connect |kəˈnekt| verb [ with obj. ] bring together 
or into contact so that a real or notional link is established

I like to be connected.

I confess that I am a social network addict and love to share aspects of my everyday life. My partner has rolled his eyes at me plenty of times, and asked if just this once, our meal could remain private. HAHA! (Sometimes I appease him, but I really do enjoy taking pics of my food – sorry!)


It is increasingly easier to share your everyday comings and goings with the virtual world and it is rare to feel alone. Using Instagram, I feel a sense of community with many like minded people, also sharing photos of their daily lives. Twitter is where I share my teaching ideas and Facebook is a more personal space for me and my close friends.

In my own little world, I have noticed how this sense of connectedness makes me so happy. And how it has helped me to become a better teacher and a better friend. I have my own little ‘communities’ or ‘networks’ that provide me with constant laughs, challenges and ideas.

Besides my partner (who is amazing), my colleagues and my uni friends, there are 2 groups of people that I talk to everyday… and without those conversations, I think I would feel stifled.


The Work Ladies


Jude, Lorna and I at Lorna’s Wedding in Wales, July 2012.

After training on Mondays and Wednesdays, we have breakfast together. This gives us the chance to debrief and gather our thoughts. As friends and work colleagues, we can talk about anything: from assessment tasks to weekend adventures. Having such a great support network at school is seriously undervalued. I know not all teachers are lucky enough to have friends in their workplace, but I can tell you, without these ladies – some days at school would be more difficult.


The Edmodo Ladies


Me, Bianca and Monique

We met in the most random way. While we had already been connected on Twitter, we had never met in real life. Until Edmodo brought us together. All three of us were selected to present at EdmodoCon 2011 – an online Virtual Conference. In preparation for the conference, we thought it would be a good idea to meet up and discuss what we were going to present. The random thing was, we all lived a suburb away from eachother and were able to meet. (Edmodo had no idea about this – they just thought we were all from somewhere in Australia!!!!) This random meeting developed into great professional relationships… and awesome friendships. I think the highlight of this connection has been the EPIC group SMS that we have been sharing over the last month or so. These ladies are great to bounce teaching ideas off, have a laugh and reflect upon our day in the classroom.



With all these connections in my everyday world, I started to think about how important it was to replicate this dynamic into my classroom.

It is written clear as day in the Quality Teaching Framework document:


What does it look like in classrooms?

What does it look like in assessment tasks?


Lesson activities rely on the application of school knowledge in real-life contexts or problems, and provide opportunities for students to share their work with audiences beyond the classroom and school. Tasks apply school knowledge in real-life contexts or problems, and provide opportunities for students to share their work with audiences beyond the classroom and school.

While a traditional classroom exists in the one space… in-between the four walls that are prescribed to us by a school


In the amazing 21st Century classroom, there are no boundaries as it can exist in an online space


Modelling the way I connect using Social Networks, I have tried to develop this sense of collaboration in my classroom. Building up the students understanding of how to communicate and share with their peers as a community.

But I wanted to take this a step further. 

This year I was allocated 3 Year 8 classes.


I thought I was going to go mad if I taught the same thing three times in a week. I had to change the programme, not too much, but just enough, so that while it was more exciting for me, it would still cover the outcomes that the other teachers were covering.

I reflected upon the way I connected… and how it had opened up my eyes and has helped me everyday to understand my teaching practice more. Why not bring this into the classroom???

I reached out to my Professional Learning Network and asked if any teachers here or overseas would want to connect with my Year 8 classes who were studying the topic of ‘The Suburbs’.

Bingo! There was a teacher from Alabama who said yes… and from there my idea developed. Inspired by the blog/photography project 52 Suburbs, I wanted the students to not only look at their suburbs and their small worlds, but compare this to other students experiences.

What am I going to teach then?

I decided that I wanted my students to study the artists we would normally study, but instead of writing about them, they could make little videos that we could share with the class overseas. This will be particularly interesting, because the two key Practitioners are Reg Mombassa and Lin Onus. Mombassa is an Artist who uses many Australian icons in a humorous way. Onus uses his art to reflect upon his identity as an Anglo Saxon and Aboriginal living in a white community.

I also wanted them to make art to share with this new audience. While they are sharing images of their different communities using Edmodo, I thought about how cool it would be to be PenPals with these overseas students. Going back to old school letter writing to compare their lives on the other side of the globe. So, the students are going to design their own postcards and send them to this new connection overseas.

Exciting times ahead!!!

Check out the outline for the unit of work. I have used Bianca‘s PBL model to nut out the ideas that the students are going to explore.

How do you get your students to connect in the classroom?


As the Year draws to a close, it is hard to find motivation. Everything is winding down as the school year ends.

I believe that I am a dedicated teacher who is creative and passionate…. but I am feeling stifled at the moment! Perhaps I am on the verge of being bored even! (But the kids stop that from happening… ) This is not to say that I am not putting in as much effort to deliver exciting and engaging lessons, I just feel that I can do it really easily.

I have noticed that I am not one to be bored…. and always line myself up with a challenge to keep myself entertained. Usually this has been related to work:

  • Completing my Masters
  • Having my first Exhibition
  • Presenting at Conferences

But of late, I have been focusing on me. 

WARNING: Before you read on!! This is not a blog post about Exercise – bear with me!

At the beginning of the Year I started regular training sessions with the Master Trainer – Josh. I also decided to try and eat better by ordering Lite’n’Easy for my school meals. The thing was, I started to noticed some results! I started to lost weight and was quite excited.


So, I increased the amount of training sessions that I was doing and even did some of my own… Motivated by some great Fitness Apps.


The thing about group fitness training, was that we were also having a lot of fun and becoming really good friend….


Stretching after training can often lead to fits of giggles!

This was all well and good… I was happy! But I needed to set myself a goal – my friends wedding in Wales. I want to drop a dress size and treat myself to a new dress for the occasion. To do this, I started to do one-on-one Personal Training sessions along with Kate. These were more high intensity and Josh worked us hard – knowing that we both had goals we wanted to achieve!


I was so excited and loved that I could buy a size 12 dress!

Achievement unlocked!
Jude and I in Wales!

Jude and I in Wales!

Training continued, as it had been…. and I felt great. Then Josh told us about this great new eating program/lifestyle food plan/diet called Metabolic Jumpstart. 

The thing with me is, I don’t just half do things…. From the beginning of the year I had committed myself to changing my lifestyle. I wasn’t going to let myself down.

To date, I have lost 7cm from my waist and am now a size 10.

Achievement unlocked!



By now, if you are still reading, you are probably wondering what this has to do with my teaching.

Well, for one, it has kept my motivated and has probably been the most exciting thing happening at the moment! (Perhaps sad, but true) I don’t want to think that I am someone who obsesses about weight or food, but it has certainly transformed my life.

I have therefore been deconstructing what it is about this years achievement that has kept me motivated? What is the key ingredient that is missing from my teaching practice? Is there something from this experience that I can take away and apply to a new context…???

(And yes, I have an over-active mind too!)

I thought about Jane McGonigal’s. I thought about her analysis that Reality is Broken and her definition of the four traits of a Game… and why these games make people happy….

  1. The GOAL is the specific outcome the players work to achieve
  2. The RULES place limitations on how players can achieve this goal
  3. The FEEDBACK system tells the player how close they are to achieving the goal
  4. VOLUNTARY PARTICIPATION requires that people playing the game know the goals, rules and accept the feedback
Now for the A-HA moment…

My training and weight loss journey has had these traits!!!! That is why I have had success!

And this is where my reality is broken, because the thing that I love the most – Teaching- is lacking in these things at the moment.

I am trying to set my own GOALS to unlock new achievements… but I feel like I have already done this. I have tried to share in my achievements with the people around me, but they are not all VOLUNTARY PARTICIPANTS.

It is hard to be goal orientated person with no goal…. I want more…. I am seeking it… but don’t know where to find it.

Teaching for me, needs a jumpstart!

If you have any ideas where I can find it… Please help: Apply within!

Photo 19-10-12 3 22 35 PM


A real audience

I have had so many blog posts in my head and it seems not enough time to write them. But, I feel that this post is urgently needed.

Urgently? But why?

Because I really want my Year 7 GATS Class (Academic Extension) to have a real world audience. Inspired by the PBL units by Bianca Hewes, my aim was for the students to create a narrative based upon their journey through an RPG style game that I designed.

The unit of work is on CONFLICT and the premise is that Mr Conflict is causing havoc in Conflictus. The players must journey through the land and complete missions that will help them catch Mr Conflict.

I had done a similar unit of work last year and had used Weebly to design a Game, but after seeing Simon Harper’s World Food Quest my game seemed lame. So, I gave myself the goal of redesigning it. I also thought about different things that were a challenge from last year. One main thing was that to level up, last year I rewarded points using Edmodo that went into the grades feature. 10 Points = 1 gold star. A certain amount of stars were needed to level up.

While this was great for GATS kids as it took out the need for grading and marks, it also gave me ALOT of work. If I hadn’t checked their work, then they couldn’t level up and then they sat in class not doing anything.

For the redesign, I changed this and made a map with different levels. The students can choose any location to work on, however, some levels require an artefact that can only be gained by completing a different mission.

To document the students work, they have created blogs. This is where the real life audience comes in!

I would love you guys to read their posts and comment on their characters and their responses to what conflict is. I think they will be stoked to realise that it is not just me reading and commenting!!

Explore the land of CONFLICTUS <————

(this is still a work in progress!! Any ideas would be appreciated!)

and see what they students think conflict is!

This is just a sample from my class! I hope you enjoy!


The Wild Survival Kit

As part of a transition unit at school, we developed a cross-curricula Project Based Learning (PBL) unit of work with a driving question:

What kind of wild thing are you?

I have written about the art focus in an earlier post here, but to reiterate, it was great to have all the faculties work together for a common assessment goal. The great thing was that we also worked with the local primary school to embed language that was consistent with Stage 3 into Stage 4. So the students had to create 3 products and/or performances to demonstrate to a panel their understanding of the question. So, while they were working on this group goal, each class they went to for at least the first 4 weeks of term taught within their faculties an understanding of the WILD THINGin that subject. For examples, Maths was: Is your wild thing a thing of the past? Where the students used History and Mathematics to analyse different number systems. Geography used field work at the Zoo to analyse data about the environment around them. Technology produced animal ipod cases, footprint stamps and morphed digital animal beings.

I went and watched some of the presentations and it was really interesting to see how the students had synthesised these concepts and worked in groups to produce great examples of their Wild Self. It would be even better next year to have some Team Teaching going on to illustrate the links between subject areas more consistently.

I have the Gifted and Talented (GATS) class in Year 7 which we call the Academic Extension class. They have 3 periods in the class and it is not based upon a set syllabus. The curriculum is open to extend their learning and develop their creative thinking and problem solving skills.

So, I got to think of an exciting way to explore the concept of the WILD THINGS with this group and I developed the task:

Design a Survival Kit to aid you in the wild.

There were three parts:

A representation of the wild thing inside of you.We all have wild emotions and the desire to fit in. When Max runs away and ends up in the land of the Wild Things, he encounters lots of new friends but has very different relationships with each of them. Discover what makes you who special. 

A study of the wild. Max travels to a land very different from the one he knows. It is full of new creatures, new abilities, new friends, and it is a place where Max rules as king. Use your imagination to create a world where you would like to live.

“Let the wild rumpus start.” In Where The Wild Things Are, Max experiences many different emotions, from trying to figure out how he fits in with his family to trying to figure out how he fits in with the Wild Things. In addition, the Wild Things manifest many emotions as they struggle with some issues that Max faces and some of their own. Start a wild rumpus of your own.

As academic students who are selected via the selective schools exam, I wanted to use the text as a metaphor for fitting in and discovering your self. But I also wanted them to understand that it is not always easy and that they are special students who are different from others.

The students were definitely challenged. I didn’t really know what I wanted the outcome to look like and I certainly didn’t want to define the parameters. But I also didn’t just want a boring essay submission that was not creative and didn’t think outside of the box. I got the students to look at different learning styles and how there were many ways to present information based upon these. Things like videos, board games, a timeline, a play, a poem or a song could all illustrate your ideas.

I also banned large pieces of cardboard with collage and glitter!

I ended up having to explain myself quite a few times and did some really fun brainstorming sessions to develop their ideas:

The REAL wild and the METAPHORICAL wild

Then the ideas really started to flow….

Here are some student work samples that I have curated into one document:

We ended the Term with their Wild Place… and while technically the unit is over, I still want them to Let the Wild Rumpus Start.

So, this is what I have developed for that…

wildrumpus <——– click to open document

How I envisaged this was that a WILD RUMPUS was something in the community that the students had a part in. So I found real situations that could translate to classroom activities and goals for the students to achieve in groups. Inspired by @biancahewes I wanted a real audience and real project that the students could link to their world and their understanding of the Wild Thing inside them. I wanted a spark to ignite about the way they can become involved in their community and that they can have an impact.

I am going to use Edmodo in small groups, Class Dojo and Goalbook to facilitate their learning. Constant peer evaluation and the creation of a time management plan to make this all possible. I am going to break down the walls of the classroom and allow them to respond to this challenge however they feel fit.

I hope they get something out of this. I will keep you posted on what their outcomes are.

What kind of WILD THING are you?

Can you believe we go back to school this week?? After 5 weeks of Holidays, I am so relaxed but am also looking forward to getting back into it!

This is also an exciting time for the new Year 7 kids… coming from Primary school into High School! They must be excited and scared all at the same time!

Back to school

As part of transition at our school, for the first time, we have developed a cross-faculty unit that will allow the Stage 3 students to come to high school and settle in with more ease.

The theme is based upon the text, “Where the Wild Things Are”, and the Project Based Learning Direct Question is:

What Kind of Wild Thing are you?

One representative from each faculty all sat down and brainstormed ideas for how this could be adapted to each of the syllabus outcomes in each subject area. Some teachers were reluctant and not sure how to approach this, but together we slowly made it all come together.

During Orientation Week the students will have mini lessons on how to cope with high school. These include internet logins, study skills and bullying classes. This week will also see the students go to the zoo and get in touch with their wild side. They will also watch the film, read the book and have a CSIRO science exploration day.

In my excitement, I developed this booklet for the Visual Arts Faculty….

What kind of Wild thing are you? Why don’t you build your WILD SELF….

H.S.C – Have.Some.Care

You know those blog posts that you dream about… you are going to nail it… all those thoughts that have been washing through your head and are now in writing…! YES! That is this one! A long awaited post that is well overdue…!

After marking the HSC Visual Arts Written Exams, I had many frustrations running through my head.

Piles and piles of exam papers regurgitated pre-learned essays/artists/ideas. Our Syllabus requires us to teach case studies.

investigation of content through at least 5 case studies in art criticism and art history

The content is driven by the teachers strengths and interests, and most teachers try to cover an array of artists. Some case studies are also student research based, so that they can have autonomy over their learning and find artists that interest them and support their art making.

Well, this is the goal anyway….

It was evident that deep learning and understanding was lacking in some responses. It seems that some students think that HSC Art is only about the art making and not about the written component… Now, this is not a criticism on any teachers – more on the role of the HSC exam in their learning.


But feel there is a disconnect in the content that I have to teach and the end exam. How can learning and understanding from 5 case studies… which should be approximately 15 different artists…  be represented in a 1 ½ hour exam? The questions ask the students to make sophisticated links between artists and ideas. They must understand not only the aesthetic qualities of the work, but the conceptual practice of the artist and the world influences on their work.

I know that no matter what happens, we are controlled by the Syllabus and there will probably be some sort of quantitative tool used to evaluate a students learning as the endpoint… But I also want my kids to have a visual language and understanding of the art world that goes beyond an exam.

After seeing the Picasso exhibition yesterday, my teaching values are even firmer in my mind. I don’t want all my students responding to the exam with the same wrote learned artists. I want them to be involved in the work of the artists that they know – so much so that any question thrown at them they will be able to make links and develop an argument.

Don’t you just love my holiday romanticized view of Teaching!?

But what does this have to do with Picasso???

Well… just as the HSC exam questions required the students to make links, develop arguments, draw conclusions, recognise the impact the world has on art and do all this in a short space of time.. when seeing the audience viewing the Picasso exhibition, I am sure many were confused, didn’t know how to react, but thought cause he is famous and the work was in a gallery it was art. But were they all able to EVALUATE his artistic practice and realise the importance of all his processes. I want my students to be able to engage in a meaningful dialogue about art beyond the HSC exam.

Portrait of Olga in an armchair, 1918

Not all his works were good and not all works were ‘typical’ Picasso. His body of worked developed and changed in response to the world around him. Picasso experimented with different approaches to the picture plane and was confident in his own aesthetic. He was a talented artist, but was also smart enough to be able to challenge the traditional artistic conventions. Picasso’s oeuvre ebbed and changed as he tried new things and figured out what worked for him. He did not let anyone sway him and continued the Cubist style throughout his lifetime. It was evident when looking at Picasso’s work that he has awareness of the art world around him. His work did not exist in a vacuum. The aim of studying HSC art is to develop creative thinking and problem solving skills that help you to respond to the visual world around you.


Visual Arts at Stage 6 is designed to enable students to:

•      gain increasing intellectual autonomy in their abilities to aesthetically and persuasively represent ideas in the visual arts; and

•      understand and value how the field of the visual arts is subject to different interpretations.

Picasso’s work shows an awareness of the world around him, and his response was to turn it on it’s head.

Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe, Manet

‘The déjeuner sur l’herbe’ after Manet, 1961, Picasso


When a student sits the HSC exam, it is like a Picasso –

Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937

you have to look at the question for a while, consider everything you know, turn it upside down and inside out… extrapolate what they are really asking of you, minus the number you first started with, use evidence to support your findings and write an essay that actually means something to you.

After the HSC, you are not going to have to write an essay, but you will probably go into an art gallery and engage in a dialogue about the art you are viewing. I hope that my students can do that meaningfully and with passion when they leave my classroom!


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Taking risks

Today I decided to challenge myself coming into the new year and release my creative potential……

I have created a new blog to document my leap into art making and hope that you enjoy my flailings…

Who Killed Modern Art?

I am on the hunt for the History of Modern Art…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This has been designed as a stage 6 assessment for learning task. Instead of me blabbering away at the front of the room, telling them what I already know about Modern Art, this is a scaffolded research task where students are given some evidence to solve the mystery, but then they have to synthesis their findings into their closing arguments of the case.

To make it engaging, I have tried to weave this detective case narrative throughout, with suspects, motives, evidence and breaking news as the metaphor for artists, influences, events and facts.

I know that at stage 6, Year 12, students fear that if their learning is not teacher guided with chalk and talk, they may not be getting all they need to know for the HSC exam. While  I know that this is not true, at the beginning of each theory lesson I present a breaking news segment where  present on one modern art movement with a key example, some facts about the visual qualities and the conventions, and a little video. For the rest of the lesson the students autonomously gather their own findings. These are being documented as blogs, websites or a onenote file.

Kids are really engaged and beginning to use the metalanguage in class. They are excited to post their latest work and see what I think. They are working  collaboratively to figure out the technology if they need help and are discussing where to find the best information.

They OWN their understanding of this topic. Won’t that last beyond the exam?

Xmas Gift ideas…..

Yes, you may think it is too early to think about Xmas, but if you want unique handmade items, the time to order is NOW!


In incube8r at the moment,  I have just stocked some awesome umbrellas!! Created from the Alphabetism collection of fabric designs, at $45 they would make great Xmas presses.



There is also U for Umbrella and J for Jewel designs to choose from….

Can’t see one here that you like???

Please tweet, email or comment on this post to have one custom ordered just for you!!!

And don’t forget there are cushions too…..





Miss Chance quashes Mr Conflict

The students have been working on LearnQuest now for 2 Terms…. yes 2 TERMS!!!

I am quite impressed that I was able to engage gifted and talented students for that long with the same task…

While some of them have started to lose interest and are maybe not as competitive as at the beginning, they all still are doing the work and producing some great responses. Also giving them a definitive end point has been good, as it has driven them to resolve all the final outcomes.

When we brainstormed in class what CONFLICT was to start drawing conclusions to end the topic, I was really impressed with the responses.

“It is social and emotional..”

“It can’t be controlled… like the environmental conflict of the earthquake in Japan”

“It is necessary to resolve problems”

“There are good and bad conflicts”

“It helps us see different points of view”

I wasn’t sure where to head next, as there is still a Level 4 of LearnQuest where the whole class works together to make a video. I considered the fact that 2 Terms had already been spent on this, and maybe it was time to get the students working on an individual learning plan and the chance to get off the computers and do something else…. but I still wanted it to be related…

So, I created

Miss Chance

You never know which way she will roll…

To reflect on their learning during LearnQuest, students will answer the driving question

Why do people play games?  What types of internal and external experiences (inside and outside a player’s head) do players appreciate and expect from games?

I am inspired by Jane McGonigal at the moment and introduced the topic with her TED talk.

I am going to get students playing games in class and at home as an experiment, and then write a research report to draw conclusions from their findings.

Part of their report will be a proposal/creation of new game that they design.

I think this will be a great way to tie in everything they have learnt so far and it will be interesting to get their perspective on gaming.