Conferences – this is how I roll

I am fortunate enough to attend a few conferences each year. They usually revolve around technology education.

Here are some of the tools and strategies I use to gain the most out of a conference. I continually hone these strategies and seek best practices so I don’t just walk away with a heap of ideas or visions, but walk away with real strategies for implementation.

Rule 1: Don’t use anything you don’t already use.
Rule 2: Keep it simple. If you are in a session you will not want things to be complicated when you are trying to get ideas down.


I only have 4 apps in my conference tool box. All applications I use are cloud based, allowing me to have access to the information stored within them anywhere, anytime and on any connected device.


Every single note I take, regardless if I am at a conference or not, is stored in my EverNote account. This just simply makes sense. EverNote being cloud based means I have access to every one of my notes on any device anywhere I have an internet connection.

And thanks to the desktop and iOS apps, I also have access to my notes when there is no internet access.


I use Delicious to store all of my “tasty” bookmarks I find in one location. When a speaker throws up a good looking website, I can quickly add it as a bookmark in Delicious.

Even better, any links I add to my Twitter feed are automatically aded to my Delicious bookmarks. This is a great way to save time during a presentation. It means that I can tweet about a link and don’t have to double handle the bookmarking of it as it’s already done for me.

With Delicious, tagging is the key. Adding tags helps with searching for bookmarked websites at a later date.


For me, Twitter is a no brainer. I already use it as a tool to engage in a professional learning network, so of course I would continue to use it when I am engaged in learning at a conference.

Every conference I have attended since 2009 has had a conference hashtag. Following the conference hashtag on twitter is an easy way to follow the conference backchannel.

Remember the Milk

Remember the Milk is an integral part of my productivity work flow. I use it primarily to record things I wish to complete, both short term and longer. During a conference I use RTM for the same reason. As todo’s hit me I quickly record them and move on.


It really doesn’t matter what device I am using. However, I try to find a device with the following characteristics:

1. Portable (I have to carry this all day)
2. Good battery life (I have to use this all day)
3. Connectivity (WiFi is a given, but 3G is important as well due to the poor wifi connectivity you often find at conferences)

Currently an iPad and a MacBook Air are my weapons of choice. This will change. The device doesn’t matter. They are just a vehicle for me to communicate with the applications I use.

what I make

Last week while the entire student body was sitting on parade. I walked up to a student and held my hand up ready to receive a high-five from her. She slowly lifted her hand to meet mine.  I then turned around and walked off without saying a word.

Later that day as she walked into our Maths class she asked “why did you high-five me on parade in front of so many people?”

“Because of this” I said as I handed her an A4 piece of paper containing her final Year 11 Maths result. For the first time in her high school career she had passed maths.

She looked at the result, slowly looked up at me, her eyes starting to well, and said “I’m going to Europe.”

Ok, not quite the reaction I was expecting. As it turns out, her parents had told her that if she passed Maths this year she would be able to go on the school Europe trip the following year.

She asked if she could call her parents and tell them the great news. “Fine by me.”

When she returned to the class she said her dad had mixed emotions. He was very excited that she had passed maths, however now he needed to find the money to pay for the Europe trip.

“You just made my day sir!” She beamed.

“You just made my year” I thought as I politely smiled and nodded.

flipping and blooms

The primary goal in flipping my classroom is to maximise student outcomes by utilising the face-to-face time I have with my students. In this blog post I have used Bloom’s Taxonomy as a visual representation of what I wish to achieve in my flipped classroom.

Blooms taxonomy challenges educators to get students to go beyond content knowledge, acquisition and memorising and draw upon higher order thinking skills.

Unfortunately in my traditional maths classroom [diagram 1] I spent too much class time delivering the content. This meant the students didn’t have as much time to explore the mathematical concepts at a higher level in class with the support of their teacher. Usually they were instructed to complete the high order problem solving questions that required them to critically explore the mathematical concepts on their own for homework.

 [diagram 1]

The goal of my flipped classroom is to change what the students spend their time doing in class where they have access to their best learning tool, their teacher. In the flipped model [diagram 2] the content delivery is completed for homework through pre-recorded lectures. This allows the student and teacher to utilise the time spent in class on deepening the students understanding of the mathematical concepts through examining more complex problems.

[diagram 2]



utilising face-to-face time with students

The flipped classroom model I have newly employed in my maths class has meant I can make better use of the face-to-face time I have with my students.

I am no longer the presenter of information out the front of the class. Instead, I spend most of my time working WITH the students to help deepen their understanding of the material. I now have the time in class to assist students who are struggling and extend others.

The following table compares how I previously spent my time in my traditional classroom and how I now spend my time in my flipped classroom. This comparison follows the same format as Bergmann and Sams used in their book Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day.

* or not at all which was often the case

In my traditional classroom I spent most of the time giving teacher directed lectures on the material. This led to the students not having enough class time to fully engage with the activities that allow them to gain a deep understanding of the material.

In my flipped classroom after the students have settled, I question the students on the previous nights video. This ensures the students understood the content and highlights any areas they may require further assistance with. After this, we get on with the learning and this is the real advantage of the flipped classroom. The students get to maximise the time they spend engaging with the knowledge, concepts, processes and problem solving. While the teacher can divide their time between those who require assistance and those who are looking to be extended.

Flipping the classroom doesn’t replace, or lessen the importance of the role of the teacher. What it does is allow the teacher to increase the student-teacher interactions within the school.

what is the flipped classroom?

The simplest definition I can think of: a flipped classroom is where students do for homework what they would traditionally do in the classroom, and they do in the classroom what they would traditionally do at home.

Here’s a better definition

Flip teaching is a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of Internet technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is most commonly being done using teacher created videos that students view outside of class time. It is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction and reverse teaching -

Traditionally in my Maths classes I would give a “lecture style” lesson to the students to front load them with required knowledge and process. The students would then practice this in the class with what ever class time was left, with an expectation that their learning would continue at home where they would do more exercises to help reinforce the concepts.

In my current flipped model I create a “lecture style” lesson that students access online and watch for homework BEFORE the lesson. This allows students to come into class already front loaded with the required knowledge and processes. We can then utilise the classroom time to work on the exercises that allows students to gain a deeper understanding of the mathematical and problem solving concepts.

So why change?

The traditional model of the maths classroom has a number of flaws due to the lecture style delivery of content to the entire class meaning it is difficult to personalise the lesson. Let’s consider some types of students in my class:

The A student

My traditional classroom: While I was lecturing, this student was getting bored. He/she understood the material in a short amount of time and sat through the rest of the lecture while I was either answering other student’s questions or giving more examples to ensure other students understood the material.

My flipped classroom: The student watches the lecture for homework like the rest of the class. The student uses class time to demonstrate his understanding and then has the time to be extended. He/she no longer needs to slowed down by the rest of the class.

The struggling student

My traditional classroom: Often this student would comment that I was moving too fast or they found it difficult to take notes and pay attention to what I was saying. Sometimes the struggling student complains that they haven’t finished writing down the material on the board before I am ready to move on. This student would usually struggle with homework as they required the teachers assistance in completing the exercises that were set.

My flipped classroom: The student watches the lecture for homework with the ability the pause, rewind and re-watch as many times as they like. This allows them to follow the lecture at their pace. One student commented that she like the fact that she could “press pause when ever she liked and not slow done the rest of the class”. When the student arrives in class we can work on ensuring they understood the lecture and continue with the exercises that allows them to gain a deeper understanding. The real advantage for this student is the time the student gets in class to complete the exercises with the teachers assistance.

The absent student

My traditional classroom: Students are often absent from class. This could be due to illness or extra curricular activities. In the past I have found that students with heavy sporting commitments often miss classes due to training or sporting events. These students find it difficult to catch up on missed work when they have missed the classroom lecture.

My flipped classroom: Now students who miss classes can still keep up with the work by watching the online lectures. This also works for students who wish to go back and review previous lectures, something they aren’t able to do in the traditional classroom.

There is no specific methodology to be replicated, no checklist to follow that leads to guaranteed results. Flipping the classroom is more about a mind set: redirecting attention away from the teacher and putting attention on the learner and the learning. – Flip Your Classroom [pg 11]

My flipped classroom journey

I have decided to flip my year 11 mathematics class and will document my journey in this blog.

I am using the “Flipped Classroom” category to help document my journey. A link to all of the blog posts in this category can be found on the right-hand menu.

My first blog post in this journey will be “what is a flipped classroom”. I look forward to the challenges that this adventure will bring over the next 6 months, and into the future.

If I…

Just a little taste from our Principal’s presentation he gave to our school’s staff at the start of this year.

If I…


I am going to become a better teacher

becoming leaders in learning

Recently I have been working on creating a set of lessons to help staff explicitly teach Art Costa’s 16 Habits of Mind to our students.

The Habits of mind is one of the five Dimensions of Learning that drives our school’s pedagogical framework.

Through the research involved in coming up with resources for these lessons I stumbled across the following extract fromTowards a Quantum Mind by Marilyn Ferguson.

We can rationalize the failures of the past
or we can learn from them.

We can complain about the troubling inadequacies of the present
or we can face them.

We can talk and dream about the glorious schools of the future
or we can create them.

If we want children to learn to think and read,
we must show them thoughtful people eager to take in new information.

If we want them to be brave and resourceful,
let them see us risking a new idea or finding a way.

If we want them to be loyal, patriotic, and responsible,
let us show them that we can be true to our deepest principles.

If we want new and better schools,
we will have to be new and better people.

Marilyn Ferguson‘s extract is probably best suited for teachers than students. Unfortunately this may not make it past the ruthless cutting floor that is a document on my desktop titled hom-stuff.txt where I am dumping lesson ideas and resources.

But all is not lost… I can definitely see how this extract can be used to help promote discussion and challenge our thinking.

My favourite two lines from this extract are:

We can complain about the troubling inadequacies of the present
or we can face them.

We can talk and dream about the glorious schools of the future
or we can create them.

Too often I find we get bogged down in complaining about the lack of resources and time in education. Instead, we should be facing these issues head on and actively be seeking solutions.

We also spend a lot of time discussing what education will be like in the future, but how many of us are making this reality happen?

I liked the extract so much that I created a short (1 minute) video to show staff. I even managed to get some help with a little audio from a young Steve Jobs – watch video here, or on youTube.

The message I am trying to get across is WE CAN change education by continually improve our own practices and being prepared to courageously take risks and seek new and better solutions.

The only way for us to become leaders in learning is to become the learners we want our students to be.

the work life balance

balancerockMany people I know complain about how they can’t achieve a “work life balance”. This too is something that I am constantly struggling with, especially since the arrival of my twin boys 12 months ago.

I think that sometimes we have to accept that this utopia is not always achievable, but the pursuit for this seemingly impossible happiness is more about the journey you take then wondering when you will arrive at the destination.

Finding the correct balance is a complex dynamic that is different for each individual, and more importantly, actually doing something to improve this balance is harder than simply talking about your inability to achieve it.

I recently read the following quote on a staff members office wall:

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:

Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Needless to say I liked what I read. Not only did I like it, it really struck a chord with me. I found myself saying out loud to no one in particular: “he’s right.”

It also reminded me of a story I read a while ago about the fisherman and the businessman:

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish.

The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”

The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.

The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink and we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.

“I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”

The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

The fisherman asks, “And after that?”

The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”

The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

I guess the simple fact here is that we seem to spend our whole life working hard in the pursuit for the simple pleasures that one day we may possible achieve. When we could have some of these things right now, if we just re-adjust our priorities a little.

I am not sure of the origins of the fisherman story, but here is where I shamelessly stole the above version:


we can…

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