From the category archives:



Another app I love. It’s designed for iPhone but works on iPad and I think some iPods too. It’s very simple, but beautiful things can be done.

All you do is open a picture in the app and choose or add a set of words. Then you get the fun bit, changing fonts, styles and colours. This is the bit where kids could waste a whole lot of time playing, but no more than they do with other visual media like paint or posters.

I made these examples using a combination of apps on my iPad:

Above, I used Image Search to find the apple and Fancy Pages to put it together with the text before putting it into WordFoto with simple sight words – A, and, an, apple.

Used Image Search to find the 5 picture then text, numeral, arithmetic and counters representing 5.

animal cell
A more complicated attempt, I used MediaSlate to draw the cell and Fancy Pages to label it before using the parts as my word set. I don’t actually think this would be a good classroom use – the text doesn’t really add anything to the diagram.

Mining ConsMining Pros
Again, used Image Search then straight into WordFoto.

So I have a series of pretty pictures and had a fun time. Is it useful or a time waster? I think useful – primates are, after all, visual creatures and the picture being a thousand words. I think it can let kids who can’t write well-reasoned essays explore emotional and analytical ideas. It can be a stimulus, a mnemonic or a fun way to begin and end a unit. A way of getting kids to use and practice words and tie them to something concrete rather than a list in a book.

Quick ideas for uses (and this is after a couple of days playing, I’m sure there are so many more):

  • Early readers building a word bank.
  • Encouraging use of adjectives and rich description eg developing characters or settings.
  • Vocab posters for a unit.
  • Understanding numbers – this does not not not not mean counting!
  • Remembering formulae and units in different forms.
  • Looking at pros and cons for things like Science in Society or SOSE.
  • Emotional response or exploration.
  • Summary of a business or enterprise – taglines or mottos.
  • Taking a position in an argument with brief reasons.
Can you think of more?




Yes, spelling or at least vocabulary is important. But spelling tests are deadly dull and have no educational value – all they do is tell you which kids got the letters in the right order in that particular contrived circumstance. They don’t teach anything themselves except panic.

I do think there are circumstances where rote learning is valuable, my daughter is currently learning sight words. But you need to balance the usefulness of the activity against the time it is taking and make a decision on what is the best way for a particular class.

And never forgetting that outcomes need to be demonstrated in a variety of ways in a variety of contexts. Have you checked that the student who got 100% on the test is actually using the words correctly in everyday writing?

Assessment is not a mystery story – we are not trying to trick kids but allowing them to show off what they have learnt. So here are a few quick alternatives for assessing both spelling and the related knowledge. Every single one of them is open-ended, which means they will work for every kid in the class to have success at their own level.

  • Hangman
  • Each student spells a word of their choice and tells you what it means before they leave the classroom.
  • Use the words you’ve been learning to create a mind-map summary of your topic.
  • Have students find ‘families’ of words. This could be rhyming or blends families for younger kids or related words such as pentagon, hexagon, octagon.
  • Create their own crossword then exchange them.
  • Create acrostic poems using words you have been using in class.
  • Use Wordle to analyse your text or a student’s own work and use that to generate their own spelling list.
  • Either individually or in teams have students write as many words as possible they’ve learnt in the class and turn them into posters that can be displayed or added to.
  • Use the posters to divide the words into nouns, verbs, adjectives etc. Colour code them or create new posters.
  • Interactive posters, for example a poster with a large diagram and the labels are laminated, students put them on with string and bluetac.
  • Students complete a table with words in one column and the definitions in the second column then cut them out. Swap them with another student and unjumble them.
  • Have a round robin game where a pair of students give each other a word to spell then move to a new partner.
  • Give students the correct letters in scrabble pieces/magnets/blocks/cards to spell a list of words given orally, automatic self-checking if they have ones left over or run out of something.

How many more can you think of? Rather than a book full of spelling tests, why not a portfolio of individualised vocabulary activities?



I know some states have already started, but the NT goes back on Monday. I thought I’d put together a little checklist of things that will help in the first few weeks, especially if you are new to teaching or in a new school.

School things

Most schools have a handbook which is not something to toss on your desk to read later, it is your Bible. It will have the answers to the questions you don’t know you should be asking yet, such as:

  • Who is your line manager? Arguably the most important question, they are your contact for any questions or problems you have. They may direct you to someone else, but they are your first port of call and the person you need to keep informed.
  • What are the communication protocols? Are there daily meetings or newsletters?
  • What are your non-teaching responsibilities? Things such as handing in programs, class lists or other paperwork, yard duties, home rooms.
  • Do you have your own class or move around? If you are sharing with other teachers you will need to negotiate the things you can put up and the layout.
  • What is the school policy on hats/mobile phones/toilet breaks/buddy classes? The practical details that will come up in your class.
  • How are support staff managed – do you need to request them? Are they attached to students/classes or teachers? Do you get planning time with them?
  • Ditto for resources such as computers, laptops, iPads, cameras and specialist rooms such as the Library.

Class things

  • Are your personal systems ready? Diary or workpad, rolls, stationery, keys, water bottle?
  • How are you going to arrange the workspace?
  • What is your behaviour management policy or classroom philosophy? I strongly recommend you write it out to have it clear even if your school doesn’t require it.
  • How are you going to organise your resources such as books and stationery?
  • How are you going to incorporate activities for different learning styles? How are you using technology – this isn’t an option in the twenty-first century.
  • Names, names, names repeat them as often as you can.

School culture

This might be the tricky bit because it is unwritten. It includes things like

  • Are you expected to stay after school?
  • How are you expected to dress and behave?
  • How do you address students and how do they address you?
  • How does the staff room operate with things like tea/coffee and dishes?

as well as so many more. Often no-one can tell you these things because they have grown with the school and are just the way it operates. Many you can ask, but mostly you have to listen and watch.

If you are new to a school, spend the time listening and watching everything around you, the people there are the experts and your greatest help and support. And if you are an experienced staff, maybe there are some newbies you can keep an eye on. They don’t know what they don’t know.


Because right now, we don’t. In fact most of us are still trying to work out what literacy in the information age actually is, let alone practice it or especially teach it.

The first step is to accept that this is truly a different world to the one you grew up in. It’s not just like it was but with better phones. We have the collective brain, early tricorders and skycars are under development. We have the ADHD attention span. Most important, for this discussion, we have independent mass publishing.

When you were a kid and wanted to know something you read it in a book or asked someone. There were occasional oddball books like Von Daniken, but generally they were pretty safe, in fact conservative. This is because books are a big investment for publishers so they are screened and vetted carefully. Then they have to be marketed, and the extreme fringe is, by definition, tiny. So it’s not worthwhile targetting them as your audience. As a further filter, you either had to shell out money for a book or get it from the library. Money is a great way of ensuring people think carefully about what they are reading, and public libraries have guidelines. That adds up to a lot of editorial layers making sure the book is reliable.

Asking someone could be more unreliable, especially because we are inherently more likely to trust people we know well enough to ask. But while in the past that could lead to pockets or lineages of ‘weird beliefs,’ it couldn’t usually spread far or fast, because you simply can’t reach that many people.

For me, the biggest effect of the Internet is the democratisation of information. I get my news through Twitter and learn from blogs. And I don’t mean the big commercial ones, why not keep an eye on my old field by following John Hawks? For educators, think of Teacher Tom or Dy/Dan out of hundreds of useful edublogs. And there’s the rub. How do you know which ones are useful?

Anyone can set up a blog. Design is getting easier, especially with so many themes already out there you don’t need to go for a premium or custom job to get something that looks professional. Hosting is everywhere and domains are incredibly cheap. For a hundred dollars, maybe two, you can look like a trustworthy professional organisation rather than a crackpot working alone in a grungy flat. And as yet there is no way for readers to check up on you, except by looking at the quality of your information and making their minds up for themselves. Which is easy if you already know something about the field, very hard if you don’t.

Which brings us back to those poor people looking for information.

Cue critical literacy

There are all sorts of skills that go into it to do with comprehension and spotting logical errors or inconsistencies. But one of the first things to ask yourself is

“Why should I trust this person?”

What clues are there, before you even listen or read, that tell you this person has good information –

  • Are they publicly backed by an organisation such as a university or government department that would have checked it for you?
  • Do they have relevant qualifications openly displayed?
  • Is there an easy way to contact them and ask questions and do you get answers?
  • Do they link or direct you to other reputable sites that have that information?
  • Do they back up their statements with evidence or is it all their opinion (rather like this post)? And what is the quality of their evidence?
  • Can you find out how they have dealt with or answered people who disagree with them?
  • Are they urging you to do something, and who will directly benefit from that?

Try it –

I’ll do this blog for you, shall I?

  • No, it’s a private blog.
  • Yes, see that ‘About‘ tab up the top?
  • Yes, contact tab off to the left and open comments. You can see answers on some of the comments.
  • Yes, lots of links off to the right and within posts. However you would have to check if they are reputable, there are no universities or education departments.
  • Mostly opinion, it’s a reflective blog after all!
  • It’s a fairly limited blog. You could follow the links to Science@home, which I’ve mentioned in the About page has been going much longer. It has some controversial posts, but you would have to look around a bit to find them. So while it’s not impossible, it would require some digging.
  • Not really. Be what I consider a better teacher? Your students would be the ones to benefit, and they’re almost certainly not my kids!
So it’s relatively reliable with some caveats – it’s designed to clarify and record my thinking and make you think, not give you facts.
Try it on another site the next time you are looking things up, it can be a very interesting exercise.


Chick shoes

No, that’s not a euphemism. I have an actual chick, hatched from an actual egg, that has a few ‘issues.’

He (I have no idea, we just call it he) has one enormous eye – it appears the eye has either popped out of the socket or the socket never formed properly. I assumed he was blind in this eye or soon would be, I was just worried about how delicate it would be – would it get pecked or knocked? He also has extremely curled toes so that he couldn’t walk but was shuffling around on the sides of his feet.

After a couple of days I worked out how to make little ‘chick shoes’ that straightened his toes out and he started standing up and eating. That was very exciting because we lost some chicks in an earlier hatch, so if he’s eating and drinking on his own that’s a big step to making it.

But it soon became clear he wasn’t doing well. He spent most of his time sitting against a fence or the edge of the box, and he sits with his blind eye out. It must be blind now, most of the time it’s covered in dried tears although there doesn’t seem to have been any infections and it’s cloudy. I probably made it worse by putting some betadine on it – there was some blood and I didn’t want to risk infection, in hindsight I probably should have just left it alone.

We kept him inside for a bit when the other chicks went out, just to make sure he was walking ok and could get to the food without competition – not only is he unsteady and half blind, he’s half the size of the other chicks. There was another chick with a cut on its back we were keeping an eye on and had the two of them together for company. But after the second chick was ready to go back, there wasn’t any real point keeping Bung inside.

Through it all he’s been an amazing little fighter – he obviously has huge problems, but he can move around, he’s trying to scratch in the dirt, he finds the food and water and even though he’s tiny he’s developing little feathers. We keep preparing the girls that he’ll probably die, but every morning he’s still there. It might sound a bit cruel to put him out, but what else are we supposed to do – this is a chicken we’re talking about. If he can’t walk, scratch and find food and water he’s going to have a pretty miserable and short life, so better to find that out now and deal with it if we have to. Starvation and bullying is a nasty way to go. We’ve only given him minimal help – some splinting on his feet, keeping him warm and a bit sheltered. At some point we need to see if he can live as a chicken, so out he went.

The chicks have a separate enclosure in one corner of the chicken run. It has their own food and water in it but no lid. It’s a bit protected for the little ones and under the cover so no predators can get to them, but everyone is getting to know each other and getting introduced. Bung has been doing fine, he’s happier with the other chicks but he still seems to spend all his time curled up against the fence. At least they aren’t bullying him and he’s obviously eating and drinking because he’s still with us.

Seeing there’s no lid on the chick cage, as the little ones try out their wings they go up and over. There’s generally one or two racing up and down the outside trying to work out what happened and where everyone went. And this morning it was Bung. Something pried my special needs chick away from his secure fence and tempted him to fly.

I wouldn’t want to push it too far – these are chickens we’re talking about. But I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there.


Challenging Behaviours

You can’t extinguish a behaviour. Can’t be done. Behaviours can only be replaced, not extinguished. And if you think for a moment it’s very obvious – if they aren’t doing whatever the problem is, they must be doing something instead. Even staring at the wall is doing something.

Unfortunately, too many behaviour management plans focus on the behaviour you are trying to change.

This has two problems – a negative focus is likely to lead to negative strategies, and it could leave you with an even worse behaviour than you started with.

Successful behaviour modification needs to focus on the replacement, not the problem. The question to ask is not

“How do we stop them doing this?”


“How do we get them to do that?”

The first step is to decide exactly what you want them to be doing –

  • Working?
  • Sitting quietly?
  • Staying in their seat?
  • Actively participating in a discussion?

Because the strategies you use to achieve the change will depend on what you want – if you’re happy with sitting quietly you don’t need to encourage them to participate.

Then you can look at why it isn’t happening and go back to the basics of your pedagogy.

  • Are you setting work at levels to cater for everyone in the class?
  • Do they understand what you want them to do?
  • Are you giving them a variety of ways to demonstrate the skill or understanding?
  • Is the work rich and engaging?
  • Are there ways you can negotiate with them and give them some control?

After you’ve torn into your own programs then you can start to look at individuals or groups of students and ways of encouraging them into the behaviour you want. This is where praise and all the different types of reminder, reward and contract systems come in. But the emphasis needs to remain on setting expectations and supporting and encouraging students to meet them. Not on stopping them from misbehaving.



Teaching is an incredibly conservative profession. These are people’s children you have in your care and parents have this little habit of being hypercritical of whoever is responsible for their kids. Twenty-nine of your families may love your spiked pink hair and tattoo sleeve, but if one doesn’t you could be in for a rough year.

It gets worse.

Parents have experienced education. Most of us are lucky enough not to have spent significant time as a patient or defendant, therefore if we are suddenly in that situation we don’t have anything to judge the doctor or lawyer against. We assume that they are up to date and know what they are doing until there is evidence otherwise. But pretty much all parents have spent large amounts of time in classrooms and have very clear ideas what should be going on there. Unfortunately they’re at least 10 years out of date.

For that matter, many teachers have spent more class time as a student than they have as a teacher. By the time you’re qualified you’ve spent almost 20 years as a student. Our subconscious expectations of ‘what should happen’ are shaped by what happened to us. Which means they are at least 5 years and possibly decades out of date. That’s a big block to get past.

So there is a tendency for teachers to drift towards the most conservative of their parents’ expectations, at least in their public and professional presentation. How much does that affect our thinking? If you are spending five sevenths of your time dressing, speaking and acting conservatively and archaically, how much does that carry into your planning and programming? My year 12 maths teacher was unquestionably brilliant, but is he still a good model for my teaching? (Actually I think he would be. Mr Wieman was, well, brilliant.)

Unfortunately, teaching should be the absolute cutting edge profession. Progress in every other profession depends on education, and spending time in a classroom that belongs in the past can’t possibly help.

This is one of those philosophical things I don’t think there are easy answers to, it’s something to reflect on. So I have a series of questions that might get you started, the sorts of things I think about:


  • Is your classroom like the ones you grew up in?
  • Do you think your content is up to date?
  • Are you a lifelong learner and are you putting your lessons into practice?
  • How do you use technology in your own life? Do you give your students the same opportunity?
  • Are you becoming more conservative?
  • How has the world changed since you were at school?
  • Do you think your kids’ classrooms are different?
  • Have you thought about what you expect from your kids’ education?
  • Have you taken an opportunity to talk to the school or teachers about it?
  • How do you use technology in your work? How do you use it with your kids?
What do you do to help you move against the inertia?


Australian National Curriculum

It turns out I was wrong with my guess of how it would all work out. I’ve deleted the incorrect parts of this post and suggest you look at the updated series I’m slowly trying to put together.

Australia finally has a national curriculum after about fifteen years of trying. It’s still being phased in but I’ve been playing around with the science curriculum since last year, mainly for writing teacher’s guides and personal development. I’ve programmed using it with one group of teachers but not taught using it.

So far, I love it. This is not to say it’s perfect – I love my husband too but there are times he annoys the heck out of me. But I think it’s going to give teachers some much needed direction and get us all moving together. It’s nicely balanced compared with the wild pendulum swings education has been going through.

(As a side note, I adore the fact it isn’t a book. Finally, something that takes advantage of the way the web works and let’s you organise the information the way you want to access it.)

The Pendulum

When I began teaching in WA I caught the tail end of the unit curriculum. This was an extremely prescriptive curriculum with around 40 objectives for each unit that had to be covered in your 30 lessons. It had fantastic resources attached with phone directory sized books full of suggested lesson plans and worksheets. You could literally follow the book from beginning to end and know you had it covered, even if learning about beach erosion was completely inappropriate in the desert and your students only remembered half of it.

Then came the massive shift to outcomes based education, when the focus swung a full 180 degrees from what you had taught to what they had learnt. Rather than prescriptive topics it was completely open and teachers were encouraged to go with local and specific topics and even, gasp, student negotiated curriculum.

Just to make sure there was even less direction, the outcomes were enormous. The Levels in WA were designed for students to work through in 18 months to 2 years, and Bands in the NT were even broader. In fact when they had been in a few years they were revised, and it’s quite possible for students to complete year 6 and leave primary school still in Band 1. Now that’s an E, not a good score, but the Australian NAPLAN mean for the end of primary school still only lines up with the beginning of Band 3, which means students are expected to spend 6 years getting through two Bands.

Teachers aren’t entirely on their own in this vast ocean of possibilities, there are lots of suggestions and indicators and resources to help, but classroom teachers had a huge responsibility in choosing what is taught and particularly at what level.

This is where the new national curriculum slots in.

There are two major differences that jump out at you when you first look at the new curriculum:

  • It is based on year levels.
  • The achievement standards include specific content.

Year Levels

Finally! Some guidance on what to do with your year 8 student who is still in Band 1. Rather than trying to thread your way between something that was written for early childhood and students with early childhood school abilities but teenage social abilities and interests there is finally an answer – THIS is what a year 8 student should be learning. You can take the context from the National Curriculum but teach it at the level your students are capable of. Yes, there may be a lot of Es. But at least all Australian students will be familiar with the important concepts.

It’s an objective way of working things out – rather than relying on other teachers’ interpretations of where the students are up to that may or may not match your own, you can at least be sure of what topics the students have covered. They may have covered it in a simpler or more complicated way, but at least you know what they did before they landed in your class.

I know this is truncated, it will be expanded over the next few posts. I’m just resurrecting this one because it’s coming up in searches and I feel bad if people are getting 404’d.

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Google +

Google plus is the new kid on the social media block and it’s growing explosively. However numbers of users only tells a small part of the story, as many of those users only joined up to check it out. Even the ones who like it are still fitting it into their routine and finding a place for it.

This is a good thing for teachers, because the exploration is throwing up all sorts of interesting ideas on ways to use it. And of course I’m going to add my suggestions to the clamour.

For me, Google + seems like a cross between Twitter and an old fashioned forum. Of course there is a bit of Facebook thrown in, but I’ve never used Facebook professionally. Overall I think it’s going to be great in the NT, because I think anything that makes it easier for teachers to connect and network with each other is a good thing.


–  Like Twitter, you can follow anyone you want without being approved. The caveat is that they need to be on it, and I’ve been a bit shocked at the number of people who either don’t have Google accounts or aren’t searchable. Doesn’t everyone these days have YouTube or Blogger or iGoogle or Gmail or Google Docs or Google Reader or Picasa or something? We keep being told that half the world has jumped onto Google +, so where is everyone I know? Weird.

–  If someone is following you but you aren’t following them, there is an ‘Incoming’ stream you can check them out with. Watch for a while and decide if you want to follow them back.

–  You can group people into Circles, but the advantage is actually that you can easily decide which circles to share with for every update. It would be quite easy to isolate yourself if you did it all the time, but occasionally being able to direct something to only specific people might stop you from boring everyone with the irrelevant bits. Especially useful if you mix family and business.
The ability to use webcams for a video conference with 10 people. Outside of a professional setting, that’s amazing. It also lets you watch a YouTube video together, which opens up real possibilities.

–  It encourages long form comments – none of this rubbish hitting enter and your comment has posted!

–  It has its own personalised search engine attached. Naturally, this is Google.


–  Supposedly real names only (although I do follow a couple of people using ‘nyms). While you do have control over who can see what in your profile, swapping between pseudonyms and names is making it difficult to match everyone up and leading to people having multiple online identities. Wouldn’t it be nice to just be one person? It’s a bit simplistic to say we should all just use our real names, there are good arguments for separating online and offline identities. At the same time there are good arguments against anonymity, so it would be really nice if we could all have one handle that follows us around but has some level of separation from the people we meet down at the shops and work with.

–  You can group people into Circles, but the disadvantage is that you can accidentally compartmentalise yourself very badly. I’ve picked up ideas from all over the place, I’d hate to miss out on something because someone put me in the ‘Mummy’ circle rather than ‘Science’ or ‘Education’ circles. And yes, you can put people in multiple circles. It’s more a mindset – be aware if you are starting to exclude people.


I’m excited about Google +, I think it’s going to really add something to professional connections online. I love Twitter, it lets me skim a huge amount of information and dip in and out. I am suspicious of Facebook – it’s advertiser friendly rather than user friendly and has so many changes and general weirdnesses. Google + has the ease of use of Twitter but more scope – hopefully you can check out this conversation on the subject.

It’s early, but I think I’m going to keep using Twitter for news, information and connection. My Facebook page will continue to be big for Science@home because my audience of parents tend to be on Facebook. But Google + will be my education professional connection, where I can discuss and get into things.


First and most obvious: Join up! I don’t know if it was because I had a Google account already or because the invitations thing has finished, but I didn’t need one. If you do, here you go. Then play around with it, find people, look what other people are doing with it. After that I have random ideas in no particular order:

  • Use Hangouts to set up a time and video conference with teachers in other schools.
  • Set up a Circle along the lines of “Remote Schools Chat” and organise when you are all available. Then use the exclusive posting function or the threaded replies to have a chat similar to Twitter chats but with much more detail and ability to expand.
  • Get your students on, there are both iPhone and Android apps, and have a student circle for communication and discussion.

Useful Links

Lots of people are thinking about how to use Google +:

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Part three of my list on why Territory (and other) teachers need to use Social Media. Seeing part of my aim is to get more Territory teachers using social media I’m going to keep talking about communities, because that’s where a lot of kids in the Territory live. And when you are isolated in a two teacher school, it often feels like you’re too small to matter and there’s nothing out there just for you. You always have to adapt the ideas you find to make them work in your circumstances, nothing is ever straight out of the book. All of these ideas will work anywhere, but just for once isolated teachers can feel special and remembered.


140 characters is all you have to do to be able to Tweet. The essence of Twitter is short, sharp chunks that show kids you don’t need enormous slabs of text to learn. Reading and writing are manageable and engaging because they get an instant result, not one after several sessions of planning, drafting and finally a good copy.

Twitter is about spreading information and ideas. Most Twitter users have hundreds or even thousands of followers, and if you use hashtags it is even broader. So you can use Twitter for connecting you to a very wide audience without extra work.


Most Territory kids have low literacy levels, which makes pictures a great stimulus to start a lesson. In fact they’re great for all sorts of kids, because it’s something new they have to think about and analyse. Different people see different things in pictures depending on their backgrounds and experiences, which leads to a rich class discussion. But it can be difficult if the reactions you get are completely unexpected. So put it out there and ask.


"I want to use this as a stimulus image for Year 7 science, what do you think when you see it?"

Twitter shares images through services like TwitPic, yfrog, imgur and Instagram, as well as videos, links and of course text. It makes it very easy to broadcast your idea and ask opinions.


Twitter gives you unprecedented access to professionals and therefore experts. Want to contact a published children’s author? A poet? A science journalist? A historian/geographer/economist/lawyer/chef/photographer/you name it? Chances are there is one on Twitter. Living in a remote community drastically restricts the range of people you have direct access to, but Twitter opens it up again.

You can use it as a simple tool to find people then email them,

“Please RT! Looking for an Australian biogeography expert for school questions.”

Twitter users tend to be helpful little souls, especially when asked politely and for a good cause such as school. The RT stands for ‘re-tweet’ and it’s when someone repeats your tweet to their own followers. With a few re-tweets a message may get in front of many thousands of people, and thousands of heads are way better than one.

Or you could get really daring and set up a Twitter chat with your experts. Imagine if you found half a dozen sportspeople who were willing to be available on Twitter during your class time? Tweets are only 140 characters, so you can do a prepatory lesson of writing questions as tweets. Then during your scheduled time your students tweet their questions to your experts and get the answers. How much collaboration, how much literacy, how much analysis afterwards would you get out of that?

The world is a big place

And a community is tiny. An ongoing problem in communities is helping kids to realise just how big the world is and how different other countries are. So back to those helpful Tweeps who get a kick out of helping little kids:

“Please answer and RT for our class – What’s your weather like today?”

“What time is it where you are?”

“Where are you – town, state, country?”

“What do you do after school?”

“How much does a loaf of bread cost you?”

What more would you like to know? Putting out a single tweet then collecting all the answers could be the basis for several lessons worth of research into different cultures, climates and countries.

Current Events

How sad is this – I get all my news from Twitter. Revolutions, political commentary, the US debt shenanigans, riots, earthquakes and celebrity deaths all make their way to Twitter faster and with more angles, commentary and opinions than traditional news outlets. By keeping an eye on Twitter you can learn about world news even from the middle of nowhere, and the richness lets you do all sorts of things with it:

  • Compare two different news sources to see if they present the story differently.
  • Track a breaking story, such as an earthquake, over time and see how it changes.
  • Investigate the difference between factual writing and opinion.
  • Compare different opinions and see how people support their argument.


Quotes are a powerful way to sample and illustrate opinion and connect with people. If they know they are being quoted, most people try to say something significant and 140 characters makes you choose with care. This can lead to powerful and thoughtful language. You can ask people at large for their thoughts and feelings, but don’t forget you can also target specific people.

@KRuddMP @JuliaGillard What is your opinion on Sorry Day?

What other ideas do you have to use Twitter for your classes?

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