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Crowdsourcing Awesome Help

My son’s 8th birthday party is this Saturday and due to his love of Minecraft it’s going to be completely themed in Minecraft, from the food, to the games, to the loot bags. The main game is going to be a block treasure hunt where kids collect blocks to ‘craft’ for prizes. Check out the following video from 2:05 to see an example of the cube hunt I’m talking about.

I have a few ideas for prizes but know my PLN will have awesome ones too so please tweet me your ideas or post them as a comment here. So far all I have is a papercraft diamond sword and gold chocolate coins. What ideas do you have?


Choose TeachMeets

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I unashamedly love TeachMeets. In my opinion, they are one of the most inspirational forms of professional development going around. The TeachMeet concept originated in Scotland in 2006when Ewan McIntosh and a merry band of teachers got together to discuss the potential for learning. The concept has reached the shores of Australia and on 30th August 2011 I attended my first TeachMeet when I attended a #TMSydney event at Northern Beaches Christian School. Since then, I’ve caught the TeachMeet bug. I’ve hosted one with the fabulous Malyn Mawby, attended and presented countless #TMSydney around Sydney, presented at a virtual PLANE teachmeet, been a part of the massive TeachMeet World Record and hosted the first virtual #TMSydney. I have teamed up with other amazing educators through my involvement in #TMSydney includingHenrietta MillerMatt EstermanPip CleavesRolfe KolbeJeannette James and Simon Crook. The journey has been amazing and I’m hooked.


Today, I attended the #TMSydney #TMHills (there can never be just one hastag can there? LOL) event at Gilroy College, hosted by the fantastic Monique Dalli (see first image). Unfortunately I had to sneak (sort of) out before the end to get home but it was, as always, fantastic. The inspiration, innovation and enthusiasm that explodes out of a #TMSydney venue constantly amazes and inspires me. 

I remember talking to Tom Barrett after the #TMSydney event at Ravenswood last year, hosted by Summer Howarth and he indicated how much more powerful the TeachMeet experience can be when it isn’t just Tweeting teachers in attendance, when the content isn’t just focused on the tools of teaching and how to use them. Today, I witnessed that kind of TeachMeet. I’ve been inspired by every TeachMeet I’ve attended, in real-life or virtual, but today was just magical and here’s my favourite bits:

  • I loved Polly Dunning‘s (see second image) opening presentation on flipping her Year 11 English classroom for so many reasons. I’ve followed Polly on Twitter for a while and I was lucky enough to catch up with her for coffee in real life, for the first time a couple of weeks ago. She is a teacher at the high school that my kids will attend and I’m so excited that my kids might have the pleasure of learning with her in the classroom. Professionally, it was great to see an English teacher perspective of the flipped classroom – any 
    presentation I’ve seen in the past has always been Maths or Science based. I wanted to rush out and start making Screencast videos of Shakespeare lessons and poetry lessons. I don’t even teach English anymore! I also loved that Polly is a teacher in a Western Sydney public school. As I work in North Sydney, I have mainly attended TeachMeets in that area. I loved hearing a teacher speak passionately and honestly about teaching in a public school in Sydney’s west – the place where I grew up, went to school and still live. Polly explained the concept of the flipped classroom simply, clearly identified how she had set it up in her day-to-day teaching practice and highlighted the epic wins she’d had since flipping her Year 11 English class. You’re amazing Polly!
  • I was amazed at Col O’Connell’s presentation on Project Excel. He’s a teacher at Gilroy College and by his own admission, older than all but one person in the room. He explored differentiated learning (drawing on John Hattie’s research) and how the school has approached it in the classroom to ensure the learning and understanding of all students is improved. I have been involved with some differentiated learning discussions at school lately but Col’s explanation of his journey, really helped me to understand a lot of the concepts that are explored in Hattie’s research that had been floating around in my head. After listening to Col, those ideas have stopped floating and formed into a stronger understanding of differentiated learning. But that’s not the best bit about Col’s presentation. The best bit is Col himself. Col isn’t on Twitter and this is not a bad thing. Whenever promoting a #TMSydney event I always encourage teachers to ‘bring a friend’ to the event to share the TeachMeet love. Better yet, if I can get a teacher to present who usually doesn’t present during PD sessions, that’s even better. Like with Polly, it was great to listen to Col’s honest and passionate presentation.
  • Familiar faces are expected at most TeachMeets I attend in Sydney. It was great to see my good friends, Malyn MawbyDamian Wanstall and Clarinda Brown in the room. These three awesome individuals also presented on the night and they were amazing! Clarinda’s reflection on being a learner on her recent ski trip, Malyn’s 2-minutes-of-power on student reflection and Damo’s reflections on leadership were awesome and even though I might talk/tweet/text with them often, I still have so much to learn from friends. Another good friend, Mitch Squires was also in attendance – he didn’t present but I did learn that you should never leave your iPad lying around at a TeachMeet 😉 It was great to catch up withAlex Wharton as always – I just never get enough time to talk to him and hear about what’s happening in his classroom. The most exciting familiar face that greeted me almost immediately as I walked in the room was that of Sarah Warby, who was a prac teacher at my previous school when I worked there last year. Like Col, she’s not on Twitter, so it was great to see the #TMSydney bug had reached out to yet another person. I spoke to her briefly at the half-way point and her mind was blown! In a good way of course. She had ideas, strategies and resources ready to take back to her classroom – after just one hour of presentations! I love my friends and it’s so great that I get to share the #TMSydney ride with them (and quite a few strangers too).

So they were the best bits! I then had an hour drive back home and as always I was hyperactive (TeachMeets are like a drug!) and thinking about and reflecting on the TeachMeet. These were my immediate thoughts:

  • First, I really hope my kids get to have Polly as their English and/or Drama teacher at some point once they hit high school 🙂
  • I miss teaching my own classes. I still work in a school. I still get to stand in front of a class every now and then and teach students. I occasionally get to help students learn. But I don’t get to build the relationships with classes and individuals. I don’t get to build a sequence of learning experiences that allow kids to discover something new, create something amazing or build their self esteem. I don’t miss the report writing at all but that’s just one small negative amid the very rewarding experience of being a classroom teacher. Teaching really is the best job in the world.
  • Finally, I want the TeachMeet experience to spread further into public schools in Sydney’s western suburbs. I grew up in the Hawkesbury area, went to school in Penrith, taught in public schools in both areas and live at the foot of the Blue Mountains where my own kids now go to public schools. I know that TeachMeets are not the only PD experience available to teachers but I have always found them the most rewarding. Some teachers in Sydney’s west often feel isolated and uninspired as they face daily challenges in their classrooms that might not exist or be as prevalent in other areas of Sydney. I would love for a two-hour TeachMeet event to inspire and reinvigorate those teachers. There are awesome schools, teachers, students, classrooms and learning happening in Western Sydney schools and they can certainly be celebrated and shared. I must run or help to run more #TMSydney events in Western Sydney schools and/or pubs 🙂

So today, I chose awesome. I attended a TeachMeet. Have you been to one? What did you like about it?


Love this image


A teacher friend Summer Charlesworth, posted this on FB and I simply had to share it here due its reference to “awesome”. In searching for the original image I discovered that it is also a book that I think could be worth a look.

Choose Commodore 64

Back in the early 1980s, my parents bought a Commodore 64. My brothers and I thought it was awesome. We waited about an hour for a game to load and we probably played it for 20 minutes. I remember using “The Print Shop” to create birthday invitations on our dot-matrix printer, printed on purple paper! As other families bought the latest and greatest Atari console, our family continued to upgrade their computer, moving onto an Amiga 500 and other models that escape my 33-year-old memory.

My parents chose awesome when they bought our first computer. I didnt know it then and Im not sure if they knew it then, but it was a decision that would affect my life-long learning journey like nothing else. I’m not saying computers and technology is the be-all and end-all of life – family, friends and laughter is what makes life worth living – but technology surrounds me in everything I do and learn and I’ve been familiar with that technology my whole life.


I don’t own an iPad, I don’t own a Mac, I rarely use Skype and yet people often ask me how to use these things and I give them advice on how to use it. Windows releases a new operating system, or their latest Office package and I rush out to buy it and start clicking away like a madwoman to find out what’s new and what sucks (usually a lot of the latter IMHO). Just this week, Posterous updated their website and iPhone app – did I panic? A little but again, I started clicking away madly to see what was new. When I’m unfamiliar with the technology, I’m not afraid to click randomly; I Google and I watch YouTube tutorials to learn how to use it. I think I’ve completed about 20 hours of official training in specifically using technology. My degree is in teaching, not technology. Nowhere in my house is there a piece of paper accrediting me with any technology know-how of any kind. And yet, I work as an IT Integrator, helping teachers to integrate technology into their daily classroom routines and long-term planning.

I’m comfortable with technology, I love change (even when it’s bad) and I know I wouldn’t be doing a job I love if my parents hadn’t bough that Commodore 64 back in the 1980s. The 1980s!!! That seems like an eon ago – funnily enough, the Powerhouse Museum recently had an exhibition devoted to the 1980s and there inside a glass case, was a Commodore 64. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry – memories from my childhood were in a museum (even Rainbow Brite was there). The Internet as we know it today (using a browser and all that jazz) has now been around for the best part of 15 years and I’ve been using it the whole time, celebrating every change and learning every day. For me, it all started with that bulky brown screen and cassette machine. Thanks Carolina and Raymondie, you chose awesome, whether you knew it or not.

I’m interested to know how other people developed an interest and/or sense of familiarity with technology. What ‘hooked’ you?



Choose Twitter

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What can I say, I’m a YA (young adult) fiction nerd! It started very well with Harry Potter back in my uni days and moved onwards and downwards to Twilight (sad but true) when the fad hit back when the first film was released. Since then my YA fiction has basically focused on urban fantasy. I love all things vampires, werewolves, shadowhunters, hobbits, guardians, witches, warlocks and everything in between.

Two years ago I started using Twitter to build a personal learning network. As a teacher, it’s been the strongest tool for my learning and development as an educator. About a year ago I expanded my PLN to include as many YA fiction authors as possible. I justified it as I’m an English teacher but I’m secretly just a fangirl! 🙂 Richelle Mead of Vampire Academy fame and Scott Westerfeld of Uglies fame are two of my favorite authors and tweeters. They engage with their audience and reflect on their writing and publishing experiences through Twitter.


Image credit: Cherie Priest and Phillip Weiss

Yesterday I came across an article in my Google reader feed about a drug that was very similar to a drug used in Westerfeld’s Uglies series. I tweeted it and included Westerfeld in my tweet. Overnight he retweeted me and when I awoke this morning to discover this I turned into a fangirl, bubbly with excitement.


Image credit: Canton Public Library

Twitter feeds my YA addiction and inner-fangirl by allowing me to follow and engage with my favourite authors. Those authors choose awesome when they tweet and engage with their followers. How can we harness that excitement for our students? Who do you follow that engages with their followers and is relevant to student learning today?

Choose Sleep…or not!

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Four years ago I chose awesome. On Red Nose Day 2007 I decided to decline a job offer from outside the teaching profession and stay at Richmond High School as an English teacher. I thank Bob Hawke, a wise Industrial Arts teacher, horrible punter and bearer of the best quotes known to teaching, for the conversation I had with him that day as he told me that teaching was the best job in the world and I was made for it. As the helicopter hovered over 800+ staff and students to take the annual Red Nose Day flyover photographs, I told ‘Hawkey’ that I’d stay and later made the phone call to decline that other job offer. In the four years since, I’ve been an English teacher, Drama teacher and Computing teacher, I’ve made many friends, learnt with hundreds of kids, written way too many reports and had a whole lot of fun along the way.

In 2008 I chose awesome again. I took over the E-Learning team from Julie Teggart, a Home Economics teacher who was moving onto a Head Teacher position at another school. It’s been my work with this team that has inspired me, motivated me and often exhausted me but I have loved every bit of it. Other than my friendships with staff and connections with kids, it will be my lasting memory of Richmond High School. Leading the E-Learning team has allowed me to collaborate with teachers and create workshops that helped them embed technology into their teaching practice. It allowed me to experience the Digital Education Revolution first-hand and revel in the excitement of 1:1 laptop learning in the classroom. At times, I thought I was getting nowhere but in the past few months I’ve had more and more teachers talk to me about a successful lesson that integrated technology or I’ve walked past classrooms where students are busily clicking away, creating and learning on their laptops. It’s working. It’s happening. But it wasn’t anything I did by myself. I’m reminded of the fabulous footage of “The Dancing Guy” and the leadership skills he displays (see below).

I’m not the Dancing Guy. Julie Teggart is. I’m not even the first or second follower as there were a team of teachers who volunteered their time to work with Julie. I’m one of the small mob that rushes in when the movement just starts to get going. I’ll forever be grateful to Julie Teggart and those first followers.

So I chose awesome at Richmond High School. Not every day but most days. I tried to find the spark in a kid, find the lightbulb moment in a lesson and find the funny side of Thursday afternoon staff meetings. I’m one of those random people who genuinely loves their job. And now I’m leaving it.

On Monday, I will choose awesome again when I start my new job as an IT Integrator at Abbotsleigh School for Girls at Wahroonga. My job will be to work as part of a team of Integrators who support teachers in embedding technology across the curriculum. I am so excited that I’ve been writing ideas down for weeks, from one on one teacher assistance through to a trial of 1:1 iPods in PDHPE. I smile every time I think about that list. I can’t wait to wake up at 5.00am on Monday, catch a train for 90 minutes an start my new job.

It’s now 1:28am and I can’t sleep. I know my body has to get used to waking up at 5:00am for the new dream job but tomorrow I teach my last class at Richmond High School and drive out of those gates for the last time. I’m a little bit…awake. I’m also sad, excited, apprehensive, relieved and plain old hyperactive. It’s like Christmas Eve without the expectations of a visit from Santa (that’s pretty funny if you know who my Head Teacher is).

How have you looked back on your time at a particular workplace? Does where you’re going next, affect your feelings about leaving?

Tomorrow I choose awesome. Right now, I choose sleep…I hope.

Holiday Fun

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Its holidays and the weather has been gorgeous so why be inside? School work can wait! Get outside and enjoy the world. Choose fun, choose life, choose awesome 😉

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