How an internal Teachmeet can help forge a professional learning community

One of the things I set out to do when I took on the role of Director of ICT and eLearning at my school, was to find ways for our staff to share what’s happening in their classrooms. Despite the fact that we often are working in environments with large numbers of staff working within very close proximity of one another, teaching can be an isolated and sometimes lonely profession. Very often, we’re unaware of what is happening in peoples’ classrooms and it’s difficult to find moments where we can get together en masse to share.

In our meeting schedule, we scheduled a Teachmeet as our last staff meeting for the term. I love the idea of Teachmeets, but I’ve yet to attend one. They are informal gatherings of teachers where strategies, new approaches etc are shared and most of them take place on weekends in locations close to the city. I find it really difficult to get to them given the demands of family life and the sheer fact that I’m pretty tired from the working week and need the weekend to recuperate (and do the washing, vacuum the floors etc etc). Last year, when I attended ISTE in San Diego, one of my Australian friends shared how they have Teachmeets with their staff so I thought this would be something we could replicate to bring people together and help to build our professional learning community.

I’ve been very fortunate to have fifteen teachers from across the school volunteer (with a bit of coaxing!) to be eLearning coaches, and seven of them, along with myself, agreed to run a 7 minute information sharing session about something they’re doing. We ended up with a line up that included the following:

Infographics and how to use and create them

iPad/iPhone apps and their use in a Maths classroom

Using Edmodo as a virtual learning platform for your class

Backing up data – what are the options

Flipping your classroom and using a blog to share information (two teachers demonstrated what they’re doing using these methods)

Using Skype to connect with other classrooms and Ning as a platform for teacher resource sharing

Scootle and how to use it to support Australian Curriculum implementation

In my email to staff about the event, I said the following:

There’s a requirement that this will be a fun event, so bring along your good humour, great catching skills and supportive smiles as your peers share their practice with you.

The great catching skills were needed for the lolly throws that took place between presentations, and the supportive smiles were absolutely necessary to help staff present in front of their peers. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather address an audience of 200 strangers than I would the people I work with on a daily basis. I think we were all feeling a degree of stress about the afternoon, but it was unfounded. Our peers were very supportive and got into the spirit of the afternoon. Lollies were caught, laughter was shared, music was played in between presentations and sessions provoked discourse between participants.

The feedback from the Teachmeet has been fabulous. In the hours after I received emails from staff saying how much they’d enjoyed the meeting and that it was fun and engaging. This continued throughout the week when people approached me saying how much they’d taken from it and how the format was perfect for a positive end of term meeting celebrating what’s happening in the school. Our eLeaning coaches who presented have been approached by staff who want to know more about what they’re doing and want opportunities to learn from them.

Sometimes we neglect to explore the expertise that exists within our own staff. We send people out to expensive external professional development where they hear from others when it’s quite possible similar expertise is being played out in classrooms next door to them. Becoming a professional learning community within the walls of your school means finding opportunities like internal Teachmeets where people can discover the experts among them, and build the rapport and professional dialogue with peers that can become a model for others to follow.

Schedule an internal Teachmeet with your staff next term – I don’t think you’ll regret it.  They’re becoming a permanent fixture in our school calendar!


The little things…


I believe that’s the word you’d use to describe this blog of late. Aside from the regular School’s out Friday posts (my saving grace, really), it’s been a barren wasteland for the last month or so. I shouldn’t beat myself up, because starting in a new position, even when it’s at the school you’ve taught at for years, is fraught with finding your feet and trying to establish credibility for yourself amongst your peers.

Me, I’m my own greatest critic. If I’m not moving mountains then I think I’m falling short. I’d love to say I’ve single handedly transformed peoples’ approaches to using technology in their classrooms within weeks, but you’d know I was lying. I’m trying hard not to beat myself up or place undue pressure on myself, but it’s proving difficult. What I have to do is tackle things in a systemised way, make some things a priority, and take heart from the fact that I’m doing what I can with the hours there are in a day.

A little thing I’ve done that I think might be a good start to building a learning community is to create a hashtag for our school and start curating Tweets in a (it’s like a online newspaper). The hashtag is #tcplc (Toorak College Professional Learning Community) and the created I send out in an email daily to staff. To help them determine if there’s anything there of import, I provide a brief summary of some of the posts/articles that have been curated. I’m very lucky to have a couple of other teachers at my school who are Twitter users, and they are helping with the curation. Hopefully we’ll start to see more teachers become aware of the wonderful professional learning opportunities available from the Twitter community and maybe, just maybe, some will sign up and become part of the curation process to benefit all of us.

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 10.20.55 PM

It’s a little thing, but it does take time and effort to curate those links. I’m an avid Twitter user (all my best learning happens or begins from there)  so it’s a great way to make that learning transfer to others who aren’t Twitter users.

Little things go on to become big things. I’ll try and keep this Chinese proverb in mind as the year unfolds,

“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.”

Natalie’s nook – what every school library needs!

Natalie's nook

Don’t you just love it!

We do 🙂

Natalie Elliott is our very creative Library Technician who loves finding ways to make our Library spaces more interesting and inviting for our students. We recently purchased this chair thinking that it matched our colour scheme. It sat around for  awhile looking lovely, whilst unbeknownst to us, Natalie was brewing grand plans for it that had been seeded from her love of all things Pinterest. Her forays into that web of fascinating ideas shared by many, led to the idea for the clever shelving and the inviting lampshade that helps to make this space so cosy.

We are very lucky to have such dedicated staff like Natalie who spend time outside of working hours thinking of ideas for our library space. Natalie is currently studying at Charles Sturt University to obtain her Librarian qualifications.  I know that we endorse her skill set – let’s hope that any assignment about library design allows her to share this post as a reference!

Here’s another view from a different angle.

Natalie's nook 2

Thanks Natalie – we love it!


School’s out Friday

Don’t you wish you received parking tickets like these? I love the change in demeanor once these unsuspecting car owners realise what the contents of their ticket holds. Amazing really, how human beings can shift from anger to delight in the blink of an eye.  We are fickle beings indeed!

Over the last two days I’ve been so touched by the kind words that have come my way with the news that I will be Director of ICT and eLearning at Toorak College next year. I wondered if Teacher-Librarians out there would see this as a sign of abandonment, but I have received nothing but support from many in my network. Thank you to you all. It’s been wonderful receiving such positive encouragement. 🙂

My next two weeks are going to be interesting. I’ll be off the grid for some of the time as I travel through Thailand and  Laos with students from my school on our Beyond Boundaries trip. Part of our journey will be in a village in Laos where we will be working on a community project helping to lay the foundations of a kindergarten. I will definitely be off the grid for that part of the trip, but I may be able to post in the early and latter stages of the trip. Forgive me if this space turns into a travel blog for part of the near future, but I do like to share what I’m up to and it’s great to have a record of this that I can look back on. I’ll be writing a separate blog for our school families too. I’ve done this for past trips in Italy and China and the parents and friends have really appreciated being able to see what their children are doing in far flung parts of the world. These blogs have provided reassurance and a means of communication as they leave comments and our students respond.

Laos (Photo credit: YoTuT)

So, the weekend ahead will be busy as I organise things at home for while I’m away and pack my bag. There will be little rest until the overnight flight to Bangkok! I hope your weekend is a little more restful than mine. 🙂

Something old, something new…

There are changes happening in my life. For those of you who jump to conclusions, yes, I do suspect that I’m approaching the dawn of menopause, but that’s not the change I’m talking about here.

The something old is that I’m not changing schools – I’m still going to be at Toorak College.

The something new is that I am changing jobs at Toorak College in 2013. Starting next school year, I’ll be taking on the position of Director of ICT and eLearning. This is a new position at our school, one that will embrace and help to realise our school vision and mission statements.


Achieving excellence, inspiring future lives.


We lead excellence in education and provide innovative learning opportunities for individuals, to strive to achieve their ambitions in a connected, welcoming environment.

While I am genuinely sad to be leaving my position as Head of Information Services, nothing will change the fact that I am, and always will be, a Teacher-Librarian. I will be taking all of my skills as an information professional to this new position, and the Library at Toorak College will continue to be a driving force implementing change and the integration of new ways of utilising the Web as a powerful tool for connection and learning purposes.

I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead change in what is an Executive level position at my school. Not only that, I am very proud of all that I have done as a self directed learner to have the skill set to take this position on. The following tweet that found its way into my Twitter stream today embodies my story, and what I hope I will be able to do for the staff at my school.

I have only been at this game seriously for the last five years. But what a five years they’ve been. I’ve got a pretty steep learning curve ahead of me I know, but I feel well rehearsed in the learning stakes to take the challenge on.

Planes, Trains and Conferences Part II – SLAQ 2012 and SLAV Global eLiteracy

Well, a plane did get me to sunny Cairns, and there was a conference there, but no sign of any trains! Like I said in my ISTE post, it sounded like a good name for a blog post!

If you’re going to present at a conference in Australia in July, there’s no nicer place than Cairns to do so. The weather is just wonderful there at this time of year. A stark contrast to the southern states. It wasn’t just the weather that made this conference such a wonderful experience; there were a wonderful group of women behind the scenes organising the SLAQ 2012 Biennial Conference who made me feel very welcome and really looked after me up there. I’d like to thank all of you for such care and consideration.

My presentation was well received and you can view it on the wikispace I maintain. Essentially, my message was that as Teacher-Librarians we need to recognise the opportunities that exist now to cement our positions in schools. We can do this well if we respond positively to change and skill ourselves to a level that will enable us to support the Australian Curriculum. I outlined the steps the library team have taken at Toorak College to try and ensure that our students will leave our school with a skill set that prepares them for the knowledge economy they are entering.

I shared the work our library staff have done on an Information Fluency Program to support the development of skills. We’re not suggesting this scope and sequence document is perfect, but we do think it provides a framework for moving closer to providing opportunities within curriculum to address the General Capabilities and give our students (and teachers) the chance to develop their skills. We consulted with our Principal, Mrs. Helen Carmody, who agreed to share this work under a Creative Commons attribution, share alike, non-commercial licence. This has been done in the spirit of sharing, acknowledging that our profession should be supportive of one another and embrace some of the ideals expressed in Australian Curriculum documentation. This program can be accessed by clicking here. Please be mindful of the terms of the licence should you choose to use it within your school setting.

Mandy Lupton, from Queensland University of Technology, presented a really interesting session about Inquiry Learning and the role of the Teacher-Librarian in helping to facilitate this in their schools. Mandy has just launched a blog called ‘Inquiry Learning and Information Literacy‘ to share her research and learning with others. I recommend you take a look and start to find ways you can apply this thinking to curriculum in your schools.

It was a great conference. I met many committed Teacher-Librarians open to ideas and I hope to forge many ongoing connections from this experience in Cairns.

My message was very similar at the School Library of Victoria Conference held at the MCG last Friday. (The presentation is embedded here.) Again, the audience was receptive, or seemed to be at least. You never really know when you’re presenting, unless people tell you otherwise. I can only base things on the feedback I received, and that was positive. The Bright Ideas Blog compiled a Storify of tweets from the day that includes many links to presentations and resources shared on the day. Judy O’Connell, from Charles Sturt University, keynoted the day with a presentation entitled ‘Leading the Learning Revolution‘ looking at what’s on the scene and what we need to be looking out for in the digital landscape. Judy also launched the site at the conference. The site has been established to provide tools, resources and connections for information professionals in Australian schools and beyond. One to keep your eye on.

There was a sharing session at the conference where people led participants to an understanding of tools they might not otherwise had a chance to experience. Although it was hectic, it was rewarding for participants. I led the groups interested in Storify, and others discussed wikis, twitter, screencasting, facebook, eBook authoring, and quite a few others. After lunch, John Pearce discussed iPad apps, Di Ruffles outlined Libguides, Cam Hocking talked about the value of Personal Learning Networks and David Feighan talked about strategies for placing your library in a positive position in your school. All great presentations that advanced the knowledge base of participants.

There’s no rest for the wicked. Later this week I’m off to Coffs Harbour to deliver a Keynote address at the Teacher Education Dialogue Conference being held at Southern Cross University.  A different kind of audience for me this time. Should be very interesting. I’ll keep you posted.


Planes, Trains and Conferences – Part 1: ISTE 2012

(Sorry, late getting to some reflective posts about recent conferences. I’m holidaying with the family, and have decided that they deserve more of my focus than this space. A good call, in my opinion!)

Planes:  Did you know it’s illegal for groups of 3 or more to congregate in the aisles of planes flying over American air space? I didn’t, but was enlightened when this was announced on my flight to Los Angeles en route to the ISTE 2012 conference. I have to admit to entertaining the idea of amassing a crowd just to see what would happen. Would some air space tracking system notify authorities? Would an air marshall make him or herself known and disperse the offending party? Sensibly, I pushed the radical thought to the back recesses of my mind and settled down to view a film called 50/50. I was a sobbing wreck by the end of that one, and drew enough attention to myself that way, nullifying any need to create a scene by congregating with others in the aisles!

Trains: Well, it sounded like a good title for a post, but a trolley car in San Diego doesn’t quite qualify for a train. I caught one of those with Ashleigh, a teacher from Sydney who accompanied me to the mecca that is Seaworld. See my previous post for a review of that experience.

Conferences: Aahhh. The true intention of this post. ISTE 2012. My first ISTE Conference was Denver, 2010, so I had an idea of what to expect. A massive convention centre with thousands of educators congregating and an almost indecipherable conference program to make sense of. After re-reading my 2010 ISTE reflection, I note that I’d identified the need to scrutinise the conference program carefully and select sessions early. #FAIL on my behalf. Once again, I was rushed off my feet getting my ISTE conference presentation prepared as well as correction and end of term report writing before boarding the plane. But, I did make a better go of getting to more sessions this time around. Last time, I found myself locked out of sessions I’d wanted to attend. This time, I got to sessions earlier and had booked some when registering for the conference. That doesn’t always mean you’ve made the right selection though. It’s kind of frustrating watching the twitter stream and being envious of the folks who are tweeting from a session you didn’t even know was on offer. I suppose that’s the issue with a conference of these dimensions. There are often 30 or so sessions running concurrently, and you can’t be in more than one place at a time!

Why I was there

Well, my real purpose for attending was to present about the work we have been doing at Toorak College to scale change beyond the classrooms of the few to the classrooms of many, and hence ensure all of our students are exposed to a skill set that prepares them for life in a knowledge economy. Here’s the premise I was working toward:

At Toorak College (Victoria, Australia) our Library Media Specialists have introduced an Information Fluency initiative to help both our teaching staff and students garner skills in keeping with the digital age we live in. We have introduced the TPACK model and the SAMR model to our teaching staff, and are working on re-envisioning curriculum with these models in mind. We have used the ISTE Students NETS curriculum planning tool to help us create Information Fluency Certificates at Yrs 7, 8 and 9 that embody a skill set we desire our students to acquire. Our Library Media specialists are working in a co-teaching capacity in classrooms to assist our teachers to help our students acquire these skills. We have introduced an edublogs platform and every student from Yrs 7 -10 has a blog they are using as their ePortfolio. It is our aim to have our students demonstrate their acquisition of skills, develop their own digital literacy understandings through use of a public web platform, and develop a positive digital footprint for themselves that they can share with their families, potential employers and University admissions officers. We are looking for whole school systemic adoption of a much needed skill set for the world our students are living in and the world they will find themselves working in.

You can find the presentation on my wikispaces site. (Once again, I’m frustrated that my Sliderocket presentation won’t embed here). My Principal, Mrs. Helen Carmody, agreed that, as educators, in the spirit of sharing, we should publish the Information Fluency Scope and Sequence document under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike  license. We’re not suggesting it’s perfect, but it may help other educators get a start on scaling change beyond teachers’ individual classrooms. It’s also embedded on the wikispaces page. I encourage you to visit and take a look. It would be great to get some feedback on it too. Leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

Some highlights

Yong Zhao’s keynote was fantastic. The guy just makes sense. Don’t take my word for it. Watch it yourself.

The keynote on the final day was also worth attending. So many attendees leave the conference early, and it’s a shame they missed this. Dr. Willie Smits discussed the collaborative work being done with educators to combat the decimation of the rainforest in Borneo and the resultant threats to the Orangutan population. Brisbane teacher Christopher Gauthier joined him later in the presentation to explain how his students had become ‘Earthwatchers‘ as part of the DeforestAction campaign. His passion for his work was palpable; this was exactly the kind of keynote that should have opened the conference, when attendance was at a premium. Take a look, it’s worth it – you’ll have to fast forward to get to the start of Willie Smits’ presentation so let things load and fast track through.

Doug Johnson, a Teacher-Librarian from Minnesota, never disappoints. He writes The Blue Skunk Blog, and he is an excellent presenter. He infuses humour and practical advice into his sessions. This session was about Bricks and mortar libraries, and what is necessary to ensure school libraries remain relevant in schools today. His wiki page supporting this session with links to posts he has written is accessible here. If you’re not already reading Doug’s blog, then you should be.

Ewan McIntosh delivered a presentation about Data Visualisation. This is a topic I’m very much interested in. I think teaching students how to work with data and present their findings in interesting, accessible ways is something we need to be exploring in schools today. Ewan introduced me to the work of David McCandless. I’ve since discovered the TED talk he delivered that encapsulates many of his visualisations and what they tell us. Again, best you take a look yourself.

The real highlight

Honestly, the real highlight of any conference like this is connecting with new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Getting to see Lisa Parisi and Diana Laufenberg again was just great. Lisa made a special effort to meet me in New York on a previous visit (Forever grateful for that Lisa) and I met Diana at Educon a couple of years ago. We’ve since met up in Melbourne and shared a night out together when she was presenting here. Seeing Sheryl Nussbaum Beach again was another highlight- a very good friend now thanks to our PLP time together. Getting to meet Ann Michaelson from Norway was fabulous- we both write for the PLP Voices blog and have now organised to connect our classrooms together in September. I was more than thrilled to get the opportunity to finally meet Carolyn Foote, a Teacher-Librarian from Texas. Carolyn and I have been twitter friends for a long time now, going back to 2008, so it was wonderful to finally meet face to face. There were many more catch ups with educators from all over, but I’d be writing for the next three hours if I tried to mention them all.

What was really wonderful about this conference, and what made it a special experience for me, was catching up with some Australian educators, and meeting some for the first time. Weird really, that you have to travel so far to meet people who live in the State next door (New South Welshman!). Cameron Paterson, Stacey Taylor, Maurice Cummins, Leanne Windsor, Tom Lee, Mike Wheadon, Angela Thomas – thanks for sharing some really fun times, and for being such a supportive Aussie contingent at my presentation. I hope we get to meet up together again sometime and share a meal together – you made my time in San Diego one full of friendship and laughter. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing, but I found myself gravitating to Australians at both Denver and San Diego ISTE conferences. Maybe there’s comfort in sharing common ground, or maybe it’s just that the people I’ve hung out with are just great people. I’d like to think the latter. 🙂


It still perplexes me how much time is spent discussing hardware at conferences like this.  A number of sessions focused on the idea of Bring your own technology and iPad rollouts. To my way of thinking, the discussion needs to centre around why you’d want to roll out the hardware – what is it our kids need to be doing with it to make the learning better? The other thing that struck me was how the tools based sessions had educators spilling out the doors. It seems like we haven’t gotten past people needing to be taught how to use a tool. Hand holding still seems necessary rather than people taking it on board to self direct their own learning. Heads up people – YouTube is full of screencasts explaining pretty much most things these days – take a visit, you might like what you see.

Like last time, I’ve come away from ISTE feeling like Australia is in pretty good shape. Even Alan November was telling participants in his session that they’d be at an advantage if they were sitting next to an Australian. We might bemoan our systems at times, but at least we’ve seen our Government recognise the need to build capacity within our population to meet the needs of a global economy head on. Perhaps it is still our tyranny of distance that makes us look outwards and try to find ways to link ourselves to the rest of the world. Maybe ISTE should be looking to us for guidance? They are running a study tour visiting our shores later this year. It would be interesting to hear from participants on that to see their impressions of our education system here.

San Diego- thanks for putting on a great show. Those clear blue skies in the middle of a freezing cold Melbourne winter really helped quell the seasonal affective disorder!

Australian Curriculum Conference – Toorak College

Toorak College (where I teach!) is hosting ‘Exploring and Implementing the Australian Curriculum‘ on the 23rd and 24th of July. This conference is an opportunity to engage with key people in a variety of curriculum fields who are going to share their understanding of the new curriculum with participants. I know there are many teachers who have perhaps read some of the documentation, but have questions regarding the implementation process. This conference is a wonderful opportunity to have some of those questions clarified.

What follows is directly from the conference program.


There are three clusters of keynote speeches in the conference and in total 11 keynotes.

Cluster 1 – Structure and General Capabilities

Keynote Speech 1 (by Professor Barry McGaw – ACARA)
Australian Curriculum to Promote 21st Century Learning

The Australian Curriculum includes a clear focus on major disciplines of knowledge as well as on general capabilities that are sometimes described as 21st Century skills or competencies. This balance of focus is important and deliberate. The curriculum also focuses on three cross-curriculum priorities that deserve current attention. The presentation will explain the logic of the structure and its consequences.

Biography of the Speaker:

Professor Barry McGaw is a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne and Chair of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. He has previously been Director for Education at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Executive Director of the Australian Council for Educational Research.

Keynote Speech 2 (by Dr. David Howes – VCAA)
Implementing the Australian Curriculum: from National to State Level

This address will explore the challenges and opportunities of whole curriculum design during the iterative development of the Australian Curriculum.

Biography of the Speaker:

Dr. David Howes is the General Manager of the Curriculum Division of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA). He worked from 2003 – ¬2006 as a technical adviser with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) in Cambodia. Prior to that, he worked with the Victorian Department of Education and taught and held curriculum leadership positions for ten years in schools in the western suburbs of Melbourne and in London. He has completed post-graduate studies in education and public sector administration at the Institute of Education, University of London; Monash University; the Australia-New Zealand School of Government and the University of Melbourne. His professional interests include curriculum design, policy sociology, the nexus between school and higher education and micro-level studies of aid and development. David’s publications include school text books; refereed journal articles on student learning; book chapters on school curriculum reform and the impact of globalisation on higher education in South-East Asia and contributions to subject association journals.

Keynote Speech 3 (by Mr Tony Brandenburg – President of the Australian Computers in Education Council)
Technology as a general capability is not general, at all!

Tony will explore ICT as a general capability in the Australian Curriculum. He will challenge his audience to use technology in their teaching and in the students learning. He will explore social media, mobile technology and cloud computing as learning tools. He will also encourage participants to explore the Horizon Report as a way of thinking about the future of digital technologies in an education setting.

Biography of the Speaker:

Tony Brandenburg has taught at all levels of education both in Australia and internationally and has worked with government departments in Australia and the Middle East. At present he works as Professional Development Manager for the Victorian Institute of Teaching.

He is an experienced educator who has been involved with educational technology for more than 30 years. Currently he is a Director on the Board of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and is a member of the ISTE International Committee.

He is President of the Australian Computers in Education Council, which also awarded him a fellowship in 2010.He is a past president of ICTEV, the Victorian teacher association, which focuses on the use of ICT by teachers.

He has spent much of his teaching life working with technology, arguing for better resources and challenging much of the educational status quo in relation to ICT. He believes that passionate advocacy, excellent information and clear goals and objectives are essential when dealing with system and government authorities.

He has significant experience with the ‘NETS’, especially in lifting their usage in Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East.In 2005 he was presented with the Australian Leader of the Year in Educational Technology. He lists his passions as spending quality time with his family, educational technology pedagogy, strategic planning/policy development, travel and snow skiing. (Usually in that order!)

Keynote Speech 4 (by Ms Robyn Marshall – Director of Teaching and Learning at St Leonard’s College)
Using the Understanding by Design curriculum framework to integrate the Australian Curriculum

How best should we integrate the Australian Curriculum? How can we move from the content based, textbook driven curriculum to a concept based inquiry curriculum? Fundamentally, how can we use the Australian Curriculum to enhance learning for all our students? The Australian Curriculum can provide an opportunity for schools to have a significant impact on the teaching and learning process. The Understanding by Design framework, (often known as Backward Design) offers some of the answers to the questions posed above. By creating high quality units, based on the Australian Curriculum Achievement Standards, as well as reconceptualising the nature of teaching and of assessment, student learning can be ignited and the role of the teacher can be transformed.

Biography of the Speaker:

Mrs Robyn Marshall has taught secondary students in 4 states and sees the tremendous value of the Australian Curriculum as a unifying force, rather than something that divides. She began her teaching career in country New South Wales, before moving to Canberra, Adelaide and finally Victoria. Recently Robyn has specialised in the Middle Years, in particular the development of innovative Middle Years Programs in Nanjing, China and Clunes in country Victoria. She is currently Director of Teaching and Learning at St Leonard’s College and has successfully led the development of the Understanding By Design framework in a number of schools.

Cluster 2 – Cross Curriculum Priorities

Keynote Speech 5 (by Ms Jacinta Mooney)
Incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures into your School Curriculum

This address explores how the national Cross Curricula Priority of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island histories and culture can be incorporated into an individual school curriculum. What opportunities does this priority present for curriculum design and guarantee that students attain the skills and knowledge intended by the framework.

Biography of the Speaker:

Jacinta Mooney is a secondary English and History teacher who spent nine years in the Northern Territory working in Indigenous health and Indigenous education. Jacinta has extensive experience living and working in Aboriginal communities, including Ngukurr, Wadeye and Santa Teresa. Jacinta focused on developing curriculum and strengthening the relationship between the school and the community. After two years training educators in Ethiopia, Jacinta is working in high schools in the North-Western suburbs of Melbourne.

Keynote Speech 6 (by Ms Jennifer Ure – Asia Education Foundation)
Implementing Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia in the Australian Curriculum

Asia is now the region currently emerging as one of history’s greatest catalysts for worldwide change. The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians calls for all Australians students to develop new skills, knowledge and understanding related to the Asian region and Australia’s engagement with Asia in order to meet the challenges and opportunities of living and working with our neighbours.

The Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia priority in the Australian Curriculum provides essential learning for all Australian students. This session will look at how this priority appears in the Australian Curriculum; what it means for developing curriculum programs and presents resources and ideas to support its inclusion in classroom practice. Included will be the Australian context for learning about the Asian region and examples of Asia Education Foundation programs that support schools’ implementation of the Asia priority.

Biography of the Speaker:

Jennifer Ure has been with the Asia Education Foundation since 2008. She manages national projects including the Leading 21 Century Schools: engage with Asia project, a national leadership initiative for principals and school leaders. In addition, Jennifer manages the AEF’s web portal that provides services and resources for teachers and schools to implement the Australian Curriculum cross-curriculum priority of Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia.

Prior to working with the AEF, Jennifer worked in the Northern Territory for five years as the Curriculum Officer for Studies of Asia with the Department of Education and Training. In that role she delivered professional learning for educators and schools across the Territory. An important element of that work was linking studies of Asia with Indigenous education in remote schools.

Keynote Speech 7 (by Mr Kerry Bolger – Principal Cornish College)
Sustainability – the new educational imperative: more than just environmental education and is no longer an optional extra

This presentation will provide an insight into how one school has integrated educating for sustainability through its Prep to Year 9 curriculum. Participants will be introduced to a ‘sustainable thinking disposition” developed by Mr Kerry Bolger and Mrs Marcia Behrenbruch over the last decade.

In presenting the Bolger/Behrenbruch model of teaching and learning the audience will be challenged to consider the concept of sustainability in its broadest sense as the central purpose of a 21st Century education.

Biography of the Speaker:

Kerry Bolger is currently the Principal of Cornish College. He is a secondary trained teacher who started his teaching career with the Ministry of Education. After 20 years as an Economics/History teacher he was appointed as the Head of the St Leonard’s College Cornish Campus in 1991. Kerry has a Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Special Education. He was awarded an Internal Teaching Fellowship to England in 1985 and was the recipient of a National Excellence in Teaching Award in 2006. His staff were awarded the Herald Sun Teaching Team of the Year in 2005 and the Campus was judged the Sustainable School Champion in 2005 by the University of New South Wales. Kerry has co-authored a number of articles on sustainability and he and his staff have developed a model of teaching and learning linking education for sustainable living with a concept driven, multidisciplinary, inquiry based educational program. Kerry was awarded a John Laing Professional Development Award for his contribution to the education of others in education by Principals Australia in 2011. He is a past President of the Victorian Branch of the Commonwealth League of Exchange teachers and is currently the Independent School Council of Australia representation on the National Sustainable School Network and the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative.

Cluster 3 – Learning Areas

History (by Ms Annabel Astbury)
The Shapes of the Australian Curriculum: History – Many voices, many stories

In this session, Annabel Astbury will examine the Australian Curriculum: History and present ideas on how to approach the challenges of implementing it at school level. The focus will be on the Foundation to Year 10 curriculum but will also include discussion on the progress which has been made on senior courses thus far.

Biography of the Speaker:

Annabel Astbury is the Executive Director of the History Teachers’ Association of Victoria. Her role is a varied one which includes overseeing the operations of the association, focusing on the direction and development of professional learning programs for teachers; advising and consulting with curriculum and assessment authorities.

Science (by Prof Denis Goodrum)
Australian Science Curriculum: Implementation and implications

Biography of the Speaker:

Denis Goodman is an Emeritus Professor and former Dean of Education of the University of Canberra. He has been involved in many national and international activities in Science education. In 1998 he was a visiting scholar at the National Research Council in Washington DC, working on a project examining inquiry and the National Science Education Standards. He is presently Chair of the ACT Teacher Quality Institute

National projects for which Denis has been responsible include:

  • Primary Investigations – a curriculum resource for primary schools with an associated professional learning model.
  • Status and Quality of Teaching and Learning of Science in Australian Schools.
  • Collaborative Australian Secondary Science Project (CASSP) that evaluated a teacher change model through the development of integrated curriculum and professional development resources.
  • Science by Doing – concept plan 2006 and Stage One 2009-11
  • Australian School Science Education: National Action Plan 2008–12
  • National Science Curriculum Framing Paper 2008

English (by Mr Sean Box – Acting Curriculum Manager VCAA)
English Goes National

This session will outline some of the new opportunities represented by the implementation of the Australian Curriculum: English. It will provide participants with an overview of the new English curriculum and how it differs from the current VELS curriculum and much common contemporary practice in Victorian schools. A particular focus of the session will be on the place and role of texts in the new curriculum and the inter-relationships between the three strands of Language, Literacy and Literature.

Biography of the Speaker:

Sean Box is Acting Curriculum Manager of English at the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA). Prior to working in the Curriculum Division, he held a position with Student Learning Division of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD). He has contributed to Australian Curriculum consultation and implementation in Victoria and Queensland.

Mathematics (by Dr Michael Evans)
Shape of the Mathematics Curriculum

Biography of the Speaker:

Dr Michael Evans is responsible for the ICE-EM Mathematics program. He has a PhD in Mathematics from Monash University and a Diploma of Education from La Trobe University. Before coming to ICE-EM, he was Head of Mathematics at Scotch College, Melbourne, and involved with the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority in various capacities. He has also taught in public schools. In 1999 he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law by Monash University for his contribution to Mathematics Education, and in 2001 he received the Bernhard Neumann Award for contributions to Mathematics enrichment in Australia.

I’d encourage you to alert your teachers to this conference and sign up to attend. We really do need to have a complete understanding of all facets of the new curriculum. It would be great to see teachers from all curriculum areas increase their understanding of something that is going to impact us all.

Connecting for a cause – the best kind of learning

For the past four years, as part of our Global Girl program, Toorak College has been connected to Daraja Academy. Daraja is a girl’s school in Kenya providing free education to impoverished girls who would not have access to a secondary education any other way. Our conduit for this connection is Mark Lukach, a former teacher who has been involved with Daraja since its inception. Mark has been skyping into our school from San Francisco, helping our students to understand the purpose of Daraja and the critical difference an educated girl can make to the community she lives in. Mark’s energy crosses our Internet connection, and enthuses our students every year.

Over this four year period, our Year 9 students have raised money to support the running of Daraja Academy by holding ‘Sleepout for Schools’ events. The girls stay overnight at school, and try and incorporate an element of fundraising into the night’s activities.

This year has been a very special ‘Sleepout for Schools’ event. An event is held in San Francisco called the Bay to Breakers. It’s a 12 km fun run, and for the past couple of years a team has run in this event raising sponsorship for Daraja Academy. At Daraja, the girls attending the school run a 12km course at the same time. This year, Toorak College joined the cause and our students began their Sleepout for Schools event with a laps of our oval. We had decided to run in teams to share the load of the 12km amongst groups of girls, but one of our very fit students, Julia, really threw herself into the event and ran the entire 12km after school. She was absolutely inspiring, and managed to raise a significant amount of money thanks to her dedication. Ruby, one of our students, designed a logo for the event, and we made badges that the girls wore during the night. I’m sure we will see them pinned on their school blazers throughout the year.

Jason Doherty, the founder of Daraja Academy, recorded a video thanking our girls for their ongoing support.

Like Jason says in the video, the girl’s efforts were featured on the Daraja Academy site, and we shared this with our students in the days leading up to the event. The actual event was a great success, with most of our Yr 9 students participating and raising money for Daraja in the process. What made the event really special, was the fact that we knew the money we raised would be going to support the tuition for Lilian, a student at Daraja Academy. Our aim was to try to raise $2,400.00, the cost of a year’s tuition. To date, our students have raised $2,040.00, with plans to find ways to raise the extra $460.00 that will get us to the total Lilian needs for a year’s education. Our students know only too well how fortunate they are to have access to a good education, and the opportunities they will have as a result of this. It’s been truly rewarding for all of us at the school to see our students dedicated to a cause, knowing they are making an impact on a young girl’s life. This is the kind of learning you don’t get from textbooks -it’s real life connection with a cause in mind.

Daraja Academy made a video thanking people for the efforts they went to to support their girls.Take a look at these beautiful girls who now have an opportunity to education thanks to Daraja.

It’s been so rewarding having our Yr 9 students work for this cause over the last four years. Every year I hear girls tell me how meaningful it is to do something when they know where the money is headed. This cause helps them see the world differently, and goes a long way towards developing empathy, something we want our students to value.

Here are some pics from our run.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could extend the participation rates for next year, and have other schools join in to support the cause at the same time? Any takers? You’ll be better for it, if you do. I know that our students are feeling the rewards that come from giving to others and making some sort of positive difference.

*Special thanks once again to Mark Lukach, who gives so freely of his time to our girls and makes the event come alive for them. Mark usually skypes with us on the night of the sleepover as well, but this year, he had to forfeit. And for good reason. Mark and Guilia’s first child, Jonas, was born the previous night. Congratulations to you both. Toorak College girls send warm wishes your way. 🙂

Overdrive – downloadable ebooks and audiobooks: now a part of our Networked School Community

Overdrive Logo
Image by South Carolina State Library via Flickr

I wrote this in March 2010.

We have three Kindles, and will begin lending them out for a week at a time next term. We’ve decided to not invest in more of them and are awaiting the release of the iPad to see how that looks. But really, the reader device is not our big issue. I don’t see us purchasing these devices in bulk and borrowing them out. I see our clientele having a device (their own computers can fulfill this purpose!) and we as a library lending out a file…

Our big issue is, how is the publishing industry going to respond to the rollout of a device like the iPad, and how will we as Libraries be involved? My personal opinion is that I think the iPad is going to be the start of the revolution that will see an ereader device have a major impact on the way people read. But the tricky question for libraries will be, how do we become a part of that revolution??

Unless I’ve missed something somewhere, I’m not seeing this essential question being answered in the networks I inhabit or by the publishing industry. I did discuss it with the developer of the library system we have just moved to, and he was talking about having the ability to encrypt files so that they could be transferred to a device, but they would only remain on the device for a two week period. When that time was up, they would once again appear as a file available for borrowing. Now that made sense to me; in fact, it was the first time someone had presented an idea that I thought was even feasible.

…Are there answers out there to these questions? If there are, point me in the right direction, because I want to make my library relevant to the kids we teach. I want to see them able to borrow files like these and not have to fork out money to pay for everything they want to read on an ereader or listen to on an iPod or other MP3 device. I want my library to fulfill the function libraries have been performing for the last century or so; ensuring access to information.

The way information is accessible is changing; the way Libraries lend content will change with these new ways of receiving information. Let’s work out how we’re going to go about doing it.

I don’t know how long it was after writing this post that I started reading about Overdrive,  a company providing an option for libraries to lend ebook and audiobook files that will stay on a device for a specified period and then return to the library’s collection for borrowing again. I do know that what I was reading held my interest. Here was a company doing what I had envisaged as possible.

What I did do was discuss Overdrive with our Library team and the school’s Technology committee. Every discussion I had was met with enthusiasm for the idea that our students and staff would be able to download ebooks and audiobooks to their computers and ereading and listening devices. But still, I hesitated. I asked myself questions like:

What if a better option presents itself?

Is it sensible to tie ourselves into platform delivery for ebooks and audiobooks?

Will this company become the frontrunner as an ebook/audiobook borrowing solution?

I think they were good questions, and I thought about them long and hard for at least 6 months. I looked out for other options, but nothing as fluid as Overdrive had presented itself. I was reluctant to tie us into a platform for delivery, but I did want to see our school library move into the ebook/audiobook arena in a serious way. We’re a 1:1 laptop school, and we have some voracious readers who absorb content at a rapid rate. I wanted to see us have an option that would allow a student sitting home at 7.30pm, thinking they might want to read a book, be able to sign into our system and download it to their device. I still don’t know if Overdrive will emerge as the frontrunner as the library ebook/audiobook solution. Nobody knows the answer to that question. Eventually, after more discussion with our library team, we decided to make what we think is going to be a significant and positive change for our library, and we subscribed to the service.

We began working with Overdrive in July 2011, and the system was launched with our staff at the end of the 2011 school year (that’s December in my hemisphere). We probably could have got things going earlier, but if your library is anything like mine, plenty of things get in the way, not the least of which was the work that was going into the development of the Information Fluency program I outlined in my Moving to a Networked School Community post recently. We also decided to begin working with Libguides at the same time (I’ll write another post about that soon) and that took up time as well.

If you’re interested in the nuts and bolts questions about how Overdrive works, their Frequently Asked Questions page is worth reading. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the system fees; I’ve found that’s what most people want to know first. Here’s the answer to that question (from their FAQ);

System Fees

How much does School Download Library cost?

Pricing for the School Download Library service starts at just $4,000 per year (including $2,000 worth of eBooks and/or audiobooks) for an individual school or a district of up to 2,000 students. For pricing for a larger district, please contact the OverDrive Sales Team at 216-573-6886 Ext. 4, or

Here’s what the Toorak College site looks like.

We were able to customise the header and were grateful to our Media Studies teacher who helped us come up with a design we were happy with . We’re using the same header for our Libguides site, but that is entitled ‘Library’ and not ‘Digital Collection’ (obviously!). The tab on the Digital Collection site for TC Library will take our students to the Libguides site. We had to make decisions about the look and feel of the site, and what terms we were going to use in the check out process of a book. We opted for using the term ‘My Cart’ for the check out process, because we thought it was a term commonly used on sites and would be familiar to students and staff, even if it does sound like they’re shopping. They are shopping, but the books coming to them are free!

There are some things you need to be mindful of. We are a dual platform school, supporting both Macs and PCs, but the vast majority of students in Yrs 5 – 8 have Mac computers. Many of the audiobooks that are available will not be available to download as an MP3 file on a Mac computer. The vast number available are WMA Audiobook files, and need to be downloaded to a PC before they can be transferred to an iPhone, iPod or iPad. We are going to set up and Overdrive Download Station in our school library to assist students who don’t have access to a PC at home.

Another thing to take note of is the fact that not everything published is available to add to your library content. Publishers make a decision to work with Overdrive, so you’re limited to publishers who have made that decision, and to the content they are offering for  purchase as a digital file. There isn’t a huge raft of Australian content, and hopefully we will see more titles make their way to their marketplace store in the future.

I’ve spent time over this holiday period downloading titles to my iPad via the app they have available in the iTunes store. It’s been incredibly easy. I even managed to impress my hard to impress daughter one morning when she said she’d like to read a book. I got the iPad, opened the app, accessed our library, found a title, added it to my cart, proceeded with checkout, and downloaded it then and there. Within a minute or two she had a book to read. She raised an impressed eyebrow at that one, and that’s no mean feat!

We are going to have to do quite a bit of work with our students when we return to school educating in them in how to use the platform. They’ll ‘get it’ easily, I have no doubt. They need to sign up to Adobe Digital Editions to use ebooks, and download the Overdrive Media Console to use audiobooks. I created a couple of screencasts to demonstrate the steps they need to follow on a computer and through an iPad, and they will be uploaded to our school intranet to help them out. We found a very helpful document created by Adelaide City Council City Libraries explaining the process of downloading audiobooks to PCs and Macs, and how to transfer these books to ereaders and other devices like iPods and iPads. Natalie, our wonderful Library Technician, morphed it to suit our library  – I hope the Adelaide City Council is OK with that!

Our budget has been designed this year to reflect purchases for a print and digital collection. We will still be purchasing printed fiction, and there will be duplication in our print and digital collections. Obviously we will need to monitor usage, and see what the adoption rate is like for the digital collection. It’s going to be interesting to see how things pan out.

I feel comfortable with the decision we have made to go down this path. We have made contact with other school libraries in Australia who have purchased Overdrive, and it’s been extremely helpful knowing that some advice from others in our country is only a phone call away. I’ve been pretty impressed with the support offered from the Overdrive team. Obviously they are in the United States, and the time zones aren’t all that friendly, but our questions are usually addressed in a 24 hr turnaround. They have provided promotional material using our Library header image, and we’ll be circulating that around    our Library and in classrooms on our return to school.

What it comes down to is that we are providing another avenue for our students to access fiction and non-fiction reading and listening material. This year is the National Year of Reading here in Australia, and we aim to do whatever we can to help our students discover the joy that can come from immersing yourself in a good book. We also see this as part of our Networked School Community model. We are providing our community with a way of accessing our collection from anywhere, at anytime. That’s got to be a good thing.

I’ll keep you posted as to how things pan out as the year progresses.