Presentation by Tom Barrett

Several months ago, I got in touch with Tom Barrett after we had both started blogging about Google Earth in the classroom. Tom is a Primary teacher in Grade 6 and he has a fantastic blog and his classes are using blogs as well.

I liked what Tom was doing in the classroom and I used his work in my presentation to the k12online conference last year. Then I asked Tom to do a presentation for our Primary teachers as part of the Australian Government Quality Teachers Program. It was 10 months in the making as we couldn’t find a date that we could get all our Primary teachers together. In the end, we thought we’d do one campus at a time.
Tom presented from London last week to semi-rural Melbourne. It was 7:30 am here and 10:30 pm there. Many thanks must go to our Primary staff for actually turning up (in their dressing gowns), but more importantly, Karen Griffiths who supported me throughout this activity.

Most importantly, Tom talked about how he uses Google Earth, blogs, wikis, PhotoStory and Turning Point in his class. It was enthralling to watch and listen to him as well as his captivated audience. I’ve had several comments from our staff, who were quite impressed with his presentation and several have already asked about how they can do some of the same things.

Thanks Tom.

“The Open Clasroom” Presentation

Yesterday afternoon, we had our presentation on blogs and what they are. What a success!! Only 20 or so staff attended the session out of 150 teachers at our school (although only 35 were invited, so not a bad rate in my opinion). But the staff that attended included the Head of School (his introdcution and conclusion were fantastic and I’m not sucking up!!), Head of Campus, Head of Secondary, Director of Curriculum, Assistants to the Director of Curriculum, Head of IT Projects, as well as other interested staff. The staff were inspired by James, Jane and Jo (see previous posts for more details), who as educators and blog experts were all very different to each other, yet they showed that blogs were a teaching and learning tool and how they can be used inside and outside our classrooms – making them truly “open”.
James relaxed introduction surprised a few staff, but it suddenly turned serious when he started to talk about pedagogies and constructivism and how blogs can be used in classes as a teaching and learning tool (alongside other teaching and learning tools). Jane was quietly spoken, but delivered so eloquently and showed how her ESL classes have used blogs over time, even though she had some issues with her slideshow at times. Her academic background came through and showed the staff that blogs were not a “gimmick”. Jo spoke passionately about her Year 8 class and the way the students used the class blog. Students at a small school in Canada found her class blog and their is now correspondence between the two school groups. She showed how the students use of English improved as people outside the class discovered the blog and lastly, how she plans to use a form of blogging (podcasting) as a Year 12 revision tool. (I wish I thought of that ūüėČ ). Lastly, James wrapped up and showed how easy it was to create an edublog site and made a BIG announcement – but I’ll leave that to him to announce it to everyone else.

At the end of the session, it was clear that these presenters had hit the mark as there was lots of serious discussion. Today at work, staff were talking about it and wanting to get their classes to start blogging. I heard that at a Teaching and Learning committee meeting this morning, they kept coming back to last night’s meeting and the potential of blogging and other new technologies.

Sometimes, you don’t lead by getting up there and doing a big song and dance about what you are passionate about, but rather by sitting back and organising some great sessions and allowing others to see what it is you want them to see. It may take months, but it is worth it. So thanks Will Richardson, who started the inspiration with a wonderful presentation a few months via SkypeVideo, thanks to Reef Ed and the National Space Centre for videoconferencing with us, thanks to James Farmer, Jane Westworth and Jo McLeay for giving a great presentation yesterday. Two more sessions are planned for early next year – one on podcasting led by David Kelly, a friend and great IT teacher, the other on how a Primary teacher, Tom Barrett uses ICT in his classroom. Looking forward to them!


The Open Classroom

I’ve organized an afternoon “chat” called “The Open Classroom” for some of our staff next week as part of our AGQTP/AISV New Technologies program. I call it a “chat” as it isn’t PD, nor is it a lecture, nor a workshop. More of a “what is this blogging stuff and where can it take us?“. There will be no compulsion for staff to set up a blog afterwards, but I hope that some start to see the possibilities of creating Open Classrooms in the future. Our school has links with other schools around the world, in particular the Round Square organization, whereby, students participate in yearly conferences, International projects and exchange programs.

So enter three very qualified speakers or presenters from Melbourne – Jane Westworth, Jo McLeay, James Farmer. All are educational bloggers and have been doing so for quite some time. I have deliberately asked these three people because their backgrounds are so different to my own. At times, I feel as though I don’t get across to some of our administrators as they may see me as some type of techno-wizard (hopefully not a geek). As many of our administrators are of a Humanities background and I have a Mathematical / Science / IT background, we sometimes see things differently.

Jane is an English /ESL / Drama teacher РLecturer / Researcher  and a member of the Advocacy group at VATE.   Jane is currently teaching at RMIT and working on a PhD at Monash.  She is proud of the fact that she is not IT savvy. Yet, Jane has been using blogs since 2002 when they were first established.  She has used them for her research and taught using various types of blogs for 4 years (a long time in blogging circles).  She has achieved great success with ESL learners and students returning to study and her work has interesting parallels with our ELICOS center, English, Primary, LOTE classes and our Round Square community and Open Classrooms.

Jo is also an English teacher, member of VATE and she is completing a Masters of Education. She uses blogs in her classrooms and uses them for assessment purposes, an area that seems to get neglected as I read through other teachers blg entries (or perhaps I’m not looking hard enough yet). I enjoy reading her blog as she has used technology in ways that some of our staff may consider “gimmicky“, but in my opinion, she is using the technology to enrich student learning. Isn’t that our job? Jo’s blog is called “The Open Classroom” and I have borrowed this name for the presentation.

James has his own section in my last post.

Dinner with James Farmer – creator of “”

I have only been blogging for a few months (first heard about blogs and wikis in 2003, did lots of research, but never took the plunge to get involved).  Within my first week, I tested a couple of blog sites and settled on edublogs.

In my first few weeks as an edublogger, I discovered that the creator of edublogs, James Farmer, did a seminar in Australia.¬† This was very exciting as I had assumed he must have travelled all the way from the US or UK to do this seminar.¬† I had a look at his blog and read that he would be getting up very early to watch his new country, Australia, play in the soccer World Cup.¬† “Wow!¬† He’s Australian!!” I thought to myself.

I kept reading his blog and discovered that he worked at one of the biggest newspapers in Melbourne, my home city.  Wow!!

I contacted James and it turns out that he actually lives 5 minutes away from the home that I had just purchased.  Talk about a small world.

James has agreed to do a talk at my workplace next week (as part of the AGQTP/AISV project I am leading) and so we met face to face and had dinner to chat about it and other blog stuff.¬† I must admit that I was quite nervous and tired as I’ve just finished reports and preparing this presentation at the same time.

Sitting and chatting with James was invigorating.  To hear about:

  • his journey into blogging and creating edublogs and his future plans were quite exciting (and it is not for me to tell, you’ll just have to wait!!).
  • how he hosted the recent k12onlineconference and other people’s sites.
  • how there are 30,000 teachers using his edublogs site and it is doubling every 6 months.
  • how looking after edublogs is both rewarding and despicable (the people who bag him for problems should have a good look at themselves – it is a free service he is providing after all)

James has a background in philosophy and as an ESL teacher at various universities, hence his interest in creating blogs for ESL students and unistudents and teachers.  His philosophical background shone through last night as he made me think about a range of issues (man, I was too tired to think through some of his phiolosophical thoughts last night).

One thing is for certain.¬† I’ve hired the right person to challenge some of our policy setters at our school to look at the way we may deliver education in the future.¬† I’d love to know what they will say to each after the presentation
Thanks James.

Interactive WhiteBoard PD & User Groups

Today, a group of our staff (Primary and Secondary) got together and had Jeremy Radkovic demonstrate the SmartBoard software. I have been using one for some time, but as it ties in with the Australian Government Quality Teachers Program I am leading, I attended anyway. Although it was aimed at “beginners”, I was still able to pick up a few tips.

It was interesting to see how some staff members could see how they could use the technology in their classrooms. In the past, it didn’t matter to them, but as we will be getting a few more SmartBoards as of next year, more staff will have access to them and therefore, the interest levels increase.

Jeremy’s knowledge of the product is excellent and I would recommend anyone in Melbourne to ask for him if they are organising a PD session for their staff. He is able to take an idea and show how the resources contained within the board can be used.

A way to ensure our staff keep the interest levels up was to form a Technology User Group. So far, our school and 4 or 5 others have shared PD sessions and we hope to continue similar sessions in the future. We hope that through this User Group, teachers with similar interests will develop and share resources with each other. Also, having meetings once a term and sharing resources via a wikispace with each other means lessons can be designed for our Victorian curriculum.

In the near future, we will be having our first Podcast User Group meeting. If you would like to join us, please let me know. Again, the idea would be to share ideas with interested teachers, rotate the meeting venues, and develop resources with other like minded people. Something like social networking, only in the flesh.

Has anyone out there in the edublogosphere had success with developing and sharing resources with others in your district instead of working on their own? I’d love to hear how it went.