Monthly Archives: November 2007


I've just poked my head from the haze of over two weeks worth of writing (typing) end-of-year student reports which here down under would have to be the most time-sucking, energy sapping, brain deadening thing to do in the whole school year. I swore (not the profanity kind) that I wouldn't post to my blog until I had finished.

And I have.

Sort of.

Well, my part anyway!

I share a classroom and so the report writing responsibilities have been split pretty fairly between myself and my tandem teaching partner. All of our student reports have three sections to fill with about 180 - 200 words of insightful text - I had to do two of these. Multiply by 30 students and the premise that each section will be uniquely composed and it's no wonder the blog has been dormant meanwhile. Then liase with my offsider to make sure we're not presenting contradictory views back to the parents.... well, you get the idea.

These busy times always seem to coincide with the more interesting online events in the "edublogosphere". Last time I was flat out was during the K12 Online Conference and I still haven't checked any more than the bewildering preconference keynote and half of Clarence Fisher's keynote.  Now apparently the edublog awards are on and some extremely generous person (or peoples!) decided to nominate TGZ for Best Teacher Blog. You may have seen the outsized badge in the sidebar - I found five minutes to install that but not to resize it so it doesn't look ridiculous. I'm hoping to beat the 5% I garnered last year (not looking good at the moment!), although with the voting fallout already wreaking havoc, I think I'll be content that someone (someones!) felt that my occasional writing was worth pushing forward for consideration. Anyway, I let James know about my feelings over there on the blog so enough on that particular topic.

(Although I did post this -" There seems to be a lot of lobbying for edublog award votes going on - some methods could mean a very hollow victory." - on twitter about 7 hours ago. I do like grapes that aren't quite ripe anyway.)

So, here's my point. Finally.

We finish school for the year in just over two weeks. My non-teaching friends always remark about how nice it is to be winding down for the year. Except every year it seems that we're winding up for the year. The pace is going to get hectic from now on with staff dinners, Year 7 graduations, assemblies, class party days, reports being published, kids finding which classroom and teacher they're getting for 2008, Kris Kringle (oh no, please, I'm being blackmailed into participating AGAIN), farewells for staff leaving, visits from staff joining us in the new year, jumping into new ICT program initiatives, blah, blah, blah, blah.....

No wonder I hate Christmas when all I want to do is gorubberband.jpg home, pad barefoot around the house for a few weeks, sleep in (until the kids bug me to get up), ring a mate to play golf, go for a walk along the Torrens or play Tiger Woods 2008 that I've only tried once since buying it two months ago.

Winding UP!

What usually happens is I'll come home after the last day of term with a massive headache. Basically, the rubber band that is my brain will be wound up so tight, it'll eventually snap.


Trying something different here - the class had an excellent excursion the other day gathering digital artefacts for our Global Project and re-acquainting themselves with their own home city. I could describe the day blow by blow, how we leveraged digital technology, how fantastic the class were, how the temperature climbed to 34 degrees Celcius, etc. but I opened up the floor to one of my class members to be a guest blogger. I'd like to say I was inundated with offers (I wasn't!) but one brave student tapped out her version of the day. So, here's TinyTeddy (her online alias) and her recount of the day plus two of her own photos from the day. We're gradually adding more of the students' images to our new flickr account. Enjoy.

On our excursion we caught a bus from school and it took us through North Tce to the Colonel William Light statue. We then sat on the grass and Mr. Wegner told us some facts about him. One of the facts was that he was buried in Light Square, which is one of the five squares in the city of Adelaide. Another fact was that memorial was put up in 1843, the memorial was crumbled to bits and was replaced in 1905. We all then took pictures of the Colonel William Light statue, next we walked down the path behind the big tree near the Colonel William Light statue.

That led us to the Adelaide Oval but we could not go close to the gate because there were council workers working in the inside of the gates. We then found a green patch of grass and sat down because Mr. Wegner was going to tell us some facts about Adelaide Oval. Soon after we walked along the path and came across the River Torrens because it was just opposite to us, we had to cross the road at the lights. When we crossed to the other side we walked on the bridge and kept on walking until we reached the River Torrens. When we got there we all went close to the River Torrens and took pictures of the swans and the fountains. We then sat down on the grass and ate our recess. Once everyone had finished their recess we walked along the foot path and came across the Festival Theatre.

We all went up to the Festival Theatre and took pictures of the art display (they were quite fascinating). We all then walked up the stairs and sat on pieces of art. (We all enjoyed it). We then walked around and went out to North Tce for us to go to the Parliament House. We all sat on the stairs in front of the Parliament House. Mr. Wegner then told us some facts about the Parliament House. One of them was that it took 5 years to build the Parliament House.

Next we went to catch a tram but when we were at the tram line the tram was stuck about 10 metres away. So then we had to walk just in front of Rundle Mall because luckily there was a tram stop there. The tram took us to the next tram line for us then to walk down the street to an Asian restaurant for us to eat lunch.

The restaurant was called Mong Kok which means shared lunch.

We then got into our tables and sat down. The waiters first brought out two bottles of water and glasses. They then brought out the food which was Dumplings, fried rice with vegetables and Spring rolls. For dessert some of us tried coconut jelly and some of us liked it and some of us didn’t! Once everyone had finished eating we went to China Town which was opposite from us. We all went walking through China Town and some of us took pictures of the lanterns and some of the shops. We then stopped in front of the Central Market and Mr. Wegner said “It’s too crowded and narrow.” We then walked out of China Town and turned right and kept walking till the end of the foot path because there is a tram line on the opposite side. We then were right next to the tram line the tram had come but it was too packed so we waited eight minutes for another one to come. The next one then came but it wasn’t the one that we needed to get on. So we had to wait another eight minutes for the next tram to come. Then finely the tram came and we all went on it. We had to wait about ten stops until it said Glenelg. Finally the tram stopped at Glenelg and we hopped out of the tram.

We then went up to the statue with the ship on top and took pictures of that. We then walked up to the jetty but we didn’t actually walk along it. We then took pictures of the beach and went up to this twirly squiggly line on the grass. We all then jumped on it and about three of us took pictures. Then two of our parents bought soft serves for all of us from McDonalds. (We all enjoyed our soft serves). We then turned right and walked straight past the Beach House, the big grass area and walked up to the round about. Luckily the bus came and picked us up. It took us back to school.



Maybe the edublogosphere isn't a place at all - we all just assume that our experience is a shared one, when our blend of influences, voices of authority and "must share/see/use" resources are so instant and seemingly powerful. A spat between antagonists in the comments section of a blog post can equal a controversy and because the names are so familiar in our own chosen list in the aggregator, we can assume that everyone understands our point of view.

But participating in the edublogosphere is a very individual activity - one that dispenses with the "we". I cannot be totally sure of what others' words are really saying - after all, one culture's sarcastic wit is another's pointed insult.  A master story teller in one person's eyes can be a boring, metaphor mangling waste of time in another's. You get the idea.

Where I focus my attention determines what I hear. There are loosely connected groups that could be overlooked if I chose only to immerse myself in one group. For instance, unlike one "famous" edublogger who was once quoted at the pre-NECC edubloggercon meetup, I am never going to see the bulk of my aggregator in one room. It's spread across the globe, in various sectors and countries and now across various services (blogs, nings, groups and twitter). There are nodes on my network that are unaware of each other's existence but there are some nodes that know each other very well. So, the way I see it, the edublogosphere is lots and lots of small places intersecting and interlocking in various spots as part of one big place.

Let's not forget what a small microsm of blogging education is as well.


In my opinion, one of the easiest entry points for teachers into Web 2.0 is to start a social bookmarking account. Getting them to really grasp the power of this tool is more challenging. Most teachers like to collect useful websites even if they're not web-savvy enthusiasts and the methods employed to keep track of them can range from emailing links back to themselves, creating hotlists in Word to relying on browser Bookmarks or Favorites. These lists usually aren't very big because they have to be kept manageable.

There are management issues with these methods. How do you search piles of emails (unless it's GMail!) for that elusive link? Do you start a new document each time for a new hotlist category? What happens when the computer you host your Favorites on crashes and you lose the lot? (And if it's a Windows machine, it's a matter of when, not if!) So when I talk about a better way, most teachers are all ears.

I like to recommend It's simple, very powerful when harnessed correctly and where the biggest community of users can be found. As I've blogged before, there isn't a whole heap of help guides and resources with an educational bent - what I have found is usually of very high quality. So, getting teachers to sign up, installing the browser buttons and adding a few sites is not too hard. Getting them to understand tagging is harder - people want to try and follow set rules for this. They try to apply subject areas, age levels, strands and they want everyone else to be following the same rules as well. Then I explain how tagging enables you to control subsets of sites through a unique tag and they see how sites can be pre-tagged for easy retrieval for a unit of work, a particular lesson or PD session. For example when I co-presented with Yvonne Murtagh at CEGSA, we used the tag kooltools07 to group all of the sites we wanted to share. By inviting others to contribute, this list continues to grow. (Thanks, Jim Sprialis!) For the school's Open Night, I used the tag opennight and amazed parents when I could so easily pull up web resources to match curriculum areas. So, it takes a bit before the strengths of folksonomy becomes apparent to the newer user.

Some are still uncomfortable about the open nature of

"You mean anyone else can see what I'm bookmarking? I'm not sure I like that."

Once I remind them that it's only listing websites, not airing dirty laundry or trade secrets, they relax. When I tell them that the openness is vital to gaining some traction and saving some time, they are less apprehensive. I show them how to find other people's bookmarks, how scanning their tags gives you a feel for their relevancy to what you're interested in and then save items of interest back to their own account. Adding names to create their own network is a harder sell but having a constant flow of handpicked sites from trusted professionals worldwide is a smart, efficient way to operate. Sometimes, the only way is to demonstrate and even then you run the risk of moving too fast, too soon and being written off as a smart-aleck.

But I've seen a real willingness from my staff to get on board with social bookmarking. Some are using it a lot and others have the mindset of "I know I should but I keep forgetting" or "I still like using Favorites." But there's almost enough of a groundswell to support the wider sharing of sites and resources suitable for our Interactive Whiteboard program. So when all of our staff have each other listed on their network, whatever gem is discovered by one staff member is discovered for all.

Update: There's always more than one side to the story and I recommend you check out the comments to this post to get more quality insight into the subversive and innovative use of

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Wow, I feel pretty stuffed right now after a big day culminating in our school's Open Night to launch our new school vision. These things are a pretty big deal and usually dictate school priorities and direction for a five year period. Our vision included 18 statements and coincidentally our school has 18 classes so the launch had each classroom buddied up with another to create a display/activity/interaction on their two statements in their classrooms to get the school community in tune.

The major statement for my classroom was : Are technologically savvy and are able to use the world wide web to assist them to learn. That was a pretty good statement to score and we set up the new wireless laptops to show a web enabled learning area in the classroom as part of our efforts. You can check out some of the sites I used in the room with the kids as laptop coaches at -

By the way, one part of the launch was the use of these fabulous posters designed by a parent using student illustrations around the school to "sell" the vision. Look carefully at the illustrations and you will see that our Global Project has had a major impact on my class' thoughts.techsavvy.jpg


One of the new things that I've been involved this year is the development of several Professional Development sessions for the wider South Australian education community. This evolved out of an increased flow of requests to have a look at our interactive whiteboards and how we are implementing and using them across the school. Earlier this year it was getting to the stage where I was hosting a different school every other week with my time ''to get things done" gradually getting eroded. Add the fact that I'm easily distracted and not naturally well organised and that requests seemed to be on the increase and it was time to design an alternative.

My principal, Ann, has had prior experience in managing requests of this nature and she suggested designing a program of training or information sessions that schools would pay for and book into. She gave suggestions on how it could be packaged up, created a flyer template and contacted several districts to "spread the word". Her help here was invaluable because I was completely lost on how to set this sort of venture up. We ended up with four sessions - two shorter information style presentations and two longer half day work shops. They were dirt cheap for attendees and only really designed to recoup my release time expenses but as Ann pointed out, we didn't really know what the market was like so it was best to start out conservatively. The sessions were "Planning and Implementing an Interactive Whiteboard Program in Your School" led out by my principal Ann from a leadership angle, "Why Promethean IWBs?" exploring my school's choice of platform with the third brazenly titled "iwb 2.0" which showcases the possibilities of melding IWB techonology with the Read/Write Web.

This past Monday, I held the fourth in this series titled "Inquiry Learning and IWBs". The idea behind this was to present our school's journey and to show the potential use of ICT to change teaching practice and present improved learning opportunities for our students. I was very nervous about this one as my tenuous grip on what constitutes "inquiry learning" has been really challenged in this space here in blog posts and many useful probing comments. Anyway, I decided it wasn't my role to provide training in the art of inquiry learning but to point out how our school had connected the dots using various frameworks and adding key resources into the mix. This is how I tackled the three hour workshop.

The Jigsaw Concept
Jigsaw analogy – just like a jigsaw, some pieces are put into place first but you need all the pieces to complete the puzzle. The school wide goal is to use IWB and elearning technology to transform teaching practice.

Some questions for the group to consider:

What is Inquiry Learning?
Why bother with technology?
How do the two go together?

Jigsaw Piece No.1

IWB program @ LNPS (Aug 2005 - )

  • 2 year journey for our school
  • 13 IWBs in our school, all students have access at some point
  • IWB utilises its own native software, other desktop apps and the world wide web
  • Can IWBs transform teaching and learning?

Jigsaw Piece No. 2

ICT skills of teachers / integrating ICT into teaching and learning in the classroom

  • information literacy
  • Resource Based Learning becomes Problem Based Learning becomes inquiry learning
  • Where SACSA fits in – looking at the SOSE Companion Document pp 10-11.

Jigsaw Piece No. 3

Inquiry Learning – Kath Murdoch

  • staff training
  • inquiry process / use of strategies
  • Key points re: Inquiry Learning

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

UbD – Jay McTighe & Grant Wiggins

  • Understanding by Design (stages and planning template)

3 stages of UbD.

1. Identify desired results. Some are pre-determined, but are also customized for the learners. What are the important ideas embedded in the goals?
2. Determine acceptable evidence.
3. Plan learning experiences and instruction.

  • Visit to Melbourne conference for key staff members
  • Influenced inquiry learning planning template
  • Moving into use of wiki to enable more teacher ownership

Quality Teaching Framework - Jenny Gore

  • teaching/ pedagogy
  • matched with IWB research to rate lessons and provide critical reflection

Jigsaw Piece No. 4

IWB classroom research – Flinders University

  • examines IWB use in our classrooms
  • role of the research participant
  • video and rating of IWB lessons
  • reflections and interviews
  • published research
  • participation in IWB professional development

Jigsaw Piece No. 5

Co-planning Inquiry Units

  • planning template – evolving from paper to digital
  • in learning teams
  • with co-planning partners

  • support from AP in Assessment and Planning
  • teacher-librarian involvement
  • the role of the internet – resource or platform?
  • JP – Community Helpers, examples from Teacher-Librarian.
  • MP – Unit on Water, from classroom teacher.

(1) Rocket writing
(2) Possible sentences
(3) Shared reading
(4) Assessment
(5) Interactive component

Jigsaw Piece No 6.Supporting teachers’ eLearning skills and methodologies

  • eLearning Day
  • staff ICT tour
  • eLearning committee
  • EdCap surveys and tailoring T&D to the appropriate level
  • Emerging use of Web 2.0 tools

Putting the pieces together. What pieces will you need for your school’s inquiry/elearning puzzle? How can IWBs help?


It was interesting how helpful my blog was in putting this presentation together. I pulled out key pieces that would have been hard to get just from memory and a lot easier than trawling through the files on my laptop. The other good thing is that the workshop is set for a repeat due to popular demand and a waiting list for 2008 has already been started!


Stephen Graham - Australian literacy consultant.

These are my rough notes, captured as I went and as laptop battery and my concentration span allowed. No web access and he used a whiteboard and markers as well as the occasional OHP - I was sceptical about how up-to-date his literacy message would be - I think he stopped short of exploring that area so this workshop was definitely about exploring the literacies required to succeed in school as it stands currently.

Australian literacy level in schools is second in the world after Finland. Australian teachers are sought after around the world for their literacy expertise – with 1300 of them working as literacy consultants in New York. Australian teachers are generally reflective and will continually re-visit until students gain the skills or concepts - he believed that his experience in the US is that teachers feel pressured to move on regardless of whether all kids "have got it".

Talked about Content and Literacy – in our schools,rightly or worngly, it is always set against the conventions of White, Middle Class Anglo-Saxon values English (WMCASE). He gave an example of a child in Sydney in an underpriveleged school going through an assessment exercise where the required response to a question was “I am sleeping” - his response was “I am buggered”.

So, our LAN (Literacy and Numeracy) tests only look at whether kids can manipulate WMCASE, and not concerned with the content. Regardless of content there are hidden literacy demands that aren't immediately obvious to all students, for example you use past tense for a history recount and present tense for a Science report. Kids can know the content backwards but need the skills to get it down into writing.

What are the demands of literacy?

Made the generalisation that most students enter middle school with their literacy and writing predominantly based on narratives and stories. This means that pronouns have very different meanings depending on whether it is an information text or a narrative. Not enough to just learn how to decode or spell unless they are taught skills to pull it all together to make sense. Talked about teaching reading a text without referring to the content - more content is not needed, as the goal needs to be that literacy knowledge is transferable. Stephen then talked about the underperformance of boys in Australian schools, citing that one of the reasons being that boys are focussed on the content – being unable to tell the difference between discussion, reports, analysis etc.

Text type > genre = text forms (fairytales, science fiction etc.)

Suggested that in the high school lesson, you give ten minutes of your 45-50 minute lesson to literacy if you expect your students to complete your demands. Immersing kids in the experience is not enough - explicit teaching can make a huge difference in understanding purpose and how it all works. Talked about how some Asian languages show tense through tone – one example where kids from that sort of background need the explicit structural information about how to write tense.

Teachers carry a strong sense of equity with them - however most of society doesn’t. Literacy demands of the workplace have never been higher and will only increase. Kids tend to write expositions with their strongest argument first, down to their weakest. They need to be shown how to structure things differently so that their exposition doesn’t run downhill. “You can only write (or speak) down the language choices in your head.”

Put up a great example of Kevin with Centrelink. This was a man who had been docked extra social security money that he was entitled to. As Stephen said, "You can only use the language in your head." So when Kevin rang, his literacy skills caused him to say, "What the f*** are you doing down there?" Of course, Centrelink has a zero abuse policy so he was hung up on, until Stephen said that he became involved (I don't recall how) and rang on his behalf and solved the issue with his literacy skills. It's ironic that in Australia the main social agency that only deals with disadvantaged and disenfranchised requires its clients to use WMCASE to engage their services.

Modelled reading - show them. Use of writing scaffolds. When using a scaffold, use two columns (1) words I won’t write and (2) words I will use on either side of the sheet as they plan their writing.

Website is then go to Link to Primary then click on bookwebplus= then Download Writing Scaffolds. PM Interactive Writing interactive whiteboard software program.

Talking about the Conference process with students – Stephen pointed out the process is not practical in a classroom of 30 students as it doesn’t allow enough quality time with each individual student. Too much time expended for an equal amount of educational outcomes. One of his suggestions was to reserve a page for each text type in the student's exercise book and add points to it as the year goes on. Just handing them the list doesn't get them to cognitively engage with the requirements of each type and internalise their learning. Use silent editing time to look for the things that one already covered then the teacher can introduce a new aspect.

Comprehension rule - if a child is getting more than one incorrect word per ten, you cannot teach the next level of text. Talked about the bell curve and the bottom group of achievers comprise of distinct groups including boys, indigenous kids and ESL students. In these groups there or two strands – the aliterate students, who haven’t practiced reading and are out of practice but possess the decoding skills, and the illiterate student who lacks the skills to decode and therefore comprehend effectively. Different approaches are needed for each group. Critical literacy - especially on the internet, essential to ask who wrote it, why they wrote it and how did they go about constructing it.

3 types of questions - 1. literal comprehension (the answer is in front of you) - 2. inferential (reading between the lines) and 3. response questions (internalising the text).  Aust'n kids are good at one and three but terrible at two - there are ten key strategies (p.6 on the booklet given out - to be inserted here later) to use to solve that type of comprehension. Looked at comprehension, and viewed the Features Of Text Types table from the “Comprehending Stories And Facts” booklet. Gave the example of the use of text boxes on a page where the students aren’t sure how and when to read the information in the box. Teachers assume too much of students in this including bolding, change of fonts, italics etc. Do the students know the order to view maps, diagrams, images? Biggest issue for teachers when working with students is “transfer of knowledge” – doing something in one context doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be able to in another. Kids need background knowledge and they need to spell and understand the forms of punctuation in differing contexts.