Making your own Learning – The 4 stages

This is something that I am sure that a lot of people are already know or are coming to the realisation of… as learners we need to take control of our own learning and not just wait for it come and find us. I would be a rich teacher if I had a dollar for every time I heard a teacher complain or state ‘That was irrelevant for me’ about school provided PD, and sometimes they are right, but if you ask them ‘Do you take time to learn things that are important to you and your teaching?’ they often look at you as if you are mad.

I have split personalising your learning into four categories based on my experiences and what I have observed (not very scientific, but hey does it matter 🙂 )

This is that thing we all do, often mid discussion when nobody remembers that name of the drummer of an 80s band or who was the director of ##### or any other obscure question that we need to know instantly… Google it. Although, most of my questions at work are more technical, such as what is the font that is used in Scratch, but there are FAQ and message forums to answer these questions.Google-It-crop.0.0

Needs based
You have to do something and you not quite sure how. Now this is when we call on YouTube and we watch tutorials or we delve through Blogs of those that have gone before us. It is very rare that we want to do something that has never been done before so why reinvent the wheel when someone has made a video that shows you how to make one in a thousand different ways.

Medium Term
This is where the learning transfers from that instant need to know to when you want to make yourself a better educator and need some help. It takes a bit more thinking and planning. Online Courses or MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) cover a mass of topics – not all are good, but some are amazing. You have the choice to pay for the certificate at the end for a minimal fee, but are able to partake at no cost (if you don’t want the PDF). Just recently I completed an EdX course that was run by MIT on MIT - Launching Innovation ini SchoolsLaunching Innovation in Schools, which challenged me throughout and made me think deeply about my practice and vision for Education. Microsoft Education offers countless courses for free (and you get a pretty badge at the end) – the Mindstorms Robotics courses that have 6 hours of course time are incredibly comprehensive and will help any teacher trying to get their head around using the EV3. Lastly there is my favourite of the online courses that I have completed in the past year – Google Teacher Certification. I found the Google Educator course to be the most robust. The exam at the end was challenging and if you fail you must wait a set time period before resitting (Luckily I passed level 1, but I’m yet to face the challenge of level 2).

Now this is the one that I have yet to attempt and not sure if I ever will. This is the one that bumps you up the pay scale, prepares you for leadership, gives you a few extra letters after your name and can suck the life from you for years (so I’ve been told). I have known many to go back to school/university and partake in a Masters Degree or even higher to a Doctorate. This is for the most dedicated. The ones who love the challenge of late night forum entries and essay deadlines. It is not for me, but is for many.

So, after all these ramblings I only challenge to take learning into your own hands. Do not wait for it to come to you. Think about where you want to learn more or what you think you might want to learn and dedicate some time and brain power. Only you can make yourself a better educator, so now is a good time to start.


Screen Record on an iPad

A few new features are now on iOS devices thanks to iOS 11 and finally the one thing IMG_0277.PNGthat has always annoyed me about an iPad has been sorted – the ability to screen record. Previously you would need to mirror your iPad, but now in the Control Center you just tap an icon and the screen recording begins – interestingly it records the sounds off the iPad, such as key clicks and app sounds, but does not record any background sounds.

An extra I also discovered by accident, is when you screen shot of your device you have the ability to annotate the screen shot (very cool).

So, now that I am able to screen record directly on an iPad I was able to make my first iPad only App Tutorial and based it on an App that I am still learning how to use to its full potential and wondering if it is worth showing kids Scratch Jr or just moving them into Scratch as we do at the moment (Years 1-6 all use Scratch to some level).Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 2.24.56 PM.png

The process was extremely simple and makes me wonder if the days where I no longer need a computer are getting closer. A quick intro made with Intromate, add the screen record video, then narrate on iMovie and upload to YouTube. The world we live in really is a wondrous place.

Really getting into Coding with Scratch

It has been too long since I have written here (there are dozens of unfinished posts over the past 3 years, but few published). I am now in Vietnam and teaching ICT, rather than a classroom teacher, and it has been a whirlwind of difference. It is a much bigger school, but as I teach most of the students I get to know them all and it allows me to be the kind of teacher that I normally am.

Big change as been, other than having access to Google again, the amount of coding that I teach using Scratch and it can be upwards of 15 hours a week. I feel that I now dream in Blockly and ‘if then’ or ‘forever’ loops. It is like being immersed in a language and it has increased my knowledge beyond all belief.

Year 1 throughscratch-music 3 are using the offline editor and are learning to make instruments play a tune or making balls bounce around the screen and play a recorded sound when they collide. Year 4-6 are making playable video games and now beginning to realise that they are able to create games in their own time (such as the final scratchgame).

Scratch has recently introduced Educator Accounts, for which you need to apply and get approval (a day to wait), but this now allows you to manage multiple online classes, reset their forgotten passwords, add or remove students and sign them up without the need for email addresses to login – such a time s
aver and it may help me keep my hair a few more years.

There are scores of resources out there, any question that you have is answered by a forum post or YouTube tutorial and once you give it a go your students will love it. I know that when they get to Secondary they will be problem solvers, better at logic and reasoning and have a good understanding about how code is laid out and how to change variables and create loops and conditionals.

My first successful game (Even though it has a glitch or too)


This game was created by a student as part of his International Week homework to teach visiting year 2 and 3 students about Ecuador in a fun way.



So simple, so clever, so quick and perfect to compare and contrast images over time. I screen captured two google earth images that were taken 10 years apart, added them to my Dropbox then the website did the rest (and all on the iPad). It gives you an embed code and then you have two images on top of each other and you have the ability to slide over to view one or the other image.

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.

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.

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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Am I an inquiry teacher or a teacher who does inquiry?

It has been two weeks since my workshop with Kath Murdoch, but it has been some thing at the forefront of my mind as it left me thinking that I am Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 2.57.53 PMon the right track, but at the same time missing some simple, but very important parts of the equation.

As soon as she began her presentation everything seemed to make sense and I was making connections left, right and center.

First self-discovery

There was no Wi-Fi & I was at a loss. I am now a person who needs to Google all that I don’t know instantly, as by searching the Googalable I identify the real learning faster.

Then Kath posed 4 questions that made many shift in their seats when they thought of the answers and If there was just one aspect to take away it would be the reflections and discussions with colleagues over the past fortnight relating to the four questions below.

Am I an inquiry teacher or a teacher who does inquiry?

Is this an inquiry classroom?

Are my students inquirers all through the day?

Am I an inquirer?

I am happy to say that I know I am an inquirer, but as to the other three questions I would have to say that this is where my next learning focus lies. At times I would answer yes to the first three questions but not constantly.

I incorporate elements of inquiry into my literacy program, but after looking at the blog of Bruce Ferrington, using inquiry in Maths, I know that there is huge scope for development of my numeracy and that this approach would be so much more meaningful as we learn through investigation rather than being told the answer.

Quick Lego reflection identifying that I may have jumped a few steps in the process... hence need to jump back to the start sometimes.
Quick Lego reflection identifying that I may have jumped a few steps in the process… hence need to jump back to the start sometimes.

Is my classroom an inquiry classroom – Yes, most definitely, but there is a lot that can be tweaked and developed. The physical environment and the tools are there. The openness to question, reflect and create meaning and understanding, but the language of the process is one area I am planning on really looking closely at as I feel that my students need to be able to articulate their learning as well as they can articulate their writing or strategy using  mathematics.  Guy Claxton’s Split Screen Lesson is one way that I feel that I will be able to remove the mystery behind the learning and identify the skills and contexts behind the content.  I know that when I plan a lesson all of these components are taken into account, but it is imperative that I make them clear for the students.

Do I ‘Do’ inquiry? No, but I know that I need to cut the strings and allow more times for independent inquiry.  This has been a goal of mine for a long time and I have looked a lot into the Genius Hour (do not like that title) or 20% time and the other models that have sprung up, Kath calls it ‘I Time’ as you have Inquiry, Investigative, Interest, Innovative and all the other I words that seem to fit within the independent inquiry.

So two days and my head was full and buzzing.  I had a list of things to do and things to change and things to keep on doing like I am doing at the moment. I want to make time for meaningful ‘Independent Inquiries’, but I need to make sure that the scaffolding is there to support the process. I need to make the learning context and skills more transparent, but that comes down to the language that I choose to use in the class – Choice Words needs a re-read over the holidays. I need to keep on being a passionate teacher, but that is not going to change. I need to be an Inquirer, not just model the process, but I feel that I am an inquirer, so I just need to again make that more visible to my students. I need to ensure that my class is an ‘Inquiry’ class always, not just on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, but always.

Finally, a bit off track, but I have tried to get staff onto Twitter, to try it, to test their toes in the water with only one taker. Kath walks into the room talks Tweets, mentions that we had communicated through twitter the day before and now it seems that Twitter is the new thing.

Second Self discovery
You can lead a horse to water, but only Kath Murdoch can make them Tweet.

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 3.03.15 PM
Think that I need to add this tweet to my CV. Kath Murdoch’s Roadie would look good under job history.