Category Archives: ICT

Disconnected

What is Connected Learning and WIIFM?

After developing a nice workflow over the past few weeks in creating and responding to posts for the #youredustory challenge, it all fell apart for me last week. I made the decision to change internet\telecommunication providers which resulted in some issues with our phone line. Given they could only send a technician during business hours (when I happen to be at work!) I had to make arrangements for them to be able to get into my house to make the repairs. Juggling the repairs meant a wait and going without the internet at home for a week.

That was a long week.

Being disconnected made me realise how much of what I do both professional and personal now revolves around being online.

Being without a connection made me also made me more aware of how much ‘work’ I casually do at home. My computer rarely gets turned off. I often will sit down and clean out some emails, check twitter or facebook, read some articles someone has forwarded to me. I liked being able to ‘dip in’ when it suited me or I wanted a distraction from something else.

During that week I found myself staying back at work (where I had internet access) to catch up on these things. I was far more efficient during this time – after all, I wanted to get home.  I didn’t have time to get lost and absorbed in what I was doing.

Even simple things like the running of the household relied on internet connection – I had bills sitting on my desk at home that needed payment. How did people pay bills before internet banking? I don’t think I’ve ever paid a bill any other way. I went to go and watch something on our Apple TV and later remembered that I couldn’t do that either.

Fortunately, I still had internet on my mobile phone and iPad which kept me connected to friends and my PLN via facebook and twitter, but I was conscious of the amount of data I would be using up on my plan. And I’m still one of those people that likes to do “real work” on a computer.

So, my week of disconnection taught me how much I have come to rely on the Internet as a tool; I would now consider it an essential service like electricity or water. It made me more aware of how I like to work. It made me conscious of how much of my life now lives online.

So with my connection now restored, it’s back to work for me.

11 questions

In a recent blog post, Steve Brophy was challenged to respond to a series of questions and then set the following challenge to me and other members of my PLN. Here are my responses.

1. If you had the power to make one rule in your school that every teacher would follow, what would your rule be and why?

My rule would be that teachers need to be networked with others outside of their school environment through some form of professional learning network.

As teachers we expect our students to be independent learners; to follow their passions and seek out new knowledge, yet it continues to amaze me how so many teachers work in silos and believe that professional learning is something that is done ‘to’ them.

Whilst technology helps greatly in facilitating these connections, I would necessarily mandate for this to occur. As they say, it’s not about the tool, but the outcomes. In this case, the outcomes I would be looking for would be the professional conversations and the thinking, reflection and possible changes in practice.

2. What is your learning process?

This varies greatly depending on what I’m trying to learn.

Most of the time, the things I want to know are ‘google-able’ questions meaning a quick online search will usually give me the answer to solving a problem.

Other times I need to ‘see and do’ something being done or work along side someone guiding me through the process. I am finding this to be the case as I try to learn more about ‘Google Apps for Education’. The recent Melbourne GEG MeetUp was a great chance to talk with those who had ‘been there and done that’. Being able to stop and ask questions as we go really helps my understanding of something new.

I also love ‘informal’ learning – teach meets, beer pedagogy, tweet ups and other informal gatherings of teachers that following a very unstructured approach can lead to new learning and thinking.

3. Where do you see education in ten years ?

The optimist in me sees education changing dramatically in the next ten years. I think more people are asking questions as to why we continue to do things the way we have always done them. The ringing of a school bell to signal the start and end of learning, lining up and walking around in two straight lines, ruling margins in books and the progression and grouping of students based on their age are just some examples of this.

I am also hopeful that as technology becomes more accessible and affordable we can see more students with their own devices and using them in classrooms. Much like now how students (particularly my Grade 5 girls!) bring in their own pencils and textas and gel pens, I see students bringing in their own technology to allow them to work. The challenge then for us working in school environments is to create the environment for this to occur and having the policy that supports this.

I am also hopeful that student voice and student participation becomes the norm within schools. That student councils and organisations are involved in school wide decision making processes such as curriculum development, facilities, staff recruitment and professional learning rather than being fundraising organisations or event management organisations.

On the flip side, the pessimist in me doesn’t see much changing in education at all. Change in education seems to happen as a glacial pace and bureaucratic red tape will slow down the process.

4. Why are you a teacher?

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I would ‘play school’ with my friends at any chance I had; creating my own class roll and writing up ‘work’ on my little chalkboard.

Growing up, I also had some terrible teachers and I remember thinking ‘I could do better than this’. Fortunately those teachers we the minority and for the most part I had some amazing teachers who really inspired me. Had it not have been for these great teachers who gave their time freely to support what I wanted to do; who coached, mentored and guided me through the process,  I doubt I would be the person that I am today. It is my hope that I can provide the same opportunities for my students and that I can pay forward the experiences and the lessons I have learned.

That light bulb moment when you see a student understand or achieve something new gives me goosebumps each and every time and this is why I continue to teach.

5. How should a technical team support teachers?

By making sure that things work the way they should. Too often teachers abandon technology in their teaching and learning simple because of the fact that things don’t work the way they should. Sadly this is not the technicians fault. They are often over worked, under paid and work in terrible environments. If we really believe that technology is a key part of education today, then we need to support schools with adequate tech support.

Technical teams can also support teachers letting them do what they want and by not being roadblocks. I have seen many technicians who over complicate systems and processes and make it much more difficult than it needs to be. They often talk in “techy-speak” language and forget that teachers are not technicians. Similarly, technicians are not educators. They do not have an understanding of pedagogy and what life is like inside a classroom. In a perfect world, both of these groups would meet somewhere in the middle and create an environment that supported teaching and learning whilst following process and capitalised on effective ICT use.

6. If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?

Growing up I was quite active in my local community, so I’d see myself working in local government to make a different in my local community. (Early on in my career, this nearly happened)

7. What is the hardest learning experience you have ever had?

In Grade 6 I was terrible at Maths. I remember struggling with this and the huge amount of help and support I got from my teacher and my parents and amount of practice I did to improve.

Six years later, Maths would be my highest study score when I completed my VCE and is now one subject I really enjoy teaching.

8. What three books changed your life?

I don’t know if I would consider these books ‘life changing’ but they are books that I frequently keep revisiting and referring to.

David Allen’s, “Getting things done” has really helped me as I’ve moved through my career and stepped up in to positions of responsibility. His process for managing all the ‘stuff’ that comes in to your life has really helped me to organise how I work. When I feel overwhelmed with the amount of things I need to do, I often return to his book and revisit his approach to feel a sense of control again.

More recently, “Crucial Conversations” by Susan Scott has given me a framework to have difficult conversations with others. I was once told that “a behaviour excused is a behaviour accepted” and this book offers a structure to conducting these conversations.

The five dysfunctions of a team” by Patrick M. Lencioni was a great book recommended to me that explores the elements that are needed to makes a successful team. It’s been interesting to reflect on teams I have been involved with whilst reading this book.

9. Who inspires you ?

My PLN (Personal Learning Network) continues to be my source of inspiration. I am always inspired by the amazing things that some of these teachers are managing to implement and achieve in their classrooms and in their schools.

10. What strategies do you use to bounce back from the tough days in teaching?

Debriefing with colleagues at the end of the day really helps. Forming strong professional relationships with those I work with allows for this to happen.

Inspirational quotes on my screen saver and letters from students and colleagues can also be quite motivating and remind me of what’s important.

Early on in my teaching career, we participated in an activity based around the ‘Warm Fuzzies’ story. I still have mine and when things are getting rough I like to pull out these comments and remind myself about what’s important and why I do what I do.

(A nice glass of wine also helps!)

11. What is right with education in 2014?

The fact that many of us are asking questions of what education and school is and what education or school should be. Whilst we all have differing opinions about what it might look like, the process of reflecting and justifying our these opinions and beliefs helps to reconfirm what is important, what we truly value and what kind of learners we want to create for the future.

Tips for the ICT Co-ordinator

2014 sees me change schools again. I will once again be taking on the role of ICT Co-ordinator as a Leading Teacher. This, combined with the recent podcast from The Ed Tech Crew podcast that focused on tips for new ICT Co-ordinators has made me reflect on my own experience as ICT Co-ordinator at my current school and look at what worked well and what I would do differently next time.

I moved into an ICT Co-ordinator role after a few years of teaching and managed to change this role into a Leading Teacher role. The podcast did make me think about though the fact the teacher in question is a graduate teacher and ask the question “Can a graduate teacher be an effective ICT co-ordinator?”.  I think back to my first year of teaching and there sure was a lot to cope with and get my head around in my own classroom. (Lois touched on this in some of her comments throughout the podcast). I did wonder then what kind of “ICT co-ordinator” this school may be they after? If they want someone who can “fix problems” and has technical knowledge then yes, I am sure that a graduate teachers would be capable of this. But without experience in the classroom, is the pedagogy going to be there? (I can see this being a separate post all together!)

So, as I reflect on my experience as ICT Co-ordinator and consider my actions as I move in to my role, here is my advice to new ICT Co-ordinators.

Shut up and listen.

In his book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey talks about “seeking first to understand, then be understood“. He goes on to say that “we have a tendency to rush in, to fix things up with good advice. But we often fail to take the time to diagnose, to really deeply understand the problem first.”

I have also been reading “Fierce Conversations” by Susan Scott following on from a workshop I attended in Cairns earlier this year. In the book, they talk about the absolute truth.

To get an understanding of the absolute truth, they talk further about ‘beachball reality‘.

Imagine your company as one giant beach ball, where every employee is occupying a different colored “stripe” and experiencing reality from their own unique vantage point. As a leader, your main objective should be to make the right decisions for your organization, rather than be right. In order to do so, you must accept that while your “truth” about the company is valid and important, it is not the capital “T” truth. Rather, every individual owns a piece of the truth and it is essential that you look outside of your own viewpoint to understand as many stripes on your beach ball as possible. Only then can a solid decision be made based on ground truth.

It’s very easy in any new role to get caught up with the excitement of wanting to ‘do something’ or to be seen by others to be ‘doing something’, but without a clear understanding of where thing are at, much of this work may be in vain.

Based on this, I plan on having lots of conversations. And with lots of different people; teachers, admin, support staff, students, parents, as each of them brings a different perspective and viewpoint.

I see these conversations taking a “coaching” style approach with lots of questioning and little comments on my part. Coaching is a skill that I want to develop further and I hope that this approach will not only provide me with the data and information I need, but also give me an opportunity to develop this skill.

Score some Quick Wins.


With a solid understanding of where things are at, work out what tasks you can undertake that will require little effort, will have a high chance of success and result in maximum return. Remember, you are the new on the block and will be watched closely by others to see what you do and how you do it. What you do and how you do it will set the tone for future projects to want to undertake.

Find your allies.

With an understanding of where things are at and an idea of what you want to do, identifying others who can get on board early with you and help lead the way are essential.

In the video, “Lessons from The Dancing Guy“, the first follower ‘publicly shows everyone how to follow. Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it’s not about the leader anymore – it’s about them, plural. Notice he’s calling to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.’

You are not the technician.

Im_not_a_tech

In my first gig as ICT Co-ordinator, I was at a small school and we had limited technical support hours supplied to us by the Department. Because of this, I did a lot of those simple but annoying tasks like fixing printers, changing proxy settings and resetting passwords as I wanted to make sure that the jobs and tasks that were beyond my skill level were taken care of by the technician with the limited time we had.

When I changed schools, the size was much larger and I still continued to do a lot of these “fix it” tasks. I quickly burnt out doing these tasks and learnt that I could not do it all.

My approach now is based on the workflow from David Allen’s “Getting things Done”. Although I’ve pushed the time out to about 5-10 minutes, if a problem takes me any longer than that to solve their problem, I’ll defer it and get them to ‘log a job’ with the technician as it would be far too easy to loose my time to solving problems.

I also recently read about using students to run a “genius bar” that I am keen to explore further. I am also keen to setup a school wide online resource where people can source resources and answers; and hopefully get others to add to it over time.

Get Time. Get Support.

I have been fortunate in both ICT Co-ord roles I have had to be provided with a regular additional time allocation for completing ICT tasks. Again, this has usually been scheduled in bulk which has allowed me time to get sunk into a task without having to finish it an hour later. If your school truly values what you do and sees it as important, then you need to be compensated for it through time, support or money.

In addition to this, I was also offered any additional time release going due to people being absent and their being CRTs free. Having a list of simple short tasks at the ready made sure that this time was utilized effectively when it presented itself; often with very short notice.

Get Connected.

You will often be the only person in your school in this role and at times it can be isolating. Getting in touch with other ICT Co-ordinators and joining (or establishing) a network of ICT teachers at nearby schools and sharing stories can be a great support. I regularly draw on this local group of teachers to help with technical questions or to get advice on how to best go about deploying a new tool or strategy.

Building a broader network is also important. Twitter and more recently Google+ have been invaluable in terms of connecting with other amazing educators across the state, nation and globe and has presented me with some amazing opportunities that I would have never known about otherwise.

Celebrate.

It’s easy to always be looking ahead at the next big thing that you want to take on that taking the time out to stop and look back at where you have come often gets forgotten. Make sure you build in time to reflect on what has been achieved; regardless of how small it is. The warm and fuzzy feeling people will get from this will hopefully inspire them to go that extra step further.


To all new ICT Co-ordinators I wish you well in your new role and to those returning to the role in 2014 I hope the year ahead is successful for you. I look forward to using my blog as a tool to share my own journey with you.