Wednesday, April 16, 2014

GAFE Summit

Here is a brief post to put up a link to the awesomeness of I briefly talked about at the Slam.
Here is the link:
Funky Feedback - a Google presentation on how to use

I will write more of a reflection shortly with links to some of the Googly goodness which was so openly shared to the rest of the summit this week.

Can I really encourage you to make sure that you get along to a Summit at some stage - it is an amazing time of learning and sharing. People are just raving about the amazing things they have learned!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Learning With Purpose

We have just arrived home after an amazing day out at Young ICT Explorers Competition at NSW University. Amazing because I saw our students imagining the possibilities and working so hard to achieve those possibilities.

What does the preparation for a competition such as this look like?

Let me give you an insight.

I saw:
  • students who met blocks along the way but not one student gave up – they persevered until they ‘got it’.
  • a community of learners supporting each other in their inquiry and discovery.
  • this same community of learners cheer each other on when a break through occurred.
  • students learning what it means to communicate effectively with each other and manage conflict within a group
  • students analyzing their projects and discerning where they needed to make adjustments, where they needed to go for advice and thinking outside the box
  • students who learned to manage their time effectively
  • students facing stress when competition day approached and using strategies to prevent that stress from impacting on progress
  • exponential growth in independence and confidence
  • passion that comes from students working for real purpose and about topics that they are interested in
  • students who on competition day bubbled enthusiasm and excitement
  • students who were very nervous and needed to manage those nerves
  • deep learning and inquiry – pushing me to my limits of expertise (love it!)
  • students presenting their projects to the judges independently, with conviction and eloquence – girls you amaze me
  • an amazing atmosphere on judging day where schools mutually affirmed, encouraged and supported all competitors – mutual respect for all

Entering this competition was about a lot more than winning a prize at the end – it was about growth, developing skills that develop a whole person and personal satisfaction from imagining the possibilities and working to see them come to fruition. I’m amazed that many students are now thinking and planning beyond their original ideas…kudos to you my amazing learners.

Here are some of the links and/or descriptions of the girls projects:
  • Stop Plastic Bags NOW! These students are passionate about stopping the use of plastic bags after researching the devastating impact these bags can have on the environment. Check out their creative school action plan
  • Anti-bullying:  This website also has an app that allows you to access the information easily. These students want to make accessing information and seeking help easier for those students impacted by bullying.
  • Citrus Energy Thinking beyond their own community, this group wanted to see if they could use the power of citrus to power devices, lights in poorer countries
  • Stop Bullying today  These girls took a creative approach by creating a video of a bullying scenario..very creative way to raise awareness
Other projects which did not have web pages but achieved amazing things were:
  • Clean up the Classroom – a programmed robot which tracked his own journey around the classroom with the use of an ultrasonic sensor. When he detected rubbish on the ground, the robot would stop and set off an alarm
  • The Cupcake Scale – two students who learned how to code an app using xcode. This app calculates the amount of calories consumed in a day, gives the equivalent amount of cupcakes in calories and then recommends how much exercise is required to burn off those calories…amazing
  • Behind the Scenes of Video Making – this student created a 1 minute news report about the tragedy of the Japanese Earth quake utilising green screening techniques to make it look like she was right in amongst the action.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Building passion for learning

What an exciting thing to be able to foster passion in students. I love students running up to me in the playground or when they arrive at school, literally 'busting' to tell me something they have learned or achieved. I love seeing this passion in students who are so young. Students who have a passion for technology and for their world. To tie technology meaningfully into what they do can be a challenge - the lure of the 'cool tool' is big...the epic win comes when the 'cool tool' is not even the focus but rather what they have been able to achieve and the depth of their learning that has occurred as a result. This seems to be happening a lot lately and I share the stories to inspire others and to do the same.

Several of the students I teach have been accepted to the judging round of the Young ICT Explorers competition in late August. Their projects are varied from programming robots, to designing apps to creating innovative ways to collect plastic and protect the environment. What has been so exciting to see is the evolution of their ideas which has given way to passion to see their projects through. There have been times when their ideas have not quite worked out and they have had to be creative about coming at the problem from a different angle. They have shown determination and resilience in the project so far. I have loved working with these students at lunch time, finding resources and 'experts' with them to help get around road blocks that have come their way. Part of their passion has come from working on an authentic project. The students have set the agenda for exploring topics that they care about. These students are spending lunchtimes with me and time out of school - its says a lot about making learning relevant. These students have already won...their excitement speaks volumes.

Another student knocked on my door this morning - smile beaming from ear to ear, "Thank you so much for sending me those links! I have just LOVED exploring them. They are so unreal!"I'm the one who should be thanking her for the enthusiasm she displays for learning and for seeking challenges. What is this little person exploring? Programming through using the program Scratch. Programming!
Have I taught her how to use it? No. Have I given her time in class? No. I chatted with her about what she loved and then emailed her a few resources. This young student took the initiative and started to explore herself. I've offered her support and expressed how much I would love to see what she creates...when I got home from work tonight, there was an email waiting for me, "Mrs W, I can't wait to show you what I designed tonight". Actually, it is me that can't wait to get to school tomorrow to see what she has created.

Passion - What drives it? Where does it come from? How do we build it? So many options here. As teachers we can stifle passion so easily. Instead, let's support those minds and ignite the passion for learning. Be genuinely interested in the ideas of our students and provide opportunity for authentic learning experiences. Be prepared to be amazed. Warning - their passion is infectious.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

So you went to Google Teachers Academy?..."Share the Love"

 After a sleepless night of waking up and checking the clock to see ‘is it time yet?’ I excitedly made my way into Google Sydney, ready to embark on an incredible experience. As I crossed the Harbour Bridge I thought of all the people who had travelled 1000’s of kilometres to be here. The sun turned a sleeping city into a maze of glinting buildings. In the funky suburb of Haymarket gathered a group of people with the commonality of innovation, education and collaboration. The excitement was tangible. The anticipation made us all nervous. 

Hello Google Teachers Academy Sydney 2013.
Google Teachers Academy Sydney Cohort 2013
What a humbling and inspiring experience. Humbling to be selected to be amongst so many professional and inspirational educators, not to mention the amazing Googlers who gave up their time to share insights into their world and encourage us to ‘share the love’ of what we would learn with those around us. Inspiring because we had a taste of how we can change the world – a little bit at a time. I’ll expand on this a little later.

The two main questions I have been asked about GTA are:
“What is the GTA?” and “What cool things did you learn there?”

The formal answer to the first question is:
“The Google Teacher Academy is a two-day intensive program that recognizes educators who are doing innovative and exciting things in their classrooms with technology. 50 participants will get hands-on experience with Google's products and technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, and receive resources to share with colleagues. Upon completion, Academy participants become Google Certified Teachers who share what they learn with other K-12 educators in their local regions and beyond.”

In practice it is so much more.  Imagine 50 educators coming together hungry to learn, collaborate, be challenged and change the world they are a part of….in short 52 participants reach 32,727 students. If we ‘share the love’ of what we have learned at GTA, we then reach a staggering 40,311 teachers and
Team Tesla hard at work
they in turn affect 1,410,885 students world-wide. Big things are possible…especially when you are a part of a team. A typical day in the GTA looks like a non-stop brain workout – just what I love! From the moment you sit down to breakfast, the conversations don’t stop. Every session is filled with sharing of ideas which can make a difference in education, new ideas, things that have worked, collaborative problem solving, experimentation with new tools, critiquing of ideas within a culture of respect and support, dreaming big and gratitude for such an amazing experience.

In answer to the second question: “What cool things did you learn there?”
Too many to mention (I will complete another blog post on some of the amazing apps we explored)but after the realisation, where I thought I knew a bit a bit Google Apps for Education, I quickly realised I have only experienced the ‘tip of the iceberg’. you can choose to be daunted by that or you can embrace it and set yourself up an action plan of how to go further, deeper and wider…I’m going with the second option.

Inside Google

I loved hearing from the Googlers who gave us valuable insights into the way Google works. Lucinda Barlow gave us a run down about Google’s innovation principles - focus on the user, open will win, ideas come from everywhere, think big, start small, Fail fast, launch early and iterate, be a platform, float all boats, make it matter. How true are these principles in education. I’ll leave that one to you to mull over as I could write a thesis on how this looks in the classroom.

Another aspect which resonated with me was Moonshot thinking (follow this link to see the YouTube clip) – Basically Moonshot thinking is about taking “proposals that address a huge problem, suggest a radical solution that could work, and use some form of breakthrough technology to make it happen” (see solve-for-x blog or their website for more info). This kind of thinking is all about innovation and the open mindset – it requires resilience, creativity, communication, collaboration and all the skills we know are important to develop in our students. Believe you can make a difference in the world and you will.

One of the most striking features of the event was instant community. This was incredible. I knew only one person before I attended GTA – Chris Betcher who was one of the amazing Lead Teachers
One of the collaborative spaces
at the event. I have come away now knowing that if I were to ask a question or ask for support from the GCT (Google Certified Teacher) community, that any one of those 800+ people would willingly help out. There were some people attending the academy that I follow on Twitter, subscribe to their blogs, read their work and whom I think are pretty ‘big’ in the education world…you know, those ones that you say under your breath “Wow, that’s *insert guru educator here*” and award them movie star status. I came away from the Academy appreciate of those ‘movie star’ status people who tirelessly share their ideas, are passionate about shifting education and about making a difference in their world.

If I leave GTA as a GCT(Google Certified Teacher) and rave about how wonderful it was yet do nothing with it, then I waste the opportunity to make a difference. Hello action plan! This is the next part of where we go from here.

I do believe in making a difference in my world. I may not make headlines and I may not change the whole world but what if I make a difference in the world of my students and equip them with what it takes to make a difference in the world they are a part of? What if I equip/support a whole ‘bunch’ of teachers with skills, resources and thinking that then has an impact on all the students they come into contact with? You do the math – that’s a whole lot of people that we ‘share the love’ with. I may not change the whole world but I sure can make a difference.

So how are you going to change your world?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Google Teacher Academy 2013 - Here we come

I received an email this week congratulating me on being selected to attend the Sydney Google Teacher Academy in Sydney. I had to re-read the email several times to actually let it sink in that I had been selected. What an opportunity.

What is the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) - pobably best to quote directly from their site
"The GTA is a FREE professional development experience designed to help primary and secondary educators from around the globe get the most from innovative technologies. Produced by CUE, each Academy is an intensive, two-day event during which participants get hands-on experience with Google's free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues, and immerse themselves in a supportive community of educators making impact." Google in Education

Applying for these opportunities can be rather intense but also very worthwhile. I completed the individual qualification exams (6 exams which comprehensively asses your knowledge of Google Apps for Education). These were certainly challenging but each exam has a training module that if you work through, give you a wealth of information which opens up so many ideas and resources which you can use in the classroom. I'm not an exam lover but the process certainly whet my appetite to explore Google Apps further to see how I could best apply these apps to develop deep learning experiences for the students  I work with.

After I completed the exams, my attention turned to the application form accompanied by a 1 minute video. After wrestling with word limits and time restrictions I pressed submit!

My thought processes over the ensuing days as I awaited word of acceptance or other:
  • Exams are hard
  • If I didn't get in I was so appreciative for the new knowledge of Google Apps which I could apply to teaching immediately
  • I need to keep learning as I learn with my students
  • If my application was successful, I would bring back amazing resources that I could share with my colleagues and wider teaching community - this is truly exciting
  • I love that one of the foci on the application was to take this knowledge back and share it with as many people as possible - spread the love
  • I was so appreciative of the support and encouragement from fellow applicants who took time to write encouragement on Twitter and YouTube - what an amazing way to connect
  • My husband is an amazing person who wholeheartedly encourages me in everything(including apply for GTA) and who I love having constant discussions about pedagogy, learning, education, philosophy and life with. Thank you Chris Woldhuis ( can recommend following @cwoldhuis on Twitter - an amazing thinker in Education)
I look forward to sharing what I learn with you - I'm busting to get there and am exploding with excitement. Sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet and give it a go. The journey can be bumpy but worth it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The World of Learning According to Jemma

This speech in this video was written by Jemma, a 10 year old student, who gave her perspective on learning at a recent StudentMeet held at Shore this year. Jemma wrote this speech on her own and gave valuable insights about what it is like 'on the other side'.

Many other students presented at this inaugural StudentMeet. It was amazing to see the commonality between each of the presentations. Students wanted to connect with each other, connect with their world, be trusted and don't mind hard work. I was so impressed with the willingness of outstanding young men and women to share with teachers what works and what doesn't.

I was equally impressed with the teachers who came along to learn how they can strengthen their pedagogy to make learning and engaging and deep experience for the students in their care.

I look forward to further StudentMeets and also TeachMeets where professionals come together to share what is working in their environment and support each other in improving the educational outcomes for all involved.

Enjoy...and yes, I am proud Mum of a certain 10 year old!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Disrupting Practise and Moving Forward - collaboration wins

A personal goal this year has been to challenge myself to change the way I teach from a 'chalk and talk' scenario to a more student centered, collaborative approach. If I want to develop the well debated 21st Century skills in the students I work with then I need to give them the opportunity to do so. I am trying to move towards a more project based approach. I'm also trying to offer opportunities for differentiation. Today I started to see the epic wins in the students I have the pleasure of sharing a classroom with. We are working on Claymations. Interestingly, we haven't even touched the clay as yet...we've been building the story and script with a lot of attention to detail. Interestingly, the students were the most engaged I've seen them and boy am I proud of them.

What is different? 

Firstly, the students are building their scripts collaboratively using Google docs. We noticed that students were not discussing things as much when we taught them how to use Google docs. 
By suggesting the students take on different roles within their groups, the magic started to appear. 
The 'script writers' are calling across the table to the 'researchers' to try and find some more detail on the main pollutants in Antarctica as they needed to move onto writing the next scene. The 'Props' coordinator had a table being drawn up further down the Google doc as they discussed the various pieces of equipment they needed. The 'director' was checking the story board that everything was being included and ensuring the detail was added to the script. I move from group to group listening to their discussion - not saying anything, just listening. I'm there if they need to ask. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. When I recognise a stalemate, I offer an alternative. The group takes off again and I move to the next group. Ownership of the task is theirs. 

 A squeal of delight from the back corner of the room - "Mrs W is writing on our script!" I had requested access to each groups' Google doc so I could give them feedback. Their class teacher was doing the same thing. The kids loved that they could see we were interested in what they were doing. They loved that they could fix areas that needed attention as they went. They thought it was cool - so did I! 

Giggling. Learning should be fun. I investigate the giggling. A student from one of the groups was away from school today. Actually, she was collaborating on the script using Google doc with her group from home! She was excited to be learning and working through choice. I asked her group to write and say hello from me. I smiled. Time is up - the kids don't want to stop. I don't want to stop but recess beckons. 

But wait, there is more. Differentiation is so important. How can we ensure that kids have an opportunity to expand their learning - I opened up the opportunity to build a collaborative website on resources to do with Claymation and video editing. Is it compulsory? No. Is it part of their mark? No. Is it engaging? Considering the more able students have already added resources to it in their own time and that the students who struggled with adding the resource have emailed me the links they have found because 'they really want to contribute to the site', I would say a big Yes. The added benefit is that all students have access to this new resource site which benefits all students regardless of ability. 

Is collaboration, differentiation and integrating technology hard? 
No, not really, with the right tools and being willing to step off the stage, it can be really rewarding and enriching for everyone involved. 

It made my day.