Category Archives: 21st century education

When the North Star meets the Southern Cross!

Wisteria, our engaging presenter

Wisteria, our engaging presenter

This morning reminded me how anxious and nervous teachers can get when they face the unknown! Although I have used our polycom videoconferencing equipment extensively with educators, classes and community organisations within Australia, I had never dialled an overseas polycom unit. The IP address had been given to us to dial rather than they dial us! Eek! A practice run was rather difficult due to our time zone differences so at 9am my time this morning, I dialled the number 15 mins before the students were due in for lesson one, having shared Skype contact details should we face technical problems.

Almost immediately, Wisteria answered the call and we were transported into Marriner’s Museum, Virginia, USA, a different day, a different time zone, different hemsipherse, different culture, history and a different accent.  Students from year 1/2, year 7 and 9 then enjoyed an engaging and interactive session with Wisteria as she revealed life at sea centuries ago. It was fascinating to hear from someone in our ‘yesterday’, who talked about the Northern Star and their famous explorers eg Christopher Columbus cf Captain Cook for us.

wisteria and boatsc

What worked well

  • a crystal clear videoconference on both sides, with no hint of lag
  • our microphone that was able to pick up the answers from our students who often spoke quietly and were at the back of the room.
  • an engaging and interactive presenter, in Wisteria, who varied the session with a mix of using images, objects from the museum, getting the students involved, using the webcam effectively  and even sharing a youtube video that did not lag either!
  • having the broad mix of age groups. The young students added a dynamic, unreserved and spontaneous addition

some of the students

At the end of the 60 minute session, students were asked to relate three things they learned and one thing they enjoyed. Following are some of the year 7 ICT student comments. Year 1/2 repsonses will be added as soon as they have had their responses go through the editing stage.  By the time year 7 related what they learnt and due to most remembering different elements of the presentation, their total compilation almost gives the overall presentation on Life at Sea.

wisteria and the little ones

3 things I learnt:

  • When at sea,  they worked for 4 hours and rested 4 hours,  about the different parts of ship

  • What people at sea eat, lots about compasses, learnt all about parts of ship

  • The youngest pirate executed was 9 years old. Captain Cook was first captain to give his crew fresh vegetables, in their spare time, crew members would carve pics on whale teeth

  • Only males were allowed to go on a ship, and as young as 6 or 7; they would eat crackers made of flour and water, dominoes were made from parts of whale’s mouth

  • Children started work at age of 6 and 7 – eg scrub the deck, peel the vegies; because they didn’t eat fresh veg and fruit, they lost their teeth and their skin would change colour; older kids would have to work for hours, $12 per month pay

  • Pirates take valuable things, you need vitamin C otherwise you get black gums and your teeth will fall out; little boys started work on ships between the age of 6 and 7

  • Kids went on ships at such young ages; women work on ships disguised as boys; pirates don’t really kill captives unless they have to – put them on an island if they did not comply. Walking the plank was only done once in history. It is not a common practise.

  • It was night in USA, 7pm, our today was there yesterday; pirates don’t make you walk a plank, only one person was ever made to do that; Time differences, didn’t know USA were so far away from us,

Showing museum objects

Showing museum objects

What I liked

  • Much better learning from someone like Wisteria than through a textbook
  • How she showed the actual objects
  • Hearing about the female pirates
  • All of it was really good – Wysteria was a really good presenter, asked questions and got everyone involved.
  • Different time and it was interesting to know that she was in my yesterday and there was a night time concert outside while she spoke to us.
  • Lady pirate Chin commanded 500 pirate ships, made me interested in old history
  • The problem with hearing clearly eg the girl was actually a boy who answered a question, misunderstanding accents
  • Liked how she was actually at the museum, and showed us the actual objects from the ship
  • To see the things they used – photos and objects


If I could ask a question

  • why did kids start work so young
  • Did they eat canned food?

  • What kind of food do they have in America?

Question time

Question time


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.

Enriching the Skype or Videoconferencing Experience

maria and carina

Recently Maria del Carmen Colussa posted an update on the HLW  skype group looking for someone to practise conversational English with one of her students – Carina. It is not often that my time zone matches that of students in the USA or Sth America so here was a golden opportunity to connect. Maria comes from Santo Tomé, Santa Fe, Argentina and teaches English to Spanish speaking students.

Carina is an adult student – a pharmacist who wished to travel thereby wanting to improve her conversational English. We talked a little about Australia. Then I noticed one of my year 9 students working in the lab and invited her to be part of the conversation. Initial confidence, volume of voice, accents and clear speaking are always a challenge when first connecting.  Georgina used the txt chat regularly to ensure they understood her.

The sharing and demonstrating of objects is always engaging. Georgina showed a toy koala and to our delight Carina and Maria immediately produced and showed us two cholitas which come  from Salta the north of our country.  

From Maria and Carina

From Maria and Carina

Georgina’s curiousity was aroused and she searched online for more information about the dolls and the country once the skype videoconference was finished. As often occurs, the learning continued beyond the initial linkup. Read Georgina’s post on Skype with Argentina.

Where do you shop?

A roadside stall

A roadside stall

Australia has commenced the new national curriculum in core curriculum subjects. The development of the Economics and Business curriculum is now in engagement phase. I have been requested to participate in this and will develop a teaching and learning artefacts.

Year 5 will look at  decision making in relation to “Where do you Shop?” and explore the ways in which the needs and wants of individuals and groups are met by the following shopping options:-

  • roadside stalls
  • markets
  • main streets or high streets
  • shopping centres

If you have time, could you please fill in the following survey so that the data might be used by year 5 students in their learning. Thanks in advance. If you have any questions or comments and suggestions please leave them in a comment below. The data will be also shared via this blog, should others wish to use it in their classrooms.

Things to do over the summer break!

the beach

Last summer I wrote a post on “Ten things to do over the Summer Break“. This summer I could have:-

  • Updated my blog – given it a complete summer clean!
  • Updated my profiles on many networking sites
  • Completed the challenge by linkedin to ensure my profile is noteworthy
  • Listened to many of the recorded sessions from the Global Education Conference that I missed
  • Played further with google hangouts
  • Written many blog posts including a reflective summary of 2012 and so much more….

Instead, I have taken deliberate time off, from being online, and:-

  • Travelled to Sth Africa to spend Christmas and New Year with our son and his family who live there
  • Spent further quality time with our grandchildren, daughter and her husband camping  by the sea.
  • Revitalised my energy in preparation for the 2013 school year.

It can be extremely demanding to maintain an online presence and to work in eLearning and digital learning. I found 2012 a challenging year  teaching prep through to year 12.

Sometimes we simply need time out from our online existence. Time must be spent with family and physical friends and a forced break from the online presence does not mean that you have missed out on many things, rather it gives an increased enthausiasm and  renewed energy levels.

Today as teachers return to school in Victoria, it is time for me to network, catch up with emails, check out twitter updates, read some blog posts and continue that online existence.

Tech Talk Tuesdays: Tech Talk Tuesdays: Implementing the 1:1 Environment – the challenges, successes & moments of madness!

When: Tuesday 11th September, 2012, 4-5pm, Melbourne Australia time (gmt+10)

About this session: David Simpson will share his experiences in implementing a 1:1 environment in his school. He will outline the process that my school has followed for the whole-scale introduction of 1:1 computing in a large Government secondary school in the northern suburbs of Melbourne.

This implementation has not been without challenges but has been in place for 6 months and the benefits are becoming clearer with each passing week.

This session would be ideal for anyone that has been down this road or is thinking of heading this way. The areas discussed will move beyond 1:1 in the classroom and also into broader areas of management, security, resourcing (booklists, etc.) and teacher pedagogy.

About our Presenter: David is eLearning Leading Teacher at St Helena Secondary College, Victoria, Australia

Here is the recording of this session.

Randomly linking to Design a Book Cover

My attempt at the Book Cover

Several years ago, I used a post by another Australian librarian as a basis for my class to design a book cover for Children’s Book Week in Australia. This week my students designed a book cover using the following online sites.

  1. The title came from Random Article link on left hand sidebar of Wikipedia 
  2. The author’s name was created from Random Name Generator
  3. Students used word generator to get the search term for their cover image. That search term was used in Flickr CC to choose an image.

Students then saved all three results and created a book cover using MS Powerpoint or MS Paint, saving the final file as a jpg and adding it as a post on their blogs.

What worked well:

  • Students were engaged
  • Most completed the task in 50 minutes but did not have time to place it in a blog post.
  • I used it with 13 year olds. Care may need to be taken with younger students as one topic from wikipedia random articles was not suitable. Care may need to be taken with the photos as well.
  • Great teaching lesson on creative commons for the use of image. Students had to read the licensing and save the image url to place on their blog post or in small print on their book cover.
  • Exposed them to some tools that may help when they cannot think of titles or prompts etc  the random type generators.

Have you done something similar? What other ideas do you have for some of the random generators on the internet.


50 things to do during Connected Educators Month

Although I live and teach in Australia, I love the notion of Connected Educators Month during August, which is an initiative of the USA. Here are some ideas and thoughts on what to do during and beyond the month of August.

  1. Share with one other staff member at your school on the importance of connectedness. Skype a class within your school. Learn to use a collaborative tool together eg twitter
  2. Start a blog – a necessity  for ongoing connecting
  3. E-Lurk and explore. Get lost in cyberspace reading other blogs.
  4. Leave a comment on a blog, making sure you leave your blog address for return comments and connect ions.
  5. Blog about what connectedness means to you
  6. Share a lesson or something simple that worked for you, tweet out your blog post url.
  7. Participate in quad blogging. Get to know three other classes really well.
  8. Join the Blogging Challenge for Teachers – don’t just lurk, do it!
  9. Involve your class in the Student Blogging Challenge
  10. Read the posts for Create your own PLN (Professional Learning Network)
  11. Read and comment on the Connected Learner Manifesto document created by Sheryl Nussbaumbeach
  12. Leave a comment on each of your student blogs, get to know them on a more personal level.
  13. Have a lunchtime sharing session with students on the technology they use – get them to share. How do they connect?
  14. Start your senior students on twitter (age dependent) Teach them how to effectively connect.
  15. Complete the challenges in the PLN Challenge of Edublogs
  16. Attend a face to face conference and swap contact details with someone new
  17. Attend a teachmeet either f2f or virtual Plane group, Teachmeets (Australia)
  18. Attend one of the online webinars organised during Connected Educator month.
  19. Attend Classroom20Live  webinars, Tech Talk Tuesdays webinars, Australia Series  webinars
  20. Attend, present or volunteer for the Learning 2.0 Virtual Conference
  21. Follow someone new on twitter, DM them, retweet their tweets, actively include them in a tweet
  22. Join in on one of the regular tweet chats eg #educhat #globalclassroom etc Lurk, then share or ask questions (lots of them)
  23. Setup columns for hashtags in one of the popular twitter clients eg tweetdeck, hootsuite
  24. Set up a twitterchat account and follow a trending hashtag, conference hashtag or other
  25. Add your name to this list set up by Sue Waters, of Edublogs, and mentor others in the use of twitter.
  26. Join a collaborative ning or space eg Classroom 2.0, the Global Education Conference Network, Educators Guide to Innovation,
  27. Join a global project eg the Flat Classroom Projects, (there are fabulous projects for all year levels) Taking IT  Global
  28. Create a global project of your own
  29. Join skype in education, join one of the projects
  30. skypeplay. Join the wiki.
  31. Check out the Global Classroom  Wiki, read what others have done, email those people, join the wiki. Read the Global Classroom Blog, add a comment, share in the conversations.
  32. Join an educational group on facebook, ask a question, add updates
  33. Like a fellow educator’s update on FB or add a comment
  34. Participate in a MOOC eg  Games Based Learning, Google Search for Learning MOOC.
  35. Connect with parents – run an information session at school sharing collaborative technology eg blogging, facebook, or run an online session. Commence a class or school blog.
  36. Connect with community – actively seek out a community member eg an author, a scientist etc and get them to share with you and your class
  37. Try a mystery skype session
  38. Create a Family Feud skype session
  39. Join the connected educator challenge
  40. Show you care – Empowering Children and Youth  Open World Cause, projects from TIG
  41. Share your connectedness online, share what you have done with others, why it is important to be connected
  42. Join linkedin and join some groups. If a member join a new group
  43. Create a google hangout and invite others in to learn with you
  44. Join an educational edmodo group
  45. Early years teachers should #skypeplay or #kinderchat. Join their wiki, follow their hashtags
  46. Complete the VICPLN course
  47. Join the Powerful Learning Practise
  48. Join the Connected Educator Bookclub
  49. Check out Design Thinking for Educators
  50. Just connect and keep on connecting!

My connections started through blogging, classroom 2.0 and then twitter and they continue to grow. How did you start? What other ideas do you have for connecting? Please share in a comment below.

Games in Learning MOOC

Having enlisted for the Games Based Learning MOOC, I am determined not to be a lurker, but a participator of some nature. I am not a’ gamer’ but I have participated in Second Life and worked with my students in Quest Atlantis. Having observed students at school being distracted, when bored, by playing games and  willing to spend hours playing their favourite games, I am curious about the nature of such engagement. On Friday lunchtimes I open the computer lab for students to come in and play games. A group of 10-15 students will happily sit, just watching two or three players on their x-box. How can  games be used for effective learning in the classroom.  I want to learn more and this means having a go at some of them. During week 1, the following actions were completed and following observations made:-

  1. Played two of the three suggested serious games – Eye of the Donkey and Viking Quest.(When time permits I hope to try Darfur is Dying
  2. Participated in the social forum
  3. Watched suggested, purpose created videos  and read some of the suggested blog posts.

The games:-

Eye of the Donkey:- this is a chemistry game created by Nobel Prize Educational. It seeks to teach students about the process and nature of DNA testing. First players sit through an interactive lecture on DNA. The lecturer ‘pings’ the player to answer the question and will not move on until they do. Next the player is taken into the game where they collect DNA samples and analyze them in a lab. Prompts, notes etc are provided to ensure that the player can succeed. This would be suitable as revisionary exercise for students who are 15 years older whilst studying DNA.

A screen shot of the lab and the final stage of DNA

The Viking Quest, by BBC History Games, is a game for students studying the Vikings. Players are given choices re location, boat building, employing labour, venturing into the seas and returning home again. This is one that I did not successfully complete. The game would be suitable for middle school students. Both games are engaging and required quite a bit of reading and problem solving.

Choosing a boat building location

Using these games with the students:- I asked around school staff to see who might use these games in class. No-one was currently studying the Vikings. Fortuitously, our year 10 science students were just completing a unit of study on DNA.  To my surprise the science teacher showed interest in the Eye of the Donkey and gave it to the students to play today. It was a success! He was really happy with the engagement of the students and the learning experience. They tried to skip the lecture and go straight to the game, but this prevented them from fully playing the game. So, they had to listen to the theory first and then play. It took them approximately 30 minutes to complete.

Year 9/10 ICT students:- Today was my first elective class for games based learning. I decided to get my students to play the Vikings Quest and give me feedback. Here is what I heard from one student!

  • I am going to play it again, cos I failed and I want to win! (First go she got 240 points)
  •  Cry of delight on playing the second time. She got 690 points but had still failed to succeed.
  • “I swear I am going to win this game even if it takes me all day” and she did!

Another student was successful on the first game and is writing a blog post discussing the choices that she made that allowed her to achieve success. If only we heard such comments from students when they are not successful in their usual school classes.

The challenges:

  • the time commitment,
  • home bandwidth is too slow for some for watching the longer  videos.
  • the MOOC and some sites were blocked at school, but were unblocked upon request by technicians.

Overall impressions: a well organised MOOC, with many interactive activities and opportunities for networking, including a tweet chat with the tag #gamemooc

How’s this? I won the Herald Award for the best outside post from the MOOC!  Thanks guys! The organisers of the mooc just rock!

An uprising – “Learning at the grass roots”.

Last year, I received this message:-

‘”Miss, can you please give me TRIAL EXAMS for unit vce accounting 2011 and from previous years

My classes are big and my teacher isnt that good withrevision so i was wondering. i was wondering if you know any VCE MATH METHODS and ENGLISH  sites like this so i can email teachers if i dont undertand or want practise exams.”

I had been googled, found on slideshare where I had been uploading digital learning objects for my VCE accounting class. (My class included three virtual students). What impact will requests like this have for students and learning?

When working on a collaborative project with students from a university in Japan, this request was made of my students in the forum section of the moodle:-

I have a favor to ask of you. Now I study English, but my English have a lot of mistakes. I want you to check my English and correct  mistakes if you have time. Thanks, Ayaka

Your English is quite good for the majority of your writing but I have written it now as I would have. However, I was unable to complete your second paragraph because I could not understand what Obachann was. Could you please tell me?   Chloe

Hi Chloe!

I appreciate your kindness. “Obachan” is women whose age are 30-50 and they have warm heart and great energy. Most of them love going to shopping, watching Korean dramas and having a chat in the street. Thanks,  Ayaka

Is this an indication of the future of learning? Students at the grass roots are using technology to take hold of the quality of their learning and its direction.

  1. Have you any examples like these to share?
  2. What will this mean for the future in regard to learning and teaching?