Moving home…

Surprising my friends six weeks ago, I made a whirlwind decision to leave Parra Marist after 8 and a half years. I’ve been very lucky in my career to have worked with brilliant principals in great schools. When I left my previous school to go to PMHS, I was bored by traditional teaching and concerned about the integration of technology, which was out of my sphere of influence, that was brought about by the Digital Education Revolution. My husband had heard Brother Patrick, then principal of PMH, talk about what they were doing at the school, and the two of us had decided that one of us would work there….whichever job came up first.

So, in the second year of their PBL implementation, I went across to teach in what I explained to my friends was “kind of like a performing arts school for technology”. I have been so lucky in that time to have worked with some brilliant teachers, leaders and mentors, and have participated in  an amazing amount of professional development. I am a big believer in never being the smartest person in the room, and I certainly had this opportunity at PMH, the highlight of my career spending time with Br Patrick, Gavin Hays, Alfred Solis, Sam Seidel, Larry Rosenstock, Glenn O’Grady, Yong Zhao, Lydia Dobbins, Tim Presiado and Ron Berger. #namedrop

When the opportunity came up six weeks ago to work at St Lukes Marsden Park, I jumped at it. Again, attracted by an innovative principal with different ideas about how curriculum could be set up, and the opportunity to engage in K-12 education was a big drawing card. After two days, I am so impressed with the cutting edge ideas that St Luke’s are engaging in, and the level of unpacking of the different learning ideals that has occurred across K-6 within just three terms.  Some of the things that we’ve discussed in the past two days includes their sense of community in the staff spirituality day, the 6 pillars that underpin instruction and the work that teachers have been put in to encourage students to present their successes at their student led conferences. While some schools have implemented some form of “soft skills” and have then made the move to increase their relevance and importance to parents by reporting on these, St Lukes’ has taken this to the next level with their reports that flipped this focus and prioritised those skills that they see as essential to future success of students. They have also done a lot of hard work in educating parents in how to interpret the reports and as a parent of a primary aged student, and having done some work around primary STEM and Technology education, their reports make visible  the “below, at and above stage level” reporting process.

Part of the process of PD within the school is blogging, and I am looking forward to spending some time on my blog, finally finding an excuse to keep this updated more often as a reflection process.  I’ve edited the name of this blog post about three times now though, and have finally settled on its current title.  Speaking to one of the teachers today, about the plan for St Luke’s Pathways program, where each student analyses their strengths to determine where they need to direct their efforts for future success, I reflected on the fact that we are very lucky to be in a position where we love what we do. Not everyone is so lucky, or even consider it a possibility that they might enjoy work.  So, I have officially now mentally packed up my home at Parra Marist and moved house today. Thanks to the St Luke’s staff for the warm welcome.



Study Apps

As we build up for the HSC Exams, I’ve been reviewing my app library to send to teachers and students the  apps that will help out. Don’t forget Socrative: student version) and Teacher Version (  This is a student response system where you can create quizzes, etc for students that they have to answer in class (self marking!)

For more detailed type questions: Eclicker (Teacher Version…expensive at its almost $20 mark, but a one off purchase) and Student Version (free)

Explain everything is simply my favourite teaching app. This app is essentially a whiteboard app that allows you to record, however, you can also download images, pdfs or power points while you annotate and “talk to” them. A how to guide is here: One thing you can do while you are marking exams, is take a photo of student responses with your iPad, then use explain everything to give additional feedback (eg

Popplet is a brainstorming tool that is available . This is a good app to show connections between concepts, or to do a summary of a topic.

Brainscape is a flashcard based app, but students can actually collaboratively edit the deck that you create. Students then study, and self-rate their confidence on each card. The app then uses a formula, based on brain research, that throws back the cards that students remember least in a patterned basis that is best for them to remember them. You can then view students statistics and ratings on the brains cape website. We run it as a competition…who has studied the most.

Self Control is a great mac app that will stop notifications from pushing to your computer, to help with those moments when you have to study (or finish year 9 reports) and just can’t stop hitting the “Reply” button when you get an email, leading to a task taking four times as long as it should.


This post has been reposted here from a course that I am currently doing for Sydney CEO (even though I’m now part of Parramatta 🙂 ) Original post, with the rest of the course, is at

A podcasts is simply a free video or audio file that is distributed over the internet
through a podcasting program like iTunes. Video podcasts are often referred to as “Vodcasts”, however, in this post when I refer to podcasts, I mean both audio and video.

The name podcast is an amalgamation of iPod and broadcast, however, you do not
need an iPod or any sort of MP3 player to play them, you can just use a normal

There is great benefit in using podcasts for aiding student understanding of content. There is a wide variety of podcasts availiable on itunes, and through the regular internet that cover a variety of topics. You can do things that can’t be done in the classroom, or just use it as a review of content that involves complex concepts, that will assist students in being able to watch/listen multiple times. They can also be used for teaching concepts on a need-to-know basis, when placed online so that students can watch/listen when they need to know the concept to apply it.

Following is an example of a podcast from Dr Carlson. A colleague of mine, a great science teacher, Oriana Miano showed me this, so credit to her for finding it.

The following is a podcasts that I have created for the purpose of explaining concepts that need going over that students consistantly misunderstand. This podcast was created using a livescribe pen, which is a new technology that records while you write.

Some web-based websites you can find podcasts.
The Education Podcast Network
ABC National Podcasts
CSIRO Podcasts
An educational Podcast Directory
NASA Podcasting
Naked Scientist

How to.

Funnily enough, when I was at Freeman(I no longer am), I taught a staff development day with Oriana on how to podcast, so I have included the how-to guide here for anyone to use if they wish to use it. It is PC based, because Freeman is a PC school. Now that I’m a Mac user, I will probably write one for mac when I get some free time (okay, so it will be a while in coming)

One thing that is a little annoying, is trying to access the itunes store through the proxy. After hours of searching, and reflecting, I finally figured out that the proxy settings are set through IE on Windows, and you need to change the proxy settings here, even if you don’t use Internet Explorer regularly. Obviously, on a Mac, it’s easy enough just to change the location setting under the apple menu.

Podcasting Downloading
Free Programs you can use:
Garage Band

Debut Video Capture
Whatever your webcam software is…

Getting Students to create Podcasts/Vodcasts is a really great way to get students to publish their work, particularly those that are more vocal rather than good with writing. It’s also a great way to get those more shy students to “perform” in a lower risk environment. At the moment, in our year 9 program, students are creating a media watch style podcast in order to critique media portrayal of the catholic viewpoint of a topic, and the students are really heavily critically analysing the medias veiwpoints and perspectives of the media.

Use of Games in the Classroom Classtools

Click here for Industrial Tech Game

I’ve just been trying out, which is a website where you can easily make interactive flash games with no knowledge of flash programming. I think this is a great idea to make interactive content for your classes very easily. The game above took about 5 minutes to make, and  is easily accessible for both teachers, and even very young students.

The above game is simply the syllabus dot points of one of our topics that we do “Government requirements of Industry” for Industrial Technology. Basically, it’s just the first 3 industry study factors. All I had to do was type in (copy and paste) the dot points in the syllabus into different categories, and hit create. The website then creates the interactive game. Knowing a fair amount about flash programming, this would have taken me a couple of hours to do if not for this website.

They also have a number of different templates that you can use, including a labelling, timeline and venn diagram that looks very useful. It’s so easy that you could even get students to create games themselves and then get them to submit them to a wiki, and students can play each others games.

Google Docs

This week, I have been planning our Staff Development Day e-learning session. So, apologies first of all for the late (okay, really late) post. And co-incidentally enough, this week was also my week of using Google Docs quite a bit.

Firstly, I had to write synopses of all the sessions for the SDD. Then, I had to give this out for editing to everyone that was presenting, and then get it back and make changes. Traditionally, I would have printed it out and got everyone to make their changes on paper and give it back  to me, and I would have edited the master copy. Or, I would have emailed it to people, and then made the changes that were emailed back. This time, I used Google Docs to do this.

You can use Google Docs to create a word document, spreadsheet or presentation online. The power of this is not only that it can be stored online but can also be shared with select people.This document is then emailed to them, but not as an attachment, but simply a link to the online Google word processed document.

Another Common Craft video (and again, there’s no sponsorship from common craft, they’re just really good)


Online word processor that is quality, reasonably quickly to load and free!

Kids can work on things at the same time. So, instead of having kids work together, one person actually on the computer, students can watch changes on the document happen, and respond to those, so you can be working on the same document at the same time, at the same or two different locations.

You can collaborate with others, either in the same classroom, or across the world and construct documents together. Either using a word processor, spreadsheet or presentation. You can use it as an interactive whiteboard if you have a data projector, because content that is typed on the student documents automatically goes to the teacher document. You can use this for group brainstorming sessions, or even get students to type in questions during a lecture-style discussion so students can ask questions without being required to have the confidence to raise their hands, and without interrupting the teacher. THe presentation tool even has a chat room at the same time, so students can type ideas or questions during the presentation that they think are relevant. The teacher can then go through these questions when time permits, and ask students whether the question was answered in latter parts of the presentation.

Encourages proof reading prior to submission. Revise/edit process part of the writing process is facilitated by the ease at which teachers, students and others can be involved in the writing process.

Research suggests that when writing, students are more fluent in writing on a word processor.

No excuses for not bringing homework, and no transferring via USB, disk or on paper. Students can submit work by simply sharing with the teacher, if the teacher so chooses, or students can print out and submit.

Create forms from spreadsheets, and send it to people to get feedback from lessons, units or assessments. This information is filled into a spreadsheet and you can analyse it.

This is a presentation eg created by a variety of teachers that shows how to use Google Docs

If you’ve used Google Docs in  your classroom, it would be great if you could reply below and share how you managed it and how you used it in the classroom.

Blogs in the Classroom

This video is from Common Craft explaining what a blog is. Common Craft are an excellent source of explaination videos, and I use them in my classroom regularly. Each of them are free, availiable on you tube, but they charge you for downloads of High Quality videos.

Today, I’m going to be talking about Blogs. Basically, a blog is a website that you can publish easily, that stores entries in a chronological order, like a journal. This website is an example of a blog. There is a couple of ways that I use blogs in my classroom: for maintenance of project work, journals and research.

Using Blogs for student publishing

Blogs are an excellent way to promote student publishing because it’s an authentic publishing experience. When students realise that their work might possibly be seen, it can improve the quality of work drastically. This is also how things work in the real world…people don’t write things to be only seen by one or possibly two people. Teachers generally find too, that some people that may be particularly quiet in class, who won’t contribute, can often be the most verbose online.

The picture below shows the simple interface of edublogs. I find edublogs to be the best system, because you can add student blogs in batches of 15. Blogger is another tool that works well.

The simple interface of Edublogs.

You can also keep a simple “learning log” for any subject. At the end of every lesson, students could be asked to post two things that they learnt that lesson and what it means for them. The simple act of writing connects the synapses in the brain (Marcia Tate) , allows students to remember content more readily.  If you have more time, you could do a lightning writing activity, where students need to type constantlyfor two/three minutes what they learnt this lesson, and you as the teacher can use that to guage student understanding.

Using Blogs for student projects

Students in Technology subjects in Australia are required to keep logs of their work for projects that they are working on. This is a compulsory part of our syllabus and requires students to date their work, and record what they have done for particular lessons. In my opinion, students generally do this, along with all their theory work the night before the assignment is due. By asking students to blog their logs, you can keep a simple and quick check on the fact that students are maintaining this. You can also give feedback in terms of comments on the posts.  It time stamps the blog entry, so that students can’t do it the night before, as the purpose of the log is to promote time management and planning.

I also find the power of giving comments for students work works well. For example, a student could blog what they plan to do next on their project and anyone in the class, or you as the teacher, might decide to offer a suggestion in the form of the comment. I do this in class as a round table format, where students have to present ideas, and give feedback on others. Blogs mean that students can do this more often.

Using Blogs for getting information about your subject.

One of the more difficult things in being a teacher (particularly a technology teacher) is the keeping up with new areas in your subject. Blogs are a great tool for this. At the beginning of each topic, I deliver to students (generally on a subject wiki: Come back for that one) a list of blogs that I recommend that cover the subject area well. For example, the following are some good ones from my web design topic.

* 456 BereaStreet
* A list apart
* Max Design
* The Man in Blue

Students that read consistantly on your topic are more likely to give complex answers to projects and exam questions. There are some students that will read these constantly to try to soak up new knowledge, and some that will just click on the link once to read it.

Sometimes, that’s fine, because they might just absorb a couple of facts that will improve their knowledge. Sometimes I get students to repost interesting content to a blog, and show how they have implemented the knowledge practically, and set this task as homework for a couple of weeks. Find one thing, implement and write about it each night.

I also read all of these myself. (I’ve got a collection of about 100 that I check regularly). I keep track of this using a RSS Reader (also, will cover this later). It’s a really good way to look like you know what you’re talking about in the classroom.

Other reasons for using Blogs in the classroom?

Thankyou to all that posted comments on the previous post, and for all the retweets on twitter. One of the really nice thing about education, in general is that everyone is so into sharing.  Today, if you could share some ways that you use blogs in the classroom, we could all use each others ideas.

Why do I like blogs as a teaching tool? Well…students are more likely to practice writing skills, allows feedback on pages, encourages reflective writing and thinking, can encourage students to back up ideas for their arguments with facts, opportunity for blogging is relatively fair and equitable, and they give an opportunity for students work to be seen by a worldwide audience.

What is Web 2? Why use it?

kids on computersWhat is Web 2.0?

There are a whole heap of definitions of Web 2.0 online that focus on the technology behind Web 2.0 applications. Most people turn off when they hear words like server driven applications, AJAX, RSS, Convergence, social software, and many other buzz words that are travelling around about Web 2.0. To me, web 2.0 can be summed up into two major categories of important difference:

1. The Social Side

Web 2.0 applications allow us to publish, edit and share information. That’s it. In a traditional website, a person writing a website needed to write a page of code for every page of the web that was published. It would also then have to be uploaded to the website, and any changes that had to be made were through a not difficult, but lengthy process. Although this code was easy to learn (and still widely used) this limited the people that published on the web to those that knew the code. ♦

Web 2 applications are those that allow users to interact with and publish easily, without knowing anything about HTML code at all. This means, that like at bottom of this page, where you can post a comment on this site, and it be uploaded instantaneously, there are alot of sites on the web now where users can create pages themselves, edit them easily, and allow people to comment on them, or even to edit the page entirely, and add new content. Phrases such as “Users add value” were one of the founding principles of Web 2.0, but recently, they have increased sociality by most sites adding “friend” features where you can share work with friends.

2. Higher levels of interaction

People are used to doing things like clicking and dragging, moving things around, and having things instantaneously through the programs that they use on the computer. Most operating systems are designed to have these levels of interactivity, because decades of designers have researched that this is the way to make software easy to use. So, the fact that you can start typing the letters of the persons name into google mail, and it can come up with a list of people on your address book, means that it is simultaneously accessing a database, and searching for a response while you type…wheras you used to have to submit a page and wait. This happened so quickly, and everyone was so used to doing it in software, that there wasn’t a great wonder about how that happened. It was just accepted. But, people started using terminology such as web applications rather than web pages, very quickly.

What sorts of sites are classed as Web 2.0?

Examples are endless. Some of the more popular ones are facebook, flickr, google docs, wordl, ning, voki, wikipedia

Why would I use it?

To be honest, and minimise hype here, there are some things that there is no way that you would use. Some people have huge objections to the whole web 2 thing, and that’s fine. The reality is, though, that you can’t avoid it. It’s here. And students are using it, not as web 2.0, that they need to be taught how to use, but just as an integral part of the internet. Students can’t imagine the web like it used to be, with plain text and maybe a picture thrown in for good luck. Students don’t say “We’re going to go and use some web 2.0 tools now”, they are there, on their computers, laptops, mobile phones and PSPs.

And there are some great tools out there to be used. For example, I must be the most naturally disorganised person in the world. Last year, I discovered Google Calender, that synchronises with my Nokia n95, so my calender is planned. It text messages me every morning at 4:45am (15 minutes before I get up) with my daily agenda. I even put my son’s Show and Tell day in there to remind me. And I use flickr to share photos with my family and friends.

How (and why) would I use it in teaching?

There is a whole heap of research around this. But put quite simply is that it caters for different learning styles, and a range of learning levels.  If used properly. When the smartboards first came into Australia, they were touted by some as the next revolution in teaching (“$10,000 smartboards in every room”). However, in some cases (not all) they were used as glorified overhead projectors that students were not allowed to touch. I cringed to hear around the staff room “I really need a Smartboard room next year, because all my teaching resources are on powerpoint”, or “The kids are really interested in the Smartboard, because it’s the first new thing that I’ve done in 30 years”.  Bad teaching on a smartboard (or computer) is still bad teaching. Good teaching on a smartboard, or computer, or not, is still good teaching.

Teachers that use e-learning in innovative ways, get good results. Students do see technology (most of the time) as motivating, generally because it puts some novelty into the classroom. Students very quickly get sick of the technology in the classroom when they discover that it is the same teacher, and teaching style that they get for the rest of the lessons, just on a computer.

That’s the bad side. Now, for the advantages. Web 2.0 allows you to teach in a different way. Firstly, students are “digital natives”. They generally know alot about computers. Remember when you used to have to teach students how to use powerpoint in a secondary school? Kids would generally laugh at you now when you try to do this.

Students are emmersed in a rich fabric of technology at a young age. My son is three. He knows how to turn my laptop on. He knows how to log into his user name (it’s got a picture of a robot on it). He knows which icon to double click on for firefox. (“Its the fire one, Mummy”). He knows where to go on the browser in order to find the bookmark to the Spongebob Squarepants website (They have good games). And he knows how to navigate the website by clicking on links, scrolling down and finding the objects that he wants. I pity the computer teacher that has him in secondary school. Lets use the tools that they know how to use. They know how to interact with, and they think in different ways that are more simmilar to the way that they navigate technology.

Teachers no longer have to teach technology, they have to be able to put it to use within the classroom to learn the content. Teaching using web 2 is still about teaching the content of the syllabus. It’s not automatically more motivating, but it does provide two things that are very valuable:

1. Rich media

Students have more access now to information than they have had at any other time in the world. I am a computing teacher. Job opportunities for me have decreased over the last 10 years that I have been teaching, because the subjects are attracting less and less numbers. Why? Are students less interested in technology? No. Students are more interested in the content, but (some) schools (teachers) are not offering anything more that you can learn outside the classroom. I taught a highly gifted technology student last year in year 9 Graphics. He was doing stuff in year 9 that I learnt in my Masters program. I asked him why he didn’t do Information and Software Technology (the year 9 Computing course) and his response was “Why? What can you teach me that I can’t learn online?”.

Theres also more richer types of inforamtion that could be used within teaching? Remember having to draw diagrams on the board to try to explain difficult concepts? Thanks to Flash, we now have a variety of free interactive or animated diagrams that explain the concept in 20 seconds. I used to spend lessons of time showing students how to convert binary numbers. Or, you could download a you tube clip that tells you how to convert them in 60 seconds. You can use Google Maps/Earth, and trace pathways of characters in the Bible, or in stories for English or History.  Geography teaching can be revolutionised by Google Earth where you can even take photos and draw models of local areas, upload them to Google Earth and share them with the world wide community. Science can access videos of experiments that they don’t have the resources to do at school, or are too dangerous. Languages can talk for free over the internet with schools on the other side of the world. There is so much opportunity for rich interactive classrooms that the mind boggles.

2. Authentic Publishing

Finally, the area that students find quite motivating is the issue of authentic publishing. How many times have you heard the statement “but WHY are we doing this? Who is going to ever see it? How is this going to make a difference. Students can now upload content to the internet and publish video, sound, written works to a world wide audience. This, linked with issues that students care about, can make a big difference in their motivation to complete a task. The power of giving those shy quiet students an opportunity to contribute to a discussion, while giving them the time to phrase a response, is quite a gift.

♦Cudos to those developers of the web that made this code reasonably easy to learn, and totally free.

So, now that we’ve an understanding of web 2.0 is (hopefully), what are some ways that it can be utilised in the classroom. For those newbies to web 2.0, is this something that you can see yourself using? For those more experienced, what kind of tools do you use, and how do students respond?

I plan over the next couple of weeks to blog about a whole heap of different tools that can be used in web 2.0, and also some e-learning tools that you don’t need the internet for, for those lessons or schools where the internet may not be that effective.

IT for Teaching

A definitive List of 30 things?

What would be the 30 things that you would add to a course on Web 2.0 Tools for the classroom?

  1. What is Web 2?
  2. Blogs
  3. Tagging
  4. Wikis
  5. Google Docs
  6. Animations
  7. Comics
  8. Video
  9. Social Bookmarking
  10. RSS
  11. Randomness
  12. Google Earth
  13. Flickr
  14. Other Google Stuff
  15. Social Networking
  16. Presentations
  17. Podcasting: Using
  18. Virtual Worlds
  19. Podcasting: Creating
  20. Twitter
  21. How to use IT with a terrible internet connection: ie, non web based stuff
  22. Creative Commons: Search Responsibly
  23. Combining rich media in blogs, wikis etc.
  24. Drawing Online
  25. Mind mapping
  26. Graphing
  27. Video conferencing
  28. Questionaires
  29. Online Quizes
  30. Just for fun: Applications to the classroom?


One strategy that I have used extensively now is the crossword. Students are really highly motivated to complete them, and it’s a great way to get subject terminology across. Particularly because in my subject (industrial technology) key terminology is very important, particularly in exam literacy.

One way to do this and make it more difficult is to do a Reverse crossword. You give students a copy of the crossword, with all the answers filled out, and students need to fill  out the clues. This way, students are generating their own definitions of the terminology. Really, it’s just a tricky way to get students to be excited about doing a glossary.

An option then is to either give students the blank crossword then, swap cluees with a friend and to see if they can complete the crossword. You can also get students to enter their own clues into a program such as Eclipse Crossword, which is a free crossword puzzle program, which then generate a totally different puzzle based on the same clues, which a friend can then do. This then gives students instant feedback on whether their definitions are clear enough for somebody else to do.

Eclipse Crossword can even generate an interactive HTML puzzle for students to complete, if you have access for longer on the computers, or can simply print the puzzle to do.

Go Animate

Have been checking out GoAnimate for the last hour.

I read about this on a blog that I’ve just recently discovered, that I’m loving. At the moment, I’m trying out their “30 days to a better blog”…but more about that later.

Since I have a fair amount of knowledge in Flash, I approached GoAnimate quite skeptically. After about 10 minutes fiddling around with their very simple interface, I think that it may be a great animation tool for those that know absolutely nothing (and don’t need to) about the technical skill of animation. I’m definately planning on implementing this into my Year 7 Technology (Mandatory) class, but also see it as a very simple tool for effective implementation of ICT into any curriculum.

I’ve done some claymation in class to teach complex problems, and have found this really easy to do, and very motivating for students. The best tool for this is JPEG Video, which is a free program that takes a sequence of images (for example, from a camera) and automatically pieces them together into an AVI.

Some ways to use this in the classroom involve:

  • Digital Storytelling: English, HSIE, technology, Science, really any subject that involves any kind of narrative.
  • Idea Communciation: A tool for presenting an idea that may (hopefully) stimulate conversation by students. Eg, “create a video presenting safety issues in the workshop”
  • Responding to ideas: You could create a video log, responding to each others animations.
  • Awareness Programs: Students could create awareness programs for relevant issues, such as health issues for PDHPE, Environment in Science, TAS, HSIE
  • Interpretation of texts: Converting different texts in English to an animation. This could also be used for fairly fact based texts by presenting them in an unusual way.
  • Mise en scene: Creation of animation helps in the understanding of setting the scene.
  • Drama: creative interpretation


  • Students can collaborate on ideas.
  • Great for literacy skills
  • Students plan out their animation before creating. Allows for development of storytelling/narrative skills.
  • It’s very motivating. Students get really excited about it.
  • You avoid the inevitable “But I can’t draw!” Comments
  • Good for kinesthetic students that need to move things around to understand concepts

Overall, aside from being a little slow (on my connection), Go animate seems like an excellent tool for students and teachers, as they don’t need to know anything about animation, and is extremely easy to use.

For comments: What experiences have you had with animations in the classroom? Do students find it motivating? Is it a good learning tool?