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The Student Voice – Q and A with Roma Britnell, MP

Schools in our district were offered an online Q and A session with Roma Britnell, MP through the Education facility of the Parliament of Victoria. A session had been booked with the year 8 ICT class. As the original date was in the first weeks of Remote Learning round 2, it was changed to Monday 7th September. This meant that it was just a few days after parliament sat to debate extending the State of Emergency powers to 6 months and was the day after the road maps were announced for Metropolitan and Regional Victoria.

Initially students found it difficult to think of questions to ask. Many were nervous to even ask questions using the microphone. However, due to the media coverage of the past few days, the topics of conversation centred around COVID-19. Roma is not only our Member of Parliament but is also a nurse, a mother and a dairy farmer. It was interesting to hear her say that she would regularly corona virus test the dairy herd. Once the students relaxed and understood that she was genuinely interested in their voice, the questions started to come through quickly and robust discussions took place. Students even stayed online during their lunch hour to continue the interactions. Following are some of the questions that were asked of her:-

  • How is covid going and will there be a vaccination anytime soon?
  • Why are there so many arguments in Parliament?
  • Will the restrictions ease and what was it like at the meeting when you voted to extend the State of Emergency by 6 months. 
  • Were you in parliament when the vote was taken to extend the State of Emergency. How did it feel?
  • What made you go into politics?
  • As a former nurse, what do you think is more important, the health and wellbeing of Victorians, or the economy? Or is there a way of balancing them, given the more people die, and the worst it is for the economy? 
  • are you handling covid , wearing the mask and do u hope that it will die down soon
  • What are your thoughts on the Premier,  Daniel Andrews recent announcement about the road maps
  • Would the n95 mask be better than the disposable version
  • Do you think that an average of 5 cases across the whole of regional Victoria is achievable over a 2 week period?
  • As a Victorian what how do you feel about the extension of the state of emergency?
  • What is your view on the hotel quarantine, who fault do you believe it was?
  • In parliament who many people could be inside and is it mandatory to wear a mask inside
  • How do you feel about the football finals being held in Queensland and them getting special treatment and a better hotel than the hotel quarantine.       
  • Do you think that the football shouldn’t be on due to the virus?
  • Why did you chose to be a member of parliament?

A sincere thank you to Ms Roma Britnell for giving up her time and speaking with our students, showing them the human face of a politician, answering their questions not only from a politician’s point of view but from that of a Victorian citizen and speaking to them in a very relaxed and informal manner.

To show how popular this session was, one of the student’s sister’s who is a year 10 student, asked whether they could do something similar.

Webex was used to connect us. Using webconferencing that enables a chat feature gives every student a voice and Roma watch the chat to look for and answer further questions.

Updated school routine for COVID19

Schools in Victoria are back to remote learning. Regional areas are back into their fifth week for the second round of remote learning and Melbourne schools are into their eighth week. Fortunately, our COVID19 cases are starting to decline from the high of 700 reported a day several weeks ago and now down to 70 new cases today. Our deaths were also down today so there is hope that we may come out of our lockdown – regional Victorians only have four reasons to leave home – essential shopping, care, education/work and medical reasons. Melbourne citizens though are really locked down. Only one person from a household can go shopping to supermarkets etc, there is a curfew from 8pm to 6am, they can only exercise for one hour per day and cannot travel further than 5kms from home. They must work from home unless special permits are granted. Cafes and restaurants are open for take aways only. The Australian army has now been called in to help patrol the curfew and ensure that restrictions are adhered to.

We are the only state with severe restrictions as the other Australian states have contained the virus successfully and their numbers are nil or low. All states have closed their borders to Victorians and we are currently looked down upon by our fellow Australians. It is sad, as Melbourne has regularly won the title of the World’s Most Liveable City but it certainly is not now.

Students of essential workers and vulnerable students may attend school but must fill in a weekly form to gain permission from the Principal. A skeleton staff remains at school to care for these students. Last week we were granted special permission to bring our VCE students back to school to complete SACs (assessment tasks) and to conduct practical science experiments. I went back to school each day for the week and spent time with my small VCE classes and supervised their SACs. However, there have been changes to our routines. All people who come to school must now be temperature checked and must wear a mask. Students and staff line up to have their temperature checked. This will take a considerable amount of time when we all return.

Here is the altered routine:-

  • Students sanitise hands before catching the bus (the essential workers children and those from vulnerable families)
  • All students from 12 years up wear masks
  • The bus driver has three clear seats between him and passengers.
  • Students sanitise their hands when getting off the bus.
  • They enter the school office and get their temperatures checked. These are recorded by office staff.
  • Only staff and students are allowed on school grounds. Any other people on the grounds must have express permission.
  • Our receptionist and librarian now have protective plastic guards between them and people.
  • Students are socially distanced where possible. It is compulsory for staff to socially distance.
  • Teachers do not have to wear masks in the classroom when teaching but they must be worn at all other times. The exception being when eating and drinking

I laughed when the students told me that they take as long as they can to eat so they dont have to wear their masks. Today is the first day of spring, so we are looking forward to warmer days and increased outdoor living, where it is thought that the virus cannot be so infectious.

On Sunday, our premier will announce our roadmap out of our current lockdowns. It will be gradual easements and there will be two roadmaps – one for Melbourne and one for regional areas (where the virus is not so prevalent).

Icebreakers used this week for Remote Learning

It is always good to make the students feel comfortable before they begin formal classwork with virtual icebreakers. I find this important even for my senior students. Here are some quick easy starts to the lessons that I tried this week:-

  • Playedmusic as students enter the virtual classroom Some ideas suggested by my Business Management PLN include Shannon Noll Shine and Bruce Springsteen Born to Run (suggested as being COVID applicable!) or give students the chance to suggest which songs could be played. We use MS Teams and it works well in there. Make sure that you when you share your screen you check the box to include system audio
  • Using the chat, get the students to tell you how they are feeling in an emoji, or what is the weather like where you are in an emoji.
    weather in an emoji
  • In the chat, upload an image showing the colour of the top that you are wearing (do not use text)
    what colour top are you wearing

Interactive activities, this week included:-

Show n Tell with year 7

Zara showed us the chickens that she hatched, shared their names and discussed how she looked after them. She also showed us the masks that she has been sewing.

Would You Rather with years 8-10?

We played the game of Would You Rather……? I shared some questions eg Would you rather swim in a pool of nutella or a pool of honey. Students replied in the chat, Then selected students would use audio to tell us why they chose their option.

They then had to think of three Would You Rather? questions, add them to a MS Form and embed the result as a post on their blogs. See my instructions.

I shall add links on my blog to each of their posts for all students in the class to answer. They will then look at the results and graphs that Forms shows in responses. This activity was highly engaging to the students and they were all keen to make their surveys in MS Forms.

Remote learning 2.0 – Week 1

year 8 indi cake

Indi shows her sister’s birthday cake (top middle)

We are now into the second week of Remote Learning, round 2. Having returned to school for 7 weeks with a 2 week winter holiday break it came as a shock to learn that country Victoria was to join its Melbourne counterparts in returning to teaching and learning from home.

One day was given to enable teachers and schools to prepare for this second round. We try and follow our normal timetable, but are constantly reminded to not expect too much work or homework from the middle years students and younger ones. Although parents were happy with the last remote learning (we use MS Teams), many stated that the students had little time for breaks and that they were on their computer screens too much. Our year 9/10 cohort were the most difficult to engage.

This morning, the whole year 9/10 ICT class were online, were interacting and appeared quite confident in coping with remote learning again. It was the first time, I have had them for remote learning as they were at school last Monday and had a student free day Tuesday so that teachers could prepare. They are the 2 days that I have them.

I tried to make the lesson as interactive as possible. It went like this:

  • shared an emoji in the chat to reflect on how they were feeling. (most were quite happy, a couple were sleepy)
  • added a msg in the chat re the weather (which ranged from foggy, cloudy to sunny) and to share what was the best part of their weekend. We are in lock down so they cannot leave their homes readily but most seemed to have filled it in ok.
  • talked about masks using the chat- what was hard about wearing them and what was good about wearing them.
  • played a kahoot on Australia. This is fairly bandwidth heavy so some of them could not access kahoot or got bumped out. However 13 of the 16 students stayed on to play

Year 8 – we did similar activities but instead of the Kahoot, we looked at their blog posts and surveys on Two Truths and a Lie. Students had used MS Forms to create the survey. Each student shared their screen, talked through the results and stated which one f the three statments was a lie. One of my shyest students used the microphone for the first time. See their Two Truths and a Lie. (Students enjoyed creating the Forms).



Sharing the masks that this student was sewing

Year 7 – again we followed similar introductory activities, but instead of the Kahoot, we looked at students blog posts that were written sharing their reflections on wearing masks and remote learning. One of the girls used her video camera to show the masks she has been making, and another showed her three chickens that she had hatched in an incubator. She was given the eggs for her birthday.


Three week old chickens

You can read some of their reflections on their blogs.

  1. Masks and Remote Learning Round 2 Cassie
  2. Masks and Remote Learning Aiden
  3. Masks and Remote Learning  Cody
  4. Masks and Remote Learning Round 2 Jamie
  5. Covid-19 News Lauren
  6. Covid-19 in Victoria Sahara

Remote Learning Round 2

Today, we start round 2 of remote learning. Victoria is going through a second wave for COVID19 and numbers testing positive is ranging from 400 to 600 new cases each day. 25% of people who have tested positive are going to work. So Melbourne has gone to stage 4 restrictions with a night curfew and only essential service businesses now open. In country Victoria where I live cases are few – in fact only 1 active case in my Moyne shire and 1 active case in Warrnambool where I go shopping.

VCE students were attending school throughout Victoria, for the first three weeks of term3. All other students in Melbourne were at home learning remotely. In country Victoria all students were still at school. However, that has now changed, and all students including all VCE students are back to learning from home.

Our city colleagues were given one week, student free, to prepare for remote learning at the beginning of this term but when the news came out that country Victoria would also be learning from home, country teachers were given one day to plan for remote learning as a student free day!

In the first round of remote learning, staff and students tended to be anxious, not knowing much about COVID-19 and what its impact might be but there was also some confidence as we were restricted in our travels and activities so that the spread might not be great. After 10 weeks, all students returned to school – week 7, term 2. Students were pleased to be back to see their friends and most reported that they preferred to have face to face classes.

The second time round, staff and students showed less optimism, less excitement about embracing a different learning journey, a lot of fear and doubt over what our future now holds. Our COVID-19 numbers are rising, there is a lot of community transmission, people are not obeying the law as they should and we are asking “what if this does not work?”. None of the other Australian states have shown such high figures. Any outbreaks have often been caused by Victorians travelling across the border, legally or illegally.

It was with far more despondent hearts that staff and students left the school at the close of Monday, with the possibility of an even bleaker future. We all tend to be weary.



Masks – the new normal!

This morning, I grabbed my laptop, laptop bag, lunch box and ………. a mask! As of today, in Victoria, we all have to wear masks when not at home. This is rather alien to our culture – as we love to socialize, interact, show our faces as part of our communication and not be hampered by any involunatary extras.

This had a big impact on me. I no longer see my gorgeous smiling students. I cannot gauge how they are feeling as their eyes do not tell me enough. All I see is a sea of masks covering their mouths and noses!

Only a few days notice was given to this announcement, but students and teachers have all turned up to school today with masks on. There are a few exemptions for those with health issues. The law is that we need a face covering but most have gone for masks.The masks are in all shapes, colours and sizes. Some are wearing a scarf to cover their mouth and nose. Only a few are wearing disposable masks

As a teacher, we are do not have to wear them whilst actually teaching in the classroom or when eating or drinking but we must wear them at all other times – in the corridor, at our desk and out in the yard!

Problems: we are not used to wearing them and the vast majority do not want to wear them, so:-

  • takes a bit of used to for breathing in them.
  • self consciousness for a start. Students dont want to look different and some were shy etc However, as everyone is wearing them, they became more adjusted as the day progressed.
  • anyone with glasses finds their glasses can fog up.
  • hearing students voices is really difficult as many of them mumble at the best of times. We all have to learn to articulate our speech and to project our voice
  • some have found that the elastic on their masks is not tight enough so they fall off (We had spares at the office for those students).
  • some found the elastic was too small so they could not put it around their ears. Therefore schools need to have a supply of spare disposable face masks.
  • The mask elastic straps need to go over my glasses, so that my glasses do not fall off.

Other queries include:

  • health issues
  • looking after the mask so it is effective
  • where to dispose of reusable masks
  • how often should reuseable masks be worn

Virtual Icebreakers for online learning

When learning online or remotely, it is so important to have some fun with the students. It can be a lonely and stressful place to be learning from home, without the face to face interaction of fellow students and teachers in the classroom.

Some of these resources were suggested by members of the Global Educator Collective facebook group and others were responses to a question asked in the ISTE Connects Community discussions re suggestions for icebreakers for online learning. There are some fun and engaging activities for remote learning and also to use back in the classroom.


A fantastic list from Torey Trust on Virtual community building for high school, college and graduate students.

From Rachel Dene Poth: I have done  a lot of different ice breakers. Some of the more recent ones involved using Buncee and the many templates available to create About Me, 3 truths and a lie, things I wish my teacher knew, fun facts about me, and many more. Students create and share.  Also using Flipgrid for doing introductions or responding to prompts. With Zoom, perhaps using breakout rooms and having each room do an activity to get to know the others in the room.

Laurie Guyon: I’d use BingoBaker to create the Bingo cards and play virtually.  I have used Nearpod for games as well.  I often will put a draw it slides in as the first slide so that participants have something to do while they are waiting for everyone to join. The draw it could be a word search, a complete the picture, or a drawing game.  I also sometimes use a Collaborate board where you ask them to find a GIF about something, a quick intro, or even guess something.  It’s great to get them engaged right away!

Jackie Gerstein Virtual Team Building Activities 

Jennifer Smith: I generally try to connect my ice breaker activities to the content I will be teaching. I ask students to share the name of their favorite scientist or an example of how they used science that day/week. Pets make regular appearances in class meetings, so having students introduce their pet may be helpful. Students who do not have a pet could describe a pet they would like to have. With older groups of students I have asked them to share their most commonly used emoji or to share the song that best represents how their week has gone.




Fun, engaging remote learning lesson

One rather fun and engaging remote learning lesson involved students guessing which song was a teacher’s favourite. I also tried this with a hybrid class at year 9/10 level. This meant that half my class was face to face at school and half were still learning from home.


  1. I sent out a request via MS Teams in the Staff Team chat asking teachers for their favourite songs. Approximately 12 replied. Some were great and shared the actual youtube link to music clip.
  2. A table in Word showed the teacher name, song title and youtube link. (It would probably have been easier if I had put the links on a blog post on my class blog)
  3. Setup 2 more Word documents – one for students with the Teacher name in one column and the a heading for the song title. This was shared with students via the chat feature so that they could add the teacher’s name upon hearing the song. Another word document was for my use with the links to the songs. As I shared my screen I couldnt use the one with the answers on)
  4.  Setup the live meeting with Meet Now in MS Teams when it was class time. The word document was shared in the chat. I briefly explained what we were doing.
  5. Then I shared my screen. Make sure you check “Share system audio” so that students can hear the music remotely. See image below
    share music in Teams1
  6. I worked my way through the youtube clips, played the clips for about 30-60 seconds, with students typing up the teacher whose favourite song they thought it was.
  7. After each group of 5 or 6 songs, we went through the answers.
  8. In the next class, students wanted to share and guess each other’s favourite songs.
  9. The sent the youtube link to their favourite song to me in the chat.
  10.  I played them through to ensure that they were ok and then set up similar word documents. Except this time I added the links to my blog which was much easier to quickly access the clips in real time.  See this blog post COVID19 and scroll down till you see the links to the songs that were favourites for some of my year 9/10 students.

I was pleasantly surprised with their music choices and only one student had shared an inappropriate one, which I censored prior to the class.

Summary: Students really engaged with this activity and wanted more. There was no real lag from me playing the song clip over Teams to them listening to it. For those students who had trouble with internet access, they could be given the sheet with the song links and teachers names on and do it in their own time, when internet access was stronger.

If you were stranded in the forest, what 3 things would you bring?

Students never cease to amaze me with all the ideas that they might have to share in an interactive manner while remote learning. One such topic was “If you were stranded in the forest, what 5 things would you bring?” Initially the suggestion revolved around a deserted island but got changed to the forest.

Students initally shared how they were feeling in an emoji using the chat. MS Teams was the software used for remote learning. One at a time, students used the microphone to share what they would bring to the forest. Some responses were expected but many had an element of ingenuity and creativity.  Students also had to explain why they would bring those three items. They included the following:-

Torch, gun (to shoot for food!), phone, matches, water, food, first aid kit, dog, pocket knige, car, tent, air grilles, seeds, bucket, lighter, tin can (to gather water), Australian flag, thongs, esky, camping supplies, 4 wheel motor bike, friends, surviavl packs.

One girl actually named two of her friends because one of them is smart and another was experienced at camping and would help with survival.

Dscussions continued on what students had gone camping, where they had gone camping. To make it a richer activity, it was decided that they might need to know the actual location, was there a river, how popular is the location, time, season and how long we are stranded for. All students shared and again, got to know each other better and remained connected.


Where are you from?

where are you from

Prior to each ICT class during remote learning, students would put forward suggestions of what topic they would like to share on. I would then add a poll using Polly and students would vote on their preferred option. Although “If I had 3 wishes” was the most voted upon, for some reason, we discussed “Where are you from and where would you go?”. This turned out to be a really interesting lesson, with students sharing their screens and showing us on google maps using a variety of views to show where they had previously lived.

In that year 8 ICT class, we have a student from the Philipines, who has also lived in New Zealand before his family made their way to Australia to work on a local dairy farm. Another student has just enrolled in our school. He has come from Thailand and had been living over there with grandparents, until the COVID19 lockdown when his parents decided to get him back to Australia.  He had only been a student at our school for one week. Both of these boys showed exactly where they were from, used the microphone and screen sharing with perfection to talk about and show what it looked like where the lived, including some of the nearby tourist attractions of Thailand. Erwin who shared the new home that his parents are building in the Philipines also showed us where he had lived in New Zealand.
erwin home

One of the girls has lived in Queensland and showed us her home and surrounds, whilst some of the local students showed us where they live now or where they may have lived previously.

As I love to travel, I found this a really interesting topic.