Author Archives: murcha

Outside their comfort zone

Video call snapshot 308

A plea from one of my colleagues in India, Anamika Jha, for some of my students to videoconference (skype) with hers came at a time when I had my year 9/10 ICT class. She teaches at SD Public School, Delhi. Many of my students were absent and I was not certain that the students who were in my class would be confident  enough or even willing to talk to her students. It would be well outside their comfort zone.

However, I did have two girls who were looking rather disengaged so I asked whether they would connect. As expected, they were reluctant but finally agreed. The skype call came in and I took them up to one of our small meeting rooms. Fortunately, the students from India were super confident, well prepared and surprisingly my girls appeared to understand them. The first question was asking the girls to share something about Australian culture. This flawed them and there was no response! Not to be deterred the Indian students proceeded to talk about their many religions, days of celebration and important people.

Video call snapshot 303

Next question was whether the girls watched Indian movies or knew any of their famous actors – again negative comments! At this point, I disappeared to find some objects of Australian culture – food, animals, sports equipment etc. When I returned the girls had relaxed and were highly engaged in conversations around favourite books, music, school subjects, sports, hobbies, money and the weather. The looks of boredom that I had seen 20 minutes before had changed into engaged, smiling and animated faces as they chatted away.Video call snapshot 307

It reaffirmed that it is often best for the teacher to step right back and let the students work out the accents, speed and clarity of speech and to let them take control of the direction of learning.

Small groups of students connecting cross countries, cross cultures, different accents, speed of speech can have rich learning outcomes.

Feedback from their teacher

thanks maam
for this nice conversation with your students
my students were really excited to have words with your students

Read Bridie’s blog post. and Georgia’s post


Tel Aviv Virtual PD

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The use of technology tools allows us to connect with others in ways that would not normally be possible. I live on a farm, in a relatively remote part of Victoria. The distance, cost and effort of attending professional development prevents me from attending many professional development programs that may be readily accessible by my peers and also prevents me from presenting and sharing my work.

However, tools like skype, ghangouts, zoom, blackboard collaborate etc break down those barriers. One of my colleagues, Hili Zavaro who I recently met on twitter, invited me to present to teachers in Tel Aviv, Israel for a short time on “what the teachers can do to open their lessons to the world through global projects”?

It is interesting that the teachers from a variety of schools and year levels were meeting on a Sunday at 6pm my time and Sunday morning for them. A recent  presentation given at EduTECH was shortened  and a link to the document that was set up for ISTE 2017 was given so they could get some ideas on where to find people/classes to connect with, hashtags to follow on twitter etc.

We used skype to connect. I was in my warm winter clothes, they were dressed in cool summer clothers. After playing a brief “mystery skype” so the teachers could work out where I was from, I shared my screen and the presentation. Time was given for questions – one of which was “how do I use twitter for global connections?”. At the close of the session, I clicked the + button on skype, sent through the powerpoint presentation and the photos I had taken when I clicked the + button on skype and chose ‘take a picture’.

This did take 30 minutes but was a rather amazing experience for me, as in the past Tel Aviv has featured strongly on our news as being and area of conflict etc, yet here I am presenting to them as though there were no walls, barriers or oceans between us.

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Technology Tools, Apps and Software- Hacked

The last session I attended at Hack Education on the day prior to the official start of  ISTE 2017 was simply called Technology Tools.  As I am always looking for new tools and ways to use existing tools, I chose to attend this fast paced session. Below are a list of the tools that were suggested. Participants were asked to share some of their favourite tools and some of the new tools they were using. My notes follow:

Evernote, breathey (free listening on soundcloud), text expander

Google classroom

Post it plus for exit slips, brainstorming etc

Buncee – animated presentations

Loom – screen casting

Iphone clips for very short videos – can add a lot of things

mysimpleshow – storyboarding and steps students through to movie making. Telling stories – whiteboard writing. Generate script and it makes it into a writing movie.

Autodraw is a google product. Draw and it guesses what you are drawing.

MS Sway – multi media, easy to use, effective presenations, newletters etc

Answergarden – brainstorming, relfections, existing knowledge etc

Mentimeter – interactive presentations

Peekapack – social and learning platform, character building

tagxedo               – visual data (is now gone)

soundtrap – Make music online web based, can collaborate

recap app is free, a question and answer platform

wriQ – google addon When put essay into it, it will find the spelling mistakes. To grade essays, research papers etc Pull document up, goto screencastify can give oral feedback rather than writing comments. Google has voice comment.

ISTE blog post – 9 edtech tools to help with essay writing.

Noredink – For better writing – personalized. Free version. No one student will get the same problem as another student.

Some kids translate their work into another language, then translate it back again and it is different enough not to look like plagiarism.

Scavenger hunt- 5 egs of sentences that were plagiarized and they had to pick them out on a topic they were interested in. Kids had to pick out the basics of plagiarism.

Macintosh dictation – used with google docs. Student portfolio builder – have 6 blocks which can be picture, video. Can save all their work for the year. If tag animal, it can appear in student’s own folder plus the animals folder.

Chatterpix– Make your pictures talk – add a mouth, do a vocal and pic ends up talking  Parents can get notifications from it.

Google forms– surveys

Bucket feeling – how do you get to fill each other buckets – setup google form, fill Ryan’s bucket and form goes out so each teacher fills in each other teachers forms. Steve is a PE teacher who teaches the whole student. Done with 22 teachers. Everybody feels underappreciated.

Business start by saying why you did well. Digital breakouts are good as the locks and the boxes in common breakout edu  it is hard work

Digital breakout – less time to create one of your own. Google that term – it will take you to the breakouts. Have a digital lock to enter the codes rather than have a lock and key. Don’t have to buy all the locks. App for breakout lock

Do a digital breakout together with the students. Can solve breakouts over time.

Stations – middle school science – sorting activity with 3 columns.

Review is done by digital breakout rather than test.



Makerspace – ISTE Unplugged Notes


These are my notes from the second session that I attended at Hack Education on the day prior to the official start of  ISTE 2017 The topic for discussion was Maker Spaces.

Teachers shared their thoughts on what a maker space looked like. A maker space is like a Tinkerlab. Makerspace in the library may be tactile. Storage and organization are the key. One teacher talked with students to see what  they wanted to learn and do – maker space grew out of there.

Genius Hour

  • The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching & Learning by Angela Maiers and Amy Sandoval
  • Amazing things can happen if….
  • What do you want to learn and do

Growth Mindset

China calls STEM the Maker Education Movement. It is public, being promoted in schools in China and supported by the government.

How do I better integrate into the  the idea into curriculum?

  • It takes time, starts small with teachers that are interested, autonomy, PTA helps by giving money
  • Meet with teachers and plan together to support the standards. It is not stand alone, you work together
  • Come organically from teachers
  • How do I get teachers on board?
    • Started as a STEM school
    • Have teachers do hands on learning themselves so they are comfortable with the materials in the space
    • Shark Tank pitch to staff

Another school has developed a Eureka lab – @sfisher_mb

  • Design thinking
  • Clean space VS. dirty space
  • Organization and storage are key

Tech lab was turned into Maker Space. It became Geek Space where all the kids who do not play sport hang out.


After school and before school dropins. Incorporate design thinking into school. Redeveloped computer lab and now use some of the school theatre. There are two spaces:

  • Clean space: scissors glue guns etc
  • Dirty space: more like sawdust, 3D printers, embroidery/sewing machines, vinyl cutter, arts and crafts recyclables, computer driven drill bit – 2D design on computer than cut out on machine.

Libraries have been removed in some states.

One school started with maker spaces with a couple of teachers but has now grown exponentially. Converted computer lab into STEAM teaching space – bought educational toys – speros, ozebots. Got teachers to play with it. PTA gave money for innovation grants – $100 each. Teachers had to buy some things eg makey makey. Meet with teachers look at the standards, create design briefs and add on to what you are doing.

Kids are afraid of failure so won’t have a go.

Fun toys in a Makerspace

  • Robots
  • Ozobots
  • 3D printers
  • Spheros
  • Makey makey
  • Bee- Bots

Low Tech items for the makerspace

  • Recyclables
  • Task cards (pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers)

3d print a fidget spinner

Tool used for reflective piece:

  • wevideo
  • Flipgrid – used to show their creations and reflections.
  • Google slides- students take pictures and discuss what worked well
  • Regular blog posts

Use Saturdays to allow students and families into schools and makerspaces.  That is HUGE and big buying power.

Slide deck of makerspace projects in the curriculum (from conference presentation last week, with Cranbrook School, in MI)

Mobile makerspace?









Games in Learning – Hack Education ISTE

These are my notes from the first session of Hack Education on the day prior to the official start of  ISTE 2017. Hacked is great, organised by Steve Hargadon and is a firm favourite of mine as people propose topics for discussions, interested people then form groups around a chosen topic and share conversations, experiences, offer suggestions or ask questions at the organic level.  The first session I joined was on the topic of Games in Education, led by Ian Mathews.

Can off the shelf videogames be seen as anything other than distractions to education or can there ever be a contextual use for them? I have my opinions as an Education Researcher, teacher, and tech consultant but I would love to discuss everyone’s experiences, ideas, resources. For further info on me, check twitter @ianrmatt who has started consulting for Nefer Games. Sedis has been launched recently which is promoted as a powerful tool for learning. Feedback to @ryanmakhani

Online games

  • Kahoot: (to create a kahoot, or this link for students to play) – interactive multiple choice; can use with google hangouts or skype to play competitively with classrooms across the globe
  • Quizziz: can assign for homework, ss can play multiple times, make your own memes or let ss make memes
  • Quizlet: vocab review; “Live” version assigns students to a team
  • Mystery Location: Connections around the States or world. See Mystery Skype
  • Quizzes on Playbuz Studentss are a signed to a team – have to talk to each other to see who has right answer
  • Word wall –quiz generator
  • Mission US: For Crown or Colony– Interactive way to learn history


  • Students like to see themselves climb up the leader board.
  • Narratives, objects, behaviours, spaces are all important elements of a good game.
  • Paula Nagle gives students a study guide and makes them put in 4 possible answers – hard to get the three non-answers

BreakoutEDU  (Escape room in a box.) students work through progression of problems to unlock boxes. Basic concept of coding – each problem solved is given a code and allows you into another box via a key. Different puzzles allow participants to get into the box. In teams students can make up their own breakout edu games. What did we try and what did we not try? Don’t use hint cards unless we have used each other as resources. When cannot open a lock, you know you are wrong but your self confidence is not diminished.  Join the fabulous Breakoutedu facebook group for support, ideas/deeper learning.
Physics lesson (shared by Diane Main) where end of year review was series of breakouts

Builds resiliency; a student may get a B on a paper and not care about questions missed, but with a wrong breakout answer students will persevere

The Room” on IOS and android for similar off-the-shelf games

Essential to have conversations afterwards. Conversation Cards (could be used as rewards) available with questions like “what did you learn about yourself/group”, “what would you add to this game”, “who did a good job with __”, “how could I be a better collaborator” Can have “red herring” clues that must be collected even though they don’t necessarily open the box

Video Games

Older teachers feel uncomfortable as they have not grown up with video games.

Alchemy and Little Alchemy game/app–  earth/wind/fire to combine elements to solve probems – what if I do this, or what if I do this? Mess around with it for 20 mins, then do more later. That is what we want them to do with their learning.

“Sit and get mentality” is what traditional schools and some cultures are used to. Mixed cultures – focused on a particular university as that is the best and will provide them with the best employment opportunities.

Steve Isaacs uses good games with free stuff using the platform of STEAM.

Minecraft: Paul Blankenship built “The Nations Project”  for his students- a relief map in Minecraft altitude finder tool and maps; played through that country; dig out oceans and fill with water Small groups, each group assigned a country and builds that country in minecraft eg France, China, had to use altitude finder. Students used same scale so teacher gave them the scale. Had to dig out the oceans.

Class Craft similar to class dojo; Students are in clans – implementation of the tool is important thinking of participatory design – like class dojo but more involved as they have to do missions collaboratively. Works really well as teacher can see what their students are doing, However kids don’t see it that way – don’t see the point and just jump the hoops. Implementation of tool is very important. Get kids to help design the parameters. Not make it a motivator.

PeaceMaker – set the task of making peace in the Middle East game

Third-World Farmerv – free online game; strategies to survive as a third-world farmer; there is a cheat site. Do we want them to beat the game or experience the game. How to develop strategies to avoid the cheaters?

“Rogue-like” is term for games that send you back to beginning- getting little ship from one side of the galaxy to the other. 50 hours of play and if you get one thing wrong, you go right back to beginning

Spelunky – trying to teach resilience.

One Chance – reflect on experiences on gameplay experience where students have 10 days to live

Big G – Small G is the media for the game – big G is the big course around play. Conversations that students have around games. Norwegian teacher teaches ethics by playing this.

Walking Dead. Play as a class on big screen. Then study 4 sets of ethical principles and decide which ethics to follow as to how to play the next level. The discourse that surrounds the play. Peace game – discourse where kids go deeper and deeper in their thoughts. Similar to choose your own adventure.

Choose your adventure – decisions, decisions etc

Twinery  write your own story

Best learning that happens is social as games are being played

Game playing is risk-taking because some people are afraid of what administrators might think US civics related game

Prodigy maths games are free to schools.

Google just released – Be Internet AwesomeInterland is the game part of it.

Bron Stuckey asked why when singing games, puzzle games, kindy games used all the time in classrooms. Why have we stopped when digital games came.

There is a perception that teachers will get into trouble if found to allow students to play games. Therefore pullback on other games – it is a waste of time, testing is priority

Read Greg Toppo who wrote book Game Believes in You – use Warcraft to get kids to develop avatar.

Matt FarberGamify Your Classroom book

Free mobile startup game in development Life is Yellow K-3 addition processes

Goose chase – gamification of learning for the masses – set up things that people have to do whilst at the conference – like a scavenger hunt. Eg 50 points if your whole team jumps in the pool.

Simple quest – uses google forms and tools by Bron Stuckey and Alice Keeler – get gameful to onboard students on to a new topic. Hardest thing is to get students to think playfully the quest for the kids. Eg Who was the 59th president of the USA – make it a playful question.

The Reflection cards – concept of taking a game or activity and kids and administrators see it is fun. Captures entire thing back into pedagogy. Cards on Four Cs – what did you learn out of this activity. What is the question, clue or lock you could use or provide and tie into curriculum. Put cards into boxes rather than candy – have an experience afterwards. As a teacher develop the soft skills.

Lucas Gillispie Nth Carolina: Gamifying teacher professional learning in EPIC Academy




Making IT Happen Award

lucy picture of me

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) endows a number of awards at its annual conference. Many of the awards are given through the various PLN groups but one of the major awards is the Making IT Happen. This year 6 educators were given this award and to my utter surprise I was one of the recipients. Although I am not one to brag, this award is such a prestigious award that I am going to dedicate a post to it and thereby thank my amazing PLN (Professional Learning Network), the students I teach, the school I teach in, Hawkesdale P12 College and the staff I work with as I hope they are all proud to be part of it!

I teach in a small rural school of 220 students from foundation (age 5) through to year 12 (age 18 years old). We do not have mobile phone service either where I work or live, so these two factors make it even more amazing and precious that someone from a relatively remote rural area can receive an award with many of the IT greats. I need to thank my special friend and colleague Julie Lindsay for her role in the granting of this award. Julie has been a wonderful mentor and role model and someone whom I look up to and admire for all she has achieved in flattening classroom walls.

An email invitation came through, just before I left for San Antonio, USA (where #ISTE17 was held) to a luncheon at the Grand Hyatt. I accepted almost immediately as I thought it was a wonderful way to network with others and a privilege to be asked to the ISTE luncheon. However, two hours later, I also received notice that the poster session, I had applied for “The Magic of Mystery Skype” had been changed from early morning to 2 hours over lunchtime. The luncheon would now clash with the last hour of the poster. I told my Australian colleagues that I didn’t think I could go and was there someone else who might like to take up the special opportunity. However, Tina (who I didnt know was my minder) kept encouraging me to come, so I did!

our table at award dinner

What a surprise to hear my name announced as one of the 6 awardees! Plus I had to make speech and now have no idea what I actually said, as impromptu speeches are not my forte.

You can

I would like to thank my  wonderful family, my PLN, the Hawkesdale and district community, Hawkesdale P12 College staff and students, all the many people who have helped me in this journey and Julie Lindsay for nominating me.

carol photo of me cropped


GamesNET 2017

girls best at acmi

Over the last 3 years, our school has been a member of this exciting, cutting edge and innovative project. It is possibly a world first. The project is being sponsored by ACMI – The Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the Victorian Department of Education (DET).

A number of schools across Victoria have been accepted into the program. The students involved come from a mix of city/country and primary/secondary, with a maximum of four students from each school. They are grouped in pairs from their own school but then matched with another pair of students from another school.

making games

At the beginning of the project schools, teachers and parents have to fill in appropriate permission forms. The first formal day involves students and teacher coming to ACMI at Federation Square in Melbourne for a face to face meeting. This allows staff and students to get to know each other face to face, commence work in their small groups and go away feeling confident in the overall requirements of the project. Vincent Trundle, the manager of the project, outlines the tools to be used, the value of learning with games, its impact for the future and covers basic digital citizenship.

screen in zoom.PNG

Unfortunately a number of schools could not be there physically but came in virtually through zoom. Two of the students in my girls’ groups worked in zoom with De De during the small group discussions. One of them competently shared her screen, pulled up her graphics pad and commenced sketching ideas for games sprites. It was though they were in the same room.

zoom online meeting

Students looked at using Scratch for coding the games, whilst teachers formulated the groups of 4 students. Each group has a teacher allocated and a games industry mentor.  One students is a coder, another a leader, another a musical producer and the fourth student is  in charge of the art work.

Initial discussions took place as to the name of the group, the type of game they wanted to create, the characters in the game etc. The tools to be used are:

  1. Google documents for sharing, archiving, collaborating and mapping the learning.
  2. Slack for communicating, connecting and collaborating. There is a chat area for each team and an overall chat for the whole community
  3. Zoom is used for videoconferencing
  4. Email is used only where necessary.

Once back at school, students are expected to use slack to communicate regularly, stating what they have been up to, share questions and general conversations etc. They are asked to meet with their groups, using zoom, at least once a week at a mutually agreeable time (during school or after school). Art work, music and other files are shared on the google documents.

This is an exciting project that embraces so many of the 21st century workforce skills both the present and the future. Effective collaboration is a skill to be taught and this makes a great platform to learn how.