Monthly Archives: January 2008


Maybe I'm just stupid.

(Highly likely.)

But I just can't see what Judy and Miguel think they see.

Let's see.

Edublogs has a new online magazine and somehow that's not transparent because Lorelle is the new editor and James hasn't been all up front and people with Edublogs blogs now are going to get extra promotion in said magazine and I'm frustrated because I just don't get it. I'd jump to James' defense (because I couldn't be happier with my blogging experience here) but he does a much better job on his own without my feeble assistance.

When people keep writing about transparent edubloggers and edublogging, I can't help picturing images of glasshouses in my mind and you know what's been said about those in the past. My windows aren't made of plexiglass.

Judy says:

My concern is the overt promotion of bloggers who use the edublogs platform - rather than creating a magazine that engages us all in the global conversation. This is an obvious commercial move at the expense of egalitarianism in blogging.

It seems that money seems to be the issue (or am I wrong ... again?) and I'm not sure that words like "egalitarianism" really fit here. Especially as a humble Australian public school teacher, I know that egalitarianism in education is a giant myth and I don't see any evidence that edubloggers are any different. There are cliques and certain bloggers that are worshipped from afar, and some that have leveraged their blogs for better jobs and extra opportunities beyond their original day job. That's fine with me.

Looking through the posts thus far on the Edublogs Magazine site, I found my blog referenced twice. Will this drive more readers to my blog? Who knows? Will I be rewarded financially and finally be able to buy my own laptop (instead of using the school's) ? Not a chance. As much as I enjoy a good conspiracy theory and the edublogosphere tends to over-inflate differences of opinions into "controversies", there's no danger to edublogging and I'd be really disappointed people's reaction is to start making comments like, "I don't think I'll recommend edublogs anymore to teachers starting out."

Who are they going to recommend instead?


Oh, one last shot on transparency. I'm not really a transparent blogger. There are parts of my life and ideas that you, the reader, will never get to know. There are failures I'm not going to commit to print. For me, transparency seems to be about what others think you're not telling them. Then next, you get the conclusion jumping, and the expressed disappointments and then, the ultimatums. (Like I did a few paragraphs back.)

For me, it's a new online magazine. It services the Edublogs community that James has fostered and nourished for quite a while now. Some people within this community will enjoy a bit of time on "the front page" and it would be the height of irony if any educators (and this is not written with any person in mind - just plucking examples from my brain - a dangerous exercise, I know) who have no problems plugging elite educational institutions, locked down expensive proprietary Mac devices and big edtech conferences poke their arms out of their own glasshouses and hurl metaphoric stones at this new venture.


I've been interested in the ideas behind logos and design for a while now without any formal reading or training in this area. How to create something that is visually pleasing (to my eyes at least) has fascinated me and playing around using tools like Paint Shop Pro and Adobe Photoshop Elements has had me making my first amateurish attempts at logo design. Back in 2002, my class completed a Resource Based Learning unit on youth culture and the influence that major companies had in trying to infiltrate that culture and then use that appeal to attract the teenage market to their products. We watched part of a really great documentary from Douglas Rushkoff called "The Merchants Of Cool". We also did some investigation into the impact of logos in making a message or particular brand memorable and easy to recall. Think the Coca-Cola logo and immediately anyone starts thinking the red and white colours, the stylised cursive lettering and the white "dynamic ribbon". I wondered if I could use this idea for my own benefit and so I designed my own logo. Without really knowing what I was doing, picking fonts that seemed to be compatible and a colour choice closely related to American professional sports logos, I created something that seemed appealing.

sv02.gifI figured that my designs could be used in other places - I did another version for our Student Voice committee but used greyscale colours to make it easy to add to letterheads and agendas.

I decided to use my new obsession when I shifted to my new school as a small part of building a classroom identity. A yearly logo became one of my pre-start-of-school routines. This logo appeared on class newsletters, to identify class shared property and as part of my exercise book identification scheme. Every year I create colour coded covers for each subject area and the logo forms a part of that cover. The colour coding helps me make sure that when I grab a pile of handed in books for marking, they are all the same subject area! So here are the logos in order from 2003 to the new one I created the other night.

2003. I was still in the two part logo phase, and I tried to cram in as much information as possible.

2004. This was one of my better designs but I'm still not sure if the speed blur lines were a good idea.

2005. Back to the segmented half design but a more casual comic style emerged in this effort.
2006. Wow. This was my lamest effort since starting this annual - it simply must have been that I was devoid of inspiration and "near enough was good enough".

2007. My first major shift away from my initial influences, and this design drew some inspiration from a surf style t-shirt my oldest son was wearing one day. I really liked the ink blot idea and it took a while to get the inkblot background looking random while using the brush tools in Photoshop. The Gothic looking words are actually two different fonts and the number has a outer glow applied. Maybe changing room numbers helped get the creativity going again.la20.JPG

2008. We've got a colour photocopier at school now and so for the first time I've got a design featuring colour - but that still translates well to a greyscale version. I saw a stylised number on a sign at a suburban shopping centre with a stylised star in the centre of an O that triggered this particular idea - looks a bit disco-y but it will be interesting to see if the kids take to it.
Last year's logo was particularly popular but with some students continuing on in my class from last year, it was important to have a new identity that gives the message that this is a new community-in-building. Now I know that there is way more to setting up a new classroom and getting a diverse group of kids who've had little say about being put together and having me as their appointed director of learning than just posting a colourful logo on the door and their exercise books. But it is a declaration of purpose for me - that this will be a special learning environment and it is a first small step in building that collaborative identity. I'll write a bit more in the near future about other ways I build a sense of student ownership in our classroom and blend their specific needs in our learning environment. So, just take this post and its contents as a small fragment of the 2008 picture.

Thanks to an invitation from Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim, Doug Noon and I were guests on the Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast last week to discuss our global project, Spin The Globe, that we have worked on with our respective classes. It was great to chat and hear Doug's voice at length after working with him for half a year and I think we covered some good territory. Catching up with an experienced hand in Joel Arquillos who has trialled these sort of global collaborations in his classroom was a bonus as well. I'm actually keen to listen to it again because every time I participate in these Skypecasts my brain struggles to remember anything I've uttered as soon as I remove my headset. I took the liberty of adding the webcast to the FLNW wiki as my contribution to that event but I know that several interested educators were unfamiliar with the Edtech Talk setup and had issues with connecting to the live audio stream. So, here's the archived podcast - I'd love any feedback about any point that was made, either here or back at TTT.

Spin the Globe--A conversation with Graham Wegner, Doug Noon, and Joel Arquillos.


One really useful benefit of being plugged into my personally customised edublogosphere network is being able to read and think about the really ''big picture" perspective of education and learning. I read about the very real issues that this system called school throws at the people who choose to be part of it (the teachers and administrators) and those who are mandated (the students) to be involved. There are educators who want to tear down the whole idea of school and start the concept anew. There are others who doubt that anyone within the system can actually make any type of substantial change and attempts to do so are futile and detract from the terms of their employment.

I think that I'm still trying to work out what I personally sit in all of the debate. I sense - no, I know that there is plenty wrong with the system of school as we know it today. I'm talking about what I see here locally here in Australia and the experiences I read in other parts of the world. But I'm not sure that I've read and understood any model that would be a viable replacement for public education as I work in currently. I read Chris Lehmann's recent post and much of what he had to say really rang true for me. I do believe public education is vital for equitable learning in this world - and it must change a lot quicker than it's done in the past but the reality is that we all must work within the constraints of our current situation. Having said that, I believe it is vital for teachers (and educators in leadership positions) to lift their eyes up regularly from their day-to-day focus and look at the big picture. What do buzz phrases like "21st Century Learning" actually mean? Am I part of a classroom / school / system that is moving forward for the betterment of my students or merely playing a game of catching up?

But for the sake of my job (and the fact that this clothes, feeds and provides financial security for my family) I need to hone in substantially on the smaller picture and the questions that need to be addressed there. How will I set up my 2008 classroom? How will I work with my co-planning partner next door to cover our school priorities? (Hi, Maria, if you're reading!) How do I balance system expectations and requirements with the informal classroom action research and online collaboration ideas that have come from my "big picture" professionally networked personal learning?

But you and I have an advantage that only a handful of our colleagues are fully aware of. Being connected to classroom best practice, boundary pushing pioneers and expertise for the full spectrum of people interested and invested in learning is a really big opportunity. I spoke to Doug for a while on Skype after our recent participation in the Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast (link to the podcast plus reflections coming soon after I hear back what I actually said) and he shared with me the idea that in stage acting, (he has a family member involved in this aspect of the arts) one of the biggest compliments that can be given about your efforts is it can be termed a "generous performance". Most online educators are generous by default. It's that generousity that allows viewpoints to be exchanged, honest reflections to be evaluated, resources to be shared. It's the whole open educator philosophy that I've pontificated about in the past.

So while "big picture" perspective is vital, as I get ready for my 2008 Year Six class, I'll be cherry-picking the "smaller picture" stuff from my network to make sure that my practice is the best it can be.

Under the circumstances, of course.



ictfolder.jpgHolidays are a good time to potter around and do some cleaning and tidying up. When I left my previous school I put all of my paper teaching resources into a series of white three ring folders. I had one for English, one for Maths, one for Health and so on. Some have been used occasionally and others have barely been opened. One that I thought I would use constantly in my current role was my ICT folder, which is a real repository of all of the factors that led me down this current pathway. But not surprisingly, I have barely used it and it would be well over three years since it saw the light of day.

I found it this afternoon in the garage, covered in a thin layer of dust. So I opened it up, interested to see if any of the contents had any relevance whatsoever to me.

The first thing I found was a course booklet for Basic Flash 5 Animation. I remember sitting in that course feeling totally lost - I had a real taste of the frustration felt by my students over the year when I've introduced a complex topic or concept. So much technical know-how required just to make a simple animation - what use would this be in a primary classroom? No wonder I haven't looked at it since.

There were a number of print outs of flow charts and mind maps - relics from interviews and strategic planning. I have digital copies somewhere. I found a workshop paper (not by me) titled "Developing Electronic and Digital Texts using PowerPoint or SlideShow Presentations" circa 1998. Sadly, many teachers still think that this is where technology in the classroom starts and ends. Why am I still hanging onto this paper nearly ten years later?

There's a 2001 newsletter about the Microsoft Agreement that anchors our whole education system to the MS Office suite - I have heard from a senior person that Open Office is a real possibility if the department goes down the ultraportable laptop route. But, at the moment the MS Agreement deathgrip still holds sway and only innovative educators like Peter Ruwoldt and Jason Plunkett have developed viable FOSS solutions for their students. But I digress.

What else can I find?

- a 2000 guide to using CoolEdit (who needs it when Audacity is around)

- the original Tangara Consortium R-9 Learning Technologies Continuum (we use the latest version at my school as a guide, but these things date faster than Moore's law)

- a Creating Webquests (remember them?) certificate and the obligatory Tom March template

- a whole stack of Jamie McKenzie website printouts (he was my ultimate guru around the 2000/01 mark - what's he doing these days besides giving Marc Prensky some stick?)

Ah, but there is some gold in the old folder. I find my handouts from two highly influential courses that I've been lucky enough to be involved with - "Discovery School" @ Grange Schools and a Quality Teacher Program titled "Designing and Applying Learning With New Technologies". There's stacks in both of these collections on Higher Order Thinking, question matrices, Bloom's Taxonomy, what is powerful learning, structured controversies and a stack of other pedagogical tools and resources that if anything have even more value to me in today's learning environment. What is now dated and valueless is the software how-to guides.

Maybe, I'll chuck the crud into the recycling bin and put the good stuff into a new folder. Maybe I'll title it "Learning" and put this idea that you can capture ICT/elearning/Learning Technologies/edtech/whatever on paper and keep it in a folder to bed.
Now to sort what to put on my new USB stick....


I wanted to try the new cut'n'display tool kwout since learning about it on Jane's ELearning Pick Of The Day, and this was the perfect excuse. I don't know much about these awards but it seems I did a bit better here than in the Eddies!! I did mention this one on Twitter but wasn't too worried about being a vote soliciting hypocrite because I didn't see any of my online peers listed in these particular awards. As for how the finalists were selected, I'm not too sure..... | Helping Bloggers Succeed via kwout


Some people enjoy reading books. Others like to kick back and watch TV or play video games.


I'm weird. I like going online and reading other people's stuff. I also like mucking around in Photoshop and creating inane things like logos and cartoons.

So, it's probably no surprise that I would "have a go" at Dan Meyer's design competition No.2. The whole idea is to showcase 2007 in four information design jpg's that utilise data in various forms. I found this a lot harder than my first attempt in Competition No.1 - because it was hard to find meaningful personal statistics. (And much what I have ended up including is very questionable in the meaningful stakes.) Anyway, it really made me think - some parts I think turned out OK and other parts I know are as dodgy as can be.

Here it is.


I've been on a recent commenting spree over a number of blogs since my last post. It got me wondering about the relationship between my posts and the comments I've had over the two and half years I've been writing here. Comments outnumber posts by about 2.5 : 1. Recently, I went through the comments here and found out some interesting things about who comments, how often and when.

Of 980 odd comments, the biggest commenter here at TGZ is me - adding my voice to the conversation 115 times.

Trackbacks account for 97 but I couldn't be bothered breaking them down according to source, preferring to working on the 216 individuals who've given their time, thoughts and words to my musings.

Top ten contributors:
Alexander Hayes 43
Bill Kerr 25
Doug Noon 24
Artichoke 22
Leigh Blackall 19
James Farmer 17
Chris Harbeck 17
Sue Waters 16
Al Upton 16
Jo McLeay 15

There were 10 other commenters who've reached double figures and 114 one time only comment leavers.

It was interesting scrolling back through the archives and sort of seeing trends come and go over the life of this blog. It made me realise that I've lost touch with some important bloggers but that commenters tend to ebb and flow depending on the topic at hand. I'd love to know how many comments I've left on other people's blogs in the same time period. I know there are tools that track comments - I've had a CoComment account but its success depends on using the same browser with the plugin and I'm too undisciplined to make it accurate. (Sort of like my ignorance in the use of Technorati tags!) Sometimes, the gold can be in the comments. It's a shame that like an iceberg, RSS readers have posts' comments hidden from view. I know that ticking the "subscribe to comments" box can be one way of tracking the conversation and maybe using Bloglines Beta might be a better tool for this purpose.

What continues to fascinate me though is how hard it is to predict what types of posts will attract comments and "go viral". Sometimes, it is just a few paragraphs spilt out in a frenzy that hit chords with readers, while the more measured, carefully crafted post will go uncommented upon. Of course, no comments doesn't mean that no-one is reading but having some feedback is always a good indicator.

So, feel free to add your voice here!