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