Reinventing Spaces

In a previous entry Journeying in a Sandbox I had discussed our intention to innovate our learning spaces and how initially we wanted to trial furniture in our Year 6 and Year K spaces. 

Our motivation for innovating spaces was based on changing pedagogical needs. Ubiquitous access to technology spurred by our 1:1 iPad Program was enabling our teachers and students. Effective, meaningful integration of technology into teaching programs was expanding opportunities and changing the way that we worked. Our classrooms needed to accommodate the more diverse needs of both the students and the teachers. Project based learning, blended learning, authentic learning tasks, differentiation, personalisation, collaboration, workflows, potential for real time feedback and formative assessment and the possibilities to redefine (SAMR) were surfacing across our school and we were starting to feel the constraints of our boxed traditional classrooms. Change was necessary. 

To a certain extent we were blind and uncertain about making furniture choices. It is easy to recognise the need, but much harder to translate that into real furniture. Remembering here that we weren’t changing the architecture (yet). The classroom spaces that we were seeking to reinvent did at least have the capability to open walls which meant that one large space for each year group was possible. We had visited other innovative schools and had explored literature extensively and so this combined with the knowledge of our furniture partner ‘Furnware‘ enabled our initial reinvention.  


Above – Year 6 (Featuring Furnware furniture)

Below – Year K (Featuring Furnware furniture)


The Year 6 classroom space has certainly been applauded by the students and the teachers. They really love their space and are taking enormous pride in an area which is really unique. The thing I notice most, about their use of the space, is that it is constantly changing throughout the week and often throughout the day. The space is really fluid and can adapt to the needs of the users really well. Here I must add that the program of learning in Year 6 is very dynamic leveraging PBL with authentic learning tasks and collaborative learning. The teachers team really well injecting direct instruction as required. Their management of the space is artful and purposeful. 

Similarly the Kindergaten space too is open plan and fluid. It is exciting to walk through the space when the dividing wall is open and the children are working in stations or interacting in group activities. The open nature of the space is a shift for the teachers as they move away from a more traditional model. It will be interesting to observe how the use of this space evolves as the children mature and the teachers innovate further.

I am hopeful that during Term 2 the teachers in both these areas have the opportunity to visit other schools to see how other teachers are working in innovated spaces. Being able to learn from others and improve our own innovation is vital as we move to innovate spaces more widely across the school. 

Improving the Journey – Airserver

Until recently we were using a VGA connector to display our iPads on our Smartboards. This meant that we were tied to a physical connection to a computer. We considered using Apple TV, but found that many of our projectors didn’t have an HDMI capacity. We then explored the idea of an HDMI adapter. This wasn’t a cheap option and the quality wasn’t great.
We then found Airserver . Airserver is proving to be a brilliant display solution. Here I must stress Airserver isn’t Apple TV. Airserver is really just provides the airplay capability that Apple TV enables.
The reason that Airserver is a good solution for us is that it is cheaper than Apple TV, it interacts well with old projectors without HDMI, it can display multiple iPad screens (up to eight without too much distortion), it provides good quality audio and visual wireless display via a PC.
If you go with the Airserver option you should install a couple of additional programs (free) which are recommended during the Airserver installation such as Bonjour.

We have installed Airserver on several PCs which we have connected to Smartboards and the application is being used actively by students and teachers. In general it has been pretty reliable.
The other evening our PA (Parent Association) were doing a cooking evening. We were able to use Airserver in conjunction with iPads and a projector to display close up images of the food preparation to the audience in a large hall area. It may also be useful to provide close up vision of our band in action during performances.
In small group work it has also been useful as the teacher can keep an eye on the work being done on several iPads at once.
Clearly though the big advantage is being able to gain mobility and for students and teachers to use the displays from anywhere in the space.


I must emphasise that Airserver isn’t a complete entertainment and display system like Apple TV. It is just a simple airplay option.

Above: The PA cooking class in action.

iPad Impressions

Students started using iPads, as an integral part of their learning, in 2011. Teachers, students and parents embraced these simple, powerful devices. iPads have opened possibilities to really expand the learning opportunities of the students, particularly when teamed with excellent pedagogy.
In 2013 the School committed to providing iPads to all students from Year K to Year 6.

A number of surveys were conducted (late 2013) to gauge the attitudes of our school community to the program. This data provides important feedback about the iPad program and will be helpful in informing our approach in 2014.

Survey of Parents


Survey of Students
4 = Strongly Agree



Survey of Teachers
4 = Strongly Agree


A Wordle reflecting teacher impressions


Apps for the Journey


I have been using an iPad for about two years and it is interesting to reflect on the apps that I use most actively myself.
One of the immediate realisations is that it really isn’t that many. I do have a load of apps on board, but often these are apps that I am trying out or are apps which are used very occasionally. Many apps end up lying dormant.

The Top 30 (my) most commonly used apps (in no particular order).

Camera Roll
The Weather Channel
Qrafter Pro
Google Drive
App Store
iTunes U

The posts below identify some apps that I think are useful in the classroom.
A Few Favourite Apps | Learning Journey

An App Journey | Learning Journey

Change for the Better – 1:1 iPad Program

There is no question that our 1:1 iPad Program is making a significant difference to the learning experiences occurring in our classrooms.
Change is everywhere. It is change enabled by simplicity. iPads are brilliantly simple and are at the same time powerful. This has made technology accessible to both students and teachers.

One of the biggest shifts in our school has been the shift by teachers. This has happened rapidly. It has been a shift that we have hoped to achieve for a long time. We have evolved like many schools through desktops, laptops and interactive boards, but the iPad has impacted most significantly.
Confidence: iPads have taken away the fear factor. Teachers who have lacked confidence in using other technologies seem empowered. Many had iPhones so the jump to iPad was easy. The best thing is that they are starting to take risks. Challenging themselves to do things differently. Here I must observe iPads aren’t perfect while they are simple there is considerable complexity. Issues around interaction between apps and sharing of data / information can add obstacles and difficulty. All apps are different and involve a learning curve,
Teacher Development: Further, this impetus has added power to our drive toward technology in our Professional Development Program – we are able to see a much bigger “bang for our buck”. We have an excellent external professional development provider with strong experiences of iPad programs to draw on. This is crucial to enabling the school to push confidently into new territory.
Mentoring: The other driving force is that we have a technically strong and influential younger cohort of teachers. They are happy to provide support to less technically capable teachers. This is such a healthy thing in developing a learning culture amongst teachers. Young teachers can and should be active in the discussion. They have the skills and vision which can help to drive the change that is needed.


Technical Support and Enablement
Provision of a Technology Coordinator: In our own experience having a teacher continuously available to assist, advise, arrange, support, respond has made the effective roll out possible. The role encompasses management of the technical and pedagogical aspects of the 1:1 iPad program.
External Support: Additional backup support / advice is provided via a two external resources. Apple is also supportive providing an Educational Consultant, expert help and Apple Stores. These support services are also essential enablers. The easy support from the Apple store is invaluable. If a device doesn’t work it is swapped without fuss. Here, I must add, that failure of iPads has been very rare. They have been extremely reliable and robust.

In the Classrooms – The Students
Management: it is really important to establish a code of conduct / behaviour around student use of iPads. In our school we produced a contract which outlined clearly student responsibilities and behaviours. Both students and parents were required to read and sign. In our circumstance the school owns the iPads so we have full control. In a BYOD type roll out this could also be managed, but the ownership by students / families adds a different dimension.
Engagement: This is the most obvious by product of iPads in classrooms. As soon as iPads are in the students hands they are involved and engaged. This is a brilliant aspect and I am constantly impressed by students intuitive use of devices. They are excited to participate and eager to produce, to express, to explore, to create. There can be a flip side, teachers need to be clear about when students should engage with iPads.
Powerful Transformative Learning: Ideas around Workflow, SAMR and TPCK can become a reality in a 1:1 iPad program. I am certainly seeing a host of different apps in play across classrooms. We have not attempted to be proscriptive. Allowing freedom of choice amongst teachers has opened possibilities and teachers are also offering students options which expand the learning opportunities and differentiate. We invested heavily in apps once VPP became available. We tried to tailor apps to class needs, however certain apps became staple across most grades e.g. All the Apple apps iMovie, Pages, Keynote, Numbers etc, also Book Creator, Creative Book Builder, Edmodo, Explain Everything, Puppet Pals, Visualise etc. While we purchased other subject specific apps these were seen as key open ended enablers.
The capability of delivering content quickly through iTunes U, Edmodo, Showbie etc is enabling possibilities and brings into play ideas like flipping learning. Seeing teachers emerging to use class blogs or arranging Skype links with classes in other countries and bringing experts virtually into the classroom are possible and are happening.
When I visit classrooms I see all spectrums of the SAMR Model in action in classrooms. I see movies being made to record learning, I see mind maps being formed, I see students highlighting and summarising, writing, creating ebooks and posters. The possibilities seem endless. It is exciting to see such great moments involving innovation, interaction and collaboration, great moments of engaged deep learning.
Learning Spaces: The way that classrooms are working is changing. Escaping from traditional classrooms to more versatile spaces is another great byproduct of the iPad Program. Students are moving more actively, grouping, sitting, playing, interacting, recording. Traditional classrooms just don’t cut it. I often enter classrooms to see children on floors or sitting in pairs or clusters or just moving and doing and sometimes, too, I see students in traditional formations. What is clear is that spaces need to be able to accommodate anything. We are starting to think about how we can achieve this using existing structures, by adapting furniture, creating movable walls, using glass to open the environment.
Curriculum: The new National Curriculum (Australia) also carries demands regarding technology and as we start to engage with this we are programming to integrate technology like never before. The other sense that I have is that iPads while being powerful enablers will be a part of a tool kit of technology. The students will need to be fluid in their use of technology. We need to be able to provide tools for coding, data, gaming which the iPad my not be able to fulfil completely. We will need to provide students with many opportunities, choices and experiences to enable them.
Here are a couple of short pieces of video of students in action they highlight the collaborative nature of some work and the way space is being used as a result.


One of the great assets which schools sometimes underutilizes are parents. Parents can be powerful allies. In our own situation the school is owned by the parent community so their buy in to initiatives is crucial. Part of our development program re technology is targeted at parents via hands on workshops. We are also trying to tap in and leverage experience and expertise of the parent body to help to recognise possibilities and help to drive change. These are smart people with life and business experience. Their vision has helped to shape the iPad program and will help to evolve the vision going forward.

With many possibilities on the horizon e.g. Google Glass and other device innovations, virtual environments and changing pedagogy the school of today needs to be adaptive and fluid. We can’t rely on old ideas because they will let the students and their families down. We are definitely aspiring to be, and need to be, a school of tomorrow.

Big Ticket Items – AIS and Edutech Conferences

Edutech and the AIS ICT Managers and Leadership Conferences

I have attended two excellent conferences The AIS ICT Managers and Leadership Conference and the Edutech National Congress (K – 12 Education Leaders).
The first conference run by the Association of Independent Schools. Speakers included NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley, Jeff Mao (iLearning Technology Policy Director for the State of Maine Department of Education), Dr. Ruben Puentedura (the Founder and President of Hippasus).
At the Edutech Conference (probably the largest conference for educational and technology leaders in Australia with around 3600 delegates) the list of speakers included many International and National heavy weights Sir Ken Robinson, Daniel Pink, Salman Khan, Dr Gary Stager, Alan November, Stephen Heppell, Suan Yeo, Dr Margaret Lloyd, Ewan Mcintosh and Stephen Harris to name just a few.

There were also a host of vendors displaying “state of the art” wares in the respective exhibition halls and of course the delegates themselves sharing their experiences, challenges and achievements.

My summary is based on speakers, vendors, discussions and interactions with other delegates during the course of both conferences.
I acknowledge and thank Edna Sackson @whatedsaid, Michael Eggenhuizen, C Coffa and Lauren Batty, back channel tweeters, delegates and speakers. I have in places borrowed from their recordings and observations.

What to expect at Edutech

One of the other Delegates wrote this insightful comment after the Edutech Conference.
“The day after I returned, I was asked by my 84 year old dad (non-teaching background), ‘What was it all about?’. Well, it was called EduTECH, so it was about Educational technology, but not really, it was more about how we have to change our schools and teaching because of technology.” (June 6, 2013 by ccoffa)

“I know we have been hearing ‘No sage on the stage’ for a long time but it is getting louder and louder and more important. Technology is not replacing us, but it should be making us change our tack on our craft.
Flexibility seems to be one of the most important features of both schools and the teachers working in them. Flexible access to devices, flexible working spaces, flexible timetables, flexible lesson structures, flexible mindsets amongst administrators, teachers and students.”(June 6, 2013 by ccoffa)

For me the richness of the tapestry was particularly enriched by the sessions (AIS Conference) that I spent with Dr. Puentedura who presented compelling ideas around pedagogy (SAMR, TPCK) and the future direction of technological innovation via The Horizon Report.

The Horizon Report – via Dr. Ruben Puentedura
Each year, the Horizon Report identifies a set of key technologies for education over the upcoming short, medium, and long term. The full value of the report is realized when it is employed to recognize longer term trends, using categories that emerge from analyzing the report. He also looked at how to make use of the report in this extended fashion, and also see how implementing Delphi-type processes analogous to those used to create the report can provide benefits to schools.

2013 K12 Horizon Report: Key Trends
• Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning and collaborative models.
• Social media is changing the way people interact, present ideas and information, and communicate.
• Openness — concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information — is becoming a value.
• As the cost of technology drops and school districts revise and open up their access policies, it is becoming more common for students to bring their own mobile devices.
The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is challenging us to revisit our roles as educators.

2013 K12 Horizon Report: Significant Challenges
• Ongoing professional development needs to be valued and integrated into the culture of the schools.
• Too often it is education’s own processes and practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies.
• New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional models of education.
• K-12 must address the increased blending of formal and informal learning.
• The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.
We are not using digital media for formative assessment the way we could and should.

Mega Trends from Horizon Report
In the presentation Dr. Puentedura presented a summary of data going back over a number of years. While there are differences in trends between years some trends are dominant. In the diagram below dominant or “metatrends” are identified.

It is also interesting to see trends identified for the tertiary sector over the next five years. There are some obvious differences. I would suggest that some trends identified are closer than indicated e.g. Wearable Technology is almost upon us and may well be adopted quickly by younger students. Looking at this data may also provide insights for K – 12 also.


The Horizon report is available in full

Putting the Horizon Report to Work: workshop

Jeff Mao gave the opening keynote presentation titled ‘Managing Change in an Uncertain World’. Jeff Mao is the Learning Technology Policy Director for the State of Maine – Department of Education. Jeff gave the keynote presentation at the 2010 Conference – in 2010, he mentioned that the State of Maine 1:1 laptop program (70,000 laptops) used Apple MacBook computers and that Apple had won all bids/tenders since 2002. In a recent change to this policy, Jeff indicated that the State of Maine is moving from single-vendor to multi-vendor technology platforms and form. The vendors chosen include Hewlett Packard (laptop & tablet using Windows), Apple (MacBook & iPad using MacOSX & iOS) and CTL (desktops using Windows). Other points made in Jeff’s presentation include:
• Move to multi-state collaboration in relation to technology and teaching and learning – previously Maine was on its own.
• Maine’s use of TPACK & SAMR models of pedagogy / learning
• Maine’s use Open Educational Resources (OER) – digital content with educational value but is open and free (e.g. OER Commons)
• The use of Big Data – ParaData (e.g. Learning Registry) to help search, provide & access the right educational resources – iTunes
• Search Engines for Learning (e.g. Goorulearning & OpenTapestry) • APPS – Adult Paradigm Paralysis Syndrome – often adults restrict learning by being stuck in their ways! Teachers should let the kids lead; embrace change; leverage it and be agile!

There is a strong trend towards BYOD. This is being advocated for a couple of reasons.
Many students have mobile technology which they are proficient in using
It opens the possibilities for creative application over a variety of devices and platforms
It is cheaper for schools – shifts the costs etc to students
The Government will no longer be providing devices to students via The Digital Education Revolution
The new National Curriculum demands access to technology across all Key Leaning Areas
Flipped Classroom

Not all schools are electing to take this route
Some schools want to control the environment closely
Some prefer continuity between devices
Some have concerns about equity
Some have greater financial capability
Some simply have 1:1 programs and see no reason for change
Some considered the complexity of managing a variety of devices untenable

I felt though that there wasn’t a preference about devices amongst thought leaders at the conferences and that diversity of device and or platform for use by students might not be a bad thing.

A number of schools at both conferences have benefitted from connection to National Broadband and other schools have forged their own broadband link. Costs associated with bringing fibre or microwave into schools is expensive, both re setup and re annual running costs.

The NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley provided some insight into the roll out of the NBN.
We are of course a bit uncertain about the future of the NBN with a possible change of government looming. The current time frame means that many schools won’t benefit until 2018 or beyond This timeframe isn’t ideal as we see that the demands for Internet are growing rapidly and will continue to grow. Upload demand is growing so remaining on ADSL will become untenable for schools without access to broadband. This will clearly impact the capacity of schools meet the growing demands of devices and Curriculum.

This link provides the current NBN roll out timeline

Curriculum and Pedagogy
With regard to Curriculum Dr Margaret Lloyd gave insight into the draft Curriculum on Design and Technologies. She emphasised the importance of technology both as a General Capability and as a Key Learning Area. The Curriculum is expected to be published at the end of the year and will roll out in schools in 2015. She expressed a concern about the risk of sucking the fun out of technology. There is clearly great value in design process, in code, in manipulating data, etc. but a dry Curriculum could demotivate and be counterproductive.
Draft Doc National Curriculum Technologies:

Barry McGaw AO, PhD, Chair, Australian Curriculum,. Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) spoke he suggested that “like schools” needed to be compared so that weaker schools can learn from similar higher performing schools. This seemed reasonable but I wasn’t convinced particularly in light of his own admission about the predictability of testing which clearly means that “teaching to the test” remains endemic for NAPLAN testing. Additionally data we are presented with isn’t transparent and the measures used to compare schools may well be flawed (these are my views not necessarily Barry’s). He did suggest that future testing via NAPLAN may become less predictable.

Dr. Ruben Puentedura gave a presentation on ‘Paths to Technology Integration: SAMR & TPCK in Context’. Ruben spoke about the key elements that he believes are essential to the success of technology in educational projects today. These elements are listed below:
• Mobile technologies are pervasive – what can a student do not only at home and at school but in all locations – moving from traditional learning places to a continuum of learning spaces so that the entire world becomes a place of learning for the student.

Attending other sessions with Dr. Ruben Puentedura provided great depth around he SAMR and TPCK models. Interestingly he argued strongly that schools needed to change there view of technology as merely being a tool. He pointed to the TPCK model where technology, pedagogy and content are regarded as peers. He talked about how the components of technology: social, mobility, visualization, storytelling, and gaming, have been ingrained into our lives from the very beginnings and why they remain crucial elements in the adoption of technology in schools.
He also looked in detail at various examples around the SAMR Model.
Take pics (record)
Replace text with digital form
Watch a video
Use 3D timeline and hyperlink images on the line
Create a timeline, but use other layers to provide context.
Predict observe explain – watch a video – share observations with others via a blog e.g.
Animate the pic or video
Choose a work that you connect with e.g. graphing art work, create a 3D model of the art
Debate the topic using a digital connection with others
Choose an area of interest and construct your own model, predict
Create a virtual space with elements which reflects an understanding of the art work
Present evidence and understanding of a topic to a specific audience e.g. via video
Share in a comic / or other format annotating and explaining results
I was impressed with Ruben’s eagerness to share. As he spoke he provided examples and evidence support his work. He was a compelling speaker simply by virtue of his deep knowledge of his subject.
SAMR: Moving from Enhancement to Transformation” workshop:

Paths to Technology Integration: keynote presentation

Daniel Pink – What the Science of Motivation Can Teach Us About High Performance
Give the world something they don’t know they are missing. Artists do this all the time.
Constraints reduce creativity
Non commissioned work is the breakthrough work.
Money is a motivator, but fairness is crucial. Take the issue of money off the table. Pay enough so that it isn’t an issue.
Reward system works fine for simple and easy tasks but not for complex or long term goals
Self direction is the motivator / engagement
Engagement – high standards and autonomy
Making progress – reliant on feedback set own goals and analyse own performance
Purpose – if people know why they do it better
Students need to own their learning
Allow students to master before moving on

The Star of the Sea Primary School
The schools approach was influenced by Ewan Mcintosh a speaker at the Edutech Conference and an advocate for inspiring purpose and self motivation in students. He argues Problem solvers – we need problem finders.
The 6 BIG pillars of learning – Ewan Mcintosh
Challenge – learners need to feel challenged. Failing is part of learning.
Choice – learners need to have a choice.
Collaborative – schools need to allow learners time to collaborate on things. They need to be able to talk through their ideas, gain feedback, problem solve with others and share their learning.
Respect – learners need respect for their ideas and for their learning. Teachers should respect for the things students do.
Responsibility – let learners be responsible for their learning.
Real Life – learning needs to be real. Learners need to know why and how it can make a difference to their life or the lives of others.
The example provided by Star of the Sea was of deep immersive well supported discovery learning. They were using Design Thinking as a basis for this process and melded with the ideas of Ewan Mcintosh.
The Design Thinking Process:
Gary’s Stager’s message was let’s get kids creating. He spoke about the increase of Maker Fairs where people come together to make and create things. Adults work along side kids to create all sorts of things. Kids are allowed to be creative. Gary questioned if teachers are allowing this to happen in their classes. He said we need to get back to what use to happen in schools before we became driven by standards and questioned us to ask ourselves ‘How can I make the next 7 hours the best in this kids life’. Students never remember a spelling lesson but they will remember great projects that they have owned and felt successful completing.
Projects create memories.

Sal Khan – Provided insight into his own amazing journey.
The big take away re learning was that learning needs to be tiered and self paced. Students need the capability to go back and fill in gaps so that they can progress. Obviously the Khan Academy offers the capability for students to select a learning track and repeat learning experiences over and over before moving on.
This obviously lends itself to the idea of flipping classrooms too.
Students can create their own videos to help embed understanding both for themselves and others.

On learning spaces
I suppose that the changing nature of devices is changing the way classrooms are used, but it is more than this. It is about moving pedagogy so that it reinvents the way that learning is happening. So many of the speakers who spoke about changing space were talking about changing our approach to teaching. Changed spaces are a by-product of different leaning.
Stephen Heppell spoke a lot about learning spaces and the need for students to feel like their learning space is a space they want to be in and is a creative space. Learning spaces should be fun and kids should want to be in them. They should feel an ownership of their space. As usual his range of resources were compelling and inspiring. Lots of ideas from Stephen heppell here

Similarly Stephen Harris,Northern Beaches Christian School spoke with conviction about the transformation of learning spaces and of the learning environment in general. He bombarded us with great images of innovation of learning spaces.
Stephen’s assertion is that schools must embrace a new paradigm and move away from what was once thought of as “school”. This new paradigm is one where learning is personalized and collaborative, technology is adaptive, spaces are radically different to the traditional mindset, and a community built on positive relationships is at the core. Teaching and learning culture must be informed by global trends towards change in routines, expectations, perceptions, technology and organization structures in the 21st century.

Change management is about shaping learning culture at every level of an organisation.
The learning culture needs to be the subliminal dominant culture within the school, adopted without question and pervading all activity.
Elements to connect:
 Growing staff
 Empowering students
 Growing parents
 Collaborating always
 Questioning everything
 Taking risks
 Creating curriculum
 Developing spaces
 Aligning budgets
 Learning from failure
 Celebrating success
Stephen Harris #edutech presentation in Brisbane

Sir Ken Robinson
Sir Ken spoke about the purpose of education being economic, cultural, social and personal.
Economic because through gaining an education people are able to gain economic independence and as Ken said ‘we all want our children to be economically independent!’
Cultural because we need a board curriculum that gives weight to all areas.
Social because we need to help students engage with the world around them so that they can be active citizens.
And personal because everyone has their own interests, passions, life, etc.
However, he believes that we need to make education richer. We need to allow creativity to be a part of all students lives. Business is calling for creative people. People who can come up with new ideas, ask creative questions and build new things.
He is always entertaining and insightful.

Some key recurring messages from Edutech
1. Ownership
Enable choice. Foster independence. Encourage responsibility.
2. Collaboration
Learn together. Grow ideas. Build community.
3. Creativity
Experiment Play. Make something.
4. Problem solving/finding
Think differently. Find solutions. Seek new problems.
5. Curiosity
Ask questions. Notice. Wonder.
6. Diversity
One size does not fit all. Differentiate. Personalise learning.
7. Flexibility
Rethink school. Create new spaces. Unlearn.
8. Relevance
Make it real. Solve real life problems. Create for an authentic audience.
9. Connection
Build a PLN. Flatten classroom walls. Participate.
(Ref: My apologies for not acknowledging the work of Edna Sackson @whatedsaid – I had omitted her from my acknowledgements )

Once again I acknowledge and thank Edna Sackson @whatedsaid, Michael Eggenhuizen, C Coffa and Lauren Batty, back channel tweeters, delegates and speakers. I have in places borrowed from their recordings and observations. My intention here is simply to report observations from the conference. I in no way claim ownership of ideas, thoughts or content.

A Few Favourite Apps

We are now well into our iPad program. I am often asked about the apps that I would recommend for use in the classroom. Reflecting on this, it really isn’t a straight forward question to answer. Apps provide capability, but in the end it is application of the app that really opens the possibilities. Also the app might be used quite differently depending on the age and capability of the students.

The apps I have chosen are ones which have the potential to really extend the learning experience of students of all ages.


iMovie: This needs to be seen in context of using the onboard capability of the iPad to deliver a camera. Having the capability of being able to immediately film and then create a movie easily is very powerful. iMovie also has the capability to form a part of a workflow in which it might be the finished product or a part of the process. In the classrooms teachers have also used the trailer format to create rich, punchy reflections on work. iMovie is probably one of the most actively and widely used apps across the grades.


Explain Everything: The name says it all. This app is really versatile. It can be used at a basic level as a simple whiteboard or at a very sophisticated level involving a number of slides, animation and media. It interacts well with many other apps and has the capability of being a part of a workflow e.g. bring in PDFs, web pages, pictures, video etc or can be the finished product.


Puppet Pals: It is really worth purchasing the Directors Cut version of the app as it enables the user to include their own puppets and backgrounds. So many possibilities and very engaging. Create a narrative or an informative documentary Puppet Pals is flexible enough to do both. This is also a very engaging app. Able to be shared on YouTube.



Showbie and Edmodo: Relative newcomers to our classrooms. One of the challenges for teachers using iPads has been to be able to easily move work to and from iPads. Showbie and Edmodo help with this process and also enable teachers to interact with students. While the apps are similar they aren’t quite the same. I particularly like Showbie’s capability for students and teachers to directly record voice and video within the app along with the simple uncluttered interface. Edmodo on the other hand can provide polling and interactive discussion. Both have good compatibility with other apps. Both can be used as a flipping tool as they are available on the web as well as an app on mobile devices. (I would like to mention iTunes U here too as it is a great delivery tool, but it lacks the two way capability of these two apps and also is restricted to an iOS app form so students can’t access the information on any other but an iOS device.)



Visualize and Skitch: Two apps with similar capability. There is a cheap paid version of Visualize (Viz) which is worth the investment. We haven’t used Skitch since we discovered Viz. Skitch has, I think, evolved and probably has greater capability since updating, but don’t know if it is yet as good as Viz. Viz has been very popular amongst students. Students can essentially create a poster page which can include pictures, text, drawings, annotations etc. Work produced could form a part of a workflow or be a product of a workflow. Both apps are really easy to use.



Book Creator and Creative Book Builder: Great apps with the capability to create multimedia eBooks. Students can bring in text, pictures and video. Once again a great workflow apps. Creative Book Builder is a more complex application and would be better suited to older students. (For younger students I also really like Scribble Press because of its rich drawing pallet and it has some templates to help students to create a story.

These are a few of the really rich apps that I have seen regularly in action. There are many others that provide great possibilities or which add to workflows e.g. GarageBand, Pages, Comic Book. It really depends on the outcomes being sought. I do like the idea when thinking about apps that “less is more”. What I mean by that is to target apps for specific purposes. Too many apps can be confusing. It is better just to use a few apps that work together really well and that you know how to use. That being said having a rich pallet of apps for students is great for differentiated learning.

A few lesser known apps that might be really useful.

Paper Camera: This is a great app for altering appearance of pictures quickly. Pictures can be altered to various preset formats and brightness, contrast, lines can be adjusted too. A useful way for students to bring a creative touch to photographs.

Side by Side: This app is great for multitasking / researching because a number of different windows can be opened at once in the app including a browser. It is also possible to bring in content such as PDFs from Dropbox.

Cloudon: A great app for accessing cloud storage Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, SkyDive. Possible to view a large number of different file types. Has a great Microsoft Office type workspace for editing files.

Greenscreen: This app enables you to put a different background behind movie action. Available on the iPad, but really an iPhone app. Great possibilities for short movie snippets in different locations.

Qrafter Pro and Aurasma: The paid version of Qrafter allows for creation of QR codes and reading of codes. The free version only allows reading of codes. Giving students the ability to create their own codes means that they can easily add additional elements such as video commentary to their work. Aurasma is also worth mentioning as it adds similar capacity, but can react to images instead of QR codes – great for commentary on art, literature etc.

A Different Direction – Thinking about learning spaces.


I have always felt that flexible use of space in classrooms makes sense. My early years teaching were in Infants (K – 2) classes and teaching in these classrooms carried a multipurpose intention. In later years I was lucky to team with some other teachers, with great Infants experience, while teaching Year 4. This was like a perfect storm for me in many respects. Our rooms opened out onto a large multipurpose hall which ended up becoming an extension of our classrooms. We also teamed with other support teachers and learning environment became a supercharged, differentiated, dynamic place. I believe the learning was rich as a result and the teaching was immersive for us as teachers too.

One of the most visible impacts of mobile technology is that there has been a discernible shift in the way that the students work. Classrooms are being used differently. They are starting to evolve into more collaborative, versatile spaces. The more traditional chair and desk arrangements of the Primary 3 – 6 are where change can be observed most dramatically. In Infants classrooms the change is less discernible as they are already structured to be flexible. I am observing that activities being undertaken are more eclectic and the classrooms along with ancillary learning spaces need to become more versatile to accommodate different needs of both teachers and the students.

I am conscious that sometimes change can be daunting. In our own circumstances teachers shouldn’t be concerned because I am seeing change in classrooms happening organically anyway. Additionally the journey we are undertaking in our Professional Development both around differentiation, curriculum and technology are taking us in this direction too.

Last year I visited The Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney’s North. I loved the ideas being generated there. They seemed to be leveraging mobile technology, pedagogy and spaces to create synergy of learning. Clearly the vision was strong, and inspired in part, by looking at examples of best practice occurring in Europe and Scandinavia. Many of those countries leading the world (PISA Assessments) are moving to versatile learning spaces.

In a recent study by the University of Salford and architects, Nightingale Associates, it was found that the classroom environment can affect a child’s academic progress over a year by as much as 25%. Once again here I am forced to reflect on Hattie’s, influential work, which places little value on the space. He states “buildings are important as they must be there in some form for a school to exist, but that is about it.”(John Hattie, University of Auckland, Australian Council for Educational Research, October 2003). I take a more wholistic view as would Michael Fullan – it is about finding the right drivers. (Fullan Centre for Strategic Education Seminar Series Paper No. 204, April 2011)

Similarly a paper by Bocconi et al. consider the advent of Creative Classrooms (CCR) which are conceptualized as innovative learning environments that fully embed the potential of ICT to innovate learning and teaching practices. (Stefania Bocconi, Panagiotis Kampylis, Yves Punie, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, n.o 30 • September 2012)
In contrast to Hattie’s view we see the worlds best systems innovating in wholistic ways and this includes learning spaces.

In Sweden about 30 secondary schools were “designed using KED’s architectural programme, which has been developed over the years by all our school principals, teachers and our architect Kenneth Gärdestad, is the last important element in this equation. The starting point is not to divide space into static classrooms with connecting corridors, but to regard the entire space as a potential learning area. Rooms are conceived in different shapes and sizes; they range from a large arena to rooms for small groups and have sliding glass walls. Most areas have multiple functions.” (The Kunskapsskolan (“the knowledge school”): a personalised approach to education CELE Exchange 2011/1 © OECD 2011)

Here I am compelled to grab a big chunk of text from Stephen Harris, Director, Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning & Principal, Northern Beaches Christian School. He says it far better than I can and with greater authority.

“Today’s students are immersed in a world of technology from birth. It is natural for them to live within the internet, rather than using the internet as is likely the case for their teachers and parents. Seymour Papert was among the first to make statements calling for a complete re-think of education models, with the advent of ubiquitous computing. In an essay co-authored with Gaston Caperton, they commented that educators have tried ‘to use new technologies to solve the problems of school-as-it-is instead of seeking radically new opportunities to develop school-as-it can-be’ (Papert and Caperton, 1999, p.2).
The essay goes on to suggest that conversations about schooling ‘ought to be about developing and choosing between visions of how this immensely powerful technology can support the invention of powerful new forms of learning to serve levels of expectation higher than anything imagined in the past’. Somekh and Mavers picked up this conversation adding that ‘teachers are not resistant to change, but are caught in a constant tension between the technicist demands of the system and their instincts to assist children to learn by engaging actively with ideas and concepts’ (Somekh and Mavers, 2003, p.3).
Papert used the concept of ‘Megachange’, to describe the immense shift that
has occurred in the last twenty years as so many of the systems of our society
– banking, health, shopping, communication, have been fundamentally altered through the advance of ICT. But he pointed out that ‘megachange’ was not evident in the school system.
More recent researchers have been quick to highlight that in a world of rapid technological change, today’s students are demonstrating serious signs of disengagement. As Marc Prensky highlights in ‘Engage Me or Enrage Me – What Today’s Learners Demand’ (Prensky, 2005,p.2):
“Rather than being empowered to choose what they want … and to see what interests them … and to create their own personalized identity – as they are in the rest of their lives – in school, they must eat what they are served. And what they are being served is, for the most part, stale, bland, and almost entirely stuff from the past. Yesterday’s education for tomorrow’s kids.”
The challenge is patently clear – schools have to embrace the ‘megachange’ required and construct new paradigms for learning in the twenty first century world. Mavers made the comment that:
‘As digital technologies proliferate and become established in the everyday world of home, work and community, schools are inhabited by young people who are experienced users of a range of media and whose use is characterized by agency and adaptability.’ (MAvErS, 2007, P.52)
(The Place of Virtual, Pedagogic and Physical Space in the 21st Century Classroom)”
(Stephen Harris, Director, Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (Australia) Principal, Northern Beaches Christian School, Australia)

Anne Knock (SCIL) provides useful questions which helps to provide a framework with which to consider how we can shape learning and spaces to meet the changing needs of students.

“1. Human resources (staff and students):

How do we support staff to work in new ways?
When building new spaces, what work is undertaken prior to occupancy to help change mindsets?
How does the activity of learning need to change?

2. Technology:

Who is making technology decisions in your school?
Does the infrastructure enable movement, flexibility and productivity?
Is ICT seamlessly and almost invisible, or is it still about ‘whistles and bells’?

3. Physical space

What do the learning spaces say about your culture and values?
Are there walls and structures that can be eliminated?
Does the furniture and the spaces cater for different working styles and activities, for collaboration and for physically appealing environment?” (Ref: Anne Knock, SCIL)

There is a sense that shift is inevitable and that while we are starting our journey there are those who are further along. One of the great things about the Education Community is the delight educators have in sharing. Leveraging the experience of others can help to make the journey easier and the choices less complex.

A Mobile Imperative


Hattie’s rather clinical analysis of data has suggested that technology isn’t an influential factor in student outcomes. Fullan’s paper Choosing Wrong Drivers identifies technology as being a Wrong Driver. On this basis it would be easy to dismiss technology out of hand.

In reality their messages aren’t really about the technology at all. They are actually about teaching and learning. Both authors would argue that”without pedagogy in the driver’s seat….. that technology is better at driving us to distraction.” (Fullan)
And in juxtaposition Fullan argues it can also be a Right Driver if the pedagogy is right. The way forward is clear. Fullan states it well. “Go all out to power new pedagogical innovations with technology. As I noted, there are numbers of these developments currently under way that are aimed at the next generation of learners. What makes these advances crucial is that they combine so many elements needed for success: engagement; entertainment; ease of access to information and data; group work; humanity; social relevance; and so on. In a word, they make education easier and more absorbing. Learning and life become more seamless.” (Fullan)

UNESCO suggests “The learning potentials of mobile devices are impressive and, in many instances, well-established. while hardly a cure-all, they can meaningfully address a number of pressing educational challenges in new and cost-effective ways.
In a world that is increasingly reliant on connectivity and access to information, mobile devices are not a passing fad. As mobile technologies continue to grow in power and functionality, their utility as educational tools is likely to expand and, with it, their centrality to formal as well as informal education. For these reasons, UNESCO believes that mobile learning deserves the careful consideration of policy-makers.” (UNESCO 2013)

Similarly a study into an iPad roll out at Longfield found “The evidence from this study clearly confirms the views of Melhuish, Gliksman, Spang and others that the use of iPad and similar tablet devices in schools is beneficial to both learning and teaching.
Such devices cannot be dismissed as mere toys or distractions and while they bring with them technical and management issues, these are far outweighed by increased student motivation, progress and collaboration. Students using them regularly indicate that their iPads have become an indispensible tool, facilitating research, communication with teachers and, as in art, saving considerable time so enabling greater achievement.” (Naace: A study of the introduction of iPads at Longfield Academy, Kent 2011)

Schools need commit to the development of teachers clearly a fundamental essential in enabling student learning. While basic technical capability is necessary the focus must be more around the pedagogical application of technology in learning programs. In the near and longer term all schools will implement the new National Curriculum. ICT is identified as one of the General Capabilities.

“The general capabilities encompass the knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions that, together with curriculum content in each learning area and the cross-curriculum priorities, will assist students to live and work successfully in the twenty-first century. They complement the key learning outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework (COAG 2009) – that children have a strong sense of identity and wellbeing, are connected with and contribute to their world, are confident and involved learners and effective communicators.

The Australian Curriculum includes seven general capabilities:
• Literacy
• Numeracy
• Information and communication technology (ICT) capability
• Critical and creative thinking
• Personal and social capability
• Ethical understanding
Intercultural understanding.” (ACARA, General capabilities in the Australian Curriculum 2013)

A mobile device program provides the capability for schools to address the needs of the Australian Curriculum.
In addition to the General Capabilities strand of ICT which crosses over all areas there is also a specific Technology Curriculum that will be included as a key learning area of the National Curriculum.

“The Australian Curriculum: Technologies aims to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills to ensure that, individually and collaboratively, students:
• are creative, innovative and enterprising when using traditional, contemporary and emerging technologies, and understand how technologies have developed over time
• effectively and responsibly select and manipulate appropriate technologies, resources, materials, data, systems, tools and equipment when designing and creating products, services, environments and digital solutions
• critique and evaluate technologies processes to identify and create solutions to a range of problems or opportunities
• investigate, design, plan, manage, create, produce and evaluate technologies solutions
engage confidently with technologies and make informed, ethical and sustainable decisions about technologies for preferred futures including personal health and wellbeing, recreation, everyday life, the world of work and enterprise, and the environment”
(ACARA – Draft Australian Curriculum: Technologies – February 2013)

Schools must commit to a long term program of Professional Development that will provide the knowledge and skills to enable teachers. The sort of development required needs to be deep and purposeful. The focus needs to be on pedagogy rather than just skills / knowledge.

“To capitalise on the advantages of mobile technologies, teachers need to be trained to successfully incorporate them into pedagogical practice. In many instances, a government’s investment in teacher training is more important than its investment in technology itself. UNESCO’s research has shown that without guidance and instruction teachers will often use technology to ‘do old things in new ways’ rather than transform and improve approaches to teaching and learning.” (Ref UNESCO, Policy Guidelines for Mobile Learning 2013)

When excellent pedagogy combines with powerful, mobile technology tools and rich environments the possibilities around student outcomes can grow exponentially.

U and i Journeying Together


Note: since publishing iTunes U has been updated and functionality has improved The iTunes U course catalogue is also worth exploring for great content.

One of the amazing things about the iPad in the school setting has been the sudden range of possibilities that have been opened up. One of these, which has great possibilities in the classroom, is iTunes U.

iTunes U is a way for teachers to create courses with a variety of content and resources. All of which can be delivered instantly to an any iPad after simply entering the required course code. The workspace is simple for teachers to work in. There isn’t a huge amount for teachers to grasp in order to start a course. The only prerequisites are a Mac or PC running Safari. On a PC this can easily be downloaded on the Web. Students will need to have the iTunes U app on their device (free to download). Tunes U courses can only be accessed on iPad, iPhone and iPad Touch devices.

Once students are enrolled they can access all of the resources that the teacher has provided. The teacher can add resources easily and students will automatically receive the resources in their iTunes U course. Students can open resources and move them easily into other applications so that they can be worked on.
The iTunes U workspace is also easily navigated and students can even keep notes on topics right there in the course.

A number of my colleagues are starting to create courses for their classes and realising that a paperless classroom is becoming a real possibility.

With iTunes U it is also possible to access free courses designed by other educators. All content in the public course area is fully checked by Apple before being made available. This of course means that students can learn independently on topics which are of interest to them.

Definitely worth a look.

One of the limitations of iTunes U is that the course remains locked to the creators iTunes account. This means that the course can’t be duplicated and adapted by another educator. This may also have implications if a school wants to own the course created and continue to use it even when a teacher has moved on.
It may be wise to produce class or school iTunes accounts if the school wants to retain ownership of courses created. This also would make it easier for more than one educator to access the school course account and edit a course.

Duplicating Courses
iTunes U courses are limited to 50 students. If there are more requiring access then the course can be duplicated to accommodate more students. This duplication could also be useful if a teacher wanted to differentiate aspects of the course for different students.

Below: This is an example of a Professional Development course which a colleague has recently produced using iTunes U.