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Skypeathon 2018

front picture slide

The annual Skypeathon gets bigger, better and more global each year. The dates for 2018 are Tuesday, November 13th and Wednesday 14th. The theme this year is “Open Hearts, Open Minds”.

I like the quote from this tweet from Microsoft in Education, Canada re “it is a live-learning marathon”.

The following tweet provides more details about the social goals for this year’s Skypeathon.

You can learn more by visiting the Skypeathon site Follow the steps to request mystery skype calls. There is an activity plan to organize your calls or digital passports, stickers  and posters etc to be had. If you follow the #skypeathon hashtag on twitter, there are opportunities for organic or unplanned connections with people who are looking for partners. However, for the miles to be recorded, please request a mystery skype call at the planned time.

Already planned Skype calls for my classes include the following countries

  • Argentina
  • USA (students are either sleeping over or staying back after school)
  • Philippines
  • India
  • Australia

Some of these involve live cultural or muscial performances, some are mystery skype calls and some are short sharing session. One is a connection with Microsoft manager talking about digital technology to my year 9/10 computer class. Are you going to be involved and if so, who will you connect with.



Towards Problem Free Global Collaboration!

connecting with japan voicethread

A recent question, for discussion, was put up on our ISTE Global PLN Connects Site, by April DeGenarro and it read like this

“As a preventative tool, I am trying to create a list of things that every global collaborating teacher should do to work towards a problem-free global collaboration experience.  This mostly applies to the teacher-initiated projects where one teacher arranges to work with another teacher(s). What are some of the things you ALWAYS check before and during your projects?

global connections
My responses to this were:-

  1. What is the time frame for the project? (Can it be completed during my school term and school year as we start our Australian school year at the end of Jan and finish in Dec.) Shorter projects are much better to start with.
  2. What tools will be used – synchronous (will it be in real time) or asynchronous (non real time)? eg We are asleep when most of the USA is at school and our school day starts when US schools are finished, so synchronous connections are tricky.
  3. How confident are the teachers with the tools? Are they user friendly and free?
  4. Does my school have access to the tools to be used? ie are they blocked.
  5. What devices can be used by students – can the tools be used cross platform and devices.
  6. Age group for the project? I teach secondary but find that my students have more confidence when they work with younger ones eg using flipgrid pals. Therefore, cross age projects can work.
  7. How frequently will teachers communicate as good communication ensures a successful and completed project?
  8. Time zone differences (always need to be measured in UTC or GMT). This is one of my greatest challenges
  9. Test the connections if videoconferencing is to be used prior to a direct linkup.
  10. What language will be used? Will the tools used allow translation options?

After the project: 

Reflect on the project:

  1. Write a a journal entry, preferably as a blog post (students should do this too)
  2. Share class reflections on a flipgrid and share with the connecting class. Both classes could contribute to the flipgrid.
  3. Promote the activity via twitter and facebook and/or other social media channels.

Maintain the teacher to teacher connections.

Seek further ongoing connections to continue the learning.

Although global connections may not be completely trouble free there are things we can do to make them as engaging and powerful as possible.

Where to start: Coding with Scratch

As I have done little in the way of coding and programming (and have never learnt it formally), I am more than  nervous about introducing it into my classes. So reluctant in fact, that I have left this area of study until the last school term for years 7 and 8. Over the last few years a small group of students have been involved in the Games Net project with ACMI. This required them to collaboratively develop a game using Scratch, so I have simply watched them get involved! Most educators suggest starting to program with block coding and as Scratch is free, global and shares so many resources willingly, I am going to start my year 7 and 8 students programming in Scratch, even though the curriculum would suggest that I use more sophisticated coding programs. Some students have already used it in primary school, so hopefully, there are some experienced code crunchers in there!

However, as it is now part of the new Digitech curriculum, I am forced to take it on!! But where to get started???? In the past I have printed off a range of sheets with basic codes that can be used to move the cat sprite. Unfortunately this did not engage the students for long. One of my favourite sites for classroom resources is Tes. There are some wonderful resources shared by teachers – some free, some with a small charge. I went to the Resources tab, keyed in “Scratch” and found some great coding projects to create simple and more complex games. All the ones that I have used are free. I chose some that looked user friendly and engaging for students, downloaded and saved them on the network and printed some on our colour printer.

We started with was the worksheet Scratch by tonymitch. It was free. Students create a simple racing track as a backdrop, add a car sprite and code the car to race around the track.  Students who were more confident with Scratch used their creativity and changed the backdrop etc. Then went on to develop their own games. Beginner students tried some of the projects from this workbook by Nick Rickus (the maze game and frog game). These were more challenging and they had to use code that they had learnt from the racing track game to ensure it worked. (I think this is using the old version of Scratch.)

See games developed in Scratch by some of the year 7 students:

Mac Tank Game was his variation on  a maze game, his racing car game involves 2 players and his maze game

Next time I would use the following resources to introduce Scratch –

More resources:

  1. Scratch Session 1 of 3 – fish tank game which teaches scoring, timer and game over screen
  2. Scratch Gamepacks
  3. Scratch Workbooks
  4. Pacman Challenge

and so much more.

Once students completed their games, they had to share the project online in Scratch, grab the embed code from Scratch and place the games into their blogs.

Impact on students: Students are highly engaged. They love to play each other’s games and test them. They access the games via each other’s blogs. Students who would not normally achieve much in class due to low literacy levels are able to use code and are often become the ‘experts’. Some socially isolated students become the most adept and are highly sought after for their expertise in solving problems that often higher achieving students struggle with.

Further directions

Students will be encouraged to leave positive comments on each other’s blog posts with feedback on what they liked about the game and suggestions for improvements.



Learning how to use Makey Makey with Scratch


At the recent ACCE conference, I attended as many ‘hands on’ workshops as possible as I am not at all confident with using coding and robotics. One of the sessions involved “Using Makey Makey with Scratch” with Meredith Ebbs, a NSW project officer. See her blog site for more – Observe, Learn, Do and KodeKlubbers


This session showed how to use Makey Makey with Scratch. As we have 6 makey makeys in our school, I was keen to learn more. They are cheaper options to get into for coding and programming than many of the robotic kits.

Possible uses:

  • Setup makey makey as a keyboard convertor, then integrate Scratch to program the Makey Makey
  • Could use  for quick one answer surveys (eg did you enjoy this lesson “yes”/”no” as students exit the classroom)
  • Make artworks and poster interactive (eg enable audio to sound on posters)
  • Can be used to add LEDs etc into the boards
  • Adding split pins to posters, activates storytelling which has been recorded in Scratch and activated by the makeymakey

What I learnt:

A good way to start using Makey Makey is to set up a keyboard using aluminium foil covered cards that are attached to the makey makey with crocodile clips. (Cards are required for each of the arrow keys and one for earthing). Then google for a “pacman game”. Use the foil covered cardboard and appropriately attached crocodile clips to the Makey Makey to play the game.



Some suggested resources:

  1. – fantastic online document including all resources shared together with Meredith’s actual presentation
  2. CSER MOOC – free online open source PD
  3. Follow Colleen Graves on twitter

Some other useful extras

  • buy a caterer’s bulk pack of aluminium foil
  • photo below shows some other useful items


The picture below shows an object useful to use as a voting lever as students eg leave the classroom for evaluation or to vote in a simple survey.


Some code that might be useful




The ImpaCT of Global Classrooms

the races.jpg

The Australian Council for Computers in Education hold a conference in Australia every two years. This year it was held in Sydney at Randwick Racecourse, with the theme of ImpaCT. See the full program 

My presentation was based on The ImpaCT of Global Classrooms and the impact it has had particularly on my classes and students. The session descriptor is as follows and the presentation can be seen above.

By attending this session, participants will explore and gain “hands on experience” in the
• hear inspiring and amazing classroom stories of collaborative global classrooms
• explore online tools for communication, connection and collaboration both synchronously
and asynchronously. These tools are free, cross platform, cross device and accessible to the
majority of classes across the world. Some are proven tools over time and some are the
latest trending tools
• Learn how to get started 😊
• Where to find global projects – both simple and complex mnm  mmmm
• Discuss tips for success
• Explore the challenges of collaborating globally
• How to overcome the challenges including the challenges of cultural and religious
differences, language barriers, accents, time zones and more
• Understand the need for and the power of developing a personal learning network
• How to develop a professional learning network and learning communities to join

Unfortunately, Todays Meet (a backchannel) is no longer available. This would have added interactivity to the session. The time slot was only 30 mins in length, so there was no time for interactivity. An online document of resources was shared.

eSmart Week


Last week was eSmart week in Australia – September 2nd-8th. This week is dedicated to building an eSmart Australia and is promoted by the Alannah and Madeline foundation. The goal of this week is to promote cyber safe citizens and keep children safe from bullying, cyber bullying and violence.

Those schools who registered for this event were emailed a link to an online tool kit, full of ideas for school and community events, information for parents, teachers and students etc.

One of the sites that caught my eye was one on popular games, apps and social media. This is an online site setup by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and has links to information such as privacy policies, profile settings, where to block and report those who abuse the terms, community guidelines, FAQs etc.

Application to my ICT classes

Cyber safety and handling online bullying needs to be constantly discussed in class.

  1. Students will brainstorm what eSmart means and write a blog post
  2. They will look at the Games, apps and social media site (as above), search for their favourite games, apps or social media and learn more about the latest apps, how to protect their information and where to get more safety guidance.
  3. Younger classes will create a superhero to add to a post on their blog

Video Games Lessons continued

At the recent PD on Games Lessons at the Warrnambool Art Gallery with Vincent Trundle from ACMI, a number of valuable resources and links to online websites was shared. See my intitial post.

Digital Australia Bond University produce a Bi-annual report for IGEA. The 2018 report has many interesting facts and figures in their key findings on page 6.  Some of these included

  • 65% of Australian homes have 3 or more game devices
  • 98% of homes with children in them, have video games devices
  • 33 is the average age of videogame players
  • 50% of households watch walkthroughs
  • Biggest use of youtube is watching live  streams or walkthroughs of video games

The culture in Australia and elsewhere is that the use of videogames in the classroom is frowned upon. As educators we need to become aware of what is happening in front of the screen as well as behind the screen. There are many different literacies built through playing games. We looked at what a good lesson plan should look like, the fact that Victorian schools follow High Impact Teaching Strategies and what filters would be required in a games database.

Some useful websites shared by Vincent may include curriculum materials, samples of lesson plans, articles on what is good learning and high quality teaching.

It was concluded that if a database is to be setup of Lesson Plans for videogames, the resources should live within a central, easily searchable database, filterable using the terms which are most meaningful to teachers eg age/key/stage/topic/type of activity etc.