Blogging Workshop at Warrnambool College

Last Friday, 25 Year 7 students from Hawkesdale visited Warrnambool College to participate in a blogging workshop with about 130 of their Year 7 students. Our students have been blogging for up to four years, so they were able to act as peer tutors for six classes, over three hours. As Warrnambool College students are just starting their blogging journey, our students were able to assist them to change their theme, title and tagline, write their first post and some added links to their blogroll. Alannah and Anna shared their own blogs, showing a cluster map, “Sparklee” text and how they use text and images to share their learning with readers from across the globe.

This was a great opportunity for our students to share their blogging knowledge and demonstrate confidence and leadership skills. We hope that we can continue to connect with students from Warrnambool College, as blogging buddies and perhaps, in future, our students can assist to share their knowledge of the Ultranet.

Thanks to Greg Twitt and David Clift for organizing this exciting opportunity and also to our Year 7 students who did an excellent job. After the workshop the class was treated to a game of Ten Pin Bowling.

“I liked sharing my blog with Warrnambool College students – it was good to be able to help them start their own” Alannah, Hawkesdale College Year 7 student

“I couldn’t believe Hawkesdale have been blogging all that time, but once we were shown how, it’s not that hard really.” Warrnambool College Year 7 student.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Blogging Buddies at Warrnambool College

On Friday April 27th, 27 students from Hawkesdale P12 College will attend Warrnmabool College to assist their Year 7 students to start their own gloabl2 blogs. Mr Twitt has opened global2 accounts using the student code, as you can see at the ‘parent’ blog: Your tasks are as follows:

1. Activate your global2 account.

2. Login and change your password to something you will remember.

3. Change the admin email for the blog to their student email (under settings).

4. Change the title of your blog to something good.

5. Choose a good theme  and create a header if necessary.

6. Write your first post.

7. Add an appropriate image (creative commons or one you have taken yourself).

8. Add a widget (cluster map or avatar).

9. Add some links to a blogroll of other student blogs.

Global2 Blogging at Warrnambool College

Step 1: Go to the Global2 website by clicking on this link: Global2 Home Page

Step 2: Click on the link on the right hand side of the page, where it says “Make a New Global 2 Blog”.

Step 3: Add your site domain name – I suggest your student code (eg. gow005) or nickname. Choose carefully, this becomes part of your web address and cannot be changed.

Step 4: Give your blog a title, which can be changed at any time.

Step 5: Create your new blog by clicking on the “create site” button at the bottom of the page.

Step 6: Login to your email account, click on the link sent from global2 and activate your blog.

Step 7: Login to your blog’s dashboard and change your password (Go to “Home” and “My Account”) ensuring you remember your blog address and password.

Step 8: Log in and go to the “Appearance” button to choose a theme for your new blog.

Step 9: Go to “Add Post” and write your first post by adding a title and text. You may also like to add an image – remember it should be an image you have  created yourself or a creative commons image and not one copied from the internet.

Step 10: Fill in the following form with your details.


Some great resources for blogging:


My 2011 Edublogs Nominations

It’s Edublogs Awards time again and my chance to celebrate some of the great work my colleagues all over the globe are doing. Best wishes and good luck to all those fine people who have been nominated this year.

Best individual blog:
“What Ed Said” by Edna Sackson, a teacher from Melbourne, is a blog I keep coming back to. Her posts are always interesting reflections on teaching and learning in a technology-rich environment and illustrated with videos and images from her classroom. Her writing style is clear, concise and thought-provoking.

Best Group blog and Best New blog:
The Australia e-Series Blog advertises upcoming professional development webinars and provides a rich archive of the Australia e-series webinars, so educators are able to continue to learn and benefit from the expertise of the presenters. With five contributors, it is regularly maintained with a great range high quality resources.

Best ed tech / resource sharing blog:
Richard Byrne’s “Free Technology for Teachers” is my favorite Ed-tech and resource sharing blog because it is regularly updated with great free tools for teachers and students.

Best twitter hashtag:
#pencilchat has been a highly amusing, entertaining and thought-provoking parody about ICT use in schools. Contributors from all over the world compare the simple pencil to the uptake of technology in education.

Best teacher blog and Lifetime achievement: (although I hope she has another few decades left!)
E-Journeys – Immersing technology in the classroom and beyond into the globe” is one of Anne Mirtschin’s blogs. Anne is an ICT leader, award-winning teacher and a dear friend. She is passionate about rural education and an inspiration to many teachers around the world for her energy, enthusiasm and prolific online presence. This blog demonstrates just some of the many and varied projects that Anne is involved in, from the !deas, K12 Online and Global Education conferences, to the Flat Classroom Project, eT@lking and TechTalk Tuesday webinars as well as the Classroom 2.0 and Guide to Innovation nings.

Best librarian / library blog:
The School Library Association of Victoria have a great blog, called “Bright Ideas” which is a fantastic resource for all librarians and teachers.

Best free web tool
Apart from Edublogs, of course? Twitter would be my next favorite, free online tool. Gee, I’d probably even pay for it if I had to.

Best educational wiki
The Educational Origami wiki is my choice for it’s huge range of resources, clear presentation and clever images. Andrew Churches, from New Zealand, has been nominated annually since 2008 and deserves to take home the award this year.

Best open PD / unconference / webinar series:
Australia e-Series team: Anne Mirtschin, Carole McCulloch, Junita Lyon, Jo Hart and Jess McCulloch. This series of online professional development sessions is scheduled, presented and moderated by the volunteer team. They willingly give their time to provide insights into a myriad of elearning strategies for teachers in all educational areas. This series is made up webinars called eT@lking, Community Connect, Tech Talk Tuesdays and Serendipity/Fine Focus. The Australia e-Series has presented over 200 webinars to a global audience.



Image Source

This week I was fortunate to attend the Science Teacher’s Association of Victoria annual conference, held at La Trobe University, Bundoora. I presented two well-attended sessions of “A Digital Toolbox for Teaching and Learning Science“, for which I received some excellent feedback.

The Keynote address on Day 1 was Professor David Jamieson, from Melbourne University, who spoke about “Physics, Power and Climate Change”. It was a very sobering analysis of climate data over millenia, the relationship between climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and our currrent insatiable appetitie for power. He highlighted the imbalance between the consumers of power in the developed countries and the effects of climate change that will impact more severely on people in developing nations.
On Day 2, the keynote speaker was Dr Tanya Hill from the Melbourne Planetarium, who had a very inspiring plenary titled “Where to Find Aliens”. She had some awesome space images and great information about how new exoplanets are being discovered virtually every week and how some of them may be quite earth-like and capable of supporting life. She challenged us to think which was more incredible, that we are the only planet in the vast universe that harbours living beings or that there are other places where life goes on. One of the web sites that Dr Hill recommended was “Zooniverse“, which has eleven “missions” which are “citizen science projects” – that the general public can participate in. Zooniverse includes eight space missions, one about nature, one about humanity and one about climate.

Benefits of Blogging for Students


Way back in June 2008, Anne Mirtschin wrote “What is a blog?” with a description of the different ways blogs can be used. We are still blogging at Hawkesdale, due to the great benefits for students:

1. Student-centered Learning

Blogs allow students to create their own space on the internet, where they can customize their templates, express their ideas and share their opinions. Students love to add different widgets, images, music and animated clips to their blogs.

2. Supports Differentiation

Blogging is an authentic, open ended task that is suitable for a wide range of abilities. You can be young or old, speak any language and use blogging for your own purposes and interests.

3. Open Learning Community

A blog is accessible 24/7 to students, peers, parents, relatives and anyone! Students can display a portfolio of their work to a global audience. Cluster maps or other widgets can be added to show where visitors are viewing from. Students love to see red dots popping up on their cluster maps and it can become a geography lesson too!

4. Authentic Audience

Students take more pride in their work because it has the potential to be viewed by this global audience, including their peers in other countries. They are no longer just writing for their teacher, but the whole world!

5. Improves Literacy Skills

Blogging encourages reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar and research. As the blog builds (with the most recent post at the top) you can look back and see improvement over time.

6. Builds 21st Century skills

Blogging allows connections with the global community and promotes teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving. Blogging helps to build information, media and technology skills required for 21st century work places.

7. Engages students socially

The Facebook generation expect to have a global voice, they expect to be able to communicate with everyone, all the time. Blogging allows this. Students can create links to their friend’s blogs and other sites of interest.

8. Allows reflection and a record of change

Like a diary or a journal, but accessible from anywhere, a blog can document the development of the learner. Blogging gives users time and space to record their reflections.

Year 7 Student Blogs:

Jade’s blog
Jasmine’s blog
Elektra’s blog
Jobe’s blog
Tobie’s blog
Sam’s blog
Messiah’s blog
Tayla’s blog
Chris G.’s blog
Emalee’s blog
Helen’s blog
Alex’s blog

Science, Maths and the Future of Australia

If you weren’t at the National Press Club on 28th September and you haven’t yet read Professor Suzanne Cory’s address, it was a passionate and well constructed argument in support of science and maths education. Professor Cory is one of Australia’s most distinguished molecular biologists. She was Director of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and Professor of Medical Biology of The University of Melbourne from 1996 to 2009. She is currently a Research Professor in the Molecular Genetics of Cancer Division at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow of The University of Melbourne
and the president of the Australian Academy of Science.

An excerpt from the speech is reprinted here, courtesy of “The Conversation”, who published an edited transcript under the Creative Commons license.

“Without a robust and inspiring science and maths education system, it’s impossible to create an internationally-competitive workforce.Myriad jobs – apart from the obvious research, engineering and technology careers – require a basic understanding of science and maths.And, as a parent, a mentor of young scientists and a passionate advocate for quality education, I know that all children are natural born scientists.”

““Why?”, “How?”, and “What happens if …?” are questions asked frequently by young children, whose natural spirit of inquiry is crucial to understanding the big exciting world around them.We need to harness this natural curiosity and nurture it with inspiring education.Australian public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP is just 4.2% – significantly below the OECD average of 5.4%.”

“A decade ago, a review of Australian science education, revealed many students were disappointed with their high school science.Today, this disenchantment continues, as evidenced by the declining number of students choosing to study science in senior secondary school. Consider the following:

In 1991, more than a third of Year 12 students chose to study biology. That now sits at less than a quarter.23% of Year 12 students studied chemistry ten years ago, compared with 18% now.In the same period, physics has fallen from 21% to 14%.While Australian students have been losing interest in science, their international peers have been taking it up with great enthusiasm.”

“The OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) examines the scientific literacy of teenagers in 57 different countries.In 2000, the only nations that performed better than Australia were Korea and Japan. In 2009 – the most recent figures available – Australia ranked behind Shanghai, Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Korea.”

“What happened? The Assessment indicated that the performance of other countries has improved while Australia’s has remained stationary.A recent survey conducted by Science and Technology Australia and the Academy of Science showed Australians clearly value science – 80% of respondents acknowledged science education is absolutely essential or very important to the national economy.But it also revealed some alarming holes in the basic science understanding of the average Australian.”

“Three in ten believe humans were around at the time of dinosaurs.More than a fifth of our university graduates think that it takes just one day for the Earth to travel around the sun.Almost a third of Australians do not think evolution is currently occurring. About a quarter say human activity is not influencing the evolution of other species: a worrying statistic given the impact that human activity is having on the environment. In other words, many of us do not understand even the most basic science. How can we halt this slide in science and maths in our schools and attain an internationally enviable position?”

“Thankfully, our government is already investing significantly in school infrastructure and in rolling out a national high-speed internet network. Last December, education ministers approved the content for new national curricula in English, history, maths and science. In coming months, they’ll be asked to sign off on the standards for these curricula. This is an important initiative and the Academy of Science applauds it. But we also need investment in teachers, and in inspiring curriculum programs.This is a responsibility for both the Commonwealth and the States, who must work together rather than reverting to the blame game.”

“Inspired (and inspiring) teachers will be the most important agents for improving educational outcomes. We must place a much higher societal value on teachers and do everything we can to recruit some of our brightest and best into teaching. We must support these educators with the best tools and resources available and provide them with stimulating opportunities for ongoing training.”

If you are interested to read more about Australia’s position in terms of world education (tertiary), the latest OECD report “Education at a Glance” is summarized in a Sydney Morning Herald article, “Our Unworldly Ways“.

As a Science and Maths teacher, I can’t agree more with Professor Cory’s sentiments, and I hope state and federal politicians and bureaucrats take note of her suggestions. Everyday I work to share my passion for science, to inspire my students, to encourage their curiosity for the world around them and for how it works. As teachers of 21st century learners, we need to address their unique characteristics – ability to multi-task, digital literacy, mobility, 24/7 internet connected, quick response times and short attention spans. There are many teachers working in their own classrooms to “be the change they want to see” in education, despite the conflicting demands of external data collection, changing curriculum emphasis and “administrivia”.

How do you manage to tread the fine line between doing what you know is best for your individual students while still fulfilling systemic demands? What do you believe are the keys to improving science understanding in Australian schools? Are your answers to both these questions complementary?

Standards Assessment or Differentiation?

I’ve been inspired to write this post after reading several posts about differentiation and assessment including “Differentiating Assessment for Different Learners and Levels” and “Learning Matters” by Edna Sackson, better known as @whatedsaid on Twitter and her “What Ed Said” blog.

Last week parents of Australian students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 received their children’s results in the National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy tests (Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy). These largely multiple choice tests (bubble tests in the US) were taken over three days in May, four months ago.

This week we have parent-student-teacher interviews, so some parents will come armed with their child’s dots on a scale, asking why they are “below” the “expected” level. I could explain that this result was a snapshot of their child’s progress, which tested a very narrow range of the skills they learn at school. I could explain that the NAPLAN doesn’t assess organizational skills, confidence, resilience, teamwork or leadership, all of which their child has been learning. Their child may be a budding musician, artist, sportsperson, florist or ranger, but their results will be no indication of their success in that field. Student improvement in ICT skills, such as researching and communication on email, blogs and wikis, is not measured on these tests. I might even show them my own data, which shows an improvement since the beginning of the year.

Sure, literacy and numeracy are core skills that form the foundations of successful learning in other areas, but the time and resources invested in gaining data about this narrow band of achievement could be better spent in providing teachers with more time to develop personalized programs that address the needs and interests of individual children. The online assessments and national tests bear little resemblence to the literacy and numeracy challenges that will face our children in the community.

We need to be developing 21st century skills – communication, collaboration, creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem solving. Not teaching to tests and training students to choose a, b, c or d. We need to give students opportunities for working in groups (like they do in the workplace), developing research skills (like they do at university) and contributing to their community (like life-long learners should be).

Another great post (along with the two mentioned at the top of this post) is written by Patti Grayson “Grading – What is it Good For?”. I think this post, at “Teach Maths” sums up my feelings much more eloquently than I have here. It is probably a good strategy to “Be the Change you Want to See” in the classroom, and demonstrate how successful it can be.

How do you reconcile standards-based assessment and differentiated learning? What are the best ways to assess progress in personalized classrooms?
What needs to happen for educational systems to change from standardized testing?

Global2 Challenge – Collective Knowledge Construction

The final activity in the Global2 Blogging Challenge is to reflect and rethink our expectations of online teaching and learning activities. I have created the slideshow above to demonstrate some of the activities our students at Hawkesdale P12 College participate in. As we are a 1:1 learning environment, all our students from Grade 5 to Year 12 have nearly constant access to a netbook or desktop computer. This has been a steep learning curve for both students and teachers – in terms of classroom management, wireless access challenges, social networking opportunties, which sites should or should not be blocked, web2.0 tools available and changing expectations of students, teachers and parents.

I think that our staff and students have been learning collectively about how technology can impact on learning – just putting a computer in a child’s hands doesn’t necessarily improve their learning. Most students like using technology, but they prefer to use it different ways. Many teachers have discovered that netbooks allow learning to be more personalised – we can give students a greater variety of choices in their learning. Students can access, store and synthesise information quickly, allowing more time for evaluation and creation. Teachers are also learning to model appropriate use – from email and file storage to creating teaching tools using videos and screencasts.

We know that we need an appropriate use policy to be signed by students and parents at the beginning of each year, but we also need to remind students constantly about what appropriate use entails. We know that it is helpful if all students have agreed to have their images posted online and that it is helpful if parents have a good understanding of the benefits and risks of on online presence. We have found that it is easier for all teachers if we are open to learning from our students – often they can demonstrate better ways to achieve the same goals, rather than being restricted to the teacher’s method. We know that students and teachers need time to explore and practise with tools to be proficient in their use and that we can improve with reflection and feedback. It has been an interesting e-journey for the whole school and we hope that our students are developing 21st century skills that will enable them to be successful global citizens.

Global2 Challenge: Learning Collectively

Image created using WordFoto app for iPad

In a small, rural school, such as Hawkesdale P12 College, the ability to access resources from outside our remote location has been hugely beneficial. As well as communicating with students in all parts of the globe, teachers are able to form personal learning networks across continents and oceans. Teachers, students and community members can feel somewhat isolated from city life, without the great range of choice (shops, libraries, learning options, hobbies, medical and sporting opportunities) that are available in metropolitan areas. Through blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other online social networking platforms our community members have the ability to seek out others with similar interests, that they would otherwise never have the opportunity to contact.

In my school we have a Maths and Science faculty of just five teachers. We get on well and very quickly get to know each others preferred strategies and teaching philosophies. By joining online education communities (such as #vicpln on Twitter or the “Guide to Innovation” Ning) I am able to draw on – and contribute to – a much greater diversity of teaching experience. I certainly believe that effective professional development can occur as collective online learning – this has been consistently demonstrated by the Classroom2.0 forum, Anne Mirtschin’s “Tech Talk Tuesday” and “eLe@rning” on Wednesdays, as well as the Ultranet “Share and Tell” sessions. Each of these platforms operates on the premise that we all have something to contribute – everyone has different skills and experiences that others can learn from. By allowing different guests to present their own ideas and reflections, participants gain a wide range of perspectives.

Time and distance can prevent students from visiting museums, galleries, gardens, zoos and other places of interest. Many rarely have the opportunity for attending live theatre, dance or concerts. However, they can connect with like-minded people through gaming and other various special-interest forums. An example is the 365 project, which is a site where participants upload a photo each day for every day of the year and comment on photos of others. Several teachers at our school started the project this year and encouraged some of our students to join. As keen photographers they are able to share their work with others, view images from other beginners and experts, critique photos, ask for advice and contribute to discussions. This experience has allowed them to explore an interest and improve their skills outside school. Together the 365 community have built a resource of incredible images, together with information about cameras and how to create amazing photographs. These students have been able to take photos for the school magazine and enter photography competitions.

Another example of online collective learning has been the VCE Environmental Science Online course. This course has enabled students from four different schools to enroll in the subject, who would not otherwise been able to, due to lack of a willing and/or experienced teacher or due to too few students wishing to study the subject. We spend 90 minutes each week on Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate) and communicate via my blog, email, Facebook and Skype. These students are passionate about the subject – willing to take the risk on a trial in 2011 – and contacted me through my blog to request an online course. Ubiquitous access to technology has enabled them to connect with students of similar interests and support each other throughout the course.

Other students have taught themselves to play guitar using YouTube clips, create and upload animations and identify invertebrates, frogs and birds found on their farms. This ability to personalize their learning is motivating and increases the opportunities for students to develop skills for life-long learning. They are able to ask their own questions, contact experts and investigate answers. They can, as Sir Ken Robinson would say, find their “Element”. Teachers need to be very strategic and imaginative to be able to incorporate these types of learning within the scope of the VELS framework. I only hope that the new Australian curriculum will be flexible and open enough to allow teachers to facilitate online collective learning that matches the passions of our students.