Sunday, April 20, 2014


Most of you would know that during the holidays I went up to Darwin and then down to Katherine to visit Deborah Wasley, a past teacher at Epsom PS.  Deborah teaches at MacFarlane Primary School in Katherine which is a  government school of 190 students with 9 classes.  Our school has 198 students and 9 classes also so we have much in common. MacFarlane PS has a cultural mix of students that is significantly indigenous whereas Epsom has a low indigenous composition of students.

I was invited to MacFarlane to help get the teachers and students using the iPads in different ways to how they might have been used in the past.  On arrival I was taken to the computer room where the iPads were housed in a lock up charging unit.  My mind flashed back to our dish racks and power boards. Next I visited classrooms and the staff room and saw some great learning spaces. 

The iPads were not rostered to any room and so sat in the charging unit and could be borrowed by a class if needed. One class had been using them this first term and had made movies about Ned Kelly with the students.

My job was to engage the teachers and children in a day of activity where they could create on the iPads and develop skills that could then be used for other learning and across the curriculum.

I took 5 classes throughout the day. The activity took place in Bookcreator a very versatile app that could be used in many ways and with all levels. We took photos (selfies) and then produced line drawings using the photo as template.  We also added sound to the page and the smiles on the students' faces when they heard their voices was magic. I took some of the telephone microphones and they loved them.  It's surprising how many children haven't seen old phones like them.

While working with the children it was interesting to see some children emerge as leaders and eagerly share their know how of using the apps and iPads.  This was great as some of these students were not always thought of in positive terms for their off task behaviour. Now they were on task and helping others.

 The teachers at MacFarlane have now decided to move the iPads into the classrooms with teachers working in pairs and sharing 6 iPads.  Deborah sent her students into her partner's room the next day to peer coach and it went very well.  The skills were transferred to maths and other areas of the curriculum.  I wonder if they will down size their app collections as they had 350 apps and even had a folder called "free time." Imagine the look on my face when I saw that. Well I guess it's where we began and once you experience using the apps you soon realise there are those that baby sit and those that extend the students learning. I recommended the use of empty apps where you have to put in the content yourself and create.

The Beebots were a hit at lunchtime and hopefully they can download the Beebot app and continue learning to give directions and early days coding.

While in the Northern Territory I also met up with two people I follow on twitter, Jasmine @jasmineshannon0 who teaches at Tipperary Station (6 students) and Tim @wickstim who is now a consultant and was running Minecraft camps in Katherine. Both very passionate teachers with lots to share.

Of course I also went touring around the top end of NT swimming in rock pools at the base of water falls and crocodile watching on river cruises. I toured with Deb and my podcasting buddy Lois. We visited some great indigenous artwork thousands of years old and learned so much about indigenous culture. Sometimes it's hard to keep your teacher hat off.

Our indigenous people have so much culture that needs to be preserved and passed down the generations. In some communities they are using ICT to record their stories so that their culture can be passed down.  It was interesting that the students seemed embarrassed to talk about or share their culture. Something that needs encouragement and inclusion in the curriculum.  It would be great for the children to create dual language resources in their home language and school language.

I have come back with a desire to find out more about our indigenous people and will investigate what we can do during reconciliation week and across the curriculum generally to add indigenous culture to our learning.

Was there a time in your holiday where you wore your teacher hat and thought about learning?

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