2009 – The Year That Was

2009 was a huge year of personal learning outside of my classroom and I’d like to recognise that the opportunities that arose over the past 12 months were a direct result of the work I had been doing in my classroom in 2006, 2007 and 2008 (so thanks to all of those talented and amazing students who taught me so well and allowed me to work along-side them).

2009 presented the chance to share what I had been up to with others far removed from my little classroom in a suburb of Sydney. So here’s how it went:

January – saw me travelling throughout the UK on my Premier’s English Scholarship, making and meeting friends and seeing first hand Games Based Learning in classrooms. I was very excited to attend my first Teachmeet (on my birthday) at BETT09, and amazed to catch up f2f with many of my PLN.


February – March: I had the opportunity to present at a number of conferences and Professional Learning workshops at a local, region and state level, sharing how I used web2.0 technologies in my classroom.



April – May: Back with the DET I was involved with the Blog trial and took part in f2f meetings with like-minded educators from around the state to assist in the department developing a blog platform for all DET students and teachers. Began writing a Narrative Unit for the Curriculum Directorate based on a digital game for use with Stage 2 students.

June – July: Travelled to Washington, USA for NECC09 where I took part in many fantastic workshops, tutorials, discussions and events. Met up with some in my US PLN and joined in my first “Web2.0 Smackdown”! Moved on to Barcelona where I nervously presented at my first international conference, and then learnt a great deal at an imagination conference in Vancouver. Whew! A really busy month or so :-}


August – September: Back at school and trialling a wiiMusic project with my class – fun, interesting and many more possibilities to be explored here! Presented again at Sydney University for eLit (Primary English Teachers Association).

October: Headed back to the US to present at a Visual Literacy Conference in Chicago where I showcased the visual literacy aspects and opportunities of web2.0 tools and applications. Had the chance to visit Yellowstone Park whilst travelling – unbelievable :-0


November: Visited Canberra and Parliament House to receive my National Teaching Award for Excellence by a Teacher. An exciting and really proud moment of my career and year!


December: Found out that my joint proposal for a workshop at ISTE 2010 (in Denver Colorado in June 2010) was accepted so can look forward to further travels mid year 2010 already.


So that’s it – a busy year out of my classroom where I have grown as a learner, presenter and person. I’ve been able to see a bigger picture and refine my thinking in many areas, but have been affirmed in many of my deep beliefs about learning, children, and authenticity.

Thanks to the countless people who have shared so much of themselves with me this year – f2f, on twitter, through blogs and conferences. I love learning with such a diverse and supportive group of dedicated professionals.

With 2010 upon us lets take a breath, think peaceful thoughts and then get on with another great year of learning and sharing. We WILL make a difference!

Mouse Woman Rocks!

I was introduced to Mouse Woman today, a cute and cheeky character found in stories from the Haida, one of the First Nations bands of the North West coast of Canada.

Mouse Woman is a shape changer, a narnauk, who lives and travels between the human and spirit worlds, helping and guiding young people in need by offering suggestions, options and alternatives.

Mouse Woman, or Grandmother, likes life to be balanced and works with humans and nature to equalise good and bad, right and wrong, and deal with the humans or spirits who had upset the order of the world.

As payment for her help, Mouse Woman loves wool, which her ravelly little fingers like to tear into a lovely, loose, nesty pile of wool.

The stories, written by Christie Harris, are refreshing, fun, mischievous, scary and thought provoking. I ‘m sure that I will be using the stories with my class. They will be great for discussing and exploring positive values, symbols and actions, and even ideas of natural balance, ecology and rights and responsibilities.

The stories also give a wonderful insight into traditional Haida life and beliefs – the descriptions of the forests, coasts and oceans are beautiful and poignant. The social structures and way of life in the Time Before are also shown and explained.

I’m so glad that I’ve met and fallen under the spell of Mouse Woman – and I hope she will join me back in my classroom to share her adventures with children on the other side of the world.








Today’s keynote was presented by Eleanor Duckworth who, according to the conference website: 

“…. is a former student and translator of Jean Piaget, Dr. Duckworth grounds her work in Piaget and Inhelder’s insights into the nature and development of understanding and in their research method, which she has developed as a teaching/research approach, Critical Exploration in the Classroom. She seeks to bring a Freirean approach to any classroom, valuing the learners’ experience and insights. Her interest is in the experiences of teaching and learning of people of all ages, both in and out of schools. Duckworth is a former elementary school teacher and has worked in curriculum development, teacher education, and program evaluation in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and her native Canada. She is a coordinator for Cambridge United for Justice with Peace, and is a performing modern dancer. “


The ideas that resonated with me are:

  •       “work at it, work at it” – you can’t make certain things happen (like thought, imagination, different ways of thinking) so you need to “go where they will find you”
  •       we must put learners into contact with the physical world
  •       students take their own learning seriously when there is someone there to talk to, listen to
  •       “critical exploration” within the classroom = long term in depth study/exploration by students over time
  •       accept all ideas from the students – it’s the teachers role to then take these ideas further and deeper – and the ideas can become more playful
  •       explore
  •       wonder
  •       question
  •       play ……… and surprising things will happen!
  •       encourage students to find the mysteries in the something ordinary
  •       a study of “something” – pose a question – explore, notice, share, question
  •       all ideas are open/equal/possible = truth is in the subject matter






I am currently in Vancouver, BC, attending the 7th International Conference on Imagination and Education where I have been introduced to the work of Dr Kieran Egan and the Imaginative Education Research Group (IERG).

” Imaginative Education is an approach to education that effectively engages students’ emotions, imaginations and intellects in learning.

The Imaginative Education Research Group has developed theories, principles and practices designed to explain, describe and implement this approach.

Imaginative Education offers a new understanding of how knowledge grows in the mind, and how our imaginations work and change during our lives. The IERG has developed innovative teaching methods based on these insights that offer new ways of planning and teaching….”


The 2 day, pre-conference workshop, showed alternative ways of thinking about education and the different kinds of understandings that come into play as children grow and develop and make sense of their world.

Examples of classroom applications demonstrated what the approach look liked in action, and planning frameworks were shared and explained.

We then spent some time trying out the approach by playing a number of thinking games/activities and beginning to plan lessons using the  frameworks to encourage creative and imaginative ways to explore traditional topics and content.

There were lots of opportunities to share ideas and questions about IE and this was really important so that our early thoughts could be clarified as we contemplated incorporating this approach into our teaching toolkit.

Check out the IERG website for more info, research, examples, resources and lesson/unit ideas.




Tesol Seminar


Thank you to a wonderful group of ESL (English as a Second Language) educators who I worked with today. Your interest, questions and positive outlook as you worked towards understanding blogs and how they can be used to enhance learning in classrooms was appreciated and motivating. There was so much I hoped to share with you – many different tools and applications that all have outstanding possibilities for use by you and your students in your classrooms.


Technology as a tool – as a process

Liam mentioned that in deciding on using various technology applications in a classroom, decisions must be made about the quality and the effectiveness of the tool.

As educators, it is our job to decide which tool or application will add the value to a learning activity. Using technology with classes is not a competition to use as many applications as possible, or to use an application just so you can say that you are using it.

We have to keep the learning outcomes in mind, and if a technological tool can add to a students’ understanding, or help them create understandings then there is a place for it in our classrooms.

Starting out

The web can be an overwhelming place for “newbies” (or newcomers). But if you start slowly and spend some RFF time looking at what others are doing, you will be able to quickly gather an idea of the huge amount of wonderful things that other teachers are doing in their classrooms and with their students.

Checking out the blogrolls on blogs is a great way to open up the “blogosphere” and expand your horizons. Each class links out to other classes at the same school, at schools in other parts of the country, and often across the globe.

You will find links to educational sites that you can use, museums to “visit”, on-line news, resources that can be shared, on-line conferences to listen to, and even professional development opportunities through videos and discussions.

Don’t forget to read the comments after each post to see what others are thinking. You might feel comfortable commenting and adding your thoughts to discussions.

Even if you can’t see yourself setting up a blog just yet, I am sure that you will find the time spent “lurking” on blogs will add to your classroom repertoire of teaching/learning activities and strategies.




I promised to come back to Ning, didn’t I?!?

A Ning is a social networking application where a group of people who share a common interest in a topic can set up a group on the internet. If you want to be part of that group you can join the Ning and you will be given a home page and access to all sorts of discussions, forums and opportunities to share ideas or ask for help.

Each person in the Ning has their own home page and you contact people through their page. You can leave messages, share photos, watch videos and participate in shared activities or meetings. How much you participate is up to you.

The two large badges on the right of this post are both Ning groups that I belong to. Click on either and have a look. Make sure you find you way to the Main Page to see what is happening within the group.



Another way to get started is by becoming part of an online project. The beauty of many projects is that someone else is doing the organising and will be able to answer your questions and concerns. You will find that there are people with differing degrees of expertise participating, and that you will be supported and encouraged along the way.

If you find for some reason that the support is not there – you can unengage and move on to something different and better suited to you and your class.

The Department (in NSW) runs Book Raps for all stages over the year, and these raps are beginning to use blogs and wikis to share student work and discussions. A great way to get involved!

Check out the “TESOL SEMINAR PAGE” at the top of this blog for links to other project places.


I will post further information that might add to some of the discussions we had today in another post soon. If you need greater elaboration on anything, please leave a comment here (just click on comments, fill in the required boxes, and hit submit) and I will endeavour to help you out where I can.


Thanks for an exciting morning,


Image: ‘Bill Gates
Image: ‘Steve Jobs