NZ PL Tour – Day 1 & 2

This school holidays eight of our staff are travelling together in New Zealand for our first PL tour. The tour is a short stay of 6 days with varied visits tailored to our staff needs that includes visiting:

Selwyn College
Manukau Institute of Technology  (MIT)
Albany College – Project Impact Day
Dr Kerry Lee National Chair for Technology Education New Zealand
CEL – Catholic Educational Leadership – University of Auckland
Catholic Diocese Auckland

I am using this blog as a way of noting down the great practice we witness, the food for thought and the ideas we share on our visit.

DAY 1: Selwyn High School. . . 

Sheryl showed us such great hospitality, her leaders were so giving with their time, they opened their classrooms up and shared stories of their successes as a learning community.

Great practice. . .

  • Selwyn tool kit, taxonomy – nautical-themed: “Stand, Surf, SOAR” supported by a “wave of skills” *see the branded images below
  • Students know the curriculum outcomes that are targets, they are tiered into success criteria in the stand, surf, soar proformas
  • Curriculum/rubric given to students in the Selwyn Stand Surf Soar format using language they can understand, self-track, discuss their needs and what their learning targets are
  • Students collect their own evidence of learning in Google Docs
  • Design thinking cycle evident
  • co-constructed learning targets, individualised learning plans
  • Learner Mentors support them through parent-teacher convos
  • House point systems drives co-curricular engagement and students manage pints in three categories: service, leadership and service to obtain a SILver award
  • Student voice the centre of planning
  • Common language of learning, Selwyn staff owned their brand, resources and posters demonstrating this were visible for all students to see
  • Refuge students in their community feel welcomed and a part of the Selwyn way

Food for thought. . .

  • Teachers use google docs to manage work/admin
  • Russell Bishop PL pivotal for staff to discuss cultural responsibility, structured meeting times – 10min, 40min, 10min breakup of meeting time
  • Teachers of common class groups meet to discuss target students and success stories and best practice
  • Teachers don’t use textbooks, they create their own learning resources suited to their kids


DAY 2: Manukau Institue of Technology

Graeme, Toe and Gaynor manage pathways and transition at the Otara MIT campus. We loved hearing about how students can achieve success through their applied learning program, vocational courses, I was blown away by the student numbers: 13,623 students and 1458 courses!

The Pacifica campus and partner school campus appealed to my soft heart, hearing about the work they are doing to support disengaged and at-risk learners were really encouraging, their students are at the centre of their decisions and classrooms, content and courses are tailored to students needs.

Great practice. . .

  • Once a student demonstrates they have reached an outcome, at any time in the year they progress to the next level/stage, this assess when ready approach is really motivating
  • They remove barriers like uniform and use every opportunity to congratulate and celebrate student success – attendance awards and phone calls home
  • Focus on family connections and partnerships – increase in PT interview attendance





My classroom the past few weeks. . .

It’s been a busy time settling into a new school and teaching new classes, courses and curriculum! It’s been a happy adventure so far. I’ve been having a lot of fun with my classes, getting to know students has been the challenge. But just like them, I learn by doing – doing and having practical experiences with them.

ABOVE: Using conductive playdough  to make circuits and learning about levers – making catapults.

If you want the link to the conductive circuits practical: and recipe:

Reflections of a different classroom

In February I began attending a weekly craft gathering at The Happenstore in Annandale, which then transformed 2017 into the year of CRAFT! I spent the year knitting, crocheting, making, tinkering and sewing, there was no project unfinished and my hands never busy enough! I was continually inspired by the Tuesday “Craft night in” group, I loved our weekly chats, we shared skills, laughs, ideas. . . Even though I have been knitting for years I always thought of myself as untrained as I learnt from my Nanna to knit with instinct, eye and whim. At The Happenstore I worked my way through formal patterns, learning abbreviations, stitch names and techniques from those around me (and Youtube), getting assistance from the brains trust as I needed every Tuesday. . .

I was an inspired student in someone else’s space, I grew in confidence to try projects that were harder, learnt new skills and I challenged myself.

With my newfound confidence in December I put my hat in the ring for something I felt was quite brave, I applied to be a TEST KNITTER! *for those non-knitters, test knitters trial a pattern to work out necessary corrections prior to publication by making the pattern themselves* My test-knit application was successful and I worked with French knitwear and pattern designer Julie Dubreux aka “Julie Knits In Paris” – – Julie’s patterns and style aren’t the typical knit which is why I was attracted to her as a test knitter, she creates non-traditional patterns I would love to make and wear. Julie set up an email thread with the other 18 or so test knitters (who came from ALLLL over the world), Julie was intending to release the pattern at VOGUE KNIT LIVE in New York – I had a MONTH to make a sweater.

This was an opportunity to test myself and those growing formalised and refined skills. I was signing up to knit a jumper during the heat of summer!

I started small by swatching the yarn, testing needle sizes and practicing the techniques –  the design is called “Lolly Sticks” named after the alternating colourwork section that creates the shape. . .


Then I began the pattern starting at the neck, calling out for help as I needed with the test knit email group as my support. . .

I continued to knit this merino jumper through the heat wave of summer, taking the project on trains, to picnics – sneaking in knitting time while dinner was cooking. . .

The jumper is almost finished with the last section on the second cuff to go, you can check out Julie’s pattern here:


I always think of myself as a reflective teacher, continually reflecting on my practice, improving and developing. A highlight of 2017 (the year of craft) is that I became an appreciative reflective learner. Becoming a part of unconventional classrooms outside my PLN and industry to focus on self development has left me feeling fulfilled by the challenge and personal growth.

If 2017 was the year of craft I am not yet sure what 2018 will bring.

Marking makes me happy! *said not enough teachers ever*


This familiar feeling . . . .




All too often we complain about marking, I do it!  Especially in junior years or at times of reporting when BULK work is collected and turned around at a stupid rate.

But really, when I actually sit down and open a student’s book, or read a final reflection, or see photos of a finished project my heart gets happy! 

As we come into our final term, that point where exams are being sat, student numbers used incorrectly, books collected, work samples scanned, projects finished, reports are being written – instead of sharing those memes, let’s share an item that makes our hearts happy!


Some photos from Year 8 Technology – Plant Production:


Crochet Pattern Reading


I can’t remember when I learnt to crochet, just like knitting it is something that my Mum taught me to do that was instinctive based on the look of the stitches, I understand the shape the trebles and chains create and only recently learnt how to read a pattern. Pattern reading has become one of my craft night goals, the ladies there have become my brains trust for recommendations, deciphering instructions and support through reading patterns. Jackie gave me her pattern and assisted me to start, initially walking me through the schematic image to match the techniques I knew to create a triangular shawl. . . .



Resources for new skills I learnt

Crochet pattern schematic key:


Creativity, making, learning. . .

There are fond memories in my life that have shaped me into a maker, a designer, a problem solver and a creative soul. Memories of standing on a stool while my Pa worked on his lathe, sawdust going between my ankles and socks, sitting at the dining table while my Mum sewed – using scraps to make finger puppets or scrunchies, Nana asking if I was cold – the next visit I would have a beautiful new handmade knit made especially for me. . .


While I teach design at high-school level, I practice my craft in works and projects of my own, to not only further develop my skills but to also promote a passion for design. In projects, I like to combine traditional techniques with advanced technologies to create imaginative design pieces. Recently I started spending Tuesday nights at The Happenstore, using the weekly craft night in as an opportunity to embark on a journey to continually develop my skills, my blog is also a reflective journal of my learning, experimentations and making. . . .


T-Shirt yarn projects – Textile industry waste

Before these T-Shirt yarn projects I had never crocheted in the round using a magic loop method for cast on, using this new technique I created a yarn basket as well as a baby rug:


Resources for new skills I learnt

Magic loop –

Crochet rug pattern I used as a starter –


I have now been saving/collecting T-Shirts so that I can make my own T-Shirt yarn (rather than using premade t-shirt yarn).  I am thinking of it as a way to repurpose old clothing as well as the opportunity to use the same techniques with non-textile items as the material – such as plastic bags or re-woven textile waste materials (collecting various waste materials, cut offs and selvedges) . . .


“Australians are currently disposing of 6,000 kilograms of fashion and textile waste every 10 minutes, and while some of it may go to op shops, only about 15 per cent of donations are actually sold again locally.”



Cultures of Thinking – Project Zero – Sydney

– I am so excited to share some of my notes with you from Saturday’s conference, it was a free PROJECT ZERO event at Shore School that I attended, it was much bigger than expected, with 550 registrations, a highlight of the day for me was seeing old friends and having time to have rich conversations with colleagues . . . . I will sum it up briefly by sharing some parts that were a standout for me. . . .
Ron Ritchhart was the keynote, his engaging talk covered some core Project Zero research projects . . . .
– The 8 cultural forces are:
Inline images 1
This video unpacks them nicely:
An exercise he did with the audience was ask: “What are three things you did at the start of the school year to establish a culture of thinking amongst your students and in your classroom” it is a great reflective exercise and maybe one that you could do! – a follow up question was “what was one think you did to build that culture that you hadn’t done in the past”  — this is asked to acknowledge risks you take in the classroom to build better practice and deeper thinking. 
He then introduced the understanding map, this was really unpacked in great detail, so if you like the graphic below there is more information here:
Inline images 2
During his talk and my short workshops we were introduced to a simple questioning technique that makes students think deeper and use evidence: “what makes you say that” – maybe you could try using this questioning technique in your classes?
More reading on “What makes you say that” here —->
In my short workshops we were shown a thinking routine called “See – Think – Wonder” – this is used to encourage enquiry thinking, prompt students to seek their own research and to really build deep discussions about art, sources, artefacts and texts.
More info on the  “See – Think – Wonder” here —->
The tweets the appeared on the #pzsydney hashtag really value added to the day! – Thank you to Andrea who created this awesome Storify:
Thank you to the Project Zero team for hosting!

Differentiated PD – Innovation Focus


IMG_2037Today we started term 3 with a Staff development day, the focus was INNOVATION – and each workshop was to align with our school goals of: CREATIVITY, ENGAGEMENT and QUALITY ASSESSMENT.

This is the first time we have had a real go at differentiated PD for staff – with a variety of options and using our teaching staff as presenters/experts – T3 PD Workshops.

With all the planning and preparation that went into today before the term ended and over the holidays from myself and presenters, I felt excited this morning and a sense of pride in how well the day ran!

What was your first day of term like?


Edmodo-Con V3.0


Flashback to 28th July, 2011 – a copy of my very first blog post. . . .


hmmmm, so, what am

I thinking???

Well, I do have my own private blog for journaling, but since being whisked away on this amazing EdmodoCon journey I feel like the only teacher that isn’t expressing their thoughts, pedagogical practices and lesson plans via a blog!
I did sign up for for a twitter account about an hour ago, but THEN the first suggested person I followed was Justin Timberlake???? it really just irked me out! hahahaha!
So I’m having a go at journalling my journey. As both a teacher and a student.
*insert twitter name here later
On the 20th July, 2011 – Betsy Whalen from Edmodo emailed me to let me know that I had been successful in my application to be a part of the FIRST EDMODO-CON, at this point in time I had been using Edmodo since late 2008 – the news sent me into a complete fan-girl state. There were a few requirements, like start a blog, get a Twitter account, install Cisco WebEx and there are three other Aussies that I was to present alongside. 
Betsy connected me with Henrietta Miller, primary teacher local to the Northern Beaches, Bianca Hewes, Secondary English teacher who lived around the corner from my place on the Northern Beaches and Jess Melkman, Secondary art teacher ALSO local to the Northern Beaches?  We met up at the local McDonalds to plan our Edmodo-Con presentation and laughed at the fact that Edmodo had selected four women who were alike in passion, ideas and lived in the SAME AREA?
Look at these four Edu-dorks . . .
Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 8.42.46 PM
The FIRST Edmodo-Con was a whirlwind – we presented at about 4am Australian time from our respective workplaces, homes (I was in my PJ’s eating vegemite toast and drinking tea). Bianca Hewes Mc’d the hour session – it was surreal. There were 11,000 people listening to us online, and they loved Edmodo as much as we did.
*** For flashblack – here is the Edmodo Blog update for the FIRST Edmodo-Con: 
*** AND – I dug up my powerpoint presentation! edmodo_dalli2011
POST EDMODO-CON 2011 – I fell in love with the online collaboration of Twitter and began networking with teachers outside of my school, diocese and subject area. The possibilities for my PD were now limitless.
In 2013 I was lucky enough to present at ISTE in San-Antonio, during this time I did a short workshop at the Edmodo booth with Jess and Bianca. I got to meet Lucia Giacomantonio in person and thank the Edmodo team IRL for powering technologies in my classroom. The second photo below is really pretty special to me as it has Bianca’s husband Lee, her boys and Andy McKeil – a Canadian edu-geek I met and connected with via twitter.
At the same time as this Edu-Adventure, Jess and her husband Mark got married. Bianca, Lee and their boys and I got to attend. . . special Edu-family.
Who have thought that 3  years later, I would have the opportunity to present at Edmodo-Con for the SECOND TIME, THIS TIME LIVE IN SAN FRAN??!!
Jess and I talk shop alllllllll the time, tech tools, project ideas, Edmodo uses. . . all this teacher banter eventually turned into an application for Edmodo-Con 2014. . .
We had 7 days off work – with 2.5 days of travel there/back we were in San Fran for 5 days? – It was a jam packed schedule. Highlights were visiting the Edmodo office and shaking the hands of those that respond to our help queries and honour our development ideas!
*** Our presentation was about how our Edmodo use had evolved and like an onion it had many layers!

This year, I am not presenting formally – I am not travelling abroad, I am a “Chat facilitator” – I will be working the backchannel in between speakers and connecting like minded educators together over their common love, Edmodo.

In thinking of my up-coming role in Edmodo-Con 2016, I have been really sentimental for the opportunity and the spring board that the Edmodo team gave me back in 2011.
Today, I bought a book that Bianca and Lee wrote together and spent the day playing with Jess’ daughter Lottie who is ONE on Friday. The opportunities, learning journey and friends that emerged from my 2011 experience is what I hope to give back to others.
Oh Edmodo, since 2008 you have been making my classroom a connected online learning space, you started my first blog post, my Twitter account, connected me with edu-nerdy friends . . . . you will always have a place in my heart.
If you haven’t registered for Edmodo-Con 2016, you really should!