A (technology) vision for inspiring learning…

Technology can inspire and enhance learning through innovation, collaboration & creativity.

This is the tech vision statement for VIS in Laos, where I had the pleasure of working with a lovely group of educators for several days last week. It is also the central idea for their inquiry into the use of technology for innovation in learning.

Our provocations included, among other things:

  • an exploration of the difference between enhancing and inspiring, which stimulated interesting conversation, not just about technology (which isn’t really the point) but about learning.
  • looking at examples of collaboration and creativity to inspire possibilities.
  • investigation of the 2016 ISTE standards for students.
  • creating stop motion clips to encapsulate the big ideas within the standards.
  • consideration of how the characteristics of the innovator’s mindset might influence teachers’ approach to technology integration.
  • individual and team meetings exchanging ideas and thinking collaboratively.





Their ongoing inquiry involves putting ideas into practice, making connections, experimenting, investigating, exploring further… bringing the vision to life.

Graham was inspired to start a blog. His first post challenges us to consider whether the PYP exhibition is actually an expedition. Year 6s in Australia have already been inspired to pursue the question. Some of them might like to connect with Graham’s students in Laos…


Linda sent out a tweet asking for photos of learning spaces around the world to help her Preps gather data for their inquiry into learning environments and received, among other global contributions, images of the early years learning spaces at my school.

Olwen’s class created stop motion animations of their own migrations and put out a request for people to share their migration stories via these google slides. My school community will be invited to add theirs – would anyone in my network network like to contribute?

img_9292 img_9295

Some of the take-aways:

  • It’s not about the technology, it’s ALWAYS about the learning.
  • The tools have to work for us, we don’t work for them.
  • Try one new thing.. but not just for the sake of it.
  • Know your purpose!
  • Extend the learning into the wider world.
  • You don’t have to know everything. Let the learners take the lead.
  • Collaboration and creativity don’t depend on technology…
  • but technology can take them to another level.
  • Innovation is a mindset 🙂

I already love the flow on from connecting with these teachers and the way their tech vision statement is embodied in our ongoing collaboration.


Technology and carelessness…

Have you ever accidentally hit ‘reply’ instead of ‘forward’ and sent an email intended for someone else?

Have you ever unintentionally included the person you were talking about in an email?

Have you accidentally posted a draft to your blog before it was ready for posting?

Have you ever posted something personal, not intended for your public audience, to your professional blog?

I’ve done all of those, the last one just this morning, but I’ve deleted it now.

The advantages of picking up even a tiny a device and being able to easily create and publish content come with the need for care and caution…

Is technology dangerous?

This guest post was written by Tali, a pre-service teacher in her final year of studying to be a primary school teacher. You may have read an earlier guest post by a pre-service teacher in the UK – A conversation with Tali indicates that it’s not much better in Australia. Why can’t so called education experts figure out how to prepare teachers?

Recently, I was informed that technology is dangerous. The person who so confidently imparted this pearl of wisdom is a university lecturer in education (I am studying to be a primary teacher).

This is not the first time that one of my lecturers has warned me of the ‘dangers of technology’, but I always find these warnings quite amusing, so I resisted the urge to laugh and instead asked what it is about technology that is so deeply threatening. He knowingly informed me that technology makes children feel that their classroom learning is boring, because the Internet is more interesting.

Other lecturers have also told me that technology is a distraction, or that it is unnecessary. One went so far as to imply that the use of tablets in classrooms is a fad that will soon pass. I do not think it is a coincidence that the online materials for these lecturers’ subjects are of a very low quality. The worst offence was probably when my readings for an entire semester were scanned and uploaded sideways, and in a format that could not be rotated. I spent many an hour on my bed, with my laptop turned sideways, silently cursing my lecturer.

So it’s not the first time I have encountered this mindset and it does, to an extent, amuse me. But it also annoys me, for a couple of reasons. The first is the use of the word “technology”. I put the word in inverted commas, because I feel that some people’s understanding of the term is quite nebulous. They say ‘technology’, but I don’t think that is exactly what they mean. Technology is actually quite a broad term, and (according to the Victorian Board of Education) encompasses ‘all processes and equipment used to…support human endeavour’. So really, pens and paper are technology. And I don’t see anyone calling them dangerous and demanding that we revert to parchment and quills or drawing in the dirt.

I’m pretty sure that when they say “technology” they mean “ICT, computers and the internet”. And this is the thing that bothers me the most. How can any educator actually think that demonizing those things and banishing them from the classroom can benefit students in any way?

A computer is a tool like any other. Their usefulness in the classroom is determined not solely by their own capabilities, but by the way they are utilised and the attitudes and culture that the teacher fosters towards them. And ICT and the Internet offer us dynamic learning opportunities that (among many other things) can enhance end deepen thinking, give students more responsibility over their own learning and more ways to show it, and connect them with classrooms and thinkers around the world. To me, it is actually a bit bizarre not to utilise these tools in your practise, given that we are so privileged to have access to them.

However, the many benefits of e-learning are actually beside the point. The reality is that this is the direction that the world is ever more rapidly moving in, whether we think it is a good thing or not. I feel that we actually do a disservice to students by neglecting to develop their e-literacy, for in the future it will almost certainly be an integral part of their studies, employment, and indeed their social lives. Does the Internet pose certain dangers? Of course it does. That’s even more reason to be having conversations in our classrooms about Internet safety, bullying, and the nature of one’s digital footprint. As teachers, we have to prepare students for a future we cannot envision. The least we can do is educate them using tools from the present, instead of recycling the education of the past.

So why do some of my lecturer’s discourage me from using “technology”? I can’t say for sure, but I would guess that, as is so often the case, they fear it because they do not understand it. And that is fine. Long gone are the days where the teacher is the beacon of all knowledge. But if you don’t understand something, you need to be open to learning about it, and if you can’t manage that then you should probably stop trying to train pre-service teachers.

Otherwise they’ll blog about you.

Building an understanding of digital citizenship…

What do these two words mean?

consume           create

Everyone in the class knows what ‘create’ means but only a few are familiar with the word ‘consume’. mostly in the context of eating, although one girl says ‘It’s when you take something in, for instance information’.

We use breakfast as our example and they get the idea that making the eggs could be seen as creating and eating them as consuming. We deliberately do not use a dictionary, so that they construct meaning for themselves, rather than narrow down their understanding with a fixed definition at the start.

In groups, the children then brainstorm all the things they do in a day, making sure every item includes a verb – watch TV, play Minecraft, eat lunch, write a story…


Using two colours, they highlight which of these are consuming and which are creating. The conversations are rich, as they build their understanding and discover that it’s not either/or, that some are both and some are neither… maybe.

Which of their daily activities are digital? In new groups, they now brainstorm their digital activities, taking care to include verbs, so that, for instance, ’email’ becomes ‘read email’ and ‘write email’…

They are already discussing consuming vs creating before we even ask the question. They are totally engaged and, apart from building their understanding of the desired concepts, so many trans-disciplinary skills are evident – communication, thinking and social skills – and, quite incidentally, a host of outcomes from the English scope and sequence.

At the end they write down what they understand about creating and consuming now…


They’re clearly ready to move ahead in developing the desired conceptual understandings in this unit of inquiry…

We need to think critically about digital content that we view and create.


I don’t think critically about digital content.I believe what I read on the internet.

I don’t think critically about what I post online.


I understand that not everything on the internet might be valid or true and can explain why.I can give some some examples of how I consider audience and purpose when I create digital content online.


I can explain how to assess if a website is reliable or not.I can identify and analyse techniques used to influence consumers.

I choose appropriate techniques to communicate creatively and  effectively online and can give examples.

People are responsible for digital content they create.


I can give some examples of how I can be responsible online.  I can explain how things I post online can affect my own reputation.I can explain how things I post online can affect the wellbeing of others. I take responsibility for my digital footprint and can explain how and why I do this.I can demonstrate my positive digital footprint.


The internet enables us to communicate and collaborate with people all over the world.


I can identify ways that I communicate with others online.  I can compare and evaluate different tools for online communication and collaboration. I connect, communicate and collaborate with people online and can say what I have learned from my interactions.

Our learners are gearing up to connect with kids in other parts of Australia as well as India, Japan, Thailand, New Zealand, Canada and other countries via Skype, Twitter and blogs. And they are already asking a range of interesting questions into which they might inquire!

In addition to refining this unit of inquiry with the Year 5 teachers at my school, I’ll be leading an IB workshop on Digital Citizenship in Melbourne in May, so feedback, resources, ideas and other perspectives are invited.  Please leave a comment!

Twitter in the classroom…

A group of Jina’s Year 4 students sit on the floor and I show them Twitter. She is fairly new to Twitter herself, so I love that she has set up a class account and is keen to get them started, especially as this is the first class Twitter account in our school.

For now, the account can only be accessed if the teacher logs in. She plans to keep it logged in in the classroom, so that students can share their learning and gather data via their questions. Several articles in the past few weeks have covered dozens of ways to use Twitter for learning and we need to start somewhere to see where this takes us.

I start with a brief explanation of how it works and its purpose, then show them some Twitter streams from classes at other schools to give them a better idea. I had planned to have them practice expressing their thoughts in 140 characters first, but it turns out to be unnecessary. I model a couple of tweets with their input and, within a few minutes, we have a volunteer up at the board, typing a tweet about their Skype experience the day before.

To my surprise, the rest of the group spontaneously supports the Tweeter, with spelling and punctuation corrections as well as suggestions for content. There is some discussion about what aspects of the Skype experience to include and a few questions, most of which they answer themselves simply by watching. They quickly head to their seats to compile some tweets of their own about other learning experiences in the past few days.

Frankly, I’m amazed at how many skills are being applied here! These 9 year-olds are quite spontaneously…

  • Writing for an authentic audience.
  • Communicating with purpose.
  • Reflecting on their learning.
  • Making choices about what to share.
  • Distilling the essence of each learning experience.
  • Expressing themselves concisely.
  • Applying their knowledge of spelling and punctuation.

I tweet from my own account for people to say hi from other countries and they receive responses from all over the world.

It’s the end of the day and they miss most of them as they rush off to pack up and go home. We have a few days off school, but I’m sure next week Jina will follow up and have them respond to the global tweets. It would be great if they spent some time looking up the places on the map.

It’s just the beginning…

An authentic learning experience… Take 2

Guest post by @lindawollan, ICT facilitator and member of my wonderfully supportive in-school PLN. Her contributions here are as close as I can get her to blogging…

authentic learning

Last year we attempted an afternoon of inquiry into Web 2.0 presentation tools. You can read about it here. At the time we were to some extent defeated by technology – our new wireless network crumbled under the load of a hundred or so students trying to log on simultaneously. We felt the learning experience was valuable though – and now with improvements to the network, we had another go. This time it worked brilliantly, as part of our Year 5 students’ inquiry into media literacy.

The wonderful resource 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story shows how the same story can be told creatively in different ways, using a variety of tools. I showed the students how the story of Dominoe the dog could be told using Glogster, Voicethread, Toondoo, Photopeach, Blabberize, Prezi, Slideboom and Capzles. They made notes during my demonstration – how familiar they are with each tool, and briefly how each could help in their learning.

I didn’t show the students how each tool worked – that was for them to explore. We have four Year 5 classes. They broke into groups of two to three, spreading themselves around our Learning Resource Centre, corridor and classroom spaces, with laptop computers. They were supported by a number of our Year 6 students who wandered around the groups, helping where needed and responding wonderfully to the challenge of supporting the younger students.

What contributed to the success of the learning experience?

  • The tools chosen allowed for differentiation among students. I could hear my ICT star Noah saying ‘Yep, seen it,’ when I showed eg Blabberize and Photopeach, but he found Prezi and Capzles to be new challenges. Less confident students had choices as well.
  • The participation of the older kids. How wonderful to see and hear, for example, one child showing others how to create an account in an online tool, with the warning ‘Don’t put your surname in, you don’t want to identify yourself online’. Great to have it come out of his mouth instead of mine!
  • The class teachers were happy to participate. Particularly as part of an inquiry into media literacy, they saw a need to encourage their students to try new ways of expressing their learning.
  •  This time the technology worked!

10 ways school has changed…

It’s less than a year since I wrote lamenting the empty space in our new building, while teachers kept their doors shut and the learning inside their own rooms. Walking through ‘the space’ these days, as we approach the end of the school year, I’m struck by how much has changed.

There are groups of kids everywhere, sprawled on the floor, huddled on the steps, sitting around tables, even standing on chairs so that they can film from above! They are collaborating on inquiries, creating presentations, making movies and expressing their learning in all kinds of creative ways. It’s active and social, noisy and messy… as learning should be. 

School has changed…

1. We used to imprison the learning inside the classrooms… Now the whole school is our learning environment.

2. We used to find information in books and on the internet… Now we also interact globally via Skype with primary sources.

3. We used to control everything… Now students take ownership of their learning.

4We used to think ‘computer’ was a lesson in the lab… Now technology is an integral part of learning across the curriculum.

5. We used to collect students’ work, to read and mark it… Now they create content for an authentic global audience.

6. We used to strive for quiet in the classroom… Now the school is filled with vibrant and noisy engagement in learning.

7. We used to teach everything we wanted students to know… Now we know learning can take place through student centred inquiry.

8. We used to set tests to check mastery of a topic… Now learning is often assessed through what students create.

9. We used to plan differentiated tasks, depending on ability… Now digital tools provide opportunities for natural differentiation.

10. We used to have an award ceremony for the graduating Year 6 students… Now every child will be acknowledged at graduation.

Not every point is uniformly evident across the school irrespective of teacher, class and time (yet), but most are well on the way. Learning in our school has changed enormously… and is constantly changing. Is yours?

Moving learning into the 21st century…

We had a great time in our collaborative planning session this week, moving one of our Year 5 inquiry units into the 21st century. It’s an exploration of plants and how they grow, in conjunction with hands-on work in our school kitchen-garden, and an inquiry into the environmental conditions that affect plant growth.

What’s changed?

21st century

They used to… do leaf rubbings with paper and pencil to see what leaves look like.

Now they will use an iPad magnifier app to look at leaves up close.

They used to… draw diagrams and label the parts of a plant.

Now they will choose their own species, research it themselves and create an animated slideshow of its parts.

They used to…. grow bean plants and watch them grow.

Now they will take a photo of their beans every day and create a stop motion video showing the growth process.

They used to… do experiments related to plant growth and write scientific reports for the teacher.

Now they will film their experiments and upload them to their class blogs with their reports, to enable comments from the wider community.

They used to… read about different kinds of plants that grow in other places and how they adapt to their environment.

Now they will message people around the world to send a photo of a plant that grows where they live, so that they can discuss and analyse their findings.

In each case, it is the learning that drives the technology. In each case, the students will be more engaged. In each case, the learning will be richer and deeper.

Let me know if you are willing to send a photo next month, especially if you live in an environment different from ours here in Melbourne!

Learning beyond walls #2…

As I said before…

Learning for teachers isn’t limited by the walls any more. We can share ideas, discuss our practice, learn with and from other educators outside our own institutions. Skype allows us to collaborate with anyone, anywhere, (almost) any time.

On a cold, wintry morning, twenty educators rose early for an a voluntary professional learning session before school hours.

Kathleen and Kelly are a couple of vivacious and energetic, young teachers at a school a couple of hours away from ours. They were in their classroom early, supported by their principal Ruth, to share their experience and advice with us via Skype. At my school, teachers gathered in the library to further their own learning about class blogging to promote literacy.

Many of our teachers started class blogs this year for the first time. A few were blogging with their classes last year. None are bloggers themselves.

Kathleen and Kelly talked us though their class blog and explained how it is an integral part of teaching and learning literacy. They answered questions about how to encourage students to blog and parents to comment. We saw a delightful video of students talking about the benefits of blogging. We were shown evidence of students’ progress in writing, through the development of their comments on the blog. Teachers left the session inspired to move their own class blogs forward, armed with new ideas and examples.

As always, here’s what I learned:

  • Teachers enjoy learning from other real, live teachers, sitting in their own classrooms.
  • Hearing voices from outside can be powerful, even if they say the same things voices inside have already said.
  • There are incredible, generous educators out there, willing to share with anyone who is open to learning from them.
  • Passion and love of learning are contagious.
  • Offering every kind of support, when people are ready, is an effective way to instigate change.
  • Teaching is changing. Ways of learning are changing. The possibilities are endless.
  • A head of school who makes breakfast so his teachers can learn is an example to all.
  • If you have an idea, run with it. Don’t wait for a better time, particular conditions or permission to try. What’s the worst that can happen?