Tag Archives: CEP

Re-thinking the Classroom: Article by VIT

In 2010, our school, Hawkesdale P12 College in conjunction with CEP (Country Education Project) and the University of Ballarat trialled a Virtual Teaching Practicum with three pre-service teachers. Here is a wonderful report and summary in the latest VIT (Victorian Institute of Teachers) magazine. VIT gave approval to the trial project as it was essential that such an innovative and high risk taking, was recognized for the girls’ minimum placement requirements. Lesley McGregor, of CEP, liaised this amazing project. What our email alert message said:-

Please find below a link to Issue 8 of Professional Practice: ‘Engaging teachers’. It features the work of teacher and acclaimed presenter of professional development Glen Pearsall, with his practical hints on how to create and foster more effective and engaging classrooms. Re-thinking classroom dynamics is the focus of an article on Professor Ramon Lewis’ Developmental Approach to classroom behavior, while the feature on Hawkesdale P12 College and their recent virtual placement pilot suggests a re-think of the classroom itself.

Here is the link to the online article And the Walls Came Down or for a printable version:


Virtual Teacher Trainee Practicum – why it has to happen!

Why it is imperative to support digital or eLearning in education – both at the classroom level and at the Teacher training Institutions?

The University of Ballarat, Country Education Project and Hawkesdale P12 College have formed an informal partnership to trial virtual trainee teacher practicums.  Some possible reasons are listed below.

Teacher Training Institutions/Student Teacher Undergraduates

  • Teacher trainees are not exposed to teaching and learning with digital technology  at University or other training institution to any depth.
  • Teacher trainees neither expected or made to use technology.
  • Teacher trainees are entering schools with little experience in digital learning and teaching and as grads they will not pursue this as a first strategy for teaching. It is too daunting!
  • Teacher trainees realise students come to school and are not fully stimulated
  • Training in the media would open their minds to what’s at there at their finger tips and be able to choose the tools that best suit their teaching style and content of lesson.
  • Ultimate in www. Learning ….. where-ever, whatever, when ever!!!  Anywhere, anytime and any how!
  • Lets teacher trainees take risks and make mistakes within a structured framework!
  • Teaches them learning can take its own course with individuals
  • Allows for more student directed learning
  • Teaches them to be facilitators not deliverers of information – the future direction of 21st century education.
  • Teaches them they don’t have all the answers and are not supposed to.
  • Teaches them to get students to source information and to take risks yet verify it.
  • Allows them to work in a blended learning environment.
  • Empowers them with skills to teach across schools eg virtual teaching of specialist subjects in small country schools to ensure students do not miss out on breadth and depth of education.
  • Prepares them for the ultranet – a huge PLUS!
  • Enables them to establish a wide personal learning network who will support, mentor and share with them.
  • This will teach educator trainees to rethink teaching and shape who they are as a teacher in the 21st century!

Why bring digital learning into the classroom for student learning

Why bring digital learning into the classroom for Student learning

  • Students need to be engaged with what they are doing to improve learning outcomes – technology engages them.
  • Teaches students to be thinkers/learners/risk takers in a sheltered environment.
  • Teaches them not to rely on the teacher…be accountable themselves…become independent!
  • Teaches digital literacy.
  • Teaches them valuable employable skills in a digital world –appropriate online behaviour, good digital citizenship, cybersafety, plaguarism, working with virtual teams, self discipline in a virtual world etc
  • Broadens the horizons of many students as it exposes students to the world outside their country town.
  • Fits in with Rural Education where students in small rural schools need no longer be disadvantaged by distance and isolation, as technology allows them to learn virtually and maintain their subject choices, allows eg  LOTE (languages) and other specialist subjects to be taught across schools by a virtual teacher.
  • A more intimate environment than one through distance education.
  • Inspires them to seek more from school
  • Gets kids to go to school!

This article has been written in conjuncetion with Lesley MacGregor, Country Education Project.

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)

Country Education Project Rural Forum

Beautiful Dunkeld

Beautiful Dunkeld

Venue:- The Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria, Australia

Participants:- From all tiers of the educational sectors including representatives from principal class, R and L’s, preschools, primary and secondary schools, prep-12 schools

After hearing about the new initiatives from the DEECD and other current potential initiatives that may impact rural education, we listened to a report on the CEP New Leaders Group recent trip to a number of schools in regional Canada. Their highlights were summarized as follows:-

 1.        Resources

  • Students need to have resources when required not when timetabled. Need to move to areas where students can do what they need to.
  • Can move when student directed and not teacher driven.
  • Leave school as independent, resourceful thinkers, with strategies to go about learning  throughout life. 
  • Curriculum was individualised and was also used for ‘at risk’ students. 
  • The teaching and learning has been replaced by learning and a teacher whose role is facilitating/coaching/assessing/planning. The teacher facilitates the activity and spends less time teaching large focused group.
  • Development of off campus classrooms in the centre of town, where teachers are on flexible timetables and students could come in when it suited them. Therefore students could work and support themselves but still complete schooling by going to an off campus centre. Take school to the community.

2. Leadership

Throughout the school districts a common language has been developed with common management strategies in place. Principals are moved to schools where their strengths are needed most.  (usually no more than 5 years at one school). Working together in teams, having common understanding and practice eases the workload and minimizes duplication. As learning was individualised, there was  much more 1:1 support. All staff, including the cleaners were regularly interviewed,  Leadership actively sought advise as to what they could do better and then it was acted on. Everyone working there was seen as important. All principals had to do masters of education.

3.      Cyberschool

Over 1500 students are enrolled at the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School . Created subject curriculums online and these subjects are part of accredited courses. The Cyber School also house educational web activities filtered by grade and subjects. Teachers in the cyber school are employed on the basis that they maintain 2/3 face to face teaching and 1/3 or their time to developing and implementing their subject. Previous experience has shown the most significant indicator of quality in the creation of online course is selecting a master teacher and asking them to adapt, create and model quality educational activities in this new forum.

Technological skills and computer literacy are developed as part of this process. All science experiments in the real classroom, were videoed and uploaded onto the website, so online students could still see the experiments being conducted and could contact the teachers to seek further clarification.

In Saskatoon district, all students complete one or two subjects as an online subject. The cyberschool sets them up for independent learning and therefore lifelong learning

 Discussion then centred back on our Victorian rural areas (here follows some of my notes)

There is a need to explore the strengths and assets of the small rural country schools to re-engage with communities. Larger schools are researching small subschools or family groups to give a sense of connectedness with a community.  Rural areas could play a role in helping the larger schools. Small communities can make collaborative and new learning environments. Free from age and year level structures, communities can all learn together when their interests cross paths. Although the flexible learning path may seem radical, this approach has been essential to the way remote rural students have been educated over the  years.

Rural school experiences focussed on the ongoing development of their community. School staff take on community based roles eg  sports coaches Rural education needs to look 5 years down the track, stop the education train, and redesign the tracks and direction.

What is a rural community?

  • Size of community is less than 5000
  • At least 30 minutes travel to preschool, adult and VET education, Health and well being service, access to public transport facilities,
  • sense of an identified community, – catchment of the community,
  • has a vision, sense of belonging,
  • Is at least 1 hour’s travel time from Melbourne
  • At least 20 mins from the nearest largest centre of 10000 residents.
  • Cost of access to get community services


  • Relocation of public and community services over recent times.
  • Changing demographics of rural Victoria
  • Rural community populations are generally getting older, more young people leaving to access learning – especially post school learning
  • The social economic demographic is changing in a number of rural communities eg cheaper housing
  • Anonymity may also set in, in rural communities.

 Need to change the learning parameters and change to the big picture of global learning. What are the best practices that we want to incorporate into rural education? Here is our opportunity to state our destiny.

Historically small schools have used technology to deliver subject programs.

Young people – mobile, global, multi-task and want everything now.

Education is data driven, VCE focus, Literacy, numeracy. Every child to succeed globally.

What is good teaching and learning within  rural Victoria?

Develop life long learning , enquiry based learning, data driven, personalizing the learning. giving students a future skill set. Most students learn most between 6:30 and 9:30 at night.  School needs to go outside its current hours.

A Proud Day!

Mr Myer and me, with a framed certificate of the award.

Mr Myer and me, with a framed certificate of the award.

Several weeks ago, I attended the annual general meeting of the Country Education Project Victoria (CEP). A new scholarship kindly sponsored by Bailleu Myer was offered this year, for the first time,  for Rural Education Leadership. The three finalists were invited to the meeting to await the announcement of the winner. I was so proud to be named the winning recipient. Unfortunately, Mr Myer had to leave the meeting immediately for another appointment, so a photo shoot had to be organized for a later date.

So this morning, I caught the train to Melbourne and met Phil Brown from CEP, who kindly drove me to the home and offices of Mr Bailleu Myer. Mr Myer was a very kind host, showing us true country hospitatlity giving us a cup of tea, a slice of home made lemon hedgehog and who sat and talked to us for nearly an hour. He is very passionate about a fair and equal education for all Australians, especially for the country students and our indigeneous counterparts who live in the outback or who live a good distance from major towns. He questioned us as to our approaches in attempting to solve these problems and an interesting discussion eventuated.

I loved hearing about his mother who owned the Queenscliff hotel. When in the early 1900’s, the telephone was introduced, his mother could see no need for a telephone as she had servants, the post, transport of kind etc. However, when she died she had one of the largest of telephone bills. Mr Myer could see no need for computers until recently and now he has five. A truly wonderful, fascinating gentleman.

After our photo shoot, he wanted to know how I would use the generous amount of money. It is to be used for personal development. I would love to continue to make Asian connections as their time zone is so close to ours and we can work together in synchronous timing. As I have seen so many powerful learning outcomes stemming from the flatclassroom project, I really want to attend the mini conference in February next year, in Mumbai. My interest, is to continue working on synchronous and asynchronous means of connecting with other classes, working towards a virtual classroom and incorporating the best tools for learning in the digital age. The goal is to then share it particularly with my fellow country counterparts to enable country students to get the best possible education.

 I wish to sincerely thank the generousity of Mr Bailleu Myer in providing this scholarship and the Country Education Project for their role in its provision.

My virtual classroom extends – Ping

An exciting virtual classroom and collaborative  project that will start on Monday Feb 9th at our school and in my class. Ajax MckKerral is organsing the project.

Year 7  students  and some grade 6 students from Casterton Secondary College, Heywood and District Secondary College and Hawkesdale P12 College will be involved in a six week online music project, Ping,  

Ping is the result of collaborative project between the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria, The Song Room, and Country Education Project. Generous support has been provided by the Helen MacPherson Smith Trust

The project

  • Focus – listening, arranging and organizing sounds
  • Staff and students involved, will create sound stories
  • 5 workshops. MSO (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) will come in for about 4 of these workshops and discuss their instruments, including physics, history etc
  • MSO will record specific requested sounds for student use
  • Completed stories will comprise 5 tracks or more, convert to mp3 file, embed in the blog.

A blog has been set up for use by all staff with students and features

  • Links
  • Posts
  • Discussion forum- for both staff and student use for discussions, problem sharing and solving.

Requirements: Audacity beta version 1.3.7

So before we commence students need to

  • Register
  • Write a post
  • Learn how to make a comment

Work can be taken home and accessed from home.

Software used

·         Emails and usernames for all students

·         Students rmust register on the blog

·         Individual student PC access for elluminate meetings

·         Headsets with headphones and microphones or headphones and desktop microphone

Students will also require sufficient download and server space.

Ajax introduces ping to the staff involved

Ajax introduces ping to the staff involved