Monthly Archives: September 2012

I went with my wife and eldest son to an educational supplies store today. My wife is an early years teacher and wanted to have a look around for a few key resources for her classroom, and my son and I were along for the ride, looking forward to the walk down Jetty Road afterwards on an unusually warm September day. Now a retailer that decides to cater for a market of teachers and schools has to think carefully about its targetted demographic. So as I wandered around the store, I also wondered what a place like this says about teaching, schools and teachers.

So, in summary, I noticed the following:

  • Racks of blackline masters books catering for every possible curriculum area. A lot of pre-planned unit theme books as well.
  • Two hefty books on Mathematics written by two eminent Australian experts in the field, Di Seimon and George Booker, retailing for $120 and $115 each respectively.
  • An entire rack of NAPLAN style test books. I think I have seen the same product in a mainstream bookstore, in newsagencies and even in a supermarket.
  • A professional development section taking up a very small corner of the shop - obviously the demand for books on pedagogy and research is not high.
  • An entire wall of sticker packs, reward charts and posters.
  • Maths textbooks with the "Now Aligned With The Australian Curriculum" headline on the front. I didn't check to see if the previous editions on the shelf below had been marked down in price.
  • Hands on equipment for Maths limited to one shelf while worksheet books and Maths topic books dominated one side of the room.
  • The same names - Pearson, MacMillan, Oxford - kept popping up on products all around the various stands and shelves.

How would you interpret these observations? I'll share my observations in a day or so - but I'd be keen to hear what you think.


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I just finished watching The Fellowship Of The Rings last night. I think I may have watched The Two Towers when it came out in the cinemas but I definitely haven't seen the final film in the trilogy yet - which is why I bought the triple set when it was on special at JB Hi-Fi late last year. I have a bunch of other big movie DVDs that I picked up because they were a good price and because I hadn't ever watched them in the cinemas. Not because I am cinema-phobic. Far from it. I love watching a good movie on the big screen as much as the next person. But the family experience means that this has been a diet of animated flicks over the past decade.

The other factor stalling my consumption of quality movies and meaty television mini-series has been my infatuation with the internet over the past decade, and my all consuming entanglement with Web 2.0 / social media over the past six years as well. So there is a lot of good stuff that I haven't watched - a sizeable backlog that I would like to enjoy as I make the time. And as I moved into my new role as an Assistant Principal, I have started to allow for time on weekends and the occasional weeknight to simply chill out in front of the TV, and let a story flow to me.

But I actually want to write about Minecraft.

The prelude of this blog post will serve a purpose as it contextualizes my current position.

I think that Minecraft is awesome. I have never come across something that has grabbed kids' attention quite like this before, and I've tried to work in various ways to incorporate it as part of our school's learning programs and choices. I have two sons who both love it and play Minecraft a lot. Both play it on their tablets and the youngest also likes to get online on the family PC or my MacBook. When I mentioned Massively Minecraft and the community opportunities on offer there, he couldn't pester me enough to get him signed up and active.

Massively Minecraft is also awesome. What Jo and Dean (and others) have created with the kids and adults of that community is simply stunning and a tribute to true and meaningful innovation. The different options, the levelling up system, the connection to other kids and simply a space that my son feels an integral part of are all part of this. Unfortunately, Josh has been stuck with my original Minecraft account with the online name "grahamwegner" but he doesn't really care. He has listened carefully when I've explained (as best I can) who set the whole thing up, and he would excitedly tell me about snippets of chat he'd had with Jokaydia (aka Jo Kay). "She's the only person online who calls me Josh!" He also came across Dean one day who typed in something along the lines of "Why isn't your Dad in here as well?"

It's a good point.

See, even without actually going into Minecraft and building something for myself, and becoming part of a community, I know that it all has great worth. I've sat and watched my son show off his amazing creations, helped him take a screenshot that he can upload to the Massively Minecraft Forums and helped him scroll through the various options available to help with levelling up. I've seen that he has collaborated, and cooperated and fended for himself when dealing with others within the Minecraft world. I've seen him develop skills for searching, watching help videos and scanning webpages for key information that he needs.

I've walked around my school where I can be accosted by up to five or six different students asking me about when Minecraft will be happening in our school, whether it will be on at lunchtime that day or whether I have any spare student accounts. I will have students offer me information about crafting, and how many pieces of obsidian are required to create a new substance, speaking to me as if I'm a person who spends a reasonable amount of my free time immersed in the Minecraft universe. And it is an important point that I think that Minecraft is more of a virtual world in the gaming sense when compared to other gaming systems popular with students which depend on a linear pre-fabricated storyline where the game player role plays in someone else's version of reality or fantasy. If I'm noticing this level of interest from my students and my own kids, then surely it follows that I too should be a Minecrafter.

But sadly, I am not.

I haven't taken the plunge and joined Josh in the Massively Minecraft community, so I can build for myself and connect with others. I've stalled and I'm not entirely sure why. It does have something to do with time - not a lack of it, but a choice about what to do with it. I read everything that Dean Groom posts on his blog and I know that gaming is important and that has a role to play in learning today. But I fear my own incompetence. I worry that it will become the thing that replaces my Web 2.0 all consuming phase. And selfishly, I worry that I may never get around to watching the final Lord Of The Rings film.

But I also fear that it will be impossible to champion something without some first hand working knowledge. That would make me no better than all of those gurus who point to their Powerpoint punchline and state " the future of learning is in gaming" but who couldn't tell a Creeper from Herobrine.

So, slowly I am going to set aside some time to get better acquainted with Minecraft. This is my public commitment to do so. Help keep me honest.

One of Josh's builds in Massively Minecraft.

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Here in South Australia, we have a pedagogical guide known as TfEL (Teaching for Effective Learning) which is the how that backs onto the what of the Australian Curriculum.

From the Guide:

What is the SA TfEL Framework?
Just as a compass guides navigation, the SA TfEL Framework provides an ‘internal compass’ for guiding our designs for learning  and decision making about our practice. It gives us confidence that  our professional practice incorporates the most recent evidence and  understandings about learning and teaching that maximise student engagement and achievement.

My school has a TfEL specialist teacher who has provided professional learning for our staff, conducted research and supported teachers in their familiarisation and implementation of the TfEL Framework. She has been incredible but like all good things, her tenure is drawing to a conclusion at the end of 2012 as the department re-prioritises some of its expenditure. As part of the project completion, all staff have been asked to write a short "most significant impact story" that tells of the Framework's impact on their pedagogy. As a new leader and someone coming in six months later than everyone else in the new school, I wasn't sure what to write. Only one of these stories will be chosen to tell a perspective from our school. So the likelihood of mine making any further than my desktop and the specialist teacher's eyes  are slim. I personally would want a story from a classroom to represent our school any way because that is the important place I would want TfEL to be making the most positive difference.

But for posterity and my own learning, I will post up my story for others to read and query.

Personalisation of Staff PD

Story of Significant Impact by Graham Wegner, Assistant Principal (Learning Technologies & Admin), Woodville Gardens School B-7


My role includes the provision of Professional Development in the early of Learning Technologies for my colleagues. I have attended a lot of this PD during my career and delivered a significant amount of technology focussed training and Professional Learning sessions over the last ten years. It has always been ironic that as a classroom teacher, I would design learning that catered for individuals with multiple entry and exit points but teacher focussed PD still seemed to be a one-size-fits-all model where everyone received the same information or worked through the same activities using the same tools.

Earlier this term, I had a staff Professional Learning time allocated for eLearning which was focussed on having the staff explore the use of PBWorks as a wiki based tool which could be used as a linking off point of entry to the internet for their students. In the past, I would have designed a lock step process to lead the whole group paced so that no one got left behind. But this model, as with students, has problems with providing the right balance between support for the less experienced and freedom to move ahead for the more confident and savvy. So this year, I have moved to making staff PD closer to the way I would approach a group of younger learners. I have made conscious efforts to design the learning using tools like Understanding by Design in a manner similar to designing an inquiry unit.

I attended a PLC session earlier in the day focussed on Learning Intentions and Success Criteria run by our TEFL specialist, Louise Barker. As we discussed what these looked like in the classroom, it became clear to me that I needed the same thing for my staff PD session. As the PLC continued, I started to re-design my approach for later that day, rewriting the Learning Intention into a WALT “create links in an online space”. I added a second part to show the value of what I wanted the staff to engage with by using TIB (This Is Because) “we can then create and develop an online space for your students to easily access a wide range of digital resources.” Finally, I added in WILF (What I’m Looking For) otherwise known as the Success Criteria – (i) you can create and edit your own space  (ii) you can add hyperlinks to important digital resources & (iii) you develop and use a strategy for find, add and review links in your space.

Lousie had also used a road metaphor that categorised learners by comfort level and confidence which I seconded for the session. This way, the confident could move ahead without feeling constrained but the less confident could seek more structured and incremental help. These elements created clarity around the purpose of the session, and empowered the staff to find their own comfort level in engaging with the learning, and the purpose behind that learning. I received very positive feedback from many colleagues about the value of the learning and how it enabled them to be successful without feeling pressured. Other leaders complimented me on the session as a solid example of how to cater for a wide range of adult learners, and act as a template for other staff running their own PD sessions.


I can see great value in carrying over these key ideas (Learning Intentions and Success Criteria) which we want to be integral in our students’ learning and applying it to the staff PD to show that these concepts don’t just apply to students but to any learners.