Posted in Web 2.0, wellbeing

Being ESmart

Part of my current role is to coordinate our school’s journey to become an ESmart accredited school, through the Alannah & Madeline Foundation.

Today I ran a staff induction to bring them up to speed on what the program is about, what we have already accomplished and where we need to go from here.

I’ve been doing hours and hours of research to find videos and resources for students to view to make them aware of the positives and negatives of digital technology, mainly around the concept of a’digital footprint’. I thought I’d share some of the fabulous videos that I’ve come across – some are suitable to show students, others are probably not…use your discretion and common sense. If you have any other gems to share, I’d love to hear your list!

I began today’s staff session by showing Jigsaw, by Think You Know (UK).

As part of our curriculum for 2017, certain year levels will be viewing and analysing the short film, #GameOn, from the ESafety Office. Here it is below.

Posted in Learning, wellbeing

Smashing apart my comfort zone.


Photo credit: Donncha O Caoimh

48 weeks ago, I was ready to jump off the nearest educational bridge (metaphorically speaking), never wanting to enter a classroom setting again. I was broken and had no desire to teach another human being as long as I lived. I resigned from my position effective from the last day of the school year.

But money is a necessary evil and I accepted a position 2 days a week at a local independent school providing extra release periods for their staff. Over the course of 2 days, I teach every single child from Prep to Year 6. I also spent time mentoring their first & second year graduate and I’m currently working on writing some curriculum documents.

And you know what? I absolutely love it. I cannot imagine what was going through my head last year.

So what has changed in the last 48 weeks? A lot. My comfort zone has had a major transformation, almost to the point of not being able to be defined as a zone.

Aside from teaching, I started a new direct sales business which involved public speaking. Not just public speaking, but going into other people’s homes and speaking to their friends…who were to me, strangers. For someone who refused to speak, let alone answer, the home phone until I was around 10…this was huge. That being said, I still hate calling people – email is my best friend.

I began tutoring students in their own homes after school. Dealing with a lot of special needs throughout my time I’ve come to appreciate the hard work that goes in to assisting those students who need it (when you don’t have 22 other students in the room crying out for attention too!!). I tutor 5 students per week, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Do I enjoy it all the time? No. It’s hard. But it’s probably harder for them.

I taught some secondary classes! Yes, the students were taller than me and yes, I survived. Phewf.

Tomorrow I take my biggest leap outside my comfort zone – presenting at an Educational Conference – EdTechSA at Immanuel College in Adelaide. There are over 200 people at the conference, but luckily for me the workshop numbers are capped at 25…so 25 will be the maximum number of educators I’ll be talking to. Well talking, but showing and teaching them some hands-on activities that they can try themselves in their classrooms! I’m actually going to be encouraging other teachers to teach – something I never thought I’d be doing 48 weeks ago. (In fact, I resigned the very day after my pre-service teacher finished her final placement, as I didn’t want to put her off teaching by doing it while she was still there!!) I’m going to be public speaking, to a room of people I don’t know, in a city I’m not from, in a state I don’t live in – here I go!

A comfort zone is something that everybody has. But everybody has the chance to leave it…or smash it apart!


Posted in iPads, Learning

Is it worth it?

This year, we introduced 1:1 iPads across our Years 5-10 students. Our school decided to implement such a program at the request of our School Council, wanting us to increase our technology and ‘keep up’ with other schools. A class had trialled iPads. Our tech support team had developed confidence in the area of Apple devices. Class sets of iPads were purchased for the lower years. Professional development was offered to all staff. Documentation and information was written, edited, and rewritten. All staff purchased their own iPad. More professional development was offered to staff. Information evening were held for all parents of the school.

Our rollout was in stages.

Term 1 – Years 9 & 10 students.
We dabbled, dipped our toes in, as we stumbled upon issue upon issue. Student behaviour. Consequences, or no consequences? Staff trying to introduce iPads meaningfully. There were breakages, inappropriate usage and the beginning of device addiction. PD was offered to staff on a variety of apps, behaviour management strategies for the ‘connected classroom’ and app sharing sessions. All staff were asked to allocate one of their SMART goals to an IT-related goal. A specific parent night was held for the parents of these students – we answered their questions and offered advice.

Term 2 – Years 7 & 8 students.
Armed with more knowledge and loophole awareness, the next cohort of students were introduced to iPads as a learning tool. Student behaviour was still an issue. The question of consequences was still an issue. Games in class – appropriate or inappropriate? The issue of screen time was being raised, so we set about asking teachers to record their students in-class iPad usage for a 2-week period. Nothing extreme – Year Level, Subject, Approximate percentage of class time iPads were used, and maybe the app/apps they used. A specific parent night was held for the parents of these students to ease their fears and reassure them that technology was something that our school values.

Term 3 – Years 5 & 6 students.
Our knowledge as a staff is becoming stronger and there are less and less loopholes for the students to find. Students behaviour regarding iPads is less of an issue. Consequences are becoming tighter. There is a no-gaming policy unless it clearly relates to class work. Screen time is still a concern. A specific parent night was held for the parents of these students to tell them how successful our initial roll-out had been and what we have learnt from it to try and improve it for their children.

After two terms of iPad use, we surveyed the teachers and the Year 7-10 students on their iPad use at school. The results were fascinating. After such eye-opening results, my principal requested that we survey the parent community as well. The results were indeed fascinating, but for less positive reasons.

Some of the main concerns were that their child was now not interested in school since the iPads were introduced. The issue of screen time seemed to be on the tip of every parent’s fingers as they typed their negative responses into my Google Form. Other parents were frustrated that they seemed to have taught their child more about the iPad than the teachers at school.

Funnily enough, we have run PD sessions on integrating the iPad effectively. The SAMR model has become so frequently referred to at our school that I am sure I dream of it at least once a week. The issue of screen time was a factor that we wanted to address, hence our request of staff to record their usage for a two-week period. Out of all the staff asked (at least 20), only 5 responded. How could we present that information to parents?

After nearly 3 years of being involved with the iPad program and imminent technology rollout, the responses I read from our parent community made me wonder, “Is it worth it?”

  • Is it worth putting so much time and energy into trying to inspire other staff to try something new on their iPad? Or use an app a second time, to build confidence?
  • Is it worth running optional technology sessions for staff to try and reach their SMART goal, but then have nobody turn up?
  • Is it worth holding parent information nights to present information and try and teach them about the world their children are moving into, only to have parents whinge behind our backs on an anonymous survey?

Sometimes, no matter how much you are supported by your leadership team and how passionate you are, you still wonder “Is it worth it?”

Posted in iPads, Learning, Technology

Technology Tuesdays

During Term One I attempted to run “Technology Tuesdays” at school to help assist staff to integrate technology, in particular iPads into their planning, teaching and learning. Other schools have “Techie Brekkies” which I feel is a great idea, except the part that means I would have to get up early. After school works better for me!

I had grand plans and ideas. But as the term wore on, there was very little interest in the after school sessions. 

Following a staff survey about iPad use at school, I decided to give Technology Tuesdays another go for Term Three – with a few adaptations.

A term schedule – These sessions will only be held on Tuesdays that we do not have a full staff meeting. Our meeting nights are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but there isn’t a meeting scheduled for every staff member each Tuesday. I’m also going to add the schedule to the school calendar and invite staff to attend. To see what my plan is (so far) for Term 3, have a look here: Technology Tuesdays

Options – I’ll be uploading the content for each session here, onto this blog. That way, if staff can’t make it – there’s always the option to catch up later! Which leads me to the third adaptation…take-aways.

Take-Aways – Although I’m trying to reduce my paper usage, I’ve learnt that staff love to have a piece of paper with instructions on it to take home and look at later. Yes, I know they can take a photo of it, or just take notes on their iPad, but it can also work this way too! Because I’m aiming to create independent staff members my handouts will be more like step-by-step guide so staff will hopefully be able to teach themselves. The handouts will be uploaded here in the blog post here each week.


The first Technology Tuesday’s topic is ‘Twitter‘. I’ve designed a 3-Level Challenge for staff, ranging from beginner, to novice, to expert. These Challenges were based around @mrrobbo‘s 14 Day Twitter Challenge, but adapted to suit my school and the staff who work there.

Feel free to use or adapt! Perfect for anybody new to Twitter as a PLN (Professional Learning Network).

Twitter 101: Twitter Level 1

Twitter Know-How: Twitter Level 2

Twitter Extra: Twitter Level 3

BONUS – Twitter + AITSL


I’d love to hear about your success stories about staff PD for ICT use at your school!
Posted in iPads, Technology

Being challenged is a good thing!

At the end of Term 3 last year, all of our staff got their own iPads. When I type ‘got’, I mean that they were required to purchase an iPad, most through a salary sacrifice option. Some, like myself, already had their own. There was some whinging and complaining, but it fell on deaf ears. Our school was progressing, and this was a required step in the process.

One of my roles and challenges was up-skilling the staff to befriend this brand new device that they now owned. There was a wide variety in the interest, current skills and dedication to learning about their iPad. Some staff took their two weeks’ holiday as a learning opportunity and familiarised themselves with the iPad and it’s capabilities. Others left it in the box and hoped that they would be given PD in Term 4. It was the plan, however some self-directed learning was also required!

We presented our staff with their own iPad Handbook (which I don’t actually have a soft copy of – sorry!) and I provided them with a crash-course in iBooks and iTunes with a take home list of QR code links to various iBooks which I thought they may find helpful. I provided them with the resources and basic skills – whether they used it or not was up to them.

It was only a few weeks later that I realised that there were staff asking me really simple questions, like “How do I type using capitals?” and “Can I email a photo to someone?”. I used the Bingo Baker website to create 2 different iPad Bingo Challenge Cards – Level 1, and Level 2. I used the web address of each Challenge Card to create a QR to place on our IT wall in the staffroom and asked staff to scan (and take a screenshot of) both of them during a full staff meeting. 

Level 1 was for staff who needed the basic skills – the capital letters, screenshots, searching the iPad, forcing apps to quit, etc.

Level 2 was for staff who had basic knowledge of their iPad and needed some motivation to create resources for their classes, edit files in their Dropbox, or utilise Guided Access.

Feel free to download the links above and use them at your own school!

There was no extra PD provided about any of the challenges – no extra ‘how to’ or ‘what does that mean?’ – I told the staff to do what I would do – ‘Google it’.

I felt it was important to let staff work through these at their own pace – there was no deadline to meet all of the challenges…until this term! They’ve had at least 6 months to familiarise themselves with these tasks and when we hold our next IT Professional Learning PD afternoon, there will be prizes for those who can prove their skills!

Posted in Technology

App of the Week #2: Twitter


What is it?

Twitter is a social media platform, used for conveying thoughts, opinions, photos and links in only 140 characters (letters, numbers, punctuation & spaces).

Why should I download it?

From an educational perspective, Twitter is the perfect base for constructing an active PLN (Professional Learning Network). If you want to find out more about education, connect with like-educators and increase your knowledge and resources, don’t hesitate to download and sign up! It the the best form of free, instant Professional Development that an educator could ask for.

What do I use it for?

In the first few days of using Twitter, a lot of people are still finding their feet. There is the opportunity to just ‘lurk’; watching what others post without responding or being actively involved. As you come across information that you find useful, you can save it as a favourite, start to follow the user who ‘Tweeted’ it to see what other pieces of sage advice they have to offer, or respond to the ‘Tweeter’ to find out more.

How do I get it?

Click here to be directed to Twitter in the App Store.

This post is the second in a series, highlighting apps which can be helpful in the education ‘game’.

Posted in Routines

5 P’s to being a graduate mentor

I was both delighted and honoured to be selected to be a mentor for my new Year 4 colleague this year. He is a graduate, but has more life experience than me, as this is his second career. For the purpose of the exercise, let’s call him Bradley.
I remember as a graduate feeling so unprepared. My four years worth of classes, assignments and placements were barely visible in my mind as I came towards actually putting it into practice. Even though the school year has only just started, I have been emailing Bradley with what I feel is useful and practical advice, plus a few resources that I have found helpful. Lying in bed last night, my brain was ticking over again as I mentally started scribing a list of more things to mention to him.

1.  Planners –

I’ve passed on a Yearly Overview to Bradley for him to gauge what type of content we will be covering. I felt it was important to give him a copy of my Term Planner as well, but I have stressed that he is more than welcome to try and implement new things that he has learnt at uni, or seen on placements, or is simply curious about! I haven’t graduated to doing my weekly planner on my iPad yet, so I just print out a blank template for each week, just to jot down quick notes about lessons. Bradley thought this might be useful as well, so I emailed him the digital copy.

2.  Parent Communication –

I must tell Bradley about methods of parent communication. At our school we have a fortnightly whole school newsletter, as well as a fortnightly classroom newsletter on the opposite fortnight. Bradley may feel more comfortable if we combined our classroom newsletters into just one Year 4 newsletter, or he may like to send out his own. At the beginning of the year, I send home a Parent Information Booklet (mentioned in this previous post) to share my routines and guidelines within the classroom. This always includes my email address at the top of the classroom newsletter as my preferred contact method, which I will be encouraging him to do as well, to avoid parents spontaneously dropping in and catching the teacher by surprise. Alternatively, our parents call make appointments with teachers via the Student Reception Office.

3.  Professional Development –

I mentioned casually the other day to Bradley that I got a certain idea from something I had seen on Twitter. He told me that he’s always been interested in Twitter, but doesn’t know much about it. Little does he know that I will be (not-so-forcefully) recommending that he join and try and use it. Hashtags like #ectchatOZ (Early Career Teacher Chat) and #pstchat (Pre-Service Teacher Chat) have both been invaluable to me regarding new experiences and ideas, although there are so many more chats and hashtags that have guided and supported me too. For a graduate teacher, I can think of no better instant PD. Definitely be talking to Bradley about this.

4.  Patience –

Bradley is already a few steps ahead of me in some ways, as he is both married and a father. But the patience you show towards family membership can be quite different to the patience you need to show towards your colleagues and students. We’ve already had a chat about different possible discipline strategies and one of the biggest pieces of advice I gave him was ‘Pick your battles’. I think this phrase is used often in education, but if never fully appreciated it until last year. Showing patience towards those battles that we choose not to pick helps the classroom to remain calm, and with those battles that we do choose to pick, patience is still the overarching key to the approach we take.

5.  Pride for positives –

Not every lesson goes well. I have had some absolute doozies. Despite this, it is important to be proud of your efforts and the time you give to the students. Being proud means celebrating each lesson that you have poured energy into. To track my successes, I began using a highlighter to circle the lessons in my planner which I felt went well. At first, it was just lessons that worked, but I built it up to lessons that I would do again, recommend, or include on our class blog. It’s great to flick through your planner and see lots of bright colours, reminding you that you should be proud of your teaching and learning. I’ll be telling Bradley to do the same. Focus on the positive lessons, not the ones that went a little awry. Be proud!

As my mentoring journey is only just beginning, I’m excited to see what it brings to me as a professional and what it brings to Bradley as a graduate.

Posted in iPads, Technology

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I hear this phrase a lot – maybe not word for word, but something along the lines of…

A) She’s got too much time on her hands.

B) Obviously she doesn’t have a family.

C) I don’t have time.

D) I’m too busy.

It’s a common excuse that teachers hear from students regarding their homework. I don’t know about other teachers, but the homework I set is to consolidate student learning. It covers things we have already looked at in class. It’s not compulsory, but often gives me feedback on what I haven’t covered properly in class. By setting the homework, I am hoping that students will be confident in completing it, to prove to me that they have improved upon the set topic.



What about teachers? Do they strive to improve on their teaching? Or do they just think that by completing a four year degree, or maybe a Dip. Ed, that they have completed their education? Sure, schools offer PD opportunities – the compulsory ones like First Aid and those PLC meetings, full staff meetings, etc. But what about taking the learning into their own hands? Surely teachers don’t believe that they can’t improve upon a single area of their teaching…

This morning I read this article, tweeted by @johnqgoh: “More teachers sacked for bad behaviour than poor skills”, courtesy of The Telegraph. It refers to ‘fixing’ teacher’s classroom skills, informal training, formal training and teachers having a mere ‘basic’ knowledge of the curriculum.

I feel disappointed that teachers don’t feel that they need to improve. Any employee, whether they are a garbage collector, funeral director, teacher, accountant or scientist..can improve. I have heard staff say, “I don’t have time for that”, referring to the invitation to sign up to a blog, join Twitter, create an e-book, or navigate Pinterest. Learning about technology can be daunting, but it’s a necessity in today’s classroom.

Tomorrow, I am introducing the idea of iPad Bingo to my staff. It’s a bit like their own homework task for the holidays – to consolidate and improve their iPad competency with the new iPads they have had since the beginning of Term 4. Some teachers are more confident than others, hence the 2 different levels. Scan the 2 QR codes below to check out the iPad Bingo.

iPad Bingo Level 1iPad Bingo Level 2

As a third year teacher I know that I am only at the beginning of my teaching career. I know I don’t have my own children, or any pets, but that doesn’t mean that I work 24/7 on lesson plans and classroom strategies. I look for any opportunity to try something new, to innovate and to extend not only myself, but my students.

If teachers aren’t prepared to push themselves to improve, how can they expect their students to?

Posted in iPads

Teaching Twitter

As one of the e-learning leaders at my school, I am helping run professional development for our staff to assist them in using their iPads.

Some of the staff are brand new to the concept of iPads so things like turning it on, using the home button, swiping the screen and opening an App are hurdles for them. Others are focusing on downloading Apps, rearranging Apps into folders and organising their Apps like Evernote.  For most staff, the implementation of iPads at my school has pushed them out of their comfort zone.

Today I decided to push them even a little bit further and introduce them to the concept of Twitter.  I wanted to make it very clear that I have only been on Twitter since May and that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing – I didn’t even know how to type a ‘Tweet’.  I stressed that I use my Twitter account to boost my Professional Learning Network (PLN) and I don’t follow many celebrities or television personalities.

I put together a brief Keynote presentation to show them, which included screenshots of my own Twitter feed, featuring many valuable Tweeters, as well as screenshots of some of my tweets.  I had also tweeted out to the Twittersphere earlier this morning to ask my followers why they use Twitter – and I showed these results to my staff.  People had retweeted, favourited and answered my question, with valuable comments and arguments to demonstrate the benefits of Twitter.

The last slide features people that I gain much benefit from following – not to say I don’t appreciate all of the other Tweeters that I follow, but a Keynote slide is only so big!  I felt it was important to provide them with a starting point, and a platform on which to ‘lurk’ and watch the tweets fly back and forth!  Hopefully I will be able to run a dedicated PD workshop on how to set up and use your accounts for the first few days or weeks, as today’s session only went for 20 minutes, before we headed into our focus groups for specific Apps.

I’m interested to see how many of my staff join, or better still, start making a visible presence on Twitter. I was introduced to the hashtag #battt (Bring A Teacher To Twitter) recently which I think is an amazing idea!

Do you have any hashtags that you find helpful for developing your educational PLN?

Have you used Twitter in the classroom, or as a schoolwide program? Share your success stories!