Technology, pedagogy and content in the same sentence!

As teachers we love a good acronym PLT, IEP, EAL …., the list goes on and seemingly continues to grow every new school year or PD (another one) we attend. Another great one that has been more prevalent over the past few years is TPACK, used as an educational technology framework for the more effective integration of technology in the classroom.

The TPACK model created by Mishra & Koehler was adapted from an early model of Pedagogy and Content knowledge first theorised by Shulman in the 1980s. This early model placed the importance of having a strong understanding of pedagogical knowledge as well as the context you were teaching. I am sure we can all remember that one teacher who was incredibly knowledgeable in their content area, but struggled to engage and convey that information in an efficient manner.

Moving forward in recent years there are aspects of pedagogy that have shaped our instruction and the learning occurring in our classrooms. The more prominent use of technology in society has arguably increased the need to better utilise it in our classrooms. Therefore, the addition of T to the models suggests the importance of technology knowledge for teachers in today’s classrooms. Though I am not suggesting everyone has to be a computer genius or super programmer. However, I am suggesting a want to explore and understand how they work, just as you would the content you are teaching.

Often for many educators they are always looking for ways to help them teach more effectively and in turn create better learning opportunities for their students. Just being aware of a model like TPACK and the understanding of that technology is not a stand alone and DOES NOT change other aspects of your teaching practice, behaviour management or assessment of student learning, moreover, technology should facilitate these and make them easier and more authentic.

So what does TPACK mean for you? And what are some practical examples that can help you continue learning as an educator?

Looking forward at improving your own professional practise and that of others for many teachers there needs to be a want to improve and drive to actually do it. Often time is a concern, and in fact, an excuse for most educators for not prioritising their own learning and improvement. There is also the case of ‘I’ve always done it this way and it works, why change it?’, which is another common excuse of less tech-able educators.

So what do we do with these people? How do we motivate them and educate them on the benefits of learning with technology.

  • Work slow with these people
  • Provide them with small snapshots of technology, do not overwhelm
  • Model good practice of the use of technology in a range of settings
  • Set goals for them and regularly update
  • Provide them with time to share their successes with other colleagues/peers

Encouraging teachers to become more tech savvy is not an easy task and I am often asked ‘where do you find all these things?’ ‘how do stay up to date with current technology’ my easy answer is Twitter. Collaboration is a key part of any learning, sharing ideas and thoughts and being able to extend your knowledge off of the knowledge of others is extremely important in our classrooms. We always encourage our students to do this – then why aren’t we?

Set time aside in teachers schedules to have them create their own Twitter account and follow people of interest to their learning areas. Twitter is not just technology, though many of the active users are competent tech users, there are so many other great conversations about education and learning in general which anyone can benefit from.

Using technology in the classroom should be engaging for students but not replace your basic pedagogy or instructional practice, in fact, it should enhance it. Finding time to play with technology and explore tools that work best for your practice is key to the use of it in your classroom. Finding something that is useful and effective in your classroom is gold. Anything that can save 5 minutes, or simply allow one student to understand a topic better is time well spent exploring the plethora of ed tech tools and resources.

Once you have found this little piece of gold – share it! Tell people about it. How has it improved your classroom? You will begin to find the sharing is reciprocated and that exploring becomes a lot easier because others are sharing with you.

One last note. TPACK is a framework. It is not the ultimate guide to teaching in the 21st century, but what it does, is make you think about the use of technology in your classroom. It makes you remember that sound pedagogy and practice should not be completely thrown out just because you booked the iPad trolley that day. Make learning meaningful and authentic, the technology will come.  

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Lead from any position

Take a think about a leader who has inspired you, what are their traits? What makes them a good leader? Often, there are misconceptions about what it truly means to be a leader, and these are often transcribed in education to becoming a manager. The meaning can be found in the root of each word, and here are my basic definitions.

Lead – Verb: to initiative an action; an example of others to follow.

Manage – Verb: to be in control of others; to be in charge.

In education, the most prolific and influential people are not those who can ‘manage’ people, yes this is a necessary skill for many leaders, however those think outside the box, and are willing to try something different are seen as leaders. There are two key types of leadership in education which are well researched, Transformational and Instructional. I have compiled a comparison list of traits for you to better understand what type of leader should aspire to be.

Transformative Leadership

  • Displays a clear and shared vision with staff, students and community
  • Builds capacity within staff, drawing from strengths and weaknesses.
  • Shares responsibility of roles
  • Empowers others to take opportunities to lead and fail

Instructional Leadership

  • Controls and supervisors
  • Manages staff by controlling and overseeing
  • Often too focused on the power of the position
  • Decisions made on the premise of their knowledge alone.

When you read through these traits, I often relate leadership in schools to teachers and students to the classroom itself. As a teacher do you give your students, knowledge and expect them to learn? Do you think you are never wrong and not allow them opportunities to fail? Are you clear with your expectations, and help them achieve them together, as a partnership? Many of these teaching practices were common in educational systems of the past and not that of most classrooms today. Of course there are elements of both Transformative and Instructional leadership that make sense, so is there a possible way to blend the two together? Take a think back to the leader who inspired you, do they possess elements of styles?

So what type of leader do you want to be?

Further reading
Michael Fullan –
Fullan, M. (2002). The change leader. Educational Leadership, 59(8), 16-20.
Hallinger, P. (2003). Leading educational change: Reflections on the practice of instructional and transformational leadership. Cambridge Journal of Education, 33(3), 331-351.
Eric Sheninger –

Getting Started – A Paperless Classroom

Not only a great way to save some trees, a paperless classroom saves time. With a plethora of online tools to support student learning there are also many that just make your life easier and more efficient. I have compiled a small list of the tools I use to streamline my classrooms workflow to allow me to focus more time with my students and their individual needs. Choose one or all to get started making your life easier in the classroom!


By now you have more than likely heard of this platform, if not, get onto it now! If you are teaching primary aged students this is the tool for you. Seesaw market themselves as a student driven portfolio, true, but there is so much more in this program that just showcasing work.

Students can draw, annotate, comment, upload, record and much more to show progress or overall understanding of learning.

Most of this is self managed. It then allows you to be less tied up with collecting class sets of workbooks and spend more time working with students one on one, which is as we know time well spent.

You can provide instant feedback to student work via a written or verbal comment – much more powerful than a random comment in a student’s book days down the track.

It is a complete record of student work and achievement come reporting time. Great evidence for parent teacher interviews, I have even used Seesaw for student-led conferences.

NEW FEATURE – instant messaging between parents and a new portal area for classroom news or announcements! Looking forward to testing these out!


 This platform markets itself as the the paperless classroom and it is just that. A complete platform allowing your to deliver tasks/assignments/projects to students with ease – the only limitation is access to devices. Showbie is the ultimate content delivery platform for middle school students, in my opinion slightly too complex for primary ages, but perfect for any age above.

Students can receive tasks and assessment rubrics through the easy to use interface allowing for less time explaining, more time scaffolding.

You can direct message any of the students to give them individualised tips and feedback to support their learning, or even a group discussion point for the whole class.

Any type of work can be submitted to Showbie, even allowing PDF markup and commenting in app, so no need to print and mark and hand back and timely feedback is key. A NEW FEATURE with Showbie 3.4 is these annotations and feedback can be directly exported out to other platforms as a PDF also.

It is app based and web based allowing access the platform easier than ever, no matter where you are.


Evernote has been around for a while now and I have used it since the beginning, why? Because it is so easy. Think of Evernote as your digital diary. You know the one with notes from meetings, pasted in documents from PDs, sensitive information about students…well the list could go on. All of this now is digitalised within this program.

Getting started create Notebooks (folders) for all you notes, I have Whole School Meetings, Team Meetings, Professional Development (goals), Class (with subfolders for each student), New Ideas / Technology and anything else applicable to your environment.

All notes are automatically timed and dated and ordered accordingly, making it super easy to search for that specific note by keyword, date or subject.

I have a notebook per student where I keep all notes related to that child. Meetings with parents, student achievement goals, anecdotal notes, anything about the child. You can take photos, record meetings/conversations/parent conferences with parents and also teacher student conferences.

You can have shared notebooks with other teachers where applicable as well as students if you are working with higher grade levels but I prefer this to be my honest unsubjective notes on students.

My students know that when I am using Evernote we are focusing on talking about them improving their learning, they love the green elephant 🙂

Another platform gaining huge momentum at the moment with works in a very similar way is Microsoft 365’s OneNote. I have not used this personally but have seen it used in similar ways with a more collaborative approach, so may be one to check out if your school is using 365.

Obviously there are many more I could add to the list but I wanted to keep this post short and simple as possible. Do yourself a favour and get onto one if not all of these platforms. They all make my life as a teacher more efficient and accountable and with increasing workloads who doesn’t want that. A great way to start the new year by setting up your classes and accounts on these now – you’ll thank me later.

Rubrics – just a checklist or effective learning tool?

Over the past few months, I have been rediscovering the power of student rubrics in the classroom. Though not necessarily a new concept in education, I feel their utilisation in improving learning outcomes is highly underrated. As teachers, we all expect particular outcomes when students are working on a new concept or topic, but how do the students know this? What do they need to do to achieve the outcomes and become more knowledgeable and skilful? This is where student rubrics are the most powerful impact on student learning. 

Student rubrics are key outcomes of learning that show a progression of stages of learning, whether that is skill based or outcome driven. This allows students to follow and understand what they need to do to achieve and be successful for the task or unit of work. It also provides them with the opportunity to be more reflective on their own learning and set goals to further improve. 

This year my school has implemented Writers Workshop program that comes with a range of assessment opportunities and support materials such as rubrics and checklists. With such great resources to support student writing, I have seen a dramatic improvement in the personalisation of learning and the focus on students creating and setting specific goals for improvement. Students have been using ‘modified’ teacher assessment rubrics to track and inform their own learning. I say ‘modified’ because we have redesigned and re-worded specific levels to make the language more attainable for students in Gr5. 

The change has not happened overnight, by all means, there has been some very clear scaffolding of learning and how to use a rubric at an independent level. I have dedicated specific lessons to teach students how to utilise their rubric to improve their learning outcomes. It began with self-assessments using the rubric so they were able to understand and assess their current progress of learning. We then identified one specific area of improvement from the learning outcomes on the rubric to set clear goals through the use of the language from the rubric. When writing, students have their rubric in front of them and are guided by their learning goal focus. This is supported by individual conferencing, where students have to share with me key areas they have applied their goal from the rubric. We then assess and reassess their learning and focus more if needed or move forward on another key goal. 

We have been having some great discussions about how does this look and how does this work in other areas. Other colleagues are looking at ways to integrate rubrics based around Bloom’s taxonomy to focus in on the understanding and applying of new skills and knowledge.  But the key questions we come back to are;

‘are we providing too much of what we are looking for?’ 
‘are we allowing students to think creatively and out of the box?’
‘is this just a checklist in table form?’

These are all valid reasons where rubrics may not be created or implemented effectively. When designing rubrics, you need to ensure there are aspects which are broad, yet specific enough to allow students some autonomy with their learning. However, this needs to be done carefully. When completing my Masters of Education in 2016 many of the assessment rubrics I used where quite complex and arbitrary, which as a learner can be quite difficult and confusing – especially for young students. 

In conclusion, I am a strong believer in the use of rubrics but only is they are created with a mixture of skill and application based, not a checklist. It is amazing to see my students able to self-assess and create their own attainable learning goals. If students are taught from a young age how to use these type of learning tools, they will become more reflective and critical learners in the future.  

STEM- new idea or are we reinventing the wheel?

STEM, STEAM or however you want to say it is beginning to revolutionise the learning of students across the globe. More recently, educational jobs and titles that are specific to STEM are becoming more prevalent on job sites and email signatures. But what does it all mean? What is STEM and is it beneficial for student learning? Well first of all the jury is still out, though I am sure many studies are happening now about the impact of STEM on student learning but are yet to be fully researched. 

Trawling through the amount of STEM-related resources on various professional learning networks I see a common trend in the activities and something that seems all too familiar. As we know things in society goes in waves, just like fashion and culture, education and approaches to teaching and learning do too. These practices are now being more enhanced by the development not necessarily due to new ideas in science or maths but the impact technology has on bringing those together in a more achievable way. Sure building paper towers or bridges out of popsicle sticks is great learning but this type of activity has been happening for years. 

Over the past few years, I have developed my scientific learning and development around the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Though a lot of this science curriculum was taught to me at a much higher age, the integration of certain physics and chemistry concepts are being taught much earlier with the assistance of technology to my Grade 5 students. The use of AR and VR to better display Newton’s Laws of Motion, or simply using a slow-motion feature of an iPad to record the chemical changes are beginning to make this content more accessible – sounds great hey?

One particular aspect of STEM that I like is the way it allows an integrated approach to learning by encouraging educators to find common lines of focus between their subjects to make learning more accessible and relative. No longer are we so focused on learning Science in a laboratory or Maths from a textbook we are seeing teachers become more hands-on with their approach to learning. To me, this isn’t anything new though, I remember going outside and making and designing things at school that we would test and learn from, so this brings me back to my point – why do we need an acronym for just good teaching?

So this brings me to the key issue I have with the acronym STEM, the heavy focus on the subjects that it represents and shouldn’t we be doing this anyway. There is a lot of educational research that supports this style of integrated learning approach, and depending on the delivery can be a form of guided inquiry. Did educators just get lazy? Busy? Forced this way by external pressures of standardised testing or all of the above? There has been an obvious shift from teaching science-based concepts from textbooks as well as teaching maths with no practical elements to the real-world. Not that I am saying that all teachers were/are like this, but from my experience, the pressure is on to teach to the tests. 

This brings me to my final point, the key element I love about STEM is the distinct focus it places on integration and the effective teaching of key science and math skills in a hands-on way. This is why I like the acronym. It brings a focus back to the integration of subjects and a real-world connection to students learning. It places focus back on science and maths by making it more real and most importantly – FUN.

STEM allows students to learn, create, explore and evaluate their ideas… but can we drop the acronym and place the focus back on good teaching practice?

Life as an International Educator

For the past 5 years I have worked as an international educator. There are many questions I get asked by friends and family when we visit home, skypes, messages, or chats at ridiculous hours of the day. You get to travel the world and meet some amazing friends and educators that would have been previously out of reach. So here are some tips for educators contemplating, or not, to get started living the life as an international educator.

“What are the schools and students like?”
I have now taught in the Middle East and now Asia, and, kids are kids. It doesn’t matter which country you are in, students will have the similar challenges, whether from home circumstances or in their learning at school. They all have similar interests and funny personalities, just like the kids you teach at home. They have many cultural and language differences that will make you enjoy them in different ways too.

The schools are all generally well resourced with facilities and classroom equipment to support your teaching and learning. This may be something you are or are not used to at home, but always remember all schools are different, with different needs and priorities. The schools are not going to be better or worse, they are going to be different.

“What is the package like?”
For many people this is the common question, and generally the most common reason people won’t take the step. The truth is most international schools with be comparative if not better salaries than at home. That included that most schools will provide some sort of living allowance that will cover rent or a school provided apartment or equivalent. Outside of Europe, most countries have a lower income tax and most places in the Middle East have zero income tax – yes, no tax!  

There will also be some sort of gratuity payment at the end of your contract, which is generally a month’s salary for each year worked – this is essentially your superannuation equivalent from home. Among many other financial benefits, schools will generally take care of an annual flight to home country, medical insurance for you and your family as well as organise all Visa and ID documents, and often a PD allowance to support your professional growth.

“Do you ever work?”
This is a common question I receive from friends who see me on a sitting on a beach, exploring ancient ruins or eating some delicious local food a few days away on a short plane ride. Reality is, most schools will teach approximately just shy of 200 days per year, this may include professional development days etc., which ends up being quite similar to home. The advantage of working overseas is that you are generally a lot closer to those holiday destinations that you have always wanted to visit. They are also generally reasonably inexpensive and more accessible than home. That being said, one of the main reasons for wanting to be an international educator is that you enjoy the experience of travelling and learning about new cultures and meeting new people.  

“How do I find out about jobs overseas?”
Many schools advertise on their websites, so do some research and find out about them. Most schools, other than a small handful of Australian Curriculum schools, will being their recruitment process late November for an August start the following year.

There are a number of recruitment agencies around that post jobs all-year-round, Teachaway, Goabroad but I have found that Search Associates are the biggest and generally the best. They host recruitment fairs across the recruitment period of Jan-March in major cities across the world, check their website for more details. For a small fee they will allow you to have your own profile and connect and research jobs through their website, as well as meet with schools at the fairs. Having said this, it is a bit of who you know too, similar to home. So if you know an international educator, contact them, schools like to employ people they (someone) knows. It is a safer recruitment for them as you are more than likely to settle into a new place easier.

They also often like to recruit families for that same reason of stability and reliability. Just because you have a family it doesn’t mean that you cannot do it. There are many families who I have lived and worked with overseas and they love it. Most schools offer up to 2 children free tuition on top of your already generous package.

“Where do I sign?!?”
You might be thinking, sign me up now! Well, here are some things to consider when researching schools and things you may ask schools in advance?

  • What curriculum do they teach?
  • What is the package for teachers? And or families?
  • What is it like to live in that place?
  • Is it easily accessible to an international airport?
  • Are their professional development opportunities?
  • What is the workload for the position?
  • What do people do on the weekends and for social activities?

“Well, what are the negatives?”
Yes it can be difficult, being up to 14 hours flight away from close friends and family that you have relied on for support your whole life. You often miss special occasions, weddings, birthdays, Christmas’ and those small events that may be small in the grand scheme of things and but would love to be there all the same. The little things frustrate you, banks, telephone companies, governmental agencies and often just people in general, and it is important to keep in mind it’s not wrong just different. However, you develop your own support network of ‘family’ overseas and if it is one good thing expats are good at, it’s looking out for each other (Oh, and having a good time). Weigh up your options, if you are already thinking about it you are already halfway there! – look forward to meeting your for a beer somewhere.