Monthly Archives: September 2009


One of the greatest problems with text as a form of communication is that it can be so easily misinterpreted.

Of course, one of the greatest strengths of text as a form of communication is that it can be so easily re-interpreted.

In the first instance, this can be a frustrating from the writer's perspective as I can see via the comments or from blog reaction that my intended message can be seen in a totally different light to my original intent. But, on the other hand, as a reader, the freedom to take someone else's words and view them through my own lense is actually a huge positive. I can take these ideas, sometimes with very little context, and manipulate them to create my own message, my own innovative path forward and create something new beyond the original text laid down by the writer. I like to think of it like the difference between reading the book and seeing the movie. Reading "The Lord Of The Rings" allows the imagination to run wild - but once I saw Peter Jackson's cinematic version, I can only picture orcs and hobbits in one way now.

Meet Gray Jyraffe.


He's a Noob in Second Life. He's been hanging around Jokaydia, ISTE Island and freebie shops scavenging around trying to work out how to teleport, fly and strike up conversations with impressively physiqued and impeccably attired avatars. Gray has even been to a few events now, settling into custom bean bags and listening intently to talented educators detailing their innovation (both virtual and real world exploits). He even went to his first Jokaydia Unconference on the weekend - not as much as he was hoping, as his real world alter ego had issues that interfered (families, sleep) with a fuller participation schedule. But he did get to meet (virtually) one of his blogging heroes, Konrad March (aka Konrad Glogowski).

session unconf
He has a lot in common with his alter-ego - me. Like Gray, I'm an ordinary person who is constantly in awe of the talent that is so easy to connect with online. What Jo Kay has created in Second Life is totally amazing - and a massive leap of faith in the potential of this online education haven. Build it and they will come, indeed. I'm not quite sure yet what this space has to offer me and its relationship to my current work - but as I (whoops, sorry), Gray noted last night at the beach side after event celebration, sometimes the deepest learning occurs in the space where I am doing something new and challenging, but feeling out of my depth.

unconf final

The talent I can connect to via these avenues - my Reader, twitter and now Second Life - is unbelievable. Sometimes, I think that my main talent is recognising others' talent and being able to stream and subvert their innovation for my own purposes.


I make no secret that I really enjoy Dan Meyer's blogging and his ideas around engaging mathematics. If I was a high school Maths teacher, I'd be rewriting my own curriculum and unit plans around many of his concepts and points of challenge. But because much of his content is based around concepts that students typically engage with in that high school setting, I've been hesitant to try and scale down his ideas into my own classroom, fearing that my own mathematical knowledge would fall short and my students would flounder in the over challenging expectations.

But his recent What Can You Do With This: Groceries post was too good to resist. The simple but engaging idea - surely I could work that in during our current focus on time. The comment thread has been fun to follow and read, and the television spot made for great viewing. So, I grabbed the image from Dan's blog, threw it up on the IWB and started to see if I could scale it down to a level that would make sense to twelve and thirteen year olds. I started yesterday and continued today, but with my tandem partner, Kim, coming into the classroom tomorrow, I tried to convey the essence of what we have covered in an online chat. See if this makes sense to you.

Notes from the wiki that Kim had already read:

Numeracy - looking at the concept of speed. Start with working out the connection between time and speed and then show Dan Meyer's supermarket checkout image as a warm-up for that thinking.

What is the question that relates to speed from this image? hopefully, someone will pose the question - which checkout line is the best one to join? Which one is faster? What information do you need to know to gauge the speed of either line?

Have students dicuss how they would determine the faster line. What information would they need? What factors could stop your prediction from being true?

Graham: Maths is still investigating the grocery queue issue.
Kim: So they just go on with that too - no new instruction required?
Graham: Maths - well, they are using a set of data that the teacher Dan Meyer created but some are not sure how to proceed. You can leave it until Friday if you want.
Kim: No that's ok - have time for maths and is prob best not to start something new midway. I'll get the kids to explain the task and we'll go from there. Do I need any links?
Graham: Except I'm not 100% where it's going!! This link explains the maths task and he also appeared on CBS about his topic.
Kim: That's huge - what are the kids doing with it?
Graham: Well, we looked at the pic on the IWB, and got everyone to take an educated guess and air some theories, we then talked through what maths info was on the pic we talked about variables - credit card or cash, items that don't scan, old ladies, running out of receipt paper roll. H**** and E***** went to a supermarket and ran their own field test!!
Kim: That's cool!
Graham: Today, I threw Dan's data from his 90 minute observation and got them to talk about how they might work out which line is quicker. M**** had one method he was going to try but most were going to take a sample of ten customers, add the items scanned, add the time taken and try and work out an average of time per item that could "prove" their theory. Not perfect maths but getting them thinking and getting some of the less confident kids thinking about averages, adding time amounts so there is a bit of learning at a number of levels.
Kim: It's beaut - were they to collect this data (the items of the 10 customers?)
Graham: Yes, they have a print out of 36 customers.
Kim: OK - we'll continue on from that point. Have you had to revise averages with them at all yet?
Graham: Not as a class - can u make sense of that all?
Kim: I reckon I have now.
Graham: It's a bit messy but it was good to see more kids engaged for a change.

I should have maybe asked for help in scaling this down over on Dan's blog, but the conversation there was already very busy without me saying "Help me?" How else could we make this work well for our students? How can I ensure that good mathematics is there as well?

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I'm feeling very proud of my colleagues this evening. Between my principal and I, we cooked up a sharing process based on a poster sharing session she was part of during a Teaching Australia principal's PD program. The focus was on sharing contemporary classroom practice with a technology flavour. We designed the poster template, had copies printed up on A2 paper and distributed them out to all staff members. I talked about the goals behind the process and followed up with this email:

Dear colleagues,

School Closure Day requirements:
Just to clarify from last night, you will receive your A2 sheet and marker  in your pigeonhole this afternoon. Your task is to reflect on and write in dot points about an aspect of your classroom practice that reflects
contemporary learning. Use the ISTE Standards to help hone your thoughts:
1.         Creativity and Innovation
2.         Communication and Collaboration
3.         Research and Information Fluency
4.         Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
5.         Digital Citizenship
6.         Technology Operations and Concepts
Think of something you have worked on that would fit into these categories, write it up on the A2 sheet with the view that you will present it to a group of colleagues speaking for no more than 5 minutes.
You will present it once more to more colleagues from other groups as well.
I know that this can be nerve-wracking for many of us but consider the following: Research shows that some of the most powerful learning occurs when colleagues share what they do (hence the emphasis on Professional Learning Communities). We also have a duty to our students and colleagues to de-privatise our practice - as we all build on each other's work as students move through the school.
This is not an exercise in big-noting or critiquing.

Well, the resulting sessions were excellent. Ann had shuffled the staff into groups of 5 with a 5 minute allocation for each person to speak to their poster. Once that had happened, each group broke apart to re-present their poster, this time for 10 minutes to interested staff members from the other groups. So, in the space of an hour, I personally heard how a Year 3 teacher was using interactive material on netbooks with her class, how a Year 5/6 teacher was fostering a learning community within her classroom, a Year 5 teacher who used a key YouTube video to cement a key inquiry concept, an inspiring story of a Year 3 teacher new to our school this year who had gone in his words from "Lost In Space" to "Star Trek" in his evolving use of the same netbooks, a junior primary teacher who was seeking to improve her IWB skills, our Assistant Principal who was using a literacy website with her Reception students as well as presenting my own on the use of delicious tagged bundles of sites for our Inquiry unit as well as the use of YouTube videos to show varying viewpoints on the topic of the Murray River / Lower Lakes. I've blogged about this before - but as is often the case, most of my colleagues don't read this blog so this was the first they knew about my strategies.

It was an awesome array of contemporary practice at our school and showed that although the progress is all at differing stages and speeds, everyone is moving forward and committed to ensuring that our practice provides the best learning for our students. My next job is inform the parents booked in for my ICT Focus evening tomorrow night.

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Toni Glasson - Assessment for Learning - My Notes From Our Session at our Pupil Free Day

Start planning with what skills, knowledge and understanding do you want your students to have, not what will we “do” in the classroom. 21st century learning is about personalisation, students are the focus, need to be able to see progress over time. assessment for learning - inquiry learning, quality  teaching

Summative = assessment of learning
Formative = assessment for learning (can be broken into for = teacher via learning intentions, and as= student, self assessment) Toni sees this as an artificial division, as teachers and students are a symbiotic relationship.

“Assessment for learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there.”
(Assessment Reform Group 2002)

Why AfL?
Use of AfL strategies leads to:

  • improved student achievement
  • greater engagement and motivation and responsibility for their own learning on the part of students

Learning intentions are an obvious sharing with the students of what they will be learning. This is followed by the success criteria which tells the students whether they have learned.

What happens to your learning if you don’t know what you’re expected to learn OR whether you’ve learnt it?

Sharing learning intentions with your students:

  • expressed in terms of skills, knowledge and understanding
  • learn, not do
  • separate the learning from the context
  • linked to the “big picture”

In practice, when do you share your learning intentions?

Sharing success criteria:

  • makes student assessment explicit
  • different forms, including rubrics
  • students become aware of work quality and the quality to which they aspire

The learning intention is separate from the task, but defines the purpose of the task. It is important not to have too many success criteria. Hattie points out that feedback is one of the most important aspect for student improvement - so use the success criteria to target that feedback. (Research says that oral feedback is more powerful and immediate than written.) Articulate everything and the reasons why you are doing things - the students are the conduit to their parents and informing them of why they are doing the work they are doing.

Keep collecting samples of work - at various levels - so that you have examples to draw on to outline your expectations. What makes this a good narrative? What needs to be improved for this to become a good narrative?
This becomes designing the success criteria with your students.
Don’t design rubrics on your own - the best ones are always designed collaboratively.

  • clearly expressed and relevant skills, knowledge and understanding
  • an appropriate number of criteria for your year level
  • mainly qualitative differences are identified in the descriptors (rather than quantitative)
  • clear descriptions of all levels for student self assessment - accessible for all, needs to be unpacked in class (without this accessibility, it loses its ability to be a formative tool)
  • for summative assessment, weighting of criteria needs to be included to reflect importance
  • where possible, rubric is accompanied by models and work samples
  • when used for formative, not used for “grades” and “levels”

Effective Teacher Feedback
Key ideas are that it must relate directly to the success criteria, identifies what has been done and and where improvement can be made, offers advice on how to improve that achievement, and can occur both during and after an assessment, can be oral or written  and allows time for students to act on the feedback.
How do you differentiate the success criteria to cater for personalisation of learning, even though the learning intention stays the same?

Plenty of food for thought here - Toni's work helps educators to inform their practice and ensure that effective assessment is informing student learning.


Stephen Downes posted a couple of years ago about one of my blog posts that:

...we should not be reading people, we should be reading topics.

I didn't really understand what he meant until I read this recent post from Claudia Ceraso. The whole post is an excellent explanation of where PLN building can take an educator who is prepared to persist but not strain too hard for results.

Learning awaits the node that builds network. The network does not revolve around a guru or star blogger. Although you might be inclined -at first sight- to affirm it is so. Seeing a long thread of comments in a high ranking edublog can give that impression.

Whatever makes a post or blog a gem is that blogger's ability to express what other people wish they could, but they can't. Yet. Or perhaps something you were sensing was important, but didn't have a name for it; therefore, no conversation dealing with the core issue had been built around it. A blogger may offer a playground of a post to imagine how we can think new ways of learning. I think many newbies have believed this is about the blogging revolution. This is the kind of success we should be after. Owning the learning in your blog. Without comments on the post, it is still unidirectional. Close to what fascinates me about blogging, but not it.

Oddly enough, for those taking the conversation ahead, it is not countless visitors or comments what they are after. They are indeed making connections and exchanging Twitter trivia preferably with a closed or selected circle of people, but it is not because they are popular that they flock together. It's because Therefore, rapport. Once those minds get in touch, they accept the kind of learning that occurs cannot happen in isolation. That is what makes the network continue paying attention to new ideas from those selected bloggers. Because it is the only sustainable way to learn informally. You know they are your best learning triggers. That's when learning sticks.


I think that the only thing worse than a tunnel visioned Web 2.0 evangelist is a tunnel visioned Mac enthusiast. And I say that after recent purchases of both a MacBook Pro and an iPhone. I mean, they're both nice pieces of technology but the frothy mouthed utterings of some of my PLN would have you think that anyone not using Apple products is mentally deficient. I almost laughed out loud when I heard a recent keynote make a statement about "Apple having education in its DNA". Pass me the bucket.

Anyway, one of the nice things about my new combo is the fact that I got a Gig of mobile internet data thrown in as part of my plan, and I can now "tether" my phone to my new laptop to access the web wherever and whenever the need arises. For the first time, I can be hyper-connected. I literally have the internet in my pocket, except for the fact that 3's coverage can be a bit spotty. Initially, I was unsure how far 1G of data would go in a month and I was cautious about how often I would tweet, check email or look up something to settle an argument in the staffroom. But interestingly, as Darcy Moore pointed out, the iPhone doesn't use a whole lot of data even when regularly accessed so I could rest easy about blowing this allowance within the allotted timeframe. So, really, I can now live the totally connected lifestyle with any digital whim a finger swipe away.

But I am a bit of a pathetic in this regard. I've come to the conclusion that my lifestyle doesn't lend itself to fully exploiting the new toys tools. For example, so far this month, I have only used 82 MB of my allocate 1024. I've tried checking emails, feeds etc in my lunch breaks, I've even used the Maps tool to find a nearby school location when I missed the turn off and this week, I finally worked out how to tether the phone to my laptop and used it to access the web for an entire morning working in the front office. But I haven't even managed to use up ten per cent of my allocation.

And it resets back to the full quota tomorrow.

With customers like me, no wonder telcos are making a killing.

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One of the biggest challenge of my position as leader in the use of ICT in the classroom is reaching back and offering a helping hand to those who are not as confident and sure in the use of tools like laptops and IWBs in their classroom. It is easier to share with those in the near vicinity, the ones who are prepared to join the staff Ning or plan on a wiki, leaving others to languish. Even though Mark Treadwell's message of not leaving kids to wander through the internet wilderness and teachers actively searching and bundling the relevant resources for their students to use is accepted as school practice, we have students who are left to Google for themselves because their teacher trusts in their digital native skills. So, this week on the advice of my principal, I crafted this tactful email out to staff in an effort to get everyone back on the same page.

Hi folks,
I don't know about you but I am amazed at the power of Google as a tool for searching the internet. It takes very little effort to get a result BUT does take some skills in search terms and background knowledge to get meaningful results. So, when we set our students a web based task, we have to take on board the research that Mark Treadwell cited for us earlier in the year. We need to be guiding our students to appropriate content and resources. I've attached a small poster that might help guide your thinking.

If you think of a metaphor that your class is a tour bus heading into the unexplored world of cyberspace, who should be at the wheel? Who should be determining the destination and the relevant sights (sites!!) along the way? Should the kids really be at the wheel?

So, consider the use of Expert hotlists - here's one from a Teacher-Librarian <> and another <>. See Rosie (our teacher-librarian) as well, or search the edna teacher resource database <> .

Don't forget both for finding resources, and bundling your sites for student use together with tags.

Use your own Google skills to locate sites and resources for the class - use Advanced Search, become familiar with a site like <> so that you become more efficient in your own Google use.

If you absolutely must have students doing their own searching, consider one designed for students. I have four that I have personally used tagged here - <> - KidsClick, Ask Kids, Quintura and for upper primary kids, Boolify.

We must also consider copyright issues so grabbing images from a Google image search is a no-no, because students invariably save the low grade thumbnail image (looks terrible when enlarged) or grab the first thing they see. With our new filtering system, teachers can access the Flickr Creative Commons section and save images that are of a superior quality, with less restrictive licensing than copyright images on the web.<>

Kids don't develop effective information literacy skills on their own - it is up to us to ensure that we follow good practice in this area.

Sorry, this was such a long email - it has taken on a life of its own.


Picture 5

Sometimes, the best way to reach folks is by using old fashioned tools like email.