Category Archives: PD

Professional development sessions and information aimed at educators.

Stephanie Hamilton

Yesterday morning I attended a breakfast meeting hosted by Apple Hong Kong’s education team. The main event was a presentation by Stephanie Hamilton, one of Apple’s education specialists from Cupertino. It seems her role is mainly to travel the world and advocate the use of (Apple) technology in the classroom.

Whilst much of the material was not new to me, I found Stephanie to be a good presenter, and she backed up many of the ideas with research with which I was not familiar. I can away feeling there were a few things I would like to implement right away, although ironically these were not technology-based but instead related to classroom environment and rules.

The following is a summary of what I felt to be some of the important points from Stephanie’s presentation:

  • Teachers often fail to help students because they praise achievement not effort (Drive by Daniel Pink): technology can help to overcome this, and is often why students find technology-based learning more rewarding.
  • Change in schools (such as introducing technology) often does not succeed because of a failure to deal with a complex interplay of logic, emotion and environment (Switch by Dan & Chip Heath)
  • Traditionally, most teachers have been taught to use technology to do the same things that they do without it. To be really effective, teachers need to use the technology to achieve things they could not do without it. This point was illustrated using Ruben R. Puentedura’s Technology Implementation Continuum, in which we move from Enhancement (aka evolution) to Transformation (aka revolution), through the four steps listed below. If you can get teachers to Redefinition, where they cannot teach the lessons they want without technology, then you have achieved real change!
    • Substitution
    • Augmentation
    • Modification
    • Redefinition
  • Does teaching in general succeed in teaching understanding, or simply factoids?
  • There is a wealth of resources available online at iTunes U (I wonder, is it licenced to allow remix?).
  • “When you lock things down so tight, you might as well not do the technology” (a great quote direct from Stephanie), and something I have long agreed with. This makes it harder for ICT administrators, teachers and students, and is often enough to turn people off. In relation to this, Stephanie talked about the cross over of business-based technology values (stability, control, cost, efficiency) into a learning (which should favour exploration and innovation).
  • Challenge-Based Learning is an initiative derived from Apple’s own research, and suggests that students learn more when they are challenged to solve real-world problems.
  • David Thornburg’s approach to having a variety of learning spaces:
    • Campfire: traditional space in which students face or surround teacher;
    • Watering Hole: a space where students can share knowledge and collaborate with each other on a less formal basis;
    • Cave: a place for introspection and reflection;
    • Mountaintop: a space for presenting work to others
  • During the meeting I realised the following two things in relation to my own teaching:
  • I participate in meetings whilst working on my laptop: some of this is related to the meeting, some not. How can I deal with students who want to and are able to work in this way? How can I allow multitasking, headphones, independent learning and self expression in my classroom, whilst still getting my messages across in enough detail?
  • How can I remodel my learning spaces to allow for more effective learning.

More to come on these developments in the near future!

The Curious Incident

During a CPD discussion on risk assessment yesterday, the issue of taking children with autism on field trips came up. In particular, we discussed the fact that seemingly innocuous changes to routine and surprises can have unexpected and potentially disastrous consequences. Whilst my own experience teaching students with autism is limited, I feel that Mark Haddon’s book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has given me a solid understanding of what these students go through.

The book follows a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome (which is on the autism spectrum, despite claims that it should not be) as he tries to solve a mysterious murder. Although the book is disarmingly simple, it does an amazing job of shifting the reader’s perception of reality, allowing a brief glimpse into one of the many ways that the human mind can function. If there is one book all teachers should read…this might perhaps be it!


Embedding is one of the most empowering techniques available to student and teacher bloggers, effectively allowing free syndication of content created by others. In website design, embedding is the process of taking content from one site and displaying it within your own. It is easy to confuse this process with copy and paste, however it is subtly different. With copy and paste the blogger is actually moving the content into their site. Embedding on the other hand, simply displays the content remotely from its original content. As an example of embedding, consider the books displayed on the right-hand side of this site.

Online services (such as Delicious, LibraryThing and YouTube) encourage people to embed their content as it drives traffic to their sites, and helps spread the word on what they offer. For bloggers, embedding provides a rich alternative to simply linking to content, allowing for the creation of a site based on the principle of mashup, where something new is created from a series of new and existing elements.

Different blogging platforms apply different restrictions to embedding, as certain techniques can pose security risks. By far the most flexible approach is to host your own blog using an open source platform (such as WordPress), although this requires a certain level of technical expertise and a small financial overhead. A reasonable alternative is to use a hosted solution, (of where there are many such as Blogger,, TypePad and LiveJournal). Of all the hosted solutions that I have tried, Blogger provides the best combination of flexibility, structure, features and ease of use. That said, occasionally an embed fails to work (e.g. Delicious link role), and a workaround is required (e.g. using the equivalent RSS feed).

Drupal Presentation, CSTA NSW, 26/10/2009

This page provides support for those who attended the NSW CSTA presentation I ran with Peter Stidston, Chris Dam and Nirvan Gelda on the 26th of October, 2009.

Please use the comment facility below to ask any questions, or leave feedback. It would be very useful to me if you could fill out the feedback form.


  • Presentation (ppt | pptx)
  • In-Session Hands On Guide (doc | docx)
  • A Drupal XAMPP Install Guide (doc | docx)


Creating A Digital Hub: Website Creation for Teachers

Recently I have been fielding questions from pre-service teachers regarding setting up their own website to support teaching and learning. I usually point people to a wiki ( ) or blog ( ) service as a starting point, and show them how to integrate content from other sites and services. The video below aims to answer such questions in a thorough, easy-to-follow manner, so that teachers can help themselves.

Prior to watching the video it is worth noting that it deals with the creation of a wiki , but that the same principles can be applied to a blog. Many people are unclear on the distinctions between these two types of website: in general, a wiki is a relatively unstructured site that can be easily contributed to by a number of users, whereas a blog is a chronoligcal journal maintained by a single users. If you wish to develop a site that you alone run and others read, then a blog may be a better choice. However, if you want to invite other teachers or students to collaborate, a wiki may be a better option. Some sites, such as this one, blend elements of the two, and there are other structures which, for simplicity’s sake, we will not consider here. Your choice now determines what you can and cannot do with your site in the future, so it is worth considering.

Sha Tin College ICT Certification For Teachers

As part of a previous position I held at the Sha Tin College (part of the English School’s Foundation in Hong Kong) I developed and delivered a year-long CPD course to help teachers develop their ICT skills. The aim was to produce a challenging course that forced teachers to confront ICT in numerous ways, thus building confidence and competence. As it was all created under a Creative Commons license, it is available for anyone to use!


A comprehensive ICT training course for teachers looking for a solid foundation and enhanced confidence. A maximum of 23 contact hours spread over an academic year, with the option of lunch time or after school learning.

The program leads to a Level 1 Certification, via assessment, and covers hardware and software basics, classroom technology, office software, Internet use and basic graphics.

Designed and run specifically for Sha Tin College. More information will be emailed to SC Teaching Staff.


For more details view the Course Outline.


For self-lead learning, the materials are provided below. You might want to start and end by clicking on the mind map summary below:

Course Content

Area Section Course Materials
Introduction 00 Introduction Presentation
Presentation w/ Voice Over
Course Overview
Computer Fundamentals
01 Desktop Basics Presentation
Presentation w/ Voice Over
02 Operating Systems Presentation
Presentation w/ Voice Over
Mac OS X
Ubuntu Linux
Windows XP
03 Computer Hardware Presentation
Presentation w/ Voice Over
Assessment 1 Assessment
IWB & Classroom Technology
04 IWB Software Introduction
Unit 1
Unit 1 – Video
Unit 2
Unit 3
Unit 4
Unit 5
Unit 6
Unit 7
Unit 8
05 Classroom ICT Troubleshooting Presentation
Presentation w/ Voice Over
Assessment 2 Assessment (on Promethean website)
Office Productivity
06 Word Processing Presentation
Pesentation w/ Voice Over
Word Tips & Tricks (
07 Spreadsheets Presentation
Presentation w/ Voice Over
08 Presentations Presentation
Presentation w/ Voice Over
Powerpoint Basics (
Assessment 3 Assessment
The Internet
09 What Is The Internet Presentation
Presentation w/ Voice Over
10 Using The Web Presentation
Presentation w/ Voice Over
11 Online Resources Presentation
Assessment 4 Assessment
Graphics & Publishing
12 Graphics Presentation
13 Web Publishing Presentation
14 Content Licensing & Sharing Presentation
Assessment 5 Assessment

Graphics: Isolating An Image From Its Background

As part of a UWS “Interactive PowerPoint for Teaching” workshop I helped out at today, I was asked by quite a few people how to remove the background from a picture so that it could be integrated into a presentation more cleanly. I showed a few people some relatively simple tricks using free, open source software called Gimp. In order to make this information more widely available, I have put together a short guide on how this can be done. The guide can be downloaded here.

Of course, there are other (more powerful and complex) ways to do this, and it can be done using other applications. However, Gimp is free, and this method is pretty straightforward, making it accessible to almost all users.

UWS ICT & Education Workshop, 08/08/2009

This page refers to a CPD workshop I ran at the “Beginner’s Teachers Forum” at the University of Western Sydney School of Education.

Information for participants: through this workshop I hope to balance hands-on exercises, suggestions, theory and values, with the aim of helping you to better incorporate ICT into your classroom practice. Listed below you will find all of the resources that we will use in this session.

Feel free to leave feedback or questions in the comments section below,


Today’s Presentation

Please feel free to view, edit, share and remix this work, according to the Creative Commons licence details specified on the last page.I will put up PowerPoint 2003 and OpenOffice versions soon.