Category Archives: professional development

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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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?

Putting the magic into skype videoconferencing – sound and sight (but no smells)!

On Tuesday last week, I received a request from @shamblesguru (alias Chris Smith) to linkup with skype for one of his professional development sessions, at a school in Singapore, on the use of skype for learning. Fortunately it was after school hours and I was able to oblige (it is approaching VCE exams and I am not so adaptable with classes at this time of year).

Rather than simply talk to the teachers, I decided to demonstrate the best features of skype for learning. To ensure best quality conferencing, I cabled in my laptop to the school network and answered the call with video. 10 mins before the session began, Chris and I tested our sound, video quality etc.  Chris set up a todaysmeet as a back channel.

Features of skype used

  1. Audio and chat – Chat was periodically used to ensure full understanding of my accent. Todaysmeet backchannel was also used.
  2. The video – the webcam was used to demonstrate some of my favourite hardware eg flip video, easispeak microphone
  3. Screen sharing for sharing a MS Powerpoint presentation  of the school, students and some of our global connections.
  4. A virtual tour of the school – my laptop was uncabled and I walked the Singapore teachers through parts of our school and the outdoor surrounds. They were shown the Chinese Teahouse (as we teach Chinese mandarin), outdoor totem polls painted by students, our beautiful big gum tree (our school logo), the school canteen etc. Leanne our canteen operator had just baked tasty looking sausage rolls. Pity the smell did not waft through to Singapore!

The virtual tour worked really well and received positive feedback. I personally feel that is one of the most ‘magical’ uses of skype or videoconferencing for learning. Below is some feedback given:-

Following is some of the feedback via Todaysmeet backchannel:-

  • It is interesting how technology can be used to enhance teaching and learning!ifah
  • what a great way to meet an expert from half-way around the world.
  • Skype put to good use-educationally and feeding the young minds to a world of knowledgeangelia
  • Your school looks very beautiful! I like it!!Li Lin

What features of skype do you  like to use? How do you use the web camera? View a video of the session compiled by Chris Smith. Thanks Chris for sharing.

Developing a Learning Network with Classroom 2.0

A question is often asked of me as to how I make global connections. Developing a learning network or PLN (personal learning network) is essential in getting globally connected. A great place to start is to join one of the biggest classrooms in the world – Classroom 2.0!

Things were getting frantic – with just two hours until interested grade prep to 6  parents were to assemble in  our school library for our Technology Showcase,  videos would not display on our new iPod touches. One excited class had been busy making videos and they were to show them using the iPod touches.

Urgent messages for help were sent out to all and any email lists.  In sheer desperation, a discussion item was also placed on Classroom2.0. Within 10 minutes, we had the answer – not from anyone in Australia or our emailing lists, but from Matthew Needleman, in the USA. Following his instructions the videos displayed to a library overflowing with parents, grandparents and students.  The showcase was a great success!

This was my first taste of the power of networking and its ability to provide information NOW from anywhere across the globe! (It needs to be noted that I teach at Hawkesdale P12 College,  a small rural, geographically and culturally isolated prep to year 12 school, in South Eastern Australia.)

Four years ago, I joined classroom2.0 a ning set up by Steve Hargadon of USA. At that stage there were 3,000 members from all levels and tiers of education, all passionate about the use of technology in education.  Today there are more than 466,000 members and I am proud to be a welcoming host on this ning.

Wordle from current classroom2.0 page

The above word cloud was made by highlighting the screen of classroom2.0, copying and pasting into wordle.

Why join Classroom 2.0?:-

  • It is free
  • It is a space to make global connections and friends
  • Empowers teaching and learning
  • Allows discussions/forums. There are many active discussions over the years, many still applicable today.
  • Keep up to date with the latest developments in education
  •  Share learning and join in conversations
  • Publish and read members’ blog posts
  • Search for discussions, tags etc on tools, subjects, areas of personal interest
  • Mailing list updates on upcoming free webinars and events
  • Share and peruse photos and videos
  • create or join in collaborative global projects
  •  There is are easy search features on previous discussion topics, technology tools, subjects, areas etc

Where can such membership lead? Here follows some memorable stories  of classroom2.0 friends, connections and just some of the rather amazing  outcomes for my classes.

  1. Chrissy Hellyer from New Zealand  taught us how to create a wiki, sharing the power that interactivity, connectedness and collaboration can bring. See anzacconnection
  2. Lorraine Leo of USA,  introduced me to the power of  virtual classrooms using discoverE. Over the years, we have taught each others’ classes despite teaching at different age levels and living in different time zones. We have shared colleagues, photos, videos, experiences, festivals, celebrations and cultures. Lorraine has brought the following virtually to our school: a research scientist from her tent in Antarctica and Rich Wilson, a US sailor and his quest in sailing solo around the world. (Listen to Skipper Rich). Her  grade 6 student  spoke about Halloween to my fascinated students and Lorraine organised a  student of Dean Shareski from the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada,  to speak to  my accounting students and much, much more. We have been part of exciting pioneering three to five way linkups, connecting a classroom in the Phillipines with mine plus teachers from three other continents, all in the one classroom.  We have worked on voicethreads together – a  firm favourite being “My question of you” where Lorraine’s  grade two students asked a question and my year 7s replied to them. Teaching and Learning Across the Globe is a recorded joint presentation for the online Global Education Conference 2010.
  3. Ekaterina from Russia:- We have videoconferenced together using skype  (our classes were televised on Russian television as a result), shared student surveys eg Climate Change Questionaire, developed an  Across the World wiki together etc.
  4. Govinda Panthy– an amazing educator from Nepal who has become e-connected and painstakingly, patiently and with great determination brought global awareness to the plight of his school and students in Nepal. Govinda would awake at 4:30am in order to skype because his power is frequently cut off during daytime working hours. With the aid of friends made on classroom 2.0, Our Open World Project is now raising funds to bring several computers to SAV school and much needed physical library requisites. Make sure you visit the Open World Project site to see the real power, empathy and learning that can extend from membership.
  5. Alison Saylor –  We worked on google docs together and co-surveyed our students on their ownership of personal gadgets. Students in a school from Jerusalem were also surveyed. Students from each school  mapped the results in a spreadsheet for comparison.  The project  raised extensive local classroom discussion and provided many teachable moments.

There are  many, many  more wonderful stories that could be shared.

The long tail!:

  1. In 2010, I was proud to be  the Australasian mentor for the innovative online Global Education Conference which connected educators from across the globe in a free three day online conference – a direct result of my membership at classroom 2.0.
  2. Through the resultant friendship with Steve Hargadon, he encouraged Carole McCulloch and myself to be a moderators and organisers of eT@lking, an online webinar using Blackboard Collaborate for the  Australia Series. This has led to even further connections and networks.

Tips for successful membership of Classroom2.0 or other similar networks

  1. Ensure your profile has enough information to encourage others to consider and add you as a friend
  2. Lurk, lurk and lurk! Watch the discussions, search the tools, subjects or areas that you may be into help,  network and share existing knowledge.
  3. Introduce yourself on the  Introductions  discussion.
  4. Watch the discussion thread on “Introductions” and befriend some of the others who may be like-minded across a number of countries.
  5. Make friends where possible.
  6. When confident actively join in the conversations and discussions.
  7. Add your own discussion topic
  8. Write some blog posts (these can be cross posted from your existing blog).
  9. Set up an RSS feed for the discussions you are interested in.
  10. Return regularly
The networked teacher has the power to transform learning and education in directions that are only ‘dreamed about’! Together we can make the ‘dreams’ a reality!
What spaces or tools have helped you build a learning network? Are you a member of classroom 2.0? If so what experiences can you share?
Any questions can be directed to or add a comment back here.
Please note that this blog post was written for the Edublogs Challenge on Developing a PLN. There are many other great posts to be found here.

Ten things to do over the summer break!

As Christmas has finished and the New Year begins, it is summer time in Australia bringing a welcome 5 week holiday break from school before the new school year begins. Here are ten things that I hope to do over the break!

  1. “Get lost” surfing through the nominations and finalists in the many categories for the recent edublogs awards.
  2. Catch up on many of the 2011 K12 Online conference presentations
  3. Sort through and listen to recordings from the 2011 Global Education Conference
  4. Reflect on the year that was 2011 and write blog posts
  5. Select my favourite online tools for 2011 and predict future directions for learning
  6. Go through my twitter roll and follow the many people who now follow me (after a careful check of their digital profiles)
  7. Download presentations that are applicable to my teaching subjects for 2012 from the recent Comview Conference.
  8. Commence creating digital movies and objects for accounting and information technology at year 11 and 12 level
  9. Apply to present at the ACEC 2012 Conference in Perth, September 2012
  10. Complete the  modules which are part of the valuable Flat Classroom Certified Teacher 11-03 program

Amongst all this, consideration needs to be made about the direction and content of Tech Talk Tuesdays and eT@lking… but most of all I want to have precious time away with my family and relax!

A Classroom without Walls – Google Teacher Academy Application

Educators in Australia are being given an opportunity to be certified as Google Teachers in an Academy that is coming to Sydney in March. Part of this process is to make a 1 minute video showing on either “Motivation and Learning” or “Classroom Innovation.”

I wish to thank @edsaid for telling me how to add videos to my wordpress blog. It is to much appreciated and I will now be able to add more engaging features to my posts with this knowledge.

Here is my movie reflecting some of the connections, global interactions and collaboration that has taken place beyond our classroom walls. It is very difficult to summarize in 1 minute some of the amazing activities that we have been involved in, but it gives the viewer a glimpse and hopefully a taste for more. If you are interested in applying, check out the Google Academy. Thank you to my wonderful personal learning network and global colleagues.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Special thanks go to:-

  • Zainuddin Zakariah and his IT class, SJK Taman Burkitt Maluri, Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur
  • Veronica Woo, SMK Poi Lam Sschool, Ipoh, Malaysia
  • Lorraine Leo, Massachusetts, USA
  • Alex Gustad, fellow staff and students, American School of Bombay
  • Purti Singh and her class from India

I also wish to sincerely thank Edna alias @whatedsaid for telling me how to add videos to my wordpress blog. It is so much appreciated and I will now be able to add more engaging features to my posts with this knowledge.

Working with Shamblesguru

Several weeks ago, on twitter, I saw a request from Shamblesguru to connect via videoconferencing via skype. Thinking it was right now, that he wanted to connect, I volunteered via a tweet. However, I soon got a direct message asking for more information about me and the skype linkup was to take place in a month’s time with a staff PD that he was organising. He wanted a primary school teacher who had used online technology in their classes. Although I am a secondary teacher,  I  have taught primary classes and so planning for the 30 minute video conferencing event took place. It was great to work with Chris Smith and see his professional approach to Professional Development for staff and learn from it.

Procedures prior to linkup:-

  • tested skype videoconferencing and screen sharing applications, whilst Chris (Shamblesguru) was in Thailand.
  • discussed the procedures and expectations.
  • Chris had set up a voicethread and asked teachers from the school in Singapore to add audio or text messages as to their technological learning requirements.
  • Chris set up a titan pad online page, shared the url. This set out the procedures for the day and I knew in advance what was expected of me.

During the session

  • linked up using skype
  • spoke and answered audio questions
  • shared my screen and spoke to a brief powerpoint presentation
  • the 60 teachers had been divided into groups of 4 or 5, with a designated leader for each group. The leader for each group added content to the main page with any questions directed at me. 
  • I watched the chat in the titan pad and answered questions that appeared there.

Thanks Chris, for letting me work with you.

Link to the video on my skype linkup with Singapore