Monday, 31 December 2012

The Happiest refugee.

“There’s only two times in life, there’s now and there’s too late.” 
Lee Do (Anh Do’s father)

I was pleasantly surprised to see Anh Do’s memoir on my Mr14s Year 9 booklist for 2013.  As one can decipher from the title, it is a book of gratitude and seeking refuge to reside in another land. Many times Australia is referred to as the lucky country and I am extremely grateful that my family and I are indeed lucky enough to have been born into this safe, prosperous and relatively young country.  I am first generation Australian as both my parents immigrated from Malta and Germany over 50 years ago. I have heard fasinating stories of their own struggles and triumphs. 

Perhaps a vast majority of the youth of today,  may not fully appreciate how difficult it was for past generations; the uncertainty, violence, terror, lack of food, clothing and medicine, the scarcity of resources and so on.  And therefore, I was pleased that the Year 9 boys were to gain a glimpse into the trials and tribulations of the Anh Do’s life in Vietnam, his passage to Australia in 1980 and journey here thus far.

Anh is a well known Australian comedian. He has appeared in TV comedy shows such as Thank God you’re here (similar to Whose line is it anyway) and has written and starred in feature films.  I knew the book, although serious in nature, would have many scattered light hearted moments.  This would appeal to Year 9 boys. 

Apart from the obvious life lessons the book presents, Anh emphasis the extreme importance of valued role models in his life. His family being the most valued. An endearing moment in the book is when Anh surprised his high school drama teacher on a TV show aptly named “THANKS”   Anh recalls: 

There was a celebrity part of the show and the producers asked me if I wanted to thank anyone. I immediately thought of Mrs Borny. There I was, back at my old school, St Aloysius', hiding outside a classroom where Mrs Borny was inside talking to a class of boys. "You ready, Anh?" the producer asked me. "Give me a minute," I said as I tried to compose myself. Then in I walked with the camera crew, and I saw her again after 15 years. She looked amazing; same beautiful smile, same glint in her eye that emanated a wonderful generosity and promised that this little grey-haired lady was going to believe in you and give you every chance of learning and growing. She was surprised and shocked and couldn't believe that I'd even remembered her. I told her that it was her who convinced me I could write, that it was her who told me I was a good storyteller. I also told her that I was but one of probably thousands of kids whom she'd impacted with her kindness and that she was my Robin Williams character from Dead Poets Society. Tears welled up in her eyes.”  

Wonderful gratitude right there. Anh remembers the belief Mrs Borny had in him when others didn’t see. He remembers HOW she made him feel. I love hearing stories of the impact teachers can have and also when they are made aware of this impact.

I guess the real hero of the book is Anh Do’s Mum.  She is a consistent force that held her family together.  Through her simle, upbeat and positive mantra of “No worries” she forged on to find innovative ways to provide for her family; financially and emotionally. Through all this she kept her smile AND sense of humour.

Anh’s father took the toil of his extended families struggles the worst. He is a brave man who reinforced a creative means to many ends, often married with a self sufficient streak.  One of the main lessons that is emphaised in this memoir is working hard yields results.  Being proactive here is a matter of life and death.  “You always have to make decisions in your life, Anh. And don’t kid yourself; when you don’t decide, that’s a decision.” (Page 171) 

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Time to play!

The holidays are truly epic!  Simply put, the access to TIME allows me to play!
When I can play, I learn.  Tonight, I played with a new product called Videoscribe.
See below for my first creation using this tool.

Happy New Year all, thanks for all the fun in 2012.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Crazy love for change.

Sometimes I think I am crazy.  Am I too enthusiastic, too keen; too eager to explore, too curious?  Do I ask too many questions? Seek too many answers? Am I crazy for embracing change and discovering the new and unexplored? Or re discovering something lost or forgotten? 

Sometimes I think I am crazy.  Am I spending too much time following interesting blogs, viewing amazing images from instagram friends around the world who willingly share another path?  For trialling, refining and reflecting? For having a go? Am I crazy for genuinely loving learning. Loving continuing to learn?  Am I crazy for dwelling upon things that have been or could be? For sparking an interest or concern in anothers work or thoughts? For connecting and interacting with others around the globe?  Is it crazy to cherish these interactions which enrich my learning and passions? 

Sometimes I think I am crazy. For thinking change is actually grand; exciting, mysterious, challenging. For hoping for “better” and “beyond”. For not caring if I get it wrong or fail. For the pure wanting to improve and develop. Sometimes I think this thinking is crazy. Thinking about thinking….

Sometimes I think I am crazy. For being so excitable. For wanting to excel. To believe in people. To love what they do. What they can share. What they can bring.  To let go of old ideas and come up with new ones. For ignoring barriers and seeing the sky. For believing in belief.  For wanting the best for others... and myself. For the want of action. To show. To celebrate. To be valued.

Sometimes I think I am crazy. For itching to just start. To help others. To NOT resist change and have this crazy love for change. This crazy love for learning. This crazy love for wanting to help others. To help develop resilience skills and a positive mindset. This crazy love for wanting time to just be and reflect and not be so rushed or stretched. This crazy need to want to do better. To be better. Yet still, this crazy love of change; just there, nudging and pulling. Leading me to satisfy the want of what it is to educate. To help. To support. To inspire. To provide an environment for others to extend their own learning, skills and knowledge. To perhaps one day, open their eyes to see this crazy love for change.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Flying high at #fol12

Tweeting away at the top RHS with @malynmawby Panoramic pic taken by the amazing @rolfek

If you are unsure what PLANE is, a simple click here will help you discover. Take a minute to register in order to hop on board. PLANE is an acronym for Pathways for Learning Anytime Anywhere - a network for educators. You will need to use one of the accounts below to log in.

For those of you that do not have an account such as Twitter or Facebook, perhaps use your Google account (or set one up if you do not have one). You can do so here: register a google account. If you have an Android device, you would have a google account.

PLANE is a valuable online resource available to K-12 educators in the Government, Catholic and Independent sectors.

PLANE's blog: Click here

Utilzing PLANE for PD at your school? Click here

Learning on Plane? Via "skill snacks" (QR codes, exploring sound in movie making amongst others)  "asking an expert", embarking on a quest, visiting "gateways" (portals to content eg History, virtual worlds, primary science) Plane programs and games (discovering through play)
As you can see, there is a journey available for everyone.

To stay true to the theme of PLANE,  it can be described as an abundance of travel agents working together to bring you a plethora of resources, ideas and avenues to travel further via online PD.  It also presents you with a ready made network of Australian educators to offer support both ways, connect with and collaborate with. Once you join (obtain your passport) and set up your profile (KLA, interests, specialties etc) PLANE suggests other travellers similar to you to "team up" with. The site is easy to navigate and the best advice is to explore. Take a look at the main coloured tabs at the top as a starting point. Gamification is built into your experience. As you explore you will obtain points and badges. Under My plane/my dashboard you will be able to view your achievements. (points and rewards). You have various missions on each level. Don't be concerned; you are rewarded by visiting pages or simply revisiting (frequent flyer). Easy. You start on the "entry level" make your way to the "hero level" and progress to the "wayfarer". There appears to be another level which I cannot see. Please add a comment in order to share with others if you know.

Trending on Twitter over Friday 19/10/12 and Saturday 21/10/12 was a hashtag called #fol12.   Tweeters were asking "What is #fol12?" Tweeple travelling on trains in Scotland were chiming in, to let us know how much they were enjoying the backchannel on their way to work. Others from USA thanked us for the awesome links.

So what was #fol12?  It was the backchannel to the Festival of Learning 2012 
(official Launch of PLANE).  See here for further info advertising the event.  

Created by @vivientuckerman

The beauty of PLANE is embedded in its engineering. "PLANE is managed by a consortium consisting of the NSW Department of Education and Communitiesthe Catholic Education Commission NSWthe Association of Independent Schools NSW and the Council of Deans of Education NSW together with industry partners Adobe and Microsoft." PLANE PROJECT

My introduction to PLANE came via Twitter and Edmodo. The PLANE concept was also presented at a #teachmeet I attended, calling for HAT (Highly accomplished teachers) to assist in the development of PLANE. I was keen to attend the Inaugural Launch and I thank my school for supporting my attendance.

Meeting and playing with inspired educators is invigorating. Taking time out of the schooling routine and environment is much needed "chicken soup" for the teachers soul!  I wish this opportunity for every educator once a term. Having a chance to soak up the conversations, challenging thoughts and ideas of others and having time to listen and ACT upon your learning is invaluable.  

The Festival of learning provided us with four themes.

Main takeaways/reflections?
  • Just as PLANE is a resource available anytime, anywhere one must remember that all educators are "on board" different flights. Educators are here and there!  Same have taken early flights, reached their destination and are keen to explore and keep travelling. On the other end of the spectrum, some "travellers" are still browsing in the travel agencies and flicking through travel brochures. And that is more than OK. What would their reaction be if they were either refused travel or access to an information session/consultation about travel? How would they react when other travellers say "Yep, already been there. It's great! Why haven't you been? Sorry, gotta dash to my next flight?" Now, imagine the opposite.  Extending opening hours, showing them travel photos and mementoes from your travels. Sharing your travelling experiences.  More likely to gain ones interest? Wet their appetite? I think so. We must remain positive and support those that wish to travel.
  •  Looking after yourself prior to travelling is another must. This philosophy is a well known one, but one we do not action enough! As educators, we need to be reminded to place that oxygen mask on ourselves before assisting others. Dan Haesler presented on well being. He is always engaging to listen to. It is worthwhile dipping into his blog here.
  • The introduction to Dr Jason Fox and Mark Treadwell. I hadn't heard of either of these two presenters previously and was delighted to absorb their reflections on education. Jason's work focuses on Motivation and Mark's on the science of learning. Two areas I have a keen interest in. More info here: The Paradigm shift: Mark Treadwell and Making clever happen: Dr Jason Fox The difference between INquiry and ENquiry here. I look forward to further reading of their works.
  • Adam Elliot (Oscar winner "Harvie Krumpet")  reminded us all of the importance of imagination and design through his engaging reflections regarding his early career. Dr Jason Fox's Doodle on Adam's keynote can be found here.
  • The persistent and binding message through most presentations, was the utilisation of DESIGN thinking and effort in the learning environment. Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein The pedagogical approach behind my own curriculum area (Design and Technology) is the design process.  Problem, options, sourcing solutions, creating, feedback and evaluation/reflection. A validation that students benefit from this approach and skill set. 
  • Digital technology must be as "invisible" as electricity. It is no longer a "new".  Technology is ANY tool, product or system that assists in achieving an objective. A pen or wheelbarrow could be deemed as technology. It makes our lives easier. To progress we must provide learning environments that challenge students thinking, ask more questions and not provide as many answers, listen more and talk less, don't accept, be open to curiosity, explore more, fail forward and negotiate.  
  • Team #spicejet rock!  Spice things up. Students, as well as teachers get bored of the same old same old. Our team for the conference was #spicejet -what an appropriate name!  See photo below of our team (the ones we could muster!) It was lovely to meet many new educators. Educators who are willing to say "I don't know; but boy, do I wanna learn!" Educators that are willing to take risks, to call out for help, to share resources, to support your learning as well as their own, educators who are personable and capable, persistent and innovative. Educators who say YOU matter. STUDENTS matter. Personal well being, resilience and navigation skills (research, collaborate, create) are worthy. Knowledge acquisition IS desirable but not the ONLY aspect of a child's schooling. 
#spicejet team

Jason Fox, the conference doodler provided an amazing and effective wrap up of the conference using his doodle images. Once he shares these I will provide a link here (do yourself a favour and take time to appreciate Jason's efforts) as they were such a wonderful visual way of capturing the main ideas presented. A shout out to my #bff from the apple (moi) to the banana (@dbatty1) Great flying with you!

GUIDEBOOK:  what an awesome app!  Loved this! Have a look here. Free to download and then search and select PLANE festival of learning. Below is a snap of the main page. The Twitter feed, my schedule and coloured dots (themes of the day) made for tip top organisation and communication. Like.
I used this on the Nexus 7 and it worked like a treat!

To play or "Have a go" is the simple key. 
Persistence and willingness to play further, keeps the door open.

Interested but not on social media? Contact the PLANE crew via

Other Blog posts on #fol12

Rolfe Kolbe @rolfek PLANE Festival of Learning
Malyn Mawby @malynmawby Festival of Learning day one
Malyn Mawby @malynmawby Festival of learning day two
Vivian Harris @vivianharris45 FOL12 Day 2 reflections
Tamara Rodgers @tamararodgers74 Halfway through the flight
Mike Weadon @mikewh Plane festival of learning 2012
Sunny South @sunnysouth12 I'm ready to fail but excited by the prospect
Summer Howarth @edusum Do it, Share it, lead it.
Viv Tuckerman @vivientuckerman #plane festival reflections
Henrietta Miller @henriettami PLANE- festival of learning

Other presentations and resources from #fol12

Tweet archive by Greg Swanson @gregdswanson
Dr Michelle Bruniges  How can I build (and sustain) effective professional learning communities?
The goodwork project
Kate Booth's Sim on a Stick Virtual world information
Leap 21 Pip Cleaves presentation @pipcleaves
Wallwisher "OK, could do better" from Dan Haesler's session
Story Engineering
Quest Atlantis
Top URL's generated on #fol12
Greg Thwaites @thw88z Apps for MUSIC
Online events following #fol12
Stages of a HERO'S journey
The SMART classroom (Queensland Government)
Vivienne Tuckerman's Slide rocket Global Classrooms presentation
Experiential Mobile learning with @jackiegerstein

This is one to watch. One and a half minutes of happiness shared by @danhaesler  Watching this kid brings a smile to your face.  Dedication, effort and commitment!

Keeping the conversation alive AND inviting you to fly high 2012!
(If you are on Instagram, join our learning journey @foodatoakhill and encourage your Food Technology department to create an account @foodat(insert school name here) A great way to link with others around the world! To borrow from Planes' driving message:
Do it, Share it, Lead it.
Kind regards @7mrsjames

Post conference resources/reflections:
See below for "vibes from #fol12" by @edusum

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Digital technology use in any classroom

Digital technology use in any classroom

Not too long ago, educators where required to "book in" the computer room/lab so as students had access to digital technology. Traditional computing teachers held their classes in these labs, so one was lucky to be afforded the time to use them! Nowadays, we see a vastly different educational landscape. Digital technology use is integrated into all areas of education. From learning within KLA/subject areas, communication with students and parents to managing grounds and maintenance. 

The video below is from ISTE. It encapsulates Computational thinking: a digital age skill for everyone.

Today, I am presenting to students at the Australian Catholic University, Strathfield. Whilst I will add to this post later, here are the some resources I used for the presentation on "Digital technology use in any classroom".  (Will add more tonight) <--- see below.

Suggested follows: 

TAS tweachers: 

Extra resources added below:

Food technology learning journey (my class blog)

Building a PLN (professional learning network) Currents of my river: with my PLN; I am

Pearltrees: Currents of my river: International teachmeet March 2012


Google docs: Aussie Tweacher (good place to start with follows-listed by KLA)

Teacher Moloney King's Blog

#TMsydney If you haven't yet been to a teachmeet-GO! Connect!

Storify: #twitter4me 
(archive of responses from around the world FOR YOU GUYS!)

Thanks to #acu_edst... It is wonderful to see some of you utilizing Twitter to benefit your learning. I was surprised at how many were opposed to the idea of Twitter and hence failed to see it's value. I hope I was able to shed some light on the importance of twitter to world of education.  If you do manage to become more active on Twitter, please drop me a line or leave a comment below.  Thanks to the students that have provided feedback #grateful

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Instagram Challenge #foodatchallenge

by @7mrajames ARIA

by @7mrajames ARIA

As you may have guessed by now, I love food and photography!  I am slowly building up Food Technology learning Journey in order to share our (Year 11 Food technology) learning with others.  Instagram has been a fantastic medium to document our activities at school and beyond the classroom with each other.


I use @foodatoakhill to share photos with the students, their families and the world.
Read about the benefits of Instagram here and to check out the challenge we have set, read here

by @7mrajames ARIA
I wonder who will be the second school to get on board the #foodatchallenge?

2013 schools involved so far include:
@foodatwilliamhowardschool (no pics as yet but looking forward to it!)

#culinaryarts teachers on instagram:
@dnembhard43 @teachertong 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Learning with Android OS

Acer Iconia Tab a500 screensaver image by one of my students Mr T.Stewart, 2012
The title of this post rings true not only for the student but for teachers as well! I am not an ICT teacher or elearning integrator. My KLA (key learning areas) include Technology and Applied Science (TAS- Food technology) and RE (religious education) in Sydney.  I love learning and enjoy technology. Some would say this is a good marriage within education in todays world :)

My personal learning curve gaining a solid handle on the Android OS has been steep, yet satisfying. This is my story...

At the start of the Australian school year 2012, I was using our school PC laptops and personal Mac products at home (imac, mac air, apple TV, ipods, iphone) as well as starting the journey with our school based Acer Iconia tab a500 -read more about them here.  Three operating systems. The tablets were introduced as part of our 1:1 program for Years 7 and 9.  Years 8,10, 11 and 12 share Asus (EEC) and Toshiba 10 inch PC netbooks (kept in classroom trolleys).  Year 11 and 12 are also able to BYOD (Bring your own device- or in our case devices as students are allowed to use mobile smart phones at school).

My Year 8 RE class by @7mrsjames
Both year groups have embraced the tablets, especially the Year 7's who are new to high school.  They love the independence and responsibility in utilizing these devices. Ownership in one's own learning is an integral aspect, don't you think?  It certainly is for me. Students were quick to personalise their home screen space (some fancy animated wallpapers too) and add favourite apps.  Not all students have smart phones, but those that did and used Android smart phones were more than helpful in giving their mates some 101 advice. I enjoyed seeing this level of support amongst our students.  During term one, I quickly identified the students who were able to navigate the tablet proficiently and asked them to show me or other students basic operations. Due to time constraints and not having a tablet of my own, I wasn't able to discover for myself what Androids had to offer. I kept using my school PC laptop and Mac at home.  

I wasn't progressing.  Learning, on my behalf was slow.  This had to change.

Term one and two achievements: 
  • Basics (on/off, volume) using lock screen
  • setting a screen lock pattern
  • using homescreens (there are 5)
  • the homebutton
  • adding widgets
  • Using Kingsoft office was easy for me than the loaded "Documents to go" (thanks to David in Yr9 for introducing me to KO)
  • movie studio 
  • set a PIP (personal INTEREST project -planting a seed) Some kids made outdoor eating areas or restaurants on minecraft and enjoyed showing me their progress.
Love minecraft miss "Yr7" @7mrsjames
  • Astro file manager use
  • single tap and long press (tapping on screen and holding down-configure homescreen etc)
  • pinching (zooming in and out)
  • landscape and portrait orientation (and how to fix)
  • using the on screen keyboard
  • Green bar/stripe (under URL) across top shows loading page

Term two/three achievements:
  • Persistence and goal setting :) I asked to use one of the "hot stock" tablets and set about achieving my goal of using the Acer Android tablet solely for education. (I haven't used my school PC laptop for 2 months) I really wanted to feel comfortable and confident in assisting the students best use the device to support their education.
  • already had a  google account (set up google play store app so I could purchase own apps)
  • added my own apps (Favs so far picsay, kingsoft office, any DO, instagram, tweetdeck, tape-a-talk, playbooks, file manager hd) Mr 5 loves angry birds, NFS shift and istorybooks.
Mr5 also loves the portability of the tablet
  • using shortcuts on main home screen
  • use of notifications and increased knowledge of settings
  • added other browsers such as Dolphin, Opera, Chrome
  • trouble shooting (access to wireless, managing battery power, saving docs, copying docs, saving images, finding work, organising files etc)
  • Patience -wait for processes to run their course.
  • Tips for using our LMS (stock browser, dolphin for marking role, using Virtual classroom best to navigate webparts from LHS all site content (also better on stock browser)
  • ugraded to jellybean (4.1)  using SD card (thanks Ryan and Justin!) Students yet to achieve this. Ice cream sandwich (4.04) Honeycomb (3.0) Gingerbread (2.3)
  • Got a mad cover that acts as a stand
  • presented at a teachmeet using the Acer (android) only to assist with presentation (researching, setting up google doc, tweeting links, using tape-a-talk to learn script -sorta slam poetry).
  • enjoying seeing students having fun creating from lesson one. Term three saw a new rotation for Year 7 food technology and I set this simple creation task- create a picsay showcasing your favourite food and turn into Edmodo. (I use both school LMS and edmodo. Students download a free app for Edmodo, however web based version is more effective, app good for reading alerts, posts, replying and checking notifications) Kids also enjoy playing Ninja kitchen game learning about food safety) In our very first lesson, we created these picsays, downloaded a few apps, showcased some ideas, troubleshooting, overview of semester etc Kids were so pumped!
  • Year 7s and Year 9s have both used google docs to source data using their tablets (eg food allergies, past food prep experience)
  • Set up an Edmodo group "Android supporting learning" Click here to request joining (you need to have an Edmodo account) We have over 70 group members. I have also set up a google doc to share favourite apps See google doc here (Androids supporting learning)
@7mrsjames quick task to engage

First creation to be turned in using Edmodo by Adam T, Yr7.

  • Went on a mission to discover a way to either share my screen with students or project the tablet homescreen onto the IWB or projector.  After a few trials and errors, I was satisfied in achieving this.  Using a HDMI-VGA/AV component convertor and Micro HDMI D to HDMI A cable I am now able to show students how to use the tablet (not all kids have grasped usage as well as others) and how to use various apps.  It is very true that while kids many be digital natives, some still need scaffolding (as their teachers do!)  The option below cost $120 (the guys at Jaycar were fab! The convertor cost more but he gave me a great deal- AND IT WORKS!!)  I have since discovered the schools IT guys have purchased a similar product. Am now keen to try both and compare. 

@7mrsjames (notice HDMI A and D plug ends)

Like anything, immersion is often the best way to learn. Discovering things for oneself is another. 
1:1 for students is beneficial - as it is for teachers.  

Although I am happy that I am learning more about this device and the Android OS, I want to learn more.  I would love to hear your stories, advice, tips and ideas.  Has anyone used Splashtop for android? It is on special for $5 at the moment. I know you can use it with ipad devices. Does it throw your tablet on the screen/IWB or your computer (PC) on the tablet? (as I don't want the later)... My understanding is it streams your PC or Mac TO your phone/device not the other way around?
If you have tried, can you let me know?

Feel free to fire any questions. And share your experiences.