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I’ve embedded a Google doc Feedback form into every class wikispace, and have asked the students to give me some end of term feedback.   This is proving to be an interesting exercise and hopefully helps the students feel like they have a voice and chance to either vent or comment on what is working well.

So far, the responses have been quite positive – with a few things to work on.

I also used Google doc form to keep the French connection going in the Year 10 English class. The French students had done some presentations about life in France or a famous French landmark. My class viewed/listened to these then could comment (positively) in an embedded Google form on the class wikispace. All the responses were then collated nicely by Google and available as a single document, which I then emailed to the French teacher for her to pass on to her students.  The only problem was when the entire class tried to submit their forms simultaneously – about 6 of them didn’t work!!

We’re now looking at using Google Drive (or its equivalent) as a means of streamlining the Drafting and Submission process (instead of Email and dowloading/uploading).  More on that next term.


Lastly – I have updated to Filemaker Pro 12 and am reworking the layouts of various databases.  I will redo the main English templates – 1 for a full year Stage 2 course, 1 for a Semester based Stage1 course, 1 for 9/10 English and 1 for 7/8 English (using the appropriate SACE or National Curriculum Standards).

Here’s a look at a new Task assessment page:



I’m also in the process of putting together a database for logging Professional Learning activities – here’s a snapshot.  Should be useful in this brave new world of the magic 60 HOURS.



Where to now?

A new year, an almost finished term and finally a new blog.  This blog will be a reflection on how things are travelling so far this year, and may include some speculation about projects for the future.

The new year was always going to be a mix of consolidating existing courses, work flows and practices with developing new courses, wikispaces and databases.  Stage 2 Philosophy was the big challenge (my 7th Stage 2 or equivalent subject in my career!) – as I tried to adapt the excellent material from David Rawnsley into a course that I could both understand and then communicate.  The course Wikispace needed to be comprehensive and accurate, and has taken a lot of time in its development – there is still a long way to go, but I am pleased with both its functionality and visual appearance.

Similarly, Year 10 Philosophy required a new space – which has also taken time to get up to speed. Both of these will be refined even further as they are taught and retaught.

So now all courses are up and running on Wikispaces, and the feedback, assessment databases are also working as they should. What I have included this year following a presentation at the beginning of the term, are some Google Forms.

Each course had a Google Form pre-course survey that enable me to get a sense of what students were hoping to gain from the course, perceived individual strengths and weaknesses, etc.  Then there is an ongoing feedback form which students could use at any time to provide feedback (but few have), but will be used formally at the end of term.

Another fun development has been the connection with Francoise Dijon at a school in Montpellier, France. Year 10 English has been the chosen class for this relationship, and they have completed personal profiles, letters about Australian slang and will evaluate the French students’ presentations on an aspect of France.  This relationship is definitely a work in progress, but is moving along nicely.

The next big project professionally will be extending the use of the Assessment Database for any English Faculty members who are interested. This will be a large undertaking, but the feedback from Rose Wauchope is that it works well for her and might be a useful tool for others. Of course, this will require the school to purchase extra copies of Filemaker Pro for those interested.

I have also developed a small database for recording Professional Learning Activities – the  nature, time and Standards hit for both organised and personal learning. Again, this will be trialled and refined as time goes on.


Busy days gone, busy days ahead, but on the whole I think this has been a reasonably successful term.  Let’s see how we go heading into the depths of winter!

Paralysed by Choice

This entry is a reflection on what is an increasing problem for me (and maybe others, but I wouldn’t like to assume so) – the abundance of choice in this techno environment.  Make no mistake – I love gadgets and tech stuff, and have embraced as much of it over the years as my poor brain can deal with – but with so many choices out there for curriculum delivery and organisation, for trying to engage students, for connecting with students and fellow educators, it becomes a case of paralysis of choice.

Each day fellow teachers send links to great websites or pieces of software that are meant to help us – and many do, but how do you choose which ones to use? How do you effectively incorporate the latest piece of gear or software into how you go about things?  Trial and error?  choose and commit? Difficult to know.

But what happens when a school commits itself to a one size fits all piece of software? What if it doesn’t suit you, do you ditch everything else you’ve done and embrace (as you probably ought) or use the latest code for your own purposes and in your own way.  This seems to be what happens so often and why so many universal pieces of software become of such limited use in a school setting.

I think the answer might well in what a good friend said – and it’s really common sense I guess.


There it is… try it, see what you think, make it work for you or not… but try to avoid being paralysed by choice.

This post is about the development of  my use of Wikispaces for curriculum delivery.

The first half of 2011 was all about developing the Learning/Assessment Management system using Filemaker Pro – as I outlined in the Assessment, Reporting and Feedback page.  I then saw a colleague present at a staff meeting on her use of online spaces for class work.  Click, click – time to make the paperless curriculum delivery and assessment a reality.

All my Stage 1 and 2 students had laptops, so I launched into Wikispaces with the idea of:

  • having my curriculum materials more readily and easily available to students (and their parents);
  • extending the range of curriculum materials to include embedded video, links to appropriate websites, all assessment plans and course content, and specific assessment tasks;
  • having a onestop site for curriculum delivery;
  • being able to collaborate with other staff – principally Rose Wauchope as the other Stage 1 Eng Comms teacher -to provide common and continually updatable course material.

Of course Wikispaces was not the only option, but it seemed good enough, and easy enough to learn to be able to jump in quickly without a huge commitment to HTML coding and so on.

By the end of 2011, all my classes had some sort of Wikispace presence.  These were further enhanced and extended with new classes in 2012.

Here are the links to each of the Wikispaces I have developed since mid 2011:

  10. and
  11. (this is in development for delivery in 2013) 

There is also a Professional Profile wikispace at


The spaces are flexible, ongoing, and increasingly well-used by students. Printing/photocopying of course material has plummeted.

We have presented the last 3 Eng Comms exams in purely digital form – an online exam and digital assessment to follow.

Plenty of scope for adding supporting material such as video links and website recommendations

The overall feedback from students is far from glowing, but certainly they see the spaces as the place to get their curriculum information.


As can be seen, these are certainly all works in progress, and that is the beauty of this type of online space. The issues of accessing the school’s Intranet (which were quite substantial at the beginning of 2011), were also circumvented with Wikispace hosting.

Some shortcomings in both the program and my use of it:

  • Visually it is not as elegant or ‘professional’ looking as  few other online spaces, and it can be a bit tricky to get the look that one is after. But with some manipulation and increasing use of images as links as well as the plethora of widgets – the spaces become more powerful;
  • I don’t use the discussion and student collaborative tools as I should. In particular, the project element of the program needs to be explored in some more detail and trialled;
  • Younger students are not used to working in this digital realm, and will continue to need further education and practice in using the resources effectively;
  • In this Hybrid world of some students with and some without constant computer resources, access has been a (temporary) issue that will pass in the next few years.

The primary development in my Assessment, Reporting and Feedback is the ongoing evolution of a Filemaker Pro based Learning Management System (for want of a better phrase).

Its development started off when I returned from a year’s parenting leave to find that previous paper-based curriculum and assessment processes were very inefficient.
With the introduction of Performance Standards at all SACE levels and their use in the upcoming National Curriculum, there had to be a better way to manage the increasing digital resources of both students and my assessment needs.

I started off using Excel spreadsheets which had been the basis of my assessment records to that point, but found both the visual appearance and lack of ability to access student digital work a hindrance.

Having used Filemaker many years ago in a reporting scheme, I knew that it had the potential to do exactly what I wanted:

  • a reasonable clean and visually appealing appearance
  • the flexibility to access student work easily
  • the ability to perform summary calculations for term grades
  • the power to include a range of comments and communications with parents and HoH
  • the ability to embed email function for task sheets, overdue notices and final assessments

Above all, it could mean that I would be able to access and assess a students’ work using the Performance Standards from SACE (and National Curriculum standards when they came in) and having chosen the appropriate levels ONCE, the rest of the calculations for the task and Summary grades would be done automatically.

Here’s what a sample page looks like:


To get here has been a long road with lots of refinements and frustrations, but I am very happy with the system and its accuracy, relative ease of use and utility for parental reporting.

A colleague here at St John’s has trialled using the system as well and has also found it to be a useful addition to her workflow.

There is still plenty to be done in terms of refining the system (I still don’t know how to set it up as a relational database), and for each new class I have to start a new file.  BUT, the basic template is there, and the refinements made in 2012 have added significantly to the power of the system.

Some specific goals and ideas include:

  • hosting the files externally (separately to my laptop) in order to give students and their parents  web access to the student’s own assessment information. This process has begun with a small scale trial on the school’s server.
  • developing a Tasksheet Creation component – especially for National Curriculum tasks.
  • continual refinement of the visual style of each classes’ database.

Feedback from parents of my Year 8 boys class has been very positive, and they like how they can get their own copy of both the task sheets and assessments, and know if their child has something overdue.

Putting it all together?

Eddie Obeng – Smart Failure

Reflecting on the presentations from George Couros has got me thinking about how to integrate all these various digital elements.  Sometimes it all gets a bit overwhelming with so many communication options and pieces of software and cool IPad apps and so on and so on.  Finding the time to use them all and then incorporate them (if appropriate) into my everyday working life is going to be a challenge. I also question whether blogging and Tweeting will ever be taken up by a critical mass of teachers and students – in an educational context – or just become another technology that is too hard and time consuming to learn.

But as this great TED video from Eddie Obeng shows – getting things wrong because you take risks and push a few personal boundaries is no bad thing.

Colin McKenzie.  Today has opened up some real ideas about how to extend and improve both my existing digital resources and this new world of blogging.  The concept of Audience seems crucial to improving what care students give to their work.

the other trend that is opening up is that of collaboration and sharing. For too long we have worked in isolation or at best a fellow colleague or two.  The issue is complicated by the problems of time and ability to adapt to and adopt the technologies involved. still, it’s all about small steps.


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