Graphic notes from Rachel Dight – lucky me!


Earlier this year I presented at the AIS ICT Leadership Conference in Canberra. My session was about Deploying Google Apps, and I was thrilled when I saw Rachel Dight walk in the room with a whiteboard!

Rachel was creating visual representations of speaker’s talks and I’d been impressed with the work she had done of Jane Hunter’s Keynote (see a pic of Jane and I and her board at the bottom of this post). I love seeing how great graphic artists interpret a speaker’s words and to have a visual artifact of what I said meant a lot to me. I was completely immersed in delivering the presentation and wasn’t concentrating on what Rachel was doing during the session, so I was really surprised to look at it at the end and see her interpretation. It’s a fabulous representation of what I was saying and I think it’s easy for someone who wasn’t in the room to gain comprehension of my words.


I have no idea how an artist like Rachel does this. She needs to listen intently to subject matter that is not within the realm of her normal life and come up with creative ways of representing these ideas. It’s no mean feat. It’s certainly a gift I don’t possess!

If you’re looking for a great graphic artist to attend your conference and create lasting artifacts of a presenter’s words, then take a look at Rachel’s website. There’s an array of examples from presentations she has recorded as graphic notes- I’m sure you will agree that she is one very talented lady.



School’s out Friday

This caught my eye this week. It’s Jeff Scardino’s relevant resume video. Jeff is senior creative at Ogilvy & Mather and professor at the Miami Ad School in Brooklyn, and his creative approach to the traditional resume has seen him score eight responses and five meeting requests from ten job applications lodged. Here’s the approach he took;

He designed what he calls the relevant résumé — a résumé littered with your failures, bad references, and non-skills.
His personal one highlights several losing pitches during his time in the advertising industry, “missed honors,” his inability to remember names, and even romantic failures from his time at Ohio University…

In today’s world, creativity may be required to make you stand out from the crowd. I’m wondering, how many career’s advisors are tuned into thinking like this? What are we doing in schools today that might be helping our young people learn to stand out from the crowd?

Not enough, I suspect.

Have a great weekend. Contemplate your failures and find a way to make them work to your best effect! :)

Scaling change – Spark talk for Digicon 2015

I presented a Spark talk at Digicon 2015 on Friday just gone. It was part of their fringe festival and presenters were asked to put together a 12 minute talk for the event. My presentation was entitled, “Lonely childhood no more – time to scale” and the focus was on what I think needs to happen at scale in schools to build capacity in our teaching workforce and as a consequence, help our students make the most of the potential offered to them by effective use of technology within learning programs.

There wasn’t a huge audience, and I was grateful to Jenny Ashby who used Periscope to record the talk and share it via Twitter. As you can see, I’ve uploaded it to YouTube so you can take a look. The sound might not be so great, and it’s a narrow frame view, but you’ll get the message if you tune in for the 11 minutes and 14 seconds it takes to watch it and you’ll understand the reference to ‘lonely childhood no more’!

In the talk I make reference to the recently released 2015 K-12 edition of the Horizon Report. In it, they identify scaling teaching innovations as a wicked challenge. Below is a screenshot from the contents page of this edition. I would highly recommend you follow the link to the report – it’s extremely pertinent to leadership teams in all schools today. 2015-07-26 19-44-52

School’s out Friday

If you’ve never seen James Corden’s Car Pool Karaoke then this one with Rod Stewart is a good place to start. Rod is a little revealing about his behaviour in his wilder days, but it’s a nice trip down memory lane for those of you who might have grown up listening to songs like ‘Maggie May’.

What I like about James’ series of videos is the relatability with the experience of singing and dancing in the car. I’m a fan of the practice, and I’m putting my skills to good use now that I’m driving for longer periods to get to work. Right now ‘Peanut Butter Jelly’ by Galantis is my favourite Car Karaoke tune – if you happen to see me whizzing past there are echoes of early 80’s dance moves being played out. Hopefully all the other drivers around me have their eyes on the road!

Have a great weekend. Dance in the car – it’s a liberating experience. :)


School’s out Friday

Stepping out of his comfort zone has worked pretty well for Richard Branson. Here’s hoping the same applies to me!

I’ve stepped way out of my comfort zone and just experienced the first week of work at a new school. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried (not while at work!) and I’ve made some nice connections with the people I’m working with. That is what has kept me sane – my thanks go to everyone there who have made me feel so welcome.

To be totally honest with you, I’d underestimated just how hard it is to start a new job. You go from someone who was competent in pretty much everything you were doing in your previous job, to someone who is struggling to remember the footprint of the building you are in, the names of people you’ve just been introduced to less than two minutes ago, and how you go about navigating a Windows environment on a PC when you’ve used a Mac for the last 6 years!

Give me another 8 or so weeks and I’m sure I’ll be handling things like a pro. Well, hopefully anyway – maybe semi-professional is a more apt forecast!

A weekend of contemplative rest is in order. Taking stock, collecting my thoughts, getting ready to do it all again next week. Keeping in mind that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. :)

Have a great weekend. Enjoy, may the sun shine.

Spoken Word Poetry as a Year 9 Project Based Learning task

Tomorrow, I start a new job. In it, I will be leading the direction of technology use in classrooms across three campuses. It’s a big job, and one that means I no longer will be teaching my own class. While I welcome the opportunity to think in a big picture capacity and support teachers and students across a very large school, I am going to miss the vitality of the classroom and the close relationships you form with a class over the course of a year. Hopefully people will welcome me into their classrooms, because I think you need doses of classroom reality to keep you grounded.

I’ve had to leave my wonderful class who are taking the elective I created called ‘Language of our Times’. This term begins with the Project Based Learning Spoken Word Poetry task that I have loved teaching. I’ve been meaning to write about it over the past two years so thought now was a good opportunity to share my experiences with it. It also might help teachers at my new school see that I am a classroom teacher too, even if they’ve never seen me teach a class. :)

Spoken Word Poetry task: Year 9

Driving question:  How can language move people?

Your task is to work in groups and create a Spoken Word Poetry piece (also known as Slam Poetry) that will be performed in class and then performed for a public audience during our celebration of Book Week in August.Your Spoken Word Poetry piece must use language effectively to convey meaning, and must capture the attention of your audience. The focus for the piece will be decided via negotiation with the members of your group. Group performance, your individual contribution, effective language choices, and high level collaboration efforts toward a common goal will form the basis of your assessment.

Student Objectives

Students will:

  • Listen to, read, analyze and write poetry;
  • Recognize, discuss and employ the poetic techniques employed in poems;
  • Analyze the techniques used by performance artists; and
  • Perform their own poems.

Reference explaining Spoken Word poetry:

“What is spoken word poetry?

Spoken word poetry is poetry that is written on a page but performed for an audience. Because it is performed, this poetry tends to demonstrate a heavy use of rhythm, improvisation, free association, rhymes, rich poetic phrases, word play and slang. It is more aggressive and “in your face” than more traditional forms of poetry.”(follow the link above for more detail explaining what to keep in mind when writing a Spoken Word poem)

Relevant Australian Curriculum Content Descriptors addressed in this task:

Interacting with others

Listen to spoken texts constructed for different purposes, for example to entertain and to persuade, and analyse how language features of these textsposition listeners to respond in particular ways(ACELY1740)Use interaction skills to present and discuss an idea and to influence and engage an audience by selecting persuasive language, varying voice tone, pitch, and pace, and using elements such as music and sound effects (ACELY1811)Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations, selecting and sequencing appropriate content and multimodal elements for aesthetic and playful purposes(ACELY1741)

Interpreting, analysing, evaluating

Explore and explain the combinations of language and visual choices that authors make to present information, opinions and perspectives in different texts (ACELY1745)

Creating texts

Create imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that present a point of view and advance or illustrate arguments, including texts that integrate visual, print and/or audio features (ACELY1746)

Text structure and organisation

Understand that authors innovate with text structures and language for specific purposes and effects(ACELA1553)

Language variation and change

Investigate how evaluation can be expressed directly and indirectly using devices, for example allusion, evocative vocabulary and metaphor(ACELA1552)

We had a hook lesson with Poet, Alicia Sometimes, late term two because that is when she had been booked to come to the school. I had discussed PBL with the students and we went through the ‘main course’ elements when we started with the task.

A “Main Course” project:

  • is intended to teach significant content.
  • requires critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication.
  • requires inquiry as part of the process of learning and creating something new.
  • is organized around an open-ended Driving Question.
  • creates a need to know essential content and skills.
  • allows some degree of student voice and choice.
  • includes processes for revision and reflection.
  • involves a public audience.

At the start of the task I introduced the students to the rubric we used for assessment  so that they were aware of what was being assessed before they began and understand what to work towards. It was also made clear that although they were working in groups, they would be individually assessed based on what they demonstrated throughout the duration of the task. We used the collaboration rubric from the Buck Institute of Education and I added a component for reflection  because I wanted the students to value the importance of reflecting on their learning. (now part of Gold Standard PBL) I used a scoring rubric from the Out Loud Poetry competition Judge’s Guide to assess the Spoken Word performance element of the task.

The first year I made the groupings without consulting students. Last year, I asked students who they would like to work with as some had begun a poem when workshopping with Alicia Sometimes and I didn’t want to interrupt the flow that some had attained. Some groups formed naturally from this process but I did place students in other groups.

I was continually heartened by the majority of the groups’ application to this task. I tried to focus them at the start of a lesson by asking each group to briefly provide feedback to the whole group about where they were at and what they think they need to build on for that lesson. At the end of a lesson (when time hadn’t got away from us!) we refocused by watching a YouTube video of a spoken word poem to continually provide exemplars of effective performance.

Braemar College-Comp from Australian Poetry on Vimeo.

The LMS we used had a sharing space where the students  posted examples they had found of Spoken Word Poetry to share with the class. I also included information about Poetic techniques within this space and we explored this as a group to give them some grounding to assist with the development of their poems.

Each group used their Google Drive account and were working on a shared document to collaboratively write the poem. I asked them to identify who had written each part by colour coding the lines for individual contributions and indicating when the group achieved consensus with some lines. That worked well and they honestly provided indicators of individual’s contributions. I always find it interesting when you give the students a lot of agency with their work – my experience has seen students honestly reflect and acknowledge when they are pulling their weight, and when they aren’t. They are self assessing all the time. For some, this is impetus to do better not just for the teacher, but for their own self worth.

The rehearsal stage was always interesting. The scoring rubric from the Out Loud Poetry Guide measures physical presence, voice and articulation and dramatic appropriateness. The students were exposed to many examples of group performances (some seen above) that demonstrated how they could incorporate movement into their poems for effect. They practiced tirelessly to coordinate movement and time delivery of their poems and those who really worked at this performed pieces that quite literally left me and many in the class almost speechless. Other groups were not so polished with some group members not being able to stay ‘in character’ or able to commit all of their lines to memory. They were Year 9 students – I wasn’t expecting miracles because to pull off spoken word poetry well is very difficult indeed.  However, over the two years when I taught this unit there were groups who did pull off a miracle, and that was satisfying for me, but more importantly, it was personally satisfying for them.

Working within the Project Based Learning model was eye opening for me as a teacher. I saw students work way beyond the capacity of what test scores predicted as their achievement level. They were invested in their groups, saw the value of shared purpose and some exhibited leadership capabilities I had never seen evident in more traditional learning tasks. More than once students told me how proud they were of what they were doing and this was clear when they publicly performed their pieces at our Book Week performance days. In the second year, we invited parents to come along and those who came were blown away by what their children had managed to achieve.

A moment stood out last year when sometime after we had finished the unit, an English teacher came to see me one morning to let me know that a student in her regular English class had written a remarkable poem that incorporated an extended metaphor, repetition and other poetic techniques that she did not think were in the range of this student’s ability. When she quizzed her as to where this inspiration emanated from, the student explained that in our Language of our Times elective we had studied Spoken Word poetry and that was where she had learnt these techniques. What did I love about this? Being able to talk to this student and ask to view her poem as I had heard how wonderful it was. I could almost feel her pride in herself envelope me at that moment.

You guessed it, those are the moments to savour, and the moments I will miss.  :)

School’s out Friday

*note: swear word within video and inappropriate ad from College Humour at the end. Just so you know.

Yes, I’m going to confess. I have an Apple Watch. (run of the mill variety, definitely not Gold)

Do I need one?


Do I feel pretentious wearing it?

Yes, a little bit.

Do I like it?

Yes, I have to admit, I do.

My family gave me a voucher on Mother’s Day this year for an Apple Watch, and I got it this week. They know how much I love new gadgets and I love them for indulging me and recognising that this is something I would enjoy. I do feel like it’s an extremely unnecessary thing to own and I do feel slightly uncomfortable wearing it. The thing is ridiculously expensive here in Australia and it seems frivolous to own one, but I have to confess that I am liking it, even if I remain pretty clueless so far as to what it can do.

I am away from home at the moment, holidaying with my gorgeous daughter in Port Douglas. I know, you don’t need to say it, I sound like someone who is just throwing money around – forgive me, but having just been paid out for long service leave and knowing that I’m never going to get to take that time off, then this was the next best thing. Anyway, back to the Apple Watch part of the story. I’m liking the activity tracker that is reminding me to get out and get moving – it’s a good prompt that I think is going to be beneficial. I can read my incoming mail, send a message using Siri, and answer and send phone calls from it. You do feel like you’re in an episode of Get Smart when you’re holding your wrist near your face and talking into it, but it has been handy in the car. I can hold the driving wheel and talk quite normally and the people on the other end have been unaware that I’m communicating via the Apple Watch.

There are a myriad of apps available and I’m really in the infancy stages of using it. For the first day, it was noticeable, but four days in and I’m starting to see it as a functional device that I think may prove really useful once I am back at work managing meetings and trying to organise myself in what is going to be a very different pattern of commuting for me.

I have to admit that I do feel a tad freakish with it on, given that wearable devices like this aren’t the norm (yet). Mind you, no-one else seems to have noticed it at all, so maybe there’s nothing big deal about it. Mind you, I’m yet to answer a call in a crowded space and I’m not sure I would. I think reaching into the bag to get the phone would probably be my course of action in shared spaces!

If I discover any noteworthy features, I’ll try and write about them. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the warmth of Port Douglas, a far cry from the depths of a Melbourne winter. My daughter and I walked along the beach at Cape Tribulation today, and I marvelled at the fact that I was treading on sand that I can pinpoint on a map of Australia. It seems so pristine there, I do wonder if the shoreline has altered much from the time James Cook and his men encountered it when they circumnavigated Australia’s East Coast. Even more significant, I wonder if our indigenous people have stories that illustrate what this coastline was like before the arrival of white settlement?

I’m going to be enjoying the sun and relaxation space this holiday is offering me. I hope you can find some space for yourself this weekend, be it in the sun, or by a warm fire. Enjoy. :)