Tagged: education

Week 2: Goal Setting

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Goal setting is an important way to focus time and energy on improvement and a lifelong skill that can assist students to achieve their ambitions. Make sure you introduce the handy acronym ‘SMART’ goals and discuss examples (and non-examples).

  •  S – specific
  • M – measurable
  • A – achievable (or attainable)
  • R – realistic (or relevant)
  • T – timely

This Kids Health site has five great tips for goal setting.  I like to provide some guidelines to students and suggest 3 academic goals, 2 skills and a personal goal for improvement. We also created a rubric based on the “You Can Do It!” framework – Confidence, Organisation, Persistence, Resilience and Getting Along. Students rate themselves from 1 to 5 for each of these attributes and then choose a couple to work on. Again, it is useful to give examples, such as 1 = I talk to a special friend about my ideas, 3 = I can speak to small groups of about 10 people about my ideas,  up to 5 = I can confidently speak to a room full of over 50 people about my ideas.

 1. Use Padlet or Linoit for students to create a wall of goals

Each student posts their goals on a ‘sticky note’ on the wall. You can save this wall embedded in a blog or wiki to return to at the end of the term, semester or year. 

2. Create a form in Google Drive

Again, this way you can save and store all your student’s goals for review in Semester 2 or at the end of the year. Students also need a copy to refer to, so make sure they have saved them.

 3. Create a poster or infographic with your goals.

4. Create a video about your goals.

Repeating goals out loud and recording them are powerful ways for students to remember and solidify their goals. Investing time and energy into creating a video about their goals assists students to make them authentic, relevant and purposeful. As simple as recording a student reciting their goals or as imaginative as creating an animation, this task is open enough to allow students of all ages and abilities to get engaged.

 5. There’s an app for that!

Of course there are hundreds of apps that can be used to support goal setting – whether your goals are to break a bad habit, get fitter, lose weight, read more or whatever. This is a comprehensive post for free and paid apps that can assist. The top free apps for goal setting are “Way of Life – the ultimate habit maker and breaker” and “Everest – live your dreams and achieve personal goals”.

What are your tools, strategies and ideas for student goal-setting?

Week 1: Icebreakers!

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My aim for 2014 is to write a blog post each week that includes a range of teaching strategies that can be used to engage students in their learning. The focus will be on the learning goal, using a variety of hands-on strategies, web tools and mobile apps. For week one I am suggesting a range of strategies to be used as ‘Icebreakers’.

Since Christmas Day, 52 passengers and 22 crew members have been stranded in pack ice near Antarctica – three icebreakers have failed to reach them and finally a helicopter is being sent to rescue them. Classrooms can be a bit like ships sometimes – students with different interests and abilities are grouped together with a common destination. The goal is reached more effectively when everyone gets along and demonstrates good organisational skills, persistence, resilience and teamwork. Setting high expectations in the beginning and clearly communicating those expectations is important in an open and trusting environment.

At the beginning of each year, teachers will benefit from getting to know the students in their new classes – their interests, strengths, experiences and skills. To build trust and respect in your classroom, students need to get to know each other too. The following activities can be used to help participants feel comfortable in the classroom and assist in creating and maintaining a successful learning environment.

1. Create an avatar

Avatars are small images that can be used to identify users online. There are a huge variety of online sites to create your own avatar, including

2. If I was an animal, I would be a…..

Students find a picture of an animal that represents their character. ARKive  and Flickr are two great sources of animal images. Students then describe the characteristics of the animal that they have. This is a question sometimes used in job interviews, so it is worth thinking about. A monkey might be considered agile, intelligent and curious; an ant is hard-working and part of a team; a tortoise might be slow-moving, but thoughtful and persistent and an elephant is strong, loyal and has a great memory.

3. Self Portrait

Students draw/sketch/paint/collage themselves and display their image. Digital tools that can be used include:

4. Use word clouds to create an image

Wordle and Tagxedo are two web2.0 tools that students can use to create an image using words they choose to describe themselves. WordFoto is a mobile app that can be used in a similar way. Lois Smethurst explains the process of using Tagxedo and WordFoto on her blog, “My ICT Journey”. Ask students to choose at least ten words that they think describe themselves. An alternative might be “Ten things you didn’t know about me”.

5. My five best qualities

Students trace around their hand and for each finger nominate a characteristic that they are proud of – some students might need prompts, so perhaps you could brainstorm a list as a class to start with. You can also use Padlet or Linoit to complete this activity (each student posts their five characteristics on a sticky note on the digital ‘wall’ or ‘pinboard’). Here is a list of 555 personal qualities that students may find helpful.

Some more ideas for Icebreakers can be found at Educational Technology and Mobile Learning – Ten Techy Icebreakers for the 21st Century Teacher.

Learning 2.013 – Making Change!

“Learning 2.0 is a transformative, challenging experience for all participants; it is the conference that leads the change in education. Every year the goals of the conference are to connect  educators from around Asia and the world as well as to create an active learning experience that pushes their thinking about learning and technology.”

What an amazing experience – more than just another educational technology conference! Learning 2.013 is the eighth (?) in a series of unique conferences for teachers, organised and presented by teachers. Although I may have been the only teacher from a small, rural, government school, and certainly one of only about half a dozen teachers from Australia, I was one of four hundred delegates that were inspired by the whole event. Coming from Hawkesdale P12 College (230 students from prep to Year 12) I was amazed by the scale of the conference itself and the resources and infrastructure of the school. United World College South East Asia (East Campus) is a new school, building up to 3000 students from kindergarten to Year 12. It aims to be one of the most environmentally sustainable schools in the world, with passive solar design, air-conditioning powered by solar panels and an extensive recycling system.

Another great part of the conference was the overall structure and the Learning 2.103 app, which allowed users to choose their sessions and have an up-to-the-minute individual schedule at their fingertips. The conference was a combination of learning 2.0 talks (punchy presentations from the stage in the main hall, TEDx-style), extended sessions and ‘in a nutshell’ sessions from the same presenter, student sessions, hands-on workshops, un-conference sessions and cohort meetings. This allowed participants to choose some sessions based on feedback from others. There were three Science cohort meetings, which myself and John Gaskill facilitated.

Thursday 10th October

I attended the pre-conference day, participating in Heather Dowd’s (@heza) “Google Apps Bootcamp” workshop. Heather works at the Singapore American School and started the day by creating a collaborative slideshow using Google Presentation: Learning 2.013 GApps Bootcamp Introductions. Although I knew this was possible, and have seen Tom Barret’s “Interesting Ways” series use it with great success, I was surprised how well it worked with multiple users collaborating simultaneously. Other activities included:

I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend an extended period delving into the more intricate functions of Google Apps and especially ‘Flubaroo’ – a ‘script’ that allows you to automatically correct tests created in Google forms. Thanks Heather, for the huge amount of time and effort you put in to preparing and delivering this six hour pre-conference session (9.00am to 4.00pm).

Friday 11th October

On Friday, I attended Rebekah Madrid’s (@ndbekah) “Everything is a Remix – Learning 2.0 Edition”. Rebekah opened the session by sharing some YouTube videos by Kirby Ferguson, where he demonstrates how popular musicians and film makers have re-used melodies, lyrics and scenes over time. His argument is that there are no truly unique creations and that everything is copied, transformed and combined, so that new ideas evolve from the old ones. His brilliant TED talk is here:

Following the extended session were student presentations in the library, which included “Design teaching”, photography and robotics. These students were very capable, confident and enthusiastic about sharing their ideas, as well as demonstrating excellent technology skills. In the afternoon, Diana Beabout (@dianabeabout) from the Shekou International School, presented  “Asessing Learning with Digital Resources”.

Saturday 12th October

I was lucky enough to attend Adam Clark’s (@AdamClark71) extended session – “Balancing the See-Saw – Living Deeply with Technology”, which was all about  keeping the balance between work and family life in a digital age. He encouraged technology users to take breaks, using various techniques such as colouring mandalas, stretching towards an upturned cup on the floor and Pomodoros.

After lunch I presented my own workshop “Improving Student Outcomes in Blended Learning Environments”, which morphed into a “Digital Toolbox for Blended Learning”, after I discovered that the participants were probably less experienced with online learning than I had anticipated. it was well received, with some good feedback from participants, whose only suggestions were that we needed more time.

One of the most enjoyable sessions was Paula Guinto’s (@paulaguinto) ‘in a nutshell’Creating collaborative conversations in the classroom and beyond”. Paula is a dynamic primary teacher at UWCSEA (East Campus) and encourages respectful relationships between students by building trust. She is an energetic and thoughtful learning leader who cultivates complementary learning spaces, both physically (classroom set up to allow small group work, including a variation of the ‘harkness’ table) and virtually (teacher and student blogs). She facilitated a ‘fishbowl’ discussion, in which half the group were seated around the table and the other half were observers, recording aspects of each individual’s role in the discussion.

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

6th World Environmental Education Congress, Brisbane, 2011

Between the 19th and 23rd of July, I had the great privilege to be able to attend the WEEC Conference, held at the Brisbane Convention and Entertainment Centre. I was invited to participate in a workshop by RMIT University, who were part of the School Community Learning Partnerships for Sustainability research project which included Hawkesdale College and 17 other schools on Victoria and Queensland. Our school was one of the case studies, identified as a successful example of school-community partnerships that work towards education for sustainability.

The conference was inspiring, challenging and dynamic, with academic researchers, teachers, government representatives and other stakeholders in environmental education from all over the world. I met people who had attended the 4th WEEC in Durban when I was there four years ago and made some new connections with like-minded educators. One of the highlights was meeting a couple of ladies who work in conservation education in PNG, who explained that, instead of the usual two coffee seasons in a year, a warmer climate has resulted in three or four harvests per year. Which means more money for highland communities, but it also means that some children are taken out of school to help with the coffee picking and more money is spent on alcohol. In addition, mosquitoes are becoming more prevalent in the highlands, due to the changing climate, which has brought malaria into areas that previously were free of the disease.

Another story I found very moving was from a keynote speaker from the Carteract Islands, which are being inundated with seawater as the sea level rises. They have built levies, but the soil is salty and many of the farmers can no longer grow their subsistence crops. So most of the men on the islands have moved to the mainland to find work and left their families behind. In some cases, the only men that visit are from the fishing boats that pass by. Significant numbers of young women on the islands have become pregnant and been disowned from their families, giving birth alone in the city hospital. When a particular young girl was given some money to buy some clothes for her baby, she did not return, leaving the baby in the hospital, because she had no means to look after it. This was a harrowing story and just one example of the unexpected social costs of climate change.

The conference was a timely and informative opportunity to discuss the national curriculum “Earth and Environmental Course” with experts in Education for Sustainability from many different countries and levels of education. On Monday I have been invited to review of the second draft of this course, and I attend with the knowledge gained from the WEEC conference, including perspectives from around the world, and the confidence to put forward my opinions.

Last week we have also had meetings with representatives of the Moyne Shire and AGL Energy, regarding the Macarthur Wind Farm Project – the ‘largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere’ being constructed about 14km from the school. We are proposing a partnership that will provide opportunities for site visits, incursions by expert speakers, work experience, traineeships, apprenticeships and perhaps annual scholarships for students to complete tertiary studies in renewable energy technologies, environmental engineering or similar. There are several large projects planned for the Moyne Shire and surrounding areas, including the Origin Energy gas-fired power plant near Mortlake and another proposed for Tarrone, the Penshurst and Ryan’s Corner wind farms and “Hot Rocks Ltd” are exploring possibilities for geothermal energy in the Hawkesdale and Koroit areas. I am keen to explore opportunities for corporate links and believe that school community partnerships can enhance student engagement and learning outcomes.

Great Educational Bloggers to Follow

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During the Teacher Blogging Challenge for Activity 2, I read many posts about effective writing and followed links to some outstanding educational blogs. Where can a beginner blogger find great blogs to follow? I compiled the following list, at the risk of leaving out some very important people’s blogs; but these are ten of the most popular and influential blogs in education, that I find myself returning to frequently for great information. These writers are leading the way in education, bloggers who have a vision for improved learning using technology and are willing to share their knowledge and experience. In no particular order, these ten blogs are a great place to start:

  1. Richard Byrne – “Free technology for Teachers” @rmbyrne
  2. Tom Barrett’s Blog at “edte.ch”   @tombarrett
  3. Frank Noschese’s blog at “Action-Reaction” @fnoschese
  4. Dan Meyer’s blog at  “dy/dan”  @ddmeyer
  5. Dean Shareski’s blog “Ideas and Thoughts” @shareski
  6. Kelly Tenkeley’s blog “iLearn Technology” @ktenkely
  7. Mr. Robbo, “The P.E. Geek” @mrrobbo
  8. Langwitches’ Blog @langwitches
  9. Tony Vincent’s blog “Learning in Hand” @tonyvincent
  10. Chris Betcher’s blog at “Betchablog” @betchaboy
  11. Edna Sackson’s blog at “What Ed Said” @whatedsaid

I know I have left out some great educational bloggers! Please leave your own recommendations in the comment section below.

Porsche versus Volvo


Since Monday’s state-wide, student-free professional development day, I have been pondering the what the future might hold for Victorian teachers and the Ultranet. According to some reports, six years and $88 million has been spent developing the on-line education platform that will allow 24hr access to lesson plans, timetables, student assessment data and attendance records.

 Some teachers have been using the tools that the ultranet purports to deliver for many years already – web2.0 tools, such as blogs, wikis, slideshows, interactive calenders and message boards are readily available on the internet. These ‘early adopters’ of technology in education have tested the tools, used them with students and made decisions about how they can be used to improve learning outcomes. Many of these teachers have become ‘lead users’ of the ultranet, trained to deliver professional development to their fellow staff members and be responsible for the uptake of the ultranet in their schools.

 It has been disappointing, to put it mildly, for these teachers that the ultranet was unavailable and running very slowly on the day that it was meant to showcase its benefits. As well as giving credence to the ‘blockers’, naysayers and critics, many of the hours spent preparing for the day have been wasted. Experienced teachers had plan B in place and the day was not a total loss, with the opportunity to introduce many other web2.0 tools to staff. Our staff were able to spend time exploring FUSE (Find, Use, Share, Educate), GradeXpert (assessment tracking tool), image, audio and video software as well as iPods and Google. Anne Mirtschin, our ICT expert at Hawkesdale and our beloved  guru of technlogy, has written a much more detailed account of our day, including preparation and post-op at “Are we there yet? The Ultranet.”

 When we first heard about the ultranet, four or five years ago, it’s premise was a ‘safe’ learning environment for Victorian school children, a ‘walled garden’, where students could learn about communication, collaboration and connections without risks to their privacy and safety. Since then, our students have been involved in many global projects without any concerning incidents. They have learnt how to be ‘cyber-safe’ and the importance of the digital footprint they leave behind. They have been prepared for life outside school, when there is no wall keeping them in.

 Hence my pictures – the Porsche is what we’ve been using up to now – a smooth, fast and up-to-date vehicle for experienced drivers. A high-performance engine and easy to manouveur with your finger-tips, the Porshe is fast and flexible but risky to drive for inexperienced users. On the other side is grandma’s Volvo – solid, safe and practical. Good for learner drivers, the Volvo can be slow, clunky and difficult to turn. The Ultranet will give teachers who have not yet fully embraced web2.0 technology the opportunity to learn in a safe and secure (but slow and inflexible) environment. Hopefully, the owner and mechanics will keep the vehicle well maintained and up-to-date and it will transport many passengers , until they are ready to purchase their own high-performance vehicles!


On Borrowed Time

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Similar to my last post, this is another on-line resource for learning how to manage our environment. The CSIRO has developed two interactive eco-challenges for students, under the heading “On Borrowed Time”. You can play the role of a farmer managing a sustainable farm while still making a profit or be a forest ranger balancing the needs of five vulnerable species while preserving the jobs of local people.

There are four inquiry-based teaching and learning units (Adaptations, Forests, Fire and Farming) each with English, Maths and Science activities. David Lindenmayer has based this learning resource on his book titled “On Borrowed Time”.

My Worst Job Ever!


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Looking back on your life, what was the “worst job” you ever had that ironically helped prepare you to one day become an educator?

Christian started the ball rolling by describing his gig as “Binky the Clown” for a Pizza Hut children’s birthday party. He tagged Damian, among others, and Damian passed the torch to dmcordell, who passed it on to murcha, who passed it to me.

Most memes require that you link back to the person who tags you, address the theme, and tag other bloggers to keep the theme alive.

After completing a Bachelor of Science degree at Latrobe University I applied for dozens of jobs as a lab assistant or similar, without success. When the father of a friend offered me a job in the city, working in a share registry, I jumped at the chance. It was one of the most soul-destroying jobs I have had – stamping numbers on share transfers, filing, data-entry and answering the phone. The highlight of my day was running downstairs to buy a doughnut for morning tea! I lasted almost a full year, before moving to Darwin.

Funnily enough, I had a job there as a children’s party hostess, and part of that job was dressing up as the company mascot, the “Billabong Bear” – a very hot and sweaty proposition in tropical Northern Territory! It was much more fun than the share registry, I promise.

Since the share registry, I haven’t worked in an office (except a brief stint overseas at British Telecom). I guess that one of the things you learn is how to relate to your colleagues – sometimes good manners is just not enough. Understanding a person’s character and knowing their strengths and weaknesses is an important skill as a teacher. Keeping team morale high and getting the best out of everyone is challenging, but worthwhile.

Perhaps one of the most important things, that helped me become an educator, is to have high standards – expect the best from my students. Because if they don’t try their best, they may be destined for a lifetime of boring and unfulfilling jobs – or no job at all.

I tag MargM; Bexta; Faye; Denise and Madam Mim

GHCMA Active Catchment Education model

On Friday 2nd May, three classes had the opportunity to learn about water issues with Dave and Nile from the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority. Grade 3/4, Grade 4/5 and Year 7 Science students learnt about the effects rabbits, cattle and dogs can have on water quality and it was demonstrated how rubbish, oil and other pollution can travel from gutters to the sea. Go to this site to add you own comments: http://voicethread.com/#u95096.b122140.i644477