Tag Archive: classroom without walls. teaching

Hello all,

This week I sent this email out to the students of my school:

Subject: NGS has bought an Island

Dear Students,

Just recently Newcastle Grammar School purchased an Island for us. An Island that I have always wanted and I want you to join me and build it into something spectacular. I will be holding a meeting at Lunch Time on Friday the 25th of February in HF3 to discuss you joining me and my team in working together to create this Island into a world we can enter and enjoy. To be part of this you can apply in two ways…… Tell me why I would call the island Tychwolcom Island or email an application explaining why you wish to be part of this adventure.  Initially I will only be taking an elite crew to the Island so I am looking for specific students who would be eligible.

It started a buz around the school that the we had bought an island off the Pacific and NGS was going to fly students out there to help build it (well thats what I was told from some of the students begging me to take them with me)

I have just finished the Friday lunch time meeting where I worked with about 20 students explaining to them the inner workings of Opensim and how we were going to turn my tiny speck of an Island into a massive learning environment. I have given them a form to fill out asking them why they want to be part of this experience and also to get their parents aware of what their child is up to.

To me they seemed pretty insprired and when the meeting had finished they wanted to play with “Hippo Viewer” and see what my Avatar could do. But when I told them what I wanted to do thats when they really got inspired. I cant take credit for all the things I list below (I can thank Steve Collis for this) but here is what I want to do:

  1. Create a code of conduct
  2. Create uniforms for the avatars similar to our sports uniform
  3. Create terrain similar to the city of Newcastle Australia
  4. Create the Holland building (A building on our campus here at NGS)
  5. Create virtual learning environments (such as Fort Scratchley)
  6. Create an Art Gallery (To post student work)
  7. The possibilites are endless

These are just the beginning and once we really get up and running I hope that other teachers will use the space for the benifit of learning. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading Andrew

ps: its called Tychwolcom Island because it is a combination of the street names surrounding our campus (Tyrrel Church Wolfe and Newcommen). Some of the students got this instantly. Some very bright students out there!


“Its a Small World after all”

Hi all,

I have a Ning Site which my School pays for and I am very grateful. I use it to document student discussion and to keep tabs on how they are travelling as far as completing set tasks and homework. Each year a new student body will join the site and continue adding to the tasks. I hope that when preparing for the HSC the students will log in and use it as a study resource.

The other day my year 12’s asked if I was going to delete their work and were happy that I said no because they had a wealth of knowledge regarding the subject that they are studying. This can be added to and used as a study aid.

To improve the site I started renaming the tabs to make it more user friendly and I discovered a couple of things:

I can embed Prezi’s! Its not that hard to do and it allowed my students to have the notes I made in front of them when I was delivering them as well as refer to them later. Also if a student was away they could log in and follow the notes with reference to the text.

Then I discovered Smallworlds . Smallworlds is a mini Second Life which promotes a safe virtual environment. The major difference is…ITS FREE! I am in the process of building a virtual world using Opensim but Smallworlds has been embeded into my Ning and I am able to set it up how I want it. I have created Blaangs Virtual Classroom and as you can see from the screen shot there is computers to post responses to questions/tests/exams and we even have a lounge area so that we can meet and discuss any issues outside of our normal timetable class. We had a meeting the other night and the students (surprisingly) were completely focused on the topic of discussion.

Smallworlds has a number of advantages:

  • Ease of use
  • Free
  • If anyone does anything innapropriate you can report/ban them
  • You can earn money easily to buy things (such as computer and chairs)
  • Its adaptable
  • I don’t have to be in the room to monitor a students progress
  • Rooms can be members only
  • You can buy more room if you need it
  • If a student is absent they can log in a check/discuss our lesson

Its a very big learning curve and the students appear to be enjoying it. They even wrote their own policy on acceptable use in the classroom which is adapted from Google’s policy of “Don’t be Evil“.

At this stage it is a learning curve to see what we can do with it. At the moment there hasn’t been any hiccups but no doubt there will be. Once they are discovered it will be up to the class to resolve them.

So if you are interested in setting up a virtual classroom and dont have the money or the infrastructure I do recommend you give Smallworlds a try!

Thanks for reading.

I picked up this gem of an image the other day I thought I would use it as my latest blog post. It is taken from Whatedsaid and it is how I would like to see myself in the classroom (thats the image on the right by the way). Ed talks about the ability to inspire to lead as far as a manager of a group goes and this is what I believe should be our inspiration for developing the learning of our students. It is very easy to get bogged down with content when delivering a course but lately I have been reflecting on ways to get around this. One of the most successful ways I have found is by asking my students.

Recently I have worked closely with my classes to develop their skills in designing the learning for themselves and we are at a stage where they are telling me how they want the course content delivered to them individually. Once the intitial barrier of being afraid to speak up gets broken down the information flows and flows from them. This has allowed me to design courses with them in mind because they have provided me with the scaffold. Sometimes I will ask them to email me suggestions or comment on a request others walk straight up to me and tell me. It allows my classes to be a connected classroom on many levels.

For example… I ask all of my students after they have submitted an assessment task to tell me ten points about “how the assessment task went”, how the content and learning was delivered” and “what could be improved”. I get a variety of constructive critiscm and I often have to be prepared to be offended by what they say but most of the time if they didnt like something they tell me and suggest ways I can improve in that area. This has helped me, I believe, to become a better teacher and puts me on their level where I am assessing them and they are assessing me. Just recently I didnt ask for feedback from a year 11 class after they had finished an assessment and they really wanted to have that opportunity to give it. I just simply forgot and when I told them that they wrote feedback in a blog post of their own accord. I can honestly say that feedback is allowing me to improve my teaching in all aspects of pedagogy and when I am stuck for inspiration I know where I can get it realiably. Here is an example of the feedback I get:


  • I really liked the freedom to choose what emotion we could choose to portray, and finding the clips and music to match
  • I also liked the freedom to decide what we were going to do each lesson, it was a lot easier to find motivation that way, and easier to learn, because I wasn’t being forced into paying attention when I wasn’t focused.
  • I liked the ’24hr classroom’, although I felt at times that it was hard to keep track of, and remembering to constantly check the blog was sometimes beyond me.
  • I much preferred blogging to writing a portfolio, but I felt sometimes that I didn’t know what to write, and also, I didn’t feel as much need to get it done, even though it was worth so many marks
  • I thought that the time limit was a bit long, so I didn’t feel a lot of pressure to finish, so my time management could have been better
  • Youtube being unblocked made it easier to find our own videos, but it also made it harder to focus on the task at hand, and I often got distracted watching videos somewhat irrelevant to the topic
  • It was hard coming up with ideas for a movie, and at times it seemed to broad a topic to narrow down to one good idea
  • Conveying the emotion I chose accurately was a lot harder than I thought, and having to put in text and transitions I thought was rather unnecessary. It was also very frustrating trying to make the transitions work with the timing of the video.
  • Using iMovie was fairly simple, and I was happy with the result that I got, however, sometimes I had problems using the controls, or there were things that, as far as I knew, iMovie couldn’t do, such as superimposing clips or photos.
  • Overall I really enjoyed this project, but I felt like I would have preferred doing something that related a bit more to the practical aspect of computing, as I’m not really sure how much I’ll use iMovie in the long run.

And another on the same assessment but from a different student


  • I really enjoyed this unit of creating a movie portraying an emotion as it allowed myself and the class to display their creative side and ability to create a quality and evoking movie, rather than a purely design, technical and analytical task.
  • This assessment was also more enjoyable as the marking criteria were less focused on including certain elements and completing criteria in the movie, rather focused on the effectiveness of the portrayal of the emotion, and therefore provided more freedom in creating the movie.
  • I was initially sceptical of the blog and its outcomes, however it was actually a really effective medium to convey our peronalities, computing skills and thoughts / ideas on the assessment.
  • The blog was a really effective method of updating and maintaining a record of my thoughts, feelings and ideas about the assessment and video, and was more realistic, apprporiate and useful than a design portfolio.
  • The blog also allowed me to work from home on this assessment in a productive way, allowing a medium to encapsulate my thoughts and ideas at any given moment. It also allowed me to access the IST Digital Media PowerPoint for notes, and read up on what was expected for the week ahead. This woking from home aspect was much more appealing and productive than a design portfolio, and allowed me to work with more freedom.
  • This assessment allowed and forced myslef to use iMovie and its features in greater detail and depth than ever before. I also was forced to use the software myself rather than sit back and let others (usually more capable and confident) do it for me.
  • I thought obtaining the assessment task early was much better (like last time) as we could start working and thinking about our assessment earlier in the term, and allowed me to start my blog.
  • The ability to chose the emotion and context for portraying that emotion in our assessment task made it extremely enjoyable, fun and interesting as we were creating a video about something we were interested and passionate in.
  • I disliked having to copy down the notes by ourselves from the powerpoint as I didn’t really understand the notes. I much preferred copying down the notes in class and having a discussion about the meaning of the notes, as I felt I learnt more that way.
  • iMovie was frustrating to use at some stages, and didn’t allow me to create some effects that I had originally planned to use, and I hence had to change some ideas to suit iMovie’s capabilities. Eg. I orginally planned to have 4 pictures move 1 by 1 from right to left, finishing in a pile of photos and fading out, however I could not create this and therfore in my movie I just have the photos fade in and out individually. This may have hindered my depiction of the emotion of happiness.
  • It was hard to decide upon a song which effectively portrayed the same emotion as te clip and fitted the timing and content of the footage. I had to play around with a few songs, their timing and the footage itself to get the right balance of audio and visual stimulation.
  • There were many options in handing up this assessment, which was good as it allowed those who wished to upload their video to YouTube to do so, those who finished with enough time to burn their movie to a DVD to hand it in with privacy, and allowed the option of handing in the movie on a USB.
  • Although I changed my ideas and emotions that I wanted to portray through this assessment, I am quite proud and hapy with my final outcome.

These are unedited evaluations written this morning and posted on my wikispaces site by my students. If you could I would like you to have a look at what my students have created and leave comments on this blog and I will pass them onto the students. They would really appreciate it and so would I.

With the use of the technology we have available to us it is becomming increasingly easier to deliver course content in a variety of methods rather than the “chalk and talk” method. However, I certainly haven’t bannished this method of teaching, there is definetly a need for this type of pedagogy. When I ask my students which method they prefer 21st century learning wins hands down. Its because we live in a technological world and our students are exposed to it everyday.

With the use of technology I hope to reach the upper right of this diagram so that my students learn at their best:


And a poster that I have up in my classroom:


Thanks for reading. Leave interesting or creative responses in the comment section below! (RWJ)