners and / or students is to begin to wrestle with the myriad ill-structured domains of knowledge that they encounter in their daily professional life and employ what Jacobson and Spiro (1993) term, ‘cognitive flexibility’ to put their ideas into an accessible format that can be viewed and shared by other people. This practice will enable the practitioner to begin to both actively and passively share their ideas more readily and easily with their community of inquiry and, almost as a by-product, and with little tampering, provide a high-stakes showcase of competencies.

Similarly, in the process of epistemological curiosity, the practitioner can employ a portfolio approach that allows him or her opportunities to “assemble relevant abstract conceptual and case-specific knowledge components” (Jacobsen & Spiro, 1993, p. 3), better explain or organize those knowledge components, and then hold and examine them, almost as concrete objects, before putting them out into the world.

When considering whether new forms of media can alter our ways of thinking, we can reflect on McLuhan’s (1964) argument that the “medium is the message”. How do the new possibilities of the social media and web 2.0 technologies influence our abilities to share ideas? As years’ worth of students have told me, “I am doing it in my head”, ‘it’ being planning, outlining, organizing, preparing for assessments, and otherwise being a student. This is also true for practitioners or academics. ‘Doing it in our heads’ is certainly possible, how do others can access those ideas that are in our heads. With 21st century tools, practitioners can now be much more efficient in sharing their ideas with their community and stakeholders and thus creating the possibilities for growth.


Jacobsen, M., & Spiro, R. (1993). Hypertext Learning Environments, Cognitive Flexibility, and the Transfer of Complex Knowledge: An Empirical Investigation. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Center for the Study of Reading. Champaign, Illinois: College of education. Retrieved September 7, 2014, from https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/17752/ctrstreadtechrepv01993i00573_opt.pdf?sequence=1

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media. Cornwall: Routledge.

Spiro, R. J. (1993). Cognitive Flexibility, Constructivism, and Hypertext: Random Access Instruction for Advanced Knowledge Acquisition in Ill-Structured Domains. Institute for Learning Technologies. http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/publications/papers/Spiro.html 

Monday, 20 June 2016 20:22

Goals - WSU - 2016

I have always advocated a goals oriented approach to my work. Similarly to my approach to assessments and curriculum map[ping in which I always try to clarify for students why they are doing any particular work in the classroom by mapping it to the assessments and the course outcomes, I also think it is important to map my own work to the larger strategic plans of the department or faculty with whom I am working.

Please take time to preview some of the work I have been doing. I am always trying to find new ways to collaborate, share my work and make my thinking visible to others.

Open Documents Folder

Well, after an intense job search, I have been appointed as Curriculum Adviser at Western Sydney University. I am thrilled to be here and am digging to the work ahead of me.

western sydney university building

I am not quite sure of the role my portfolio and site will play in my new position, but will explore every opportunity.

Engagement in teaching and learning activities is about the best we can hope for when planning our teaching and learning activities. Much has been written on whether or not we can actually teach someone something, or whether we can only create the conditions under which people can then learn something on their own. 

In my own experience, I follow the words of Paulo Freire who tells us that the responsibility of the educator is to create the conditions for critical engagement and learning. This means that we must provide the right environment in which our students can flourish. In my work with my own students as teacher trainees, I have worked with the Community of Inquiry Model which provides guidelines for the conditions we must create in order to foster learning. I have written about this model extensively in conjunction with my research.

My main focus when observing teachers in their classrooms is to determine if the students are engaged with the activities and the content. If they are, then the teacher is achieving his or her goals.

Scroll down to see the presentation

Thursday, 17 March 2016 16:19

Engage your audience

I am currently participating in a Poll Everywhere webinar. They are using the 'GoToWebinar' software, which seems to be quite effective. In the past few weeks I have used Skype, Zoom and GoToMeeting for different online group activities. Today, as I watch and participate in the activities, I am struck by how powerful the simple act of getting people to perform small tasks can be to capture our focus and attention.

poll ev

During the webinar, they were able to bring us into the conversation through a variety of options. One was to allow questions on the side as we watched the presentation. In this instance, the moderator / presenter needed to be careful to actually check the question box to make sure that the audience questions were answered in a timely fashion and in context of what was happening on the screen. I asked a couple questions and the moderator actually noted that, "Paul asked the following question, ...". This lets me know that I am being heard and the quick response and full answer was very useful. In this example, the moderator was using text messaging to let people respond and so, since I am in Canada, I did not want to send a text and asked about this. He was able to show how others could answer via text from almost anywhere in the world and not incur large charges on their phone.

By asking questions in a timely manner, he was able to keep the presentation moving smoothly and get a large number of people to respond properly to the answers. In many cases, the success of the polls is highly dependent on everyone answering so that there is an abundance od data and ideas being shared which can then be rolled back into the presentation. This may seem obvious, but the importance of this must be stressed.

As each poll is finished, there are a number of options for retrieving and preserving the date. The most simple means is to capture a screen shot of the poll. The poll does let you create a lovely screen shot or a downloadable slide which can then be shared with students or the group afterwards for review. This could be embedded in a Flickr album, if there are numerous slides and then the album could be embedded in a blog or other online 'article' such as might be found in a BlackBoard or Moodle blog or content screen

poll informalself 200

There are actually a wide range of great features including an extensive student response capture feature that integrates with BlackBoard and soon, Moodle. These will allow participation grades as well or a wide range of group activities such as group quizzes with large groups of students. If you have 80 - 100 students, you can put them in groups of 5-7 and then have one recorder for each group to add their response. The answers are more or less immediate and so this could be a very exciting activity. 

One idea that the moderator mentions, and that I have actually done in the past is to get an assistant to help manage the polls from a laptop. As you progress, you can actually activate each poll individually yourself from a mobile device, or you can get a student or teaching assistant to manage the polls from their laptop.

One of the true values of being able to let students or the audience participate in presentations this way can be found in Freire (1996), who states that the truly reflective and liberated educator,

“presents the information to the students for their consideration, reconsiders her own considerations as the students express their own” (p. 62).

express ideas trans

By allowing our audience and students to present their ideas to each other, we allow a sense of teaching presence, which is the ability to ask questions of each other and challenge each other's ideas and perceptions. This creates a sense of cognitive dissonance in which we feel unsure, or out of equilibrium. We are then naturally inclined to then try to adjust our own ideas or those around us by seeking or creating new ideas to allow us to reestablish equilibrium. Knowledge is purpose and that causes us to be engaged.

  teaching presence

Monday, 07 March 2016 13:45

Mobile Learning - EFF 17 and UNESCO

As I listen to the Education Fast Forward webinar, I am very interested and intrigued by many of the comments. I am going to try and capture a few as we go along.

education fast forward logo

One comment came from a content provider in the UK. He noted that despite the fears and hesitations in using mobile technology, over 90% of teachers use mobile devices to access their content. His point was that lets stop worrying about these devices and just get on with it. Similarly, a speaker from India noted that although mobile learning was being piloted all over the country and great efforts being made to use mobiles, they are actually banned in most schools.

Another comment noted that how can we pursue mobile learning if teachers are not familiar themselves with this technology. I tweeted that perhaps teachers could learn with their students. Teaching does not necessarily mean learn first, teach later. Many people are asking about teacher training with mobile learning technology. Others are saying and repeating, just get on with it.

One comment stated that since most people just want to get on with it despite cautions and concerns, he would like to see tweets about how to start using mobiles tomorrow. I tweeted that we could start with our own blogs and try to use features that are mobile friendly. Perhaps that is a good topic for me to pursue on my site?

Screenshot paulleslie site

For example, when putting images in mobile blogs, make sure you use the "alt-text" feature so that screen readers can read the image for blind people or if the image is not loading properly in the many different phones available.


In an effort to offer support to my curriculum vitae - AKA my narrative of learning - over the past 22 years of teaching, I am offering this voiced presentation that discusses my philosophy of teaching and learning and how this philosophy informs both my research and my pedagogy - what I do in the classroom.

Through this presentation, I also endeavor to give a glimpse of my vision of what I hope to achieve in the near future through my research into the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Thursday, 11 February 2016 09:36

Technology in Education - A Second Language?

Linda Liukas, in her Ted Talk, discusses her vision of the future where computer languages become the next second language that children will learn as they grow. She is not the only one. Code.org also offers computer programming lessons that start at age 5 for KG children and then lets them progress up through increasingly complex actions, but all done in informative and interesting ways.

hello ruby 200

In her Ted Talk (below), at 4:32, she comments, "unless we give them (children) tools to build with computers, we are raising only consumers instead of creators". She then goes on to discuss the internet of things and how young children can think of the most amazing uses for computers. 

She also makes a very interesting comments about getting "back to basics". As an advocate of technology in education, I hear this refrain quite often. Lets get back to basics in Education and not worry about all this distracting technology. However, to Linda, back to basics means lets strip away all the layers of wonderful media and get to computer basics - how do they work and what language do they speak?


In the UK, computer programming will start at age 5 and in Nova Scotia, all schools are now using Google Apps and other such tools throughout the school system. These tools are becoming a second language to the students. 

I cannot imagine where all this technology will lead, but I am very excited to find out.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016 07:45

All you need is ... Teachers and Technology

Reading through the regular influx of emails and reports that I receive about Education, Technology and Development, I am struck by a couple of thoughts. One issue is that we have a shortage of teachers. According to the UN Global Education First Initiative report, 

"Globally, we need an additional 1.6 million teachers to achieve universal primary education by 2015. The shortage of teachers, combined with absenteeism and the lack of qualifications, is a major barrier to learning. We need a strong cohort of both female and male teachers who are paid well and respected in their communities." - See more at: http://www.globaleducationfirst.org/219.htm#sthash.LCJxig27.dpuf

© UNESCO, Nicolas Axelrod

The report lists many other issues as well, not least of which is access to supportive technologies and ICT resources. There is a connection between this lack of teachers and the consequent lack of education among these various populations and some of the troubles we experience in parts of the world.

Infographic Quality Education for All Web 200

I also read a significant amount of reports about the use and growth of technology in Education. I am particularly interested in mobile technologies. One reason is that in many parts of the developing world, mobile connectivity is the only option. The UN Mobile Learning site tells us that, "Today over 6 billion people have access to a connected mobile device and for every one person who accesses the internet from a computer two do so from a mobile device." They also note that, "over 90 percent of the [world's] population is blanketed by a mobile network."

At many universities and colleges mobile technology is becoming more readily available to support all sorts of activities. I tweeted this podcast about using an app to support academic advising where the the college advisers could access student data much more quickly and thus have much greater time to actually counsel and not just compile. My point here is that if we are graduating new teachers who cannot manipulate these new tools properly and effectively to support their students, then we need to rethink what we are doing.

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