Google Sites: From Beginner to Ninja

Websites  provide a simple way to share resources, to serve as an anchor point for collaboration, or to do both at the same time. Google Sites is more than a website builder, it brings the power of the entire Google Apps for Education suite into an accessible portal. This website was created for the Adelaide Summit as a self paced workshop. Beginners will be up and running in minutes with a new website, and advanced G-Suite users will learn tips and tricks to take sites further to integrate the apps you know and love.

Google Sites: From Begnner to Ninja 

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How ready is your school for digital age learning? Building School Capacity

Personally, I find technology exciting not for how it works, but for how it can work for me. In my experience in industry, that meant applying or even inventing technology, to provide business solutions. In education, it means embracing technology to find new ways to  improve learning, teaching, and administration. However, technology is complex and poses challenges for schools that were not previously part of the school eco-system as schools now reach beyond the school boundaries into cloud computing, personal devices with 24/7 access, subscription resources, and a world of choice. While enabling student learning is the ultimate goal, D-LIFE addresses the organisational aspects required for effective teaching and learning in a digital age. While many of the existing international standards and frameworks address student and teacher standards, D-LIFE, like the ISTE Essential Conditions, looks at what is needed at the school organisational  level.

To help school leaders navigate this digital landscape, I began a global research project as my doctoral dissertation to determine the essential criteria for enabling learning in a digital age. The resulting Digital Learning Implementation Framework for Education (D-LIFE) includes these essential criteria agreed upon by educational technology leaders and international education experts around the world. Starting from the literature, the expert panel voted on the essentiality of each criteria, and then proposed new criteria for consideration.


D-LIFE provides a framework to evaluate current levels of implementation, and determine areas where school growth is required. D-LIFE can also be used to guide leaders to ask the questions of other stakeholders, like technicians, parents, and faculty to ensure educational goals remain the priority of technical initiatives.


D-LIFE comprises 10 categories:

  1. Leadership
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Services and Support
  4. Technology Implementation
  5. Policy
  6. Quality and Evaluation
  7. Resources and Resourcing
  8. Learning Environments
  9. Professional Learning
  10. Community Engagement

Each of these categories has between 5 and 33 essential criteria. Using a four point scale of low-high, schools leaders can assess the level of implementation of each criteria and determine appropriate action based on the local context.

Closely aligning with the ISTE Essential Conditions, D-LIFE provides further validation of the ISTE Essential Conditions while offering a practical framework for informing school strategic planning and evaluation, as well as potentially providing accountability measures to evidence the impact of technology investments.

You can download D-LIFE in summary format here. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in learning more about how D-LIFE can be applied in your context.

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Digital Citizenship: A Community Approach

With technology in the hands of babes Digital Citizenship starts young.

With technology in the hands of babes Digital Citizenship starts young.

Digital Citizenship is citizenship at a fast pace, with lasting consequence, and easy access to large communities. Teaching digital citizenship requires a community approach as the life associated life skills cross home school boundaries, just as technology does. Here are some thoughts about introducing digital citizenship in K-12 schooling. 

When do you start teaching digital citizenship?

When technology was limited to computers in labs or family desktops, the urgency to teach digital citizenship wasn’t there. Now with phones in the hands of toddlers, the practice starts young. In primary school the initial teachings of Internet Safety start with many of the same tenants of protective behaviors including:

  • don’t give away private details,
  • don’t talk to strangers,
  • think before you act, and above all;
  • have a trusted circle of adults you can ask for help whenever unsure.

Technology adds some new twists, but the core tenants of Internet Safety align well to other aspects of social and emotional learning.

What can parents do?

As the primary educator of children, parents need to understand the new responsibilities of parenting in a

Parents have no frame of reference for parenting with digital technologies.

Parents have no frame of reference for parenting with digital technologies.

digital age.  This is a responsibility none of us have been prepared for by our parents simply because the technology didn’t exist. This means parents need to think about their approach to digital citizenship and online safety while children are still young. Here are some tips I’ve gained from our parent community:

  1. Model the behavior you want to see.
  2. Think about ALL the devices you have (Smart TV, AppleTV, Wii, Playstation, iPad, smart watches, tablets, etc…) as well as the apps (NetFlix etc…) and check parental control settings
  3. Consider a Home Technology Use Agreement in your home to discuss the boundaries and expectations (how long? what content? screen time balance? permissions? outside the home?)
  4. Keep the dialogue going. Internet safety considerations grow with age. Keep the communication open, and assume parent roles for monitoring.
  5. Be a parent. Reserve your right to set the boundaries, check the histories, and impose restrictions when needed. Children may try to convince you they are more tech savvy, but will hopefully thank you later for ensuring their safety and age-appropriate access through your wisdom and life savvy. Don’t forget to guide grandparents and other caregivers too.
  6. Check out the many resources available to parents through the Australian eSafety commissioner or Common Sense Media.

What can schools do?

  1. Run Parent Digital Citizenship workshops. Schools can help parents with how to monitor use, strategies for conversation starters, and building a community to share ideas and strategies.
  2. Become an eSmart school or  Common Sense Media Certified school by developing a whole-school approach to digital citizenship for students, teachers and parents.
  3. Embed Digital Citizenship into everyday learning with and through technology.
  4. Develop web filtering strategies that grow as students do. Increase responsibility when students are ready to increase their access.
  5. Create a Grandparents Guide to Internet Safety. Many parents come to me asking for resources to help grandparents managing children’s technology use.
  6. Enlist students in the learning process. Create purposeful assessment to educate the whole school community through digital creations including: posters, games, ebooks, and advertisements.

What can teachers do?

  1. Model thinking processes online
  2. Give students opportunities to learn online and practice skills of digital citizenship in safe environments (eg. Edmodo or Google Classroom)
  3. Monitor your students online behavior in your virtual classroom and use mistakes as teachable moments to learn
  4. Become a Common Sense Media Certified Educator
  5. Embed Digital Citizenship into your classroom culture, purposefully through teaching about it early on, and continually practice and review. 
  6. Familiarize yourself with useful teaching resources:
    1. Digital Passport
    2. Cyber Detectives
    3. Digital Compass
    4. Hectors’ World

    5. Lee & Kim
    6. eSmart Digital License for Australian Year 6 students
    7. Safer Internet Day
    8. Faux Paw
    9. The Adventures of Smartie the Penguin

This is a growing and changing space, with technology in the hands of babes we all have much to learn.

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Connected Learning – BOOK REVIEW

"Open your classroom to the world"

Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades would have to be the most practical book

Kathy Cassidy’s guide for developing a connected classroom.

I’ve come across in the past year. A year 1 teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator, from remote Moose Jaw, SK, Canada, Kathy Cassidy inspires teachers to step outside their comfort zones and become global learners with their students. Targeted to teachers in the primary years (junior primary to Australians), Cassidy’s book is full of interactive resources and stories of her journey developing a connected classroom. With her “If I can do it , so can you” attitude, Cassidy shares with us why she uses Twitter, Skype, Blogs, Videos and Digital Portfolios to connect young students with the world. Connected from the Start generously shares the stories and practicalities of implementing technology from a classroom teachers perspective. This is not a technology manual, but a guide for teachers wanting to expand the boundaries of their classrooms, build resources, relationships and global perspectives. Full of practical advice for parent nights, privacy, moderation and set-up, this eBook provides practical tips for teachers that only a classroom practitioner could offer.

Connected from the Start is a guide, can be read, clicked, linked and annotated cover to cover, or used as a reference for teachers wanting to dive straight into a particular aspect of global connection.

Although Cassidy has crafted her book with teachers of very young students in mind, her stories and encouragement will help teachers of student of all ages and stages along their journey using technology to expand horizons. The eBook is available as a PDF with hyperlinks and embedded video from the PLPNetwork.

The book isn’t just something to sit on your eReader, rather it opens up a professional relationship and dialogue with a real teacher. I initially met Kathy Cassidy on Twitter (@KathyCassidy), and so can you! In fact she encourages you to interact, share your ideas and provide feedback. Cassidy readily shared her own blog Mrs Cassidy’s Classroom Blog as well as Edubloggers’ Class Blog List with me after a brief 140 character at a time dialogue across the world. She exemplifies connected education in both her book and her practice as a connected educator.

Connected from the Start doesn’t stop at why teachers should create connected classrooms, but examines in depth the journey of teacher and her class of 6 and 7 year olds with blogs, digital portfolios, Google Docs, Twitter, Skype and other technologies sharing the why, what and how of connecting around the globe. These real stories are backed by links to people, sites and resources to get started, encouraging teachers to “open your classroom to the world” and have a flexible mindset toward new opportunities while modelling yourself as a learner.

Who should read this book?

  • Primary/Elementary Teachers to get practical tips for developing a connected classroom. You can do it!
  • ICT Coaches and Integrators to see clearly through the eyes of a classroom teacher. Ask yourself: How can you enable teachers like Kathy Cassidy who aren’t sure how to take the next step using technology purposefully?
  • Principals and School Leaders to better understand what it means to be a global citizen in today’s classroom. Ask yourself: “Am I a connected educational leader? How can I leverage these same tools on a broader scale”?
  • Education Authorities to ask: “What policies, systems and strategies are need to enable our students to operate as fully functional global citizens?”

As an ICT Coordinator, I empathise with many of the challenges Cassidy faced and strive in my role to think through and avoid some of the possible barriers through developing whole school approaches that make things easier for teachers. Student account management and interfaces, policy development, infrastructure enablement, parent communication methods and tool selection can be time consuming jobs. In my opinion, technology needs to enable education and educational needs must drive technology requirements. Encouraging teachers isn’t enough if the site is blocked, the internet too slow or the technology doesn’t work. An agile, coordinated approach to technology is required at school level.

New privacy laws introduced in Australia also bring about a few more hoops to jump through. It is concerning that some Australian jurisdictions are placing restrictions on “cloud computing” at the same time our increased access to technology holds more potential than ever. Students need access to tools, and to people around the globe with varying expertise and cultural perspectives.

Connecting with the world can no longer be an optional part of a teachers’ role if we want authentic global resources, relationships and experiences for our students. Global projects like Flat Connections, Global Classroom’s Edmodo Pen Pal and the annual Global Education Conference offer online opportunities to “learn about the world with the world” (Flat Connections Project motto) and give teachers the freedom to pursue their passions. So as Cassidy asks:

What’s  your next step?”

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Making Learning Mobile – Its not just the tech!

Mobile devices, whether laptops or tablets have clearly made their way into many of today’s classrooms. But what about the learning spaces? Have we just brought  computer labs into classrooms, or are we making learning personalised and mobile by shifting the context and culture?

Moving the lab to the classroom?

Are we merely moving computer labs to classrooms?







Abdul Chohan, of Essa Academy in the UK caught my attention at a recent visit to Adelaide by saying “We can’t change behaviour, but we can change beliefs” and encourages educators and innovators to focus on changes in beliefs and attitudes. He continues “When beliefs changes, then behaviour automatically changes”.  Essa Academy have made significant transformations to their learning community and the learning taking place. This is profoundly logical, but while I agree that beliefs need to change first, I’m not quite convinced that behavior will automatically change. Essa Academy have embraced deliberate cultural changes to backup their beliefs.  Learn more about Essa Academy’s story.

In contrast, Stephen Harris, known for the innovative work around learning space design, at Northern Beaches Christian School in New South Wales challenges educators at the SCIL “Making it Mobile” sessions to reflect on whether their beliefs align with their practice.   Like many, I began to question whether students need individual “sitting spaces”, how classroom routines can empower students, where “wait time” can be reduced, and how flexible spaces can be found and created with limited budgets.

Looking purposefully at the other aspects which influence learning culture, like timetables, learning spaces, seating arrangements and even when learning begins (because the class is quiet and the teachers starts the lesson?) affect our abilities to act upon beliefs.

Why not make classrooms mobile too? 

“If you don’t change the spaces how will teachers change the paradigm?” asks Harris.

If the learning kit is personalised, does the need for the individual sitting space lessen? Do we need desks?  As students have more tools to direct their learning (eg. Virtual Learning Environments) can they be more responsible for it?

Are we changing the learning spaces and taking the tech with us?

So what changes are we making in my school? After only a few weeks with tablets, we started to see students taking their “toolkit” (iPad mini) around the school, on excursions and home. In our “Support Centre” we brought in a moveable “standing desk” (bookcase on casters from IKEA).  I find myself looking at spaces with fresh eyes and asking “what if” questions about the least used spaces in the school.

With other large projects, like this one from Immanuel College, there are changes in education on a massive scale to put these beliefs into practice. With the new Margaret Aames centre looking much more like an ultra-modern museum,  public library or university hub than a traditional high school

What do you believe about learning? About the role of technology? Learning Spaces?  How are your beliefs translated into your practice?  I say its time to say goodbye to personal sitting spaces and use the spaces we have in new, more flexible ways.

Feel free to share your ideas here!



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ePortolfios, iPads and Openness

After a whirlwind tour with George Couros and CEGSA, South Australia has been a-buzz on the social media scene (check out #cegsa and @CEGSAustralia).  Twitter eggs have hatched and the anonymous are becoming faces to follow.  Its not just about Twitter though, the blogs are happening and ideas are formulating and evolving through an interactive community.

So what?

A few new questions are emerging for me.

If Google is the new business card, what is the new ePortfolio? 

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by San Sharma

As a professional, I’m now blogging, evidencing the National Professional Standards for teachers, tweeting, created an page, discovered storify and more.

But what about students? 

The power of blogging is two fold:

  1. Writing for and interacting with authentic audiences (continual learning)
  2. As a showcase of learning

In a web format, for older students I can see this can work well as students can take action, and with authentic audiences for meaningful purposes. Like Allysa (one of George’s favourites and shared over many of his sessions).

There are many opportunities to control the level of publicness and moderation through tools like EduBlogs, Weebly and Edmodo as our communities begin to value openness and input from experts while balancing moderation of outsiders access to contact young people. Being web-based content in any publishable format can be shared easily (PDF, JPG, MP3, MOV…)

Where do iPads Fit?

iPads allow us to create bite-sized snapshots of learning and put them together within apps, and within larger publications like eBooks. I see tremendous potential of ePubs (books published in an ePub format and read by an eBook/iBook reader like iBooks) to capture student learning in a variety of mulitmodal formats.  But what about sharing? There are options: ePubs can be shared in iBooks on the device they are created on, published to iTunes and shared through a school iTunesU channel, or published through a gallery connected to an app (eg. Scribble Press or ShowMe).   Each of these options still raise more questions for me:

  • will the eBook be available in the future?
  • will parents, grandparents and those in the broader community have the necessary  evice, app or reader  to view these student created collections?

How Public?

I’m an advocate of openness, yet still have a keen sense of responsibility toward child safety.  Finding the right balance as we create new policies on how Social Media is used in schools, by individual teachers and with students will challenge some of our previous ideas.  How do children build an identity and maintain privacy? Are restrictions on last names enough? Just as in traditional publishing it seems to me there needs to be an approval cycle before works go public.

Striking the Balance

When I recently attended the National CyberSafety Summit in Melbourne I had the privilege of listening to leading child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg on preparing students for a world which is constantly connected and being offline is not an option.  His key strategy? Build digital resilience! Dr Carr-Gregg emphasized the importance of being flexible, optimistic and resilient.  Great advice for teachers too as we realise learning is no longer within school hours, within classroom walls or is within our complete control (if it ever was!).

Thanks George Couros @gcouros for giving me new strategies to be vulnerable, make connections and learn with and from each other,  Luke Schoff @schoffl for breaking new ground with me and the @CEGSAustralia community for learning and growing with me.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these emerging challenge.

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Blog as Professional Portfolio

I am attending a workshop with George Couros discussing the National Professional Standards for Teachers and using a Blog as a showcase of evidence against the standards. In this blog I will be exploring the following seven standards:

  1. Know Your Students
  2. Know the Content
  3. Plan Teaching and Learning
  4. Safe and Supportive Learning
  5. Assess, Feedback and Report
  6. Professional Learning
  7. Engage Professionally

Watch this short video about the National Professional Standards for teachers.


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by followtheseinstructions
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Student Blogging

cc licensed ( BY NC SA )  flickr photo shared by hgjohn

Should student blogs be open to the public? Social Media in and out of the classroom can transform learning and bridge gaps between home and school. Blogging helps me to work through my ideas, to reflect on learning and gain perspectives from others. What makes this work is that there is an authentic audience. When we work in front of an audience we raise the bar and want to do our best.  If we close the community to just student’s classmates are we really giving purpose to what they are saying?

What does the new DECD policy on Social Media  say? There seem to be some contradictions.

What does your school policy say?  What does it need to address to promote safety and give guidelines? I’m thinking we need guidelines as a school, for teachers and for students  that include your roles and a focus on personal responsibility (including legal, ethical obligations).

In the PYP we aim to foster international-mindedness in people who are digitally responsible citizens.  It seems to me open student blogs have tremendous potential for learning.

Thank you to George Couros for challenging my thinking in this area and getting me started in reflecting in this way.  George’s blog is an excellent example of both a learning profile and showcase portfolio.

Actions for me 

Set aside time in the work day to blog. To reflect. Only need 20 minutes or so. This IS part of the learning process and part of an educator’s work.

Look at creating student blogs that can be private, public, or private to the community. Have a look at EduBlogs and multiuser accounts so that comments on blogs can be moderated.  Think about opening up!

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Decisions about iPad Implementation

I’ve been looking for ideas on how to best implement iPads in my school.  Here are some resources I’ve found particularly useful:

To help with the process of implementing Mobile Technoligies we adapted the Victorian iPads for Education Model

Adapted from the Victoria Education trials, this approach has guided our Mobile Learning Trials at Immanuel Primary School.

The top decisions we faced for our Mobile Learning trials included these challenging questions:

  1. Who’s on the team? We realised we needed to ensure decsion-makers and key stakeholders are involved early. Our team included Principal, Assistant Principal Teaching and Learning, Business Manager ICT Coordinator and Technical Support Officer.
  2. Why technology in education?  We mapped out our beliefs about the impact of technology on learning including mapping to the PYP Elements and found technology impacts learning positively in almost all  areas. We also explored what Learning with Rich Technology might look like. 
  3. Which technologies? Already an Apple school, we narrowed the scope or our research to Apple Mobile Learning Technology.  This included MacBooks, iMacs, MacBook Airs and iPads.
  4. Which Ownership Models? BYOT, School-owned, Staff-owned, Parent-owned, hybrid?
  5. Which Management Models? Securing, charging, access restrictions, purchasing etc… Who manages  and controls these to meet the needs of the learners and keep risks to the organisation in check?
  6. Which use models? How many do we need? 1:1, shared, who shares? What hurdles do we need to jump through if we share devices that are meant to be personal?
  7. Which Support Models? What will the impact be on Tech Support requirements? What support is really required? Technical? Pedagogical?
  8. Who is responsible? for learning? risk? App purchasing and selection? Workflow and backup?
  9. Which professional learning models?  Teachers as learners, each one teach one, hub groups, lead learners?

I’m sure there are many more decisions to make when choosing to implement iPads. I look forward to comments and ideas.

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