Key ingredients of an effective digital school

EducationHQWhen you read an article as articulate and clear as this about digital education then you know we are on the right road and that a lot of teachers, educators, technicians and educational leaders have hauled really hard to get us where we are today. It did not just happen. We have had to learn from experience, experimenting and from constantly problem solving. It has been one of the biggest, most important and inspiring exercises I have seen in schools. It has been hard, heartening, humbling and one of the best collaborative exercises educational institutions and their staff have engaged in. A very real, shared experience. EducationHQ always has helpful technology information but this article about the key ingredients of digital effectiveness in schools is a good benchmark to interpret what is going on in schools with technology and how it all pieces together.

9 key ingredients of an effective digital school

Powtoon presentations

French FilmWe decided we wanted to create a final year 10 assignment where students could take responsibility for their learning, decide how they would present it and build into it a way of revising key French language. It is important when you are learning a language to know how to say you are sick, ask for directions and generally manage yourself when you are lost. We wanted students to have choices with technology so they could use mobile technology, their laptops or a website. We have used Moovly and GoAnimate before but some of my students came back to PowToon which I had taught them how to use in Year 8. The site has improved considerably and they were able to complete their complex videos and have lots of choices of backgrounds, persona and other animation props. PowToonsThe PowToons animations were very good graphically , in terms of sequencing and the voice recordings were clear. Students had clearly had a lot of fun making these animations and it had made them very confident in their oral abilities. You can download a copy of the French short film creation1 here which is linked to the National Curriculum requirements. We also connected our learning to our online language learning site. When you can tie things together like that you can see how much progress we have made in classrooms in terms of promoting technology use, national curriculum and personalised learning. Some students used the LMS to send me the script and others had a voice recording for me to listen to. They were the ones choosing the ways in which they would improve their work and that is what we wanted as teachers. All year we had been filling them full of good things, we now wanted them to be confident learners. I was not disappointed with the results.

Hay Day – You can’t always get what you want


I have no cocoas. My cocoa trees are not ready for 15 hours and I cannot buy them. If they do not come up in the newspaper then I am in a cocoa free zone until the game gods provide with me cocoas. So, curiously enough, with an ultra modern game , I am learning the age old lesson of make do or, if you don’t have it, do without. It means one of my townsfolk is locked up until I bring him hot chocolate or set him free. Speaking of townsfolk, they can be incredible gluttons. They go into the diner and stuff their faces with cream cakes, strawberry cakes, chocolate cakes…pies, tarts. Same in the cinema. Four buttered popcorn, 3 fruit juices, 2 chocolate icecreams and even in the spa, where they are supposed to eat healthily, they’ll order 11 urns of milk or 10 pumpkin ! What is that all about? No wonder they have issues. Gluttony seems to be a way of life for them and every so often they mend their ways and order dainty portions . So the town is resource hungry . The fishing area is fun now because I have the lobster farm going they and they whizz out of the pool in gay abandon and launch themselves into the river. The animation with the animals in this game is excellent except for the cats and goats. The goats are ghoulish and scary. I could not bear to have them on my farm . Over the Hallowe’en period, when they decorated all the animals beautifully, the goats were wearing far too much mascara. Honestly, they are disturbing. The cats are very stiff legged and have starey eyes which makes them very unfeline. The other animals are perfect and the dogs just make me laugh. I am up to level 47 and in that time I have expanded the farm, built the town, extended the fishing area and am making quite a bit of money. It annoys me no end that I extend the farm to house dead trees and shrubs. It is ridiculous. I buy saws and axes and occasionally receive them through the game but you’d have to shell out some serious cash to keep control of it. Necessity is the mother of invention so I have learned to be creative with my dead things and have place them artistically around my farm but invariably use the extension I waited so long to get to put more dead things. It’s a challenge. Hay Day is a challenge. You cannot just mindlessly play it or you’ll fall foul of the traps. It forces you to keep your mental acuity in fine working order and it has certainly made me a better decision maker. It creates situations and problems which you have to resolve and it really does force you into learning how to make sound decisions and work with a positive plan and approach. When I run out of something like cocoas , though, it puts a block on the flow of the game. Maybe it is meant to, but it also means I leave the game and come here to blog about it.  As such, it does not allow you to become a person who wants what they want NOW. Bad luck I can’t get cocoas. In the meantime I have sold a lot of things, redecorated a whole area of the farm, redecorated my desktop for Christmas, cleared out one of my clogged email accounts and blogged. No cocoas means there has been diversity in my life  as I have been working around the problem and I now have  a totally clean email box.

Flipped Classroom Review

We have focussed on flipped classroom techniques this year at school and have been asked to review where we are at and what we are thinking. I have decided that videoing myself teaching is not something I want to do at the moment. Videos can be spliced, cut, pasted and reformatted and I have no control over that or what happens to my content.I need to think it through some more. If it is my teaching content and material you want to see then please enrol in my class or please come and visit. I create lessons for the class I am teaching and the day I am teaching them. I have a base of resources but lessons are created specifically for the students I am currently teaching. I will not teach -ER verbs the same to each year 8 class. In year 11 La Neige (snow) is an assignment which changes to the point of transmogrification with each Stage 1 group. I realised recently I have been doing the flipped classroom since the 70s. Karen de Beauvais and I used to meet on a Sunday afternoon at her place to record German teaching tapes for our students. On Monday we’d deliver them to the SSO in the library to put in the tape copier. We had a bank of tapes available in the resource centre so students could reinforce core material in their own time or fill in their learning gaps. Karen was a native speaker of German and so it was good to work with her. In French, there are so many resources made by France and French speaking Canada which support learning and content delivery. I have made my own presentations and videos but not of a lesson. For me, the flipped classroom is about personalised learning and social justice. We made those tapes in the 70s because we were working with disadvantaged students who needed homework resources. I am curating and collating out of class resources now because I work in 2015, the walls are easily removed and we can learn whenever we want to. What I do then for French is have banks of files which will support topics and themes and specific learning content. In 2015 we are not producing sausages and doing lessons as a job lot in hallowed lock step style. We can be whoever we are learning whatever we want. I now have resources so that I can create personalised learning for students. I can teach native speakers, students with specific learning needs , students who have English as their 3rd or fourth language and whoever else comes to my class because I can give them self help, self learning tools, files , videos which suit their learning style and needs. I can customise their learning because we can start in class and finish off our own way at home or start at home and pick it all up at the different levels in class. Flipped learning makes excellent use of technology , tools and talents. More importantly, it puts learning on a continuum . It goes to the heart of the aitsl standards:

1. Know students and how they learn
2. Know the content and how to teach it
3. Create and maintain safe and supportive learning environments

A lot of my French materials and ideas are on my ah oui? blog. With the files I have then I can do mix and match easily so that students can learn outside the classroom and I have found parents have responded really well to this electronic availability of learning. I can cover students who are elite sports people, or who have various illnesses or are away on trips. It is better if they are in class but it works really well to be able to flip the class for these students and see how much parents value it. It is also the reason I get my senior students to blog. It is how they process their personalised learning and I can feed into that.

That is what I am doing for French. I did create two videos for successful English assignments. I enjoyed making them and it made me want to teach English again. This approach is a great way to use our technology resources to build and extend learning outside the classroom walls. Isn’t that what flipped learning is about? Just walking through walls?

Candle Poem

A view from the top

Everyone needs a PLP and an IDP

learner_diagram Image: my-iPlan

In South Australia students develop a PLP as part of Stage 1 SACE (South Australian Certificate of Education). We  can work in different ways towards that from the time they walk into a school because it is not something which can be suddenly arranged and produced in Year 11. It is learning about organisation, capabilities, possibilities, collaboration. There are skills to be learned which help create an effective PLP. This provides foundation skills for life long learning and participation in one’s own development. Students can learn they are responsible for what happens to them and their future and that they can work positively towards that . They also realise helping others helps them. A personal learning plan now, though, has an additional meaning of tailored and customised learning. Why not? We live in the age of technology which is ubiquitous. Many of us have the capacity to engage with technology at any time and so can create a personal learning plan whenever we want. We can consider what we want to know and learn, how to go about it and where to get training or skills. How we learn new things has become so much easier and we do not have to be in an educational institution. Creating a PLP is part of a growth mindset. The Individual Development Plan is something I see as different. We have professional conversations at our school, we have Step 9 conversations as part of our system and we have different opportunities to engage with other teachers and our professional organisations. The way I see it , you have a discussion with others about who you are, what you stand for and what you have been doing. You can look at the professional standards, the assessment criteria for the national curriculum or you can use a video clip or article to promote discussion. Others will often see you in a different light. They will shine the light of the shiny spots and dig into the dingey corners. As you speak with them you can be reframing yourself and what you would like to do and achieve. You can say what you were thinking of doing and suddenly you have 10 more things to think about that you had not even considered. I accept it is hard to work 30 students through a PLP and then to look at an IDP would be huge. If we did that for all school staff it would be big! What if we made it a part of the culture? What if there were tools we could use to plan our learning and then our development? What if we learned that we are capable of taking responsibility for it ourselves but we need to be pointed in the right directions and we need opportunities to get feedback and input? The SAT and Self Reflection Tool on the  aitsl  site are good for that sort of thinking and responsibility for your own development. There are things there which we need to collate and promote. We could then go to the next stage of peer review in an online community!

Technology is intimidating

Technology is only intimidating if you are under pressure to use it and perform. It is a horrid experience to not know what you are doing and to stand before a lump of plastic with connections and feel spectacularly inadequate. I have  never had a fear of technology and if I am confronted with something I don’t understand I just press, tap, click , look…I especially look, until I see what happens and understand it. I was lucky in my formative years as a teacher I was in a school which enthusiastically embraced technology. So, in the mid seventies, we had visits from the Scotch company who showed us what would have been the first CDs and DVDs. Shiny disks which went into a machine and showed blurry video pictures. It was exciting and an eye opener. To be able to take on technology in an educational context you need the play time. You need the experts . You need an approach where you are encouraged to improve your competencies without feeling threatened. More than that you need discovery and talk time. We had OHPs to play with, pneumatic (:S) video players which quickly became VHS machines. We had film projectors which we had to get a licence to run and machines which projected images onto the wall. I remember getting students to enlarge German Snoopy cartoons with these and we had a wall of great  cartoon images which practised our German and involved us in active learning. Technology is functional but when you have time to explore it you do discover all the creative things it can do and the other options for functionality. The sales will come of themselves if people are allowed to discover what is available by way of gadgets and can spend time in an environment where experts are enthusiastic about what technological devices can do. Again it is about collaborating and sharing. Teachers need this opportunity too because as they look and learn they will also be thinking up a million ways to employ that tool.

We are all partners in education

I am trying to imagine the impact of a kangaroo or a dolphin popping up in my classroom – or a real French cafe or the Eiffel Tower. Can you imagine? Sydneysiders don’t have to. They have already experienced augmented reality in their shopping centre and that was 3 years ago. Our mining industry uses augmented reality to connect those working in the mines with their families. A husband can be there in remote Australia but see his wife give birth to their child. That video really brought home to me just how important augmented reality developments are going to be for connecting people in a very real way. Ordinary people are doing miraculous things these days thanks to technological developments pushed by the gaming and tourism industries, coders, graphic artists, physicists, mathematicians. Arts and sciences. As a teacher, this can be overwhelming. So how do you do it? You don’t. We do it. We all do it. We are all now partners in education.

1. Be productive rather than busy – don’t just click or swipe around.

2. Be a team – with your friends,online friends, family, colleagues, students.

3. Make small, sure improvements– decide what they are.

4. Balance activities. Don’t just produce docs or videos -try a camera, a drone, a Play Station.

5. Be positive – love what you see and be glad you can now do yet another thing.

6. Notice progress – ignore what is not working. Go with the flow.

7. Create success – share an image, a video, a blog post, the fact you can now Skype.

8. Be inspired and inspiring – watch and learn…then share.

9. Be consistent in your approach – one thing at a time and slowly.

10. No excuses, follow your plan – yes, map out a plan.

We are connected


Image: data analysis assignment

Web 3.0 is underway and poised ready to take off. We are waiting for bandwidth, faster processors and co processors and plenty of RAM. As it stands , we can still all connect and we can analyse that data if we want to. The fact that we are is an indication that this will become a fundamental way of life. For the first time in history , millions of people can be connected and they are using their languages to facilitate communication. It means we can create dedicated groups across time and space to work on something, discuss something, develop something. It means we are no longer confined by walls and geographical boundaries. It also means more people can be included and become participants in something worthwhile. No one is physically limited if they have an internet connection  and a device they can use. Theoretically I could be sitting here now with say 10 -15 faces on my screen who are all hooked into a good quality video link and I could be running a classroom online. We could be talking and learning as we do in a real classroom. Australia is one of the countries which has pioneered effective distance learning but whether we are at the stage where we could actually run online video classes , I do not know. It would not suit everyone and it would not be for everyone but it would push the boundaries on any time anywhere learning. A classroom is not an online course. There are plenty of online courses we can have access to at any time so we can pursue indvidual and asynchronous learning. Running a real classroom online with synchronous learning would offer options for different sorts of learning. I could theoretically have my class made up of students from anywhere. True international engagement. It will come. This connectedness means peole are no longer necessarily tied to time and place for work. It will create all sorts of pressures and challenges with regard to work conditions, occ health and safety, other legal issues and responsibilities. As it stands people gather online for conferences, webinars, courses, discussions, games, causes and special interests. In time that will permeate how we all live because we are connected. It means you can get help and ideas from anyone , anywhere and that you can share and discuss ideas whenever you want with a global audience. Connectivitiy means we are grouping according to our interests at the time but it also means our skills and capabilities can be utilised and fostered more broadly.

Live feedback works

dataAs you can see, four of my students have finished the task I set this morning and they all have another couple of days to finish it.The results will be emailed to me.  We use a paid online learning site for French and the live feedback encourages and motivates them. They love it when I refresh the screen and they can see how much further they are along the way. The site also gives them personal feedback on their iPad or laptop but they like to see it all on the big screen and it works very positively. They will ask me to refresh the screen so they can see. They will ask me to refresh the screen to demonstrate they have finished a task I have set. We have also had some interesting moments where students think they have finished and I show them the data and quite clearly they haven’t, so some of it is about understanding how technology works to process information.  It also means I can see who hasn’t started 10 minutes into the task. We can work out why. I can problem solve issues and approaches. I can also notice that some students like to study what they have to learn before they do it and others like to learn as they go along. Others still like to do a bit of both. Sometimes they help each other or ask really good questions and sometimes they just go silent and focus by themselves. Live feedback on activities has made students aware of how they are using their time and has given them a way into interpreting data. They will now always look at the data and question if it is representing what they are doing. For me I have become even more aware of how students are learning with technology. I don’t just use the paid site. I find other online sites, set the task and get them to take screenshots which they show me or put on their blogs. Not every task suits this live feedback approach but we have done vocab lists, aural comprehensions, sentence structure and contextual language this way. It has improved their linguistic competence and it has improved their linguistic confidence. I have been able to see that some students can hear and interpret sentences and phrases as fast as I can and I have seen my year 10s take on several sentences of complex French and complete the task. As we use the live feedback we are getting open information about how we are learning and what I have been teaching and it deepens both the educational engagement and the responses to learning.

It’s not working!

Oh yes. There are always times when it doesn’t work.

I can’t get onto the wifi! My blog’s blocked!!!??? I can’t post my image! My iPad is dead! My iPad is upgrading and stuffed! I can’t load the site! I can’t upload my work! I have been waiting for HOURS and my iPad/computer is doing nothing. I forgot my login!

There is a whole chorus of not working variations. It applies to me too.

Sorry, I can’t seem to load the class list. Sorry, the board won’t connect. Sorry , there’s no sound.

You could let it all fall apart. You could blame technology. You could just have a hissy fit and melt in a spectacular public display. If my technology isn’t working I have a whole head full of little things we can do to fill in the time. We can do verbs, numbers, answer questions, tell me what they did this morning , think of all the things we can that are red. By then I am usually right. Nothing usually goes on for that long. If necessary I swap activities. The great thing about technology is I have lots of options. As for the students , we ask questions. Did you connect and reconnect? Did you shut down and start again? Do you want to borrow an iPad? Let me have a look. Most times I can talk them through it and we can resolve the issues. If it is a curly problem then we brainstorm quietly and calmly together . When we run out of options or time then our technicians have magical technician fingers which resolve 99.5% of our problems. This video reminds us to use these moments to learn because we are teachers.

Learning and unlearning

board workMy year 9s are fierce learners. I can learn and unlearn with them all the time and we have it down to an art form now. We’ll learn something and get good at it then I’ll change the goal posts and expectations and we’ll relearn. In the process we are all learning. 31 students and I have partnered to make a learning conglomerate of impressive proportions. I have taught them about presentations as well as French. We like a challenge. They have taught me to go back out to the front of my class and play to an audience of willing learners who are not at all passive. They want to engage and interact all the time. I have taught them the importance and value of listening and taking it all in. The last assignments I have constructed for them are to test their capacity to be strong, independent, learners . We have created a complex text to introduce ourselves. It is one of the most important things you have to learn in a language. You have to be good at introducing yourself. The text we constructed was based on all we had learnt this year. They have loaded it onto the LMS so I can mark it and they have been invited to read it out to me so I can hear them and help them. I now want them so make a video.

“So we just video ourselves saying the text?
“We make a character or use Puppet Pals and record our voices over the animation?
“What then?”
” I want a video where you showcase presenting yourself and your French in your best light. People won’t know you. Make a video that lets people know you.”
“Can we use a Teddy Bear?”
“Can you? Is it your video or my video?”
“Tell us what you want.”
” I want a video where you speak French and present yourself and introduce yourself in a grand way to the world.”

There was a lot of silence and they fiddled on their iPads. “Can we put pictures in it?”
“Do you want to put pictures in it?”

More silence and some drifted off into the online language learning programme we have and showed me how well they were doing.

The next lesson I came in and suggested we do a group brainstorm about what would make a great video if we were going to present ourselves to the world in French. What they came up with in 10 minutes demonstrated how in touch they are with the online video world. Having a “mad intro” and then a “mad outro” was something which immediately set their imaginations on fire. They were trawling through all the videos they’d seen with cool beginnings and endings. The fact they used mad and then invented the word outro to match intro was interesting and fun. Their language. It was now their work. They suggested jokes and memes but also very valuable things like clear voices and syncing text and images. Now they all got it. They had unlearned worrying about what the teacher wanted and learned they could create a unique, original video with the text we had constructed.

questionsOur language work this week was on questions. French questions are more complex and more varied than in English. We had to unlearn our English to take the French  into our heads and mouths. I spent 2 lessons looking at different ways of asking a question but we had started with the questioning words and built up from that. Today was the third lesson. My starter sample question is at the top and in 10 minutes they had 9 other variations on that question which just came out of their mouths. We had unlearnt worrying about if we made a mistake and learned to have a go. We learned that when we got stuck someone finished it off for us. We learned we were pretty clever really and unlearned we were only year 9s.

Plobots are coming

Plobots are an example of what is coming in terms of active learning in coding and programmable technology at home and at school. They run on smart cards. One advantage is they decrease screen time so that technology in schools is not just about computers and tablets and students learn about how to make technology function. Robots are the future. They are here now in some places in the world and they are going to become more visible. If we want them as a good part of our life we need to get the next generation to engage with coding and develop ideas. Plobots are one way of starting this. The official Plobot Facebook page has a lot of helpful educational ideas which are not wholly centred on Plobots. The page looks at the wider issues and ideas with technology in education too. You can also follow Plobot on Twitter.


HayDay HayDay is played across 127 countries, its official Facebook page has over 9 million likes and it can gross $90,000 dollars a day in the USA alone. Gaming is big business but it is also leading the way for successful web 3.0 action where you group people according to specific need or interest and maximise how they go to work or can feel productive. The boating, car, textile and sporting industries have engaged people for hours. People spend hours quilting, embroidering, sailing , golfing, playing football, cycling. They also spend hours watching films and becoming film buffs, reading and cooking. Now we have gaming. It involves millions of people and it makes millions. I cannot find out how many people are paid to create HayDay and what the actual jobs are. That interests me. I have blogged about it before with the 2013 information. Thinkgaming comes up with daily stats and currently it is ranked 18th. There is an interesting interview with people who have come from all over the world to work with Supercell on HayDay for the summer. It is an opportunity they dared to ask for. You can find the rankings for the game on App Annie. The most interesting site is the one on gamastura which analyses the game play and what is happening. For educators it is invaluable information. What do games teach and how do they teach it? They are a powerful influencer today. We need to understand how they work and the impact they have.

What are my plus points for the game?

1. It is built on helping and being helped.
2. It has broadened my capacity to think strategically in ways I had not considered.
3. I don’t belong to a network but am conscious of the fact I can help others and they can help me without any formal connection. Magical ethernet connectivity.
4. It is challenging. It is not easy and it challenges all the time. Keeps my brain ticking.
5. The Japanese kaizen approach really works. I can build something powerful one tree, one plot, one animal and one facility at a time.

The negative points?

1. There is emotional manipulation with the animals and characters.
2. The discount offer for diamonds (which cost money) has doubled and the original offer is not there.
3. It can be addictive!
4. Dairy ,sugar  and saws are in far too short supply.
5. The newspaper does not carry a broad range of goods.I don’t want to spend my life flicking through the paper in the hope something might turn up.

This game makes me think all the time. It challenges my behaviour and I have had to change my behaviour so that I am not caught out. It has livened me up. I have also been amazed how helpful people can be when there is nothing but being there at the same time and in the same place. It has been a really interesting experience because I am used to being in control of games and HayDay is always testing that control and forcing me to rethink and regroup.It has also been amazing to see just how global this game is and what a leveller gaming is for all nations.

Teachable Moments – Montreal

One of the advantages and a definite strength of the internet is that we can now share our skills ,knowledge, ideas and practices locally, nationally and globally. What we do can now be available to a much wider audience and has the possibility of gathering a range of further ideas and input from a broad range of people. This is a growth mindset. We are no longer operating in a vacuum and we don’t need to be working in a closed space. Roy Lyster from McGill University is sharing his ideas about teacher collaboration in Montreal and how they are developing discussions and projects between teachers across French, Spanish and English so that they are streamlining the delivery of content and strengthening the linguistic and literacy capabilities of their students. There is plenty of information out there about how languages improve your brain but Montreal is specifically looking at how moving across languages in the curriculum or looking at how different languages are delivering content can improve literacy skills. 2015 and we need to be global communicators. We need to have a way of utilising our language and linguistic resources and ideas to promote thinking and intellectual growth. We need to look at how the skills and concepts learned in one language can be utilised in another and the ways in which second language learning enhances the knowledge of a first language. Given we have an ever changing world population which is moving from place to place for whatever reason then I think it is important we understand these concepts of how we can collaborate as teachers through the use of different language to promote a dynamic learning environment for our students who might be in Canada one year and Australia the next and then maybe onto Vietnam. It would actually be interesting to see the chosen or forced itinerary of some students and their families and their travels across cultures and languages. Getting real data about real people would make these teachable moments come to life.

Not giving up my desktop!

desktopWe take a lot for granted. We are surrounded by technology and we use it all the time. There are those who have made a lifestyle choice of not engaging with it, but most of us are reliant on our phones, tablets and computers. 5 weeks ago my life came together in such a way I was provided with the opportunity to forgo my desktop and live life on my iPad. I had 10 minutes a day to get banking and blogging done and that was it, basically. I thought it would be a good experiment for me to see what would happen because I love my technology. My observation now is I do not have the breadth and complexity of interaction and development if I confine myself to a tablet. My desktop provides a richer and more complex experience. Much of what I discovered is going to sound negative but the overall effect of the last 5 weeks was not negative. I have learnt a lot about how technology impacts and how tablets impact.

1. I have constantly had sore, tired eyes. Back lit screen of the iPad?
2. Tablet is very portable and I quickly engage with it.
3. I do not trust a tablet for banking and other sensitive sites.
4. Flipboard and Zite are my best friends and no, I do not want to migrate Zite to Flipboard.
5. Twitter has a different feel on iPad and is tackier. Much prefer Tweetdeck on my desktop.
6. I connect far less on the iPad.
7. Facebook is okay on the iPad but prefer my desktop feed and experience.
8. Games on the iPad have come a long way and they are good on the iPad.
9. My activities on a desktop are more complex , utilise my skills better and I manage it better.
10. Mail apps on the iPad are efficient and effective.

I have watched students on the iPad and they navigate them quickly and effectively. I don’t , partly because I have osteoarthritis and I just do not get the feedback though my fingers on a touch screen. People have watched me tap or swipe and don’t understand why nothing happens. I can’t always feel the glass properly and so I have a nice little stylus which plugs into the earphone socket so I don’t lose it. Ever grateful at school, even though I rarely use the photocopier, that they have had the sense to supply a stylus with the touch screen. I can see my students copy and paste, type, cut, retype, insert images at lightnigh speed. That is me on a desktop. In the end, it is important to use the technology which serves you best and whioch you adapt to well. So I can’t see my desktop becoming obsolete and it would impact on my life if I couldn’t access a desktop. I have noticed there has been a big push of the extemely popular HayDay sites for the developers to provide a computer version but they want to confine it to mobile technology. That cuts back access and experience options for some people. I don’t think we shall have matured as a technology society until all devices can run all software safely and well. Quite a challenge!

Assessing the archiduchesse

archiduchesseSo how do you assess this? The year 9s had to recreate the daily routine of the archiduchesse. It revises what we have learnt, relies on the perfect tense , adjectives, reflexive verbs, activities, what we did last year when we made up a little mysterious person in French, includes lessons on Marie -Antoinette and the French revolution…and also engages them with technology and visual literacy. They could choose how they presented the daily routine of their archiduchesse and part of it was naming her and finding suitable accommodation for her. archiduchesse1We made the archiduchesse, we photographed her and we changed her visually. This archiduchesse is a real character who develops and becomes more colourful as the presentation progresses. I am marking it according to languages criteria. With the national curriculum I can say it has included things on personal and social capability, intercultural learning, ICT. I can tick the box on different national curriculum indicators for French. I was looking at this and was thinking, there has been an ingenious use of French and a carefully thought out plan for visual progression too. Where are those sorts of criteria? The presentation is 25 sentences and I am still just marking the French, acknowledging use of other skills and domains but not really assessing the real impact and achievement. 2015. We need a national discussion. What actually are we assessing now? Content? Which content? Skills? Which skills? How much it involves cross-curricula practices? We know which competencies and capabilities thanks to the good work by ACARA. This archiduchesse is not just about French. She is about communication in multiple modes and literacies.

aitsl Reflection on Practice Tool

reflection on practiceThe new aitsl Reflection of Practice Tool is fresh out of the box and it is good that aitsl has put it out there so we can use it, work with it and give feedback so they can go away and bring us a better version. It differs from the SAT (self assessment tool) in that it works directly with the professional standards and you rate yourself against them rather than answering the series of random questions which the SAT came up with . Since it addresses the standards directly , I prefer it. I have been through various versions of assessment with SAT and it does look at your practice. My latest assessment put me at graduate level in assessment. I must have gone mighty wrong to be graduate level after 42 years in the classroom and working as a regional and state moderator along with all  the other things I have done and achieved. Have I totally lost contact? Have I not kept currency in 40 years? Is all that peer assessment I have been doing with my year 9s irrelevant? The same thing has come up in this Reflection on Practice Tool. If I asked for feedback, would people tell me I have not moved with the times and that a lot has changed in my 42 years in a classroom and it has all passed me by? It is me? Is it them? Is it the tool? What is it? Can I not assess myself properly? Already there are plenty of things I can follow up. Already there are plenty of things to look at and consider to get to the bottom of this assessment. I always teach my students to look at the data which comes back about them and to think long and hard about what it might mean, how it could be inaccurate and to formulate logical arguments to ensure the data is read properly. In a professional standards context, my self reflection and my self assessment always bring up matters which I can discuss and consider. To be honest, it doesn’t matter if it is accurate or not accurate. It is the conversations with colleagues and the conversations in a professional setting which set the picture straight. Both of these tools provide feedback. Both of them set up a framework for thought and discussion. The Reflection on Practice tool can be downloaded and used offline and so you have a copy to use and refer to whether you have internet access or not. It gives spaces to fill in your evidence. I find this one more suitable because it is directly connected to the standards. Try it for yourself and see what you think.

Teacher resources and support

teacher poster Image: poster-street


The UKEdChat has just upgraded and improved . It has information and resources pertinent to connected teachers and those teaching in the 21st century. It is really encouraging to see all these upgrades going on around the Net and it is largely a result of the connectedness of teachers who are now blogging and engaging in online personal and professional development chats. I said it would make us grow stronger and update our teacher image. The UKEdChat site offers a lot by way of apps, posters, blogging, a magazine and so much more! Every country needs its online portal for teachers which reaches out to other educators around the world as well as supporting teachers in its own country.

How’s the coding?

codecademy I have done about 15% of the codecademy course on Python. I plan to speed up a bit when I am on summer holidays and need to find something to do when it is really hot. I don’t suffer from the heat but you do need to stay inside and you do need things to take your mind off it sometimes. Coding is perfect because it is very absorbing. I have just completed the date/time section. I have done some syntax basics and then some strings. Coding has reminded me I have to be totally perfect ,exceedingly accurate and meticulous. There is no margin for error, no room for mistakes and it teaches me to be utterly logical and pay attention to detail. It really is all in the detail. One colon in the wrong place and it all falls apart. Confuse a colon with a full stop and it all falls apart. Codes simply will not work unless you have them perfectly accurate. Codecademy teaches that really well. At this stage I am taking small steps, am being guided and then encouraged to think for myself so I can put the learning to work. I could do with an easy look up menu to check certain aspects of coding. I need a glossary or menu so I can see quickly how to set the code. If I did it on a more regular basis some things would stick better because it is about habit and repetition. I cannot do that yet . I am happy with the fact codecademy puts each lessons in a small package so there is not too much to take on in any one sitting and it means I can still pursue it when I am busy. That is important with coding. It is easy to get swamped until you are on familiar ground and so gently getting yourself into it is a good approach in my opinion.

Next generation science standards

For Americans, the next generation science standards are here and they are developing curriculum around the core learning approaches. These standards are being supported by NAA and the education office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.It supports STEM and since it is using online resources and connectivity , it is supporting STEAM as well. You have access to NASA’s database of activities, there are resources, apps, and posters. There are also educational events and  a blog you can follow. With all of that to support science in the classroom, it is probably worth a look:

NASA – Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Benefits of technology

benefits of technologyKristina Hollis has a blog which specifically looks at teaching and technology. She has just written a post about the benefits of technology in a classroom because she has been studying it. I’ll let you read it for yourself:

Educational Technology – Affordances

Responding to Abuse and Neglect Training


abuse checklist

Image: Concerns checklist

If you have read my blog you will know I am not overly fond of online training. The packages we have had for different purposes have been arduous and mind numbing even though the information has been critical and important. So it has always been something to be endured. This year’s RAN training by our South Australian Department of Education had obviously listened to feedback and had delivered a package which was really worthwhile and almost perfectly executed. The voice reading every word is necessary for those who process information aurally but this time there was the option of turning it off. I find someone reading text slows me down too much and frustrates me. What was so good about this online package?

1. It was current. it looked at and explained the Debelle inquiry . We needed to be properly informed about that.
2. Everything which was discussed had some excellent links and sources to be followed up.
3. The videos were very pointed and were by people in real jobs with real experience and might have been people we knew.
4. The case study on Jason was powerful. The slides from that should be made into posters. The clarity and deconstruction of that case was impressive.
5. It covered the basics in a direct, straight forward way.
6. The exercises had some credible examples.
7. There were curly questions to make you think.
8. The progression was reasonable.
9. The balance of reading, listening and interacting was almost right. I’d say make it a bit more interactive.
10. The forms and process were there.

When you get professional training like that delivered online you feel like you have spent the time well and have been given a chance to update your knowledge and skills in a well organised manner. Online training needs to set a tone and this RAN package showed care, concern and an awareness that , as teachers, we needed to be effectively informed about current information, reminded about general practice and then have an opportunity to think further. It also ensured we had all the relevant documents at hand.

I am a

50 fab apps for teachers

Image: 50 fab apps for teachers

I have now made the transition to app. I am not just a teacher. Not just someone who gets up , goes to school , delivers the curriculum and assesses. I don’t just address content, well being and performance standards and criteria. I am an app as well. I set tasks, the parameters for tasks,select the tools,  challenges, to do lists, missions to accomplish, goals to attain. I offer hints and tips, cheats even. I set reminders, alerts, pop up information. I perform routine tasks as we develop the backdrop for the learning environment. I am a help desk. I offer ticks for accomplishments and create lists of learning gaps. I perform routine tasks to keep the stability of the environment but create learning missions. None of this overloads me or makes me work 24/7. I am available outside of school hours but not in any big or demanding way. Like an app, I am there to progress activity and learning and problem solving. In many respects we need to redefine what a teacher’s job is and what their availability is. Being available electronically is not an imposition nor an energy drainer. It creates a seamless connection with key participants. I’d love to see the performance standards turned into challenges and missions so they can be completed in some real way rather than just part of a student or teacher tick the box assessment sheet. Something which is developed and worked towards. I don’t mind being an app. It means the world has changed and I have changed with it.

Gamifying the classroom

HayDaySome see it as trendy twaddle. Some see it as beneath them. Others think is is vapid nonsense and then there are those who have embraced gamifying the classroom. Teachers embraced books, pens and paper, film, video, internet, Microsoft Office…time to really look at how gaming principles can enhance and improve learning. They are the new learning currency. TeachThought has one of the best articles I have seen explaining some of the principles behind implementing and succeeding with a gamification approach. 6 Factors of Classroom Gamification explores some of the concepts and then practical ways of using these gaming ideas to create the impact of good learning. I have to confess I used to think computer games were silly twaddle. I didn’t think they were serious learning. You don’t want to be so open minded your brains fall out nor do you want to be so closed minded you block knowledge and learning. I have to say MyPlayCity was a site which helped get me going. I was horrified with the choices and couldn’t find anything I liked and that was just reinforcing my prejudices about games. The site worked with me and nurtured me so I could find things I liked. As it turns out I like games where you build cities, farms etc, hidden object games, puzzle and word games. I have now been playing games for a few years and have found I can be successful at it. You have to play games to understand how they are teaching you to learn very effectively. They start you off small and simply, they let you lean, they lead you by the nose, they then teach you how not to be conned, ripped off and ,basically, stupid. They encourage and reward you. You then get to the stage where you can take control of the game and play it your way. Helsinki based Supercell is the current king of mobile gaming, with its 8.5 million players a day generating at least $2.4 million  just about every day. Two games – Clash of Clans and HayDay are responsible for this. The Forbes site has a good run down on the company and the article explains why the games are so successful . At the core of it is the Australian National Curriculum Personal and Social Capability and that in itself is a good reason to be looking at a gaming approach in class to help current students learn in a way which is so familiar to them. HayDay has been a really different game for me to play and I have learned a lot. I had to battle the first 14 levels so I didn’t run out of storage, get bullied into buying diamonds to bail me out or get swamped by too much to do. I am now up to level 33 and am in control of the game. I have learned the tips, tricks and intricacies. I can grow the game in my own way and it’s a game I can pick up and put down. The cognitive flow is there, the inpiration is there and the challenges are there. It is a complex game which requires thinking and flexibility. It is also a game where you get community support whether you belong to a network or not so there is a really good social aspect to the game. Games are a way of life now as were books, TV and film. We need to use them to our asvantage.

A week without my desktop

pictureI am a big desktop user and am pretty labour intensive when it comes to desktops. My desktop never stops working and doing so it has been interesting to have a week away from it so see what it really means in my life. I have had 10 minutes in the morning and evening to do banking, emails, Facebook check and whatever else I can fit in. No cheating just the plan. Some would call it a detox but I have been using my iPad because it’s portable. What have I learnt?

1. I do not trust tablets and phones for internet banking.
2. Webmail is pretty ordinary compared with functionality of desktop email client.
3. I am a consumer on an iPad and can’t produce in a quality way on a tablet.
4. So easy just to get out a tablet and have a quick flick around things.
5. I really am connected on the Net and miss the internet connections.
6. Tablet Twitter is pretty good.
7. Tweetdeck on desktop gives you 360 degree vision and overview
8. I can still learn to code no matter what the device
9. It has been good to have a break because I now have a different picture of how technology fits into my life.
10. Desktops are juggernauts compared with tablets but I have a more diverse experience on desktop.

Time to upgrade save icon

Google -retro Google is celebrating its 17th birthday and has a lovely image of retro technology. I have a nice purple lava lamp next to my computer. My old csi monitors are in the garage waiting until I can lift them to recycle them. Why did we ever use such hefty monitors? My retro laptop comes out occasionally and I have an old word processor which prints one line at a time to thermal paper.

save icon Image: Iconfinder

But what about the save icon? I have floppy disks.I know what they are. I regret not having a floppy drive any longer. 1.44MB of data was huge. How did we manage all that storage? Yet the floppy icon lives on as the save icon. How many will still know what it represents? How many will have seen a floppy disk? Isn’t it time to move on and upgrade the save icon to something more relevant?

Electronic communication

electronic communication According to Workplace-Communication.Com there are 55 types of electronic communication. How many are you familiar with? How many do you use? Which ones have students mastered? Are there any missing? What purpose does each form of communication have and what is its impact? How do you alter the impact? How do you use each of these forms of communication effectively? The site discusses a number of issues and ideas. As teachers we need to be in control of electronic communication and we need to ensure students are getting the positives out of it and that they too have mastered the various forms of electronic communication. Literacy in the 21st century is demanding . The choices are impressive and each choice creates a different impact both on the net and for the receiver. Communicating electronically is about using the best tool for the job and then experimenting to see how you can change the impact. An example? I don’t read emails with a high priority alert any sooner than any other email. I decide what is a high priority in my packed agenda not someone else because they don’t have my life and my day. We need to use alerts and notifications better in schools. The world runs on streaming information and then alerting you to events and changes. In a school context there is a need for a high priority form of communication with an appropriate icon. While we are shifting outside time frames and walls we need to develop suitable protocols through apps, LMSs and email and smartphones which ensure we get the information flowing by way of content and then highlighting events, deadlines, priorities via alerts. Then there needs to be an accepted form of electronic communication for emergencies and emergency information. Things to think about and things to master – literacy first then functionality.It’s not about being tied to work 27/7. Effectively developed and implemented electronic communication saves time and effort and is not time consuming or debilitating.

Much ado about literacy

Digital literacy isn’t new. We have had computers in schools since the 80s. We have mobile phones since the 90s. The big shift was in the 90s. It has only really been since 2009 that there has been a massive push to get technology up and running in classrooms – all classrooms. Not just a computer room for occasional use. In Australia we have made a big commitment to this and used a lot of time , energy and thinking to ensure our students are comfortable with technology and digitally literate. So what is the headline?

School computer use may be affecting literacy and numeracy skills, OECD study says

If you read the article it suggests technology doesn’t teach literacy – teachers do. The article did not highlight the real strength of Australian schools for which we do need recognition. It has been hard work . There have been numerous stakeholders and the level of collaboration across school communities and key technology providers and advisers has been a J learning curve and pretty impressive:

By analysing international test results for 15-year-olds, the OECD found Australians perform significantly above the average in digital reading, and in particular, have strong web-browsing skills, are better able to plan and execute a search, evaluate the usefulness of information, and assess the credibility of sources online.”

We need recognition for that but we are also aware we are at the stage now where we can enhance and improve what we are doing. Getting the juggernaut rolling was a monumental team effort and the best learning and teaching I have seen in education. I have seen a lot of rollouts in 42 years as a teacher. The technology roll out has been a demanding and appropriate learning programme for teachers because they have been challenged very thoroughly and tested really well.

For this reason I think we need to be careful about what we say about technology and literacy. Everything in books is on the net. A computer , its application and use , is far more demanding than any print based course both as a teacher and learner. The literacy demands are complex and can be met but it is not as easy as getting out a book and putting pen to paper. Computers and mobile technology offer so many different forms of communication and each has to be weighed up, quantified and analysed. Additionally, as teachers, we have been providing a significant role in language development. Technology has been critical in evening the playing field in this area. In Australia , differentiation of the curriculum really matters. Our classes comprise students from different cultures, language backgrounds and we include students like those on the autism spectrum and with special needs. We include everyone as much as we can because we have a belief that is right. We have become quite expert in creating learning environments for all sorts of students because it is about their needs.There has been a better accommodation of a broader range of students in classroom because technology has helped us create and find suitable  materials. We have been working on personal learning plans and technology has facilitated that.

National and international tests are important and the results are always interesting but drawing hasty or illogical connections from results is not doing us or the testing justice.

  • What was being tested when the OECD tested for literacy?
  • How were these tests performed?
  • Were the tests performed so students could operate from their natural strengths?
  • Did they look at the composition of classes across countries?
  • In Australia we are teaching students who have English as a first, second, third, fourth and even fifth language. Did we account for that in our testing?
  • Were students allowed to take the test in their strongest language?
  • We have a highly transient world population for all sorts of reasons. Were those factors considered?

We need to ask the questions, get the answers and look at how we can use technology to improve what needs improving. We have access to everything. How we effectively use that is what teaching is about.

Be confident with classroom technology

ICTKnow your ideal technology lesson
Is it something you have seen on the internet? In someone else’s classroom? Read about? Just imagined all by yourself? You are creative, you can imagine. You are a teacher. What does your best technology lesson look like? Are all the students doing the same thing? Are they using paint programs? Research? Video? Are they creators or consumers? Are they blogging about it? Sharing their ideas? Initially I wanted my students to get past word documents. I wanted them to create stunning live presentations.
Think about how you can put your ideas into action. Think about the sorts of resources you need. Do you need apps? Software? What hardware do you need? What do you need to be able to do to teach what you want your students to do? See yourself being good at something so you can teach that to your students.
Say yes
Do it. Just do it. Learn what you want to learn to teach what you want to teach. Ask the questions, get the help. Look up things on the web , YouTube, Twitter. There are lots of education hashtags on Twitter with great ideas.
Be kind to yourself
So your grand plan had an implementation dip? Not a problem. You are now wiser. The internet didn’t work on the day you decided to launch your great lesson? Use plan B and do your great lesson tomorrow. Students didn’t get it? Moaned a lot? Not a problem. They will learn. Keep reassuring them and yourself that this will work.
Make small steps
Always take small steps. Don’t go big when you are unsure. Learn each part of the the whole. Know your connections, your sound devices and implementation, your software. Know how to change screen sizes, how to go from one tab to the next, minimise and bring something else into play. Know how your software /app works. Have each part of your lesson set and ready to go. Practice your great lesson in small steps. Each of those steps should be able to stand alone in class so they can be mastered. Each thing you learn will be a tiny part of the whole grand plan.
See the next step
As you go along, be mindful of what you can logically see as your next step. You are a teacher and used to sequencing work and activities. Don’t get lost in the flurry and pressure of using technology. Look at what you are saying to yourself is the next step and learn that.

Is the future tactile?

It’s worth watching this video so you can fully appreciate and enjoy the comments beneath the clip. This has had over 6 million views on YouTube and the real world has automatically connected with the idea in a very practical way with suggestions which bring a smile to your face. So is the future tactile? Tangible Media at MIT believes so. This clip was made 2 years ago and there are no obvious applications of it which have become apparent. That might be because it is being used in medical or space technology where you would not necessarily know whether it is being used or not. I’m curious to know where the developments are now with tactile technology.

Layer the learning

edmettle I am starting to get he benefit of using Edmettle. It has taken a while because I could not start it at the beginning of the year with my year 9s for various reasons, not the least of which being they were very attached to Twiducate, the older version of Edmettle. This week we have gained some good value out of Edmettle. I have used it to practise little bits of French we have been working on. I have used it to get feedback about the assignments we have been doing. I have used it to endorse my students and they have used it to endorse each other. I have also used it to canvas ideas about what they would like to do for their Term 4 project so it is not just about me and what I want them to do. Their ideas were good and I have now packaged a recommendation to take back to them which they can then comment on. This is the class which refined and worked with me on creating the best group assessment protocol and rubrics ever. The advantage of a site like Edmettle is that every student has a voice. No one is left out of any discussion and everyone has a say. The heartening thing about when I asked them to endorse the 3 others in their group for the assessments we have been doing is the students were very succinct and direct about the other student’s strengths. They were also very mindful of constructive comment. All my students now are starting to get validation for their learning both from me and their peers. I could add another layer with the parents but am not sure that we are ready for that just yet. In my experience from blogging, parents are extremely helpful and positive online with learning activities and ideas. We now have what we have in class and then the students have a genuine connection with each other and an image of themselves as learners. I like what Edmettle is doing to layer the learning and my students seem to be very happy with it now.  It is a really good way to promote and support personalised learning.

Rain, rain app

rain, rain appIt is advertised as the sleep app. The rain, rain app is designed to help you drift into your dreams. We all know teachers need their sleep. It’s a great app with beautiful images and lovely rain sounds. It could be used to inspire writing – On a dark and stormy night… It could be used to create rainy ambient sounds for creative purposes. There are sounds besides rain. The app is available on all devices.

Banging on about battery life

We have no credibility as a 21st Century technological society if we keep having to charge our gadgets and  if  battery life is totally insufficient for the work days we have, the lives we lead and the things we need to do. A device which goes flat is completely unacceptable and destroys any cool technology image we might wish to promote. One thing which seems achievable is that schools, businesses and homes could have solar powered USB chargers at a small cost. Adam Codner from the University of Minnesota developed one as a project and has shared the information on YouTube. There are other videos which show you how to make 4 battery USB chargers for a reasonable cost and there are commercially available ones. Solar powered USB chargers for mobile devices should be everywhere so no one is left without battery life and no one is having to protect themselves from the high costs of electricity usage if everyone charges their device. There are written instructions for a small solar powered USB charger on instructables. I am not sure what happened to the paper batteries I blogged about in 2011. They would ease the costs and battery crises and be more sustainable. We have to stop this dependence on batteries so that we can freely use our devices. It is not so easy with laptops. They need more resources to charge and portable solar powered units to charge them seem to be less reliable and a bit of a problem in terms of sustainability and reliability. The comments under this article on treehugger promote some good discussion. The point that a laptop really should not be where there is no real access to power is probably valid but not helpful for those who do have to work in remote areas for a living or research. Spare batteries seem to be the best solution for now and laptop batteries are not cheap. The other solution is that in an organisation where people are laptop dependent, there should be access to electricity which is fed into the grid sustainably through wind and solar panels etc. We have to make the renewable energy solutions promote a more viable option to support our device dependence. We keep ignoring it, but it is not going to go away. They used to have cars where you had to crank up the engine to start them. That was hardly fine living , either. Eventually they gave the world starter motors and alternators.Personally, I want a want to tap my devices so they are then charged. The wand could then plug into a charging unit or be totally solar powered. Far more convenient than having my device connected to the wall or a solar unit.

Get student feedback

Reminders-icon Image: Iconarchive

Student feedback is worth its weight in gold. It can reaffirm what you were thinking and doing as a teacher, but you can gather some other ideas to set directions for the future. Students are not static. They are not the same thing from one year to the next, one generation to the next, one group to the next. They are living beings. When you get feedback you can endorse yourself but you can also keep yourself current. They will express their needs ands wants . It can be surprising. It will keep you moving. You will change naturally. I use Edmettle because it is safe and secure. I can pose questions and get feedback, practice class content a little bit, get suggestions and I can also endorse each student individually. Every student has a voice. Yesterday I was asking them about the online State competitions for languages, what they thought they had achieved well in French this term and about a little French-Japanese anime video I had shown them. A student of Chinese background said the anime was more like a Chinese anime rather than a French or Japanese one. Information for me. A new look at the world. They were proud of their achievements in the state competitions but wanted a better plan next year. They appreciated the fact we used some class time for it and thought it was important because they could see the impact LIVE on the IBW. Then they asked for reminders. So many of them asked for reminders. Can’t you remind us to do it at home? Can’t you send us an email or an alert ? Can’t you use the LMS to remind us? Can’t you send us a reminder to do it for 10 minutes NOW? Can’t the school set an event so that all languages students are online at a certain time? These are gaming students. These are students born after 2000 who have grown up with the internet, mobile technology and games. They love things with awards and points. They love challenges to “level up”, they love data and feedback and love it even more if it is LIVE. They like being on a leader board for learning. While we were busy on the state competitions I was putting little to do lists on their lesson plans on the LMS because we had to be REALLY efficient to do the state competitions and complete our work. They hauled brilliantly. We were spectacularly, impressively productive last week. So today, I did need that feedback. You    cannot run classes like that all the time but you do need to understand how to get the best out of students, yourself ,systems and resources. I got a big surprise , though. My todo lists got a big thumbs up. I thought I was doing something normal. They thought I was being fantastic and that it was much more helpful than anything else. It makes sense now. They are gaming students. They want a gaming list of things to collect.They don’t want to look at the assessment plan I put up or the weekly tasks list or the assignment sheet. They want a NOW list. Things to do now, feedback now, information now, challenges now. I have to operate in real time with my levels, challenges, lists, artefacts, content. They are then asking for the system to provide reminders for asynchronous learning. What a great thought and the world needs to get onto it. Me too.

Match Three with STEAM components

STEAM Where would we be without gamification? I have just used the STEAM acronym and tried to find three indicators of each which start with the same letter to be indicative of meeting the component in lesson planning and delivery. This is a work in progress. It is not definitive and I have shared it so that others can be encouraged to break down the components of STEAM (Science, Technology , Engineering, Arts, Maths) into an applied model which is easy for teachers to consult as they think and plan. We need something like the Bloom’s Taxonomy – a STEAM Taxonomy to pin us all down and get us thinking in a more consistent fashion. I have a mix of verbs and adjectives. I’d prefer one or the other so that is my next challenge. Just throwing it out there.

Keep children safe online

e-safety Image: Office of Children’s eSafety Commssioner Australia


Techcrunch published an interesting and informative article about children’s online privacy this week. Please read it as it is about current research into the state of play in keeping children safe online and there are some real concerns.

Privacy Concerns Raised about Kids’ apps and websites.


python script Codecademy is free and for anyone who wants to learn coding. The courses are self-paced and you cannot move onto the next lesson until you have mastered the first. The content is delivered in small , manageable pieces so that you never feel swamped and each lesson has a hint section so you can master what you are doing if you get stuck. There is no assumed knowledge and the content is put onto the screen in a very clear way so that you don’t feel like you are swamped by information. badgesAt the completion of each section you are awarded a badge. There are plenty of coding choices and so it is a very good place to start to learn coding and it is a site students could easily use to build their coding knowledge without any sort of assessment pressure as such. The badges and the fact you can progress to the next lesson tell you that you are making progress so the positive feedback is built in. So far, it’s the site where I feel the most comfortable and feel like I can learn at my own pace and in my own way.

Coding for entrepreneurs basic

Coding for entrepreneurs basic I have completed my first Udemy Course – Coding for Entrepreneurs Basic by Justin Mitchel. To get the certificate you have to listen to every single part of the course. It’s the one I decided to do to get myself back into coding, to give me a framework and to create some learning challenges for me. It has achieved all of that. Justin Mitchel explains everything, he shows you everything, he works through the glitches, he offers learning suggestions and everything is on video , thank heavens, so you can pause and absorb. I explained in my post How’s the coding going? that I had stalled with the action part of the course because I couldn’t sync the database and runserver. I then had to think. Do I give up all I have learned? Do I just abandon it and leave it behind and start something new? Do I regroup and start all over again? What do I do? I left it for a while and started working on learning Python coding so I could understand that better. I shifted all my coding stuff to my LinuxMint laptop. I could move forward.source code Udemy was meanwhile sending me gentle reminders I had not finished the course. Was I going to start from scratch again? What was my plan? I decided to finish the course and get the whole context in front of me and now I have done that I can move forward. Justin Mitchel goes through a lot of HTML stuff for web pages and explains it well and why you need to put it where you put it. I understand all that HTML coding far better now. He shows the FTPing and getting the site working live, and my decision is to leave that for now. I am going to go back over it on my Linux Laptop and try to resolve the database syncing and get the page running virtually. Justin Mitchell recommends some good sites to learn coding better so I need to have a look at that. I need to specifically work with the Django tutorials on their site and then, I shall be in a good frame of mind to start over and work it all through. As a student I have learned a lot and have had to use my brain to troubleshoot and work out what is a plan for me. The course is there, I can use it, I can learn from it and I can benefit from it. The best thing it has done for me is provide structure to my learning , give me insight and offer opportunities for me to construct my own learning. I can sit down and work out my personal learning plan now and go back to the course to iron out the bits which I couldn’t put into action.

So how good are you with Adobe Photoshop?

Erik Johansson is incredibly talented in visual art. His videos and web page show how a real master blends real life and virtual reality. Watching his creative process you understand that nothing is too much or too difficult to achieve his artistic ends. You also realise he is prepared to put 123 layers into his Adobe Photoshop creations to achieve what he wants. The blending of real and imagined is seamless. The detail is infinitesimal and he is incredibly painstaking in the way he goes about creating his images. Technology can shift the boundaries and imagination can reach out and use its limitlessness to show itself. What can be imagined now was restricted before but that same imagination has to be very disciplined and precise in its thinking to achieve its goals with technology. Near enough is not good enough and precision is everything.

Merge two Word documents into one

insertLast night I was working on an assignment for the Year 10s and worked out duplicating a page would save me a whole lot of time. It’s been a long time since I have needed to merge Word documents so I had forgotten how to do it. You cannot duplicate pages in Word like you duplicate slides in Powerpoint. Luckily , the Microsoft Support instructions work like a charm and I saved myself time and energy. It means you keep formatting, backgrounds, customisations when a cut and paste isn’t the answer. It’s as easy as creating a new page and using the insert function and object, where you insert from a doc file you have. I then just had to delete the bits I did not want.

Tux Paint app

Tux PaintTux Paint is a very versatile app for creating your own images. There are computer and HD versions too. It has been designed with younger children in mind but if you want to get in touch with your inner child , or you want an easy, straight forward app to able to explore creating your own images , then Tux Paint is worth a look.Tux Paint2 Graphically it is very smooth and slick. It has a clean, well designed interface which gets you going quickly. You feel like exploring and experimenting. It doesn’t have the subtlety in brushes of other paint apps but it’s a good place to start and it produces very clear images which would show well on an IWB. The sounds which come with it make you laugh but you can turn the sound off if you don’t like it. Those who use it , love it. With the new, upsurge in colouring books for adults, Tux Paint is a good electronic version of that because it is very calming to create the images. As you can see , the free version comes with some unobtrusive advertising.

MyPaint Beta on Windows 10

MyPaint WindowsI installed the MyPaint Beta for Windows from the MyPaint site and it went smoothly. It looks clean, it functions well, the brushes installed. You have to remember to download the brushes and then install them from within the programme under the brushes tab at the top. It doesn’t look as flash as the Linux version but it has a very convenient and clear layout. Installing the Wacom tablet was not as straightforward as usual. I had to search for drivers which would work because the first file I found on the Wacom site did nothing. There is a forum where you can download the pen drivers from LucieG45’s post and that version worked for me. I then downloaded the Bamboo Dock which is a very handy utility for the Wacom tablet. Now I am all set and ready to go on Windows 10 as well.

Fotowall for Linux Mint 17.2

I downloaded Fotowall from the packages manager on Linux Mint 17.2. As you can see from the video it runs on Ubuntu as well and it is a great graphics programme which automatically loads Gimp if you wish to customise selected images further. My version of Fotowall is not doing the web searches for images and I shall investigate that. It’s not a problem as such because I would probably use this for my own images. I love the feature of turning text into image and the fact you can write text on the overall image as well. FotowallIt really is a great piece of software for those who like to make impressive images but have limited artistic talent. Technology is really helping lift us up visually. We need artists and graphic designers to point us in the right direction but tools like Fotowall are graphics enablers. You can use it to print posters, design desktop wallpapers, image montages. It’s quite versatile.

Installing Wacom graphics tablet on Linux

Now you can see what someone with some real skill and talent can do with MyPaint. It’s an open source programme available on Windows and Linux. Installing a graphics tablet on Windows is as easy as going to the site and downloading the appropriate software for the tablet. Installing my Wacom tablet on Linux proved to be a case of third time lucky. I always try to see if a device will work on an operating system first or not. Unless you have clear instructions with a device to install particular software , these days the device will often work by itself and then you can install brand specific drivers and improvements as you go along. I tried plugging in my Wacom graphics tablet on Linux 17.2 but the pen and tablet were not going to co ordinate. So I tried the Python script I found and it came up with a couple of errors . It might work for you, though. Lastly , I found the Ubuntu Forums site where there were some very specific instructions about half way down the page under section 1. I copied and pasted each line of code into Terminal and pressed enter. What I liked about the Ubuntu Forum site was that it explained what each part of the code was doing. I really enjoyed doing that and the information provided on the site was helpful. I then shut he computer down and rebooted.


Brushes on MyPaint are fun

Once I got my Wacom graphics tablet the right way round I was in business. I downloaded some more brushes from the MyPaint site and now I just love MyPaint even more and feel as though I can actually grow with this paint programme. The MyPaint site has a gallery of the sorts of things people have done with it and YouTube has some tutorials for it.

MyPaint on Linux Mint

Charlie Henson is like me. He doesn’t really know how to get the best out of paint apps and tools but he can see that MyPaint on Linux is in a league of its own. Like me, he found he could do things easily and could feel a sense of achievement. His video takes you on a good tour of MyPaint so that you can see what it does and find the online support easily. It is a programme which enables you to be artistic because it is intuitive. I downloaded it from the package manager on Linux Mint last night and was able to do things with it even though I was just using my mouse. I love the symmetry function.


This is my first effort.

I was amazed how much I could actually do. I have since watched people with some real skills using it. It’s a very comprehensive, but easy to use programme. I downloaded the extra data package from the package manager as well.


On my Wacom tablet

Today I spent time setting up my Wacom tablet on Linux so I could try that. I’ll explain what I did tomorrow. It isn’t as straight forward to set up a tablet on Linux as it is on Windows and Mac. It wasn’t that hard, though. Once I got my tablet round the right way (!) it functions really well and was very responsive. I can write almost normally on it and better than on Windows or my Mac. I could even do a little drawing. More proof that Linux Mint 17.2 is visually stunning.

Linux Mint 17.2 Rafaela

RafaelaLinux Mint 17.2 Rafaela is visually stunning. The iso installed with a lot of code running first which is not usual but then Rafaela was all up and running in 20 minutes. My hp box is attached to my LED TV and the image quality is superb. I have 4 GB RAM and Rafaela is running extremely smoothly with a couple of glitches which will sort themselves out in a day or so. Never takes long for Linux to be fully functioning in a high end way. I have discovered mtpaint a simple image manipulation programme because Gimp wasn’t saving jpeg files . That will no doubt change when Rafaela puts through its updates. I have installed Chrome using code from itWorld.  Chrome had all my bookmarks and so I could get up and running really quickly. I shall be downloading Vivaldi  as a browser because it runs really well on Linux. So, on first meeting Rafaela, I am more than happy and think my interface looks really cool and the  computer is going like a dream.

Blogging away in year 10

blogHow are the year 10 blogs going? Really well! They are mostly doing better on traffic than the year 11s. These students, now they understand what they are doing, have set sail in the blogosphere and know how to make themselves known , how to tag and how to do something different. They did not understand blogging so I have had to go about it differently from the way I do it with my year 11s and 12s. I have found it better to actually create the blog posts in class and then offer things for them to do at home if they want to. Those who are now comfortable can see the benefit of building their blogs and take up the options but it also allows everyone a chance to work on different aspects of blogging and that has been building the knowledge base which then expands the growth and productivity!.

What have we done specifically?

1. Made sure we have a good title for our blog post.
2. Made sure we have a visual aspect to our blog posts.
3.Used our blogs to document our learning .
4. Visited each other’s blogs
5. Learned to tag and categorise properly.

These students are in a league of their own when it comes to tagging and some have taken it to a whole new level. They make tagging original, interesting and it has a visual impact the way some of them do it. Now they feel at home on their blogs, their personalities are coming out and they are confident in how they manage their blog posts.

How did I do it?

I used term 1 to set the blogs up and work on the technical aspects of blogging.
I used term 2 to grow the blogs by working on posts in class and offering ideas for out of class.
I am using term three build up links between them and other student bloggers at school to grow the connectivity.

I am impressed with how quickly and effectively students can get new ones up and running on a blog. They have been very positive and efficient. Blogging in year 10 is different, but it is certainly well worth it.