Friday, 15 November 2013

Students with learning needs are now on a "level playing field" with their peers

I was fortunate to share a day with colleagues Dorothee, Marese and Jen recently. The day was facilitated by leading teacher Melanie Daignault. Melanie’s role is part of “Diversity is the Norm” a special program ran by the Parramatta Diocese CEO, with over 500 personal ipads being  distributed to students with significant learning needs.
Melanie gave us practical ways we can personalise learning for these students. Using the ipad, students can quickly produce, publish and represent learning at THEIR level.

Powerful apps are tools to learn, record, reflect and publish
- “Educreations” and “Explain Everything” enable students to write, draw, type, record voice and video. It works alongside accessibility features such as Siri to convert speech to text.



Use Screen shots: students quickly save a copy of their learning in the camera roll.

Connecting students in learning spaces: Air display, Air Server and Join Me
- Students can connect wirelessly with laptops, iPads, iwbs and TVs
imageQR codes
- to direct students to online books, websites, video and audio

Friday, 25 October 2013

Data collection "on the go" using Google Drive on iPad

For Kindergarten orientation at Holy Family, East Granville, my colleague Ben Munday designed a spreadsheet that enabled us to collect data on our new cohort before they started “big” school. 

The data was added to ONE spreadsheet by teachers all at the same time using the Google Drive app on iPad.


Together with Natalie Bratby our Infant’s Coordinator, they wanted to identify students who may need extra help before starting school. This data will be used to design a series of lessons for students who need an extra hand to get ready. They have called this “Jump Up” - a customised and strategic school readiness program.

Collecting data is seamless using google drive and iPad.

The spreadsheet is enabling us to collect valuable student data at the orientation such as; letter and number recognition, vocabulary, sentence structure and much more. Collaborating with Kindergarten teachers Rebecca Sargent, Theresa Bainey and literacy leader Kim Doherty, we engaged with students at learning stations, inputting data “on the go”.



We had a meeting afterwards which enabled us to add more anecdotal information directly onto the spreadsheet.

Google tools has enabled us to collect data easily. We can also experiment and innovate with our iPads, thanks to the leadership of Principal Sue Guilfoyle, who implemented a staff iPad program in 2012. She has also empowered teachers and led our ipad initiatives across K-6.


Staff are enjoying the flexibility of their own cloud accounts, thanks to this initiative of the Catholic Education Office in collaboration with Google. Classm8 has been embraced by our team. I was very impressed by the great work and planning of my Holy Family colleagues in the Kindergarten orientation session.

Cloud mind mapping brings inquiry learning to life.

I’ve been encouraging my students to use mind mapping to expand big ideas and ask deep questions. In Grade 3, my colleagues Diane Chammas, Amanda El-Howzi and I collaborated and explored this during the Parklands topic.

Students used mind maps three times during the process.
1. Big Ideas generation.
2. Expanding and asking individual inquiry questions.
3. I created a cloud based narrative scaffold mind map. Groups used this to develop their scripts collaboratively.

Cloud mind mapping on the ipad is one approach, with students working together at the same time or remotely. I also like to use lo-tech mind mapping on paper, whiteboards, glass and chalkboards as well. If we decide to mind map lo-tech I still like to take a photo and share! See the learning pathway in this video.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Making “getting ready for school” a simple process.
My colleague Ben Munday, (a learning support and ESL Leader) and I worked together on creating a simple school readiness poster. This visual was to support the needs of our parent community. We converted it from a “text heavy” document. The information was adapted from The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health Feel free to share or adapt this resource to support our children “getting ready for school”.

Lo-tech tools still have a place in schools.
In Melbourne recently I visited a fanzine shop near Flinders Street Station. It was an artist’s co-operative that invited visitors to create their own fanzines or comics. They provided free resources to anyone and you could also purchase many varied “hand made” mini works of art. When you produced them, you could sell them through the shop and receive a small royalty. There were typewriters, stamps, different types of papers, crayons etc. These lo-tech tools have a place in schools and I would love to create a lo-tech station like this for my classes. Hand made products can always be scanned and digitised and shared with the world.

A real world application of this “new” lo-tech was the initiative of a State Security Service attached to the Kremlin. They have reverted back to creating their top secret documents on old typewriters to avoid cyberleaks!

iTeach - no app for that.
I love this birthday present from my family! It is so good. Thanks guys!

Monday, 30 September 2013

Student "car signs" initiative stems from a film interview made in class

In Challenge Based Learning there is a goal to encourage students to come up with real world solutions to problems. One group in Year 4 thought of a great idea to produce car safety signs. Their question was – “How can we encourage our community in Granville to not use mobile phones while driving?” We produced an actual run of these “window suction signs” and the students went about promoting these to the wider community. The students placed an order form on the website, sold them in the playground to parents and received interest from the NSW Police Media who promoted the initiative on their extensive social media networks.

This real world initiative was backed by the NSW Police Force and promoted on their wide social media networks. This created a ‘buzz’ and resulted in many comments and likes!
An order form for the window signs on the school’s website

Saturday, 21 September 2013

From local to global - Our students interviewed Mr Greg Whitby, Executive Director of Schools

Link: From local to global - Our students interviewed Mr Greg Whitby, Executive Director of Schools

Our students interviewed Mr Greg Whitby, Executive Director of Schools, Catholic Education Office, Parramatta Diocese, for their TV Station HFSTV. Grade 5 brainstormed questions using ipads and then coordinated a real interview, presenting the program and manning the cameras. Holy Family School, East Granville students can rise to any challenge. Real learning for a real world purpose. See the movie below and visit Mr Whitby’s blog report on the interview.

Mr Whitby’s Blog

Friday, 20 September 2013

Living Museum Project - a great success
I was fortunate enough to witness an example of deep learning in action when my grade 4 teaching colleagues James West and Rebecca Eid led their class on a historical tour of school life from the 1800’s to the 1940’s. There was a strong parent attendance for the event as well. The student’s improved focus has been evident over the term, through learning skills to improve self control and to use drama to explore ideas about the past.

I put together this short movie to broadcast on our school TV Station HFSTV. Congratulations to my colleagues for their great work, supported by Naree Shields and Miranda Jefferson (Drama Literacy Learning Team).

School website Article

Students and Parents stay Cybersafe
Here is a Classm8 (Google Apps) / Cybersafety Brochure that was sent out with our newsletter to help promote our positive launch of Classm8.

The new Google Apps package “Classm8” from CEnet is the best! Students from years 3 to 6 at Holy Family have been using it for blogging, presentations and documents. Our parent community is also very supportive. Our website links to the Learning Exchange Cybersafe information as well. Thanks to the classm8 team for their work in repackaging the google system to support student learning.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Ipad Professional Group - Teachers sharing is powerful learning

During 2012 and 2013 I facilitated and coordinated an Ipad Professional Learning Group where teachers met every fortnight to share; how to use the ipad for learning, trialling apps and using the ipad for assessment. This was very successful and resulted in the trialling of over 140 educational apps and resources for classes. 
Colleagues demonstrated the use of many creative mind mapping and creativity apps.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Sharing across teaching networks will benefit all students

I had the pleasure of connecting with elearning/technology teachers from the Parramatta, WA and Sydney Diocese in Australia in July 2013. Thanks for visiting Holy Family East Granville and affirming the work we are doing with our students using ipads.

I feel it is important to connect with other networks as we have so much to share through our combined experiences.

The pdf uploaded on the learning with ipads blog includes some resource ideas for teachers. The link to the visit is also included on our school website. (link below)



Monday, 12 August 2013

Holy Family East Granville Student’s TV Station HFSTV

Our students are producing some great work on their ipads. See Holy Family East Granville’s Online Internet TV.


The importance of teaching Digital Citizenship

I was recently asked by Cybersmart (ACMA) to be a teacher spokesperson for their new digital citizenship campaign. I really like the work of Cybersmart and recommend their school programs!

This is such an important part of our teaching now in order to keep our students safe online and to teach them to create a positive digital footprint. Their motto is
Engage positively - What you say and do online affects other people

KNOW your online world - protect your digital footprint

CHOOSE consciously - you are in control of the decisions you make online


My personal philosophy of learning in the 21st Century

Students engaging with technology – global digital citizens who think, create and inquire

Students of today have access to many types of technologies. While technology has significantly changed the way we live, a life balance is needed between the use of these technologies and the development of interpersonal relationships and spirituality.

In my learning space, students are taught to use a combination of collaborative skills and low-tech “hands on” resources. They combine these with technology to extend the learning experience. In this sense the technology is not used for its own sake, but rather to facilitate and enhance a deeper understanding of the curriculum topic.

 I have experienced Challenge, Inquiry and Project based pedagogies as an effective way to embed technology into learning. Students ask questions, solve deeper problems and share their findings with the world. I feel that learners become more engaged if the task has a “real world” purpose. By connecting with experts in Industries. Governments, Local Businesses and Non Profit Organisations, and asking deep questions, students then think creatively to effect positive change in our world.

 I understand that flexibility is important when technology is embedded in learning. I often ask questions such as; Which tools should be used?, Why are we using them?, Does the task encourage deeper learning?, Are we connecting with our students for a real world purpose?, Does it have relevance to them? Can we personalise the task and use technology to create a product?, If students have individual devices, can their learning response be individual? Do they have choices?, Is the task digital “busy work” or does it encourage metacognition and reflection?  Asking questions is the central tenet of my goal to improve learning outcomes for my students.

 To be creative, imaginative and to continually learn and relearn are important skills for all 21st century learners. I believe students need to channel their creative strengths to encourage deeper thinking. I teach my students simple skills to work collaboratively to tap into the strengths and imagination of other team members.

 The 21st century teacher’s role has become that of a facilitator and product manager. Students have access to arbitrary information, anywhere, anytime online. By teaching critical thinking and problem solving students learn to be discerning. I provide my students with simple steps to break down these learning processes and problems as they occur, to create meaningful responses and reflections.

 There is an increasing need for schools to be teaching students digital citizenship skills. I feel we have a responsibility as educators to inform our students and parent communities of the dangers present online and the safety of students is dependent on teaching them skills to protect themselves and their digital footprint. In my present role I have encouraged my colleagues and provided tools and resources to assist in this process across school communities.

 The online world is becoming dominated by video and audio content. My involvement in the music industry as a recording artist and songwriter, my connections with the film industry, and experiences in graphics in print and web design since the 1980’s have enabled me to experience personally the rapidity of the changes that have swept the world and will continue to do so.

Above all things this has taught me the necessity to be adaptable. Previously the premise of specialized industries, children in connected classrooms now routinely use software and applications to create and publish in many formats. I encourage my students to exploit their talents to this end - to be imaginative, creative, confident and responsible digital citizens of the 21st Century.