Monthly Archives: March 2008


Doug Belshaw wrote an interesting post about the changes he's seeing in the edublogosphere and laments the effect of many more, less revolutionary voices.

Whilst it's great that there's more educators than ever blogging, tweeting, etc. the focus has shifted. Those that were formerly in the classroom and relating the changing world and tools available to everyday educational experience are no longer in those positions; educators who have no desire to transform education are blogging. The edublogosphere has changed from being about 'the conversation' to being part of 'the network'.

As often happens, the gold is in the comments where a few "old hands" (and a newer one as well) lend their perspective. Wesley Fryer agrees with Doug that "we all need to maintain a focus on school change" while Chris Craft voiced the opinion that " the conversations we've been having for years now have served to enact zero change". Doug Noon also made a very valid point for me when he wrote that while it was "interesting to attempt an analysis.... the read/write web phenomenon is very complex, and it's bound to change, like everything else."

I'll certainly noticed the changes Doug Belshaw refers to but I'm not so quick to characterise it as being a negative or positive evolution. It's true - there are many more edubloggers around and writing regularly compared to when I started my blog in mid 2005. I could fill my aggregator with double the number of feeds if I decided to read everyone I ''know" via the various Web 2 channels that I connect to. It's also a much quicker journey in 2008 to become noticed and included in the ''conversation" as I've written about before.

This talk about effecting school change is very interesting as well and in some ways is tied very tightly to local and national contexts. The classroom that our new Student Wellbeing Coordinator described to me from her year of exchange teaching in Colorado, USA was totally foreign to my experiences in twenty plus years of teaching in South Australia. She laughingly referred to it as a "working holiday" but confessed boredom with the scripted curriculum and use of prescribed textbooks to deliver that curriculum. I also had an enlightening exchange with Clay Burell the other day on Twitter when he made a reference to student athlete letter jackets which I had thought was an American high school movie fiction. (Hidden curriculum. indeed!) So when Ewan McIntosh points out that what some education cultures see as revolutionary practice and something to aspire to can already be commonplace and well established in other systems, I tend to concur and wonder if we (the edublogosphere) are even talking about the same future change.

It's also why the second part of Chris' comment tends to explain the expansion of classroom based bloggers that Doug refers to:

The conversation changes us, not our circumstance.

It's also neatly summarised by a catchphrase I've seen on Kevin Honeycutt's twitter bio that says, "I'm out to change the world.. one classroom at a time!" A lot of teachers are flat out trying to effect change within their own faculty or learning team, let alone talking up major change of one of the cornerstones of modern society. Being part of the network is an important step forward for many affording them contact with others in similar situations, teaching the same subjects or year levels with the simple goal of becoming better at what they do with their learners. I think that's a positive development - and helps break down that perception that reflective blogging is the exclusive domain of the edtech crowd.

So, no, not everyone is out to change the face of education. Some are even openly skeptical about this movement characterised as Classroom 2.0. They just appreciate the opportunity to look over someone else's shoulder, work out effective use of digital tools to improve their teaching and to make links for collaborative projects. Some teachers feel like they are the only ones pushing the limits within their school environment, the only ones striving to continually improve the learning programs they offer to their students and finding via the internet that they are not alone and that someone else shares their perspective. Maybe they figure that changing the future of education is not their call - it takes time, energy and commitment that they may not have.

I used to think that blogging had the potential to have a huge influence on how education could unfold in this country, and by extension in other systems around the world. The recent events surrounding the closure of Al Upton's class blog tell me that decision makers are not tuned into our particular conversation. But I think that Doug is still interested in that bigger conversation - the one that did dominate the edublogosphere a year or so back. Maybe it has evolved into new forums and that discussion will have more power over on a Ning like Classroom 2.0, although I see a lot of the classroom teacher connection stuff happening there too. But there's a lot of conversation out there - one can choose to connect to the visionaries and push for meaningful change or extend one's global staffroom to gain support, inspiration and resources in equal measure. I tend to dabble in all camps on this blog anyway - no issue's too big for me to have an uninformed go at and I want to improve what I take into the classroom tomorrow as well.

It's a big edublogosphere.

There's room for all of us, to be as involved or as detached as we want.


Chris Lehmann has written some of the best posts for my money in 2008 and his timing always seems to be impeccable. His recent Letter To A New Teacher spoke to all teachers, new or experienced, regardless of sector or country and I found Chasing False Gods to be really good fodder for my own thoughts. As the whole Al Upton and his miniLegends issue dropped into the edublogger pool and the ripple waves started washing up onto various shores, Chris's words have new meaning for me as I try to work out why blogging is worth pursuing in the classroom. Is it a faddish idea because it's new technology and merely digitises what's always been done in classrooms or does it offer students regardless of age something more? Chris points out:

We have to understand -- we cannot compete with the ever-more-fast-paced and realistic entertainment world. What we can offer is meaning and purpose and authenticity.

Does blogging have purpose and authenticity? Or is it just a shiny new wrapper that just maybe has too many hard-to-manage variables for the average teacher? Where does it fit?

Something tells me that we should be encouraging teachers to be innovative, to push into unfamiliar territories but once again, Chris's most recent words come swimming into my brain, looking to temper that innovation with our responsibility as educators:

As educators, we must be hyper-aware that we cannot be revolutionaries at the expense of our students.

And there are plenty of revolutionaries around. It is one of the things that Al himself must guard against - being the poster boy for any cause that sees itself at odds with the status quo of administration that doesn't get it, railing against an impersonal system that just doesn't care or in desperate need of an overhaul or dismantlement. He must beware of powerful personalities willing to hitch their cause to the miniLegends - and most are worthy but it's so easy to get sucked into the frenzy, to forget that there is a curriculum to deliver, a classroom to run and there are the students who probably just want their blogs back and have had enough of their time in the spotlight.

But Chris does elaborate more about the role of the risk taker in the classroom:

We must take risks in education. We must challenge the tried-and-true way of educating students, but we must do it thoughtfully and carefully and transparently, because we don't have the luxury of just "going out of business." Every school that makes those choices poorly affects the lives of the students who honored that school with their choice to go there. This is -- as much as any other reason -- we must always, always, always humble ourselves before the enormity of the task in front of us.

I know that writing a blog has altered the way I learn. But capturing the elements that enable me to reflect and connect is not so easy with the students that I teach. It's why I think that the work that Konrad Glogowski has done with his students to be incredibly important. It's also why Al's issues have resonance for me. It's why my own department's response and planned future responses are important to me - how authentic student blogging can be will be determined by how well they can connect to each other, to other students learning similar things and to adults who can guide and direct them in their learning. Otherwise, it will be just recounts and writing in short bursts in pretty themed environments - the digital equivalent of colouring in the page margins.

By running a class blogging program, am I really pushing the boundaries of what the classroom should be today? I think so but only if there are connections out of that classroom. It's early days - and I'm pleased that a sense of community is starting to emerge with my students. There is encouragement, there is some risk taking going on in terms of reluctant writers creating their topics and posts, there is some exchange of ideas and the kids are looking already in under a month to go beyond the "Cool blog" comments and add some substance to their observations of their peers' writing. The Blog Coaches was my next logical step - I need to partner that up with parent information and education as the greatest threat to this carefully monitored situation is media-fuelled apprehension. So I can see the blog as a learning tool that helps students to become digitally literate, improve their use of the written English language, explore topics from their SOSE (Studies Of Society & Environment) curriculum and reflect on their learning in any area of their set curriculum.

But how realistic is this all? How sustainable is a model that demands that the teacher implementing it be linked into a global network? That they understand the digital tool they expect the students to use intimately? I like what Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has to say on this point:

As educators we need to get ready for a real shift in culture. The shifts that are coming will not allow "business as usual" rather it will be "business as unusual". That is why it is critical for all of us to first own these emerging technologies and the pedagogy/culture that surrounds them, by using Web 2.0 tools to connect- in an effort to chase our own passions. Through the experience of building of your own PLN, not only will you model for your students how this should be done, but you might find some transformational moments along the way -that like mine with Jenny and Dan- will leave you a better person. And do NOT discount what those younger or older than you have to offer. Use expertise and passion- not age- as criteria for who you should learning from and for who should be part of your learning network.

The miniLegends are well on track in this regard. Al Upton is an exceptional teacher who believes in empowering his students. If Sheryl is right and she's identifying what is needed to be a teacher today, I feel ready for the challenge and I reckon that the kids in my class are going to be well positioned.

For this year.

See, that's where my selfish generousity kicks in. I can leverage my network and hook my students up with Alaskan kids on wikis or have well respected edubloggers waiting in the wings to become another one of their teachers. But what about the other teachers in the building? The ones without their own blogs? What about the teachers in my son's school who have never ever read a blog? What about the students I teach as they leave me and hit high school where they get taken back to basics with their technology use and assumed levels of competency?

Has my genorousity been more about me and my passions than their needs for their actual future? As opposed to the one we all agree they should be getting? Don't worry - I teach all of the stuff that Chris advocates we do not overlook. Balance is important.

We need innovators. As Leigh Blackall once said to me, (I'm paraphrasing here) that you need the boundary pushers as it then gives those following behind room to move. Occasionally, however, it doesn't hurt to remember that the students of innovative teachers don't get a say in coming along for the ride. But then there are implications and consequences for inaction and ignorance as well.


I've been recently tagged by Doug, Patrick and then today, David. It's been everywhere and dodged me until now. I thought I had the perfect photo if someone ever decided that this game of tag should come this way until I checked and found it was © copyright. 🙁

So, I've found a CC version that is pretty similar - more on that in a minute... here's the rules.

Passion Quilt Meme Rules:

1. Think about what you are passionate about teaching your students.
2. Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
3. Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
4. Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.

Collaboration And Linking With Others Makes You A Star! 

"Hand Star" by Chris.P. 

The thinking behind my photo was that it had to be about learners, be they students or educators or anybody. How do they/I learn best? By collaborating and linking up with others - you can learn by yourself but not in isolation from everything/ everyone. Everything you learn has a connection to someone else. Also, every time you learn/ create something, it becomes more powerful when shared/ linked with others.

Who am I tagging? Let's go for some of the most passionate people I know on my network.

Alexander Hayes
Ken Rodoff
Leigh Blackall
Chris Harbeck
Konrad Glogowski

I just hope that Alex doesn't throw up my Open Educator logo as his example - it could end up well utilised in the near future anyway.

1 Comment

For readers following the situation of Al Upton and the miniLegends and their recent blog closure, it's worth checking back at the blog now for Al's Update No. 2. It outlines the sequence of events, where the miniLegends are up to now and promises another Update No. 3 in the near future.

Al writes:

… Yesterday I had planned to simply write “It’s all good. I’m waiting for something in writing.”
… Today I feel compelled to share what I can as a professional teacher and employee of DECS. My intent here is to clear up some issues, taking the ‘heat’ off the miniLegends, myself and DECS thus distancing my example situation from the necessary broader dialogue and action.

Considering the significant interest and support from various parts of the world, some bloggers have added a fair bit of conjecture into their posts and some misunderstandings of facts have occurred. The best place to be informed is at the source - but I do know that the situation is resolving itself but a lot of learning and moving forwards (at a number of levels) can and will take place as a result of this closure.


Al Upton had a day he'd rather not repeat yesterday. Without rehashing all of the details (I wouldn't want to get any of them wrong) it culminated with a request to close down his widely renown and globally acknowledged class blog, the miniLegends. If you go to his blog now, you will be confronted by the following:

Order for Closure
This blog has been disabled in compliance with DECS wishes (Department of Education and Children Services - South Australia) It seems that this blog in particular is being investigated regarding risk and management issues. What procedures should be taken for the use/non-use of blogs to enhance student learning will be considered.

From the close of school Friday, Al's distress tweets could be read from twitter and the story for his perspective started to emerge. Al's classroom is less than fifteen minutes from where I teach and the immediate potential consequences for my own fledgling classroom blogging program started buzzing through my head. We work for the same system, belong to the same professional association and we even applied for the same position once (which he currently holds as an eTeacher). I arranged a Skype call with him later in the evening to
find out what was going down. This was a start of a marathon Skype meetup that garnered partipation and support in equal measures from progressive educators all over Australia. (I bowed out at around 10.30 pm local time but Sue Waters tweeted that the conversation continued for a few more hours afterwards.)

Al mentioned that he wasn't interested in blame but wanted to turn this around into a discussion point that help inform and lay out a way forward that isn't based on fear and paranoia. The fact that well over 30 educators from all over the world and all education sectors had left comments of support within 12 hours of the breaking news at the Closure page of Al's blog shows he is not alone in this desire.

Sean FitzGerald's comment seemed to sum my point of view:

Very disappointing. I’ll just add one point, which I haven’t seen made yet, which is this… what is this modelling? You make a mistake in good faith and you get slammed? Why couldn’t this situation have been used to clarify safety guidelines and make whatever changes to the way you were working in line with those? Why shut down your whole operation completely? It seems more like punishing and making an example of than correcting behaviour. Oh wait… this is school. -(

Al is a digital pioneer, someone who I've modelled many of my ideas on. He is 100% focussed on benefitting his students and has fittingly been named CEGSA Educator Of The Year in 2006 in recognition for his efforts. He hasn't just started this student blogging thing yesterday. He is open, been more than willing to share his ideas with me, been willing to compliment me on my blogging as tool for teachers' professional learning focus and amazingly is talking this whole thing up as an opportunity to shine some light on online literacies, safety and ethics as practiced (or not) in this state.

I hope that this turns out to be the proverbial "storm in a teacup" and the miniLegends are back to normal as soon as possible. Meanwhile, to prevent the embers of paranoia from heading my way, I think I will be asking my Blogging Coaches to just wait for a while until this issue resolves itself and I myself am clear about what our department is prepared to support in terms of students' learning using the Read/Write web.

Meanwhile, I'll just end this post with a quote from Dianne McCordell's post that summarises a lot of the reaction I've seem from edubloggers as they become informed of what has occurred in this quiet part of the world.

Many school-aged children spend unsupervised time on home computers. Conscientious parents are alarmed by stories of online predators and cyber bullying but don't have the skills or knowledge to instruct their children in digital safety. The classroom is the logical place for students to receive safety instruction and participate in guided practice.

Our children and teen-agers must have fluency in communication and collaboration to be successful in the world they inhabit. Rather than encase them in armor, we should arm them with knowledge.

Reacting with fear and shutting down opportunities does not seem to be the best response.


I pride myself on my spelling ability. So much that I can get indignant when confronted with the accusation that my lifelong memory of a word is actually incorrect. But who can argue when the Wikipedic wisdom of crowds defines the right spelling for me...


Luckily for me, perhaps I'm merely contributing to the evolution of the English language...


Being able to recall the multiplication times tables quickly is still a skill highly prized by many parents (and teachers). Maybe it's a concrete link between their rote learning chant of their school experiences and the mathematics that their child has to grapple with. And being in confident command of basic number facts does help in the solving of more complex equations and problems. But the job of getting my students to "learn their times tables" has been a hard sell especially for those kids who have to work hard to embed these numerical facts in their memory. At the Year Six level, I've never been completely happy with the way I've been tracking my students' progress in this area.

But last year I found a happy combination of resources and tools that has made multiplication times tables fun, challenging and easy to track. Here's what I do.

I stumbled on this website called Free Mathematics Worksheets which advertises itself as a repository of free downloadable worksheets in pdf format. In the Multiplication section, there are a series of sheets under the banner of Multiplication Five Minute Frenzies. I print these off, photocopy enough for the class and using the Timer Countdown tool on the Activboard, complete the Frenzy twice a week in the classroom. The Frenzy is a grid and I encourage the students to develop tactics to maximise success. Kids premark their sheet identifying their tables they know best to tackle first leaving the majority of their five minutes for the more challenging facts.

The part that seems to be the big motivator is the recording of these results in a class spreadsheet. These results build up time and it is very easy to create a line graph and show that up on the Activboard for analysis. Without fail, all students in 2007 regardless of initial result starting point had a jagged line of improvement and we used these as a discussion point in 3 way conferences with their parents. The students with high level recall hitting 100/100 with regularity also recorded the time taken by checking the countdown timer as they finish. The volunteers to show their graphs on the IWB always exceeds the time we have left in the lesson. This seems to be the most motivating way I've found to tackle the perennial times tables concerns.



I've finally done it this year.

Got my class started with blogs and blogging, that is. While it's early stages and they are still playing with the technology, I want to get them focussed on the connective capabilities and possibilities that this tool has before it becomes a novelty for digital writing.

Enter Al Upton and his mini-Legends. Al came with the Mentor A Mini idea to give his students interaction from adults from beyond his school to help guide them and give them feedback. Al wrote:

If you’re an educational blogger of any kind (or visitor) and would like to ‘mentor a mini’ then
please leave a comment on THIS page
saying who you would like to be connected with.
The idea is to drop into their blogs from time to time throughout the year and leave a positive comment .
Very simple … why not join in the fun?

Of course everyone can comment on anyone’s post or page.

What a great idea! So great I am appropriating and re-badging the idea for my own class. I'm changing tact slightly and calling for Blog Coaches (to appeal to a slightly older age group) to be connected to an LA20 blogger for 2008. I want the students to connect to other learners beyond their immediate surroundings and be a reflective commenter on their learning and posts throughout the year.

What will a Blog Coach do?

  • Visit our class blog to see who's in LA20.
  • Email me (learningarea20[at] and request involvement, picking a name or leaving it to my discretion.
  • Write an introductory post to the student that they will publish on their blog. Include a link to your own learning blog, show where in the world you are and why you think reaching beyond the classroom is a good idea.
  • Once notified, (by your protege) be prepared to put their blog in your aggregator and add comments in from time to time, tracking this one learner throughout 2008.
  • Point your protege towards other useful resources and learners when and if the opportunity arises - for example, when my students start their Personal Research Projects and start looking to answer their questions.
  • This could lead to other connections / ideas - you can help guide my learners as an extra Coach on the sideline, cheering your one young blogger on.

Sounds good - let me know if you think this is for you. I know it is a bit selfish on my part - but they definitely need to see past me as the driver of this initiative and connect with trusted others. My network is the best place to find that - you don't have to be a  K-12 teacher, you could be in VTE or a university or an instructional designer - as long as learning is at the heart of what you do. Like a coach, I'm looking for help in inspiring these kids. I don't want to, nor should I, do it on my own.

Are you in?

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to present to my biggest crowd yet - over 100 early childhood educators at the Term 1 EChO half day conference. It was a focus on technology and I was the closing act after Trudy Sweeney's opening keynote about Web 2.0. All went pretty well until slide 35... where my choice of Flickr image provoked a response from the assembled .... well, you can work it out from the audio. Let's just say that the image lost its innocence.

Anyway, here's the presentation in Slidecast format.

[slideshare id=291755&doc=echo-08-presentation-1204627497212177-4&w=425]

Here are my links from the presentation as well. I didn't get as much time as I wanted to showcase the Web 2.0 early childhood educators - Kathy Cassidy, Rachel Boyd and Maria Knee (who contacted me after seeing my twitter plea). I wish that I had left more time to contact these amazing teachers and inform them of my reference to their work - but adding their links here will be a small piece of acknowledgement.


Kathy Cassidy –

Rachel Boyd –

Maria Knee –


‘Connecting to the Millennium Generation‘

Dr. Trudy Sweeney
Lecturer of Digital Media
Flinders University

I was a bit slow in getting this post up and going so the beginning is a bit thin. Trudy is the president of our local ed-tech association CEGSA (Computers in Education Group of South Australia) and this keynote was a revised and improved version of the talk given at my school’s Quality Teaching and Learning Day. So, here are my notes, for what they’re worth.

Defined the Millenium Generation as those born around 2000. This generation are stimulus junkies but lack resilience (generalisation). Referred to James Gleick's book FSTR which is a good starting point regarding the exponential change that technology is bringing.

Talked about 4 types of ICT tools useful for connecting to Millenium Learners.

Informative tools (instructive, showed example, ranging from Enchanted learning digital worksheets; the Learning Federation learning objects, talking books) ( questioning – site called Quick, then showed Netty ‘s World)

Situating tools ( Edusim, Club Penguin, 3-D Environments)

Constructive tools (Clayanimation, storytelling, Kidspiration, Kidi-pads, KidPix, control technologies, Digital Blue microscopes, Voice Thread)

Communication tools (wikis, blogs etc..)

ICT used in different ways - Content, Skills, Widening horizons.

What is interactivity? Doesn’t mean that everyone needs to touch the IWB but that learning is designed to involve as many students as possible in discussion.

Passionate about long term ICT projects – over a term or more. Don’t neglect the rest of the curriculum but keep coming back to it.

Conclusion . Millenium Generation expect to use ICT, children need to be taking control of technology, teacher facilitate learning experiences and HOTS.

Maintain a focus on pedagogy and technology

All of Trudy’s details at her delicious account -

Update: Here's the audio recording (made with permission).