Tag Archive: Self Paced Learning

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.

The Ripple Effect

Gday all,

I have big plans. Huge Plans. Such big plans that I want to stop every teacher in the world and yell “WE ARE GOING ABOUT THIS THE WRONG WAY”! We need to take a look at our teaching pedagogy and rethink how we approach it now that we are in the 21st Century. I want to tell the worlds teachers that in their classrooms students aren’t learning the way they should be and that they need to focus on whats happening in the world rather than the four walls they call a learning environment!

But what is this going to achieve? If you are like me you would be offended that someone was saying that about your pedagogy!

So what am I going to do about it……..”The Ripple Effect!”

I am going to start doing a few things in my classes that I have researched that work and if teachers want to know about it they can read my journey through this blog. I have already updated my signature in my email to state my blog address and my Twitter username so that some may click on these to see what I have to say!

This idea of the ripple effect is not new in fact Jenny Luca posted a blog about it a while back and we have spoken together in email about trying to change the world one teacher at a time. She and I both know that you can lead a teacher to water but you cant make them drink unless they are thirsty! Its a shame though that some teachers out there are doing the same mundane tasks year after year getting pretty reasonable results but if they stepped away from these mundane tasks just on one occasion then maybe those results would be through the roof. The inevitable comment always rings out “looks great but only if I had the time”. MAKE THE TIME. You will reap the benefit of your efforts.

This blog post has been inspired by a few things that I have read or seen this week. One of them is on how much data we are generating through the use of social media and what we as teachers should do about it. Its called Infowhelm . The other is what we should do about it andits called 21st Century Pedagogy. It is an insight for teachers into the “Did you know 2.0“. We as teachers need to focus on the “How we learn” part of our subjects rather than “What we learn” so that students can adapt to the ever changing global community through the use of technology. Why? Because our students are adapting to the technology that surrounds them and we as teachers aren’t.  Those that can do this will “keep up” those that don’t I worry about.

I had a very interesting discussion with a group of my Year 10 digital media class after they have finished a project for me. I was talking to them about matrix learning and how they can self manage their time to complete set tasks. They said they were doing this in another subject and “noone” was doing the set tasks. WHY? They said it because there isnt any incentives. What sort of incentives do we need to learn? Or is the subject matter not suited to this type of pedagogy? I wonder. With this in mind I am asking them to help me develop a solution to this problem. They are the best advisors to help me. I wonder if other teachers have asked their students for feedback on how to deliver a subject better. I do it for every topic I facilitate. Some are very honest and constructive in their critisicm and it has helped me a lot.

I was also inspired to write this blog post this week because of this little gem which for me as a visual learner helped me to put into perspective how to justify Blooms Taxonomy using digital technology. My aim now is to try and use as many as I can in my teaching and assist others (that want assistance) to use them as well. It comes from iLearn Technology blog and it is well worth taking a good look at.

Big week this week! House nearly ready for sale and a father and son surf trip this weekend which is why I have blogged early. Hope it doesnt rain.

Thanks for reading


“Whats your PLN?”

This is a question that was sent to me via email from a colleague on Friday…….

She had just been to a conference where they talked about making sure that you have your own Personal Learning Network. In life we always want to learn something and where we get our learning from is important to us. Why? For me its because I dont want to miss out on something that may be really important that will help me to teach my students…….also the information that I learn can be passed on……to students, colleagues, staff, parents and others willing to listen (like you!).

My response to the question was simple “My PLN is global and it grows everyday!” It has taken me a long time to develop it…..My PLN is mine and I am happy to pass it on but each persons pathway of learning is different. Also the way that I develop it is different to most because my MacBook travels with me.

How do I make it work for me?

Firstly I dont spen 24/7 building it. If I did it would be MASSIVE and I wouldn’t be able to cypher through all the data that I gather. Secondly I dont get worried about missing information….. I just have to let it go. Noone is going to be dissappointed if I miss out on something. Besides someone is bound to retweet the important bits. Also I can always bookmark or flag something that I need to look at later.

I believe in RSS feeds. As soon as I see the rss icon light up I instantly hit subscribe. Where do I get these rss feeds? Most of the time they are from Twitter. A person I am following posts a link and when I am reading it I find that it is worth subscribing. This goes straight to my rss folders in Outlook and I able to keep an eye on this at work or at home. I know that some people use http://www.delicious.com/ but for me, because of my notebook, it is mobile and with me.

The key to who I subscribe to is what I am into. Its important to establish a theme of interest prior to tweeting, retweeting or subscribing. I am into 21st Century Learning not content driven learning but learning how to learn with the tools of the 21st Century Learning. Hence, most of the people I am follwoing on Twitter or rss feeds are interested in the same thing (Except Julia Gillard yep she’s following me?????). So anyone in the world who says something in a blog or post something online or tweets someting about 21st Century Learning to me is worth following. Plus if they are prepared to post something online about it then they must know what they are talking about…… if they dont I will stop following them!

Who do I follow……on Twitter that easy. So here and you will see them all. You may find someone worth following yourself.

Who do I subscribe to……this is going to take a while (but for you all you have to do is click on the links! I though about giving you a description but I think they are pretty much self explanatory.See below:









































PHEW! As I said it keeps getting bigger everyday.

It is not too late to start building your own PLN. You are more than welcome to use mine as a foundation for your own. That depends on if you are into 21st Century Learning using ICT!

Thanks for reading


ELH2010 Am I missing it?

In 2007 I had three life changing occurances that has lead me to this point in my life. Each of them very different but all have affected me to reach the goals that I still am yet to achieve. Sit down I hope you are ready for a long read!

In 2007 I was working in an DETNSW IT Selective High School acting as the Head of Computing. I thought with sheer arrogance that no one else was as good as me and that everyone would want to know my knowledge of how to implement technology across all KLA’s. I never visited other schools outside of the local area and often schools would visit my domain and we would show their staff how good we had it as far as all of our technology and our students ability.

Then the first life changing moment happened:

The Pasha Bulker ran aground off Nobbys

Thats right the Pasha Bulker ran aground at Nobbys Beach not far from my house. Not only did this happened but on one side of my property my Retaining Wall failed. It didnt collapse but it pushed the poles that were holding it up to tilt 60 degrees. Consequently my next door neighbour sued myself and my wife for whats known in legal terms as a “private nuisance”. That was three years ago and we are comming to the end of the mess and it looks more than likely we will move shortly. Why a life changing event….well it has taught me who my true circle of friends are. Friends come and go I know that but friends who stick by you when life is tough….really tough… when you just want to scream tough….and those friends stick by you and let you scream….they are the keepers so hold onto them. Also it has taught me a lot about human spirit and the need to survive and protect my children. I have three wonderful boys and they have been great through all this and it was important for us to be open and honest about what our neighbour has done to us. My eldest has his first GF this weekend and is a State champion for rugby league. I couldn’t be prouder!

Back at my previous school I had a wonderful principal whom was very supportive and one day in 2007 she sent me to this conference that changed the way I looked at a classroom and life in general. Hence life changing moment number 2. She sent me to the QLA conference where I met David Langford. He is such an inspiring educator and he helped me to change the way I was teaching and to try things in the classroom that traditionally were deemed radical by me. I started to implement some of his teaching methods into the classroom and I got amazing results from learners whom some teachers would deem unteachable! I became a facilitator rather than a prison warden. If ever you get a chance to see him speak or Youtube him you will see what I mean.

The third change lead me to where I am now…..at my current school. I felt I wasnt getting anywhere with the DET and an advertisement came up at a very exclusive private school in the Newcastle area. I managed to secure an interview and the first question that the Headmaster asked me was “Why did you apply for this position?”. I passed him my Langford resources and said this is why. It took me half an hour to go through all of my reasons of why and what inspiriation QLA had on me and the reason for wanting to teach. I knew that it could sway their desicion either way about me. The interview went for 2hours where the panel fired questions at me. When I got home my wife was crying thinking that something bad had happened to me because I was gone so long. I didn’t hear from the school for about two weeks and by that time I didn’t think I had got the job. Even sitting my family down at the dinner table one night an telling them I didn’t get it. Then one day my deputy told me that he had been asked to provide information about me to the Headmaster at the new school and the thing that he said about me that stuck in my mind was “sometimes you just have to let the good ones teach”. He said this because he wanted me to become an executive and I didnt want to after meeting David Langford. I got the job by the way. That all happened in 2007

Last year I applied to present at ELH2009 and they accepted my application. I was to talk about self paced learning using Moodle. I had built at my current school an entire curriculum online for students to complete at their own pace using some methods that I had learnt from QLA. I was heading down to ELH thinking that once again I would be king of the realm. Well wasnt I up for a humbling experience. I met so many wonderful educators who shared the same ambitions as I did in the classroom. I came back with a computer full of resources that I doubt that I will ever implement all of them. What was more important than that was the bonds I have formed with people I met down their. These people have inspired me to be the best I can be with the use of technology in the classroom and also to assist other educators to be the best they can be. Evento the point where I went and visited one just recently to see what he was implementing in his school. His name is Steve Collis and you can see what he does here http://www.happysteve.com/ or do what I do which is follow him on Twitter @Steve_Collis. He is an amazing gentleman and what he does in the classroom is incredibly humbling.

Another person I met down at ELH is Jenny Luca. She is the one that got me into Twitter: @Jennyluca and her blog post are truly inspiring as well http://jennylu.wordpress.com She I believe is world known and I look forward to her blog posts which she keeps up to date everyweek! She helps me to wook at the world of education in a different light and if every school had a librarian like her I think students would want to enter their library often.

The other person I met last year was Andrew Douch @andrewdouch and http://andrewdouch.wordpress.com . This guy is amazing! He was the Microsoft Innovative Teacher International award recipient last year and spoke so wonderfully about what he does. This year I was amazed to see that he is teaching Biology VCE without a face to face timetabled class! You can read how it is going on his blog.

From these three educators I have been able to form a network of people that I follow on Twitter @ablackwellngs and use their resources for the benefit of my students. I have seen the rewards from the effort I have put in. Not just from the students but from the teachers around me. I am now moving into the 3d virtual world environment and using OpenSim and Sloodle to develop resources and it is a long way from my first attempt at sharing resources!

So back to the title….Am I missing EHL2010. Yes and No. Yes because it would be great to catch up with educators from last year and meet new ones. No because I have been watching it streamed live by Steve Collis from his laptop. If I miss a session I can go back and watch what educators are saying about the latest trends or resources. I couldnt make it this year, not with all the things happening with my house. Plus my wife wouldn’t let me go. She thought I had too much fun last year with the belly dancer! BUT I WILL BE GOING NEXT YEAR!

Thanks for reading

Talk soon Andrew Blackwell

Follow me on Twitter. I thought I would never say that!