Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The year that rocked and the people that made it possible

It is the end of an amazing school year where I have had some tremendous success and multiple things to be grateful for. As the year draws to a close and 2015 beckons, I thought I would write a reflective blog post about 2014 - my highlights, what I'm thankful for and the people that have inspired/impacted me. I'm extremely humbled and eternally grateful to everyone that have been part of these last few years.
(I started this before going on holiday, but only finishing it 4 weeks later).
In no particular order, here they are:

1 My family

My wife Jacqui (@JaxduT) has always encouraged ad challenged me, and a lot of my success I owe to her. My daughter Joscelyn turned 4 at the end of 2014, and I'm motivated to improve education for her future (the one that we have no idea what it will look like). They will always continue to be my most important motivation and inspiration.
2012 Family photos

2 TeachMeet at EduTECH
Early this year Matt Esterman (@mesterman) asked me on Twitter if I was interested in presenting at the TeachMeet sessions he was organising for EduTECH. At this point I had never even been to a TeachMeet, but my mantra this year was to try and say 'Yes' to as many new/different opportunities that I came across. What a wonderful opportunity and I loved being part of this event. This was the start of many new adventures that would follow in the second half of the year. Here is my blog post that I wrote about this event from earlier this year EduTECH and Teachmeet reflections 2014

CSA Queensland Conference 
At around the same time my schools Assistant Principal, Stuart Taylor (@sharelearning), left a note on my desk with the application form to present an hour long workshop at the CSA Conference in Brisbane. The note read "Go on, make my day and sign the form". Well I did, and in July I was presenting an hour long workshop on using Evernote in the classroom. It was another tremendous learning experience that helped me develop my own skills in presenting. 

4. Google Teacher Academy 2014 in Sydney
Being selected to be part of the 2014 GTA in Sydney to become a Google Certified teacher was unbelievable. Here is my blog post on the journey:What a journey: Google Teacher Academy 2014. It was such an amazing experience, and I'm excited for the journey ahead in 2015 to build to my 'Moonshot'. I made so many new connections and met many of my Twitter PLN face-to-face for the first time. I'm looking forward to building these connections over the coming year and being part of the Google Certified Teachers community. I even made it onto the local television news and newspapers.

5 The #tweetingAztecs Project
The #tweetingAztecs Project I did with my Ancient History class in October was so much fun, and the students loved it. Have a look at the blog post, it explains it. I was so grateful for the assistance of Simon McKenzie (@connectedtchr) in sharing his resources and what he had done. The project got noticed by Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) - click here, one of the most inspiring voices in education online & one of the first people I followed on Twitter, and I was contacted to appear on her radio show podcast next year. I'm looking forward to being part of her Every Classroom Matters Podcast to discuss #tweetingaztecs.

7 Student achievements
I teach seniors, and every year a new group finishes and graduates. One of the most exciting parts is looking at how they have improved from the previous. I sit down with them at the start of the year, we look at where they were and where they want to end up. Also seeing the skills and knowledge that the students have gained over the course of their time in my classroom, and then how they are applying it in other subjects or life areas.

8 School colleagues
I work with some amazing teachers, and many have been part of my journey over the past year. Whether it was as support, encouragement, challenging me, guiding me or just being a good friend. Stuart Taylor (@sharelearning), the man that started me on my Twitter journey; Robyn McCarthy (@moocargirl), passionate Middle School champion; Debbie White (@biowhitey), Biology, moderator, wearer of countless hats and straight shooter; Larry McKeown, passionate middle school teacher, good friend; Tonya Holder, another passionate middle school teacher; and many others that have been there along the way.

9 Twitter
The impact that Twitter and my PLN have had on me over the past few years has been immense. It has opened up my world to so much more in education that I could have imagined. There are countless number of people that I have interacted with and have helped me along the way. I'm extremely grateful to everyone that have been part of my PLN. Some do require special mention (I would highly recommend you follow them on Twitter), the individuals that I have interacted with often, collaborated, challenged ideas, supported and become online friends along the way:

10 Teachmeets
Getting involved in TeachMeets this year has been fantastic. From the EduTECH experience I launched TeachMeet Fraser Coast in my region with our first event in August - click here. At the end of the year I did another more informal TeachMeet and I'm looking forward to plenty more in 2015. It is such a brilliant way for educators to share and get together.

11 Tech Tools Tuesdays
I started a weekly morning session for staff at my school where I could share some ideas, and tools that they could use. Still in its infancy, I have several regulars and hopefully next year a lot more will join in. The blog for this is not quite up to date, Term 4 was incredibly busy. 

12 Peter Grobler
I also had the opportunity to catch up with one of my old high school teachers. He is truly an inspirational man, that had a big impact on my life. One of my inspirations to become a teacher. We all need time in our lives to acknowledge these wonderful people that impacted us. Peter is a humble, passionate man, loves God and I have the highest respect for him.

Looking at 2015
I'm very excited about lies ahead over the next 6 months. More on these as the year progresses. I have been selected alongside Matt Esterman and Simon McKenzie to co-present at EduTECH in June (extremly excited about this). I start my Masters with CSU - Knowledge Networks & Digital Innovation (also very excited about this and what I will be learning). I will also be organising TeachMeets & GEG (Google Education Group) events, plus getting involved with other schools in the region. I have also managed to secure Eric Sheninger to do a whole day workshop at my school before he keynotes at EduTECH. Plus so many other ideas that I want to try with my students and who knows what else...

There are so many people and experiences that shape our lives, and we need to remember to acknowledge this. I still have a lot to learn, a lot to grow and a lot to share. I'm looking forward to seeing how my teaching journey changes, develops and progresses in the future. I love what I do, and it so exciting to be involved in Education.

PS: I forgot to add in my week as @edutweetoz, and that was also a great highlight and interesting experience. Great format with so many different and new perspectives. Have a look at this great format -

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The #TweetingAztecs Project

Over the course of a week in November I embarked on a little project with my senior Ancient History class. We were doing a unit on civilisations of Meso-America, and focused on the Aztecs. A few months ago I heard Simon McKenzie (@connectedtchr) speak at the TeachMeet sessions at EduTECH about what he had done with his class with a study on Pompeii. I contacted him a few months ago and he graciously shared some of his resources and gave me some advice.

We had concluded a lot of theory work, covered the background about these 
civilisations and the Spanish arrival in the Americas. I introduced the project as a role-play where we would look at some of the people involved in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan.

Step 1: Explain the Project with an outline and instructions
I had a handout prepared with some instructions, with  a guide and questions to use to develop their characters. Below is an extract from it and a link to the document.

#TweetingAztecs Project 2014

Social Media is now taking a key role in breaking news worldwide. Significant events, including natural disasters, are often reported on Twitter or other platforms before they’“break’ on traditional news services. The premise of this project is simple; to give the Aztec people of Tenochtitlan an opportunity to report the events surrounding the Spanish conquest of their city via Twitter. A few students will be Spanish conquistadors marching on and into Tenochtitlan.

The live tweeting will be conducted across three lessons with each lesson corresponding to a date as indicated below.
Main Focus
Tweets Required
28/10 Period 2
(40 minutes)
A normal day in Tenochtitlan.
November 7,
1519 AD
30/10 Period 2
(40 minutes)
Around midday the Cortes arrives in Tenochtitlan
November 8,
1519 AD
31/10 Period 1-2
(80 minutes)
Spanish in Tenochtitlan and the Cortes seizing control
November 9-14, 
1519 AD

Here are the instructions given to students:

Step 2: Students assigned different characters

I had created a list of possible characters; ranging from priests, market vendors, officials, advisors, soldiers. Moctezuma II would be the teacher that directed the events and scheduled tweets over the course of the classes and the week. The students debated over who they wanted to be, and had to justify why they want to represent the individual.
(Here is a link to the blank copy of the characters that we started with:

The next step involved guiding the students through setting up a Twitter account for their character. Most of them had never used Twitter before, but they were all quite adept at setting it up quickly. They found an image to represent their character and wrote a brief description. Here is an example:

Step 3: The fun begins
We had a slow start, but the tweets started flowing and soon they were having conversations with each other. They had to do research as they went along to make sure what they were tweeting was historically accurate, and made sense. Most of them were immediately engaged, and they loved the interactions. There were a couple that struggled, mainly because of their personalities and they struggled with getting into it. By the end of the 4 days there had been a couple of hundred tweets, a lot of humorous hashtags created and a lot of learning that had taken place.

Here is a link to a sheet that contains some of their tweets and more info on their characters:

Step 4: Reflection
At the end I had them complete a survey on what they liked, what they had learned, what they did not enjoy, and what can we do to improve it the next time. I love getting this feedback from students to help me reflect on what I do and how I can improve the learning opportunities. 
Some of their comments on what they liked:
  • Having fun, and making the funny hashtags. But also bantering with the different characters, trying to be historically accurate.
  • The cunning hashtags and references to the history
  • Learning about the history of the Aztecs, especially from a first-person experience. 

The #TweetingAztecs was extremely fun and engaging. It was a great learning experience and enjoyable historical activity. Students love trying new experiences, and I'm very proud of the way they took part in this project.  I look forward to our next adventure in 2015.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Quick thoughts

I think every year we forget how busy the last school term is, it sneaks up on us and soon the school year draws to a close. My last blog post reflected on my Google Journey, and it has been 4 weeks since I wrote that. Over the past few weeks I have a had a number of ups and downs, some real struggles that came about very unexpectedly. And then some real highlights of my teaching journey. 

My Year 12s are finishing up, they have arrived at the end of their school journey and my Year 11s are now stepping up to their senior roles. Interesting changing dynamics and new relationships. A year ago I bid farewell to a great group of students, this year another good group and once again it is evident at the end that 'Relationships are the key'. This is part of what Matt Esterman wrote about in his latest post 'What's your story?'. We all have a different story, we all share different perspectives and together we all grow as individuals. Forming a strong bond with your students is so important in establishing trust and to help them achieve their goals. 

In the past two weeks their have been struggles both personal and professionally, with changes at school taking place and school directions, that at times do not make any sense at all with lack of transparency. On the other hand I have received tremendously good news (which I will share soon), new opportunities presenting themselves and success with my #TweetingAztecs project (coming in the next blog post). The life of a teacher is filled with great times, and times of unpredictability. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

What a journey: Google Teacher Academy 2014

I attended the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney during the recent school holidays, and what an incredible few days it was. It has taken a while to write this blog post with an assignment deadline the following weekend and then getting ready for the start of Term 4, but my mind has constantly returned to the GTA in Sydney. I was extremely excited to be selected to attend the GTA this year with 50 educators from all over Australia and New Zealand. It was a 2-day experience at the Google Offices in Darling Harbour under a completely re-envisioned GTA led by Tom Barrett and Hamish Curry from NoTosh & Google's Suan Yeo. It was 2 days of intensive sessions, with 'Design Thinking' the focus in guiding a group of teachers that will lead change.

Google Teacher Academy, Sydney 2014

Before the GTA started I had no idea what really to expect, I watched and read about previous GTA's and then, when it started to emerge that this was going to be completely different it really intrigued me. This GTA was not about tools, it was about pedagogy for change and building a strong network. The major focus was all about 'Moonshot Thinking' and creating your own big idea to take on. 

We had been divided into 8 different groups with a mentor assigned to each group. My group was Team 'Giant Leap' led by +Matt Ives from Wellington. Part of this brilliant group were +Julie Lindsay+Daniele Casolin+Maria Bousnakis+Kimberley Sutton+Therese Horley and myself. I fantastic group of educators that exchanged and challenged ideas, and supported each other. The whole process of Design Thinking was new to me, and an invaluable experience. Going through the different stages of the process was challenging and ultimately very rewarding. One of our main focus areas was working through a 'How Might We' task. This involved completing this prompt: How might WE ACTION for WHOM in order to CHANGE SOMETHING. This would provide a clear sense of purpose for our 'Moonshot'.

This was my statement after a bit of deliberation with a few people and some reflection:

The term 'Learners' refers to both Teachers and Students. I'm excited about the prospect that this statement presents. How to connect and build a network in Maryborough, the Fraser Coast, the state of Queensland, Australia and beyond. 

In the next few blog posts I will start pulling some of the ideas that have come from this process and how I plan on launching into it over the next few months. 

A lot of the events and Google Offices were covered in so many other blogs and here are some of the brilliant blog posts that explain a lot about the 2 days, and makes it unnecessary for me to rewrite it again:

#GTASyd14 - It's Google Teacher Academy, but NoTosh you know it by +Claire Amos 

Google Thinking, Lone Nuts and Moonshots by +Steve Mouldey 
Google Mission Control [#GTASYD14] / Destination Moonshot! by +Justine Driver 

#GTASYD 2014 - Feet on the Ground, Head in the Clouds by +Aaron Davis 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Teachmeet Fraser Coast: The 1st TeachMeet Fraser

Teachmeet Fraser Coast: The 1st TeachMeet Fraser: On Tuesday 26 August the very first TeachMeet for the Fraser Coast region took place. My first experience of TeachMeets was during EduTech 2...

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Twitter momentum & 'The Question'

My journey with my Twitter PLN has really gained momentum over the past 12 months. Since attending EduTech in 2013 I have become more involved and interested in using Twitter for educational purposes and professional development. I joined Twitter in 2012 after my AP Stuart Taylor (@Sharelearning) discussed it at a staff meeting. It was a slow start, with some heavy use and weeks of no use to start with. I noticed it took me close 18 months to get to a 1000 Tweets and about 150 followers. In the past 12 months I have tweeted about 2500 times and gained a further 450 followers. The growth is carrying on exponentially. There are a number of reasons and individuals that have brought this about.

Last year I delved into my first Twitter chat, #histedchat every second Wednesday. It was such a fantastic experience being able to connect, share and discus with other history teachers from many different places. I made contact with so many new teachers online, and this gave me a real encouragement to get even more involved. This first chat saw me connect with individuals that I still connect with very regularly, Matt Esterman, Simon McKenzie, Ilja van Weringh, Jan Molloy, Catherine Hart and many more. It spurred me on to host my first ever chat, I moderated the #histedchat session 'Teaching History in the 21st Century' and it was a great learning experience. 

Along came 2014, and my Twitter journey has really taken off over the last six months. Matt Esterman approached me to present at the TeachMeet during EduTECH 2014, and I'm so grateful for that opportunity. It was a first for me with regards to speaking publicly, and I loved doing it. A few weeks later I was presenting an hour long workshop at the Christian Schools Australia Queensland Conference in Brisbane. Another first, and a very rewarding comments from participants. The momentum is just gaining steam, I have applied for the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney, created a 1-minute video for it. Holding thumbs I get in, but if not, I will keep on applying and perfecting my use of Google Apps in Education. I then presented in Bec Spink's Evernote in Education Hangout on 7 August. Another great experience and learning opportunity. I'm looking  forward to using hangouts with my students in the coming weeks. Now my next big event is TeachMeet Fraser (#tmfraser) which I'm organising to try and get teachers in my region together to start connecting, sharing and exploring digital possibilities in teaching. I'm grateful to Matt Esterman & Steve Box for their help and guidance getting this started. I love the concept of TeachMeet and the potential of different educators getting together to share.

Through sharing and connecting I have gained many new followers, but also found countless educators for my PLN that contribute to my own development. I have joined into various other chats whenever I had the opportunities, like #edchat and #aussieED. All of which open the doors for greater connections between educators all over. Twitter surely is the best professional development tool, global staffroom, group of experts, network, friends, and so much more combined. 

The question however is, why are there still so many that are not using it?

Friday, 8 August 2014

Independent life-long learners in a restrictive system.

I have hit a bit of a conundrum (quite like this word) in my senior classes. In my History classes I have my students do 2 research assignments each year. In both Year 11 and 12, Ancient and Modern History. I try and keep the topics nice and broad to give students I diverse range of topics to select from. In my Business classes I do something similar to encourage creativity in marketing with the choices they could make and how they can present it. All these subjects lend themselves to allow students to be creative and to tap into their own interest. 

Now I have two problems. Firstly the Queensland system. The senior system follow Verification and Monitoring procedures, where a panel of teachers get together for a region and review student work. They look for evidence matching the criteria in the students work to make sure an A, B, C, etc is consistent across the state. Last year I had students produce a range of multimodal and written tasks that were brilliant, and of the highest quality. But, I got criticised by certain panellists that they struggled to find high A-standard evidence in these types of assessments because they have never attempted doing it themselves or seen it done like this . Some students wrote music lyrics and score for an Ancient History unit on Judaism, there was a board game for the Egyptian afterlife, video documentaries, websites for conference presentations, historical fiction, graphic novels. These I find fascinating and the students love the choices that allow them to express history research in different formats. 

Secondly, there are students that struggle with the freedom and being asked to be independent. They want you to tell them the answers, tell them what to do, give them the topic. They have been conditioned into believing that they cannot do it themselves or come up with their own suitable ideas. I don't know how they have gotten to this point and it is an uphill battle to change this thinking. 

Quite often our education system is very rigid with not a lot of scope for creativity in senior classes, and the focus is always on ticking boxes. The students often do not really invest themselves in the learning process, all they are after are the grades. I'm trying to change this, as there is so much scope and fascinating areas in History and even in Business (mainly marketing and not-for profit ventures). I'm hoping my passion for the subjects, my drive to see them excel no matter what methods they use to present their tasks; and that their own interests are grown and developed. I don't want 20 students doing exactly the same writing, presentation, topics or responses. I want them to be individual, creative, critical, independent and have their own intrinsic motivation for learning. That is the challenge, to develop these independent life-long learners in a restrictive system.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Evernote @ CSA Conference 2014

Towards the end of last year the Assistant Principal nominated me to present at the Christian Schools Australia Conference in July this year. I was excited and nervous at the same time about the prospect of speaking to a group of educators in an hour long workshop at a big Conference. My topic would be 'Blended Learning: Using Evernote as a LMS to raise the academic bar'.

I had many ideas and resources collected over the years that I could select from, and I had just done a completely paperless class experiment in year 10. I followed this up by getting rid of all my paper folders and scanning everything into the cloud. I use Google Drive as my storage space, but my documents are backed up in other places too. Now I am trying to get rid of more paper as I move through this year.

I constructed a detailed presentation that expanded a lot on my EduTECH Teachmeet talk from June, as this one had to be 60 minutes rather than 7 minutes. I used some fantastic resources that can be found on Australian Evernote Education Ambassador Bec Spink's Website -
Also various resources from page and my own examples created from my classes. I covered the basics of Evernote, what I have done and what are the possibilities for teachers in using Evernote in schools and in their personal lives. The workshop went very well, and there were a number of 'wow' moments from the attendees. That was a sure indication of success in conveying the message. Many of the attendees stayed around afterwards, asking questions, getting further advice and I have had some make contact with me already asking further guidance.

I have estimated over the past 2 years I have introduced Evernote to about 100 students and teachers at my school and now at other schools. I love sharing my passion for Evernote, its possibilities and its usefulness.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

EduTECH and Teachmeet reflections 2014

EduTECH 2014 lived up to my expectations and exceeded some from the 2013 event. So much more going on this year, and different speakers. Some familiar faces, speakers and topics that have dominated some of my twitter feed over the past 12 months. My highlights from the Conference included the Teachmeet sessions, Dan Haesler, Ewan Mcintosh, Ian Jukes and Sir Ken Robinson. The common theme in all the talks related to the fact that we need to change education, need to change the way schools are run and policies are made. We need to serve the needs of our students better by preparing and offering them the best opportunities to grow.

Ewan McIntosh focused on Agile Leadership, and a key point i took away from that is to focus on one thing at a time, there will be struggle, but at the end do it well. This resonates with how I used Evernote from the start, I have obsessed and focused on using it well, integrating it into all aspects of my life. I still struggle at times, but it is becoming more and more natural in all my teaching. 

Dan Haesler on students engagement also fits in well with my thoughts that should empower our students to change the world. He said that every single child has the power to change someone's world, and that is what we need to remember. The concept of relationships being key to engagement is also part of my own teaching philosophy, and an area that I hope to keep on improving. He had a great slide that showed this:

Ian Jukes concluded the event with his keynote, which was very powerful and energetic. His topic of 'Education being in a Disruptive Innovation Age' was very interesting, challenging and the perfect way to conclude the event. His message needs to make it though to the policymakers in education, we need a new mindset in education for the future.

It is 2 days of intense non-stop conversations and presentations that inspire and challenge education in Australia. Finally meeting some of the people that I have connected with online was a highlight for me. The Teachmeet event that was organised by Matt Esterman was a wonderful privilege to be part of. I shared this stage with so many amazing and inspiring teachers. My topic was on Evernote and how I have used in my classroom this year. Here is a link to the presentation (click on image): 

I'm hooked on the Teachmeet concept and look forward to starting my own Teachmeet up in the Fraser Coast region this term. It is a fantastic experience to be part of and one of the best forms of professional development for educators. Look at the site for more information. Here is a list of the presenters from EduTECH sessions.

TeachMeet SessionTimingsPRESENTATIONS
Day 1 - Session 1
Hosts: Matt E
1:30pm-2:15pm1. Ewan McIntosh - teacher ;-)
2. Rob O'Brien
3. Michelle Jensen
4. Simon Crook
Day 1 - Session 2
Hosts: Steve B
3:15pm-4:00pm1. Cathie Howe
2. Steve Brophy
3. Richard Prowse
4. Jacques Du Toit
Day 2 - Session 1
Hosts: Simon C
10:40am-11:25am1. Jill Andrew
2. Jessica Leonard
3. Nadia Merchant
4. Rachel Kathriner
Day 2 - Session 2
Hosts: Simon M & David G
2:25pm-3:10pm1. Simon McKenzie
2. Annalise De Mel
3. Nicola Martin
4. David Gall
Now I look forward to the second half of the year, to continue connecting, learning, sharing and applying some of the new ideas.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

A start in reflection

At the start of June I had the privilege of attending EduTECH in Brisbane, visiting a number of Brisbane independent schools and present at the Teachmeet event during EduTECh. I travelled down from Maryborough early on the Monday morning with two other educators to visit four schools during the day. It was a quick stop in with these schools that were very accommodating in giving us their time and helping us gather new ideas. We had visits to Grace Lutheran College, Northside Christian College, Somerville House and St Aidans Anglican College. All these schools have different areas where they are extremely successful in and it was a wonderful opportunity to hear from these educators about their practices with their senior cohort to raise the academic bar.

That evening we joined a number of former students that are studying at universities around Brisbane for a meal. Great to see them, and hear about how their studies were going. This brought memories of two of my previous posts;  Relationships are the key and The end of 2013 chapter. One of my driving forces in education is the role of having strong positive relationships with your students. The development of mutual respect, understanding and trust form a recipe for success.

The 2-day EduTECH conference was again a wonderful opportunity to listen, learn, connect and interact. I will have a separate blog post on some of my key take-aways from EduTECH later this week. I was also fortunate enough to have presented at the Teachmeet event during EduTECH, organised by Matt Esterman (have a look at his blog - My Mind's Museum). I will also have a blog post coming on this soon.

There was so much going on after driving back from EduTECH late that Wednesday night. Over the next 4 weeks there were assessments to grade, reports to write, meetings, athletics carnival, plus multiple other admin to get done. Now i will attempt to gather some thoughts of the past term, with particular focus on EduTECH and Teachmeet events.

Looking forward to sharing these soon.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Lets get back into it

At the start of Term 2 here in Australia I had the intention of blogging more regularly, and now I find myself at the end of Term 2 and no blogging done. It has been a busy 10 weeks, and only now do I find a bit of time to do some blog writing and reflection. Over the course of Term 2 I have had ANZAC day, Masters unit that had an assessment due in May, multiple assessments to mark, EduTECH in Brisbane, Teachmeet presentation, reports, and multiple other commitments. So now I would like to use these two weeks of winter holidays to write and plan ahead for the next semester. 

So I hope that anyone reading this will find some interest, and that I can have the opportunity to share and connect with more educators.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Complex composition

Education seems to be at a crossroad with many educators embracing our connected world and 21st century skills, but you have many that are still arguing for the 20th century model of teaching methods. I have been involved in education for only a number of years, and I have come across both sides already. I'm from a conservative South African background, and my schooling background was rooted in the old school methods. I did well under these conditions, and excelled at memorising facts for exams. It could well be imagined that I would prescribe to these methods, but i realised many years ago that it is not conducive to lifelong learning and development.

As I became involved in teaching, my mind was opened to the many different possibilities of learning styles and teaching methods. When I was introduced to Twitter just over two years ago it suddenly opened up even more information and connections. Slowly I delved into this medium of discovering information, with plenty of reading involved. Then I started sharing, getting involved in chats and discussions. I have interacted with educators from the US, Canada, New Zealand, UK, France, Hong Kong, China and many in my own country, Australia. In 2013 I started blogging, using other online platforms to connect and share, and building a varied personal learning network.

The 21st century teacher has the opportunity to connect, share and collaborate with educators from all over the world. We all have the chance to develop our teaching practice, share our expertise, contribute to the changing dynamic of education, and above all serve our student better. Technology and being connected are only two parts of the complex composition of a 21st century teacher. At the heart of it all is still quality pedagogy and relationships, and a multitude of other components. I absolutely love the teaching profession, the challenges, the opportunities, the chance to see young people develop, helping them on their learning journey, and at the same time I'm continually learning. As I continue to develop I will always remember where I came from in my own education background, and look forward to serving my students to the best of my abilities.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Busy times

I started the year looking at getting back into blogging more regularly, but the last two few months have been a bit of a mad scramble. Every year no matter how well prepared you are, how ready you are, organised; inevitably that first term hits you like a freight train. Once again the first term of the year was filled with new challenges and new obstacles.

This year I'm teaching 4 different senior classes of Year 11 and 12 students, many of these students I have known for years now and it is great to have them in my classes. Some students had left the region, changed schools, new school building opening and we had new staff join over the summer holidays. I love the subjects that I get to teach, especially my two History subjects and teaching online students again. Unfortunately my Modern history class numbers have dropped a lot, down to only 7 students this year. Hoping that the numbers increase next year, as this is the subject I'm most passionate about. My Ancient history class however is a composite Year 11 and 12 class, with over 20 students. Business subjects have remained quite constant.

I also jumped into doing my Masters this year. I'm studying online through the University of New England, doing a Master of History course. It's going to be a six year journey, doing 16 subjects part-time. I'm excited about studying, learning and developing my knowledge. After just the first 6 weeks I have already found new ideas and skills that I can apply to my students in class.

I'm also fairly active on Twitter with my PLN, do online readings and constantly trying new tech tools to use in classes. I love interacting with other teachers online in many diverse settings. Many discussions, articles, comments reinforce and challenge my own thoughts on teaching. I have drawn more from these interactions than from any other formats of professional development.

Life is busy, besides school and studies, I have a very active 3yr old and love spending time with my family. It is important to have a life balance, and it is an area that most connected teachers constantly battle with. As I enter Term 2, a term that has new challenges ahead. I have my next uni assignment, have a pre-service teacher with me for 5 weeks, attending the EduTech conference and taking part in a TeachMeet there for the first time. There are dozens of other things taking place, and I know the next 10 weeks are going to be extremely busy and challenging at times.

I hope to blog more in between all of what is happening, interact more, learn more, and develop more as an educator. There will always be room for more improvement and development.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Parent apathy needs to end

One of the constant struggles over the past 3 years has been to get parents involved in their children's learning journey. At the parent-teacher evening we had a few weeks ago I had 5 out of 35 Year 11 & 12 parents see me. I do understand there are certain circumstances that prevent people from making it to this evening, but such a low turnout is extremely disappointing. It is my belief that as a parent i would like to know what is going on in my childs education, speak to the teachers, and know that the money I'm investing at these school will benefit my child. Then there is also making that communication channels, and support networks, open between everyone.

Students and teachers can have a strong relationship, but it is incomplete without the strong supportive relationship at home. The students that are incredibly apathetic towards school, taking part or setting goals; they are the students whom I have never even seen a parent around or met them. Positive role models, supportive networks and good communication are essential elements in helping teenagers be successful at school.

My hope is that every possible parent can come into school, see and meet their child's teachers. Share the support and learning journey that these kids so desperately require.

Where have I been?

All good intentions with blogging quickly disappeared as the the school year started at the end of January. Within the first few days I was dealing with various students issues and numerous challenges that would confront me in the first month. I have had a number of topics that I have wanted to write about, discus and criticize. Sometimes, however, you need to bite your tongue and rather not say anything. There are so many things to actually praise and be thankful for, and this is where the focus should be.

My intention was to blog weekly, but I realise with the way my life is currently that, that will not happen. Besides teaching, spending hours each night doing preparation, there is my own family to spend time with and now I have started studying. Blog post will more than likely be very inconsistent, but i hope that when I do get  chance I manage to share something that someone might find valuable.

Monday, 27 January 2014

2014 Begins

Tomorrow is the 1st day of the official teaching year at school. I have had a week at school already, filled with meetings upon meetings. I'm excited and prepared for this year of teaching Year 11 & 12's, and helping the next group of students on their learning journey. It felt like I closed a chapter last year with the group of students that finished, and this feels like a brand new adventure that lies ahead.

On a personal note, there is so much on this year, and I cannot wait to get into it all;

  • Becoming an Australian citizen
  • 3rd year on District Modern History Panel
  • 2nd year in charge of the Humanities Department
  • Starting my Masters in History in February -  looking forward to this
  • Year 11 camp on Fraser Island
  • Attending EDUTECH conference with Sir Ken Robinson as Keynote speaker in June
  • Presenting at the 2014 CSA Christian Schools Conference in July 2014. My Workshop Title is: Blended Learning using Evernote as a Learning Management System to engage students and raise the bar academically. Going to be a big challenge and learning experience.
This is just over the next 6 months in between teaching everyday lessons, living life with with my beautiful wife and active 3 yr old girl. Exciting times ahead, busy times, but opportunities to continue growing and developing to be a better teacher for my students.

Looking forward to sharing some new experiences with everyone in 2014.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Holiday bliss

The great benefit of being a teacher in Australia is enjoying a 6 week summer holiday over December and getting to share it with my family. We had a great break, spent mostly at home relaxing, enjoying our 3yr old growing up, having birthday parties, swimming and lots of family time. It is my favourite time of the year, and I'm really thankful for the opportunity teaching allows us to have extended breaks with family. Our one big trip this holiday was a trip to Tasmania for a week, which was quite an experience for our little girl on a plane for the first time and we also saw another part of this magnificent country.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The end of 2013 chapter

It has been more than 2 months since my last Blog post, and I have struggled to get writing again. My last post was at the start of November, right before the final weeks with my senior students. My last blog post on Relationships being the keyclick here, became quite apparent over these last two weeks with my graduating students. The two weeks that followed that last post involved saying goodbye to my senior classes and a group of students that I had formed a close bond with. It was a wonderful and emotional last few weeks with them. I held a Barbeque at my house with my senior students, lots of fun, mostly enjoyed by my 3yr old being entertained by them.

During the last weeks many of them were also honoured at the annual Awards ceremony, recognising their academic achievements and contributions made to the school and community. I always enjoy seeing them on the night being recognised and honoured.

I was also very humbled to speak about a number of them at their senior Valedictory on their last day. The final day at school involves their final school assembly, a special Valedictory service and then that night their final year culminated in their Formal (Prom), where everyone was dressed up and had terrific evening.

This brought to an end of this chapter of their school lives and journey with me. Now onto the future and their next chapter. And now I look towards my next year of teaching and the next group of students to take on their learning journey.