EdTechSA 2015: How To Start A Class Blog

At EdTechSA 2015 I presented a workshop on the journey my class and I have taken as we went about creating our class blog. As part of this workshop I created this prezi which I am more than happy to share.

Watch this space for the sketchnote of the discussion we had about interesting elements of a class blog.


The Power of the PLN

These 2 images of Alec Couros’ never cease to amaze me. Quite often just the networked teacher image is shown in isolation, but I feel that the power of these images works best as a pair. For when you compare the opportunities of the second image to those of the first, who in their right mind would opt for being a just a typical teacher.

Typical Teacher Network

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by courosa: http://flickr.com/photos/courosa/344832659

The networked teacher

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by courosa: http://flickr.com/photos/courosa/2922421696

Recently I had the pleasure of being the tutor for the EDUC3625: Numeracy and ICT across the Curriculum topic at Flinders University. In one of our later workshops, we spent a session looking at the benefits of being a networked teacher, and how to go about starting your own PLN.

Over the last few years I have participated in this workshop virtually, being one of the online mentors who engages with the students as they take their first steps into the world of Twitter. This year, in my new role as tutor, I wanted to call upon my own PLN to engage in a Twitter Chat with the students about the benefits they see as being connected educators. I wanted this to be not just “text book” style information about why Twitter is a great resource for educators, but a practical example with real life advocates on the benefits of having a PLN.

A little before the workshop I, along with other workshop tutors, put the call out to my PLN and the response was fantastic. I was thrilled to have such educators that I look up to, for example Brett Salakas (@MRsalakas) from AussieEd, Simon McKenzie (@connectedtr) and Andrew Woodman from the Futuristex Project (@futuristex). My biggest professional thrill came when Kathy Schrock (@KSchrock) also joined in the conversation after I tweeted to her.

Please have a read through the Storify of our Twitter conversation from this week. I think you will agree that this was a great opportunity for these students to connect with some amazing educators and was a great way to take their first steps in building their PLN.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Digital Technologies

In term 2 of 2014, I had the pleasure of working on a new concept with the year 2/3 class that I teach as part of my role as ICT specialist at Modbury West School.

This was the concept of branching. Branching is defined in the Australian Curriculum as:

Branching occurs when an algorithm makes a choice to do one of two or more actions depending on sets of conditions and the data provided.

Now this might sound rather dry and boring, but the way we approached this new concept was very engaging and my students now have a solid grasp of some basic concepts covered in the Digital Technologies curriculum and how they can be applied in the tasks we undertook.



This is the unit planner that was developed for the “Choose Your Own Adventure” topic

My example of a ‘Fairy Tale’ algorithm

My example of a ‘Fairy Tale’ branching algorithm

My example of a CYOA fairy tale: The Three Little Pigs

Twitter for Beginners!

I would love to share with you all about the benefits I have found from using Twitter, the connections I have made and the people I am able to learn from and share my learning with.


For me, Twitter is all about

  • knowing what is going on, nationally and internationally, in areas that interest me
  • having resources shared with me that are tried and tested by other teachers
  • connecting with other people who inspire me and challenge my thinking
  • sometimes meeting the people I tweet with in “real life”



I found this to be a great video for a quick overview as to why Twitter is great for educators

If you want to read more about how Twitter is good for educators, I suggest reading George Couros’ blog post and the comments on this post Does Twitter Improve Education?

So What is Twitter?

Officially, Twitter describes itself as:

At the heart of Twitter are small bursts of information called Tweets. Each Tweet is 140 characters long, but don’t let the small size fool you—you can discover a lot in a little space. You can see photos, videos and conversations directly in Tweets to get the whole story at a glance, and all in one place.

It is a microblogging site, which allows you to share your ideas and resources, in the form of Tweets, with your followers or people following the same #hashtag as you.

This video was a great way of describing different aspects of Tweets and Twitter

Anatomy of a Tweet

This is a great post that breaks down exactly what can be found in a tweet.

A dictionary for abbreviations and terms you might see on Twitter


Getting Started

Getting started on Twitter is as easy as going to the Twitter website and signing up for an accout

Sue Waters @SueWaters The Twitteraholic’s Ultimate Guide to tweets, hashtags, and all things Twitter

Edudemic’s 25 Ways to Get the Most Out of Twitter

TeachThought’s 20 Most Useful #hashtags in Education

George Couros @gcouros What Should A Networked Leader Share About?

Heidi Cohen’s Twitter Etiquette


Some people/hashtags to follow

The way I started was to follow people who interested me and yes there were some celebrities in this mix too – I’m not all about work completely. Use the search function in Twitter to look up the person you are interested in reading about and see if they are on Twitter. Sometimes when you find someone whose Tweets you enjoy reading, it pays to look at who they follow to see if there is anyone there you might be interested in following too.

#edchat – this #hashtag ticks over incredibly fast but it is definitely worth a look as the main education # in the world

#ozedchat – the Australian version of #edchat


@EduTweetOz is a reasonably new account which has “Australian educators from all sectors share their ideas, experiences, questions & passion.”

Sue Waters maintains a list of Australian educators on Twitter – this is a good list to start looking at for Australians sharing great ideas

@JAKnipe – blatant plug for my own Twitter account! 🙂


I hope this brief rundown has been of help and that you take those first steps and be brave enough to put yourself out there and try something new.

Stepping into my digital footprint

This was the slide that did it…

slide from George Couros’ opening keynote: CEGSA2012

This slide was about a third of the way through the opening keynote presentation of CEGSA2012. I had spent the previous few months hearing my friend and conference organiser Tina Photakis talk about how fantastic George Couros, our opening keynote was going to be and had wondered how Twitter and other  web 2.0 “toys” could possibly change my professional life very much.

I love dabbling in technology – I already had a twitter account and followed some interesting famous people. I had a facebook account and had mucked around with a class blog at one stage too. In short I felt comfortable in this online world and it was a fun place to be. I was looking forward to hearing what this George Couros had to say but didn’t know if it would change what I was doing all that much.

From the start of the keynote my perceptions were challenged about why I was using this technology and what I was getting from the online world and giving back to it. This slide in particular made me challenge my thinking about my online presence and how it could be not only a source of entertainment but also tool for professional growth and development.

This slide inspired me to take charge of my digital footprint. Up until now it had been scattered – a dabble here, a play there – crazy dance-steps all over the digital floor with  nothing really being used to greater potential. My first move was to gather together all that I had been toying with and decide which were the main tools I wanted to focus on. I decided, for now, upon the 5 big ones: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and a WordPress blog. I have since added Pinterest too as the visual nature of it appeals to my photographic senses!

I then had to learn some new tools. From my work with the CEGSA blog I was familiar enough with the basics of WordPress and the others were fine too except for Twitter. People seemed to be able to do so much more with it and watching George negotiate his way through columns in TweetDeck made me see that there was a lot more too it than just reading other people’s 140 characters! So along came a TweetDeck account and now 12 (and occasionally more) columns later I have a much greater regard for this as a wonderful tool and how I can use it to learn and share with others.

So here I am, after a few months of getting myself organised and deciding how I wanted to approach my footprint, I have now arrived at the start of my digital journey. My digital presence goes by the name of JAKnipe – JAK of all trades ( I still like dabbling in lots of things and always will). The information that is readily found about me is information I have put there and there are no eggs or cartoon avatars in sight!