Author Archives: annemirtschin

Conversations in 140 characters

twitterA recent presentation to “Broadband for Seniors” tutors on “What you need to know about Twitter” brought forth the question

How can we possibly keep a tweet to 140 characters? Why cant twitter increase the number of characters?

and some of the responses from participants:

  • putting your message in so few words is tricky
  • putting yourself across succinctly takes practice but is good for your English!  (Rasa)
  • If you have to do all this to get beyond the 140 limit, why dont twitter just expand the 140 limit?
  • then it will become toooo much – the treat of it is its only 140 – short and sharp !!!140 characters – sweet and short (Megan)

Here are some tips for keeping within the 140 character limit:

  • Consider a short username/id/twitter handle if people reply to you or retweet one of your tweets it will not use up too many characters
  • Keep your sentence short, concise and to the poin
  • Use recognized abbreviations eg Ss and Ts for students and teachers. Rasa suggested searching online for twitter and facebook abbreviations
  • Use pictures to show what the tweet is about
  • Add short videos for depth See


  • Use a url shortener like bitly, moourl, tinyurl, google etc (although twitter seems  to shortern the url and not include all of it in the character count)
  • Create a poster in canva, a powerpoint slide converted to a jpg to portray a lot of information or other image generator for sharing  eg the 6 or 7 questions to be posed in a twitter chat. They can be displayed on a poster converted to jpg and then attached as an image so that the complete content can be displayed or see tweet below for another example:


Another question was “what happens if you exceed the 140 characters?” It highlights the characters that over the 140 mark and states how many characters you are over!

What tips and hints do you have to keep conversations within 140 characters?

140 characters

Feel safe with these ideas for blogging with students!

Digital image

Mentor students – blogging

“Blogging – an essential online space” (link to the recording)  was the theme of this week’s Tech Talk Tuesdays. I feel stronly that blogging should be open and online. Why?  Otherwise students should use offline tools to document their learning etc. A question was asked

 “How can we ensure that students are safe and secure whilst blogging?”

Here are some suggestions:

  1. The teacher should model and actively demonstrate safety, security and netiquette through a class blog first. Students will then learn safety aspects and appropriate online behaviour before individual blogging commences.
  2. Students should be taught what constitutes private information and how to protect their private information
  3. Make security and safety an integral part of teaching -give  constant reminders to students. Use any teachable moments as they arise.
  4. Use strong passwords
  5. Ensure that the teacher is a co-administrator of each student blog (for older students) or administrator for younger students (with them being an editor). This allows a teacher to step in and moderate if and when necessary.
  6. Comments should always be moderated.
  7. Blog roll links on the sidebar of blogs to other students should not list the last name of the students. Use first names only.
  8. Teachers should regularly check student blogs, make it part of their assessment.
  9. Encourage parents, teachers and community members (including global) to read the students blogs. Any problems will then be quickly alerted to.
  10. Participate in any online webinars that may be offered to classes  by organisations such as esafety.
Digital image

Learning to blog with mentor students


  1. Students create digital avatars as their visual representation rather than use their photo
  2. Ensure the school has have fully signed parent permission forms before adding photos of students to online spaces
  3. Students should not be named in any photos in  blog posts or pages. It is preferable to include group photos or use photos where faces are not clearly shown. There are software tools to pixellate faces. Read the excellent post by @suewaters Are you using student photos online?

Online timers in blogs or online spaces

One of my largest classes  is year 8 ICT. It  has a number of challenging students. As the class is a double period of 110 minutes, a variety of tasks is usually required. To give students a sense of time management, we looked at some of the online timers that they could use to ensure they stay on task. To my delight I found that one of the timers can actually be embedded into blogs and other online spaces. Click on this link, or click on the cog, lower left hand corner of the timer.

Unfortunately, the code does not work for my in WordPress so a screen shot has been added below. To see it in operation goto my class blog page and see it in action.

online timers

Each student embedded the countdown timer into a blog post, and I have also added it to a page on my class blog for quick and easy access. If you use the ‘choose a soundtrack’ option, top middle of timer, it will play music as it counts down.

Students were happily engaged for 20 mins or so, learning how to embed code on their blogs and exploring how to make the clock work in all manner of ways. The only problem is the advertising, but maybe this teaches students to ignore the advertising surrounding them.

Have you used any online timers? If so, please share in a comment below.

Conversations Worth Sharing

girls and alisa

It never ceases to amaze me about the many opportunities that technology can provide to learning in breaking down the barriers of distance, cost and effort. This also includes seas and time zones. Our school is rural remote – 30-40 mins from a major shopping centre. Our students either live on farms or in very small country towns. The town our school is situated in has 150 residents. We are surrounded by farmland on three sides.

One of my favourite tools continues to be skype. It is user friendly, able to be readily used by people from all countries, is free and relatively stable with our unpredictable bandwidth. Bearing this in mind our students were offered the opportunity to linkup with the TED conference in Vancouver, Canada several months ago. Permission notes went home to parents of year 8 ICT students and my year 11 Business Management and Accounting students.

Year 8 ICT students were to play Mystery Career with a TED speaker (who turne out to be Alisa Miller, CEO of Public Radio Internationaland Year 11 students were to be given the opportunity to talk with Blake Mycoskie founder of TOMs shoes. Then, the most exciting connection of all (from the students’ point of view was the opportunity to interact with Mark Ronson! (of Uptown Funk fame).  He is an English musician, DJ, singer, and record producer. Please watch the fantastic result.

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

Prior to the linkups

  • Permission forms were sent home to be signed by students’ parents.
  • Year 8 students prepared a series of questions that they could ask their mystery connection to determine their career.
  • Year 11 students compiled a series of questions to ask of Mark and Blake.
  • I booked the library as it had a cabled computer for best bandwidth, a whiteboard for projection of the TED conference
  • Our school was tested on several occasions for bandwidth and other technical capabilities by Skype technicians in London to ensure that our school, computer and setup would be capable of the connection.
  • 45 mins before the official connections, we were dialled in to ensure that lighting, backgrounds, framing of the students and audio was all okay! Our webcamera ended up being taped with masking tape to one of the speakers to ensure students were centred and framed well. So, please dont say that teachers need a lot of money or technology to achieve great things!!!
Out mystery career guest!

Out mystery career guest!

The actual linkup no 1 with Alisa Miller – Mystery Career

  • The call came through and we answered and connected with good video resolution and audio
  • all went well for the first 10 mins and then our computer independently rebooted and we lost connection
  • We dialled in again but our computer rebooted once more
  • Highly frustrated, I connected my laptop which had not been tested and it worked well enough for us to finish the first connection.
  • Surprisingly one of the year 8 students finally asked whether she was a CEO and there was an affirmative answer. See  the questions they had at their disposal to ask and determine the mystery career.
  • Alissa went on to talk more about what she does, how she got to the top and encouraged the girls to do their best and aim the highest!

Connection no2 with Mark Ronson and Blake Mycoskie – year 11 Business Management, Accounting Students and some year 8 students

  • again we connected 45 mins prior and tested the connections (technicians had replaced the desktop computer in the library). We were framed appropriately.
  • the dialling and connections worked a treat, the video and audio was of high quality. Another school from Tasmania was on skype with us and Mark Ronson
  • students were really excited to work with Mark as his work in the musical field was well known to them.
  • Blake was highly motivating in his stories of success and where he had started from. He outlined his social entrepreneurship as part of the Toms Shoes organisation. The content covered was highly relevant to their study of Business Management.

How amazing to be able to talk to three highly regarded global entrepreneurs from the comfort of our small rural school! Students  may not remember much of the textbook but they will remember their skype call with these people.

ISTE 2015

At the beginning…

At the first ISTE attended (four years ago), I filled in my day from start to end with sessions to attend. I closely perused the app and the paper copy of the program, asterisked those I wanted to attend, read the twitter feed and blog recommendations, joined queues at the conference centre, sometimes missed out due to the queue and then found an alternative session to attend. It was a very passive attendance where I soaked up knowledge, advice and resources like a sponge.

Conference days were filled, active and busy. Sometimes I would bump into online colleagues and spend time with them. On the last day I was walking  from one building to another when a pirate approached me to see what videoconferencing was about and the programs that could be offered over video conferencing. That introduced me to a whole new dimension – playgrounds, where I could actively play, interact with experts and mentors and get customized learning.

iste 2015

Fast forward to 2015

2015 ISTE was just as busy but in some ways less planned, where I ensured that I attended some sessions of favourite presenters and attended as many playgrounds and poster sessions as possible. It was a  time to ‘give back’ or ‘pay forward’ to others through my involvement with the Global Education Conference, ISTE Global PLN and Skype in the Classroom.

The Bloggers Cafe

The Bloggers Cafe

ISTE global pln poster session

ISTE global pln poster session

The Highlights

Julie Lindsay and Pernille Ripp who won the Global PLN award

Julie Lindsay and Pernille Ripp who won the Global PLN award

Networking: Being on the leadership of the global ISTE PLN, newly formed in 2014, meant a portion of the time was spent in meetings, poster sessions and a birds of a feather session. The network adds a powerful dimension to an educator and such opportunities provide time to broaden the network further on a global basis.  So much can be learnt by sharing with others, engaging in conversations, ensuring ongoing contact  and learning continue to take place once home and back in the classroom. It was great to catch up with Flat Connections, Global Classroom, Master Skype Educators and many other online colleagues.

Skype in the Classroom poster session

Skype in the Classroom poster session

The playgrounds and poster sessions: These included the mobile learning playground, the interactive videoconferencing and the early years playground. It was fun to be actively part of the iste global pln and Skype: Collaborating and Connecting Beyond Classroom Walls poster sessions. There was a lot to be learnt from the interactions with interested persons who stopped to chat and ask questions. It is always great to see what individuals and groups are doing with their classsrooms in the poster sessions.

Interactive videoconferencing playground

Interactive videoconferencing playground

Playing Mystery Skype

Playing Mystery Skype


The social opportunities provided outside of formal hours  – catching up with, and meeting flat connections and global classroom  colleagues for a meal or coffee or in the bloggers cafe to share further conversations.

The Global Education Summit on the Sunday

This is always a highlight listening to the ignite type sessions, participating in the round table discussions and furthering the learning and professional network. A great online document of crowdsourced materials can be found at Global Education  Day documents

Global Collaboration Birds of a Feather session

Julie Lindsay organised a successful BOF session and encouraged us to meet each other by writing 3 words that reflect on who we are on a screen or paper, then walking around the room viewing the other participants outcomes. Meet some of the participants by perusing the crowd sourced padlet.

Student involvement

Increasing evidence of student attendance and participation. Students could be found in the playgrounds and poster sessions and they shared their learning with passion. There were so many ideas to be gained eg in the robotics and coding playground, students helped me make a bracelet that featured the computer coding for the initials of my name. The robotics featured and actual examples of student robots in action drew crowds of people to watch.

A coded bracelet

A coded bracelet

Was this a first! In our global PLN Birds of a Feather session, we had a year 11 student who was interested in connecting globally. She had helped in the poster session, been given a conference tag and a program and continued to attend conference sessions that were of high interest to her. Thanks @varietygirl1 for bringing your experiences and ideas!

Personal Involvement – life was busy with global PLN and global education involvment, presentations involving poster sessions and a group presentation on ‘Magic of Mystery Skype‘.

The Buzz Words

  • Maker spaces
  • Passion Projects
  • Connected learning – a lot more talk about global collaboration and connections.
  • Games Based Learning
  • Coding


Some great resources that I have kept to look at later.

What resources have you seen being shared from ISTE2015 that should be taken note of? What were your highlights or if you did not go, what questions do you have.

Simple tools make for empowered learning

online timersI have recently presented on some of my favourite tools on a number of occasions. One very simple but effective tool that I often use is the online stopwatch or timer. The countdown timer was most frequently used but advertisements have started to appear. The site does have now have a free fun range of classroom timers which are ad free, fun and colourful. It was with some interest that I received an email from one of the participants in the online webinar to say that of the many tools shared, she tried the online timer the next day with her year 11 Business Management class.

Thank you for your webinar yesterday, it was very useful. I actually used the count down timer (bomb) this morning with year 12 accounting. That was the only technology involved in that activity. I had them playing Megabucks, the board game, to try and differentiate between cash and profit. They had thirty minutes to play the game and the timer worked to keep the game going at a faster rate and changed the nature of the play.

How can such a simple tool enhance learning:

  • gives students a time frame to work toward
  • keeps them on task (less likely to be bored)
  • forces them to work quickly
  • less chance of boredom and distractions as they know there is a time limit to the activity and there will be a a variety of activities following
  • gives realistic real life work skills – tasks have to be done within a time frame once out in the workforce
  • forces them to plan and work out strategies for completion

What would your answers be? Do you use a manual timer in class or an online timer? If so, why?

The World is My Classroom

Bob Greenberg invited a number of participants at ISTE 2015 to be videoed for his series called The Brainwaves Video Anthology. He produces this series and interviews ‘the thinkers, dreamers and innovators’ of education.

Please check out some of the amazing people he has captured in video. (Not sure how or why I fit in with many of these!! But was certainly proud to be part of the series.)

The instructions were to speak for 5 mins on a topic that I am passionate about in relation to education. It is not so easy to speak off the cuff and fortunately, the editing software removed my coughing fits, and many of my umms and aaahhs.! Below is the video.

Some other interviewed guests at ISTE involve the following. These people have similar interests and passions re global education

  1. Michael Soskil  Global Service Learning
  2. David Potter Make Learning Global
  3. Michael Graffin The Global Education Project
  4. Brandon Wiley Global Education
  5. David Young Global Education for All