Monthly Archives: December 2006


With one hour to go before the New Year here in Adelaide, I'd just like to thank everyone who has read, commented or linked to this blog during 2006 - thanks to all of you for being part of my learning network.

My online New Year's resolution - to finally start using Technorati tags!!


One of my favourite Seinfeld episodes has Jerry and George squaring off as to who is the bigger idiot. Jerry is convinced that his actions establish him as the champion of idiocy, but George trumps him with a superior list of misdeeds:

"...So please, a little respect, for I am Costanza, Lord of the Idiots."

I've been feeling a bit like the Lord of the Idiots lately. The Read/Write web allows anyone to post their ideas, reflections and opinions. These words can be dressed up to appear legitimate, well thought out, even authorative. I can choose to broadcast my embryonic thoughts on say, the topic of e-portfolios and throw in the phrase "action research project" and play the role of make believe academic for a while. I can wax lyrical about 21st Century learners and play the role of wannabe philosopher.

But just because I can do these things via my blog doesn't automatically mean that I should. I might be in my own utopian stupor about formal academic qualifications being irrelevant and qualify my massive consumption of like posts from my Bloglines as proof of my "lifelong learning". But it's easy for an idiot like me to get full of my own self-importance and start to make sweeping generalisations in my own posts. It's easy to start thinking that just because some actual experts (and I am not being facetious here) post comments here, that suddenly I'm an expert, too.

What I am good at is keeping it real about my actual classroom experiences and making sure that "thinking out loud" on my blog is clearly identified as such. I will always take up opportunities to stretch my thinking but like George Constanza, I need to intimately know when I cross the threshold into the land of Edublogger Idiots. There's enough homebaked advice blogs, self-proclaimed maestros and ranting evangelists without me swelling their ranks.

Someone, come and slap me in the comments if you see it happening again here.



I really liked Dave Cormier's Top 10 (11) list for 2006 - so much that I had a go in the Comments at a couple of his choices being US-centric and maybe not meaning as much to the rest of the educational technology world. I echoed another Canadian (Stephen Downes, Dave being the first referenced here) in suggesting that DOPA, the US government legislation proposal that would virtually shut out social networking sites from America schools and public libraries, was a matter only of interest to US citizens. Dave responded nicely:

Interesting. It’s possible that as a Canadian I’ve been living near the elephant for too long… but I think that you are missing something if you think that internet law in the US is not going to affect the rest of the world. Half of the internet usage (and the companies) are US based (dave makes up likely statistic). If, as in the case of DOPA, their market dries up, or, as in the case of net neutrality (senator stevens) they charge people for bandwidth, it will have a massive effect on worldwide internet usage and therefore edtech usage. How many open source projects depend on US bandwidth being free and how many educational products depend on Americans using them.

That was really helpful and gave me the information and relevance that I didn't get the first time round. So I told Dave so:

Thanks for the clarification - I think I was having an anti-US-centric day when I commented and I thought that you being a Canadian would be more open to international sensibilities. Your list would have not raised any eyebrows in the States because well, they all know what you’re talking about. Maybe, whinging Aussies like me would have been satisfied with some recognition of similar issues in our various parts of the world i.e. DOPA and its worldwide flow on impact and the fact there are dopey politicians globally in decision making roles who are completely clueless as to this “internet thing.” I’m just being nitpicky because if international bloggers don’t point out US-centric commentary, then US bloggers are hardly likely to notice! Your unique position near the elephant as you put it, allow you to observe things and identify the international implications. Your response to me here gives me the information I need to know why those events were important in 2006.

Glad I got that cleared up.

So that there's no mistaking this for something that is actually authorative, please observe the following disclaimer: This list, for want of a better word, is a bunch of observations deemed relevant by one Graham Wegner. They are probably parochial, limited to the R-10 public education sector in South Australia, contain glaring omissions and be completely devoid of research.

So, without further ado, here's what captured my attention throughout 2006. And yes, I do know that the year is not done yet but I'll take my chances that no more bombshells are likely.

Web 2.0 becomes a talking point for educators, if not a doing point.

I noticed this interest from teachers via the Blogging Masterclass, various presentations at the local CEGSA Conference and the Web 2.0 Showcase. Numbers were high when someone offered to tell them more about "Web 2 stuff" and a few spectators rolled up their sleeves and had a go at blogging or wikiing, but on the whole, it still seems to be something that most teachers here might still be looking to tackle sometime down the track.

Web filtering in schools really starts to stifle web based innovation in education.

Well, I noticed it. Innovative teachers like Al Upton did also. It's really hard to take these tools for a spin with students if they can't get to CC images because flickr is blocked, if all blogs, wikis and social bookmarking services fall under the dreaded Hosted Web Pages category and the visual seach engine of Google is disabled.

The rise of wikis in education, also used as a subversive tool for curriculum documentation, conference planning, e-portfolios, e-pals and much more.

Wikis seem to be less threatening than blogs - maybe because as a contributor you're sharing the responsibility of generating the content and you can get an end date for a wiki based project. Wikis also became a platform for planning and executing many events in the education sector, and for those of us who never mastered HTML or find that things never quite work in commercial web authoring programs, a wiki is, to quote Peter Ruwoldt, a quick and dirty way to create a website.

More people joined the Web 2.0 party, using established and emerging web based technologies.

Throughout 2006, podcasting and videocasting options multiplied and got easier to use with services like podomatic, Odeo and showing the way. Not everything innovative is owned by Google. Gluing Web 2.0 stuff together became a lot easier with the emergence of many AJAX based apps like Pageflakes, WebWag, NetVibes and Protopage that followed the lead set by SuprGlu in late '05.

Meanwhile others got afraid, very afraid of what all of this could mean.

We saw media scaremongering here in Australia about teen use of social networking sites. It seems no-one in authority really knows what to do about the real or perceived dangers of student activity on the internet. It'd be too much to expect that those speculating about the negative scenarios would even think about having a close personal look at these technologies and how they work before condemning them to the "too dangerous" basket.

We also experienced a push back in time from some of our Aussie politicians, going against the grain of technology fueled skills looking for a defined history curriculum tied to "values education" and the re-introduction of A-E grades for students. Ah, things were always so much better in the past, weren't they?

So there you have it - the significant developments of 2006 according to me. Before you start violently disagreeing with me, please refer back to my initial disclaimer and it will be very interesting to see what unfolds for technology in education during 2007.


My ICT research project has fallen to the back of the priority queue in recent times although my mind hasn't let go of its existence and the need to pay it some more attention. I did take a day out of the last term to get my two project participants up and going. My action research question was, "Are teacher e-portfolios sustainable?" But now as I reflect on that day and the choices made by my two colleagues and the questions they asked along the way, I'm inclined to think that maybe there's a more fundamental question to be asking. Sure, I got the initial grant by honing in on one of the topics listed as worthy of investigation but what's the point of following that through to its fairly vague conclusion if I think there is something important that comes in at a more basic level.

Here's what I'm thinking.

Portfolios are driven by purpose. No purpose equals why bother? An e-portfolio has another complicating factor - technology savviness for both the creator and for the audience. I noticed that with my two colleagues. Neither could be classified as luddites and they both had their individual purposes sorted out but I found that they needed to be shown various options (ie. edublogs or elgg) and then stepped through the process of registering, posting content, creating links. So, I'm guessing that the average teacher isn't going to creating their own e-portfolio anytime soon because (a) the purpose isn't there if you are already permanently employed and the system (merit selection or transfer) still mainly uses paper based methods of verifyig skills and achievements, (b) they don't have the technical expertise or confidence to use web based applications and tools for a purpose like the creation of an e-portfolio without support and (c) it would take a lot of time and effort for something that may or not be used in the professional setting. Let's take it as a given that e-portfolios are useful as a way of documenting professional growth, collecting evidence of expertise and lifelong learning. But unless teachers have a specific purpose beyond their immediate role in the classroom - leadership aspirations, consultancy opportunities, AST1 or working internationally - I don't think that we will see a mass take-up of the e-portfolio concept.

So maybe things need to take a step back. Rather than worrying about whether teachers will get into e-portfolios or not, the question should be more along the lines of "How do we get teachers developing an online presence?" To me, that seems to be the genuine starting point for some many classroom teachers who need to make the mental shift from using the internet as a read-only resource to the benefits of the Read/Write web.

I'm hitting the Publish button now and letting my brain percolate a little longer.


The five things meme has finally caught up with me via Doug "Left-Handed" Noon and although I risk a mass of people unsubscribing with my dodgy viewpoints, I'll play. (Although, I had never encountered the word "meme" before blogging.) Hey, the worst that can happen is that I'm confirmed to be as boring as people have suspected!

1. I am a reasonable cartoonist, developed during many childhood summers spent drawing my favourite cartoon characters, developing new characters of my own and creating comic strip adventures in the remaining blank pages of that year's school exercise books. My favourite characters were all from the Hanna-Barbera stable (Quickdraw McGraw, Atom Ant, Top Cat etc.) and my own creations shared the same features - cats that had fur jutting out the side of their heads, horses with dopey expressions and straight edged mouthlines and of course, sunglasses Banana Splits style to make them look cool. Of course, it's one thing to draw the characters - it's another thing to come with decent storylines and punchlines. I'm still working on that part of the deal.

2. I went to boarding school here in Adelaide for the five years of my secondary schooling. I don't have many fond memories of that time but the school did help to shape some of my views on religion (in a negative way), show me what uninspiring teaching looked like and demonstrated that private schools have nothing over their public school counterparts in terms of quality teaching or concern for student welfare.

3. I'm a teetotaller, not because I am against alcohol (used to enjoy a cold beer) but I have an allergic reaction to alcoholic drinks that turns my face red - not a pretty sight - so I stick to soft drink instead.

4. My only sporting achievement of any note was having a hole-in-one playing golf. Let's see if I recall any of the details - hmmm... 27th Jan, 2001, sunny day, competition round, 9th hole, Flagstaff Hill Golf Club, 136 metres, 6-iron, pin cut right hand side at the back, ball hit on lowish trajectory bouncing twice on the green before lodging itself between hole's edge and flagstick. Oh the ball? A Strata No.3.

5. I don't believe in God. I'm probably best unofficially described as a Skeptic, although I find the concept of organised religions to be quite interesting.

To keep this particular ball bouncing around the edublogosphere, I'd like to tag Alex Hayes, Rachel Jeffares, Al Upton, Kim Cofino and Aaron Nelson. Have fun...


I've never really gotten into forums, and getting involved in blogging has made it even harder to engage with that format that has been around now for quite a long time. Today, Leigh Blackall has pointed to an EdNa based forum that's been brewing for a while complete with flaming, self promotion, one liner put downs and disrespect aplenty. Alex Hayes has put together some thoughts on the same topic. I suppose at least those forums are showing some action. Back over at my own professional association's EdNa Group (sorry - locked to the outside world) things are quieter than my childhood Christmases on the farm. I'm guilty of not contributing much there but it seems South Aussie educators aren't really into posting to forums either.

Interestingly, one of the topics over at the forum in question dealt with the supposed inferiority of blogs to other forms of online communication. See, I actually think it is possible to have a forum like conversation on a blog with a number of distinct advantages. And I'm talking from a user's point of view, not a web designer or coder or other type of expert. I just want to connect with educators who are interested in discussing topics of mutual interest - if no-one's interested, then it still ends up being a digital record of my own thoughts and observations.

A current example is happening at the moment over on Brett Moller's blog, where he and I have been involved in a discussion via comments and a series of posts on the topic of "Authority of Source". (More on the actual conversation later - one hint though, you need to select the white space under Brett's own comments to see what he has written).  Here are two differing points of view, with the dangerous ingredient of religious beliefs mixed in, and the exchange is very respectful, aimed at furthering understanding as opposed to proving a point and open for any of Brett's readers to join in. I don't need to log in to participate, it's Brett's topic so all of the content stays right there on his blog for as long as he wishes and anyone with a web connection in the world can join in. The content is gathered up via RSS and search engine crawling so everything written is highly accessible and open. A forum just can't do that. And as Leigh has shown, it's very easy to jump ship and take all of your digital content with you.

I still do frequent forums and they can be a place to gather new ideas but the flexibility and ease of a blog makes it my personal choice - by a country mile.

Just read a great post from Tony Forster who has a look at some interesting data comparing literacy/numeracy scores and problem solving scores from different countries. After looking at the stats, Tony offers this analysis:

Australia, New Zealand and Canada score significantly higher than USA despite sharing similar cultural backgrounds. I have noticed a significant difference, USA educators are more focussed on the transfer of knowledge than the development of problem solving skills through self-directed, problem based learning.

In an interesting exercise, Tony did some Googling of key words to back up his observations. Read the whole post for the total picture but for me, it highlights the danger of Australian education authorities taking their lead from US strategies and drawing conclusions and looking for solutions to our own issues from a wealth of US education data available online.  We shouldn't always assume that US-centric educational practices are the best, especially in the K-12 sector.


Let me start by offering my sincere congratulations to all of this year's Edublog Awards winners. I am currently listening to the podcast of the awards ceremony (from EdTech Talk) and still reflecting what winning might mean to the winners, and what not winning means to the others. As Alex said,

It is an honour to be recognised for making an effort, to be considered and included and most of all to be able to share with others the things that I’m experiencing as an educator.

With that in mind, I will be sticking my official Nominee badge on this blog, especially as a message to those who I encounter who think this is a geeky hobby that doesn't have any real benefits. But I would be lying if I was nonchalant about the results, especially as this blog was listed in the Best Teacher Blog category. However, I was not staying up after midnight to listen to the skypecast! I had intended to go and play in the Teachers' Golf Day but an overnight family illness kept me at home this morning. So, at about 10.30 am I snuck onto the computer to see how Teaching Generation Z (pronounced Zed here in Australia!) had fared. Well, Have Fun with English! 2 was the winner and that's great but how did everyone else go? It would be interesting to know (a) the exact number and complete list of nominations and (b) the exact voting stats from SurveyMonkey. Luckily, Josie decided to add a percentage graphic to give some idea of how the voting patterns had fallen out.


Actually after seeing that, maybe I was better off with less data! Ouch - I was officially Mr. 5.4%. Now if I was a whiz at Mathematics (maybe Darren could work this out) I could work out when analysed alongside of the other percentages, what the actual number was likely to be. But it's bringing back memories of my less-than-stellar schooldays athletic prowess where my best result in the 100m sprint was an equal last. (At least I wasn't alone in last place!) Anyway, better keep that quote from Alex in mind before I ask for someone to pass me the sour grapes juice.


Followed a link out of my Referers section of my blog to find a link and some comments posted on the somewhat controversial website, on my recent post about Social Networking In The Media. The forum post there highlighted a minor paragraph of mine late in the post that linked to the Advertiser article and interestingly thought that the tone of both the article and my blog was one of anger. I can't speak for the journalist responsible for the newspaper article but that observation could not be more wrong. I'm not a fan of RMT because I just don't think it's important or contributing anything meaningful to the school community. It is, as Stu artfully pointed out, the cyberspace version of graffiti on the school toilet walls complete with bad spelling and barely moderated observations.

It reminds me all too much of the Year 4 student I taught 15 years ago in Port Augusta who was dobbed in by his classmates for drawing on the toilet wall. I escorted him to view the offending phrase, "Schloo sux!"

He took one look at me and said with a deadpan face, "It couldn't have been me - I don't know how to spell school."

If I was to take this website seriously, then a couple of things would have to change - (a) if this is truly a service to the community, then lose the ads. That would remove the accusation that is just a front for advertising, preying on disgruntled students and parents. (b) Innovative websites deserve innovative structure - surely RMT would be more credible if it wasn't using a tired old forum based formula.

I would just finish with the point that the vast majority of teachers actually take negative criticism very personally. Comments that insinuate incompetence, insensitivity and callousness cut deep to the heart, whether they come via an angry parent at a face to face meeting, a vindictive letter to the principal or an anonymous post on a website. I personally have lost sleep, mulled in my mind over and over again where I might have gone wrong or speculated the reasons why someone seems to have it in for me whenever I've experienced the above. I acknowledge that I've had times in my life when the emotions are running high, that I'd love to tell someone "what I really think" in no uncertain terms. I also acknowledge that the power structures within most schools and classrooms don't allow for students to point out the shortcomings of and disregard from their teacher/s that they might encounter. So while I don't bear any hate or anger towards RMT, I just don't see the point of its existence.


The recent exchange of comments following my look at the recent newspaper reporting of social networking sites has had me thinking. I basically inferred that by ignoring student use (and misuse) of web based technologies, teachers were risking irrelevance and would be unable to provide a decent 21st Century education. Now I'm not so sure. Education surely has greater scope than just being having relevance and providing engagement, although their importance can't be discounted. I still think that one of my original thoughts still stand - that it is impossible to do anything constructive and meaningful about the risks and dangers of the web without having some first hand knowledge of how many of our students are using the online world. How do teachers teach online ethics, identity protection, scam awareness and effective web search skills - by using a set of blackline masters from a book, by following the teachers guide for NetAlert step by step? My quoted comments in David Sly's article for Adelaide's Independent Weekly talked about a digital divide between teachers familiar and comfortable with web technology (or any computing based technology) and those who aren't aware or comfortable with it. I see it at my own school every day. But is digital information and skills an indispensable part of the teaching armoury or can high quality teaching and learning still occur without it?

Stu raised a great point that point that many skilled teachers have engaged and provided high quality teaching without being web savvy or techno lovers.

I also know plenty of teachers who are inspirational without feeling the requirement to keep up with the ideas and technologies of the new generation. And some that do and are not worth a lot as teachers.

It is true - in most South Australian state schools, most of the curriculum is delivered today without the use of computing or digital technology. Paper rules. In the primary school sector, even though teachers are encouraged and cajoled to integrate ICT into their weekly timetable, how much can be done with a couple of aging desktops in the classroom and one (if you're lucky or a scammer, two) session in the computing "lab"? Those who want to "go digital" have access odds stacked against them and when physical resources like Technology School of the Future are wound down, and the supplied internet ebbs and flows like the River Murray in drought time, then the message is that technology in education is still an optional extra. So it's easy to see that maybe all of things listed in the outcomes of our state curriculum framework can be achieved without the help of computing resources or the need to be aware of current youth culture. After all, for most of the week the scarce ICT resources have to stretch. In my own case, it's one of the reasons I don't spend time with my class on keyboarding skills or exploring CD-ROM based lessons - I have a finite amount of time with these resources and I want "value for time".

In the same way that my technology opportunities are limited in my typical week, technology has to compete with a myriad of other priorities in education today. Just as my mindset sees ICT as indispensible, other colleagues see the acquisition of another language as vital, bemoan that Arts education doesn't enjoy enough status or believe that student voice and leadership development to be the vital ingredients for today's students' future. Maybe ICT's importance is overplayed by those of us with a passion and interest in this part of the curriculum. Or are we the only ones ready to move with the times and at least try and keep tabs on changes occurring at an exponential rate?

We know most of the teaching force in this state clearly fit into Marc Prensky's digital immigrant category. Whether that status is used as an excuse to opt out of educational technology is an argument written about on blogs more informed than mine, but part of the premise for increased access to digital learning is that it is part of the students' (I love Christian Long's abbreviation, the dig:nat) world and that new generation of totally web-savvy and connected kids are going to bypass our educational offerings if we don't get up to speed fast. But just how digital are our natives? Is the generalisation too broad to be really useful? One thing I have read a lot around the edublogosphere is that we are preparing them for a future that we can't predict or know. Maybe Stu's got a point - because when have we ever been able to know what is going to be needed in the future? When I went through teachers' college in the mid 80's, I could never have predicted the situation I now teach in. Nothing in my course talked about having unlimited access to information, keeping student identities safe or connecting with other educators around the globe. Won't our students simply pick up the required skills as they need them, the same way we teachers have adapted to our new job expectations? Does teaching digital make the experience more relevant, does it create something new and unique or should we in the primary school sector be concentrating on the basics of literacy and numeracy? Can the skills and key competencies of our curriculum be successfully embedded in our students without the need for a technology gloss paintjob?

Lots of questions and so many potential answers. I am a strong advocate for the effective and meaningful use of technology in all classrooms but it is good to stop and ask some searching questions once in a while and see if those assumptions we all have can hold up in the cold hard light of day.