Coding, Coaching, Constantinople, Celebrity and Cassata

So, it’s the second last day of Term One and this is my very first blog post for the year. I could make all the usual excuses but you probably all live them too! Once again I’ve come up with a somewhat elusive title for this post but I now consider that a duty to my long suffering readers. We hear a great deal about the 4 Cs; the four characteristics of “21st Century Learning” (hate that term!) and of course the 4 Cs of diamonds (can’t afford them on a teacher’s wage!)  But now, let me take you through my 5 Cs of the past 11 weeks…

Coding: This year has seen the introduction of the compulsory Digital Technologies course in Year 8 and I’m one of the “truly fortunate” who get to teach it. The one lesson I’ve learned (frequently) is that the students have a lot to learn. The proliferation of digital devices has seen the irresistible move from “knowledge economy” to “user economy.” In just week two or three I discovered that I had a room full of students who didn’t know (or care) how the internet worked as long as they could keep using it. We made the internet out of cardboard, styrofoam, pegs, Lego, Play Doh, cable ties, string and straws… and moved on to coding. Surely they would all know some basic coding right! Wrong! Suddenly we were back writing algorithms to make toast with jam. We’ve done some basic work now in Pencil Code and Scratch but there’s a long (potholed) road ahead. Probably should mention that they also knew nothing about cloud storage or GUIs or binary …

Please; get serious!
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Coaching: As many of you know, I do like a good title and this year I’ve transitioned from eLearning Manager to Digital Advisor: Teaching and Learning. (Nice huh!) I’ve long struggled with finding the best mode of delivery for staff professional learning. Consider that dilemma solved … in 2017 I am available one lesson each day for 1-1 Peer Coaching in digital technologies. My colleagues have certainly taken to the idea of “Book a Session with Simon” as I’ve provided over 30 hours of personalised PD on a diverse range of topics. Why does it work? Because, as George Couros points out in his excellent book “The Innovator’s Mindset” … it’s all about moving teachers from “their Point A to their Point B.

Constantinople: Where did much of my free time go this term? In reading (twice) the exceptional history of the “Ghost Empire” by Richard Fidler. Yes, I’m a technology geek and a History nerd. So (for Aussie readers) as Molly used to say, “do yourself a favour” and buy this thoroughly engrossing book. You might even want, as I did, to revisit the D.A.A.S. on YouTube. Yep, it’s that Richard Fidler who hung out with Paul McDermott and Tim Ferguson. This link will take you to some of their great Big Gig performances.

Celebrity: Last month, at the request of Criterion, I made a flying visit to Sydney to present at their conference, Improving STEM Education. I was afforded the opportunity to speak about “Creating a School Makerspace.” Below you’ll find a link to the SlideShare version of my presentation:

But, you ask, why celebrity? As I left the stage I was met by a Twitter follower who proclaimed is delight in meeting me face to face and added, “I’m a fan.” So, there you have it … I have a fan, just the one and I’ve met him!

Cassata: My greatest success this term … making good on my promise to make each Year 12 student in my home room a cake, by request, on their birthday. Lane wanted cassata and it was well received. That’s one down and six to go. Next up, lemon meringue pie.

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

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.