Professional Learning in a Digital Age

21st century tools supporting 21st century teachers.

This QTC Registered Teacher Professional Learning course provides a supportive blended learning environment for participants to explore the four Essential Skills for 21st Century Learning – Collaborating, Communicating, Creating and Critical Thinking.

“The walls of the classroom and home have been expanded by social media, the cloud, wikis, podcasts and video-conferencing. These are the new learning environments; they are local, national and global, and populated by whole communities in addition to families, teachers and friends. We need to harness the transformative potential of digital technology to support new approaches to innovative learning centred around the development of 21st Century Learning skills… Pedagogy must drive innovation in digital education.”

Beyond the Classroom (Digital Education Advisory Group, 2012, p. 4)

Good twenty-first century teachers are good twenty-first century learners. Professional Learning in a Digital Age (PLDA) is a four-week blended course that equips teachers and school leaders with the knowledge, skills and tools needed for personalised, professional learning in a digital age.

With an emphasis on learning through online participatory cultures (Clinton, et. al. 2006), the course explores the role of communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity in online spaces. The course also examines the role of current technology tools for developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN), including Google Apps for Education, Google Plus Communities, Twitter and Feedly.

Course Outline and Structure


PLDA provides a supportive blended learning environment for participants to share ideas as professional members of a broader online community. This course involves one face-to-face workshop (or Adobe Connect session), then four follow-up weekly online components. Throughout the online course, participants practise the Four Cs – communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity – over a sequence of small, achievable weekly activities (approximately 3-4 hours per week). These skills will be modelled and developed as participants grow their PLN through being involved in online professional communities and actively using tools such as Twitter, Google Plus, Google Drive and the creation and sharing multimodal content with tools like Prezi, Animoto, iMovie and Visible Tweets.

Course completion involves:
  • participation on Twitter, sharing tweets and aggregating ideas from current minds in education;
  • exploring tools for aggregating news feeds relevant to the individual learner;
  • communication with colleagues through the PLDA Google Plus community;
  • collaborative critique of a scholarly reading through threaded comments in Google Docs;
  • ongoing multimodal responses to key weekly questions (through short video snippets, images, tweets and community posts); and
  • creating a multimodal digital mashup video.

While there is an emphasis on teacher professional learning, many skills gained in PLDA are readily transferable to the classroom.


On course completion, teachers will be able to:
  • facilitate small-group, whole-class and inter-class collaboration with online tools;
  • foster the development of students’ critical literacy through the aggregation of online information sources (relevant in areas like research projects, wide reading and online media);
  • understand multimodality in the new syllabuses; and
  • be able to mentor the development of rich media projects in the classroom.

Audience: All teachers and educators.

Keywords: PLN, Critical Thinking, Digital Literacy, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, Blended Learning


I’m doing Professional Learning groups at school next fortnight on building a Professional Learning Network, starting with Twitter and Feedly. Then next term I’m going to look at writing on the reading with staff. So, as you can see, this course has been a fantastic opportunity for me to learn new skills and now I will be able to share them with the rest of our staff! Thanks again for a fun and challenging course!

Thanks to you both for a worthwhile course that has really set up some skills and ideas I have already incorporated into everyday teaching life!

This course has given me an insight into what it is like to be the learner. It also provided me with skills to be able to show and teach students how to use these technologies. Also provided me with some networking links to pursue.

I now feel confident to integrate my learning into my teaching practices and refine it through ongoing practise. Students will benefit from learning how to create, communicate, collaborate online and develop critical thinking skills solving real-life problems. All vital skills for successful learning and life in the 21st century.

Part 1: Workshop (5.5 hours)

Attendance at a workshop day held in North Ryde. An alternative delivery option is available for those outside metropolitan Sydney via webinar (Adobe Connect).


Participants are introduced to the course and have an opportunity to meet and share ideas in person. Support with the tools is provided for first-time users with the tools explored in the course. Demonstrations and course content focus on how to get started participating in a range of online communities. Skills in using Google Plus Communities, Twitter and Feedly are addressed.

Adobe Connect

For participants who cannot attend the face-to-face workshop, we are offering Adobe Connect sessions (which take place in the week prior). These sessions are accompanied by video tutorials specifically developed for the course and an optional one-hour “check in” session where participants can ask for further assistance.

  • 5 Video Tutorials (approximately 30 minutes each tutorial)
  • Session 1 (1.5hr) This session covers the content and skills addressed in the Face-to-Face Workshop Opening Ideas Session. While participants are not required to have viewed all the video tutorials, this is encouraged, particularly for first-time users.
  • Course Preparation: (3 hours) Time to watch video tutorials and prepare for the Mini-Online Course.
  • Session 2 (1 hr optional) We will walk you through how the Online Course works. Participants are expected to have watched all the video tutorials by this date and time will be provided to answer questions and address any areas of weakness. This session is not mandatory, but is recommended if you have any questions.

Completing this course will contribute 21 hours and 30 minutes of QTC Registered PD addressing 4.5.2, 6.2.2, 6.3.2, 7.4.2 from the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers towards maintaining Proficient Teacher Accreditation in NSW.


Note: In order to gain accreditation you must complete both parts of the course.

Part 2: Mini Online Course (16 hrs over 4 weeks)

Active participation in a 4 week online course. Each week will focus on one of the 4 essential skills in the form of small, achievable weekly activities that culminate in the creation of a multimodal mashup video. 3-4 hrs per week.

The MOC takes place over four weeks, with a range of weekly activities and deliverables that are described below. Participants are free to work on these activities and deliverables at times that suit them; however, it is expected that approximately three hours of professional learning will be covered each week.

Week 1 – Communicating

Participants form meaningful and purposeful connections with colleagues both in the course and in the wider online community of education professionals. Key questions on the nature of participatory cultures, the Australian Curriculum and use of current tools prompt the sharing of ideas, with opportunities to contribute to the planning of the multimodal mashup. A shared Google Drive folder facilitates the sharing of digital artefacts that tell the story of each participant’s involvement in the course. Course content introduces participants to the concept of participatory cultures and looks at the development of the Personal Learning Network as a way to get started.

Week 2 – Critical Thinking

Participants engage in a collaborative critique a scholarly reading through threaded discussions in a shared Google Doc, exploring the development of twenty-first century skills in creativity fluency from the 21st Century Fluency Project. In response to the reading, participants will create a class logo that represents either their teaching philosophy, class culture or curriculum area. They share their logos and ideas about creativity with the Google+ community.

Week 3 – Collaborating

Participants learn about managing collaborative projects in virtual spaces, utilising shared documents, folders and community pages to further pool ideas for the multimodal mashup project in Week 4. Course content focuses on both small- and large-scale online collaborative projects and the importance of encouraging students to work collaboratively in both real and virtual spaces.

Week 4 – Creativity

Participants finalise the sharing of digital artefacts for the multimodal mashup project; each participant is required to create their own version of the mash-up. Course content explores ways of scaffolding the processes through which co-creation occurs and is managed to ensure the representation of all learners’ ideas. Video tutorials tailored specifically for the course will provide first-time users with assistance in video editing and publishing.


Cathie Howe

Cathie Howe

Centre Manager

Cathie is a Professional Learning & Leadership Coordinator for the NSW Department of Education and manager of MacICT. As well as developing and delivering Professional Learning, Cathie is the creative and strategic leader of an expanding, collaborative team responsible for the design and quality of MacICT’s services. She oversees all course development and mentors many of the team members to ensure that MacICT continues to provide a consistently high level of service to schools, teachers and students.

Cathie manages, and is involved in the development of MacICT’s case studies and academic research projects. She is passionate about inspiring and empowering teachers to transform their practice by understanding what they have to teach (curriculum), how they are going to teach it (pedagogy), integrating digital tools in creative ways to enable meaningful learning to occur.

During her 20+ years both as a teacher and an executive in Primary Schools, Cathie has been recognised for her innovative practice, digital learning design and leadership.

Michael Stevenson

Michael Stevenson

Researcher, Developer & Facilitator

Dr Michael Stevenson is a lecturer in the School of Education at Macquarie University. Since commencing his teaching career in 2001, he has taught English, ESL, Music and Technology in secondary schools across northern and western Sydney. In addition to teaching, he worked as Leader of Learning Technologies in the secondary Catholic system Diocese of Parramatta, facilitating the implementation of learning management systems, technology mentoring, 1-1 programs and ICT-curriculum alignment. He has also been chiefly involved in developing and implementing an integrated curriculum program that incorporates Project-Based Learning and cross-curricla team teaching in open plan environments.

In 2013, he joined the School of Education as Convenor of the English Methodologies program, working with preservice teachers in areas that include Secondary English, ICT and pedagogy. As a researcher, Michael has worked on a range of technology-related research projects with Education Services Australia, the Australian Independent Schools Network (AIS) and Department of Education (DoE). His doctoral study explores the role of technology-enabled Personal Learning Networks in teacher professional learning.


Unfortunately there are no plans to run this course again. Apologies for any inconvenience.


How do I enrol?
Enrolment is through the MyPL system. Click on the Event ID provided and it will take you to the enrolment page. NSW Department of Education (DoE) teachers can log in using their credentials. Non-DoE participants need to sign up for a MyPL account in order to enrol. Click here for instructions, and click here for more information about MyPL for non-DoE participants.
How is payment taken?
If you are from a NSW DoE school, payment will be via direct debit and appear on your school's Sundry Tax Invoice Statement. Non-DoE schools and individuals will be invoiced. Please contact us to confirm your billing details.
How do I get there and do I need to bring anything?
There are many transport options. See our Contact page for more information. We will send out an email to all participants with parking information two days before the event. Please look out for this email and read the instructions carefully. All equipment will be provided unless otherwise advised.
What if I cancel or don't show up?

You can delete your own enrolment through MyPL, however keep in mind any cancellations made within 2 days of the event or no-shows will incur the full cost, charged to your school. Please contact us if there are any issues with your attendance.

What's a follow-on component?

Some of our courses include a follow-on component to be completed by the participant in their school context with the aim of transferring the new practice to their teaching and learning repertoire. These deliverables are included as part of the course hours and are designed to engage teachers in real ‘learning through doing’ leading to improvement in the skills and capabilities of teachers. This is an opportunity for you to have some time to take what you learned during the workshop and apply it to your own context and your own students. Details of the follow-on will be emailed out to all participants. The deliverables must meet the following Criteria:

  1. Product (this may refer to lesson plan, unit of work or other digital product)
    1. evidence of creativity;
    2. planning and/or design;
    3. incorporation of key ideas in the course;
    4. integration of technology; and
    5. a published/shared product that is appropriate to audience, purpose and context.
  2. Online Interaction
    1. peer feedback; and
    2. community building.
  3. Personal Written Reflection (200 words):
    1. Reflect on the learning experience gained by participating in this course, including the deliverables, OR reflect on your classroom practice (including a description of the pedagogical approach, delivery and implications for the future); AND
    2. Reflect on how you achieved one or more of the specified professional learning standards.
More questions? Contact us.

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