Monthly Archives: December 2007


Clay's punctuating comment on my recent Parable 2.0 post caught Leigh's eye and he posted the following to the TALO list:

Below is a comment to a blog post made by an Australian teacher recently. In the post, he and the commenters are expressing frustration at trying to get their colleagues using blogs and wikis and all that, in a networked learning exercise involving international partners. I'm wondering, could those who are blogging professionally consider a post or two on their blogs about the comment below.. specifically, what everyday practices could blogging et al replace for the time stretched teacher? In other words, is web2 beneficial in terms of efficiencies for the way we currently work as teachers, or do we need to change more in what we do? Is using web2 technologies considered an on top of or in place of current work loads? Your thoughts and ideas on this central question facing change management in education would be very valuable.

Even though he was targetting the TALO community, I am very interested in his questions and would like to take his questions to my own readership. I'm happy for comments, your own blog posts linking back here or you can post to the TALO list direct. I added this as a supportive reply.

At the end of the year, my boss and I discussed the idea behind a reflective activity for the staff. (So many teachers are terrible at actual reflection). I pulled out an email from the PlotPD program (not free and not open to the web, but something available to our ed system) that talked about a TRY, KEEP and STOP system. It challenged teachers to identify something to TRY for the new year, a part of their practice they wanted to KEEP because it was successful and finally, something to STOP because you just can't keep adding things onto the plate! It is interesting that this idea had to be provided directly to so many teachers before they'll even consider that there are alternatives to maintaining the status quo.

Clay's point on my blog was really poignant. I think I find that I let things go without any conscious decision - also, once you've become comfortable online, "things" often fall into place because your network nodes provide a flow of ideas and resources in a timely fashion. I see my teaching in a constant state of reinvention and I rarely cover "the same stuff" with my classes from one year to the next. It is those teachers who've locked the whole curriculum down, designed their year from go to whoa over their career and believe that they are just tweaking their well honed methodologies who are in the most trouble when confronted with the reality that the world (and their students) have changed and will continue to change at an unprecedented rate.
Thanks for picking up the idea - Leigh. I too will be very interested in others' point of view.


Been playing with edna's new service for Aussie educators, Kerrie Smith alerted me to its launch the other week and although I am an infrequent user of educationau online services, I wanted to have a closer look. Basically, it's social networking for teachers and it doesn't seem restricted to only Australians as you can see if you look carefully in my image. There's a whiteboard and a tab that allows you to join various community forums. I found Jo McLeay in my wanderings, and tonight I added Simon Brown and Russel Montgomery from my twitter network. It'll be interesting to see where this all goes and whether any educators who spend their online time within this walled garden will branch out a bit more onto the open web.



This is a fictional post - any resemblance to real educators or this blog post in particular, are entirely coincidental.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a bright-eyed idealist ICT (edtech) coordinator discovered Web 2.0. It was love at first sight and he then started his own blog. One thing led to another as these things do and before long he was publishing wikis and attending online conferences and bookmarking madly and commenting all over the place. And while his own learning took off at an unprecedented rate, he struggled to work out how to utilise these new tools and methodologies into his own classroom. But he stuck at his new web-enabled style of learning, eventually establishing himself as a C list edublogger. He read "The World Is Flat" and "A Whole New Mind" as texts of almost biblical influence and networked worldwide with Americans and Kiwis and Brits and Canucks and even fellow Aussies. Teachers at his own school snickered at him at first, skeptical about his time management skills because after all, what hard working teacher has time to poke around on the internet?

This year, the coordinator had a brilliant idea to leapfrog his students into the digital collaborative age - global projects. He'd seen wiki based projects and reckoned that they would be ideal for his middle school students focus on Communication. Being an educator with an inclusive conscience, he decided that it should be "Global Projects For All" in his four teacher block.

He sat down and outlined his brave plan to his learning team colleagues. They seemed keen, having experienced wikimania in the previous year when their students used wikis to collaborate within their classrooms. And they saw the logical extension from that venture - connecting and working with students elsewhere in the world. What better way could there be to explore the process of digital communication for a real purpose? The coordinator's head swam dizzily with the possibilities - the students would grab this opportunity and make it their own, the teachers would experience first hand the power of global collaboration and the bridges of understanding between the citizens of the future would start to be built.

But the coordinator had a tight rope to walk - these projects needed his support to get on the path to success but at a certain point, he had to stand back and let his colleagues steer their own ship. He leveraged his online learning network and lined up high quality teacher/classroom partners from North America, Asia and the South Pacific. He led out in his own classroom ahead of schedule and modelled a similar approach for the other teachers in his building. Then he stepped away giving his comrades room to breathe and find their own way. Plus he soon became engulfed in the process of keeping his own Global Project afloat.

Back in his own classroom, his students worked hard with various digital media, building their wiki while the coordinator participated in email flurries with his global partner, anticipated and designed workarounds for the many barriers, made cross curricular links with the goal of getting the kids engaged in accessing primary sources of information to build their knowledge about a new part of the world. The coordinator checked in with his colleagues periodically to field technical issues and be supportive - but he assumed that if he wasn't being pestered then the teachers and their classes  were going well. After all, he had worked hard to provide cutting edge partners for their projects.

Then signs started to appear that maybe his learning team mates weren't all that taken or driven by this concept. Inquiring emails from the highly sought after global partners started to appear in the coordinator's Gmail box.

"Is the class at your school still involved?"

"I've sent three emails without reply and my class are concerned."

"Is my partner class ready to start yet?" 

Things to be going astray for the coordinator. His comrades didn't seem to see the same importance of the venture as he did. One teacher took  some personal leave but the message back to the global partner didn't get there leaving them in the dark about the status of the project. Another also took leave (but informed their partner) and the other teacher scored a new job. All of a sudden, the coordinator was juggling four global projects with different goals and various stages of progress. He was starting to realise that equity in this situation was a fallacy, that his lofty (and not always well thought out) ideas weren't shared by everyone and issues (and their possible solutions) that were as plain as day to him were puzzling and bewildering to others.

"We've done some photo stories but they won't  upload to the wiki."

The coordinator sighed.

"You'll have to upload them to Teacher Tube first and then embed them in the wiki."

"What's Teacher Tube? Perhaps you could do it for us."

"But it's the last day of school tomorrow..."

And as always, the coordinator gritted his teeth, eyed off the list of priorities on his to-do list, glanced across at his own waiting class and conceded some ground.

"If I get some time, I'll see what I can do. "

Next year, he'll scale it all down.

Next year, the teachers can find their own global partners. Let them spend hours on the web making their own online connections, he thinks uncharitably.

But maybe there's the small moral hidden in this unremarkable tale. How can teachers appreciate the magnitude, the networking, the collegiality of the teachers already online, the sharing and the whole deal if some schmuck does the hard yards for them? How can they be totally committed to creating a unique learning opportunity for their students if they themselves haven't invested some virtual blood, sweat and tears?

To be continued....   


A great tradition here in South Australia is the Teachers Golf Days held at the end of each term. I played again today at the challenging but very enjoyable course at the Vines, Happy Valley in the southern suburbs of Adelaide. The course was very dry and the dam alongside the 2nd hole was totally empty. (See pic below.) These competitions have a fair bit of history dating back to pre World War II, and I even managed to get my name on the B Grade trophy back in 2002. Today my game wasn't so sharp but it was good to play with a few mates and enjoy a schnitzel and roast vegies lunch afterwards in the clubhouse. The organisers even had an official beer (as a non-drinker, they are now cooling in the fridge waiting for my next beer drinking guest) that you can see in the pics below. Sort of sets the scene for non-school relaxation but I dare say I'll be blogging about something before too long.


14122007.jpgI wandered around the oval today on recess time duty and noticed how two years of drought has ravaged the grass surface. There are only sporadic spots of green amongst a mass of dried yellow and as the games of soccer and cricket are played by the students dressed in navy, light blue or white, worn brown bare patches are peeking through.

It was the last day of the school year today. The year sevens were hyped up, spending their last day of primary school strutting around looking big and important, masking the nervousness about starting high school in the new year. Emu parades were conducted, classrooms were tidied, Christmas gifts given to the teachers and the hot westerly breeze brought a haze of smoke across the school yard as Kangaroo Island continued to burn.

The air conditioner in my room continued to struggle as my class quizzed each other on the year past, then bid crazy amounts of imaginary money in a classroom memorabilia auction before we headed off for the final assembly of the year. Everyone was edgy, kids leaving were teary, and then it all ends with a fizz. Kids stream out with their parents, some stay to say thanks for a great year Mr. Wegner and then the place is quiet. I sit there for a few minutes, checking the emails I never had a chance to look at for the whole day, then pick up stray papers and stack chairs until it's time to head over to the staffroom for farewells and the obligatory Kris Kringle gift exchange. I need a Coke badly but have to settle for a Pepsi Max. It's not quite the same.

In six weeks time, it will be time to gear up and take on board a new class with new possibilities and new opportunities. For now though, the working year is done. The rubber band is about to snap.


I've been really pleased with the way our upper primary laptop program has been going over the last month. We purchased 20 x $800 Acers that have been excellent performers and handling the wireless network extremely well in the classroom. They shipped to us with Vista so once our tech prised that OS off and re-imaged with the department's standard XP image (he also snuck a Linux alternative under the hood - Ubuntu, I think, but I'm no hands on FOSS expert) we were ready to go. We've been sharing this small fleet across 4 classrooms so timetabling equitably has been interesting to say the least. I can safely say that as the laptop carts get locked to the floor in my room means that my class gets access when other teachers pass on their timeslot. And really the more opportunity I have to use these tools with my class, the more time I want to have them there available for whenever they might be needed - not be dependent on waiting for the next timetabled slot.

$800 is a pretty cheap laptop - considering it's got all the bells and whistles of any student desktops around the place. But if the price barrier can go lower and the excess features curbed, then maybe more laptops can be there on the ready. It's probably leading eventually to a 1:1 laptop program which would be a significant step in this large government run system. I know many private schools have been down this route much earlier (my Victorian blogging colleague, Warrick Wynne says he wouldn't work in a school without one to one) but in this state, the dollars and government tech commitment haven't stretched that far. So, laptops suitable for the primary school classroom at a competitive price, stripped of unnecessary features and running open source software are what the focus should be on because even at $800, there isn't enough dollars in a typical state school budget to keep going down the regular sized laptop trail.

There's been plenty blogged about smaller, cheaper, un-bloated laptops that are surfacing on the market. Bill Kerr's blogged quite a bit about the OLPC project and recently compared it to another newcomer in the mini-laptop for education market, the Asus EEE. Interestingly, I saw one in a Myer department store catalogue for A$499.00 which I think is still too high a pricetag to be a contender. Whether a school or even an education system buying in bulk could drive that down figure would be interesting to see. Plus the word seems to be that if you're not prepared to use the standard Linux OS, the alternative XP tends to re-bloat and run slow. The other laptop mentioned is the Intel Classmate, which Bill has also analysed from a vision/marketing strategy point of view. Meeting with someone from higher up in the ICT department of our system, we had an offer to have a look at one of these machines to make a hands on assessment of its suitability. That would be worth blogging when and if it happens. I have no idea what these might cost per unit but it seems that Intel are only selling direct to government agencies so it would take a commitment from my own state system before the Classmates could be a common sight in primary school classrooms or appear as a booklist item.

One of the criticisms I've heard which will get OLPC advocates up in arms (and rightly so) is the assertion from some educators that the mini-laptops look like toys, kids won't like them and take to them because they "don't look like real computers" or because they aren't Windows based and will be a mystery to the majority of teachers trying to weave their use with their students. In a conversation I had with Peter Ruwoldt recently, he pointed out that the OS and power of the laptop will be less important than a strong pipe connection to the internet where browser base applications and storage will enable education systems to shift costs offline and onto the big web giants' servers. classmate.jpgSo, I'd take as many laptops of whatever description I could - as long as I can get them to connect to the wireless network, access whatever of the filtered web is currently allowed, my students have a better chance of just-in-time digital learning in the classroom. A good example is how much more was achieved in our Spin The Globe wiki project once we had regular laptop access. Going off to the computer lab or being IWB spectators does not compare to having the laptop on the student's desk being used as part of their regular school day.

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My lifestyle doesn't lend itself to much podcast listening but I've decided that an effort to lose some excess kilos is in order. I see jogging as a form of torture and have my knees cringing in fear whenever I up the pace on my bicycle so the old fashioned brisk walk is the way to go. So I've pressed my underused iRiver T10 into action and added some notable podcasts to give the braincells a workout as well.

trojan.jpgA while back, Tom Barrett alerted me to the 100th episode of the Smartboard podcast which is co-hosted by Ben Hazzard and Joan Badger. It took me two walks to listen to it all. This episode featured a two way interview with Tom and Australia's own Chris Betcher where they aired their thoughts on whether there is an interactive whiteboard pedagogy or is its effective use merely an extension of really good teaching. If you're remotely interested in the whole idea of these tools in classrooms, the whole interview is worth a listen but one really interesting concept from Chris late in the interview is really worth mentioning. He described the IWB as a technology "Trojan horse" where the teacher starts off with the focus on the default software (Notebook or ActivStudio) and used it to digitise the current pedagogy. But then over time as skill levels and confidence grew, the IWB becomes a focus for something bigger - the concept of the "digital hub" when media, the web and other computer applications are part of a seamless learning environment.

Of course, I don't believe  an IWB can do it all on its own but the Trojan horse metaphor is a good term to describe the way it can enable broader technology use in a subtle, subversive way. Tom's example of Google Earth in his classroom to teach any number of concepts from distance in mathematics to geography to observing natural phenomena in science is what happens when the broader technology Trojans emerge from the IWB horse.


With just over a week of school left for this year, I thought that now would be a good opportunity to officially declare the wiki collaboration between my Year 5/6 class and Doug Noon's sixth graders open. Now, it's never ever been closed to anyone on the web but this is an official invitation to any educator who's interested to take a look and offer some feedback. It's called Spin The Globe and I blogged about its progress a little while back. At times, it's caused a flurry of emails as Doug and I have endeavored to iron out the chinks and retreat from some of the blind turns that we've taken our classes down.

wikispacenl04.jpgSo what's Spin The Globe and what did the students do? It was an idea of mine that would match my students with somewhere far removed from their everyday experience. I also wanted to work with someone I already knew and respected with hopefully similar ideals about how these type of global projects could be implemented at a ''grassroots" level. I approached Doug and he was keen but with guarded caution - not about the goals or potential but the implementation. Some of that has been documented in my prior post or may be expanded on by Doug in his own time and place so I'll stick to what the wiki project has become at this point in time.

I'll be honest here and state the goals that Doug and I negotiated have been our guiding light because the process and the final product has been constantly malleable and subject to redefinition. The big difficulty was making this project important to two very different groups of students living very different lives. My class enjoyed the advantage of being the initiators and being very settled as we were well into the second half of our school year. They knew me, I knew their capabilities and by that stage in the year I knew them all well enough to enthuse them about this mysterious project we were doing with "the kids from Alaska". Doug, on the other hand, was just starting his new school year and was still working out his group's particular tendencies and skill sets. From my perspective, his position was always going to be trickier to manage. But I have to pay tribute to his support, his diplomomatic balancing of some of my hare-brained ideas and ultimately suggesting ways to get around some of the barriers (cultural and technological). One of the best pieces of advice actually came from his wife, also a teacher, who pointed out that a top-down approach that dictated specific roles and topics for students was somewhat at odds with the inquiry based approach we were actually wanting for them. In my class, the project gained its largest boost of momentum when I spoke to my students and announced that the shackles were off and they were free to develop whatever pages of the wiki they wanted. After all, Wikipedia contributors don't get assigned to write specific articles by a superior. I know that a classroom effort can't be quite as organic as that but productivity and engagement went up noticeably from that point on.

The students started with what they knew, then progressed to asking questions, answering questions, doing additional research both on their Alaskan focus and on Australian topics in order to give back useful information to Doug's class. His kids initiated and created accounts that we linked together via the network function - these were useful jumping off points and become links we could embed back in the wiki. We had a fantastic day excursion that refreshed (and for some kids, introduced) information about our own part of the world and captured images that we placed in a flickr account. The students who were really keen spent time adding descriptive text and adding notes to explain the photos we had taken. Then we started to develop the final wiki entries. I built a navigation page, tweaked the sidebar links and students used a similar formatting plan to Wikipedia to write up their entries based on their primary source information gained from their Alaskan counterparts. It was starting to look good.

Some kids really thrived on this sort of project. One child who is so self conscious of his handwriting skills that his written work is minimal and lacking in depth blossomed with detailed writing and obvious pride in getting the presentation right in his section on Alaskan Transport. Some kids would edit punctuation on others' entries, fix up the formatting or help rephrase a sentence so that it was clearer.

The whole project showed other benefits that you won't find actually on the wiki but were lightbulb moments in the classroom. Looking at some of the pics from Doug's class was one of those moments - most of my kids have never seen snow and were gobsmacked to see the playground and buildings coated in the stuff at this time of year when things are warming up. It added meaning to another lesson where we took a mathematical angle on our respective monthly temperatures. We collected monthly maximum and minimum temperatures from the Adelaide weathergraph1.jpg website, found an equivalent Fairbanks temperature source and converted those statistics to Celcius. The kids listed down both sets of data in a table - as numbers they didn't mean that much even side by side. But as I demonstrated how to construct a line graph on the interactive whiteboard, some students began to cotton on the massive differences in seasons and temperatures. And as they constructed their own line graphs, there were comments of "Whoa!", "I can't believe that it gets that cold!" and "Check this out!" as they watched the contrasting curves cross over on their pages.

Every time kids read a new piece of information from their Alaskan peers, they would try to make sense of it through the lense of their own experiences. Sometimes it wouldn't make sense, sometimes it helped to crystallise a concept but collectively a better understanding of life on the other side of the globe started to take shape. Now you can check out what they have found out by checking out the wiki. Please feel free to leave some feedback in the discussion tabs - let them know that the world is watching by telling them where you're visiting from. Don't forget they are mainly 11 and 12 year olds and I'm very proud of how they have used web tools to communicate and construct their own learning in a very collaborative way. Thanks once again to Doug and his group of sixth graders - without them, there would not been a Spin The Globe project. The teachers have very much been learners along the way.

Thanks. After 487 edits, it's time for you guys to take a look.


Tomorrow morning, I will be connecting in to a Centra session (think proprietary online conferencing tool) to see if my school can be a contender for a 3 year research project that has "What should 21st century learning look like?" as its central question. The irony of such a question struck me in such a way that I just had to head to my favourite online comic strip creator and put something together.


I really like reading Dan Meyer. I first latched onto his blog early this year via Bud Hunt and for me, Dan epitomises the philosophy of an Open Educator with his forthright manner and willingness to share his classroom practice and very useful resources. Not everyone appreciates his style and he can rub some readers up the wrong way - I think he laid some sarcasm on me way back but as I'm half a generation older and a half globe away from his particular brand of youthful written English, I wasn't aware or savvy enough to realise!

Anyway, I read this really great blog post of his the other day that included a slideshow looking at the Estimating Of Age of celebrities. As karma would have it (that's as spiritual as I tend to get), I was looking for something to hook into the category of "algebraic reasoning" with my class and said so in the comments.

Dan, you saved my day. Just when I needed some more insight into my class’s initial algebraic reasoning, your post pops in my aggregator. I’ve modified the ppt to include some Aussie celebs and altered the DOB data for an Aussie classroom - do you mind if I share the downunder version via my Let’s see how this goes with 11/12 year olds - I like the fact it is modifiable for whatever age group. Cheers!


I didn't alter the slideshow all that much - just got rid of the "who's that?" faces and replaced them with near Aussie equivalents and stuck my ugly mug in at the end. The lesson itself turned into two and was excellent. The kids' reactions followed Dan's script pretty closely considering their younger age and loved the initial guess and check via Dan's tightly designed slideshow.

But it was the following conversations and mathematics that was really the icing on the cake. First the question of how do we determine the "Best Guesser." The kids initially said that it should be whoever had the most correct. As we had one of the more outspoken (and popular) class members with nine correct guesses, some were happy to have identified a winner.

But as I shifted the focus from the winner to the way of identifying that winner, kids were happy to try some other methods. We tried the positive and negative numbers, the goal of which one smart ten year old cookie quickly identified as getting the numbers as close to zero at the end. The best that was mustered was -7, (the worst was -60, that's underguessing ages of 18 people by 60 years!) so the class were happy to try something else, the average of years off regardless of under or over-guessing which had a new winner identified at an average of 2.21 years out with her guesses.

The class debate that followed was priceless as students spoke for or against the best method for identifying a winner. Being young kids, it was hard for them to separate the personalities behind the winners from the best method - one enterprising lad suggested another 18 celebs in a Best Guesser playoff! But in the end when put to the vote, the class felt that getting close most often was truer to the mathematical goal of estimation than most exactly right. They'll still be talking about it tomorrow.

For those interested, the DownUnderRemix can be downloaded from this link - I must say that my citation skills went out the window and I hope that the images used could broadly be seen as "fair use."

Keep 'em coming, Dan. I know I must share more often as well.