Monthly Archives: June 2007


No-one in my aggregator writes succinct posts like John Pederson. I don't understand all of his cryptic thoughts but some of his points are pure gold. As I gear up for a few presentations and workshops at our local CEGSA conference and plan for an exciting event in Melbourne later in August, this gem is worth keeping in the back of my brain.

Sessions are for presenters. Learning happens in the conversation.

That mold of experts at the front delivering to the huddled masses has got to be broken. Or maybe we're only closet constructivists who like the world as it was... neccpederson.jpg

Original image credit prior to Wegner remix: DSC00508.JPG by Janice Stearns

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I'm keeping tabs on the excitement around the Edubloggercon meetup that preceded the start of the big NECC event in the States overnight. It seems the best way to access what some of my contacts / colleagues in this part of the world is via twitter. As news, links and tidbits come to light, they are posted to twitter and I've been checking out the flickr feed and reading the scattered posts. I made the comment to Jeff Utecht via Skype chat that the pics reminded me of "a TALO Swapmeet on steroids". That might be the best way to describe what I sense about this interesting event so that it makes sense to my VTE blogging colleagues down under and across the ditch in the Shaky Isles.  And Ewan makes an interesting observation about the way the Edubloggercon organised itself that is worth a read. But the fun part is trying to identify as much of these edubloggers that I read as I can via these photos. Would be great to be there - looks like they needs a few more Aussies.

Image: DSC02214 by BCrosby

I've been thinking a bit about why blogging works for me, particularly as I have a few presentations in the near future that will focus on the benefits of embracing an online presence and the building of a professional learning network. Despite the fact I use a PageFlakes startpage, have multiple wikis, enjoy a twitter or two and eagerly check my Skype contacts to see who is online, it's this blog that I see as the centre of my online universe. It's the platform that's made it all possible.

It's the blog that has enabled me to make connections to online communities like TALO and the K12 Online Conference. Without it, I wouldn't be crossing sector boundaries and hooking up at Swapmeets and I definitely wouldn't be submitting proposals at the encouragement of edubloggers on the other side of the world. (Thanks, Sheryl!)

This is no false modesty. I am a very ordinary person. I don't have any more educational qualifications beyond a basic teaching degree, I've never even travelled outside of Australia, I've only ever worked in primary schools and until two years ago I had never shared educational ideas with anyone apart from a few close colleagues and definitely never presented to a group larger than a staffroom. So, how does this ordinary bloke go from that background to having over 170 subscribers in Bloglines, being invited to participate in online and f2f conferences, projects and professional development, highlighted in OLDaily, to being quoted in other more eminent educators' digital work and listed by some folks as a "leading edublogger." Maybe I have a little bit of writing talent but it speaks volumes to me that read/write technology is such a big communication amplifier and that a lot of the other edubloggers I connect to and relate well to are also ordinary educators in a sense, being given a grass roots opportunity to reflect and connect. I still maintain that if I can reap so many disproportionate benefits, then ANYONE can do this.

And if you're reading this post, YOU are a big part of the reason I have such a dynamic, informative, diverse learning network that seems to answer my questions intuitively. It's probably why I can't bear to cut anyone from my feedreader (unless they actually stop blogging - I still have Jeff Giddens in there in the hope he'll return to his blog one day), why when I find someone who actually becomes an online (and real life) friend I'll chase their online meanderings across the web, because when I started out, others stopped by this blog to give me their insights. It's really important to give back and it's why I try and comment widely as well - although I profess to be non-religious, there is a karma like vibe that happens when I make an effort to be diplomatic, insightful and encouraging towards others.

Ah, the humble blog - still the best reason to get online.

Image: DSCN3418 by mikecogh

TALO After Hours


For a little while I've puzzled over how to get more of my colleagues engaging in online learning and using Web 2.0 tools to share their tools and expertise. I know I've only been involved in educational blogging for under two years but my view has always been that if an ordinary, average teacher without any prior claim to fame (and only one recent step up the leadership ladder in twenty years of teaching) can use these tools and so quickly utilise them for my personal professional learning, then anyone can do it. So why aren't teachers coming online en masse and collaborating and sharing their obvious expertise?

I think I have been sadly mistaken. Two clues that I have misread the appeal of Web 2.0 tools to the average teacher have cropped up and are worth considering. Firstly, via John Connell, an article that bemoans the impact of Web 2.0 and foretells of a dumbing down of expertise pointing to Wikipedia and blogs as the proof of the new mediocrity of information. It's an interesting read - a clearly sympathetic article supporting a book that points out all that is wrong with participatory culture. It does smack of yearning for the good old days - when you just knew that the nightly news would tell the truth about the world, when knowledge was contained in the Dewey system and university professors delivered their lectures on their latest findings without question. John has continued to investigate this issue in further posts and Doug Noon's recent post pulls apart some of the associated implications with greater insight and intellect than I could possibly muster.

That article link was just part one of the puzzle, however. The second came from a response posted to a CEGSA "walled garden" forum on the topic of teacher engagement with Web 2.0 tools. I'd already posted, then John Travers responded, and then I chimed in again. Now the only people who can view this exchange are registered CEGSA members but the dialogue can only grow if others can be involved so those ideas and words have sat there dormant until last Friday. My question posed there (which I've posed before here on this blog) was this:

I gain so much professionally from my involvement in Web 2. What interests me is what is it that keeps others (teachers) from starting their own blog, creating their own wiki, putting their resources up for public access using a tool like or even sharing websites they've found useful via

I'll paraphrase John here as I haven't asked permission to officially quote but he pointed out that teachers are not comfortable with sharing ideas and opinions in such a public space. I then expanded those ideas in my next post:

John, your use of the word "opinionated" could be a bigger reason teachers (even those of us as young as 40!) come from the era of "keep your opinions to yourself" and it's hard to change a lifelong mindset. Our students have been told since birth to "express their point of view" and "have an opinion" by their families, the education system, media and society in general. Translate that to an online world and you have the MySpace Generation.

Another teacher then replied and again, I haven't sought permission to identify or reproduce that person's words but that response is what grabbed my attention.
Basically, the issue seems to be that most teachers have been raised to respect and seek the viewpoint of the expert. After all, the libraries are stacked full of books written by experts. It's why we pay money to sit and listen to experts like Marc Prensky and Jimmy Wales. It's why we buy books from well known authorities and why we invite keynote speakers to our conferences (even if they have the thinnest credentials related to the actual world our students are operating in). Educators still worship at the altar of the expert. As a profession, we have yet to grasp the fact that this new technology can give us the power to realise our own expertise. It seems that only the few with the self-confidence and cutting edge grasp of Web 2 tools are pulling the pedestal down to their level.

I welcome this tearing down of artificial pedestals that place some educators up in "expert" mode delivering their wisdom to the huddled masses. I want my colleagues in the classrooms scattered all over this parched continent to embrace their own expertise, and realise that sharing their collective wisdom is better than herding themselves into arenas of round tables with bowls of Crown mints to have the answers to our profession presented back to us in bullet points on Powerpoint. We say we don't want our students to look to us to be the "experts" in the classroom. It's something I prove in my classroom every day when I open my mouth. But we make liars of ourselves every time we elevate one person's "expertise" to gospel status - for sure, use these people in the spotlight as mirrors to our practice, but don't downgrade what we experience and know to be inferior to the expert's viewpoint.

Teachers are experts too.

If only we'd realise it.

Before the experts who don't have learning in their DNA tell us what to do next....


I'm trying to duck dive my way through my report writing (a la John Pearce and Paul Harrington), stupidly decided that this week I'd start playing with Google Reader as an alternative to Bloglines but haven't switched completely to one or the other and consequently am running over a lot of posts twice but this post from Karyn Romeis is hitting a nerve that just has to be written about. Let me explain.

I gave yet another interactive whiteboard presentation after school today to a hubgroup of preschool educators. The local director and one of her staff had attended my parent IWB information evening and had requested I do a similar type of thing focussing on how this technology can enhance teaching and learning. I didn't have a lot of time to prepare so I used the presentation flipchart from last year and it references Mark Prensky's bandied-to-death analogy of "digital natives/ immigrants". It is useful as a generalisation and as a starting point for conversation but like Karen, I feel a touch dishonest using a phrase that she points out isn't terribly accurate. She uses the medium of television in South Africa to illustrate her point:

In 1982, the kids starting school in South Africa were the first intake ever to have been exposed to TV since birth. There was a flurry of interested speculation - how different would these kids be? Within a very short space of time, it became evident that they were not somehow magically more able to use the TV or interact with the content presented than those who were not born to the technology.

And she summarises how educators (or anyone) can jump the digital divide:

There is another analogy to draw from South Africa's late adoption of TV. They didn't start with the old black and white valve powered sets of the first world's yesteryear and follow the path taken by the trailblazers. They jumped straight in with state of the art technology and (for one thing) their sports coverage was recognised as being world class, pretty much from the off.

I see no reason for things to be any different in respect of web 2.0 technologies either. Why should late adopters have to start where the innovators and early adopters did? They'll jump straight in at the point that these leaders have reached, and pretty soon be indistinguishable from them!

Some very poignant observations - the digital immigrant tag can be a cop out for many educators. Interestingly, the enhanced version of Karl Fisch's Did You Know? is what most of the preschool people were talking about at the end of the session as compelling evidence for education keeping pace. And hey, if an interactive whiteboard gets them started and envisioning the possibilities, what's wrong with that? Better than digital immigrant denial.

[slideshare id=33834&doc=shift-happens-23665&w=425]

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I didn't know that my oldest son was into online gaming until I found a crumpled monochrome print out of a kids' website. I asked him what it was and he just said,"Oggy Moshi."

It turns out that Oggy Moshi is the latest choice of RPG for seven year olds at my son's school, and I suppose it's a type of virtual world as well! If you remember the old Tamagotchi pets that were a craze a few years back where you had to feed, toilet and spend time with them in order for them to survive - well, this game is an extension of that. So, take a step into the online world of a junior primary child and have a go at Oggy Moshi - it's surprisingly addictive (I know I was enthralled for minutes) but watch out for those bugs!


Update: Turns out that Oggy is produced by French animation company Xilam and is a spinoff of a French TV cartoon series Oggy and the Cockroaches, which reminds me a lot of the Simpsons' "Itchy and Scratchy show".


I think that teacher laptops are fast becoming an integrated part of the work they do. I could not survive without my school laptop and was totally lost last year when it was in repairs for several weeks. I was always borrowing a spare and then becoming anti-social in the evenings as I disappeared into the family room to work on our 2002 vintage PC desktop. Prior to having a school laptop from midway through 2005, I relied heavily on my Pocket PC which is still going strong even if it is a bit battered and can go for weeks between synchronisations. I used to even read blogs on it because it is a 2003 model that didn't have wireless, but synching the offline feeds was quite time consuming and nearly defeated the purpose of saving time. I still write quite a bit on it, as the Transcribe mode for getting ideas and thoughts down is excellent, and I never use scrap bits of paper for phone numbers, serial numbers or brief messages to myself.

Having a laptop changed the importance of the Pocket PC and most of my serious school based work goes onto there. I am also pleased that my school has seen fit to roll out laptops to teachers here - it has made an enormous difference to the workflow and communication around the school. Everyone can be a presenter, everyone can word process, everyone can view a common site or have access to their e-mail and online notices without interruption. I think every school in South Australia should be like ours in this regard - but, it has never rated highly with the governments of the day. Victoria has led the way and every teacher has their own department funded laptop and now, I see Queensland is going down that path as well.

When will South Australian teachers get important technology tools like this as a default?

Image: 'iPAQ blogging'
Image: 'calor'


Boy, this has been a bit drawn out - mainly through my own procrastination and inferior time management skills. My report for the 2006 ICT Learning Grants is up on the wiki where I originally started my efforts. By real research standards, you wouldn't even call what I've cobbled together as "research" but it does represent thinking changed and challenged over a period of time examining an idea that many people in education immediately think is good without any further clarification. The report had to be submitted in a proprietary Word document format but I've extracted all of the interesting stuff and pasted it (not without formatting issues) into the wiki so anyone interested or referenced can take a look. I relied a lot of my conversations with other edubloggers to sort through my ideas so if you commented on any of my posts tagged in my E-Portfolios category, then you may well be referenced.

A snippet to attract your interest:

I found out that very few classroom teachers even know what an e-portfolio is and only very few can see a real use for the development and construction of their own. I did find a number of educators worldwide who have constructed their own e-portfolio (or online presence) using the Web 2.0 tools I originally expressed an interest in. I read and tagged a significant number of posts and articles describing the purpose and components of an e-portfolio. I located many useful Web 2.0 resources that could form part of a “small parts, loosely joined” e-portfolio in my search for possible options for my teacher volunteers. There is a lot of focus on e-portfolios for students throughout the world but finding open, viewable examples from teachers on the web and other research exploring their development was hard to find. I found that many educators are involved in developing online presence via the use of blogs, social networking, wikis, podcasting, photo-sharing and content aggregators but much of this is not necessarily defined by the e-portfolio concept – in many cases the term PLE (Personal Learning Environment) was preferred.

The only disappointing thing seems to be that these grants are disappearing without a whimper. There is no talk about any 2007 grants and the Research Day Expo where the teacher-researchers would have presented their findings has been quietly canned and presenters pointed towards the 2007 CEGSA conference instead. I'll be using some parts of my work in my presentation about Online Teachers.

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These are my notes from today's session with Jenny Gore which was organised by several principals, who closed their schools for the day and assembled over 200 teachers here at Morphettville Racecourse here in Adelaide. The notes are raw, direct extractions from Jenny's slides and speech - any of my own reflections will be in italics. Feel free to ignore this post as the notes will make much more sense to me than any external reader who wasn't there today - but you may find nuggets that ring true as well!

Quality Teaching: Background and Overview
In context - authentic pedagogy, productive pedagogy, quality teaching.
Referred to Queensland work on Productive Pedagogies – research team went into schools that were innovative to examine what was working, started with authentic as the base for the Productive Pedagogies, learning styles is had to measure in improved outcomes (interesting point - Jenny pointed out that in Australia, education had taken MI beyond what Howard Gardner intended and labelled kids as particular types of learners, all Gardner wanted to point out was that there were different styles of learning, not that one style is the sole way someone learns) so PP was a researchers model while QT model is designed as a teachers’ model. Dimensions of QT - intellectual quality, quality learning environment, significance. All dimensions work together as a package; you can’t implement one after the other.

Pedagogy = Instruction + Assessment.

What we ask of students is critical, “sinking to the occasion” is the result if we don’t place high demands on students.
Based on sound and broad research, it is a framework (a lens to look at what you are doing), it is generic (and requires translation to each individual teachers’ role), builds on what teachers already know and do, provides concepts and language to talk and reflect on practice, it’s a model (everything must be in their place, all parts fitting)
Interesting that US data is used as research justification for an Australian framework.
Schools contribute to the inequality in society - strong correlation between engagement and intellectual quality. Secondary school assessment tasks one of a higher quality than primary, but primary schools have higher intellectual quality than their secondary counterparts. Teachers’ dispositions and beliefs directly influence the quality of outcomes for their students. No relationship between years of experience to quality results.
Collaborative planning time is a major factor. Differences between classes are greater then the differences between schools. Quality of what we deliver directly affects their outcomes.

What is Intellectual Quality? Deep knowledge, deep understanding, problematic knowledge, high order thinking, metalanguage and substantive communication. Key point of deep knowledge is - what do you want them to learn? Why does it matter? Between the topic and the outcome is what we want the students to learn. All knowledge is constructed from different perspectives - it is problematic. Applies to knowledge -where does it come from? Knowledge is open to question. Lots of work has been done on thinking one the past decade. Lower order thinking is vitally important but is a problem if that is all that is done. High order thinking must connect to deep understanding, the main ideas or it can be worthless. Metalanguage is the language about language. Substantive communication is sustained over time on the subjects of curriculum, teachers listening differently and asking elaborative questions, applies to written and expressive work

What is quality learning environment? Explicit quality criteria, engagement, high expectations, social support, students’ self-regulation, student direction. Expect kids to justify their choices, show them or tell then what is expected, you feel engagement more than an observe can see it, high expectations are crucial to student success, ask more, how much time spent on behavior takes away from instruction and learning, giving some control for their learning over to the student but giving all over to the student is irresponsible.

What is significance? Background knowledge, cultural knowledge, knowledge integration, inclusivity, connectedness and narrative. Making connections of diverse fragments through deep knowledge. Classrooms need to be inclusive environments. Connected tasks of relevance, when is it useful to have an audience, power of stories to enrich learning.
Use planning time well: In relation to QT ask the following questions:
What do I want students to learn?
Why does learning matter?
What am I going to get the students to produce?
How well do I expect them to do it?

Coding Exercise using Teacher video sample.

We watched a 15 minute condensed lesson from an Art lesson and then coded the lesson according to the eighteen identified elements for the QT framework.

This was an interesting exercise as we had to refer to a 1 to 5 numbering system to grade various aspects of the lesson on the video. I started making notes (I had left my booklets for the session at home) but after Annabel lent me her copy, I made steady progress. Looking at another's teacher's work is really challenging as I started recognising deficiencies and areas to work on within my own classroom practice. The 18 elements really got me thinking about the whole overall practice of teaching - and how important the teaching aspect is to ensuring the success for kids. Too much structure and the kids never get to think for themselves or make choices and expecting them to choose and learn without interference is setting them up for failure in the primary school setting and as Jenny reminded us, is professionally irresponsible. I thought about the Personal Research Projects my class are doing and how they really need some explicit steps and expectations spelt out to them. If the essential learning for that project is learning how to find information, extract and verify it, then present it back to their peers using some pre-determined skills and methods, then that needs to be explicitly taught and all expectations laid out clearly so that all students can experience success in gaining those skills.

Jenny brought us back to the session after our lunch break with this set of dot points:

Quality Teaching not as an extra
Doing what you already do, differently.
Doing what you already do, better.
Doing what you already do, more aware.

Afternoon Coding Exercise on the Assessment task coding sheet.

I tackled this task with my principal and her student-teacher niece and we had to analyse a performance task based on Harry Potter according to the 14 criteria (4 less because it was a written task not a teaching performance). Again, this was easier because we were able to chat and discuss our choices. This was important because then we were able to get our head around what each section entailed - Problematic Knowledge was certainly an area that is not easy to define and then judge.

After that exercise we had to sum up with a statement about one thing we would take away from the day. Around our table, we ran out of time to hear my little blurb so I'll post it here - "I need to plan more effectively and only offer relevant activities/lessons/tasks to my class" - the framework can be a really effective tool in this regard and fits well with the UbD planning our school has embraced.