Welcome to my blog! An exploration of teaching and learning in the digital age. I am an educator, Teaching and Learning with Technologies Strategist; and a graduate student who is passionate about pedagogical innovation.  

Leadership in the Pressure Cooker

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

February ninth, I authored Digital leaders wanted: Applications accepted online only in which I reflected upon preferred leadership traits identified by Kouzes and Posner (2012) and postulated that the qualities leaders required for modernized learning environments were evolving.  Sheninger (2019) posited that digital learning environments required digital leaders that would champion the use of digital technologies, which is no surprise to someone in the field, and who walks the tightrope, balancing at the intersection of pedagogy and technology.  Seven weeks have passed since authoring that piece. Upon reflection, I cannot help noting the quirk of fate unfolding, with the presently occurring world events not only permeating through the membrane of ordinary life but also within my work and studies.  Educational technologies have become the popular kids, with institutions and faculty scrambling to shift teaching and learning to remote delivery in the wake of social distancing and campus closures.  These events have impacted and changed my perspective of needed leadership qualities, as the moving parts become increasingly complex, occurring in a time, space, distance, and dollars pressure cooker.  Leaders will continue to require the seminal traits identified by Kouzes and Posner (2012), and digital leadership (Sheninger, 2019) becomes more relevant, as the whole world seemingly realizes the potential of educational technologies.  Also evident to us in the trenches are the enormous gaps that exist, barriers that require project leaders to approach these changes empathetically.

Leaders in this pressure cooker have not had the luxury of time to plan for these changes and implementations strategically.  Plans drafted mere weeks ago, envisioned and detailed on organized Gantt charts (Gantt.com, 2016, para. 1), are suddenly injected with unprecedented urgency as project leaders quickly embrace the transformation of traditional learning environments and re-envision teaching and learning.  The sudden influx of requests from faculty for support in using technologies to support students in meeting course learning outcomes has been a little overwhelming, but we are all muddling through.  I am fortunate that my leaders possess the seminal and digital leadership characteristics identified by Kouzes and Posner (2012), and Sheninger (2019) and who have embraced a collaborative approach, designating each member of the Teaching and Learning Commons as invaluable champions of change.  My role in supporting this change is targeted; nevertheless, it is fluid with the needs of every situation.  Hundreds of faculty and thousands of students; necessitate individualized supports.  Considerations of digital skills and literacies, access, data and security, connectivity, devices, equipment, and readiness (Weiner, 2019) are vital in each situation.  Moving diverse faculty into varying degrees of digital spaces; requires empathy, training, and resources.  I am discovering that being a leader of change in these times demands innovative approaches, collaboration, a positivist attitude, confidence, knowledge, and extreme flexibility.

In recent weeks, our daily interactions have changed, as have our social conventions, our considerations for safety and security, and how we work and learn.  Educational technologies have become the flavour of the day; the popular kids; and instructional designers, strategists, and project leaders are learning in motion how to support this sudden interest.  Perhaps the trick is in triaging want versus need, the emergent continuance of education versus a sudden shift to online learning; maybe the method is the acknowledgement that we are all in this time of change together and must all exhibit the desired characteristic of leaders.

Are you a leader of change in the pressure cooker? What leadership traits do you consider vital in this chaotic and transformational time?


Gantt.com (2016). What Is a Gantt Chart? Gantt Chart Information, History and Software. [online] Retrieved from http://www.gantt.com

Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2012). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sheninger, E. (2019, December). Pillars of Digital Leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from http://leadered.com/pillars-of-digital-leadership/

Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(1), 67. https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67



Adopting Digital Learning Technologies in Higher Ed: Can a Modern Approach to Change Management Positively Impact End-User Perception and Adoption?

As educational institutions move forward with change management initiatives and the implementation of learning technologies to modernize programs, delivery modes, learning experiences, and practices, it arguably becomes necessary for an equally modern approach to the management of these changes.  Contemporary methods, such as design thinking and Appreciative Inquiry (AI), approach change through an empathetic lens that can impact stakeholder perception and drive progress.  Rogers (1969) theory provided strategies for targeting unique characteristics of adopters with varying degrees of openness to innovation and provided specific tactics for encouraging adoption and wide dissemination over time.  A new ePortfolio platform is being procured and implemented within my organization. Influencing the critical mass of end-users (faculty) who are on the spectrum of adoption identified by Rogers (1969), demands the investigation of the potential issues, barriers, and challenges for implementing this innovation.

The issues for implementing change within my organization are seemingly typical, being less about resources and infrastructure; and more about the faculty’s perceptions (Cormier, 2017; Weiner, 2009).  Albeit subjective at this early juncture of collecting and analyzing data, it is predictable that the willingness of faculty to adopt this innovation will be the biggest challenge.  In my role, I often see faculty who are resistant to adopting available digital learning technologies.  Kotter’s (1996) model suggests challenging this ethos of opposition when planning for change.  As the resistance of the laggards is expected, persistence will be required to counter this opposition.  This resistance will necessitate concrete change management strategies that will be vital to the success of the implementation.

As user data surfaces, individual faculty who are late adopters and laggards will be identified, and subsequently targeted.  A crucial step in targeting these cynics will be identifying and sharing tangible and intangible benefits of using this innovation.  This strategy will effectually target the late adopters and laggards that are skeptical and who require strong evidence to sway their perception.  Puentedura’s (2013) SAMR model can be used to provide reluctant faculty with the opportunity to dip their toes in the technological waters, and to adopt the platform at varying depths.  Predicting resistance and identifying strategies to mitigate this opposition and drive adoption is helpful; nevertheless, there will be issues, barriers and challenges not easily predicted that must be identified.

Although the barriers and challenges are yet to be identified, there are other methods of research that can assist with these predictions.  There is one other Canadian educational institution that has implemented this ePortfolio platform, and after reaching out to them, they graciously disclosed lessons learned in the recent implementation; and shared resources and relevant data.  Hearing about this change management initiative has been particularly advantageous in the early planning stages and for informing our approach. The Learning Technology team is building ePortfolios to become familiar with the functionality of the tool and to create examples for the implementation.

Considering the willingness of faculty to integrate learning technologies, and allowing for an empathetic approach to change, I am optimistic that this will soften the challenges and positively impact end-user adoption.

What approach would you use to implement learning technologies in your context? What would be your most significant barriers?


Cormier, D. (2017, December 8) Our schools aren’t broken, they’re hard – Dave’s Educational Blog. davecormier.com/edblog/2017/12/08/our-schools-arent-broken-theyre-hard/

Kotter, J. (1996). Leading change (Professional development collection). Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

Puentedura, R. R. (2013, May 29). SAMR: Moving from enhancement to transformation [Web log post]. www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/000095.html

Rogers, E. (1969). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.

Weiner, B.J. A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Sci 4, 67 (2009). doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67

Change in Digital Learning Environments:Explanatory Text for Associated Infographic

Explanatory Text for Associated Infographic https://infograph.venngage.com/ps/MutbK2e36Q/how-change-is-addressed-in-dles

Strategies, techniques, and frameworks leaders embrace in approaching change for digital learning environments can significantly impact both the process and the outcome. Weiner (2009) delineated the construct of organizational readiness for change and argued that both the collective desire to change and the belief that change was achievable; were needed to support successful change management initiatives. In order to inspire the motivation and confidence that participants require for successful change management efforts, leaders of change in digital learning environments must select an approach that will best support stimulating these mindsets within their context. Biech (2007) explored the underpinnings of change efforts and differentiated theories, strategies, models of change, and approaches that existed, which can, contextually, support varying degrees of success. Selecting appropriate models of change can be challenging with the many theories and frameworks available. Within the context of digital learning environments in higher education, change is inevitable; and there are many scholarly exemplars of successful and unsuccessful leadership and change management efforts. Examining models of change allows for consideration as a project champion in an upcoming change effort, informing curriculum; and supporting integrative learning using ePortfolios.

A change in process and practice through the implementation of a newly adopted ePortfolio platform and a movement away from the currently used platform; will be rolled out within my institution this spring. I will be championing this initiative, providing training and support with the technological aspects of the tool, and supporting best pedagogical practices that foster integrative learning using ePortfolios. Applying Biech’s (2007) funnel stages “From Theories to Approaches” (figure 3-1) within this context, it could arguably be beneficial to support this change initiative using the following approaches;

Table 1

The identified approaches in Table 1, mutually emphasize and holistically address the need for the inclusion of all stakeholders within the organization. Many scholars argued that stakeholder’s perception of change is principal to the success or failure of change management efforts (Kouzes & Posner, 2012; Sheninger, 2019; Weiner, 2009). Gedak (2019) examined and synthesized past change initiatives through introspection and consultations with several colleagues from a variety of roles, with multiple perspectives, and identified determinants for successful and unsuccessful change efforts. Gedak (2019) surveyed additional perspectives from Twitter and LinkedIn users and discovered ubiquitously strong opinions that aligned with some of Kouzes and Posner’s (2012) valued leadership characteristics, including; honesty, communication, and visionary thinking. The relevance of organizations and leaders selecting a suitable approach, contextually, to support the success of change in digital learning environments can not be understated, and equally important is the inclusion of all voices in which the change has an impact.


Biech, E. (2007). Thriving through change: A leader’s practical guide to change mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press. (2007). https://royalroads.skillport.com/skillportfe/assetSummaryPage.action?assetid=RW$1544:_ss_book:22651

Gedak, L. (2020). How Change is Addressed by Leaders in Digital Learning Environments. https://infograph.venngage.com/ps/MutbK2e36Q/how-change-is-addressed-in-dles

Kotter, J. (1996). Leading change (Professional development collection). Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2012). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sheninger, E. (2019, December). Pillars of Digital Leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education. http://leadered.com/pillars-of-digital-leadership/

Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(1), 67. https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67

Managing Change for Learning in Digital Environments

Learning technologies are emerging rapidly in higher education, and institutions are looking to concurrently evolve to maintain relevance and to provide the best digital learning environments.  Al-Haddad and Kotnour (2015) provided a research synthesis for the history of change management and deduced that less than thirty percent of organizational change initiatives are successful.  Being a part of past organizational change initiatives within healthcare and educational contexts, I have witnessed both the successful and unsuccessful processes and products of change management, and I strongly believe that leadership plays an integral role.  There is ample evidence to support that innovative leaders require characteristic skills in order to be successful in driving change initiatives (Sheninger, 2019; Kouzes and Posner, 2012; Kanter, 2000).  Common attributes pin-pointed in these studies included the ability of leaders to be creativeforward-thinking, and to embrace change.  

Managing change for learning in digital environments presents unique challenges.  I work closely with educators from various programs, from certificate to degree, with varying levels of digital literacies and pedagogical understandings, and support them in integrating educational technologies into their practice.  Given the diverse nature of the educators I support, implementing learning technologies requires an individualized approach.  Leaders driving the change for learning in digital environments must recognize this diversity and the importance of the inclusion of educators in the strategic planning process.  Khan and Smuts (2005) studied the barriers of technologyenhanced learning among more than a dozen European educational institutions and discovered that one of the key solutions to abolishing these barriers included support for the integration of technology to support pedagogy.  Educators need opportunities for professional development in both pedagogical approaches and educational technologies.  

Witnessing change from somewhere in the middle, amongst the educators, the students, and the leadership, I believe that in order to truly innovate our culture and to drive the change, those expected to use the innovations need to be included in the process.  Biech (2007) argued that one of the keys to success in promoting change is involving stakeholders at all levels that are impacted by the change and offered several frameworks to support the success of organizational change, including Appreciative Inquiry (AI).  I believe that an AI approach could promote progress in implementing educational technologies within my context, as it includes the voices of all stakeholders. According to Biech (2007), AI identifies the current positives, dreams about what could be, and implements what will be, all the while, from a vantage point of appreciation.  This approach speaks to me as I prefer to approach the challenges of change through a positive lens.  AI is a framework that allows stakeholders to dream; therefore, forwardthinking, creative leaders who embrace educational technologies would be well suited to leading this approach.  More importantly, AI allows for an inclusive process in which all participants collaborate to drive the organizational transformation, which can support successful outcomes in change initiatives.  

What approach do you think your organization should take to manage change for digital learning environments? 


Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: A model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management,28(2), 234-262. doi:10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215 

Biech, E. (2007). Thriving through change: A leader’s practical guide to change mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press. 

Khan, H., & Smuts, R. (2005). Comparison of change management guidelines to address technology adoption barriers: A case study of higher educational institutions. Journal of Theoretical and Applied Information Technology, 97(7), 1999-2020.  

Sheninger, E. (2019, December). Pillars of Digital Leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from http://leadered.com/pillars-of-digital-leadership/ 

Digital Leaders Wanted – Applications Accepted Online Only Please

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

I was recently tasked with peers to rank leadership characteristics and to agree upon; their order of importance from one to twenty.  I anticipated that the process would be challenging, with the influence of schematic knowledge steering participants in different directions.  Nevertheless, our group came to consensus quickly, and our top traits – competence, honesty, intelligence, and fair-mindedness, were congruent. Kouzes and Posner (2012) synthesized decades of their research in leadership development and analyzed data collected from six continents.  Their findings indicated a consensus for the same highly ranked traits of desired leadership characteristics.  These findings were profoundly interesting to me, and I considered if the advancement of educational technologies is impacting the perceived qualities leaders require in twenty-first-century learning environments?

Sheninger (2019) postulated that while the principles of leadership remained intact, digital learning environments required digital leaders that understand and will champion the use of digital technologies.  In the context of higher education, I have witnessed many leaders that are late in the fundamental understandings and adoption of technologies.  These laggards often display the regarded traits identified by Kouzes and Posner (2012) though they still lack digital leadership skills.  In addition to the essential digital literacies required, leaders need to embrace the transformation of traditional learning environments.  Sheninger (2019) provided a framework of seven areas that could support leadership transformation and inform change in school culture.  From my perspective, two of the identified areas could have a tremendous impact on teaching and learning at my institution; opportunity, and re-envisioning learning spaces and environments.

Programs will require modernization, as will educators teaching twenty-first-century learners.  Progressive, digital leaders must find and provide opportunities for professional development to advance existing programs and professional practices.  Educational technologies and applications are ever-evolving, and forward focussed digital leaders acknowledge this advancement and will infinitely search out new resources and training opportunities in pursuit of remaining relevant. Digital leaders will need to provide these professional development opportunities immediately and must anticipate technological progress to prepare and deliver these opportunities.  Sheninger (2019) suggested that digital leaders will also require awareness and understanding of the vilifications that exist surrounding technological innovations.  Many educators scoff at the notion of using social media for teaching and learning, and erroneous beliefs are contributing to the underutilization of mobile devices as a teaching and learning tool. Digital leaders will need to be forward-thinking, savvy, and practical to be successful in achieving academic buy-in.

The re-envisioning of learning spaces and environments will entail comprehensive strategic planning to set priorities and to guide the process.  Sheninger (2019) argued that digital leaders must guide the implementation of the strategic plan to align systems to the digital world.  Institutions are behind in providing digital learning opportunities for students.  Many of the learning spaces within our brick and mortar walls are antiquated and do not support innovative learning opportunities.  Digital leaders require an understanding of the eco-system that configures digital learning environments, including delivery modes and technical tools that support pedagogy.

The International Center for Leadership in Education [Authored by Jones, 2010] created the rigor and relevance framework; an instrument used to analyze curriculum and constructive alignment. Sheninger (2019) has itemized and aligned digital tools with the rigor and relevance framework to support best pedagogical practices.  Digital leaders can rely on these tools to assist them in the quest for institutional culture change. The revitalization of traditional learning spaces and environments is iterative, and digital leaders that are committed to the modernization of education can ultimately achieve a “digital learning culture that is relevant, meaningful, applicable, and provides all students with the skills to succeed” (Sheninger, 2019, para.6)

Are your institutions prepared to modernize? Do you have the digital leaders you need?

Jones, R. (2010). Rigor and relevance handbook (2nd ed.). Rexford, N.Y.: International Center for Leadership in Education.

Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2012). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sheninger, E. (2019, December). Pillars of Digital Leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from http://leadered.com/pillars-of-digital-leadership/


Transparently Immersive Experiences: Predicted Trends in Higher-Ed Using Gartner’s Hype Cycle

Photo credit: Drew Beamer (2019). Sunrise Lensball. Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/xU5Mqq0Chck

Gartner Inc.’s (2016) hype cycle identified three overarching technology trends that organizations need to be aware of in order to compete in the rapidly advancing digital world.  The first identified trend of “transparently immersive experiences” (Gartner Inc., 2016, para. 6), considers the emerging trend of the interwoven relationships occurring between home, workplace, and other contexts, as the advancement of technology becomes more fluid in our worlds.  The report was constructed to inform business leaders in strategic planningnevertheless, the first trend is applicable to the configuration of many higher educational institutions as well, which are prioritizing the incorporation of technology to support pedagogical approaches, and embracing innovative practices to prepare graduates for a rapidly changing world (Dron, 2014; Garrison, 2011).  

Critical technologies that demand consideration are outlined in Gartner Inc.’s (2016) hype cycle, and the connected home as an innovation that provides “connected, real-time, smart and contextual experiences” (Gartner’s Glossary, para.1) is an emerging mega-trend.  Smart home technologies are interconnected, user-controlled, can be accessed remotely, and are integrated to support a wide range of practical and extracurricular functions.  These technological advancements are seeping into home and office, so, how will this impact the learning ecosystem? What changes are need now to prepare immersive experiences that meet the expectations and the needs of our future learners?   


Dron, J. (2014). Chapter 9: Innovation and Change: Changing how we Change. In Zawacki-Richter, O. & Anderson, T. (Eds.), Online distance education: Towards a research agenda. Athabasca, AB: AU Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781927356623.01

Garrison, D. (2011). E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Gartner Inc. (2016). Gartner’s 2016 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Identifies Three Key Trends That Organizations Must Track to Gain Competitive Advantage. Retrieved from https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2016-08-16-gartners-2016-hype-cycle-for-emerging-technologies-identifies-three-key-trends-that-organizations-must-track-to-gain-competitive-advantage 

Gartner Glossary (2016). Connected Home. Retrieved from https://www.gartner.com/en/information-technology/glossary/connected-home 


Institutional Change towards Innovative Practices

Image courtesy of mindwire: https://images.app.goo.gl/b7GP9iZaivSS2xG67

Dron (2014) argued that there have been “rapid and radical changes in teaching and learning technologies” (p.259) over the past ten years and that this wave of innovation will continue to drive changes in education. The author noted that there are many barriers to institutions embracing and utilizing new technologies for learning, and this resonated with me as many obstacles in the ability to select, manage, and interconnect innovative technologies are too often barriers to innovative changes in my organization. Although these abrupt technology changes are occurring, too often, educational institutions are just trying to keep up and are scrambling to re-invent curriculum, activities, and assessment opportunities to provide learners a modernized experience. Annand (2007) postulated that the particular problems of higher education, providing innovative experiences, would not disappear anytime soon and that many academic programs are continuing to operate in conventional, inflexible ways.  In my experience, faculty are all over the spectrum of embracing technology, and not all are incorporating it with pedagogy in mind.  Faculty that are wanting to embrace innovation are often frustrated by the slow crawl our institution is on in supporting authentic, innovative opportunities and spaces. What are the barriers to your institution? Would you consider it to be moving forward, standing still, or going backward?

Annand, D. (2007). Re-organizing universities for the information age. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 8(3)

Dron, J. (2014). Chapter 9: Innovation and Change: Changing how we Change. In Zawacki-Richter, O. & Anderson, T. (Eds.), Online distance education: Towards a research agenda. Athabasca, AB: AU Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781927356623.01

Amplifying All Student Voices and Inclusivity in Digital Learning Communities

Lisa R. Gedak & Leigh McCarthy

Designing and fostering inclusive online learning environments led us to propose the free, web-based platform Flipgrid in our blog post entitled Amplifying All Student Voices and Inclusivity in Digital Learning Communities (Gedak & McCarthy, 2019). The primary purpose of our design-thinking process and subsequent proposed online component was to reduce barriers “to student participation, based on a range of personal and ‘glocal issues’ (Campbell and Schwier, 2014)” (Gedak & McCarthy, 2019, para. 1). Explored through the Hasso Plattner Institute’s design thinking process (Stanford University, 2019), we cross-compared our educational contexts. We explored our direct experience teaching French as a Second Language (FSL) in the K-12 learning environment, and first-year post-secondary courses (Gedak & McCarthy, 2019). We concluded that the problem of students not taking intellectual risks in online communities is cross-generational, and affects many students from both learning contexts (Gedak & McCarthy, 2019, para. 1). We were focused on addressing our concerns about marginalized communities not having a voice in many online learning environments, leading to lower levels of inclusivity and intellectual risk-taking. We identified demographics who often face systems that are not inclusive by design, learning systems that fail to create inclusive learning environments that speak to our instructional design goals of this assignment (Black & Hachkowski, 2019; Davis, 2015; Eliason & Turalba, 2019; Gedak & McCarthy, 2019; Westwood, 2015). This critique of our proposed online component of Flipgrid was shaped by our synthesis and reflections through the lenses of our peers’ feedback, and an ongoing focus on our learners’ needs, assessment practices, empathetic, and participatory design. Our evaluation of our proposed online component of Flipgrid is neither entirely negative or positive, but a mixed evaluation, determined at this point through a reflective dialogic process (synchronous and asynchronous), and the aforementioned, essential feedback from our peers.

The feedback from our peers identified two mutual and resounding considerations. The first being that due to “the continual blending of human populations and increasing accessibility [,] our classrooms are often very diverse. This diversity demands critical thought and consideration” (Kuipers & Lloyd, 2019, para. 1). The second consideration is that of concerns about how to meet “cross-generational” needs in our online learning communities (Gedak & McCarthy, 2019, para. 1; Kuipers & Lloyd, 2019, para. 1). A key component of our peers’ feedback on cross-generational digital learning needs considered Prensky’s (2001) digital immigrants versus digital native typology,  and then more specifically, White and Cornu’s (2019) digital resident versus digital visitor typology. One of our peers questioned how we would “mitigate any potential reluctance from [our] mature-aged students from engaging with Flipgrid?…[an] initial concern would be the learner’s ability to implement the chosen platform digital literacies sufficiently to enable learning” (Kuipers & Lloyd, 2019, para. 2-3). The value of our peers’ perspectives led us to further define and extrapolate both strengths and weaknesses of our proposed digital learning component.

In further consideration of Kuipers and Lloyd’s (2019) perspective and through a reflective dialogic process (L. Gedak & L. McCarthy, personal communication, December 7, 2019), we examined and confirmed potential disadvantages in our proposed solution of using Flipgrid to promote intellectual risk-taking. A plethora of research exists that illustrates the need to support technological inclusivity in our ever-growing, intertwined, learner populations who come from diverse backgrounds and include students who have unequal access to devices, the internet, the financial means; and who can vary significantly in digital literacies and the ability to implement the technology (Kuipers & Lloyd, 2019; Gilbert, 2010; Warf, 2019).  Moreover,  Kuipers & Lloyd (2019) emphasized the need for consideration of cross-generational abilities citing White and Cornu’s (2019) digital resident versus digital visitor typology and claimed the age of the student could affect their ability to use the proposed Flipgrid component. Additionally, physical and mental barriers, language barriers, technical language, cultural dialects, culture, ethnicity, and gender were discussed, and we postulated the potential impact they may have on the learners within our respective teaching contexts (L. Gedak & L. McCarthy, personal communication, December 7, 2019). Hall, Vue, Strangman, and Meyer (2003) postulated that the intersection of differentiated instruction and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) involve a curriculum that is “enriched with multiple media so that many paths are provided to develop the talents of all learners” (p. 10). During our reflective discussion (L. Gedak & L. McCarthy, personal communication, December 7, 2019) we also agreed that Campbell and Schwier (2014) convincingly argued that digital learning technologies are often implemented without purpose, and in a lacklustre fashion; further negatively impacting the quality of the learning experience (p. 369). Reflecting on the potential disadvantages of using Flipgrid was a thought-provoking process and allowed us to consider new perspectives. In the same way we dissected the potential disadvantages to the implementation of Flipgrid, we comparatively examined the potential benefits this tool could have for our cross-generational, diverse learner groups.

Consequently, the intersection of technology and pedagogy can positively impact learning. We have both experienced students displaying a higher level of engagement and motivation when we have facilitated activities using innovative technologies in our respective teaching and learning environments (L. Gedak & L. McCarthy, personal communication, December 7, 2019). The integration of mobile learning using the Flipgrid video component can provide our students’ further opportunities to engage, be motivated in learning, increase peer interactions, and take intellectual risks (Johnson & Skarphol, 2018). In addition, Flipgrid is a free application that can be used on both iOS and Android devices, addressing potential financial constraints and device specificities. Bartlett (2018) claimed that Flipgrid provided opportunities for diverse students to build community and to increase communication with peers through the ability to observe each other’s expressions, body language, and voice fluctuations. We have witnessed first-hand, the benefits of community building as a catalyst to increased sharing by those who may have otherwise been hesitant or non-participatory (L. Gedak & L. McCarthy, personal communication, December 7, 2019). Supplementary to the strengths of building community, engagement, motivation, and opportunities for increased peer interaction and communication, there is evidence to support that mobile learning opportunities can provide some flexibility and learner agency. Brown, Brock, and Závodská (2019) noted that the rise in the use of mobile devices challenges the instructional design of static learning spaces and that institutions will need to increasingly modernize to meet the needs of future learners, which is relevant to both of our learning contexts. Finally, we have noted that the majority (if not all) of our students do have a mobile device, and have all accessed our learning management systems, and online content in past classes we have taught with little issue (L. Gedak & L. McCarthy, personal communication, December 7, 2019). The comprehensive examination of the potential strengths and potential weaknesses in implementing the use of Flipgrid in our learning contexts using peer feedback, our own experiences, and research-based evidence, allowed us a wide range of considerations to cross-compare and synthesize.

Our goal to be leaders driving change continues to be informed by the feedback received from our peers, and our synthesis of the strengths and weaknesses of our proposed use of Flipgrid. To meet the needs of marginalized student communities in online learning environments, we need to keep our learners’ needs as the guiding foundation for building effective communication, assessment practices, and empathetic and participatory design. Based on our exploration of our peers (other bloggers) prototypes, we would suggest an alternative model to connected learning in addition to Flipgrid, to better address challenges such as physical, language, and technical barriers. One of our peer groups blogged about a prototype called Collabzone (Reid, Ruth & Sharples, 2019). This group used fundamental principles of empathic design (Mattelmäki, Vaajakallio, & Koskinen, 2014) to propose the creation of a multi-lingual format (translator function built into the app) to primarily connect learners with each other, versus with their instructor (Reid, Ruth & Sharples, 2019). Another group looked to gamified learning to support participatory design in creative ways (Einarson & Mami, 2019). Perhaps the addition of gamification to our proposed use of Flipgrid would further engage students through visual and emotional connections to encourage intellectual risk-taking? Empathic design principles confirm our desire to incorporate an online communication platform such as Flipgrid that seeks to understand some of the emotional experiences of marginalized students and how this affects our instructional design, as well as designing instruction (Mattelmäki, Vaajakallio, & Koskinen, 2014). Differentiated instruction and exploring Universal Design for Learning remain priorities and support our choice to use Flipgrid as well as a choice of another communication platform, to meet barriers to learning  (Hall, Meyer, Strangman, & Vue, 2014). Choosing the right combination of online communication platforms aligns with the synthesis of our proposed online component to reduce barriers to student participation and to create inclusive online learning environments and communities.

Nurturing individual potential is essential in learner-centred, inclusive online learning communities. Rose (2013) provided a powerful and articulate reminder when he spoke to instructional design, pointing out that “if you design those learning environments on ‘average’ [students’ needs and ‘measurements’], odds are you design for nobody” (7:35). Rose also stated, “We have this chance right now, to create learning environments that are so flexible that they can truly nurture the potential of every single individual. It sounds expensive, but it does not have to be. In fact, we can make great strides with simple solutions that we take for granted in our everyday digital lives. For example, translation devices and read-aloud apps…” (11:08). An “intentional mindset that includes designing, making, engagement and curiosity” (Crichton & Carter, 2017, p.18) will be a guide for our future-thinking when creating a prototype to amplify all student voices and inclusivity in our design of digital learning communities. By differentiating instruction and assessment, we will provide enough choice to meet individual learner needs and potential. The online components that we propose (i.e. asynchronous video platforms such as Flipgrid) will encourage more intellectual risk-taking, better nurturing individual potentials, even if our instructional choices are not universally suitable for all students. A resounding consideration in our peers’ feedback on our proposal of Flipgrid as our chosen solution, was a “potential reluctance from mature-aged students” (Kuipers & Lloyd, 2019, para. 3). Our peers’ feedback was thought-provoking; however, we returned to White and Cornu’s (2019) digital resident versus visitor typology for reassuring reminders that age is not as much of a consideration in gauging our learners’ digital skills and literacy as is the way that learners engage with online communities. Similarly, our peers’ concerns about whether our learners’ abilities to implement the chosen platform, to sufficiently enable learning, speaks to the natural tendency of any educator to question the scaffolding of instruction that will prepare all learners to find success (taking into account different points of entry to a given technology or concept in learning). We agreed that it would be ambitious for any proposed technological tool to be universally suitable for all students (L. Gedak & L. McCarthy, personal communication, December 8-9, 2019). We are confident that Flipgrid, an established and user-friendly platform of connected learning, can be made accessible to cross-generational learners (L. Gedak & L. McCarthy, personal communication, November 23, 2019). Nurturing individual potential is not only essential in learner-centred, inclusive online learning communities but becomes more authentic and dynamic for marginalized learners through technological tools such as Flipgrid (Bartlett, 2018; Davis, 2015). We will continue to search for ways to amplify all learners’ voices in our instructional design and designing of instruction efforts; nonetheless, Flipgrid is a valuable tool in our kit.


Bartlett, M. (2018, December). Using Flipgrid to increase students’ connectedness in an online    class. Special Issue: Instructional Technology in the Online Classroom, eLearn. Retrieved from https://elearnmag.acm.org/archive.cfm?aid=3236703

Black, G., & Hachkowski, C. (2019). Indigenous learners: What university educators need to know. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 43(8), 1092-1108.       doi:10.1080/0309877X.2018.1450495

Brown, J., Brock, B., & Závodská, A. (2019). Higher Education in the 21st century: A New Paradigm of Teaching, Learning and Credit Acquisition. Proceedings of The 14th IAC  2019, 87.

Campbell, K., & Schwier, R. A. (2014). Chapter 13: Major movements in instructional design. In Zawacki-Richter, O. & T. Anderson (Eds.), Online distance education: Towards a  research agenda. AU Press.

Crichton, S., & Carter, D. (2017). Section 2: Making the connection: Designing, making, and a  new culture of learning. In Taking Making into Classrooms Toolkit. Open School/ITA.

Davis, R. (2015). The missing voices in EdTech: Bringing diversity into EdTech. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Einarson, E., & Mami, T. (2019, November 29). A gamified ideation app [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0130/a-gamified-ideation-app/

Gedak, L., & McCarthy, L. (2019, December 1). Amplifying All Student Voices and Inclusivity in Digital Learning Communities: Part A [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://malat- webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0125/amplifying-all-student-voices-and-inclusivity-in-digital- learning-communities/

Gilbert, M. (2010). Theorizing digital and urban inequalities: Critical geographies of ‘race’, gender and technological capital. Information Communication and Society, 13(7), 1000-     1018. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2010.499954

Johnson, M., & Skarphol, M. (2018). The Effects of Digital Portfolios and Flipgrid on Student Engagement and Communication in a Connected Learning Secondary Visual Arts        Classroom. Retrieved from https://sophia.stkate.edu/maed/270

Hall, T., Vue, G., Strangman, N., & Meyer, A. (2003). Differentiated instruction and implications for UDL implementation. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessing the      General Curriculum. (Links updated 2014). Retrieved from http://aem.cast.org/about/publications/2003/ncac-differentiated-instruction-udl.html

Lloyd, O., & Kuipers, S. (2019, December 3). Re: Amplifying All Student Voices and      Inclusivity in Digital Learning Communities [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://malat- webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0125/amplifying-all-student-voices-and-inclusivity-in-digital- learning-communities/

Reid, S., Ruth, S., & Sharples, K. (2019, November 29). Collabzone app [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://malat-webspace.royalroads.ca/rru0109/collabzone-app/

Mattelmäki, T., Vaajakallio, K., & Koskinen, I. (2014). What happened to the empathic design? Design Issues30(1), 67-77. doi:10.1162/DESI_a_00249

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Rose, T. (2013, June 19). The myth of average: Todd Rose at TEDxSonomaCounty [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eBmyttcfU4&feature=youtu.be

Stanford University Institute of Design (Producer). (2016). A virtual crash course in design thinking [MOOC]. Retrieved from https://dschool.stanford.edu/resources/a-virtual-crash-course-in-design-thinking

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Westwood, P. (2015). Commonsense Methods for Children with Special Educational Needs. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/lib/royalroads- ebooks/detail.action?docID=200201.

White, D., Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday: Peer-Reviewed Journal on the Internet. Retrieved from         https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v16i9.3171

Instructional Design vs Learning Design – New Perspectives, or Conceptual Semantics?

Merrill’s (2002) seminal paper asserted that there are profoundly similar core principles of learning shared between various instructional design theories; and cross-compared distinct models, which identified standard ideologies.  While this paper was written nearly twenty years ago, the identified fundamental principles are still widely used as an effective tool for analyzing the pedagogical quality of course design.  Several scholars have supported the effectiveness of these identified principles since publication, including Gardner’s (2011) study on the impact on student performance when these standards were put into practice.  These principles synthesized by Merrill (2002) resulted in a pragmatic framework that has provided a standard blueprint for instructional designers to use; nevertheless, what about the consideration for the modernized shift from instructional design to learning design?  Muddy is the waters surrounding the distinction of these terms.  There has been a shift in design approach over the past decade with rapid advances in educational technologies, and open pedagogies.  The focus is much more learner-centered, with significant consideration of the needs of learners, and the design of the learning activities (Beetham & Sharpe, 2013; Conole, 2014).  As I begin to carve out my designer identity, (current title ‘teaching and learning with technology strategist’), I acknowledge that my role is underpinned seemingly by both models, and I am toggling between them throughout my practice; Merrill’s (2002) principles can provide a foundation on which to build in these modernized approaches.  Are new considerations required which demand a re-thinking of pedagogical approaches? Otherwise, are we just wrapped up in job title semantics?


Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (2013). Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: Designing for 21st century learning (2nd ed.). Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/lib/royalroads-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1172901.

Conole, G. (2014). The 7Cs of learning design: A new approach to rethinking design practice. Paper presented at the 9th International Conference on Networked Learning 2014, University of Leicester, pp. 502-509. Paper retrieved from http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/past/nlc2014/abstracts/pdf/conole.pdf

Gardner, J. (2011). Testing the efficacy of Merrill’s first principles of instruction in improving student performance in introductory biology courses. (Doctoral dissertation, Utah State University, United States of America). Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/etd/885/

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59.

Image Retrieved from: https://images.app.goo.gl/5r2mNyEybg28zKi36