ISTE2015 – Day 3 – Maker, creator, coach and innovator

So much to process so these first posts will just be summaries but they will grow into greater reflections as I get more time to reflect and play.  I went to three sessions today, and the keynote presentation, as well as spending plenty of time in the Expo hall taking in all of the amazing things on offer.  Here are some of my notes.

From 0 to 60: jump start a maker culture in your school

  • Prototyping – piloting with iterations.  This is how they developed the model for how they would run Maker spaces
  • Start small and think big, grow and scale through iterations
  • Essential conditions
    – empowered leaders
    – engaged leaders
    – intrinsic motivation
    – resource capacity
    – design thinking competence, not just one-off instances but purposeful maker projects
    – future connection
    – skill capacity
  • Accelerator 1: focus on a high-impact opportunity (understand potential)
    – global shifts: trend shots, urgent need to address Stem gap, and emerging technology
    – Deloitte maker report
    – trend maps
    – global shifts: collaborative production will define the future of work
  • In education, practice trumps theory.
  • Rise of the professional amateurs
  • Accelerator 2: attract and maintain an inquiring coalition (find your leaders)
    – teams
  • Accelerator 3: envision impact and design a prototype
  • Do with what you have at first, find space at is visible, set it up for students and watch it transform.
  • Materials
    1. Recycle, reuse, remake
    2. Use what you have at first
    3. Materials for targeted age groups
    4. Educational electronics
  • Level 1
    Basic craft supplies
  • Level 2
    Some electronic kits, basic mechanics and electronics
  • Level 3
    3D printers, robotics, soldering irons, more complex building
  • Prototypes are not a one size fits all – different approaches for each division/level
  • Maker Saturday – parents and students making
  • Making in the high school
    – advisory maker challenges
    – engineering club
    – free math day
    – new media in art
    – integration with science curriculum
    – maker Saturday workshops
    – maker elective classes
  • Accelerator 4: attract volunteer inquirers (recruit the engaged)
  • Find volunteers who are passionate and engaged
  • Barriers: identify and overcome
    • Lack of knowledge –
    • Provide reading, hands on learning and examples
    • Resistance to change – maker PD, spotlight success/ignites, distribute resources to interested individuals
    • Time – engineering club, elective classes, workshops
  • Scribble box activity – box and motors/batteries
  • Accelerator 6: generate and celebrate early impacts (spotlight success)
  • Family activities, collaboration, community engagement
  • Create videos of sessions and their impact etc
  • Get students to record video of process and put on YouTube
  • Accelerator 7: keep learning from evidence and experience (gather data)
  • Maker look fors rubric
  • Accelerator 8: institute change
  • It’s not done yet, embed it into the culture of the school
  • Great resources are available at

Rethinking Library and Learning Spaces for 1:1 Schools

  • (furniture arrangement)
  • Library Design – Rethinking Spaces with Students in Mind
  • A Library is like what appliance?? Thinking outside of the box on what a library actually is.
  • “Sometimes we need to UNTHINK before we can RETHINK.”
  • noise level
  • a place to work individually
  • Language of School Design by Prakash Nair
  • – Digital Lives are made up 7 spaces
  • Purposeful design – cave space (maybe in front of windows
  • Give it a name! – Transparent Library, Learning Commons, etc.
  • High Tech High in San Diego – all classrooms are glass – very transparent
  • Teknion – Glass wall that hangs from ceiling tiles
  • Survey teacher and student needs to gather input from students about the space. How do you learn?  What kind of space do you like to study in?
  • Taped floor for testing
  • Teacher focus group
  • Edutopia project Remake Your Class – visual thinking – Pinterest on a bulletin board – give limited number of dots and allow users to post dots on favs
  • Become an anthropologist
  • identify obstacle points with sticky notes
  • observe student behavior
  • ask critical questions
  • Gamestorming – exercises outside-the-box
  • Staple Yourself to Something
  • Think of your day through the lens of space
  • Amplify what already works/priorities
  • Strategic Brainstorming
  • Creating Analogies
  • Give yourself a THEME to work toward – what is your overall VISION?
  • Listening Walk through the space – TED talk by Julian Treasure: Why architects need to use their ears
  • “Make a room that doesn’t smell like school.” – Paul Bogush
  • Stanford design school – 90 minute crash course
  • Channel the optimism of a designer, the resourcefulness of a hacker, and the playfulness of a maker. Melanie Kahl Remake your Class: 6 Ways to Get Started
  • Locker repurpose??? – use them for displays – hacking a space that’s doing nothing!
  • Hack a vending Machine – library vending
  • Design is not just what it looks like and feels like.  Design is how it works. Steve Jobs
  • How do we learn best interview – Where? How? Sounds?
  • Brainstorm – what are you doing well?
  • Inspiration?
  • Design Share
  • Find wasted space – staircase
  • Google Color Search
  • Books – The Robin Hood Foundation and NYCity elementary school The L!brary by Siddiqi
  • Language of School Design
  • Make Space – How to Set the Stage for Creative Collab
  • The Third Teacher –
  • Dave Thornburg From the Campfire to the Holodeck 21st century Learning Environoments
  • Why wouldn’t we want our spaces to be beautiful and inspiring?
  • Google Sheet of resources
  • Grant Resources –
  • Future Ready Schools
  • Donors Choose
  • Partner with a Vendor
  • The other presentations didn’t involve so many notes.

More notes and reflections shortly…

ISTE2015 – Day 1 – The Immersion begins

As I sit in my hotel room, reflecting on my jam-packed full day, there is fireworks going off out over the Delaware river.  It is reflective, ironically, of the way my brain kinda feels at the moment.  Today is only day one of ISTE2015 here in Philly but I am so pumped to learn more about how they are doing things in education here with technology.  Already I’ve had some great conversations and learned about areas of education that Australia could really benefit from adopting, and perhaps areas that America could learn from us about too.

My morning was spent learning about Hummingbird Robotics, and learning the fundamentals of robotics and how to program simple expressions and sequences of expressions.  It was much easily to do than I originally thought and I loved the ideas many others came up with when making their own group project robots.  There was all sorts of use of the light sensor to trigger flashing lights and movement of parts.  The imagination of some of my colleagues in that workshop was great so I can only imagine what our students would do if let lose with the same equipment.  We often forget as teachers, that students will learn these things faster than us, and that they still have an imagination that is not bogged down in administrative duties etc that we might get weighed under.

I am full of hope and excitement about taking what I have learned about robotics and applying it in a MakerSpace environment that I really want to get running at my current school.  It is such a fantastic way of engaging the disengaged amongst our student population and I cannot wait to see untapped potential fulfilled more through new opportunities this might present to them.

A20150628_124346fter that workshop I went and experienced more of Philadelphia and went to The Franklin Institute to check out The Art of the Brick exhibition that was AMAZING, and made entirely of Lego.  Artworks such as The Scream and the Mona Lisa were replicated, using only Lego pieces, and they were phenomenal!  I love Lego and this exhibit was Lego at its best. The rest of the institute was great, and I can see it being the perfect excursion venue for schools to bring students too but the highlight for me was definitely the Lego.


Tonight’s keynote speaker at ISTE2015, highlighted for me, the importance of the teacher in recognising potential in students and in providing unique opportunities for all students to experience learning in multiple ways, not limiting them because of who they are seen to be or who they think they are.  The short Ignite session brought to us prior to the keynote was so poignant in also highlighting the significance of diversity in education.  We fail to cater for the diversity that does exist within our school systems so much.  We try to cater well for those with diagnosed learning difficulties and physical disabilities, but what about those who are from a low socio-economic background; who do not have literate parents; who are isolated; who are without the basic necessities in life; who have had little exposure to other cultures or demographic groups; and, so many others types of diversities that exist? Do we bridge the gap, only to create a new one?  I feel we do.

By @jmattmiller

By @jmattmiller

Soledad O’Brien was our keynote speaker tonight, and she was very inspirational.  Her parents were married in the late 50s, at a time when it was illegal for a ‘white’ American to marry a ‘black’ American.  They suffered prejudice and discrimination but did not let it sway them.  She spoke about how technology can be leveraged to bridge the gaps of diversity, and how it can be leveraged to provide greater opportunities for students to reach their full career potential, even for careers not yet heard of by them.  She shared a story about a group of American students who went to help a community of students in South Africa, even worse off than they were, and how the laptops that Dell provided them, gave them a voice in the projects they were working on in South Africa.  The key here for me is, it gave them a voice!  Do we allow our students to have a voice?  Or do we place to many rules and restrictions around them that it neglects to leverage any benefits from technology whatsoever?  I think this is a big point we need to consider in Australian education with technology.

More tomorrow…

Design-based research

Ever since I became a teacher, I have sort to improve my practice by way of further informal research into topic areas that may impact my professional effectiveness.  Early in my career I engaged in professional development on topics such as behaviour management (with Bill Rogers), project- and problem-based (with Intel), website design, webquest design, action research and so much more.  What is this type of ad hoc research strategy reminiscent of?  After doing some reading and reflection, I believe that my professional practice has seen me develop skills in design-based research, as a facilitator of professional improvement.  The image below shows the difference between traditionally adopted research and design-based research practice.

The way that I approached research was very much to figure out the exact nature of the problem I was facing in the classroom and to then do some internet research to develop solutions for these problems.  Behaviour/classroom management was of course a big issue for me in those early days and determining the main source of the problem was of course not easy, however, the students’ engagement and motivation proved to be a big factor in it.  I sort to explore more technically innovative ways to facilitate students’ learning opportunities to increase their motivation and engagement with the subject, creating Webquests and projects that would give them more autonomy and ownership over their learning.

My work towards finding a solution was not quick, and to be honest, I never mastered it of course, but I tried many different strategies and tools, both technical and pedagogical, to test and refine what might work best.  I always learned a lot from these experiences, and I still do this kind of research in the various roles I have taken since my first classroom teaching position.

I believe that no learning experience is complete without critical reflection and that is part of the design-based research paradigm, and the catalyst for it becoming a cycle that restarts based on critical reflection.

Learning objects in Scootle

I have know about Scootle since its beginning, and I have browsed it a little but I had not thought to consider evaluating the value of the learning objects being curated and shared in Scootle before.  Tonight I did a bit of browsing and one of the first resources I looked at after searching in Creative Arts > Music was a highly useful resource for visual arts and music lessons.  I have been teaching both of these subjects this term to a number of special needs students and the resource I came across is perfect for them.  I have evaluated the resource based on an checklist in Haughey. Margaret and Muirhead, B. (2005). Evaluating learning objects for schools.  Retrieved 25 March, 2015 from The resource I am looking at is Visual Art Starters: Painting the Music.


The resource is aimed at F-2 years in primary schools, however, being that my classes in this instance are special needs and doing lifeskills, this is a suitable resource.  The resource addresses appropriate outcomes and content descriptors and it also says in the teacher guide section that:

“The resource has pedagogical value for the Visual Arts curriculum. The activities provide a framework for students to explore drawing and painting through different elements including colour, shape, texture and pattern, while drawing and painting to music; they offer opportunities for students to work both independently and as a class.”

“The resource can also contribute to students developing the general capability Personal and social capability, particularly in relation to self-awareness and recognising emotions.”

What I loved straight away with this resource was the way the activities were scaffolded under the headings of learn, apply, respond and extend.  These headings are tabs down the left hand side and really support ease of navigation for the users.  Downloadable objects are also very obvious, however, as an advocate for Open Education Resources, I am disappointed that the worksheets are not Creative Commons and available in a format that can be edited for customised usage.

The learning intentions and objectives are very clear in the introductory video for students and the teacher section offers substantial explanation of curriculum links and learning intentions. It is great to find resources that do this for educators.

Pedagogically I believe the resource does a fantastic job of scaffolding the learning experience by introducing the topic and activities with a video that explains the whole process in really easy to follow, simple detail.  The video also helps to make connections with students’ background knowledge and make good learning connections.  The addition of extension activities and a glossary of terms supports the whole activity by catering for differentiation in learning abilities as well.

This activity is great for making connections with students’ personal culture, backgrounds and values.  It is a very open and subjective task that facilitates student expression.

I’ve experienced a digital sharing space where there was the ability for others to comment on how they used learning objects in their own context and I feel that Scootle would be enhanced if there was a more open discussion thread allowed, not just a one-post-only review system.  It is great thought that we can rate and like the resources, and include tags.

A book that will change a teacher’s life

I’ve just finished reading a book entitled ‘Teaching that changes lives: 12 Mindset tools for igniting the love of learning’ by Dr Marilee Adams.  When I started the book I thought it was great, when I was halfway through it I was thinking it a fantastic example of critical reflection in an extended narrative.  However, when I reached the end I knew it was a book that could potentially change lives of not only students but of the teachers who read it, just like is described in the book itself.  The book is a recount of a very discouraged young teacher who cannot work with her colleague, with whom she shares a class, and who is constantly frustrated with how to engage her students.  She is at breaking point and ready to quit teaching all together, a career she had once been so passionate about.  This was me as well only 3-4 years ago, ready to quit the career I had worked so hard to get into and had dreamt of my entire schooling life.

Marilee Adams perfectly writes the story of Emma, the young teacher, and how she goes from this discouraged teacher with a negative mindset, to a passionate and successful teacher in her work with her students and with her colleagues.  The main tool to her transformation and that of her students’, The Choice Map.  This tool provided a set of questions and a clear and explicit framework for transforming from a critical mindset, known as the Judger mindset, and into the positive and productive Learner mindset.  How Emma and her colleague Carmen learned from this map and used it in their professional and personal lives brought about radical change and transformation.

One of the aspects I loved the most about the book was that it was written as a recount critical reflection and constantly reinforced good practice in developing deep critical reflective habits.  Its so much about questioning and it came down to these five essential questions:

  1. What do I want – for both myself and others?
  2. Am I in Learner mindset or Judger mindset right now?
  3. Am I listening with Learner ears or Judger ears?
  4. What assumptions am I making?
  5. Who do I choose to be in this moment?

These are some of the valuable points I highlighted in the book:

“Learner mindset is more positive, open, and accepting, while Judger mindset is more negative, closed, and critical”. (p. 40)


“After we’ve examined our beliefs, we can choose to change them and one way to do that is by changing the questions we ask ourselves.” (p. 82)


“…we can’t focus our full attention on learning or doing anything that requires complex thought until our basic needs are met.  One of our basic needs is a sense of belonging, which comes from feeling valued by people and by ourselves.” (pg. 83)


This book is one I highly recommend!  It is a wonderful read and so passionate and inspiring.  Check out some more about the book and its author at


Adams, M. G. (2013). Teaching that Changes Lives: 12 Mindset Tools for Igniting the Love of Learning. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Critically reflecting on critical reflection

I’m really excited to be doing more study again, this time a Master of Educational Leadership.  I’m in a middle leadership position at the moment but I want some more professional development and learning/experience to support my leadership skills and their continued development and growth.  I have enrolled in two courses already and one is on school organisation and the other on critical reflection, both of which are very interesting so far.  Of particular interest to me right now though is definitely critical reflection as I am already someone who tries to consistently and critically engage in reflection to improve my own practice all the time.  I have much to learn and so many skills I could improve so critical reflection is a highly valuable tool to me in the progression of these.

Critically reflective teacher by Giulia Forsythe on Flickr

In one of the first readings, by Coulson et al. (2010), selected for us in this course, critical reflection has been defined as:

“[…] taken to mean a deliberate process when the candidate takes time, within the course of their work, to focus on their performance and think carefully about the thinking that led to particular actions, what happened and what they are learning from the experience, in order to inform what they might do in the future.” (King, 2002, p.2)

“[…] examining ethical, social, and political consequences of one‘s practice‘ ” (Larrivee, 2008, p.343). 

Words like higher order skills, metacognition and self-regulation are also included in the discussion defining critical reflection.  I love being metacognitive and becoming more so as I continue my lifelong learning but teaching it and helping students to be metacognitive is another thing altogether.  I didn’t learn about it until university and I still didn’t really get it until after university I think.  How can I help teenagers develop their metacognitive self?  Also, are teenagers able to be critically reflective without have skills in metacognition?

In the article’s discussion they revealed a few models that have served to develop critically reflective practice and they act as a scaffold to perhaps help those new to critical reflection to continue to develop their ability to do so.  The models mentioned were: Correia and Bleicher‘s (2008) four steps to guide reflection using connections and reflection markers; Eyler and Giles’ (1999) five C‘s for effective reflection (connection, continuity, context, challenging, coaching); as well as, Kiely’s (2005) development of ‘A Transformative Service-learning Process Model‘ (Coulson et al., 2010).

Of these three mentioned above, I am particularly interested in the idea of service-learning experiences (SLE) and how they strengthen the ability and give increased opportunity for students to be critical reflectors.  Correia and Bleicher (2008) discussion, in their article ‘Making connections to teach reflection’, have this to say:  “We can help our students understand an SLE by teaching them to recall familiar situations as an embarkation point for reflection. In trying to make sense of the SLE, students make connections to their life experiences.” (p. 46)

I very much like this idea and would the opportunity to test it for myself in my own teaching context.  Students learn so much from the experiences they engage in and I would love to see it generate critical reflection so that students can get even more out of the experience, by understanding the learning they gained.  A great topic and concept to keep pondering.


Correia, M.G. & Bleicher, R.E. (2008). Making connections to teach reflection. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Spring 2008, 41-49.

Coulson, D., Harvey, M., Winchester‐Seeto, T. & Mackaway, J. (2010). Exploring the Evidence for the Role of Reflection for Learning through Participation. In Campbell, M. (Ed.) Work Integrated Learning – Responding to Challenges: Proceedings of the 2010 ACEN 2010 National Conference, (pp. 92-103). Perth, September 29 – October 1. 2010.

Eyler, J.S. & Giles, D.E. (1999). Where’s the learning in service-learning? Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 2, 112-122.

Kiely, R. (2005). A transformative learning model for service-learning: A longitudinal case study. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Fall 2005, 5-22.

TEC-VARIETY in PD: Motivating Staff to Learn

It occurred to me late last night that my constant search for a model and way to motivate and deliver training sessions to all my colleagues could be informed by this instructional model.  The TEC-VARIETY model is one that is designed to inform decisions in the planning process that will help develop and increase participant motivation.  It was designed predominantly for the context of an online classroom, however, I believe it to be completely relevant for the face-to-face context as well and even for the professional development context in which staff engage.

License Attribution Share Alike Some rights reserved by jenhegna1 on Flickr

Tone and climate is all about establishing the right environment and learning culture for the individuals involved.  In staff development, I’ve found that this is about valuing the time that staff are giving to professional development and showing that I value every input they have into what happens in the training sessions.  Its also about acknowledging the differences in every KLA and the teaching and learning activities used by KLAs to achieve best student outcomes.  Tone and climate is about validating the amazing work colleagues do, and that I believe will build a great foundation for a positive professional learning environment.

Teachers are regularly giving formal and informal feedback to their students but giving staff feedback on their own professional development may also be very valuable to them.   I don’t want to ever do it in a patronising way but if I see a colleague demonstrating new knowledge and skills in integrating ICT within their teaching I want to acknowledge that an encourage them.  I also would pass along any feedback for ensuring a lesson went smoother next time if it had any hiccups.  I don’t always get the opportunity to observe these lessons but I try to and its always a valuable learning experience for all.

Motivating teacher is hard, they are sometimes so stuck in the routine of their day to day duties that anything beyond that is just not priority so motivating them to further develop themselves professionally is a tall ask.   Some schools have a policy that informs staff of PD expectations but it shouldn’t be forced, it should be something staff see as intrinsically valuable and very rewarding for them, necessary to maintain standards in their own teaching.  Curiosity might be hard to inspire in teachers but a short teaser video clip or a student sample of work might be enough to build curiosity and prompt staff to seek further learning.

License Attribution Some rights reserved by krossbow on Flickr

Variety is key in anything and even more so in PD activities.  I am constantly trying to think of new ways to teach technology to teachers and facilitate the development of new skills creatively.   PD sessions can’t simply be me talking at a group of people and then getting them to complete a task to demonstrate they have reached a desired outcome, any more so than when we as teachers teach a class of students.  Sometimes it might be a good idea if I got another colleague to run a session, or if the session was more of an immersive experience or role play rather than a more traditional ‘chalk and talk’/teacher-centred model.  Game-based learning ideas could really be the key to taking PD to the next level of fun, engaging and motivating.

Autonomy is an easy one but one I do struggle with I’ve realised.  Colleagues do not need to be treated like students and/or dictated to about what they should do and how.  I make the mistake sometimes of thinking that the way I believe it should be done would be best but in reality it may not be.  I need to be flexible and provide multiple opportunities and ideas for staff to facilitate the integration of new technologies in their classrooms.

I never encourage staff to use new technology for the sake of using it but to make learning experiences for students meaningful, authentic and interesting.  This is what makes the lesson relevant.  If I base my IT training sessions on the authentic experiences of my colleagues and their subject matter and contexts, I will be able to ensure that the learning is relevant for my colleagues.

Our school is one that does a lot of work using project-based learning and collaborative learning is a big focus of our teaching.  Having recently done more PBL training at the PBL World conference, I can see the values more than ever of using some of the scaffolds and activities involved in PBL within the professional development sessions that I facilitate.  The IT meeting groups I currently have allow me the perfect opportunity to facilitate collaborative learning.

Bonk and Khoo (2012) have put effort, involvement and investment under the concept of engagement but for me I’d like to add in my own definition, and thats ‘buy in’.  This relates to investment I guess but what I don’t know how to encourage colleagues to do that unless I do that.  I have to be completely invested in what I am encouraging my colleagues to do in order for them to feel that they can buy into the same.  I have to put the effort into integrating new technology if I want other colleagues to do the same.

Tension is my favourite concept in this model and one I seem to be able to accomplish this in my training sessions without any problems at all.  All I need to do is throw out a really controversial or problematic idea of how a technology could be integrated within the classroom and an intense discussion ensues.  I could probably achieve the same too if I intentionally threw out a scenario or lesson plan for a lesson that integrates a new technology and that would lead to similar discussion.  It can be very thought-provoking, and I find it to be quite productive, to have such discussions around lesson ideas.

Finally, and very importantly, yields are as significant to staff in PD as they are to students in classes.  All learning should be goal driven and have an end achievement in mind.  I need to be more explicit about the intended outcomes I have for IT training sessions and when it is a whole-staff session I am very intentional about identifying outcomes for the session but I should do it also for the smaller sessions.  Further to that, however, I should give staff the success criteria for what they should see and be able to do individually but also what they should see in the classroom to know that they successfully integrated the technology in a lesson.

These are all preliminary ideas but I’m keen to reflect on them more and develop the ideas further into something I could use more at school.