You can lead a horse…



We speak so often about the need to differentiate, personalise, and scaffold our teaching programs to our students to ensure that what is being taught is done so in a way that engages, enhances and gives purpose for the students at their particular point of learning need.

I am a big believer in building teacher capacity in a variety of ways which of course then has a direct flow on effect for the learners that a particular teacher is responsible for. Being in a role that oversees the effective use use of technology across 1900 students and 220 staff is, well, a large role, however one that is supported by a host of staff whose own skill sets and capabilities in using technology to support learning is outstanding. Those supportive staff have a particular drive and passion for continual self improvement that they are very willing to share with those around them and that is the difference that sets them apart.

I am a large believer that professional learning for teachers must be invested in heavily by schools if education is to progress in that particular setting. The challenge I find is that some settings do not either place a high enough focus towards this, do it in a way which is the opposite to what we should be doing, as mentioned earlier with our own students, that being said, providing a professional learning culture amongst staff that disengages, does not enhance capacity and has little to no purpose. The other issue I see is professional learning being driven based on the needs of the college or school, and not the staff, and there is a very large difference between the two.

I am pleased to say that I have attended some absolutely outstanding professional learning in my time. PL that has been engaging and had me thinking and challenging my own pedagogical practices and educational paradigms. PL that has been hands on with a focus on creativity and innovation and thinking in ways that I would perhaps normally not. I feel that these professional learning events were, and are rare. My recent trips via Apple to the ADE Institutes in Bali and San Diego, as well as attending the GTA in Sydney in 2011 certainly were (rare) examples of the above. The focus on these accounts were teachers becoming the learning and learning at points of need. Teachers knowing their own strengths and weaknesses and building their professional learning around these.

Recently I have delivered alot of professional learning to educators both within and certainly without of my college setting. This is something that I really enjoy and is a great part of my role. The fact that I can model lessons for other staff, assist them through planning processes, observe and deconstruct taught lessons as well as deliver more formal means of PL all allow me to assist in the building of teacher capacity. I think, or believe for the most part, I am very good at this. I am passionate about working with staff and it is this passion which drives me going forward. There are times that I have delivered professional learning that has not been wholly effective however and I have used these few experiences to better my own capabilities for future scenarios.

In saying all of the above I am keen to determine how I can better, or… be more effective at building teacher capacity. Does this comes down to the way in which I present and run professional learning, or am I needing to focus more upon inspiring staff before I worry about adding to their skill sets?

Regardless, I feel that I am needing to get more of a ‘buy in’ from staff to better and further improve their own practice. The image below sums it best.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 8.26.28 am


Finding the time to run professional learning in a teacher’s, or teaching team’s hectic schedule can be very difficult. What is not difficult unfortunately is finding excuses to not run the professional learning. A personal goal from here forward is to ensure I keep working hard in supporting staff to build their own pedagogy no matter the focus, or lack of time. What will go a long in supporting this is that ‘buy-in’ from staff to want to improve. A want and desire to better their practice to ensure that they are delivering the highest quality teaching and learning programs that they can offer.

You could say that I will not force the horse to water if it is not thirsty. Teaching reluctant learners does not improve when I force content upon them. What does work however is finding ways in which to engage and hook them into wanting to learn and to improve… and this is my (exciting) challenge.

Watch. This. Space.


1 iPad, 1 Task, 15 Ways

Recently my year 7 class were issued with an inquiry tasks asking them to select various pathways and answer various inquiry questions, many of which they themselves had created, relating to their current Inquiry topic of Ancient History with a focus on Ancient Rome and Ancient China.

I have embedded this task for you below.

Humanities Inquiry Task

Immediately after the task had been covered, discussed and picked apart, I set the students off to begin creating their presentations. Depending on what we are doing in class I often place a very heavy focus on ‘student voice, student choice’ (thanks @MichelleMeracis for allowing me to ‘borrow’ your phrase) as well as foster a ‘Gradual Release of Responsibility’ towards how work is presented. This essentially means that student can choose to create their work via just about any means they wish as long as they are meeting their success criteria and learning outcomes for that lesson.

After 15 mins or so I began conferencing with the students around the room what it is they had chosen to do and how they were going to go about presenting their work. The task itself involves also having students present their findings to the rest of the year seven cohort in an ‘exhibition’ style setting.

It became quickly apparent that the creativity I was hoping for was not entirely being embraced! A class conversation was quickly organised and a rushed ‘poll’ on NOT what each of the students were doing but HOW they were doing it. Their responses were mixed with a around half selecting to ditch their technology altogether. However,  those who were iPad bound were all looking to create in the same select few app’s.

So being the teacher that I am I decided to show just a few select ways that were quick, pain free and simple to take what was a very ordinary task and ‘jazz’ it up a little!

Below I have completed the same basic task; under the ‘History Pathways‘ component, and the dot point titled ‘What are your thoughts/opinions on slavery?’. To answer this I have come up with three pretty standard opinions and attempted to represent these in 15 different ways using my iPad Mini. Some are extremely basic, others a little more complicated. Some tasks took a little longer to complete while others were completed in under 3 minutes.

Here we go!

# 1.

  • App: Pages
  • Cost: $12.99 however comes free with most recent model iPad devices.
  • Time: 3 minutes

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 8.27.08 pm

# 2.

  • App: KeyNote
  • Cost: $12.99 however comes free with most recent model iPad devices.
  • Time: 5 minutes

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 8.33.37 pm

Slavery KeyNote Preso!

# 3.

  • App: iMovie
  • Cost: $5.49 however comes free with most recent model iPad devices.
  • Time: 11 minutes (including export to YouTube)

# 4.

  • App: Haiku Deck
  • Cost: Free with in app purchases.
  • Time: 7 minutes (including upload time)

HISTORY PATHWAYS – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

# 5.

  • App: Adobe Voice
  • Cost: Free (An Adobe ID is needed, which is free.)
  • Time: 5 minutes (including upload time)

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 8.26.14 pm


Click on the image above to view the video…

# 6.

  • App: Pic Collage
  • Cost: Free with in app purchases.
  • Time: 5 minutes


# 7.

  • App: Popplet LITE
  • Cost: Free, although a Pro Version is available.
  • Time: 4 minutes


# 8.

  • App: Tellagami
  • Cost: Free with in app purchases.
  • Time: 3 minutes

# 9.

  • App: Video Scribe
  • Cost: $7.49
  • Time: 6 minutes (47min to export to camera roll!!!)

# 10.

  • App: Prezi
  • Cost: Free
  • Time: 7 minutes

# 11.

  • App: Google Doc
  • Cost: Free
  • Time: 3 minutes

Link to the EDITABLE document here: Slavery – History Pathway

# 12.

  • App: Survey Monkey
  • Cost: Free
  • Time: 6 minutes

Access the link to my created survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/M9GQ2SS

# 13.

  • App: Strip Design
  • Cost: $3.79
  • Time: 8 minutes

IMG_0862 IMG_0861

# 14.

  • App: iFunFace
  • Cost: Free with in app purchases
  • Time: 5 minutes

# 15.

  • App: Trading Cards
  • Cost: Free
  • Time: 5 minutes



And…. One more for good measure…

# 16.

  • App: Quick Voice Pro (embedded in to an iMovie and exported from an .MP3 to a .Mov)
  • Cost: $3.79
  • Time: 10 minutes

So there you have it… I do actually have ideas for another several however we’ll leave it at that! If you, the readers, have any ideas, I have embedded the Google Doc below so you can add your own ideas, apps, etc…

Your Ideas… 🙂



A Sample of Awesomeness!



In my last post I mentioned that I would share several great examples of work that my year seven students had created. Work they have developed and constructed through being creative and innovative.

Now not to pick favourites at all, but I have selected 5 pieces that I am proud to share that give a great snapshot of what my students are capable of and being that these pieces were created early on in the year, I am positive that what continues to be created and shared only improves.

1. Digital Stories

The concept of Digital Stories was very new to my students and therefore I undertook (well, I had all our year 7 classes undertake) the creation of digital stories. This was a great way for students to show us what they were capable of in terms of using their devices yet also, and more importantly, give us as teachers a greater insight into the personal lives of these great young people! The Digital Story below is just one outstanding example of the many I received!

2. Genius Hour Project

Unlike the digital stories, which were just more slightly known to the students, the concept of Genius Hour was COMPLETELY foreign and both the students and I were breaking new ground! Overall, I think that I’d give our overall score out of ten a… 6… for doing this effectively. Perhaps next time I may need to be more explicit in what I am wanting from the students however for our first attempt… not bad! Below is a presentation made by Anthony who enjoys DubStep Music (it gives me a headache, but that’s showing my age), although who had little idea in how to ‘mix his own beats’… (I am not sure what that even means!). So as part of this project he learnt how to do exactly that and this video explains what he learnt well!

3. Ancient Civilisations

As part of our Inquiry Topic students in small groups were to collect information about an Ancient Civilisation, as part of a web quest, and present basic information on that civilisation. What I love about the video below is that the students involved were using note taking strategies, in this instance ‘skinny notes’, to summarise and rewrite information as they understood it. Then found the images to add as a backdrop to support their text and bam! Presentation completed!

4. Reading Homework.

As part of a homework Task Board, students were asked to record themselves reading with a major focus being placed upon ‘reading with expression’. I’ve found that just about all of my students, and myself included, dislike hearing the sound of their own voices, especially when reading aloud. This task asked student to read a short text and focus on being expressive when reading to engage the audience and below is just one of the great examples that were submitted.

5. ‘Laws and Rule’s at Manor Lakes!’

After investigating some of the more… let be honest and say ridiculous laws that exist throughout the world, students were asked to come up with 5 of their own laws that they felt would be just and fair at our College. I have to say there were a few that were quite… very inventful, and far fetched! :), however what one student developed below I feel are quite good! 🙂 Might have speak with the boss about implementing these!

My Laws


Show & Tell


I’ve been planning to write this post for the past few weeks however time has been getting away from me recently, how dare it, but alas, here it is! As mentioned in previous posts it’s been amazingly wonderful to be back in a classroom again teaching and learning with the squids! Working along side and relating to these young people during the week, on a consistent weekly basis, certainly has given me a new lease on my teaching life.

Now, do not get me wrong, I love my eLearning Director role, however, lately the drain that is constant meetings and administrivia has definitely weighed me down somewhat. So down to business. Below I have shared just a few of the things that I have been up to in my room. Mind you, I am in class 2 full days per week and am enjoying the Challenge of attempting to squash everything in to what is already a super crowded week but also making way for the ‘extras’ I am wanting to implement, both from a learning and classroom management perspective, such as a few of the items mentioned below! 🙂

1. 2014 Middle Years (Yrs 5-8) Challenge Based Learning Unit: Digital Identity

2014 Middle Years CBL Unit: Digital Identity

2014 Middle Years CBL Unit: Digital Identity

We were wanting to run a unit, an introductory unit, for our Middle Years Students based on Cyber Safety, Digital Citizenship, Copyright, Creative Commons, and several other things! The challenge was not so much what to cover and when but how. Dare I say that covering the above topics with Middle Years students is a challenge relating specifically to engagement.

I wanted students to take ownership of their learning and drive what it is they want to know and hence what better way to do that than through a CBL, or Challenge Based Learning Unit. What I love about CBL is that students relate personally to their learning. They are drawing on real life experiences that effected them, either in a positive or negative way and can use these to guide new knowledge and understandings. Already I am seeing some excellent learning taking place via what has been created and shared with the students and facilitated by the staff.

The ‘proposal movie’ that was developed, under CC licensing rights, is embedded below. This movie was shown prior to our Middle Years Students undertaking this unit. The aim of this movie was to get students thinking about what having a ‘Digital Identity’ is and how this affects them as learners and users of technology in the 21st Century.

To assist the staff I developed an eBook, via Apple’s iBook Author Software, and has staff download this as a guide to assist them in running this unit. To develop this, I used Apple’s Own CBL Guide as well as several awesome resources that had been created by Adam Brice, an Apple Education Executive. If you would like to view the CBL Unit as well as the other accompanying documents such as the Assessment Rubric and Student Workbook, head to the shared DropBox Folder linked here: 2014 Middle Years CBL Unit Resources

2. Genius Hour Implementation.

I am not overly sure where I first caught wind of ‘Genius Hour, but I do recall being excited by the notion behind it! For those who have no real idea behind this, it all stemmed from Google giving their employee’s 20% time. This meaning 20% of their working week, which theoretically means one day, to work on projects which interest them as they please during this time. From this, Google Applications such as gMail, AdSense, Google News and Google Talk just to name a few.

In previous years we have implemented students undertaking ‘Passion Projects’ which is similar to the notion of Genius Hour however with fewer restrictions I guess you would say. The presentation below explains in simple detail what genius Hour is and this is what i showed to my students. Currently the students are working through the ‘finding out’ phase in answering their Guiding or Driving Question.

Just a selection of some of the Guiding Questions my years 7’s have come up with so far;
  • How will I learn to create and mix my own DJ beats?
  • Why is their cruelty in the world? (Tough One… but I am interested to see where this leads!)
  • How should people react in a bushfire emergency? (I am hoping that a ‘how to’, or ‘what to do’ video stems from this!)
  • How can I make a iPad Game App, on my iPad?
  • How do violent video games affect the way people think?
  • What is the best way to help endangered animals and what can I do about it?

To inspire my chargers I then showed this great You Tube Clip starring Kid President, which my students loved!

3. Google Drive

Google Drive App

Google Drive App

The joys of Google Drive! This is more than likely not a big deal to most however, having spoken about, presented about, coordinated PL about and modelled and demonstrated about, the positiveness of Google Drive as an App to assist iPad Workflow has thus far been amazing. All teachers within our Yr 7 Team are now planning via Google Drive and sharing all planners, resources, links, PDF’s, etc via this means. The real power is now having students use this effectively to share work, receive work, and access learning materials needed not only via teachers, but also with each other. Collaboration is a major focus as part of our eLearning Capabilities and to now be entrenched in this with my own class is great.

The best part? It’s ease of use and set up!

Lastly, and as an add on to this, I have just discovered Kaizena, an online program that accesses your Google Drive Account and all your files. From here, you can highlight text on documents and leave Voice Comments. Something that I think will save teachers a lot of time in allowing them to give quick, effective and thorough feedback! View the clip below to see how all this works! 🙂

4. Classroom Expectations.

I loathe classroom rules, not to be negative, but, I find them extremely negative, and more often than not against what a classroom should be about. In saying this, I believe there is a need for something to assist and guide students in demonstrating expected behaviours. The power from developing classroom expected behaviours is that these are student created and driven. If the ownership comes from the students then they are much more focused towards behaving in ways that are conducive to what a learning environment should be!

Below are the expectations that the students developed. Expectations which had to relate to at least one of our College’s values (Aiming High, Valuing Our Community, Respecting Others, Being Safe). 

For now. I think that’s all I will share as if this were a real show and tell session I would have been booted off the stage long ago!

Back In The Trenches


Excited. Anxious. Stressed. Thrilled. Flat. Pumped. Frustrated. Inspired.

Just a select few words that have described the past 10 days, the first 10 days in fact, of 2014 for me professionally.

I knew that going back in to a classroom this year would be a challenge. Not because I had simply forgotten how to teach and  inspire and engage, but due to the workload that i knew would come my way and having that trepidation around not wanting to do either of my roles any injustice to what they deserve!

I think that i have learnt more in these past ten days about prioritising, being organised (which I am obsessive compulsive about anyway), and working against the clock than I ever have before. I have said all along from last year that the one thing that I wanted to ensure never happened was for my role as eLearning Coordinator to hinder in anyway the students that I teach, as they are, and always will be, the priority. In saying this I do not want to let the ball drop either in regards to my eLearning position. In a school of 215 staff, 1850 students, and with 10 out of 13 cohorts from P-12 running 1:1 programs, there is never a dull moment. Working across the college with teachers and students is great and makes what I do extremely worthwhile however it can be very tedious.

Thus far I have loved being back in a class. The 22 students I grade share my class with are an amazing bunch of young people, all of whom have their own wonderful personalities that enable our class to be truly diverse. They’re attentive, respond very well already to feedback and certainly have shown a want and desire to learn.

My teaching partner, Tegan, has been outstanding, as has the entire year 7 team I am part of. Great and committed staff who, like the students, all bring something different to the table which is what I feel an effective team needs. People who are not completely alike and perhaps may not always agree on the same thing can make for a stronger and more effective teaching team to be formed. As referenced in a previous blog post, Dan Gregory’s comment of “Diversity and collaboration is about making a group smarter collectively. Not about playing nicely.”, truly rings home and although we all get along extremely well, we also have that ability to say what we feel for the benefit of the students!

I am sure that this year will bring many a challenge, it already has in saying that, however for every challenge and frustration I encounter I am sure that I will also see all of my students at some stage feel success towards their learning that they have strived to achieve. It will be this that pushes all those challenging moments and and frustrating scenarios that may have arisen well and truly out of my mind!

It’s safe to say I am more than happy to be back in those trenches!


2014: Change is the Focus


So here we go again. 🙂

It it certainly surreal that tomorrow I head back to work for an ‘unofficial’ Leadership day which will no doubt look to direct what our foci will be for the year ahead. It is a safe bet to say that I look forward to 2014, professionally speaking, with a want and need in some regards to change the way I go about my role as an educator and  leader.

My new years resolution for this year is all about “Change”. Changing certain things in my own life physically, mentally and socially as well as fostering that notion of change in my professional life. Change for this year has already occurred in quite a large way with the birth of my third daughter just before Christmas 2013. That in itself has certainly led to a whole lot of new changes in my own life as when adding a newborn baby to the mix of a near 4 and 2 year old certainly makes for some interesting times! 😉

A reason for change to be needed is that I felt 2013 interrupted my family life considerably and this is one change that I plan on making. Finding that better work life balance that many of us dream of will be a priority. This in turn has implications of course on my work and what I do as the need to be more ‘streamlined and efficient’ with my time will need to happen.

In saying that, this year will see me teaching  in a year 7 classroom 2 days per week and team teaching with another wonderful staff member. The priorities and effective changes that I will need to look at making will be focused on being the best teacher I can be for those students as well and ensuring that I do not ‘drop the ball’ in relation to my Whole College eLearning Role. I already know this will be a challenge. The ability to be able to lead and drive learning in my classroom whilst aiming to also inspire change and action with my staff will take some effort. Effort that I say I am more than willing to put in as I have what I believe is needed to fulfill both of these roles and that being a Passion for what I do.

Some of this ‘change’ thought process, primarily once again professionally speaking, has come from my last blog post and hearing Dan Gregory speak towards the end of 2013. The 6 key messages that I took from that session, outlined below, are in fact going to drive a lot of this change that I have mentioned. I have unlike the previous post elaborated on these a little further.

  • Real leadership. Helping people to be what they want to be. Not telling people what to do. 

I am a firm believer in modelling effective Leadership, either modelling that myself or having those above me showcase what it means to lead and show what effective leadership looks like. In my role I am very lucky to be able to work with all staff from Prep right through to Year 12 and because of this I believe that I have the ability in leading staff to become better educators.

  • Being famous for something. Break the mould. Be different. 

The whole idea of creating a brand and a label for oneself is very interesting. I will never forget Kevin Honeycutts keynote presentation at uLearn12  in Auckland where he discussed the importance of ‘bragging’ about what you are good at and telling everyone about your successes. The need not to be humble and the fear of one looking arrogant if they do. What I can be famous for… I am yet to decide! 😉

  • Diversity and collaboration is about making a group smarter collectively. Not about playing nicely. 

Being back in a teaching role and working within a team and sub school and having more direct contact with staff with our Middle Years will allow me to showcase and work on my leadership skills. I love this quote from Dan as it amazes me when I see teachers receive criticism for anything about their professional practice the large majority immediately turn defensive and see it as a negative and personal insult. Because of this I have also witnessed leaders reluctant to speak to staff for the fear or a simple professional conversation being turned in to WW3! I plan to be more open and honest in the attempt to better the teaching practice of others. To do this in ways that is not only conducive to the individual, but the teams that people are working within.

  • Achieve wins. Prove what you’re doing works! 

Having spent some time with Narissa Leung (Leading Teacher ICT / Curriculum at Campbells Creek Primary School) mid to late last year via the Department of Education’s ‘Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century” Professional Learning series, I had the chance to hear Narissa speak as a guest keynote presenter. One of the comments that she made links beautifully to the above statement in that she aims to find research based evidence to support and back up the work that she is doing. To have that hard evidence that the decisions being made are the right ones and that actually work is great thinking . The great thing here also is that with what evidence I cannot locate myself, I can turn in to my own research based evidence / paper.

  • Start a movement that people can participate in. Don’t sell an idea. Create change and let people participate. 

I love this. This relates directly to a TED Talk which I have seen countless times, embedded below, that encourages the notion that it is those directly below the ‘Leader’ who are the real change drivers when starting a movement. I can bang on all day about the wonders of my work and what can be achieved however if those I am preaching to do not get actively involved then it is all for nothing. In a perfect world (school) I wish to be the one igniting those ideas yet have others be the ones who participate, engage with and push the change.

  • Build trust as trust is currency. This creates and fosters change. 

Lastly, this binds the above together. It comes down to being an effective leader and working with teachers to foster change. For staff to have trust in you and what you do is very important. They are so much more willing to follow you and what you do if that trust is there. Last year as part of my eLearning Role, the coaching that I was involved in led to a lot of this trust being developed, something that was a highlight for me personally as it reinforced what I was doing actually was not only working but creating change in the way teachers taught and students learnt.

So there we have it. Reading back I have a fair bit to do! 😉 Or do I? I feel that it is not a matter of out with the old and in with the new, it is about doing things differently and focusing the change I need to make on making those differences.

Lastly, I have embedded another TED Talk by Simon Sinek titled: How Great Leaders Inspire Action. There are some great messages here from Simon that resonate very closely to what it is I want to achieve. Happy viewing!