Monthly Archives: October 2013

Tech Talk Tuesday Takes a Virtual Excursion to Melbourne!

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) have organised some wonderful webinars this year and provided suggested student activities for their exhibitions. Melbourne Now is the latest exhibition at NGV and according to the website Melbourne Now celebrates the latest art, architecture, design, performance and cultural practice to reflect the complex cultural landscape of creative Melbourne. As it is connected educator month, Tech Talk Tuesday will take a virtual excursion and join the NGV as they share this exciting new exhibition. It also fits in neatly with Connected Educator month with educators connecting with the community. Please join NGV for another great webinar. Details are as follows:

When: Tuesday 29th October, 2013, 4-5:15pm, Melbourne, Australia time (gmt+11)

Where: Click on this Link to the virtual room

About this session: Are you planning a visit to Melbourne Now with a group, or just curious about what the exhibition might offer for your students?  These webinars with NGV educators will provide a general overview and selected highlights of the exhibition, and present ideas and resources for pre and post visit activities at school inspired by the exhibition.   The program is also an opportunity for teachers to share ideas and ask questions about the exhibition and visiting the exhibition with a school group.

Please join us!

24 hours in the Life of a Connected Educator

Please note that this post is cross-posted aSmartBlog on Education

A virtual classroom of engaged students

A virtual classroom of engaged students

As it is connected educator month, it is interesting to take note of what life can be like in 24 hours as a connected educator! Following are the sequence of events one 24 hour period last week!

6:30am Perused my emails – mostly content sent whilst the rest of the world was awake. Responded to the most pressing emails. Checked  twitter for any interesting updates, especially those tweets directed to me. Checked for any comments to moderate on my blog posts and respond to them, enabling further conversations and connections. Looked at the day’s statistics. (It is always motivating to know that people may have read posts or that keyword searches have found my blog posts. The search terms added give an idea for further posts that may be of interest to many.)

7:30am Last minute preparations for the day’s classes

8:15am Depart for school, turn on laptop proxy settings and check for any skype group updates

9am       Coach a potential moderator online,  in the use of Blackboard Collaborate (virtual classroom software. Our Education Department provides teachers with a statewide license for PD, meeting and classroom use.)

11am     Activated the school polycom videoconferencing equipment to connect with a teaching colleague in Melbourne  who was with the executive committee of  Parents Victoria.  We demonstrated the potential it has for effective and easy connections via high quality videoconferencing. Discussed various uses of this equipment and other  tools  may have for connecting  eg bringing statewide parents in to virtual meetings from their homes, virtual parent/teacher/school  information evenings, virtual school assemblies

1pm       Noted the emailed link to the virtual room for my year 8 ICT class linkup with Gio and Port Phillip EcoCentre. Gio, a year 11 student in Melbourne, is to share his work on the Nest Box Forum with my students. My class is to be a champion class for Gio to learn how to make effective use of blackboard collaborate as a teaching/learning tool. My students will have the chance to interact with Gio, learning netiquette and appropriate online behaviour and finding answers to their curiosity.

2pm       Year 8 students individually logon and enter the virtual room. Surprisingly, Gio was not there yet. An email alerted us to the problems they were having with their technology back in Melbourne. While we waited, students drew pictures on the whiteboard to share something of where we live. Wondering how long this would keep them engaged, I tried to think of a plan B. However, a skype pop-up window, alerted me to  a request from Lin-lin in Taiwan, looking  for a class to do a mystery skype with her students now!  Thinking this could be a life saver, I immediately said we would – at least until Gio was able to connect with us. Just as I set up skype to display on a bigger monitor, Gio appeared. Not wanting to offend either party, I got two girls to take my laptop in to the backroom to do the mystery skype with the Taiwanese school, allowing me to work with the majority of students. I fleetingly and periodically checked on the two girls, but they seemed to be able to make themselves understood, looked like they were having fun as they communicated and connected, using the chat when there was misunderstanding with the spoken language. At one stage the Taiwanese class could be heard singing a song to the girls. Meanwhile my main class was highly engaged listening to and learning of the bats, possums and birds that used the nesting boxes.  Gio shared some delightful images with them on the whiteboard.

Two countries,two cultures, two languages learn over skype

Two countries,two cultures, two languages learn over skype

3:45pm Staff meeting. Got a viber alert on my ipad  –  a new healthy granddaughter, was just  born in Johannesburg, Sth Africa!

8pm       Checked emails, skype updates, viber messages, twitter feed and wrote a blog post  An Unpredictable Class to share the impact of connectedness!

What does your typical ‘connected’ day involve?  How important is it for educators to be connected? What impact has being connected had on your teaching/learning?

The ideal class!

Walking into my first year 9/10 ICT class for the semester, I faced high-5s, excitement and high anticipation!  What!!! Why???

This was an elective class, students who chose to be there and the name of the class was “Gaming!”  I wanted to trial gaming as an elective to see what learning could take place and obtained permission from the leadership team to do so. We have some serious gamers in our school and they are in this class!

pumpkin head

However, I am not a at all a digital gamer and have no real inclination to be one. That puts me on the lowest level of knowledge and the least likely to be qualified to teach such a class. I am still working through class content and the way in which learning can be assessed.

MinecraftEDU is on our server and is the one constant game played over the semester. Students just do not seem to tire of it. However, students come up with minecraft challenges and these challenges are given out to the others. Students will bring in hardware including wii, xbox, game boy,  play stations, hand held devices etc Are they learning anything by just playing games? Let me tell you more.

game boy

The Student cohort:-

  • A large proportion of under-achievers and disengaged students
  • Excursion and school avoiders
  • A lack of girls (although several came in later in the semester)
  • High absenteeism
  • Students who will be absent from school in order to queue at the shop for the latest games release or in order to make sure they get the limited collectors items.
A collaborative minecraft project: work in progress

A collaborative minecraft project: work in progress


  • Highly engaged students often working in small groups, mentoring each other, sharing their knowledge and learning, answering each other’s questions etc.
  • Students working out challenging projects together
  • Excitedly sharing with me the latest things they are trying out
  • Searching online for video tutorials or withing online forums to solve problems encountered, best prices,
  • Working out budgets to see whether they can afford the latest games etc
  • Collaboratively and simultaneously building fixtures in minecraft

Interestingly I can “con” them into learning some associated digital literacy skills using gaming as the theme so that my role as a teacher:

  • Teach them how to blog and journalise their progress in games
  • Encourage them to write posts on things pertaining to games playing eg game reviews, 5 things I learnt this week, 5 things you might not know about…… , My top 10 computer games, 10 games you should play before you die!, What makes a great computer game etc
  • show them how to add links, resources and hyperlings in blogging
  • #tags in twitter for favourite games
  • how to use a spreadsheet and create budgets etc
  • Create online surveys to get games feedback
  • Collaboratively build online documents sharing knowledge, ideas and processes etc
  • Introduce some free educational type online games and get them to trial them eg logos for business studies, history games, commerce games etc.
  • Teach them how to screen casts to show progression over time and
  • create videos that will be uploaded to youtube.
  • Demonstrate how to upload videos to youtube, change thumbnails, apply tags etc
  • Curate favourite sites with diigo, symbaloo links etc on blogs etc
  • Look at social issues caused by games eg games addiction, rating of games etc, application to the workforce eg simulations etc
  • Organise a knowledgeable student(s) to introduce some games making software eg MS Kodu, and Gamemaker


I asked students what we could do and how I can assess it as traditional  assessment methods will not work. They have come up with some great ideas on this collaborative google document. This is still work in progress but their use of blogging etc, stats, comments, youtube uploads etc Evidence of collaboration, mentoring and sharing etc.


This Thursday, the class will go by coach to Quantum in Melbourne (a 4 hour drive each way) for a full day workshop on Games Technology.  Many of these students would normally choose to avoid excursions or just be very slack in returning forms. But….. this time, forms are all back and came back the next day!

What does all this say? I am still trying to work through it all but I know that I have engaged students with almost nil behaviour problems in this gaming class. Now, how can I get this in my other traditional subjects?

What experience do you have? What have your findings been?

European Day of Languages

One thing about being a connected educator, means that you hear about many of the special International Days and celebrations that other countries participate in. One such day is the European Day of Languages, celebrated on 23rd September, 2013.  This was brought to my attention following lengthy discussions on the HLW Skypers skype group. Teachers were discussing how they would celebrate it and how they could connect their students to countries whose language they were learning.

Tatyana Chernaya, of Moscow, was seeking partnerships for her students. As we were on school holidays, and I happened to be in Melbourne at my son’s unit, I was able to connect over skype with Tatyana and one of her language students. It was with quite some surprise that he shyly told me that he was really interested in languages and could in fact speak three fluently: Russian, English, French and German. (I did not have the heart to tell him that I could only speak English despite learning French at school and have retained little knowledge of it).

Unfortunately, in Australia and perhaps as we are an island and reasonably remote from bordering countries, our students, in the main, do not see much purpose in learning another language. Hence although it is required that students learn another language other than English from early year levels through to year 8 (in our school), they learn culture rather than the language. Our school teaches mandarin Chinese but students do not speak it well. Yet, visiting Chinese students to our school speak English well.

Taking a Russian languages student out into the streets of Melbourne

Taking a Russian languages student out into the streets of Melbourne

As I was in Melbourne and had mobile internet access, I was able to virtually “walk” him and Tatyana out into the lovely ‘leafy’ street that my son lives in and share a little of Melbourne with them and the context in which the English language is spoken. Tatyana’s students blogs can be found at Well Done.

How important do you think that it is to learn another language? What languages do you speak? What languages are taught in your school? How do your students view the learning of languages.

Which webinar platform for online professional learning?

A recent question came up on our Oz Teachers mailing list re which webinar platform could be or should be used  for national online professional learning. Following is my response:-

One tool will rarely suit all scenarios. Many factors affect the choice. Teaching and living in a remote rural area of Victoria, I personally feel that it is important to choose a tool that is accessible for people who experience low bandwidth.

Some considerations when choosing a platform are as follows.  Does it allow:-

  • shared presentations
  • individual logins, number of logins
  • bandwidth  -ability to manually pull back bandwidth so anyone from anywhere can participate
  • ability to record sessions and share recording
  • interactivity from participants – chat, interactive whiteboard, polling, breakout rooms for small group discussions, sharing emoticons
  • ease of use and logging on
  • use chat, voice, video etc
  • ability to share screens
  • can files be sent through the medium?
  • Moderating abilities and potential need to control the participants
  • The use of any device – fixed devices, a variety of platforms, mobile devices etc
  • And is there a cost

Having used a variety of webinar platforms over the last 4 or 5 years, blackboard collaborate is still my favourite. I use it weekly for Tech Talk Tuesday webinars where participants from across all states and many countries of the globe, including Nepal and Indonesia, have attended. This  includes participants from state and government schools, community groups and government departments. There will be problems at times with sites being blocked in individual institutions, or proxy setting issues– all of which are fixable with technical support and permission

Webinar tools that I have used include-

Tools that are free, or have a free element :-

Tools that cost:

  • Blackboard Collaborate – Victorian Education Department has purchased a statewide license for teachers in both state and private schools to use for educational purposes: classes, online meetings and professional development.
  • DiscoverE – built specifically for low bandwidth areas
  • Adobe Connect etc
  • MS Lync: available for Victorian Educators to use with a Department of Education license

What platforms have you use? Which have you had issues with? Were they resolvesd? What do you look for as either a presenter of participant in online professional learning?

The Changing Space of Learning

Equipment I have taught over the years

Equipment I have taught over the years

When I started teaching just over 30 years ago, I faced my first classes, one of which was a typewriting class. I had never learnt to type so this was a challenge to me! After maternity leave and three children, I returned to teaching to discover that I now had a computer class. When I walked into that classroom, it was the first time that I had seen or touched a computer! I faced a class full of engaged, eager students on Commodore 64s!! I had no idea what I was doing, so I created content as I went along and learnt alongside the students.

Although education as we see it has not changed much, the tools that we use certainly have! These tools and innovative use of technology have the power to change the space of learning as we now know it. Spaces are increasingly becoming digital, virtual, global and mobile. People can learn anywhere, any time and on any topic they like. Learning is increasingly organic and networked but much of this occurs beyond the classroom. The Changing Space of Learning was the topic for my recent presentation for the Reform Symposium Forum online conference.

My presentation will share some stories and experiences from my classroom where technology is immersed. As I teach in a small rural p-12 school in south eastern Australia, my students are culturally and geographically isolated but technology has broken down these physical and social barriers and created many learning spaces. Time will be taken to share some of my favourite tools, how I use them, the impact it has had on learning and the huge influence that professional learning network has had on my teaching and learning. New skills and expertise required of educationalists as learning spaces continue to change will also be discussed.

Please join me for this session and share in and build upon the conversations. How are learning spaces changing for you? What impact has this had on you and your students? What are some of the questions that you have? Please share them as a comment below.

Following is my presentation:-

Or, you can view the recording of my presentation by clicking on this link.

When a School Turns 50!

staff outside bus

When a school turns 50, it is time to celebrate! And Hawkesdale High School, now known as Hawkesdale P12 College turned on the celebrations. It is 50 years since the High School started – a school that came about to cater for the children of returned soldier settlers in the area.

Celebrations are an important time for sharing, reflecting and commemoration. Anne-Maree Huglin, an ex student of the school and a current staff member, was largely responsible for an amazing display of photos, memorabilia and connecting with past students, staff and friends. Friday was the day for current staff and students to celebrate. The majority came in olden day costumes with many opting for the 70’s and 80’s clothes, but also historic and even biblical dress. The primary school students enjoyed playing old fashioned games eg marbles, knuckebones etc, learning craft work and bush dancing. A time capsule has been put together and one that had been found in the grounds when building rennovations occurred was opened to catch a quick glimpse before it is to be replaced until the time of its official opening. A number of students were delighted to see the work of their parents in the capsule.

marbles better

Hundreds turned up on the Saturday to reminisce, check out the displays, enjoy a bbq lunch and devonshire teas. A roll call was held in the afternoon and a celebratory dinner at night time. School stories were shared by past and present staff and students.

Facebook was used to great effect to communicate with many. A group was established and photos and updates have been constantly added. One past student and her husband flew in from London for five days, in order to attend.

It is days like this that make me proud to have been a teacher in this school for more than 27 years. I started there in 1976, took a break to have a family and then returned in 1986 and am there still. It is a wonderful  school with a strong community spirit. Due to its small size, teachers and students all know each other.

Often we lose contact with past students and how wonderful it is to see that many have succeeded or perhaps survived and made a successful life for themselves. It was also very, very special and rather emotional time, when a number of  students came up and told me that some of what I had taught them had made an impact on their life beyond school. As teachers we do have a big role to play in shaping the lives and future of our young charges.

Tech Talk Tuesday: What is a Connected Educator?

When: Tuesday, October 15th, 4-5pm, Melbourne Australia time (gmt+11)

Where: Blackboard Collaborate Here is the link to the recording of this session.

Connected Educator Month continues this month. In keeping with the theme,  Tech Talk Tuesday will look at the the question of “What is a Connected Educator?” and may look at some of the following, depending on the interests of participants:-

  • What is a connected educator?
  • What does a typical day look like for the connected educator?
  • Why become a connected educator?
  • General sharing of any learning this week including Connected Educator Month activities, #RSCon4 the Reform Symposium Conference etc
  • Impact for teaching and learning?
  • Favourite ways to connect
  • Special stories to share
  • Questions, tips and general conversations
Please join us, bring your experiences and questions and  share in the conversations.
Some pre -reading Patience for the Unconnected by Tom Whitby

21st Century Classroom Management – Connected Cafe #ce13

cem cafe

In 12 hours time, I am proud and excited to be the guest, of Steve Hargadon at the Connected Cafe together with Alice Keeler. The Connected  Cafe is a daily online event is held over week days in the month of October as part of Connected Educator Month.  This webinar is made even more special in that Steve has been instrumental in the development of my professional learning network and largely responsible for me being a connected educator through the membership of  Steve’s Classroom 2.0. It will be 10:30 am in Melbourne, Australia (gmt+11) or check your timezone here.  Click on this the link to join.

Click on this link to listen to the recording of this session.

The topic of conversation will be 21st Century Classroom Management. This is of high interest to me as connected classrooms usually require different and innovative management styles to the traditional classroom. Steve will be the moderator and channel the direction of the conversation. Please join us, share and have some fun together,  but most importantly, let’s keep connecting.

Once this session concludes, I shall write up a post sharing some of the content of this exciting webinar. What do you have to share on this topic? What would your questions be? Do you have experiences to share? What do you think 21st century classroom management covers?

Some great feedback:-


Tech Talk Tuesday: The Student Blogging Challenge – a Great Way to Connect

When: Tuesday, October 8th, 4-5pm, Melbourne Australia time (gmt+11) (note we will be on daylight saving time) See timeanddate for your time zone. Here is the link to the recording of this session.

About this session: October is Connected Educator Month #ce13.  To help promote and share on this theme, Tech Talk Tuesdays will next week, feature Sue Wyatt and the Student Blogging Challenge. A challenge that has connected educators and students across the world. Blogging is an essential tool to commence, maintain and further connections. In this session, Sue Wyatt (@tasteach) will share with us the blogging challenge, step us through what it looks like, some amazing outcomes and many connections achieved. Please join us! Bring your experiences, questions and conversations.

Here is the link to join this session.

If you would like to know of other events that might be happening during this month: