Powerful Learning Practice – our community forms

Today was the Australian face to face kick off at Toorak College for the International Powerful Learning Practice cohort. Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson flew into Australia yesterday to help us kick off what is going to be transformational for many involved. Helping to get this cohort together has occupied me for the last few months. There have been meetings and countless emails and skype calls and chats that have led to seven Australian schools participating. We join a New Zealand team from Core education and nine teams from the United States.

Yes, we were experiencing technical difficulties here. Can you tell??

It was inspiring to see the Australian arm of the cohort come together today. Sometimes it’s hard to visualise something that has been long in the planning. When it happens you are so busy trying to make sure things run smoothly that you miss part of the experience. It felt a little like that today. We had technical hitches that impeded the ustream going out and getting everyone connected was a bit of a chore. I was a little stressed I have to admit, but you know what, these hitches didn’t much matter. What mattered was the fact that we were all there as interested educators, working towards forging links that are going to drive our learning community forward.

The gathering gave me much hope. During our lunch in our school’s Dining Room I looked around and realised that all these people were here because they have a genuine desire to learn what they can do to implement change that will benefit the students they teach.  For some time I’ve been on a bit of a solo trip trying to move people with the thinking I have after a period of immersion. I realised early on that my solo wasn’t going to cut it to get serious change happening. A chorus was more in order. Today I saw a choir who may still be in rehearsal, but practice will make all the difference. Our practice will take place in our dedicated ning environment which is being supported by Sheryl, Will, 21st Century fellows and our community leader Darren Kuropatwa.  

Tania Sheko, who is part of our cohort, has summed up how I think many participants feel about the change we are facing and the learning ahead;

“…..when change freaks me out, I have to remind myself that I also like moving the furniture around. It gets boring sitting and looking at the same view. There are new configurations to be discovered.”

Time to move the furniture I think.

School’s out Friday

End of the first week back at school for me this week and can’t believe how tired I am. This term looks set to be running at a fast pace from the get go with no likelihood of slowing down. Speech night next week, China for 18 days in two and a bit weeks, then return to correction and reports. Sounds busy just thinking about it!  

I am looking forward to next Monday. That’s when we host the Australian cohort face to face meeting of Powerful Learning Practice. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson are visiting our school to introduce us to the concept and help us form connections in the learning community we are to become. I’ve been active in the ning that supports the project and am really enjoying getting to know the US counterparts via activities set up by Darren Kuropawta who is a driving force in our learning community.

But the weekend beckons first! Start it by watching the Human Slinky. Someone sent out a tweet to a video featuring this guy this week and I was mesmorised.

Beautiful weather in Melbourne coming our way this weekend and I intend to make the most of it. Enjoy whatever comes your way.

Working together 2 make a difference – inspired by Laura.

Recently I said that I wasn’t going to write a post unless I thought I had something to write about that I thought was useful.  Well, today I’m writing about something that I think is useful. Better than that, it’s helpful to others less fortunate than ourselves. And that, to me, is important.

Throughout the year I’ve been inspired by 11 yr old Laura Stockman, who has been writing a blog called 25 days to make a difference. Laura writes about how she goes about raising money for charity organisations she and her readers decide are worthy of support.  It’s not massive amounts of money we’re talking about here, it’s small but significant amounts from a young woman who engages in activities like bake sales and lemonade stands to raise funds that will make a difference for others. 

Small, but significant.

Laura skyped into my classroom a couple of months ago to talk to my students about what she does. She made an impact. They are still talking about Laura and want to know what they can do too. Talking with Laura has meant I’ve established a friendship across the waves with her Mum, Angela (Angela is a very responsible parent and makes sure she supervises Laura’s online connections – She’s in New York State and I’m in Melbourne, Australia ). Over the last couple of months Angela and I have been mulling over ideas about how we and other educators can make a difference in the same vein as Laura’s inspirational efforts. That leads me to the point of this post.

Angela and I, inspired by Laura, have created a ning site, Working together 2 make a difference, to support educators to make a difference for others less fortunate than themselves in the lead up to the festive season. The ning site will work as a collaborative space to allow educators to share the efforts of their classes. Here’s what we say on our main page;

As educators, we try to encourage our students to see past themselves and take a wider world view. Depending on many factors, that can be relatively easy, or relatively hard. As we approach the festive season for many cultures, an opportunity presents for us to have a means of working together in a collaborative fashion to have our students realise that their efforts can be far reaching and effect others.

11 Year old Laura Stockman has been a source of inspiration for many throughout 2008. Her blog, 25 days to make a difference has detailed her efforts to raise funds for various charity organisations throughout the year. She has had over 38,000 hits on her blog and has received media attention for her efforts. Now it’s time to let Laura know how her efforts have inspired others to do the same.

The aim of this space is to detail the efforts of educators and their students who are doing their bit to think outside of themselves and raise funds for worthy causes. We encourage you to join this space, create a new page for your school and start detailing what you and your students are aiming to do to help others less fortunate than yourselves. Chart your progress on your page and we’ll see what we can achieve by working together to make a difference.

DECEMBER 15TH 2008 is the date we are targeting for completion of the collaborative project. So, get to it. Rally your troops, start thinking about bake sales or car washes, identify a worthy cause and set your page up.

Laura has shown us that one person can make a difference. Let’s see what the sum total of all of us working together can achieve.

If you’ve been thinking about joining a global project but are daunted by the prospect, consider giving this a go. There is a definite timeline, you can work within the boundaries of your school but contribute to a greater cause, and you can connect with other schools who join this effort. We should be able to foster connective opportunities within this community that can get our kids understanding that the sum total of many working together can effect great change.  

Thanks Laura for providing the inspiration.  And thanks Angela  – all those emails and tweets have been worth it.

geoGreeting – some fun with educational application.

Tom Barrett, a favourite of mine, has written yet another informative and highly useful post, this time about resources he uses to support the teaching of spelling. This is just what I need as I head into last term. I really hate the use of spelling lists and spelling tests. To me it just represents a waste of class time. I seem to struggle meeting the demands of curriculum and  I would much prefer my students engage with some interactive online resources that will help them to remember the correct spelling of words they use, or new words they have been introduced to.  Tom has listed five he uses regularly and I encourage you to visit his blog to gain insight. 

One of the resources he mentions is geoGreeting.


   I’ve been having a bit of a play with this and have been having quite a bit of fun. GeoGreeting was created by Jesse Vig.  He’s a software engineer and graduate student from the University of Minnesota studying computer science, who discovered over the Northern summer that he liked playing with Google Maps. Here’s what he says on the FAQ page about how the website came about;

While working on a different Google Maps project, I noticed that a number of buildings looked like letters of the alphabet when viewed from above. This is the point where I should have just said ‘hmmm, good observation’ and gone on with my life. But I didn’t and that’s why this website is here.

Don’t you just love that!

What you do is type a greeting or word into the ‘type your message here’ box and the word(s) will be represented with the pictures of buildings that look like letters of the alphabet. You can see this in the screenshot above. Tom has had his students using the site to write out their spelling words so that they can see the words in an alternative visual way. After reading parts of John Medina’s ‘Brain Rules’, that suggests our brain retains information more readily via the visual medium, then I think there could be educational application for our use of a site like this. I’m sure my kids will enjoy it anyway. It’s also a means of gaining some insight about the geographical location of the buildings that look like letters of the alphabet. Another opportunity to engage our students in discussion that can extend their knowledge base.  

Thanks Tom for the heads up to some great resources.



Warning: this post contains reflective and introspective thought – exit now if you think it will be too much to bear!

When I was a child, I would often find myself doodling in the sandpit, or on paper, or in the asphalt road on hot summer days when it bubbled from the heat. My doodling existed on some subconscious level, and when I looked at what I’d done invariably I’d written the number 42. I can vividly remember being about seven years old and wondering why 42 was such a common thread. I remember thinking to myself, ‘What is going to happen to me when I turn 42?’ Constantly writing this number led me to think it was an age at which something significant was going to occur.

I turned 42 last year. On my 42nd birthday I did my first presentation at the ASLA biennial conference in Adelaide; I presented about my experiences with digital storytelling. I think this was the same day I met John Connell for the first time. I was by myself, but I thought, well, this is it then, this is why I wondered about 42 all my life.

More was to come, I just didn’t know it then.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my year of 42. My life is different. I’ve discovered energy from a medium that I never would have anticipated could fulfill this function.  I have people in my life I consider good friends who I have never met. In two days I’ll be leaving it behind and moving to 43.  In so many ways this last year has been the most transformative for me on a personal level. I feel like I am moving in a new direction; the year has been one of those crossroad years where you divert from the path and take the road less travelled. I don’t know where the path is leading but I’m happy discovering its nooks and crannies and the interesting foliage I encounter along the way.  Roll on 43! 

(Picture: The art guy. Source: Flickrstorm.)

EdTech Crew interview

Recently I was interviewed by Tony Richards and Darrell Branson, the Edtech Crew. The podcast of that interview is now available from their site if you follow this link. If I knew how to embed it here I would!

Tony and Darrell asked me about my foray into the world of blogging, my ideas about blogging as a classroom tool, the experiences I’ve had as an online learner and my involvement in Powerful Learning Practice; how this came about and what I think it will mean for the cohort that has been formed.  

After listening myself, I’ve realised that I talk at a mile a minute and say ‘you know’ an awful lot!  If you’re interested in hearing my voice instead of just reading my words, check it out.