Art on the iPad

Our school iPads have two dedicated Art apps, Brushes and Art Set. Both can produce quality art work using a stylus once students are used to how the apps work. This post is not about how the apps work, if you are interested in using them I suggest the best way is for students and teacher to have a play with the app and share that knowledge within your class.

One of the great features of the Brushes app is that it allows the artist to play back how their art work was created. You can press the play button and watch from beginning to end how the art work was constructed. Not only will the students enjoy watching their art work be recreated before their eyes but the opportunity to view how others constructed theirs is a great learning opportunity. Below I have included a video of something I did in Brushes last year when I first played around with the app. Sorry it is a bit shaky I had to play it on the iPad and video it with my iPhone.

I would like to acknowledge @kevinhoneycutt for tweeting the following image which encouraged me to remind you about these two apps and their potential use in the classroom.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 2.27.38 pm

The case against grades

This is not my title I have stolen it from Alfie Kohn a long time promoter of the negative impacts that grades have on student learning. It is the title of the article that I am suggesting you should read if you have any interest in this topic.

The purpose of putting this article out there is not to suggest we should no longer use grades but to broaden our knowledge and understanding of what research says about such a deeply embedded policy in our educational system. By doing this we have a broader base of knowledge to then approach the issue in our own classrooms and at a whole site level.

Among other things the article covers the following:

  • Grades tend to diminish students’ interest in whatever they’re learning.
  • Grades create a preference for the easiest possible task.
  • Grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking.

The following information (a quote from the article) was reinforced to us by Dylan Wiliam in week 2 this term.

“It’s not enough to add narrative reports.  “When comments and grades coexist, the comments are written to justify the grade” (Wilson, 2009, p. 60).  Teachers report that students, for their part, often just turn to the grade and ignore the comment, but “when there’s only a comment, they read it,” says high school English teacher Jim Drier.  Moreover, research suggests that the harmful impact of grades on creativity is no less (and possibly even more) potent when a narrative accompanies them.  Narratives are helpful only in the absence of grades (Butler, 1988; Pulfrey et al., 2011).”

To access the full article click here. The link can also be found on the Pedagogy page of this blog under Domain 2: Create safe learning conditions for rigorous learning.

Broaden your Professional Learning Network

We all have a professional learning network whether we recognise it as that or not. It may be peers in our work place, colleagues at another school that we speak with regularly, our line manager, a blog we follow etc… Having key people to discuss educational philosophy, listen to , bounce classroom ideas of off or discuss aspects of behaviour management is vital if we want to improve.

To add another dimension to your professional learning network I have added five Twitter feeds to the bottom of the blog. You don’t even have to have a Twitter account!

If you have a spare 5 minutes take the time to find out what it is that Dylan Wiliam (international), Sir Ken Robinson (international), AITSL (Australia), TFELTalk (South Australia) and EMPIRIEDUCATOR (South Australia) are tweeting about.

Dylan Wiliam – Where to now?

I really enjoyed Dylan Wiliam’s presentation on Wednesday and we have been very lucky to have all our teaching staff see him at the same time. It gives us a rare opportunity as a teachers to discuss formative assessment and how it can be done better at PBAS in a way that had only 3 or 4 attended would not be possible.

Some of the things that I got out of the day that were new or reinforced beliefs I held included:

  • It was great to hear Dylan acknowledge how hard the teaching “game” is and how no one ever perfects it.
  • Pedagogy trumps curriculum every time.
  • Focus on the things that matter.
  • We fail all the time and that’s ok as long as we avoid repeating mistakes and strive to improve.
  • We should worry about growth mind set in teachers. There is no place for teachers who think they can’t get better.
  • Formative assessment is most effective when it is used every day in every lesson (at least once every 20 minutes).
  • Always ensure students understand the learning intention and direction of the lesson.
  • Planning questions is important and using statements rather than questions can promote deeper responses.
  • Dumbing things down does not help our students.
  • Questioning should cause one of two things or both: 1. The student to think and 2. produce data that informs teaching.
  • Hard work and practice can trump talent.
  • Grades do not contribute to improved learning.
  • Comments do contribute to improved learning.
  • Combining grades and comments do not contribute to improved learning. Once a grade is seen the comment is ignored.
  • A great range of strategies to improve formative assessment.

Now that we have heard Dylan Wiliam’s research and classroom strategies and have his book as a resource we should discuss the “where to now?”.

Proposal – Formative assessment

My initial reaction is to take on formative assessment as a focus for 2014 (and maybe 2015). When I say focus I mean as part of our personal development plans where every teacher commits to improving an aspect of formative assessment. Team meetings will provide time to discuss formative assessment and allow staff to share what they are doing in terms of improving formative assessment in their classroom. I also believe there is plenty of scope for choice within formative assessment for teachers to select what they think will help improve their teaching and student learning.

My proposal is that all teaching staff select at least one strategy around formative assessment to put into their performance development plan.

Formative Assessment also allows us to engage in sections of TfEL and the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers as well as giving focus to classroom observations if a teacher chooses.

How does Formative Assessment  link with TfEL and Australian Professional Standards for Teachers

By focusing on formative assessment we will also be covering part of TfEL Domain 2, Element 2.4 and the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers Standard 5.1 and 5.2.

TfEL: Domain 2 Create Safe Conditions for Rigorous Learning

Element 2.4 Challenge students to achieve high standards with appropriate support.

  • (Teacher) Teach students how to seek feedback and offer timely feedback to move their learning forward.
  • (Teacher) Engineer learning conversations that extend students thinking.
  • (Student) Look forward to getting feedback from others to help take the next step.

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers: Standard 5 Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning

I have only included the Proficent and Highly Accomplished levels below. To view Graduate and Lead descriptors go to the AITSL page at the top of the blog. 

Assess student learning


Develop, select and use informal and formal, diagnostic, formative and summative assessment strategies to assess student learning.

Highly Accomplished

Develop and apply a comprehensive range of assessment strategies to diagnose learning needs, comply with curriculum requirements and support colleagues to evaluate the effectiveness of their approaches to assessment.

Provide feedback to students on their learning


Provide timely, effective and appropriate feedback to students about their achievement relative to their learning goals.

Highly Accomplished

Select from an effective range of strategies to provide targeted feedback based on informed and timely judgements of each student’s current needs in order to progress learning.

I believe it is important that all teaching staff who attended the day contribute a comment about where we should go now with Dylan Wiliam’s work. What are your opinions/thoughts around PD, classroom observations, TfEL and the Australian Professional Standards and using formative assessment to tie them all together? Can we make this work?

What’s the difference between empathy & sympathy?

Here is an interesting video on the difference between empathy and sympathy. I found this while scrolling through tweets by @SirKenRobinson.

I thought this could be useful if you were discussing emotions with students as part of Health or Pastoral Care.

On a side note if you go to the home page and scroll down to the bottom of the blog you can look through tweets by @SirKenRobinson @DylanWiliam @EMPIRIEDUCATOR and @aitsl.