Category Archives: Technology in Education

Great Podcasts for Education

Early this year my car radio decided to quit and I haven’t had chance to fix it yet. Given I work an hour away from home, this could make for some very long and boring commutes to and from school. Luckily there are a whole range of interesting and informative podcasts that I’ve managed to track down, and I thought I’d start to compile a list of suitable educational ones here on this blog.

Are there any educational podcasts that you love? I’d like to keep expanding on this list so please let me know!


Expressing Evaluation through Nominalisation – a Powtoon

I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus this month – but for good reason! I am frantically getting work completed early in preparation for a 17 day study trip to Italy with fourteen of our wonderful Year 10 and 11 students. Anticipation is building, and there are just a few more assignments, exams, reports and administrative jobs to complete.

One of the tasks I set myself this weekend was the completion of an assignment for a course I am participating in through Catholic Education South Australia. This course explores the DECD Language and Literacy Levels for EAL learners at the secondary level, focusing on noun groups and nominalisations, passive voice and sentence structure, foregrounding and evaluative language. Since I wil be absent for the final module on evaluation, the presenter suggested the creation of a multimodal presentation. Below is the finished product, created on the fabulous ICT tool Powtoon.

The work is based on Beverly Derewianka’s A New Grammar Companion for Teachers, and Working Grammar by Sally Humphrey, Kristina Love and Louise Droga.

Blogging and your online profile

Question: If you were to do a Google search on your own name, what would appear on the results page?

I ask this for a reason, not simply because I want people to satisfy their inner narcissists. Through the rapid increase in social media, people’s lives have become more and more public. As a result of this, it has become increasingly common over the past decade for potential employers to “google” the names of applicants to their organisation. Decisions can be made about that applicant and their suitability for the company based on what the search engine digs up about them.

Scary, right?

Maybe. But maybe it also presents an opportunity for individuals to take control of their online reputations in a powerful way. As educators, we spend so much time teaching students about their own digital footprints and online reputations, but is everybody also walking the talk?

Our digital profiles can paint a picture of us as individuals and as professionals in one of three ways:

1. Over-sharers of personal information who should review the privacy settings of our personal (insert name of relevant social networking site here) page.

2. Technology-savvy professionals who use social media, blogging and other tools effectively to network, collaborate, share ideas, and create.

3. Or…non-existent (at least according to cyberspace).

Personally, in a professional world so driven by local and global connections, I know which I would prefer….

Today I presented two short workshops to staff at our school about the place of blogging in education. I started by explaining how I began my ed-tech journey, which has been discussed in a previous post on this blog, and then launched into the question: WHY BLOG?

In researching this presentation, I came across many reasons that people blog professionally and academically:

– facilitate reflection on learning (for students and teachers)
– record professional development
– promote collaboration
-connect with others locally and globally
– writing practice for students
– share ideas and resources
– authentic audience
– share class news
– a digital display of learning

I have posted the link to the Prezi for my whole presentation below, but there are a couple of points I wanted to focus on in particular here.

The Australian Curriculum is now upon us and has been for some time for English, Maths, History and Science. In my opinion, it seems to call for greater metacognition and reflection on learning than we have seen formalised in curriculum documents prior to now. It also recognises through the General Capabilities and the Cross-curricular Priorities the increasingly connected world our students (and our teachers!) exist in. The public but moderated realm of the educational blog means that students can connect with an  authentic audience, engage in discussion and productive critique, share ideas and connect with others locally and globally – all the while continually learning, unlearning and relearning in an authentic manner as the AC proposes they need to be able to do. Of course, the achievement standards will be met in different ways in different subject areas, so it is open for collaboration and negotiation between teachers and students to set the parameters and expectations. These blogs are also the beginning of a personal profile that students can present to future employers as evidence of a vast range of skills needed for the workforce of today and the future.

In regards to educators, blogging is a fantastic way to engage with and reflect on professional learning, connecting with others from outside of one’s usual group of colleagues. These reflections and new knowledge can then be shared through professional networks on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked In. Also, with the AITSL National Professional Standards for Teachers now in many educators’ minds, it is a great time to recognise where educational blogging helps teachers to meet these standards. Not only is a blog a great record of professional learning required for re-registration, but it specifically ticks the boxes a number of the standards. Take the highly accomplished teacher standards for example. A professional blog goes a long way to achieving the requirements for the following:

2.6 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – Model high-level teaching knowledge and skills and work with colleagues to use current ICT to improve their teaching practice and make content relevant and meaningful.

4.5 Use ICT safely, responsibly and ethically – Model and support colleagues to develop strategies to promote the safe, responsible and ethical use of ICT in learning and teaching.

6.2 Engage in professional learning and improve practice – Plan for professional learning by accessing and critiquing relevant research, engage in high quality targeted opportunities to improve practice and offer quality placements for pre-service teachers where applicable.

6.3 Engage with colleagues and improve practice – Initiate and engage in professional discussion with colleagues in a range of forums to evaluate practice directed at improving professional knowledge and practice, and the educational outcomes of students.

So, I want to finish with the question: the next time someone “Googles” your name, what will they find? And what do you want them to see? Over-shares of your private life, the internet’s equivalent of white noise, or a connected professional who engages in life-long learning and development with colleagues from across the country and world?

Full Prezi:

Creative Catastrophe – reflections on a digital unit for Year 8

Over the past few weeks a colleague and I have been working on a collaborative project with our Year 8 English classes that involved teaching persuasive language through a topic on copyright, plagiarism and Creative Commons.

We perceived a need among our students to develop their understanding of what it actually means to create their own original piece of work, and what the limitations are on their use of other people’s ideas and works for their own purposes. The idea for the unit lent itself brilliantly to teaching about digital citizenship and what their rights and responsibilities are as both consumers and creators of content in both the digital and the physical world.

After hearing Selena Woodward speak at the South Australian English Teachers Association conference in May of this year, we were excited and inspired to begin the project. And so were our students when we explained it to them – it’s main selling point for  them being that they got to create a video at the end.

I have made videos with classes before. I should have known how exhausting it would be. I was so excited about the concept that I forgot.

We started by posing the following question to the students in the form of a video stimulus: “What can we do to draw upon other people’s work but avoid plagiarism?” We then went through a process of building persuasive language skills and understanding of copyright laws and Creative Commons. Students used this learning to work in groups and create a persuasive video response to the original problem that had been posed to them.

Some of the challenges of this somewhat-inquiry based project included the anxiety of relinquishing some control to the students in terms of where they went with their suggested solutions to the problem and how their product developed. Yet this was also an opportunity in that the onus was on them to work together effectively and solve problems, hence helping to build the resilience I am aiming for with my class. There was also the challenge of getting students out of their comfort zones. Many of them have used Windows Movie Maker before, but they were reluctant to try new programs such as Powtoon or other animation based software. And then there was the degree of trust in the students required to do the right thing as they moved around the school to film.

There were many opportunities though, which outweighed the challenges. It was great to see students who wouldn’t normally work together so enthusiastic about their shared ideas and work. Unlike the last time I had students create videos, this task was far more structured in terms of a step-by-step process and the language structures students were required to use. The accessibility of students’ smartphones and tablets also made  the facilitation of the filming and editing much easier as they simply had to plug in and go, rather than sharing the school’s limited video cameras among many groups.

Click here to see the students’ reflections on the project and some of the final products. To be honest, they were a little more amateurish than I had envisioned. But when I think about it, they are Year 8s, and the concepts they are talking about are actually quite complex. So I’m very proud. We may need to work on some editing skills though…

Creative Commons License
Creative Catastrophe – reflections on a digital unit for Year 8 by Melissa Phillips is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at 8 Faulkner’s Class Blog.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

A well-being resolution for the new term

I’ve been pretty quiet on here for the past few weeks, and I’d like to think there’s a pretty good reason for it. Usually the two week break provides me with a lot of time for catching up on my blog, burying myself in study or school work and coming up with new ideas for my classroom. I usually spend a lot of time on my computer during this period.

But these holidays have been a bit different. I started to realise, that my devices – as much as I love them – had become almost an extension of my physical self. I was constantly clicking, tapping, typing and swiping. And it was exhausting.

So it was clear that it was time to take some action with a self-imposed social experiment. I banned myself from my technology. Not entirely (baby steps…Rome wasn’t built in a day, people!) but with significant limitations. I have opened my laptop on four occasions only – to do my tax, to work with a colleague for a day on English and EAL planning and programming, for my final day of my Grad Cert, and to write this blog post. I also switched off my ipad and put it away for three entire days (this is a big deal for me).

When  I say I didn’t disconnect entirely, I did maintain my social media interactions, but only on my phone. And let’s face it, who can read off of that size of screen for too long.

By switching off from work and the constant updates of friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances in Adelaide, interstate and overseas, I actually found myself with a lot more time on my hands to do things like this:

photo (8)

and this…

photo (9)

Some more of this…


which, if I’m honest, probably looked more like this…


I also got a far better quality of what I find I lack most during the term…


So, as we enter the new term, I have set myself a resolution. I am going to disconnect more often. My ipad and laptop will be switched off from 9pm on weeknights. I will not respond to emails post 9pm. I figure if I am working past that time on a regular basis, I am probably not working effectively and therefore doing myself and my students a disservice. Of course, there may be the very RARE occasion where I have to work late – that happens in all jobs sometimes – but I will make more time to prioritise myself and my friends and family.

Why I love iTeacherBook

There’s been a bit of a hiatus since my last post. This generally means that things have been crazy at work with final assessments, exams, marking, reporting and change of semester. Now that this whirlwind of a week is nearly over, I finally have a bit of time to myself and I wanted to share the latest app that I’ve discovered.

At the beginning of the year I posted about a list of apps that were assisting in the various facets of my teaching. Teacher Kit was one of them. I was raving about it. But now, to be honest, I’ve moved past it. Why? Because I started to find it wasn’t as flexible in its functions as I wanted. And because I’ve discovered iTeacherBook. This app is built on a similar principle to Teacher Kit, but it’s like its more mature, sophisticated older sibling.

Some features I particularly like about iTeacherBook include:

– ability to construct flexible weekly (1)

– reminders about classes.

– take attendance and record student grades with the ability to export to other programs.

– record lesson plans and review plans for previous and future lessons.

photo (2)

– send assignments to students directly from the app.

– sync all data between phone and ipad apps so you can access it anywhere any time.

iTeacherBook finally does everything I ever hoped Teacher Kit would develop. It is literally your brick-like teacher planner in a professional, easy-to-use electronic form. Highly recommended for anyone who likes the ideas behind Teacher Kit but wants greater functionality.

My Edtech Journey So Far…

Today I took a moment in between creating online modules for my classes, and I realised that my teaching is different now from what it was this time last year. I’m not talking about slightly different – I mean completely different. And this is largely due to technology.

So I started to think about the metaphorical journey I have travelled so far with educational technology. It really began when our school introduced laptops for Year 9s up at the beginning of last year. I was really excited about having this technology but wasn’t really sure about where to begin with implementing it effectively in the classroom. This produced a huge challenge with a class of Year 9s who wanted to use their laptops (mainly for playing the numerous games they had quickly uploaded on to them) and a teacher who had a vision for what she wanted in the classroom, but wasn’t sure how to go about achieving it.

Then in October of 2012, I was fortunate enough to attend a full day workshop with George Couros,  The Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning for the Parkland School Division in Alberta, Canada. Here I was introduced to the use of Google Chrome, Twitter and Blogging for education. Inspired by George’s workshop, I set up my Twitter account and started to build my Professional Learning Network (PLN), connecting with other teachers and institutions at local, interstate and international levels. This has allowed me to participate in engaging professional discussion, pose questions, and draw on others for ideas about how to improve my practise. (As an aside- I highly recommend following @gcouros, @TeacherTechnol and @EduTweetOz – among many, many others – if you are looking at setting up your own PLN on Twitter) I also set up this blog to reflect on my personal learning, both in and out of the classroom.

Yet, once I’d learnt to navigate the world of Twitter and blogging, I needed more. In my opinion, it is not enough to connect with others if there is no tangible change in my classroom. So I spent some time over the summer holidays exploring the use of the online learning management system Edmodo and planning a class blog for my Year 8 pastoral care group. This is their space where they can reflect on their learning and share it with their parents, and other students and teachers. It took some time to digitalise my resources, create new, more meaningful resources and get the students and their parents accustomed to Edmodo, but once the inevitable teething problems were resolved, it went from strength to strength.

My next aim was for my students to use the digital technologies available to them to connect at a deeper level with their learning and to create their own online content, rather than simply being consumers of online content. The current generation is often described as ‘digital natives’, but I’m not sure that that description is entirely accurate. Our students have grown up with technology as a way life – but more often than not it is used to consume, rather than reimagine, reinvent and create. I believe it is the higher order thinking behind synthesis and creativity that defines the digital native.

Our school is now 1:1 laptop across the entire College, so this year my Year 8s have technology at their fingertips – and many of them only knew how to word process, create a Powerpoint presentation and search the internet. So we started small, using online tools such as Padlet to share ideas and brainstorms. A colleague and I then built on this by running simultaneous Year 8 Religion lessons where the students had to work in groups and then share their learning with their peers in both classes via a Padlet wall.

Collaborating via Padlet

Our next step will be to involve the students in an inquiry-based project that will require them not only to engage with the digital content created by others, but to work in groups to analyse, reflect, synthesise and create their own content using the knowledge they themselves construct and the opinions they develop.

I have said it before, but my iPad has also been crucial to transforming the way I teach and my students learn. For example, the app Explain Everything has allowed me to create videos that explain and demonstrate concepts and pose questions to the students which I can then post on to the YouTube channel and playlists that I have created for them. I have recently extended this to setting up the subject specific blogs English Excel and Italian Like a Boss, as well as the creation of apps for Apple and Android devices that are linked to the blogs – (on the right in the photo below) and (on the left of the photo). The apps are designed to give students and teachers access to a range of online learning opportunities. Users can link to the blogs, to video tutorials, and to news and podcasts, among other resources. The Italian Like A Boss app will provide a useful platform for our Year 10 and 11 students to communicate their experience with their peers, parents and teachers back at the school through the app and the blog, as well as connecting with others to enhance their learning in a meaningful way. Their learning is more mobile, accessible and relevant to their everyday lives than ever before and will hopefully continue to become even more so!

My apps

So this is my journey with educational technology so far. It is by no means complete and certainly not without its challenges. But it has transformed me into a very different teacher from the one I was at the beginning of October last year. There are certainly lots of things I have had to take into consideration, and one thing I firmly believe is that technology is the tool to facilitate and enhance  the learning and not the end point. If students are simply learning about the technology then it is not being used effectively. Of course, there will inevitably be some of this, but it shouldn’t be the central focus. The central focus should be the knowledge that students construct through the use of this tool – and not simply for research (i.e. “googling”) or basic word processing! Students should be creating things with the technology that they could not do with pen and paper.

For those who feel like the integration of technology into the classroom is an enormous mountain to climb – it may well be. But if you start small and take it one step at a time, just like we ask students to do, then eventually that one thing you have learnt becomes second nature and you can build on it. You’ll be amazed how quickly it can transform your teaching.

I’ll leave you with this clip that I first saw at George Couros’s workshop. It certainly demonstrates how I – and I am sure others – felt at the beginning of this journey.

iPad mirroring on a budget

I’ve been a little quiet on here lately. To be honest, things have been flat out with planning, teaching, marking, parent-teacher interviews, professional development, study and finding time to have a bit of a life in there somewhere.

But I wanted to take a moment to plug an app I came across last night. I’m planning on investing in an Apple TV in order to mirror my iPad wirelessly onto the projectors at school and display a huge range of cool audiovisual content. However until then, I’ve been on the hunt for some way of mirroring on a budget. So imagine my excitement when I found this handy little app.

Air Whiteboard is selling on iTunes for just a couple of dollars. It allows you to project the documents on your iPad onto other iPads or computers by streaming to a web browser. Simply connect the devices to the same local area network, type the web address provided on your iPad into Chrome or Safari, and away you go (theoretically). You can use it as a blank canvas to write or draw on, or mark up documents uploaded from Google Drive or Drop Box.

Whilst lagging a little, the app worked beautifully when connected to my home internet streaming to my laptop, and reasonably well on the school’s internet streaming to my Year 11s’ laptops. But they are an exceptionally small class, and it didn’t function quite so well when attempting to stream to the classroom projector or with a larger class. These are issues I will continue to investigate and post about later if a solution reveals itself. However, for the cost of the app, it does most of what I would have hoped for while I wait patiently for my new techno toy in the form of Apple TV. That’s when the fun will really start!

Technology is changing the way adults learn too!

Over the past few months I have been doing some serious reflection on how the ways in which students learn and the strategies I use to teach have been changed and shaped by increasing access to technology. But something that hadn’t crossed my mind until very recently (although now it seems blatantly obvious) is that technology is also significantly changing the ways that adults learn!

I am an advocate for continued and life-long learning. I have always enjoyed learning and I know that I do my best work with my students at school when I am also actively engaged in some form of study that is relevant to my job.

It was whilst sitting in a Professional Development course recently that I caught my mind wandering. Chastising myself, I drew my attention back to the presenter. But I just. Couldn’t. Keep. It. There.

This particular course was packed with information that I believe is crucial for all educators to be aware of. The presenter was lovely and generous with her explanations and advice. But it was the delivery – which consisted of an out-of-date powerpoint and three hours of talking, with a couple of activities or videos filmed in the 1990s thrown in every now and then – that I struggled with.

Now, as an adult learner I do not expect a course presenter to entertain me with an interpretive dance reflecting the content that they need to get across. I understand that there are some topics that will interest me less than others. But as I sat in this course, which was packed with information that I would usually be engrossed in, I did start to question how I could be so incredibly engaged in some courses that run for a whole day, but struggle to keep my mind focused on others for just a couple of hours.

That’s when I realised that the courses that I engage with the most as an adult learner are those that allow me to explore concepts, question them, play around with them, discuss them with colleagues, apply them in authentic contexts, and come to my own conclusions (or if not conclusions, questions that I would like to explore further on my own). Could it just be a coincidence that these are also the learning opportunities that I notice my students engage with and learn the most from? I think not.These are the courses that truly inspire me and improve my teaching practice.

Reading straight from a powerpoint doesn’t cut it for me as a learner anymore. Providing opportunities to connect with other people and information both in the room and in the outside community does. Let me engage with the course both in person (I still believe that the importance of face-to-face interaction is not to be devalued) and online. Let me tweet, blog, search for information, ask you and my colleagues questions about things I haven’t fully understood. But please, do not just tell me what is on the powerpoint. I can read that myself.

Everyone learns differently, but let’s face it, it’s not only our students who are increasingly connected with each other and with information via technology. Adults are too. And it is changing the way we do things and process information. It is crucial that educational training providers recognise this and change their practices accordingly because the effect of technology on the learning of all generations is probably only going to increase.

Tech Comic

3 apps that are changing the way I teach…and one honourable mention

This post is a follow up to one from a couple of weeks ago – 8 apps that are on my iPad for 2013.

Out of the eight apps that I summarised, there are three that are currently changing the way I teach.


Edmodo – this online learning platform allows teachers and students to connect with each other in private class groups. Notes, links, assignments and general administration can be posted and made immediately accessible. Parents can also access what their child (and only their child) is doing at school. As we become a 1:1 laptop school, Edmodo is quickly becoming a major form of communication between teachers, students and parents aside from email. It is a fantastic tool for the times a teacher wants to use the ‘Flipped Classroom’ strategy as video tutorials and tasks can be accessed by the students at home. I have used this technique with my Year 11s over the past couple of weeks – creating video tutorials for them on Educreations, posting them on Edmodo, and getting them to view them, take notes and jot down any questions for homework, ready to bring to class the following lesson for a group discussion. This has worked particularly well with a small senior class who can follow and note-take more independently. The students have given me positive feedback, and I have enjoyed the ease of making resources from home, and being able to check on Edmodo to see if they have, in fact, viewed the set task/video (the app lets you know when each individual student has done so!)


Educreations – I love, love, LOVE this app. It has allowed me to create video tutorials on my iPad, then upload them directly to Edmodo for students to access. So far I have prepared tutorials in advance and posted them, but I can see the potential for creating the video as I present to the class…I just need to get my hands on the hardware to connect my iPad to the projector – then away we go! Click here for a short example I created – a short explanation of the continuum of Italian verb tenses. Again, feedback from students has been extremely positive and we have had a lot more time in class for students to ask their individual questions and receive assistance with tasks, rather than spending valuable time listening to lectures. It also allows for ease of differentiation – students who understand concepts quickly may only need to watch the video once, others have the option of watching repeatedly and then spending more time getting individualised assistance from the teacher.

Good Notes

Finally, Good Notes – a PDF reader and document marker that has been excellent for cutting down on paper. I have created individual folders for each of my classes and for meetings. Within those folders I am able to create individual notebooks – for my Year 9 Italian class I have created notebooks for each student, and as they send me digital copies of their work (these can be in most common digital document forms including Word), I can add it to their personal notebook, mark it up, then send it back in PDF form either as a single page or a full notebook. So simple to keep digital copies of all of their work, with your feedback. Below is an example of a basic revision document my students accessed via Edmodo, worked on on their computers, emailed to me and have now received feedback for much quicker than if we were working off of paper.


The strategic use of these apps have meant that I am more engaged in my work, and with the changes in my delivery student engagement and attitude also seems to be improving. Although I acknowledge it is still early days!

teacher kit

Finally, an honourable mention to Teacher Kit. This app, whilst not changing my teaching as such, provides a great database for information about my classes, individual students and their progress and attendance, as well as parent contact details. Basically, what I would have handwritten in my brick of a teacher’s diary previously has been condensed into electronic form on my iPad and can be backed up to a PC. Makes life just that little easier!



I will post more updates as I continue to engage with, learn about and use these resources in my classrooms.

%d bloggers like this: