Top 10 things to get you inspired for 2018:





IT Communication – e-learning by Black Jack. Image used under license from

  1. Three eLearning examples to inspire you in 2018!
    Get some inspiration with some digital learning projects from the people at GO1. From curating to caring these three eLearning examples all aim to deliver immersive experiences as well as practical and personalised toolkits.
  2. Learn how to Code with Code Academy!
    Want to learn how to do some coding? Code Academy is a great way to be shown step by step how to code in various programming languages. You can spend as much time or as little to learn both how a program works and how these languages use their own rules to make the software that we use everyday.



Looking After Yourself


Drink Tea relax cosy photo by Flexey. Image used under license from

  1. Six ways Head to Health can help you
    Head to Health is an initiative that the QLD Government has started to help with supporting or dealing with mental health. They have compiled a list in order to help you find the right digital resource for your needs.
  1. TED Talks on the Topic of Meditation
    A collection of three different topics with many TED talks all on the benefits of Meditation.
    a. Slow down! Enjoy Life
    b. Talks to watch when you need 5 mins of peace
    c. Building introspective spaces.
  1. Consider bringing some of these principles into your life
    The Sabbath Manifesto has come up with 10 principles to consider in our lives that are becoming more involved in technology. With the National day of unplugging coming up on March 9-10 this list is definitely something to consider!





Side View Portrait by Pressmaster. Image used under license from

  1. When God makes Lemonade – Don Jacobson
    When God Makes Lemonade comes from the lives of everyday folk — a collection of stories about people like you who have discovered unexpected sweetness in the midst of sour circumstances. Some of these real-life stories are laugh-out-loud funny, others are sobering, and more than a few will have you reaching for a tissue.
  1. The art of possibility: transforming professional and personal life – Rosamund Zander 
    Through their personal experiences, the Zanders present twelve breakthrough practices for bringing creativity into all human endeavours.





Teacher among kids by Monkey Business Images. Image used under license from

  1. Motivate, Encourage and Inspire: Teachers Share the Reason Why they teach
    A list of various reasons from teachers that remind us why we teach. So as we enter the new year it is a great time to remind us why we love to educate the students in our classroom!
  2. Every Kid needs a champion (TED Talk)
    An amazing speech by Rita Pierson after teaching for 40 years and reminding us of the importance of connecting with our students because that is the best way they are able to learn.
  1. Three Rules to spark learning (TED Talk)
    Ramsey Musallam is a chemistry teacher who after a life changing moment changed the way he taught and now he shares his three rules to spark learning with students.

Teaching interpretative reading with transmedia narratives – takeaways from a masterclass

Susanna Di Mauro

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana

Early in January I was fortunate to attend a masterclass presented by Professor Len Unsworth on “Teaching Interpretive reading: investigating novel, graphic novel and animated movie versions of the same literary narrative.” It was a great opportunity to engage with research and practice in middle-upper primary and secondary contexts, with Len as expert guide. The day’s discussion on a selection of transmedia narratives and the ensuing conversations afforded by a small group, provided an ideal stimulus for some generative learning and professional reflection.

Having said this, my focus for this post is not on the comparative analysis of the day’s selection of narratives but rather, some ideas and resources and a possible pathway I took away from the day.

“Begin with the end in mind.” Stephen Covey

Applying this habit can mean that starting with the end in mind ‘helps ensure you don’t drift unnoticeably off course.’ Like any planning, before you start, make sure you do your research so you can plan and adjust accordingly. Navigate and explore the curriculum not only to plan for where you are going but also to know what has come before and what is to come after. Plan for focused and explicit teaching to build student’s capacity and portable and transferrable understandings.

Build familiarity.

This goes for both yourself and your students. Check in with your teacher-librarian, colleagues and your students to explore their views and experiences, practices and resources. You might be able to connect with, use, reuse or remix these. Why not opt in for some professional learning, reading or viewing as a refresher.

Mix it up and think ‘extract notion.’

Select strategic excerpts and episodes for comparative analysis but remember your obligations as an Australian educator to be copyright aware. Consider how the power of one, a co-operative learning strategy and the potential of technology (Eg. a visualiser or multi-headphone splitter) to enable shared and individual reading, listening, viewing and a whole range of other possibilities. Here is a list of sites to access video clips.

Be strategic.

Be strategic in selecting, maintaining and updating your repertoire of strategies and resources. Select adaptations that provide interpretative possibilities, not just the book in another format. Look for possibilities and opportunities to investigate the omissions, compressions, insertions and adaptations and what is changed by these.

It’s all about the question!

We all know that well–crafted questions drive thinking and new insights. Effective questions lead to more questions and generate discussion and promote critical thinking. As I took note of some of the questions posed during the masterclass, I wondered about my ‘questioning toolkit’ and if and how the questions I ask provide a framework for scaffolding critical analysis and interpretation. Maybe it’s time for a ‘questioning’ audit.

As I draw to a close on my post-masterclass reflections I am looking forward to exploring the role of music in interpreting narratives. But I think I will let that investigation percolate for a while.

See a  list of resources on Listly

Gamification in the classroom – how to use game elements and dynamics to motivate student learning

by Philippa Branson

As a non gamer myself, when I first heard about Gamification, I assumed that it only had to do with embedding online games into the classroom. However, as I began to read more and more about it I came to understand that it was a powerful tool for learning.

To clarify, some educational institutions define Gamification as the use of gaming software, such as Minecraft, linked with curriculum. What I came to realise is that it can also be the use game dynamics and elements in existing lessons to boost student motivation to learn. As such, rather than relying on gaming software to spice up the learning, you can teach existing curriculum through gaming elements.

Games make us happy. They are challenging, competitive and encourage us to overcome obstacles to reach the ultimate goal. The feeling of achieving that goal is satisfying and rewarding. However, before we can reach it, we must solve problems, follow certain rules and gain skills along our journey to reach the end goal. Now, translate this practice into a classroom environment.

We all want our students to be motivated, engaged and willing to work through problems to be successful in their learning. Games have been a powerful medium since the last century so why not gamify your classroom to motivate successful learning.

Gamifying learning and teaching means to employ game dynamics, mechanics, components and elements. Some of these you may already use in your classroom. These might be collaboration, quests, puzzles, points system, goals, rules, a feedback system and riddles. What combines all these game tactics as a powerful tool for learning is sending the student on a ‘hero’s journey’. Here the reward is learning. What motivates and excites the gamer/learner is to begin the journey with a compelling story.

So, how can this translate into the classroom?


The robots who we named 'Bottie'

The robots who we named ‘Bottie’

I decided to try it out in a Robotics workshop to see if it can really engage and motivate students. Please, do not be turned off by it being a Robotics workshop. I know nothing about robotics (that’s where my sister comes in) but rather focused on transforming a traditionally teacher led workshop into an exciting game for students to learn through.

My sister, Courtney Branson, teaches robotics and we worked together to develop this gamified workshop for year 7s. Here are some of the ideas and resources that we created:

  • Jigsaw puzzle – of the robot labeled
  • An interactive Moodle lesson – questions to answer to guide gamers/students through the game
Interactive Moodle lesson

Interactive Moodle lesson

  • Leaderboard – a feedback system on how the learning was progressing
Helped students to understand their learning  progression

Helped students to understand their learning progression

  • Player pieces (in the shape of robots) for groups to work their way up the different levels of achievement
  • Filming a compelling trailer called, ‘Bottie’s Quest’ – an exciting narrative to capture the student interest
  • Riddles to unlock levels
  • Transforming the classroom into a large grid using masking tape
We masking taped the floor into a grid to capture the imagine of the gamers/students

We masking taped the floor into a grid to capture the imagine of the gamers/students

How will we know if gamifying this robotics workshop was successful? We are hoping that the gamers/students are engaged in the activity, that they understand the process of programming the robot without explicit teacher led instruction and that they are able to move up through the levels on the leaderboard.

Well, we achieved that and a whole lot more!

What we noticed throughout the lesson was that there were no behavior issues. Once we explained the game and the end goal – to become a competent robotic programmer, the students understood what they needed to do. Students commented that they loved that there was, ‘no yelling involved’ (from the teachers).

Students enjoyed the fact that they could work through the problems in their own time through the levels of the game. The physical and collaborative work in the classroom was supported and directed through an interactive lesson on Moodle. Students completed puzzles, deciphered riddles and answered quizzes (on Moodle) and these unlocked the next activity or level. There was no time limit to the levels.

Students working on a puzzle

Students working on a puzzle


Students moving up the different levels

Students moving up the different levels

Students were fascinated with the leader board. When we created this, we knew that it encompassed the ideas of Visible Learning. Students loved knowing how they were going with their learning at all times. What we were surprised by was that students who never usually understand the process of learning were able to be successful at each level and use the language of their learning with teachers. The leaderboard gave a taste of competitiveness to the gamers/students and this motivated them throughout the workshop.

Some feedback was that the group size of 4 or 5 was too many. However they did enjoy choosing their groups and working with their peers. Interestingly, the group who was behind in the initial levels were the ones to come first in the final level.


Students programming the perfect square

Students programming the perfect square

The film, ‘Bottie’s Quest’, was an excellent motivator for students when they failed. When the gamers/students failed, we didn’t have to go and fix up the problem. The students felt that they had already been given the tools to correct their mistakes and try again. Throughout this trial and error phase of programming, they could be heard saying, ‘don’t worry Bottie, we will help you graduate!’ Clearly this shows resilience and a deep motivation to reach the end goal despite failures and obstacles in their way. Mostly though, we were impressed at how self-directed and motivated the students were at this final stage in the game.

At the end, each student was given a Microsoft sticker to identify them as a competent programmer. It was visibly clear that the learning intention had been a success. The students were proud to wear their sticker as a badge.


Students reaction as they finished the game and became a competent robotic programmer

Students reaction as they finished the game and became a competent robotic programmer

As a result of our experience, we would highly recommend embedding gaming elements and dynamics into your classroom. Using quests, quizzes, leader boards, puzzles, riddles, narratives and team work is effective in engaging and motivating students to direct their learning through different levels and processes to achieve an ultimate learning goal. We found students to have a deeper understanding of their learning, the learning intention and felt a greater sense of reward and success at the completion of the gaming workshop. Students demonstrated resilience and willingness to solve problems without teacher direction and enjoyed themselves in the process.

Some further resources about gamification and learning:

Game to Learn

Taking serious games seriously in Education

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world

Gamification – open learning course


Join in the Open Space Technology revolution – opening up the learning floor to every participant at professional development days

By Philippa Branson

Do you want to run truly successful Professional Development experiences? Nothing has promised so much yet wasted so many hours than PD workshops that do not inspire real change in the classroom. We have all been there!! Those PD days that provided only some small promise of innovation. Some momentary glimmer of hope – for a few at least but not for all.

But how can a PD cater for the needs of every attendee? What if we flipped the conventional PD forum? What if the attendees picked the topics to be discussed? Could this work?

This is the basis for the Open Space Technology (OST) or the unconference conference – a professional development experience that sees the participants as central to the creation of the agenda for the day. This new technology has great promise for staff meetings and in school workshops. It can be used as a powerful tool for change, to enact a shared vision, or devise an authentic strategy to foster community relationships.

Open Space Technology


Why should you use Open Space Technology?

  • OST is an exciting new way of facilitating workshops and meetings that ensures every voice is valued.
  • OST is an empowering process that encourages the exploration of a shared and preferred future for all those involved.
  • OST promotes ownership and accountability to participants as it breaks down hierarchical structures of knowledge and leadership.
  • OST builds a community because it fosters authentic relationships where people can learn from each other and work together to build a shared vision for the future.
  • OST promotes ideals of cooperation, accountability and generosity and works effectively to solve complex and wicked issues as it generates new ways forward, new ways of thinking, and new ideas to nurture.
  • OST cultivates equity and inclusion because all experiences, all knowledge, and all expertise are shared, valued and explored with genuine interest.


So what is Open Space Technology?

Open Space Technology employs a democratic process for establishing a self-organizing agenda during a professional development session. Organizers of the session decide on a theme but leave the setting of the agenda to those in attendance via a collaborative process. In this way everyone, regardless of their background, can learn from each other. It works on the basis of breaking down the invisible barriers between the presenter and participants. No one person can claim to have all the answers. Instead OST offers a new, open and transparent way for surfacing cooperative and creative knowledge when faced with complex and wicked problems. As such, when using OST at a PD day, a staff meeting, or a conference, the session becomes participant driven and ultimately empowers everyone to be actively involved.


flickr photo by tedeytan shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

How does it work?

To ensure the session is effective, it’s important to have a well-defined objective when using OST. There are some clear guidelines but mostly OST operates on the ideals of choice and flexibility. Facilitators begin the session with a blank agenda wall but with the session times clearly visible. Participants choose what they would like to discuss and add this on a post-it note to the agenda wall. Post it notes are placed in certain session times. This is a very organic process. To achieve success, a climate of relaxed trust and safety is paramount.

On MLK weekend 2011, a community of activists, artists, idealists and technologists gathered in the pursuit of collaboration with the common goal of social justice. It was Social Justice Camp DC.

flickr photo by tedeytan shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Once the post it notes are on the wall, participants choose to take charge of particular sessions relating to the post it notes that are on the wall. Participants will run the session, take notes and follow up on actions. There might be 20 people attending a session, or only one, or none at all. It doesn’t matter. This just indicates the energy behind the topic, and allows participants to sit and reflect on the topic, or join another session.

On MLK weekend 2011, a community of activists, artists, idealists and technologists gathered in the pursuit of collaboration with the common goal of social justice. It was Social Justice Camp DC.

flickr photo by tedeytan shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Following this organisation of who’s running what and at what time and where, the Marketplace begins. This Marketplace is based on four guiding principles:

Whoever comes are the right people

Whatever happens is the only thing that could happen

When it starts it’s the right time

When it’s over, it’s over


flickr photo by deanmeyersnet shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license


The Law of Mobility supports this:

If you aren’t in the place where you are learning and contributing, go somewhere where you can.

What this means is that participants can move from session to session as they please. Hence, there can be “bumblebees” or “butterflies”. A Bumblebee buzzes from group to group cross-pollinating ideas and stinging with some tough questions. Whereas a butterfly takes a while to settle into sessions to float and flitter amongst and through the conversation before finally settling into one of them – but this is okay! Don’t forget the ideals of choice and flexibility.



flickr photo by Tatiana12 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


What makes it effective?

OST will work if all communication is transparent and engaging before, during and after the event.

Before the session/event engage participants by creating a poster that includes ideas, topics and, most certainly, the theme. Alternatively, communicate using web 2.0 tools such as a wiki, Weebly or by using social media sites such as Twitter. If you are using Twitter then it is important to create a hash tag and display this on the posters that are created.


During the session/event the provision of ongoing communication through a white board or blank wall helps, and this is something that the venue must be able to provide when choosing a place to host an OST event. Also, Twitter can be helpful in creating an engaging continuous conversation about the ideas being discussed. Here, creating a back channel or a tweet wall would encourage some wider discussion, statements and questions amongst the participants.

capture sheet

flickr photo by tedeytan shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

After the event the use of storify to capture these innovative ideas would ensure that the momentum is not lost amongst your participants.

So give it a go in your work place and see what possibilities can come from empowering your participants in your next staff meeting, workshop or conference. Unlearn what you know about PD and unconference your next event!

Brisbane Catholic Education staff can contact ResourceLink to find out more about this exciting new way to organise successful PD.

Augmented Reality in Education – update

About 3 years ago, I wrote two posts describing Augmented Reality and exploring the potential of Augmented Reality in education and the workplace: Augmented Reality – Even Better than the Real Thing? and Bringing Augmented Reality to Life – in the classroom and the workplace.

Take a moment to re-read these posts, or, if time is short, watch this great video  which will quickly bring you up to speed on what Augmented Reality is:

As you can expect, a lot changes in three years – resources such as String, which I explored previously have morphed to embrace new concepts, while tools like Aurasma have continued to develop the quality of their experience, providing more reliability and better results than ever before. What’s more, tools like Google Cardboard are moving beyond augmented reality, and providing a completely virtual reality experience – more on this in a future post!

But back to Augmented Reality (AR) – where technology allows you to create a ‘layer’ of information over a person’s experience of the world. When you think about it, educators are the original ‘augmented reality’, providing an overlay to student’s perspectives!

Tools such as Aurasma  enable learning to be engaging in a completely new way, and this post aims at providing some ideas as to how AR can used by students to raise their expression of learning to a new level.

As I introduced in earlier blog posts, Augmented Reality apps come in two main forms: the first is where a printed trigger image initiates an interaction through the camera of the mobile device, and the second where the app uses the mobile device’s GPS capabilities to ‘layer’ digital data over the location where the user is.

It is the first type where students can really get involved in the creation of AR, as they can either create both the trigger image and the overlay, or just overlay their own creation onto an image (or item, e.g. a book cover), through using an app such as Aurasma. There are a few other apps which allow for this AR creation, one notable one being DAQRI (you can see its potential here).  However, Aurasma appears to be the most stable and currently the best on the market. Access to the Educator’s 4D DAQRI Studio appears to be currently unavailable.

Check out just some of what can be created using Aurasma in this video:

In education, creating an overlay which enriches resources is the most obvious way to use this technology. Imagine being able to embed a book trailer video directly onto the cover of a book, so that students could simply open their phone or other mobile device to the AR app, scan the cover of the book and immediately view the trailer; AR makes this totally possible. Even better if the book trailer is student created – a way to bring student voice directly into the reading experience!

Another option would be to augment a student’s artwork with a video of themselves explaining the work, or a montage of the pieces that inspired their creation – again, not only possible, but easily and quickly done.

A third option is to record a student performance, and then embed this directly onto the criteria sheet, so moderating teachers simply view the sheet through their mobile device to review the student’s singing, dancing, acting etc – what a powerful way to bring assessment to life.

With creativity and imagination, the options are endless. What about using a video to demonstrate the correct pronunciation of foreign language words for a LOTE class, and overlaying these on the flashcards, or researching the plants in the school grounds and overlaying videos with this information onto signs near those trees or plants for others to view. Bring the map of the school’s local area alive with videos of elderly residents sharing their stories of how the area has changed, or link the school choir singing the school song to the logo on your newsletter. Even better, link newsletter photos with video, so parents can experience the moment as it happened.

Younger students could create slideshows of images all beginning with a particular letter or blend and then embed these on alphabet cards, while senior students could list the properties of elements and develop an interactive periodic doesn’t matter what age or stage, AR can allow students to demonstrate their own learning, and then easily share it with others, creating useful resources that other learners can benefit from also.

These are just some examples of how you could use an App such as Aurasma to bring AR into your classroom.  Aurasma is one of the easiest ways to create your own AR overlays. You can do it within the app on your mobile device, or, if you want greater flexibility, download the Aurasma Studio to create on your computer.

Augmented_realityThe steps on this PDF take you through just how you do this (click on the image or click here)

Once you have developed confidence with creating the overlay and combining it with the trigger image to create an AR experience, you can then distribute these either via email to specific users, or more broadly by creating your own ‘channel’ to which users can subscribe. Either choice is easy to set up either within the app itself, or in the online studio environment.

This field is changing all the time, so the best thing to do is just jump in and try it! Now that many students have access to mobile technology (either at home or at school or both), the implementation of AR is likely to become more common (at least more common than it was three years ago when I first wrote about it!).

If you would like to learn more, check out this Pinterest board, which has a growing range of links to different ideas, apps and information about AR – and if you bring AR into your classroom, drop us a line in the comments – we’d love to hear from you!



Learnings from EARCOS 2015 Teachers’ Conference

earcos_programIn March, I was honoured to be invited to present at the EARCOS 2015 Teachers’ Conference, at Sutera Harbour, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia. This conference hosted over 1100 delegates from international schools from the East Asia Region – including China, Malaysia, Phillippines, Myanmar, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, India and more. It was hosted in collaboration with SENIA (Special Educators Network in Asia), and with the theme of “Language for Life”, there were over 100 workshop sessions to choose from, focusing on literacy, language and learning.

The entire conference was an immense learning experience. The decision by the conference to forgo what are (largely) useless conference bags, instead donating this money to Operation Smile, a private not for profit organisation providing reconstructive surgery to children and young adults born in developing countries with facial deformities told me that this would be a conference different to any other I had attended. I was right. I learnt from keynote speakers John Wood and James Stronge, as well as from a range of presenters from the workshops I attended, from the delegates I met and spoke with, and from the experience of presenting to a truly international audience. In this blog post I will try to capture the flavour of the conference, and some of the key learnings I took away from it. I will also include access to the Storify I have compiled, which captures a range of resources from social media (mostly Twitter), which were shared by delegates and presenters throughout the conference.

Learning 1: Want to change the world? Educate children!

rtr_logo_color_mediumThe keynote speaker on the first day was the inspiring John Wood, who founded the Room to Read programme, which focuses on working in collaboration with communities and local governments across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the life skills they’ll need to succeed in school and beyond. So far, Room to Read has constructed 1930 schools, established 17 534 libraries and published 1158 books in local languages, as they work with people to develop a sense of ownership and engagement with education and literacy.

Why is this inspiring? Beyond the obvious, it is inspiring because this project doesn’t focus on giving hand outs – it focuses on working with the people on the ground, so that when the ‘outsiders’ walk away, the project doesn’t just crumble; it continues on, driven by the locals who have been involved from the beginning. It also recognises that investing in children can lead to significant change – educated children become educated adults, who can work to make the changes they want for their communities.

It is ironic that in Australia, and in many other Western, 1st world countries, libraries are increasingly being underfunded and understaffed, when so much of Room to Read’s focus is on building libraries up. Why is this so? Are we satisfied with our levels of literacy, and believe that there is no further need for free and open access to information, literature and inquiry? Ironically, in the age of exploding information and multiple literacies, we are letting go of those people and places who are best placed to support us! A challenge indeed for educators and administrators!

To get an idea of the types of work Room to Read does, check out this video, and then check out the website:

Learning 2: Literacy comes in many formsrobotics_posters

Programming a computer means nothing more or less than communicating to it in a language that it and the human user can both “understand.” And learning languages is one of the things children do best. Every normal child learns to talk. Why then should a child not learn to “talk” to a computer? – Seymour Papert, Mindstorms (Papert, 1980)

The work that Pana Asavavatana and Maria Peters are doing in Early Childhood at the Taipei American School in Taiwan is amazing. Using a wide variety of resources, these inspiring teachers are incorporating robotics and coding into their early childhood curriculum, in creative and engaging ways. With an emphasis on skill development, Pana and Maria emphasised that kids need to ‘unplug’ to learn computational thinking skills long before they get their hands on any type of technology – and with a range of games and activities, they have done just that. Generously sharing their planning as well as the cutest posters and resource ideas, this session brought home the fact that in today’s world, the literate child can do far more than just read and write alphabetic text.


Learning 3: Search is the skill of our era


Ok, so this one wasn’t really a learning so much as a confirmation of my beliefs from someone whom I have followed online for a long time. Jeff Utecht, of The Thinking Stick blog, has been someone that I have learnt from since my earliest days on the web. His work in international schools and beyond has focused on quality pedagogy enhanced by technology; rather than the other way around, and his session of Search brought home to me just how vital librarians, with enhanced skills in information literacy, are to schools and education. Librarians are some of the best qualified to teach what Jeff states is the most vital skill of our age – that of search – and in Jeff’s session, he revealed a plethora of tools and strategies that support the explicit teaching of these skills to students.


Learning 4: “If you can‘t explain it simply, you don‘t understand it well enough.” -Albert Einstein

rrrppp-creative-commonsIn preparing my four 90 minute presentations on Content Curation, Infosavvy Students, Makerspaces and Creative Commons, I realised that the best presentations are the ones that convey ideas simply, and which provide many practical take-aways for the participants. In researching, preparing and creating these workshops, I thought I had learnt almost everything I needed to know on these topics. However, through presenting them, responding to questions, discussing with participants and reflecting on how each session went, I learnt so much more. The experience was rewarding as it was a challenge to prepare workshops for an essentially unknown audience, from a wide range of schools in different countries, with different access to technologies and the internet. I learnt that while international schools face unique challenges to those in my Australian experience, educators the world over are united by a desire to connect, to provide access to the highest quality resources, and to instil in students not just content, but the ability to learn, solve problems and navigate a complex, information saturated world. I also learnt that international schools are at the cutting edge with their approach to contemporary learning; and that the work we do here at BCE and in ResourceLink is equally current and of the highest quality!

Below is a small selection of some of the key takeaways from the conference. For a more detailed summary, please read the Storify I created, a compilation of some of the best sharings from social media throughout the conference.

Changing Spaces, Changing Minds – Libraries and Learning Spaces as Places of the Future

Today my colleague and I were fortunate to participate in a workshop run by the passionate and inspiring Liz McGettigan, who is the Director of Digital Experiences at SOLUS. The workshop was entitled Changing Spaces, Changing Minds, and focused on  how to combine the physical with the virtual in public spaces. Although the workshop was aimed at Librarians, and investigated Liz’ and the participants’ experiences in libraries, many of the ideas and concepts could easily be adapted to apply to any learning space.


Like many institutions, libraries are currently in a state of flux. Whereas once libraries were a fount of knowledge, and librarians the gatekeepers of information, today, everyone has the world’s information in their pocket. So how do libraries (and many would argue schools) remain creative, relevant and sustainable community spaces where rich, real and relevant learning occurs? Just like in Will Richardson’s text Why School? (a extended essay which for $3.10 is a must read for anyone involved in education), Liz challenged us to step away from negative mindsets limited by funding shortages and staff cuts, and instead to embrace a new way of thinking about libraries, which focuses on leadership and vision.

“At a time when the provision of knowledge and culture is increasingly digital and screen-based, the value and importance of high-quality physical spaces and experiences is growing, not diminishing” Roly Keating, CEO British Library.

This quote by Roly Keating set the stage for an important discussion – how to effectively combine the physical and the virtual – to find the right balance so that library is seen not as a dusty remnant of the past, but as a living incubator of ideas, learning and innovation. The clues for how to achieve this are in the strategies employed by the commercial sector – entrepreneurial vision, effective marketing and meeting user needs – indeed, Liz encouraged us to ‘shake of our modesty’ and promote the wonderful work libraries do, and to make sure everyone knows that the library they remember from their childhood is now a completely different space!

The libraries of yesterday are nothing like the centres of creation and inspiration they are today!

The libraries of yesterday are nothing like the centres of creation and inspiration they are today!

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Super Furry Librarian
creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by The Daring Librarian

Learning Spaces(4)

Here in ResourceLink, we have been working at combining the physical space with the digital for some time. We have re-designed our physical space to create a more open, welcoming atmosphere, with more areas for groups to meet and work, inspired by the work of David Thornburg, Ewan McIntosh, Bruce Mau Design and others as you can see in this infographic I created to the right (click for a larger image):

We have played with Augmented Reality, both as a learning tool and as a way of engaging our users in our displays and resources, which we shared in this blog in the article Bringing Augmented Reality to Life – in the classroom and the workplace

A staff member viewing Rick's video explanation using an iPod touch. Students using mobile devices to view the past and the future with Augmented Reality

A staff member viewing Rick’s video explanation using an iPod touch.
Students using mobile devices to view the past and the future with Augmented Reality

We deliver a hybrid collection of resources, including physical items, digital and online resources through our online catalogue. Indeed, my colleagues and I joke that we would like our library management system to be one day ‘greater than Google!’. We use a range of different tools for information service delivery, including social curation tools such as Pinterest, Diigo and Bag the Web and social catalogues like Library Thing (click these links to see some of our collections).

The BCE Digital Library is delivered via our online library catalogue and enables students and staff at all 137 BCE schools to access ebooks and audiobooks.

The BCE Digital Library is delivered via our online library catalogue and enables students and staff at all 137 BCE schools to access ebooks and audiobooks.

Additionally, we provide access to e-books and audiobooks using the Overdrive platform, integrated within our library management system. Also included in the catalogue are bibliographic records linking to resources that include online video clips, websites and app reviews. Users may also search and access a selection of alternative providers from within the catalogue. This carefully evaluated and up to date list of alternative providers include Getty Images, Khan Academy, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Australian National Library.

In doing so, it is hoped that if no physical item is available to meet the user’s needs, there is a far greater chance that the information the user is seeking will be available via one of these alternative formats or avenues.

makeyWe have also dabbled in Makerspaces, creating kits that schools can borrow so that they can play and learn. The development of these kits was inspired by the work of Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, and was informed by the best use of our space, and the needs of our users, which are mainly schools. You can read about these kits, and see how we put them together in these blog posts, Resourcing the Maker Movement and  Running a Maker Faire.

With a focus on learning, creating and innovating, ResourceLink also has a production room, where we create many short films working with other members of staff at Brisbane Catholic Education. One of our productions was created to introduce users to our Digital Library collection:

What’s next for ResourceLink? Inspired by Liz McGettigan’s workshop, we hope to venture more fully into the social media space, engaging with our users more regularly in the virtual world, and spending more time developing our knowledge around online learning. We aim to continue developing our content and to work towards truly being an incubator of ideas, inspiration and imagination.


CMYK: Using Film to Engage, to Explore, to Challenge and to Celebrate Learning.


I think empathy is a beautiful thing. I think that’s the power of film though. We have one of the most powerful, one of the greatest communicative tools known to man. – Michelle Rodriguez

Each year the team at ResourceLink coordinates a film festival based around a particular theme.  This year’s it is CMYK: Celebrating Life’s Colours.  The festival is a celebration of film and its power as a vehicle to promote deep learning.  A part of this film festival is a student produced festival, where students from across the diocese of Brisbane create and submit films that explore the theme.

In 2013 the team from ResourceLink worked collaboratively with 4 core teachers in a model of professional learning that is focused on teaching both the students and the teachers the process of making film.  The outcome of this model has truly been inspiring and energizing.

This post will seek to explore how film and the process of film making can be used to engage students in learning, to explore rich content, to challenge students and to celebrate student learning in diverse ways.

“The moment we cry in a film is not when things are sad but when they turn out to be more beautiful than we expected them to be.”  Alain de Botton

Engage students in rich content:

Traditionally using film in the learning and teaching process was time consuming.  Teachers had to organise access to a particular VHS or DVD, checking for availability at the school library or local video store. In order  to screen the film, they either had to wheel the TV/DVD Combo (often bolted to a overly tall trolley) or book the A/V room, arrange students around the comparatively small screen and then try to engage students in some form of critical reflection of the content of the film.  In some instances this is still occurring in schools today.

However through contemporary technologies, teachers and students can access endless film content online – easily and quickly.

There are so many diverse ways film can be used in the learning and teaching process.  An engaging film will spark a student’s imagination; stimulate inquiry; and engage students in rich content.

One way of sparking creative and imaginative thought is to stop the film at a crucial point in the story and invite the students to complete the story or to imagine what might happen next. This is a terrific short to watch in its entirety – but even more powerful in the classroom if you stop it when the tornado ends about 2 minutes in:

Engaging students with film also requires educators to select and use a range of genres.  Why not immerse students in a new area of inquiry with a particular short film in science

or engage students in the process of imaginative narrative.

Film has traditionally been used as a way of delivering content, but creating film is a powerful and engaging way to facilitate and support student learning.

One major way film can facilitate learning is through feedback;

A teacher or parent can provide corrective information, a peer can provide an alternative strategy, a book can provide information to clarify ideas, a parent can provide encouragement, and a learner can look up the answer to evaluate the correctness of a response. Feedback thus is a “consequence” of performance – Hattie & Timperley (2007)

Filming student learning provides an immediate and accurate record from which students may gather feedback through self-reflection, from teachers or family and even from experts worldwide.

The following film shows how a student is using film to seek feedback and assistance from others.

The boy has made the film himself and Braille Skateboarding has added their voice over comments, provide guidance on how he might improve his skateboarding technique.  The combination of video and the internet has provided this boy access to experts in the field he may never had access to ordinarily.  The potential for film as a tool for feedback is endless.

When creating films for the CMYK film festival, students of diverse levels of ability engaged in robust critical discussion about film, its content and how the film was made.  They also modeled the ability to reflect on their own work in a critical way and took steps to modify their work as a result. These skills were developed in the context of film making, and the authenticity of the project made the learning far more meaningful.

There are so many ways film making supports learning in the classroom;  how might film support students with learning disabilities, or in particular specialist areas?

Oh how Shakespeare would have loved cinema! – Derek Jarman, Dancing Ledge

Explore complex ideas

While the power of film is undeniable, often finding quality content and managing this can be time consuming.  The team at ResourceLink often uses social media as a way of learning about and sourcing quality film for use in education.

One way to manage the films that are discovered is  through the use of Pinterest.  You can have either one board for all videos or different boards for different video genres, but the strength is that you can go directly to the video you wish, enlarge it within Pinterest and view fullscreen without ads, related videos and comments.  You can view all the films referred to in this post and more here.

When searching for quality content, teachers often go to YouTube; but it is not the only source.  Most teachers have heard of TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talks.  TED Talks  are a series of conferences that have been held for the past 25 years and are aimed to showcase the best of technology, entertainment and design. For the last five years they have been available for everyone to access for free, online.

TED Talks are often inspiring and engaging videos that aim to challenge and present new ways of thinking about contemporary idea.  Whilst these can be accessed via on the Ted Channel on YouTube the TED Talks site  has lot of features to make it easier to use in the classroom. These include interactive transcripts that you can use to navigate to different parts of the video, and download or embed options for sharing easily on a learning management system or other online platform.  Below is example of a quality TED Talk that might be used when exploring problem solving, developing nations and sustainability.

Another quality source is WatchKnowLearn. This site has approximately 50,000 indexed educational videos, placing them into a directory of over 5,000 categories. The videos are available without any registration or fees to teachers in the classroom, as well as parents and students at home and can be access 24/7.

TrueTube  is a site from the UK that focuses on RE, Health and PE and Citizenship videos, most aimed at students aged 11-16. The video quality is high and tackles some tricky topics in a balanced way. The site is administered by an independent production company CTVC.  who seeks to raise important ethical questions from “those of all faiths and none”.  As such teachers in a Catholic school should be aware that some of the key messages of these films may not be in keeping with Catholic theology; but there are many useful videos available at this source.

When making their films for the CMYK film festival,  students were immersed in film, reviewing as much film as possible, sharing their thoughts about film, film techniques and the importance of the message of the film for an audience. With such a range of content at teachers’ fingertips, sourcing this quality content is far easier than previously.

It is an example of what films can do, how they can slip past your defences and really break your heart – David Gilmour

Challenge creativity

The power of film to challenge us as individuals, how we see ourselves and each other is truly amazing.  We all can recall a scene from a film which moves us, we use  key sayings in our day-to-day lives from classic moments in cinema, we are transported to a galaxy far far away when we hear a particular tune.  Film speaks to us on an emotional level.

While we as educators can easily see ways to use film as a jumping off point to engage,  explore and challenge student learning, it is the challenge of using the process of making film to drive student learning which can be daunting.

The trick to making a film is to not think you need any professional equipment (although it would be awesome to have access to it). The only thing you need is an imagination and access to a camera and a device to edit the film on. You will be amazed at how great a film might be that has been made solely using a mobile device.  See how these film makers made a short film entirely on their iPhone4 using the iMovie app.

Whilst these film makers had access to addition cinematic equipment you and your students can create similar products with a little knowledge of the four phase approach to making a film, camera angles and shot types, which can be accessed here.

YouTube can also be used to edit your own film, using the video editor feature  and most PC and Apple products have basic video editing software.

The challenge that comes from taking on the challenge of film making is twofold, balancing the ‘right product’ for the ‘right context’ dilemma and ensuring that the films are developed in a way that promotes a practical understanding of copyright.

Not all student produced films need to be a finished ‘polished’ product.  There are many reasons why students make film during the learning process and the final product is not the assessable item in many cases.  The learning may have been derived through making the film; the film making process may have been a vehicle of gathering feedback or a vehicle to communicate student knowledge and understanding.  In these cases, the final product does not require a Hollywood level of production.  Using a mobile device and the  Videolicious app students can create great one minute films.

The process of making a highly polished film promotes valuable learning about content areas but also more broadly provides students with a way of fostering and extending their creativity, challenging their social and problem solving skills and promoting resilience in the face of many differing demands.  See what some of the 2013 ResourceLink student produced film festival participants thought about the process, their learning and how film might be used in their classrooms,  and watch some of the finished films below.

In both instances the students who produced these films not only engaged in the creative process of film making but also needed to ensure their work didn’t breach copyright.  The students learnt about accessing Creative Commons images and music to help build their final works – and you can learn more about how to access and use creative commons and other copyleft materials here on the Copyright Copyleft website, created by ResourceLink.

“Film is the greatest educational medium the world has ever known.” ― Preston Sturges, Sullivan’s Travels

Celebrate learning

By now if you haven’t been scared off using film in the learning and teaching process, you most probably are going to or have already done so.  Now you’ll be building a bank of great films, of various levels of production from quick grabs of students reading their imaginative narratives, collaborating during a group process, demonstrating a particular skill or screening a highly polished film.

Film is meant to be shared, so don’t keep them hidden away in a portfolio or on a DVD or USB gathering dust.  There are many ways to share these films so that students can revisit, reflect and celebrate their learning.  Why not see how YouTube is being used by the Brisbane Catholic Education Religious Education Services team here.

Set up your own YouTube channel, to store and share not only the films you and your learners have made but also to link to other films you are using to engage and explore learning in your classroom.  Often YouTube videos can be embedded in learning management systems or other digital platforms. Alternatively, you can share the link to these films using a QR code, so that the community can view your films on their mobile devices.  Learn more about QR Codes here.

Get adventurous and try using these films to augment reality, using a selection of readily available tools, which you can read more about here.

Films and film-making offer a huge number of opportunities to engage students,  to explore new ways of working and rich content, to challenge our ways of thinking  and to celebrate learning. With little required to begin using quality film and making films in your classroom, don’t put off this amazing avenue for student learning any longer – take the plunge and you and your students will have everything to gain.

Brisbane Catholic Education 2013 Sustainability Conference

Recently BCE ran a great Sustainability Conference at Riverglenn Conference Centre, Indooroopilly, Brisbane.   This inaugural one-day conference was designed to support school leaders, school sustainability contacts and Brisbane Catholic Education Office personnel as they strategically plan for sustainable practices within their communities in areas of formation, curriculum and action.

The day featured keynote addresses from Profession Ian Lowe, President of the Australian Conservation Foundation and Toby Hutcheon, Qld Conservation Council.  Other workshops to choose from including:  School stories on reducing waste, Connections with Sustainability and: Catholic Social Teaching, the BCE Justice Education policy, Cross Curriculum Priority and Schools Beyond Zero Waste.

View the 3 min snapshot video of the day.

iPad uPad wePad; Going 1-1 at St Oliver Plunkett

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to St Oliver Plunkett to be a part of their 1-1 iPad rollout to the very excited Year 6 class.

Oliver Plunkett logo bannerLed by their fabulous teacher librarian, Ann-Marie Furber and fearless class teacher, Brooke Maguire, with consultation from the very dedicated and talented Education Officer Learning and Teaching Technologies, Danielle Carter, the Year 6 class participated in a series of workshops in order to develop their skills before they were officially given management of their very own devices.

While the school maintains ownership, the students manage the purchasing of additional apps, and the care and maintenance of the iPads for the time they are at the school. This means the students have 24-7 access to their learning. The rollout has been a carefully managed process, with a great deal of professional development and pre-planning being done before the students had access to the devices.

The bootcamp itself was a terrific opportunity to work with a group of enthusiastic and excited Year 6 students. The workshops they participated in dealt with simple tips and tricks for managing their iPad, Email etiquette, run by Ann-Marie Furber, Teacher Librarian, Successful Searching, run by classroom teacher Brooke Maguire and Copyright and Creative Commons, run by myself, Kay Cantwell, Education Officer Digital Learning. Once the students had completed these workshops, they were officially licensed to take ‘ownership’ of their devices.

Evidence of the planning undertaken prior to this 1-1 rollout was the well established resources that had been developed in order to maximise student learning. Rather than be overwhelmed with apps, or being seduced by limited, content focused apps that had all of the bells and whistles but little quality pedagogy, lists of Core Student and Core Teacher apps were developed, as well as a list of apps suitable for Inquiry Learning.

Core Teacher AppsCore AppsInquiry Learning Apps

This, along with a ‘workflow wall’ which creates a visual list of apps the students need to access in order to complete a task, allows students to make use of their iPad as a tool, rather than as a source of low level learning or as a time filler activity and games device.

The students loved both the Bootcamp, and of course the idea of having these devices to aid their learning; some of their feedback after the sessions included:

I give today a 5 because learning all these new things about this amazing device
& that we are the class to be chosen is pretty cool.

I give today a five because we had lots of learning opportunities and it was totally AWESOME!!!!!!!!

I give today a 5 because it was fun and cool way to learn

I give today a 5/5 because it was a very good learning experience for me.
Thank you to all the teachers for making it a great day!

This is a list of what the students learnt:

Bootcamp Summary

I’m sure the 1-1 iPad rollout at St Oliver Plunkett is going to be a huge success – due to the careful planning, the focus on learning, and the fact that the iPads are not being viewed as the be-all and end-all, but just another (albeit incredibly powerful) tool for the students to utilise in their learning journey.


See below for the Copyright Resource that I created to help the Year 6’s begin to understand the crazy complexities of copyright, and the potential of Creative Commons. With a content creation tool such as the iPad at their fingertips, it is vital that the students know how to access resources that they have permission to use when creating multimodal works. Link to the Presentation and Booklet.