Technology and Learning. Evidence and Impact.

It’s not been until my current place of employment that I was asked, repeatedly, by parents and caregivers about what the impact would be of iPad devices being integrated in to their student’s learning. In saying that, it does not mean that other parents and caregivers has not been concerned in other settings! It was simply that I had not been asked.

Ever since then it has always been on my mind regarding what exact impact technology has on student learning. I can remember scouring the internet months ago looking for evidence based research to support the use of technology, particularly in a BYOD and or a 1:1 setting. What I found was ad hoc at best and not conducive to what I was wanting.

Now of course, when we think of programs, strategies, initiatives and so on that impact student learning you think of one person in particular – John Hattie.  Most of us would be well versed with Hattie’s meta-analyses of quantitative measures upon educational outcomes and the specific internal and external items that impact this.  Hattie’s books titled ‘Visible Learning’ and ‘Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn” are predominately the most relevant texts in this space.

Along with this research came ‘effect sizes’ and numeral based based figures that gauged the impact of such programs and factors. The graphic below highlights this.

Obviously, we’re aiming for anything with an effect size 0.4 or above. As educators and school leaders we’re wanting what we do to have a positive impact. We want to to be involved in embedding practices that see student learning grow and not fall away. My mind often shifts to Marzano’s work in this space the impact that a highly effective teacher in a highly effective school can have. See below. The question being then however what is “effective”? I have previously written about this before here.

Where does however technology integration and BYOD / 1:1 fit in?

In Hattie’s “Visible Learning”, ‘Computer-Aided Instruction’ comes in with an effect size of 0.37. Not bad. Not great either. In thinking however about’Computer-Aided Instruction’, what though does that exactly mean?

What we know is that ‘Computer-Aided Instruction’ is exactly that. The use of technology to help teachers instruct. Period. What we also know is that is when the following is in play – that the effect size for this meta-analysis increases:

  • “The use of computers is more effective when there is teacher pre-training in the use of computers as a teaching and learning tool.
  • The use of computers is more effective when there are multiple opportunities for learning (e.g., deliberative practice, increasing time on task).
  • The use of computers is more effective when the student, not the teacher, is in “control” of learning.
  • The use of computers is more effective when peer learning is optimized (using ‘computers’ in pairs).The use of computers is more effective when feedback is optimized.”
    • Visible Learning, Hattie, 2009.

As data, evidence, to support technology integration, it’s a start.

This is as we may also know a lot of data and discussion about technology having little to no impact on student learning and growth. A Lot of this is driven by OECD reports and comparing student achievement in line with trending PISA results. For example:

Students, Computers and Learning: Making The Connection” says that even countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies (ICT) for education have seen no noticeable improvement in their performances in PISA results for reading, mathematics or science.” – New approach needed to deliver on technology’s potential in schools. OECD 2015.

Now. As all teachers and technology integration guru’s know is that the technology is a classroom tool. A tool to support the learning process. Personally, I dislike those therms. Technology use is more than that. So much more than just a tool, however I am rolling with it for now. We all also know it’s HOW we use the technology that makes the difference and with this brings the various integration models to assist educators in using technology for a purpose rather than for ‘the sake of it’.

We have SAMR, we have TPACK, we have Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, we have the TIP and RAT models, we have LOTI and also the TIM model. I am sure there are more! The one we are most like to be familiar with is TPACK and SAMR, as show below. It is the SAMR model however that I will focus on for now.

TPACK Model.


SAMR Model.


Personally, I have used this for years within my own teaching as well as having preached it to others. It’s simple, clear and easily understood. There is a place for each of the ‘steps’ if you like in how we can use the SAMR model to assist us in using technology for a greater purpose, or more so to ther point, allowing students to learn in ways which is not at all possible without technology being involved.

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Chris Blundell speak at an Apple Learning Event in Melbourne. Chris now works at QUT in Queensland and prior to that having been a Deputy Head at the prestigious Redlands College, a setting very well know for using technology to positively impact student learning. Dr. Blundell has recently completed his doctorate with his major thesis having being completed titled “A case study of teachers transforming pedagogical practices through collaborative inquiry based professional learning in a ubiquitous technologies environment”. Yes, it’s a mouthful. You can access that particular thesis here. 

Unlike traditional Apple events where the core focus of what was discussed was being placed on the technology, Dr. Blundell focused purely on the transformation of Pedagogy with the use of digital technologies and the thinking associated with it.

The vast majority, if not all of what Dr. Blundell had to say, was purposeful, challenging, provocative and relevant. One particular graphic that he displayed, and hence this post, caught my attention. See below.

Courtesy of Dr. Chris Blundell. QUT. 2018.


Interesting isn’t it?

2 things immediately caught my eye. The negative impact that using technology can have on student learning. And the ridiculously large positive impact using technology can have on student learning. I have always said that there is a place for the substitution component of SAMR to be used in a learning space. Note taking is a classic example of that. It seems though based on above that as educators we need to be quite mindful of what we are using technology for,

We know in linking back to Hattie’s effect size work, anything with an effect size 0.75 will reap gains of 12 months growth on top of what is expected, so looking at effect sizes of 1.5 +, is quite motivating. Provided that the adoption and integration of technology is being used the correct way, that is, to transform pedagogy and redefine how learning can take place. The question that stems from this then for me is “what exactly does that look like?”. In the same breath I/you need to forget about the anxiety and challenges that come with this. Asking teachers to embrace change and shift their pedagogy is a massive ask. Some of us, not me!, have been teaching the same or similar way for 30 years. Allowing students to bring in 25 ipads devices in which that particular teacher knows little to nothing about is always going to not go well. As Dr. Blundell mentioned and discussed, it is about teachers being asked to change their roles, relationships & actions. Again, changing something they they are very familiar with. That is a whole new post right there. Or thesis! 

So if we now know that teachers who can effectively transform their practices to redefine what student learning looks like, through the adoption of digital technologies, and that they can have a very very large impact on student learning, what is it that we need to do to make this happen more effectively and more often? There’s another post! 

In thinking further about SAMR and its use… SAMR is good, but not great. It certainly assists educators and guides their thinking towards the use of technology to support learning. What is the real game changer is that we see considerable impact being had on student learning when teachers look towards changing (transforming) their pedagogy with the use of digital technologies. To be able to get to this point though there is a lot of work that needs to be done before we can expect to be seeing large student growth and be able to pin that on transformative technology use and integration.


Welcome to the first post, of what I am hoping to be many, for 2018! 

Last evening as part of my schools staff PLC schedule, we were fortunate enough to have received a visit from Paul Zappa, the director and founder of Nirodah. Nirodah itself as a term come from Buddhism and translates to ‘cessation of suffering’, which recognises that throughout life there are major causes of pain, suffering and distress however there are also way and methods to help support and ease that pain. Mindfulness being just one of those techniques.

Paul and his team work with a variety of organisations and educational settings to help them understand that all young people have the ability to learn and learn well, and even more so when there is a greater understanding that has been developed about why young people learn and behave vastly differently from one another. This as we discussed, can often be brought back to a level of trauma a child or young person has experienced.

As Paul stated, “All kids have a different story”. It rings so true. Kids who are from broken homes, have experienced levels of family violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and so on. Then, we have the complete other end of the spectrum. Kids who are doted upon, fully supported, wrapped in a bubble, protected and shielded and everything in between. As educator we then expect these kids for the most part to be at a school on time and 100% ready to learn. That’s not asking to much is it? Or is it?

The teaching and Learning Model that was discussed by Paul to help us as educators and school leaders better understand these young people was as follows;


Without one you cannot have the other and as teachers we know all too well when we develop relationships with our students we earn their trust. Trust that leads to discussion that fosters vulnerability through potential experience of trauma. That then leads to empathetic behaviour on our behalf, and certainly NOT to be confused with sympathy. And finally compassion.

Following this our discussions led to, of all things, Neuroplasticity and the ability of us as humans to learn new behaviors and to change what neural pathways we have already forged. A grea examples of this that Paul demonstrated was this little activity.

  1. Fold / Cross your arms just as you normally would.
  2. Take note of how they’re folded. Which arm is over what.
  3. Unfold  your arms, and shake them out.
  4. Now fold your arms again. The opposite way.

How’d you go? Tricky is isn’t it! That’s because we;’ve hardwired our brains to automatically fold our arms in a certain way. It’s just how we do it! The same as putting on pants! Not in general of course, but meaning that we always put the same leg in first!

These were great examples of behaviours that are exhibited by some of our students. Their behaviour is hardwired based on what they have experienced time and time again and have had, unfortunately, modelled before their eye over and over.

The good news? They can adjust their neural pathways and learn new behaviours! As educators we seek first to understand their behaviour (COVEY!), and then look to model and teach.

A great quote that Paul mentioned was this: “We don’t excuse behaviour because of trauma that has been experienced. We first need to understand why that behaviour is being exhibited in the first place”. 

It’d be like me standing on the side of the street yelling at my car because it wont start. As amusing to other as that would be, I am sure! Yelling is not going to fix it. I need to understand why it won’t start before I can actually do something about it.

As you’d imagine when talking human behaviour, Daniel Goleman and his work was sure to be mentioned. His extensive work and research on Emotional and Social Intelligence was referenced several times and if you’re not familiar with Goleman’s work, it something you should definitely look at.

A large part of the session with paul and his team had a clear focus on what this post it titled: Vulnerability. It is vulnerability that is the flip side to joy, happiness and empathy.

This about a situation when you felt vulnerable. How did you feel? I bet it wasn’t happiness and joy! When our students feel vulnerable they exhibit behaviours that we generally do not want to see as teachers. Aggression, violence, withdrawal, silence, depression, anxiety and a host of other traits.

A shared clip, by well known researcher Brene’ Brown in the space of Vulnerability, has a wonderful TED talk which I have shared below. It is certainly thought provoking!

When we think about the term vulnerability and feeling vulnerable, it certainly portrays a lot of emotions. Usually not emotions that we like either. However. For those of you reading this who work in the education system you’d know all to well that schools and educational systems love change! Love it! Constant change of curriculum, pedagogy, and environment. I have been teaching 15 years and have seen 5 curriculum changes. 


What we also know about change is that there is usually a feeling by those going through that change of vulnerability because people do not usually like change. They feel vulnerable. Change is different and different is uncomfortable. Brene’ Brown sums it up beautifully below and when I think of this quote of hers, i think of all the true innovators, Jobs, DaVinci, Edison, Tesla, Barclay…  maybe not that last one… who all had to experience being highly vulnerable and subject to shame for their potential “crackpot ideas”. Idea which we now know  have shaped the world in which we live.

It is when our students feel vulnerable, for fear of being shamed, that they then act out in ways which deflects the attention being on them. Starting a fight, being a class clown, skipping class, etc… Again, we need to first understand why they do this if we are to in fact help them as best we can.

And how do we help them?Through listening and understanding and most of all, by being empathetic.

Empathy is about feeling with people and understanding with emotion the plight they may be in. It takes a true human connection to be made for empathy to be real and genuine. It is that empathetic connection that makes the feeling of being vulnerable better.

The short clip below highlights how empathy is vital in making these human connections. The thing about empathy also is that it can be hard! It can be hard to show empathy, genuine empathy, to that student who just told you where to go. Who walked out of your class swearing. Who beat up on the smaller more vulnerable student. But without empathy we cannot make that connection and move towards compassion, and then begin to look at how to really assist and help that individual.


For my first post back in a while it’s been a abit of a ramble. There is a level of vulnerability here that no one will read it. People will criticise it. Think it’s rubbish. But that’s ok. That’s part of the process in trying something new and putting yourself out there. 😉

Until next time!

Determining ‘Everyday Digital’.

Look familiar? Image Credit:

Ask yourself this question; “what do kids REALLY do on their mobile devices when at home?

What does your mind jump to? Is it the negative? Is it the positive? Is it leaning towards social media use? Online bullying? Creating? Consuming? If not, what else?

Since the beginning of October this year I have had 2 wonderful teachers from my school involved in a collaborative project involving several other educational settings whilst being led by Deakin University.

The project titled, “Everyday Digital”, was charged with researching specific ways to support educators in learning about the everyday digital experiences of their students. Researchers from Deakin worked with teachers and educators to invent and devise ways in which teachers could learn more about their student’s digital use in and out of school, with the aim of developing appropriate curriculum and school based policy responses.

Last Friday was the final gathering of all involved to come together and discuss what had been found, as well as some of the key ‘next steps’ that potentially could be undertaken by schools to alleviate concerns, begin conversations or take action where necessary.

As each setting shared, we were charged with focusing on 3 key takeaways from what was discovered which would form the basis of further discussion. The lead researcher from Deakin University who oversaw the project, Dr. Julian Sefton-Green, mentioned that research in this space was vastly limited and that there were no “good” examples of research that had been conducted in this area. To read a publication from Dr. Julian Sefton-Green head to this link.

As people from the various settings were sharing, along with the Deakin University Research Team, it was reassuring in a way to hear that the issues faced and concerns had were common amongst one another. That what is faced each and everyday by some could be quite easily resonated with by others. Rather than give an indepth analysis as to what was discussed, I have highlighted the key discussion points and takeaways

  • An increasing amount of time spent on mobile technology is passive, meaning that students are not being the creators and critical thinkers we potentially want them to be. At home use is heavily geared to watching, viewing and browsing. I.e. YouTube, Vimeo, etc…
  • That there is a need for us as educators to identify what needs to be explicitly taught to students vs. what needs to be integrated and or embedded. An example of this is cybersafety and digital citizenship.
  • Clearer expectations must be identified between what is expected at school when technology is used and what can be done at home. Either way, one side of that home/school fence is too lax with what is appropriate behaviour from students when engaging in online activity.
  • There is a heavy perception that parents/caregivers are leaving it up to schools to educate students about not only what appropriate online behaviour looks like, but also what is appropriate fullstop. And is this our job?
  • Students, more so in upper primary and secondary, can easily identify and articulate what appropriate behaviour and technology use/online use looks like, however, rarely put it in to practice.
  • The divide between school and home is either growing or stagnant in its development to work in tandem to educate and combat tech based and online issues.
  • Traditional forms of technology, even at home are diminishing. Desktop computers are falling by the wayside to more mobile means in the forms of netbooks, laptops and of course tablets.
  • There are still a major issues within education regarding teacher knowledge of effective technology use and integration.
  • That even as great as BYOD programs are for schools, as students get older and move through their respective year levels (secondary school), there is a major shift towards devices being used a lot more for personal purposes than for actual learning. Social media is playing a large part in this.
  • As educators how do we contextualise the use of technology with our students through modelling how we as teachers and leaders use technology? Is how we use technology all that different from how students use technology? I.e. Netflix, Streaming, Social Media, etc…
  • Enthusiasm is high amongst educators to use the technology and use it well with purpose, however there is a lot of hesitation and anxiety from schools as to how to best do this.
  • Primary settings appear to be more advanced at both using technology more effectively whilst also having the teachers with the capacity to integrate the technology more effectively, however primary schools seem uncertain as to where to draw the line with over use. Or, as was mentioned, perhaps in 2017 there is no line. 

In listening to all people share their findings it was evident that there were two main factors that stood out. These being, CULTURE and TRUST.

Schools who had a more developed mindset in working with students and their families around effective and appropriate technology use had an embedded culture and vision around technology use. It was this culture that fostered a greater trust between home and school and that students who were trusted to be doing not necessarily the right thing all the time on their devices, but more so trusted to not be doing the wrong or inappropriate thing.

Partnerships with parents and caregivers were also much higher in schools where technology issues were lower. This went beyond parent information nights and guest speakers, this involved parents as partners in their child’s education around how to access and engage in online activity that does not compromise an individual’s ‘moral compass’. I.e. Knowing that engaging in something inappropriate is not the right thing and that if they do, there can be quite severe consequences that come their way. I.e. Sexting. 

To contextualise the research undertaken from my own schools perspective, which was lead and developed by again, two great teachers (in Kaitlin and Josh), we can see that the data obtained trends in a similar fashion to what was discussed amongst all settings involved. You can see this data below.


Technology At Home – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

On the back of this, all teachers in the year 3/4 area had students developing a project/presentation to highlight how app’s they enjoy using outside of school could possibly be used in school. App’s such as Terraria, Minecraft, Flow, and YouTube for Kids were some just to name a few.

I have linked the Adobe Spark Page created by Kaitlin below which highlights the expected outcomes we were hoping to achieve for the students.

Deakin Research Project – Teach the Teacher

Now that we all have a better understanding from what was undertaken, the overarching question is what do we do about it? Something in which I certainly do not have the answer to. A segway from here is that in March 2018 I will be hosting a roundtable discussion the National Future Schools Expo and Conference about this exact problem of practice! Hopefully I might see you there, giving the rest of use your answers! 🙂 

I would love to hear your thoughts and or comments about this topic and how you at your setting bridge that gap between home and school. How do we ensure are students are being safe, creative and using technology with a safe mindset as well as how do we get our parental community on board!

As always, thanks for reading.

Adobe ‘Have A Voice’ Project 2017

How often do our students create marvellous pieces of digital content for it to not been seen by a wider audience, if by anyone at all? It’s really no different to them creating and completing a paper based project, work in their books, or even pieces of art work and then for that wonderful work to not be shared and highlighted amongst the greater masses.

Yesterday however, 11 of our students had the wonderful opportunity to share their digital projects at the Adobe “Have A Voice” Showcase at ACMI, Federation Square. This joint venture between Adobe and the Department of Education allowed students to create powerful, rich and provocative at times digital projects about something that the students were passionate about. And my oh my, were they passionate!


It had been pleasing as teachers to see our year 3/4 students engage with this project and work collaboratively to complete what they eventually did. In having started a BYOD iPad program this we had, and have, only really scratched the surface of what the devices are capable of, what the teachers can do and more importantly, what the students can achieve.

That there in itself is often a blocker seen in many settings where students are hampered by what they are allowed to do, restricted to do, or not given the opportunity to do, on their devices.

As part of this project, yes, there were parameters, however students were given many choices regarding the what and the how and from what I witnessed yesterday from all schools involved, students really embraced that openness and created some extremely powerful projects.

In speaking with Tim Kitchen, Adobe’s Senior Education Specialist (APAC), who initiated and led the project, I had mentioned that the opportunity for our students to be able to create these powerful projects and then to have them ‘showcased’ on the big screen was something they will certainly not forget.

Our students being interviewed by Tim on stage! There were a few nerves!

On the back of this, it raised many more questions in how as a teacher and school leader I go about building upon student ownership, voice and opening up what we do on the inside of school to the outside. In effect, we do that currently through YouTube (still a work in progress),  Facebook and other SM platforms. There has to be more to do it however. Digital portfolios via a blog or Google Site? There’s some thinking needed!

Via our school’s YouTube Channel I am aiming to have all students projects up and available for viewing soon. In the meantime, I have shared and linked the projects that were showcased yesterday below.




And finally, if you would like to know more about the Adobe Have A Voice Project, visit this link created by Tim Kitchen.

Adobe Have A Voice Project 2017 

A Balance in the Force.

This has been written in response to a great post I recently read written by Eric Sheninger that can be found HERE.

The post above really resonated with me. As someone beginning their educational leadership journey as a Primary School (Assistant) Principal, I have found the demands placed on me by the school and also by the system to be, almost, completely overwhelming at times. This is is no ones fault and no one is to blame. It is the nature of the job in which I work. I know that colleagues close and far also feel similar in that attempting to achieve a good ‘work/life balance’ can be extremely hard at times.

Having 4 young children myself, that ability to find a ‘balance in the force’ has certainly be challenging. It is something that is constantly on my mind and something that I am always attempting to improve. A goal that i had recently set as part of some coaching that I undertook was to to “take more time for self”. What that looked like took many forms (some of which i have shared below) and initially, those inclusions in to my life worked very well. Lately however…. not so much, therefore time to rethink and realign some of what is in place. 😉

Advice that I can share, albeit these are things that I have not yet mastered, in finding a better balance are listed below.

  • DWYSYWD (Do What You Said You Would Do) – this is something I picked up from a colleague a while back. If you tell a colleague that you will do something, whether it be for them, or someone else, do it. In the hustle and bustle that is the nature of our work items can be overlooked or put on the back burner. The last thing you need to be doing is chasing your tail because you have not done things that you SAID you would do.
  • Now in saying the above… learn to say NO. This can be hard, and you need to be selective in when you say no, but learn to say it. It is a skill and a hard one to master but a vital skill to have. The great thing about saying no is that it is a win/win, especially if you are strategic about how you go about it. What I mean in particular by this is “Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime”. This is a great opportunity to help build capacity in others, simply by learning to say no.
  • Make a time for putting it all away. For me, it’s around 5:30pm / 6:00pm. MOST of the time and usually no matter what it is that I am doing, it’s pack up, go home. The work will still be there tomorrow, and mostly likely the day after. This is when I scoop what I need to in to the backpack, and head home. I am sure that if I chose to, I could work well in to the night, but I choose not to. And that in itself is a hard thing to do. This leads in to…
  • In addition to the above, leave work at work. This is one I have found quite difficult to achieve. What I mean by this is leaving the laptop, iPad, and anything else that will cause me to do work at home, at work. Yes, the emails come through on the phone, and I do my best to ignore them, however
  • Let go of the “guilts”. I used to quite often get guilty if I was not checking emails, doing things for others and going above and beyond, often at the detriment of my family and the time I spent with them. It’s not fun going to the park and attempting to push the kids on the swings all the while attempting to read an email about occupational health and safety!
  • Move. I recently purchased a new garmin GPS Sports watch as I am making some attempt, albeit a poor one thus far, at getting back in to running. One great feature about this watch is that if I am sitting too long it tells me to “move”. So, I do. I go on a learning walk. I go and see what is happening in the school in which I work! Talk to the kids, parents, the chickens out the back! Just move. That is a great time to unwind, realign and often reprioritise the work to be done, and get back in to it.
  • Block out a time in your week – for you. Go in to your calendar, select a time, and be strategic about it. It may back onto a recess or lunch break, it may be at the beginning of the day, however just block out a time. 1 hour. 2 hours. It’s up to you. This is sacred time for you to shit, uninterrupted, and get things done. I am not at all an advocate for school leaders who live behind closed office doors with blinds always down. I personally believe that school leaders should ALWAYS be accessible. Always. They (we) are busy people and I get that, however it is the people in your organisation that make your organisation and as the leader of that setting you need to be there for your people and those within. Now in saying this, there is also work to be done, which hopefully is work that leads to the improvement of your school on all levels, and occasionally that work needs to completed with minimal interruption – and hence setting aside this time.
  • Lastly, and this is a ‘Captain Obvious’ moment, live life to its fullest. Enjoy as much as you can with family, friends, colleagues, engage in a hobby, start a new one, socialise, do whatever it is that makes you happy when you are not at work. Because at the end of the day, we need to make sure we “work to live, anot live to work”.

There you have it. My few insights and strategies and if you have not already, read Eric’s post linked above. A great insight in to the importance of finding that better balance.

As always, thanks for reading!

It’s A Hard Gig…

I’ve said it countless times over the years. “Teaching is without doubt the most difficult profession there is.” And I truly believe that.

Whilst saying this I take nothing away from any other profession. They all have their challenges and their constraints. They have their “I simply do not want to get out of bed and go to work this morning” moments. Just like teaching.

What stands out with teaching is the amount of variables that are within the teaching profession. These are endless. The added complexity of what is to be done day in day out is extremely large and it is these variables and complexities that catch a lot of  teachers out, no matter how many years experience. No university degree and or course can prepare you for the barrage of what lies ahead. Maybe a ‘crisis management’ course perhaps…  

It is also the nature of what occurs daily and more so unexpectedly that catches people out. Just when things are all smooth and differences are being made, something, quite often a few things, rear their head and cause even the best laid plans to descend in to chaos.

Having completed a Bastow course last year that focused on principalship, those of us in attendance were given a task which I have outlined below which resonates with what I have mentioned above. A task designed to highlight that as educational leaders (or anyone really who works in a school) we can face a myriad of things that we do not expect, are not prepared for, are certainly not trained for, and things that none the less we need to deal with. Have a look at the task which I have linked and modified. It is based on a Principal role however paints a picture of what I am talking about… EduLead Scenario

There are many fallacies about teaching and what the job entails. Many. Teachers do not in fact work from 9am to 3:30pm and fluff about in between. We also do more than just simply ‘babysit’ other peoples kids and then get “rewarded” with holidays after 10 weeks at it. A small truth be told that after a 2 hour literacy block in the morning and when the bell goes for recess, that yes, you have to don the hi-vis vest, grab the bum bag full of band aids, tissues, and jellybeans for the diabetic students, and ‘actively supervise’ the yard for period of time to ensure that all students are ‘doing the right thing’… Afterwards of which you down a scalding coffee and a bite to eat (usually something packaged as there’s no time for creating Masterchef worthy snacks), collecting what you attempted to print earlier, if you can locate it, get your next learning intentions and success criteria written up and then… the bell goes and in come the students. If you’re super organised, you’ll squeeze in a trip to the toilet. 😉 

What has prompted this post was a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled “Our country needs good teachers. I am not going to be one of them.” 

I credit, strongly, the person who wrote this article for the fact that they came to realise that teaching was not for them and they opted out. They identified that teaching is much more than what they expected, made the call, and left the profession. Teachers who are not effective at what they do, for whatever reason, have a highly negative impact on students and their learning. We know this from research and evidence that has come from it. To know and realise that a change needs to be made is one thing, acting upon it is another.

I am quite pleased to say that the vast majority of teachers I know and work alongside are hard working, passionate, driven and dedicated. They put in the extra hours of unpaid work each and everyday because they care, not because they have to. These efforts are evident in their classrooms, in their practice and in the way their students learn, grow and succeed. What gets me up and about even more is that these teachers constantly are striving to do better. Better to improve their practices, improve the outcomes for their students, and make the places in which they work more effective. 

Teaching is a bloody hard job. It can test every part of your being and make you question what you stand for. There have been, as per the article, and will be many more, teachers who come and go as the realisation that teaching is not for them. And that is ok.

I will also take this opportunity  to encourage anyone out there thinking of being a teacher to seriously consider it. It is highly enjoyable, collegiate, and unlike anything you may have experienced. As a teacher you are given the chance to have a very strong impact on not only the students you teach but the running of a school and from this seeing something really special take shape. Being able to encourage change within an organisation by bringing in fresh and new ideas, a new and enthusiastic approach to the profession and lead programs that you are passionate about is exciting and rewarding.

Our country does need good teachers, and it has good teachers, and it needs even more good teachers.

What I learnt about STEM first hand.

It’s been absolutely great this year being back in a primary classroom. Co-teaching a wonderful class of year 3/4 students has been an absolute highlight and being back in the trenches of team planning, PLC’s, assessment, curriculum and everything in between has certainly been engaging and enjoyable.

Recently as a 3/4 teaching team we decided to ramp up the digital technologies component of our planning and through this engage our students in a STEM Challenge linked explicitly to our science focus of the term which was focused upon the Victorian Curriculums Science Learning Area and in particular Science Understanding: Physical Sciences.

For what was a six week, group based challenge posed to the students it ran extremely well. In short, the students loved it, it reaffirmed the concepts taught at the beginning of the term, and gave them an applicative approach to demonstrating what they knew as well as space to find out new things. This being said, there were a few stand out items of note that I quickly came to realise. Things that I had perhaps assumed going in to the challenge itself and the students meeting the expectations that I had outlined.

Don’t Assume.

It’s easy going in to a challenge such as this ‘assuming’ that the students will be fine and met all expectations that are set for them. You’d assume that even though they’ve been classmates for 6 months that they’ll work well in a group and be super organised and everything will be fine. You may even be confident feeling that afterwards when presentations and speeches are given, that students will be a certainty to showcase what they have learnt throughout the process.


In thinking back I now feel I was somewhat blinded by the excitement that the students showed at the beginning of this challenge and therefore ‘assumed’ that this was going to be a “learning experience for the ages!”. As great as it was, it wasn’t, and there are a number of things I would, and will, certainly do differently next time. Such as…

Be Explicit. 

Model, tell, show, share, discuss, draw, and highlight what exactly you’re hoping to see come beginning, middle and end of the challenge / STEM process. Students need explicit instruction. Period. It’s all good and proper to believe they’ll know what to do and that when they’re in their group they are working on certain aspects of their challenge, and that they’ll draw on prior knowledge to assist throughout. However, like in most lessons taught, that is not the case.

Prior Knowledge Counts for A Lot.

Again, here I was ‘assuming’ that students would draw upon previous learnings and knowledge to complete and do an array of things. The following being just a few examples;

  • students knew how to build and construct a house (or anything for that matter) using cardboard and other materials.
  • knew how to create a digital presentation.
  • knew how to present aforementioned presentation.
  • work collaboratively.
  • work independently.
  • would intrinsically draw upon previous learnings and prior knowledge.
  • seek assistance (from anyone) when required.
  • know how to sketch and draw 2D shapes with detail.

That’ll do. This comes back to the explicit teaching and assuming that students know what they ‘should’ know that will assist with the work.

Now in saying all of that… when students DO tap in to their already developed knowledge and understanding and apply this, WOW!

Prepare to Be Amazed.

STEM, and perhaps this challenge in particular, was/is a clear ‘case in point’ that students will absolutely astonish and amaze you when you give them the freedom and space to do so. I have referred to the following quote countless times since I have heard it as it rings so true.

“Watching kids in schools is like watch balloons deflate. School just sucks the creativity and curiosity right out of them”Gary Stager. 

I cannot argue with that. We’ve all seen the clips of Audrey and his Rube Goldberg machine and Caine’s Arcade (if you haven’t i’ve embedded them below), both 2 clear examples of how when we as educators ‘let go’, kids will always try, trial, and do as best they can in whatever it is that they have set out to achieve!


Never Underestimate The Big C’s of Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity.

For me personally and in this instance, critical thinking was a big one. Not all students, most for that matter, have the necessary skill sets, capabilities and strategies to problem solve and, well, think critically to evaluate and analyse for the better. This was two fold in my situation in that prompting and being explicit through asking probing questions was not yielding the answers I was wanting to hear. Secondly, seeing students become ‘stumped’ when things did not go to plan and becoming ‘lost’ as to what to do next was a little mind boggling. Again, that ability to evaluate and analyse a situation seemed to be at times missing. That there however is not the students fault. They simply have not been taught the skills to do so.


I’ll be sure to share the learnings, happenings and growth during from our next STEM Challenge but for now, please check out exactly what it is our students engaged in.

2017 iPad 1:1 App List.

I have written similar posts about this topic in previous posts dating back some 6 to 7 years ago. Just about every school that looks to go down the 1:1 iPad path, almost always develops a set application ‘list’ that students and families are to asked to have added to their child’s device. This post is no different from exactly that.

As a teacher who has been involved in coordinating and leading multiple 1:1 programs, and primarily focused around the iPad device, it has been an interesting journey to see how schools and even my own have coordinated this approach of students needing particular applications ‘to support their learning’.

I think… that the need for schools to move down this path is to ensure consistency amongst the devices that are coming in with the students. That in itself is a contradiction to a 1:1 program, and a BYOD one at that, in which a full normalisation of the technology and its use is geared towards being ” more personalised”.

Try a google search for ‘school 1:1 iPad program app list’, or something along those lines, and you’ll quickly see that all educational settings have put time and effort in to developing an application list to compliment their 1:1 iPad program.

I will say that I believe there is nothing at all wrong with this picture. I myself, and hence this post, have created such lists numerous times and spent hours upon hours doing so as it can be a tedious task.

Having been part of the Victorian Department of Educations iPads for Learning Trial in 2010/2011, what was perhaps one of the first ever educational application lists of it’s time, was very extensive and lengthy! There were 53 applications in all and through looking at this list I am thinking that of those 53, i would only ever use 6 in today’s classroom. I have attached the original list below.

DEECD Selected iPad Applications 2010



In looking through what I have found that other settings have created, and in having created other lists in the past as I have mentioned, I have certainly seen a transformation within these lists. Firstly, the amount of applications listed. The numbers continue to fall as to what students are ‘expected’ to have installed on their devices. This I hope is due to schools realising the increased importance of student choice and voice in this space and not because there has been an increased confusion over what to list.

Secondly, and more importantly, the type of applications have certainly changed from being singled minded, one function type applications to those which are powerful in their ability to foster creativity and complete multiple tasks for multiple purposes.

It is a good thing. A great thing in fact.

Now I do love my iPad. I also love the impact that technology can have on students and their learning. I more so love the HOW factor in which the technology can leverage and refine how learning and teaching takes place. The type of applications students have access too certainly cater for this.

I have attached my schools first 1:1 iPad application lists below and would be keen to hear your thoughts. What has worked well for you, what has not? And what am I missing. The new Apple Clips app for example being one! In all of my iPad experience, I am almost certain this application list is not perfect. I am not sure there is one. Of that I am certain.

I will end by saying that the real power in any 1:1 program using any device and OS, is where students lead the use and selection of what works best for them, and appeals to their learning the most.

APS 2017 BYOD iPad App List

Find Your Haystack – A Brief #TTPlay 2017 Recap.

Eleni Kyritsis and Steve Brophy kicking off TTPlay 2017.

Never having met or seen Ewan McIntosh in person I was quite excited to hear his opening Keynote address at the recent Teach Tech Play Conference in Melbourne this week. I have followed Ewan via multiple mediums over the past few years and have had the pleasure of working with his organization, NoTosh at my previous school.

One of the core messages, if not THE core message that came from Ewan’s keynote was about ‘finding you haystack’. Too often in education, and, occasionally in life for that matter, we lose sight of the bigger picture and get caught up in the smaller details, which quite often are what hinder and/or stagnate the progress we are wanting to make.

As educators and leaders we often believe we know what our haystack is, what the bigger picture is, however we almost always get caught up in the details. As Ewan mentioned, “there’s a lot of wasted effort on the planet with really talented people working really hard on the wrong things.” Cannot argue with that!

As an audience we were also challenged to find our one ‘thing’ from the two day event and do it well. This reminded me of something I was once told in my first year of teaching and that has stuck with me until this day, and that being, “it is much more beneficial to self and others for you to do few things really well, rather than a lot of things half-arsed.” Cannot argue with that either!

The TTPlay Conference for me was about a few things in particular which were of a hidden agenda of sorts. Firstly, to reconnect with people I had not had a whole lot of contact with, face to face anyway, due to various reasons. Conferences and events such as this are made outstanding by those that are in attendance. It is through the chats, conversations, being challenged, sharing and collaborating that what I really enjoy. It’s the indirect and informal conversations that are often the most powerful component.

It was also about getting back in to a presenting mindset. I have enjoyed presenting at conferences over the years and feel, occasionally, that I have something worth sharing! The jury is still out… 🙂 To be back in this space was breath of fresh air and I enjoyed it immensely, although I still get as nervous as I first used too. I have embedded both my presentations below as an FYI.

A striking resemblance I made at TTPlay was to compare this conference with one I had previously attended in the past, the annual ICTEV (ICT in Education Victoria) conference. The ICTEV and VITTA (Victorian Information Technology Teachers Association) have since merged to form the wonderful DLTV (Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria). Too many acronyms. The similarities of these two events came not in the quality of presenters and people in attendance, that was a given, but came from the relaxed, friendly, and laid back atmosphere. Something you do not always get at all events such as this.

Now in referring back to Ewan’s keynote, what was my ‘haystack’ and my ‘thing’ to takeaway from TTPlay. I can recall sitting there in the audience and thinking initially… “I’ve no idea”. I really could not think of a reasonable ‘thing’ that would be my own personal ‘haystack’. And then, towards the end of the second day it came.

My haystack lies with inspiring others to innovate”.

How can I at my own setting inspire staff to, as Matt Miller put it during his great keynote address, become the mavericks, black sheep, and purple cows of their profession. That students need maverick teachers. Teachers who challenge and change practice for the greater good of their learners and their needs. Regardless of how I do this, and the outcome I achieve, watch this space and i’ll be sure to keep you posted as to how it goes!

In future, if you’re thinking of attending a great event and hearing from teachers talk about teaching and what they are doing to inspire their students, particularly in the digital space, TTPlay is a great event to attend.

Share Time: BYOD + 1:1 + iPad.

In my last post I shared a list of what I felt where the core fundamentals needed to occur when initially undertaking a BYOD program. Piggy backing on the… back… of that, i have shared below a few items I had recently created, adapted and shared with our wider school community.

These may be of interest and or hopefully of some assistance. My disclaimer being, they are not perfect, nor should they be solely replicated for p[otential use at your own settings. And I say that not due to copyright or privacy reasons, but for the intention of being that all documentation of all shapes and formats needs to be created specifically for the audience and setting it is intended for. What is one schools path, may not be that of someone elses. However, if you like, feel free to use what I have created below as you best see fit.


BYOD Parent Information Evening Presentation.

This presentation was designed to do a vast number of things in a short amount of time, hence its density in information. The presentation itself was well received and being a prezi with it;s zooming in and out i had no cases of motion sickness in the audience which was a positive!


BYOD 1:1 ipad Guide.

The guide is more so an extension of the presentation above in some ways. It is designed to help parents and the wider community develop a greater understanding of why we are moving towards 1:1 and BYOD. The guide also acts as the main document in answering questions people may have as well as being a “go-to” document to assist parents and caregivers in managing their child’s iPad devices.

I will add two more things here. Firstly, this is by no means completed! I plan on adding chapters relating to social media use and privacy, as well as a greater and more in depth ‘help’ section. Secondly, this was design using Apple’s iBooks Author program. As an attached PDF I have removed some of the interactives that were contained within.

APS BYOD 2017 Program v1.1-143eper


BYOD Action Plan. 

This is contained in part in the linked document above however this is something I found very useful in using to assist with the planning and documentation stage of getting the BYOD program up and running. I have linked below the Victorian DET website where the information I used came from. A great, but lengthy, and helpful site.

I have also included our Action Plan as an FYI.

Planning for 1:1 Learning. 

APS BYOD Action Plan 2017



Everyones favourite! They may be a pain to write, and get ratified, but they are certainly needed. Advice here, consult with as many stakeholders as you can. Definitely include parents!

APS-Cybersafety Policy


APS-Internet Policy


Digital Technologies Acceptable Use Agreement. 

As a side to your policies, every school should have a structured and detailed AUA. Let’s be honest, not everyone reads policies. What is below has been created via the Victorian Department of Educations own AUA template. I have amended it to suit my own school’s particulars and set up.


Here is the link also to the Vic DET’s AUA documents:


So there we have it! I hope all of that assists in some way! Happy to chat further and remember, these are all works that are ongoing and will always be updated and amended as needed to be at some stage. 🙂