Awesome list of web tools


I was working with some colleagues today and was about to show them how to create a blog. As soon as they got together, like most teachers do, they went into sharing mode. Someone had a fantastic video version of The Snowman (see below) and explained how senior school students love it. Another colleague was telling others about Louis Theroux documentaries, which would be great for senior Media Studies. We all have great ideas (see the Amazing To Others video on my Bits & Pieces post) that are worth sharing, and I hope that with our blogs my colleagues and we will become more interconnected with sharing our resources and ideas.


My resource for this week is a list of web tools compiled by Karen Bonanno. It’s a fantastic list of Web 2.0 tools with the title, a brief description, and a link. to make it even better they’re sorted into the phases of inquiry based learning. I’ll be referring to it a lot.


I don’t really have a story this week, but a link George Couros tweeted about that I took a look at made me think. It was called five things that really smart people do and while most of what was in there was simple and obvious once I’d read it, I found it a good ‘kick up my bum’ to become a better listener. I certainly fall victim to number 5 -judging the messenger rather than the message. I’ll leave you with an awesome music video parody a colleague showed me about being mid 30s (has some great digs at blogging in it).


Bits & Pieces

Being new to regularly blogging and to having an e-portfolio, I found I have had trouble deciding what to write about. I like the focused topic approach, such as Colin McKenzie’s reflection on the paralysis of choice that affects teachers’ adoption of new technologies, but sometimes I don’t have enough to say about a topic. I remember the first time I presented at a SAETA conference. After agreeing to present a workshop I was so scared I would be ‘lecturing’ to professional colleagues and teaching them what they already know that I made my title sounds as boring as I could to reduce the number of attendees at my workshop. I called it: “Bits and pieces – some things that have worked.” I thought that sounded terrible against the highly academic titles of the other workshops and I would be ‘safe’. I had the most people in my workshop of any in the conference! I learnt that day that that’s teachers want other teachers to openly share their work, and that we are all bower birds – picture for effect. : )

All teachers are bower birds!

So, back to my approach to blogging. I think I will take the bits and pieces approach. Explore an idea, share a resource, tell a story, etc. The validity of the approach was reinforced when I watched Derek Sivers’ video below: Obvious to you. Amazing to others. This will be my resource to share for this blog.

For my idea, I am a brand new tweeter. (So brand new I’m not 100% sure that’s the right term.) I always swore I would never be on twitter, and my attitude was outlined perfectly in an article in The Age titled Teachers unlock tweet smell of success(gotta love news headline puns), “A common misconception is that Twitter aggregates only banal snippets – what my pet dog just ate.” I have discovered, thanks to George Couros, it is a fantastic professional networking tool. As stated by Corrie Barclay (@corrieb), e-learning co-ordinator at Manor Lakes College in Wyndham Vale, in The Age article, “One of the best professional development things teachers can do is to get on to Twitter, share ideas and follow certain people. Following people who are leaders in their field and having access to their resources and thoughts.” Simon McKenzie also refers to the difference being in the twitterverse can make for educators in his blog.

My story is an amazing lesson on the impact of grammar. I love to teach misperceptions, mistakes, etc due to punctuation, grammar and spelling. There are the classics:

  • Eats, shoots, and leaves. (Gun version. Yes, I’m a comma traditionalist.) Eats shoots and leaves. (Panda version)
  • Woman, without her man, is nothing. (Pro male version.) Woman. Without her, man is nothing. (Pro female version.)
  • Let’s eat, grandma. (Dinner version.) Let’s eat grandma. (Cannabilism version.)
  • A personal favourite: Grammar – the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit.

My grammar story today comes from one of my voyeuristically favourite shows Air Crash Investigations (as it’s known in Australia – known as Mayday in other countries), season 11 episode 8 Blind Spot. While there was a series of mistakes that led to the crash of PSA Flight 182, as explained on the show the final chance to avoid the crash came down to grammar. The captain said to Lindbergh Tower, ” I think he’s passed off to our right.” which comes across clearly in the black box recording. What you can hear in the Tower recording due to static is, “I think he’s passing off to our right.” Because the air traffic controller heard present tense, he thought the pilot still had the Cessna in his sights and didn’t say anything. 144 dead because the Captain didn’t make it explicitly clear to the tower they’d lost sight of the Cessna. That’s now my favourite story to make students take lessons on the finder points of literacy seriously.
I hope I have encouraged you to share your work because it is amazing to others, take a second look at twitter if you haven’t previously, and that I haven’t put you off flying!

Are Web 2.0 Tools Worth The Time

Between doing a Masters degree, facing the prospect of teaching full time again next year with two Year 12 English classes (I’ve been 0.8 recently), and the general crazy busyness of life, I have been wondering how I will cope in 2013 (Term 4 will be ok – LSL here I come!). Watching the video below didn’t help. A modern reimagining of Nora from A Doll’s House, it perfectly captured how I’ve felt many mornings and afternoons this year (though I should add my husband is much more involved!) and I was left feeling overwhelmed. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, most women lead quiet lives of desperation.

Embed code wouldn’t work. Found it on YouTube but embed code was disabled. Here is the link to the video.

So, feeling like that, I wondered how I could possibly devote time to my new tools, blogs and twitter, and my old tools, facebook and wikispaces? My answer to myself was, ‘Because they are absolutely spend time to save time tools!’ In the past week:

  • I began my preparation for the Year 12 English Communications course. Instead of spending time finding files, printing them, photocopying them, and dealing with inevitable photocopier issues, I simply went to my 12 English Wiki, did some clean up, tweaked / changed / added / deleted files as necessary because I spend the time setting up a wiki this year.
  • One of the files I added to the Wiki was a Google Form (the getting to know you link on this page), which I thought of because of the PD I went to with George Couros. So instead of printing, photocopying, getting kids to fill it out, collecting, and manually collating, I will direct them to the link, they will fill it out, and it’s will be automatically collated for me.
  • The reason I even knew about the PD was because my coordinator and I are members of the South Australian English Teachers Association facebook group.
  • I want to show my Stage 1 Media students the Stage 2 products so they have a clear idea about the expectations for next year, so I simply when to Colin McKenzie’s blog that I follow, picked the wiki and the page I needed, and have all the products at my fingertips at the bottom of his wiki page.

Now these are all tiny things and not particularly impressive, but they all add up to much more efficient management of time. When Colin and I run some PD on blogs with staff at our school I know their primary concern will be whether it’s worth their time. I hope to impress on them the fantastic collaboration that can be done via blogs that will inspire them, develop their professional learning, give them resources, and, ultimately, save them time.

Let me end this post by sharing two resources that were shared with me. The first I used with my Year 10s last week to help them examine the effect of author, context, purpose, target audience, form, and linguistic and structural techniques. The second connects with the Masters in Teacher Librarianship I’m studying. Both were shared with me by Jonathan Scobie. If you know him, you will not be surprised to find both have Buffy The Vampire Slayer connections! : )

Resource 1

Resource 2

Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Research as a Public Good

A Day With George Couros

A Professional Development Day: George Couros – 29th October, 2012 @ Flinders University.
George Couros is a Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning with Parkland School Division, Alberta, Canada.

I just had a fantastic professional development day with George Couros at my old haunt, Flinders University. I always love PD because I get to talk with adults all day,  have civilised lunches in the sunshine, and get inspired to improve my teaching practice.

George Couros was amazing. Not just because he’s tall, dark, and handsome, but because he practices what he preaches and shares his knowledge and resources unconditionally. Eg almost everything he showed us can be accessed through:

Keynote: Creating Learning Opportunities through connected, transparent school environments

“The illiterate of the 21st century will … be … those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alwin Toffler

The question George posed, “What would our school look like if we could start from scratch?” intrigued me, and he linked to an answer he had later to someone’s question about school resistant to change where he answered that staff need to be directed to focus primarily on what is best for students. If we could put all the politics, budgeting, established traditions aside and focused solely on what is best for students what would be the same? What would change? How could we achieve that change?

George mentioned something I am guilty of: “[Teachers] filter then publish, kids publish then filter. We tend to not want to share until things are perfect. We need to change this mindset.” I know that one of the reasons I have not previously had a blog is because I ‘don’t have time’, and I’ve thought that way because I would spend forever proofreading, formatting, and worrying about whether I sound ‘academic’ enough. How many times have I told students to stop worrying and just write?! Time to take my own advice.

George also advised that with new classes a primary focus at first should be to find out what skills the students already have. I’ve had some amazing Media Studies students this year who are YouTube partners and seems to spend every second of their spare time learning animation skills, which further drives home that to educate effectively I need to find out those strengths that students often hide behind shyness and fear of sounding ‘up themselves’. George also included teachers in this, that it’s just as important I discover my own strengths and use them to take risks in learning.

George addressed the resistance of opening up students to twitter, YouTube, etc. Against this resistance he made two particularly powerful points: A) “You can’t just put your kids online end expect amazing things to happen, they have to do great work. But amazing things can’t happen if they’re not in that space.” B) If we don’t educate kids on Web 2.0 tools and teach them to navigate them we are doing them a disservice. We cannot take the ‘we’ve blocked them therefore it’s not our responsibility’ attitude.

Workshop 1: Becoming a Learning Leader (in any role)

“The smartest person in the room is the room.”

George advised that, rather than focusing on barriers to implementation of new ideas and practices, as a leader decide what is worth doing and then work out how to make it happen. He assured us that the time investment is in the beginning. For example establishing a substantial twitter following to then be able to say, “Hey does anyone have x?”

After School Workshop: Blogs as an e-Portfolio

You’re looking at the result of this workshop now. It’s aligned with the AISTL Teacher Standards, an e-Portfolio of my learning and achievements, the beginning of a professional network, improves my digital footprint, a resource bank, a place to consolidate my thoughts, and so much more.

A inspiring day that I hope makes a huge difference to my practice and my students.

Attended with Col.

Couros, G. (2012, October). A Professional Development Day: George Couros. Flinders University.

The Journey Begins

This year in my educational journey has been both encouraging and humbling. Encouraging because my work in my Teacher Librarianship course and the George Couros workshops I attended indicate I’m headed in a direction that will ultimately be of great benefit to student learning. Humbling because with each step forward I take I discover how many strategies, tools, approaches, learnings I don’t know. All I can do is take the advice George Couros presented about two questions that can change your life:

  1. “Work out your sentence.” Find one sentence that encapsulates the core of what you aim to achieve. At present my sentence is: I aim to make students critically engage with texts to become powerful operators within the English language.
  2. “Ask yourself every day: Was I better today than yesterday?”

He also said, “Don’t stress over it. It should be something you enjoy, not lose sleep over.” Here I go!

Couros, G. (2012, October). A Professional Development Day: George Couros. Flinders University.