Author Archives: murcha

World Readaloud Day

boys practising

Imagine a world where everyone can read. This is the dream of World Read Aloud Day. “It is all about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people.” Parents, students, teachers and community members from more than 60 countries across the globe are coming together today to address the issue of adult and childhood illiteracy.

Jasmine Shannon wanted to try a skype linkup this week and the World Readaloud Day made the perfect connection for my 9/10 ICT class and Jasmine’ 5-7 year olds. What seemed like a simple task turned into quite a lesson of learning. I thought my kids would grizzle about doing this but there was only silent affirmation when told. Here is how it looked:-

  1. Students worked out their partner as they were to read in pairs
  2. As a class, discussed what books would be appropriate for young ones
  3. Students found books they thought the young ones might like to have read to them either from the library or from the prep-2 classrooms. Not surprisingly most of the books featured animals. (Remember that my students live on farms or in small rural towns)
  4. Spent 15 mins working out who would read which pages. Even the poorest of readers were capably reading their share!
    practising their reading
  5. Practised speaking to the  webcam in the tools>video settings option of skype and showing the page of their book.
    nikki and sarah practising
  6. Had to work out our setup for video projection of the class. A student team put up a tripod with a webcam on top.”
    students getting hardware organised
  7. At the appointed time linked up with Jasmine from Tipperary Cattle Station in outback Northern Territory.
  8. Jasmine’s class read their book as a whole class.
    closer up of them reading a book
  9. ICT students came up in pairs and read their book

As we ran out of time, several of the girls stayed in at lunchtime to read their books. Then students from each school shared their lunchbox via the webcam and we learnt a little of each other’s food supplies. We have a school canteen, they do not. They are in the outback and food supplies are only flown in each week etc

sophie and taylor

Did you take part in World Readaloud Day? If so, what did you do? This was a fabulous excerise that will definitely be repeated next year.

sophie taylor and the book

Clean Up Australia Day

clean up Australia Day1

Each year one day is dedicated to Cleaning Up Australia – Clean Up Australia Day. Although this day falls on Sunday, March 2nd, our students from foundation to year 12 were allocated an area of our school grounds and fenceline to clean up. At 12 pm, the forms and year levels congregated under the bus shelter, were given rakes, gloves and bags and proceeded to clean up their area.

As a form teacher for year 10, we cleaned up the fenceline along the school grounds and roadway. See how beautiful our surrounds are and as we finished the roadside, we heard two kookaburras laugh! They must have been well pleased with our efforts.

If you are from another country, do you acknowledge similar days?

Making personal the ACMI Screenit Competition

Whiteboard discussion

Whiteboard discussion

ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) runs an annual Screen It CompetitionWatch the Screen It 2014 Teaser Video for an overview of the competition. It’s aim is to foster, develop and encourage creativity in future film makers, games designers and animation creators etc. This year’s theme is “Reflection”.

My year 7 ICT class logged into the blackboard collaborate room to be part of a session that outlined the Screen It competition, encouraged the participants to share what “Reflection” means to them via the whiteboard of the chat, view last year’s award winning movie and then share on the following:

  1. how can photographs help us reflect
  2. how reflections help us contemplate the future
  3. how does it make you feel to reflect on your past, your family, your dreams for the future.

Students were engaged with this virtual lesson because:-

  • they are individually logged on, can watch their own monitor and can join in the conversations via the chat or have a voice on the whiteboard.
  • it was a well structured lesson
  • 30 mins in total (just sufficient for year 7′s concentration span)
  • captivating imagery used on slides
  • variety of activities – listening, interacting, discussing 1:1 in the real classroom, clicking on links to watch the winning video – Visiting Grandpa from last year
  • interactive activities eg encouraged to use the chat, emoticons, polling, writing on whiteboard making it all worthwhile.
  • two links were given to watch the video should one of the links be blocked.
  • there were classes, students and participants from across Victoria.
  • links were shared for later viewing or re-viewing

The challenges:-

  • logging on 16 students simultaneously on individual computers, the java download took a little while, so some were late getting in. But next login will go faster as java is downloaded
  • protocols – students need constant reminding to use the chat effectively and to use the whiteboard as asked and not to graffiti over it.
  • encouraging everyone to simply use the text tool – some chose the pencil and this took up a lot of the whiteboard are.

how does it make you feel to reflect on past, family and dreams for the future

This was a great addition to my double class of year 7 ICT where some of the boys find it very difficult to concentrate for 100 mins on one subject, but breaking up the activities, giving then an outside, expert speaker, a  virtual and a physical classroom, made the time go fast and they had fun.

Diigo – the students dig it!

The educators group on diigo

The educators group on diigo

Although I use any tools to curate eg scoopit, educlipper, symbaloo, delicious etc, my favourite is still diigo. Why?

  1. It is the quickest  and easiest way for me to add  urls for future retrieval
  2. Easy to tag (categorize) and pull up the tags
  3. Has a groups function and have joined a number of educational groups eg Global Education Conferencand Educators

This morning I decided it was time to study cloud computing a little more with my year 12 students, discuss how they bookmark (they all just used favourite son their computer), get the to register for diigo, add bookmarks, tag the bookmarks, add notes and commence bookmarking some essential online sites (essential resources) for IT.

Within 15 mins of registering, they discovered the social bookmarking aspects – created a class subject group, added each other to the group, added comments, changed the images and discovered the chat.  Images can also be bookmarked and they taught me so much more. I love learning with the students, who just push software and tools in all directions and show me how even more valuable many of these tools can be.

The engagement of Flat Connections Project

Teaching in a small prep to year 12 school sometimes comes with its challenges. Subject choice can be restricted for students. Class sizes and budget often means that the only way subjects can run at senior levels is for the two year levels of  VCE be combined in one subject area. As such I teach a total class size of 16  year 11 and 12 students in one class but following two different currciular. (or should that be curriculums).

The girls love to network

The girls love to network

Students who would not normally be pursuing a full VCE, will often attempt subjects for which they may not be suited. This year, I have a number of challenging, disengaged students at both levels. They are easily distracted by other online activities and reluctant to do any theory work. The year 11 portion are participating in the Flat Connections Global Project Usually students enjoy joining the ning adding their profiles, customizing their pages etc

However for one of my students even this was too much. He wrote in his profile “I live in a house” and that was it — “I live in a house” I nearly saw red, then quietly explained how nearly everyone around the world lived in a house. Other global students were more interested in what the house was like, what it looked like where they live, what they do after school.

After much nagging, he finally wrote a little more that he lived on a farm and liked shooting! Next discussion with me – “There are students in the project from USA who may be upset that you are shooting! What do you shoot? Be specific!”  By the end of the 50 minute lesson he had a brief profile that shared how he lived on a farm and liked to go shooting to get rabbits and foxes! I was on the verge of finding another subject for this student!


So, it was with some dread that I entered the classroom today, only to be greeted by “Guess what, Miss!” by this same student! He was woken up last night by his mobile phone alerting him to the fact that two students in the USA had commented on his handshake post! One of the students also liked shooting and his targets were turkeys, squirrels etc. He shared the names of guns he used and wanted to know what guns my student used…..  and so a now highly engaged students commented back, looked for other handshakes to comment on and the wonderful world of global learning just opened right up!!!

The next minute, one of the boys discovered the chat, found one student in USA working at home, trying to work out how to upload a video on to his ning page. Aaron, then responded in the chat exactly how to do it. Peer to peer mentoring is the best way to learn!


Three G’s for Global

The three G’s

  1. Global presenters from across the world, presented on a -
  2. Global theme –  Globally Connected Learning in a -
  3. Google Hangout
My opening slide

My opening slide

Reinhard Marx sought interest from members of the HLW skypers group in presenting to teachers of English at a conference in Russia on the topic of “Globally Connected Learning” . The time suite me – 7pm my time, so I was in.

Steve Sherman from Sth Africa, Larisa from Serbia Russia, Maria del Carmen Colussa of Sth America Anna and Michael from Russia, Reinhard from Germany and me, from Australia logged into a google hangout to present to about 300 English teachers live at the Paedagogical University Chelyabinsk, Russia. The google hangout was chosen as it is free, could be recorded, allowed screen sharing and could be broadcast live on youtube.

Prior to the presentation

  • a google presentation was set up so that we collaborate and add our slides.
  • a google document and qr code was set up to allow for questions from the participants after the event.
  • an online meeting in a hangout was held in late December
  • extra messaging and chat took place in gmail or on skype
The university theatre with our presenttion up on the screen
The university theatre with our presentation up on the screen and the virtual presenters

The university theatre with our presentation up on the screen and the virtual presenters

The presentation

  • the presenters logged into the hangout early to test sound and make sure all was ready.
    However, we had many technical issues. I returned to school as the bandwidth is much stronger than at home, but my microphone did not work in the hangout, so switched to a computer lab desktop, which meant that I did not have a webcam. The first hangout link did not work well, so another had to be quickly booked by Steve in Sth Africa. We started a little late due to the difficulties.
  • Steve and Reinhard co-ordinated the session virtually, whilst a technician in Russia ensured all was working there.
  • Reinhard commenced the presentation and then the rest of us spoke to our slides for approximately 7 mins.
Larissa of Siberia waits to give her presentation

Larissa of Siberia waits to give her presentation

The highlights

  • being part of a presentation that involved speakers from so many continents
  • seeing the theatre that our participants were in, in Russia – always amazing to think that this can be even done!
  • having two experts on hangouts in our midst
  • listening to my colleagues share their experiences with globally connected learning
  • just being able to be part of a presentation that involved the globe!
  • pioneering and paving the way for more presentations like this

The challenges

  • as always, technology does not always work as it should but we kept working at alternatives to ensure the presentation went ahead
  • keeping all presenters, who all had so much to share, to their assigned time frame
  • ensuring presenters had their mics on mute when not speaking as any movement often activated their image on the main screen
  • learning to have the current presenter or speakers module highlighted so we could see the shared screen
  • speaking slowly and clearly enough to allow for differing accents

hangout snapshot of slide
Here is our presentation

Designing CD Covers – a task students enjoyed

This lesson worked well with my year 9/ICT class today. They used random links on a number of sites to come up with a CD cover. I prefer them learning by doing rather than learning by theory. This task teaches copyright, appropriate acknowledgement of IP and gives them some avenues to explore in other subjects when they cannot think of anything creative! Here is how it looked:-

Today we will design CD covers using some internet sites. This task is worth 10 marks towards your first semester assessment.

First watch the videos from Common Craft on Creative Commons

Follow these instructions:-

  1. Go to wikipedia and hit random article on the left. The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band. Key it into a Word document. Save the name and the url
  2. Go to the quotations page and hit random quotes on the left. The last 4-6 words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your album. Save the name and the url.
  3. Now find a photo that fits with your album! You can look for photos at compfight. Add a search word. Choose creative commons and find an appropriate image.
  4. Make sure that you follow the prompts, grab the  code or get the web address of your photo and the photographers name so you can acknowledge (and link) where you got the photo from. Double check the permissions!
  5. Use powerpoint, word, paint or other program to put it all together for your CD cover design. Consider using an online text creator for the title of your CD
  6. Save as a jpg or png.
  7. Goto your blog, write a blog post. Insert your CD cover image, explain how you put your album cover together.
  8. Share the owner of the original photo or follow the permissions  and required credits given.
  9. Add the category IT or Info Tech to your blog post
  10. Add tags stating all the websites used and why you used themetc
  11. Publish your blog post.

Tips for Creating Engaging and Effective Online Presentations

As the #ozelive conference approaches, following are some of the tips that I have for presenters to make their webinars engaging and effective. You are invited to add your tips as comments on this post.

  1. If it is your first time presenting  keep it simple but make it effective. 40-45 minutes is ample time to share your presentation.  Allow for questions and anwer them where possible
  2. Use text, wordles, word clouds, images where possible to remind you of what you would like to share (Remember: nervousness may make you forget) Keep text to a minimum – it can be boring! Do not read the text it is even more boring!
  3. Use lots of images but keep images to a small file size ie Do not use high quality images as they may not load in to the virtual room. If possible resize to 600width x 304height, or below 50kb in size. Irfanview is free and is a good digital editing software for windows machines. Or double click on the picture in powerpoint, goto compress pictures and choose email, apply to all.
  4. Where possible add some questions on slide and get participants to answer them in the chat to encourage interactivity.
  5. Add a poll for interactivity and get people to vote  or share their experiences
  6. Start with a slide(s) sharing who you are, what you do, where you are from and your passions. Add an image of yourself so people can see what you look like.
  7. Add your contact details, email address, links to your online sites eg blogs, wikis, websites, twitter handles for further connections, conversations and sharing.
  8. Depending on how much you will speak to each slide, 30-60 slides is a rough guide as  to how many you would need for a 30-45 min presentation.
  9. Preferably use a white background as colour uses up digital space in a virtual room.
  10. Share stories and experiences where possible.
  11. Create a google or online document that shares the links to your resources, contact details and enables questions after the webinar. Provide the link in the chat at varying intervals or create a qr code

What do you look for when attending online conferences? What makes a really effective virtual presentation? Do you have any tips to share from virtual presentations you have made or online conferences you have attended. Please share your views, ideas and resources.

What does the world’s largest classroom look like?

map across vic
What would the world’s classroom look like at any point in time? I feel that I experienced that this morning. Why? There was/were

    • 1 classroom (virtual in Blackboard Collaborate)
    • up to 17,000 students
    • 170 physical classes
    • A class of deaf students from Furlong Park School
    • 1 teacher (or presenter)

It is Safer Internet Use Day today and the Topic is “Let’s Build a Safer Internet Together”.  Our Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development organised a webinar for all interested Victorian classrooms. The presenter was Greg Gebhart from Cybersmart ACMA who spoke on “Let’s Build a Safer Internet Together”.  The session went for 45 mins and was highly interactive which is essential to student engagement in a virtual environment.

Year 5 and 6 are engaged

Year 5 and 6 are engaged

Questions and polls were posed at varying intervals. Class answers were placed in the chat. The presentation included lots of graphics and images and Greg’s presentation style was also engaging. When a round of applause was called for at the end, many used the virtual clapping hand but it was also exciting to hear real applause and cheers from classes who turned on their microphones.

Isn’t technology exciting? This is  a wonderful use of technology that has engaged and embraced many students across Victoria simultaneously. To keep the conversations going, innovative Sandy Phillips has created a blog where students will actually be able to “Build a Safer Internet” and share their ideas, experiences and opinions. It is rich in resources so check out each of the pages as well as the posts and interact where possible. Below are the questions that Sandy uses to get discussions going with students and others.


What are you doing for Safer Internet Day?

The importance of visuals in your profile

visuals in a profile

Recently I was contacted by Linkedin - a great global networking tool that allows connections and networking on a professional basis. I was asked to explain why I uploaded visual content to my profile. This visual content includes presentations that have been uploaded to slideshare, images and video links.

Following are my responses to the questions posed and they would not only be for my linkedin profile but any networking site that allows visuals and media:-

Why did you upload visual content to your LinkedIn profile?

A strong profile is essential to catch a viewers’ attention, tease them to linger longer, learn more about me and connect with me. Visual content and colour add depth to textual information.  Large chunks of text can be boring and tedious to read. People will quickly move on elsewhere. Visual content emits warmth, curiosity, excitement, passion and shares innovation. As global education is a passion, my network is global and imagery helps overcome potential language barriers.

As a teacher many students see themselves as visual learners and I love to share what they do. The innovative work that is done in my classrooms has resulted in requests to present at conferences locally, nationally and globally. To captivate interest and understanding, I put as many images on the presentations as possible. This then inspires and encourages others to do likewise.

As my network is global and many do not speak English as a first language, it helps them understand. If there are too many words, they will struggle to comprehend.  My students have been involved in many global projects and the International Dot Day projects and International Peace Day resulted in some great drawings by my students. It gives readers a glimpse into my personality, passions and work outcomes

How has uploading visual content to your LinkedIn profile helped you in your career?

As visual content sets my profile apart and gives credibility to what I do, it has brought in further valuable connections, special offers relating to education, requests to present at conferences, suggestions of groups that I may be interested in joining, offers of job interviews including international proposals and alerted me to potential career opportunities. As other social media links are provided on my profile there is further opportunity for networking and for ongoing conversations.

No matter the personal occupation, images will help share a person’s abilities, daily activities or employment outcomes. It gives credibility to what I do. All images used are original.  The profile that will be remembered over other profiles, will be the one featuing  images or videos. I want people to see that what I do is important I want to catch attention, make my site interesting and encourage readers to stop and read more about me and innovative learning and teaching. Links are provided to other social media that I am involved in and creates further connections and conversations.

What are your tips for other LinkedIn members?

A strong network is vital to the success of a career or passion. As a strong profile attracts endorsements it elevates you in the search function. It is necessary to:-

  • make the profile as captivating and interesting as possible.
  • Use original images, videos and presentations.
  • Illustrate all profile headings if possible.
  • Ensure your profile avatar is a current or consistent personal photo.
  • Limit text and replace with visual content to convey who you are, what you do well and any personal passions.
  • Update your profile regularly.

Do you use visuals in your profile? Why? What tips would you provide?