Teaching Digital Citizenship

(#Bloggermore2015 4/26)

Well; here’s my now customary opening … Yes, I know this post is overdue, I’ve been busy, so, so busy … whinge, whine, moan … hope for sympathy from readers. I have, in fact, been busily working on my application to become an Apple Distinguished Educator which I finally submitted last night. I know; brilliant isn’t it … already struggling to keep up, I decide to chase another commitment. Still, I seriously hope I am selected for the 2015 intake. I’d love to add that tiny little apple to my Twitter name.

Now, putting aside further self-indulgent rants, I should focus upon the actual subject of this post. One of my first duties at my new school was to present introductory lessons in digital citizenship to Year 8 and 9 students. I didn’t want to go down the track of “you must” or “the consequences will be” and so I set out to create a presentation that would be fun, informative but with a obvious message. Tomorrow evening I will be repeating the presentation for parents and so I have added further slides. I think it is unfortunate that so many parents see the school as being solely responsible for ensuring their children’s safety and reputation in the digital realm. The final slides, based upon an excellent webinar I attended with Tanya Avrith, put some of the onus back upon parents.

My digital citizenship presentation was uploaded to SlideShare and so I now offer it for your use and adaptation. You will certainly need to delete or modify at least one slide which gives details of a school based competition … and of course, the title slide too! All images and YouTube clips are credited on the final slide.

Write Better-er With Grammar-ly

(#Bloggermore2015 3/26)

This is my 34th year as a classroom teacher of History and English. I shudder to think how many student drafts and completed essays I must have read. But, I’d hazard a guess that it would be closing in on 100,000 pages. And don’t even get me started on the number of spelling and grammatical errors I’ve struck through with a flourish of red pen. Would it be a million? Or more? I know that it was common these past few years for me to be grammatically outraged.

... and this is just one week's worth! Image: Copyright Chris Morgan at www.cxmedia.com

… and this is just one week’s worth!
Image: Copyright Chris Morgan at www.cxmedia.com

So, with that particular rant done, let me turn to the actual subject of this post. Grammar-ly is a comparatively new arrival into the realm of web applications which we call “grammar checkers.” The developers proudly boast that Grammarly will locate ten times the number of errors, in spelling, punctuation and grammar, than a word processing program … and you know what; they’re right. Having experimented with a test document, I decided it was worthwhile to include some screen shots. As you’ll see in the first, Grammarly did locate a large number of errors.

Just look at the errors ... fortunately it wasn't me that made them!

Just look at the errors … fortunately it wasn’t me that made them!

 

The feature that I most applaud is the explanation given as to the nature of the error. Take a look …

The error explained.

The error explained.

I can certainly see a whole range of benefits for authors, students (especially at senior secondary and tertiary levels) and education professionals. Grammarly conducted a study amongst freelance writers which concluded that writing ability (and accuracy) can have a considerable effect upon career opportunities. The results of the study were presented in infographic form in The Huffington Post. Pleasingly, Grammarly have given me permission to include that infographic here.

Proof that writing skills certainly do matter.

Proof that writing skills certainly do matter.

 

Grammarly has already attracted more than four million users around the world. There is a great Chrome extension and further versions and updates are on the way. If you want to know more than my bare bones review then please use this link grammarly.com/grammar-check

PS: I do wish auto correct wouldn’t keep changing Grammarly to Gram Marly … sounds like a Jamaican reggae star!

PPS: Yes, I did run this blog post through Grammarly … no further comment will be made on the errors!

My Top 5 iPad Apps For 2015

(#Bloggermore2015 2/26)

To Australian readers … I hope you are enjoying our national holiday; even though, in most parts of the nation, tomorrow will see students returning to school for the first day of the new school year. I thought this might be an opportune time to share five of my favourite iPad apps; apps that will have a big role to play in my year. One is new (at least to me) while the rest are returning for another year of great service.

1. ThingLink continues to introduce new features at regular intervals. The ability to take an image or video and add a variety of links (such as further images, information, video or questions) has countless possibilities in the classroom. I have found ThingLink particularly useful for teaching visual literacy and interpretation in Senior History. If you’ve never seen a ThingLink, this link will take you to one of mine

https://www.thinglink.com/scene/311319169452736514

2. Socrative provides teachers with the opportunity to quickly create quizzes or polls. Students can easily respond either from the companion app or from any Web browser. Socrative will even email you the results with valuable analysis. Great too for exit tickets and for younger students there’s the Space Race game … which I’ve been known to play with very enthusiastic Year 12s!

3. Trading Cards quickly became one of my favourites. As the name would imply, teachers and students can make trading cards for a range of uses. The cards are especially useful for student revision but are also a novel way to deliver otherwise “dry” content. A great app from ReadWriteThink; the partially completed example below shows you the possibilities …

Trading Cards; great for History but suitable for all subjects and ages.

Trading Cards; great for History but suitable for all subjects and ages.

4. Weebly will undoubtedly be familiar to many of you and it continues to be my “go to” app for building websites. You will also find that students quickly adapt to the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) design method. Once published, the site can be accessed from any device. The available features in Weebly are too numerous to list here but the link below will take you to one of my sites as an example. (*You should consider, as I have done, buying a PRO subscription for even more features.)

http://elsinoreinashmore.weebly.com

5. Workflow is the new kid on my block. I’m certainly not an experienced user of this app but I’m excited about the possibilities for time impoverished teachers. Workflow allows you to “connect apps and actions together to automate things you do on your device. To build a workflow, just drag and drop.” You can add any workflow to your home screen as an “app” and then launch it with a tap. Check it out; I’m sure you’ll be as impressed and excited (or is that relieved?) as I am.

Well, that’s it for #Bloggermore2015 2/26 … I’ll be back within two weeks for another exciting instalment.

The Year Ahead: #Bloggermore2015 1/26

It’s been a big few months; new address, new state, new job, new-rotic! (You knew I would get a joke in early.) Most of my long service leave has been devoted to renovating and painting our 1930s cottage in the beautiful Barossa Valley of South Australia. I’ve even discovered that YouTube is a great resource for the DIY challenged like myself. It seems there’s a “how to” video for just about any repair job around the house … and some even ended up looking (vaguely) like the picture.

I didn't do this ... honest!

I didn’t do this … honest!

But now, my new position as eLearning Manager at Faith Lutheran looms large on the horizon. Yesterday I spent an hour in discussions with the school’s new principal and was certainly encouraged by his focus on learning and the significance of educational technology. My main responsibility will be to mentor my colleagues in the use of technology in order to redefine and enhance learning. No wonder I’m excited; but I’m also realistic about how much time I’ll have to devote to this role.

I also have two “big gigs” booked for later in the year. In March I will be delivering my very first keynote at the State Conference of the History Teachers Association of Western Australia. (HTAWA) I will also be returning to EduTech in order to present alongside fellow History teachers Jacques du Toit and Matthew Esterman. So, by now you’re probably wondering (at least I hope so) about the rather obscure hashtag in the title of this post. Yes, it is a direct nod to the J.K.Rowling website Pottermore but it is also a challenge to myself. Though, of course, you might want to join me! Over the past year my blogging has become, at best, irregular. What I plan to do, therefore, with time at a premium, is to share the details and observations of my year in a series of 26 posts … one per fortnight with an aim of restricting myself to an achievable 200-400 words in each post. Please keep me honest and on track.

ACEC 2014: Riding the Social Media Wave in Education

The briefest of posts … Today I had the opportunity to present at ACEC 2014 in Adelaide; my first public appearance in my new home state. My chosen topic was the use of social media tools in the classroom; with a special emphasis upon Twitter, phrase.it and Chogger. Below you will find, as promised, the SlideShare upload of my slides. Of course, I would be more than happy for attendees to make whatever use of these that you may wish! I welcome comments and questions from all; not just those who were present.

PS: It was great to have Kathy Schrock (@kathyschrock) present for my session … and nodding in agreement. (I think!) PPS: Apologies for one or two misplaced images … a consequence of creating in Keynote, exporting to PowerPoint and then uploading to SlideShare.

The New Kid in Town (… and how Twitter found him a job.)

Four years ago this month, my wife and I purchased a house in Australia’s iconic Barossa Valley. For the overseas, uninitiated reader, the Barossa is unquestionably the nation’s best known wine producing region. We were attracted to the idyllic scenery, the wine (well, of course) and most especially the small historic town of Angaston; population 1909. (Or maybe it’s now 1911.)

Angaston, SA ... our new hometown. Image sourced from www.flickr.com

Angaston, SA … our new hometown.
Image sourced from www.flickr.com

As much as we were keen to take up immediate residence, we had to wait for our two children to …

  1. Finish their schooling or
  2. Leave home or
  3. Be kidnapped (think Liam Neeson in Taken, but without the rescue) or
  4. Be imprisoned

Thankfully, our daughter is now pursuing a career in theatre (she was always a Drama Queen) whilst our son has a girlfriend (he doesn’t know how!) and has completed an engineering degree (we don’t know how!)

Not long after we purchased our house, the very first iPad appeared and my career as an educator underwent an unexpected transformation. At 55 years of age with 33 years in the classroom behind me, I am an unlikely iPad Ed Evangelist. (Thanks Branchfire for labelling me as such, I do like a title.) Earlier this year when I announced on Twitter that we would be moving to the Barossa I was pleased though not surprised by the assistance I received. My South Australian tweeps were quick to offer advice, links to job websites and even the offer of a “Welcome Reception.”

The process to register as a teacher in South Australia was reasonably straight forward and indeed my biggest concern … “Who’s going to employ someone who is 55?” A colleague in the Barossa advised me, via Twitter, that a position would be available at his state high school in 2015. I firmly believe that I was given an interview because I was a “known figure” on Twitter. I’ve invested many, many (my wife would say too many) hours in Twitter. Over the past two and a half years I’ve amassed in excess of 2500 followers; all of them a part of the educational sphere. This has led to me being offered the opportunity to present at conferences and to write for more than one magazine. I was honestly “blown away” to be offered the job; especially after more than 25 years in Catholic education. Yet, astonishingly, within the next half an hour, I was offered interviews at two further schools. (Way to confuse a man and simultaneously boost his already hugely over-inflated ego!)

I declined one of these offers on the simple basis of distance; I didn’t want a 100 kilometre round trip each day. The other I gladly accepted. When I arrived at that interview, I recognised the Acting Principal and the panel chair as another member of my PLN. The interview was certainly exhaustive at nearly one and a half hours but it was a great experience to talk with like-minded individuals who share my EdTech enthusiasm. Later that same day I was offered and accepted the position for 2015 and 2016. I was flattered to be told, “we were so excited when your application came in. We recognised you.” Within hours, several members of the staff had followed me on Twitter after hearing of the appointment.

YEAH ... Thanks Twitter! Image Sourced from www.telegraph.co.uk

YEAH … Thanks Twitter!
Image Sourced from www.telegraph.co.uk

So, thank you Twitter. Thanks to being a self-professed “big deal” on a social media network, I will be assuming the newly created position of eLearning Manager at Faith Lutheran College in Tanunda. My only genuine concern now is if I will be able to live up to the Twype (it’s my new word for Twitter Hype!) in the real world of a new school.

PS: Damn and blast … Twype is already in the Urban Dictionary to describe the “excessive hype built up around the Twilight saga.” Well, that’s done now, Edward creeped me out and Bella was so “wet!” They don’t need the word anymore, so it’s mine.

 

The Arrival of the iPadEd Evangelist

This will be the very quickest of updates; I’m busily working on two upcoming conference presentations … and tomorrow I’m delivering a guest lecture at the McAuley Campus of the Australian Catholic University. That particular assault on the sensitivities of Pre-Service teachers is called “Smashing Your Classroom.” (Check back later in the week to see what that is all about!)

July, much like June, was a BIG month! I’m a huge fan of the iAnnotate app created by Branchfire; a great option for annotating PDF files and especially assessing student drafts. Their interview questions gave me an opportunity to write about a number of aspects; not just my use of the app. But, I do like being labelled as a “power user” and an “iPadEd Evangelist.” Let’s not talk about how shallow I am … that could take days.

If you haven’t discovered the delights of iAnnotate then now is most certainly a good time to do so. In the meantime, the following link will take you to my profile on the iAnnotate Blog:

http://www.branchfire.com/simon-mckenzie

Distressingly, this could actually be me as a 7 year old

Distressingly, this could actually be me as a 7 year old

Tuesday, August 5 … well my guest gig at the Brisbane of campus of ACU is “done and dusted.” As in the past, I found the large audience of pre-service teachers to be thoroughly engaged, enthusiastic and receptive to my cabaret. But then, I did read somewhere recently that “Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theatre.” (Gail Godwin)

As much as I revel in presenting to any audience (and the high rates of university pay) I would do it for nothing (don’t try to hold me to this!) simply in return for the feedback from those who attended. It’s great to feel genuinely appreciated.

Thanks for the great review Anna!

 

Thanks for the Feedback ACU

Thanks ACU

For the students themselves, or indeed anyone who may be interested, here (via Scribd) is my lecture on “Smashing Your Classroom.” Please, as always, feel free to make use of this presentation in anyway … and I’d welcome your feedback and questions.

 

Smashing Your Classroom

June Busted Out All Over

Some of you may just get the obscure, tortured reference in my title. (Yes, to the Rodgers and Hammerstein song from Carousel. Sorry, there is no prize.) The recently completed month of June was certainly hectic and also marked my 55th birthday; I know I don’t look a day over 70! I want, in this post, to give an account of how June unfolded; of its challenges, its diversity and ultimately its rewards. It was a month that was, in most respects, amongst the most exhausting, yet productive and gratifying, of my career. Here’s why …

In the first week of the month I attended EduTech 2014 in Brisbane. I hadn’t intended to until I was invited by CEO Craig Macfarlane as a response to criticism of EdTech conferences in my Fractus Learning article “You Can’t Handle The Truth.” I was duly impressed that Craig had read my article, agreed with some of my concerns and made an effort to meet with me. There was much to like about EduTech this year; Adam Spencer was an awesome host and Sir Ken Robinson delivered the Day One keynote. But as my History teaching colleague Matthew Esterman (@mesterman on Twitter … follow him now!) rightly tweeted…

“Have loved having gr8 keynotes to listen to but #EduTECH has also affirmed my belief that the rock stars of ed are in our classrooms.”

And, I had the chance to meet some of those “stars” including Dan Haesler, Jarrod Lamshed, Steve Box, Corinne Campbell, Cathy Hunt, Zeina Chalich, Jacques du Toit and Matthew himself (… apologies, I know I’ve overlooked many others!) The opportunity to meet and talk with such great thinkers (and doers) will always be amongst the very best moments of any conference. I did get the opportunity to deliver a Show Floor Presentation entitled “Death to PowerPoint” although, ironically, I had to have my slides in PowerPoint! My greatest enjoyment came from attending and presenting at the #TeachMeet sessions instigated by Matthew (… told you he was a star!) These sessions saw “ordinary” teachers sharing ideas and successes with a small audience of their peers. If you’ve never attended a #TeachMeet why not organise your own!

The Connected Teacher connects.

The Connected Teacher connects … Great bald spot!

Whilst at EduTech I also had the opportunity to be interviewed by Corinne Campbell for the TER Podcast. Absolutely loathe, like most people, the sound of my own voice but you might want to check it out anyway. You’ll find me at the one hour 17 minute mark. (You can listen and subscribe to TERPodcast on iTunes, Android Smartphones and on Stitcher Online Radio.) As EduTech reached its final day I also had my latest article appear on Fractus Learning; “Declaring the Digital Rights of Students.” Of all that I’ve written over the past 2 or 3 years, this was the piece that I agonised over and revised several times. I would greatly appreciate feedback if you haven’t had the chance to read it as yet.

In the ten days after EduTech I wrote a guest post for the iAnnotate Blog and a Help Desk article for the Australian Teacher Magazine. Both will appear in the near future and we all know I’ll relentlessly promote them via Twitter. At the same time Noelene Callaghan (on Twitter @ncallaghan1) asked me to appear in the Australian Education Times as Teacher of the Month. (http://www.educationtimes.com.au/issue/july-2014) I welcomed this as another great opportunity to “put myself out there.” During this same period I also moderated a #histedchat on Social Media as a Learning Tool (You’ll find the Storify at sfy.co/ejkU) I also dealt with one other small matter; I assessed 120 essays and research tasks before writing the same number of reports.

The reports were due on June 26; I finished them on the 25th which was fortunate because at 9:00 am on June 27 I left for Atlanta and ISTE2014. That will be the subject of my next post! So, June was indeed awesome but I still can’t believe I survived unscathed; well, except for my birthday.

Image sourced from www.amazon.com

Image sourced from
www.amazon.com

 

 

 

 

The (Geriatric) Pirate Life For Me

The Knave of Skull Gulf This pirate be a jolly japester prone to the yo-ho-ho-ing, especially after a bottle of rum!

Toby “Cutthroat” Scott, The Knave of Skull Gulf
This pirate be a jolly japester prone to the yo-ho-ho-ing, especially after a bottle of rum!

In the next few weeks I’ll be celebrating my 55th birthday and I’m deep into my 33rd year in the classroom. As a beginning teacher I always imagined that 50 would and should “see me out.” But now, as many of you would know, the Australian Federal government is going to gradually increase the retirement and pension age. Those born in 1958 and earlier will not be affected … and yes, you’re calculations are right, I was born in 1959!

I want to keep teaching but I can’t imagine doing so for another 15 years. Just last week the Head of History at my school retired at age 76 after more than 50 years as a teacher. I’ve already had back surgery, I have two shonky knees, my hair is just about gone and well, everything aches. In 2013 I worked as a sessional tutor with Pre-Service teachers at the Banyo Campus of the Australian Catholic University and I hope to do so again this year. It was a great experience and I’ve always tried to share my accumulated “wisdom” with young teachers. Earlier this week a member of the school Administration asked me to supervise a Pre-Service teacher for a six week practicum. Indeed, he tried to insist by suggesting that I had a “moral obligation” as an experienced teacher to do so. I refused; this year I’m teaching four very large (I’d argue oversized) senior classes, I have a huge marking load, I’m the school’s Learning Technologies Coordinator and … I’m tired!

Corinne Campbell is quoted in a recent article, “Best Bloggers” from the IE magazine (Issue 1 Volume 44) as believing that “… presenting only the perfect scenario often adds to teacher anxieties … it is really important for all teachers to know that we are all going through the same experiences …” Corinne adds that a teacher’s blog should offer a “warts and all” account. This, of course, is actually quite ironic … warts are one of the few medical complaints I don’t have! Now, this is no great secret but let me say it anyway … the older you get, the more physically and mentally demanding teaching becomes. (PS: Be sure to connect with Corinne on Twitter @corisel or read her excellent blog at aboutteaching.net/)

So you’re asking, what about this “geriatric pirate business” in the title? Well, to explain … if you haven’t already done so, you should read the excellent book “Teach Like a Pirate” by American author and educator Dave Burgess. (Available from Amazon.) It offers teachers a genuine plan to “Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator.” The pirate of the title is an anagram which directs the reader towards the significant aspects of Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask and Analyse, Transformation and Enthusiasm. To conclude and “put it out there” warts and all, here for the world to see is my greatest fear. The passion and enthusiasm still burn bright, I wouldn’t have survived 33 years without them. But will these be enough to fight off the ravages of Old Father Time?

NOTE: The pirate name was created by the Pirate Name Generator (http://pirate.namegeneratorfun.com) whilst the photo was created with the “Make Me Pirate” app available for free from iTunes. Perhaps if I started dressing like this for school … the decision when to retire would be taken out of my hands! It’s worth a try.

 

Whinge-Fest 2014

So, I’m officially embarrassed … It’s been almost six months since I last posted on my blog. But, it hasn’t been for want of … well, wanting! I’ve still managed to churn out an article or two for Australian Teachers’ Magazine and Fractus Learning. I’m also chipping away at a couple of presentations for upcoming conferences. But, I also have some complaints to make; and not just about getting older (I’ll be doing that in another post in the next few days … yep, two posts in a week. How lucky are you guys!)

So, the three headline acts of Whinge-Fest 2014 are ready to take to the main stage …

Bucks Fizz, The Eurovision Song Contest winners of 1981, are making a long awaited comeback to the music business. Still best known for their song “Making Your Mind Up” … their lyrics have inspired School Principals and Administrators everywhere. In fact, I think I heard my boss humming it just the other day.

“That the time’s all right
For making your mind up.
Don’t let your indecision
Take you from behind …”

And, for true music nostalgia buffs who just didn’t understand the bearded lady at Eurovision 2014, check this out.

 

The Big O himself is no longer with us but you old rockers out there are sure to be dancing the night away until the wee small hours at our Roy Orbison Tribute Show. Who could not sing along with the catchy lyrics of “Working For the Man.”

“Well pick up your feet,
we’ve got a deadline to meet.
I’m gonna see you make it on time.
Don’t relax,
I want elbows and backs.”

(But, I do wonder how many teachers would actually have the energy to dance the night away?)

Because you have to save the best for last; we’re going to give you Alice Cooper. I for one hope he rolls out all his classic hits including “School’s Out.” I’ll be right there in the front row screaming along with Alice …

“Well we got no choice,
All the girls and boys
Makin all that noise …”

As Whinge-Fest draws to a close let me just say, “I want to be your sledgehammer.” I’m many things but subtle surely isn’t one of them. This is my 33rd year as a teacher and I can’t recall another like it. Why? Because huge, overcrowded senior classes (28 is my smallest), work intensification and vacillating, inattentive administrators have taken their toll.