Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas K-6 Resources and $600 so far- Last Chance to help me reach $1000 for Movember

 Find several pages of Christmas Links in my Themes section and please check out this cute Christmas Story.
Thank you to those who have contributed so far. Movember aims to change attitudes and raise some serious funds for Prostate Cancer research, because every year 2,900 Australian men die from prostate cancer and over 18,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and Beyond Blue because one in six men experience depression at any given time but most men do not seek help.
Thanks again for your support and I am hoping to reach $1000 by Tuesday. Donate at my mo space page .

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Bruce Lee Legacy

Mandarin is the most commonly spoken language in the world. There are twice as many Mandarin speakers as English speakers. If you want your students to learn a language that will be useful to them in the future, I suggest learning Mandarin. I have collected a few links to help you. I am amazed at the number of great free videos out there. Some of my long-time readers will remember that I lived and worked in China for 2 years. I didn't learn much Mandarin, but the fact that I tried a few phrases opened many doors to me. Just learning a few phrases can break down many barriers. Speaking of barriers, this week I have posted a couple of my old China Diary entries from 2006. Hope you enjoy them.

China Diary - The Bruce Lee Legacy

One of the teachers on staff this week had one too many people stare at him in the street. Someone came up, invaded his personal space and stared long and hard. The teacher pushed the offender aside but decided to do some staring of his own and went up to the Chinese gentleman and invaded his personal space in return. Loud and heated words were exchanged, that neither side understood, and a crowd began to gather. At this point the teacher decided he had made his point and left. Another teacher hearing this story suggested that confronting the person was highly dangerous as there was a good chance he was a martial arts expert. The truth is the average person in the street here is just as likely to be a martial arts expert as you and me. I get the feeling that most Chinese people don't have time to drop in the local Shaolin monastery to steal a stone from the master's hand or to practice flying through the air in slow motion wearing pyjamas. Like Australians, they are basically too busy trying to earn a living and keep the tax man at bay and they really just want peace and quiet. Now and then when I am out for dinner someone across from me will have a good long stare with their mouth agape. I fight them with the deadliest martial arts move I have, the Australian wink, click, shake of the head and smile. It may take me three or four winks but I always end up subduing them by forcing them to smile.

China Diary - Happy With Uncertainty

Despite the excitement I experience every time I enter a supermarket in Guangzhou for another shopping adventure, it would be nice if, just for once, I could take an Chinese Australian interpreter with me so that searching for simple items that I take for granted at home, would not be such a chore. Take toothpaste for example. You would think that even an inexperienced shopper like me could find a tube of standard peppermint flavoured toothpaste in the supermarket. Not in China. There are literally hundreds of different flavoured toothpastes on the shelves. Up until now I have been buying toothpaste according to the pictures on the packet. The first week I didn't even realise you could have different flavoured toothpaste and ended up with a Colgate tube that was honey flavour. It tasted sweeter than honey and I am positive it was actually causing more tooth decay. I persevered for a week with the honey before returning for another attempt. The time was just as bad. I asked a shop assistant in my best Chinese for peppermint toothpaste and came home with something that tasted like charcoal. Next time I studied the pictures on the boxes carefully and decided the picture of a mint leaf on the pack assured me I would get peppermint. Unfortunately it must have been a picture of a tea leaf as I have been brushing everyday with what tastes like a cold cup of tea. I am nearly out of toothpaste again and who can guess what flavour it will be next time. In China you have to be happy with uncertainty. I think this time I will just open a few packets and taste them all until I find the right one. It is no wonder the Chinese think foreigners are strange.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Share My Computer? No Way!

I feel I need to respond to a recent article by Jamie McKenzie,  “Over-Equipped? Is it possible to have too many laptops?” His argument is that “It turns out that one-on-one is perfect for some activities but not the best choice for other learning activities.” I would have thought this would be obvious to any teacher, but I don't see the connection between the tools one chooses to complete a learning task, and personal ownership of a laptop or netbook. Sometimes pen and paper is quicker and more efficient than using a computer but we don't tell kids they have to share one exercise book or pen between two students.
He also cites an article from the New York Times that states that giving out netbooks to teenagers from poor neighbourhoods actually lowers writing and maths test scores because kids spend their time playing games on the devices. You can manipulate data to suit editorial comment at any time but I imagine the lower test scores are a result of student's disinterest in the school system in general. Kids see that authentic learning is taking place outside of schools rather than within them. The kids are saying, “I don't care about what the tests measure because it is not going to get me a job anyway". As I have stated previously, handing out netbooks doesn't change much in schools. Technology management is about people. It is change management. Teachers need support in learning how to use tools effectively. If they don't have this support, they can't make use of the a laptop's potential to support new types of learning that engages students. Good teachers, quickly learn how to use computers well in their classrooms to engage students. Just like they probably used blackboards well to engage students. Bad teachers don't do this. Invest in teachers and you invest in students.
Netbooks are getting cheaper all the time and soon students will all have something like an iPad in their bag whether teachers like it or not. So why can't each child have a netbook? How would you feel if you started work at a new company and you were told you had to share a computer with another worker? If you really believe that it is best if kids share computers, demonstrate your support for the concept by giving your laptop away and sharing a computer with the teacher in the next classroom. Go on. I dare you.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What is Constructivism in Education?

In a recent blog post, some of the assumptions behind my thinking were identified and quite rightly challenged:

Learning new digital technologies is, in and of itself, a good thing. Fair comment. What is the point of students mastering new technology if it doesn't lift levels of engagement and thereby improve learning outcomes.

Digital media learning has an inherent "nature" or "essence", which is, at its core, best suited to "constructivist" models of learning. The problem with the term constructivism is that represents a broad spectrum of positions that include Social Radical Constructivism (there is no reality other than what I imagine). I have worried about this term myself and need to clarify what I mean by constructivism.

That risk-taking and failure are also inherently good things, and in the case of schools and digital technologies - are in fact, inevitable things. I think that some of those who are passionate about educational reform and technology believe that schools need “a bomb under them” and need to try new strategies that reflect the use of technology outside the classroom. My view about risk taking is a little different. I think we all can learn best by doing things ourselves or “learning on the job” which inevitably leads to mistakes and learning from these. As Halverson and Jenkins state:
“In the apprentice system, it was taken as given that most students would learn, eventually, what they needed to know, while the public school system starts from the premise that only a small portion of the population can fully master its expectations.”
“The idea that the apprenticeship model was successful for individual learning is by and large true. Because the master could work closely with the learner in apprenticeship, most learning failures could be mitigated or averted.”
“The long-term individualized attention to learning-from-failure that came with apprenticeship learning was not a part of traditional public schooling. This intolerance for failure at the system level has been translated into a similar intolerance to experiment at the classroom level. Contemporary public school policies insist that all students show learning progress, which has led to dominant models of instruction that emphasize efficiency, smooth learning trajectories and predictable outcomes. Schools are often reluctant to experiment with high-yield, high-risk, instructional practices. Innovation is risky - most innovations fail, and even the ones that succeed are usually fundamentally transformed before achieving wide dissemination.”

Student choice is an inherently good thing, and should, as a default position be expanded - while the teacher's power in the classroom, as a default position, should be diminished. I think that rather than leading to anarchy, teachers gain strength as leaders in the classroom by modelling their own learning. If the aim of education is to build an enthusiasm for life-long learning, students need role models who can learn with them. But, yes, it is again a valid criticism that I have not explored and argued opposing positions.

What do you think?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Computers ≠ Student Engagement

Engaging students and enthusing them about learning has always been my goal. That is the main reason I have advocated the need for technology rich classrooms and in particular, one computer per child. A ratio of 1:1 in a classroom is not twice as good as 1:2. It is about one hundred times better. If I only had 30 computers in a primary school, I would give them to year 6 only. Anything less than 1:1 is just a distraction and annoying. Can you imagine sharing a pen with 4 other kids when you were at school?

I have been running one-to-one trials in primary schools for a couple of years now and reviewing recent research about one-to-one programs has changed my thinking. The little I have read suggests that there is no evidence that giving each kid in your class a computer will lift their test scores. That's obvious, I hear you say, but I think like many, I was carried along with much of the hype surrounding the promise of technology. I am beginning to understand that student-teacher interactions or relationships or classroom dynamics or whatever else you like to call them, are much more important in lifting students levels of achievement than the technology. Don't get me wrong. One netbook per child is essential, but my reasons for believing this have changed. A netbook can be "an instrument whose music is ideas" or an "imagination machine" or they can be digital exercise books. Teachers who use them as exercise books are wasting the devices' potential as cognitive tools that can help to ignite a love of learning in each student. That is where the student-teacher relationship comes into play. Recently I was telling a class of kids with netbooks that backing up data to a USB stick can be a problem because magnets can wipe the data from them. Before I had even finished the sentence some kid put up his hand and said, " It says here that's a myth about magnets and USB sticks". This 10 year old had googled my sentence and exposed me as imperfect. Someone had told me the story about magnets years ago and I swallowed it and passed it to kids for years. The embarrassment made me realise that I can no longer be the "Sage on the Stage" when kids can check everything I say on Google. It means teachers have to admit we don't know everything and that cooperative learning and collaboration is just as important for teachers as for kids. What I should have said was, " I need a group of you to work out a procedure for backing up data that we can communicate to other students around the world so this myth is busted. Google it and get back to me when you have put something together in a wiki."
Teachers are the gatekeepers of any innovation and are notorious for sticking their heads in the sand. Even if every kid is given a computer, as is happening in high schools,  teachers are the ones who decide if, how and when they will use use them no matter how hard you twist their arms. I think many of them are just being used as paper weights. I hope I am wrong.

Someone once said that, "learning is the product of effort" and Seymour Papert called his Logo activities "hard fun". I think any learning activities have to be hard fun in order to be worthwhile and computers are tools that can help teachers create hard fun. Note that I said they help teachers. The computers don't do it on their own. Teachers have to come up with the ideas, ask the kids what they think (that's novel) and be prepared to abdicate the thrown. So if you are not interested in lighting the fire of learning in kids, don't bother with computers, they will make no difference.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Desperate Houseplants

As I collect resources each week I am finding Youtube has more and more useful videos that can be used to support what we do in the classroom. The classic this week was a short from Seasame Street called Desperate Houseplants . I am really grateful to people who put valuable resources like this one up on Youtube. It really helps all teachers achieve learning outcomes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Free Scootle Campaign

I get lots of requests each week for resources to help teach spelling and I hope these resources are useful to you. There is one website however, called Scootle , an Australian and New Zealand government initiative, where there are hundreds of useful learning objects but unfortunately, it is open only to those who have a login and password, so it is no point listing its links on my site. I do not understand this thinking. Sites such as the ABC, BBC, Thinkfinity and many others, make most of their education resources available for everyone and everyone benefits. I find it annoying having to login when I am working in schools as well. Australian taxpayers paid for Scootle so why shouldn't all Australians have access to it? Why not let parents use it at home? Why stop people around the world gaining benefit from it? Why block kids and teachers in other countries from using it? Why place annoying logins and passwords between kids and learning. The return on investment comes from how well the learning objects improve learning outcomes, not from selling rights to them. I have paid for them already through taxation and so have many of you. Tell me how you feel about it below or tell The Learning Federation  , who created the resources, what you think. Let's set Scootle free.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Creative Commons

As students and teachers use more and more digital media in their daily work, the issue of usage rights is becoming more important. I have collected some links related to the concept of Creative Commons this week. I suggest you learn about the concept of Creative Commons and visit Smartcopying, where you can learn how copyright issues affect Australian schools.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chindogu School

Charles Leadbeater, in a presentation about the nature of innovation, recalls looking out the window of the classroom when he was at school and wishing he was the the man mowing the oval. It doesn't say much for what was happening in the classroom. Ken Robinson argues that our whole school system is just preparation for university entrance exams and there is a danger that what passes as learning in schools is increasingly becoming irrelevant and like Chindogu, that is, a good idea but pretty useless in reality. It is fairly obvious that for learning for take place, students need to be engaged. The reason I enjoy helping kids brainstorm problems and try to solve these problems by creating inventions, is that I have seen kids who are usually uninterested in school, come alive and show their creative talents. It always reminds me of Chris, an ex-student, whose problem was getting in trouble with his mum when he arrived home from school for scuffing his black leather school shoes on the playground. His solution, shoe bumper bars. He used wire and a piece of old garden house and shaped the hose to surround his shoes to stop them getting bumped. I still laugh about it as I write. It was a piece of perfect Chindogu , nearly as good as Dust Slippers for Cats. We are reminded constantly that workers of the future need to be creative problem solvers. What are we doing about it?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

ICT Skills Revisited

I had a request this week for ICT Skills Checklists. I have collected a few links but with some reservations. ICT literacy is more than ticks on a computer skills checklist. It is a new kind of multi-modal literacy that involves creative fluency as well as interpreting meaning in various digital forms. I can understand teachers wanting a checklist (just tell us what to teach). In my experience, teaching computer skills in isolation is a common starting point for teachers starting out using technology. With more ICT experience, they tend to use technology to teach content in new ways and their pedagogy changes with increased personal use of technology. If you want to develop a checklist of ICT skills:
  1. Look at where your students and staff are at. Most ICT projects that descend from above like UFOs, eventually crash land.
  2. Use something like the ISTE NETS as a basis for your planning.
  3. Consider carefully where your staff are at. Consult Tom March's excellent list of teacher competencies.  
  4. Think big picture. Chris Betcher's list of 5 Simple Skills is a good discussion starter for staff.
  5. Don't base skills on proprietary software. Software such as Excel can change from year to year.
If you are still not sure where to start there are two skills I consider to be vital. The first is teaching your kids to touch type. In the 80's I was often faced with a lack of computers so I used to beg, borrow and steal them from whoever and wherever I could, including the local tip (sorry, I hear you saying, if I want to know about the past I will ask you). As long as the kids could input words on a screen I could teach them to touch type and that was my only goal. I told the kids that by the end of the year I expected them to be able to touch type with a towel covering their hands. The benefits are:
  1. It really makes a computer so much more useful as a tool when you can see what you are typing on the screen.
  2. You can measure the results (unlike most things we do in schools). Try this great site to see what I mean.
  3. Kids will see you in the street in 10 years time and thank you for it. 
The other skill is to teach kids how to search. Most kids (and teachers) search skills are like much of the content on the Internet (shallow). The "Digital Native" thing is a myth in my view. Many kids are very adept at wasting their time on the Internet and their skill set is very specific, rather than the generic, problem solving set they require.

Cool Things I Found This Week:
  • It was good for me to reflect on ICT Skills and where they are headed.
  • If Youtube is blocked at school, try one of these 30 alternatives
  • Zotero is enough to make you want to go back to school. It is a great tool for research.
  • 6 Word Memoirs are a great idea for English lessons.
  • We have to get better at searching using Google ourselves before we can teach kids how to do it.
  • 10 things Netbooks do better than Ipads.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Global Projects and Webquests

I am all for making learning activities as meaningful as possible and giving students an audience for their work. Think about it. Would you write if nobody was going to read your work? Engaging in projects that involve communicating with students in other schools and countries is a great way to lift levels of student engagement. There are problems sometimes with time zones and school holidays being at different times of the year when you join in a northern hemisphere project but these are outweighed by the quality of the learning that can take place. I have collected some links this week to some global projects. If you have any I can add to my list, please let me know.

Cool Things I Discovered This Week:

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I have been using Moodle as a Learning Management System for over a year now and training a few teachers how to use it, and I feel convinced that there are many good reasons for using it in the primary school. It is a fantastic tool for storing and delivering content and all of your digital resources related to a unit of work in one place that is accessible from any internet connection. You can use it to store flipcharts, embedded videos, worksheets, links, activities, assessment items and your teaching program. I have seen it used for organising and planning Literacy and Numeracy Groups, Inquiry units and personal projects. The problem anyone who hasn't used Moodle before is that the Moodle courses (units of work) are often stored behind a firewall on a school or district server or may require an enrolment key in order to access them, so it is difficult for me to show you exactly what I mean. I have some screenshots below and some links this week to sample courses. There is some new learning involved in getting familiar with Moodle. I have taught myself so you can too. Best place to begin to learn about Moodle is with these 2 Minute Moodles . You could then download some free software such as Poodle that allows you to run Moodle on your own computer (I haven't tried it sorry) or follow this link and learn how to run Moodle from a USB stick (I have been told though that it runs pretty slow via a thumb drive). You could also try a free hosting service such as Ninehub or Keys To School in order to dip your toe in the water. You will perhaps run out of space fairly soon and have to consider paying for some kind of hosting, whether it be your own school, district, diocese or a provider such Sentral , suggested to me by Warren McCullough . Hopefully the links collected this week will help you get into Moodle. Happy Moodling.

The example above shows how a Kinder teacher embedded all her dance instruction videos into a Moodle course in preparation for an upcoming school social.
This unit shows how students can follow a procedure, see a work sample and upload their completed assignment for marking.

Cool Stuff I found this week:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Powerpoint: The Butcher's Paper of the 21st Century

PowerPoint has been around since 1987 but I am constantly shocked by teachers, presenters and students who use it in utterly appalling ways. Remember teacher inservice days where every surface of the room was covered with butcher's paper? Powerpoint is the butcher's paper of the 21st Century, putting yet another generation of learners into a hypnotic stupor. I feel sorry for anyone who tries to use it for their presentations these days because it has such a stigma attached to it. My pet hates are stupid sounds, transitions and having more than 4 lines of text per slide. Consider the Year 10 student whose recent Geography assignment involved using PowerPoint for a Geography essay. Yes, an essay. The student was told they had to create a PowerPoint with 30 slides and that they had to put MORE than 4 lines of text on each page. There was no presenting involved with this presentation and no originality. I have seen some great activities using PowerPoint with infants classes (I prefer Open Office Impress because it is free and Prezi makes me seasick), but they are exceptions. This Year 10 assignment has to be one of the worst. I have been preaching how to use presentation software effectively for years. As someone said, your slide show is meant to be a visual aid and not a visual distraction or sleeping pill. This week I have collected some slide show tips as well as some great ideas for using presentation software in the classroom.

Cool Things I Discovered This Week:

  • PowerPoint is good for hypnotising chickens.
  • Great PD opportunity: 31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader
  • Kids can be historians
  • The Creative Thinking Spiral: "In this process, people imagine what they want to do, create a project based on their ideas, play with their creations, share their ideas and creations with others, and reflect on their experiences—all of which leads them to imagine new ideas and new projects. As students go through this process, over and over, they learn to develop their own ideas, try them out, test the boundaries, experiment with alternatives, get input from others, and generate new ideas based on their experiences." This sadly is still a foreign concept in many classrooms.
  • A great Art site

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Scratch is a programming language created by MIT, that makes it easy for kids to create interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art and share them on the web. Students using Scratch learn many mathematical ideas and can collaborate with others and be creative. It represents constructivist learning at its best. It is the kind of thing that Bill Gates started out doing in his garage and you know what that led to. I urge you all to download this small program that runs on the smell of an oily rag from and give it a try. Better still, let your kids play with it. They will be hooked. Please have a look at the links I have collected for you this week.

Cool Stuff I Learned This Week:

  • The Sistine Chapel looks much better when there are no people in the way.
  • Kids understand Maths best when they are able to teach it to others.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Web 2 Lockout

I am always trying to find an audience for student work and I find it really frustrating that there are so many great web2 publishing sites that kids have to be 13 years old in order to sign up for an account.  I think it would be far better to have a rating system for websites like we find with TV shows (G, PG, M, R). Many kids ignore the rules and lie about their age but I do not encourage kids to to do this. One way around the problem is to create a gmail account for the class such as MrsSmithYear6 at and give students the password. When a teacher signs up using this email address, students can then all access the one account. This week I have tried to collect links to sites that offer free educator accounts or that do not have the 13 years of age policy. Please let me know about others I can add to the list or let me know what you do about the 13 years of age rule.

  Cool Stuff I Learned This Week:

  • My 10 year old daughter showed me how to use an iPhone when we were wasting time in a mobile phone shop at a shopping mall. We don't have an iPhone in our family but she was able to show me how to use just about every function on the device.
  • Diigo, Animoto, Voicethread and Glogster have Educator Accounts. I am hoping other Web2 giants will follow.
  • Screencasting has many classroom uses.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Theme: Disasters Year 5-6

I collected some links on disasters for Stage 3 this week and while on the subject of disaters, I am not sure if you will be conducting NAPLAN tests at your school or not and I am not teaching a class at the moment. If I was, I would be getting my class to do as many past NAPLAN tests and practice tests as possible. Yes, teach to the tests and get back to the real learning once they are over. If you are interested in the sad topic of standardised testing, Gary Stager recommends reading , The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch, a previous education advisor to the Bush Administration and architect of standardised testing. I think it is about time we did some standardised testing of our politicians.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Personal Learning Networks

I have just returned from The ACEC Conference and have some great new ideas. One, advocated by Steve Collis , is to create your own Personal Learning Network as a means of professional development. Yes, he does deserve the title Happy Steve. His happiness infects everyone he meets. He argued that traditional professional development days do not allow for the fact that each school is unique with different people, history and circumstances. The development day also does not allow for needs of individual teachers.  Digital Age PD is about relationships and community and making your learning personal. I have been sending out a newsletter for 8 years now and it has functioned as a personal learning environment rather than a network. I intend to change that. I hope my links this week will give you some ideas for creating your own personal learning network. Before the conference I was not an avid Twitter fan but I have changed my mind. Steve explained that Twitter was like a cocktail party, where you can listen in and participate in conversations that interest you. The penny dropped for me at this moment. I downloaded Tweetdeck and have begun in earnest.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bullying: Old Problem, New Playground.

The role of technology in bullying is overemphasised. It is a case of bullies having new tools at their disposal. The number one factor is, of course, student engagement in bullying or victimisation in face to face environments.  Results show that students' roles in traditional bullying predicted the same role in cyberbullying.  So basically, students don't become bullies just because they have a computer. I would be very interested to know the exact ratio of bullying that occurs on mobile phones compared to computers as well. I think much more occurs using mobile phones. The accepted wisdom to bullying at the moment seems to be to have a whole school approach which has zero tolerance for bullying in any form. I hope these links I have collected will help you do that.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Classroom Management

I have collected some links this week to help teachers with classroom management. When it comes to managing students at school, everyone has their own individual style. It is not something that happens overnight. It takes years to develop the skills to handle most everyday situations at school. My suggestion to any young teachers starting out, is to realise you are a beginner and talk to the most experienced teachers on staff and ask them what they do or ask for advice about problems you may be experiencing with students. But don't take all their advice as gospel. Their strategies may not suit you or your class. I found that each year I had to change my strategies depending on the composition of the class. I also found out the hard way that some strategies don't work for all kids. Getting to know your kids really well at the beginning of the year and establishing a good relationship with them is the first place to start. One thing I try to do is catch kids being good. A simple reward system where you allocate "Free Time" reward points when you see students working well can help most of the time. Put a poster up where the kids can reach it with pockets next to their name. Give them reward cards to put in their sleeve. They can redeem it at any time of the day (within reason) and do the activity of their choice. They can even invite a friend if they have enough points. Vary this idea to suit your style and ideas. For a few years I had students who just refused to bring in homework. I set up a lucky dip bag and let them pick something from the bag each week if they completed their homework to a reasonable standard. It probably cost me $200 for the whole year (a tax deduction) but saved lot of grief. Everyone did their homework.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Visual Ventures

The ability to create a story, demonstrate mastery or understanding of a concept using images and video is now a basic skill that all students require. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic are just not enough. By the way, I like Chris Betcher's list of basic skills for the 21st century (touch typing should be added).

As I became more experienced in teaching digital storytelling and film making, I gave up on using video cameras and ended up using the most basic tools available to many students, digital cameras and mobile phones. I also now demand that student videos be no longer than 60 seconds in length. I have no problem with students preparing a 3-5 minute film to show at a class film night (yes popcorn included) but for video assessment items, less is more and saying what you need to say in 60 or even 30 seconds is a great discipline for students. Video also allows some students to really shine. I have seen this with New Arrival and ESL students. They can really surprise you when English is no longer a boundary to their expression.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Big Questions

When I ask the young IT guys where I work how to do something, they answer patiently and politely but I can tell they are thinking, "Why don't you google it?". That is the world they have grown up with. It would have been hard to imagine this 15 years ago. Students now need to be able to sift through the information mountain, process it and use it to answer meaningful questions. I always try to make this job easier for students and teachers with my website, but ultimately, students need to be able to do it themselves. Think of my links then as scaffolding in this process.

I feel that asking the big questions can really enliven your lessons and motivate students. Take our recent Australia day Celebrations as an example. Is it Survival Day or Australia Day? Is it a commemoration or celebration? Was it Settlement or Invasion? At first you get their parent's answers, but after digging deeper, even young students can form their own answers.

When you want a cake recipe you google it. Soon, and I mean soon, all students will have a netbook or notebook on their desk and they will be able to immediately find information. 3 years ago I was advising teachers against using Wikipedia. Not now. The skill set we give students is different. Will you be ready for it soon?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Reading Interactives K-2

Welcome back to all the Australian teachers who are back at work this week after the summer break. This is the 9th year that I have sent out this free newsletter in much the same format. With 22,000 subscribers it seems like a winning formula, but I am asking each of you to let me know what direction you would like both the newsletter and website to take in the future so that it can best serve each of you, my faithful friends. For example, I cannot possibly find all the really good websites you need for each theme and there must be so many you could add to my lists. So please email me at and speak your mind.
The links I have compiled this week are aimed at K-2 but I am sure you can use them in a variety of ways. I need to make special mention of the Adrian Bruce website which has some great free reading interactives. Also, there are resources that are only available to Australian and NZ schools via the Learning Federation that are excellent.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

School Food Resources

This week I have collected resources related to school canteens, school lunches and growing food at school. You could argue that it is none of our business getting involved in what students eat at school. I disagree. We know the statistics. Australians are fat and our children are going to pay for it, if not though their own illness, then indirectly through taxation to support an ever expanding health system that is needed for coping with obesity related disorders like diabetes. Teachers need to get involved. Probably like you, I ate too much during the festive season and it is showing. Shedding the extra kilos is not easy. I also have no idea how to grow my own food. Better to teach students good food habits as early as possible and I believe students learn best by doing. Just out of interest you may also like to look at have a look at this video . It gave me something to think about.