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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Where does video fit in primary school?

I’ve been pondering where video fits today in primary schooling.

Published Works?

We seem to go around in circles on this question. Over the years, I’ve been teaching Year 4 students to work with green screens, voice overs, cut-aways… in iMovie.  They love creating video this way, but it does take time so is saved for our TV Advertising Unit where we can look at advertising techniques in depth – including those used in post-production work.  Students had to have access to computer labs and sit at the same computer. With more ready access to technology is this still the way to go?


With the advent of iPads and more readily available mobile technologies I often hear “the best camera is the one you have”.  Its now so easy for students of all ages to quickly capture their experiences, reflections and ideas and add titles and annotations using apps like iMovie, Explain Everything or ShowMe.  These one-shot videos are turning out to be very useful for formative and summative assessment tasks, essential agreements, creating tutorials  and using for school communication/podcasts.

Filming on an iPhone or iPad 

Can you mix footage? Thanks to Steve Griffiths, I recently learned that Australia uses 25 frames per second (fps) for filming based on the 50 hz speed of our electricity.  America and some countries like Japan use 29.97 fps based on 50hz (I initially found this out about 50hz electricity when I moved to Australia and found none of my clock-based appliances worked because of the slower clock speed!). Steve mentioned feature films are shot at 24 fps .   “An interesting note is that when you watch a feature film on Australian TV it is actually 4% shorter than when you saw it at the cinema. Films are ‘sped up’ from 24 fps to 25 fps to match the TV frame rate and therefore run slightly faster.”

It turns out the iPhone and iPad are so smart they decide the frame rate for you based on light conditions. This can be problematic if you want to incorporate with other footage. Steve’s general rule, “Don’t mix the frame rate”.  So iPhones and iPads are good if its all you have, but may not mix with film from other cameras.

Portrait Footage and ePubs?

It used to be a strict “no no” to film in portrait orientation rather than landscape. Well it turns out you’re better off holding the camera/phone etc.. vertical when capturing footage to include in ePubs!

Promotional Video

Now that the cost of producing high quality video productions is so much accessible, there is a place for high end productions in a school setting. This weekend I learned professional techniques for creating high-end videos on a budget. Here are a few of the tips shared at an ADE Retreat hosted by Apple with guest expert Steve Griffiths.

Working both sides of the camera as we practiced filming, sound, interviewing and being interviewed.

Tips for Great Shots

  1. follow the rule of thirds
  2. don’t fireHOSE by panning, tilting or zooming. Choose the frame, then shoot the scene for at least 7 seconds.
  3. keep the camera level to the horizon
  4. avoid zoom: use zoom to frame, but don’t use transitional zoom
  5. shoot landscape unless its for an ePub/iBook
  6. handhelds can appear less staged and captures the moment. Use a tripod where possible.
  7. give shots depth with a clear foreground, mid ground and background (put as much distance behind the subject as possible).
  8. make sure the focus is spot on
  9. watch colour balance and white balance
  10. everything that is said in an interview needs to have a picture to go with it. Use LOTS of overlay. You can never get enough overlay. These don’t need audio and can be in the class room, close shots of technology,…
  11. Look for different ways to shoot things (low, high)
  12. Avoid reflections
  13. Keep the camera steady
  14. keep things looking nice (tidy up, clean screens..)
  15. lighting makes people look better. Need three light sources: keylight to light the subject, fill on the opposite side to fill shadows and backlight around the hairline. Outside use the sun and a piece of white card as fill light.
  16. If subject is squinting, tell them to close their eyes and look at the sun, then turn to you and open them.
  17. Sound needs to be good quality. Test, use external mics and CHECK.  Lapel mics are best.

Tips for Interviewing

  1. Keep the eyeline slight to left or right of camera, looking at interviewer
  2. Make sure you can clearly see both eyes
  3. Dark clothing ususally looks better
  4. Avoid fine stripes (moire effect)
  5. Avoid swivel chairs
  6. Sit on coat tails
  7. Move scenery to a create a good shot
  8. Eyes on interviewer only (looks shifty otherwise) Keep other people out of eyeline.
  9. Look for reflections, headroom, brightness and background.


  1. We learned to use Final Cut X. Easy to use and more powerful than iMovie.
  2. Allow plenty of time. Approx 4 hours per minute of final footage.
  3. Music adds emotion – create your own if you can.
  4. Add plenty of overlay.
  5. When publishing compress (Compressor does a great job).
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ACCE Study Tour 2012

In June 2012, I  had the distinct privilege of participating in the Australian Council for Computers in Education’s  (ACCE) annual study tour. The tour had three main components: school visits in the US and Canada, corporate visits to companies that are key players in educational computing and finally culminating in the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) annual conference of 17,000+ delegates.  A fourth component, networking with the 24 Australian Educators participating on the tour proved critical in synthesizing our experiences.

School Visits

Students at Cindrich Elementary were keen to share their use of iPads and Apple TV. CC By DevelopingTogether.

While the context of the government schools we visited in Canada and the US varied significantly from my school context at Immanuel Primary School in South Australia, there were pearls of wisdom to be gathered from each site.  The schools in the low-socio economic Surrey District in Vancouver, Canada each took different approaches to their iPad trials. Of particular interest to me were Cindrich Elementary’s extensive use of Apple TV for instant sharing of student work on iPads, Hillcrest Elementary, led by Yrsa Jensen and her passion for “Assessment for Learning” strategies exemplified student-led inquiry leading to authentic action.   Their access to technology included a variety of platforms (Apple, PC, iPad…) and open Internet policies allowed students to create, collaborate and communicate their ideas using a vast array of Web 2.0 tools.

Throughout our Surrey District visits we were able to access unrestricted Guest Wifi allowing Internet access, including social media sites. Participants Tweeted prolifically using #acce12. The District offices provides all wireless networking and other IT Support and have supported the iPad trials in this way.

In Seattle, Washington (in Microsoft’s backyard), we visited Inglewood Junior High school where host principal, Tim Patterson shared Inglewood’s experiences of a shared use laptop program and their transition to their first year of a 1:1 laptop program.  Once again key educational leaders made all the difference as to how the technology is used and to what extent learning is impacted.

Hillcrest Elementary students share what they think of using technology for learning. Photo by Tina_P..

Often the schools in most need received targeted government funding for technology.  Of note was PRIDE Academy where students we met students from Kindergarten (Reception or Foundation) through to Year5 who used technology ubiquitously throughout the school day. Students were so well versed and willing to share their learning using the technology.  Technology ranged from iPod touches for the youngest students to a variety of desktops and laptops throughout the classrooms. The school decided to take whatever technology they could get and make the most of it. The learning platform consists of a set of tools that work across the platforms (Tech4Learning Suite).Limiting the toolset certainly made for each of access for all students, although I couldn’t help but wonder if limiting the choice and access to tools might limit potential in the future.

Lastly, we visited San Diego State University, part of the university system where I received my first degree from San Francisco State University. Here we met professor Bernie Dodge and convened in the original “Web Quest” lab where Bernie Dodge and Tom March invented the concept of accessing Internet resources in collaborative, creative and meaningful ways.  Bernie shared his insights on the future of education.

Corporate Visits

Our corporate visits and sponsors hosted us generously (yes, they even fed us and with 6 AM “Wheels up” times several mornings a hot breakfast or lunch was MOST appreciated).  Corporate tours and briefings included:

  • Microsoft and their Partners in Learning Program
  • Promethean Excursion and Hosted Dinner
  • Google Workshop for Online Educators led by “Lead Learners”  Brian Van Dyck and Wendy Gorton and a fabulous tour of the Google Campus (oh how I’d love to be a ‘Googler’ as employees are called).
  • Apple Store (no educational briefing this time much to my disappointment)
  • CISCO systems Interactive Video Conferencing demonstration and briefing with larger than life Dr Lance Ford.
  • Oracle Academy briefing on Oracle Academy programs Alice and Greenfoot. These new initiatives foster student understanding of logic and control in 3D animated environments.  Free training online and coming to Australia face-to-face later this year. Alice could be a next step for our older students and is particularly engaging due to the animated storytelling environment.

ISTE Conference

By the time we got to ISTEI was swimming with ideas, possibilities and projects. ISTE provided a chance to consolidate these ideas and meet professionals further down the journey than me. Initially daunted as we received VIP treatment (front row seats at keynote sessions and private sessions with the “best of the best at ISTE), my confidence grew as I realised Australian educators, and in my opinion, particularly IB educators are extraordinarily well positioned to foster the current climate of innovation and technological possibility. Open curriculum frameworks, solid approaches to inquiry learning and reflective practice allow us to move forward without the many restrictions faced by other jurisdictions and policies around the globe. Highlights of my ISTE experience include:

Meeting with George Couros was a highlight from ISTE. George inspired me to start my Continuous Learning blog. Seen here with Tina Photakis and Stephen Knipe from CEGSA Photo by Tina_P

  • George Couros who inspired me to start my own Continuous Learning blog and also create a showcase a work in progress of my achievement of professional standards.
  • Kathy Schrock, ISTE Board member, digital literacy expert and professional learning advocate who shares a passion for multimodal literacy and learning through creating.
  • Alan November sparked ideas to get students learning and authentically sharing their ideas and resources online.
  • Dr Yong Zhao  referenced Australia, New Zealand as world leaders in education. Advocates that national goals to be the “ceiling not the floor” and that creativity and entrepreneurship are key.
  • Marc Prensky illuminated his thoughts on enabling students to pursue their own passions. Read “From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom” for his latest thinking.
  • Michael Fullan who succinctly articulates the relationships between pedagogy, technology and change in his new book Stratosphere (a must read for school leaders).
  • From Gary Stager,  for wisdom and a good laugh “When students own the technology, they own the learning within. No one washes a rental car.”
  • I’m also looking forward to reading the book I received at the Leadership Symposium authored by Ken Kay and Valerie Greenhill  “The Leader’s Guide to 21st Century Education – 7 Steps for Schools and District”.

The pre-conference Affiliates Daywas a wonderful opportunity to share the trends and challenges amongst our professional associations. Representing CEGSA, Steve Knipe and I ran a “poster session” on our approaches to using technology to run our professional association.

Presenting a Poster Session with Stephen Knipe on CEGSA’s use of technology to run our professional association.

The Study Tour delegates were also invited to many special functions including the Leadership Symposium, President’s Reception, “Best of the Best” sessions and more.

In summary, the most valuable aspect of the Study Tour were the many relationships formed around the world, the bonding with other Australian Educators with whom the conversations continue and an affirmation of the possibilities for truly innovating education with the power of emerging technologies. I return with increased enthusiasm and passion as well as concrete ideas and action plans.

Thank you to all those who have supported me attending this tour. To my husband, John who held down the fort, to the CEGSA team for their support and most importantly to the Immanuel Primary school leadership team who enabled me to undertake this wonderful professional learning experience.

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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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