Teaching Techie Teens

By Rebecca Davies


ACEC 2014 Reflection

What a week. Just a few days ago I was in Adelaide for the Australian Computers in Education Conference (ACEC). It was a crazy three days! I presented twice, and learnt so much in the other sessions I attended. People’s feedback was just wonderful. It is always nice to know that I am helping others learn and that they find what I am presenting useful. If you are interested in seeing the slides from my sessions, they are available here.


Ready for a big three days!

Alec Couros’s keynote was inspiring. I loved how he showed the importance of putting technology into the hands of children so that they are free to create. It really matched my own views about the importance of student creation, not just consumption, on iPads – it’s the last stage of Bloom’s taxonomy for a reason!

It was also fantastic to see all of the amazing things happening in schools around Australia. The teachers from St Andrews School were a highlight, with their open spaces and personalised learning. It really inspired me to do more with the space I am lucky enough to have access to here at Alamanda College.

Another stand out was Chantelle Morrison’s presentation on encouraging reluctant writers. I though I knew a lot of writing tools, strategies and resources, but she had lots of new ideas that I can’t wait to implement with my year 7s. A list of her writing resources are here for anyone who is interested.

I also learnt about ‘moonshot thinking’. This is a Google term, but I think has equal relevance to the classroom. Moonshot thinking to Google is the space between science fiction and reality, but in education (and EdTech) about thinking big, making everything 10 times better and thinking outside of the square. In a time of standardised testing and results-based pay for teachers, sometimes this type of thinking can get lost between the algebra bookwork and the teaching of handwriting. It is such an important aspect to inspiring students to learn, instead of just teaching them. It is definitely a thought I will try and keep with me as I head into the always-crazy Term 4.


Introducing Techie Brekkies

Introducing techie brekkies in my school is one of my best EdTech achievments. I say this because in the term that I have run techie brekkies, staff confidence in using technology with their class has skyrocketed. They are still one of the first things I recommend when helping establish a positive and authentic EdTech culture in a school.

Despite this, it took me two terms to establish them. The reason for this is, as a new school, we were introducing lots of new things and it really wasn’t the time to be introducing yet another thing for staff to worry about. By Term 3, however, the school’s approach to teaching and learning was more established, and so we could begin to introduce new ideas, apps and strategies. This is something to keep in mind when first establishing techie brekkies: it may not be the right time, but keep it in the back of your mind for when the right opportunity presents itself.

While it seems silly, make sure you don’t forget the breakfast side, and offer something yummy for people to eat. Techie brekkies are early, and not everyone is a morning person. Offering something delicious and lots of coffee adds an incentive for people attending the first few times. After that, the atmosphere has been created and you can do some wonderful things together.


Food helps create a community feel

On the same note, because techie brekkies are early, you probably do not want to hold them every week. People get tired from waking up that much earlier, or have other things they need to have done. I run techie brekkies every fortnight, but have also seen them run once a month, or three times a term. Find a routine that works for you school and stick with it. If they are not regular, people are likely to forget about them, or may have other things on. With regular techie brekkies, you may a few new faces each time, as people work around their own schedule.

Finally, keep the atmosphere positive. It is easy for techie brekkie (or any EdTech session!) to become a place just to voice complaints about technology, especially if the people who are attending are not confident with technology. Food actually helps this, as ‘breaking bread’ together helps form a bond between presenter and attendees. The more practical the techie brekkie, the better. This is not the time to break out your knowledge of TPACK or SAMR. Share how you use particular apps in the classroom, how you troubleshoot when things go wrong, and tips for making everything go smoothly. Practical tips always help calm the nerves of people not confident with technology.

How have you introduced techie brekkies in your school? What else have you found works well?


5 ways to use Aurasma in your classroom

After several years of waiting, the Aurasma is now easily available to all students! The fantastic augmented reality app could previously only be used legally by students older than 17, but in the latest update the recommended age has been changed to 4+.

This opens up a world of possibilities in primary schools like my own.


1. Differentiation made easy

You can easily use Aurasma to link students to videos that match their zone of proximal development. This can be achieved in several ways: you could use instruction sheets and use different images on them to trigger different levelled videos, you could have the triggers placed around the classroom for students to access, or could place them on a continuum.

In my classroom, I use the latter, as our focus on lifelong learning and personalised learning means that students are used to continuums and are comfortable identifying their skill level.

In five hours a day, it is impossible to catch up with every student in every class, but Aurasma allows you to at least deliver personalised content to every student.

2. Digital portfolios

If your school uses physical portfolios, Aurasma is an easy way to start connecting students’ digital material. I have students who have written their poem, added it to their portfolio and used Aurasma to connect it to a video of them presenting their analysis.

This can also be very useful for student led conferences – you could use videos that help prompt students’ thinking, or as an addition to their presentations, showing how iPads can assist their learning.

3. Reflections

Aurasma provides students with a more interesting way to think about and present their reflections. Often reflections are rushed at the end, because many students,  unfortunately, do not understand why they are important and do not find them that interesting to complete. Using an app like Tellagami to record students reflections can be a lot more engaging, and Aurasma allows these videos to be easily attached to student work. Aurasma is easier to use then creating QR codes and, even better, does not involve printing, which can be difficult in many schools.

4. Encourage reading

In my classroom, I have a reading recommendation wall, full of colour prints of the front covers of books both my students and I have loved. Instead of writing recommendations underneath, we link the pictures to Tellagamis, videos or book trailers about the book. I have found that this is much more engaging for my reluctant readers, as it gives them a good idea about a book before beginning. Book trailers, in particular, allow them to become hooked into a book before reading. My voracious readers also love it, because they can create their own book trailers or ‘book tube’ style reviews, which are fun to make and even more fun to share.

5. Increase vocabulary

If you have a word wall in your classroom, Aurasma is a fantastic way to make it come to life. You could use it as a way for students to hear how a word is pronounced, how how to use the word in context. This is very important in the upper primary and early secondary years, as students are introduced to a complex and abstract vocabulary full of words they do not know how to pronounce or use in a sentence. Students can easily use Aurasma to add their own words to the wall.

How have you used Aurasma in your classroom?


Oppia: Interactive Online Learning

There is a new tool around that I only learnt about recently but looks to make a huge difference in the EdTech scene. It is Oppia, a site that allows you to use and create interactive learning activities online. While there are similar tools like iTunes U that are fantastic, Oppia adds extra features that make them very useful to teachers. Oppia is responsive to students answers, allowing them to work within their ZPD, not move on to harder topics before they are ready. It is free, with no trial period or extra paid features, making it perfect for the classroom. Everything is also licenced using creative commons, so you can copy, use or modify parts of courses to your heart’s content. Oppia is still in beta, so there may be bugs and there is not a lot of content available yet, but because it is open source, anyone can make suggestions or even improve the code themselves! I have no doubt that we will be seeing a lot more of Oppia in the future.


We Have iPads, Now What?

At the DLTV conference this year, I presented a session titled ‘We Have iPads, Now What?’. The sessions was aimed at teaching educators how to increase authentic iPad use in their classroom and how to coach teachers effectively.

Below are the slides from the presentation if you missed it. Let me know if you have any questions, or want me to elaborate on any of the points – I would be happy to make them the focus of a future post.


Techie Brekkie: Introduction to Edmodo

Below is a the content from my school’s first Techie Brekkie, an introduction to Edmodo. The video explains the content of the two sets of slides. Feel free to use this as inspiration for your own school’s techie brekkies, or simply to increase your knowledge of Edmodo.

How Students Submit Assignments using the Edmodo App


40 Apps All Educators Should Know

Two days ago I presented at the inaugural DLTV conference about 40 apps that all teachers should know about. Some are older and have been used in education for a little while; others are newer or less well known, but equally as useful. Take a look through the slides below to see which excellent apps you may be missing out on using.

Are there any apps you use in your teaching that are not on this list? Why do you like them? 


Introducing EdTech to Reluctant Teachers

Despite the stereotype of older teachers avoiding technology and younger teachers embracing it, in reality there are many teachers who are reluctant to use technology. There are a number of reasons for this, from lack of control to behaviour management to beliefs in ‘traditional’ teaching. There are a number of ways, though, that you can begin to introduce to reluctant teachers.

1. Find a need and target it with technology

Reluctant teachers are often hesitant to use technology because they do not see a purpose behind it. Every teacher, however, has a need that can be solved through technology. It may be that they need to extend students using a tool like Khan Academy. Maybe they need an easier way to manage their assessment data (like Evernote or Socrative). If you can show them how their lives can be easier through one technological tool then you are one step closer to them embracing technology.

2. Know the research

Many teachers are hesitant to use technology because they think it is an unnecessary add-on. They do not know the research behind using technology in the classroom and how it is proved to improve student learning. You do not need to inundate them with information, but a handful of well-chosen articles that demonstrate how technology can assist students to fulfil their potential.

journalsCreative Commons License Photo Credit: ben haley via Compfight

3. Model classes

Other teachers may be hesitant to use technology because they simply don’t know how to use it or manage it in a classroom. In these cases, offering to model classes in which you are using technology will help. An opportunity to see how a teacher manages distractions and integrates technology into a lesson can be the tipping point for a teacher who is hesitant because they simply don’t know what it looks like. If there is time, debrief with them so you can highlight what you have done and why you have done it. Make teaching technology explicit and learning focused (as it always should be!).

4. Be persistent (but not preachy)

Not everyone is going to suddenly start using technology in one day, no matter how good your introduction. This does not mean that you should just give up. Some people need time to come around to an idea. When the opportunity arises, remind them of how that tool you mentioned to them could make their lives easier, or help to differentiate their classroom. Once you have some people on board they will begin talking about it too, helping to create an EdTech culture in your school. If it is the only thing you talk about though, people are likely to get bored and stop listening, so tread carefully!

5. Be available for technical assistance

If a teacher is willing to give technology a go, the first thing that will put them off is technical difficulty. If it does not work straight away, then they will often just class it as ‘too hard’ and move on. If possible, be available for technical support when someone is trying out a tool for the first time. If that is not possible, some schools have established ‘Tech experts’ – a group of students who can assist their teachers with technical problems. If neither of these are possible, simply remind the teachers to always practice using the tool first before introducing it to their students.


Planning Tool Showdown: Evernote vs Drive

We are ten weeks into Term 1 in Australia and as such timetables and planners are being finalised. If you are exploring new ways to plan to make your teaching life easier, here are two tools that make every teacher’s life easier.


The free version of Evernote is great for teachers who plan on their own. It will hold all of your planners and make them available on all of your devices. It is also fantastic for organising meeting notes, to-do lists and observational records. The free version is great for text-based notes, but if you want to add images you will quickly eat into your monthly bandwidth allowance.

 Quick Tip: Use Evernote to back up your blog in real time Photo Credit: Joe Ross via Compfight

The paid version of Evernote is fantastic for team planning, as everyone can add to the one note. I highly recommend Evernote for teachers who work across a number of devices, as the app works seamlessly across them all. The paid version also gives you 1GB of uploads, allowing you to add images of students work, voice recordings and even short videos. This is fantastic for organising formative and summative assessments, and will make report writing a breeze.

Check out Bec Spink’s blog for more information on how to set up Evernote for effective teacher organisation!


Google Drive

Google Drive is absolutely fantastic for planning in larger teams, especially those who do not have significant common planning time. I used this last year with my team and it was fantastic. It allows many people to contribute to the one document at the same time, allowing planning to be a lot more efficient. It also has a comments section that allows you to discuss any problems or questions with your team. Best of all it is free and easy to establish.


For organising observational notes and assessments, Drive is a little harder to manage. It is more difficult to search within notes and does not have the ease of use for reporting that Evernote has. Also, if your internet is not reliable, you cannot immediately upload or edit any of your notes. This was a constant issue for me as my school’s internet was not constant. If you need reliability, even without internet, then Evernote is a better choice.


Global collaboration: making it happen!

Last year I ran two professional learning sessions: one at Braemar College on iPads and Collaboration, and another at my school on global collaboration and creating global citizenship. Having only an hour and an hour and a half respectively, it was really only an introduction to the tools available. You can check out the presentations and the resources used at the links above. Resources, however, are only half of the solution. The other is actually implementing it in a classroom. Below, you will find information on how to actually make it happen.

Flat Classroom Skype

Global collaboration is an excellent learning experience for students.

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: superkimbo via Compfight

Choose ONE tool at a time

There are so many wonderful tools out there to try that it can be difficult to choose just one. Some schools use Skype, others use blogs, others join global projects (such as iEarn). If you try to implement two or more tools at a time both you and your students will become overwhelmed. Research the tools that you are interested in and choose one that will match your school resources and your class’s needs. Once you have explored that tool, you can always experiment with a second, third or even fourth tool at a later time.


In order to implement the tool you choose successfully, you must know how to use it first. While you do not need to know absolutely everything when you introduce it (there is always room for learning with your students), you need to know the basics. Do you login with a class account or individual accounts? Does it work on the students’ devices? What misconceptions may the students have with the tool? Practice a couple of times without your students to iron out the obvious creases. 

Include the tool in your planning

You will only ever use a tool if it is in your planner. Even with the best intentions, it is easy to forget the morning check of your class blog, or to organise another Skype meeting with an international school if it is not in your planning. School life will always get in the way of technology if it is not made a priority. As soon as you can make a connection with your curriculum or inquiry topic, link in the global connection you want to make, including any of the time you will need to plan and set up the task.

Teach the tool and the skills

When implementing any technology, the students need to be taught how to use the tool and the skills they need to use it effectively. There is definitely a digital native myth; you cannot just assume students will know how to use the tool well. Spend a lesson (or several, in the case of more complex tools, such as blogs) teaching the purpose of the tool and the skills needed to use it effectively. This will significantly decrease any potential classroom management and technological issues when using the tool throughout the year.

Patience and persistence

Lastly, just as when teaching anything new, you must have patience. This can be difficult with all the talk of students ‘just understanding’ technology or expecting tools to work exactly the same way every single time. If something does not work the first time, that does not mean it is a failure. It may just need more practice time, or the students may need additional skills. At the very worst, it may be the wrong tool for your circumstances, in which case you can always choose a new tool and try again.

If you cannot find another class to collaborate with, look in new places – there are always a number of global projects and new ways to meet teachers from around the world. There are a list of potential global projects here. Persistence goes a long way to ensuring your global collaboration is successful.

Good luck!