Level of Digital Capability for Teachers

I mentioned in my last post that one of the things I have been working on is a rubric of sorts for teachers’ self assessment regarding their own progress in getting to grips with Learning Technologies.

I put together the following levels and would love to hear what additions or amendments others might make. The goal is for me to produce a tutorial for each item on the list.

Digital Capability levels


Basic User

  • Able to create text labels using different fonts and colours
  • Able to use labels to embed images
  • Able to upload documents
  • Able to post web links

Capable user

  • Able to create a new Moodle course
  • Able to create a glossary
  • Able to create a quiz / question bank
  • Able to use a forum
  • Able to use labels to embed youtube videos

Black Belt in Moodle-fu

  • Able to build conditional lessons into the moodle page
  • Able to run a workshop online
  • Able to embed more complex html widgets (Prezi)

Interactive Whiteboards

Beginning User

  • Able to orient the board when necessary
  • Able to access Smart Notebook on personal computer

Basic User

  • Able to customize the menus for ease of use
  • Able to create slides in class and save them
  • Able to embed images, video and flash objects
  • Able to use the floating image capture tools
  • Able to export slides as PDF for email or Moodle upload

Capable user

  • Able to source and display 3rd party flash apps from the internet
  • Able to use animations to add a dynamic element to the slides (including fades and infinite cloner)
  • Able to comfortably browse the internet / computer from the board


  • Able to record portions of lessons for upload to Moodle
  • Able to store frequently used gallery items in a remotely accessible folder
  • Able to use the IWB in conjunction with Smart Response handsets



  • Able to find blogs worth follwing
  • Able to subscribe to blogs via email or RSS
  • Able to comment well on blogs

Beginning Producer

  • Able to set up own blog
  • Able to create posts
  • Able to include images in posts

Capable Producer

  • Able to embed video
  • Able to embed compatible widgets (Polls etc)
  • Able to link to other webpages


  • Able to create a class portal
  • Able to invite new users and assign roles
  • Able to manage/moderate student content


Beginning Videographer

  • Able to source and link to videos

Beginning Producer

  • Able to record videos (using phones or Flip cameras)
  • Able to record screencasts (Using Camstudio / BBFlashback / ScreenToaster)
  • Able to edit video clips (using VideoPad? — Worth checking to see if there is a new/free video editing suite)


  • Able to convert video to apropriate formats
  • Able to select appropriate video and audio codecs when saving


Beginning Podcaster

  • Able to source and link to podcasts
  • Able to subscribe to podcasts RSS feeds / iTunes

Beginning Producer

  • Able to record podcasts
  • Able to edit audio clips (using Audacity)

Capable Producer

  • Able to convert audio to apropriate formats
  • Able to select appropriate audio codecs when saving


Customizing QR codes

October 23, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve really taken to QR codes recently, so I’ve been tinkering with customizing them.

The tiny logo customisation you may have seen in branded QR codes is really easy to achieve with a little trial and error, so I decided to try something a little more tricky:

QR Code Customization

This is based on the idea that QR readers are colour blind, so what they look for is high contrast. This allows you to create a simple four-tone image, in this case black and red contrasting white and grey.

I did this using GIMP. My tutorial for how to do this is available on youtube:

Because of the pretty impressive error correction, you can pull off some other quite interesting hacks, too, which I might show next week.

If you are using QR codes in an interesting way in the classroom, please let me know in the comments!

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AGQTP Web 2.0 Workshop, Day 4

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment


Yesterday, I attended the fourth day of Web 2.0 workshops run by Tom March. In this session we focused on the use of WebQuests.

[Image: Group’s initial ideas about WebQuests using Stixy]

We have been progressively working our way through various strategies to meaningfully embrace the use of ICT, particularly web 2.0 tools, in the classroom. The thing I have found most helpful about these sessions has been Tom’s focus on the things that will really enhance the learning of the students. These sessions aren’t about tacking technology on, but rather using these tools to completely reshape the way we think about education.

Tom taps into a lot of sound educational and pedagogical theory in his introductions to each session, and I find this gives us a real motivation as teachers to take his suggested activities seriously. I hope I can represent everything accurately in this post, because it was an excellent session!

We kicked off, as always, with a brief introduction from Tom. As an IT Applications teacher, one thing about his intro caught my attention immediately. In ITA one of the design tools we get kids to use when solving information problems is an IPO chart (Input|Processing|Output), and something Tom said reminded me of this and helped me re-frame the way I think about teaching. He said, roughly, ‘we know what the input is (the content), and we know what we want the output to be (what the kids produce to demonstrate their acquired knowledge and skills), but what we need to really think about is what happens in between: the process. What is the magic that need to happen in the middle?’ I think keeping this process in mind throughout any learning program is essential.

So then Tom explained the theory. Essentially, he suggested that there are all sorts of ideas relating to what leads to good learning and outlined them roughly as:

  • Motivation Theory
  • Critical Thinking
  • Intentional Learning
  • Basic Skills / Foundational Knowledge
  • Collaboration / Team Skills
  • Constructivism
  • Authentic Assessment
  • Metacognition

WebQuests can dovetail nicely with this list:

 Motivation Theory Compelling Scenario
 Critical Thinking Open-ended question
 Intentional Learning  Specific Task
 Basic Skills / Foundational Knowledge  Background Knowledge
 Collaboration / Team Skills  Perspectives and Expertise
 Constructivism  Group Process / Transformation
 Authentic Assessment  Real World Feedback
 Metacognition  Reflection

Compelling Scenario, Open-Ended Questions and Specific Tasks

The idea of this compelling scenario is to create cognitive dissonance. If we can unsettle the thinking of our students,this will lead nicely into the open-ended question to encourage critical thinking. The compelling scenario should be real, rich and relevant (the new ‘Three R’s for education?). That is, it should be something that is really happening in the world right now, that is relevant to the kids and can be explored with a rich variety of resources. With web 2.0 tools, finding the material for such tasks is too easy. The hard thing is filtering it successfully so that you pitch it at the right level (to encourage Flow…see day 3 (which I still need to write! tk)).

Tom told us a story about a guy who asked him, ‘in this age of student centered learning, what is the role of the teacher?’ Tom’s excellent answer: ‘To perturb.’ I think if we can perturb the preconceived ideas of our students, they will be motivated to resolve their unsettled thoughts.

One key way to perturb the students is in the juxtaposition of the material you present them with,but more on that later.

Background Knowledge

The background knowledge we provide can be just enough to give the kids the standard they need to participate in exploring the ideas for themselves. (Personal sidenote: ‘We’ often go into lessons with a minimum standard we want the kids to have achieved by the end of the lesson, or at least, ‘we’ are encouraged to by standardised testing. I like the idea of making the minimum background info and from there encourage excellence, whatever that means, for each kid.) The background knowledge serves as the ‘What does Wikipedia/The Textbook say about this?’ input. This is essentially the sort of stuff that can be copied and pasted, but real WebQuests should not allow for such simple and uncritical responses.

Perspectives and Expertise

This is where the kids really get the chance to explore the topic for themselves. The key is to find roles and perspectives that clash. It is important to remain neutral as the teacher and not sell a particular answer. The main goal is to give kids a 360 degree view of the issue. Able students can work individually, while less able students might work in pairs. (Logistically, in a class of 28, you might have six roles/case studies, and four groups over all, but the students work individually at this stage.) Tom suggests even introducing ‘some wackos that are not obviously wackos.’

Group Process / Transormation

This is where 84% of the 2000 WebQuests, Tom and his research team reviewed, stopped being real WebQuests. Here the kids come back together into their small groups and attempt to synthesise everything they have learned as individuals. The big group answer has to incorporate everybody’s point of view. This is a good time to use graphical organisers such as mindmaps, or collaborative documents like Etherpad/Typewith.me.

Real World Feedback

Students can then be encouraged to act upon what they have learned. We can find real world opportunities for kids to reach out, beyond the classroom, with what they now know. This might take the form of some sort of social action, or simply creating resources to educate others. The key to this stage, though, is to find a real world audience to respond to this. It could be members of the parent community, other classes, the local community, or anyone else from the 2 billion strong community that is the world wide web. It’s a good way to help the kids feel like they have really done something, and not just got another grade from their English teacher!


We can also help kids to reflect on the process they went through and how their thinking may or may not have changed. Getting kids to understand how their own cogs turn (metacognition!) will encourage self-initiative, critical thinking and lifelong learning. No small claim.

What does that look like in practice?

Webquest example

Here is one of Tom’s own WebQuests, complete with resources: Terrorist or Freedom Fighter.

Wider reading

The Learning Power of WebQuests

What WebQuests Are (Really)

Creating WebQuests

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The best PD I never went to… #couchCon

August 14, 2011 4 comments

I didn’t go to a wonderful conference today. My wife is away on a school camp, so I thought I should make the most of being on my own to not go to a wonderful conference.



The conference I didn’t go to started with a relatively brief keynote by Chris Lehmann, the Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. It was really inspiring stuff. His passion for the kids we all teach is incredible and contagious. I came away from this keynote at the conference I didn’t attend with a real sense that the much needed change in our education system is within reach. Knowing that pioneers and visionaries like him and many more have gone before us gives me real hope that it is possible. He said a few things that really resonated with me, such as the story he shared about his students that built a bio-diesel generator that they released as a creative commons product for the third world. I got goosebumps when he said: “What if high school wasn’t just preparation for real life? What if we honoured the work of the kids and said high school is real life?” I find this kind of validation of the kids work so inspiring and much more meaningful than any test score! His comments about technology being ubiquitous were fantastic too.

So, after this keynote I didn’t see, I was excited about the other workshops and seminars that the day wouldn’t have in store for me. I’ve been really interested in gamification recently, so I was glad to see that the non-conference had a study group dedicated to Open Badges and Assessment, based on the work that’s being done by Mozilla and P2PU. The session started with a review of the documentation that’s been produced by Mozilla. I was thinking about applications just within my own high school context, but seeing the scope of the project Mozilla is undertaking was phenomenal. They have a plan for building an open badge standard to recognise learning from a whole range of sources that has been ignored by traditional qualification awards systems. It really is revolutionary and some in the group were considering this as a potential contender to replace traditional universities! I really love the range of ideas that I get exposed to when I don’t attend a conference. The group from this workshop will meet on a weekly basis now until the end of September, and that’s the other great thing about no going to these great conferences: the fabulous networks you build with interesting people.

Not going to a conference has a real downside, in that I was solely responsible for the catering…so lunch was disappointing.

In the second workshop we shared resources between interested parties. I picked up a great educational game teaching disaster preparedness which will make a fun little homework activity for my year 11s as they explore ideas about survival in English (I might get them to review the game or suggest alternate levels/scenarios…just thinking out loud). The same game will probably get shared with the people I’m working on KIOSC with, since it has a marginal focus on sustainability. There was also a wonderful teacher that shared a whole heap of SMART board resources, which will take me weeks to digest. I’m always happy to get more IWB resources, and I’m sure others at my school will appreciate them to.

Finally, the closing address summed up the incredible speed that the tech world is changing and highlighted the importance that education keeps up. It was drawing upon examples from Iowa, but in today’s global society, I could really see the importance of the message for my teaching in Australia, too.



Overall, the conference I didn’t go to has given me a lot to think about and I’m sure it will take a while for my to really understand the full implications for my teaching.

Next time you have a day free, I highly recommend not going to a conference.

Thanks to the following unwitting organisers of today’s couchCon, without you sharing such great content from the web recently, I might have gone outside today:

@martinlevins | @dajbelshaw | @russeltarr | @mimadisonklein | @rmbyrne

Project Euler

June 13, 2011 2 comments

euler badge
I’ve just started using Project Euler to give myself the kick up the backside I’ve been looking for to finally get me to learn programming. I’ve settled for Python as my language of choice since I wanted to start with something I had absolutely zero experience in. If I’d attempted it in BASIC, Javascript or PHP I would have solved the first two a little quicker (not that I’m at all proficient in any of those three), but I wanted to see how I would do from scratch.

If we list all the natural numbers below 10 that are multiples of 3 or 5, we get 3, 5, 6 and 9. The sum of these multiples is 23.

Find the sum of all the multiples of 3 or 5 below 1000.

Problem 1 is really simple, in theory and I thought it would take me no more than half an hour to write a program to solve it in Python. However, I am completely unfamiliar with the syntax of Python and because I’m not a real programmer I didn’t really know what the proper names were for the sorts of things I wanted my program to do. I tried Googling for some documentation that would help me get my head around arrays in Python, and came up with some stuff about ‘lists’, which the BASIC part of my brain had trouble accepting…anyway, I cracked it after a few hours with a rather inelegant brute force method.

The thing I really like, apart from the excitement of typing in the answer and waiting to find out if it’s accurate, is the solution forum afterwards, where previous solvers share their method. I have found after solving problems 1 and 2 that it’s not only my knowledge of Python that limits my solutions, but my knowledge of Maths! I think I’ll learn a lot about maths and number theory as a result of this, which isn’t bad since I just wanted to learn Python.

Problem 3 is all about factorizing primes, of which I know nothing, so I think this one will take a little longer for me to crack. But I’m really enjoying learning something new. It is also confirming my suspicions about the way kids learn best (well, kids like me, anyway). I’m desperate to earn my level one badge, which is gained after one solves 25 problems. Also, that little public badge that proudly claims I’ve solved 2 so far is quite nice too!

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VCE Tips Videos from Merspi

I really like the new videos being produced by the Merspi team and some of their teacher contacts. They are designed to answer some of the more common questions being asked by VCE students, as well as giving them general survival tips.

I particularly like James’ videos on how to manage stress and how to survive the VCE years.

These are definitely worth telling your students about. It’s this kind of willingness to produce quality material and collaborate with real teachers that sets Merspi apart from other online resources for VCE students.

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TPACK – Some more thoughts…

After reading about TPACK over at the Concrete Classroom and writing up a brief response over on the staff training feed on the classroom blog, I have been thinking about a way that the concept raised by TPACK could inform the approach to better echnology integrating in the classroom.

I was also inspired by a comment on the CC blog (from Delta Scape) that pondered the TPACK Venn Diagram disks’ ability to ‘spin’, which I think I understood. My understanding of this ‘spinning disks’ idea was that the various pedagogical approaches are displayed as segments on the appropriate disk (like a perfectly¬†equal pie chart), that similarly the available technologies are displayed as segments on the tech disk, and likewise with content. These can then be ‘spun’ to align the appropriate technology, to the appropriate pedagogy, to deliver the appropriate content.

As I stated back in my IWB post, I am all about the decision to use technology because it is appropriate in that context. I feel that this augmentation of the TPACK concept with the notion of ‘spinning disks’ could be a good starting point for thinking about how individual teachers choose to integrate ICT into the classroom appropriately.


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