Future skills

It is reassuring to see the link between our endeavours as primary school teachers and ‘real life’.  Whilst I agree with the notion that school IS real life and not a dress rehearsal, there is no doubt our job is to try to equip our students to be able to handle the world beyond school.    This is getting increasingly difficult as our ability to forecast what that will look like is harder and harder with the ever increasing pace of change.  The Drivers for change and Future work skills listed in the infographic below are interesting and I think provide a good point for discussion.

I have a university graduate daughter who is currently applying for a variety of jobs.  I watched with great interest as she was recently put through the hoops of an application process and wondered how our education system is preparing our students for this .  The recent process involved:

  1. An online application form.  These included a cover letter and  a current resume
  2. Participate in a video or phone interview
  3. A group interview participating in both group and individual activities
  4. Complete a behavioural based interview and 10 minute oral presentation.

This process is rigorous and demanding but not unusual in today’s competitive job market.  I obviously think about the young students we are working with, and the experiences that we give them and believe we are on the right track.

Our students are experiencing the opportunity of working collaboratively toward common goals, working independently, interacting in online spaces, presenting their findings in a variety of methods including oral presentations.  I believe that many if not most, would not be daunted by the process, even if there would be obvious levels of capability.

According to Future Work Skills 2020  Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute

To be successful in the next decade, individuals will need to demonstrate foresight in navigating a rapidly shifting landscape of organizational forms and skill requirements. They will increasingly be called upon to continually reassess the skills they need, and quickly put together the right resources to develop and update these. Workers in the future will need to be adaptable lifelong learners.

Are we preparing these lifelong learners ?  How ?  Could we be doing it better?

Important Work Skills for 2020
Source: Top10OnlineColleges.org

You have a Class Blog – Now what?




I spend a fair bit of time as an eLearning Coach talking to teachers and helping them set up class blogs.  This is a common and wonderful first step towards opening classrooms to the outside world, sharing practice, collaborating, modelling cybersafe behaviours, digital writing skills and much more.  The value of class blogs is the topic for another post and is well summarised by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano in the graphic above (if you want any further information on blogging Silvia’s blog should be your first stop!) .

I have found that there is a point at which teachers struggle to move on – they learn the mechanics of blogging, most often making their blogs a wonderful showcase of classroom activities.  They get a small audience, mainly from parents and their local school community.  Then the enthusiasm wains as the feedback circle ceases or remains small.  They see blogging as an extra activity to their daily routine not one embedded into their practice which has clear purpose and direction.

These are the ideas I then present :

Use blog as a reflective tool.  Simple classroom activities where you take the last 5-10 minutes of the day to reflect on an activity and note the learning that has taken place – scribe the students words.  Openly create the post with the students (modelling writing and reflective language) creating a chronicle of their learning and hopefully their wonderings too – these conversations happen anyway – blogs allow you to record it and share it .    Using blog posts for shared reading and writing in place of a big book etc., simple transferral of everyday tasks into the digital space.


Many teachers do not know how to create a network, how to connect their class with others.  Publicising posts via email to families and ensuring all class blogs have links to each others blogs are important starting points.  Remember it is a blog not a poster on your wall – use the benefit of Blogrolls and links  to connect.



Finding other class blogs and starting relationships with them by commenting and leaving links back – a bit like  introducing yourself to someone you don’t know at a party !   Once a connection is made and it may even be with the class next door or down the street, you can agree to support each other by regular visits and comments, ensuring an audience for your writing.  Slide5

There are websites such as Quadblogging , which will partner you up with other class bloggers around the world. Each class takes a weekly turn to be the recipient of support.  Amazing connections have been started through this method.


I think I will have to say that I believe Twitter is the best way to connect your blog to a wide audience.  Amongst the Twitter world there is a supportive community ready to respond when teachers ask for feedback.   Using hashtags such as #comments4kids ensures an audience.  Admittedly, not every tweet translates into a comment or connection but I have seen amazing results from teachers who use Twitter to encourage an audience.  More information on comments for kids here .  Some teachers use their own accounts or create a specific class Twitter account to share their class news and posts.  Slide7Activities such as the Student Blogging challenge which can be participated in by individual students or by classes is another method.  The Challenge appoints voluntary mentors to students as well as actively teaches and encourages students to apply quality commenting skills when responding to other students posts.

Slide8I think that summarises some of the tactics that can work to move classroom blogging to the global level and extend the reach of the message.  Do you have any other ideas???


Professional learning junkie or just curious?

I participate in all of the following types of learning opportunities.  Some may call me a junkie but I gain something from each, something different from each.  Each type has the added value of meeting members of your Professional network created through Social media face to face. The nature of the opportunities could be summarised as follows:

Large scale conferences (eg EduTech, ISTE)

  • Sponsors
  • Keynotes – mainly Ed Guru types with a smattering of high profile current practicioners
  • Programs and Trade Shows
  • Largely big picture issues
  • Open to all but limited by funds available


Industry Association Conferences (DLTV and ACEC2014)

  • Sponsors
  • One or two keynotes
  • Most sessions run by practising teachers – practical
  • Open to all but limited by funds available
  • Lower cost ?


Teachmeets (Teachmeet Melbourne)

  • For teachers by teachers
  • Limited structure
  • Free
  • Mixture of practical skills and issues


School based Professional learning Inquiry

  • Action research
  • Practical – directly related to student outcomes
  • Free
  • Amongst colleagues

Twitter / Google+ / Scootle Community 

  • Personalised to my needs and interests
  • Online – Any time, any where
  • Creates a PLN

Is one better than the other ?  I don’t think so, but I would not want to limit myself to one type.  The mixture provides a blend of experiences that I value.

What Professional Learning Opportunities do you value ? Why ?


“Enjoy the unknown place for much, much longer. Stay in the question”

EduTECH 2014

I stand to be corrected, but I believe this quote was from Tom Barrett in his keynote focusing on Creativity.  It certainly applies to the way my brain has been working since I left the conference a number of days ago.  I am most certainly still in the question of “What can I take away from this conference and act on?” or “What impact can I have on making change?”.   My enjoyment of the unknown revolves around reading other peoples reflections and comments and mulling over the archives left by those who share so freely on Social media .  I feel quite certainly on the “Edge of chaos” Sugata Mitra’s concept when I try and connect the reality of our schools and the messages portrayed by Sir Ken, Ian Jukes and many others.

Thanks to Sue Waters who curated many resources from the recent EduTech Conference in Brisbane in a wonderful Flipboard Magazine, I am now able to re-visit them whilst processing what I heard.

All the speakers listed below exhibited the following

Passion + Story telling skills + Experience = Captivating 

Mark Hunter at EduTECH 2014 from EducationHQ on Vimeo.

Ian Jukes on educating for the future from EducationHQ on Vimeo.

Sir Ken Robinson at EduTECH 2014 from EducationHQ on Vimeo.


Learning curve

In keeping with Pernille and Rafranz’s concept of sharing the good and the bad, I thought I would share some of the learning I have experienced whilst encouraging students to participate in the Student Blogging Challenge over the past few years (over 90 in 2014).  I have written previous posts sharing the highlights.

  • Blog With Authenticity Without Getting FiredBlogging will not appeal to all students – I have cajoled and encouraged a number of quite capable students who just do not ‘get -it’ at this stage in their lives.  By ‘get-it’ I mean they don’t share my enthusiasm for writing for an audience.   No amount of reinforcement will make them enthuse about blogging.  They may prefer to write in a paper journal or not at all.
  • Following on from the first point, tech savvy does not equal keen blogger.  My most tech savvy students are often the hardest to get on-board with their own blogs.  I presume they have their own outlets for online expression.
  • The idea of an authentic audience does not inspire all students to proof-read and edit.  The [SHIFT] key is still elusive and seems to require way too much effort.
  • Students make mistakes – posting a poorly thought out and quite inappropriate post about a violent computer game was the catalyst for some great discussion but proved that some students are a long way off identifying what is appropriate to share in different places.
  • We all need more practice at reading digital text for instructions – often students struggle to skim read for important text and when working with on-line instructions fail to get all the required information.
  • Changing habits in respect of the ethical use of images and music is quite difficult.   Although they can spout the correct line, they soon revert to easy options when not being reminded.

None of these points convince me that blogging is not an enormously worthwhile activity with students, but they paint a realistic picture of the realities confronting us when we do so.

Photo Credit: Search Engine People Blog via Compfight

Update : Student blogging challenge – 2 weeks in

I am thrilled with the progress and events of the past few weeks.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I have two groups, some with a little experience and some with no prior experience.

Highlights have included :

  • students taking the reins and being proactive – problem solving, finding their own purpose, developing an on-line identity and highlighting their unique skills, traits and interests
  • mentors (teachers from other places who volunteer to support other students) providing a supportive presence and excellent role modelling for commenting
  • beautiful interactions between students within classes, locally and globally by way of comments
  • opportunities for ICT and cybersafety skills to be discussed and practised within a meaningful environment.  We have had a few instances which provided genuine teaching moments about cybersafe behaviours.
  • the speed at which most students pick up the technicalities of embedding html code and the skills they demonstrated in sharing their skills
  • tangible excitement about the writing process due to the connectivity created through this networking opportunity

Sometimes these activities provide moments that affect the teachers more then our young students who are yet to see the full significance or have the global understandings required.  This week, one our our students, Gemma,  received a comment on her post which had explained that they were studying Democracy.  As it happens, the mentor assigned to Gemma was a student from Russia.  Lisabeth explained in heartfelt terms the situation for her :


We took the opportunity to discuss this with the students, to explain as best we could the contrast Lisabeth was providing.  As children do, they took it in at their own level but it was certainly powerful to the adults in the room !

I look forward to seeing where the rest of the challenge takes us.


Another round begins : Student Blogging Challenge

This year I am supporting almost 100 students (from 2 schools) who are participating in the Student Blogging Challenge organised by Sue Wyatt @tasteach.  This is the fourth challenge that I have been involved in but definitely the largest for me.  The challenge involves a series of 10 weekly tasks, posted on the blog which encourage interactivity as well as allowing students to respond in many different ways.   The students are supported by their teachers as well as a volunteer mentor who visits their blog at least twice to encourage their efforts. We are in the preparation stages and although all have been in classes with class blogs, I have students who represent the full gamut of experience with personal blogging:

  • those who have never blogged before
  • those who have had Kidblogs but are now learning a new platform (Global2)
  • those who have participated in the Challenge before and are having another go

Setting up new blogs for most students using the MyClass feature was straightforward but time consuming and then registering them all with the challenge followed.  I believe that participation in this challenge has the following benefits:

  • active participation in a worldwide event and connecting with other learners
  • providing an instant audience for their writing
  • practise in adopting cybersafe behaviours
  • developing technical blogging skills including dealing with HTML code, adding widgets, pages/posts etc
  • exposure to on-line learning opportunities

There is a beautiful element of excitement building amongst the students and comments are already flying between keen bloggers.   As is normal in any group of students, there appears to be a few for whom this experience will ignite a fire and those who will just go through the motions.   I am proud to see that a student who participated in the challenge in 2012 is still blogging after leaving our school and beginning high school so I believe we have evidence that it is worthwhile.

I wonder what this year will see.  Here are the Class Blog Sites with links to all the student blogs.

Screenshot 2014-03-05 19.25.38Screenshot 2014-03-05 19.28.31

“Why our schools are NOT failing your children” – another teacher tells

Reading the newspaper should expose us to divergent thoughts and make us think.  Indeed, this mornings breakfast reading did just that and like Mel Cashen  I felt I needed to respond to Johanna O’Farrell’s article that was printed with the title “Why our schools are failing your children:a teacher tells” but online as “Splashing cash won’t fix Australia’s broken education system”

photo (7)

Amongst other issues with our education system Johanna states:

But I believe ICT is in fact little more than a gimmick – and I know that the novelty of it as a tool for engagement is fast wearing off. In many cases, the study of ICT heightens the potential for distraction, is extremely inefficient, wastes time and quite simply is unnecessary – students do not need the ”world at their fingertips” all the time.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/splashing-cash-wont-fix-australias-broken-education-system-20131220-2zqpl.html#ixzz2o5CHmp1T

This made me reflect on our graduation ceremony for our Year 6 class last week.  A mixed group of students, some academic, some mathematical, some artists, some writers, many sporting stars.   They left our school with an understanding of learning : learning that can be found from each other, from their teachers, and from many other sources.  They have been exposed to the skills that will help them learn, help them present their learning . They also left with strong literacy and mathematical skills.

Encouraged and not distracted as Ms O’Farrell believes by the “open-plan learning, iPads and interactive whiteboards” and multitude of other technology tools, these students explored their place in the global community.  Technology allowed them to connect, collaborate and learn with others, gathering perspectives and information difficult if not impossible without them.  They were taught to question what they read as information, or knowledge, is no longer sourced from one text book or reliable scholar.  Technology was ubiquitous – not a gimmick, but brought out when the purpose suited it.

Having the ‘world at their fingertips ‘ is the way these students live 24/7 and not allowing or expecting teachers to harness the value and seek teachable moments would be making education irrelevant.    Like Ms O’Farrell’s parents I did not have these tools when at I was at school, but education reflected the society that I lived in.  

Do we really want our students to be educated in a system that reflects a society of 10 – 20 – 30 – 40 years ago ? 



Are comments the ‘cherry on top’ or essential?

Just over 2 years ago I wrote a post about blog commenting.


Recently I have had a number of conversations with teachers about blogging, some long term bloggers, others newcomers.  The subject of comments always comes up.  When I wrote my previous post, Bev Novak, said the “comments are the cherry on top” of her blogging experience. Other readers admitted to lurking and seldom commenting.  In general though, there was an understanding that comments are important in the blogging process – the feedback and interaction with readers an integral element.

Our school has worked hard over the past few years to encourage class blogs.  Our starting point has always been to connect to our parent community – open our classroom walls so to speak.  Our teachers have also worked at global connections through Quadblogs and by connecting with community experts etc.  We publicise our blog posts through emails to our parents and by Twitter to our broader networks.

In the recent discussions we have remarked at how hard it is to actually elicit comments from our readers.  Once again we acknowledge that we do have an audience, our visitor statistics prove this but the two way conversations are few and in fact disappointing.  We have heard anecdotally that many readers still lack confidence in commenting. Worries stem from not knowing what to say, to seeming over-eager, to favouring one class/student blog over another.

I believe it is still in the mindset of many that they do not have anything to offer or fear exposing themselves as a learner too!  I still strongly believe that the process of creating a class or personal blog is extremely worthwhile and I actively encourage many teachers to begin this pathway.  One of the ‘benefits’ I cite when talking to teachers about blogs is the fact that you create an audience for your work and comments are the mechanism for feedback from that audience.   I understand a class teachers disenchantment with the process if they are receiving little or no feedback.

There obviously remains much work to be done to build the communication culture with our students, their parents and the wider community.    On reflection, this is not really surprising as although blogging seems old news to many of us, it is still early days for many.  We need to be creative in ways to elicit feedback, continue asking questions, use polls etc but not give up.  We also need to continue to teach commenting skills, embed this communication into our practice.   Once again much inspiration in this area can be found from Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, in particular her recent posts on Making Blogging Visible.  This is a snippet from a wonderful infographic (click picture to see the full graphic).

Screenshot 2013-11-24 14.36.37