Publishing to a world wide audience


I have wanted to do this with students for a while and finally had the opportunity to do it with my Year 9 ICT class. The Year 9’s have published a book about Port Broughton to Apple’s iBook store. Click HERE to view and download the book.

The book can only be read in the iBooks app on an iPad or Mac computer.

Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iPad with iBooks 3 or later and iOS 5.1 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

The Year 9 ICT course is all about how students can use their MacBooks more effectively and to show students the possibilities that their MacBooks provide. The book is the end result of students learning how to use the app, iBooks Author.

Prior to the class book being created students developed their understanding of how iBooks Author worked, creating their own books on a country they would like to visit. This allowed me to explicitly teach students how to use iBooks Author.

Once the topic of our class book was decided students were allocated chapters/sections to complete and sent away to collect images and create text for the book. Students completed their work on Word documents and collected images in JPG format. These documents were then Airdropped from their MacBooks to mine. Airdrop is an outstanding feature on the MacBook, iPad and iPhone. It allowed me to easily get multiple photos and Word documents from my 14 students quickly with no USB or cable connection required. The book was put together on my MacBook in iBooks Author with students able show me how they wanted their work formatted.

Once the book was completed the process to publish it from my MacBook to iBooks was reasonably simple. Selecting the Publish function in iBooks Author allows you to enable iTunes Connect and decide if you want to offer your book for free or sell your book. The third step in the process is to download iTunes Producer (through iTunes Connect) and use this to to upload the book to Apple for approval, which took approximately 4 days. My account, which was used to publish the book, is set up book to provide free books only. My understanding is that setting up an account for selling books is a little more complicated.

There are a number of clear benefits to students doing this activity which include:

  1. Publishing to a world wide audience requires a certain level of quality.
    • Understanding that family, friends, teachers and the wider public will be able to access their book meant that students spent considerably more time drafting and editing. Three fifty minute lessons were used for drafting the book. Approximately 50% of students were involved in the first two lessons. In the third lesson 100% of the students were involved in editing the book which was projected onto the whiteboard in its final iBook format.
  2. Learning about and understanding copyright.
    • We didn’t go into great detail but students very clearly understood that permission had to be granted to use most images and that acknowledgement of sources was important. Students also learnt were to find copyright free images like the State Library of South Australia (online collections). Students contacted the Northern Argus, the Port Broughton Bowling Club and Barunga West Council to get permission to use their images while I approached the local caravan park and South Australia Media Gallery. The S.A. Media Gallery required an account to be set up and a written application applying for use of their images.
  3. Students who are interested in writing as a pass time or future career have been exposed to a legitimate and professional way of publishing a book.
  4. I haven’t asked the students yet but I am assuming there is also a certain feeling of accomplishment having contributed to a book that has been formally published. My intention is to ask the students how they felt about the process and if it was a worthwhile experience.

The following images are of pages from the book in the iBooks Author app prior to being published.

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Learning Design – What do my students already know Part 2

On Feburary 18th Tanya kindly allowed me to share her first classroom observation for the year. Tanya’s focus for her observation was finding out what students already know. You can view this first post here.

Tanya has continued her work in this area and has completed a second observation, still focusing on finding out what students already know. Tanya is trialling different methods of finding this information out and determining those she sees as most beneficial to her and her students. On this occasion she used a method called the “Letterbox” strategy.

In this observation Tanya was trying to determine what understandings and knowledge her Year 7 students had of separating mixtures. Tanya created 10 questions and had students rotate around giving their answers on a piece of paper supplied by Tanya. Students had 5 minutes to answer as best they good each question and then “post” their responses back to Tanya via a container at the front of the room.

Tanya’s observational notes

Port Broughton Area School Observational Proforma

Teacher: Tanya Hacket

Observer: Nick Turra

Date: 18.3.15

Focus of Observation

Finding out what students know/bring to a topic. Topic – Year 7 Separating Mixtures. Tanya will be using a ‘Letterbox’ strategy to try and determine student prior knowledge.

 Requires the teacher to distribute a series of questions relevant to the topic. Individually students write answers to the questions on a slip of paper and put them in the “letter box”.

TfEL Domain 4 Personalise and connect learning. Element: 4.1 build on learners’ understandings 
the teacher identifies students’ prior knowledge and cultural practices as a starting point for curriculum.

Observers Notes (staple any additional pages to this document)

1. Clear explanation of purpose – “this is not a test”, “I want to know what you already know”.

2. Very organised having answer sheets already prepared with student names on them and set up so students started at different questions (1 student at 1 question).

3. Allowed 5 minutes for each question then students rotated.

4. Moved around to all students and assisted with explanations of questions.

a. Consideration as to how much help is provided for this type of activity would be important.

b. Balancing explanation of the questions against providing students too much information that allows them to answer a question they may not have got otherwise. This could give false information about what the students really know.

5. Students were engaged in the activity and interested. Five minutes was plenty of time for some students with some questions while others could have used more.

6. End of lesson – explained to students that those questions would be used as part of discussions in the coming weeks.

a. A great resource/basis for dispelling misconceptions that students have.

b. A great resource/basis to share ideas students had for solving some of the problems exposing students to a wider range of ideas and thoughts.

Where to now?

What can be taken from this observation?

 Found the process very useful.

 Questions generated a range of answers, which showed a range of misconceptions.

 Tanya found these useful and assisted with direction of future lessons.

 All the concepts in the questions will be covered during the unit.

Can I make any adjustments to my teaching based on this observation or this observation in conjunction with other observations?

 Did not alter program. As there were no concepts that students fully understood Tanya was able to continue with the program she had designed with minimal alteration but armed with extra information about were students are at.

How will I know that change has occurred in the classroom? What indicators will I see?

 Based on student responses Tanya is comfortable in her knowledge that the program

 Although Tanya is an experienced teacher and always felt she was delivering content at the appropriate level she now clearly knows that she is. She is not moving on from concepts because she thinks “students should know it already”. She has taken the time to find out and is therefore working at an appropriate level with the students.

When will I have my next observation?

 Next unit of science work with either the Year 7 or 8 classes. Tanya will continue to try different methods to find out prior knowledge.

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Teaching Spelling


Teaching spelling is certainly not my area of expertise. Having said this and putting all jokes about PE teachers aside I would like to present the following information to get those of you who explicitly teach spelling to think about how you go about teaching spelling and what strategies you use.

Current research literature outlines some instructional approaches that are recommended as being effective for developing students’ spelling, including the integration of multiple spelling strategies and word sort activities (Bear, Templeton, Invernizzi & Johnston, 2008; Fellowes & Oakley, 2010; Kelman & Apel, 2004). These approaches encourage the incorporation of four types of spelling knowledge that can form the base for children becoming competent spellers. These types of knowledge include phonological, visual, morphemic and etymological knowledge (Fellowes & Oakley, 2010). However, as stated, this information is often largely unknown by many teachers. University of Tasmania, Learning to Spell: An Examination of Year 4 Teachers’ Beliefs, Knowledge and Practices for the Teaching of Spelling. Caitlin E. Kennedy (Honours, Bachelor of Education), 2014

Research from The University of Tasmania shows gaps exists between the recommended teaching pedagogies within the research literature and the practices implemented by teachers within the classroom, particularly in the middle primary years.

Read the research paper here: Learning to Spell: An Examination of Year 4 Teachers’ Beliefs, Knowledge and Practices for the Teaching of Spelling

  • Phonological Knowledge: Refers to “how words sound”. This involves the awareness of words in oral language and the unit of sound that they are formed with, including syllables, onsets and rimes, and phonemes. For example, recognising the separate sounds of /c/, /a/ and /t/ in the word ‘cat’.
  • Visual Knowledge: Refers to “how words look”. This involves an understanding of the written language, including concepts of print, the alphabet, spelling patterns, and the relationship between letters and sounds.
  • Morphemic Knowledge: Refers to “how words change form”. This concerns the structure of words, and how morphemes can be composed together to create a word. It requires understanding of morphemes, root words, prefixes and suffixes, compound words, and spelling rules.
  • Etymological Knowledge: Refers to “where words come from”. It involves an understanding of the origin of words, including those that are derived from other languages.

View the following videos from the Teaching the Australian Curriculum English website. The videos explain aspects of the four types of knowledge that research suggests is required to be a competent speller.

The teachers and students in the videos are very well drilled. Once you get passed the staged nature of some of the videos there is some good information about the explicit teaching of spelling.

View Visual spelling knowledge – Year 2

View Phonological spelling knowledge – Year 2

View Morphemic spelling knowledge – Year 4

View Etymological spelling knowledge – Year 5

View Morphemic spelling – Nominalisation – Year 8

View Etymological spelling knowledge – Year 10


What’s important?

Below is a conversation that a mum shared in response to a blog post I was reading and It made me reflect on the topic of grades in the learning process.

Conversation between mother and son about grades:

Sam: Would it be fair to say that school ultimately is about the grades?
Mom: No! It’s about learning …
Sam: But then why do they send home report cards with our grades and not our learning, because taking a test doesn’t ultimately show how we learn or what we learned. I’m only asking cuz I got into a discussion with my physics teacher who … said that school is not about the grades, so I asked him why colleges look at the grades and not the learning progress… Because grades can also reflect what we didn’t learn . . . I’m not arguing that grades don’t reflect learning but ultimately what it comes down to is what our grades are in school, we don’t ask our friends what their learning is in a specific class, they ask what’s your grade. It’s not a competition between learning, it’s a competition between grades. What we learned in some of the classes isn’t going to be important in our lives or in college, but what matters is how we did in the class and how good our grades are. Like even when adults talk about school, they never say they either learned a lot or didn’t learn anything, they say whether they had good grades or had bad grades. So when we apply for college, it doesn’t matter what I learned in Psychology or physics, it matters how our grade is, especially if we never intend on pursuing a career in that field.
…I know I need to be on his good side but he was saying things that I didn’t agree with so I just said it to him, and then some lady walked into the room and started to argue also?! I was actually pretty mad at that point. She then told me that I need to accept the world we live in and go sit down… Nah.

I think if we were all asked what is more important, grades or learning we would respond with learning, just as the teacher/mum in the conversation did. But if we think deeply about what we promote to students we may find that grades are what we promote above learning. Do we tell our kids, “I want to see how far you have come from the start of this unit to the end. I want to see your growth” or do we say, “to get an ‘A’ you have to do this, this and this.” We could argue that the two are not mutually exclusive while others argue research suggests grades have no benefit or place in the learning process at all.

Now don’t get me wrong, grades/reports can reflect learning but they don’t necessarily show how far a student has come. A child who see’s a D grade on their report feels inferior to his classmates who have achieved B’s and A’s. He may have work exceptionally hard to achieve the D and come from a really low base level to achieve it. Regardless of this effort and growth the overwhelming focus is on the grade not the learning. The student still sees themselves as a failure with little achievement made. If we see the learning process as important should we focus solely on that? In a system that requires grades can we even do that?

As teachers we are caught in a situation were parents, universities and students expect them, we can’t escape them. It could be argued that we can do both, focus on learning and then provide grades reflecting that learning and growth. Some would argue we can’t.

“We’re addicted to grades. I’ve nothing against grades at the end of the school year. But telling students, after every piece of work, that they’re on an A, B, C or whatever is bizarre, perverse. The national curriculum levels were meant to be descriptions of the totality of achievement over an entire key stage, not judgments on individual pieces of work. Assessment should be part of a conversation with pupils that helps teachers to decide where lessons should go next. It should be “assessment for learning” (to move learning forward), not “assessment of learning” (a full stop in the learning process). Dylan Wiliam

I encourage you to read articles from the following blog, not because I think you should or will agree with everything on it but because I think it will challenge your thinking.

The following link will take you to the blog “for the love of learning – abolishing grades page”.

What is your position on grading and it’s importance in student learning?

Sharing Professional Practice

Creating learning opportunities for staff (TfEL Domain 1 – Learning for effective teaching) is worded in the TfEL document as Leaders create learning opportunities with staff. It is important to note the wording “with staff”. It should not always be leadership who lead discussion and share practice, all teachers should, at times, be given the opportunity to lead and share practice. PBAS is lucky to have a quality teaching staff and we should all feel that we have something to offer our peers in terms of professional development.

Our professional learning discussions will continue throughout the year and these need to be times where teachers share their professional practice and take centre stage. It was very good of Joelene/Tyler, Kelly and Justin to take the time to share their practice around programming during week 6 at our staff meeting.

At the beginning of the year I mentioned we would have some focus on The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (Standard 6) and continue to use TfEL as major tools in our professional development processes. It is important to note that when we have professional discussions at staff meetings we are addressing aspects of the Standards and TfEL.

Standard 6 ­ Engage in professional learning

6.3 Engage with colleagues and improve practice

PROFICIENTContribute to collegial discussions and apply constructive feedback from colleagues to improve professional knowledge and practice.

HIGHLY ACCOMPLISHED – Initiate and engage in professional discussions with colleagues in a range of forums to evaluate practice directed at improving professional knowledge and practice, and the educational outcomes of students.

TfEL Domain 1 Learning for effective teaching

1.3 Participate in professional learning communities and networks.

PBAS Professional Learning Community

At the beginning of the year a decision was made to use some staff meeting time (twice a term) to have professional discussions. These discussions would be teacher led and require the sharing of practice with the rest of the staff on a particular topic. We did this on a student free day last year with the topic “Storing and using evidence of learning for assessment”. Three teachers presented their work in this area and other teachers commented on how useful the presentations and following discussions where.

This week will see our first PLC discussion on the topic of Programming. Joelene, Kelly and Justin have kindly agreed to share their programming processes with us.

While these three have agreed to talk it would be great if everyone came prepared to contribute in some small way to the discussion either by sharing aspects of their own programming or be willing to ask questions of those presenting.

 Points for discussion could include the following:

1. How do you prepare a program? What type of format do you use?

  • Bring examples to share/show.

2. Do you have a detailed plan or work from a broad overview or do you have both? 

  • What do these look like?
  • How does your day to day planning look is it a different format to your more detailed plans or is it the same document?

3. How do you go about organising your resources and assessment tasks?

4. Is there flexibility in your plan?

5. How do you incorporate the Australian Curriculum into your planning?

6. Do you consider all aspects of Learning Design when programming or just some of them?

Detailed learning design


If anyone is interested in further reading around programming here is a draft document titled Planning for implementing – Australian Curriculum from the QLD Curriculum and Assessment Authority which discusses curriculum planning in schools. Page 5 provides a great overview for teachers titled “Elements of effective planning”.