Monthly Archives: November 2006


I really like Skype as an instant messaging tool - you don't have to mess around with headphones and you are also not necessarily interrupting someone else's workflow just to say g'day. My list of contacts tells me who's online and I can just tap out a quick message and do some text based social networking. I had a quick messaging session this afternoon with Glenn Malone while the boys finished watching the last 20 minutes of "The Cat In The Hat."

Sometimes, this instant messaging can lead to a chain of events sparked by an idea. A while back, I had a great discussion on the possible use of mobile phones in school with my class, based on some ideas that Alex Hayes has been proposing for a while. This led to a poster activity where the kids designed hand drawn posters that showed brainstorm style all of the potential educational tools embedded in a mobile phone. They were even allowed to take out their phones and use them to flesh out the detail. I scanned a few of the best (in terms of ideas) and stored them away with the idea I would share them here (with the kids' permission, of course) eventually. Anyway, I was working away on the PC when Alex popped a Skype message through to me to say hello. I then said that I had something he might be interested in and told him about the posters. I used the Skype file transfer tool to send him jpeg's of the posters and he was stoked. In fact, he was so inspired, he had to get offline for half an hour! He used that time to collaborate with Anne Paterson to produce this video on the same ideas the kids explore in the posters. Read her post here. Now, I know that was a while back but it's taken until now for me to get the students' permission - I've put them into a Bubbleshare show.

I also would like to highlight this other great little movie on mobiles which I think features Alex interviewing teenagers on the streets of Byron Bay. It was part of BYS06 which Alex encouraged me to be a part of but I have to admit I chickened out because I didn't think I had anything worthwhile to offer. And looking at what was on, I think I was right. What a great line up of educators pushing the boundaries of what these excellent technology tools could be used for. Gotta keep the mind wide open these days or get left way, way behind.

I've just sent emails to the State Minister for Education and our State Premier regarding the winding down/shutting down/re-directing online (???) of the Technology School Of the Future here in Adelaide. There has been some movement amongst educators caught in the busied frenzy of reports and the winding up of the school year and two South Oz edubloggers have had their say on the matter - Mike Seyfang and Jason Plunkett. Our local professional group CEGSA is mobilising an official response - let's hope the powers that be can listen and reverse this insane decision. (Thanks,  Kerrie.)

For the record, here's my official letter to the Minister (and Premier.)

To the Minister,

As an educator dedicated to preparing my students for a future that depends on effective access and use of technology, I am extremely disappointed and bewildered at the publicised decision to move the Technology School Of the Future from its current physical base at Hindmarsh. I know that you have proposed that video conferencing, online courses and the eTeacher initiative will fill that role. I believe you are badly mistaken and that closing one of the State’s premier education facilities is a major step backwards away from the future education needs to embrace.

TSOF fulfils a very important role as a base for teacher training in new technologies, a venue for ICT profession development, a meeting place to access expertise and resources not readily available at the local school level. On a personal level, professional activities and opportunities held at TSOF have helped to shape my teaching career and my dedication to the embedded use of technology in our schools. Do you seriously believe that video-conferencing and online courses will adequately retool our teaching force for the exponential changes occurring world wide in information access? Will the money saved from the axing of TSOF as we know it go towards better quality internet access in schools? If it’s not, then having the bandwidth necessary to even hold these online events will be a hope-and-pray affair at best.

Right now, at this point in the world’s communication history, when our teachers need access to affordable training in a learning style that accommodates them, would we be trying to make do with less, not more? This whole decision needs to be re-thought as the message that is being sent to teachers and students of this state is that ICT is just an optional extra, that South Australia isn’t going to engage and move with the rest of the world and this government does not value technology in education.

This is not good enough. TSOF needs to stay.

Yours sincerely,
Graham Wegner

I organised a release day to work with my volunteer group for my Action Research Project on e-portfolios. My two volunteers Jo and Annabel are two educators from my school who are at very different stages of their careers and agreed to be part of my research question, "Are teacher e-portfolios sustainable?"

I wasn't too sure how the day would unfold, having very little time to prepare and organise what would happen. We talked a bit about purpose driving the content of any portfolio, then we had a look at some possible places to host their online content. We looked at elgg initially, but it didn't seem to be what they were happy with. Although they weren't motivated by the prospect of blogging, (an essential component of any e-portfolio, according to Dr. Helen Barrett) both ended choosing a blog base for their portfolio. Having shown them through the basics of an edublog, both were keen to have their new sites promoted out to a wider world. So, here they are - check them out, but remember they have a long way to go. This is also one way of checking their sustainability as well!!! A more detailed reflection soon....

Annabel's site - Ms.Howard.

Jo's site - Ms.Seretis.

I'm expecting big things.


What do you see when you see an Interactive Whiteboard?

Admittedly, not everyone who is critical has even seen one in action but that doesn't prevent anyone from having an opinion. And as IWB fervour builds throughout the South Australian education community (particularly in primary schools) many are wanting to see for themselves to see if there is any substance to the hype. What, indeed, are the possibilities? Some schools want to dabble cautiously (perhaps one in the library), some have decided to invest their dollars elsewhere and some are going the full hog (every classroom with an IWB by 2007).

Over the past month, I've done three presentations on ACTIVboards to three slightly different audiences. The first was to a local school wanting to get a first hand look at what an IWB actually was, the second was a favour to the ACTIVboard sales rep showcasing their product (which we have) to a school trying to pick their preferred brand and thirdly, a repeat of our International Middle Schooling Conference presentation to our local cluster group of middle school teachers. What was really interesting was that each presentation evoked different responses and different questions - and it really makes me stop and think about the fact that as teachers we all have unique world views. I received a timely email from Quentin D'Souza shortly after who posed an excellent question about questions in relation to what questions I would ask now in regards to the effective use of IWB's. There have also been a couple of excellent posts querying this focus on IWB technology - one from Warrick Wynne and a lengthy effort from Derek Wenmoth. I shared Derek's with my staff via the weekly bulletin and had a few teachers commenting how his insights hit home.

So, maybe the IWB has become a type of pedagogical magnifying glass with the questions being asked and the aspects that attract approval potentially revealing quite a lot about how classrooms operate. For example, teachers who groan at what they see as a huge learning curve and a large absorption of time are educators who see that teacher created content as important. Some might also see that the IWB is confirmation that a "sage on the stage" approach is the way to go. Some who ask about ready made content and shared resource repositories are looking to "not reinvent the wheel" - and the cynical side of me might suspect a worksheet mentality. Teachers who ask about how to create stuff on the fly and pull in images, diagrams and pieces from the web and other software programs are eyeing off the possibilities to connect different pieces of learning. Maybe they are the ones who will want the students up there using the board.

I would be worried that any school that is deciding to put an IWB in every classroom all at once could be setting themselves up for difficulties in addressing teachers' needs in terms of training and movement through Marc Prensky's four stages of technology implementation. I would not like to be that coordinator as he or she tries to move 18 or so teachers towards full and effective use of this tool. There could be quite a few still stuck permanently at Old Thing In Old Ways without timely guidance and support - something that is hard to give when one is at full stretch. As Derek pointed out, then you do have classrooms trapped in an instructivist environment. I expanded on this idea in my comment on his post:

I would also probably guess that an IWB doesn't turn a teacher into an instructivist educator - they were probably taught that way prior to the IWB. The trap is now they think that their methodology has ICT credibility just because it's up on an interactive whiteboard. It's really important to push the creative, innovative approaches to teaching and the technology should be the enabler, the connector of the learning.

One thing I will say in defence of the IWB being misused as an instructivist tool - if you want teachers to change their practice, you have to start from where they are. It's no good pressuring them with expectations that are several progression steps from where they are - that's where effective leadership steps in, the kind that realises that in today's world, technology and learning go hand in hand. Maybe the teacher who doesn't know his or her blogs from wikis, complains of e-mail overload if the in-box contains more than five messages, and wouldn't know a Moodle from a podcast might just be able to move forward (and the students exposed to more opprotunities) in a more comfortable way using an IWB. I'm not advocating that we leave any classroom in an instructivist only environment - but it isn't really a problem if we start from there.


I'm really disappointed and angry. The reason? It has been officially announced that South Australia's world renowned centre for innovation and training for ICT in education, Technology School Of the Future (generally referred to by most teachers as TSOF) is to be closed and moved from its base at Hindmarsh. I found out via a colleague and the teacher grapevine on Wednesday, had it confirmed via professional association email lists on Thursday and then on Friday, this article appeared in a sidebar on a page in the Advertiser, Adelaide's only daily newspaper.

Outrage as school plan is ditched.


Principals are furious the Technology School of the Future has been scrapped.

South Australian Primary Principals Association president Glyn O'Brien said there was an "outcry" over plans to replace the school at Hindmarsh with online services and video conferencing.

The school was run as a part of the Education Development Centre and, while it had no permanent students, provided a physical base for school groups to visit for programs such as robotics or digital electronics.

"The centre was set up to give kids the really cutting edge technology and amazing computer programs - the sort of things primary schools can't afford to buy," Ms O'Brien said.

Replacing the school with a program, staffed by nine teachers travelling around the state with a "bootload" of technology, would be inadequate, she said.

Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith announced this week that professional development for teachers would be delivered by video conferencing and 18 "eTeachers" would be appointed to develop online activities for students.

Opposition Education spokesman Duncan McFetridge said the school, established in 1989, was being closed by "stealth". "Teachers come from all over the world ... for some reason they decide now they will try to do it online," he said.

An Education Department spokeswoman said that physical attendance at the school's courses had dropped 400 per cent over four years.

In retrospect, the signs that this was on the State Government's mind have been there for a while. The final statistic quoted at the end of the article is the result of budgetary cutbacks, a user pays policy for facility and expertise hire, a reduction in consultants available to schools and other services once available to DECS schools for free being priced out of the range of classrooms and schools. I've blogged before about TSOF and its challenge to stay relevant to the massive changes occurring on the web but the solution in the minds of those in charge seems to be to simply pull the pin. That, in my mind, is extremely short sighted and ignorant.

Here, we have a world class facility, proudly showed off to Queen Elizabeth II a few years back, supposedly ready for the scrapheap just to help balance the state budget. The plan to replace it with videoconferencing and online courses only is just ludicrous. Sure, it's important to develop those online capabilities but with a teaching force here that averages close to fifty years of age, their learning needs also need to be taken into account. If we want educators capable of delivering ICT rich curriculum for our 21st Century students, then scrapping the physical headquarters of technology innovation makes no sense at all.

TSOF has been important to my own professional development. I've attended courses, I've been part of Quality Teacher Programs, I've taken classes there to use the facilities and to showcase their work to others, I've presented there and attended quite a few conferences as well. I've worked closely with TSOF staff as well on research grants, the Web 2.0 Showcase, consultancy on interactive whiteboards - where will all this sort of stuff take place?

The South Australian education community deserves better than this. More resources should be going into this important facility - instead, we feel the bitter sting of the axe carefully spun into a press release strategically timed to coincide with the end of a busy, frantic and tiring work year.

My next step is to personally email the Premier and the Minister for Education. I think and hope they've underestimated the backlash coming their way.

Yesterday, I read this great post from Warrick Wynne that summed up things rather well. Warrick writes:

It’s hard enough sometimes to get through the day without having to plumb the depths of the future.

That’s the thing sometimes isn’t it? One of the reasons that the big picture and visionary is so often hijacked by the immediate and the now.

That's the thing - a shortsighted "let's scrap this expensive centre and promise something that sounds futuristic" for a few savings today and lose sight of the big picture that TSOF was originally founded and funded properly for in the first place. What's next?

Attribution: Image: 'Pappaw's card file'

I know there are quite a few educators who upload and store their resources online and I'm not as diligent in that regard as I could be. But it can be a real lifesaver. Just as I would never bother with bookmarks on local machines any more - my account has replaced all of that - the next habit to cultivate is to automatically upload shareable resources to my online storage sites at and

I was due to lead a repeat of our Interactive Whiteboards presentation for our local Middle Schooling cluster. But as my work Tablet PC is currently in the repair shop, I discovered that the flipchart and notes embedded in an adapted Powerpoint I needed were still back on that hard drive. It's real proof that I'm not a digital native as much as I'd like to think, as I didn't think of accessing the files I was after from the web. That suggestion came from one of my colleagues, "Why don't you just download what you need from the MYLU wiki?"


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It's a little late but never too late to thank a few people for their kind contribution to my K-12 Online Conference presentation. When I was putting the whole thing together, I kept thinking if it's just me speaking - well, that could be a bit boring so wouldn't it be great if I asked a few other edubloggers for their input and opinion in an audio format. It might just work, and save me some work as well! Not that sloth was my motivating factor. The risk from my point of view was that I had no idea what any of them would have to say in response to my questions :- WHY IS WEB 2.0 IMPORTANT FOR EDUCATORS?

I even nearly had a heart attack when Rachel Jeffares started with the words, "Well, Web 2.0 isn't important at all..." or words to that effect but she does go on to clarify. So, I know my volunteers' blog addresses are all over on the wiki but traffic has died down since the conference and I wanted to give an online round of applause and maybe send a few more visitors over to their blogs to check things out. So, without any further ado, much gratitude and thanks to:

Mark Ahlness - from the city of Seattle, USA, his classroom insights are pure gold and he blogs about it all, successes and pitfalls.
Rachel Jeffares - read her blog and you'll realise just how multi-talented she is in the field of educational technology over there in the Shaky Isles.
Greg Carroll - another Kiwi who keeps me honest with insightful and provoking comments and runs a mean blog of his own.
Judy O'Connell - a leading Aussie edublogger in my mind, with a real passion for bringing Web 2 into schools.
Doug Noon - from Alaska, USA, he is so insightful, so honest, every post makes me think and that's no small accomplishment!
Jo McLeay - another Aussie, one of my biggest supporters since I started blogging. It is no wonder so many others are influenced by her writing.
Jedd Bartlett - Jedd brought a new perspective to my presentation, being a mate of Greg's and exceptionally savvy with many of the newest technologies.
Al Upton - this guy is a local (read Adelaide) legend and puts his money where his mouth is in regards to blogging in the classroom. I think he should look to link up with Mark's class.... and then Doug's....

Do yourself a favour - go read their blogs today for a great K-12 perspective and drop them a comment or two.


The concepts of networks, groups and communities has me fascinated. The more I read, the less clear I am about what are the defining qualities of each word. I actually suspect that all three words mean different things to different people. Not only that but I suspect that what people think that others think is also not necessarily aligned. But that doesn't stop one person (this is not an allusion to any one individual in particular) from believing that they have someone's definition pegged. So I keep reading, hoping for clarity. I've seen all three terms debated on the TALO Groups list. Irena White there proposed that communities sat as the halfway point between networks and groups. I piped in and said that I thought a community was one variation of a group -

Actually, I'm not too sure that the whole idea of community in an online setting isn't a bit of a utopian buzzword. To me, a community is
a group.

- I should have shut up - because it isn't a definition that I can back up with argument and logic. Irena's original observation backed onto a long exchange of views between Teemu Leinonen and Stephen Downes on the same list and its sibling list, FLNW - a list that grew out of the Leigh Blackall inspired travelling unconference of the same acronym. Those two weren't even using the word community in that discussion.

Community as a term gets bandied around a lot these days and it's because of that, I have a hard time being sure what someone means when they mention the edublogging community. I mean, we have "community of learners", staff and leadership at my site refer to the "school community", some people choose to live in a "gated community" and then volunteers help out "the less fortunate in the community." So, if you are involved in a particular activity, maybe stamp collecting as an example, are you automatically part of that community? Or do you have the choice to join, or to stand alone, or even to start your own stamp collecting community? How about the idea of community leaders? How does that work? Are the leaders acknowledged as such because they've collected the most stamps, or have been collecting for the longest time, or because they've accumulated the largest knowledge base on the subject of stamps? Or maybe the leaders are the people helping others to start their own stamp collections or organising stamp based events for the community (however it is defined)?

When I first started blogging way back in August of 2005, I was totally in awe of Will Richardson. Here was this bloke who was a grand pioneer of blogging in education, had generated a lot of momentum for emerging technologies in the classroom and was writing his own book, for goodness sake. I loved reading his thought provoking posts (still do) and somewhere in my twisted brain, I thought that if my efforts at education blogging attracted his notice, then maybe I was on the right track. I badly wanted to develop a blog that attracted insightful comments, promoted quality reflection and yes, that would be noticed by the luminaries of my newly compiled blogroll. I felt frustrated when bloggers starting out at the same time as me attracted praise in the posts of Weblogg-ed. Don't get me wrong - their accolades were well deserved and I was pleased that they were being highlighted - but what was missing from my own posts?

So, you can see I was a bit self-absorbed back then but maybe I was looking for my version of online community. Now I'm not sure that the concept of community is all that important. In Will, I think I saw a community leader and his approval then would have rubber stamped in my mind my membership of the edublogger community. But does such a community really exist? And if it does, what would qualify someone to claim membership? Can one maintain an online presence and connect to others via blogging without officially being considered part of a community?

So as my blogging skills improved, as my writing found its ''voice'' and became more authentic, others from different parts of the world and from different sectors of education and different walks of life became important nodes in my Learning Network. The methods and means of discovery were varied. I found amazing sources of new ideas and inspiration in the Aussie and Kiwi VTE sector, I could relate to the gritty, warts'n'all classroom practitioners in far flung parts of the North American continent, I was challenged by radicals and free thinkers sometimes reviled by more mainstream edubloggers and if this is a community, then the pieces don't fit together neatly at all. But they don't need to. I want to include in my aggregator bloggers who reject groupthink as much as I want to benefit from the camraderie and the mutual work-hard-for-the-benefit-of-others more group orientated bloggers. I think I can have the benefits of both styles of learning and thinking. Minh McCloy in the same TALO thread summed up my thoughts pretty well:

Compulsory grouping is very hard on the solitaries amongst us. Choosing instead, to establish links with others who offer possibilities potentialities is an attractive alternative. Groupers often feel so rejected when an individual doesn't want to group with them. Groupers will sometimes lash out & call such folk sad & lonely - or even witches & heretics.

The K-12 Online Conference seems to be generating a sense of community amongst many edubloggers - maybe there are some who feel that the Conference helped to solidify the concept of an edublogger community. Darren Kuropatwa has been mulling over some of these aspects as well, but sees some negative aspects I'm a bit unaware of. (That's not unusual for me, though!)

There are a lot more educational bloggers now. The community has ballooned and continues to grow. The camaraderie that came from the sharing spirit (which still dominates most discussions) is being questioned. And while maybe that's a good thing, it hurts those that are just doing what they've always done; trying to share what they've learned. Perhaps selfishly -- in the hope that someone will reciprocate that sharing -- but essentially following the collaborative ethos that has permeated educational blogging.

I don't think that camraderie has ever been questioned from where I sit. And trying to share what's been learned is what this post is about. I'm still no closer to really understanding what community means to me.

Or to anyone else, for that matter.

Darren's final comment on his post is worth repeating though.

So bring on the critical analysis of our practices and thinking! It is through those conversations that we learn and grow. Let us also leave behind the dim coloured lenses that obscure each others thinking and ideas. If that's where the conversation is headed, then I'm not prepared to participate in it.

Maybe, I've been lucky that negativity hasn't really come my way. I've been able to pick and choose to participate here and there in many great things and move between many different spheres of influence. I wouldn't and couldn't throw my lot in to be part of one identified edublogger community - and I don't think such a thing exists. With all due respects to Will Richardson, I don't seek or need his approval or acknowledgement anymore.

Over the weekend, James implemented a major edublogs upgrade that promises lots of new features and capabilities so that the many thousands of us here can have up-to-date blogs that match it with the best of the blogosphere. Just looking at the new Write Post interface reveals new opportunities to embed new pieces of multi-media - insert YouTube clips, play podcasts from within the post and better support for Rock You shows and Flash. But my hacked custom theme has not survived the upgrade. My blogroll and Feeds & Links all disappeared including my Clustr Map. But I'm very conscious that imposing on James Farmer's busy schedule to solve that problem is too much to ask - especially if all 10,000 of us decided we want a personalised theme! So I went looking though the possible themes for a new look and after re-creating my own header image, a Regulus theme seems to be the best way to go. Now I know most of my readers probably read via aggregator and rarely check in on my actual blog unless they want to drop a comment in. Still, I was quite attached to my own old theme. I'm hoping the new one grows on me.

Update: For the second day in a row, my blog has defaulted to the standard Kubrick theme and I've gone back to change it. Very weird! Maybe like a new car, things just need to be run in...