Inspire 2011#

I was fortunate enough to attend the South West Sydney Region ICT Conference “Inspire Innovate” on the 29 and 30 March. Inspired I was, by the:

  •  key note speakers – Will Richarson, Andrew Churches, Steve Hargadon & Dean Groom;
  • the number of teachers that have a desire to take themselves outside their comfort zone (many have already taken the plunge and are keeping their head well above the water;
  • by the vast number of Web 2.0 tools and how they are being implemented in both primary and seconday classrooms;
  • the popular view that social networking is not an abomination and that online networks must be used as tools to engage our students in real time learning.

I attended a number of showcases and learning labs during the 2 days. I was particularly impressed with the model presented by Belinda Giudice from Merrylands High School showcasing the approach Merrylands High School has taken to create a digital culture across the school.

I was also given the opportunity to present my own showcase together with a colleague, Olivia Rothwell. We demonstrated how we have used Web 2.0 tools to support literacy in special education. The session was very successful, mostly due to the 3 wonderful students from Yr 7 and Yr 9 who came along to “show off” their work. The workshop was a culmination of 18 months work which we put together in a wiki called The Staffroom for others to comment and add to.

Drowning in a sea of blogs

First and foremost I would like to thank the organisers of the Teacher Challenge for reigniting my passion for blogging and all things Web 2.0. I was definately in need of some inspiration. However, now I have another problem – I am thinking, eating and sleeping blogs, actually not getting much of the latter because my brain won’t switch off ICT. I just can’t seem to get enough of it. The more blogs I read, the more inspired I become and the more I want to do, personally and professionally as a teacher.

So where do I start? In my former role as a primary classroom teacher I would start with a whole class blog and connect students to other students via global projects. However, in my current role supporting and mentoring students and teachers in a secondary school I am not assigned a class/es  to implement the tools I have learnt. This is probably one of the major reasons why I stopped blogging 12 months ago. The frustration of wanting to put strategies into action but not having access to clientel to work with. Many of the students at my current school are so disengaged because they see no connection between their schooling and their lives outside the school gate. I am determined not to get discouraged this time and just need to think a little more outside the box to make it happen.

This is where you, the reader, come into play. There are so many great blogging minds out there. I would really appreciate your ideas. Maybe you have been in a similar position or know of someone who is working in a similar situation. Help me achieve my mission – to engage students in 21st Century learning, by effectively implementing ICT into teaching programs, not just as PowerPoint at the end of a unit of work.

A Widget Treasure Hunt

Kick Start Activity 7: Challenge #6

largefireworksThis challenge gave me the perfect opportunity to investigate the numerous widgets that are being used by teachers and students on their blogs. I found in my search that the widgets chosen often tell you a little more about the bloggers, their purpose and intended audience. Two of my favourite widgets are the Clustrmap and Flag Counter. The students get a thrill (and so do I) to see how many different countries have visited their blogs.

Below is a list of the widgets I found that I haven’t used before. My challenge now is how not to overload my sidebar with too much bling. 

Mrs Yollis’s Classroom Blog uses PostRank to track  the popularity of  the posts on her blog;

The Blog Dogs use a widget from Shelfari that lists books they have read and Google Translate which translates the  text on their Blog from English into another language (Amazing – you should give this ago);

Mrs Lynch’s Classroom Blog has a Clock widget which displays local time (Quebec, Canada);

Mr Baldock’s Class Blog has a SunSmart UV Alert widget – very useful for developing students’ awareness of sun safety;

Mr C’s Class Blog has several widgets for students,, VozMe (adds speech to your website) and Sweet Search, a search engine for students;

The Ripple Effect has a weather widget, Weatherlet;

Many of the blogs I visited, including those above, use a live feed widget: Feedjit.


Which tool have you used?

Teacher Challenge #6: Embedding Media

As part of this weeks challenge I thought I would have a go at embedding a tool that I have not used before – Polldaddy. I think it could be a very effective tool for encouraging reluctant students to contribute their thoughts/opinions, especially those students with high language needs.  The results could lead to data collection, construction of graphs and deeper analysis of the topic studied.  The possibilites are endless.

So, here is my first ever online survey

The ‘Wow’ Factor

Teacher Challenge 5 Extension Activity





Not sure if this image has the “wow” factor but I had fun creating it. I used Befunky to give my dog Caesar a new look.




Using Photos with Students

Using ImagesTeacher Challenge Kick Start Activity 5

I began using a digital camera in my classroom several years ago when I started blogging with my Year 3/4 students. Initially I would take the photos, capturing special school and classroom events and then upload them onto the blog using photo sharing sites, such as Slide, Photobucket and Animoto. It wasn’t long before the students wanted to take their own photos and post them onto the blog.  As I didn’t have access to 30 digital cameras and to maintain some order in the classroom I set up “Reporter and Photographer of the Week”. Students took turns each week as either reporter or photographer to report and photograph a special event occuring in the classroom or school. As schools are such busy places we were never short of a topic or event. Not having much experience with photography I utilised the expertise of another teacher who had a special interest and skills in visual arts. She taught the students how different shots (eg close-ups/long shots etc) are used for different purposes.  Picture books were often used to to demonstrate how an author/illustrator used images to convey meaning.

Digital cameras are now just another piece of the furniture in my classsrooms.  I am never short of a photo opportunity. One of my favourite tools to use with students is Animoto. They find it so simple to use and the work they produce looks very professional. Below is a short Animoto film created by a student in a support class for students with intellectual disabilities after an excursion to the aquarium.

Create your own video slideshow at

And the winner is . . .

Teacher Challenge: Kick Start Activity 2 – Effective Posts

Of the many posts I have read this year, the post “If Rudolph was an ordinary reindeer” certainly caught my attention. On reflecting why I found this post so effective, here are some of my ideas on what makes an effective post:

  1. A catchy title – attracting the reader to the post
  2. Provocative thought – enticing the reader to respond
  3. Humour, wit and rhetoric – using emotive language to connect to the reader
  4. Images & video – adding visual appeal
  5. Links to other blogs and posts – for further thought provoking material

An Interview with a Blog

Teacher Challenge #1: 10 Questions to my blog

1. Why were you created? My creator was embarking on a new career path and was wanting to document her experiences and gain insight from her peers.

2. What is the inspiration behind your name? “Vanessa” is the name of my creator and “Journey” refers to the learning path she was about to undertake.

3. Who is your creator? Vanessa is a primary school teacher of 20 years who has been mentoring students and teachers in a secondary school for the past 2 years.

4. How old are you? I am 2 years old.

5. Do you have any siblings? My creator has 5 class blogs which are currently not active.

6. Which country did you originate from? Australia, Sydney

7. Your last post was back in 2009, where have you been?  Not sure what happened but that’s not important now, I’m back and am looking forward to posting.

8. What has bought you back to life? The thrill of taking on a new challenge and learning something new.

9. Do you have any heroes? Wikispaces, Google, Facebook

10. What do you  want to be when you grow up? A blog that has readers and contributors from around the globe. A blog that inspires others. A blog that promotes deep thought and encourages discussion.                                                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                       Wordle: Interview with a Blog

Stop Motion in Motion

In the last week of term I was given the opportunity to attend a digital animation workshop provided by DigiED. It would have to be one of the most valuable, enjoyable and practical professional learning workshops I have attended in my 20 years of teaching.  Watch the animation created by myself and a colleague. I believe the success of the day is demonstrated in the quality of the animation (no bias intended).





IWB & the Secondary Classroom

Today was Day 2 of the Connected Classrooms Training for teachers working in various schools in Sydney’s south west region. The first session was a review of the Smart Notebook Software, which is being installed on all new hardware being rolled out to schools, and time was provied for teachers to work on their projects which were presented to the group during the second session.

I would consider myself to be an experienced user of the IWB and related software, compared to my collegues who were only introduced to the hardware 5 weeks ago. I have developed a large bank of interactive flip charts, which I used on a regular basis, in my Stage 1 and Stage 2 classrooms. In fact, the IWB was vary rarely out of use in my classroom. However, I found myself floundering to prepare flipcharts at a secondary level that are both engaging and interactive and incorporate the pedegogy of the Quality Teaching Model. I have seen some flipcharts prepared for secondary students, but, and no offence meant, I have found them to be no more than a display of information for students to read. I have found the IWB invaluable for students to interact with internet sites collaboratively.

So here I sit, quite late at night, pondering these questions:

  • How can secondary school teachers utilise the IWB and software in the classroom without it becoming just another board to write on?
  • How can one IWB and connected classroom be shared equitably amongst large schools?
  • How can teachers be encouraged to use the hardware/software when they only have access 2 periods (2 hours)/week?

Are you a secondary/middle school teacher who uses an IWB in your classroom? I would appreciate some feedback.