Tag Archives: Education

Teaching with Evernote- an Explanation

Evernote is a cloud storage application that allows users to add notes via text, audio or images and organise them in online files- called ‘notebooks’. Evernote is designed to ‘remember everything’ and allows users to easily collect and find data on multiple devices. Evernote is supported on Android, iOS, Mac, PC and web. Continue reading

A Journey’s End- or is it Just the Beginning?


In May this year I was extremely lucky to be awarded the Victorian Education Excellence Awards- Primary Teacher of the Year by the DEECD. I am still so humbled by the accolade and am so grateful for what I have been able to accomplish in my relatively short career. This month marks only my fifth year as a teacher. The best thing about the last five years is that I have never stopped learning. I am never satisfied with only knowing so much, I always want to find out more and ultimately be better. I work hard and often get told by friends, family and colleagues that I do ‘too much’, but when you love what you do, is there ever enough? When listening to Evernote’s CEO Phil Libin speak in San Francisco, he spoke about this notion of ‘Life’s Work’, being something that you love and are passionate about- something you would probably do without getting paid to do it and that’s how I feel about my job. To me it isn’t really a ‘job’, it is my ‘life’s work’.

Thanks to my award, last month I was able to travel to the United States to undertake professional development with the view of investigating mobile learning and Evernote. I was able to attend two conferences, the first being Mobile Learning Experience in Tucson, Arizona and the second being the third annual Evernote Conference in San Francisco. During my trip, I also visited four different schools in three different states.

I kept a blog about my travels, the conferences, announcements and school visits which you can read here- http://americanadventure.postach.io/ 

On my return to Melbourne, I was asked by some friends what was my favourite part of the trip, with the expected answer supposed to be a city or a landmark- one of the amazing sites I was able to see. But that wasn’t my answer. My answer was #EC2013- the Evernote Conference. Don’t get me wrong, #Mobile2013 was AMAZING and I met so many wonderful educators and I learnt so much about mobile learning and already have so many ideas to take back to my school. But #EC2013 was by far the best. I was able to meet fellow Evernote Ambassadors, connect with people from Evernote who I had only previously had virtual correspondence with, meet Evernote’s CEO Phil Libin, meet MC Hammer and the best bit was being able to get excited about a product I love- with people who love it as much as me.

The Ambassador group at #EC2013

Evernote CEO Phil Libin

Myself and fellow Ambassadors with MC Hammer


At #EC2013 someone asked me what Evernote did for me as a teacher. My answer was simple. Evernote makes me a better teacher. Many people don’t see what goes on behind the scenes with a teacher, all the paperwork, data and assessment- the managerial stuff. What Evernote does for me is alleviates all of the ‘behind the scenes’ pressure. I don’t spend hours marking books or stress over writing detailed, personalised school reports. I don’t have piles of student work samples floating around my classroom, my car or my house, I don’t have folders and folders of assessment records. I never take student books home. I am more timely with feedback, I rarely forget anything, I am a checkbox crazy lady. I am, for maybe the first time in my life- organised. Because of Evernote- instead of spending my valuable time on all that ‘stuff’ I am able to spend more time on what counts- my students.

Some other highlights of my trip-

  • Finally reading ‘Teach Like a Pirate’ by Dave Burgess
  • Evernote announcing a partnership with 3M- making Post-It notes digital
  • #Mobile 2013 and all of the amazing people I met
  • Visiting a variety of very different schools
  • Learning from other teachers
  • The new Evernote and Adonit stylus- Jot Script
  • Making connections
  • Postach.io winning the Evernote DevCup
  • Having so many new ideas to take back to my school

Are You Tweeting in Class Yet?


It seems like such a long time ago that I blogged about my first experience of using Twitter as an educational tool in the classroom. My first post on the topic- A Chance Tweet was published on the 11th November 2011. With what seems like a life time ago, the ways I have used and continue to make the most of Twitter in the classroom has grown and taken on a life of its own. Last year my class account- @acps456 received a fair bit of media attention as they were Tweeted by the Prime Minister at the time, Julia Gillard and former Education Minister, Peter Garrett. An article published in The Age Newspaper- T is for Teaching by Jewel Topsfield discussed how myself and some other Australian teachers were embracing Twitter in education. Since blogging about this experience I have been asked to speak about my experiences with using Twitter in the classroom quite regularly. In May this year I was lucky enough to present ‘Teaching the Social Media Generation‘ at ICTEVs State Conference, IT Takes A Villiage and last night I presented a follow up webinar on the topic.

Here is the recording of my webinar for ICTEV-


I feel very strongly about the fact that teachers need to embrace social media rather than shy away from it. When used responsibly and effectively, social media in an educational setting can be a powerful and resourceful tool.

In a study published by the QLD University of Technology, Australian children were found to be under 8 years old when they began using the internet, which made them among some of the youngest users in the 26 countries in the study. This study also reported that 76% of children and teenagers go online daily, with the average time nearing on one and a half hours per day. The results of this study clearly show that we need to change the way we teach, the world has changed, children have changed and we need to keep up! Professor Green from the QLD study also stated that:

“A minority of children are upset by online risks, many benefit from the advice and tools available to them. The risks and opportunities of the online world go hand in hand for children and it is important to avoid being overly restrictive.”

I feel that by denying a place for social media in the classroom we are being overly restrictive. How else will our students learn how to use these tools appropriately and responsibly if we do not show them best practice? One of my favourite quotes about education is ‘If we teach today’s children as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow’, and we will and many still do everyday. It is time to change our thinking and connect our students with the world in ways that were not previously possible.

Erik Qualman, author of www.socialnomics.net has said- “We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we DO it.” 

The following excerpt is from a blog post written by an 11 year old student last year-


Why not start now and give your students the opportunity to share, learn, connect and be inspired by the world! Allow your students the opportunity to show the world that ‘little people can do big things’.

Death by Anchor Chart!


It has become quite a running joke with my year 5/6 students that I am obsessed with posters- or ‘anchor charts’ in our classroom. For months I have continued to brush off their comments, believing what I have always been told…that students need these visual displays that have ‘captured their learning’…that I was creating a ‘print rich’ classroom environment that gives my students (and visitors to the room) a clear image of our classroom culture and what we are currently learning about. I had often been told by casual replacement teachers that they were appreciative of the (many) charts as they found it easy to pick up and teach if I was absent. I was commended by other staff, with many often coming in to take pictures for their own ideas. I loved the colours and maybe became a little too obsessed about which textas and paper I would use…only the best would do. A simple Google or Pinterest search delivers hundreds of brightly coloured, aesthetic charts teachers have proudly uploaded to the internet.

One day some students asked to share with the class an iMovie they had worked on in their free time, I was more than happy to allow them to excitedly share their finished product.

And this is what we saw-

Posters from Rebecca Spink on Vimeo.

Could they have made their point any more clear? I have always given my students ownership over our classroom, they choose where the tables and chairs go and we don’t have assigned seats, so why was it so hard for me to take on board what they were telling me for so long?

As educators in the 21st Century we go on and on about digital, online learning, calling our students digital natives…yet I wonder if the look of our classrooms illustrates this? We constantly get our students to present their work using digital means, we prepare and deliver lessons that require the use of a vast range of technology, we use mobile devices in and out of the classroom without question…yet we still get told it is ‘best practice’ to use paper and textas to ‘capture learning’. I’m confused.

I think the reason I kept putting it off and ignoring their comments was because I didn’t have a solution, it was all well and good to write these charts up on an interactive whiteboard but then they get hidden in the computer away from student eyes. What happens when they needed to refer to them?

My solution?

A few months ago my school signed up for Google Apps for Education and in the last few months we have started using it with students in years five and six. Towards the end of last term I was able to visit Rich Lambert and some of his staff at Kalinda Primary School in Victoria to learn about what their school was doing with Google Apps. I was really intrigued with the way that their year 5/6 students and their teachers were using Google Sites. As a result I thought I would give it a try and set up a site for my students to use in the classroom to upload their work and create a way to encourage more collaboration within the classroom. As soon as I began I remembered the iMovie.

This was my solution…get rid of the clutter in the room and create a class Google Site that documents what we are doing in the classroom and is a good point of reference for students when they need it. They all have their own accounts and we have enough devices in the classroom for them to access it when needed. This also allows them to access things at home for assistance with homework or to share their learning with their parents. I love that using Google sites also allows me to upload lesson resources I have used like videos, pictures and web links, creating a nice package. Students are also able to upload their work to the site that corresponds to the learning intention and digital ‘anchor chart’. Lately my students have also been adding their reflections to the comments section as well, creating a neat package from beginning to end of the learning process- much more powerful than a poster on a wall or hanging from some string.

I am not saying I am never going to make an anchor chart again and if I taught very young students or didn’t have access to enough devices in the classroom I wouldn’t be writing this post. But I will and we do, so for now this is my solution. I am listening to my students because I want them to love our classroom, to feel welcomed and give them a say in how they learn.

Evernote Meetup in Melbourne

Today I held an Evernote Meetup at my school in Craigieburn, an outer suburb of Melbourne. It was great to see many educators come out in the cold wind and rain for the event and to share in an afternoon of ‘green’ food and Evernote stories! Being the only Australian Evernote Ambassador, most of my interactions about Evernote generally happen online through my blog and Twitter, or when people in ‘real life’ will listen to me! It was fantastic to meet so many Evernote users and people who want to get on the amazing Evernote band wagon!

It was wonderful to hear about the great ways so many teachers are already using Evernote for themselves and with their students. I shared about how Evernote has changed my teaching and assessment practices and discussed many of the wonderful Evernote Trunk partners. I loved watching and hearing about how other educators are using Evernote and I loved that these teachers were excited and eager to start using Evernote straight away.

Thanks so much to all those who attended!




Edtech theory….why bother?


I am currently studying my Masters in Education, specialising in Information Technologies and over the weekend completed an assignment. One part of the assignment was to look at some of the theories, models and frameworks behind using technology in the classroom, that enable teachers to do this effectively. I thought I would share some of that information here as a little reminder as sometimes I feel many teachers get so caught up in the tools and forget about the pedagogy.

The theory behind effective technology integration:

If you want to embrace technology effectively and in a meaningful manner in the classroom, you first need to identify your strengths and weaknesses. You need to identify what kind of knowledge you are bringing. Think about your knowledge in the following areas-

  • Technology
  • Pedagogy
  • Content

Imagine you are teaching a fractions lesson in mathematics, do you know the content? Do you know how to teach it? Can you effectively use technology to support the students in your classroom to learn about fractions?

The TPACK framework is a great place to start to identify your professional development needs.


The TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical, Content and Knowledge) Model in Three Minutes on YouTube-

Once you have identified your strengths, weaknesses and areas for professional development from TPACK, how will you now integrate technology in the classroom?

The Technology Integration Planning (TIP) Model allows teachers to address the challenges involved in integrating technology in teaching and learning. Each of the six phases gives teachers the steps for implementation that will ensure technology use in the classroom will be meaningful, efficient and successful (Roblyer, 2010). For more information on the phases of the TIP model follow this link- http://bookbuilder.cast.org/view_print.php?book=32768

One more theoretical framework to consider after TPACK and TIP is SAMR- Substitue, Augment, Modify, Redefine originally designed by Ruben Puentedura (2009).

My explanation of the SAMR model, from substitution to redefinition! Let’s aim to be transformative teachers who embrace technology to redefine learning opportunities in the classroom.

SAMR Model from Rebecca Spink on Vimeo.


Technology integration is not just an idea….

But a professional responsibility, that as an accredited teacher you are required to adhere to. If you still are not convinced about the importance of and the theories behind using technologies in the classroom, have a look at the National Professional Teaching Standards. It is a requirement that accredited teachers use information and communication technologies within teaching and learning in a relevant and meaningful way. Teachers are expected to plan and implement effective teaching and learning through creating and using a range of technologies to engage students in learning. It is also expected that teachers will create and maintain a supportive learning environment through incorporating strategies to promote the safe, responsible and ethical use of technology in education (AITSL, 2011).


Do you use any of these theories when planning to integrate technology? 

What is your philosophy of technology integration? 

Twitter In My Classroom


In November 2011 I blogged about how I used Twitter in a mathematics lesson on chance and probability with a group of year two students. Since then, just over a year ago, Twitter has become an integral part of my classroom program. So much so that last week I was contacted by Jewel Topsfield, the education editor at The Age Newspaper who wrote an article about how Twitter is being used in the education field – T is for Teaching. After receiving so much attention from the article, I realised that using Twitter with my year five and six students had become such a normal part of the daily activities in my classroom that I had forgotten that what my students and I are doing is still something that many educational professionals perceive as ‘taboo’, that there are still so many people out there that believe social media plays no part in the education of these ‘digital native’ students we teach everyday.

Photo: Jason South


The fact is that many students in my class already use social media, they have Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Google and Twitter accounts and although I can not condone their use of those tools as they are under 13 years of age, I can expose them to positive ways of using such tools in the classroom. Through using my class Twitter account @ACPS456 and sites such as Edmodo I am exposing my students to a POSITIVE way of behaving and communicating in an online world- something that they are already beginning to do. I am teaching my students how to identify and block spam accounts, the importance of only friending people they know on Facebook, the notion of leaving a ‘digital footprint’ and how to be safe online!

It is no longer ok for teachers to ignore the fact that their students are using these tools and that social media is becoming a fundamental source for them to research, gather information, learn, play and communicate. Shouldn’t we as educators be embracing this use of technology in the classroom rather than ignoring it? Teachers, principals and parents desperately need to get over their beliefs that Twitter is a place for sharing unimportant information and updates or following celebrities. No, I do not care what you ate for lunch today or what grocery store you shop at, but I DO care and WILL take notice if I see an 11 year old tweet the Prime Minister or read about young people sharing their learning and knowledge with the world. It is time for educators and parents to understand that Twitter and other social media in the classroom can be a valuable place and a world stage for student learning. Teachers need to stop being afraid and simply have a go at using the tools, if not for their class then for themselves. Twitter is the best FREE source of professional learning I have ever come across. I hear so many excuses and complaints about being so swamped that “I don’t have the time”, excuses like these are simply just that, don’t tell me you don’t have time and then expect me to sit down with you for half an hour to explain something when you could have got the answer off other teachers on Twitter almost instantly. There are SO many educators out there, many experts in their fields, willing to share their knowledge in 140 characters or less- it’s time to get involved!

Ways to use Twitter with students:

  • Sharing class updates
  • Sharing blog posts
  • Tweeting reflections on learning activities
  • Sharing what they have learnt
  • Asking questions
  • Gathering information and data
  • Create global connections with other classes and teachers

Some classes already Tweeting:

Some worthwhile teachers to follow (Just a few, too many to include all). Join the conversation! Check out Edudemics 60 best teachers on Twitter.

Don’t forget the hash tags:

  • Victorian Professional Learning Network- #VicPLN
  • #comments4kids
  • #edchat
  • #edtech
  • #education
  • #CBLearn

So many more here- The Unofficial Index to Educational Twitter Hashtags