Chromebook implementation

This term we have successfully set up 55 Chromebooks at our school for students in Years 1 – 4. I used Corey Aylen‘s enrollment guide. For those who are in Victorian Catholic schools, his guide will provide all of the relevant parameters to mitigate the often troublesome zscaler settings.

I have heard some negativity over Chromebooks particularly from technical staff who are not too familiar with the potential of Google Apps for Education. For me, the Chromebook is too hard too ignore for education. Some criticize that it is limited because essentially it is a laptop with just a web browser.

This is indeed true, but this is one of the best things about Chromebooks. It means it doesn’t require extensive hardware to run, which brings the cost down. Because the machine doesn’t need a fully blown operating system, it means it boots up quickly and operates with speed. In addition, most of our activity on the web is through a web browser anyway, and as technology develops, more and more is being achieved through the cloud and through the web browser.

Having said this, the Chromebook does not do everything. But it is an ideal product, for most students, for most activities, without the hefty price-tag of a machine that offers the whole kit and caboodle. Particularly for with schools who are already using Google Apps for Education, it is a winner.


The enrollment process

Setting up the Chromebooks was an absolute breeze (we went for this Samsung model). Once the network settings were provided to each Chromebook, the process was initiated and within a few clicks they were done. In fact, the most time consuming part of the process was unboxing the units! Having some students around to help this process was handy, not to mention enjoyable for them. I found that I had to plug in the chargers briefly to “wake up” each unit out of the box to get them on, but they had sufficient charge to complete the registration process. They were then fully charged and setup in trolleys before the first student use. We went for the PC locks Carrier 40 trolley.

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Integration with GAFE

Through the GAFE admin console, each device can be tracked and monitored for recent activity. Settings can be modified accordingly to suit your needs, and updates are carried out automatically when they are received (and don’t take forever unlike Windows updates!)

At the moment we have pushed out a few Apps from the Chrome Web Store to the students; Design Something, Build With Chrome, Mind Meister, Pixlr, and Typing Club. The pre-installed extensions we have selected are Speak It!, Google Dictionary, and Read & Write. Students are not able to install other apps or extensions from the Chrome Web Store.

Benefits for teachers and students

Teachers have already reported the efficiency improvements in the time taken to get students connected to the web, saving precious moments in the classroom. This is because the Chromebooks boot up in under 10 seconds, and the Chrome browser is ready at the user’s disposal once logged in. This has been a significant reduction in log on times compared to Windows 8 laptops / desktops, not necessarily at bootup, but more so in loading network policies and connecting to servers.

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To make the process even faster, we have numbered each Chromebook and assigned students to a particular machine. It does take a few moments to setup a user account for the first time and download all the pre-installed apps and extensions (this is why we have kept the pre-installed suite to a minimum). For each subsequent time users log on to a machine, they wont go through this process unless there are new Apps / Extensions to install.

Once students have logged on to the Chromebook, they are automatically signed into to their Google accounts, have their pre-installed apps, extensions and bookmarks at their disposal. Most importantly, they are connected to the web in moments with a lightweight, and fast device with a hard keyboard.


The Classroom of the Future

This week I have the privilege of presenting a series of lectures at a familiar place, Australian Catholic University in East Melbourne. Each year I am only to happy to oblige when asked to come back to speak to tertiary students. As a practising educator, I believe it is a moral and professional obligation to prepare our pre-service teachers in the best possible way that we can.

For fairly recent graduates like myself, and for the generation of teachers to come, we face a sticky situation. The students in our care are likely to see the end of this century, if not the next. How will our education system adequately prepare our students for a largely unknown world?

The title of the lectures will appropriately be called “The Classroom of the Future”.

The idea of any classroom of the future is a daunting prospect. Where will learning take place? Who will be involved in learning? What will learning be “defined” as?

One thing is clear. The only constant of the future will be change. With that, technology will continue to have an evolving impact on the world as we know it, and bring with it both positive and negative implications that are associated with it. One only needs to step back briefly and appreciate how quickly technology has developed in the last 40 years, to the technologies that are beckoning to us in 2014 to realise that it is almost impossible to predict the world and technology in the decades to come.

It is imperative that we start focussing on the rich technology available now and the opportunities that it provides, as well as sound pedagogies that maximise student outcomes and genuinely prepares them for an evolving world in which we can only dream about. Let alone the future, our current work force demands it of us. However, empty promises and lessons from the past teach us that technology as a tool does nothing by itself. It’s up to us, as educators of the future, to harness its true potential… and it’s time we started taking it seriously.

As part of this lecture, I have updated our school’s progress of Genius Hour after some recent work with Notosh’s Tom Barrett. I truly believe, that the Genius Hour model is just one way in which students are appropriately engaged with school, and fosters the cognitive skills required for the current and future work force. This reflects the ideas of Ewan Mcintosh, of developing problem finders and not problem solvers, Guy Claxton’s Three Rs and Three Cs on the point of school, and Dan Pink’s Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose of performance.

Both sets of slides can be found below

The Classroom of the Future

GeniusHour @ St. Mark’s Primary School



2014 DLTV Educator of the year

A few days ago, Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria announced that I will be awarded with the DLTV Educator of the year.

This has come as a wonderful surprise, and I have been very humbled to be awarded something of this nature.

Thanks must go to my principal, Lyn Watts (Educational Consultant) and Karen Swift (Leader of the STACCE13 tour) for their glowing references.

But most of all, thanks to all readers of this blog, my fellow colleagues from #vicpln and around Australia, and those abroad. Without your inspiration and dedication to the profession, there is no way I would be in a position to be receiving this honour.

I look forward to continuing to connect and share with you all!

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.

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.


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.

10 questions that all educators should answer

Today I was asked to present to 2 cohorts of tertiary education students at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. ACU has become an even more familiar place for me after graduating in 2007. Since then I have gone on to complete my Masters in ICT through ACU, and our school is also involved in a pilot program for taking on pre-service teachers enrolled at ACU.

Every year that I am invited back to ACU to speak about educational technology, and I find that I enjoy the experience more and more. Pre-service teachers are fresh, and full of new ideas. They are motivated, and starting to make many connections to practise and theory. They are also the incoming generation of teachers, and I think it’s vital that they have their heads around educational technology before they step in the classroom.

I am often asked by lecturers and pre-service teachers about the one piece of advice that I could give that could make a difference. To that, I encourage them to develop their ability to self-reflect and take action upon those reflections. In my short teaching career I have had many positive influences on my development, but in particular when it comes to ICT, it has been my willingness to try new things, reflect, take action, and improve my practise and understanding.

At the presentation today, I left the pre-service teachers with 10 questions to ask themselves. In thinking about these, there is no doubt that these also apply to any other practising educator.


1) Are you serious about educational technology? – By serious I mean that you recognise that technology plays a large part in students life now, and even more so in the future; and that you  by ignoring effective educational technology would mean doing a disservice to students.


2) Are you willing to incorporate technology in the classroom so it accurately reflects the reality of students’ lives? – Consider how much time students spend consuming TV, video games and using the computing devices. How relevant can a teacher be if they are not willing to use technology in their everyday teaching and learning?


3) How much of your planning will be geared towards developing learning and technology with the student in mind? – It’s easy to plan a lesson, stand up the front, demand that your students listen, and expect them to follow through independently. Using technology in this didactic way doesn’t really improve anything!


4) How will you foster your students as collaborators, in a physical and digital sense? Whether students work on a Google Document online, or plan a short film on paper, they will need the opportunities to collaborate, co-operate, and effectively communicate with one another. Not to mention receive feedback on how they are going with it!


5) How will you utilise the power of digital resources, for staff and students alike? Facebook, Google +, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Delicious, Diigo…etc. etc. There are so many ways for educators to use the WWW to take control of their own learning, development, and management of digital resources. Connect yourself to others, and extend your digital knowledge. Don’t wait for the PD to come to you, seek it yourself!


6) How will you utilise technology to personalise learning experiences? And more to the point, how will the students take ownership, control, and management of those learning experiences?


7) How will you teach your students to read and write via digital means? – We know how important literacy skills are. But if we focus only on written and 2D texts, are students in danger of becoming “digitally illiterate”?


8) Are you prepared to model and explicitly teach relevant technological literacies to your students? – This might mean that a certain level of familiarity and confidence is required to be able to model and explicitly teach these. Moreover, how relevant are these activities for students? (Focusing only on publishing written texts on Microsoft Word isn’t going to cut it!)


9) Are you preparing your students for life, or just to do well on the next test that is given? – Is there a “so what” to teaching and learning with digital tools? Can students see a relevance and purpose for their learning?


10) Are you willing to let students have a digital learning device in their hands? What will you do to ensure that it happens? – It’s easy to make excuses as to why ICT is not used in a classroom. Maybe it’s the distraction, Maybe it’s the tech support, Maybe there is not enough to go around. Or maybe it doesn’t work 100% how you want it to work all the time. Work with what you have, or aim to improve the situation if you feel it is not adequate. Improve your guidelines and behavior policies so students have clear expectations on their behaviors with digital tools. Lobby parents and leadership for a 1:1 program, or investigate the possibility of students bringing in their own device.

Are these questions being answered in your schools?

Would you add any other questions to the list?

Hello world!

This is the first post on my new blog, ReconifgurEd.

I am calling this blog ReconifgurEd for a few reasons. Firstly, I believe that a fundamental shift has been happening in education since I was a primary student during the 90’s . In the short time of my professional career, I have experienced and observed this shift and it’s impact on teaching and learning for both the better and worse for learners (this is the education part). On a global scale however, I think that some education systems are still grappling with change and the improvement of student outcomes. Moreover, the rapid development of digital technologies have opened up new possibilities for formal and informal learners. For this reason, educators need to think critically about how their practise can be improved, whether it be through evidence-based practise, or utilising technology to engage students and enhance learning (this is the reconfigured part).


In short, ReconifgurEd will be about.

Learning: which is student centred, authentic and purposeful.

Change: which is innovative and creative.

Technology: which transforms teaching and learning, and opens the door to new possibilies.


I will be using this blog to reflect on my teaching, connect with other educators and share resources and ideas with a global community. You can read more about me in the About section on this blog, or find me on twitter.