Monthly Archives: September 2007



Spurred on by an email from Joseph Papaleo who, like many Melburnians, is a hater of football teams of the South Australian variety, I thought I'd just mention that my beloved Port Adelaide Power is in the AFL Grand Final tomorrow at the Coliseum of Australian sport, the MCG, against John Pearce's hometown team, the Geelong Cats.


We held up the Cup in 2004 and in a year that had the experts struggling to put my team in the final eight, being there on that "one day in September" is a nice ending to a big season. Ah, Aussie Rules - arguably the best spectator sport in the world - could the Power hometown heroes do it in 2007?

Here's hoping.


I've been mixing it a bit with these International School types in my online meanderings via twitter and Skype and it is certainly another world that they inhabit facility and resource wise compared to the average Aussie government school. Talented educators and bloggers like Kim Cofino, Jeff Utecht, Susan Sedro and Clay Burell (amongst many others) are innovative and important voices to be listening to when it comes to practical application of what web based tools can actually do and enable in the real classroom. In fact, my teaching next door neighbour, Annabel, is off to China next term to take up her own opportunity in a Beijing International School. So I love reading what they are doing and how they are embedding technology into their teaching and learning experiences for their students.

But I am a realist in that my resources here (and we are better off than a lot of schools in this state) don't allow for the same take up and push that my IS colleagues can manage. As I am a fan of the metaphor, this one keeps in perspective for me on days like today as I try to get my kids working on their global project and working on some new tools with potential when the broadband is slow, the 2 year old computers struggle and the mandated Internet Explorer 6 that is preferred for our education system wreaks havoc with uploading of images, adding of audio and easy access to worthwhile resources.

"It's easy to drive fast in a Ferrari."

I've seen the futuristic Media Centres, the laptop rollouts and the conferences in China. These guys are lucky to be working in these amazing environments, the Ferraris of 21st century education.


At times, it feels more like a hotted up Monaro...




Learning can take many forms as I recently found out. Brian C. Smith, who is mobileminded on my twitter network, was looking for takers for an online Fantasy Football league. (Gridiron is the name Aussies use to differentiate this type of football from our parochial, gladiatorial version commonly known as Australian Rules.) I emailed him to see if a token Aussie would be welcome and before long, I had my official invite in my Gmail. I logged on, signed up and chose my logo. My new team, Wegner Dingoes was now ready to take on Team Shareski, Team iPederson and Drape's Dogs amongst others.

So I'm about to embark on a huge learning curve as I participate in a completely new pastime. Draft picks, trades and even the trash talk are all new concepts to come to terms with so that all of the other competitors don't view a clash against the Dingoes as a soft win. As the basics of inquiry learning point out, successful learning takes place when building on prior knowledge. I used to enjoy watching Don Lane's NFL show on the ABC back in the early nineties before all of the coverage switched to pay TV and I lost interest in following a sport I couldn't watch. I was a Raiders fan (back when they were still in LA) because they reminded me of my favourite local Aussie Rules footy team, the Port Adelaide Magpies who also had a "us against the rest of the world" mentality and a "if you don't love us, you hate us" attitude. I read imported copies of Sports Illustrated and entered the competitions Don would promote on his show.

But that was a decade ago and I've gotta become familiar enough with the players, the whole format of Fantasy Football so that I can actively participate in the trash talk messaging and do something different from edtech with edtech types.

twitball2.jpgFootnote: After two rounds I'm sharing top spot with Team iPederson so that makes this week a top of the table clash. Hmmm... better go check my roster.


Following the Learnscope event on Tuesday but seemingly independent of it, discussion around the concept of PLE's and related concepts (like e-portfolios) seem to have reached fever pitch in the edna forums. Unfortunately unless you are prepared to create an account and then join the groups, the conversation is hidden to the outside world. And as is the case in many of these forums, there are powerful voices ready to "tell it like it is" and impose their perspective on others.

But onto the discussion - there are two forums in debate over what a PLE actually is and I waded into one behind a Stephen Downes post, possibly shielding me from others poking holes in my meek opinions. Not surprisingly there were various points of view. These included:

  • a PLE is the property of a school or educational institution
  • a PLE can only exist in places you personally can control, like your own computer, your own server
  • a PLE is a great big nothing
  • a PLE is a whole heap of sources and content aggregated in a personal StartPage like iGoogle or PageFlakes
  • a PLE can only be defined by official refereed academics
  • a PLE is social networking tools leveraged for learning

If that sounds like a whole bunch of viewpoints at odds with each other, then I think you're right. Makes me wonder if I even know what I was talking about in my slidecast. With so many "experts" weighing in and sounding authorative, what hope would my ideas have of surviving in that forum environment?

One time that helps me is the knowledge is that even if "my PLE" isn't a real one according to some of the proclamations in edna Groups, it seems to be working for me.



During James Farmer's recent keynote at the "Live To Learn, Learn To Blog" event my new mobile went off midstream, causing me to scramble for the nearest exit, cursing under my breath that I wished I had at least worked out how to put it on silent before travelling to Melbourne. It was Alex Hayes who was calling from Orange Base Hospital shortly after the birth of his son, Ethan, with an offer to be part of a NSW TAFE Regional event. He wanted me to explore my thoughts around the concept of the PLE - the Personal Learning Environment.

Unfortunately, the timing of the event conflicted with work and family commitments so I had to decline the offer of a trip to Sydney. But I thought that I'd at least try and hammer out what I would have covered and wanted to say. I'm not an expert and there are plenty of academics and other experts publishing their take on the concept so I definitely wanted to put a more grassroots perspective out there to add to the conversation. I've put together a slidecast which was pretty easy to construct. It's just a shade over 15 minutes in length (which is plenty long enough for anyone browsing this on my blog) and has areas that need further detail and explanation. But if Alex can use it tomorrow in his event, well, that's a bonus and I welcome any conversation that comes this way.

This also helps me get past the fact that my proposal for the K12 Online Conference fail to spin its wheels past the submission stage. Your opinions welcome in the comments.


One of the things that intrigued (bugged) me after the Kath Murdoch inquiry seminar was her seemingly dismissive attitude towards students using the web as a resource in any kind of inquiry research. My principal reminded that I tend to view everything through a technology lense so I shouldn't be too concerned. But I've worked out why the notion stuck in my mind - even an experienced educator like Kath was viewing the web as a view only resource. When she talked about the importance of students seeking out primary sources as part of their inquiry process, it clicked in my brain that was where Web 2.0 made a difference to the use of the internet. Web 1.0 was definitely a secondary resource but using wikis and social networking tools now allow students to connect directly to key sources and in that way, the web can facilitate access to primary sources of information. That's what excites me about potential global collaboration projects - not exploring highbrow concepts as much as connecting students to others of like age, exploring the differences and breaking down the misconceptions about how the rest of the world works.


In the red corner - the battered but always ready Ipaq 1930. Nearly four years old and onto his third battery, he's handled a workload of blog post starts, calendar details and to-do lists with less than a dozen soft resets. In the blue corner, the sleek, new and very cocky Nokia e65 with ambitions to push the elderly Pocket PC into permanent retirement. He's got a camera, voice recording, Symbian task management and scorns the use of the old fashioned stylus. Does he have what it takes to manage the ever complex and befuddling world of the South Australian primary school coordinator?

I am a terrible diary user. Being bad at writing what I had to do in a paper based diary forced me to buy the HP Ipaq nearly four years ago. I figured it might make task management fun and then I wouldn't forget so many deadlines. Well, it turned out to be my first dabble in mobile computing and my Ipaq is now the equivalent of my old VL Commodore with over 200,000 k's on the clock. Still does things as well as the day I bought it but of course, the new models have more features and do fancier stuff.

I also got sick of having two devices to lug around - together, my old Nokia mobile and then the Pocket PC meant something fell out of my pocket whenever I wanted change from my wallet. I started with one of those PDA belt clips but I broke that pretty quickly. So this year when I decided that my mobile "brick" needed to go, I figured that maybe a decent mobile phone with the right feature set would be the right move and I could retire the faithful Ipaq. I went shopping, but being a bit of a tightwad I wanted the best phone for the lightest plan and that's why I ended up with the e65. I know that North Americans have been drooling over the iPhone and the iTouch but a recent post from Leonard Low has confirmed that there are deficiencies in their offerings. And it's a moot point because these products aren't available to regular Aussie consumers at the moment. I looked at a Palm Treo but there was no plan here that was below A$80 a month and the guy at AllPhones said that upgrading the software on them was a pain in the proverbial.

The e65 is a pretty good phone for the money but how does it stack up as a replacement for the faithful Ipaq? Well, I now have an anywhere anytime camera which can be pretty handy - photos aren't too bad - so there's one advantage straightaway. The onboard miniSD card means there is stacks of room for data and files. I can view documents, spreadsheets, slideshows but I can't create or edit any of these. Probably just as well - I am a lousy texter and it takes me ages to do the simplest of messages. The wireless capability is a big advantage and I could add a foldout keyboard (a la Mike Seyfang) and create via the web if I so desired. But opportunities and reasons to do so will be few and far between, so checking twitter without booting up my laptop over breakfast is convenient if not entirely necessary. The calendar and tasks functions are very similar and eventually can sync to Outlook if I ever get organised to have that up and running on my work laptop. That was a lot easier to run on the Pocket PC.

What do I still need from my old faithful that the Nokia can't? I still like starting blog posts using Pocket Word during opportune moments and inputting data is much easier using text recognition rather than my clumsy thumb keyboarding skills. But it's much less necessary to have the Ipaq close at hand with me at all times during the work day. So as I'm using it less, I now have to consider whether to purchase a new sync'n'charge cable as I killed my last one the other week and a new battery pack as the current one seems to lose 15% of its charge within the first ten minutes.

The e65 has more capability than what I'm prepared to pay for - Skype, 3G web access, Foxtel - but it's probably the winner for the moment. It's not a knockout by any stretch.

My mobile learning journey continues.

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Teaching and Learning through Inquiry

Inquiry tends to meander according to interest and priority, but still adheres to a basic plan. Going to look at the essential questions behind inquiry based learning. What interests Kath is how the theory of inquiry learning stacks up against the practical application in the classroom. Blessing and curse of the job is that teachers never stop learning (good teachers anyway).

We started with Personal goal setting for the day. Here’s mine – stay focussed, on topic, resist the temptation to pursue distractions, and reflect back on my classroom practice. Sometimes, reflection involves interaction with others in the pursuit of clarity. Why goal setting? Inquiry as a methodology is much bigger than units of work.

“We are all responsible for our own learning. The teacher’s responsibility is to create educational environments that permit students to assume the responsibility that is rightfully and naturally theirs.”

Brooks and Brooks, 1999.

Start the year by inquiring into learning - self assessing and goal setting.

We did a partner questioning activity using the five whys process (5 whys before you insert a how). Metacognition is regulating your thinking after you’re noticed it. Question was “Why use inquiry thinking?” My first response was that we want students to take responsibility for their own learning.

Teachers often have own agenda when using questioning in the classroom. Talked about the concept of “wait time” when responding to deeper questions.

Why? Engagement, independent learning skills, understanding, integration, connected teaching and learning, cater for learning styles, transferable process (for all learner, not just those designated as students) and tapping into students’ curiosity.

What is the essence of inquiry?

Y chart exercise and placemat activity. Visual organiser, used to examine an unusual object. Inquiry is not just students choosing what they want to do with the teacher becoming the “guide on the side” providing resources and inspiration.

My thought –inquiry is structured but not restrictive.

Use learning strategies, not just classroom activities. Have menus of strategies in the classroom - create your own menus. See “Classroom Connections. Strategies for Integrated Learning” by Kate Murdoch.

Students need to be building on what they already know. Inquiry classrooms are explicit environments, talking about the topic that is being explored as well as consciously focussing on specific skills.

If it’s inquiry, then questions will be driving it. Students will be working though a sustained investigation, actively gathering and processing information / data for deeper understanding.  It’s about building skills and strategies with a strong emphasis on developing understanding not just fact finding, with students have opportunity to pursue questions of their own.

An interesting comment from the audience about the role of facts - hunting and gathering of information needs to move onto deeper exploration. Use the “facts of the day” to build understanding of concepts. Question the content as it’s not just about recall. Not all units of work need to be the same length – give time when it is needed.

Different forms of inquiry – “project” oriented inquiry (driver by action or culminating task), inquiries that accompany key events in the school, local or global community (used the example of the Olympics which car be done as medal tallies, flags, athlete biographies or the concepts behind the Olympics can be used for deeper learning). Open up topics to a more generative question (what makes a good pet?) and the use of spontaneous inquiry.

Kath’s model:

Finding out: How can we investigate this?  Still important to ask the kids how they might learn about their topic? If using an expert, how do we make sure that the students get the most of the opportunity? How to gather information, sorting out and make understanding of it.

The sorting out process is very important - take the time to pause, reflect and check on whether students understand. One method to do a "temperature check" using five sentence starters about the topic - 1. I learned... 2. I used... 3. I tried... 4. I felt... 5. I wondered... Another method was the fishbowl activity that has one group sorting ambiguous statements into "more true" or "more false" categories while others observe. In the adult setting of today, my colleagues noticed the phenomenon of the "piranha" in the fishbowl - the person who grabbed all the statements and then sorted through with their method of consultation being, "I think this. Don't you agree?"

Kath's point about what work in the inquiry process gets done where - synthesizing at school under the guidance of the teacher, while leaving gathering information and creating presentation are suitable for home based work. She emphasised the importance of the "pause" button along the way - and that one of the best ways for me to cement what has been learned is for me to teach someone else.

Finally, how we frame the inquiry up in the first place?

  • Why is this question/topic the focus?
  • What is it that we want our students to understand?
  • What do we want them to do?
  • What is it that we want them to be?

Inquiry needs to be Understanding driven, with a clear set of goals. (Sounds like the UbD model is a natural fit.)

That's the end of the notes - a reflective post on what this all means for my classroom coming in the near future. So much to consider in terms of what I do in relation to our student Personal Research Projects, our global collaboration projects, what I read over at Konrad's blog recently and my comment exchanges with Artichoke. Some of what I do runs parallel to Kath's processes and ideas but others branch off into different areas and some unexplored territory - and I'm not convinced that I'm totally wrong. 


It's my turn to have a go at spreading something viral. Anyone who's been reading or been within earshot of me when I harp on my pet subject on how teachers need to change will be familiar with my use of the term "Open Educator". To me, it's about being open and reflective with your practice, free with your ideas and resources and committed to tearing down barriers that prevent us from being enclosed in our own work spaces.

It's about being prepared to share expertise and learn from others regardless of country, sector, system or role. To that end, I've created an Open Educator badge, in tasteful coordinated colours sitting proudly in my sidebar. This is better than an award because the status of Open Educator is one you give yourself and that you endeavour to honour with your actions and words both online and off. I've made it in three sizes, just download or link to have it displayed. I'd love to show newcomers how many of us are out there are committed to this ideal.

openeducator3.jpgopeneducator2.jpg openeducator.jpg


I had a very fruitful visit out to Derrimut Heath Primary School on Friday afternoon in south western Melbourne suburbia where I was lucky enough to meet one of the most passionate and switched on primary elearning advocates in Victoria, Georgina Pazzi. I was able to visit her school and talk interactive whiteboards, elearning pedagogy, digital school culture - she certainly demonstrated to me the power of effective vision and planning in getting a primary school embedding technology into their everyday learning. When I arrived, brand new iMacs were being rolled put across the school and for me, it was a real insight to see how another coordinator was managing the change process. Another bonus was the fact Georgina, along with Lauren O'Grady, was a consultant to the Victorian education department in their appraisal of their IWB school trials and had some unique insights to add to our experiences back here at my school. Thanks, Georgina - it was extremely valuable to be your guest for the afternoon.

Back at school, I was all lined up then to deliver Workshop No.2 in our series on Interactive Whiteboard use at our school. These workshops were designed to manage the number of requests from schools wanting to "have a look" at our IWB program. As my boss pointed out to today's attendees, we are not presenting ourselves as experts but our experiences in introducing this relatively new technology (by Australian standards) still might be valuable for others contemplating the possibilities. I read today that Brett Moller attended the recent IWB conference on the Gold Coast and still remains unconvinced by the technology. While I should head over and make a more pointed response over in the comments on his blog, I wonder what he would have made of my presentation which was an expanded version of my CEGSA workshop iwb 2.0. Now I know how some people feel about those who just chuck 2.0 on the end of something and proclaim it as new and groundbreaking - but as I was exploring the combination of the Interactive Whiteboard and Web 2.0, I couldn't think of a neater way to tie the whole idea together. So today, I led a group of about twenty educators through useful tools and sites that harnessed the power of reasd/write but possessed qualities suitable for whole class or small group situations and on the large display of the IWB. I tried to also look at the interactivity angle and it could be argued that much of what I covered could be easily leveraged using a data projector on its own. As Al Upton said to me at CEGSA, the iwb 2.0 concept is quite subversive, get the people in under the guise of IWB and then hit 'em with the Web 2 stuff. And as James said in his keynote on Thursday that as well as it being about learning, it is just as much about the tools as well. The tools enable us to do things in new and innovative ways.

I started by exploring - still the best entry point for any educator keen to dip their toes in the Web 2.0 pool, in my opinion. The networking, the "looking over the shoulder" of others, easy access to the ever increasing digital options for educators all seemed to appeal to today's participants. I worked through photosharing, visual search engines, online applications and visual literacy possibilities - all here on a handy pdf if you're interested. The hard part is building in some interaction and hands on opportunity for adults when there is only the one IWB in the room. If we had our planned wireless up and running and our new laptops ready, then I could have had teachers setting up, tagging and saving and playing as we went.

Yes, Brett, if you're reading, I realise my prior two sentences sort of prove your point.

But, the IWB is a useful tool where more useful tools can be accessed and used for the purpose of learning.