Category Archives: Learning

Evaluating apps for learning 

Technology integration isn’t about the app or device but more about how aspects of knowledge come together to enhance learning.

To truly use technology well to impact learning;

  • You need to be an expert teacher fully aware of pedagogical practices that impact student learning. Formative Practice, Visible Learning etc
  • You need to be an expert in your subject matter, the content you want students to know. You know your stuff!
  • You need to have an understanding of technology tools. You explore the #edtech world because it’s where our students live and what they need!
  • You then need to be able to connect Pedagogy, Content and Technology together. mash it up!

That’s why frameworks like TPACK & SAMR are great ways to support all teachers to become aware and proficient with technology to enhance learning.

diagram-puenteduraRuben R. Puentedura’s Weblog – The SAMR Model – Dr. R. Puentedura


TPACK model by Koehler & Mishra – image by @ICTAVANGELIST – Mark Anderson

Developing tools to assess apps are a great way to help put the focus back on learning rather then what the app can do. Thinking about learning first and how the app can assist in students achieving the desired outcomes is critical. A great exercise is to have your team assess a range of apps and then create an app guide (iBook, blog, etc) which takes the hard work out of finding an app. All staff have access to this app playbook which outlines how the app can enhance student learning.

Possibly think of using subheading like:

About the App – Brief info about the app – its URL

Assessment – How the app could be used for formative & summative assessments

Learning – How it hits Blooms taxonomy?

SAMR – Where it sits on SAMR?

Here are some tools that we are using:

Tony Vincent’s – Learning in Hand
Kathy Schrock – iPad app evaluation

My own App evaluation

This template is used to give more detailed information about the apps ability to enhance learning, teaching and assessment against 21st century thinking skills, higher order thinking skills, assessment ideas and general.

Luckily we have brilliant educators who share and help facilitate the learning of all students.

The Padagogy Wheel – Download the PDF here.

Developed by Allan Carrington Designing Outcomes Adelaide South Australia Email:


Happy app finding


Twitter Recipes with IF app

Discovered this app a few weeks ago and now really getting into it. It allows you to create recipes that curate your data in a myriad of ways. It uses a huge amount of current applications in which you can create your own ‘IF’ statements or use others that users have created.

I am currently using a few twitter recipes that send any tweets I retweet or like to a google sheet. So simple, so easy! Well worth a look. Imagine asking your class a quiz on twitter and it automatically sends the data to a google sheet. Endless possibilities for this.





I made a little video about how it works. Hit me up on twitter for any questions.




Are we putting the cart before the horse?

Every time I go to a conference I always hear that we should put learning and pedagogy first before the device or technology. But how does a teacher connect learning; pedagogy and content to the device if they don’t understand or see what the capabilities of the device or tech is.

Should the edutech cart be before the learning horse?

Conferences like Teach Tech Play connect the dots between content, pedagogy and technology. Yes it should always be about learning but to transform your classroom you need to understand what the device can do and connect it to learning. Without this there will not be meaningful learning for your students. Teachers need to be supported in this quest and have the opportunity to explore the device and its capabilities in order to transform learning with technology. It’s the sandpit approach first, let them play, let them discover then target professional learning for them.

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Check out more on the TPACK model here

For me this is what is at the core of the TPACK model. In order for the classroom to be transformed by technology teachers need the knowledge of the technology itself. To an extent it is just as much about the device/technology and what it can do. The TPACK model highlights the need to blend all three elements together in order to impact learning.  I think it is very naive to not consider the technology and how to use it, just as much as it is to say we all need to be a paperless classroom. This is what makes conferences like Teach Tech Play so powerful. It blends all of these things into meaningful learning opportunities for teachers. It isn’t all about the device, it’s about the device, pedagogy and content which equals learning. You need to see the possibilities of how this can enhance learning for students, without it you will never integrate technology into your classroom. 


How do you get that blend?

For me it’s about getting these things right for change management.


It starts with the culture of your school. Does your school encourage and build capacity of staff? Does it give staff autonomy over their learning? Do staff collaborate and share their successes? Failures? Do staff have a common goal they are trying to achieve about learning?

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Are your school structures adaptive and do they allow for collaborative and innovative practice?


I’m not talking about the technology type, it is an investment in human capital. Do you have the support of learning champions – staff and students that can guide, challenge and motivate teachers? Do they have time to support you?


Do you have a leader in EdTech that is setting the tone for continued improvement and high expectations for digital learning. Do they have a vision? Are they building capacity of teachers? Are they getting people excited? Are they resourcing it? Are they supportive?

Professional development:

Is there targeted professional learning for teachers around technical knowledge and connecting the dots of pedagogy, content and technology. Is it planned, intentional and ongoing – it never stops, is it individually tailored to each teachers needs and wants. Does it recognise that all teachers need different support and guidance. Is it building the skills of teachers?

Get these things right and you may just change your school. Remember it’s about the blend of technology knowledge, pedagogy knowledge and content knowledge. Don’t put one in front of the other, you need equal understanding of each to impact and improve learning.


Disrupting learning structures

 I am very lucky to work in a school that is trying to shift the paradigm around learning. Last year I started discussing with our CIO and Principal about having a remote learning day in 2016. Students effectively don’t attend school and learn remotely. This poses many challenges around the why, what and how. The big picture is moving our current learning to a more considered blended approach with flipped learning at our centre.

First part of this project was to discuss the ‘why’ 

with our School Teaching and Learning committee, to be confronting and challenging around our current student learning models. From this a team of teachers across our school have come together. The teams make up represents an interesting cross section as Rogers, describes in his Diffusion of innovations. We have innovators, some early adopters, late majority and dare I say laggards! It was important to diversify the team and have thinking that would continually challenge our purpose.

Staff working through a design thinking process. 

The significance of this team hasn’t yet been fully realised. It has a direct role in shaping the future learning of our school which will impact how our students and staff collaborate with technology to enhance learning. As chair I decided to move us through a design thinking mindset which as IDEO states is:

Design Thinking is a mindset.

Design thinking is about believing we can make a difference, and having an intentional process in order to get to new, relevant solutions that create positive impact.

Design Thinking gives you faith in your creative abilities and a process for trans- forming difficult challenges into opportunities for design.

It’s Human-Centered. Design Thinking begins from deep empathy and understanding of needs and motivations of people—in this case, the students, teachers, parents, staff and administrators who make up your everyday world.

It’s Collaborative. Several great minds are always stronger when solving a challenge than just one. Design Thinking benefits greatly from the views of multiple perspec- tives, and others’ creativity bolster- ing your own.

It’s Optimistic. Design Thinking is the fundamental belief that we all can create change—no matter how big a problem, how little time or how small a budget. No matter what constraints exist around you, designing can be an enjoyable process.

It’s Experimental. Design Thinking gives you permission to fail and to learn from your mistakes, because you come up with new ideas, get feedback on them, then iterate. Given the range of needs your students have, your work will never be finished or “solved.” It is always in progress. Yet there is an underlying expectation that educators must strive for perfection, that they may not make mistakes, that they should always be flawless role models. This kind of expectation makes it hard to take risks. It limits the possibilities to create more radical change. But educators need to experiment, too, and Design Thinking is all about learning by doing.

I have used IDEO’s toolkit and my own knowledge of design thinking being an educator who has worked within the design industry. This will guide our team through the process. Adding to the richness of our team was the inclusion of student voice. Each time we have met thus far various students have shared their learning and future ideas of what they believe learning should look like.

The main structures which we are looking at disrupting is time. Why do we demand students to learn in chucks of time? Learning is organic and happens when the need is there. It’s non-linear and occurs when the learner has a specific need. Let’s move to an asynchronous environment! That’s the end goal. Students can dip in and out of their learning. Making them truely owners of learning.

It’s time to kill the timetable 

On a recent trip to Ballarat and visiting Sovereign Hill (which was ace, if you live in Melbourne go there!)  it became very obvious that schools haven’t moved on for years! Dare I say hundreds of years. Students sit in rows, move in blocks of time, every second is timetabled. Stepping back to Ballarat of the 1800’s the School resembled so much of what schools still look like today. A room with rows, a board, sit, be quiet and learn. When will we get it? There is so much talk about moving schools into contemporary learning places but how much is actually getting done and what is stopping us? Are we slaves to final year examinations? Is the University entrance process flawed and not supporting 21st competencies? We know examinations don’t assess the skills required to thrive in the 21st century. Yet we are still following a system that is decades old and not allowing students to deepen their learning experience. We just scratch the surface of learning.

The work of John Medina in brain rules highlights this:

Our schools are designed so that most real learning has to occur at home. If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom.

This graphic by Richard Wells pretty much sums up what we all know about our schools. The timetable is killing learning. Why we expect students to attend 6 chucks of time at 50 minutes each day and hope they are digging deep with their learning is one of the biggest flaws of our current school structures.

What do I want to see? Extended time where students can drive their learning. Time given to students  which allows them to go deeper with their learning. That the school day is not dictated by times, bells and lets students learn in an organic way. The way the brain was meant to learn.

Let’s get to the What Ifs

  • What if we didn’t have a timetable?
  • What if we didn’t have subjects?
  • What if students only came to school when they needed support?
  • What if schools were agile enough to flip everything in 20 minutes?
  • What if true creativity and innovation were in schools – not just the rhetorical we hear?

Let’s face it did we ever think we would see the day when collecting images and experiences online and curating them would be a thing. Nope but it is and it’s Pinterest. What about a company that provides taxi services but doesn’t have any taxi’s? Uber another example of disruptive thinking. What if we changed the time table in the same way. What if student’s came to school to learn and not just move from class to class. What if we changed how we use time? Is our current school structures killing learning? The short answer……..yes

PBL after week two – A reflection

Last week didn’t start out to well, one of my boys was sick and I missed the first two days of the week. It turns out this was a pretty good test to see if the students were indeed capable of continuing on with the PBL by themselves. Could students continually drive their learning around the DQ?

This pretty much sums it up

‘We are on top of it Pearman’

So how did the week pan out. Roles have all been set and students have self selected or made their own role which will support the team in answering the DQ. The emerged groups are curators, exhibition designers, marketing team, installers, catering, speech writers, printers and framers. Everyone just gets on with it and are self driven around what they need to do and by when. Part of the goal this week was to engage in authentic audiences. One of the curators used the questions formed last week, synthesised them down to 140 characters and started asking various galleries around the world. The questions main purpose was to plug any holes in their learning around the DQ.

IMG_9840The classes setup a twitter account and started tweeting their Q’s globally. They were pretty excited to receive a response from the NGV! From this the independent learning continued to flourish. It has been fascinating to watch the students argue, engage in robust discussions, try and work out how to change fixed mindsets and convince a peer that my idea is the way to go! The authentic collaboration has been first class. What I am realising is that a PBL has given my students the opportunity to engage in real life collaboration. Building skills in team work, empathy and listening.

I set the challenge for the students to create digital artefacts of their PBL process in the form of non typical ways. Currently students are working on leveraging social media tools such as pinterest and tumblr to show their journey. This has been a most surprising and refreshing element of the PBL. The power of student voice, they select their path and show learning in ways that are specific to them.

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The marketing team went through many iterations of the promotional materials. Seeking feedback on their ideas continuously throughout the design process. Above are some of the iterations. Another great element of the PBL has been self selecting of learning opportunities that you are passionate about. All of these add to the teams ability to answer the DQ. The richness of a PBL is really obvious, multiple layers of learning can be found in all sorts of ways.

may 05 - 8pmthe wei zhou museumExperts were a common theme last week and our students are lucky enough to have many ways to connect with professionals to help them understand the DQ. Here we have an artist in our gallery discussing the intricacies of setting up, installing and explaining artists intentions in an exhibition. Broadening their learning from others within the community has been another great way students have extended their knowledge around the DQ.

Only a week to go before opening night. This week will be the true test! All of their ideas have to work in unison and come together quickly.

Friday Standups

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I wanted to create greater student accountability around their learning and also give students the opportunity to present their learning and discuss where they are going.  I got the idea from collaborating with a UX designer in London with my class. With her team every Friday they meet and discuss what they are working on, seek feedback and discuss where they are going. Out of this the #FridayStandups was born. Each Friday students have a few minutes to present their learning around these questions.

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 11.07.38 amIt has kept them accountable and gives them the opportunity to share their learning and receive feedback if needed. We have been using flipgrid to curate their responses also. It has been valuable for students to have a target each week and be able to share what they are doing. It values their learning and their peers are participating in active and passive ways. It has been great in modelling different ways to tackle their learning problem. Many divergent thinking opportunities and new ideas have come out of these short presentations. It is framed with the idea of making students owners of learning and providing opportunities for them to reflect and make learning more visible.

Hinge Questions, Exit passes and Digital Portfolios with FlipGrid

I have been using flipgrid with my students which is a fabulous question curation application. Check it out at It allows you to publish video or text questions and curates the responses in a visual grid for your class or even the world to see. It is really simple and beautifully intuitive to use. It is complemented with an iPad and iPhone app. The design is clean, simple and looks gorgeous, important parts of an app. I am glad they have considered UX and UI in their thinking and design.


Entry and Exit pass Flipgrid

I have started off using it as an exit or entry pass requirement for my classes. Before the students leave or enter the class they must post a response to a question grid. This has been a really effective way for me to see how my students are tracking and consider what happens next in class, did they get it? If so lets move on. Its also been great for keeping their learning sticky and being able to collaborate with their peers.

Hinge Question Flipgrid

Another really useful application of flipgrid has been using it for Hinge Questions. A hinge question is a question that you ask the entire class at a critical point in the learning of a concept. It informs you that the students ‘get it’ and you can move on. It’s not a traditional question of hands up and only one or two students respond. No hands up and everyone is in. This is where flipgrid has been fantastic, not only is everyone in, they stay in and I can go over the responses really quickly and move on to the next concept.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.20.39 amWatch this link as Wiliam explains a Hinge Question.

Digital Portfolio of responses. 

As flipgrid curates responses, I was thinking that certain questions or milestone responses could be curated over the year to represent a mini portfolio of student’s learning. The portfolio would allow students to keep a record of their learning and provide triggers for the students to reflect and direct new learnings. The questions could be based on peer and self assessment strategies. This would be a great way to keep digital artefacts of the students progress and affirm the improvements over the course of their learning journey.

Below is a short clip of how I have been using flipgrid