Monthly Archives: December 2008

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I have a feeling that I've been tagged for these sort of things before. But newer edubloggers can't be expected to wade through my archives and my longer term readers don't want a re-hash, so I'll have to dig deep for the latest 7 Things Meme. Thanks, Tony!

1. I've switched allegiance three times in my life in my choice of AFL team. This can be seen as a form of sacrilege by die hard life long Aussie Rules supporters like Warrick but I can explain. I became a Port Adelaide Magpies supporter from the local SANFL in Year Five because my best friend told me to. He also told me that I had to pick a VFL team as well - so I picked Hawthorn. I supported them all the way through their successful premiership era, had Leigh Matthews as my favourite player and then in 1987, the VFL expanded beyond the borders of Victoria. A new team from Perth called the West Coast Eagles joined the big league (which became the AFL a few years later) along with the hapless Brisbane Bears and suddenly it was possible to follow a team that wasn't Victorian. I even had an original yellow Eagles practice guernsey with Brian Narkle's No. 7 on it when I was playing B grade footy in Ceduna. This was fine until 1997 when Port Adelaide (remember them? My first football allegiance?) joined the AFL as the second South Australian AFL team. I had to go back to my roots, especially as my favourite all time AFL player Gavin Wanganeen came back from over the border to be the inaugral captain.

2. I've rolled my father's Toyota Hilux utility one night after a day on the tractor seeding. I wasn't wearing a seat belt but luckily walked away - in fact walked all the way home.

3. I am a big fan of the reality show Survivor having watched all of the series except for the fourth Marquesas series (when they screened a pathetic Australian version of the show.) I love the strategy, the characters and the interesting locations - but if Jeff Probst ever quits as the host, the show will not be the same.

4. I met my wife Joanne while teaching in Port Augusta. She was a teacher too, eventually at the same school and we got married in 1994. The first year of our marriage was our last in the country before heading back to the big city lights of Adelaide.

5. I have alternative tastes in music ranging from Public Enemy to Husker Du to Incubus.

6. I've slept under the stars in my swag beneath the grain siloes at Penong on the West Coast of SA.

7. When I tranferred to Adelaide, I had to list all of the schools I was prepared to accept a position at in preferential order as part of my guaranteed return to the city. I wrote down Flagstaff Hill Primary School as my number one choice for no other reason than there was a golf club next door that I could join - and there's where I was sent!

Nothing like a viral reason to post in the New Year so I'm tagging the following:
Warrick Wynne (over at his new blog)
Darren Draper
Lauren O'Grady
Jess McCulloch
Tom Barrett
Ken Burgin
Miss Profe

That's 22 pieces of trivia in total about me floating around - so that's enough for quite a while. See you in '09.

It was my privilege to have Tom Barrett along with his wife Helen and his family over for a meal at the Wegner household tonight. It was a really nice time chatting about life in general (not that much geeky talk at all) and letting the kids play with each other. These connections we make via the web are real relationships - mutual learning can be a common passion - and it was great to meet the man behind the blog.

Thanks again, Tom, for making time in your trip down under to have dinner with my family.

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I'm not a religious person but I do appreciate the extra time at this time of year to relax and read for my own interest and priorities at my own pace, rather than squeezing it in at the end of the day after work, kids, responsibilities, preparation for work and just before sleep. So I've found and read leisurely through a couple of posts from different corners of my Reader and have some tenuous linking thoughts percolating from them.

Firstly, David Truss's Girl Power was an interesting read. I didn't get too far before inversing his words with my thoughts and going off track in my brain.

I’ve always been surrounded by women. I grew up with three sisters, and I have two daughters and a wonderful wife.

I'm the reverse - my household is male dominated, two sons - but my life is hardly testosterone filled. After all, I am a teacher and my working life has always been spent in the gender minority. Yet I barely think of my colleagues in terms of their gender. Certainly not consciously. The leaders I've worked under have been an even balance of men and women and even if there was a "boys club" at any of my workplaces, it is highly unlikely that I would invited to be part of it. I don't think that I am a typical male teacher either, whatever that supposedly looks like. I've never felt comfortable with locker room humour, possibly because my poor sporting abilities ensured that I was never really in them growing up. So I suppose, David's post just got me thinking about our perceptions about gender and how these headsets can affect how we raise the next generation - namely in my case, my two young sons.

The second post that took these ponderings and bounced them around some more came after reading Jose Vilson's It's The Hardknock Life. His post succinctly reflects on how his circumstances growing up have affected and shaped him into the person he is today. I mean I know that has happened to us all to some degree but what I found particularly insightful was the razor sharp honing in of affecting factors and the effect of those factors. For example:

But it always annoyed me when dudes broke out with 150$ Jordans and I could barely get the Ewings. While others got a million games for their video game systems, I only had a few. I never had the luxury of going to the latest concert or have any connections to some music artist or celebrity. I never even got to participate in the big events everyone else did like when the NBA All-Star Game came to NYC or any of the comic book conventions my friends went to. The worst part is, at that age, kids are so willing to flaunt their luxuries in the faces of those who have not.

Sometimes, it made me resentful, but more than anything, it helped me build character. It forced me to rethink my finances and become responsible. More than anything, my upbringing made me much more self-reliant. Nowadays, while I’m still very limited in my purchases, I get whatever’s within my means. I’m patient with purchases, and have a better sense of prices.

My own upbringing has certainly manifested itself in the way I conduct my life. Some of the outcomes have been unintended - example, being sent to boarding school at age twelve from a sheltered life on the family farm where Saturdays were work days (not a day for playing footy or tennis with the local kids in the district teams) and Sunday was the day of worship and rest (enforced as only devoted rural Lutherans can) forced me to become resilient, independent and self organised even as my self confidence was being shot to pieces by the bully culture within said boarding house. I feel that my parents abdicated much of their responsibility during my vulnerable teenage years. It's no wonder I react instinctively whenever someone starts talking about high school cliches - boarding house culture was raising me with male cultural characteristics at its worst. And I wasn't equipped with the academic talent or the athletic skills that would have earnt me immunity and credibility in that particular environment. I started as the country bumpkin wearing glasses for the first time whose parents naively thought their world view was represented in this school and had to carve out my own unique identity patch based on my creative skills and willingness to be a bit player in other people's success. I was the one who organised a Boarders vs. Day Scholars football match, the one who invented cartoon games to while away the study periods and Sunday afternoons while others snuck off to meet up with girls or to go on illicit pub crawls. I couldn't bear to disappoint my parents - but that was all based on what they disapproved of rather than what they expected.

Where are I going with all of this? Well, a deep appreciation of how environments and people can shape the final person has me critically viewing how I tackle my job as father. Although parenting can be a very reactionary and unplanned journey, I do have to make conscious choices about my behaviour and my expectations for my sons. Too much and I won't be letting them make their own way. Too little and I will be repeating the mistakes of my parents. And there is no better mirror to one's own frailties than to look at one's own children. Example: My eldest has always had low muscle tone and attends a number of therapies to improve this area. Bingo! Now I know why I struggle to throw a ball further than twenty metres and why my one and only shot on goal from twenty five metres out for the Ceduna B Grade back in 1989 was never going to make it through the big sticks. Next example: My youngest exasperates me with his impatience and his ultra-competitive nature. I'm not competitive by nature - this scares me because how do I ensure that his natural tendency is channeled in the right direction?

I know all I can do is my best and I know that there will be things that my kids hold me accountable for by the time they reach adulthood. But there are things that they will have hammered into them with my words and actions - as with David, I want them to be balanced in their respect for and with women and like Jose, I want them to be their own person and not be reliant on others for their own self worth.


I've been accused of being an Edublogs fanboy and to some extent I am. I've always plugged this place as the place for educators and students to be blogging and that hasn't changed one bit. But I have to say that the news about the insertion of random advertising into my blog, my class blog and my students' blogs makes me feel quite uncomfortable. When I first saw the ads as shown in my graphic below, I actually thought it was an Internet Explorer glitch (a Microsoft grab for Google Ad cash which shows how much I know) and swore to only use Firefox after that. But I saw the little insertions in my class blog and thought, "That can't be right. Why is that there? It looks like a link but it isn't one that I inserted."

There has been some talk about this issue, nicely summarised by Dave Tosh here. I know that if I'd been fully aware, this topic could have had my feedback before in this forum. I know I should really be an Edublogs Supporter as I've been riding this free gravy train ride for over three years (and will when I get organised and work out PayPal).  

Love you, love your work James, but the embedded ads leave me cold and dare I say it, a little violated. I know back in the early days, you mentioned in an email that maybe Edublogs may have to become a user pays only system. But I really don't like the look of this - it really isn't all that hidden if I keep encountering it via my bookmarks, my auto-completes etc. - and I guess this is my way of airing my opinion on the matter.


Here in South Australia, if you teach in a government school, you have 41 weeks of active teaching duty for the calendar year. Well, it was until about ten years ago when the state government decided to bring our system in line with the eastern state public systems by dispensing with the 41st week. The cynics pointed out that this was nothing more than a cost saving exercise and the teachers were delighted about not working with students right up until Christmas. But there was a catch.

In order to earn the privilege of an extra week off in the face of a public already convinced that teachers got too many holidays, the government invented some hoops for its teachers to jump through. This became known as the "37 and a 1/2 hours requirement" where accredited professional training and development to the minimum of 37 and a half hours had to be recorded and presented to the principal for verification before signing off early for the summer. The 37 and a 1/2 hours had to be done out of school hours in a teacher's own time so conferences and training done within the school day could not count. Teachers who failed to meet this requirement had to report for duty in what was formerly the last week of the year, sometimes to the local district office if the principal had their hours and had commenced their break!

Principals were also expected to ensure accountability in this system and asked to see certificates of attendance so that they in turn could not be accused of not playing this new game. This varied from school to school in its stringency. At my wife's school when this was introduced, only training aligned to the school's identified priorities could be counted - too bad if you had an interest or membership of a professional organisation that fell outside this parameter. On the other hand, I actually read the book "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People" and had it counted by my then principal as official PD good for about 15 hours. Oh, and he lent me the book as well!

So for many teachers, the 37 and a 1/2 hours has become a game to play - not for fun but to cynically satisfy the government's needs. I have heard of teachers going to workshops or cheap events to "get their hours up" which is sort of self-defeating if the process of Professional Development is to have any meaning. We all know that seat time and a paper certificate does not ensure that the participant has actually learnt anything of value and become a better practitioner because of it.

By the way, I don't have any problems getting 37 and a 1/2 hours of official PD to qualify. This year I had at least 50 hours of conferences, training events, seminars etc. and that did not include anything I did online. I'm not really sure how this scheme can recognise anything except for "traditional" modes of adult learning/training/PD. How many hours have I logged with my blog, reading the sharpest educational minds from around the world in my Reader, participating in online events (K12 Online etc.), listening to others, watching others etc..? Unless you have a principal who gets it (whatever "it" is) then all of this online interaction and networked learning is not real, not certifiable and does not qualify as proof of improvement as an educator. 

The powers that be that created and continue to perpetrate this sham have missed the point. As my principal pointed out in our leadership meeting on Tuesday, "The most powerful way for educators to learn (and grow) is from each other." My network is the biggest collection of "each other" that I could ever hope to learn from - any system that fails to recognise this as a manifestation of the most powerful learning available to its fleet of teachers has really missed the boat. 


Perhaps it's because my sinuses are playing up and my sleep patterns have not been the best. But I'm finding that I have less and less patience with teachers who've been given opportunities with school supplied laptops, IWBs, data projectors, PD sessions, hand holding, screenshot handouts - and all they can do is tell me about what they are going to do next year with technology in their classroom.

I'm sick of hearing promises of change. Tell me how all that stuff is impacting your practice now and how that investment of scarce school funds is invaluable to your students' learning. And don't give me that spiel about equity - because giving every classroom equal access to certain technology tools does not guarantee that the teacher will use them in equal ways. 

I want people telling me about how indispensible that laptop/projector/IWB/whatever is already to their teaching and their students' learning before I'm faced with the choice of deciding where that piece of tech will make the most difference. 

OK, let's hope the Nasonex works better tonight...


There's one week left with one of the best classes that I've taught in my twenty plus years of teaching before the 2008 school year is done and dusted. We are trying to tidy up incomplete work, organise our end of year celebrations and wind up any other unfinished business. This is as good a time as any to look back at my student blogging program and get a few thoughts and observations done while it is still fresh in my mind.

Although I have had a blog of my own for over three years, this was the first year that I felt I had enough confidence to move forward from a single class blog to individual student blogs. Doing it right and making sure that I had the right purpose for this digital tool was foremost in my mind, but with the Gmail multiple sign on and a core group of students who has worked well on our 2007 Spin The Globe wiki project, it was time to get things rolling. The students did not take long to work out the technical details and we used it as a digital journal to try and get into the habit of writing.

I explicitly demonstrated specific processes on our interactive whiteboard to ensure that all students had a starting point for how to embed an image or create a text link. Although it wasn't done often enough, I also used our class blog to create demonstration posts focussed on aspects of our classroom learning. This gave the students a structure to follow and often these posts gave me valuable assessment information about the student's understanding of a particular concept. On some occasions, I showed individuals certain technical solutions for something they wanted to achieve but always on the understanding that they were then reponsible for teaching others who were interested. This might have been learning to embed a slideshow or video, showing some commenting etiquette or even to add a Clustr Map.

All comments were moderated which gave me a regular nightly task. It was important to talk to the kids about "raising the bar" in their comments so every time one of the kids contributed something of value, I threw it up on the IWB and pointed out the merits of effective commenting. Several of my students became very adept at this part of our program, generously giving feedback and encouragement which in turn fueled an increase in blogging quality. One student, KT08, contributed over 100 comments to our little learning community. I asked her one day about her prowess and she said that she actually reads every post from every student in our class.

"I get so many good ideas from reading everyone's blogs," she said.

And I have still to show her how to set up a RSS reader!

Quite a few others got into the idea of using their blog as a personal writing space. I had emphasised good etiquette, sensible protection of their identity and a focus on their own learning - and the kids were taking that all in their stride. One student, Pavlo, developed an excellent blog where he covered a wide array of topics ranging from video games, online worlds, weekends fishing to reporting on class excursions. Others then "raised the bar" on their own writing after reading his posts. Some kids who would do the bare minimum on paper would freely add much more of their own accord. Spelling and punctuation gradually improved as the students realised that others were watching and reading. 

Only a very small number of parents left comments during the year. I suppose that like many adults, putting your own words in such a public domain can be somewhat intimidating.

I was very careful not to just do blogging for blogging's sake. It was a vehicle for cybersafety, for creative writing, a repository of student work and technology skills. We had a major push with it as a tool for learning during this last term when we tackled our inquiry unit "What Makes Us Australian?" I appealed to my Personal Learning Network to give students feedback and that generated a lot of discussion back in the classroom as the unit progressed. Thanks again to those connected international educators who generously contributed to my students. 

We summarised our achievements with our LA20 Student Blog Awards (affectionately known as the Blogies) which we unveiled in an Upper Primary assembly. Ironically, we ended up with an actual nomination in the Edublog Awards.

As a Year Six class, my students have one more year of primary school to go and my plans are get them to continue with their individual blogs for 2009. I will work closely with their Year Seven teachers and bring the other students from other 08 classes into the fold - and have this useful digital tool as part of the learning toolkit. 


Heard about lifestreaming?

Via the super savvy Chris Harvey over on the TALO list:

...blogging is not necessarily dying, but is becoming an inadequate paradigm to keep up with all the data that the average internet consumer now produces. Lifestreams are the way to keep up with it all.

Yongfook has his own open source solution ready to go. Called SweetCron, you really need to see it to understand how it all holds together. Thankfully, Chris has installed it on his site so others can check it out. Barbara Dieu has hers up and running as well. It seems that you need to have your own hosted site and a bit of web nous to make it all work which puts it out of reach of a cheapskate free ranger like me. 

And ironically, doesn't this make a form of lifestreaming?