Tag Archive: Student Centred 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!

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“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

Andrew