Communities, Networks and Connected Learning with Google

This is based on a presentation at the Melbourne GAFESummit held at Xavier College on September 19th and 20th, 2016.

There have been many changes to learning brought about in the past decade, from MOOCs to social media, often though there are so many options that it can be hard to know where to start and more importantly, why. Technology enables us to easily develop digital communities and networks inside and outside of the classroom. The reality though is that connected learning is as much about creating spaces for learning and building on that, so let us start there.

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Creating, Making and Visualising: Integrating Technology within a Classroom that Works #digital16

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

One of the significant changes that has occurred in education in the last few years has been the implementation of instructional models. Influenced in part by the research of Robert Marzano and John Hattie, these representations of best practices are often introduced around the mantra of ‘high reliability, low variability’. Along with discussions focusing on a guaranteed and viable curriculum, the intent is to create a consistent learning environment. Yet within all of these conversations around guarantees and reliability technology is often left silent. For some the answer is to get rid of technology. However this fails to recognise our client’s digital expectations. Here then is my attempt to situate technology within a high reliability, low variability framework. The model at the heart of this investigation is Howard Pitler and Bj Stone’s A Handbook for Classroom Instruction That Works. Developed from the work of McREL and Robert Marzano, the book unpacks the different strategies, including:

  • Providing Feedback
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Cues, Questions and Advance Organizers
  • Non-Linguistic representations
  • Summarising and Note-taking
  • Identifying Differences and Similarities
  • Generating and Testing New Ideas


“We need to provide our students with FEEDBACK in a way that is corrective and helpful as they move toward the objective, without overwhelming them with truckloads of feedback at once” p.23

Just as objectives help define the why of learning, feedback helps to maintain this. According to Hattie and Timperley feedback represents one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement. However, feedback takes many different forms.

Some of the options for timely feedback, include responding via a learning management system or in simply sharing a collaborative document. One application though that can be particularly useful is Google Forms. From providing instant response to a walkthrough to giving peers critique on a performance, Google Forms provides a number of possibilities.

In regards to criterion, technology can be used to not only create rubrics using add-on like JoeZoo or Alice Keeler’s scripts for Google Sheets. Technology can also be used to embed standards as Edufolio have done with their professional blog for teachers.

In relation to learners actually guiding their own learning, Bianca Hewes has shared how she uses medals and missions in a collaborative document to team up different students in order to identify the next step process, while Anthony Speranza has shown how students reflection on pre-tests can be used to differentiate learning.

Cooperative Learning

“Small-group work is valuable, but COOPERATIVE LEARNING, with elements of positive interdependence and individual responsibility, is the strategy that rises to the level of significance” p.76

Cooperative learning takes many shapes and forms. However, the advent of cloud computing has made it something that is both more ‘doable’ and visible. There are numerous applications which allow people to work in within what David White calls a coalescent space that cross-over between the digital and physical. Some of the more obvious possibilities for connecting and collaborating include the integrated use of platforms like Google Apps or Office365. While some other alternatives include Edmodo, SeeSaw or a class blog. Each medium provides their own means of individual accountability within varying group sizes.


“CUES are hints about the content of an upcoming lesson; in addition, they both reinforce information that students already know and provide some new information on the topic.” p.97

Cues help to focus on what is important and lay the groundwork for learning. For some it might be a piece of media, whether it be a collage created with Picasa, a shortened video made using TubeChop or a GIF capturing a particular moment. This may simply be the presentation of information, but it can also act as a provocation. For example Dan Meyer’s three act mathematical problems provides an visual extract as a question.

Another reason to cue in learners is to activate prior knowledge. One way of doing this is through the act of brainstorming. The focus of this is about gathering spontaneous ideas around a specific topic or idea. Some programs that support brainstorming include Answergarden, Padlet,Dotstorming, Socrative, Poll Everywhere and Google Apps. What is significant about them all is the ability to collaborate.


“QUESTIONS allow students to access previously learned information and assess what they do not already know.” p.97

According to Warren Berger, questions offer a means of shifting the way we perceive or think about something. In their investigation, Pitler and Stone identify two key categories of questioning to take learning to a higher level: inferential and analytical.

One form of inferential questioning is through quizzes. Whether it be using Kahoot, Socrative or Google Forms, each provides multiple choice options as a means of engaging with learners, as well as supporting the measurement of growth. A creative alternative to this is to get students to create their own quizzes and share them around. Although some of the applications require teacher logins, students can still collaboratively create a quiz in a Google Doc before inputting it into the system.

Another activity involving inferential questioning comes in the form of Mystery Skype. This is where classes virtually connect and build on questioning in order to identify the mystery location. An extension on this is the Skype-a-Thon where classes connect with others from around the world in a day long marathon.

In regards to analytical questioning, Verso provides an environment within which learners can go deeper. This may be starting with an image as a provocation or immersing within an inquiry, Verso allows students to anonymously engage with questions and problems. From there, they can respond to the different ideas that have been shared by others.

Another option associated with analytical questioning is engaging with an authentic audience. This might include connecting with an author in a Twitter Q&A or responding to student presentations via Google Hangouts. The challenge in the end is not fostering questioning, but creating the conditions in which they can flourish.

Advanced Organisers

“ADVANCED ORGANISERS help teachers prepare students for upcoming learning and take the mystery out of what is to come. They help students retrieve what they already know about a topic and prepare them to connect with and make sense of new information.” p.113

Similar to cues, advanced organisers are designed to prepare students for new information. They provide an overview of what is to come.

One type of advanced organiser is the expository. This is usually a space designed to provide information about what will be learnt. There are a number of virtual spaces which provide a learning hub, whether it be a class blog, Blendspace, a Hapara Workspace, an Edmodo group, a Google Classroom or a hyperdoc.

Another form of advanced organiser is the flipped narrative. This involves recording instructions and sending these home with students so that class time can be spent digging deeper. There is no right way of creating a flipped video. As Joel Speranza explains, they often involve a series of interrelated decisions.

In addition to these two approaches, some graphic organisers can be used to prepare thinking. Whether this be using Google Drawings to complete a Frayer Model or using a Padlet to complete a KWHLAQ.

Non-Linguistic Representations

“NON-LINGUISTIC REPRESENTATIONS provide students with useful tools that merge knowledge presented in the classroom with mechanisms for understanding and remembering that knowledge.” p.113

So many instructional methods are focused on linguistic representation. However, non-linguistic representations can be useful when making sense of knowledge and understanding.

A common method used to sort patterns of information is the graphic organiser. Whether it be about forming a description, sequencing a series of items, identifying the relationship between cause and effect or breaking down concepts into their parts, graphic organisers provide a means to express mental models. Matt Miller provides an extensive list of Google Drawings templates which you can copy to your Google Drive.

Another form of modelling is through the use of various digital manipulatives in the portrayal of ideas. A popular application used to support visual representation is Minecraft. Lee Hewes has demonstrated how Minecraft can be used across the curriculum. Some other manipulative applications include Scratch and Sketchup.

In regards to visual representations, there are many others options. These include GIFs, word clouds and flowcharts. Each of these modes builds on the constraints in order to focus on certain information. For example, the usual design of an infographic supports the summary of information into small visual chunks, whether these be images, icons or graphical representations.

Summarising & Note-taking

“The act of SUMMARISING facilitates learning by providing opportunities for students to capture, organise, and reflect on important facts, concepts, ideas, and processes they will need to access at a later time.” p.152

Methods for taking notes and documenting your thinking seem to fluctuate between the structured rule based approaches to the more informal fluid methods.

There are many applications which either provide templates to support summarising and note-taking or allow you to easily create your own. For example, both Google Docs and OneNote provide structured templates which you can use and adapt, while applications like Evernote and Google Keep provide the means to organise text on the go using limited formatting.

Another alternative to structured summarising and note-taking is the use of outliners. A text editor, outliners allow you to organise information and ideas in a hierarchical manner. They have been around a long time. There are so many different applications available. However, a good place to start is with Dave Winer’s Little Outliner.

For a more open approach, sketchnoting can be a useful strategy. Sketchnoting is about helping us think deeper by mixing, matching and making links using text, image and flow. Some call it visual note-taking, others doodling. There are a range of resources and presentations to help with sketchnoting including Sketchnoting FOR Beginners (Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano), Brain Doodles, Sketchnoting for Beginners (Sylvia Duckworth) and How I Teach Sketchnoting (Royan Lee). Although it can be done by hand, it is common for people to use tablets and touchscreens using applications, such as Paper53, Flipink and Adobe Draw.

Applying Knowledge

“When students are involved in identifying similarities and differences and/or GENERATING and TESTING HYPOTHESIS, they are very often thinking and applying their knowledge at a higher level or with more rigour.” P.237

The challenge of all the different strategies is to help students extend and apply knowledge. Two ways in which Pitler and Howard identify this happening is determining similarities and differences, as well as generating and testing new ideas.

There are many ways of identifying and representing differences and similarities, whether it be verbally or visually. The most common means though is through the use of organisers and frames. Maybe it is a sketch within a OneNote notebook or filling in a template created with Google Drawings.

In regards to problem solving and engaging with ideas, applications like Trello provide a means of managing iterative steps. Often it can be easier to work on paper when developing your thinking and representing ideas. However, Trello is also a useful application when it comes to supporting productivity and workflow. Not only does it provide the means to share with others, but it allows integrates with a number of applications making it easier to locate files.

A strategy which encompasses all learning is the act of documentation. It can be easy to dismiss the idea of documentation as just a portfolio of work, collected together. The purpose though is not necessarily to summarise products and projects, but rather develop a deeper understanding and provide a narrative. Some applications that can be used to support this include Seesaw, Book Creator and Adobe Spark.


So there is a selection of tools and applications which each in their own way can be used to support a high reliable and low variable classroom. It must be remembered that there is nothing inherent within a program that says it must be used to support cues or is perfect for providing feedback. Often such decisions come down to discussions around choice and context. Although it can be easy to view these strategies in isolation, it is often together that they have there greatest impact. For as the Ritchart, Church and Morison remind, “understanding is not a precursor to application, analysis, evaluating and creating but a result of it.”

So what about you? How do you use technology to amplify the act of creating, making and visualising in and out of your classroom? As always, comments welcome.

DISCLOSURE: Although I was lucky enough to be a part of the Google Innovators program and have done some work with Adobe, I have not received funds from any of the companies and/or authors spoken about above.

Here are the slides for my session:

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How Are You Disclosing?

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

There is nothing better than reading a post that by the nature of its content challenges you to really reassess your thinking. This is where on the one hand a part of me is left nodding in agreement, but then a part of me is left unsure what it means for my own practices.

I have read two such posts lately, Jon Andrews reflection on education cheeserolling and Dan Haesler’s question of disclosure. Andrews considers the tendency for many to simply play a game of follow the leader with little awareness of what we are actually following and who is actually leading. A point that Richard Olsen captures this so well in his post on research.

Haesler on the other hand puts the spotlight on disclosure. His point is about being clear about any gifts or donations that you may have received from companies whose products you may be writing about. Even though Haesler said that he had no gripe with people actually receiving such kickbacks, this post left me with more questions than answers.

The main quandary that I was left with was if we are really going to be open and honest about disclosing, where does one stop? So here goes, my attempt to disclose:

  • I write a lot about Google, I am a Google Certified Innovator. However, beyond providing the opportunity to spend a few days learning in Sydney a few years ago and a badge, I have never received any products or kickbacks.
  • If you click this link I will not receive a thing, but you can sign up to Reclaim Hosting too and like me experience their awesome support.
  • I have reflected on Adobe Voice (now Spark) quite a bit, however, the offer of Tim Kitchen to come to my school only after I had published my posts, while the free subscription to Adobe Cloud was a part of becoming an Adobe Campus Leader.
  • I have presented at a number of conferences, including Leading a Digital School and GAFESummit. This often comes with free entry. Although there is no expectation as to what this means, however there is encouragement to share out with your network.
  • I love to read and believe that a part of the process is responding. Other than Anywhere Anytime Learning, which was free for few days, I have paid for every book that I have reviewed for free. (I do not count David Culberhouse’s book here, as it is always free.)
  • To be fair, I have written about a lot of edtech products, whether it be TouchCast, Thimble, Blogging or Microsoft OneNote. I have not recieved any benefits from these companies.

With all of this said, I think that the disclosure that matters most is why we do what we do. This is what Steve Box touches on in his response to Haesler’s post,

I probably (perhaps cynically) assume that anytime someone is spruiking a product (via blog or tweet etc) that there is either an existing or a desired commercial relationship. This is especially where my ‘spidey-senses’ appear when a tweet uses @product or a hyperlink.

I have written about my ‘why’ before. However, Box’s comment leaves me doubting myself. Maybe deep down I am just fooling myself. Maybe there is a part in all of us, even Steve Box, that wants to be a thought leader held up in the limelight. Of course, you can say no, just as I do, but do you really know?

So what about you? What are you disclosing? I would love to know.


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Can You Share the Link, Please

An open plea for people to share

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

As I ponder and reflect on another DigiCon Conference, I was astounded by the lack of sharing. Very few people seemed to publish their resources for their sessions. I am not sure if people were sharing in spaces where I wasn’t looking or if they simply forgot to use the conference hashtag when sharing, therefore getting lost in the ever flowing stream that is Twitter.

I really would like to go to ten sessions during each block, but there is only one of me. However, a part of me would like to catch a glimpse of what was on offer.

Personally, I put in hours preparing for my sessions. If someone from ‘across the pond’ can benefit from what I make so be it, maybe I might benefit from their feedback in return?

In regards to sharing openly, Doug Belshaw recommend s creating a canonical URL. The intent is to provide a starting point for people to engage with and build upon your work and ideas. This could be one space in which to share everything or you could have a separate link for each project. What matters is that it is public.

When it comes to creating such a space, here are some ideas and possibilities:

  • Padlet: A digital pinboard that can be useful for capturing a range of media files.
  • Google Apps: Maybe it is Docs or Slides, but the cloud based nature of Google Apps means that it is easy to share out.
  • OneNote: Like a Google Apps, OneNote allows you to collect a range of content in the cloud and share it out.
  • Adobe Spark Page: An easy way of quickly making a website in which to share links, images and text.
  • Slideshare: A space to upload and share presentations, whether it be a PowerPoint, PDF or Google Slides.
  • Storify: An application which allows you to easily curate a wide range of content.
  • Blog: Whether it be in the form of a post or adding content to a static page, blogs offer an easy means to collate content in one space.
  • GitHub: Although this involves a bit more effort, GitHub provides the means of creating a static site or a repository.
  • A space to share Microsoft Files and resources.

Maybe in the end the answer for canonical URL is something more communal, a collection that you can re-purpose. Maybe it is about using collaborative tools like Docs and collaborating with others across the whole conference? Maybe, like with #GAFESummit, it is about having a central space where all the resources can be found? Whatever the solution, surely there needs to be a better way of sharing than clambering to copy down link after link throughout a session. Oh, and don’t start me on URL shorteners.

So what about you, what are your thoughts? Maybe I am wrong? Maybe you have another space which people could use? As always, comments welcome.

For those interested, here is a collection of links that I have curated from the conference. Feel free to copy, add, re-purpose as you like.

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An Expedition into @GoogleCardboard

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I will never forget Jim Sill’s keynote from my first GAFESummit. In it he showed a video of the virtual field trip. Through the use of Google Glass, a class of students was taken inside CERN, the home of the Hadron Collider, in Switzerland. They were given a first hand view of the inner mechanics and provided with an adaptive running commentary the whole time.

This video was about asking the question, what if we could overcome the challenge of access and availability by bringing a field trip into the classroom? Making it possible to venture around the world (or even universe) and walk the streets of Paris or visit the Great Wall of China. Does this constitute the next best thing to being there or is it something else again?

I had a similar such experience recently when I tried Google Expedition for the first time at Melbourne West GAFESummit. A combination of Classroom, Cardboard, Street View and Photosphere, Expedition provides viewers with a choreographed 360 degree experience. It involves a collection of Cardboard devices connected to a central tablet via a network connection. It does not require the internet. Featuring everying from the Mars to the Great Barrier Reef to the Seven Wonders of the World, the app takes the viewers on a journey, providing a prescribed commentary for the teacher to present all along. It provides the means for the teacher-as-guide to focus attention on something by circling on the screen, rather than have the class lost in the experience.

As I moved through the different experiences, I was left wondering about the different possibilities associated with Expedition and Cardboard in general. Here are just some of my ideas:

  • Vocabulary – Robert Marzano suggests the best way to build academic vocabulary is through real life experiences, such as field trips, but then says that this is not always feasible. I wonder if Expedition and Cardboard make this more possible? The opportunity to move around in a foreign space and build up vocabulary at the same time? And what about EAL/D students and newly arrived migrants. Not only could we introduce them to new places, but they too could share a part of their world by taking us back to where they may have travelled from. A priceless experience when building empathy.
  • Real Life Problems – Sitting above the Taj Mahal provides an opportunity to explore the subjects of culture and engineering first hand. Or while climbing El Captan in Yosemite National Park, we can discuss why the only thing growing on the cliff face is a cactus.
  • Narrative and Storytelling – Although Expedition comes with a prescribed script, what interests me is the ability to write your own story as you go along. It provides the means to make predictions and provide explanations about what might be happening. Taking this a step further, I am intrigued by the possibility of students being the guide, providing am opportunity to really develop their speaking and listening skills.
  • Sparking Curiosity – Building on the idea of narrative, I see the possibility for students to ask questions and really drive their own inquiry.

Having said all this, I was left thinking about where such technology might develop in the future. Would this be our only view of places like the Great Barrier Reef or ancient monuments destroyed in cultural upheaval (see giant Buddha statues of Bamiyan in Afghanistan.) Would it be possible to recreate the same place, but in the past, so when we stand at Circular Quay in Sydney we can appreciate how much such a space has been transformed over time. It all makes you wonder, but in the end, the success of such applications is not in their wonder and awe, but rather than opportunities that teachers allow to happen. Such opportunities are further opened up with the option for solo expeditions. As Rachel Jones states,

Google Cardboard is a fantastic hook for learning. I think that children in both primary and secondary settings would find using the glasses an engaging way of encountering a topic – but for me the real potential for success lies in the learning that would take place after the viewers have been used.

So what about you? What have been your experiences with Expedition and Cardboard? What do you see as it’s future? As always, comments welcome.

Additional Resources

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Creative Commons Starts with Making – A Reflection on Creating and Sharing

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I was reminded again this week about the importance of Creative Commons. Firstly, my students got a bit stuck getting their heads around what was right for use while creating presentations, while secondly, Mark Anderson wrote a post sharing why he worries about teachers blogging. Beyond the initial frustration about the lack of foresight in regards to the wider audience and subsequent poor judgement, Anderson discusses his concern over the use and reference to content. From copying someone else’s image to sharing student images, he provides three suggestions:

  • Use CC Search if you are trying to find appropriate content
  • Reference ideas and content when you are borrowing
  • Always err on the side of caution when sharing student content online

Although each idea is helpful, what is seemingly left out is any discussion of how teachers can go what David Price has described as ‘SOFT‘ by openly giving back and putting back into the community?

I have written about creative commons and where to find content before. However, I have never really unpacked my steps in regards to how I create and share. Basically, unless an image has a Creative Commons license giving permission, permission isn’t given. The challenge then in not only sharing is doing so in a way that others can benefit from. Although I share different content online, here is a summary of my workflow in regards to creating visual quote from the discovery of the idea to publishing it online.


The first step in creating a visual quote is coming upon a quote. More often than not, quotes create themselves and often come from the plethora of blogs I read via Feedly. I also use the annotation tool in Diigo to keep ideas for a later date. In addition to this, I have started reading more books via Kindle as it provides an easy way to keep notes. Tom Barrett describes this act of curation as ‘mining knowledge’, the purpose of which is to create a collection to dig through at a later time. There are many different social bookmarking tools, such as Delicious and Evernote web clipper, the challenge though is finding the right tool and method for you.


In addition to finding a quote, the challenge is to match this with an image. For those like Jackie Gerstein, Dan Haesler, Sylvia Duckworth and Amy Burvall, the answer is to draw from scratch. Although I have experimented a bit with sketchnoting and doodling, I prefer to connect with pre-existing visual images. This search often begins with Flickr. I like the fact that you can trawl images based on licenses. Sometimes I favourite images which I come back to, but more often than not I simply search from scratch. This can be challenging as I often have an idea what sort of image I am after. Lately, I have also started incorporating Lego within my makes to add another layer of meaning. After working with my younger brother, I saw the potential to use Lego to portray anything. I also feel that it is one of those things that, although usually designed for children, is somewhat ageless.


There are so many different applications on the web that make the creation of images quick and easy. However, I still prefer to make from scratch. Although I sometimes use applications like Quozio, Phoster and Canva, I prefer to use Google Draw. Bill Ferriter once explained to me how he uses PowerPoint to create some of his images. After tinkering myself with this idea, I turned to Google Draw, both for its ease of use, but also the ability to share and remix.In regards to themes, I try and stick to set group of fonts:

  • Architects Daughter for thin main body text
  • Paytone One for thick key words or phrases
  • Permanent Marker for the author and title

While inspired by Amy Burvall, I have also taken to using a mixture of bold colours taken from my avatar image, as well as white for the main text. To make sure that the text stands out from the image, I often make the base image behind the image black and then move the transparency slider attached to the image to 50%.  This helps the text to stand out.


There are so many different methods and modes to share these days. The issue though is that unless you explicitly state it, copyright is still held by the creator. Although people may consume such content, they cannot use it in a presentation or modify it. The problem is that, as Doug Belshaw asserts, “remixing, re-appropriation and riffing off other people’s work just seems to be part of what we do as human beings.” With this being the case, it is important to provide some sort of licensing to help people to share openly and freely. The most obvious method seems to be via Flickr.

When you upload to Flickr, it provides the means to easily select a license. If this seems to laborious, you can actually set a default license in settings. Another benefit of Flickr is that when I use images in blog posts I can easily attribute using Alan Levine’s Flickr Attribution Helper. An alternative to Flickr though is attributing within the image.

Like artists of old, many people have taken to signing their images as a way of resolving the attribution issue. Taking this a step further, there are those like Gerstein who not only sign their work, but also place a license created via the Creative Commons website within the image to make it as clear as possible. Doing this allows you to avoid having to share through third party sites.

So there you have it, my workflow in creating and publishing visual quotes. What about you? What content do you create? How do you share it? What steps do you take to make sure others can make use of it? As always, comments welcome.


At a recent GAFESummit, I did a Demo Slam where I shared making a quote. In it I demonstrated how I have moved away from using Google Drawings and instead building with Google Slides. One of the reasons for this is that I am able to edit the master slides meaning that I do not have to adjust the fonts and colours each time. I am also able to add a small mark to the bottom of the image as something of an identifier, something someone else actually asked me to do. Beyond this, the process of adding an image, making it transparent on top of a black background and predominantly using white text remains the same.

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Publications, Presentations & Participation

DigiCon15 Conference organised by DLTV held at Swinburne University, 19th and 20th July 2016

#GAFESummit Melbourne West  organised by Edtechteam held at Manor Lakes, 7th and 8th April 2016

Infusing SAMR into Teaching and Learning

Published in DLTV Journal 2.2 October 2015



Quickmakes Cover

Fringe Festival – Digital Creating and Making

DigiCon15 Conference organised by DLTV held at Swinburne University, 24th and 25th July 2015


Becoming a More Connected Educator (DIGICON15) – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

DigiCon15 Conference organised by DLTV held at Swinburne University, 24th and 25th July 2015


DigiCon15 Sparktalks – Becoming a More Connected Educator

DigiCon15 Conference organised by DLTV held at Swinburne University, 24th and 25th July 2015

Should Every Teacher in the World Be on Twitter?

‘Teacher Feature’ on TER Podcast Episode #45, 19th April 2015


A Review of Doug Belshaw’s The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies
‘Teacher Feature’ on TER Podcast Episode #42, 22nd February 2015


Common Sense that’s Not Always Common – A Review of Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated
Published in DLTV Journal 1.2 December 2014


creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs

Getting Going with Google (w/ Corrie Barclay)
Melbourne Google Educator Group Meeting at Manor Lakes, 10th December 2014



Google Teachers Academy
Google Sydney, 24th and 25th September 2014


Melbourne GAFE Summit 2014, Xavier College, 22nd and 23rd September 2014




Getting Smart with eSmart

Featured in eSmart Newsletter, August 2014


DLTV14 Conference, Swinburne University, 25th and 26th July, 2014


Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century Reboot Day, NMIT (Preston Campus), 22nd July 2014

Looking Back, Looking Forward
Ed Tech Crew Podcast (Episode 250)


Teachmeet, Overnewton Anglican Community College, 21st June 2014


Mentor for Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century DEECD program, March to November, 2014


Teachmeet, Melbourne Immigration Museum, 10th May 2014


DLTV Teachmeet, Lt Markov, 8th February 2014



‘I Was Just Appointed ICT Co-ordinator, Now What?’
Ed Tech Crew Podcast (Episode 238)



‘2013 Google in Education Summit Review’
Ed Tech Crew Podcast (Episode 236)



creative commons licensed ( BY-ND ) flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs
ICTEV13 Conference, Melbourne Grammar, 25th May 2013
(Also included in Term 3 ICTEV Newsletter 2013)

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Ask and You Shall Receive – A Reflection on Personalised Professional Development

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs:
I was left challenged recently by a post from +Dean Shareski who questioned the focus of conferences on ideas and instead argued that we should be looking for connections. He made the statement that “if you leave with one or two people you can continue to learn with you’ve done well.” This has been my goal of late, to create a space where people can connect, rather than provide a list of links and ideas.
At Melbourne Google Summit, I felt I did this by creating an activity where participants collaboratively curated a guide of how to introduce Google Apps in order to make learning and teaching more doable. A point that +Bill Ferriter suggests when he states, “technology lowers barriers, making the kinds of higher order learning experiences that matter infinitely more doable.”


To me change isn’t just about bringing in Google Apps and enforcing it on everyone from above, it is just as much about the small ideas that help others buy-in to the benefits in going Google. I therefore thought that if we bring together the collective knowledge of the room that those there would not only have a great resource to take back to their schools, but a range of connections to continue learning with. For as +David Weinberger puts it, “The smartest person in the room is the room.”
What eventuated though as I roamed the room was that I ended up helping people with a myriad of other problems, from having two accounts linked to the one email account, how to use Google Groups to make sharing easier and downloading the new Google Slides app on iPad. This was awesome, for just as we need to be open as learners to new opportunities and connections, so to as teachers do we need to be open to adjusting the focus based on the situation at hand. However, would this have been the case if those in the room were not willing to raise their hand and admit that there is something that they don’t know? Admit that something isn’t necessarily working the way that it is meant to?
It occurred to me afterwards in reflection that just as it is important to leave a conference with one or two new connections, I feel that it also important to come away with a small win, a solution to a conundrum that has really been bugging you. Something personal, something important to you and your situation. This is especially the case at a technology conference where what is on offer is only the tip of the iceberg to the potential of what is possible. The big challenge then is asking, for it is only if you ask shall you receive.
For those interested, here are the slides to my presentation:

Introducing Google Apps One Win at a Time – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires
While here is a link to the awesome presentation that those in attendance made: Introducing Google Apps – A Crowd Sourced Guide

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Why I Put My Hand Up for #gtasyd and Why I’m Excited



When I found out that I was accepted into Google Teacher Academy to be held in Sydney in September, I went and shared with a few staff members in the next office. One staff member asked whether that meant I would come back and get everyone going Google. I was startled, that has never been my intention. I have always pushed for encouraging communication and collaboration in and out of the classroom. Something that +Steve Brophy and I spoke about at the recent DLTV2014 conference. Sadly, many staff who I have worked with often see Google Drive as just a tool and not much more. I was then left wondering, why did I want to be a part of the Google Teacher Academy and what do I hope to get out of the experience?
I think that there is a misconception, and maybe that misconception is my own, that Google Teachers Academy is all about getting a whole lot of teachers using more Google products and somehow becoming inadvertent ambassadors for the corperation. Let me state clearly, I am not going to Sydney as some sort of fanboy. Fine, I have presented on Google Apps for Education before, and fine, I’d love to learn some awesome new tips and tricks, still remembering following +Rich Lambert‘s journey when he went a few years ago. However, I am going to the Google Summit in Melbourne the two days prior to the academy, so I am sure that my head will already be brimming with possibilities. In addition to this, I don’t think much is ever gained through blind faith in one company or product.
What I am looking forward to most is connecting and collaborating with a range a teachers in the push to evolve the education landscape. At the opening day of the DEECD’s ‘Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century’, +Will Richardson made the point that he wants his students to connect with strangers, to extend their thinking, to engage with difficult topics. I think that I want the same for teachers. They are learners too? What I look forward to is getting to know a whole lot of new educators and growing my PLN.
Another point of discussion that seems to be going on is who will be in which group or which mentor we will be allocated to who. I am going to be honest, I actually hope that I am in a group that doesn’t include any of my closer connections. I want to be challenged and to me a part of this is engaging with people who I don’t necessarily know what they think, what they believe and how they will respond. Too often professional development is organised around pre-existing groups – KLA’s, year levels, sub-schools -whereas I think that something special happens working with those who we are forced to get to know along the way.
There has been some criticism leveled at Google Teachers Academy as being one big clique, based on who you know rather than what you may bring. I think that a part of the problem is still some people’s fixed mindsets. For some it is another tick box, something else from the bucket list. Fine I will be calling myself a Google Certified Teacher afterwards, but it won’t be the first thing that comes out of my mouth. I entered with the dream of being able to work with +Tom Barrett and the awesome team at NoTosh. To me I see it as the opportunity to be a part of one massive Collaborative Problem Solving project where I will hopefully have the opportunity to make a greater difference to the lives of students around the world. To me, this also includes giving back, paying it forward, sharing whatever ideas and information that I gain with those willing to listen. For it isn’t one company that changes the world or one group of teachers, rather, as +Dan Donahoo put it in his keynote at the ICTEV13 conference, it takes a village.
Have you ever applied to be a part of the Google Teacher Academy? Have you ever been to one? How are you trying to make a difference? What are your thoughts? I would love to know.

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Put a Saddle on It and Ride It – Melbourne Google in EducationSummit2013

When I saw the Google in Education Summit come up in my feeds a few months ago, I thought that it would be a good opportunity to reinvigorate the implementation of Google Apps in my school. Having had a bit of history with Google Drive, the implementation process has come to a bit of a stalemate. I’ve got to a point where everything is set up, raring to go, but nothing was being used.
Often the heart of a conference is its keynotes. There were three all up. The first was from +Suan Yeo, Head of Education in Asia/Pacific region. He spoke about Google’s place at the forefront of change and innovation. He shared various things such as Google Glass, the Loon Project and 20% time. What was missing though, is that although Google offer possibilities that were not possible in the past, such as a virtual tour of CERN via Google Glass, there are more pertinent points of innovation that still remain unaccomplished. For as +Richard Lambert tweeted when Google announced the Loon Project:
The second keynote was from +Jim Sill, a Google Apps Certified Trainer from America, who spoke about creativity. He illustrated all the ways in which people create digitally these days – vine, instagram, twitter, youtube – and encouraged people to “slap a sadle on it and ride it”. He also warned that if you do not allow students an avenue for creativity in today’s day and age there are stark consequences.

The third keynote ended the summit and was from +Chris Betcher. Short, but sweet, Chris provided a snapshot of the world fifteen years ago when Google started and where technology has come to now. He suggested that the things that we are able to do now, we could do then, but with the development of the web, we are able to do them now without friction and stress.
In addition to the keynotes, one of the anomalies of the Google in Education Summit was the Demo Slam. A little like the speed sharing sessions at the ICTEV conferences, except competitive, presenters are given three minutes to wow the audience in order to get bragging rights. Some of the ideas thrown out there was using a formula in Spreadsheet to translate, using Google Docs Story Builder to … build a story and a Chrome extension, Too Long Don’t Read, to summarise various webpages. All in all, it was a great way to end the first day of the summit.
The rest of the time was made up of various presentations. Although there was a wide range on offer, I chose not to go to some of the more complicated sessions revolving around scripting and supercharging chrome, instead I focused on trying to best utilise the basic set of Apps provided through Google Apps for Education. I also realised quite early on that there were so many resources bouncing around that even if I missed out on a session, there was still plenty of information that I could go to later if I wished (see for example Chris Betcher’s fantastic collection of resources at
Firstly, I attended a few sessions that focused on using Apps to connect, collaborate and store information using the cloud. Whether it be sharing a Doc or creating a community in Google+, there are so many options for connecting with others and collaboratively solving problems that it is really up to you how you use it. John Thomas summed up the benefits in his presentation by stating: “If my computer had not worked today, I would have just used somebody else’s”
In another set of sessions I looked at Google Sites. I had personally looked into Sites in the past, but really didn’t know where to start. The first session I went to was run by Chris Betcher and looked at how to create a Site from scratch, while the second session was by +Anthony Speranza and explored the potential of using Sites to create ePortfolios. The two things I came away with in regards to Sites was that it is actually easier to start from scratch rather than use the different templates, while it is also really important to have a clear purpose as to what you are trying to create and why.
Lastly, I went to few sessions exploring the implementation of Google Apps for Education. Although we have already gone through the various steps involved in setting it up, I was hoping to get a few ideas on how to improve things. Again, like Sites, I went to a mixture of sessions, one by +Mike Reading which went through the intricacies involved in setting everything up, posing some great questions to consider along the way. The second presentation was by +Corrie Barclay who gave a bit of an overview of the practical ways in which Google is used at his school.
So in summary, my three pluses were:
Connecting and collaborating. It is always great to learn with a whole bunch of new people.
New ideas. Whether it be improving search capabilities or using Google to build a site, there were so many new and exciting ideas to share back at school.
Meeting people for real. It may seem silly, but it is actually good to meet those people I connect with online in person.
My three minuses were:
Tool or Teaching? Although there was some effort to associate things with the way we learn, it always felt like the focus was on the tool rather than the teaching. (Edna Sackson has spoken about this in her blog post ‘I Want to Talk About Learning…’.)
Artificial Authenticity. There was often an attempt to provide authentic learning situations, however too often they seemed a little artificial and contrived. (I must make a massive exception Matt Limb who used a Google Form as a means for exploring different ways in which we can do research using Google.)
Finding a Seat. Yarra Valley Grammar School was a great venue, but the idea of simply turning up to the session that you wanted to go to led to some pretty cramped presentations.
My three goals:
Google Sites. Whether it be a portfolio or an assignment, I think that Google Sites has a lot of potential sharing to the world.
Improving Search Skills. I think that this is something that is both simply, but really powerful and has an impact on everyone.
Developing a Vision. For GAFE to go anywhere in the school, there needs to be a clearer set of goals as to what we wish to get out it. A part of this is spreading the load, getting more people on board.
I would love your thoughts and reflections in the comments below if you were also there or have introduced Google Apps for Education in your school.

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