Category Archives: reflections

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!

10 Highlights for 2010

2010 in pics

2010 had many highlights for me as a teacher and learner.  Here are 10 of them, but there were many, many more.

  1. Asian Connections – virtual elluminate linkups, between my year 11 IT class and Zainuddin Zakariah’s year 10 IT class formTaman Burkitt School, Kuala Lumpur over a 5 week period – the highlight of the year for my 11 IT students. Renewing my online acquaintance with Veronica Woo, from Ipoh in Malaysia,  having some wonderful skpye linkups, including an e-Intercultural Learning Adventure. In September meeting Veronica and a fellow teacher, Evon, face to face, and working with their school staff and students at SMJK Poi Lam. In that same trip, I was able to meet my cyber class from Kuala Lumpur face to face as well – a very special moment. Learning about International Friendship Day with Aini Hussein’s  class from Singapore,  using skype and videoconferencing.
  2. Successfully teaching a year 11 virtual accounting student from Balmoral, as part of my face to face class (using skype, elluminate, google apps, blogs)
  3. Using webinars for networking, sharing, discussing and connecting. In 2010, I was proud to organise and moderate the webinar, Tech Talk Tuesdays, using a partnership with Innovations and Next Practise Division, DEECD. eT@lking commenced  in partnership with Carole McCulloch (coach_carole). This is a regular weekly Wed night webinar whose purpose is to connect all tiers of education. This series was triggered by discussions with Steve Hargadon, on his 2009 trip to Australia. It is sponsored by Learn Central as part of the Australia series.
  4. Continuing liaisons with Lorraine Leo, from USA, with whom I have taught and learnt across the globe and who continues to connect my classes to some great speakers – eg her grade 6 students spoke to my 9/10 ICT elective class about Halloween and  her niece and nephew spoke to   year 11 students about their experiences volunteering in the cleanup of the Haiti aftermath, using DiscoverE
  5. The Global Education Conference 2010:- connecting educationalists and classrooms across the globe. Particular highlights include co-presenting with my special USA colleague Lorraine Leo, who continues to be an inspiration to me, listening to four amazing teachers from Kenya, crowded around a sole laptop to tell us about learning in their school and area,  the student summit with Julie Lindsay’s class from BISS and my year 11 IT class, and our linkup with the classroom 2.0 LIVE team for the presentation:-  “Classroom2.0Live meets the Australia Series.”
  6. Virtual Teaching Round Practicum Trial – a partnership with Country Education Project, the University of Ballarat and Hawkesdale P12 College. Three pre-service teachers completed a 6 week teaching round, which included two pre-service teachers teaching off campus for one week, whilst the third student teacher spent 4 weeks in China, teaching our grade 4 students back at school about her experiences there.
  7. The Flat Classroom Projects including attendance at the Flat Classroom Conference in Mumbai, with one of my students. Thanks Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis for your inspiration, leadership, drive and hard work here on these projects.
  8. Discussing racism with Alex Gustard and a physical education class from the American School of Bombay involving grade 6/7 students using skype and google docs in real time. Discussing cricket and “should Australia go to India to play sport” with Purti and her class from India
  9. Attending face to face conferences, including  the ACEC2010 conference, VITTA andand  Comview (VCTA).  Presenting virtually  to a group of Greek teachers who teach English, about blogging. (at the request of my virtual friend Dimitris)
  10. Finally from my school: 1:1 netbook program for years 5 to 8, moderating three evening sessions, entitled TechnoParents for parents live in elluminate, with students, parents and staff all in the virtual room discussing learning at Hawkesdale P12 College. Increasing uptake of global projects by staff and classes at school.

If you have been part of my network during 2010, I thank for that and look forward to working and networking with you in 2011.

Reflections on semester 1

This semester has been one of the busiest that I can remember, and my weekly blogging reflections were non-existent. Some of the most amazing experiences of my teaching career have been experienced in the first semester of 2009. However, the following attempts to summarise what my students and I  were involved in, reflecting on the highlights  and the challenges etc


  • Netgened project – this was the biggest project that I have ever been involved in and as such, was the most exciting. It was part of the flatclassroom project suite, but it involved Don Tapscott the prizewinning author and the 8 characteristics of netgenners mashed with the Horizon Project 2009. It involved the most exciting and challenging web2.0 tools, including nings, wikis, blogs, google groups, elluminate and finally a virtual awards ceremony in reaction grid in sim city.  This is an amazing project and the learning outcomes are huge.  See report This project was undertaken by my year 11 IT and volunteer students from 9/10 IT elective group.
  • Flatclassroom and digiteen projects Year 9/10 IT elective students participated in these projects during the second term. The digiteen project is a little less time consuming than the flatclassroom project and so, is a good one to get students involved initially. They still network socially on a ning and put their findings and research onto the wiki but the final product is flexible and chosen by teachers/students to suit individual classes.
  • Ping – another fabulous but intense project. Gave me a glimpse of true 21st centure learning. From this project, I am experimenting with the use of virtual classroom software eg elluminate and discoverE in all my classes including VCE (year 12 subjects).
  • On Africa – a wiki studying various countries of Sth Africa, set up by USA school in conjunction with African schools. My year 8 students were the sounding board.
  • Video Introduction to Communities – students in year 8 produced movies on their community to share with other global communities
  • Cross Culture Blogging


First experiences –

  • participating in the virtual awards ceremony in a reaction grid of Sim City for the netgened project
  • using the screen share option of the updated Skype (great new application)
  • using elluminate with students – a glimpse into a 21st century classroom of the future
  • working on a shared collaborative project blog with three other schools
  • using twitter with my classes, mainly to get advice and resources immediately for my students

Uses of online tools

  • skype used for my students to listen to keynote speaker for flatclassroom project from Doha, Qatar; 15 min spot segment for me to present to SPERA conference in Adelaide, with Phil Brown, CEP; (I used the new screen sharing application to show photos of our uses for videoconferencing); to link with Govinda Pravy in Nepal where he told us about the poverty experienced by his school.
  • elluminate used for Ping project and experimenting with in my  normal classrooms
  • discoverE used to work with Claret school in Phillipines
  • xtranormal is a great animated video creating online tool
  • lovelycharts for great diagram creation including flowcharts
  • twitter (see above)
  • superclubsPLUS has been a ‘hit’ with the primary school sector.
  • google apps including word, sheet, igoogle (for organization), forms etc have been used in my senior classes

PD Sessions

  • using elluminate – a face to face session run for the SW SLAV members (State Library Association Victoria)
  • Using students as peer to peer mentors to teach Camperdown and Portland students how to blog


  • blogging has not continued as I hoped that it would. My heavy involvement in Ping, meant that students tended to blog on the collaborative blog and not so much on their individual blogs. I only see year 8 for one lesson a week, which gives me little opportunity to use their blogs. Other subject areas are still not using blogging as much as I would like. This may be due to a lack of access for their classes. 1:1 access is becoming almost a necessity.
  • The cross culture blogging was not successful like it was last year. I was late getting my student blog addresses due to the difference in school terms across the globe. Although my students wrote the required posts initially and commented on students from Korea and USA, only a few got responses back.

Goals for semester 2, 2009

  • Partner up a VCE (year 12 students) studying mandarin Chinese with a Chinese student in Malaysia
  • Work further with skype and videoconferencing with some new schools in Malaysia and Singapore
  • Toying with the idea of using buddies with my secondary students and grade 5 students from Singapore
  •  Put my VCE accounting subjects online for my year 11 and 12 studentsin a wiki using instructional digital videos where possible.

Reflections on Ping – 21st century education

In the elluminate classroom
In the elluminate classroom

Two thirds of the way through 2008, my principal came to me with mention of a proposed music project with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. I promptly forgot all about it until towards the end of the final two weeks of term, I was told that a representative was going to come and speak with me and our secondary classroom music teacher. Not wishing to be rude, but being so busy with end of year functions and other exciting online projects that I was involved in, I reluctantly attended the meeting with the full intention of being honest and saying that I really was not interested.

However, 5 minutes into the meeting with Ajax I was ‘hooked’. This was exactly the type of activity I wanted to try out in 2009 and the type of classroom that I was working toward! The answer was:-‘Yes, please! We will be part of it!”

The project:  This pilot project   explored new ways of delivering music education to year 6 and 7 students from 4 rural Victorian schools, using in-house teaching artists, blogging and online virtual classroom workshops with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra  (MSO)and Orchestra Victoria. Students  composed short compositions/sound stories and uploaded them to the  website, as well as participating in online video conference workshops with MSO and Orchestra Victoria musicians.

The classes: As I did not want any of the year 7 students to miss out on this project, 28 students crammed into our computer lab. This meant we had to borrow 5 netbooks to ensure that they all had computer access. Joseph Abou Zeid, a resident artist from the Song Room, worked in the classroom with us. For 50 minutes we would listen to an instrumentalist from MSO or Orchestra Victoria. For the next 50 minutes students would learn how to use audacity and compose their own musical stories. These stories used pre-recorded music clips uploaded onto the Ping blog by the instrumentalists. Students then uploaded their stories back onto the blog.

Learning about the trombone

Learning about the trombone

Engagement in Ping

Engagement in Ping

The highlights

  • Always exciting to be involved in a pilot project – love the challenge, new adventures and the constant learning.
  • Working with the amazingly well connected, Ajax McKerrall, whose innovative idea this project was – a former digital productions manager with the London Symphony Orchestrata – gifted and talented user of multimedia and web 2.0 tools. I learnt so much more by working with him, about blogging, using multimedia and the elluminate room to fuller potential. He capably and professionally led the elluminate class sessions, ensuring that we had the best quality sound from the 3mbs radio studio in Melbourne.
  • The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra came into our classroom, when our students would rarely attend any of their concerts, as Melbourne is 3 ½ hours drive and Warrnambool, our closest regional city centre is 30 mins away. (MSO may visit Warrnambool once a year) To have our students learn about the wonderful classical instruments, their physics, their sounds etc and then to be able to use their recorded clips and mash them together into their own personal musical stories – the impact cannot be justified in words.
  • Having an artist in residence from the Song Room, Joseph Abou Zeid, to teach the students about muscial composition through the free software audacity.
  • The sheer engagement of the students in the elluminate classroom. This was an unexpected outcome. The learning for me, as a teacher, to see each student at their own desktop, interacting with the musicians, chatting, offering feedback, using a range of emoticons to convey feelings, was enlightening. Students would readily state in the chat section that they did not understand the instructions. This rarely occurs in the normal classroom. Students are reluctant to state that they do not understand, they are rarely given the opportunity to offer feedback  or evaluate what the teacher or instructor is saying and are not given the opportunity to interact as individuals.
  • The student outcomes. Their musical stories developed from ‘basic sound grabs thrown together’ that challenged the musical ear, to musical stories that actually reflected animals, soundscapes and ‘stories without words and pictures’.
  • Many of the students who struggle with usual classroom work in the generalist classrooms, were able to excel in this environment. Literacy no longer became an issue as they could work with music and creativity.
  • The collaboration with the students and teachers from the three other rural schools who share similar experiences and characteristics, threats and challenges working on a common and shared blog site . This is an area though, that could be further developed. 
  • Witnessing the increased confidence in all students, especially those who do not normally achieve to a high degree in generalist classrooms.
  • Ovbserving the improvement in student listening skills.
  • Having a chat option when outside the elluminate classroom and when just working on the blog or in the normal IT classroom.

The challenges

  • Lack of Experience: This project started in the first full week of term 1, when 30% of the year 7 class was new to our school, some with little computer expertise and few of the new ones knowing what a blog was and it was their first time in our computer lab. None of the students had been in elluminate before. The rehearsal was done with my year 9/10 class as they were my class at that time.
  • Lack of a computer technician: We were on our own, with many technical hitches getting the audio – microphone/headsets working. The class was noisy trying to work it all out. It took more than 20 minutes for us all to be logged into elluminate. Students had to get used to an online classroom and use the tools there to communicate. Frequently they were vocally calling out for help.
  • The Chat: Initially the chat was being abused, students discovered the private messaging function, but strangely, they did not fiddle with the white board tools. Students tended to ‘bully’ one of the students, but interestingly, other students told them to stop it. A couple of swear words came through and spamming was frequent (where students type 20 smiley faces in one sentence etc.) We worked together to formulate a code of conduct when using online chat. That code now rests on my  class blog and the school blog.
  • The web cameras It was vital that we had the video image on our computer screens, but as we worked in a basic lab, it was difficult to get our webcamera in a position that was useful to our instructors. Being able to see the class was essential for them, but it was an issue that was never really resolved.
  • The time delay The streaming was often delayed between desktops and netbooks in the classroom and this could be annoying.
  • Student curiousity Students will fiddle and check out everything. So hands will be raised for prolonged periods, the white board will be covered with graffiti and private messaging will run rampant. To overcome this, students need time to play and explore and the first lesson should do just this.

After two lessons, I was ready to say that it was not working and we would remove ourselves from the project, but…..

….after 10 mins into the third lesson, I could have heard a pin drop. Students were engaged, listening intently and had sorted out any technical issues by themselves. The tapping of keys would break the silence as students happily chatted away, made use of the range of emoticons and tools  and interacted with the guest musician. They would provide feedback on what they heard, interact and ask questions. They learned to work the chat and asked questions of me through it as well. At times, a student would hum along, oblivious to their surroundings.

And so, I was led into the classroom of the 21st century.

On behalf of the year 7 students and I, I would like to sincerely thank Ajax McKerrall, Joseph Abou Zeid, and the  Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria, The Song Room, and Country Education Project. In particular to our generous sponsors  – the Helen MacPherson Smith Trust and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Innovation Division.


Learning outcomes

  • improved listening skills (students were able to interact, use various emoticons and tools to keep them engaged and listening.
  • Appropriate behaviour and codes of conduct in a virtual classroom – (learnt by experiencing)
  • how to tweak the audio controls in elluminate
  • Learnt how to use audacity and many of its finer features to create muscial stories and mp3 files
  • how to grab flk files from the Ping blog to import into audacity
  • how to embed musical stories in mp3 format with a player into a blog
  • how to blog (this was especially so for some of my new students who had never blogged before)

Impact of Using Word Processors

I keeps on becoming i

I keeps on becoming i

Since commencing blogging, I have found that nearly every student fails to put in capital letters.  The frequently used word “I” is constantly being shown as “i”. Few sentences start with a captial letter. This really annoys me, as I am trying to get students to use professional language styles in their blogs.

However, yesterday I worked with the SW Zone of SLAV teachers (State Library Association of Victoria) and one librarian made a pertinent comment “They are lazy and so used to using a word processor eg MS Word, which automatically corrects the start of sentences with capitals and changes i into I for them. What do you think and how can we reinforce appropriate spelling? I am sure that she is right. What observations have you made?

Day in a humorous toon

One of my favourite weekly activities is “Day in a Sentence” with @dogtrax or Kevin Hodgson.  I have met so many wonderful educators and other community members through this global project. I feel that some of the teachers involved are part of my staff or teaching team.

This week it is being hosed by Ken and the challenge is to  “write your side-splitting “Comic in a Sentence” using toondoo.


Where to in 2009?

As we enter the third month of 2009 and the sixth week back at school, it is time that I publish my goals and possible directions for 2009. Although I have thought long about them, I need to add them on to my blog, so that I can reflect back and evaluate my progress.

My goals for 2009

  • Constantly develop and encourage the integration and successful use of  emerging technologies for use in classrooms and across our school.
  • To continue to actively seek local and global connections and work on global projects wherever possible. (Project based learning)
  • Maintain the valuable links and connections that were made in 2008.
  • To foster the notion that students  use their blogs in all subjects.  Blogs will become journals of  progess, for reflective purposes, a personal filing cabinet for all resources, evidence for digital or e-portfolios and that students voluntarily use their blogs.
  • Integrate web2.0 tools as much as possible in my subject areas other than information and communications technology eg accounting and VCE IT subjects.
  • Increasingly use teachable moments, by leaving skype open on my laptop, whenever possible, to make the most of experts who might appear and share experiences with my students.
  • Experiment with the use a backchannel for class discussions etc eg chatzy, tiny chat
  • Look at using virtual classroom software for my own classes eg elluminate for my VCE students where  I teach two year levels as  one class in 2009.  
  • Use DiscoverE  software on an increasing basis this year.
  • Actively seek out expert speakers who might talk to the students through virtual classroom software.
  • Look at and experiment with students on a one to one basis, with other global students – particularly in relation to mandarin Chinese which is our LOTE.
  • Work with my subject associations, encouraging the use of appropriate web2.0 tools.
  • Experiment with synchronous and asynchronous linkups with other countries.

Other educationalist’s goals of interest

See glassbleed’s direction for customized learning.

Specific Ideas as they come to hand

All eyes on the flatclassroom conference

A flatclassroom f2f

A flatclassroom f2f

 Words cannot begin to describe the amazing experiences that we had whilst in Doha, Qatar, in January 2009 for the flatclassroom conference.

However, as part of  my reflections,  I will take  a  look at it through my eyes in respect to:-

  • Students

    VickiDavis with Omani students

    VickiDavis with Omani students

  • teachers
  • travellers
  • leaders
  • parents

 Eyes upon the students

We left amidst some angst as to the Gaza situation in Israel. (Parents had been concerned about going to the Middle East anyway, even before this situation eventuated!)  Many would see it as a high risk undertaking. The three girls from my class had not been out of Australia before. Summer school holidays meant that we had to do all our communicating online . Once at the airport, the girls soon learnt the routine of passports, security, laptops, immigration control etc. After a journey totalling more than 28 hours, we arrived  in Doha, Qatar and were transported into another ‘world’ –  a land that was white, featuring middle Eastern style buildings, crazy traffic, constant building activity  and white sand everywhere. The girls were immediately impressed.qatar-academy1

The first days were spent shadowing students around the Qatar Academy, helping with conference administration, packing the showbags  and helping  teach a grade 5 class how how to use voicethreads etc. The girls gradually became familiar with the massive, magnificent school buildings and due to friendly host families, settled in well. The school itself, had a full range of cultures, creeds and nationalities. This is in stark contrast to our school where we have a monoculture of Anglo Saxons.

How wonderful it was to see them mixing with these different groups. When anne-and-oman-boys1the conference started, there were students from many countries. They met their Omani and American classmates from the flatclassroom project of 2008. The Omani students were, of course dressed in traditional dishdasha and kommah, the African boys attired in suits, the girls from Africa in more formal gear, the Qatari girls in hijabs and the Pakistani girls in their traditional dress. Accents had to be closely listened to, so that we understood what was said. When Carly was introduced at one stage, she was immediately soniiya-and-studentcalled ‘Cauliflower” Some names we could not even attempt to pronounce and I simply called the students from Oman “Boys!” when I need to catch their attention.

The skype session with Tom Friedman was rather amazing. He wanted the students to ask him questions, which I thought was taking a huge risk. What would they ask? Would enough ask questions to fill in the time? Surprisingly,  students young and old, from all countries represented came up to the microphone and asked some amazing and incredibly mature questions.  Tom  responded immediately and appeared to have no difficulty with the many and varied accents.

When the conference commenced, my girls were grouped with students from other countries to work on a project involving an issue common to all of them eg  poverty, racism etc One of my girls, was placed in a group where the common language was Arabic. So, the Arabic had to be translated back into English for her. Another group had English as their most common language but google translator was used to translate  into Arabic for the Qatari student in the group. On the second day of the conference, a presentation had to be made by student groups, to all conference

Tarzy's group

Tarzy's group

participants. The aim was to try to convince the audience to vote their project in, to become  the next flatclassroom project for 2009. One of my girls said that she had never been “so scared in all her life.” Yet, she got up and spoke with confidence and played her role admirably to the assembled crowd. Another, had her mother

Presentation time

Presentation time

online until 1am in Australian time, helping her to cope with her nerves and stomach butterflies. All students were pushed well beyond their comfort zones, at so many times, during their stay.

We learnt about the importance of gift giving in some cultures. The students from Oman gave all schools involved small gift and provided tasty sweet Omani treats to try at the end of the conference. The conference showbags also bore evidence of Qatari customary gift giving with printed tshirts, usb drive, a coffee mug etc inside

Despite the differences, there were so many similarities amongst the students – the same passions, interests, needs and goals!

Eyes upon the teachers

How absolutely wonderful  it was to see the students who had been  involved in the flatclassroom project 2008, face to face. These included the boys from Oman and the students from two different schools in USA.  It was also great to see them all mixing comfortably and gaining a deeper understanding of the different cultures. Yet underneath this difference, were common interests, pursuits,  emotions, problems, goals and ideals.

The highlights for me were working with Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis, the founders of the flatclassroom projects. These  two women work so well together, yet have only met 5 times face to face.  The powerful outcomes of their work are testimony to their successful collaboration and virtual teamwork.  Estie Cuellar from Texas and Salim Al-Busaidi from Oman were two teachers who I worked with in the flatclassroom project in 2008 and it was so good to connect with them face to face. Whilst in an elluminate staff meeting,  Salim encouraged us to come to Qatar, as in his words “we are a safe country”. Any fears that I had harboured were dispelled by this statement. I loved meeting face to face some of my other  twitter friends –  Anne Baird from Australia and Paul McMahon, an Australian in Hong Kong, Heather Davis, a  Canadian in Beijing and Jeff Utecht from Bangkok. Then there were the new connections with Chris Chater from Paris (whose work with online music is admirable), Soniiya  Jahangir from Pakistan and two teachers from India, teaching in Saudi Arabia and George Haines from New York. Ray who was such a kind host to us and Jill Boulanger and  Beverley Stubbs from Qatar Academy ensured that we were comfortable and welcomed at the school. The list could go on but I will stop there.

Watching my students grow in confidence and push themselves beyond all boundaries was a source of great pride. To see them have a go and present publicly to such a varied but distinguished audience, was quite uplifting. We were also  so proud to celebrate Australia Day in Qatar.

During the conference, I spent time in the ISTE sessions which challenged us regarding the leadership role that educationalists should take on in the digital age.  The conference event was made possible by the support of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) with Don Knezek (CEO) and Lynn Nolan (Senior Strategic Initiatives Officer) coming to Qatar to lead workshops. The elective sessions using online music sites and google applications with Chris Chater and Paul McMahon, respectively, were practical, highly useful and inspiring.

On the last day, teachers were mixed in groups with educaionalists from other countries, with a student project manager, a problem based project, complete with skill challenges and time pressure.  We had to  pitch our outcome at each of the groups. By this stage, I knew just how the students must have felt.

Eyes upon the leaders

The organization was superb. Julie Lindsay worked long and hard hours behind the scenes securing sponsorship, organizing facilitators, students, teachers, programs, showbags, catering, facilities, visas, the tech team  etc.  Vicki Davis facilitated the student summit sessions. These were based on “Project Based Learning” and  empowering students with great learning outcomes.  They learnt to connect, communicate and create together. Their skills in using web2.0 tools were improved substantially with the expertise of Vicki Davis. A producer from Hollywood, tutored the students  in film making and using music under the guidance of Chris Chater from Paris. Digital citizenship and netiquette were constantly reinforced and learnt through experiencing. It was inspirational to see the students  presenting  with competence and confidence,  to the large audience, as a result of their summit collaboration.  Thank you to Julie and Vicki, our flatclassroom co-founders and the other facilitators for your great work.

Eyes upon the parents

One of the really interesting outcomes of this experience, was the involvement of parents. This was something unplanned  and unforseen, but ended up playing a key role in our connectedness. As we were on school holidays the majority of planning and communication had to be made online,. The girls had set up membership to the flatconference ning and wiki prior to departure. Before they left, the girls became ‘the experts’, helping their parents to register for the ning , join our school group and showed  them how to write messages, comments and blog posts. This meant that parents experienced the conference with us. Photos and videos were uploaded daily, with blog posts written when possible. Parents commented regularly on all our pages and activities. They were able to watch the sessions that were webcast and one parent stayed up until 1am to watch her daughter make her presentation.  They even joined in on the chatzy  back channel and could see the commentary going on behind the scenes. We received photos of the Australia Day breakfast, held in Hawkesdale as part of the Australia Day celebrations, an hour after it finished, as one set of parents had uploaded them to the ning. They became part of our learning network.

Eyes upon the travellers

We were fortunate to arrive in Qatar three days earlier. Julie took on the extra workload of organizing accommodation for us with Qatar Academy staff. By the time the conference started, we felt quite comfortable and at home at the school. Students shadowed their host students around at school and experienced a typical school day in Doha. The hospitality of our hosts was wonderful. They were kind, caring and sharing.

For four or five nights, we stayed at the Gloria hotel in Doha. This was situated in the old town within walking distance of the souqs and the Islamic Art museum. The hotel was beautifully furbished, attentive to the needs of its guests and provided wireless internet connection (which kept us all connected to those back home)

Two or three buses picked us up from the hotel door and took us to the Qatar Academy for the conference or other activities. This was a great chance to socialize, listen to the student chatter, enjoy some laughs and talk about our experiences.  I shall never forget that last night on the bus, with students from Australia, USA and Ethiopia and Kenya, singing their national anthems with pride, gusto and emotion! Then they sang songs that they all knew, one being “If I could fly” which seemed to be so appropriate.

There was a good balance of sight seeing tied in to the conference. As this country is quite different to the home country of many of the visitors, it was great to be able to have time set aside for us to do some touring. It also gave us all a chance to mix and get to know each other in a more casual atmosphere.

Ray played the patient, caring  host and took us to the souqs (when it rained), the half day desert tour to the inland sea, the corniche and the Islamic Art museum. The Sunday evening was spent at the souks again where we all scattered in various directions to find something to eat and souveneirs to purchase. The stalls selling hunting falcons were most intriguing. Anne Baird, Paul McMahon, Ray and I enjoyed a wonderful Arabic meal of dipping sauces, hommus, traditional chicken and rice dishes and fresh, warmed, unleavened breads.

The conference meals were varied and tasty. There was always a choice of dishes. The dinner on the Saturday evening , set in a formal atmosphere with the HSBC guest speaker was a fitting end to the first day of the conference. The buffet bar of the school canteen was always appealing. The weather was pleasant as it was winter time.

The final night was spent at Villagio in the new town. This is an ultra modern shopping complex, with painted skys on the roof, the best in fashionable shops,  a canal complete with gondolas providing rides for interested parties, an ice skating rink and the usual Western fast food chains.

Eyes on the sponsors

There were many sponsors involved and we cannot thank them enough – the chief one being the HSBC who sponsored the conference whilst in Qatar.  One of their representative spoke to us at the formal dinner. The Qatar Academy provided the venue, staff and other incidentals. For us personally, ACE radio helped to sponsor my students in their travel and our local Hawkesdale and District Action Committee also donated some money.

Eyes that are now opened!

How proud we were, to be Australian, when Australia Day fell on the last day of the conference! However, we came home with American tinged accents!

This was a truly amazing, life changing experience that will equip us for the flat world that of ourfuture.  We can now state that we have experienced the impact that the digital age will have in  a flat world. Thank you to all involved!


Footnote:   Skills learnt – understanding and working with different cultures, netiquette, digital citizenship skills, communication skills in an online environment, the use of many different web2.0 tools, how to collaborate and work in a virtual team, risk taking, pushing outside personal comfort zones, real life pressures of time commitments/project management and how to create effective products for online use and a global audience. How to live, work and play in a globally connected world!

My favourite web2.0 tools for 2008

My favourite web2.0 tools 2008

My favourite web2.0 tools 2008

This time last year, I drew up a list of favourite web2.0 tools. It has been interesting to draw up my list for 2008 and compare. (They are not in any order)

2008 2007
1. Blogs using wordpress and globalteacher/student 1. Delicious social bookmarking
2. Skype for videoconferencing/chat 2. Bubblus a mind mapping tool
3. twitter – to extend my personal learning network 3. blogs using wordpress  
4, Voicethread – fantastic educational potential 4. Wikis using wikispaces
5. slideshare – uploading ppt presentations 5. Google docs  sheet, word
6. Igoogle (customizable homepage with google reader, calendar, notes, todo, gchat (, gmail) 6. Skype videoconferencing
7. Google docs (sheet, word, form etc) 7. Voki  talking avatars
8. Delicious (social bookmarking) 8. Podomatic  online storage for podcasts
9. Gchat (google chat, now with video) 9. Teachertube
10. flickr (online photo storage) 10.Surveymonkey for online surveys
12, wikis  
14. Elluminate live – online meeting room/virtual classroom  
15. wordle – word clouds  
16. nings – social networking  
17. Coveritlive for live blogging  
18. Audacity for podcasting  
19. Toondo – cartoon making  
20.DiscoverE – virtual classroom software  

It can be noted that:-

  1. I have double the number of favourite web.20 tools 12 months later
  2. Twitter is now on my list and has been such a valuable tool for PLNs
  3. Although I still use bubblus, vokis and podomatic they are not used as frequently. Survey monkey has been largely replaced by google forms
  4. Voicethread, slideshare and wordle are increasingly being used.
  5. My students have used the vast majority of these tools as well.

What were your favourite web2.0 tools and how have they changed over the year?

Back to the Past – a trip of Nostalgia

Madigans tea rooms
Madigans tea rooms

This morning, I had to go to Penshurst to deliver some wedding flowers. While I waited, I decided to venture into Madigans, a beautiful old bluestone building, to order a cup of tea. Jazz music from the roaring twenties greeted me as I entered the tea rooms and antique shop.

Although the morning was cool, I had my cup of tea and fruit scone seated at the table and chairs outside. My view was of Mt Rouse and the tea rooms were of bluestone construction, quarried nearby. It was as I read the date of construction, 1857, and looked at my view, that I became quite nostalgic, as this is where the journey with generation Y actually began!!

The old store in Penshurst

18 months ago, a rich picture case studies grant enabled me to work with grade 6 students to produce podcasts about our local volcanic region. Our first outing was to visit the Volcano Discovery Centre at Penshurst and take a guided tour into the old quarries and up to the top of Mt Rouse. I can still hear Mt Rouse exploding on many of the students’ podcasts as they cast their audios, sound effects and photos on various topics relating to Mt Rouse. As grant criteria required us to use web2.0 tools, we also commenced a backyard blog, which led to a teacher and individual student blogs.

The memories have haunted me all day. Who ever would have dreamed how far this journey has taken us.