Staff Training


After school, Wednesday, in our staff meeting time, I finally stepped up and talked about the idea of Sharing using digital tools for the first time. I mean it's not the first time I've talked about using Delicious or any other social media tool, but it is the first time I've couched the whole thing around the premise of sharing, and the possibilities that sharing with a wider network of educators than just the ones at your site might open up. I've shied away from really talking in a formal way to my colleagues about networked learning - a mixture of not wanting to push my own potential zealotry and a worry that most won't have a clue what I'm talking about anyway. It's hard to get the message just right so that they can see that this is a way that regular classroom teachers can go, because after all, it is the techhead, laptop loving freak pushing the ideas. If they could just sit here in this spot and see the potential stretch out in front of them like I can ...

I chose to show the first seven minutes of Dean Shareski's opening keynote video for the K12 Online Conference, which has stoked the fires of inquiring debate in a number of places across the web. I will chat to a few colleagues tomorrow and see what they got out of it. My worry is that not that they won't see value in this form of sharing, but that they will see it as something beyond them, beyond what time will allow for them, beyond what their capabilities are as an online navigator.

What I struggle with as well is this notion of self-directed learning as a professional. I believe that participation in networked learning is ideally suited for this - tools like Twitter are subverted for educational sharing. But Twitter is mainly about sharing stuff that other people have created or found, and Delicious is the same. Neither ask the participant to put themselves "out there" like writing a blog post or adding content to a wiki or even posting a reply to a forum. So, why is that so many teachers find the use of social media for sharing to be such a step that they are unwilling to take? I find it hard to imagine their reluctance and need to be shown because I (like the majority of edubloggers I assume) have learnt how to use and manipulate social media through active participation. Workshops and PD sessions on how to use Google Reader and Delicious seem to run counter to the whole point of self directed learning through technology.

Also I feel that for a practice to stick, to become habitual, the desire to explore further must come from within. Maybe some teachers will never grasp the concept of online networked learning for their own professional improvement ... but I have at least raised their awareness of what it is out there if they choose to look beyond their own self imposed boundaries.


I enjoy Lisa Neilsen's blog but worry when I read words like this:

There is less tolerance for educators who do not believe it is their responsibility to move their teaching out of the past. Those stuck in the past... those who are not developing their own personal learning networks... those not taking ownership for their learning... are doing a great disservice to our students and themselves. In the words of leadership expert Jim Collins, these are the people that those who care about student success may want to advise to just get off the bus.

Not that I disagree with the sentiments but its tone is hardly encouraging to educators who are still tentative in their overall use of technology. What was that old saying about honey and vinegar?

Especially when teaching has become an increasingly complex job. I like to use the metaphor of a juggler with my colleagues, recognising that they already have a number of important balls in the air that they need to keep in motion. To take on a new ball, something needs to be done about the ones already airborne - either by taking one out of action or lessening the impact if it gets dropped.

Adapted from this image -

Adapted from this image -

Telling my colleagues they shouldn't be in the job just because their technology ball isn't whizzing around at the same intensity as the others is not fair and is as tunnel visioned as those who would judge teacher's prowess on their students' test scores.

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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.


Back in 1999, started to look at concept of Paradigm Shift ; last macro paradigm shift was 500 years ago but we are at the start of a new macro paradigm shift. Mark works mainly with NZ, Ireland and Australia. In 1998, schools were struggling to put technology in but it didn't really make any difference to teaching and learning. However, technology has improved and costs have dropped. 500 years ago, the printing press was invented and lowered the cost of information, saw the emergence of schools, also sparked the Reformation, allowed people to present new ideas, traders travelling overseas brought back new ideas, some monarchies started to pay people to think.

Robert Branson looked at the paradigms associated with education, wrote paper called "The Upper Limit", pointed out that testing was about recall. Books were a finite resource so libraries were used to maximise this resource.

Big difference between knowing and understanding.

Internet dramatically lowers the cost yet again of knowledge - will mature in about 14 years (2020). Books were part of a resource scarce-environment, so we moved into teaching thematically which makes the copy / paste methods of "knowing stuff" very accessible and problematic in the internet era, as information is now anything, anywhere and anytime. What do we actually need to know? Curriculum is full of "stuff to be learnt". Internet offers new efficiencies and gains - it's now not about our teaching, but their learning. Kids need to leave us as lifelong learners - but one mistake we make is that we presume kids know how to listen and how to think.

Massive shift from the majority service sector to the Creative sector.

Thinking ~ we don't spend much time being logical, sensible and rational. We deal with people every day in the classroom so it is important to know that everyone has a unique world view. What concepts do we need kids to understand?  In NZ, the concept of concepts of subjects were kept (backlash from parents) and competencies were open for all NZ teachers to contribute their own ideas (ownership).

Concept > Learning Intention > Contexts > Content > Sustainability.

Personalised learning is all about who's in front of you. How do we get the data to follow the student? NZ uses a LMS (3 vendor options for NZ schools) for 24/7 access via a login and access to updated student data, reducing the need for teacher written reports. Pointed out that with today's swing back to high stakes testing there seems to be a belief that if something can't be assessed, it doesn't tend to be valued in schools. However, we need to explicitly teach CONCEPTS, not focus solely on the content.

The central vision statement in the NZ curriculum is "confident, connected, actively involved lifelong learners".

Inquiry Learning - Mark demonstrated how inquiry is broken into a developmental process appropriate to specific age levels. He gave an example of kindergartens using mobile phones to pixt images to their profile on the LMS, the parents then get a txt message to inform them that their child's profile has been updated. Interestingly, Mark's model does not have the students searching the internet as teachers handpick sites for student use, in order to build up critical literacy, teachers need to review pre-chosen resources.

Final points re: inquiry according to Mark:

  • the process is the most important component
  • keep building on throughout the years in school
  • very social process, technological process
  • be aware of the developmental process of the kids - if you are running around too much, then what you are doing isn't really working.

FOOTNOTE: After stirring the pot with a few staff members re: the limited future of the book, I then bought my own copy of "Whatever" from Mark. Yeah, yeah, call me a hypocrite. I've been called worse.


Although I didn't make the effort to blog about this last year, going to an all day event with Mark Treadwell (sponsored by ACEL) was an excellent learning opportunity. Mark describes himself as a travelling scholar and his session focussed on explaining much of the research and concepts of his book "Whatever!" retitled to "School v2.0" for the Australian market. My principal, Ann and I went along knowing not much than his book title expecting that it might have been about Web 2.0 tools in education but we were pleasantly wrong. Instead Mark gave us a big picture of what he refers to as the replacement for the 400 year old Book Based Paradigm, the Internet Based Paradigm. He used his experiences in the New Zealand education sector to talk through the challenges faced by schools today and how NZ has sought to meet these challenges. Of course, the government has changed hands since his 2008 visit and now, so the established direction and priorities of the MOE might have changed course somewhat.

Anyway, we were sufficiently impressed by Mark's work and both Ann and I agreed that his message was one that all of our teachers needed to hear. The phrase 21st Century Learning gets bandied around a lot in education circles but Mark Treadwell's overall synthesis in both his presentation and book is the most complete and defined that I've come across. So, Ann asked him at the end of his session when he was next due through our neck of the woods and secured his services for a staff PD day. That happens next Monday in conjunction with three other schools. I've been reading a few of the chapters from his book in preparation and phrased up a number of focus questions for our staff to consider and respond to during the day.

  • What are signs in our work life that the Internet Paradigm is having an effect ?
  • What are some practices in our schools that are decreasing in value because of the internet?
  • What challenges does all of this present to our school?
  • What personal challenges does all of this present to you?

Mark Treadwell has a number of comprehensive websites with a lot of supporting materials for his book. I know he's not the only visionary promoting and pushing for meaningful change to the education system (although he did mention that he despairs at the prospect of change at the university level where practices are even more entrenched than in primary and secondary schools) but if we are looking for relevant possible courses for action here in South Australia, then the New Zealand experience is far closer to us in school culture and values than other national change initiatives. If we are to believe those nation education ranking systems that regularly place Finland in the number one spot, then us Aussies in fifth spot are better to take our lead from the nearest competitor in fourth spot, the near neighbours in NZ rather than take advice from someone like Joel Klein from another country back in about twelfth spot.


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. 


What does traditional Professional Development look like? (workshops, conferences, staff meetings, seminars) The features of this approach (which many teachers still view as the only way to update their professional skills and knowledge) seem to be:

  • With an expert
  • A set time, place and duration
  • Handouts with step-by-step instructions
  • Responsibility for learning lies with the facilitator (as in if they are good,” I learnt a lot from that presenter today.”)
  • Everyone in the session experiences the same journey
  • Obtain a solution / formula / approach that can be used tomorrow, a pre-constructed toolbox
    “small picture” solutions or “big picture” gospel
  • Delivered by local “experts” or well known international “gurus”
  • Top down

So, what’s the alternative? What differentiates contemporary professional learning from the traditional? Which new (and not so new) approaches should educators be seeking out? So could this mindset look like this?

  • Anyone or anything is a source of learning
  • You build your own toolbox
  • Equal partnership with others in learning
  • Professional/ Personal Learning Network as a source of professional dialogue
  • Apply inquiry learning principles to oneself as a learner
  • Sharing from but beyond your own classroom
  • Learn by teaching others
  • Small bite-sized snippets “just in time” (video clips, screencasts, mini-tutorials)
  • Continual learning and re-learning (free ranging)
  • Zoom in and out between “small” and “big picture”
  • Learning through networked discovery (as in many ideas / concepts are discovered through connection, rather than strategically planned for)

How's that look for starters?


I've been reading some of Dean Groom's stuff and spending a lot of time nodding and mentally saying "Uh huh." His thoughts and much of what I encounter from others in similar roles in their online writing makes me feel less isolated and less inclined to label myself as the "weirdo" or "oddball" out of step with reality.

But I just know that more than a few of my colleagues are convinced that I am not normal and that this over-obsession with all things digital is a good starting point for proof.

Here's some more evidence fuelling their opinion:

  • He says he doesn't watch much TV or even read daily newspapers.
  • He walks around with strange gadgets - over gigabyted USB drives, recording devices, PDAs, heck even my school laptop is some strange tablet PC contraption.
  • He seems to work things out for himself by playing with technology (Won't he break something? Doesn't he need instructions? Shouldn't he be doing real work?)
  • He uses weird words like blog, wiki, twitter, network, skype, slideshare, unconference - does any normal person know what he's on about?
  • He volunteers to speak and present at conferences (as if he has worthwhile to say) but says he gets bored sitting in the audience at them.
  • He's even Googled his own name!
  • He interacts with weird strangers online and then he goes to meet them. Hasn't he heard of stranger danger?
  • And he gets frustrated that we aren't all as interested obsessed as he is about this whole internet thing - says that we'll all be irrelevant or something if we don't get involved.

Just like this Dean Groom fella, my colleagues probably figure that this would be my point of view as well.

But herein lies the problem. We want them to use it, so access is made easy. PD is offered, but suffers from the power distribution law syndrome where a few, do most, most of the time. Teachers know that they can set some task - say a video - but don’t need to ‘learn’ to use it personally - they don’t go through the student experience - so a guessing at the value of the activity at best. They assume that the ‘digital natives’ will just get on with it - else the IT people or computing staff will be the ‘go to’ people for the students. We accept this, and of course help the kids as we figure at least the kids are using technology.

And they'd probably be right. Maybe I am wrong. This internet obsession thing might all be a lot of hot air and I'm wasting my time right now.

But that means so are you.


One of the new things that I've been involved this year is the development of several Professional Development sessions for the wider South Australian education community. This evolved out of an increased flow of requests to have a look at our interactive whiteboards and how we are implementing and using them across the school. Earlier this year it was getting to the stage where I was hosting a different school every other week with my time ''to get things done" gradually getting eroded. Add the fact that I'm easily distracted and not naturally well organised and that requests seemed to be on the increase and it was time to design an alternative.

My principal, Ann, has had prior experience in managing requests of this nature and she suggested designing a program of training or information sessions that schools would pay for and book into. She gave suggestions on how it could be packaged up, created a flyer template and contacted several districts to "spread the word". Her help here was invaluable because I was completely lost on how to set this sort of venture up. We ended up with four sessions - two shorter information style presentations and two longer half day work shops. They were dirt cheap for attendees and only really designed to recoup my release time expenses but as Ann pointed out, we didn't really know what the market was like so it was best to start out conservatively. The sessions were "Planning and Implementing an Interactive Whiteboard Program in Your School" led out by my principal Ann from a leadership angle, "Why Promethean IWBs?" exploring my school's choice of platform with the third brazenly titled "iwb 2.0" which showcases the possibilities of melding IWB techonology with the Read/Write Web.

This past Monday, I held the fourth in this series titled "Inquiry Learning and IWBs". The idea behind this was to present our school's journey and to show the potential use of ICT to change teaching practice and present improved learning opportunities for our students. I was very nervous about this one as my tenuous grip on what constitutes "inquiry learning" has been really challenged in this space here in blog posts and many useful probing comments. Anyway, I decided it wasn't my role to provide training in the art of inquiry learning but to point out how our school had connected the dots using various frameworks and adding key resources into the mix. This is how I tackled the three hour workshop.

The Jigsaw Concept
Jigsaw analogy – just like a jigsaw, some pieces are put into place first but you need all the pieces to complete the puzzle. The school wide goal is to use IWB and elearning technology to transform teaching practice.

Some questions for the group to consider:

What is Inquiry Learning?
Why bother with technology?
How do the two go together?

Jigsaw Piece No.1

IWB program @ LNPS (Aug 2005 - )

  • 2 year journey for our school
  • 13 IWBs in our school, all students have access at some point
  • IWB utilises its own native software, other desktop apps and the world wide web
  • Can IWBs transform teaching and learning?

Jigsaw Piece No. 2

ICT skills of teachers / integrating ICT into teaching and learning in the classroom

  • information literacy
  • Resource Based Learning becomes Problem Based Learning becomes inquiry learning
  • Where SACSA fits in – looking at the SOSE Companion Document pp 10-11.

Jigsaw Piece No. 3

Inquiry Learning – Kath Murdoch

  • staff training
  • inquiry process / use of strategies
  • Key points re: Inquiry Learning

Finally, how we frame the inquiry up in the first place?

UbD – Jay McTighe & Grant Wiggins

  • Understanding by Design (stages and planning template)

3 stages of UbD.

1. Identify desired results. Some are pre-determined, but are also customized for the learners. What are the important ideas embedded in the goals?
2. Determine acceptable evidence.
3. Plan learning experiences and instruction.

  • Visit to Melbourne conference for key staff members
  • Influenced inquiry learning planning template
  • Moving into use of wiki to enable more teacher ownership

Quality Teaching Framework - Jenny Gore

  • teaching/ pedagogy
  • matched with IWB research to rate lessons and provide critical reflection

Jigsaw Piece No. 4

IWB classroom research – Flinders University

  • examines IWB use in our classrooms
  • role of the research participant
  • video and rating of IWB lessons
  • reflections and interviews
  • published research
  • participation in IWB professional development

Jigsaw Piece No. 5

Co-planning Inquiry Units

  • planning template – evolving from paper to digital
  • in learning teams
  • with co-planning partners

  • support from AP in Assessment and Planning
  • teacher-librarian involvement
  • the role of the internet – resource or platform?
  • JP – Community Helpers, examples from Teacher-Librarian.
  • MP – Unit on Water, from classroom teacher.

(1) Rocket writing
(2) Possible sentences
(3) Shared reading
(4) Assessment
(5) Interactive component

Jigsaw Piece No 6.Supporting teachers’ eLearning skills and methodologies

  • eLearning Day
  • staff ICT tour
  • eLearning committee
  • EdCap surveys and tailoring T&D to the appropriate level
  • Emerging use of Web 2.0 tools

Putting the pieces together. What pieces will you need for your school’s inquiry/elearning puzzle? How can IWBs help?


It was interesting how helpful my blog was in putting this presentation together. I pulled out key pieces that would have been hard to get just from memory and a lot easier than trawling through the files on my laptop. The other good thing is that the workshop is set for a repeat due to popular demand and a waiting list for 2008 has already been started!