Evidence-Based Teaching

Top 10 Evidence Based Teaching Strategies

I’ve always believed that the best teachers are those that reflect on their practice every day, after every class, in order to improve some aspect of their teaching. For me, when I first started working in education, this was often about survival.  Disengaged students are difficult to manage and usually have a negative impact on the learning of others.  A shift into chaos is only one bad decision away in the classroom.  A bad class can also impact on teacher credibility and begin a downward spiral that I’ve seen leave teachers bitter and twisted until retirement.

In my graduate days I would always leave each class critiquing the lesson and visualising the next one. Sometimes this meant going home with a stack of books to research and plan the next day’s ‘whiz bang’ lesson.  I would spend  hours (literally) creating a task to ‘bring the students back’ so that they would learn more the next time.  My hours of work almost always paid off.  However, it also brought moments of clarity and reflection of a different kind.  I’m thinking of those lessons when I’d arrive in the classroom and a more senior teacher would come in and take half the students out of the class for some reason or another, or I’d learn that there was a visiting guest speaker and the lesson would finish early (or insert other options: photo day, Open Day, visiting politician/athlete/motivational speaker/expert/author etc) and my hours of work felt wasted.  (How many moments did I miss with my family and friends while I worked intently on the planning for one class?) Then there were those lessons when my hours of work paid off and the students worked brilliantly for an entire 20 minutes, motivated to work quickly, my hours of work had created a frenzy of learning energy that almost made those ‘lost hours’ worth it.  However, my hours had only translated into mere minutes in the classroom.

These days there is a huge range of relevant research, support materials and strategies just a click away. Some of the sites I have found useful over the years are listed below:

The Australian Society for Evidence-based teaching: http://www.evidencebasedteaching.org.au

Free Technology for Teachers: http://www.freetech4teachers.com

Visible Learning: https://visible-learning.org

Learning Horizon: http://www.learninghorizon.net/lh-overview/

MyRead: http://www.myread.org










Learning Gems: iPad

My latest discovery…

I’m very excited about this one because many similar tools don’t work on the iPad.

Wordsift is a tool that allows you to visualise the words in a piece of writing.

Simply paste your writing into word sift:

An added bonus is the availability of other visualisation tools, including a visual thesaurus and image search. The thesaurus is clickable. Students can also highlight categories such as Science and Maths within the Wordsift

Wordsift and Visual Thesaurus

Wordsift and Visual Thesaurus

Wikisift: Some Teaching & Learning IDEAS:
Use when writing persuasive pieces to determine the most commonly used words. This could help students think about the power of particular words when writing persuasively. It might also help them evaluate the effectiveness of their argument based on language choices.

Use for a quick snapshot of the main ideas in any piece of writing. This might even help students summarise key ideas or determine the tone of the piece.

Use for etexts to help analyse and evaluate the writer’s technique and style.

Use the Visual Thesaurus function to explore vocabulary options.

The fact that the above activities can be completed on a mobile device is, of course, an added bonus for teachers and students alike.

IPad: personal learning made easy!

I’ve had a wonderful time learning with my iPad. Now that I can easily blog from it I might just return to the glory days of blogging once a week.

Blogging began as an educational experiment. I like to try all the tools and techniques I think will help students learn. The iPad began in a similar way and now I wonder how I could possibly get by without it.

At school I have a small but dedicated team of students committed to the ‘IPad Challenge’, another experiment to challenge students’ personal learning skills. As part of the challenge they must recommend the best apps for learning. The usual suspects have emerged: iMovie, Pages, Keynote and Numbers. However, I’ve also been impressed with the discernment shown by students in their search for cheap or free high quality apps such as Evernote, GoDocs, Geared, istudiez and dropbox. For most these represent true value.

The best part of our ‘iPad Challenge’is that the technology has opened learning doors and become the start of something quite exciting in these students lives…they have taken control of their learning.

Since the challenge started they have asked permission to start a radio station and a newspaper and happily volunteered to mentor younger students.
It seems the most powerful aspect of the iPad as a learning tool is the starting point it provides, and where it positions learners to begin their learning journey. That is one very powerful gadget!

Hello World! (again)

Alas, the real world has interfered with my blogging …I have not posted in some time and now find myself blogging out of sheer guilt.

The one positive from my lack of real time is that I will have to share my ‘Learning Gems’ in record time and with minimal waffle.

Behold, some of the things that have kept me busy since August ’09 —

Cyber Safety Resources for Educators:


I designed this wiki after one of my students asked me how she could stop some facebook bullying.   The lack of any obvious avenue of assistance made me look at ways to educate others, including teachers, to draw attention to this growing area of concern


Buying an iphone is probably the most important development since my last blog post.  I have used it to photograph much of my life and tried to maintain a photograph a day on this blog:


My work commitments are such that a photograph a day is impossible…unless a photograph of my desk every day is sufficient…However, I have taken some interesting shots during vacation times.  I also used my iphone to create an Animoto presentation to show ‘environmental problems’ at my school.  I wanted to make the point that world environmental problems were reflected in the local environment.  The students quickly gained some insight into  the environmental issues facing the world today

By the way, Animoto remains the MOST useful tool I have discovered since I started exploring web 2.0

Really Expanding our Learning Horizons

The Expanding Learning Horizons (ELH) Conference is over for another year and I am left, once again, feeling lost and flat now that I am back in the real world of work and daily minutiae.  I miss the connection with like-minded educators and the stimulating conversations that accompany such connections.  However, I am also mindful of the need for all of us to keep connecting outside the conference if we truly want to keep expanding our learning horizons.

Expanding and Learning are action words.

Maintaining an online personal learning network (PLN) is one of the most important professional development activities I undertake in any year.  I can structure a learning path to suit my own context and needs without leaving home.  I can connect with others who share similar contexts and really learn from them.  It takes time but it also saves time.  Imagine how long it would have taken me to find, research and review six quality educator blogs or wikis on my own without the help of my PLN?  Using my connections on Plurk saved me hours.

Using Plurk to find quality blogs and wikis

Using Plurk to find quality blogs and wikis

Exploring and Sharing are ALSO action words

My PLN also supported my ELH Discovery workshop: Exploring Web 2.0 Teaching Ideas by providing feedback on the wiki I designed to support the session.  Many also indicated their intention to share the wiki with colleagues in the U.S.  Hopefully it will continue to be of use to educators for some time.

The networking during ELH took many forms: Twitter (See #ELH09 for our collection of Tweets); Ning; Facebook and various wikis: elhwikimania and my own Exploring Web 2.0 Teaching Ideas.  However, such mediums are only starting points for exploration and expansion of learning horizons.  It is ongoing connection and reflection, educators sharing ideas and learning together, that will make the most difference in the long term.  Maintaining the passion, learning and enthusiasm of ELH will be the real challenge for all of us over the next year!

Exploring Web 2.0 Teaching Ideas

Exploring Web 2.0 Teaching Ideas

Reading Fiction in a Web 2.0 world. An experiment.

Web 2.0 has changed the way we do so many things.

So I wonder if it is possible to sustain a piece of fiction using only Web 2.0 tools…a story told through blogs, wikis and other tools.  Not your usual piece of digital storytelling – I’m thinking major pieces of fiction, possibly serialised, that follow the thoughts and events of characters across a range of formats.  The ‘un-novel’ might use a combination of materials such as youtube clips, blog entries, Nings, podcasts, twitter and the like, to track characters and expose their inner thoughts.

I believe this type of fiction has a lot of potential.  I see teachers of the future introducing Web 2 ‘Story Quests’ or ‘un-novels’ to launch students on a narrative journey with a real difference.  I see students learning to piece together the elements of a narrative from visual, audio and written cues.

I like it.

It could be like a treasure hunt (The ‘treasure’ being the story itself!)

It might even be fun.

There is already a lot of fiction online.  However, it tends to be the same traditional format as offline fiction… youtube instead of movies, and ebooks and ezines instead of books and magazines.  The ‘un-novel’ is different, it crosses several mediums, and with so much happening online these days stories should be different.
Some of the online work that ‘almost’ qualifies as the ‘un-novel’ is listed below but I would love to hear of any others:

•    Inanimate Alice
•    We Tell Stories

However, I decided to experiment with this idea on my own.  My ‘un-novel’ begins with a blog post and a central character with no idea what she has just revealed about herself and her family…let me know what you think.  Can you guess what happens?  Can you guess this girl’s name?  Are you intrigued…or just bored by the whole idea?

Check out the Shakespeare’s Girl shakespearegirlblogblog:

Maintaining a passion for words…

Why is it that so many students seem to have lost the desire to play with words and language?  I used to love English lessons based around word games and language puzzles.  It was fun for me.  Unfortunately, it seems to be a different story today…often such activities are viewed as tedious, boring or ‘too hard’.

In an attempt to ignite my students’ passion for words I explored the internet to find a few ‘learning gems’…

Wordsense: one of the best around in my humble opinion.


Anagramania: Guess the anagram before the time runs out!


Crickler Crossword: A new type of word puzzle!

Crickler Puzzle

Frank’s Panic Puzzle:

Frank\'s panic puzzle

Word puzzles available from Addicting Games:

Addicting Games

Vocab Sushi: Building a better vocabulary

Vocab sushi

Messing with ideas and words: Plinky prompts
Plinky writing prompts

It also occurred to me that students might find it fun to create their own word games using classtools:


I still love Animoto!

At my current school we have a regular assembly for the senior school once a fortnight.  Fortunately, I had a few Web 2.0 tools to help my home group complete the half hour presentation.  Thank you Animoto and Google maps for making this job a little easier.  We used the idea of Harmony Day as the impetus for a Google map showing the class’s ancestral links.  Animoto provided not one but three presentations!  The Harmony Day clip: ‘Living in Harmony‘ is below:

A year is a long time in Web 2.0 (OR… Cue singing, “Happy blog birthday to me”)

My Web 2.0 journey began exactly a year ago, inspired by a few questions at a professional development activity and fuelled by my own desire to understand ‘what all the fuss was about.’

As a way of celebrating this milestone I thought I’d revisit the key discoveries of the past year.  My journey was an informal one, with many paths and many lingering visits along the way.  This blog was my starting point.

One of the first things I did after starting this blog was to explore the amazing array of quality blogs out there.  Many inspired me to develop and maintain the best quality blog I could with my limited talent and experience.

CogDogBlog by Alan Levine proved an excellent starting point.  From there I found the wiki and a list of story tools which fuelled my journey for weeks. I used many of them in my early blog entries and still love the simplicity of tools such as toondoo, slideshare and animoto.

Teacher-Librarian blogs:

As a qualified teacher-librarian I was keen to learn what I could from the online experts in the field.  One of the first gems I found was an Edublogs award winner, A Library by Any Other Name.  I learned about the 23Things Web 2.0 activitiy via this blog and followed it to learn more on my own.

This blog also led to another Edublogs winner, this time a fellow Australian, Judy O’Connell, who maintains the Hey Jude blog.  Judy seems to have an amazing capacity for ‘thinking outside the square’ and has steered me in the direction of many new online connections and blogs, including Dean Shareski’s blog and, one of my all time favourites: Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day.

The PLN:

The blogosphere is the sort of place where each new connection leads somewhere else: Twitter, Plurk, Ning, Diigo groups, Second Life etc.  It got to the point where I was signing up for something new each day.  It was several months before I realised I actually had a PLN of my own, a discovery which immediately led to a blog post…an event which in itself demonstrated how completely I had become immersed in the Web 2.0 world.  Something had happened…suddenly I needed to share my discoveries with other educators, suddenly I felt responsible for helping others learn.  More importantly, I began to see the real potential of the connections I’d made and began to change the way I approached my job and my teaching.

The Shape of Learning: One Size Does Not Fit All

The best part of my learning journey is the way I have been able to shape it with my own interests and needs.  Surely, this is the most effective type of learning?  The blogs I turn to have changed, the tools I race to sign up for are slightly different from last year’s offerings.  My new best tools include:

pageflakes, which I used to build an Earth 2.0 webquest;

wetpaint wikis which I use to host a wiki for my Year 11 English students called English @ 11. While they are still getting their heads around this new tool they are also learning a lot.

I’ve also rediscovered the potential of flickr, particularly photographs usable via creative commons licensing.  Other tools which complement flickr are available via Big Huge Labs

My new favourite blogs are

The English Blog: for its cutting edge articles and tools

The Best Article Every Day: for fun and great resources

Free Technology for Teachers: for its outstanding resources

Jane’s e-learning pick of the Day: excellent tools

A Geeky Mother’s Blog: excellent writing, great discussion

The Open Classroom: because I’ve met Jo and love to read her thoughts

and ICT in my Classroom: for ICT ideas and activities in a real classroom.

A meme for educational change.

Thanks to Elizabeth Koh who tagged me for this meme which was started by TJ:

“List FIVE changes you would like to see in the educational system. Your responses should represent your perspective and your passion for learning and students…tag the following people…from a variety of perspectives. If you have been tagged, tag as many people as you choose, but try for a variety.”

Real life learning is about passionate engagement and lifelong curiosity. I would like to see the education system change to reflect this.  Students need to be provided with more opportunities to explore personal passions and learn about the things that are important to them.  They need to learn that learning itself is actually fun!

Avoid ‘Ivory tower’ type decision-making by ensuring decisions which impact on schools are based on what’s actually happening in schools.  It is too easy to make far-reaching decisions in an office far removed from an actual student, teacher or class.  Administrators and Principals need to understand what is happening out there.  Educational vision needs to be shared.

Increase funding to libraries and work to raise the status of libraries and teacher-librarians.  Libraries are central to learning and can have a huge impact on student learning outcomes in any school area.  The research to support this is overwhelming yet so many people still don’t get it…

Encourage teachers to work together, share resources and ideas, and give them time to talk to each other.  If we work together we will, ultimately, save time and energy to the benefit of our students and families.  We will also be working towards improving the status of teachers and teaching.   Education-based PLN’s are global and achieving wonderful things daily.

Measure real student achievement through authentic assessment and decrease the status of exams as an indicator of achievement.  Students are so much more than their exam grades!

I would like to tag the following people:



@Hershey Thorp



However, I would also encourage anyone with an opinion on this important issue to share their viewpoint