Celia's reflections

.. on many varied things …


Let’s tell a story – Let’s build a story : Social media in schools


I have had some interesting conversations recently about school’s use of social media.  Opinions range from the very hesitant and quite wary to very positive and amazingly enthusiastic.  I have read articles about the downturn in interest in Twitter, the swaying audience of other tools. They are good conversations and ones I hope to extend by sharing here.

My conversations with teachers usually steer towards the particular tools;  Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc and then a discussion around the purpose behind the activity.   The intended consequences are varied but quite easy to define, but it seems that the unintended ones, or the fear of them, are what become the roadblocks to what I have experienced as a wonderful gateway to connections.

There are people much better trained in communication strategies than me but what is clear to me, is that whatever the tool we are using, we are talking about communication and in most cases relationship building.  The intended audience will in many ways determine the best tool – who are we trying to connect with and for what purpose? are we intending to broadcast news or promote interaction and feedback?

In today’s world of immediate access to information and news, some older methods of communicating with our communities are becoming defunct or redundant.  A weekly printed newsletter is not enough for most of of our parent communications and it will never connect our students to other stakeholders in their learning in the way online communications can.

I maintain and am convinced that if we expose students to the concept and reality of working in a space that is not limited by their physical surroundings, that we are doing them a great service.  Our access to information is 24/7 and global and so too should be our learning experiences.

In this short interview, Stephen Heppell is asked for advice to using Social media and my precis is as follows:

  1. Turn on your common sense
  2. Acknowledge that ‘acceptable’ behaviour is the same online as face to face
  3. Research and then trial your own pathway

Listening to Stephen, I heard “Let’s tell a story – Let’s build a story” and it struck me that it is the building part people need to focus on.    As a school, we have been using Twitter along side an extensive blogging program for quite some time and I believe we are building our story as a consequence.  Different things are happening as a consequence of being connected via social media. Some of the benefits include:

  • affirmation of teacher practice through feedback from local and global peers
  • drawing on a much wider field of resources
  • deepening of experiences by sharing them with other stakeholders
  • exposing our students other ways to find answers to questions
  • immediate sharing of school events
  • we all experience the value of a wider audience for our thinking and the interactions that occur as a consequence
  • modelling connected learning

I am very aware that the concept of an online Professional Learning network is entrenched in many people’s lives, but it still does not appear to be the norm and all I can say is that I think that those not involved are missing out.

Note:  School based Twitter account @slblackburnsth is managed by teachers only as our students are Under 13.  The students contribute ideas and text that is published by staff in a modelling process.  

Reference :  Why are Schools spooked by Social Media 


Sylvia Duckworth for once again synthesising ideas into such a wonderful format and Amanda Ronin.



Legacy … passing on our story

I have never been a greatly confident public speaker.  I can deliver conversational workshop training sessions with ease and actually enjoy this process.  As the recipient of the DLTV Teacher Award 2015, I was ‘privileged’ to be offered the opportunity to speak at this years conference.   I can say that I am glad I gave it a go, but will not be giving up by day job.  I was nervous and my delivery was not as good as I had hoped but thankfully, I think the message I wanted to convey was delivered.  I have had numerous conversations since about the subject matter that seemed to connect to many.  For that I am grateful.

The following is an edited text of one element of my DLTV Conference (Digicon15) keynote.  I was inspired to share it after reading Steve Brophy’s post on creating a digital footprint . 


As teachers, we all know how powerful stories are.
Stories can enrapture you, can inform you, and they play a vital role in passing on our culture and history.

Stories are all around us, in our personal and professional lives.  In our personal and professional lives are we ensuring our legacy is continued? 

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Are we leaving evidence of our thoughts?  In particular, I wonder about how we share stories and what artefacts we are leaving behind to remind others of our story.  Nowadays, we have an online story as well as a face to face one. We are creating and recording history in megabytes in the way we used to create with pen and paper.

So let’s start on a personal level. What is your story?  Where do you come from? Who has shaped you?
What evidence do you keep of your personal story? Do you have old photo albums? pictures on the wall?
Do you have a special place where you keep cards and letters from people in your past?

Most of us have photo albums or framed pictures on the wall. If we turn them over, we might be lucky enough to find that someone took the time to leave some notes, share some facts … who is there? where was it? Were they celebrating a special event ?

My sentimentality for such artefacts of my family story has been raised recently whilst packing up my family home. Forty seven years of story…the house I grew up in.    In cupboards, on the walls and in the computer there are elements of my story everywhere.

I count myself as extraordinarily lucky to be the recipient of a wonderful archive of the past in the form of photos, letters and even in written story form. My mum was in fact, a curator, she created a collection, a collection of memories that will last beyond her in this world, a collection that will explain to her children, her grandchildren and future generations who she was, where she lived, what she looked like and most importantly what she thought.

She produced a manuscript detailing her own story as well as passing on the baton of family stories shared with her. There are diaries from her travels with tickets and memorabilia pasted in to embellish the records.  In the cupboards, are letters, photographs, Super 8 movie reels and slides in carousels beautifully sorted and labelled. 

The letters and cards are tangible, I can sit and browse them whenever I chose. Already the Super 8 film and slides are old technology requiring transfer to other mediums to be available to be easily viewed.
What I realised, last month when I was closing the email account that Mum had been using for the last 10 years (pretty cool for an 87 year old) , was that, with that, was going the correspondence since letter writing was replaced by email.  What was once on paper was now just megadata and won’t be accessible unless I take the time to transfer it to some other format and who knows how long that will be relevant.

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On mum’s computer there were files created in word processing packages that current programs struggle to open.  What would have happened if the writers of the past had created their first manuscripts of what we now call classics on programs that were obsolete within less than 10 years?

What happens when our current formats are bypassed for new technologies? I know that our wonderful institutions, museums and libraries are busily digitising resources and storing away relics for future generations but what about our personal stories? Personally, I have scanned many of the slides into digital format, but I wonder will that be long lasting? How long will a jpeg be a digital format? What will be redundant next like the Super8 film is today? I hope I am not sounding too negative here but I would hate to find out too late that we did not prepare and lost important elements of our history. We are the first part of this digital history, no previous generation has left their footsteps in these spaces. Will they last ?

What are creating nowadays that will be our legacy and what tangible evidence will remain after we do? Will our current assets, our evidence of story, our writings on blog posts, our photographs etc be accessible in 10 years let alone 100 years? How will the historians of 2090 access the artifacts we leave behind today?

As I see it, we are leaving much of our legacy in places that are not tangible, not necessarily secure or reliable, and in many cases very disorganised. Think about where your latest photos are of the last family celebration? Will someone in 100 years be able to find it? If we are not writing on the backs of photos anymore, will they know anything about the event? It might be a problem for the app developers to consider but we can each take a bit of responsibility as well.

We are accumulating masses of data – photos in multitudes of online spaces and on our own computers and devices – spaces we ourselves struggle to manage.

Are we making wise choices about what we are keeping? Once upon a time, only the good ones made it into the album or into the frame. It is so easy to accumulate masses of images from one short event, to keep the blurry ones, to have 4 of nearly the same thing. Are we being discerning? or is the world of excess carrying over into this part of our lives as well?

With the plethora of choice in our digital world are we managing our story artefacts in a way that can be accessed or are pieces going to get lost with every closed email account, or redundant app,  closed cloud storage facility or even every forgotten password?

I am not sure we have the answers but I hope we are leaving something behind like my mum has done for me.  


Connecting our learners


Twitter+Storify = Learning & Sharing & Curating

Last Monday a group of our students attended an excursion in our city. They visited the Immigration Museum and explored many exhibitions and wandered the city noting historical changes.

The experience was well documented by the Tweeting teachers as well as the Museum Educators (@MvTeachers) .  Anyone watching from afar was well informed and connected to what was happening throughout the day.

The Tweets were then curated into a Storify – capturing a timeline of the events and enhanced by the ability to add relevant weblinks.

Back at school, the Storify became a journal of the days events, shared on the class blogs.  It was also used to enable a de-brief of the day before the students began unpacking the ideas they explored.  It can be edited to show the follow up and further aspects of the learning.


A tool that I once saw from one light only (capturing a series of Tweets), I now see with a broader lens.

 I wonder how else it might enhance our learning?


Digicon15 – DLTV Annual Conference


Code the Future – First steps

I was lucky IMG_0386enough to witness the initial stages of a Project that began as an idea at a StartUp weekend in Melbourne in November last year.  Code the Future aims to ‘connect developers with educators to help students learn how to code’.

It sounded like a good idea and personally having little confidence with the technical side of things I could see no down side to signing up.  Our school community are very open to connecting with people who can enhance our learning and here was another great opportunity.

My first contact with our mentor was excellent as immediately he had an idea that was raising the bar beyond the possibilities I had explored – suggesting we experiment with Arduino .  If nothing else was to be gained, his introduction to our students raised their awareness of an area of technology most take for granted.

My intention with this project within our school is that we will :

  • expose students to more facets of digital technologies
  • light some passion in certain students
  • connect to outside experts (extending the possibilities beyond our skillsets)
  • benefit from and demonstrate the power of volunteering
  • activate the Digital Technologies curriculum in a small way
  • allow the project to evolve organically
  • create an ongoing relationship with our mentor and maybe more to model to students the benefit of connecting
  • model to the students as teacher learn and problem solve alongside them
  • support particular students who thrive on these types of open ended activities
  • use a secure online space to share questions and learning

It is early days but seeing the excitement on certain little faces when the Starter kits arrived and were unpacked and checked out was a good indication that we are on to something good.

We established an Edmodo group and sent some kits home over the holidays – already the conversations have begun and I am once again struck by the power of connecting.  My role as a teacher is transformed by being the intermediary and I love it !


Some of our student responses so far :


Are you wondering about Arduino now ? Here is a short Introductory tutorial  and a cool example of what can be achieved :



I have been lucky enough to speak to a number of teachers over the past few years to share my passion for blogging – professional, class and student.

This week I was preparing for another presentation, but this time, I am taking along some students with me.  The process of preparing our combined presentation was quite simple.  I shared a Google presentation with the students, we had a short discussion about what they would like to share and they divided roles.  They prepared their own sections and we came back together.

After I heard them talk through their ideas, the main messages they wanted to share, I realised that they had covered almost all the important points I do in my presentation.

What this means to me, is that our blogging program is successful, the students value it, enjoy it and can articulate how it impacts their learning.



#YourEduStory Challenge

How do you infect students with a passion for learning?

I have had a few personal challenges recently that have highlighted a mantra I try to live by:

You can’t change anyone else’s behaviour, only your own

With that in mind, my response to this week’s prompt is to assess my own behaviour as a teacher and coach.

If I want my students and fellow teachers to have a passion for learning, do I have one myself?

Do I reflect that passion in my actions as well as my words?

I think that teachers who infect others with a passion for learning usually:

  • love learning themselves and are not afraid to show it
  • take risks – try out new ideas and see failure as a step in the learning process
  • actively and outwardly acknowledge the steps they take to learn
  • ask questions and listen to the answers provided which provide key guides for future actions
  • share their learning – not only at the end of a process but throughout to show progression, hurdles, achievements
  • find opportunities to connect to their learners on a personal basis.  This connects closely to creating relationships, the topic of a previous challenge.  Understanding their students is vital.

This post is a response to the #YourEduStory Blogging Challenge  by @msventurino.  I am working on the theory that if I do the current challenge you may not notice the missing ones from the weeks before ;) 



Networks : Connecting our learners

YourEduStoryThe #YourEduStory challenge for this week is What is connected learning and WIIFM?”  (WIIFM = What’s in it for me?) and I realised that I had an unpublished post from 2013 (among many others) that could partially address this topic.


In 2013, I wrote:

As our world of information overload expands, the use of our networks is getting more and more valuable.  Happily accepting that we cannot answer all questions, but that we can help our learners (whether students or teachers)  connect with someone who can, is an important mindset of a modern teacher and learner. I gain solace when I am able to connect people, use my online or face to face Professional Learning network (PLN) and say “I don’t know anything about that, but I just might know someone who does !”

I am grateful for the people in my network and I believe the power of these connections is hugely amplified when we each act as ‘nodes’ or connectors to each others networks.  On Twitter I regularly see people requesting information from their PLN as they are trusted sources and people willing to help.

My experience indicates that many of our students have yet to see or be exposed to the value or purpose in networking beyond their school environment.  We often read that they are already using the power of networks in their social lives, in online games etc but schools are not mirroring this activity.

School must embrace this and model the value of connecting. Class and student blogs, class Twitter accounts, Edmodo, shared Google documents etc, are some of the wonderful vehicles for this connection.   Recently one of our students published her work from a Positive Education program on her blog, another school picked it up and used her content for class discussion.  The excitement from the young blogger was palpable – she was contributing to other students learning and they were adding value to hers.

Relevant and timely exposure to the value of connecting as learners will provide our students with essential skills.  

That was 2 years ago and it still stands.  In a few hours at work last week, I spent time getting the nuts and bolts sorted so that our students have access to their own blogs, their Google Apps for Ed accounts, Edmodo accounts.  It was tedious administration but vital to exposing them to this type of learning.

The ‘What’s in it for me?” question is partly a no-brainer as Heather so well describes but also a bit awkward.  The essence of being connected implies a mutual benefit – sometimes the balance goes one way more than another, but we are more in to the “What’s in it for us?”

Reading Nancy’s response to this prompt, I connected in numerous ways to her story and in particular to “These connections did not happen accidentally.”   Like any relationship, they have to be worked on, cultivated and allow to mature and change.



Learning shared … in different ways

Neetz 365   A year in the mind of AnitaI am proud to say that I have a decent relationship with my daughters aged 19 and 22.  We chat, share laughs, discuss issues and disagree like any fairly normal mother-daughter relationship.  I accept that my children as they mature pick the pieces of their lives and thoughts that they want to share with their parents, just as I did with mine.

My 22 year old has been a writer all her life – words have been her friend: spoken, read, written and sung.  She has, in fact recently, begun a career using these skills in a Marketing Communications role.  A rich blessing I will say has been passed on from her grand-mother who in her later years shared many musings in the written form.  She has dabbled in blogging for a number of years and I always enjoy the conversations that often lead to a post as well as the end result. 

When someone writes, they often expose themselves in different ways than they would in spoken language and this is never more true than in the recent days when my 19 year old has begun a blog – challenging herself to post each day. When I read her posts feels like I am getting to know her in a different way.  I am seeing a side of her that I admit I had not acknowledged or recognised earlier.  Perhaps it is a result of maturity and a bit of life experience but it is definitely providing an interesting read : enlightening in many ways.

It makes me think about our classrooms and the importance of providing our students with a variety of outlets for expressing themselves, sharing their learning and expressing themselves.  Sometimes, they may not be ready to use a tool in way they may later in their lives but they will learn along the way nevertheless. Our students should be invited to write on paper, in a journal, sketch, write a blog post, draw, paint, record a podcast, prepare a speech, compose a song, write an essay and any other format you can think of.

Our students, like my daughter, may surprise you if given the chance.  The teacher role in this is exposing them to a variety of media, digital and non-digital : many of these ideas will not be in their toolkit unless they are introduced to them. Many will suit them at some times and for some purposes but not for all.

In the meantime, I will keep enjoying the glimpse into the other side of my girl !