Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.

This ancient Chinese proverb expresses how I feel my learning has been progressing the past 6 months, not stagnant, but moving forward slowly and as the end of the year approaches, and the first anniversary of this blog also approaches, I can say I am not standing still, but may need to walk a bit faster.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 4.30.05 PM

This Webpage is Not Available – a very common occurrence behind the GFW.

This is my first blog I write since August where I have not needed to turn on my trusty VPN as I am in Singapore on holiday – it is liberating. Living and working behind the Great Firewall has been an adventure, but the internet restrictions of the GFW have stolen half the tools within my 21st Century Teacher Toolbox…

-Google Docs and Apps for Education
-Edublogs (Unless we subscribe as a school for over $1000)

…all unreachable within my classroom environment. Blogging platforms and Google  gone from a modern classroom seems unthinkable and I have spent the past half year rethinking and reworking my philosophy to ed tech as it relates to my present situation.

Stolen from

The Classroom

All of the restrictions aside there is still much that I can do as a professional for my own learning and there are still ways that I can create a connected classroom…

-I am creating a class Wiki.  Wikis are not my preferred  tool with a year 2 class, but it will suffice in the absence of a blog. Additionally, it will allow me to embed YouKu videos (China’s version of YouTube) and gives us a platform to share work as well as host relevant clips for flipped learning at home. With many of my parents not being native English speakers it may also break down the barriers between school and home.

-Skype: I can access skype through my personal VPN, so connecting with other classes through Skype is achievable.

-Email: Letters never seem to arrive, but connecting to other classes through email is a definite.

The Teacher

Now for me as a learner and a connected teacher I just need to keep looking at the glass being half full. I am researching into some online study, but reconnecting with my PLN is a must, as through the GFW and timezone differences I have been inactive on Twitter and Google+ and not dedicated the time to blog reading and hashtag following that I normally would. Edcamp Home is a mere 14 days away and I can not think of a better way to inspire a new year and prepare a teacher for the second term.

I have discovered that learning to code is like a Soduku  or Crossword and is giving me a better understanding of how a computer and the internet works. I am halfway through a html course on Code Academy and trying to create Apps for my Android phone with MIT AppInventor (You have to give it a go if you have an Android, and get your class to give it a go too!).

I got my class involved with Decembers Hour of Code initiative for Computer Science week  – seeing 6 year olds programming Angry Birds was inspiring and let me know that Scratch, another product of MIT,  will be part of my class program next term.

Lastly I need to remember about this blog – writing a blog post like this is the best way for me to clear my head and order my thoughts, make a plan and direct my thinking, let me reflect and redirect, as that was the purpose of this blog when I created it, but if I do not use it with regularity is is a waste.

Incidental Inquiry – finding something dead and taking it to class.

As the times that the busses arrive vary between 8 and 8:30 we make sure that there is always a mini-lesson happening as the kids arrive for them to join into. As many of my children are multi-lingual I see this as a great time to build vocabulary, have some thinking skill games and build a team environment. Things like Tony Ryan’s Thinkers Keys are a good example and large Where’s Wally/Waldo scavenger hunts on the IWB are tré popular.

Master Mantis


Today was something different, as just as I was to get in the morning Taxi I saw an enormous Preying Mantis on the ground, legs in the air and well and truly dead. Now, as I am living in China, love Kung Fu Panda and Master Mantis of the Furious Five is my favourite animated character of the last 10 years I knew that this was too good an opportunity to let pass. To the disgust of the many adults I scooped up the fallen hero and took him to school.

The students walked into class (they are all 6 years old) and reeled back in disgust or zoomed in with curiosity. Is it dead? What is it? Will it attack? Will it bite? where did you find it? Was it in the class? How did you get it to…

So we sat in a circle around the Preying Mantis and began to talk (It was easier as there was a power cut). Parts were named, zoomed in on with a magnifying glass, precise language was developed.  We took photos, sketched and drew diagrams on wipe boards. We labeled the diagrams, translated the words into Chinese and Korean and soon all were using gentle hands to feel the pincers on the feet grip onto our skin or gaze through the Transparent wings.

Questions were asked, anatomy of an insect was defined, compared and labeled and the learning was unmeasurable and I feel will be one of those lasting primary memories… “I remember the day when my teacher with a beard, I can’t remember his name, brought in that huge Praying Mantis and we got to touch it”.

Then it began to twitch a little… we placed a stop-motion camera on the twitching part for 2 hours and yes it did move, but no other part did. Is there something still alive in the insect trying to get out? Has it been paralyzed by spray or poison and is still alive? Is it just drying and decomposing? Unfortunately these questions were not answered as it was home time on a Friday, so they may stay unanswered, but the development of curiosity has been phenomenal and well worth the time and effort.  I think that is the first true mini inquiry that I have done since my time with Kath Murdoch and after seeing the power of the experience I know that it will not be the last.

A chance discovery.

The first tentative touches.

Magnified for better detail.

Time Lapse – Sorry the file would not upload to youtube ;(

Sketches & Diagrams

Táng Láng in Chinese.

Samagi in Korean.

Battle Royale of Stopmotion Apps – Round 1 iMotion HD

Indispensable PLN

In a couple of weeks I am running an after school activity or club for 7 to 10 year olds learning about Claymation. Stop motion animation is a skill that I have not used for a few years and actually not used with students in an iPad environment at all, as the past year has had a lot more focus on videos and time lapse. I tweeted out my request for App suggestions and quickly had several retweets and two great leads to follow up on thanks to @Jackbillie and @theICTadvisor (You have to love the Twitter PLN!). I had also played with the pricey iStopmotion App when at a conference in Invercargill last year, so with three choices the trials have begun, but if you read this and know of others send me the link and I will add it to the trial.


-Kid Friendly

-Not to pricey

-Simple to save and upload

-Some extras that make it stand out from the rest

-Kid friendly


iMotion HD


-iPhone / iPod Touch

-Lego and Star Wars Toys (Yes I still have them even though I am in China)

First Contender – iMotion HD

-Free (but has an upgraded pay version)

-Has a secondary App called iMotion R that allows for recording and project management from a secondary iOS device in Wifi distance.

-No onion Skin option that I could find.

-Quick and easy to use (I think that a year 2-5 student shouldn’t have any real problem)

-Free version does not directly upload to youtube, but saves to camera roll and then can upload to Youtube.

-Not that easy to remove frames from a longer clip.

-As with all save to camera options you can edit the sound and such at a later date with iMovie.

The three second clip below that took 5 minutes from conception to being on Youtube is the proof that this is a great App – find me the Onion Skin option and it would get full marks.

Please add your contender for best App, opinion or ideas to the mix (I am the first to admit that I am often wrong) and lets see if we can work out the best app available and why.

Join the Battle like these guys!

Stay Tuned for next week’s edition with I Can Animate.


AR – I begin a journey into Augmented Reality

I now have begun a journey that I have wanted to for a while, but somehow I had not found the time until yesterday. Augmented reality or AR is the learning, so for those of you who know about it and use it please send tips and links that may be of help.  Those of you who know some send me questions, tips that helped you or links either here or through social media. Those of you who say “Augmented Reality, what is that?” need watch the TED Talk I have embedded and then have a look at the stuff done by Brad and Drew ( then join the journey yourselves.

Now I played with Aurasma a year ago, but did not have the devices and there were limitations with where Auras could be stored. Then I watched over Brad and Drew’s journey of the past year and was very pleased when they helped to convince Aurasma to allow easier access to a studio account. I applied, I was denied saying the account was not authorised and guessed it was a you don’t live in the USA kind of restriction (They happen sometimes and it still brings back memories of free comic book offers and competitions that I was not allowed to be a part of ).

So I waited and tried again to log in a month later and no luck (blah blah blah, so on the story goes) – I contacted Drew, Brad and Aurasma yesterday in a tweet asking why my account was not authorised and ‘Booyakasha, check out my Aurasma’ (Studio Account).

Forbes discusses the retail implications of AR

So now, with a studio account I can really begin to play and unlock the mystery of Augmented Reality. With a studio account it allows me to create Auras on my computer then save them to any or all of my channels. Like with Twitter and other social media, anyone who follows me is able to see the Auras that I have created. With a simple share link that I can email out to people who I want to follow a link to my account. Now if you have Aurasma on your phone (iOS or Android) and receive that link email, you simply need to click on it and it takes you to the app and follows the channel I have shared.

So if you wanted to get parents involved you need to get the kids enthused and then you send them an email with links to the App store and Play Store as well as a link to your class or school or syndicate or Key Stage or what ever Aurasma channel and you are away laughing.

Now at the moment I am till in the stages of trying to grasp the implications of AR use in the classroom, but that is the next step of my journey and I know that it will be filled with challenges, frustrations and successes. I have tagged a students artwork with a video of her explaining the process that we went through to create the art (an interactive display board), but until I have gotten the children enthused and creating I will keep it on the down low.

Maybe I will start on Monday with a scavenger hunt around the classroom. By tagging a dozen items around the class with auras of Dragons and ninja or a video message or two from myself I am sure that I will get the kids excited – I can hear the Oooohhs, Ahhhhs and laughter as each Aura is discovered. throughout the clasroom Maybe next we can move onto them tagging their own items and see where the journey takes us.


Check out Drew and Brad’s work here.

Lost in Translation

It has now been one month and one day into my journey into illiteracy where, if I leave the bubble of my home or work, I am in a world that I am unable to communicate with. It is exciting, it is challenging, it is frustrating and I knew exactly what I has getting myself into. It is the times when you order 6 dumplings and receive 60 that you can only hand your head in your hands in shame or laugh at the situation that you have gotten yourself into.

Some days you just do not want to get out of bed.

It is the Sophia Coppola classic that I draw the title of this post from and I firmly believe that you can love or hate the movie, but once you have experienced living in a completely foreign country you find a new respect for the film.  When you walk down a street that has more people there at that time than your entire hometown you redefine the word insignificant to mean ‘you’.  I had a conversation with a university student in a Chinese bookstore, where I was buying children’s flashcards of fruit and vegetables, and he said to me “I have never seen blue eyes, except for in the movies” which explains why people follow and watch like I am the pied piper playing a tune for them.

Now, if this is what I am experiencing as a teacher at an International school, then imagine what my students are going through. They may see it as an adventure like I do or maybe they find it to be an incredibly stressful transition, but it is my job as their teacher to attend to their mental well being before I even think about their academics.

Happy student = learner

Menu at the Local Restaurant – I know the cost and that I am welcome, but what am I eating?

Within my class room I have a variety of levels of English Speakers from some to a lot to fluent, but I also have a new student arriving next week who speaks fluent German and French, but not English.The EAL department at school ran a workshop during our in service days before the students arrived.  This short one and a half hour workshop truly opened my eyes to the experience that many of my students like this new student could face every day.

The first activity was fun where they had taken a limerick and translated a handful of key words into a different language and in pairs we were to decode into English. We knew the format of a limerick and some of the words (it was Italian we found out later) were similar to English. We felt quite chuffed about what we had achieved and felt we had an insight into the life of student who was learning English as a second language.

The second activity had no introduction as the EAL teacher just switched language on us to Chinese and began to teach. Many of us looked at each other in dismay, as we knew that she was asking questions as the two or three in the group who spoke Chinese were responding. Slowly I was able to pick up enough words to realise that it was about identifying body parts “How many eyes do you have?” and a simple response of one or two was required.  Next she used a flow chart to teach the characters for each of the body parts we had learned. My head was hurting and even though I had found some success in the lesson I wanted her to stop, but the point was clear  – being a student in a class who does not speak the main language of the classroom is difficult, exhausting and scary. As teachers we must do all that we possibly can to make that language transferal as smooth as possible.

The key skills that I took away from the session were…

  • Pace – not too fast.
  • Clear voice
  • Visuals – we teach early readers to use visuals to get clues for when reading new words and in this case there is no difference – Colour code, writing and images all go hand in hand.
  • Patience
  • A smile
  • Break the learning up with different tasks.
  • Form a connection with the student.
  • Try everything, not just the strategies that worked with a similar student the previous year.
  • Ask for help of others when it seems that nothing else is working.

It is not an easy process, but slowly the classroom will change from the Charlie Brown “Wah, Wah, wahh” into something much more and hopefully with planning and care the child will find a love of learning and school.


Personal Inquiry: Learning to use

This blog was my first blog that was not in the Blogger domain and it has been a huge learning curve.  Blogger is simple, Blogger is point and click, and Blogger links to my Gmail account and syncs instantly to my YouTube and Picasa accounts. So the question 6 months later is why change and the answer is the same – WordPress offers things that intrigue me and look challenging. There is so much I do not know about WordPress and I have thoroughly enjoyed the problem solving that I have had to do in order to make my blog do things that previously were simple.

James Nottingham

James Nottingham’s Pit of Learning

Seeing Widgets and realising that there was some simple code involved has pushed me out of my comfort zone and put me in James Nottingham’s Pit of Learning.

This code along with a few images found on CC Search becomes the Widget below.

This code along with a few images found on CC Search becomes the Widget opposite.

I have wanted to jump back to blogger, but enjoyed the distance that this blog has given me from my previous one – my Blogger is class/student centered and shared with parents/community, WordPress is not secret from parents/community, but is focused on my professional learning and really only slightly interesting to other educators.

So I have scrambled in the Pit, discovered the difference between WordPress and, felt frustration at .com not offering the same opportunities as  Wordpress, but then learned that many others before me have followed this same journey. I have read forums as need has arisen and even learned some simple HTML coding through the Code Academy, which has given me an insight into how code is formed and the little rules that must be followed in order for it to work. To me it is like a recipe and once you have the base ingredients you are able to create much more interesting dishes.

Todays learning was just a piece of icing on the top of the cake – taking the simple Twitter ‘Follow Me” button that is there for you and changing itScreen Shot 2013-08-01 at 11.54.22 AM to my new “Follow Me on Social Media”. The code was more complex in details and length, but really was quite simple once the recipe was found on a Forum.

Now that I have begun to unlock the secrets of I am pretty sure that I need to take the next step into a straight WordPress site, but that is a piece of learning that will need to wait until another set of holidays. Before then I have a new job to begin, China to explore and there is an Aurasma Studio account in the midst of being processed as I type. I guess that the key to this post really is that I have really enjoyed the process of learning that I have had to go through with this blog with regards to the technical aspects as it has challenged and frustrated, but I have problem solved and reached the outcome that I was trying to achieve.

Global Classroom Lead Teachers 2012-13


Was not expecting this, but truly honored to be named as a Global Classroom Lead Teacher and looking forward to contributing and collaborating more with the Global Classroom in 2013-14 from China.
There is an old Maori Proverb that I feel suits the Global Classroom Project and why it works.
He aha te mea nui?
He tangata.
He tangata.
He tangata.

Which translates to:
What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.

Kiaora and thank you.

Originally posted on The Global Classroom Project:


We’d like to formally congratulate the Global Classroom Lead Teachers for 2012-13.

We are proud to work with such an amazing group of international educators, who are shining examples of teachers who “connect, learn, share, collaborate and lead globally”.

This year, our Lead Teachers were nominated by the #globalclassroom community and @gcporganisers, recognising their special contribution to the development and success of the #globalclassroom community.

Over the course of 2012-13, our Lead Teachers  have made:

  • Significant contributions to the professional learning of teachers around the world (through our blog & Twitter chats)
  • Inspired efforts to enhance their students’ learning through their global connections
  • Assisted with the development and maintenance of the #globalclassroom online learning spaces
  • Created innovative, pioneering projects which showcase new ways for teachers and students to connect, learn, share, and collaborate globally.

New and experienced global educators alike, we highly recommend adding our #globalclassroom Lead Teachers to your PLNs.

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