Tag Archives: technology

Enough about the generation gap – we’re all human!

Last night I was scrolling through my news feed when I came across the article “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy“. Of course, being a Gen Y “yuppie” (or Young Urban Professional) myself, my first response went something along the lines of “Here we go. What are they going to insult us with now? What stereotype are they going to cast upon all people born between the ’70s and early ’90s?”

To some extent I may have proved the article correct, just in my response. In other ways I’d like to think it proved me correct (oh the irony!).

Basically, the article presents the hypothetical Gen Y-er, ‘Lucy’. Lucy is a Gen Y Yuppie, or – as the writer likes to label her – a GYPSY (Gen Y Protagonist and Special Yuppie), who is supposed to represent a culture of young people. And she is unhappy because her world is just not meeting her expectations.

Lucy’s parents are of the Baby Boomer Generation, and were taught by their parents – who survived the World Wars and economic depression – to focus on establishing secure careers because they wanted their children to have a better life than they did. Of course, Lucy’s parents made those careers, worked hard, and in an environment of economic prosperity met with more success than they had hoped for. The writer then goes on to explain how in turn the Baby Boomers, full of optimism and prosperity, brought their children up to believe that there were no limits to the possibilities in life. This has led to a more ambitious generation of youth than ever before; one that not only wants a secure career, but a fulfilling one!

I have no qualms with the arguments to this point.

Until the writer claims that Gen Y-ers are delusional, self-centred, taunted by the image shaping of social media, and have a false sense of superiority.

Uh… excuse me?

This may be true for some individuals. But to throw all Gen-Y yuppies in that same category? That smacks of someone from an older generation groaning “Back in my day…”

I know many, many Gen Y-ers who work extremely hard to be in the job they are in. I know many who are happy and fulfilled by their work, others who are not but still work hard because that’s “what you do” until you can find something more fulfilling. They are creative and genuinely want to do well. For those who criticise this generation for their aversion to failure, I ask: “Does ANYONE enjoy failure?” That doesn’t mean we don’t learn valuable lessons from it. The majority of Gen Y-ers I know are also humble. If they do have a false sense of superiority – or any sense of superiority for that matter – they rarely make it publicly known!

I agree somewhat with the writer on the issue of social media, although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we are ‘taunted’ by it. Yes, we see other people’s ‘wonderful’ lives playing out in front of us. Yes, social media is about image shaping. But once again I believe the way that is understood comes down to the individual and societal attitudes, rather than being a generational characteristic.

Yet this is also where I hold the biggest concern for my students. The young people I teach now are either on the cusp of being in Generation Z, or are fully-fledged Gen Z-ers. Unlike my peers and I born pre-1990s, these students have never known a world without internet. The idea of picking up the home phone is null and void with instant connection at their fingertips in the form of smartphones, tablets and laptops. They are constantly staring at a screen. At recess and lunchtime, it is not uncommon to see a group of friends sitting in silence, staring at phone screens. What are they doing? Texting each other?

There also seems to be an argument that they have it easy, with all of this technology. I believe it is the exact opposite. It is tough being a late Gen-Yer/Gen Z-er. They are bombarded by information and communication. They have access to each other 24/7, which in itself can be a blessing and a curse. The media is at their fingertips, beeping, flashing and buzzing at them constantly. It is difficult for them to switch off. At a recent guest speaker presentation, our Year 8s and 9s were told that Australian teenagers have an average attention span of 8 seconds. That’s less than Dory in Finding Nemo. Personally I don’t believe it’s that low, but it’s certainly not long.

As an interesting aside, I make my Year 8 English class, who are learners in a 1:1 laptop school, hand-write drafts. At first, they complained as if the world was ending. Now that they’re used to it, no complaints, and it seems that not staring at a screen almost seems to be a relief for them!

But this is the hyper-connected, media-driven world they live in. They are not the only ones glued to their screens – I know many Gen-X, Gen-Y and Baby Boomers, who find it difficult to disconnect – myself included. And if the world had been this way when I was a teenager, I probably would have shown the same characteristics as current teenagers.

Social, economic, cultural, political and technological developments have seen to it that the generations have had very different life experiences. However, we are all human beings and follow a similar developmental pattern, regardless of when we were born. We are shaped by the society we live in, and society does change therefore we experience different pressures and concerns. It is something I’ve realised with my students. Every now and then I catch myself thinking “We weren’t like ‘that’.” Yet the reality is we probably were as teenagers. However, now I am looking at things through a different lens and cannot make a fair comparison about what my generation was like. I’ve grown up, and they are growing up. How I perceive them is probably how my teachers perceived me. Not much has changed in the relationship between the generations!



Image from: http://www.thinkei.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Gen-Y.jpg


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 https://melissasphillips.wordpress.com/about/.

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.

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 – http://myapp.is/EnglishExcel (on the right in the photo below) and http://myapp.is/ItalianLikeABoss (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

8 apps that are on my iPad for 2013

As the beginning of the 2013 school year nears (I go back to work this week), I’ve taken some time to set up my iPad ready for the return to the classroom. Our school will be a 1:1 laptop school this year and I want to be ready from Day One. There are a number of great apps that I have come across on various blogs, websites or through chats with colleagues during the break that I will be  using to organise the administration, planning and implementation of my teaching. I have included a brief description of each, and provided links to the iTunes site for further details.

teacher kit

Teacher Kit: Go paperless with your gradebook. A personal organiser for teachers that allows you to add numerous classes and collate information about individual students including photos, parent contact details, grades, attendance and behaviour.




Educreations: An interactive whiteboard on for your iPad. Easy to use app that allows you to record a video tutorial while you tap, draw, type and speak. Then upload it to the Educreations website as a private or public file, or share with students or colleagues via email.



Explain Everything: Similar to Educreations. Create your own video tutorials for students via simple to use screencasting. A range of options for saving and sharing.



Good Notes

 Good Notes: Draw, write, type up notes, or mark-up PDF files. Saves the files in notebooks that can be shared as entire notebooks or as individual pages. Free version is limited to two notebooks, paid version allows you unlimited files.



Meeting Box

Meeting Box: An easy way to store minutes from meetings. Make audio recordings of discussions and type or write notes, then file them as you desire. Notes can be shared with others via email.



timetable pad

Timetable Pad: Set up and customise your timetable, including short notes for each lesson. Not designed for timetables that are continually changing, but great for school or uni. (I intend to use this one to give me an overview of my lesson plans for the week, all on one easily accessible screen.)




Socrative: A handy and easy to use instant-polling/student response app. Can be accessed from any device with a web browser.





Lesson Planner: An app designed by Selena Woodward , a South Australian teacher, blogger and Education Technology Consultant at Flinders University, Provides creative ideas for lessons that are based on the Four Part Accelerated Learning Cycle (Connect-Activate-Demonstrate-Consolidate).

Technology and the role of the teacher

I just got an iPad. Hooray! You, dear readers, are reading my first blog post created on a tablet device. I am sure it’s not as much of a highlight for you as it is for me!

And of course that means that my classroom will be instantly revolutionized, right?

I jest.

I have heard people make the flippant comment that technology is making the job of the teacher null and void. Personally I believe that’s an irresponsible statement to make. Technology is programmed. As much as we are labeling products as ‘smart’ they still can not replace the power and wonder of the human mind that created and programmed them.

Likewise, a computer cannot replace a a teacher’s human face. What it can do -and should do – is enhance the experience of education and learning for all stakeholders, and change the way a teacher does things. It is a pedagogical tool, not a replacement for an educator.

As teachers we are called to help students learn new skills that allow them to learn, create, question and connect through technology. If we are allowing a device or a search engine to do our job for us then we are doing our students a disservice. Nor should computers or tablets be used to simply do things that could be done with paper and pen. It is about how we engage our learners with technology in order for them to learn things they could not necessarily do without it.

And let’s not forget how creative kids can be with a bit of paper, pencils, cardboard, and craft materials. Tactile learning away from the screen is important as well. I was pleasantly surprised this week to watch how enthusiastic my Year 8 Italian classes were about creating presepi, traditional Italian nativity scenes. See some of their creations below.

So, let’s embrace the use of technology as a pedagogical tool, use it to change and enhance the work that we do, but maintain the face-to-face connection and hands-on activity that human beings have an innate need for.


The Flipped Classroom – the future of my teaching and my students’ learning

As one year draws to a close, I am already beginning to contemplate what my classroom will look like and how it will run next year. I have mentioned before that our school is completing its transition to being a 1:1 laptop school next year. This will change things tremendously for us as teachers of students who have a wealth of information at their fingertips. One of our roles will be to educate them about digital citizenship and how to most effectively use these resources.

The move will also affect how we present content. I want my students to use their laptops to their best possible advantage – connecting with and learning from their peers both locally and globally. I do not want them simply using their computers to do the same things they could do with a paper and pencil. What a waste of the powerful technology being made available to us.

A solution to this is the idea of the ‘Flipped Classroom’, where students learn concepts and content at home through notes and video tutorials, and do activities that are traditionally set for homework in class with the opportunity for greater face-to-face time with their teacher. I have already started to create video tutorials that I will be able to use next year (Screencast-o-matic is great for capturing your screen activity and recording your voice as you explain concepts and content. It is also free!). This is an exciting step for me as I consider the opportunities it presents, both for me as a teacher and for my students as learners. It really does allow for a whole new level of differentiation within a class!

I recently came across a fantastic infographic that explains the flipped classroom, and is giving me a lot of food for thought as I consider the future of teaching and learning in (and outside) of my classroom. Hopefully it can be of use to you too!

Flipped Classroom

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

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