Monthly Archives: August 2007


I feel pretty tired now - travelling even on a jaunt from one state to another is draining - possibly because I so rarely do this. But if I want to capture my thoughts from today's participation at the "Live To Learn, Learn To Blog" event at Ivanhoe Grammar here in Melbourne, I'd better do it now before my good intentions fade away.

I only had two participants in my first session - one, an experienced edublogger who I have read and connected with for a while, Warrick Wynne and another young teacher for who the whole concept of blogging was brand new. Warrick wanted to see whether my experiences fitted with his perspective and he still found out a few new things along the way but my other participant was eager, open minded and busily taking notes and contemplating the possibilities. I showed my 4slidecomp entry as my way of introducing myself then used my slideshow as a way of keeping myself on track and some visual metaphors for my ideas. We had a brief sojourn into Bloglines and public accounts and some more interactive discussion because the group was so small. Time went pretty fast and before you know it, it was time for the next group.

The challenge was here because I asked if anyone had their own blog and everyone raised their hands. Cool, I thought, they'll be ready for my ideas. Until it was pointed out that they had just started them in the session before with James Farmer! All of a sudden, I wasn't so confident my session would be hitting the mark. Anyway, same process but we spent some time looking at Google Reader as a Bloglines alternative and I also plugged Pageflakes as a good way to have "small pieces, loosely joined" RSS content. Also, for any of the workshop attendees, here's the link to Alan Levine's "More Than Cat Diaries".

If you were in one of my sessions, don't be shy, chuck in a comment - tell if I was useful, boring or baffling. If you link to your edublog, I'll practice what I preach, visit and leave you a comment in return.

It was great to head out for a meal afterwards with Warrick and Joseph Papaleo, who was the brains behind today's event. Thanks gentlemen, for the company and thought provoking conversation. I must say, Melbourne is a great place.

Update: here's the edited audio to go with the slideshare.


Sitting here in the plush surroundings of Ivanhoe Grammar School ready to hear the man behind edublogs, James Farmer. I'm actually sitting next to Warrick Wynne, one of the nodes on my network and had a great talk before with my blogging colleague, Jo McLeay who I caught up with the last time (first time!) I was in Melbourne and James Farmer himself. The introduction is just about done - time to hear James.

Started with an old episode by E.M. Forster " Out of the Unknown" as a glimpse from the 1960 towards the future. Started by showing some of the evolutionary tools for teaching and learning, showing a Blackboard LMS - this "machine" dominates universities or versions of it (Moodle being an open source version of Blackboard). Showed us a bulletin board- great teachers can use this tool but many people struggle with it.There's no ownership on a discussion board - archived and lost for ever. Not a good place to talk - lacking identity. Replicates tools we already have. Identity is why My Space and FaceBook are so popular. Communication using Web 2.0 tools instead of third party tools instead of a Content Management System. Many teachers just want Information transfer or a Swiss army knife solution. We want the easy solution instead of a chaos-based reality.

Interruption - Alex Hayes rings me mid-keynote! Gotta learn how to turn down the volume on my mobile. Jackson Cash Simpson could do that.

Picked up the theme. James is now talking about Community of Inquiry -there's Al Upton's blog on the screen now! Web 2 tools make this community of inquiry possible. Does a little plug for edublogs - I thoroughly endorse that sentiment. What really matters in education is communication - use the "machines" that enable us to do so.

During question time, James points out that the only way for teachers to get involved is to get online.

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Some interesting statistics from my inflight magazine that I think I'll present to my sessions this afternoon.

Forrester Research conducted their "Forrester Consumer Technology Adoption Survey" where they found that 11 % of online Australians frequent Social Networking sites (compared to 9 % in the US). 41 % of online Aust'ns use instant messaging and apparently 6 % publish and regularly update a blog!

Source: "The Matrix Of Web 2.0" August 2007, VirginBlue Voyeur magazine.  

Wonder how those statistics would stack up if the education community was the sole target of the survey? What about our students?    


As I prepare for my own "Blogging For Professional Learning" presentation/workshop for my brief soiree to Melbourne on Thursday,  it's great to see the creative juices flowing elsewhere on my network. As the numbers for my two hour sessions at the Live to learn, learn to blog event are on the smaller side, I've been thinking that a more hands on, "check this out together" approach might be best with my slideshow (proudly crafted in OpenOffice Impress, I might add) which at 23 slides allows for plenty of online excursions, distractions and expansions. The slideshow is just the glue that will hold the whole deal together - I hope!

[slideshare id=96859&doc=melbblogging567&w=425]

But if you haven't already encountered this masterpiece by Alex  Hayes, then you need to check it out. Maybe it's the bung knee, the impending birth of his new son or the fact he has mastered the leveraging of his diverse online network but this overview of mobile learning for the Canberra CIT National TAFE conference is brilliant on so many angles. Can't wait till he adds the audio.

[slideshare id=97869&doc=28082007-alexander-hayes3361&w=425]

Very cool.


Konrad Glogowski has written one of the best posts of the year for any edublogger interested in the concept of inquiry learning or student initiated learning. Like Barbara Ganley, Konrad's relatively infrequent posts are skillfully written with insightful detail that shows an open educator at their best. I was really taken by the parallel lines that I could see in my own attempts with my class's Personal Research Projects from last term and the start they have made for this term. Konrad teaches older students than myself but many elements of his process were of immense interest to me, especially in the light of the excellent and thought provoking feedback I had received from Artichoke after my most recent post on this topic. Konrad detailed some of his thinking in the following way:

I started thinking about their progress as researchers and it occurred to me that the whole class seemed to follow the same pattern. Once I gave them the freedom to find a topic they were interested in, they began to seek out and immerse themselves in learning experiences. No one really seemed to care about grades or tests. Instead, they were immersed in learning about topics they cared about. Looking back, I realize that the process that the whole class engaged in consisted of four stages. Vanessa and Trudy, however, moved beyond into the fifth stage. The girls, along with their classmates, inspired me to start thinking about the process of creating learning experiences.

He also shared a diagram outlining the five stages:

As is usual with high quality posts, they usually attract high quality comments. In line with his thorough blogging process, Konrad addresses all comments with a personal response that is often blog post sized in itself! Not wanting to lower the tone but wanting to contribute and add to a conversation that seemed to be another jigsaw piece to this concept of individual inquiry learning that Arti, Doug and I were percolating back at my blog, I added a comment. Basically I pointed Konrad back to my recent post, adding the mental link I had made between our classroom practices.

Probably, the big difference is that I am still pushing a product based end point while I am really interested in the Contribute stage and wonder how younger middle school students might make that happen.

Konrad' response in full here was:


Thank you for linking to your very engaging post and the ensuing discussion.

There is a lot to digest there and I do intend to address your thoughts and those of Artichoke in a separate blog entry. However, there is one thing that intrigued me and I would like to comment on now.

The culminating presentation, in my opinion, is a great idea. You wrote that “adding the final presentation in front of their peers added another layer of purpose to their work.” Does that mean that the children do not have access to the work of their peers as it unfolds? You see, the reason I ask is because I have used an approach that is similar to yours (and described in this entry) but without a final, culminating presentation. Your entry made me realize that I should definitely incorporate it into the process. The reason why I have never had it before as the final part of the research process is because the community that the students built with their individual blogs already added what you referred to as “another layer of purpose.” In other words, there was already so much interaction and feedback happening online during the research process (in the form of comments and even blog entries about the work of their peers) that the final presentation did not seem necessary - the students were encouraging, supporting, and learning from and with each other during their individual research journeys. It seemed to me that the final presentation would be repetitive because most students were very well aware of what their friends were engaged in. It also seemed quite final and definitive, reminiscent of what Carol Kuhlthau refers to as “Search Closure” (Kuhlthau’s Model of the Stages of the Information Process).

Your entry, however, convinced me that the final presentation is a very valuable component of the inquiry process. You have inspired me to incorporate it into this approach. However, since I see the last three stages of the process I described above - Immerse, Build, Contribute - as a cycle, I am now thinking of asking students to present their work at the end of each IBC cycle, as opposed to at the end of the term/year. That way, they will present more frequently but their presentations will not be as long or definitive - they will present as researchers still very much engaged in the process of researching and learning, not as students who finished their project. (I see it as a kind of conference poster session, where the point is to share what one’s been working on, not necessarily reveal the findings of the research).

As you can see, I am really interested in the IBC cycle. I see it as a kind of spiral that keeps the students engaged. So, what if I increased the frequency of these presentations, so that the students could present every time they contributed something to their chosen fields? What are your thoughts? Could that work? Should the final presentation still be the final component of this approach? Personally, I think it could be an opportunity to summarize the previous presentations and explore possible future research possibilities.

Your thoughts?

Thanks again for sharing your ideas with me!

It struck me that Konrad's process of using blogs as the vehicle for his students to explore their topics was the very thing that negated the final presentation product so I was intrigued that he saw that part of my process as being of value as an addition to his own process. This was because I had been questioning that idea's validity since Artichoke's 5 points about inquiry learning. I was also attracted to Konrad's students' pursuit of individual topic choices (albeit under the banner of Human Rights) after putting my students' "something new" topic choices under a big question mark based on Arti's point that "the research suggests that inquiry works best when kids are already experts in the domain". Konrad's student blog use to keep each other informed of mutual progress and learning is indeed a missing component of my own process and one to give serious consideration to for future projects, because my own student "do not have access to the work of their peers as it unfolds".

I still need to go back to Konrad's blog and address the questions he asks properly. I was hoping that writing this post might have helped me in that regard. More careful thinking to be done. I'll take a leaf out of Konrad's book and make sure it is thought our properly and not a rush job.


arthurdent1.jpgI hate dressing up. I inwardly groan at the prospect of special events like Book Week Parades and the staff "peer pressure" to join in. This year I thought I had the solution to my costumophobia as today's Parade loomed large on the theme of Outer Space when I remembered an old favourite book of mine, the classic "Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy." I decided I would go as Arthur Dent - the only costume extra required being my dressing gown.

Fortunately, 🙁 , one of my colleagues decided to capture my rapturous joy for all to enjoy. But on reflection, the choice of Arthur Dent is a pretty good metaphor for me and my educational forays with technology. First of all, Arthur Dent is dragged into his own saga against his own will and spends his life in his dressing gown wishing he were somewhere else. Sums up my attitude to school based costume events. And the concept of a Guide that covers every topic in the Universe - well, that's not so far fetched anymore - not with Wikipedia, mobile devices and the internet.

That Douglas Adams was a pretty smart guy.


Late this week I posted this at the Classroom 2.0 site looking for some willing classrooms elsewhere in the world keen to work on a small scale global project. Through my blog network I had already privately arranged a classroom for my own class but once my colleagues heard my idea, they agreed it would be a perfect way to explore the main focus of this term's MYLU (Middle Years Learning Unit) theme of "Communication." The only problem is they don't blog and don't wile away as many hours of their lives online as I do, so I took it upon myself to see if I could find willing classrooms to connect with theirs. On Classroom 2.0, I wrote the following:

This year all of our middle school classes have adopted an overriding theme from our state's curriculum Essential Learnings. We have a four term year (just started Term Three this week) and the general themes were Identity in Term 1, Community in Term 2 with this term's being Communication. Every term the four classes, which are composite year levels (three classes are Year 6/7 [12 and 13 year olds] and mine is a 5/6 [11 and 12 year olds]) then co-plan some cross-curricular activities to explore the theme. 

So, our main mandate is fit with the Communication theme. Here's some initial ideas to consider. The teachers all have a class of kids who know very little about [insert your location here] , you'll have a bunch that knows the same amount about Australia. How about an online project that has each class exploring "I'm Moving To Australia/[insert your location here]" where we become each others' resource to explore and deconstruct aspects of life in our respective locations. It could start this way in my class - what do we know about [insert your location here]? If you moved there tomorrow, would you know what to expect? What changes would you have to make in the way you live?

My thoughts are the using the web as a mode of communication and a place where new meaning can be constructed could be potentially powerful for kids of this age group (10/11/12 year olds) - debunking preconceived ideas and then rebuilding new understanding. It could be as simple as investigating what kids do on weekends or eat for breakfast - differences and similarities - creating a dictionary of essential knowledge or phrases needed for survival in each others' locale - the students themselves could negotiate a fair bit.

I got two great responses within 12 hours - Lynne Crowe from New Zealand and Robin Ellis from Pennslyvania, USA who I emailed back with some further details and concepts. Both of the two teachers I've lined up with these two great educators are super keen and together will take this project in their own unique directions.


I need one more classroom. It's for my next door neighbour - Annabel's Learning Area 21 - she's commented on this blog on more than one occasion and you could not ask for a more switched on teacher to collaborate with. Her class have had e-pals earlier in the year from Canada so without being fussy, anyone interested from Europe or the UK would be ideal participants.

So, any takers?

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After talking about World Vision and our middle school students possible involvement in the 40 Hour Famine or the Make Poverty History, I found the following YouTube video embedded in Rocky Jensen's blog. Tracing it back to YouTube, I found it was part of a series of videos compiled by Adam of Stir, a youth targetted site for Australians wanting to be involved in making a difference in the world. After hearing an inspiring keynote last year at the International Middle Schooling Conference from Hugh Evans, these videos make a great starting point in discussing poverty and other world issues in the middle school classroom. The one I've chosen to showcase here combines the music from one of my favourite Aussie bands, silverchair with images and messages for this year's 40 hour Famine. I actually think that kids today are far more socially and gloablly aware than my generation for sure. Enjoy the music and allow the video to get you thinking.

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qtel.jpgToday was a pretty good day. A project that I've been coordinating (hence my job title) came to fruition in a meaningful and successful way. We held a Staff Professional Learning day with the theme of "Quality Teaching And eLearning" - a grass roots event that helped to hone in on our Interactive Whiteboard program and the wider implications of technology and pedagogy. It might be small potatoes compared to some events that many people are involved in but it was very important for our school's forward momentum in this area.

My role was to come up with an overall concept and then shape it into a day that would benefit the staff and give them opportunity to build on their skills, learn from each other and access some outside expertise. I convened a committee who helped with decision making and shouldered the workload involved and we came up with a plan.

So today, the day unfolded in a blend that had its moments from an organisational viewpoint (mainly timing of events) but catered pretty well for our diverse range of staff. We were lucky enough to have Dr. Trudy Sweeney as our opening keynote who talked about the research about the Millennium Generation, how it related to the latest IWB research and the importance of focussing on good teaching. It was interesting to see quotes she used to back up the view that teachers are crucial to the learning process for students, including critic of modern education, Kevin Donnelly! We then broke up into three groups for some Interactive Whiteboard workshops. I was lucky enough to take the Advanced group where I did a brief re-run of my iwb 2.0 workshop from the CEGSA conference. It ended up being more conversational than presentational but that's OK.

We broke for morning tea (Italian pastries, yum!) and Yvonne Murtagh was there in time to tell us all about the Digital Learning Bank. She walked us through the different formats and types of content there and gave the staff plenty of time to explore and play. We then broke for a slightly late lunch (curries!) and in the afternoon, we had a two rounds of teacher run Hands On Workshops. These were excellent and it was great that we have enough staff with the confidence to run something for their peers. We had 50 minute workshops on Digital Stories, Recording in Audacity, Introduction to Claymation, Using Scanners and DVDs, eBooks, Interactive Websites, Online Subscription Services and my contribution was an introduction to social bookmarking with That was a bit tricky - 45 minutes was probably too short a time span when I had five complete newbies and two who already had accounts but wanted to find out more about the network features. Still, the good thing about it being a school event is that staff who want me to show them more don't have far to go to find me. We were going to finish with an overview on EdCap but time ran out so we finished up with our prize draws at the end where a few lucky staff members won prizes of wine and a memory stick.

Many thanks to my hard working committee. It was nice to bring something from concept to fruition and be the lead on it the whole way. This sort of grassroots structure for professional learning could be a useful blueprint for South Australian schools.


One of the mindshifts that is necessary for me to gain the most out of blogging is the willingness to embrace criticism. Having my ideas, my planning and my implementation of how to do my job open to be contradicted, disputed, queried and requiring justification by others is where the most personal professional growth will occur. By leading my "sacred cows" out in the wilderness of the wide open web where anyone can have a potshot, they will either develop armoured hides (as in the ideas have merit and their usefulness is confirmed) or they are slaughtered and new thinking will rise phoenix-like in its place.   

I believe that there's a real skill in challenging  assertions and providing an alternative point of view. The really skilled challengers (regular ones on this blog like Alex Hayes, Artichoke, Bill Kerr and Doug Noon) know that getting my attention when they read something contentious or contrary to their educational (and life) experience isn't as simple as saying, "I think you're wrong." Diplomacy and tact are important ingredients for successful criticism and a willingness to expose your own thinking for the benefit of another person who you may only know through their blog takes some guts.

It's nice when people agree with you - it confirms that you're not a lone pariah - but the greatest conversations on this (or any) blog come when my writing is challenged and stretched beyond its comfort zone. Don't get me wrong. This is not an invitation for trolls to deliberately come baiting. If you think I'm off track, tell me why. I'm always ready to embrace your criticism.