Creativity and Learning!

This evening at our College’s latest ICT SIT (School Improvement Team) meeting we viewed Sir Ken’s 2006 TED talk on “How School’s Kill Creativity”. My colleague Michelle and I spoke about how there are some school settings out there giving their students 20% time, or ‘genius hour’ time to work on creative based projects of their choosing.

The notion of doing this is based on Google giving their employees 20% of their working week off, one day effectively, to work on company based projects of their choice that could add to Google’s offerings! A wonderful concept that fosters heavily on creativity and innovation. 2 things that we want our students to be aware of, and to attempt, as often as they can.

2 great local examples of this are from two fantastic teachers in Anthony Speranza and Narissa Leung, both educators in Melbourne. Their blog posts and online resources about what they are doing with their students is amazing and is certainly something I encourage not only our own staff to take up but are great for anyone wanting to ‘release’ their students to showcase what they are capable of!

What i really enjoyed reading was the way that both teachers went about integrating this and guidelines that they put in to place.This gave this idea I feel a greater purpose and meaning for the students as it guides their thinking to be more creative. This is evident in Narissa’s first project guideline where “Students had to learn something new while doing the project- it wasn’t enough to simply regurgitate information they already knew.” 

Reflecting on Sir Ken’s TED talk which i’ve seen several times now, he promotes a lot of thought provoking ideas and discussion points on the notion of innovation and creativity versus academic ability. The idea that the public education system does not cater for learners who have a need and drive for the creative. That schools are based on their academic success and results and it is this reason that our young learners grow to loose their creative ability.

As teachers and educators we need to ensure that we let all of our students have the chance to play to their strengths. That we do not simply rely on academic ability to judge how successful our students will be.

What do these 5 have in common…

  • Thomas Edison – Inventor
  • James Cameron – Director
  • Walt Disney – Animator
  • Mark Zuckerburg – Facebook Founder

and of course…

  • Steve Jobs – Apple Founder

They all are school dropouts. Oh, and all are known for their creativity and innovation in their respected fields.

The more we can encourage our students to be creative and showcase their skills and innovative capabilities the greater learning I feel we will see. By encouraging our students to think outside the box and move away from the norm is certainly something that needs to take place. The days of producing kids in the education system who are only academically driven are fast, if not already, becoming something of the past. Skills needed to be successful in the 21st century rely more not on reading, writing and numeracy, but on the ability for workers to be more technologically minded and globally connected.

The image below showcases 10 key skills and 6 key drivers our students will need by the year 2020. This has been developed by the ‘Institute for the Future‘ who have focused this work on future work skills, not future jobs. These skills being ones that are transferable across a range of jobs and work situations, all of which will aid workers to be successful in their chosen fields.

Click to Enlarge…

I seem to have gone off on some sort of tangent here however… there is a point! 😉

That point being creativity needs to have a greater focus placed upon it in our education system and i feel that in most cases that the buck stops with the teacher. We need to step back, make room and space, and give our kids time to showcase and demonstrate what they can do, and the notion of ‘Genius Hour’ and or ‘20% Time’ is one great way in which we can assist in making the above happen.

For more information on what both Narissa and Anthony have been up to please head to their respective blogs.

Narissa’s Blog – Teaching in the Big Wired World and her post titled – ‘Putting the G in ‘Genius

Anthony’s Class Blog – Year 5/6 @ St.Marks Primary School and his post titled ‘The Genius Hour!

Anthony’s Personal Blog – ReconfigurEd If you scroll down you’ll find a number of posts related to his Genius Hour exploits as well as presentations that he has completed on this topic.

VITTA 2013

Well another amazing VITTA conference has come and gone and as per usual when I attend something of this ilk I like to take this opportunity to reflect upon the two days that were!

One of the 4 keynote presentations about to get underway…

Personally, i like to judge a PL or conference on 3 main things;


Is this PL relevant to me as an educator and is it relevant to to 21st Century Teaching and Learning?


Will attending this PL improve my teaching practice and allow me to improve that of my colleagues?

–  Performance

– Will the gained knowledge led to improved learning performance amongst my students?

It’s safe to say that VITTA ticked all those boxes. As it has in the past. The quality of presenters and speakers was again extremely high and for teachers and IT Leaders to have the ability to not only hear from these minds, but to also network with them, which I feel is just as, if not, more powerful the the presentations themselves.

It is quite astounding the amount of brilliant minds I have met through having developed a very strong PLN via the likes of Twitter and Google+, yet still, even only now, I am meeting people face to face for the time! Having had met over the past two days the likes of Richard Olsen and Louise Duncan face to face was fantastic. To have also attended their sessions and gained a greater insight in to the work that they do was also just as brilliant.

My own presentation was one that I feel was great in theory, yet due to me rushing it’s contents, came off a little… scattered! I’ll wait eagerly for the feedback! 🙂 You can access my presentation in either ibook or PDF formats by clicking on the image below.

So. Rather than give an in depth overview of all the keynote and the presentation sessions I attended, here are 5 things that I learnt and/or had reaffirmed over the course of the two days. There were THAT…

1. …teachers of all areas in all settings are continuing to push boundaries and take risks within their teaching and learning environments. The notion of wanting to create and foster students who are innovative and creative has never been more prevalent, and that technology integration has been and will be a major driver of this.

2. …the time is now. Teachers are THE ones who are the major drivers in technology integration and who can cause the biggest shift in 21st century pedagogical practices. The questions, as asked by Bruce Dixon, of what school is, what should it be, and what could it be, need to not only be answered but acted upon.

3. …teachers and educators are not alone. Through working together, networking, and developing collaborative practices, the ability to be able to ask for ideas, assistance and to tap in to great educational minds can happen anywhere and anytime!

4. …the hot topics are revolving around 21st century teaching and learning, mobile technologies and the integration of BYOD models within schools and colleges. That also when these three things are merged together we can have absolutely amazing teaching and learning exhibited!

5…lastly… as educators, we need to continue to develop a need to better understand our students. The need to develop that understanding based upon the ‘Modern Learner’ and our students learning in a technology rich world. Also, adding to this, that it’s not only about the technology itself, it’s about how our students learn along side that technology.


iPads w/ Amber X2!

Recently my College was lucky enough to be asked to host a Professional Learning Event for teachers across the Victorian South-West Region.

The PL was ran by a wonderful American educator by the name of Amber Kowatch, a MACUL Teacher of the Year recipient and all round iPad and technology integration guru!

It was great to have Amber out at our College and hear her story around her school districts challenges and success in providing technology to their students. It was also wonderful to listen to some of Amber’s key messages in both integrating iPad devices from scratch and using these to support teaching and learning.

Amber’s session highlighted the work that had been done in her school district, Ludington, MI,  in running and coordinating a 1:1 iPad pilot program and the massive success that came from this pilot.

View Larger Map

Due to the success that had come from the work of Amber and her colleagues, a 30min film was professionally produced and tells the story of Amber’s journey in detail demonstrating all of those challenges and successes that were evident before and after the journey. The trailer for this film is embedded below and can also be can be located on Amber’s “Look, I’m Learning” website. This film is a must watch for any school looking to move forward down a 1:1 path and wanting some inspiration!

Look, I’m Learning from Allyson Rockwell on Vimeo.

Also that must be mentioned is the excellent ‘FAQ‘ page that probes in to a number of questions relating to the pilot Amber was directly involved in as well as questions directly related to the use of the iPad device in education.

This session will highlight how “Look! I’m Learning!” began. It will give details as to how the iPad pilot program in Ludington, Michigan got started and the success that soon followed. It will highlight the many incredible ways that the iPad changed the classroom environment as well as showcase the bond initiative that allowed the entire community to share in its success. This session will be ideal for administrators, School Council members, and educators that are interested in hearing about how to the program started and what led to its success.

Participants watching “Look, I’m Learning!”.

Following some great discussion about what we’d just viewed and delving a bit deeper in to Amber’s journey, we then proceeded to to discuss more about the actual  ‘nuts and bolts’ of using an iPad to support learning. The great thing here was once again, with all those in attendance from a variety of settings, all had great things to contribute and put forward.

Amber covered and discussed a multitude of iPad Applications that have supported her teaching, focused on learning, and assisted her iPad pilot program to become the success it has been. A variety of the applications that were covered were;

App’s Formative Assessment…

  • eclicker
  • Socrative
  • Poll Everywhere

 App’s for Creating Tutorials (by both teachers and students)

  • Educreations
  • Showme
  • Ask3
  • ScreenChomp

App’s to Support Reading

  • A to Z App
  • RAZ Kids
    • Levelled Readers
    • Guided Reading Groups
    • App Skills
  • OverDrive

 App’s to Support Math

  • Splash Math
  • Math Series
  • Clock Master
  • Pearl Diver
You can find a list of the above and other applications that Amber and her colleagues recommend HERE.
As a group and facilitated by Amber was the concept of publishing students school work in a traditional sense versus that of a digital method. The fact that having students create digital ebooks that could be shared amongst the class, the running of a class or individual blog, and the creation of online scavenger hunts, all encouraged students to share their work with a greater audience.

This also as we know fosters a greater notion of best practice amongst our students as what they are creating will be viewed by a larger audience, hence the quality of what we as teachers see produced by the students increased.

So, in summary of what Amber spoke about, shared, and discussed… Fantastic! Hopefully we see her back in Australia in the future to once again share her knowledge with us!


iPads w/ Amber

Amber Kowatch

During the second week back of term 3, Thursday 25th July, my College, Manor Lakes P-12 College, will be hosting a wonder Professional Learning Opportunity open for all teachers and leaders in the Victorian South West Area.

The speaker for this event will be Amber Kowatch who hails from the United States and is an ‘ISTE Outstanding Technology Teacher of the Year” as well as a recipient of ‘MACUL (Michigan’s ISTE Affiliate) Outstanding PreK-12 Technology-using Teacher of the Year’.

As per the flyer attached below;

“Amber Kowatch is an outstanding primary teacher, technology coach and presenter. Amber’s firsthand experience utilizing iPads and other technology in her own classroom has been documented in the award winning film titled “Look! I’m Learning!” She has provided professional development for her district as well as for many other school districts. Amber is the author of Making Best Use of iPads and Other Cutting-Edge Technology in Grades K-2. Participants leave Ambers’ presentations inspired by her enthusiasm for teaching and equipped with numerous new ideas for making effective use of iPads and other cutting-edge technology in their primary classrooms.”

“This session will highlight how “Look! I’m Learning!” began. It will give details as to how the iPad pilot program in Ludington, Michigan got started and the success that soon followed. It will highlight the many incredible ways that the iPad changed the classroom environment as well as showcase the bond initiative that allowed the entire community to share in its success. This session will be ideal for administrators, School Council members, and educators that are interested in hearing about how to the program started and what led to its success.

“Following a thirty minute break for refreshments Amber will share more practical examples of how the iPad supports learning and home/school communication. Opportunity will be provided throughout the session for participants to ask questions.”

If, like myself, you are keen on hearing Amber’s journey please download the Flyer and register for what will be a great learning experience.

Amber Kowatch Flyer – MLP12C 250713



Apple Leadership & Learning Event 2013

This morning I attended the Apple Leadership and Learning Event held at the Bastow Institute for Education Leadership in Nth Melbourne. The day was designed to work with Educational Leaders to a degree in utilising Apple Technology knowing that those in leadership positions are responsible for transforming teaching and learning.

The morning involved a panel discussion with 3 very knowledgeable Principals, all of whom were involved in some stage of Apple/1:1/BYOD roll out in their settings. One of these Prin’s being my own.

It was great to hear from all, however especially great to hear from Meena Marchbank (Cambridge PS) and Charles Branciforte (Keilor Views PS) and what they had to say which was reaffirming from my own College’s point of view. Each Principal gave an account of their setting, shared at what stage they were at in relation to technology integration and dove in to this in slightly more detail. Once this had been completed there was time for a Q & A session and for those in the audience to ask questions that were of course on their mind. And some great questions were asked!

From here Simon Shaw and Adam Brice went through a plethora of teaching and learning ideas with a heavy emphasis on several great applications to support learning but also how to use these to have students demonstrate learning outcomes taken from the Australian Curriculum. Applications such as;

  • Explain Everything
  • Frog Dissection
  • ROMA
  • Shakespeare in Bits: Romeo and Juliet
  • Motion Math HD
  • Showbie (Not officially demonstrated however Adam mentioned to me that this is a riper app!).

After a quick break and a check that i had not received a parking ticket, it was my turn to present the basics of what we do at our College and some of the pedagogy and philosophical concepts that drive what we do. Now being a fan of Haiku Deck, i quickly created one of these and have embedded it below for your viewing pleasure.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Overall, it was a great little morning that appeared to have many attendees thinking about their schools vision and path for the future. Something i’d like to keep an eye on!

If you have any questions about the above please feel free to contact me via the ‘About Me’ page located on this blog.


ICTEV 2013

It was magnificent and yet again another day that showcased some of the best educators going around sharing their stories and teaching methodologies with the conference delegates, and thanks to social media, the world! Or so I heard…

Due to circumstances out of my control i was unable to attend the annual ICTEV conference which i need to say pained me, and still does. There are few professional learning opportunities like ICTEV that tick so many boxes, for me personally, to make it a unique experience to attend and be part of.

The tweets that were coming through thick and fast for the entirety of the day were overwhelming. I eventually got to the point where i had to leave my phone at home so as to not be checking every 3 minutes which was resulting in glares of a “pick your phone up one more time, i dare you…”  nature from my wife. 😉


If you, like me, missed the day, and you’re on Twitter, search for the #ICTEV13 hashtag and retrace the excellent knowledge that was being shared throughout the day.

Lastly, to those who had selected to see me present on the day, i am greatly sorry for my absence, however, i have added a link to my presentation below. It is quite a media rich file causing the file itself to be large. Being a Multi Touch Book developed iBook Author, i have included the actual iBook File as well as a PDF version.

PDF: ‘Appy days – iPad applications to support teaching and promote learning’ – ICTEV 2013

iBook Dropbox Link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/b4j9ck1oni6l5r0/ICTEV%202013.ibooks



Tool of the Week!


Of late I have been attempting to, when my poor memory serves me well enough, share 1 great ICT tool per week with my staff across our College.

This is do need to admit was the idea of a Colleague of mine who simply has a way with words, hence, ‘Tool of the Week’!

So as to be able to share these with you all, i have added some of our most current documents for your download. Staff at my setting have found several of these to be very very useful within their teaching and learning programs as they are all free, simple to use, and fun!

Lastly, as i say to my staff often, “Technology integration is what you make it so don’t  let your imagination hold you back!!!”.



Brainy Box

Brainy Box

Google A Day

Google A day

Draw Ethernet

Draw Ethernet



Today’s Meet







Indonesian Minecraft!


During our recent School Improvement Team meeting, our first meeting, we discussed the many ways that staff were already integrating technology in to their teaching and learning programs. One such way that was brought up and discussed was the integration of Minecraft in to the classroom! The old adage of “if you cannot beat them, join them!”

One of our marvellous specialist teachers, Yati, has integrated the use of iPad devices, and Minecraft in particular, into her teaching program to engage her students through both effective technology integration but also by giving them a space in which to represent their learning in a way that is;

  • creative,
  • open-ended,
  • promotes higher order thinking
  • and differentiates for her students at varying levels of understanding towards her subject area
Below i have included several examples of student work. Students were asked to created and build different designs for example after explicitly learning about Indonesian temples and building design, students then had to construct their own building within Minecraft either from an image given or from their own imagination. Students were also given choice to build structures of their interest, with a focus being placed on the Indonesian Language relating specifically to what was constructed! You can see several of these examples below in the embedded presentation.


School Improvement Team 2013

Recently on Monday I was involved in the co-running of one our College’s newly formed SIT’s, or School Improvement Teams for this year.

Oddly enough, with a great focus on our college being placed on technology and effective technology integration, the SIT i am coordinating is based on fostering Student Learning through Technology Integration.

It was great to see the amount of staff who nominated to be part of this SIT as well as those particular staff being from right across the College ranging from Prep to Year 8 teaching staff, specialist staff and a number of our support centre teaching staff.

To coordinate this SIT and keep all information in one place i created a Global2 Blog which can be located HERE.

The focus and goal that were developed for this SIT are as follows;

Our Focus: To investigate the improvement of student learning through technology integration.

Our Aim: To assist teachers in building their capacity in using using technology to support and enhance student learning outcomes.

One of the main aims that we have as a SIT is to determine if effective technology integration and pedagogy has a positive effect

Currently staff are, as homework!!!, writing me descriptive pieces of one major success relating to technology integration that they have been really proud of or have witnessed in their own classes, and, what they are hoping to obtain from being oinvoled in this team.

I am wanting the staff that are involved driving this team as their needs and wants are pivotal in them taking back their new found knowledge to their teaching teams, and continuing to spread the word about effective technology integration.

Be sure to keep track of our SIT and please also leave comments and questions that you may have about what we are doing via the blog as we’d love to hear from you! 


#ADE Institute 2013 – Part 3


“Challenge Based Learning is an engaging multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning that encourages students to leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real-world problems through efforts in their homes, schools and communities.” – challengebasedlearning.org

Challenge Based Learning.

Something most of us would be familiar with i would think. Something that is a very powerful tool that is aimed at developing the 21st Century Skills of our students.

I have had some absolute amazing success with CBL in the classroom and is something that i’ll be pushing hard/er at my College, especially after attending the ADE Institute.

During the ADE week that was, I was fortunate enough to hear Adam Brice from Apple speak about the inner workings of CBL and as he is the foremost expert, it was great to gain his insight in to CBL. I also have been fortunate enough to witness Adam first hand at his previous setting and see his students actively engaged in their learning whilst involved in a CBL approach. One word = inspiring. 

The biggest thing I felt that that was both mentioned and that i have had personal experience with is that the CBL approach fosters an emotional connection to what is being learnt. It’s one thing for kids to be engaged in a task or unit, but for them to be able to develop a connection emotionally, that is authentic, rich and purposeful  and truly immerses kids in the learning.

As mentioned i have had some wonderful experiences through CBL with classes that i have been involved with. To see students, even those who are disengaged, connect, collaborate and create all for a common purpose is an amazing thing!

I have without doubt had the greatest teaching experiences that i have ever had through being involved in the teaching and learning of CBL units. Students whom i thought would never engage with ANYTHING i did were immersed and not just on task, on task for a purpose. A purpose that they had created and determined! In the not to distant future, i’ll be sure to share these units in much more depth.

For more detailed and informative information on Challenge Based Learning, head to the challengebasedlearning.org website that has an absolute plethora of information and evidence based research to walk you through the ins and outs!

Also, watch the CBL video below which i think may be a tad outdated, but still relevant!