Monthly Archives: May 2010


Even though I'm in my eighth year here at my current school, it isn't the same place that I wandered into. Back in 2003 in my first taste of leadership, I inherited a school with a computing room with twenty PCs and one lone PC at the back of each classroom. In my role as ICT Coordinator (now Teaching and Learning Technologies Coordinator) I assisted to change the focus and nature of the technology used as part of our learning programs. I've documented a lot of that journey on this blog over the past few years and back when we were getting our IWB program off the ground on this blog.

The exterior is taking shape.

The exterior is taking shape.

We've funded the IWBs, the teacher laptops, the wireless classrooms, the students laptop trolleys and the netbooks from within our own school budget and have been blessed with a supportive Governing Council who've seen the need for us to grow our digital resources and tools to keep pace with our learning goals. Then along came Kevin Rudd and his BER (Building the Education Revolution) and for the first time in nearly every South Australian state school teacher's career, schools had the chance to fund some new forward looking buildings. Although we have been restricted by the limited designs, my school has taken the line that a standardised building does not mean we can't be innovative within the pre-designed walls and roofs. We ended choosing to build a new library and a new 4 class GLA (General Learning Area).

This will be one of the classroom walls.

This will be one of the classroom walls.

I'm lucky in that I'm going to be one of those four teachers who get to move into the new classroom block. And as part of my role, I've been talking with my learning team about how we should be outfitting these new classrooms. I know that this is still education in an age old paradigm that may be rapidly fading in this constantly connected world, classrooms built to house thirty kids per room, but it will be still pretty cool to be one of the first to teach in a new space. The last few days, Ann, my principal and I have been back on the building site, eyeballing off the progress, talking about cabling and wiring with the foreman and envisioning how this will all come together.

Looking into the future shared learning space where one IWB will go.

Looking into the future shared learning space where one IWB will go.

So, here's what we're doing. The new block will be fully wireless, latest generation, and we will use a fleet of HP laptops with hopefully a transition to some form of 1:1 program in the future. There is still a limited budget so it is not a matter of building the ultimate new learning environment without constraints. The teachers decided that interactive whiteboards were not a necessity, but good short throw projectors in each room were mandatory. The longer I've worked with IWBs, the less enthused I've become with that particular form of technology. So I think this is a good move because it will give us more budget to use in buying flexible furniture, crucial for building a new learning space environment.

So, I guess I am no longer a believer. I still have Simon Shaw's great quote from last year when we visited his school, St Albans Meadows Primary in Melbourne, when he compared their interactive whiteboards with their laptops.

"Why do you need interactivity up there on the wall, when all kids can have interactivity at their fingertips."

That's a good mindset to take into a new building. After all, it needs to be about opportunities for the students.


The upcoming National Curriculum is part of a push for the improved teaching of Science and Mathematics. There has been Federal money flowing to the states to provide teacher training to support this, and in South Australia this has meant the adoption of the Primary Connections program:

‘PrimaryConnections: Linking science with literacy’ is an innovative approach to teaching and learning which aims to enhance primary school teachers’ confidence and competence for teaching science.

Teachers have been funded for this training and my school has been busy swinging this new approach into action. Our Science teacher has been using a team teaching approach (which has only started for my class this term) to help us become familiar with the Primary Connections approach, and today two weeks ago, my upper primary learning team went to our first training workshop out at Modbury. So, here for posterity and anyone who's interested are my notes recorded using the 5 R's model to be utilised by students in their Science Journal writing. (I won't refer to the practice as Journalling as one teacher present today was quite hot under the collar about this term, quite concerned about this "Americanism" creeping into our Aussie vocabulary. For me, English is an evolving language but hey, everyone has their little pet peeves.) The 5 R's are Reporting, Responding, Relating, Reasoning and Reconstructing.


The official name of the workshop was “Talking Science – developing a discourse of inquiry”. Primary Connections revolves around developing students' skills to:
1. Respond verbally 2. In written form  3. In graphic form about their Scientific knowledge and thinking.

We were shown an image of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and asked to respond using the three skills.

My written response: "The image of Eyjafjallajokull brings back a lot of information that I have read about the local impact. Iceland being a country that has a lot of permanent ice and then there is this massive heat erupting from below the earth’s surface, melting some of the permanent ice, causing flooding and doing things like taking down bridges etc."

We were reminded that we don’t know what science knowledge a student will bring to a given topic or prompt. The more open the task, the more varied the responses and methods that will be used to tackle that task. The importance of the art of discourse was emphasised. Discourse refers to conversation from a science point of view – talking with a “science hat” on.

We made use of Y charts scribing to discuss the ground rules for talk/discourse in the classroom. (Collective, reciprocal, supportive, cumulative & purposeful), which were then collated for a gallery walk.

We then were shown our next image of a rock wallaby.

We the applied the same process of verbal, written and graphic.


"I identified this animal through having seen them in the wild, the lower Southern Flinders Ranges. They are endangered because of feral animals like foxes and cats. We were also informed that other kangaroos can “adopt” a yellow footed joey via and raise them unwittingly."

Using the graphic form could be a diagram, a map, incorporates scales, horizontal line labelling – formal scientific standards need to be explicitly. The 5 E’s are the different phases of scientific inquiry.  (Engage, explore, explain, elaborate & evaluate)

(In the interests of finally publishing this post, I have decided not to do a Relating section. But in this part I would recall and take note of how my knowledge and conceptions have changed over the course of the day.)

(This is what I wrote off the top of my head as my group trialled the 5 R's during the workshop. It seems a shame to leave abandoned on a scrappy piece of A4 so here it is, regardless of the fact that it may make no sense to anyone but me.)

As we worked through the various tasks, it gave us a chance to "road test" how the various components of Primary Connections would work in the classroom. Looking at the photographic images of the volcano and the rock wallaby demonstrated how to start the students off on the social plane, something familiar that they would all have some varying knowledge and context for. It is there that the adage of "No one's wrong - there are just varying degrees of accuracy" can be applied by the teacher as they direct the questioning. As the goal is to move the students onto a more scientific headset, starting with a visual (of some familiarity) also demonstrates how the real world, the world the students experience, hear, read or view about, is completely science based and viewable through a science lense.

As we stepped through the 5 E's model, our activities enabled me to gain a deeper grasp. Every time we tackled an activity like the camping trip items, we became more aware of what goes on with our student discussion groups, and where your time as a teacher is best spent.


Well, that's what this blog post has been all about! This should have been up two weeks ago but the rest of my life kept getting in the way.

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I watched this video with interest today:

Social Media Revolution 2 (Refresh) from Erik Qualman on Vimeo.

I noted that Facebook now has a population that would place it third in the world were it a country. But there seems to a growing groundswell of discontent with savvy web users looking to delete their accounts amid cries for a more open alternative. (Thanks for the links, Warrick and Alex.)

I'm questioning my citizenship. It's not as if I would be missed. I don't play any games, I ignore every second friendship request, decline almost every other cause or invitation and don't post any photos. I joined so that I would have a working knowledge of this social media phenomenon. And an interesting world it is. I could get lost for hours linking from one friend list to another, future-gazing on how former students have made their way through life, seeing how old schoolmates have handled impending middle age and shaken my head at how naive and gullible so many younger kids are.

Maybe Facebook is redefining privacy. As one slogan might go, it is certainly "home of the brave" but I am not so sure that is "land of the free." Apparently, it is quite hard to renounce the Facebook homeland once you've been under its rule for any length of time.

I learn more about my online friends in my aggregator than I can ever get on a FB status update. Connecting on the open web - that's what I'm interested in. It might be time to move on.

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On Friday during our Primary Connections workshop, we were shown an image similar to this:

During the following response exercise, our facilitator informed my group that the yellow footed wallaby had been part of a surrogate program to improve numbers. Upon reflection, I can't be sure that I heard her correctly but what I thought I did hear was that young yellow footed wallaby joeys had been placed into other wallaby pouches and raised so that the original yellow footed mother could reproduce sooner. This prompted the following cartoon below:

But some basic web research shows that I am mistaken. The yellow footed rock wallabies were the surrogates which makes my original cartoon all wrong. This is Take Two:

I don't know about you but I think that the first is better. And the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that it was my listening and interpretation error that ended up triggering the first erroneous cartoon. Am I being too clever for my own good here? Or just merely someone who laughs at his own jokes?


This was a standoff that was guaranteed to have no winners. Thank goodness a solution was found today, one that was engineered so that both parties had minimum egg on their respective faces.

I'm a union member but in this case I wasn't comfortable with the stance of refusing to administer the NAPLAN tests. I know that the mySchool website is narrow, flawed and open to all sorts of misuse abuse. But I still couldn't see how boycotting the tests which have been with us for a while now would actually bring a stubborn Education Minister to the table. But come she has, so I suppose the threat was effective. All I know it gave the vitriolic letter writers, article commenters  and soapbox editors a chance to once again chastise teachers for refusing to bow to the greater political wisdom, to show how out of touch with the "real world" they are and how terrified they are of being accountable.

For me, this article takes the cake for pomposity and probably illustrates the problem so many educators have with the over-valuation of once a year tests.

It is no accident NSW schools dominate the list. The history premier, Bob Carr, ensured there was a substantial reformation of the NSW years 7 to 10 curriculum. The result was a content and skills-based curriculum rather than a process-based one. It is also no accident that NSW private schools are the high-flyers.

Well, if you ignore process altogether, then it is no surprise that schools taking this path might do well on tests that can only measure content and skills. But if this new working party can look at ways to stop this league table garbage, maybe we can ensure that an education that values process, content, skills and understanding is the end result. That this article was written by a teacher makes me shake my head in wonderment. I'd have hoped for a more enlightened viewpoint that can take in a broader perspective of Australian education.