Change Management - moving from email to Gmail


I recently initiated a change at my school, one which would prove to be the biggest challenge I have faced in my professional career. I changed something which every staff member uses throughout every single day. A technological tool which, should it fail could be detrimental to the success of my organisation. It's hard to believe that we have become so dependant on it really! But email is integral to our professional and personal lives. It is a space which occupies so much of ones time, that even the slightest loss of functionality or adjustment in look and feel, can seemingly ruin someone's whole day.

After very careful deliberation, and months of trial and review I transitioned my entire school email from Microsoft Outlook, to Google Apps for Education. In this article I will discuss why I did this, outline some of the challenges faced and share how and why you should consider the same strategy for your school.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." There are a few things which have not changed since the invention of personal computing. Firstly the qwerty keyboard. It's been there since day one. Many have tried and failed to improve this interface, even on the most advanced laptops and tablets, the qwerty keyboard appears in its unchanged layout. I wonder if this is simply because some changes are just too big to implement, they are too deeply ingrained into us as human beings, (more on this idea later).

Secondly email. The appearance and functionality has not been adjusted since the early 90's. I recall AOL inboxes appearing for the first time with multiple folders and a new list of technical words. Sent Items and Trash Cans have become synonymous with email, even the word "In box" needs no introduction. And Attachments are precious as we share ideas and collaborate, back and forth these documents flow, being duplicated so many times that "inbox full!" messages are selectively ignored and dismissed by many as a technical glitch.

25 years on and we face an ever expanding dependency on our email. Despite many messages we receive being "Spam" and dozens of emails we are made privy to which often don't even concern us! "CCing", forwarding and group messages, the dreaded one word response wasting precious moments of our mornings ("Thanks" or "ok", no it's not ok! Now I have to press delete!).

Well I thought that there has got to be a better way. I knew that the answer didn't lie in Outlook no matter how much you mastered your inbox. The answer, it turns out, didn't lie in Gmail either. But what has started to make a profound and positive impact at my school has been the adoption of the entire Google Apps for Education suite.

The review process There are really just 2 serious modern contenders for your email needs. Microsoft Office 365 and Google Gmail. I was fortunate enough to work previously at a school which had adopted "365". I used the platform for many months and it worked great. All staff had huge amounts of free storage and sending large attachments was no longer a problem. Most used the Outlook email client on their computers and to set it up was a snap! The calendar integration was so easy that planning your day, or others in your domain was very simple. The change over was so smooth that the teachers really had no idea they were using a new, updated tool. Users were comfortable in the familiar environment.office365logoorange-100023492-gallery

Microsoft market 365 with many added benefits. Each user is entitled to the Microsoft Office suite, incorporating Word and Excel all in the cloud. These cloud services work well but there is no doubt that Microsoft encourage the purchase of the native desktop programs to compliment.

I took a look at Gmail as well. This is an email platform that does not use Microsoft Exchange (a technology that underpins most email solutions). This meant that my colleagues could not use their familiar Outlook email clients, so initially Gmail was shelved. For months it was ruled out, I just could not expect staff to leave behind the comfortable interface with which they have become so accustomed to.

At my school we have adopted a model where we look to transform tasks. By that I mean we lever modern technology in a method which may appear different or unnatural for the user, but always results in a more efficient process with a greater productive outcome. Using Google Apps for Education oozed with transformational opportunities. For example, gathering permission slips from multiple parents can become tedious in an email conversation. Email clients just don't lend themselves well when you need to quiz your students quickly to see who is available for a sports team or an after school event. It is here where you would utilise the power of Google Forms. In minutes you can set up a list of questions, distribute to your class group and gather the responses in a flexible spreadsheet. A good example of the underlying task remaining the same, but the process and outcome being greatly enhanced.

So with the benefit of working in a school that encourages a fertile working environment I broached the subject of Google Apps with my colleagues. For 12 weeks I trialled the services with 8 staff members. As we started the process the outcome seemed inevitable, we had to position ourselves beneath the umbrella of tools provided by Google. I was astounded at the range of services, all for free...completely free.

Google Apps Logo

Google or Microsoft. But why did you opt for Google I hear you ask. Why not Microsoft 365? They both have collaborative features like forms and Google Docs.

Providing simplicity and clarity for my colleagues and students is important to me. I have always disliked the multitude of passwords and usernames I ask people to remember as we embrace new digital services. "Sign in with Google" was something I was seeing more of on the internet. Visit KhanAcademy.com and you will see exactly what I mean. So by transitioning staff to Google Apps for education meant that my colleagues were instantly members of dozens of educational suites (including BrainPop, Desmos, CodeAcademy and Educreations to name a few).

Google also allow third party developers access to API's to design completely independent apps available via the Google Chrome browser. Already there are 100's of these Web Apps available in the education section and this is growing every month. And thanks to the native apps on mobile devices such as Chrome, Gmail and Drive, Google contribute generously to the iOS and Android mobile device market.

I feel that the clue is in the name; "Office" 365 works beautifully in the loyal office environment where Word documents are still sacred. But in an education setting where students and staff focus on content and creativity (as opposed to appearance and raw data), Google Gmail is a no brainer.

Free Cloud Computing is the future. Google Apps for education is a perfect example of this. Emails, documents, and wiki type "Sites" are created, reside and are accessible entirely on Google servers. Security and 99.9% uptime is guaranteed. Collaboration has never been easier, each user has 30gigs of storage and a single username and password for everything. Google are very clear about their security and data ownership. I strongly encourage you to visit this link: (http://www.google.com.au/enterprise/apps/education/benefits.html).

The biggest challenge which I faced was requesting that staff put faith into Google Chrome, a web browser and our new software of choice. It is entirely possible to synchronise your Google account with Apple "Mail" or Mozilla Firebird. However I would highly recommend that if you want to benefit from the full suite of Google Apps you must commit to Chrome. A convenient bar runs across the top of your session constantly reminding you that you are signed in and you are never more then 1 click away from Drive, Sites, or Calendar.

Google does come with its short comings. The email inbox appears upside down to many. So your email conversations begin with the oldest messages at the top. You are forced to view long strings of conversation just to reach your destination to reply at the bottom. I'm reassured that “there is good reason for this” but I have yet to discover it. There is also no clear indication if I have replied or forwarded a message. I am confident that Google will address these minor irritations, and updates to the interface do come regularly. Google Chrome is Google's flagship product, it fills me with confidence to know that things will continue to improve at a steady pace.

Change and identity Just last week I was fortunate enough to see Dan Gregory speak. Dan is an expert in brand identity, advertising and change management. You may remember him as "The fat one off Gruen Transfer" (his words not mine). Dan spoke of one's need for identity and why people associate so closely with a product which they use every day. "We resist change because it conflicts with our identity". Because identity creates a sense of zeal, actioning change can be met with enormous resistance.

Dan Gregory, one of the most entertaining and insightful speakers I have been fortunate enough to meet.

On one single morning about 6 weeks into our Gmail adoption 3 people said the words "I hate it" to me. I realised it was time to double my efforts. I scheduled many more impromptu PD sessions throughout the school day with different departments. These were well received and I am happy to say that 12 weeks in and the big change is being accepted. Not only that, but the community are starting to work smarter. And the future will bring significant cost savings as we utilise the 42 terabytes of free storage provided and maintained by a third party.

Conclusion My job hasn't just been to research and implement this technical change. My real role has become more about assisting individuals to shift their expectations. To let go of habits formed with ageing technology. I implemented a forward thinking solution which is beginning to have a profound effect on learning and teaching, and you should too.

The Digital Education Revolution comes to an end. Where now?


The final round of government funding is currently being distributed to schools all around Australia. So far over 967,000 computers have been bought, infrastructure built and (most) teachers up-skilled to benefit from the acquisition. But as the funds come to an end, many school principals are wondering if the process has been beneficial, and how can they continue to support and progress the Digital Education Revolution? Way back in 2008 the Labor Government initiated the National Secondary Schools Computer Fund (NSSCF). Over 2.4 billion dollars has been spent, year groups 9-12 were targeted and the focus, according to the 2007 Election Policy document "is aimed at ensuring one million Australian upper secondary students get an education with the latest technology, to prepare them for the jobs of the future".

My concern is that the focus was misdirected from the beginning. All efforts were seemingly made to provide each student with their own laptop, simply to prepare them for a technology based workforce or "jobs of the future". Teaching and learning somehow got lost in the planning to spend, the focus of preparing students for future jobs took precedent over preparing students to excel in literacy and numeracy.

It is easy to see how many have seen this whole process as nothing more than political spin. The figures are very impressive, and it is easy for Labor to claim the project a success. After all, they have met their targets. The Computer Fund has achieved a one computer per student (1:1 ratio) for students in Years 9 to 12. But measuring the true success of this "revolution" in terms of learning outcomes, is nigh on impossible.

Most schools are left with more questions then answers. Are we utilising the computers properly? Can we keep maintaining fast internet access and wireless coverage? Did we choose the right computers? And the most important question: can we afford to continue the 1 to 1 laptop program?

I manage an IT department in a part of Perth which has a low socio-economic background. Our parents are by no means wealthy and the school has welcomed the DER money with open arms. My predecessor made some excellent decisions and focused on upgrading our wireless network. We executed the integration of laptops so well that the school gained a reputation as being a digital "light house" school. Just a few weeks ago Julia Gillard herself visited to marvel at the presence of so much technology and so many happy students.

Julia Gillard visits Kolbe Catholic College, March 2013

But beneath the facade their was much more happening. A culture change was taking place which was trickling down from the management team and senior staff. We no longer wish to be known as a technology driven school. We wish to see our students excel in their chosen field. We want to provide students with diverse opportunities and see them become independent thinkers. This is what I believe will prepare them for "jobs of the future", not knowing how to use Powerpoint or organise their Home folders.

This sentiment appears to be echoed by Labor's National Plan for School Improvement. An initiative aimed squarely at raising achievement in reading, maths and science. With this is mind we must, like many other schools, decide how to proceed without the thousands of dollars from the government. Technology must be kept current, to simply use the existing computers that we have for another 4 years is not practical. To take on the expense ourselves as a school is simply not viable.

Bring Your Own? BYOD and BYOT are acronyms which have been discussed a lot recently. The reason for this is because schools are asking students to "Bring Your Own Device", or even "Bring Your Own Technology". The key difference is that the student can choose for themselves which computer to use with the latter. Where as a BYOD approach is one where a school requests a particular computer which the student must supply.

Each model has its own pros and cons, but what I find most interesting is the general acceptance by parents that now it is acceptable to place a $500 item on the school booklist.

The government led DER may take a lot of criticism, but it has had an enormous positive impact on education. I consider it to be a success, and it came at a very important transitional stage for personal computing. Even the most critical parent has the foresight to see that teaching is going through tremendous positive change as a direct result of personalised learning devices.

The home for many harbours plenty of high-end digital tools, mainly used for entertainment. And technology has been so ingrained into our lives that for a student to already own a tablet or be handed down a laptop computer from a parent is not unusual. So what has been started by the government can be easily continued by the parent.

Bring your own technology really does seem like a perfect solution. However questions must be addressed surrounding equity for all students. Although, this is no different to any other school apparatus not available for disadvantaged students and can be remedied. I also have grave concerns surrounding the teaching practice in the classroom. Many teachers struggle capitalising on a single device let alone multiple technologies being used in the classroom. However these hurdles can easily be overcome with effective leadership and support, and good PD for staff.

Tasks in the classroom need to be less technology driven, and more outcomes based. For example digital story telling can come in many forms. The creative use of video, stop animation with still pictures, even podcasting can be achieved on all modern computers and tablets. How the student creates these assignments is for them to discover and put into practice. What the content holds should be of interest to the teacher, not the technology or process used to make it. These are examples of developing young minds into critical thinkers who can problem solve and discover new applications for themselves.

Letting Go A big trend and strategy which I apply at my school is maximising on free services such as cloud storage, email and calendar solutions. In turn you are pushing responsibility of data back to your users (students and staff) and spending less money maintaining any server rooms which you have.

In order to do this though it is paramount that the school provide the most stable and efficient network possible, while increasing bandwidth to the internet. The NBN has been a long time coming, and upgrading your school to the fastest fibre connection available may be the best IT decision you make this year. This additional bandwidth will allow you to migrate more services out of your server room, but also provide fast access to learning resources, and enable real time collaboration.

As we begin to rely on services from providers such as Google, Apple, Dropbox, Evernote etc, we must also be prepared to let go of the device requirement which we impose. We must consider allowing students to bring which ever computing device they choose to school. The family home likely already has ample digital tools, and it is cost effective to support this. As the DER funding dries up we have little choice but to allow parents to manage their own child's technology.

Where the school must pay particular attention to is the internet gateway it provides, including the content available to students. It is imperative that while devices are in your school network, you know who they are and monitor activity as much as possible. But think for a moment that you will provide a constantly safe environment for students, and you will be proven wrong very quickly.

Such is the nature of modern technology many students can easily circumnavigate any internet proxy imposed. Mal Lee sums this up perfectly on his website www.byot.me:

"Even in class, many kids can use their 3G or similar service. Addressing sociological problems such as cyber safety with a technological solution is doomed to failure."

This is why a Digital Fair Use Policy is of equal if not greater importance than a content filtering web proxy, which simply builds walls made from tissue paper.

A Pandora's Box


Developing a Digital Fair Use Policy for your home and school. Creating a Digital Fair Use Policy for your school which preserves authentic teaching while utilising the full potential of modern technology is a precarious task which carries large implications.

Many schools throughout W.A. are finding themselves in a position where students are armed with modern devices which empower students so much, that some teachers are feeling an overwhelming sense of despair. Parents find themselves navigating a type of teenage angst never known before. An awkward adolescents, made worse by an affiliation with new fangled technology resulting in a type of popularity contest conducted in an online world...a stage where one is judged by friends and peers.

It is this unknown space occupied by precarious social tools like Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook which have the potential to leave our students seriously exposed. As a school we go to great lengths to protect student records and personal details, in a blink of an eye of all this can come undone by a misguided student.

Schools are encouraged to utilise technology in a way that can transform education, and in every case there is overwhelming evidence that this is happening. But the task of effective Professional Development for both teacher and parent is often skimmed over, and “shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted” is a term which springs to mind a little too often.

Opened up a Pandora's box

It is easy to liken a tablet device to a Pandoras Box, holding both incredible curiosity, but also potential for catastrophic mischief. The Greek myth goes on to describe; at the bottom of Pandora’s box lies the Spirit of Hope called Elpis. This comparison does bear considerable verity. And as school management purchase new digital tools, they must prepare for undesirable outcomes. But the hope at the bottom of the box is there in plain sight; it lies in the preparation and upskilling of staff and parents. Some solutions are in the form of “Guided Access” and “Restrictions” which in the iPads case, are never more than 2 clicks away.

Students need stringent guidelines and boundaries. And my experience shows that most respond very well to the instruction they are given, some value the trust distilled into them and proceed to utilise an education full of diverse opportunities.

One implication of a digitally driven school (and a big concern of mine) is the sheer amount of time consumed by personal devices. Especially as computers reduce in size and connectivity options expand. I visited my hometown of London in December. I did some travel by train and was impressed to see “Quiet Carriage” sections marked clearly with signs and enforced by both ticket inspectors and fellow passengers. These Quiet Carriages clearly indicate that mobile phones, music players and other electronic devices are not to be used. In a similar way both libraries and museums practice similar restrictions.

FGW HST Standard Class coach A headrest cover 2005-06-09

What I find interesting is not the enforcement of such rules but what the rules imply. As I travelled through the carriages of this train into a non quiet carriage I was met with row upon row of passengers with headphones glued to their ears and others deep in conversation on their phones. Some were watching movies and others browsing the internet. It occurred to me that the default for our generation is to be constantly connected. Connected to the web, to media and to each other. We actually need to be instructed when to switch off!

This idea of constant connectivity is reinforced by research completed by an American company, the Kaiser Family Foundation. The KFF have been studying media use in the lives of eight- to 18-year-old Americans for 10 years. Over that time, three reports have been published. “Media use” was described as a combination of television, video games, listening to music, reading printed text and using a computer.

The results showed an increase of the “Average amount of time spent with media in a typical day” from 7 hours 29 minutes in 1999 to 10 hours 45 minutes in 2009. Just to re-cap, young people in 2009 were accessing digital media for over 10 hours per day. This does include multi-tasking (ie watching television while browsing Facebook), but it really does ring alarm bells for me as I develop a new Digital Fair Use Policy for my school.

The report (available at www.KFF.org) goes on to state: “Youth who spend more time with media report lower grades and lower levels of personal contentment”.

The implications of this saturation of young peoples lives is not yet known. But I am concerned that if we are to develop our students into authentic and critical thinkers, such intense immersion in a Google queried world may not be the right direction to head in. In order to create something original, without the fear of influence or criticism, we may need to ask our students to “disconnect”. It is important that the Quiet Carriage becomes the norm once again, especially in schools. Only when needed, or when instructed by the teacher/parent, should students be expected to reach for their devices.

Missing iWork/Microsoft Office?


I talk with a lot of schools who are planning an iPad/Macbook roll out. As they prepare computers for the students and staff, it is soon realised that the device, seems to come out of the box without a fully functioning word processor. In true, and traditional manner a search for the best word processor begins, but quite often schools make a wrong and costly decision.


Most re-sellers will respond by suggesting you purchase a Microsoft Office license. “You’re gonna need Microsoft Office, the package which contains Outlook”. Seems obvious to me, but a school license for staff can easily run into the thousands of dollars. Surely in the era of change and transformation, we can do without spreadsheets and Word files?

It is equally disappointing that OS X arrives with no Pages, Keynote or Numbers. And at $21.00 each it is a costly exercise to get the iWork suite onto your Mac. So lets have a look at what is available... for free.

Text Edit is an awesome app You can write all day long, create bullets and lists, text alignment is easy and you can even change font. I ask you this; when the content is key, why do you need anything else? You can embed images as well. And yes, you can open Microsoft Word files. Albeit the tables may appear out of kilter, and the text wrapping and formatting may look different. But lets not get too precious over the layout and design just yet.

You’ll also have a great little program called Notes. Notes is not quite as flexible as Text Edit but when you need the convenience of easy iCloud sync, Notes does the job.

Word processing, not page layout Although not free, a personal favourite app of mine is iA Writer for the iPad. The reason being; a feature called Focusmode which blacks out the surrounding paragraphs and lines, allowing me to focus completely on the sentence at hand.

For easily distracted students (and bloggers) this feature has allowed me to press forward with word processing with the option to edit later. This kind of writing is commonly encouraged by English teachers, and with the advantage of iCloud sync, I can finish my writing on the Mac. Both iOS and iPad apps are very cheap.

Even more, with Google The real game changer (especially for education) is Google Drive. Perhaps the main purpose of this article is to encourage you to investigate this storage come collaborative space.

Producing words in an internet browser window is not exactly a revelation. After all, we have been typing and formatting emails for decades. Indeed Google Docs has been around for a few years too. But with a little repackaging Google Drive delivers a clutter free environment, with just enough options to convey our thoughts in a clear and concise manner.

The "Drive" component provides a generous 5gig of cloud storage to use as we choose. But viewing your documents on the web reveals a red "Create" button. Click here to word process with Gdocs (aka Google Docs).

There are no options for borders, or decorative strokes. You will not see any distracting templates either. The content is king, and for most teachers, it is the words which must combine for creative merit.

Need the option to collaborate with your students? Get feedback from your editor or brainstorm with your peers? Well emailing documents back and forth is so last century! and wikis are just becoming a little too disjointed. Take a look at the blue share button and watch in real time as multiple people type on the screen.

Contrary to popular belief, it is simple to setup offline access to your docs, but you will need to use the Chrome web browser.

Google Drive does way more than just docs

Are you a Math Teacher? Google Drive is being utilised by many third party app developers. If you need to graph for example I can’t recommend enough that you use Desmos.com. If you are a math teacher go and visit desmos.com now, it also feels great on the iPad.

Accessibility thoughts On a Mac, in your System Preferences it is simple to enable text to speech. Be sure to tick “Speak selected text when key is pressed”. The default key combination is option and escape. Fortunately any highlighted text in Safari, Chrome, Pages, or Word is read aloud by the computer.

Text to speech example

But a negative for Chrome is that it utilises its own dictionary, so if you have changed your Mac Language to “British” English you’ll find organize is spelt correctly, overridden by Chrome! Chrome also disables the Mac’s amazing Thesaurus which is accessed with a 3 finger trackpad tap or control - command and D. So as much as I love Chrome, you may be better off sticking with Safari.


Conclusion It is clear to me that Office and iWork may be seeing the beginning of their end. The other day I picked up an old manual for Word. It must have weighed about 2 kilos! What a strange thought that people might have to study so hard just to learn how to ‘word process’.

We now live in an age where we are not compromising ourselves to accommodate uninspiring technologies, but technology is adapting to us, as humans. In particular for education, we must evaluate tools and look at what unnecessary components can be discarded. I firmly believe that Microsoft Office and iWork should stay right where their names suggest.

iDay at St Stephen's

For the start of this term I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak over 2 days at St Stephen's school in Perth, W.A. St Stephen's have a remarkable ICT team which provide vision and support for the teachers and students. This year their focus was to assist teachers to reach their full potential when using technology in the classroom. By aligning themselves with the SAMR model the aim of the PD day was to encourage staff to transform their teaching practices.


I prepared a talk which covered 4 main areas.

  • The perceived risk associated with integrating technology into the classroom.
  • A look at how the music industry was revolutionised by the digital age. Can we use some of the same ingredients for education?
  • The saturation of student's lives through over-exposure to media. How we can seize this opportunity to help students find a balance in their lives, and in turn become better critical thinkers
  • Simplifying the SAMR model.

It was a very rewarding experience. I was particularly impressed with the enthusiasm of the staff, and their welcoming spirit. After the talk I worked with 4 groups of teachers, and we uncovered the benefits of cloud computing, iPhoto, and iPad tips and tricks.

In my talk I referenced:

  • The Kaiser Family Foundation report: Click Here
  • Dr Sarah K Howard's research on 'What makes technology "Risky"'. Click Here
  • I also read an amazing book by Tom Chatfield called "How to Thrive in the Digital Age" which provided much food for thought.

Thank you to Stephen, Ian and Sarah Pemberton (A new ADE! Congratulations!!).

Sky wifi smartpen


In 1983 Steve jobs stated:"What we want to do is we want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you".

This vision was realised 27 years later with the iPad. But this particular book was lacking a simple pen. And it seems Apple have no plans to officially support a natural feeling pen which allows for the most important lesson we learn at school: how to write

Stylus makers have provided many attempts at building fine tipped, natural feeling pens to enable users to hand-write notes, draw, and communicate clearly with colleagues and friends. But in almost everycase one is left feeling like they are holding a giant crayon and things always go awry if you place your palm on the sensitive screen itself. Lets face it, writing on digital tablets is about as elegant as chiseling on stone tablets.

Sky wifi smartpen available on Oct 29th 2012

It's one of those problems which we have just ignored, hoping that the whole importance of developing good handwriting, punctuation and spelling will just go away.

In July 2010 Livescribe launched an amazing product called the Echo Smartpen. It was a real game changer. The pen created a niche for itself amongst professionals and students. If used in its simplest form it worked great, but once the collected notes became digital the playback and sharing steps all seemed a little disjointed.

Sky wifi smartpen Tomorrow will see the launch of the Sky wifi Smartpen from Livescribe. I was fortunate enough to talk with one of the Livescribe founders Sasha Pesic about what to expect and the directions for Livescribe in the coming 12 months.

"We needed to make the pen more relevant". Sasha continued to expand a little about the market research Livescribe had conducted. It revealed that 54% of tablet users (of 600 surveyed) still preferred to capture handwritten notes. Over a quarter purchased a stylus but only 13% of those were "very satisfied".

Clearly a market exists to enable users to continue to use pen and paper but have the simplicity of viewing and sharing recorded notes to a tablet device. Introduce wifi and one of the biggest names in cloud computing; Evernote, and you have a glimpse into the classrooms of tomorrow.

The pen itself is of identical form to the Echo Smartpen but with the ability to connect to a wireless network. This connectivity allows the pen to communicate directly with your Evernote account. Previously you had to connect the pen via USB and use the Livescribe Desktop application. This process has now been completely removed. Once set-up all of your notes magically appear inside your Evernote account.

With the amazing reach that Evernote already has and the support across so many different web browsers and devices this partnership makes perfect sense. Evernote is a free service but is restricted to 60mb per month upload data. Keen to support the potential of the Sky wifi smartpen Evernote have increased this limit to a whopping 500mb per month just for Livescibe users. That's equivalent to 10,000 pages of notes or up to 70 hours of recorded audio!

Once inside Evernote you can add tags to your pages which will enable you to quickly search your notes, but if you're anything like me it seems quite unlikely that you will manually add these tags. So can I have my handwritten notes transcribed into electronic text? Not yet, but Livescribe are working with Vision Objects to develop a new handwriting-to-text solution.

Pencasts The Pencast is the result of your note-taking session, and can be reviewed in a linear or non-linear fashion via a web browser (utilising the Livescribe player). The pencasts are now beautifully rendered in full HTML5 and my tests showed excellent responsiveness and fast loading times. The only current restriction is the need for an internet connection. However in Q1 of 2013 expect full PDF support meaning you can locally save your pencasts and share them as trusty old PDF documents. I look forward to a time when to "pencast" is as commonplace as creating a podcast.

The impact of livescribe and classrooms. These simple enhancements show huge potential for the pen, but what really got my interest was our discussion surrounding the native app development for iOS and Android. Although very speculative Sasha gave an insight into the mobile SDK which allows for direct pairing to a tablet device. This could mean teachers viewing handwritten notes of anyone of her students at any given time. Interactive whiteboards could finally be laid to rest as teachers project there realtime notes to the whiteboard. Livescribe are working on their own app but the potential from third party developers will also be huge.

I'm hoping to get my hands on the Sky wifi smartpen in the next few days and I will publish a full review. The Pens come in 3 flavours: 2, 4, and 8Gig and start at $229.


For more info see http://www.livescribe.com

Application of the SAMR model


I believe we are in a transitional stage with technology; A place where adoption is hindering general productivity. We know when we have achieved successful technology integration: it is when we use technology without even thinking about it. When you make a telephone call with your mobile phone, rarely do you think about the process of unlocking, filing through names and tapping the green "call" button. You likely never wonder at the marvel of taking a photograph and sharing it with a friend. These processes are ingrained and simple. The devices we use are all around us, they are ubiquitous and the outcomes obtainable.

Technology's presence in education should be no different. I despair at the complexity of some tasks which should be ingrained into us. Creating voice memos, editing pictures, creating video, sharing and collaborating with your colleagues on a global scale. Tasks like these can assist the teaching and learning process, these workflows can aid in the retention of information. Ultimately these tasks will be expected of students as they enter university and the workforce.

Borrowed from an expert called Dr Rueben Puentedura the term "Transformation" as a result of technology adoption, is a stage you want to aim for in your journey.

The SAMR model.

Dr Rueben Puentedura hit on a model which you should be familiar with. The SAMR model is a system which you can use to measure your application of technology, or it's level of use.

The first level is the lowest level of use: Substitution.

Technology acts as a direct tool substitute with no functional changes. A common example is a type-writer being exchanged for a word-processor (albeit with a screen) and being used in exactly the same way. No cut and paste, no spell check, just direct substitution.

The next level is: Augmentation

At this level you are using the same tool with some functional improvement. Improvements may include the spell check or instant dictionary definition, cut/paste and placement of images etc. Already at this secondary stage we are seeing a much higher level of productivity from the individual.

The third level is: Modification

This level actually slightly alters (but doesn't change) the task at hand. For example, beforehand your type-writer was being used to produce a text report. But now we have additional technology tools available, we could create the report in a spreadsheet. This would allow you to automatically calculate sums and create graphs for immediate visualisation of the information. We may choose to email the spreadsheet to colleagues instead of print it. Our report (previously a fixed paper document) has now seen significant task redesign. This results in substantial productivity increase.

The fourth level is known as: Redefinition.

At this level, we look beyond ways of just modifying the process **which still has the fundamental task at its heart**. Is this the best way to perform the task? The Redefinition level will use available technology to completely redesign tasks.

We are no longer producing a simple report. Information that would original have been compiled by an individual could now involve many contributors; collaborating in real time on the same document. An example might be to use a public document on Google Docs allowing for instant global collaboration on the project. The project could include photographs, graphics, even video, added from many different devices. Spreadsheet calculations will cascade through a document and be available for all decision makers in a moment. Immediately the task has seen the removal of multiple steps, and many more users are viewing and editing the document, increasing communication, accuracy, and productivity.

Applying this model into education is having astounding results. It is a fairly simple idea but one which has really helped me to evaluate where I am at, and what I could be achieving. But it can also be used to gauge your schools level of technology use, and to measure the success of your investment.

All too often I hear, "But this is the way that we have always done it!". And that is the statement that you may come across as you move from modification to redefinition and try to change the actual task at hand. But I would encourage your teachers to let go and put faith into new technologies and software. The Redefinition stage, in many instances can be the easiest to apply but the hardest to instigate.

As fate should have it Dr Rueben Puentedura visited Australia just a few weeks ago. He gave some great advice for those that choose to adopt the SAMR model in education:

Dr Puentedura introduced a simple method to introduce the SAMR model to staff in the form of a short PD opportunity where a teacher can discover and begin to understand the model better. Dr Puentedura displayed this brilliant slide introducing the SAMR Ladder, and offered the following advice.


Ask your teaching colleagues to create a SAMR Ladder so that they can visualise/plan their progress. Once your colleagues identify a task which they are performing at the substitution level, it helps them to recognise ways that they can enhance that task.

It is sometimes appropriate to maintain teachers at the substitution/augmentation stage for a long time, these enhancement levels are good. But you must treat these levels as transitional levels. It is not ideal to stay at the enhancement levels, as technology evolves we must evolve too.

At the modification level ask your colleagues, "What is it that you have always wanted to accomplish in terms of educational goals that you couldn't accomplish before?". This is a big question, and one which you may need to offer some guidance on. By keeping the core of the task the same but applying clear changes to certain aspects involving modern technology, (software or specific apps for example) can we accomplish those goals that the teacher would like to reach?

Finally, Is there a way that we could accomplish those original goals but with a different task? By actively replacing your original task with a new more efficient one, you will find that the underlying concept of the task itself becomes apparent. The student can explore concepts a lot deeper then previously.

I would add that task redefinition can also remove constraints that may have existed before but where not addressed. At redefinition the task and its outcomes are clearer, the technology becomes invisible and the learning at hand takes priority. My example earlier in this article: making a telephone call on a mobile phone demonstrates how a task can be transformed, simplified and made accessible for all.

The irony in the mobile phone call example is: the symbol which represents our phone call is still an old analogue handset. We may be even making a video call, but we still press the "handset" icon. I guess old habits die hard.

I encourage you to visit Dr Rueben Puentedura's blog at www.hippasus.com to discover more.


Dr Sarah Howard

Just a few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to listen to Dr Sarah Howard speak at an Adobe education conference. Dr Sarah Howard is a lecturer in ICT and Education at the University of Wollongong and has been evaluating the Digital Education Revolution in secondary schools across NSW.

One of the things which Dr Sarah Howard has discovered in her research (focused on intern teachers in New South Wales) is that most teachers still have very low levels of digital literacy. Her data has indicated that the assumption sometimes made: that young teachers are Digital Natives, is not correct.

Technology is used a lot but only in low level uses (ie Facebook, and Google search). If asked to perform a "complex" task such as creating a presentation or editing a photograph most teachers would come unstuck.

Dr Sarah Howard concluded that in teacher education not enough is done to raise these essential skills. Teachers are simply not exposed to these sorts of tasks, these digital literacies are not brought into the concept of teaching enough, if at all. The teacher identity itself needs to be re-addressed, it is not enough to simply say "I'm not a techie person, this is not part of my job role".

We have a duty to prepare students for a future where technology use is a given, and we need to empower teachers correctly. But we can be clever about this. Put the pedagogy first and carefully consider the goals of the teacher. Provide a solution which enhances the learning outcomes and doesn't obstruct or distract.

It is because of this that your Technology Integration Specialist should perhaps be considered more of a Curriculum Integrator (enhanced by technology).

The (not so distant) future teacher and student


Many tools come together to assist the modern teacher in the classroom. Some of theses tools are selected by the teacher themselves, but most are provided by the school or suggested by curriculum decision makers. Tools may consist of a laptop, calculator (Casio Classpad in our case) or digital camera. It is also common to see an interactive whiteboard in place and a school wireless network. Services may include a networked hard drive and collaboration space (intranet, LMS or wiki). Lots of cables, attachments and converters are available and training to apply these technologies is often expected to be completed in your own time or provided in-house, by the school.

Thankfully a common trend is emerging. One where teachers are taking matters into their own hands and bringing their own "gear" into the classroom. This equipment is quite often fairly cutting edge and is sometimes provided at the additional cost to the teacher or student. However in order to realise the forward thinking lesson ideas and modern tasks, theses additional tools are essential.


Mobile Devices.

Many schools are finally starting to relax their policies surrounding these devices and for good reason. At the most basic form expect:

Currently: calculator, dictaphone, stopwatch and timer, notes, camera, and internet access. All these things personally managed to suit the users workflows.

Future/emerging uses: Film recorder, Video conferencing, GPS locator, integrated email and calendar (integrated with your school/organisation). Attendance records, and countless teaching enhancement features through third party apps.


Bring your own projector!?

I anticipate a future classroom where the teacher brings not just her laptop, but also a projector. Brookstone develop a pocket projector for iPhone 4 devices. The projection can display up to a 50" image, it also has a 0.5W speaker and even provides a built in battery. With many senior school teachers constantly changing classrooms, bringing your own reliable projector makes sense.

I also thought it would be worth mentioning the Magnifi by Arcturuslabs.com. Last term I worked with my lab technicians in the science department on a solution where they could record the micro-organisms through their microscope. We found a fairly expensive solution but just a few months later I was excited to discover the Magnifi.


The Magnifi attaches to your iPhone and connect to any eyepiece (like a microscope for example). The lens magnifies and focuses the image and the iPhone does all of the recording. Ready for sharing or projecting straight to your projector!


Collaboration spaces

Despite best efforts by schools to provide an enclosed portal and centralise learning to a single collaboration space, many teachers still seem to prefer the flexibility of services like Edmodo or Moodle (even Facebook). Local server rooms are experiencing a shift in load as staff and students abandon local network storage for more flexible spaces like Dropbox, Microsoft Skydrive, or Google Drive.



Students may have been doing it for years, but recently I witnessed a teacher connect to her 3G USB stick in order to circumnavigate the school internet proxy. The initial reason she chose to do this was because the resources she needed (in this case a Vimeo video) was being blocked/censored by the education service provider. The teacher in question receives such fast and reliable connection with her 3G attachment that it is now used almost exclusively for her internet access.

Google were quick off the mark (and perhaps a little ahead of their time) when they launched the Google Chromebook with built in 3G access. Recently I was at a conference in Ireland, fellow ADE Frasier Spiers shared his thoughts surrounding the future of devices and connectivity, please see his outstanding blog here, One insightful paragraph reads:

"Imagine, in 5-7 years having gone from the complexity of laying ethernet in fixed locations in schools, building broadband, deploying servers and switches all over the school to the simplicity handing out an iPad and a SIM card and getting on with the learning."

Tethering mobile phones to non 3G iPads or Laptops is common place now. But some providers still block this feature. For iPhone/iPad tethering assistance see here.


Leap Motion

Im waiting for one of these to appear in the classroom!



Self paced Professional Development

Why stop at bringing your own gadgets into school? Many teachers expand their own knowledge by developing a Personal Learning Network. Through these online networks inspiration and ideas for your class are never far away. For advice on expanding your PLN take a look at my advice here.



It's good to see teachers taking charge of their own classrooms and resources which are available to them. The above ideas are simply used to better engage students, but I do question how much a teacher should stray from the services the school provides.

Is student/teacher data safe on external servers stored who knows where? Should a teacher engage a student in a social space which is not endorsed or monitored by your school? Is restricted internet access necessary for the wellbeing of our students? Progress in schools is notoriously slow, often pushed through by lovers of change and innovators. I say lets go for it!

The importance of a good PLN


With the emergence of technology in just about every aspect of our lives; progress, enhancement and opportunity for improvement has never been so prevalent. It can be frustrating, and as a teacher it seems that you are expected to be on top of the latest trends which can enhance or improve your classrooms. As a teacher you are expected to know which social networks your students frequent, which web 2.0 technologies can promote effective learning and which hardware and gadgets are fashionable. Through lack of time (and sometimes just lack of interest) it is hard to keep up. It is at times like these you can call upon your PLN.

At my school I am able to comment on and introduce my colleagues to the latest teaching trends and strategies from around the world. I take great pleasure at being able to demonstrate new Apps, talk about the Gonski report and discuss why Australian student performance has declined over the past decade.

Maintaining a handle on developments in your sector doesn't have to be hard or time consuming. I am going to share how I manage to be updated with news, trends and job opportunities all filtered to meet my requirements.


My PLN keeps me informed of ways in which technology can improve education.

Years ago my journey began by visiting informative websites or blogs (web-logs) by prominent educators such as Ken Robinson and Stephen Heppell.

Their findings and opinion are of course very interesting. Quite often their articles opened up all sorts of debate in the comments section. With so many educators sharing their first hand experiences, it is easy to form your own opinion and adopt strategies for your own classroom. But to keep ahead, you need to keep reading.


Really Simple Syndication.

Fortunately though you don't need to be a regular visitor to blogs because of a handy piece of tech wizardry called RSS feeds. RSS feeds enable you to subscribe to a blog. As soon as the author publishes their article, you are notified immediately on your computer or mobile device.

RSS feeds are a very powerful communication tool, news agencies also use them to publish breaking news and up to the minute reports of sporting or political events. There are a few different methods to capture your RSS feeds.

An email “client” is a program which you open when you want to view your email inbox locally on your computer. Popular clients include Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail. Both of these clients can be setup to capture new RSS articles from your favourite web sites. I currently subscribe to 4 very important RSS feeds in my inbox, ensuring that I stay ahead in technology education developments.

If you are a Google Chrome user (or have a Google account) then subscribe with the Google Reader. Google Reader can be accessed from a multitude of mobile Apps meaning that if you are an Android, iOS or Windows Mobile user you can install an Application to handle all of your news.


My Favourite RSS enabled websites:

I follow dozens of writers and communities, and hundreds of Twitter users who have put me onto amazing resources. Below are my favourites. To get you started I recommend you "follow" these sites in which ever way you can.

  • Emergingedtech.com - Engaging students and enhancing learning outcomes. This community of teachers may be all you need to stay on top of education and technology.
  • Edutopia.org - Contains practical classroom strategies and tips from real educators.
  • blog.iste.org - The International Society for Technology in Education.
  • mindshift.kqed.org - Mindshift explores the future of learning.
  • tips2012.edublogs.org - Dr Jenny Lane is an experienced teacher. Jenny is currently researching the iPad and its role in education. Her blog evaluates Apps which enhance teaching across all learning areas. At the beginning of this year I met Dr Jenny Lane at a conference in Sydney. It is an example of how your PLN can materialise into very important professional relationships and friendships.
  • iSupportlearning.net - Anyone can blog! I publish my own findings surrounding education and technology here. I also create free guides assisting teachers to adopt new technology. You can see how I have tried to make it easy for readers to stay connected with me. In less than 1 year I have over 300 subscribers to my RSS feed.



Most modern websites are now made up almost entirely of RSS feeds, meaning that most visitors of popular sites never actually visit the website at all. Twitter is another extremely powerful carrier of information

. A good analogy for new Twitter users is to imagine that you are walking through a busy room of your favourite writers, reporters and professional pundits, but instead of them talking directly to you, you are eaves dropping on their conversations.

Getting started with Twitter may seem daunting at first but I cannot encourage you enough to take that leap into the "Twittersphere". You will need your own Twitter account. By all means create an alias if you would prefer, but most individuals have nothing to hide and are happy to represent themselves. Lastly you just have to start following individuals that you have a common interest in. Start by looking in the Education category.

Twitter is a Short Message Service meaning that each tweet can only contain 140 characters. For most users a tweet is a way of marketing a new idea. So the tweet will contain a link to a webpage containing the full story. Good ideas, interesting news or sometimes just funny one liners can be re-tweeted. If you pick your Twitter friends carefully, you can create a network of invaluable inspiration, all at a moments notice from your phone or computer.

Twitter users love picking up new followers. To create an interesting feed, (or room of interesting people) you are going to need to follow dozens of users. To get started, I encourage you to follow as many people in your field of interest as possible. As you discover friends of friends, conversation, statements and opinion start to flow. It is easy to un-follow someone if they seem intent on sharing every dull moment of their lives with you.

If you would prefer you do not have to Tweet a single message. There is nothing wrong with using your Twitter account as a source of one way information. You may just want to follow 2 or 3 news agencies, family members, or even students.




Linked-In has found itself a good niche, not only as a tool for networking, but also as an outlet for relevant news from industry experts and peers that interest you.

You can use the service as a place to find past and present colleagues and classmates. As you begin to establish new connections the site makes a profile on you based on your friends and colleagues and their current work placements. This makes for a really interesting and easy way for you to expand your own career.

The potential for discovering new employees and teachers for your school is huge. I would certainly recommend that your careers department investigate LinkedIn. As a Principal, or Bursar use this opportunity to cement a solid leadership network in order to drive change and improve your sector. As a Careers and Enterprise teacher, suggest that your current school leavers engage this professional network.




I have always thought of Facebook as Twitters big brother. I am often asked "Does my company need a Facebook page?" I answer an uncommitted, "Probably".

The question does highlight the point that Facebook is meant to be an individual and personal space. With a focus on personal pictures and personal opinion. When I attend or talk at a Professional Development day, I am always there in my professional capacity.

Facebook isn't the first choice for the type of Personal Learning Network we are building. Especially for education professionals where the boundaries between students and teaching colleagues must be maintained. Having said that, it is easy to incorporate all of your personal and professional networks together.


Maintaining all your networks and consuming it in bite-size pieces.

I have presented 4 technologies which can act as vehicles for acquiring knowledge and inspiration. But if you have made it this far you may be starting to feel a little overwhelmed at the potential of information waiting for you.

But don't worry, once you have set-up your Twitter account, chosen your favourite RSS feeds and reconnected with old colleagues through LinkedIn, you can bring it all together using one of two applications called FlipBoard or Zite, available on your iOS or Android device.

These amazing apps combine your Google Reader RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts and present them in a very cool digital magazine.

The interface is awesome grabbing pictures and charts, categorising sections and highlighting popular and breaking stories. The magazine also analyses your Google Reader RSS feeds, works out what you like and delivers similar content from sources you have yet to discover.



The key here is to fine tune your content to avoid procrastination. Sorting and filtering information from the Internet might take a few days or weeks to get right, but when you consider that all of the information is free, including the Apps to help you curate, there really is no excuse to not get started.

I have no doubt that newspapers will become obsolete as we approach the next decade. It makes no sense for me to purchase so much paper and ink when I probably only consume 20% of the text. This really strikes me as a waste on the Earths resources and yet another example of how the digital age should be embraced for mutual progress.

Get ahead of things now, utilise those share buttons and don't be afraid of Twitter, embrace the Google services and get connected.



Social picture icons by Jeremy Roux

Adobe Education Leader


As most people know I am an Apple education enthusiast. But there has always been one suite of applications which are first to be installed on my Macs, and that is the Adobe Creative Suite. Ever since CS2 was launched I have been forking out (quite a lot of cash!) to ensure that I have the latest Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Dreamweaver installed. The design functionality and creativity that the software allows are unique, their existence in the corporate sector and the importance of their presence in the Education sector cannot be underestimated.

Recently I had the honour of being invited to join the Adobe Education Leader program. The program was completely new to me, but it seems it has been going strong in the US since 2007. The presence of Adobe Education Leaders in Australia has been around since 2009 but now it seems Adobe are stepping things up in Australia and for good reason.

I wrote a few months ago here about creativity in schools and the vital role which Adobe play in this field. I would actually go as fas as to say that now Adobe have a responsibility to nurture creativity in education. Adobe have established themselves as the standard in digital creative tools for the corporate sector, they (Adobe Education Leaders, thats us!) now have a responsibility to ensure students are up-skilled and well informed about design standards through to analytic tools, and global collaboration platforms.

Take a look at my profile here

The AEL program The program promotes excellence in education through the integration of Adobe tools. The program also offers a wealth of PD opportunities for members (and non-members) all for free. The AEL online community is extremely vibrant, it is a place where educators share their lesson plans and success stories with each other. I am also pleased to say that the community focus on the importance of pedagogy, the Adobe tools simply enhance the learning space.

Resources for teachers If you have not already discovered the following online resources I cannot stress enough how amazing they are:

Adobe Education Exchange - Access thousands of teaching ideas and lesson ideas. Need a lesson plan quickly? its all here!

Adobe TV - Just in time learning? If you would like to learn how to use any part of the Adobe suite, from Acrobat Reader through to Photoshop there are hundreds of video guides here, all created by knowledgable professionals.

Adobe Educators Blog - Thoughts, challenges and solutions as written by other educators integrating Adobe tools. Well worth a read.

The Future Never before have I been so excited at the prospect of learning how to use new tools. Mastering an Adobe application is hard and I consider myself to be a "jack of all trades". This year a priority of mine will be to further my skill-set, I will be focusing on Adobe Muse, Adobe Edge and Adobe Touch applications.

I am certain that Adobe will fit well into mobile devices, and I am still a supporter of mobile devices for schools. As ever I will continue to publish my findings on my blog, so stay tuned.

Finally a big thank you to the Adobe education team, both in Australia and the US. It is an honour to be involved, and I can't wait to get to the summit this September in Sydney. See you there!

Apple Distinguished Educator Global Institute 2012

It's hard to believe that I have been home from Ireland for almost 2 weeks. Despite a while coming I thought it would be good to sum up what I took away from Cork and the 213 educators who combined to share their experiences of using Apple technologies in education. The event was held in the very beautiful Cork, it was a 4 day event hosted at the luxurious FOTA island resort.

ADE2012 welcome plaque

I follow my ADE colleagues closely online. Reading their blogs, and following their Twitter accounts. On day 1, I was quite overwhelmed at spotting the familiar faces, it was like a who's who of the online TechEd world! I knew that this was a really opportunity to learn from some of the very best!

We were eased into our project work. (Projects which had been discussed for 6 weeks prior to arriving in Cork.) It seemed that Apple wanted the ADE's to enjoy the sights and sounds of Ireland and make good friends with our peers. These friendships were cemented with a visit to the Jameson's Whiskey Distillery, Blarney Castle and the city centres of Kinsale and Cork. We also had a surprise trip to Apple HQ in Ireland (Some aspects of the visit were under a Non-Disclosure agreement, we all felt very privileged).

Great friendships were made, but it was the discussions surrounding education which really inspired me. Below I have summed up some of my notes and plans for the rest of this year.

recording our ade2012 projects

Highlights & Notes

Facilitation As we bound through the second decade of the 21st Century, the role of the teacher is changing, and expectations definitely shifting. It is not reasonable to expect teachers to be proficient with the modern technologies which students are using in the classroom. It is not even necessary for teachers to fully understand how to make a podcast or wiki. An educator does not need to know how to operate an iPad or even a digital camera. If the concept surrounding the functionality and delivery of digital content is understood, the teacher can have the pleasure of facilitating and in many cases learning with the student.

Learning I was fortunate enough to have many conversations with Peter Scott from the Open University. The Open University have been leaders in distance learning for decades. These last few years technology has developed perfectly to suit the remote and asynchronous learning methods of many students. Self paced learning, at any time of the day, and adaptive. These learning environments are more relevant now than they have ever been.

Creating Transformational Content - "The HOW (no longer rocket science) The WHY is as hard as ever" 1. Engage student - Create great looking content. 2. Get them to interact - Great content is nothing unless it is in a context that helps you to learn. 3. Build a supportive framework - organising structure and narrative arc (maybe a website, poster, film and media etc), make your teaching accessible. 4. Give credit where credit is due.

WHY? Challenging difficult issues, answering questions finding solutions. Preparing students to be critical thinkers. An ongoing discussion I think!

My Plans Collaboration is so important. This year I will be leaning on my teaching colleagues and ADE friends to create great content utilising iTunes U course manager. The content will be Professional Learning through Digital Storytelling. After all, this is a field I have an interest in at present.

I want to point you to Angie Harrisons blog. Ang has written a great reflection on the ADE Institute and she has started a useful collection of resources from the week. Also please see Lovey Wymann’s blog for more great resources.

Understanding EBooks


Ebook or Electronic Book - An electronic version of a printed book Ebooks hold massive potential for the education sector. I work at a school where we deployed Apple MacBooks to over 1000 students. Almost 3 years later and students still seem to be carrying heavy bags full of additional text books.

Clearly we need to do more to achieve the ideal, paperless school environment. The transition however, has proven to be complicated and in most instances restrictive due to the multiple formats and sometimes Digital Rights Management (DRM).


Ebooks come in many different formats, the most popular being;

  • PDF - Adobe’s own format - widely used across almost all platforms.
  • AZW - The Amazon proprietary format.
  • MOBI - most PDA’s and smart phones use this format.
  • EPUB - Widely used by almost all formats apart from the Amazon Kindle.
  • IBOOKs - Apple exclusive, new format.


In my school we use Apple technologies. Therefore the following formats are considerations;

Adobe PDF

At present the flexible format of choice is the Adobe PDF. Their format is fine, you can create beautiful page layouts, create complex forms and annotate and collaborate with sticky notes. The Adobe PDF starts to fall short though when you want to add media like audio or video. Your media will be encoded to Flash, rendering the document quite useless for iOS users.

The .ePub format

ePub seemed like a promising choice for a few years. However limitations started to reveal themselves. Ideal document layout was tricky to achieve. I experienced unusual playback of audio objects if you placed too much audio in one document. ePub is still going strong though, it is very flexible because many devices can decode the file type.

iBooks Author

The ‘iBooks textbooks’ format is by far the most visually appealing ebook. iBooks take full advantage of the iOS touch screen. The format has countless enhancements including picture slide shows, 3d object manipulation, video playback and interactive glossary to name just a few. After experiencing these books you will never go back. That is if you fully understand the commitment you are making....


As a teacher, school curriculum decision maker, or writing enthusiast which format should you use?

This is a decision which has so many variables only you will know the answer. With many factors to consider, I will share my opinion considering that I would like to achieve maximum accessibility for my colleagues who use a combination of Apple devices.

How media rich and interactive would you like your book to be?

It seems that the more interactive and media rich the book is, the fewer devices will actually render it correctly.

My opinions and choices

I tend to lean towards PDF documents for professional collaboration with my peers, especially when working with laptop or desktop computers.

In order for me to reach my school community of iPod, iPad and MacBook users I still favour the ePub format. Simply because I know that all devices can access the text.

However, I have had issues creating ePubs with Pages. For this reason I prefer to use an iPad app called Book Creator. Book Creator is a simply way to build my ePub book, but I cannot embed video (although it does handle audio very well).

iBooks Author may initially seem like a restrictive choice to consume and create text. However the format is squarely aimed at the education sector. To assist cognitive learning there is no better tool. The student retains knowledge by listening, watching, reading, and touching information. This experience holds great promise. If you are in a community of iPad users you must investigate the iBooks textbooks further.


Some important considerations with iBooks:

  1. You can only read ‘enhanced’ iBooks from your iPad. By ‘enhanced’ iBooks I mean iBooks created using iBooks Author.
  2. You can only create iBooks on the latest Mac OS, Lion.
  • iBooks textbooks are perfect for creating interactive, media rich books.
  • As a study aid there is no better format for illustrating facts in a meaningful way.
  • You can distribute your book internally to your students and colleagues or you may choose to publish it to the iTunes Bookstore. Its up to you if you want to charge.


Please download my 'Getting started' guide  which supplements my 'Ebooks and iBooks Author for education' teacher training session.

[button link="http://isupport.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/iBooks-passport.pdf" type="icon" newwindow="yes"] iBooks in education support document[/button]

CS6 from an Educators perspective


To be given the opportunity to download and test a pre-release version of Adobe CS6 was a very exciting prospect. My expectations were high, as a casual non-professional user I hope for a simple streamlined interface and easy adoption of this creative world. I work in schools with teachers who practice a “just in time learning” approach. I want teachers and students to find these sometimes daunting programs accessible. In other words can I make the design, develop and publish workflow simpler for my colleagues?

CS6 covers all bases for digital creativity. Graphic design, moving image, audio engineering, and web development is all possible. Finding your starting place and ascertaining the right tool for the job though can be a little trickier. My applications folder is now littered with Adobe packages and in my eagerness to get started I find myself overwhelmed.

For example, the Production Premium package includes Prelude and SpeedGrade. Apparently here to help me with many “pre and post production challenges”. With Prelude I can log and tag content and create rough cuts to be sent to Premier Pro. SpeedGrade allows for colour grading and finishing of video. Unless you are a seasoned professional this will mean nothing to you, as it meant little to me.

Instead I zone in on the Design Standard, I am comfortable with Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. Immediately I notice a much faster opening time. Seems logical, with new “performance engines” everything feels snappier inside CS6.

Photoshop includes the new “Content-Aware Move Tool”. Simply lasso an object on your background layer, and drag with the tool. The results are mind bogglingly amazing. How do they fill in the background when there is nothing there? You simply have to try it, already I can see the scope for use here.

Countless new features including a cool Field Blur feature and Adaptive Wide Angle Filter actual allow you to adjust the focus and depth of a photograph as if you were using a completely different lens.

I personally prefer the black design of the interface and I do feel the new tools warrant the upgrade cost of around $300. Especially if you are an Industry Professional.

But then if you were an Industry Professional you wouldn’t be reading this.


I’m not going to review CS6

Instead i’m going to introduce you to Creative Cloud and show you 2 of the most ground breaking products from Adobe for many years. They are Muse and Edge. They are game changes for Adobe. My only criticism of the Adobe suite since CS3 is that they have taken few risks. Change seems to have eluded them a little.


I want to draw a quick comparison to Final Cut Pro X. The software is developed by Apple. In their recent upgrade of the package they changed so many things, removed favourite features and ceased support for previous standards, that there was outrage from the loyal fans. So much so that many migrated from the film editing suite and spent their money with other software companies.I want to draw another comparison for the rest of us. Facebook has forced its users to adopt a new interface called Timeline. Most people don’t want it, but in order to keep the company evolving and improving, Facebook has deemed it a necessary change.


Now Adobe have developed such a huge community of users, to adapt the layout of Photoshop, adjust or remove tools inside Flash or even tinker slightly with Dreamweaver (in order to simplify/attract new users) would just annoy too many existing customers.


So I am exited to see Adobe creating completely new tools for a new audience which not only provide a simple approach to design and web development but support the future of web standards too.


It seems that everyone is a web designer these days. Google Sites, Wordpress and Weebly are technically 3 very different platforms but all assist in the creation of very attractive and informative websites, quickly and often free. I would have a guess and say that this is having a negative affect on individual professionals and small companies in the web design sector. It may also see the slowing of new adopters for software like Dreamweaver. The appeal of having a website up and running quickly, with easy updates and management is important to most.


Adobe Muse

If you want to design and manage your own website and you have little coding knowledge Muse is for you. If you are looking for a simple way to enter the world of web development and want to follow correct design standards this is the only choice.


As you start to use Muse your progress gathers like a snow ball hurtling down a hill. Designing beautiful web pages the way you want them, guiding your visitors around multiple pages and creating totally unique and original ideas of how your website should behave is so easy.


Progress is constantly being made and industry standards constantly evolving. Rest assured that when you are using Muse, Adobe are utilising the latest coding practices “under the hood”. For example your menus, text boxes, drop shadows and curved edges when possible are always being coded with CSS. This means that your design contains very few picture assets which can add unnecessary weight. In turn all of your design work is rendered at lightning fast speeds. Your code is clean and future proof.


I am a big fan of the Widgets Library which allows for drag and drop of complex objects such as interactive menus, accordion style panels and picture sliders. As the community of Muse users grows I’m certain that many third party developed Widgets will start to appear.


Muse feels a lot like iWeb does, both behave in WYSISWYG (What You See Is What You Get) fashion. As an entry into Dreamweaver and other Adobe products this is an obvious path to take.


Adobe Edge

Well if a simple web design package wasn’t enough Adobe confessed to another area which needed addressing. Animated content that can be rendered perfectly by every device and browser.


Creating interactive experiences on the web has usually been reserved for Flash designers. There has been some locking of horns over this technology in recent years and to a casual observer it seems that all are accepting that HTML5, JavaScript and CSS are the standards to follow. Adobe are capitalising on this and are the first to produce a simple tool to create HTML5 based motion graphics and interactive media. It is easy to use.


Upon opening Edge you are encouraged to complete the In-App Lessons. After 20 mins working through these lessons you’ll be asking yourself why you never dug deeper into Flash. The answer is simple though, Edge invites the user in. There are only 6 Tools to use and the layout feels manageable. For simple splash screens or welcome pages which can be imported into all environments (including iOS), Edge is the way to go. I am already working with a teacher at my school to create a welcome screen for her iBook.


It is clear that many seasoned professionals are criticising Adobe for their move into simplified design approach. After all the outcome of hiding code kind of results in more code being generated in the background. For the purists out there this has to be a step backward. I would suggest that the accessibility for new users including students and teachers will have a very positive outcome. I see a definite market of young adopters who want to get to grips with Adobe tools learning with both Edge and Muse.


The Creative Cloud

Another new approach involving subscription payments to Adobe to receive the software you want. Also providing online and collaborative storage and web hosting for your websites. The 20gig of storage allows me to start work on a Photoshop file on my laptop and finish on my iPad using Adobe Touch.


The Student and Teacher Edition will cost you US$29.99 per month. Just to re-cap, this allows you unlimited access to the entire Master Collection if you need it. At present it is the only way to get your hands on Edge and Muse too.



Adobe seem to be shuffling things around a lot at present. Through the Creative Cloud they are tackling one of the biggest problems they have in piracy of software. With two new entry level packages they are opening the doors for many new inexperienced customers. Equally support for existing users is as good as it ever was. My only criticism here is that there are now almost 20 products on offer. The edges between each product is blurred and to find the best tool is sometimes not obvious.


For the first time when using the Adobe suite you will feel like you are not the last one to join the party, you wont be playing constant catch up with the professionals. For educators and students that rocks! For professions of the future that means a new era of designers and developers coming through with the know how and enthusiasm to adopt Adobe tools.

Transfer iPad files to other devices


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iPad and sharing content in the

The most noteworthy aspect of the iPad is its simplicity. When providing Professional Development to teaching staff I normally ask that they forget everything they have learnt before about operating computers. I also ask that they leave behind any preconceptions of how the device works at the door. Don't over complicate, just tap to get going. But this is not easy, especially after many years of learning why file structure is important, how a "Home" folder works, and why "housekeeping" is not confined to just your house.

External cloud services (eg. Show Me app) and Dropbox can help to connect the dots. It is this file handling that is missing from the iPad, and it seems that it is Apple who are standing firm here, and for good reason. After all

why do you need a music folder when you have iTunes? Pictures and video can be organised very well in the Camera Roll. Word processing now starts and finishes with Pages. But of course, there are times when we need to leave the Apple walled garden, for example; to collect, mark and return two dozen essays, animations or videos.

There are many apps which allow for content creation, notably iMovie and Garageband but also Sonic Pics, Comic Life and Photoshop Touch. How can I gather all of this media for assessment? Email is the quick solution, but this method is of no use if the iPad is a shared iPad with no email account assigned to the Mail app. As the recipient of 15-25 emails with attachments, the process is not practical either. Below I will illustrate a workflow which will work for a class set of iPads or a student personal iPad:

1. The Share Icon - to Camera Roll This little icon is the key and there is one
share destination which appears more than most and that is the Camera Roll. If we can export media to the local Camera Roll it is easy to get that to a conventional folder.

2. Dropbox Dropbox currently have more than 50 million
users, they are the cloud storage experts. App developers
acknowledge this, and many are happy to allow direct export to the
dropbox app (if installed) from within their app (eg, Explain
everything). If the export to Dropbox isn’t an option from the
Share icon simply choose Camera Roll (sometimes called Photo Roll.

picture showing camera roll to Dropbox process

3. Upload from Camera Roll to Dropbox

Dropbox allows you to upload content from your Camera Roll to a Dropbox folder of your choice. A good place for students to upload their work may be to a folder which is shared with the teachers personal account. That way the teacher can asses the work from iPhone, PC or Mac at his/her own leisure.


Unfortunately all students who drop final projects into a shared folder can view the contents of that folder too. As yet it is not possible to create write only permissions to Dropbox folders. This isn't a problem if you are using  shared class set of iPads in any case. But if each student has their own iPad, I would recommend that they open their
own Dropbox account. That way you will be able to keep private folders with each student, if privacy is a must.

It may sound like i am on commission from Dropbox! But at this intermediate stage (between
Lion - Mountain Lion and the expansion of iCloud) I don't see a plausible workflow which replaces the file structure Dropbox allows us. Looking closely at iPhoto (for iPad) reveals a sharing option called Beam. Could this become standard for iPad communication in the future?


Adobe in Education


Bright Ideas from Adobe

To most of us, Adobe are known as the company who develop Photoshop. Others know them as the company behind industry standard tools such as Illustrator and Acrobat. More recently they have been getting media attention with their proprietary format Flash, its lack of support on the iPad and Apple's reluctance to support this versatile developers tool. It appears that this has sent shock waves through the company.


Adobe have always had a strong presence in education. In 2011 their Creative Suite of software was shipped to 80% of Australian schools. And for good reason; The range of tools allowed for creative expression like never before. Used with the right direction from teaching staff and the software holds tremendous pedagogical value. Any student familiar with the design principles of Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator have a head start with professions across the board.


My role as Technology Integration Specialist in education sees me liaising with hundred's of teachers, all of whom are determined to adopt 21st Century computing skills. Teachers understand that to achieve positive learning outcomes means not only engaging students with tools with which they are familiar, but also to challenge young minds, encourage hidden talents, and to communicate in different mediums. For many though, the thought of mastering any software which succeeds the word Adobe can put some teachers at unease.


The reason for this is simple. Adobe make software for professionals. They create extremely powerful ways that enable specialists to design brands. Adobe smash boundaries in web development, break down barriers for communication and make collaboration across the globe a snap. But to simply open an Adobe product and nurture the creative brilliance of our student’s minds can be tricky.


Fortunately help is at hand. Adobe seem to be investing considerable time and money to build the right networks and learning infrastructures to ensure that schools, colleges and universities are preparing our young adults for a modern workforce, one which will require higher order thinking skills, problem solving and authentic creative content. A workforce where the likelihood is Adobe tools are present, one where to "PDF" and "Photoshop" are Verbs.


On Tuesday 27th March I attended the Adobe Education Leadership conference in Sydney. I wanted to know how and why teachers should utilise Adobe tools. To say I left inspired is an understatement.


The transformation of learning.

Students, many adults and most early technology adopters are communicating and absorbing information in a very different way. Classrooms of the 20th Century were, for good reason very different to those of today. Teaching itself has, and is, undergoing a paradigm shift to accommodate the active minds of our modern students, and this was something which Jon Perera (Vice President, Adobe Education) reaffirmed in his opening talk.


This “paradigm shift” or changing model of teaching for 21st Century students, is something most teachers are aware of, although discovering and adopting new technologies to enable our students is a constant challenge. Jon Perera highlighted 3 main areas which Adobe are focusing on to provide a sound future in education:

  • Multiscreen Technologies, (including cross platform compatibility) is the first key area. Empowering all students throughout the world, no matter from what socio-economic background, to benefit from digital media and to learn creatively is key.


  • Capitalising on the Social Computing explosion, which we have experienced in the last 5 years, is also imperative. After all it is here where our students are most comfortable. It is here where students feel they have a platform and a voice to be heard. Enabling game and content creation and by integrating Facebook and Twitter gives purpose to many and empowers students... all while they are learning.


  • Cloud Computing. This really encapsulates all of the above. When learning becomes always accessible, collaborative and around the clock, the need to store personal data securely is a must. Adobe Creative Cloud is a solution which not only provides syncing between devices, cloud storage and a social community, but also delivers seamless integration between all of Adobe’s main applications. It will be available this half of 2012 and shows much promise. http://www.adobe.com/products/creativecloud.html


Digital literacy and creativity.

To be able to grasp the concept of digital literacy is something that has often eluded me. The digital world is after all, constantly evolving. It progresses in order to enhance our lives and to be truly literate in this complex language is a struggle.


The digitally literate student should innovate through many different forms of media. They  should produce and manipulate beautiful images and insightful video. They need to collect and interpret information in manageable and meaningful ways. Across the curriculum students need to choose the right tools to demonstrate creative expression, both visually and aurally.


This creative expression is not reserved for the arts. In fact an initiative by the European Commission titled the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009 (EYCI 2009) surveyed 10,000 teachers. The findings showed that an "overwhelming majority" of teachers see creativity as being relevant in all subjects.


Why is creativity so important?

Teachers need to leverage creativity so that students are able to acquire concepts, internalise learning and externalise knowledge. This learning process works with our modern students and allows for a far greater reach across all students (including those with learning disabilities). Teachers already know this and Adobe realise this too.


By creating support networks such as the Adobe Education Exchange and Adobe TV, teachers and students are never far away from advice, tips and most importantly inspiration. A single Adobe ID gives you free access to all of their services so it’s simple and easy to benefit and I cannot recommend it enough.


The Adobe Education Exchange

This community of educators is amazing, if you are looking to utilise Adobe software in your lessons you must take a look at this http://edexchange.adobe.com. In just a few minutes you will discover fantastic, tried and tested projects which are all categorised into Age Group, Product (Photoshop, Illustrator etc), and Resource Type. Most of the projects directly support Australian Curriculum and with thousands of teachers downloading the resources, you have plenty of access to feed back and support if needed.


My favourite AEE project was titled Easy Circle Art. The lesson was listed by Judy Dirken and is listed as Grades 7-12. This project meets the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) NETS standards. The NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) set a standard of excellence and best practices in learning, teaching, and leading with technology in education.


Additionally if you or your students need some more technical direction, the Adobe TV website offers 100’s of training and instructional videos categorised by product. You will find many Adobe beginner guides and probably dozens of videos on how to cut out objects from the background!


The importance of training and development

Throughout the Adobe Education Leadership Forum an emphasis was placed on increasing teacher ICT confidence. This was re-enforced by Dr Sarah K. Howard from the University of Wollongong (NSW). Dr Howard demonstrated through a survey of 4,249 teachers adopting the Digital Education Revolution in NSW, that teachers are not reporting confidence with ICT in the classroom.


Lila Mularczyk is the principal at Merrylands High School. Merrylands have completed a successful roll out of Lenovo laptops to all staff and students years 9-12. Every laptop had the Adobe suite installed on it and the school focused on “Teacher Professional Learning”. This came in many forms, most impressive was the emphasis on building experts, who in turn became leaders and drivers. These staff ICT champions went on to assist other staff members. Students were involved in the PL too, with a student laptop team who provided assistance to staff students and parents. Innovation was encouraged and creativity quickly became the precedence at Merrylands.


Empowering students through creativity

The Digital Revolution has given Australian students the tools they need to voice themselves and learning becomes autonomous. Technology integration has proven to decrease truancy levels, increase critical and higher order thinking and in turn give students the best head start for their professional futures. Adobe software is at the forefront of all these things. They have acknowledged and addressed the need to adapt and simplify their software.


If you are considering implementing the Adobe suite across your campus I would highly recommend the Adobe Digital School Collection. This suite empowers students with diverse learning styles and abilities to showcase their knowledge across the whole curriculum. The suite includes Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements, Contribute, Acrobat X Pro and Soundbooth. This means that your school or institute can start editing video, picture, audio, websites and share work easily between Mac and PC.


Adobe are also catering for tablet devices with Adobe Touch Apps. Currently there are 6 apps available across Android and iOS and it seems that Adobe are focusing heavily on these multiscreen mobile technologies. Adobe Photoshop Touch for iPad is an amazing example of how Photoshop can be simplified and scaled down for use with touch interaction. At just $9.99 I recommend you take a look.


Regarding Flash play back on the iPad, we were privy to a demonstration of Flash CS6. You may be pleased to hear that developers will be able to export their flash creations as HTML5. To the rest of us this means that we may start seeing more Adobe Flash content on the iPad!


The end of the day saw a beautiful demonstration from Sarah Kung, a 16 year old student from Sydney. Initially inspired by her brother, Sarah had discovered Photoshop and Illustrator on her laptop and set to work. Her first passion was typography but Sarah’s zeal for photo manipulation, vibrant colours, and creativity lead to discovering a hidden talent. I have included a couple of Sarah’s pictures in this article.


Both Microsoft and Apple offer a range of products which allow for multimedia creation. But no tools come close to the professional standards which Adobe have set. It is through these standards of design and workflows which have really set Adobe apart. Adobe have demonstrated resilience in the last few years and it is this ability to adapt and cater for modern professionals and students which has earned Adobe the confidence of millions of educators around the world.

Preparing for iPads


creating an effective and sustainableteaching and learning environment.

  • Enabling our teachers to provide effective pedagogy in the classroom is paramount.
  • Equipping teaching staff with tools to assist in their day to day tasks such as planning, organising and collaborating is also a priority.

At my school we have a successful MacBook 1:1 environment. We utilise Apple wikis, podcasting, iMovies and iTunes to access a multitude of media. But we have also, perhaps unknowingly invested into "Apple Technologies", their mantra and as some describe it "Walled Garden". But this should not cause too much alarm as it is this very model that has seen Apple grow to be the most admired, loved (and surprisingly) trusted company in the world. But just as learning areas invest in a variety of different textbook publishers, and teachers choose different literature to compliment different curricula, it may be wise to proceed with caution. Transformation of teaching. My school has continued to support and invest in Apple laptops, we have achieved a successful integration into the school and after almost 3 years teachers operate them very well. But it goes a little further than operation. Teachers understand that video and audio creation assist in retention of information. The research and enquiry process has evolved entirely. Round the clock learning, higher order thinking and global collaboration are intertwined into the classroom. We are demonstrating a transformation of teaching and learning. This transformation is vital. To simply substitute or augment technology into the school or workforce does not fully realise your investment. (ref SAMR model.) But we must look forward, to ensure both teaching progress and economically sound progress.... Or perhaps we should look the way Apple are looking, because if we have trusted them this far with our technology choices do we continue down their garden path to a metaphoric Zen Garden? The iPad works in education. If we took Apple's advice I'm certain that every student would be equipped with an iPad and a MacBook. This is not realistic (discussion for another post), even if the deal is sweetened with an easy finance program. But have no doubt that Apple's presence in education is legitimate. Their alliance with 100's of top universities around the world who continuously build resources for iTunes U is evidence of the educational research and learning infrastructures built in the last 7 years. The ADE program ensures communication and mutual progress. Two Vital iPad advantages over the MacBook. 1. The strength of a touch interface and the very model of App design and distribution has placed the iPad in a unique position. You cannot get the majority of content on a MacBook that makes the iPad so unique. And you cannot internalise learning so deeply as you can when touch enables the deep immersion of learning as found on the iPad. Greg O'Connor from Spectronics spoke to me recently and asked the question "Did dyslexia exist before Gutenberg printed his first books in 1440?". Why now are some students categorised by modern literacy disadvantages? Greg now believes that the iPad has bridged this gap. "It has completely removed the obstacles faced by some learners". Because of the intuitive touch, speak and define functions learners with a variety of disabilities are one step nearer to participating in a single tiered education. But what is the real trump card that the iPad holds? What will we miss out on if we don't come along for the ride? The answer is iBooks. 2. A proprietary electronic text format that Apple are enticing book publishers (and education publishers) to adopt. An easy way to illustrate the importance of this is to ask you to imagine a world where iBooks is to book purchasing as iTunes has come to music consumption. And the only way to consume these books is on an iPad, this makes for a good business model. This transition will take some time, say 2-3 years. The iBook format for education will be incredible (think of the app Our Choice). Plus teachers can easily produce their own iBooks to be shared locally or globally. Conclusion All of the foundations are coming together well for Apple. But there are still some critical considerations. Which curriculum specific books will be available? How can the school effectively manage/monitor 100's of devices? Will App distribution be ok? Can we print with our printers? Will the wireless network be durable enough? Can we collaborate with wikis? Evaluation and development process. Only our teaching staff can truly indicate the pedagogical value of the iPad. I have prepared a PD session to up-skill teachers so that they are confident integrating the iPad into the classroom. The session also recommends an evaluation process of apps. I would encourage staff to participate. Contact me on doug@isupport.com.au.

A Brief Review of "21st Century Education"


A brief review of a "21st Century Education" In 2007 our Labor government promised a Digital Education Revolution. By December they were sworn in, funds made available and schools entered into a modern and technology rich twenty-first century education. But the very concept behind this title can be ambiguous, and the transition sometimes complicated and overwhelming. In this article I will address key areas which I feel are becoming crucial for a twenty-first century education to succeed.

When I studied audio engineering in the UK I was the last of an analogue generation where I learnt how to slice 2 inch tape. It was, of course an outstanding preface to moving into a digital world where audio objects can be spliced, diced and stretched like an elastic band. The arrival of digital media improved and increased production in so many ways. The general consensus was that this transition brought about substantial improvement. The digital revolution (21st Century Media if you like) was a simple and successful transition.

Learning from our Students

The arrival of the twenty-first Century brought an enormous shift in teaching and learning practices. The more I research the topic the more I feel that my own education (Circa 1990) was un-dynamic and as a result inferior. But further investigation reveals that education in the nineties would have been quite ineffective on the minds of our twenty-first century learners because information is processed so differently by our digital native students. They have grown up in a world where news, entertainment and social networking is thrust to the forefront of their existence. Social pressures exist in a virtual place where comment and participation is as important as a physical presence. Instead of suffering from information overload these Digital Natives have a remarkable way of absorbing, filtering, and consuming huge amounts of information, often simultaneously from different mediums, and at all hours of the day. What is also surprising is even at times of quiet and rest there is a constant need to compulsively reach for a personal "smart" device. To be always connected to an online world is paramount.

Collaboration platforms and the importance of Web 2.0 technologies.

One thing that is clear is that we must lever modern technology to communicate and educate. Students see themselves as part of a global community, one where an audience is always present and sharing is encouraged. For example many of your students will already frequent Youtube, Bebo and Flikr. Discovering and levering these modern technologies to help engage your students is vital. But with so much variety online, locating websites with educational value, which also appeal to your students can be hard.

Recently I have been experimenting with Pinterest.com. The site allows users to pin pictures and videos from anywhere on the internet to their own virtual pin board. It is easy to see the educational potential that this site holds like Wallwisher did before it. Voicethread and Todaysmeet are both worth checking out and in my experience students enjoy using. Youtube have done a great job with their education branch youtube.com/edu, as iTunes have also done with iTunes U. But to expect students to frequent these educational sites is a little tricky.

It is important to first establish a single online platform for collaboration which evolves, where both students and teachers can interact. It is this community that will inspire your students and one where they are familiar. The use of a blog or wiki is a safe forum to plan, document and publish creative work. This ability to collaborate shifts our perspective from oneself to a much wider society. Some schools choose to share a wiki with other schools, sometimes overseas to collect thoughts on subjects like poetry, art and literature. The mixed and varied responses generate unique discussion.

Engaging your students online, and providing an “always on” education.

Wiki's, Blogs and more capable Learning Management Systems (LMS's) like Edmodo have proven invaluable. Local or in-house servers hosting your own wiki platform are also a good solution, albeit expensive (check out Apple Mavericks software). These servers can pull user information from a schools Active Directory listings so set up is streamlined.

Alternatively www.wikispaces.com have a K-12 plan which is very secure, and free.

These wikis are free and ad-free, and you can make them private for extra security for your students. K-12 wikis also come with a User Creator tool that lets you open student accounts in bulk without student email addresses.

Edmodo provides a little more than the others. Being a fully fledged LMS system you can instant message, create polls and quizzes and it all renders beautifully, no matter what device you are using. Students register when they receive a 6-digit pin code from their teacher. Only by using this code can a student create their account. Edmodo has the added benefit of the look and feel of Facebook but in a secure and Ad-free environment.

But doesn't Facebook do all of these things and more?

Facebook offers everything each of the above technologies do and with many additional enhancements. However, Facebook is a social tool specifically designed for recreational social networking. This form of leisure and private affairs has little merit in the classroom. The environment itself is too closely associated with your personal life and unless clear boundaries can be established (and I believe that Facebook will get there in the future) I think this powerful platform should be avoided. Please see www.facebookforeducators.org

Tools of the trade

So 21st Century Education is about collaboration and social platforms, but new digital tools are available which have forced educators to re-asses practices. Audio, and video creation offer artistic expression like never before. These mediums can sound over whelming to some, but with entry level software such as iLife from Apple and Google Apps (check out the Google Apps Marketplace) multimedia creation is a snap.

Video and audio creation

In my experience students take to film editing suites very quickly, others enjoy storyboarding or the script writing process. Both methods help students to understand, reinforce, and review new concepts. Consider the whole process when creating projects for your students. Check out Apple's iMovie or Microsoft's Movie Maker which make editing video very simple. Of course you’ll need to capture footage and these days most personal devices contain cameras. Either a still camera, video camera, high quality or low quality it really doesn't matter. If your school still has a ban on mobile phones on school grounds, it may be time to have a word with the Principal. With the right direction student film projects can help some discover hidden talents and new creative expression for otherwise quiet and reticent students.

Podcasting is used extensively in my school by our Languages department. Feedback from teachers confirms that by allowing students to prepare and record their oral tests (either at home or school) they retain foreign language better. The very process of scripting, recording, editing, and reviewing the audio resulted in better retention of words and sentences.

Digital Multimodal Texts

Multimodal texts incorporate two or more semiotic systems (Linguistic, Visual, Audio, Gestural, and Spatial). Interactive textbooks, webpages, and dance/live performance are all examples of multimodal texts.

The Australian Curriculum emphasises the use of Multimodal Text in both Science and English. Multimodal texts can be delivered via different media and technologies such as word processing and page design, comic books and animations. I recommend trialling some, if not all of the following software tools to start you off.

Get creative and capture your thoughts with Prezi. Use the software to support ideas and illustrate points as students present and discuss with the class. I Can Animate is a stop motion package which is fun and very easy to use. It is a good introduction to Chroma Keying (or Green Screen) too. Comic Life takes students right into the pages of their own comic book story. It is easy to add thought and speech bubbles to your own photographs and pictures. iWeb is an amazing drag and drop (WYSIWYG) website design tool. Perfect for quickly visualising websites and developing navigation between pages (no longer free on the Mac, so you'll need your iLife 09 instal disk). Tag clouds are also a brilliant way of bringing ideas and design together, check out Wordle.

Finding a standard for the electronic book

I had always hoped that laptops and tablets would totally replace the printed textbooks which appear on our student book-list. Instead we have school satchels heavier than ever as publishers and teachers act slowly to adopt a complete syllabus accessible electronically.

The music industry just survived the loss of revenue due to piracy as digital files were shared freely amongst the online community. Due to this education publishers are quite rightly entering the digital realm with much more caution. Unsupervised and incorrect distribution of electronic text could very easily become catastrophic for authors and education professionals who invest years writing and curating textbooks. Ensuring the correct distribution and revenue models has left teachers with a confusing array of options when it comes to finding electronic, interactive books that support their classes.

The result is a myriad of protected formats and platforms offered. For example the Flash Player has been a popular choice for Cambridge who utilise it for their Hotmaths and Cambridge GO solutions, and Macmillan Education for their One Stop Digital. The problem with the Flash Player is Apple refuse to support it in their ever more popular iOS devices.

Forward thinking publishers worth looking at are Jacaranda (jacplus.com.au) and Oxford University (oxforddigital.com.au) who are making great progress with their proprietary but accessible solutions.

Oxford University have a digital solution called ‘obook’. Although initially used in their primary range Oxford now offer their Big Ideas books supporting years 7,8,9, and 10, in English, Maths, History and Science. A quick phone call to Oxford University head office revealed that they are acting quickly to produce material for senior school too. The content includes interactive learning modules and additional focused learning on key ideas. Oxford's obook is compatible with PCs, laptops, iPads, and tablets.

Jacplus is a similar tool for consuming the Jacaranda textbooks available for Australian secondary schools. Jacplus works across all devices too and it houses your Jacaranda electronic textbooks and digital resources together. The textbooks have all the advantages you would expect such as highlighting text, making notes and interactive activities.

Finally, Apple are bringing their own ideas to the table with iBooks and the new iBooks Author software. If you have used the Al Gore app Our Choice (if not check it out via the iOS App Store) then you will know how powerful interactive books can really be. With the free iBooks Author software on the Mac platform Apple are streamlining the creation process and the user experience of the iBook format. The onus is shifting to the teacher to create their own original content with the potential to distribute their work via the iBookstore. If authors and publishers are happy to abide by the strict license agreements, then expect a flood of educational iBooks this year.

All of these solutions are great examples of how publishers can make their texts available on the devices which schools are adopting, maximise on all the benefits of interactive books and maintain the correct revenue owed to them. But is it worth adapting your curriculum to fit with publishers who are supporting a broader range of technologies?

Teaching strategies which engage our Learners

With new technology and so many expressive mediums at hand some traditional teaching practices are becoming redundant. I sometimes sense a feeling of panic wash over certain teachers as discussion about pedagogy and technology meet. My mother for example (a Law teacher) comforts in the knowledge that she'll be retired soon, so it's really not necessary to bring any of the above technologies into her classroom. She, like many other “non-digital” teachers consistently achieve some of the highest student grades in the school. But whether she realises it or not technology has entered her learning environment in a big way. Students themselves are recording, researching and sharing notes from classroom lectures, and not just with pen and paper. My mother is emailing Word documents, one at a time to her students. Not to actively engage in a 21st Century education but to save paper! So small steps, voluntary or not, are being made. Therefore it makes sense that all teachers should at least be made aware of, and consider tech tools which ultimately will save them time and better engage modern students.

Blended Learning

A term used a fair bit recently which simply means to blend technology with traditional teaching practices. Lets take the classic in class lecturing model for example. This consumes valuable classroom time, and may only interest a small minority of students while others get distracted as their eyes wander toward the window. By posting your lectures online using Youtube, and requesting students use their personal computers or even their mobile phones to access your lecture can free up class time for valuable dialogue. It is this physical time spent with your learners where you can discuss surrounding topics and develop a greater understanding of the topic. This strategy is sometimes known as classroom flipping. Teaching which uses online (away from school) discussion and collaborative projects as fuel for in-class discussion and debate.

Challenge Based Learning and Project Based Learning

Both of these practices start with a question or challenge. Generally there is no right or wrong answer, it is in the inquiry, research, processing and presentation process where the learning happens. I think it is important to state that although these methods don't wholly rely on technology, technology does flourish at every stage of the process.

It is widely accepted that there are eight styles of learning: linguistic, musical, and interpersonal to name a few. By allowing students to make their own decisions about how to proceed with a task they will utilise the learning style that best suits them. From here teachers can guide students to take action and solve problems. Students realise that they can make a difference and reach their own potential. The process is extremely rewarding and one which is well documented by teaching staff online. Check out www.bie.org for more.


The integration of technology into the classroom can sometimes feel like a well executed marketing push from the likes of Apple, Google or Microsoft. And I worry that the entertainment/corporate world and the education sectors are clashing a little too much. We have unrealistic and unnecessary expectations that with the plethora of educational applications and a portable device, technology adoption by teachers should be fairly straightforward. I have spent considerable time reviewing Education apps from the "Education" category of the Apple App store. A large proportion of these apps hold as much pedagogical value as a paper weight.

Have no doubt, it is a full time job to deconstruct, analyse and implement not just apps but any of the technologies mentioned in this article. To guide and train teachers in making their own decisions about which technologies to apply, which complement their own teaching strategies is key. Remember, it is about convenience and time saving too, after all that is why the technology is so prevalent. Integrated into your school correctly, and teachers should see an increase in spare time (at least that's what I tell them).

Control Z


Putting control into the parents hands.

Control is something which I feel parents are losing a lot of when their child comes home from school with a shiny new computer. I often imagine the groans from some parents as they realise that years of disciplined upbringing, routine and careful social selection is certain to come undone.

Those of us using a windows computer will also know that ‘control Z’ simply means undo. Just a quick key combination which has been around for decades that can retract the most horrific of mistakes. Perhaps a doodle in photoshop undone or a passive aggressive paragraph removed from an email. This safety net in recent years has been invaluable for almost all of us.

I will show you how you can re-gain control of your child's online activities. You will be able to restrict, snoop and discover all sorts of perhaps, unsavoury details using 2 fairly simple methods.


Guides for parents - as seen in Scribe Magazine.

  • Click here for a guide on how you can use Parental Controls built into your Mac.
  • Click here for assistance with Self Control, it allows for self exclusion from certain websites for a period of time while a visual clock counts down.


Putting control into the childs hands.

Throughout our lives, we all exercise self-control. In doing so we resist temptation, meet deadlines and follow direction. It is an essential skill for becoming successful and one that should be defined and internalised in our children's education.

The reward for self regulating is an immense sense of achievement. That feeling of marking items off a check list, completing assignments and homework tasks is one of huge satisfaction. Instead of rewarding students for such achievements make it known that they are using their self-control to make themselves feel good.

I have spoken with many students about their online social habits, interestingly enough each pupil is remarkably open & honest. Some have given me a snapshot of their computers and indicated that their daily routine is full of distractions (mainly with pop up windows and other notifications). In every instance it feels as though the student is looking for a solution and assistance to combat time wasted on Facebook. Playing the victim maybe, but it is clear that most want help.

The truth is that we simply cannot micro manage each Macbook, mobile phone or tablet device, in the home or at school. As these devices get smaller and even more personal the challenge is to ensure that the student is experienced enough to do the right thing and implement some basic strategies;

Switch off the Wi-Fi connection. I often do this if I need to concentrate fully on the task at hand. Even as I write this my internet connection is switched off. This ensures that I will not be distracted by any emails or other work/social commitments. At least for 30 minutes I can simply word process.

Set a countdown timer. Another great technique which is often implemented in the classroom is simply a count down clock. This is known as ‘Time Boxing’ where by your attention is completely focused on a task for the chosen period of time. So even if you set your virtual egg timer for just 20 minutes, students can get really productive knowing that they can reward themselves with a status update on Facebook.

Keep the computer in a shared home space. It’s an old one but possibly the best advice I can give. Certainly while your child is just getting used to the internet, and social networking. Try to give your child tips on how they can avoid distractions, get work done and ultimately shut down the computer. You may also want to consider make the bedroom a screen free zone, this includes mobile phones too.

Take time out. If you are simply flitting around between the same websites and not making progress, shut down the computer. Often research and ideas flow better with a pen and paper in the library. Also outdoor activities should take priority. Research from the Heart Foundation suggests that children need at least 60 minutes (and up to several hours) of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.


“Procrastinating is the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today”

- Wayne Dyer

The teaching direction of 21st century schooling has a focus on equipping our students with the knowledge to conduct themselves responsibly online and the positive effects are evident. The majority of Australian teenagers which I have spoken with receive outstanding guidance and support from their schools. I feel that the roll out of modern devices in education has been a huge success so far, but the journey is just beginning and is one where we are all learning.

It is a great privilege for students to have access to leading technology which provides significant educational value. By using any of the tips outlined above we can provide virtual driving lessons and prepare teenagers for a future where the use of technology is unavoidable.

Top 50 Educational Apps of 2011


I have compiled a list of the apps which I have used and highly recommend as "tools in the classroom". Used under supervision of a great teacher, these apps can provide a solid foundation to some outstanding lessons. I suggest that as a teacher you take just 2 or 3 relevant apps, and really deconstruct them. Evaluate how they might compliment your lesson plans. It is all to easy to get overwhelmed at the choice available on the App Store.


New apps for the Australian classroom

  1. Four Corners 50 Years - Australian Broadcasting Corporation Celebrate 50 Years of Four Corners... with more than seventy hours of content available, this is a unique archive of Australia’s current affairs history.
  2. Asialink - DreamWalk Mobile Asialink is Australia's leading centre for the promotion of public understanding of the countries of Asia and of Australia's role in the region. This app features the Asialink Essays - a series of monthly essays written by leading commentators who explore key issues in Australia's engagement with Asia.
  3. MyEnvironment - Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities Find the Australian environmental places that make up your neighbourhood or area of interest
  4. Constitution of Australia - UNILEX® This free app contains the full text of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (The Constitution), as well as hundreds of links to case law references on the AustLII website (internet connection required). With great features like full text search, keyword highlighting, and email, this app aims to be a highly useful and educationally rich companion guide to the study and practice of Australian Constitutional Law.
  5. Please Touch The Exhibit - icity2r mobile Celebrate Melbourne Museum’s tenth birthday and rediscover, explore and share some of Melbourne Museum’s most iconic stories.


My favourite apps

  1. WolframAlpha - Wolfram Alpha LLC
  2. SimplePhysics - Andrew Garrison
  3. Al Gore – Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis - Push Pop Press, Inc.
  4. Prezi Viewer - Prezi Inc.
  5. Explain Everything - MorrisCooke


Developers to check out for 2012

  1. iDevBooks.com - Educational Math Apps
  2. RealSimpleEdu.com - Handy reference apps across many subjects.
  3. Oxford University Press ELT - eBooks of famous stories with illustrations.


The complete list of my top 50 education apps of 2011

  1. 3D Brain FREE
  2. AsiaLink FREE
  3. BrainPOP FREE
  4. Calculator ++ FREE
  5. Cell Structure 1.99
  6. Chicktionary 1.99
  7. Clickview Player FREE
  8. Composer FREE
  9. Constitution of Australia FREE
  10. Dropbox FREE
  11. Evernote FREE
  12. Explain Everything 2.99
  13. Four Corners FREE
  14. Gallery FREE
  15. GarageBand 5.49
  16. Gibson L&M Guitar (iPhone) FREE
  17. Google Earth FREE
  18. Grammar Up 5.49
  19. Guardian Eyewitness FREE
  20. Hiragana 0.99
  21. History Maps FREE
  22. iBooks FREE
  23. iMovie 5.49
  24. J-ENesis FREE
  25. Keynote 10.49
  26. Kindle FREE
  27. Learn Chess FREE
  28. Mathemagics 0.99
  29. Monarchy The Definitive Guide 1.99
  30. Moxie HD 1.99
  31. Multiplication - iDevBooks 4.49
  32. MyEnvironment FREE
  34. Our Choice 5.49
  35. Pages 10.49
  36. PEEK Evernote FREE
  37. PleaseTouch FREE
  38. Popplet Lite FREE
  39. Prezi Viewer FREE
  40. QRReader FREE
  41. Shakespeare FREE
  42. SIB (Shakespeare in Bits) Romeo and Juliet 5.49
  43. Simple Physics 0.99
  44. Simplex Spell 1 0.99
  45. Star Walk 2.99
  46. TED FREE
  47. Voice Thread FREE
  48. Whiteboard FREE
  49. Whiteboard Splashtop 20.99
  50. Wolfram Alpha 2.99

Self Control - assisting students


Do you or your child constantly give into temptation and waste hours on Facebook when you should be working? Let me show you a great little application for OS X which will help you manage your time better and become more productive. This is a good method to help your child/student manage their own time while online. By downloading an application called Self Control you can restrict access to a predefined list of websites for a specified period of time. In turn putting control into the hands of your child/student and teaching them the importance of self regulation. Here's how,

  • Visit http://visitsteve.com/made/selfcontrol/ and download Self Control 1.3.
  • Double click the ‘SelfControl-1.3.zip’ file in your Downloads folder.
  • Drag the SelfControl.app icon into your Applications folder.

  • Double click the icon to launch. You may also want to drag this icon into your dock as a shortcut.
  • Once SelfControl opens Click on the 'Edit Blacklist' button. Here you can add website which you would like to restrict.

  • Alternative you can change the Blacklist to a Whitelist. This will mean that you can only visit the sites listed and no others.
  • Now move the slider to the chosen time starting from 15 minutes to 24 hours and hit the Start button
  • Once started, it can not be undone by the application, by deleting the application, or by restarting the computer – you must wait for the timer to run out.

Now as a parent you can head out for the evening knowing that your child will not be wasting time on social networking sites, and hopefully focused on their homework for a set period of time!