Year 6 World War 1 lesson

The student 1:1 devices were not quite ready to be used and my timetable allocated me to one of the Year 6 classes to assist with an Inquiry Topic into World War 1. Hmm – how best to meet the brief?

I selected a number of texts from the Senior School Library, loaded them into a crate with wheels and headed north.

What did I choose? A range of texts about the “Great War” – including titles relating to Chinese soldiers, the Australian Imperial Forces (great language to discuss) and several volumes of the wonderful but underutilised Official history of Australia in the War of 1914-1918  by Charles Bean.

By taking these somewhat ancient tomes I was able to discuss the role of an official historian, censorship, and the age of our school (which is why we have these in our collection).

Students were invited to enter the book gallery and complete a table in any way that they felt appropriate.

The collaboration, obvious interest in content and active discussions around the room were wonderful to behold. The images below were taken with my staff laptop (Toshiba Z20) screen and they worked better than I thought they might.

A number of girls fell in love with Bean’s volumes.
I thought they would look at one volume and no more. Boy was I wrong!
They found a wide range of interesting snippets – and mainly from the text, not the diagrams or photographs.
Great discussion ensued.
The power of the index was realised with information about our town (I rarely see senior students using this vital asset within texts.
Deep thinking and intrigue were evident.
Their excitement and conversation were palpable.
And each time they were asked to move on they did it with alacrity and respect.

The Scene was set at the start with the opening paragraph from “The promise : the town that never forgets : n’oblions jamais l’Australie” by by Derek GuilleKaff-eine (Illustrator), Anne-Sophie Biguet (Translator).

We had 50 minutes together and it was truly wonderful. Thank you 6R.


This post covers the focus of my Marketplace stand at Microsoft E2 Education Exchange, held in Paris 1 2nd-4th April 2019. You can see the summary of what will be displayed here.

There are many methods available for collaboration. These are demonstrated here and increase in complexity as you move down the page.

Within a class:

The most basic form of collaborating is within a class. It can be technology free, for example, this Year 6 activity about the Great War, or this example of collecting data and developing ways of using it at senior level. Work can be shared by the teacher taking photographs and embedding into OneNote ClassNotebook, or, if mobile devices are permitted, by the students themselves.


Within our school.

Reasons why you might collaborate internally.
Cross class collaboration.

With adults

Blogging by Grade 4 students in 2018, who were involved in collaborating with our regional Rural Industries Skill Training centre (usually training farmers and senior level agricultural students). Their experience can be seen here. 
This work was presented at a Microsoft Edumeet in Melbourne by the Grade 4 teacher, Stephen Mirtschin, and me in the middle of 2018.

Between schools:

Between schools

A more advanced level of collaborating between schools is enabled by Office 365. It is aided by classes where students have 1:1 device access. This is an example being employed in 2019 with VCE Year 11 and 12 students studying History Revolutions using PowerPoint online.

Between schools teaching the French Revolution.


This type of collaboration enables understanding of how people live and work differently from others.

With thanks to Koen Timmers
Compare our region to others!

This was the Climate Action Project of 2017

Then we were involved in the Innovation Project of 2018

School Libraries are all about collaboration.
We can all learn more if we work together!

Class-based COLLABORATION – in VCE History Revolutions

Ways of sharing

When working through a subject, such as History: Revolutions, it is difficult to get the base knowledge mastered, yet the course requires students to consider different ways of looking at the same events in order to more deeply understand the range of perspectives from the time and the multitude of ways that historians have interpreted them.

The situation is exacerbated when the class is very small. In my class, we spend about 1/3 of our lesson time each week working together to collect and then analyse what we have found. I explain to the students that we can work more effectively together to maximise data collection, then give feedback to the collectors in terms of content and coverage of the topic.

It is a number of years ago since I first tried this with a class of 7 with the intention of getting my students thinking. That attempt is detailed here.

This worked brilliantly with the class concerned, but the next time I tried was unsuccessful as a number of students wanted to be silly.

Yesterday, I tried again and it was wonderful. here’s how the lesson unfolded

Step 1:

First I set a potential essay topic (selected to target the earliest part of the course): “How significant were preexisting tensions as a cause of the French Revolution of 1789?” Students were asked to work out the key topic words for each paragraph – could be four or five. Results looked like this once they were stacked in order of discussion.

Step 2:

Once the main concepts were stacked in paragraph order, I asked them to choose one main topic and use 3 small blocks to indicate the content of the sentences within the paragraph for that keyword.

Step 3:

Mind map in the same pairs as before what the essay will cover overall, using all class ideas to this point.

Step 4:

Providing feedback to the other teams on their mind map.


Students went home to write their planned essay over the weekend. The results were very pleasing – the longest first essays I have seen in many years of teaching this subject. Well done to all of them!

Banning devices? Please don’t!

I confess –  my views differ from some of the strategic Information Technology directions some schools are currently promoting, but in terms of providing valuable education, I really believe we should be embracing smartphones rather than banning them.

That would mean this:

Image by retrieved from: 28/01/2019

Instead of this:

ban the phone

I am collating data on use and gain, which I hope to have in a state worthy of sharing shortly.  I do not think the future will be easy, whichever way schools proceed but from my perspective, the key points are:

  • Ubiquitous tech such as smartphones and watches are part of today’s world.
  • No child’s parent has grown up with appropriate use of tech being modelled (first smart type phone 1992 – first iPhone 2007) so who teaches usage, advantages, dangers, and protocols if we don’t?
  • We are dealing with rapidly evolving products which we can’t hope to keep up with in terms of banning and have far greater chance of impact if we respond in an educational manner.
  • These devices augment computers (and in some ways surpass them) and should be harnessed appropriately for the enabling of learning as appropriate.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), is home to a passionate community of global educators who believe in the power of technology to transform teaching and learning, accelerate innovation and solve tough problems in education.

ISTE inspires the creation of solutions and connections that improve opportunities for all learners by delivering: practical guidance, evidence-based professional learning, virtual networks, thought-provoking events, and the ISTE Standards.

This is an example of 6 Things that a Mobile Phone Enhances according to a post in the ISTE blog:

The app I would recommend most highly is Office Lens and it is incredibly powerful when paired with OneNote with its amazing “immersive reader”.  It works on laptops, iPads, and phones and is excellent for differentiation and assisted learning.

To my way of thinking the gains to education far outweigh the pain, particularly for older students who will soon be expected to function in the world of work.

Bold Moves for Schools:

Learning free, and at my desk:

Fortunately, I chose to attend a free webinar presented through Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) which was hosted by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. The inspiring session ran for nearly 90 minutes starting before school and finishing part way into period 1 (luckily, it was on a day that I could stay till the end!).

Heidi had presented a session in person at our school in the past, and while I cannot recall the topic, I can recall the way that she was able to mesmerise our teaching staff! I wasn’t sure what she would focus on but I reasoned I could always drop out of the call if it wasn’t valuable to me.

Bold Moves for Schools:

Heidi and co-author Marie Hubley Alcock, have recently released a new book called Bold Moves For Schools: How We Create remarkable Learning Environments (Jacobs & Alcock, 2017). Heidi is working in Australia with Karen Milkins-Hendry, Dean of the Development Centre at ISV, and Marga Biller, Project Manager at Harvard University’s Learning Innovations Laboratory.

Linking ideas:

The ideas and concepts they work with have strong connections to the work we have done this year with Thinking Strategies, and a small group of has done with No Tosh this year (Stephen Nelson, Nick Palmer and myself) and previously with Amy Andrews, Jody Ogle and Paul Churchill. In both cases, we were led through a process of Design Thinking For Learning #DT4L. This time the process is being guided by a team at ISV and takes place over three sessions so the potential for real and strategic change is strong.

Concepts from the webinar:

In an animated presentation, Heidi focussed on the ways in which we might apply a refreshed pedagogy for contemporary classrooms, comparing elements we have retained from the past and those we have ignored.

This was demonstrated with a classic image of a “school photo” taken outside the front of an old, wooden, one-roomed schoolhouse. We were challenged to consider what we had kept from this era, and what we have chosen to forget.

This image (Vernon, 2015)  (shared with CC attribution – non-commercial- share alike) shows the inside of such a school:


While this was no surprise, the forgotten element of this, a challenging (and much more “Reggio Inspired”) example of use that has not continued as this image (James) displays:

teaching in the past

Our profession:

Heidi postulated that teaching has been largely directed by others, an issue we must address by seizing control back for ourselves (webinar meets Revolutions – I was delighted!).

In thinking about the non-traditional schoolhouse image, she pointed out that responsive environments don’t run on habit. She asked us to consider education from an empty chair and suggested that we need to consider the needs of the learner.

Hippocratic Oath as starting point:

She compared us to doctors, saying that their focus always starts with the patient. They also pledge to do no harm – something that has occurred for some students exposed to ill-directed theories, or by us focussing on the wrong things.

We must come work from a position of respecting our students and their learning needs and listen to them with understanding as social contractors.

No more C21st skills or “future ready” excuses:

Heidi challenged us to stop talking about twentieth-century skills – we teachers and our students know we are in it.  In fact, we are nearly ¼ of the way in, so none of our students have experienced life in the C20th!

So what then?

We should discuss 3 literacies only – digital, media and global. We need to consider these pedagogies and question how well we are meeting our students’ needs.  We need to farewell our final year students knowing that they are mindful citizens, innovative designers and global ambassadors ready to take their place as adults in the contemporary world.

She tapped into my History self again by referring to Socrates and asking what we should keep from his time.


She challenged us to review pedagogies we are using to move forward, as summarised in this image based on  (Jacobs & Alcock, 2017, pp. 12-17):

Pages 12-17 Bold Moves For Schools

We need to move from a classical to a contemporary construction of space and programs.


Here are some highly simplified statements that summarise her question: “How can we be more creative with our canvas?”:

  • Learning spaces versus cells.
  • Learning times versus bells.
  • Fluid, flexible spaces.
  • Consider spilling into the outdoors.
  • Replace seat time with proficiency so that credentials are the focus not hours in a subject.
  • See time as currency (which is the way the No Tosh team worked with Stephen, Sophie and myself in September) – make every minute count.

Where to from here?

My immediate challenge is to plan for the end of the Senior School Library renovation. How might we reorganise the Senior Library to create a modern learning environment?

The Junior School faces the challenge of altering their current Lower-primary curriculum to a Reggio Inspired model; and the return of Year 6 to the site, which will alter the whole campus learning environment.

What are the conditions that enable learning?

Starting from this question indicates a real belief in the value of the learning process. Considering everything from the perspective of the empty chair soon to hold a student is a good place to begin.

We need to work with each other and our students with mutual respect and renovate our curriculums in ways that allow us to be ourselves. We do not want our students to travel back in time when they come into our Prep classroom.


It was the most amazing, uplifting, challenging and inspiring way to begin my day. I have so many ideas running around in my brain that I don’t know where to begin the follow up action, but I have been motivated apply some of the concepts, and completing phase 3 of our Senior School Library, and potentially dealing with a significant change at our Junior School, I have plenty of room to manoeuvre. I am enthused!

Watch this space!

Read more about Design Thinking for Learning  and consider the role of technology in teaching and learning.


Jacobs, H. h., & Alcock, M. H. (2017). Bold Moves For Schools: How We Create Remarkable Learning Environments. Alexandria, Virginia: ACSD.

James, J. (n.d.). One Room School on Dougan Farm. Dougan Farm, Wisconsin. Retrieved Ovtober 13,2018, from

Vernon, A. (2015). Inside the Old Schoolhouse. Bannak (Ghost Town), Montana, United States. Retrieved October 13, 2018, from

Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator program

Last year a colleague recommended that I apply for the MIEE program. I was in the middle of planning to head overseas on long service leave, writing lessons for my VCE History Revolutions class (a new course last year) and setting up instructions for managing the library in my absence, so I held off until this year.

MIEE cert

The application process requires a number of steps, the most daunting of which is a two minute film explaining why you should be considered and what you will do differently if selected. Two minutes is not very long and the hardest part was knowing what to leave out. It was tricky choosing an appropriate “vehicle” to deliver the message, but my approach was to tell a story and weave in my experiences with products such as OneNote, Office Mix for PowerPoint, Forms, Outlook and Teams.

Along with the required number of accrued points within the Microsoft Educator Community, a Sway introducing myself, and my participation in online discussions such as Tweetmeets, I managed to be selected. As one of just under 90 Australians on the list I feel honoured, and humbled.

MIEE letter

Approaching the events that 2017-2018 will hold is causing excitement and much anticipation. I am especially interested in the professional learning which I may be able to access and developing my skills to perform at a higher level in my school and beyond. The passion of those who are involved, or have gone before me is contagious!

World’s Largest Lesson – shared with our Year 5 Class

As part of my role I have shared responsibility for teaching Year 5 Library lessons. I thought it would be great to share the UN Goals for Sustainable Development early in the coming term.

This is what I am planning to cover:

Quick warm up:

This lesson will commence with a reading of  Dust by Colin Thompson


An extract from the publisher’s description of this text:

“A beautifully illustrated book that sensitively looks at the themes of peace and social justice In a perfect world, this book would not exist. But we do not live in a perfect world. At any given moment of any given day, there are people dying from natural disasters over which we have no control. Beyond natural disasters we add disasters of our making, but even if we all learn to live in peace, there will still be millions of people who need help.”


This video will form the introduction partly because it is very pertinent of itself, but also because one of our Middle Years (Year 6 – 8) classrooms is named after Malala. These students may well be studying in that room in 2018.

Malala introducing the The Worlds Largest Lesson from World’s Largest Lesson on Vimeo.

Our Library catalogue has many titles relevant to this lesson, for example there are 186 titles related to sustainable living in our Junior Campus Branch:

Sustainable living books

Using the search result in QR format – an example of saving paper – and their class iPads, I can integrate the skills we have been building for retrieving specific books from our shelves.

Sustainable living search result

The activity will reinforce the concepts of:

  • our ability to contribute to the sustainable development goals as individuals and a group,
  • the importance of global goals (and the United Nations),
  • collaborating on global educational goals.

The lesson will be taught in the first week of our term – on the 20th July, which is when our first class is scheduled.

It is important that students living in regional Australia realise that they are part of a bigger world and can participate in global initiatives.

This will be modelled to them through sharing this at the end of the lesson:

The World’s Largest Lesson 2016 – with thanks to Sir Ken Robinson and Emma Watson from World’s Largest Lesson on Vimeo.

The results will be blogged about on our school library blog and shared through Twitter, and I will model for them how this will occur bu using the #theworldslargestlesson


Teaching for Sustainability in our School Library

We often don’t think about the things we implicitly teach. Recently, I completed a survey for The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) on our contribution to the United Nations Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This is an example of how we can introduce the complexity of this to younger students:

What is Sustainable Development? from World’s Largest Lesson on Vimeo.

It is interesting to stop and think about what we might be modelling to our students beyond actual subject teaching – something the school library needs to consider on a regular basis.

These are the targets that I believe we are working towards:

These three are probably the most obvious.

SDGs 1

We are so lucky to belong to our College Community – with a long and proud tradition, a strong focus on health and well-being, dedicated and passionate teachers, and a well-established curriculum and pastoral care system based on Justice. We expose students to a number of world issues where these targets are far from being fully implemented and our opportunities to work towards these goals are provided through fund and consciousness raising.

Next, these two are related to each other:

SDGs 2

Last year we had a display based on LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Intersex) Rights. The concept resulted from a member of staff attending a professional learning event at our local hospital. Up to date and relevant material was purchased, and a display space near the public phone, located in the Tower building, has been set up with relevant and medically approved brochures. We also create focus displays on New Internationalist topics of note, and refer students regularly to issues relating to refugees and people fleeing war and or natural disasters.

Another set of connected goals which we model as well as teach can be seen in these three target areas:

SDGs 3

The subjects we teach that cover these areas include Geography, English  and Science.  The way in which we live these are as follows:

  • paper recycling bins
  • Papercut is now controlling our printing – which allows for jobs to be cancelled if they are no longer required, and prevents students printing to all the printers in the school but only collecting from one. This has had a massive impact on our paper and toner use.
  • OneNote notebooks which are now ubiquitous across the Senior Campus are also saving us from printing as many work sheets etc.
  • We also consider the environment when we turn on the air conditioners, and lights – and determine the timing, temperature and duration of use based on necessity rather than just having them running.

Can you think of other ways that we are meeting these goals? If so we would love to hear them.

The logos in this article have been used as laid down in the UN Guidelines for use.

Options For Tertiary Study in 2025

Christian Long: Imagining tertiary education in 2025 from EDtalks on Vimeo.

For a long time people have forecast the end of teaching as we know it – but surely we are entering an era where options will morph into something other than the known, something better, something more open and flexible?

In this short film, Christian Long raises a number of questions including:

                                              What are the options tertiary students will face in 2025?

                                              What will it mean to go to school?

He raises some questions that are unanswerable at this present time, but which will affect students currently at school, and for whom we are still providing something more like the experience of our medieval forebears,rather than the agility that the connected world provides.

He reminds us that it is hard to measure the return on investment for attending a tertiary institution now, let alone into the future, even if that is as close as his chosen time frame of eight years.

He challenges tertiary institutions to think about what they are and what they should be; university campus planning should allow for more agile uses, including partnering with other organisations. “Place” will be less bricks and mortar, rather than something that will form part of a fabric of choices ranging from face to face, several days immersion, virtual attendance, flexible spaces and incubators. Just in time learning at scale rather than a set time-frame resulting in a specific degree; adding up to an ongoing and learner driven life long education.

Our schools would do well to be thinking along similar lines.


Long, C.  (2012). Imagining Tertiary education in 2025 [Motion Picture]. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from


The Importance of an Adaptable Mind

This clip was set for viewing as one of the first tasks in CSU’s 23 digital things challenge, which I stared this morning.

It is a beautifully created visual and auditory stimulation of what is takes to make our world a better place.

The list of vital skills for our modern world contains five qualities that machines can never have:

  1. Curiousity
  2. Creativity – in the sense of liberating human energy -based on Howard Gardner
  3. Initiative
  4. Multi-disciplinary thinking – not multi-tasking but multi-asking
  5. Empathy

It left me with the question: What human skills can I offer the world?


Shlain, T., Steele, S., Goldberg, K. (Producers), Shlain, T., Steele, S., & Goldberg, K. (Directors). (2015). The Adaptable Mind [Motion Picture].