BYOD – the first steps

Another great piece from Alice Leung.

Alice Leung

So my school has decided to journey down the BYOD path. This is for several reasons, including students already bringing in their own devices (not just their own smartphones but quite a few students bring in their own laptops and tablets) and asking for them to be connected to the school WiFi and wanting to continue technology-rich learning post DER (DER stands for Digital Education Revolution, an Australian government initiative that gave Year 9 students their own laptops. The funding for this has ended.)

Several teachers have asked for a blog post on our BYOD journey so far so here it is …

Before we jumped on the BYOD bandwagon, we wanted to know what students thought of this. This involved chatting to students to explain what BYOD is and whether they would bring the devices they already at home to school. We put the feelers out to see what…

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Assessment Tasks and the use of Technology

On two occasions within the last few months @materdeiwagga has been fortunate to have @aussietony, Tony Ryan, as a keynote presenter and small group facilitator working with teachers about contemporary learning. Teachers positively commented about Tony’s ability to identify with their challenges in the classroom and then provide practical strategies that were student-centred and inquiry focused.

Tony has worked with schools in Australia and overseas. He has a wealth of knowledge and knows what can be achieved when teachers make the conscious decision to work in new paradigms. As part of his commitment to work with us, Tony had numerous conversations with me as principal both before and after his visits. He also had two conversations with the Leadership Tam and sent various emails to ensure he was working with us to serve our needs. Throughout all those times, the understanding between us was that we had to be honest with each other.

A part of his presentation on day one, Tony was asked to critique two assessment tasks. He stated the quality was there and that they would definitely ‘cut muster’ with NSW Board of Studies requirements. However, “they are very 2007ish.” His point was that there was little choice for students to be creative and innovative with the use of technology.

About a week later I had another conversation with Tony. He again made the point that technology should not come before student centred pedagogy, and challenged me to encourage teachers to ensure that technology was “core” to tasks. To be fair, there are many @materdeiwagga examples of assessment tasks and other related learning activities where students creatively use technology to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. However, based on what was presented to Tony before his visits, and at the time of his visits, there is still some way to go before it becomes ‘whole school’.

When setting an Assessment Task, in fact any learning activity for that matter, we need to ask ourselves….

1. Can the task done without technology? If so, it is not a valid task for the learning of today. 2013 learning requires technology to be used for more than just research. It needs the technology to be indispensable!

2. Is the task asking students to be collaborative and work in teams? If so, does it extend them further to act as “co-creators”? Working in teams and ‘co-creation’ will be essential requirements for most workers in 2020, if they aren’t already now.

3. With collaboration and co-creation, is it just within the school? If so, why? Why can’t the task or learning activity involve students working with others outside of school? For example,
i)  15 students from 3 different Wagga schools creating ?????
ii)  Peer writing with students from other schools across the state to create a story book, creative writing essay, persuasive speech etc….
iii)  Working with students from schools across the nation to solve a local problem.
iv)  Working with students/teachers from outside Australia develop a “cross-cultural App”.

3. How can Social Media assist? How could teachers see students using Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest to assist with their learning?

4. What about the creation of an iPhone/Android App.? What about the creation of a website? I know Weebly is one helpful tool that some teachers @materdeiwagga have introduced to students. WordPress is another tool that three Leaders of Learning use as part of the leadership of their area of responsibility. Also, many teachers have asked students to create videos about a concept to demonstrate understanding and then these videos have been used to teach the rest of the class. An excellent use of digital technology for the purposes of learning!

5. What about publication? It is a tremendously positive comment on any learning community when they have confidence to publish student work on public websites. Some schools have been doing this for sometime.

In totality, it seems overwhelming to be doing all of the above. However, if we continue to take things one step at a time, then in three years time, our use of technology to support quality learning will have grown exponentially. 

Our school, any school can take one unit at a time and reframe the task so that it couldn’t be done without the technology. At the moment, based on the nine pieces of evidence cited by Tony, almost all of the tasks could be done without the technology. 

The fact is, I am very pleased with the progress of teachers and their use of their technology @matredeiwagga. We have done the right thing in the past two years to concentrate more on how technology can support student-centred pedagogy. We simply cannot and should not, put the technology before the the pedagogy. Our progress with eFolios, Moodle, all things Google, iPads, KLA blogs & websites, and many other technology initiatives, especially over the last six months, has been a privilege to witness. The challenge is for us to now, with significant student input, discover the best ways to use technology for the purposes of student learning.

Any school(s) out there interested in co-creating with @materdiewagga students?
Any school(s) out there interested in co-creating students across the state to………
Any school(s) out there interested in working with students from schools across the nation?
Any school(s) out there interested in working with students/teachers from outside Australia develop a “cross-cultural App”?
If not, do you have any ideas how we can?
I would appreciate hearing from you.

Feedback Feedback Feedback

Like most teachers across Australia, I have just come off two weeks holiday. In that time I had the good fortune to visit a few different places for a mixture of work and pleasure. It started with a conference in the warmer climate of Cairns, a social weekend in Sydney before spending the second week on the sideline of a court being a netball dad. All three were enjoyable experiences with the third one being the most important and most pleasurable.

When I returned home to Wagga Wagga, I was still in holiday mode and lounging by the television when I noticed a television commercial which, in part, stated, “Get paid to give feedback” and go to This was after recent emails which requested (in some cases almost ‘pleaded’) for me to provide feedback of my recent experience. In fact, I was asked to provide feedback to Virgin Blue regarding my flights to and from Cairns, the Ibis Hotel in Cairns and Mecure Rutherford asked for feedback. Wotif asked for feedback. Each time I go banking online I am asked to provided feedback. Each time I telephone an organisation such as Telstra or Country Energy, I am asked to engage in 30 seconds of feedback at the end of the telephone call. These organisations obviously see “feedback as a gift”.

In teaching we often hear about the power of feedback. Hattie’s studies indicate time and time again that feedback impacts most positively on student learning outcomes. Taking this on board, teachers have worked hard on improving the quantity and quality of feedback for the students whom they teach. But, how often do principals and teachers actively seek feedback about their own practice? And, do they seek the right type of feedback?

The answers to these questions are not fixed and are impacted on any one school’s/teacher’s context and resources. Review of data for external examinations, and internal action research, often provides ‘food for thought’ to teachers about their practice. Well-being surveys and classroom surveys also provide invaluable insights for teachers looking to improve their vocation.  

In 2013 @matredeiwagga, the Assistant Principal (AP) has led a process which has real value. Starting at the beginning of this year, he asked staff about the possibility of each teacher surveying their students about the learning experience in their classroom. In doing so, the teaching staff revisited previous documents used for such a purpose, looked at student-centred pedagogy, the role of digital technology and examined latest research including the Gates Foundation Measuring Effective Teachers (MET) program. From these different perspectives we developed a draft classroom survey to give to students.

There were another two opportunities for teachers to comment on the survey. Each time, it was updated until it was finalised in early Term 2 and then the AP asked for teachers to volunteer for the survey experience. Well, he cannot keep up with the demand! It is a wonderful comment on our teachers and their willingness to embrace the importance of ‘student voice’. After a request from the teacher, the AP speaks with a class of the teacher’s choosing. He administers the survey to the class and reviews the feedback before passing it onto the teacher. (The reason he reviews it before the teacher is to identify any personal comments which have no place in a professional conversation. To this point in time, after some 14 surveys, there has been no need for the AP to delete a comment.) Once the teacher has had an opportunity to review the survey feedback, the AP meets with the teacher and has a coaching conversation with them. The findings of the survey are discussed confidentially between the AP and teacher. Without breaching any confidences, the AP reports that each discussion is a humbling experience where he witnesses teachers ‘taking on board the student voice’ about the learning experience as facilitated by the teacher.

The @materdiewagga experience reflects my strong feeling that feedback will always be valued by teachers when they have shared ownership of a feedback process which is focused on professional dialogue rather than judgement.

What does your school do to enable teachers to access worthwhile feedback about their practice?

Please let me know.






Non-Commissioned Time for Teachers – An Update

A few weeks back I published the following blog “Non-Commissioned Time for Teachers” It was exciting to get so many responses, with many of them adding to the original idea. Ah, you gotta luv the online PLN!
The week before last, I tabled an “Ideas Paper” with the wonderful staff @materdeiwagga. The “Ideas Paper” has four “BIG Ideas”. All were represented on a  shared Google document, allowing for some ‘on the spot’ collaboration. One of the four ideas was “Unstructured and Non-Commissioned Time for Teachers”.  26  teachers reflected and responded to this idea. Their thoughts, feelings, concerns, excitement and overall reflections can be found at
I would appreciate your comments below, or on the Doc itself, if you get a chance.
Regards and Thanks,