Tweets of the (last two) weeks

Wow. Well, half yearly exam marking has finished, which can only mean one thing: report writing. Fortunately, my PLN continues to tweet all sorts of awesomeness, so I am taking a bit of time (as an excuse to watch the football) to update my favourite tweets from the last couple of weeks. First up, more ideas of web-based PD:

Speaking of web-based PD, put ‘free’, ‘Harvard’, ‘innovation’ and ‘leadership’ in a single sentence and it’s sounding pretty good. Sure, it’s a teaser to buy their book, but there’s some reasonable content even within this Introduction

A couple of good ideas for History YouTube channels here – I’ve used Crash Course a couple of times and they usually distill the main points pretty succinctly (although I keep pausing and explaining, so a 10 minute clip takes most of a lesson…)

Despite it being pretty fundamental to any pre-service training, a number of teachers seem to not get the difference between formative and summative assessment. I’m putting this one up because it has some good ideas for some formative activities with technology

It is hardly a secret to treat people fairly, with respect and have a good time. But ‘business principles’ of trusting no one, instituting a culture of fear (or ‘accountability’ – see next one) and adhering only to minimum required by law have infected professional sport and education. Well, unfortunately Saracens lost last night, but you can be sure they’ll be back next year ready to go   

I opened this, half read it, got distracted, and now can’t find the tweet for it but never mind, I’ll tweet it myself. A US Maths teacher unloads at a TEDx about the bucks being made by proclaiming the failing education system – and, look! We’ve got a new textbook / technology / speaker to sell you…

Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time (DIRT) – probably what we have all done at some stage, but cool acronym!

OK, enough! Have a great week.

Follow me: @dphistorycom (History & Education); @tokbits (Theory of Knowledge)



Tweets of the Week

One of the iconic moments of history that is rarely mentioned in school occurred 60 years ago: Bannister’s breaking of the 4 minute mile (YouTube). It was (still is!) a remarkable feat, given a lot of his training was done in his lunch times and he was a doctor, even working on the famous morning of 6 May 1954. It’s a long way from today’s elite athletes. Thanks to Matthew Ward for the following:


Lots of photos light up the twittersphere, for some reason this one caught my eye:


It’s great to see appreciation for others’ work expressed on Twitter – because they make great leads for new people to follow and blogs to read.


Nothing too revolutionary in this one, but always good to have a reminder. One of these days, I’m going to put these ideas onto laminated cards and get students to pick which one they are going to do – and this could be as individuals, pairs or the whole class does the same one:

An Extended Essay workshop for me this weekend, school based PD day on Monday and Vesak Day Tuesday, so kind of a shorter work week for me coming up. I hope you have a great week.

WWI ‘in Focus’

In Focus (@in_focus) is running a 10 part photo series with explanatory captions on World War I. Excellent!




Tweets of the Week

A busy week for me with two essays due but now done and dusted. Interestingly, one was on whether the frontier conflicts in Australia could be described as ‘war’ (and whether it makes a difference). A couple of hours after submitting it, my wife points out a new book on the subject:

If you will excuse my high horse for a few seconds, part of my essay research led me back to the latest Australian Curriculum: History scope and sequence. No where in the Year 7-10 curriculum does it explicitly include ‘Aboriginal’. This is AUSTRALIAN History!!! If you will excuse me quoting myself (and hopefully it doesn’t ruin my Turnitin score!):

‘There will always be an ‘us and them’ in Australian society
for as long as we teach ‘us and them’ Australian History.’

The best of various WWI tweets this week was from The Atlantic: 45 photos, lots I’d not seen before, including ‘dazzle camouflage’ which I’d never even heard of.



Simon pretty much sums this one up:


And two options as to why I was completing essays this weekend:


Have a great week!


Tweets of the Week

I am about to jump on a plane to Kuala Lumpur for IGCSE Global Perspectives workshop, so only a quick post this week.

Anzac Day dominated much of the week for Aussies, and I came across a photo from @gcnelson which reminded me I’d been at the Australian War Memorial for Anzac Day in 2013 (another PD opportunity/junket!) It is an incredible place.

Greg is also worth a follow for some fabulous pictures around Canberra.

Still on WWI (there might be a bit of WWI this year!):

Not a tweet, but I also found an excellent bibliography of the Vietnam War: - a few dead links, a few you need JSTOR access, but lots of good ones.

One that ‘TOK Teacher’ found (disclaimer: my Theory of Knowledge twitter account!) that quotes a study which claims handwritten note taking is more effective than laptops – we tend to analyse & paraphrase as we write by hand but many are quick enough typists to pretty much type every word without taking in the information.

A cheeky cartoon to finish – the importance of knowing the context of a place or event in understanding cartoons, not to mention the irreverence of cartoonists

Tweets of the Week

This is my first attempt at putting together a post on the tweets that had my attention for at least long enough to ‘favourite’. The plan is that by doing this, I will go back and read them, and by posting here, can tag and find them later.

The tweet of the week was the video ‘trailer‘ of the recently released illustrated book of  ’I was only 19‘ by John Schumann:

Coincidentally, I saw it the day after my sister gave me a copy of ‘Poems That Make Grown Men Cry‘. As a song, it is ineligible for the poetry anthology but it’s always guaranteed to make me tear up – especially, ‘Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon [July 21]; God help me, he was going home in June.’ (ie he should’ve gone home three weeks ago)

A very good find for those studying World War I was

Podcasts (with transcripts) from the Imperial War Museum’s sound collection ‘to bring you the voices of those who lived through the First World War.’ Covers all sorts of aspects of the war:  the assassination, home front, Christmas Truce, Gallipoli, German Spring Offensive … Brilliant.

I got the spark to spend late Sunday night putting this together thanks to @teachertoolkit who tweeted the day following my initial ‘I should do a Tweets of the Week’ idea.

And, finally, one I found myself whilst trawling YouTube:

Well, I got it started. Now I know that I’m doing this, I’ll know to keep an eye out for more great education and history tweets.

Follow me @dphistorycom for History & Education tweets and my newly started account @tokbits for Theory of Knowledge.

Have a great week!


Australian Curriculum Review (again) – 21st century university entrance please

I note with joy the AHISA submission to the national curriculum review, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday 18 March, calling for “an internationally recognised national credential for university entry.”

I am a History teacher of senior secondary students. For almost twenty years I have sat through university, professional development and TED talk experts telling me about 21st century skills and to update my teaching methods: I run multiple websites, a blog, twitter and like any good teacher vary the activities and tasks each day in my classroom. And yet none of these experts address the elephant in the room: everyone’s priority for secondary school is an ATAR. In Year 12, nothing else matters – ‘will this be on the exam and what do I write?’ It makes me want to scream from my seat at the expert/consultant, “Well, DO SOMETHING about it!”)

Here is our best chance.

Secondary schooling is distilled to the five or six external exams that rely on rote learnt answers handwritten under very tight time constraints. It is completely unfathomable to me that the current system rewards the exact methodology that experts abhor. And so, exam coaching replaces good teaching. But ‘good teachers’ have good exam results. Indeed, I have heard from past students the extent that teaching to the exam to maximise ATARs is prevalent in many schools and the disadvantage at which this places their students once they arrive at university: an inability to conduct research, take concise notes, reference, or be confident in constructing their own argument without being told the main points and the direction to take.

But what do schools care? “Year 12 is the most important year of your life” we tell the Year 12 cohort year after year. But I was struck recently that it is actually “For the school, Year 12 is the most important year of your life”. How are schools ultimately judged (and fixate their marketing around?): their Year 12/ATAR results. How many schools (even have the data to) say, “x% of last year’s cohort who are in tertiary study successfully completed their first year.”

Year 12 exams converted straight into an ATAR are bureaucratically brilliant. While marking them is still a very large undertaking, it is confined to only a few weeks of the year and a pretty small group of teacher/markers. I’m just surprised they haven’t all been made a series of multiple-choice questions so that the answer papers could all be fed through an electronic reader.

But, what of the “21st Century skills”? This curriculum review will probably set the tone for the next twenty to thirty years of Australian education. Please let us not condemn students in 2040 to the same system of testing as those with inkwells. It will certainly cost money and more work for university admissions systems. The last twenty years have proven that money has talked louder than universities’ own education experts when it comes to tertiary entry.

We need to ensure (finally!) that the reality fits the research and the rhetoric: developing a well-educated, well-rounded young adult ready for 21st century citizenship becomes the priority of schools, universities and governments, not the marketing an ATAR average based on 19th century testing.

What might this look like?

The International Baccalaureate is an already recognised world qualification and could offer some ideas, although it certainly has its flaws. It encourages its students to undertake a range of subjects across all key learning areas, as well as its ‘core’ of Creativity, Action, Service, Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay. I particularly like a phrase in its Mission Statement, which is something along the lines of ‘recognising that others, with their differences, might also be right’. On the down side, the IB is still also very examination focused.

An Australian Certificate of Education should encourage a broad range of subjects, while allowing some specialisation. This could be offered through semester units rather than two-year courses as are currently the case in many states. There should be mandatory units on Australian History, Australian literature and a current affairs / international relations unit which places Australia in the 21st century. There should be the opportunity for individual research and for some aspect of volunteering – ideally in an existing community organisation, rather than school-based ones, to encourage ongoing volunteering beyond school. It was pleasing to see Mr Pyne quoted in the SMH article looking for balance, free of partisan bias and real-world application.

Forget about PISA (etc.) comparisons. Australia already has one of the best education systems in the world. Any PISA comparison of Maths or Science should also be used in conjunction with Olympic medals, Academy Awards and Nobel laureates to take a complete picture of Australian achievement and the opportunities we provide our children across all aspects of being a child and a well-rounded person.

It is time we take note of the overwhelming voices for change. It is time that our assessment and university entrance instruments catch up with the classrooms they profess to reflect (and in reality judge) and become relevant for twenty-first century learners, educators and Australian society.

Taking notes from long articles

(How to be a nerd and still leave yourself enough time for more important stuff)

What is your purpose for reading this? It is probably an essay title – but also: is this for background, it is on the ‘required reading’ list, you are looking for a different viewpoint, or you are looking for just a couple of supporting points / examples / quotes to back up what you already have?

  • write it at the top of your page
  • now write the FULL bibliographic details for this source
  • Note the heading.
  • Note sub-headings.
  • Read Intro.
  • Read Conclusion.

(Any ideas on your topic yet? Can you work out a basic premise of the whole article? Is it worth still reading?)

  • Skim each section.
  • Read the first paragraph or so.
  • Skim the rest of the section, but paying special attention to topic sentences.
  • In the headings or the topic sentences does it suggest any quotable phrases?

(Can you get enough for what you need from this? Try to write a sentence or two which summarises each section)

  • Does it give a list?
  • What examples does it suggest?
  • Does it quote others? (Are they worth YOU quoting?)

You have probably got the gist of the article and enough to use in your essay without having actually read every word.


  • is it interesting enough that you want to read every word? Go ahead!
  • is it important enough that you need to read every word? Get on with it!

Leadership by chocolate

When I started my first leadership role (Pastoral Care Coordinator) my Principal told me that ‘time is never wasted if you’re talking with someone.’ She went on to tell me that as a leader in the school, I had a responsibility for both staff and students. It was great advice – while my job description talked mostly about my interactions with students, it was obviously impossible to provide pastoral care for 1000 students on my own. I had to have the staff with me. It was a great learning for me on how to balance being a leader of staff, students, captains and also continuing my role in the classroom.

Fast forward a few years and I hit upon the ideal way to unobtrusively provide pastoral care to my team, this time as the Head of Humanities: chocolate! On Friday afternoons, during report writing or just days when the wheels were getting squeaky, out would come the trusty party packs of Mars bars or Cadburys (nut-free, of course… um, even the nut-free Toblerones or Ferrero Rochers!). Those teaching period 6 on Friday? There’s no way they miss out! Most of us taught with an open door, so it was easy to wander in to their classroom with a bag of chocolates, with one for the teacher and a few for whichever students most deserved one at the end of the lesson.

For those in the department who I didn’t share an office with it was also effective. Walking in and saying, ‘Hey, need a chocolate?’ is a very low-key way of saying ‘I know things are hectic, and I appreciate it. But it’s ok – tell me.’ Invariably, these members of the department had positions of responsibility and were near a secretary or two – and every teacher knows who really runs the school! Teachers get one chocolate, secretaries get two is the general rule (‘You’ll need one later’). And if a POR in an office gets the chocolate treatment, then the others who are around also get offered one. There are also often a couple of teachers who have a History/English load and are seated with their English colleagues. English teachers (or their helpers!) make the best cakes, so it was well worth reciprocating with the occasional chocolate!

What’s all this mean?

It is relationship building without forcing it. I’ve often felt it fake or forced when leaders do the rounds of the troops – I’m here, and I’m being seen to be around. (Yeah, I’m terrifically cynical…). But who isn’t bought off by chocolate at stressful times – especially when you work out people’s favourites and dig a dark Toblerone out of a Mars packet? You have remembered what they like, and that means you are listening. But it is even more important to be around during times of high stress.

Perhaps more importantly, when bad news needs to be given, or a quiet word, or a complaint raised, we have a relationship. Which actually has nothing to do with chocolate. We’ve talked. We’ve shared what is going on in our classes. We’ve talked about our kids or football or given each other abuse based on whatever point of difference. But it means the pointed fingers stay curled in our hands, our voices stay (mostly) jokey, or we can express frustration and the other knows the depth of our feeling. And we work out an amicable compromise. We apologise. We buy each other a drink on Friday afternoon. And we continue as effective colleagues. There is no us and them.

Did I set out to be a chocolate leader? Of course not – I’m just a generous sweet-tooth who figured if I was going to get fat I was going to take everyone with me!

The author has no current affiliation to any brands indicated in this post. He is more than willing to accept offers of sponsorship, however!

‘The greatest Australian you [Year 9] have never heard of’

I had a great lesson today as part of our unit on Australian identity. After looking at Aussie stereotypes I wanted them to go home and find 3-5 amazing Australians they had never heard of. I was impressed with the range of people they came up with and the depth of detail they had written down, so I found a fillable knockout tournament sheet and we proceeded to judge who we thought was the greatest Australian from our list.

Initially in groups of four, two presented their great Australian while the other two decided who they thought was the greater. Any ties was initially sorted by ‘surrender’ (your person deserves to win) or else decided by the classroom’s Final Arbiter (who did not need to be consulted).

The winners of each group found their next opponent and took with them their vanquished first round opponent. This continued through to the semi-final stage, when the last four presented in front of the whole class.

The final was between William Lawrence Bragg (x-ray analysis of crystals, DNA) and Fred Hollows (eye care/surgery, especially in indigenous communities). Representing Bragg was a tall, eloquent, Australian member of the school debating team versus a shy and quiet Indonesian girl who was so excited that ‘she’ won. This was an unexpected bonus out of the activity!

Below are the top 16 (there were a few preliminary knockouts to get it down to sixteen).

Year 9 Australian History

‘The Greatest Australian You’ve Never Heard Of’ – Year 9 History

(How typical is Hollows as a ‘great Aussie’? He was actually born in NZ…)