Veni, VIDEO, Vici

Ok, I admit it … the title is not that “punny” but it is a nod to my great passion for Ancient History. I have found myself recently making far greater use of video creation; especially as a way to both engage and assess students. I’m assuming that your visit to this blog means that you accept the significance of “creation over consumption.” Modern students are visual learners and they are also great consumers of content. However, in my experience, nothing offers greater motivation than the opportunity to create content for a wide audience outside of the classroom. For me, this imperative is best encapsulated in the following extract from my 2015 HTAWA Keynote but most especially in the Ruston Hurley quote

“… I believe that authentic learning simply must be paired with authentic audience. Constricted by syllabus requirements, most typically at senior level, too many teachers continue to tell students to submit hard copies of assessment items. By contrast, Alan November tells us that we need to “stop saying hand it in and start saying publish it instead.” … Yes, this publishing will often have to be in addition to meeting the more mundane requirements, but it allows students to showcase their work in the real world. It will, with apologies to Red Bull, give their work wings. Ruston Hurley tells us If students are sharing their work with the world, they want it to be good. If they’re just sharing it with you, they want it to be good enough.”

Image sourced from:

Image sourced from:

I recently took teaching colleagues from my school through a professional learning session which focused upon some of the lesser known features of YouTube. The prolific video sharing site continues to build staggering numbers for viewing but very few teachers know of the ability to create videos within YouTube. Not only that but you can easily convert any PowerPoint into a film, upload it to YouTube and then add commentary or music. When you become a little more proficient you can annotate your videos to include student questions or even hyperlink to other videos and create a “choose your own adventure.” My favourite feature however, is the fact that you can create several channels using just the one email address. I now have four channels; my own “Connected Teacher” channel, one for sharing resources with staff and two others for subject groups.

The last task for my Year 11 Ancient History students this year was to create a two minute video about an aspect of daily life in Egypt. These have been uploaded to our special channel, “Pharaoh’s Film Festival.” This is a public channel; so, feel free to visit, use the videos, subscribe, use it as a model for your own classroom project or, better yet, leave some comments for the students. The full playlist of student videos can be found here!

I’ve embedded the Student Playlist below.

Time to Subscribe!

Time to Subscribe!

Given that I’ve been waxing lyrical about video creation I should at least leave you with some resources. My recent article for Australian Teacher Magazine entitled “Creation Over Consumption” (Go figure!) can currently be found online at

My school based session on YouTube was shared as Issue 12, “YouTube and You” as part of my Bite Sized Learning series. The whole series (so far) can be found on my other site at

#IMMOOC 1. Est ad docendum , ad novationem

I’m guessing many of you may have become lost somewhere in the midst of my title. So, I best explain. The hashtag will be used for George Couros’ MOOC based on his exceptional text The Innovator’s Mindset. (Surely there’s nothing wrong with massaging the ego of the man who will be handing out prizes!) As for the Latin; I studied it at school and still use it in my daytime job as a teacher of Ancient Studies. (At night I’m a ninja; really!)

How Many Selfies Would Narcissus Take? Sourced from Pinterest; originally pinned by

How Many Selfies Would Narcissus Take?
Sourced from Pinterest; originally pinned by

Est ad docendum, ad novationem (if you believe Google Translate) means To teach is to innovate. I do know that the Latin word innovare had a distinctly different meaning; to renew, alter or make new again. We all think of innovation as something wholly new but surely in education the renewal idea is just as significant. When I started teaching in 1981 (yep, that long ago) innovation took the astonishing form of Post It Notes and the Commodore 64 computer … Sweet! Thirty years later the very first iPad was released and a teaching career that was close to ending was renewed. In the years since I’ve learned how and why to innovate. Yes, I’m often still teaching about Caesar, Alexander or the pyramids (nothing new there) but in new ways … the learning experiences I design aim to realise the “Mantra of the Innovative Educator.”

So, I must have acquired a whole lot of new skills. Yes, I’m now a Digital Learning Leader and I can “wield a mean iPad” but the true change has been in my mindset. As George says early in his text, it’s all about “ … a way of thinking that creates something new and better.” (p. 19) The mindset of the teacher is the most significant tool in any classroom. #IMMOOC starts this coming weekend so it’s not too late for you to register at

Checking For A Pulse

“Let’s be honest now and admit it – we all feel lazy sometimes when we have to write a blog …” (from professional blogger Tom Jager)

This will only be my fourth blog post of the 2016 school year; I haven’t just been lazy but more so comatose. “Write a blog post” was added to my To Do List back in June, so you can see why I am regularly checking for a pulse. That’s something I haven’t done since my son was a teenager. It’s certainly not that I have nothing to say, I always have a lot to say. So, what has been the problem?

This printable To Do List ( is clearly missing a NEVER column.

This printable To Do List ( is clearly missing a NEVER column.

I think I finally have an answer. The mere fact that so many schools have an eLearning Manager (I only use this because “Full Time Multi-Tasking Tech Ninja” is not an actual job title. Note to self, must get that on a T-Shirt) is an admission of failure. If the much hyped Digital Education Revolution had succeeded, I should be back teaching History full time. More on that later. The reality is that I’ve become an actual “Jack of all (Tech) Trades” and consequently master of none. I frequently research tools for colleagues, trial them, pass on the key information and … repeat! I regularly visit classrooms to troubleshoot tech problems. My role has led to me having a little bit of knowledge about 100s of tools but few that I have mastered.

Given the necessary authority (… All Hail Imperator Simonus,) I would be insistent upon all teachers having the same digital toolbox. This would comprise six or eight tools that every teacher masters and uses in their classroom. We are forever reading about standardised tests and general capabilities for students. Surely this standardisation should also extend to the digital capabilities of teachers. But I already know the type of objections I would hear, “I’m a Maths teacher, why do I need to know how to screencast?” I know because I actually received this comment.

This term I have returned to teaching an Ancient Studies class and I’m far from comatose there; it looks more like caffeine fuelled hyperactivity. I suspect it is in part about using technology to increase the engagement of students with whom I’ve built a personal relationship. My first moves into technology came out of a passion to improve my teaching … if only you could teach passion to others! Still, like all good emperors, I will continue to build my empire,  protect the citizens and repel the barbarians at the gate. But, for now, I’m off to cross this post of my list. Another post soon … maybe!

I know it's Vespasian ... But I can see the resemblance.

I know it’s Vespasian … But I can see the resemblance.

I Was That Guy

(#Bloggermore2015 6/26)

Friday, March 27 2015

One day in late June of 2013 I had a revelation, or an epiphany or maybe it was an aneurism! Up until that particular day, I typically referred to myself as “just a teacher.” I certainly knew more than most about educational technology but I didn’t categorise myself as anything special. The Banyo Campus of the Australian Catholic University had chosen me as one of several, experienced classroom teachers to become sessional tutors. As a group, our main responsibility was to help prepare pre-service teachers for their first practicum. When my passion for EdTech was discovered, I was invited to deliver a guest lecture. On the appointed day, a senior member of the Education Faculty introduced the guest speaker and each statement was met with a murmur, a comment or the occasional, “Wow!” Clearly, the attendees viewed their guest as someone special and … I was that guy. I realised that surviving over 30 years in the classroom was an achievement in itself and these young people were a willing audience.

In the subsequent two years, I’ve become increasingly “sought after” as a speaker and writer. Indeed, these first two hundred words (well, 197 actually!) were written on a plane to Perth where, tomorrow, I’ll deliver my first Keynote address at the annual HTAWA (History Teachers Association of Western Australia) State Conference. So, how did it all go?

Launching In to My Very First Keynote

Launching In to My Very First Keynote

Wednesday, April 1 2015

I was pleasantly surprised by both the size of the audience and the number of familiar (Twitter) faces. My chosen focus “Turning Up the Heat: Teaching History in a Connected Digital World” was a “nice fit” for the conference theme of Connect, Engage, Respond. I did my best to provide attendees with a clear vision of what I believe a modern history classroom should look like. Most were duly impressed with the various apps and Web tools that I introduced: Haiku Deck, ThingLink, Trading Cards, TimeLine HD, Pinterest, Zaption, Nearpod and more. My main purpose however was to unveil a secondary Twitter account that I have called HEATT. As much as I normally loathe acronyms, this one stands for History Education Advanced Through Technology. (Clever, eh!) My idea is to make it a space for all History teachers to share digital resources. You can join that account @HEATT2015 It is an attempt to chip away at the image of History teachers as “parroters” of content. History must now be about collaboration and content creation. I would like to say more, but I will eventually upload the full text of my keynote.

Overall, I was pleased with my first effort as a Keynote speaker; I certainly received positive feedback. But, I was over-prepared and over-length. I lost some of the “natural ease” which I think is one of my strengths as a presenter. Either that or Alzheimers has rocked up! I do know I want to do more and better on a wider stage. After all, I am “That Guy.”

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

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

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

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!

Wit and Twitter: On Education, Information and Knowledge

The Fourth in a Series of Five Guest Posts

Over the past thirty two years I must have taught a huge number of students. Like all teachers, there are some I remember fondly and many more that I choose to expunge immediately from my memory. Daryl Morini is a young man who belongs squarely in that smaller, first group. I’m sure he will be delighted to read that I have even elevated him to the pantheon of past greats … Daryl relishes words like pantheon! He is a highly gifted student; fluent in several languages, soon to complete a Phd and destined for a glittering career in International Relations. It is our collective good fortune that Daryl has agreed to provide an erudite, thought provoking guest post. (Which also says some nice things about me … kudos.) All the hyperlinks are of Daryl’s creation and well worth exploring.

Wit and Twitter: On Education, Information and Knowledge

Daryl Morini

The creative and responsible use of social media in the classroom can open up a thousand doors in students’ minds. It can kindle their intellectual interests and passions, it can develop their imagination and empathy and, most importantly, it can nourish their curiosity and reason – and leave them hungry for life-long learning.

However, I am equally convinced that the unfettered, unreflective and irresponsible use of Twitter and Facebook in education could feasibly lead to our long-term intellectual stagnation bred from short-sighted faddishness.

As you may already be able to tell, where some see a digital utopia and others a hellish dystopia in the social media revolution, I see endless shades of grey in a purgatory full of clear opportunities and hidden dangers. I am, in many ways, a bit of a self-confessed dinosaur when it comes to my own generation’s penchant for the free flow of personal information into the overlapping public spheres which make up “the Internets.”

Graduating from Aquinas College in 2006, I pursued a Bachelor of Arts in History and International Relations. Enamoured with the study of history – which I first fully embraced in Simon’s classroom – I took this passion with me into my postgraduate study on the burning questions of international war and peace. I intend (or, rather, fervently hope) to submit my PhD in early 2014. My research focuses on preventive diplomacy, which is a fancy way of saying that I seek to understand how wars have been prevented in the past, and how they might be prevented in the future.

Looking back, I can now see that my online activities did contribute to getting me this far. I worked countless hours (and I still do) on online extra-curricular projects, including working for three years as a volunteer editor on e-International Relations, the largest student-run website in my field. Furthermore, I have complemented my studies with three internships in government departments and major international organisations, including a brief stint at the United Nations late last year. Paradoxically, I have been a somewhat timid social networker, preferring public conferences, lecture halls and face-to-face meetings.

Let me offer three philosophical points explaining my highly-qualified embrace of social media in general, followed by a final set of practical policy positions on social media in education specifically.

Firstly, my brief time using Twitter has convinced me of this: it is a poor substitute for real conversations. Rather than a global dialogue, I see a cacophony of competing and self-promotional soliloquies. This is not to say that fruitful exchanges do not take place on Twitter, or that useful connections are not made, or that crucial information is not shared across the world in real-time. Of course they are, and that is a wonderful thing. My point is simply that Twitter seems to reward (with additional followers) members of the Twitterati on the wit, cleverness or humour of their remarks, rather than on the truth, originality or social benefit of their reflections. This was brought home to me during the 2012 U.S. foreign policy election debate, during which the live stream of Twitter comments very quickly descended into name-calling and humorous Internet memes of purely entertainment value.

Maybe I am the one missing the point here. I am quite possibly standing on the wrong side of history. But I do find something deeply unsatisfying about the vacuity of some Twitter exchanges or, rather, the hollowness of SMS-length online conversations in comparison to the richness of face-to-face communication and debate.

Secondly, time. Time is finite, fleeting and fast. It is also inevitably zero-sum. The hours you spend each day checking your inbox, posting on Facebook or tweeting to your followers is time you will never retrieve. You may, of course, justify it as a wise social investment in your own online influence, if you believe in that. As a thought experiment, I like to question whether our greatest intellectual ancestors – who frequently took years or decades of undivided attention to accomplish their major works – would have found the time and concentration span to complete their magnum opus in the age of Twitter. For these reasons, I try to minimise my online networking time due to this simple trade-off: one hour I spend reading the opinions of the moderns is one less hour I can spend with the Ancients – a Thucydides or a Plato.

Of course, not all dead sages are more relevant to modern life than today’s Twitter feeds, but they often are. The distinction to make here is between information and knowledge. Simply put, we are inundated, water-boarded and almost drowned by the sheer volume of information we consume across the range of modern media. Amid that sea of data, some simple wisdom from the past can become a life-saving raft. You can know everything that is going on in the world without ever understanding why or how. And that is the difference between acquiring a breadth of information and a depth of knowledge. Both are important, I simply value the latter more.

Finally, and here I start to sound like a roaring dinosaur, the jury is still out on the long-term social consequences of mass social media and nternet usage. In other words, this is a huge, untested social experiment. Some results are in, however, and not all are as peachy as we sometimes assume or hope. Some questions we should be debating include:

Is Facebook making us lonelier? Is Google making us stupid? Is Twitter making us more narcissistic? Is our brain’s capacity to concentrate being eroded by our shorter and shorter attention spans? Does the Internet encourage mental illness? Should babies play with iPads? How young is too young? Do we have a clue about what the likely long-term effects will be? Are social media making us freer, or slaves to spies and censorship?

I do not have the answers, but I think the questions are very poignant indeed. It is a debate worth having.

So much for my general concerns about social media. What of their use in education?

This is where my hard-headed optimistic side comes in. I fundamentally agree with Simon that schools have wasted too much time playing catch-up with social media. They need to integrate this new reality into the core of the curriculum, and they need to do so urgently. This conclusion may sound counter-intuitive following on the heels of the highly-qualified above analysis. But where else, if not at school, will pupils – who will soon graduate as citizens – learn how to use the internet safely and responsibly? Schools are perfectly placed to play the role of society’s first line of defence, by raising awareness, warning of dangers and preventing the potentially deleterious effects of social media and internet use I have mentioned.

Moreover, I have been impressed by the very creative ways in which Twitter has been harnessed, for example, to teach about history and its ongoing relevance. I personally congratulated Alwyn Collinson, an Oxford history graduate, for his brilliant initiative in live-tweeting the entire Second World War. By showing how ordinary people experienced, suffered and fought in the war, this project demonstrates to contemporaries the daily reality of war, in a way that academic monographs and elite-focussed history books are simply unable to. This is a very useful way to use social media in education, so long as it does not reduce history to funny caricatures.

I similarly congratulate Simon on his clever use of Twitter in the classroom. As a university tutor, I definitely see its educational potential. And I join him in proclaiming: ‘Death to PowerPoint!’ As General McMaster said of the U.S. military’s over-reliance on confusing PowerPoint presentations: “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.” I also have experience with the notoriously clunky and user-unfriendly learning software Blackboard, which lecturers quietly curse under their breaths; many are resorting to WordPress and Twitter to host classroom blogs as educational alternatives, and I whole-heartedly encourage them in doing so.

In other words, educational institutions should be the vanguard of the social media revolution. I endorse this policy position having carefully weighed and pondered the aforementioned risks and unknown factors. In the end, the Internet is a tool, and like all tools it is morally-neutral – capable of being used to good or bad ends. The more good people, like Simon, we have working hard to persuade fence-sitters, the better off we will be.

Daryl Morini is a PhD student in International Relations at the University of Queensland. Follow him on his modest Twitter account: @DarylMorini.