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.







Game Lessons Professional Development


An interesting email was received from Vincent Trundle of ACMI in Melbourne, seeking interested teachers to attend a professional development day at the Warrnambool Art Gallery (WAG) with the theme of Game Lessons. I do not play video games but I watch with fascination students and children playing them. They demonstrate high levels of engagement, a desire to win and move on to the next level etc and they can spend countless hours playing these games. This would coincide with the current exhibition on Code Breakers – Women in Games.


Vincent had received grant money through the Department of Education in Victoria build to build teaching capacity through compiling, creating and sharing new and engaging classroom learning plans centred around videogames. The day focused on:-

  1. Defining what a great lesson plan is, why it is and how it is best shared and found
  2. The development of several high quality videogame centred plans for classroom learning to instigate a shareable database – Game Lessons

Teachers were divided into pairs, given an A4 sheet of paper and told to create a game within 15 minutes. Everyone produced a different kind of game and then talked us through the rules and participants were given a chance to play them.

Teachers were also given time to play the videogames in the WAG and time was set aside to also develop lesson plans based on these games. Together with Virginia (a past teaching colleague) I played  The Gardens Between (storytelling without words), a puzzle adventure where players manipulated time to guide 2 friends through a variety of islands and fascinating islands.

Virginia and I discussed how this game could be used in English (her subject area) and ICT or DigiTech (my subject area).



What do you mean? TV!!!??!!


At the beginning of the term, I wanted year 7 students to write a blog post on what they did over the winter holidays. This lets me learn a little more about them and their activities outside of school. To help them, I gave prompts as follows:-

  • One movie I viewed
  • Two favourite meals over the break
  • Three games I played
  • Four TV programs I watched
  • Five things I did over the holidays
  • List highlights of the holidays
  • I wish the holidays were longer because…..

To my utter amazement one of the girls asked me what TV was. I then realised for the younger generation this is ‘old hat’ and they use Netflix, STAN, Foxtel, youtube or similar to watch programs, movies etc. How far technology has taken us! It made me feel quite old as we still watch television, but how important it is to keep up with the young ones and know and understand where they are at.

Read some of the responses:-

  1. Montaya
  2. Jordan and What I do in My Spare Time
  3. Kyle (who chose not to follow my prompts)


Creating Word Clouds with Wordle (updated)

Layla’s Year 7 Students in a Word Cloud

Over the years, one of my favourite tools has been wordle. It is free, easy to use and creates wonderful visual data of text.

However, it will not work in Google Chrome due to its reliance on Java Script. Internet Explorer is therefore used and depending on the version of Windows used, you may have to allow Java to run. (These come up as popup windows at the bottom of the screen.) I do not update, just simply choose “run this time”.

How is it used in class?

  1. Students in years 7 and 8 ICT create a word cloud listing the first names of students in their class. It is saved as a png, then uploaded as a post onto their blogs. See Layla’s post, Xif’s post, Jordan’s post
  2. Year 7 and 8 students key in their subjects to Wordle and create a Word Cloud
  3. Senior students highlight the text from their Subject Study Design and paste it into wordle. This makes a neat visual summary of the important key points that they will be learning. See the Accounting Study Design summary below.
  4. For those students who find it difficult to read large chunks of text a visual summary in wordle would help them discover the key aspects.

Some tips:

  1. Use Internet Explorer
  2. To join words together use a tilda ie ~ between each of the words eg school subject would need to be keyed in as school~subject so that they stay together in the word cloud.
  3. If you key in the same word several times, it becomes bigger and more pronounced. (Some students want their best friends to appear bigger than the rest of their class members so they type them in several times, or do this for headings.)

fletcher students in year 7.png

Alternatives to wordle – we also use abcya word cloud generator, which is not as effective but although directed at primary students, is still easy to use and provides colourful visual data.

How do you use wordle in the classroom? What alternatives to wordle do you use?

Is Blogging Dead?


Earlier this year, I had a conversation with one of the new teachers at our school about blogging which was overheard by one of our senior teachers who has been at our school for many years. That senior teacher made the comment: “I thought that blogging was dead!”. I was horrified and assured the teacher that it is was still very much alive!

More than 12 years ago, I started to blog under the direction of Heather Blakey who was a popular blogger in Australia. She conducted a PD in our school library for staff on blogging. I was fascinated and thought it would be a great way to share our country backyards with others, especially as we live in Kanawinka, the largest Geeopark in the world. There is much evidence of volcanic activity in our area, on our farms and in the small towns that our students hail from. Our students come from Penshurst, which has the volcano, Mt Rouse; Macarthur (Mt Eccles) and Koroit (Tower Hill).

Since that time I have taught students to blog, usually commencing in year 7 as that is normally the youngest age group that I teach. My new year 7 classes have started to learn the skills of blogging at the beginning of this term.

To support my horrified response that it was not dead, following are  recent stories that I have had from past students and from one of my school teaching colleagues:

  1. One of my past students is now a successful apps developer working for himself. He started in this field as he loved blogging while he was at school. The coding that had gone on in the backend of the blog had fascinated him.
  2. Another student took a university exchange last year, and messaged me to say she had created a blog to document her travels whilst studying in Great Britain. I took an avid interest in what she was doing and could keep up to date by reading her posts.
  3. Michelle, a teaching colleague at school, and her husband love to travel. Last year, when they visited Spain, they shared their updates on Facebook. However, they were concerned that some of the feedback they got was not positive in resultant comments. She wanted me to teach her how to blog so that they could share their travels this way and have some control over possible feedback via comments etc. Faraway Places to See was started and the result is a stunning reflection of their travels on the recent trip to Africa.

When I travel or seek information, I will often search for blogs on the topic as they are coming from people who have experienced, researched or usually have organic knowledge on the topic. Many years ago, I wrote the following posts on why blogging is important and my viewpoints have not changed at all, in fact they are constantly reaffirmed. Blogging introduces so many different skills – digital citizenship, writing skills for local and global use, use of multi nodal media, html coding, development of digital portfolios and much more.

Blogging is not dead and will not be while I and many others teach Digital Technologies! I am as passionate as ever about blogging and want my students to be too!

See  some of my previous articles on

Virtual Tours for Students


Technology allows outside experts to come in to a classroom and speak virtually to classrooms and also enables virtual tours in real time. Today, year 7 students had the pleasure of touring the MOMA exhibition at NGV (The National Gallery of Victoria) with Ingrid, one of the Education Officers but it was instead of a live excursion, it was conducted using Skype. Use this link to book your own.IMG_3675.JPGHow it looked! 

Year 7 students went to the library after form assembly, where a new SMART monitor was used to project Ingrid’s image and the virtual tour. She introduced herself and proceeded to walk us around the dynamic NGV and show us elements of MoMA – the exhibition that has been brought from New York City. During the 40 minutes that we connected, we saw and heard her speak about some of the most famous pieces of artwork in the exhibition.

famous painting.jpgIMG_3683.JPG

Not only were their paintings but animations, videos. cartoons, posters and 3D works of art. Ingrid did a great job in chatting to us, informing us all the time of what she was doing and zooming in on the art work so that we could see in fine detail the actual brushes involved or dots that compiled the art work. There was even a dining experience where guests are invited to sit in one of the windows of the NGV and eat a Thai meal!!! The connection was robust and stable and only dropped out a little when Ingrid moved between rooms. Ingrid encouraged questions through the tour.

Note if we had to go to Melbourne for same experience at the NGV:

  • 4 hour bus or train trip to Melbourne plus up to 1 hour for parents to get students to bus or train by car (from home)
  • permission forms required
  • costs of bus, food etc involved
  • Risk assessment needs to be completed etc.

marilyn monroe.jpg

The advantages

  • no cost
  • little effort
  • no travelling to and fro Melbourne (we are 4 hours drive from the NGV).
  • No need for extra risk assessments, permission forms and other administration
  • simple technology use, user friendly software in Skype
  • Watching Ingrid zoom right in with her iPad to the actual art work to see the finest details, which I don’t think the naked eye could do (certainly not mine!)
  • Our classroom was lovely and warm on a cold winter’s day.
  • we could see what goes on behind the scenes before the gallery is opened. People cleaning glass casing, wiping clean the white walls, an exercise class moving through etc This made for further research and conversations once the virtual tour had taken place.

The challenges

  • my lack of technical expertise on using the new SMART monitor in the library where an HDMI cable is now required for projection. (I am used to the interactive whiteboard) I had to get the computer technician to come and help me and this took a while, so although I had tested the webcamera and tested the external webcamera and activated that, I did not get time to test the microphone so this did present problems for Ingrid as she could not hear us well, but we heard her really well. That 2 way conversation is essential for successful interaction.) Our linkup was first thing in the morning, so there was little time to get organised.

modern art.jpg

However, this is an amazing opportunity and I cannot understand why more educators dont make use of these virtual tours.

Twitter: #NGVkids @NGVMelbourne

Link to book your own virtual tour. 

most famous painting of all.jpg