Noelene Callaghan           

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My Blog

A Minecraft Milestone at Rooty Hill High

Posted on March 31, 2015 at 6:45 AM

Today will forever be known as the day that would determine whether all of the hard work that I had been putting in to creating a new pedagogical environment would be a viable teaching and learning environment for Rooty Hill High School.

The new era of learning that commenced today incorporated the use of virtual learning environments, specifically Minecraft. My Mini ME's (Mini Microsoft Experts) and I have been working this year on learning how to create educational challenges in Mineclass (for more information, please go to and learning how to transfer this knowledge to creating a server for use within our own school as well as applying this to our new Minecraft Edu server. With the help of our technology staff and our Technology Support Officer (TSO), this was all possible. The process of how Minecraft Edu came alive has been documented and can found at (Mineclass is a Transformation Project initiated between Microsoft and 5 Australian and New Zealand schools).

My pedagogical approach in the space of technology is that a blended learning is the best fit model that supports the learning of all students regardless of background or ability level. This is particularly important for those 'mixed' classes where students of various abilities are grouped in the one classroom environment. Today was no different to my approach of introducing students to Minecraft educationally.

Students in Year 9 whom are currently studying Information Systems and Technology (IST) are currently completing Project Based Learning that focuses on the creation of a Robotic Guide Dog. This robot can be targeted at any demographic with any disability (at the student groups discretion). Todays incursion was aimed at providing these students with new resources (primarily Minecraft) that they could use to complete their projects this year.

At 8.45am, students met me at the Canteen steps. The fact that we were on an 'incursion' and not an 'excursion' contributed to the negative feelings that students already possessed. I was already facing a battle and I hadn't even said 'hello' to them yet. I gave each student a contract and explained its contents. Students were given the option to sign the contract and participate in the day. If they decided that they didn’t want to abide by the rules, they could simply go to the office and ask for their parents to be contacted and have them collected from school. I left the students at the Canteen and walked to my classroom hoping that all would soon follow. Fortunately, every student signed the contract and entered the classroom. Upon their entry to the classroom, their contracts were taped to the whiteboard. I too signed a contract and this was also added to the wall of contracts.

The activities of the day was delivered via a Sway that I created (and can be accessed at ) Students have never seen a Sway before, so this was a great way to get them engaged quickly. We began the day by watching a series of animations created on Go Animate and YouTube clip on Robotic Guide Dogs followed by a discussion and a Think Tank on what the key features and the implications could be when designing a Robotic Guide Dog. Students were then encouraged to photograph their work as evidence.

This activity was then followed by a game of This a great activity that encouraged students to re-evaluate their initial thoughts about the Robotic Guide Dog and prompted more great conversation about what attributes their robot should contain.

After our first break, each student created a Google Site. Each site contained 6 pages namely; Home page, Do Now activity, Diary entries, Multimedia Project, Promotional Activity and Minecraft. Each page would be filled with information and/or photographs from throughout the day. We then completed a literature review of articles of robots and the use of robotics for personal and business purposes. This review was added to our Diary page (on our google site).

Once the formalities were completed, it was time to begin playing on Minecraft Edu. Students were required to demonstrate their technical abilities of installing the software and launching it. For many students, this was the first opportunity that they had to do such a task. For these students, this task alone was an absolute milestone.

As students were installing Minecraft Edu, I ascertained which students considered themselves as 'Jedi's' (experts in the area of Minecraft) and those as 'Newbies' (have never played on Minecraft before) and allocated a worksheet that would support their level of play. Many other resources such as recipe cards, how to maneuver within Minecraft etc were dispersed to students. At first students felt a little overwhelmed by all of the material, but it was quickly dispelled once they started playing. Within minutes, the atmosphere within the classroom changed. There was no longer a sense of competition between students as to whom had produced the best website and there was no longer a challenge of who knew more. They were working together. As equals. Moreover, even when it was time for students to go on a break (when the bell went), nobody moved. I genuinely don’t think that they even heard the bell. Students continue to build and play and help each other in the Minecraft Edu space for the next 90 minutes. All conversations that I overheard was directly related to the task at hand and every know and then I could hear cheers and squeals of elevation, particularly from those female students who were initially dubious of playing. They were so proud of themselves that they could not only fly, but they were building things. Structures. Structures that were relevant and could be used in their set of creating robotic guide dogs.

Throughout the play portion of the day, students were encouraged to communicate with members of their team about the requirements needed to support their project, document their actions in their Google Site diary, take screenshots (or use F2) and even download Snag It and use it to record themselves (which in some instances was also uploaded to their Google Sites). These activities enabled students to make the necessary connections with the content that was learned this term and the new activities experienced today.

The hardest part of today was asking students to pack up as it was time to go home. Asking all students to uninstall the software (again, students have not completed this task before), review their websites, discuss the future direction of their projects was a really inspiring activity as the growth of students technologically was clearly evident. Many had learned and experienced so many new things in just one day whereas others were able to share their expertise that they may have not normally been able to do.

Today is certainly a milestone for myself and for Rooty Hill High School and the start of our pedagogical outlook and new club - Minecraft 4 Me (named after our ICT4Me BYOD program)

I am, an MIE Educator!

Posted on March 21, 2015 at 6:00 AM

These past 2 weeks has certainly been a time of firsts and learning new things. I honestly don’t think that I have learned so much as I have since I was a beginning teacher.

After attending many a conference and networking with numerous teachers, I have realised that being a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator has opened much more doors than I could have ever imagined. Not only did I discover that I was attending the Global Educator Exchange in Seattle to represent Australian Educators, I was able to learn of the more extraordinary things that my colleagues were doing in their own schools. This has encouraged me to be so much more motivated to do so much more in my own school in the space of ICT. Being an MIE Educator has given me the confidence and the voice that I don’t think I previously possessed. Having this 'title' has provided me with a sense of assertion that I am a great educator in this KLA and that my passion and goals is in fact leading towards innovative pedagogies and practice within and outside of my school. I am still completely speechless that I have been given the opportunity to work with the world's finest in Seattle and be classed as one of them.

Prior to becoming an MIE, I used Microsoft Office as a key resource in my classroom. I ensured that students were proficient in their use of these tools and encouraged students to create tasks using Project Based Learning pedagogies. These tools were used to deliver content as well as tools that students used to curate information. Students were encouraged to work autonomously and collaboratively depending on the task at hand. In all instances, a student directed classroom was implemented to extend students in their developing of tools.

Students at Rooty Hill High School also use a Personalised Learning approach. Many pedagogies surrounding personalised learning exist, however I often used Multiple Intelligence Matrices to encourage students to direct their own learning whilst attain learning outcomes. One particular example of how this pedagogical approach was used in my classroom can be accessed via

Using Sway is a tool that I have completely embraced since becoming an MIE. I have found that this tool is just wonderful in creating self paced work for students as well as creating reference resources for students that they can refer too whilst creating a project. More importantly, students can access Sway in NSW DEC schools.

When I met the other Australian and New Zealand MIE Experts last October (in 2014), the STEM teachers were grouped together to create a Transformation Project. I was completely blown away by the resume of each of the teachers that I was now working with. These educators were living proof that we, educators, individual educators, could make a difference. Not the 'difference' that we constantly hear about - in terms of changing the life of at least one student, but a substantial difference that is actually revolutionising education as we know it. We quickly ascertained that a collaborative activity that would involved our students was absolutely necessary. Minecraft appeared to be the obvious choice as Microsoft's new relationship with this Virtual World would simplify our implementation plans for including this new resources into our teaching and learning programs. This would now be known as MineClass.

MineClass at Rooty Hill High School was formally launched at the start of the 2015 school year and since its inception, 6 male students with vast backgrounds have united. This unity growing beyond the virtual world as real friendships have developed in the classroom, playground, and of course on Skype where hours of conversation is being documented. Moreover, my students have developed relationships with the students from the other participating 5 schools and have completed challenges together. This student directed collaborative learning environment is already proving successful. (View our blog at So successful, that our Year 9 IST students will be attending an incursion to develop a teaching and learning program focusing on Minecraft Edu to complete an existing topic. Due to numerous reasons, I personally funded the Minecraft Edu server and accounts for the school and with my skilled technology team, we were able to set up and test our internal Minecraft Edu server. All of the steps involved has been documented on our Rooty Hill High School Minecraft website in an attempt to assist other educators whom wish to do the same for their students. This incursion will run in 1 week and I can NOT wait to share the day with everyone.

Moreover, I attended the 2015 ICTENSW Annual Conference last weekend and was again inspired by my colleagues in the area of Maker Spaces. For those who don’t know about this, its ultimately a safe space where students can make and create objects without teacher intervention. Students have the ability to create and innovate projects that we as educators only dream about as we, perhaps do not have the skill to do so. After deep conversations with each of these presenters, I quickly realised the generosity of large (and) global corporations and was offered free resources for my students. This was new to me. I thought and naively believed that only schools with large budgets could access such technological tools and that schools like mine were left in the dark. I am so humbled by the assistance and contribution of these contributions that my mindset (of education) has again changed. I have realised that being an educator is bigger than what I am currently doing and that I am only tapping a very small percentage of the resources, tools, aspiring leaders available to me. I have also realised that being an MIE Educator will not only open doors for me, but for my school. For those that really need it.

Personalised Learning @ ICTENSW 2015

Posted on March 15, 2015 at 4:35 AM

Please find here a link to the presentation on Personalised Learning that I delivered this weekend at the 2015 ICTENSW Annual Conference -

All relating tweets can be found on twitter with the Hashtag #ICTENSW (

The essence of programming to teach

Posted on November 30, 2014 at 2:50 AM

Educators around the country are all working tirelessly to mark final assessment tasks, calculate grades, write and complete reports, mark HSC exams and modify or even in some cases, re-write teaching and learning programs.


Whilst educators are all familiar with the concepts of programming, it is actually concerning to note that many teachers don't know how to program or have never been involved in programming. In these schools, senior teachers or Head of Curriculum are responsible for the creation of new teaching documentation. Those that are developing their own skill set of programming are learning the key skills of backward mapping, learning trajectories, scoping, sequencing, learning outcomes, the new curriculum, learning across capabilities (LAC) and much much more.


The key to programming is to not only ensure that all of the skills and required content as set by the BOSTES syllabus but to cover all of the capabilities (and if NSW, cross curriculum capabilities as well as other necessary capabilities) as well as those areas that are critical to the schools plan in terms of measuring achievement. In some schools, this could be literacy and numeracy, in others it may be about embedding digital curriculums. And other schools, well, they want to include everything in addition to personalised learning and a well rounded blended learning environment that accommodates all students regardless of background, ability level or age. But don't fret, this is certainly not impossible to do. With the correct tools and technologies, creating ambitious , yet 'possible to practice' programs can be created.


I have spent much time analysing student data to determine how a structured and purposeful program that embeds digital curriculums can be embedded regardless of KLA's. By working with many other teachers and assessing the strengths of students, we are able to create tasks for students to complete using collaborative skills and tools. This simply means, that as educators, we need to create the platforms that students can use prior to learning the content. This will allow them to create a student centred learning environment that they have facilitated and the teachers primary role is to ensure that students have access to resources that will allow them to extend themselves. By created personalised learning activities, students simply select tasks from a selected few that they feel confident to complete. Students are more likely to exceed when completing these tasks as their success fate of completing class work is significantly higher. Tools that teachers may use to create these types of learning environments are based on Office 365, Google, iPad apps and much more. Whilst all tools provide different offerings to teachers and students, they can be manipulated together to create unique learning spaces. My students use a range of technological tools to create and communicate with to their peers. My students develop their lesson and spend a considerable amount of time collaborating to complete tasks. The way I communicate and converse with my colleagues is mirrored by my students. They have a chance to change the way they learn and its up to me to give them that opportunity. My 2015 programs are largely based on collaborative tools namely Office 365 and Minecraft. Integrating these tools with those previously stated will create unique digital learners.





Learning Tomorrow's Technology Today!

Posted on November 15, 2014 at 5:00 PM

  "Is your technology driving you or are you driving your technology?"

For many years now, educators have been reminded that we are preparing students for occupations and careers that don't yet exist. And now, teachers globally are making conscious efforts to ensure that all students of the future will develop those essential skills which will be deemed as necessary in years to come. 


Nationally, syllabi's have been developed to include opportunities of 12st century learning and work readiness capabilities. 21st century learning is form of creating authentic education that addresses the “whole child”, the “whole person”, and does not limit our professional development and curriculum design to workplace readiness.  


21st century skills learned through our curriculum, which is interdisciplinary, integrated, project-based, and more, include and are learned within a project-based curriculum. Tony Wagner goes further by utilizing the seven survival skills advocated in his book, The Global Achievement Gap:


  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
  • Agility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  • Effective Oral and Written Communication
  • Accessing and Analyzing Information
  • Curiosity and Imagination


These syllabus documents have been rolled out into each Australian state which is now seeing schools embed these innovative theories into practices that all students from K to 12 will learn, develop and master. 


A key component of such educational practices is that of technology. Technology certainly enriches teaching and learning and plays an integral role in connecting real-life examples into the classroom. However, although teachers are looking for technologies to be integrated into classrooms, it must be a tool that is driven by curriculum. That is, it must not drive curriculum. It is essential that we create blended learning environments that encompasses both technologies and traditional forms of learning. Writing using pen/pencil and paper is still a life-long skill that students - children, of our future still need to possess. Students need to know that communication outside technologies is a real and critical form of gathering and sharing information and that, although tools such as Skype, Lync or Hangouts allow us to do this with others who are geographically distanced from us, sitting down with peers in the classroom can have more of an effect on ones wellbeing that chatting to someone via Edmodo or Ning.


Finding the balance to create a 21st century learning classroom that embeds all of these things is not a simple task. I am certainly not saying that we should omit technologies, but use them in the correct practical way that teacher our future citizens that there is a time and a place for technologies. Students should be exposed to a range of technologies such as Surface Pros, iPad, Tablets, laptops, phones, kindles and desktops so that they can individually determine which device is best practice to complete the task at hand. We should also practice skills of how to use certain technologies rather than not use these technologies. Blocking websites will not do anyone any favours. For example, blocking Facebook only makes students more determined to access in private and make them more reluctant to share this tool with others of authority (such as teachers and parents). This tool in particular, should be open to discussion and be a tool that individuals are proud to share with individuals that they actually converse with on a regular basis. 


Why you need a Professional Learning Network

Posted on November 5, 2014 at 1:25 AM

I have blogged about this in the past and it appears that having a PLN is again a top priority. If you don't have one, here is a great overview of how to start one

By Dr Carol Skyring.

If I were to ask you to draw a diagram illustrating where and from whom you learn, it would probably be quite complex. It might include conferences, workshops, books, social media and blogs. It would most certainly include a range of people: colleagues, peers, practitioners and experts. It would also look quite different from anyone else’s diagram because this is your personal learning network or ‘PLN’.

What is a PLN?

PLN is an acronym for Personal Learning Network. A personal learning network is “a group of people who can guide your learning, point you to learning opportunities, answer your questions, and give you the benefit of their own knowledge and experience” (Tobin, 1998). While the acronym PLN is relatively new, the idea is not. Teachers have always had learning networks – people they learn from and share with. What has changed is that technology now allows us to connect to others in different ways and to extend our networks beyond our local area.

Why have a PLN?

There are various reasons such as budget, time and staffing issues that make attending professional development sessions difficult. Creating your own PLN has become an alternate way to cater for your professional development needs. The advantage of a PLN is that it is tailored to your needs and is available when you need it. I have recently completed research into why teachers value PLNs. Some of the advantages are listed below:

  • Stay current: Your PLN will give you access to the most current information and thinking from both practitioners and researchers.
  • Continuously learn: Your PLN constantly provides you with great resources and ideas.
  • Find answers/help/resources/advice when you need it: Your PLN is available 24/7 – there is always someone in your network online.
  • Access timely information: Ask a question and have it answered immediately by someone in your PLN.
  • Make diverse and global connections: Being able to connect with educators around the world allows you to access learning beyond your immediate surrounds. These connections are particularly important if you are geographically remote as they allow you to be part of a larger community.
  • Access valuable resources, advice and support: People in your PLN will constantly share resources and are always available to provide advice and support.
  • Access key learnings from conferences, workshops or seminars without having to attend: Most events now have a Twitter hashtag or live bloggers who are constantly sharing information from key presenters.
  • Engage in conversations and discussions: Many conversations and discussions will be sparked in your PLN.
  • Access experts: You no longer have to wait for an expert to write a book or an article, they are constantly sharing their thoughts with their PLN. They are also available to answer your specific questions.

PLNs allow you to:

  • stay current
  • continuously learn
  • find answers/help/resources/advice when you need it
  • access timely information
  • make diverse and global connections
  • access valuable resources, advice and support
  • access key learnings from conferences, workshops or seminars without having to attend
  • engage in conversations and discussions
  • access experts

PLN tools

Social media enables us to connect with more people in more places than ever before. Savvy educators have realised that social media is not just unremitting triviality where people share what they are eating and with whom they are eating it! Social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook enable you to build a PLN that contains peers and experts from around the world.

Getting started
Firstly, decide which tools will be most useful in your PLN. Ask other educators which social media platforms they find useful. Run a search on some experts you admire to discover which platform they use – their social media accounts usually appear towards the top of a Google search.

Once you have decided which tools to use, the process is basically the same:

  • Join and fill out your profile – nobody will connect with a nobody!
  • Use key words in your profile that describe your professional interests – educators are more likely to connect with you if they can see that you are an educator.
  • Add a good photo of yourself – people are more likely to connect with you than they are with a photo of your cat!
  • Make a few posts – your first post could be that you are new and then share a couple of resources.
  • Lurk for a while – this is okay until you understand the way things work.
  • Follow a few people in your field and see who they follow – they probably follow people that would be of interest to you, so this is a quick way to find people to add to your network.
  • Join some groups – add comments and/or ask questions of the group. (With Twitter this would involve joining hashtag discussions, e.g. #edchat or #edtech)

Slowly build up your network over time. The aim is to have valuable people in your PLN – it is not about numbers. Think quality not quantity. Building a PLN requires that you not only seek to learn from others, but also that you help others in the network to learn. Be generous:

  • Share resources – e.g. websites, articles, and blog posts that provide good information.
  • Comment on other people’s posts – this helps to engage with others.
  • Ask questions – people love to answer questions.
  • On-share resources and ideas from others – this acknowledges the value of others in your PLN.

Some dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t just ‘consume’ – contribute.
  • Do acknowledge others.
  • Do share freely.
  • Don’t share links you have not checked yourself.
  • Don’t spam people.
  • Do learn the language.

Managing information from your PLN

One problem you may encounter is that you receive a vast amount of information from your PLN. It is essential to have tools and methods for managing this information. Below are a few suggestions that are all free to use but have paid options if you want more features.

Social bookmarking sites such as Diigo and Delicious are useful for storing and organising the numerous website links you will receive from your PLN. Use tags to categorise the links as you save them – this makes it easier to search and find particular links at a later stage. If there is a specific topic you know you will need resources for in the near future, start a ‘list’ for this topic. When you are ready to construct a lesson on the topic, it is easy to go to the list and find links you have been saving over a period of time.

If you are an avid blog reader, Netvibes is a great way to collect all of the blogs you read onto one page. You collect and categorise blogs into your Netvibes account. Each day, at a designated time, Netvibes will check for new posts on the blogs you are following. You can read the posts within Netvibes or you can click through to the blog post itself. This not only saves time, but ensures that all posts are available at a later date in the one convenient location.

Two useful digital curation sites are Scoop-it and Pinterest. These allow you to make ‘topic’ lists and save websites to particular lists. Pinterest is best for visual topics as it picks up on a picture on the website and uses that to represent the site.

If you have several social media accounts, Hootsuite will allow you to manage them from the one page. You can send a post to several accounts, or you can schedule posts for a time in the future. Hootsuite also manages all of your incoming information from platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook. This saves a lot of time having to visit the individual sites.

Create and build

Educators who have a PLN have told me that they have learnt more from their PLN in a few months than they did in four years in their degree course! A PLN can be a valuable resource, but it needs tending. Once you create your PLN, build it by adding valuable people. Check in with it regularly – but do not feel that you have to read everything that everyone in your network shares – this will certainly drive you crazy. Create, build and learn.


Tobin, D. R. (1998). Building your personal learning network. Retrieved from


Dr Carol Skyring has researched the use of Twitter as a professional learning tool and the value of PLNs to educators. You can read more about Carol and access a variety of free resources at You can also follow Carol on Twitter @carolskyring.

Which Century Are You Teaching?

Posted on November 5, 2014 at 1:05 AM

Teachers are accustomed to terminology that is typically shared as acronyms, or if we are fortunate enough and receive the 'entire' word, its typically a buzz word. However, one key buzz word which is finding its place within schools globally is that of 21st Century Learning. 21st Century Learning is typically defined as a combination of:

  1. weighing the magic of technology with its incredible cost and complexity
  2. underscoring the potential for well thought-out instructional design
  3. considering the considerable potential of social media platforms against its apparent divergence from academic learning


Teachthought (2014) takes these elements one step further and models 21st Century Learning as follows:  


 However, it is important to recognise that there are 6 dimensions of 21st Century Learning, each equally as significant as the other. Collectively, they create the optimum classroom. And yes, this is achievable and not something that educators wish for. These dimensions include collaboration, knowledge construction, self-regulation, real-world problem-solving and innovation, use of ICT for learning, skilled communication. You are probably running your eye and thinking, "Well, I do all of those", but how often do you do ALL of these dimensions at once? We (and yes, I am just as guilt) typically address a few but not all. We are experts in two or perhaps a few of these dimensions, thus concentrate on implementing those into our learning activities where possible.

I intend to address all of these dimensions in great detail, but have decided to only do so once I myself have mastered it. Like the implementation of any great pedagogical strategy, it is ideal to begin small and slowly increase your mastery in order to gain true and measurable success.

So the question I leave today is:

Do learners in your classroom have shared responsibility for a joint outcome and make a decisions together?








When was the last time you reviewed your own Wellbeing?

Posted on October 30, 2014 at 11:35 PM

I attended a conference yesterday that I must admit, I was a little apprehensive about attending. It was a wellbeing conference that addressed the balance between ones professional career and personal life. Like many others, I know that my balance is muchy skewed and like others, I honestly thought that there was nothing I could do about that as that was life. But I am wrong. We are all wrong.

As it turns out, we can change the balances of our lives and with a little time to stop and review, it is actually a very simple process. I learned that at this conference that there are many stresses that one experiences. Some are intrinsic whilst others are extrinsic. And identifying each of them may not so simple. One may affect the other and deciphering which stress leads to greater impact can be rather difficult. Educators face many types of extrinsic stresses that stem from the workplace itself, from parents, students and much more. There is recent research that suggests that teachers are experiencing similar levels of anxiety from external testing situations as do their students. For example, teachers are feeling just as anxious their students who are sitting a HSC exam.

So, how do we measure our wellbeing? This can be done by self calculating points in the 5 elements of wellbeing which is also known as PERMA. They are:

  1. Positive Emotions
  2. Engagement
  3. Relationships
  4. Meaning
  5. Achievement

It is found that most individuals only see success in 3 of these elements. Further, Australia is ranked 23rd in the work as being a Country that offers wellbeing to their citizens. Why arent we much higher? We live in a society which defines us by the main role that we participate in our daily lives. Thus, it is quite important for individuals to be invovled in a number of activities that are separate from one another as this permits individuals to departmentalise themselves from negative situations and this actually acts as an outlet for individuals to overcome these issues. More interestingly, purchase experiences such as those by Red Balloon etc, are one of the most positive ways one can participate in (as well as donating and giving to charities).

I was extremely interested to learn about women in leadership. What makes a female leader so successful? Much of it has to do with whether they are a natural leader or a trained leader. Those natural leaders are those that will always seek opportunities to succeed regardless of the obstacles they face. They possess the confidence to challenge, the skillset to improve efficiencies, as well as lead and engage staff effectively. These are the leaders that we see advancing in MNC. So how do you measure up? Which areas in your life are you thriving in?

These main areas that contribute to your success as a leader are:

  1. Purpose/Career
  2. Financial
  3. Community
  4. Social
  5. Physical

Collectively, by succeeding in each of these areas, individuals are able to contribute to the 10 top skills of good leaders as described by Forbes. This list supported with the actions of leaders and the way in which they interact with others. Thus, I challenge you to self-reflect and determine your wellbeing and identify which areas in your life can be tweeked to make it even more successful for yourself and for others.


Learning Technology for Life. Or are we?

Posted on October 28, 2014 at 5:05 PM

We all go through spits and spurts of attending professional learning and in the last few months, it has certainly been a spurt. As I reflect on all of the professional learning that I have attended and what I am attempting to implement in my school in addition to what I am accessing personally, I realise one key common denominator. Never has technology played such an integral role in my life. Initially, I was feeling extremely overwhelmed and feeling that there were simply far too many email accounts to check, so many messaging/social networking sites to review and action, Apps to access and new tools to learn, but in a light bulb moment, I have realised that yes, there are quite a lot of things I now need to do on the computer as part of my normal daily practice, all of the technologies that I am accessing are actually necessary and crucial in order for anyone to be an active traditional and digital citizen.


I'm not simply taking about using my phone to send emails or messages or playing on my iPad, but I'm talking about using technologies in order to be an active citizen in the local community that we live in. I have been exposed to new Apps that truly simplify practices that I participate in, access Web 2.0 tools that reduce my work load and many more. I know understand how technologies are truly saving and changing lives. Which brings me to my next question - a question which makes me feel guilty as a technological educator.


Are we teaching the right technologies to our students and how do we speed up their learning so that they truly benefit the offerings technology can offer?


I feel that the new technology curriculum is definitely heading into the right direction of developing the overall skill set of students and their understanding of theoretical processes, however, are they learning the skills that we need to use today (ie, collaborative learning through web 2.0 tools) or the skills they need in the future (yet,..... what will these be?) Our students are very tech savvy and do know how to access and develop their skills in spaces that many educators are not even aware that they exist, however, are they provided with the opportunity to develop these skills and access further resources or mentors that could give them a real chance of success in life?


I often think about a student who is a brilliant soccer player. Unfortunately his parents are not financially able to support his dream. Through fundraising, he was able to attend a game which he was then selected to represent Australia. One person who has identified his skills in the correct setting is about to change the life of this boy. Do we do this in the technological space?


As I ponder on this question, I will continue to attend and review future professional learning opportunities and seek guidance from someone who will make a life changing impact with me so I can replicate that and offer that same opportunity to my students.





Learning to Re-Learn

Posted on October 21, 2014 at 4:45 AM

Over the last few weeks, I have attended what I consider a significant amount of professional learning and as I reflect on each workshop, course and networking opportunity, I also evaluate if these workshops have had any immediate impact on my teaching and learning.


To my initial surprise, it has. I have learned to relearn. I have modified my approach to structuring my classes, my approach to engage all students and provide them with new ways to have a voice within all of my classrooms. Although many teachers may already state that they already do this, I also once claimed that I did this and I thought I did it well too. However, actively participate in professional learning provides teachers to modify current practices whilst giving them the confidence to take risks in terms of enhancing teaching and learning activities. And this, I have done. I have redesigned my class so that my students teach me. I am spending less time talking at the start of the lesson and learn from my students whom share stories of what they are doing ‘technologically’ outside of the classroom. Yes, this is modifying the way I need to teach content as time is redistributed however, with students being so eager to work afterwards, even more content is being learned. I am connecting students on interest levels and creating a mentor program within the teaching and learning environment. I am asking students to guide and facilitate my learning of new softwares and Apps that can better my teacher. I am also asking students to provide me with feedback of what I am doing well in the classroom and on areas that I need to improve on and the results overall, although in preliminary stages are astonishing.


In only a short time frame, my students are simply more engaged, more excited about coming to class and are just so keen to share their personal experiences. Moreover I am excited to hear their stories and see their expressions as they do so. Never have I ever felt so connected to my students.


As I begin planning and programming for 2015, I intend to embed this structure into my classes and share these pedagogies with other teachers. I plan to keep the conversation going by making the line between conventional verbal conversations and online conversations transparent. I would love if my students continue with the conversations that started in class to continue after hours. Moreover, I would love if they began a discussion after hours and brought it to the classroom. This is different to a Flipped Classroom arrangement as students will not be exposing themselves to new material, but enhancing the skillset that they already possess and sharing those with their peers.


I look forward to developing my pedagogical approach and learning to relearn how to be a better teacher because, if the early days are already a pre-emptive indication of success, my future classrooms will be learning environments that will do nothing else but consistently inspire.



Effective strategies in leading professional learning at your school

Posted on October 20, 2014 at 4:40 AM

Keeping staff up-to-date with professional learning can be rather difficult, particularly in the area of technology were the skillset and knowledge of staff can vary immensely. There are a number of ways of sharing such information with staff that will not overwhelm them or take up too much of their free time.


Professional Learning Teams

Schools are beginning to embrace the concept of grouping staff based on their skillset to personalise professional learning. This enables expert teachers to share their knowledge of certain key areas such as curriculum, behaviour management and other upcoming developments that will impact teaching and learning with staff. These teams meet periodically, such as part of faculty time or a dedicated lunch time) with a clear agenda and overall goal. The goal could be to improve school programs or policies collaboratively. It is also a fantastic opportunity for staff to work on a whole school initiative and then champion the initiative within their own faculty or year group.


Before School Meetings

Quick meetings before school are extremely effective. Staff typically meet in the school’s common room and attend a 15 minute presentation on a specific topic. For example, if showing all staff “How to use Popplet to increase literacy”, a quick overview with step by step instructions followed by a Q&A is sufficient to encourage staff to implement the technological tool into their lesson plans with minimal fuss. It is recommended that these sessions are held regularly on the same school day and time. For maximum results, ask staff to complete a survey requesting which professional learning topics appeal most to them and create an agenda based on the findings.


Instructional email communications

Attending professional learning sessions may not be possible for all staff due to their professional and personal commitments, so using email to distribute information on professional learning matters using graphic organisers may be ideal. Particularly in terms of using technology, offering staff with handouts that acts as a ‘cheat sheet’ will encourage staff to put into practice what they have learned. This is effective as it is learned in their own time and can be implemented into any lesson as it can be stored in their day books and referred to at any time.


Regardless of the strategy/ies that the school implements, it is imperative that a holistic approach is used and that all staff are willing to participate in the professional learning program. It is also wise to map professional learning activities to BOSTES Accreditation Standards as this will encourage staff to work towards attaining their own professional goals whilst working together to achieve overall school goals.


Why learning long-life skills is not 'important' but 'critical'?

Posted on October 18, 2014 at 5:55 AM

We all dream of teaching our students skills that they can refer too or use later in life, but rarely are we realistically able to do this. Fortunately, as a teacher of technology, my chances of students developing skills over a longer period of time and then utilising them after they graduate from secondary school is higher…..or so one would think.


Today, I entered a telephone communication store at the closest Westfields to purchase a new sim card, only to find that I was back into a classroom setting where staff and managers spent a considerable amount of time trouble shooting technical problems. Although the staff were very apologetic and worked tirelessly to assist me, it was clear that the skills that I was teaching in class wouldn’t be able to ‘save’ my students if they were ever employed by this organisation. We (and I mean, me) facilitate a classroom where students stay on task, create new and innovative pieces of work but rarely sit in front of a computer and try to work out what they are required to do autonomously. Students are guided, follow structured lessons that allow them to learn 21st century learning skills such as communication and collaboration, but are we teaching our students how to sink or swim in situations that require them to solve technological questions?


In a bid to determine this, I have spent the afternoon devising a unit of work that I intend to teach this term that will see students work in teams in competition with each other to solve technological problems. The focal point of the unit of work will be based on the learning that has been learned this year, however, students will be provided with all of the information and then be required to break away and complete the task. Although this may seem simple, it requires students to think outside of the box and consider numerous options before unanimously agreeing on a decision to solve the problem. This coupled with using a new platform, Google Docs, is intended to develop the skills of our younger students whilst increasing their overall digital literacies and basic computer skills. I will document findings after the lessons are taught and hopefully be able to identify patterns of growth by all students.


Showcasing Student's Abilities

Posted on October 17, 2014 at 6:40 PM

As teachers, we spend an equally amount of time discussing lesson content, the latest TV shows and much much more with our students. We often discuss in depth, the capabilities of our students and listen to what they are in fact completing outside of classtime. But, very rarely, are we able to share these experiences with fellow educators.

Please find below a Blog written by a year 8 student (who is 13 years old). He is incredibly intelligent and has a passion for technology that all teachers admire (and sometimes wish for in other students). He is part of a global collaboration experience specific to Minecraft and has now also taken the role of being my Mentor....

Hello Guys!

I am FD, more commonly know as “Fir3face”. I am currently an Admin/Staff manager for the SpacePrison server. It was not always this way, I used to be a regular player on multiple servers, but I found my way into the role of moderation and I love it. My role as an Admin is to moderate, I make sure everyone is obeying the rules, whether in chat or in game, and punish accordingly. As well as this, I also look after the owner and do any tasks he needs done. My role as a Staff manager is to make sure that all Staff are doing their jobs properly, this means punishing to the protocol and doing what they are required to do. I check applications for Staff and train any new members to our fantastic Staff team. So lets get to how I got to such a high role.


I started about 2 years ago, I was nothing important at that stage, I was bored and wanted to try out moderation, not taking it seriously. I hopped on a small developing server, which was called Lazurcraft. It had about 20 unique players on it but only about 2 were online at a time. I asked if the owner needed help and he asked me to send him a small application, just to make sure I wasn’t a threat to the server. I got accepted instantly and was given a basic mod role. As a person that likes to go above and beyond, I decided to start helping him do stuff to benefit the server and help it grow. I helped him advertise, build, create new ideas and do any personal tasks he wanted done. Soon after I was promoted to Admin, which wasn’t a big step considering I was already doing the roles of an Admin essentially. 2 weeks passed and I didn’t hear anything from the owner, I didn’t see him online and eventually the server shut down. I didn’t hear from him again.


During the time I was staff on Lazurcraft, I met another admin, he was really close friends with the owner of Lazurcraft and had his own server. I gave up on minecraft for 2 months, I didn’t necessarily find it appealing to use my time on it at that stage. I decided to go on the other admin’s server, called SirBombleCraft. I asked if he needed help and he denied me, he wasn’t very fond of me at the time. I played on his server a lot more until eventually he awarded me with builder. I worked my way up the ranks the same way I did before, until I reached the point of Head-Admin. I was greedy back then and I was frustrated that he only gave Owner to his family. I abruptly quit the server and never came back.


I soon realized how foolish I was, weeks later the server randomly reached popularity, it had over 300 unique players, but I gave up that opportunity sadly. I despised big youtubers, but I was bored one day so I watched a youtuber named “Deadlox”. He played on a server called ToxicMC, it was unique as it was the only server I had seen that had incorporated “overpowered items” to make grinding for things easier and less boring/frustrating. I didn’t join the server until a week later. I have been playing on this server for over a year now and it has undergone extreme changes.


I joined ToxicMC and at that point it only had one server. It had around 500 unique players from the day of its release thanks to Deadlox. The owner couldn’t keep up with all the players fitting on one server so he shut it down and turned the server into an expanding network with 4 servers and renamed it to the TemptingMC Network. I applied for Staff but my application never got read, the Staff manager at that time wasn’t the greatest. The network expanded to 6  servers, I was incredibly active on the server’s forums where I met and became close friends with some players. One of these players became a mod, he kind fully introduced me to the owner, but he was busy at that stage managing a network that had now expanded to 2k+ unique players. I was also introduced to the leader of the build team. A big event went down about 2 weeks later, the build team leader got in a fight with the owner and was demoted. The next leader was a mutual friend of one of my friend’s, we were in a call messing around and he asked if I was a good builder, I said no but he insisted that he tested me for the build team. He saw potential in me and made me a builder, this moment although seems small, was the reason I was able to climb the ladder, although it didn’t seem like it at the time. Weeks later I found out that my friend had depression and he suicided, this was a really hard time as I had known him over the internet for 6 months, but I pushed on and continued regularly building for the network. The build team leader became a mod, he was a moderator for 2 months. He was frustrated because he wanted a promotion but never received it. He made a network exactly like this one and took a lot of the builders with him. The owner was frustrated and legally threatened them for copyright issues. Their server was shut down and he was stripped of his moderator and build team leader roles. He was one of my really close friends as well, but if he wasn’t demoted, I wouldn’t have stepped up. I had been studying the configuration of minecraft servers and the new build team leader lacked this knowledge. He made me second in charge team leader. This stepped me up to a personal level with the owner, and after finally gaining his trust 2 months later, despite some hiccups, he gave me the role of moderator. The owner realized he didn’t require a build team, so he took down the build team and that left me as a mod. I was recording some videos with the owner, doing personal tasks and improving the server. Soon after I was promoted to Admin, but the server shut down a week later. The owner has been developing a new server closely along me and the other Staff. And that brings us to now, SpacePrison was released last week and I was given the role of Staff Management. And the most important thing about this is, minecraft isn’t just a game, minecraft has given me skills in management and moderation, an opportunity I wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for this game. It was a long rocky road, but I am now at a satisfied position in which I am willing to stay that way for the upcoming years.


Games can’t do anything for you unless you use them to their fullest potential

Introducing New Technologies in Schools

Posted on October 13, 2014 at 5:15 AM

Introducing new technologies in schools is a considerably difficult decision to implement. They are numerous factors to consider when introducing new devices and new software and web 2.0 tools. Depending on the learning abilities of the school's students, the curriculum delivered, network capabilities and much, much more, schools are required to differentiate their digital learning platforms based on various requirements that differs from one another greatly. It is for this reason that explains why expert teachers from across the nation are forced to deliver varying and unique pedagogical strategies to deliver identical content achieving identical learning outcomes.


This weekend, I met 37 other amazing, inspirational and dedicated educators whom are dedicated in increasing the technological knowledge and skills of their students. Together we are working towards creating new collaborative opportunities for our students by introducing and reinforcing Microsoft tools such as Office 365 and other Microsoft based apps. Using browser based software that are supported by Microsoft will not only provide students with additional learning opportunities but also provide them with new ways to collaborate. Further, it will encourage our students to collaborate with students from other schools, which will ultimately lead to creating a global classroom. This is the global classroom that all teachers are working towards attaining in one way or another by using 21st century learning tools and other teaching and learning resources.


I will continue to share my journey with Microsoft as a Microsoft Expert Educator and showcase the work that I and my students are practicing so that, you and your classroom can improve your overall learning.


To BYOD or not to BYOD. That is the question

Posted on October 5, 2014 at 2:30 AM

The shift in overall educational budgets and the way schools disperse their funds is creating a new dilemma for schools in terms of trying to determine their new technological direction.

Should our school use a BYOD solution and, if so, which device will work in our school? BYOD in education refers to students bringing their own device to school to use. Be it a laptop, iPad, tablet or mobile device. Using a BYOD option will enable schools to disseminate their funds to other areas accordingly and better prepare them for tertiary education, where students already use their own devices. As computer coordinators may be aware, it is not as simple as purchasing any device from the local store or supplier and walking into your school and logging onto the wireless network.

Many schools are finding that although local stores are willing to provide students and their families substantial discounts at the checkouts, few devices actually consistently work in the classroom. Another constraint is the recent Federal Government announcement that the Education Tax Refund has been scrapped. With this in mind, should our school continue to proceed with using the BYOD model and what else must we consider? Constraints of the school network: Although the device may work at a student's house it may not neccessarily connect to the school's wifi. Some schools have experienced that in the case of the Samsung Galaxy Tablet, a few tablets will connect to the school wifi whilst others do not. Computer coordinators cannot explain the random activity and say they are currently spending more time working on network connectivity issues. Other schools are concerned opening the school network may lead to security and virus threats.

Devices available: All mobile technology – laptops, tablets and mobile phones – provides students with different capabilities, resulting in very different learning outcomes. Teaching limitations: Schools must consider the necessary training teachers must undertake in order to use the device to its full capability. The device should not be a tool that is occasionally used, but a resource that supplements and facilitates learning in every lesson. Should tablets or mobile phones be the preferred BYOD, the teacher's expertise in using these tools educationally is of critical consideration. Citizens of the future: The skillset our students will need once they graduate school is no longer clear or simple to predict. The world in which they live will also determine what skills they are to learn at school. So, the question remains: Will their lives be controlled by today's mobile devices or by a product that hasn't been invented yet?

PBL approach perfect for app development lessons

Posted on October 5, 2014 at 2:25 AM

As the use of Project Based Learning takes a more substantial position in programs and in teaching and learning ICT in secondary schools, teachers are looking at new ways to deliver content.


Moreover, with imminent changes in the space of technology in the Australian Curriculum, secondary students are now being required to code and develop HTML. A fantastic way to address the teaching and learning of this skill pedagogically is by allowing your students to develop their own app. This activity is not solely limited to the technologies subjects but can be a great learning activity or assessment task for any KLA. All the student requires is an idea for their app.


Why is teaching app development important?


Mobile phones have become as important as our wallets and purses in everyday living, thus development in this area is occurring at a very fast pace. Mobile devices have become a tremendous source of entertainment, communication, and information and also jobs for millions of individuals globally. This is why teaching app development is important and relevant.



What’s a good way to approach teaching app development to high school students?


App and game development is a challenging topic, even for experienced software developers. Devices change rapidly and the technical differences between Apple IOS, Google Android and Microsoft Mobile are immense.


Using a Project Based Learning approach, much of the work that is necessary is done away from the computer. Like any great

project, planning is vital for the success of the app. There are six easy steps that teachers can follow to create a fantastic and engaging lesson when developing apps. It should be noted, that this will require a number of continuous lessons. Actual times are dependent on student ability and available resources of the school.


Step 1 – Project Planning


In all Project Based Learning (PBL) programs, planning is critical. Planning will direct the student and scaffold their level of understanding of the topic, whilst providing them with an approach that is realistic in terms of attaining their overall goals with the app that they will develop in a specific time. Creating a traditional Gantt Chart (using Excel or a Web 2.0 tool) with students is important, in order for them to understand the amount of work that they need to invest into their app. This will enable students to understand the design process as well as appropriately allocate sufficient time to deliver the app by its due date.


It is also recommended that the teacher has played with the app development software so they know each of the stages that are involved (technically) and what is required prior to building the app. For instance, some app development software may offer free versions but are limited as to how many screens the app delivers and the functionality and tools it allows the user to access.


Step 2 – Designing the app


In order to design the app, it is recommended that students have access to apps that are available on Play Store or iOS. Conducting compare and contrast activities will also enable students to understand the type of apps that are available and why each one performs unique tasks. Students can then begin designing the look of their app. This can be done traditionally (using pencil and paper) or using storyboard creators and even Adobe Photoshop. Students should attempt to create the look of every screen that users can use on the app.


Step 3 – Site Map it


Steps 2 and 3 are typically performed synchronously. It is best to design the look of each app screen and then work out where each link will lead to. This will also help the student understand the operation of their own app, whilst providing them with an opportunity to ascertain if their app is too adventurous to complete, time wise. This also provides students with the opportunity to name each of their app screens which will simplify the technical development side.


Step 4 – Creating content (textual)


Although this may appear as an obvious step, creating the text content is often forgotten about or at the bottom of the priority list for students (in comparison to designing the app). Creating the text is also quite difficult for students. It needs to be short, concise and accurate. If the text is directional, the user must be able to understand the instruction easily and quickly. ‘Think, Pair, Share’ and other collaborative activities are a good way to help students develop this. It is also a good idea to allow students to write the text beside links or on their plans/site maps so that they can visualise how the text will appear with background colours and image and video files.


Step 5 – Finding or creating content (images, videos and/or audio)


Regardless of whether students want to create their own imagery, video or audio or find existing resources, both can be a timely exercise. It is imperative to know the file formats that are accepted by the app software that you are intending to use. Should the student opt to seek visual content, they should be aware of copyright and informed that they should seek work that is licenced by Creative Commons (which permits the sharing of files).


Step 6 – Create the app online

There are many softwares available to be used in your school that you can download (some are free and some are paid) for app development. These include TheAppBuilder, Good Barber, AppyPie and GameSalad. The majority are very simple to use and like other Web 2.0 tools, enable the user to create their app in a series of steps.


For those hard-core programmers (and Stage 6 classes), there are many codingspecific websites available. One great resource is Code Academy. Students can learn html, css, javascript and jquery — these are the fundamental components of mobile web sites. Students will be able to leverage these basic skills down the road if they want to seriously study mobile application or game development. Learning these skills and documenting the journey could also act as a fantastic major work where necessary.

The best way to make your school tech-savvy

Posted on September 15, 2014 at 9:20 PM

With the DER over and schools looking for new technological platforms to invest in, the Computer Coordinator or the Head Teacher of Technology has their work cut out for them in trying to determine which technologies and devices is best for their school as well as determining the best way to purchase new technologies.


Buying any new technology is not easy nor is it a simple process, however by following a few key steps, the overall process can be stress free and completed within much shorter time frame than you perhaps have already experienced.


1. Have a Technology Plan

To ensure that technology is effectively integrated into the schools, educators and community members (such as parents in the P&C or School Council) must collaborate to create a formal technology plan. Developing a plan for using technology to support educational goals should be the priority for the school over the simple acquisition of computers and software. To be successful, a technology plan must promote meaningful learning and collaboration, provide for the needed professional development and support, and respond flexibly to change.


Schools that effectively use technology have a carefully designed technology plan that is a part of the overall school-improvement plan. A technology plan that is not integral to the overall improvement plan is likely to be short-lived. As part of the school-improvement plan, technology should support the curricular goals of the school. It must ultimately support teaching and learning and be an integral part of the schools overall plan to move all students towards attaining high academic standards and personal learning goals.


2. Identify the existing technological infrastructure of the school

A school cannot progress and determine that iPads are the best device for their students if the current infrastructure is unable to adequately support them. An audit may identify that an upgrade may be necessary to ensure that a sufficient number of devices can be connected via IP addresses or to determine which technical specifications a device must meet in order to work effectively in all classrooms. This process is crucial particularly for schools who are implementing BYOD programs when leading students and their families to purchase particular types of devices.


3. Determine who will be your technology provider

In many instances, particularly in circumstances where the school is purchasing a large volume of technologies on behalf of students, the school may be required to go to tender and ask for technology providers to submit a proposal to the school that demonstrates that they are able to meet the technical specifications. The school (typically Principal) simply needs to contact a few well-known and reliable vendors who have had experience in dealing with schools and ask them to support a proposal that answers how their technologies support the school plan. Once the proposals are submitted, they can be culled and decisions as to who has the school’s best interest can be made. It is important to double check that your school leaves nothing to assumption and all terms and conditions regarding the business arrangement are documented.



Noelene Callaghan

Noelene is a Teacher of Technology and a Counsellor of The Teachers’ Guild of New South Wales



Using QR Codes in the Classroom

Posted on July 22, 2014 at 5:10 AM

What are QR Codes:

As I tell my students, QR Codes are 'new' bar codes that devices such as mobile phones, iPads, tablets etc can scan (once downloading an app that allows you to scan them) which either directs you to a particular website or provides with specific information.


Commercially, QR Codes are growing rapidly and are seen in many businesses. Slowly, schools are also integrating this piece of technology. In my school, QR Codes are used to support administrative duties as well as classroom teaching and learning.



Since the beginning of the year, I have begun using QR Codes with my students primarily when using tablets and iPads. This was simply due to the fact that it was so much easier for students to scan the Interactive Whiteboard and click on the link to go to a website than for me to write the URL on the board/laptop and then for students to type it in (without any errors). (I couldn’t send students an email with the link as this function was disabled on the tablets/iPads). To kick off this activity, the YouTube clip (below) was shown to my students to give them a basic understanding of how to use them.


This activity began to change as I gained confidence with my students using their own mobile phones to complete work. Soon, I was able to modify work and create simple instruction sheets which allowed students to complete entire modules of work (see below). A colleague this year also created a 'Treasure Hunt' using only QR Codes that uses the concept of students using GPS tracking to find certain things around the school. These activities are engaging our students a lot more and is constant a source for discussion.


I am now finding that students are able to create QR Codes for me (as their teacher) to scan and mark their work online. A tool that can be used for all audiences.

QR Codes have slowly become a trademark of the Computing Faculty. I began by using them to publicise our schools Facebook page and school website. Students (and teachers) were quick to show off their latest mobile devices to scan these. So much so, that at one point, there were queues in our administration block during recess and lunch with everyone wanting a turn.


QR Codes now play a significant role in the planning of our junior programs (Stage 4 ICT). In the year 7 ICT program, I use QR codes to assist teachers to learn more about each unit of work, with the links going to wikis or to specific areas of the school's moodle page that contains more information.

As a result, QR Codes are now appearing on our school newsletter (which is published once a term), on our school business cards and on our other promotional material as well as assisting students when selecting subjects (for Computers based subjects). In preparation for our Parent Teacher night, notes with a QR Code (linking to the booking system) was also distributed.


Animating the classroom

Posted on July 22, 2014 at 4:55 AM

Some teachers are contemplating how to liven up class activities or your students assignments. One easy and effective way of doing this is by embedding animations into your teaching and learning programs. There are many animation programs available that can be used by students of any age and of any ability. Moreover, there are programs out there that are suitable for any teacher, regardless of your ICT skill or time constraints to learn a new technological tool.


So why use animation anyway? Animation has proven to be a useful tool for engaging students and illustrating difficult concepts. Animations liven class room lessons and assignments and can even be used as a teaching and learning tool for distance education. That is, if your school uses Moodle, Edmodo or any other Learning Management Software, uploading animations to further explain concepts to students could be a great alternative to basic text on a website. But animations are not just a tool that can be used by teachers, they can be used by students to present their work innovatively.


Additionally animation is a great vehicle that helps students better understand storytelling and sequencing ideas, whether in words or pictures. Simple animation techniques are fun, hands-on projects that incorporate play, creativity and collaboration. Because the underlying processes are the same as for video, animation projects are a powerful way to help students understand and prepare for more sophisticated media projects



What types of animation can I use?


1. Flipbooks

Flipbooks are a type of animation made with multiple sheets of paper, showing a series of pictures that change gradually from one page to the next. Flipping the pages creates the illusion of movement for the viewer because of the persistence of vision phenomenon. The way it works is that you create a series of images on paper that are almost the same as one another, but not quite. Then 'flip' the pages rapidly and you get the impression of an animation. For example, get a small blank note book with perhaps 10 or more sheets. You can use the top corner of the pages to flip rapidly through the complete set. In the top corner draw a simple stick figure with the arm changing slightly. This is a great tool to introduce the concept of animation to younger or less capable students. Additionally, there are now ‘flipbook’ websites and apps that can be used to create digital versions of flipbooks. They are extremely simple to use and allow students to take photos page by page making it an activity that can be completed in a short amount of time.



2. Phenakistoscopes

Phenakistoscopes are low-tech animation devices that are often referred to as "animation wheels." Teaching this technique early in your animation unit can provide students a valuable foundation in the perceptual and mechanical concepts underlying animation. Animation wheels also enhance student appreciation of contemporary animation techniques and introduces the concept of looping.


How do our eyes see movement? The human eye has sensors that retain an image for a moment, so the brain continues to perceive an image for a fraction of a second after the image has passed. If the eye sees a series of still images very quickly one picture after another, with a tiny break in between to register each image, then the images will appear to move because they “overlap” in the brain. Our eyes cannot perceive the difference between separate images, so we are tricked into thinking we have seen movement. A phenakistoscope uses ‘looping’ which is movement that repeats itself continuously without ending.



3. Stop Motion

Stop motion is a powerful animation technique that makes static objects appear to be moving. Creating stop motion draws attention to placement, framing, direction and speed of movement. There are many types of stop motion techniques, in both 2-D and 3-D media, such as hand drawings and Claymation. Students begin by brainstorming their ideas and recording their ideas and thoughts of what interactions and action will take place. Most teachers prefer to start with scripts, a storyboard that is completely textual. Writing descriptions of the action helps to determine how and in what order every shot will become animated later in the process. Storyboarding is a major component to any animation project because it ensures that ideas are well developed before production, and saves time by anticipating problems. The purpose of the storyboard is to visually plan out the entire animation. Here is where students begin to think about the “camera work” by showing every shot or important transition in the animation. Storyboards should be required for all stop motion projects.


Stop motion requires a camera or video device to expose single or multiple frames of images that, when run at normal speed, appear to represent continuous movement. You can set up by connecting a computer to video camcorder, digital still camera, or a webcam. When using a video recording device to compose shots, keep the camera steady by using a tripod or animation stand. Your computer needs current software that supports single frame capture



4. Pixilation

Pixilation is a specialized technique for animating people that promotes collaboration and peer group relations. A stationary camera records a posed human subject. Between captures, the subject moves to a new position. The process is slow and requires great patience and concentration. It is best to have a class set of cameras to complete a pixilation activity as students will need to take many, many photos with subtle movement. When this is put together using either Microsoft Movie Maker or stupeflix (an online animation creator).


Pixilation is a great task to complete using collaborative teamwork. Essentially, collaboration promotes peer group relations in the interaction between students and gives them more responsibility for their own learning. Group work helps students build on social and decision-taking skills.



Pedagogies associated with teaching animation:


Collaboration promotes peer group relations in the interaction between students and gives them more responsibility for their own learning. Group work helps students build on social and decision-taking skills. Teamwork helps students learn constructive ways to communicate and share ideas. Because the animation process is so very time intensive, students begin to recognise that producing longer or more complex projects requires expertise and assistance from numerous people to get the job done. A key feature of collaborative animation tasks is the assignment of roles amongst students. Allow students to select their roles within the group. Possible roles may include Director, Writer, Character Producer, Prop and Set designer, Cameraperson.


Multi Level Teaching allows for participants at many different levels of education to teach and learn from one another and collaborate on animation projects. All participating students co-learn and co-teach one another about animation production and pedagogy. These skills are particularly important in creating animations as it permits each student can bring a unique set of skills and interests to the process and contributes something special to the shared experience.


Peer tutoring is a strategy for teaching and learning that invites more experienced or knowledgeable students to teach novice students the skills and understandings they have acquired. Peer tutoring can empower and help students share expertise and reinforce what they have learned. In peer tutoring an organic process takes place where the students learn from each other. By having more experienced students tutor newer participants, this strategy helps teachers act as true coordinators!


Using QR Codes in the Classroom

Posted on July 22, 2014 at 4:55 AM

What are QR Codes:
As I tell my students, QR Codes are 'new' bar codes that devices such as mobile phones, iPads, tablets etc can scan (once downloading an app that allows you to scan them) which either directs you to a particular website or provides with specific information.


Commercially, QR Codes are growing rapidly and are seen in many businesses. Slowly, schools are also integrating this piece of technology. In my school, QR Codes are used to support administrative duties as well as classroom teaching and learning.



Since the beginning of the year, I have begun using QR Codes with my students primarily when using tablets and iPads. This was simply due to the fact that it was so much easier for students to scan the Interactive Whiteboard and click on the link to go to a website than for me to write the URL on the board/laptop and then for students to type it in (without any errors). (I couldn’t send students an email with the link as this function was disabled on the tablets/iPads). To kick off this activity, the YouTube clip (below) was shown to my students to give them a basic understanding of how to use them.


This activity began to change as I gained confidence with my students using their own mobile phones to complete work. Soon, I was able to modify work and create simple instruction sheets which allowed students to complete entire modules of work (see below). A colleague this year also created a 'Treasure Hunt' using only QR Codes that uses the concept of students using GPS tracking to find certain things around the school. These activities are engaging our students a lot more and is constant a source for discussion.


I am now finding that students are able to create QR Codes for me (as their teacher) to scan and mark their work online. A tool that can be used for all audiences.

QR Codes have slowly become a trademark of the Computing Faculty. I began by using them to publicise our schools Facebook page and school website. Students (and teachers) were quick to show off their latest mobile devices to scan these. So much so, that at one point, there were queues in our administration block during recess and lunch with everyone wanting a turn.


QR Codes now play a significant role in the planning of our junior programs (Stage 4 ICT). In the year 7 ICT program, I use QR codes to assist teachers to learn more about each unit of work, with the links going to wikis or to specific areas of the school's moodle page that contains more information.

As a result, QR Codes are now appearing on our school newsletter (which is published once a term), on our school business cards and on our other promotional material as well as assisting students when selecting subjects (for Computers based subjects). In preparation for our Parent Teacher night, notes with a QR Code (linking to the booking system) was also distributed