Are you the best teacher you can be?

This year, our school is fortunate enough to be participating in the Visible Learning Plus program; a guided change process of professional development and practice. Visible Learning comes from John Hattie’s work in what is quickly becoming influential worldwide. This is no surprise as it is the largest collection and analysis into evidence-based research that investigates what actually works in schools when it comes to improving learning.

I have been interested in Hattie’s work for some time and have taken some of his principles on board, mainly around calculating effect sizes, providing feedback, and constructing meaningful learning intentions and success criteria for students. But I am excited that our school is undertaking this approach so that all teachers can think more deeply about the impact on their teaching and learning with their students.

The article Know Thy Impact is a great and succinct read about Hattie’s work. His three books are also well worth the purchase.

Earlier in the year our staff was inducted into the program. One of the topics of conversation was the Visible Learning Checklist for teachers, which is a set of mind-frames for teachers to consider in order to make an effective impact as an educator. One of the mindeframes, “I seek regular feedback from my students”, stuck out in particular for me. In the last few years I have come to realize the merit of asking students for feedback on the teacher, but I don’t think it has been regular enough.

So this year I have been looking at ways of seeking feedback regularly. Using Google Apps (mainly forms and docs) has been a great way to collect feedback from students. Once a form has been setup, it is sent via a URL shortener and given to students. Students can easily enter their feedback, and the collection for the teacher is an absolute breeze. It makes reserving 2 mins at the end of the class really worthwhile, as you explain to students that their feedback will in turn make you a more effective teacher.

For me, seeking feedback assists in answering two critical questions when it comes to reflective practise, “what makes you an effective teacher?” and “how do you know your effect?“. I believe that educators can empower themselves immensely by listening openly to what students are saying about their practises.

Today I am speaking at Teachmeet Melb @ ESA on the notion of seeking feedback from students with and without technology. The presentation is called “Are you the best teacher you can be?” and the slides can be found here or below:

DLTV South Eastern Study Tour @ St. Mark’s Primary School

Today I will be hosting the first leg of Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria‘s South Eastern Study Tour at my school. We will be discussing our progress through the E-Smart framework, the development of the 1:1 laptop program, our use of Google Apps For Education, showcasing our multimedia studio and kidsnews program, our Genius Hour initiative with senior students, and our re-imagination of contemporary learning spaces and pedagogies.

The tour group will then head to Kingswood Primary School.

The slides for today’s presentation can be found here or below:

Google Apps For Education – What is it (good for)?

Today I have been asked to speak at the CEOM Eastern ICT Network Meeting and discuss some of the ways that our school has been using Google Apps For Education. This presentation draws on some previous work around Google Forms for assessment, Google Sites for e-portfolios, and Genius Hour.

Today’s presentation is titled “GAFE – What is it (good for)?” and showcases some of our recent highlights and successes of using Google Apps For Education in transformative ways. The slides can be accessed here or below:

Registrations open for “Digital storytelling through multimodal texts, the what, why and how”

On Thursday the 27th of February, I will be presenting a course on digital story telling and multimodal texts on behalf of the Primary English Teaching Assosciation Australia (PETAA) at my school. I look forward to connecting and sharing with fellow educators about one of my pet passions.

In this session we will be:
discovering what multimodal texts are, the various forms they take, and their role in today’s society
using of a framework to analyse, understand and create multimodal texts
understanding how to engage students in analysing and creating multimodal texts through writing and authoring processes using a variety of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

Registration is via the PETAA web site and a full description can be found here.

TeachMeet Melb – #GeniusHour at St. Mark’s PS

Today I  will be presenting at TeachMeet Melbourne on our school’s recent #GeniusHour projects. In 2013, I also presented at a TeachMeet describing how we were just getting started with #Geniushour with our students. Today’s presentation is about what we have since learnt from the second half of 2013.

The presentation can be found here or below:

The future of Maths is in your hands – Embrace IT!

Today I was privileged to deliver a keynote at the 50th Mathematics Association of Victoria annual conference at Latrobe University, Bundoora with Narissa Leung. Narissa and I were asked to bring an ICT spin and our perspective on the role of technology for maths education

Our keynote titled “The future of Maths is in your hands – Embrace IT!” was about the how, the why, and the now of the potential of ICT and mathematics for the plan – teach – assess cycle.

We shared example of some of our favourite tools like Onenote, Evernote, Diigo and Google Apps For Education. We also had a look at some great resources like Numberphile, Dr Tisdell’s Youtube Channel and Real World Math.

Our presentation can be found at :

Digital Technologies Curriculum Summit @ Google

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Digital Technologies Curriculum Summit. Hosted by Google in Sydney, 25 fully funded positions were offered to any educator across Australia to be in attendance at the summit. I was fortunate enough to be 1 of those successful applicants, which was very humbling. As well as the 25 successful applicants, the summit also brought together representatives from primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, professional bodies, corporate entities (including Google) and even ACARA.

The purpose of the summit was to discuss the imminent publication of the Digital Technologies curriculum, collaborate in topical unconference sessions, and explore methods of integrating the curriculum and engaging students in Computer Science. It was a terrific opportunity to explore this area of the curriculum with other passionate teachers and important stake holders.


We were spoilt for inspiration by several keynote speakers and workshop presenters:








The positive efforts on Google’s behalf to support teachers in Computer Science can also be seen from their recent announcement of the launching of a MOOC involving  the University of Adelaide and Google. It is envisaged that this free online course will provide primary educators the skills and resources they need to tackle Computer Science with young students, a terrific move to support primary educators.

From this summit, there was an urgency emerging that we need to engage students in computer science, computational thinking, and digital proficiencies at a young age. Teachers and students alike need to look to role models and discover the real world applications of Computer Science, and realise the potential skill set for the work force of the present and the future. The two videos below that were shared at the summit illustrate this really well.




There was much networking, planning and forward thinking that occurred over the two days. I await, and am excited to see how this pans out and continues to evolve in this particular endeavor of education.

The hashtag #googledigiteach was the backchannel for the summit and a storify of all the tweets over the 2 days can be seen here.


What I learnt from our first Genius Hour implementation

As posted previously, this term we introduced Genius Hour with our students. Since that post a few months back,  students got started on their projects with much enthusiasm. Google Docs and Google Presentation were popular tools of choice for collecting and synthesizing information, particularly those students who were working in pairs or small groups. I was surprised at how easily students managed to share created files with one another in their Google Drive to allow real time collaboration and access to occur within the group, even though we haven’t spent a great deal of time going through the share functions within Google Apps.


It was extremely positive to see a high level of engagement and motivation during the term as students were working on their projects. I remember on one particular day during the term I had a PD to attend outside of school. In the afternoon I returned to find the whole Year 5/6 working on their Genius Hour projects. When I walked into our building, I found students in different spaces, not necessarily in their home class or with their home teacher, using various pieces of technology, from their laptops, to their mobile devices which they had brought in to assist them with their projects, to school video cameras to record and produce content. Not one single student was off task or disruptive (which is rare for an afternoon late in the week!), and is a testament to the deeply personal and motivating aspect of Genius Hour.


Despite this, it was not all fair sailing in terms of students persevering and directing their own process, and applying critical and creative skills to their projects. This was expected, particularly as observed in the introduction of Genius Hour, that not all students coped well with 100% pure choice and voice of their learning. Below is a slide from my Teachmeet presentation about our Genius Hour introduction which demonstrates what happened when Genius Hour was first introduced:

Nevertheless, these students were supported accordingly. By the end term, every student had completed a project and presented it to the year level (bar a few who left early on holidays).


In the final weeks of term an Open Expo Day for the projects was organised. Students completed a google form with their group members and included the question they were researching, and an appropriate theme / subject matter for their project. We were then able to organise the 5/6 building accordingly into sections according to areas, much like a museum. The areas that were finalised included:

  • Health
  • Society
  • Sport
  • Computer Science
  • Environment
  • The Arts
  • Science & Technology
All students and teachers from year prep to 4, as well as parents of the school community were invited in to have a look at the projects. The expo went for an hour, and some visiting students complained that they did not have enough time to see everything! The atmposphere in the building was electric, as 130 eager 5/6 students welcomed, explained, educated and shared with their visitors what they had been working on during Genius Hour. The feedback from visiting students, teachers and parents was overwhelmingly positive.

One of the tasks that the students had to do before the end of the term was submit the projects so it could be displayed on the class blog. Another school also getting started with Genius Hour could then give our students feedback on their projects, and we could reciprocate in return. We used Form Plus to create a submission page where students uploaded their projects directly to a teacher’s drive account. We encouraged students to save their work as a PDF when possible to maximise compatibility for global viewers. Publishing content to the web was also a great opportunity to consolidate what students had learnt earlier in the year (around privacy, copyright, and citation of information) when they first received their laptop. The final projects can be seen from this blog post.


Annecdotally, the students have enjoyed Genius Hour immensely this term. We have asked them to complete a more formal evaluation of the Genius Hour program which I am yet to sit down properly and sift through. However, there is no doubt that Genius Hour engages and motivates students, promotes creativity, collaboration and true inquiry, and allows for powerful learning to occur from the access of their laptops.


Moving forward from here…

Second time around – Next term we plan to allow our students to work on another Genius Hour project. I am sure this time it will be even better than last time as both teachers and students improve the process and are inspired from each other to put their mind to great things.


Providing templates – I would consider providing a presentation template to students covering all requested elements of their project. Despite this being communicated to them at the start of the term, students often omitted some of this information in the class presentations.


Privacy, copyright, citations, etc. – Needs to be taught again, as students have learned about this but need to apply it properly in context. Publishing Genius Hour projects is a good platform for this! A large percentage of students had to resubmit their final presentations after they were uploaded because they included personal information, had plagiarized information and/or images, or did not have correct referencing.


Marking / scoring – Although I am reluctant to provide a formal score or mark for work which is highly personal and creative, it may be worth considering something for the student presentation to the class. Even some guidelines or a quality criteria would suffice. This was something that was neglected and would lift the quality of the presentations.


Presenting at the Google Apps For Education summit Melbourne

The GAFE summit tour is coming to Melbourne this week. Earlier this year I attended the summit in Sydney, and if that was anything to go by, I am sure that the Melbourne summit will be just as awesome.

I have the privilege of presenting 2 sessions at the summit, the details of which, can be found below.


Unleashing the potential of Google Forms





E-portfolios made easy with GAFE




Unleashing the potential of Google Forms at #iii13

Tomorrow I have the pleasure of presenting a session at the Ignite, Innovate, Integrate conference at Kingswood Primary. This session is pretty much a re-run of a my workshop at ICTEV13 earlier this year.

The session is titled “Unleashing the potential of Google Forms”. The presentation will:

  • Demonstrate a step-by-step process to create a form for collecting data.
  • Demonstrate how Google Forms are being used to create formative assessments in Mathematics to drive differentiated teaching for Year 5/6 students.
  • Examine “Flubaroo”, an add-on script which will correct forms automatically.
  • Discover and share other possibilities in using Google Forms in the classroom.

The prezi for the session can be found here or viewed below, and the list of resources can be accessed here.