Staff MacBook Program & Professional Learning Day – Info and Resources

eLearning Day.001As you remember many months ago I started our staff iPad program, and the lovely little journey of discovery that we went on. Well, it has been going very well, so much so that we took it to the next logical level, a staff MacBook program.

The goal here was not only to support the iPad program with new, teacher created resources, but to foster an environment of communication, collaboration and creation with all the staff. If you want to know more about the thinking behind this and my goals for the program you can download my proposal below (the resources part of this post you see)

Now setting up staff on MacBooks was a pretty big change. We were yet to have a laptop program for staff, and a lot were new to the OS X operating system. I went about getting the devices into hands of the staff in a similar way to the iPads. Getting the Macs them before the holiday break, providing a range of resources to help get going with the device (such as videos on the Staff PD iTunes U Course) and let everyone explore and experiment over the break.

When we came back for Term 4 I ran a Curriculum Day that focused on our new devices and also the pedagogy behind them  – the why, what will these devices enable in our teachers? and of course, students – all very centred around communication and collaboration.

Below you will find all the resources I created in the lead-up and launch of this program.


Students Noeel, Stavro and Sam – 2,800 books sold* and counting!

* Well, they are free…

In a follow-up to my last post on our successful EAL Book Project (info here and here), I thought I would check the numbers. And yes, the student’s books are still being downloaded all over the world.

The highest selling? – that would be: A MineCraft Story by Noeel, Stavro and Sam at 2,800 books downloaded so far. Now I would love to say this is because of the riveting story and the effort the students put into telling the story in Arabic and English, but in reality I am guessing it has most to do with the title.

But either way, this book is now in the hands of thousands of people around the world and highlighting the Arabic language to those that most likely have never heard it.

Even our iTunes reviews have been interesting:

iTunesBut this is what will happen when you open your work up to a world audience (of most likely 13 year old boys).

Remember, the whole point of this project was for the students to work on their English speaking and writing skills. The students that created this book were focused on exactly that, and chose a topic that interested them. The fact that it is now out their and has been read nearly 3000 times, even if those readers don’t understand the driving force behind the book, is a bonus.

It also showed me that even though I would love people to be focusing on the more personal stories the students have been writing, you can beat pop-culture…



The EAL Books Project, making students authors, celebrating different cultures and now we are famous…kinda’

We are a very large primary school with over 750 students, we also have one of the largest enrolments of EAL students (English as another language and students that speak little or no English)

A few weeks back, in an effort to not only help our students develop their English speaking skills, but also celebrate their native languages (Arabic and Chaldean) I started a digital book project.

Each student has created a series of digital books on topics around school, hobbies, and their experiences as new migrants to Australia. Each book contains English as well as Arabic and Chaldean, students are using images, voice, video and more. Better still, they are creating all these books themselves using an iPad each.

A range of our books. Some may seem more advanced than others, but remember, for some of these students English is very new and this is some of the first content they have created...not bad I say!

A range of our books. Some may seem more advanced than others, but remember, for some of these students English is very new and this is some of the first content they have created…not bad I say!

Instruction was very limited from me, I gave students an overview of the App we would be using (Book Creator) and that was it. They picked up the iPad (some for the first time) and were instantly engaged and in control. Having the ability to switch the iPad from English to Arabic on the fly was a great help, giving students a very visual guide. Accessibility options of the iPad such as define and speak selection also helped those with their English. And one little thing, Siri, was also a big help – some students were till very new to writing in English, being able to use Siri to dictate with gave them a huge confidence boost.

It of cause wasn’t all shiny toys and iPads, the great EAL teachers were there to help students with their literacy, narrative and more, but the key thing was they were so engaged with this device and what they were creating that the school part of it melted into the background.IMG_0347_Snapseed

I have been collecting these books and uploading them to iTunes to share with the world. We can now say that we have the largest collection of online books in the world that focus on English and Arabic / Chaldean languages. They are a great resource for our students here learning English, as well as the millions in Iraq and other countries where students can find books on their level and made by people the same age!

We are also finding that these books have been a great way for other students in or school to learn English. One student’s English is very basic, but he made a great book (check it out here) and one of the teachers provided the voice over. Now he loves to learn from his own book!

Word of our little project got out and now not only are our students published authors, but soon the will be famous. The local newspapers want to do a story on our project and came in yesterday to take photos. I will be sure and post the article up here as soon as it hits the stands – autographs most welcome.

You can checkout and download our first series of books here, be sure and leave a great review for the students!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The newspaper comes to Good Sam!

Apple Singapore – Apple iTunes U Workshops and Keynote Video

apple singaporeNow I am back in (cold) Australia, I thought I would quickly mention what I got up to in Singapore for Apple. Working out of their huge headquarters (The Singapore HQ handles a lot of Apple’s Asia and Pacific workings – In Australia and making an AppleCare call? – Yep, that comes here) the place is packed. And in usual Apple fashion, a lot of what I did and saw I can’t write about here. I was told that having a camera and walking around the halls of Apple can cause the similar result of carrying a gun in an Airport. It was also a very exciting few days as the unveiling of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch were happening all around us.

What? I like Yellow!

Ok, work stuff. The groups that attended these two days were from Primary and Secondary education and in looking at the work they were doing it was all very similar to what we do in Australia. My focus here was to help them in creating original resources using tools such as iBooks Author and sharing these online. As I discovered in Bangkok, these teachers are already on the cutting edge, they have great resources of their own, the thing was how to present these in a new way? I spoke at length about my experiences in schools (both good and bad) and the workflow I developed as a teacher. My big focus this time was on design. The why my books looked how they did and the thinking behind it, basically, think like a kid – what do they need to see?

  • Why books need to be clear, and visually pleasing.
  • Why headings and fonts used in certain ways can help students focus.
  • Why knowing what was important on the page and needed the most real estate, and
  • The types of interactivity and media you can use along the way and where it would work best.I talked about these and a lot more. One simple fact I learnt from creating digital resources is that these are even easier to ignore or not use correctly. Students get high-tech information thrown at their faces at a rapid pace all the time (think Facebook and YouTube), they become the masters of selective attention spans. How do you get 100% of that attention?

It was a great few sessions. I won’t get into answering those questions on the blog just yet, as my next job for schools and Apple will be creating a series of books and an iTunes U course that will go into those very details, and something I can share with everyone. I will let you know when those resources are live.

I was also able to make some great contacts for my school not only with the teachers that were present but with some of the big international schools in Singapore. My hope is the students back home at Good Samaritan will be able to work in collaboration with students from Singapore on one cool new projects.

Below is a video of one of the Keynotes I presented. Sure, won’t make a great deal of sense without my talking, but hey, it’s still pretty to look at:

Singapore – Flyers, Marinas, Runs, Toys, Comics and an Asian Terminator….

8740852436_d35364cdac_bA flew into Singapore last night and have one day of nothing before the busyness of the next two days at Apple Singapore will hit. Driving into the city, it has a very new feel about it. Everything feels like it has a new lick of paint. I checked out the Singapore Flyer (basically a big wheel) and the view at night…all very shiny.8742208374_b4704b454e_kSunday morning it was time to explore. To my luck I stumbled upon the Singapore Toy and Comic Fair, reminiscing of my days as a toy designer I felt I needed to head in.

The place was packed with Toys, Comics, Cosplayers, and some amazing talent (video at the end of this post). Even Rafferty Fox made a cameo:

After that it was time for my New Country Run (c). This was pretty unplanned (as usual) I kinda’ new where I needed to go (basically up) and didn’t think I could get that lost (it is an island after all) but things don’t always go to plan. A few hours later I was back (after heading past the harbour, China Town, Little India, and a small Bus trip – some of which I think I went past a couple of times)

So, that is Singapore done. Time to get ready for my workshops. I will be working with Secondary and Primary teachers this time, so more my style.




Bangkok University Apple iTunes U Workshops


3 Apple Heads (2 Doctors and a Harvard Masters) and then me… I think I need more letters after my name!

It was a very busy two days at Bangkok University for Apple Thailand. The goal here was to work with a group of higher education teachers (mostly University Lecturers, Doctors, and Professors) to develop and refine their resources (Multitouch iBooks) and iTunes U courses. My job was to talk about the process I went through as a teacher using these tools and what I learnt along the way, my journey – if you want to get all reality TV dramatic (I will post up the resources I created for these workshops soon). I then gave some workshops on iTunes U, iBooks Author and Keynote and spent the rest of the day working with them on their courses.

The other Apple folks talked about great content such as SAMR and other best practices. The biggest thing I saw is that the participants had great content, they were doctors and lectures after all, and knew what they wanted to share, but it was the simple design and layout that was causing problems. Yes, being a Graphic designer for many years before I got into teaching was helpful, but I talked about ways I put my books together thinking of the students that would use them. Breaking up text with entertaining media, adding in a range of content to cater for different learning styles and always trying to add in a touch of humour.

photoshopOther things that were more obvious to me but not to those starting out were things like layout. Using only a few styles of text, each representing a certain thing (for a heading, section or body of text). What is most important on the page?, moving media around or in different spots to make the important sections stand out. All these things I found came naturally to me now but not for beginners starting out.

It got me thinking that my next iTunes U course should be about the how of creating resources such as Multi-Touch books and the why of how the look. Stay tuned for that one.

Another bonus is I was able to make some great connections for my school. Moving forward I am now looking at projects that Good Sam can work on with the help of Apple Thailand, Singapore and New Zealand and some new ways of sharing resources from our students with schools from those regions.

So, time to catch a plane to Singapore and to Apple’s head office for all of Asia Pacific (they have over 4000 Apple employees there, and I am told I will get the rare treat of eating at Steve Job’s designed cafeteria)

I could get used to this.

I could get used to this.

Apple Headquarters Thailand, My Courses and the EAL Book Project

bangkok apple copyI popped into Apple’s headquarters for Thailand (as you do) this afternoon. I think I have been to four of Apple’s headquarters around the world now, guessing they must hire the same interior designer for them all. Sorry, can’t show you much of what was going on in the inside, secrets and all that (there were many whiteboards full of interesting tidbits)

Nice view though…

bangkok apple view copyI found out that people within Apple have been using old iTunes U  courses I made for History a few years back as models of what teachers can do, to well, teachers around the world – isn’t that nice to hear? (because as you know I never let praise go to my head…) You can find my History courses here: Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development

What as even better though was I was able to talk about the EAL Books Project I ran last week at my school. They were super excited by it and the results we achieved in such a small amount of time and I will now be dedicating time tomorrow talking about it. Such a small, and simple idea has just been growing each day.

What is the EAL Books Project? I hear you ask, random person from the internet… Well, that I will be talking about very soon…

Bangkok Run

As I do when I go to a new country (ADE Global Institute 2014 – Post 1: New Country, New Run (Venice & Muscle BeachI try and get out for a run. Today was a little tough however, as I discovered quickly, it is very hot and very crowded.

So here is a quick lap around the block of my hotel. Hopefully I will find the time to find more interesting scenery.


PS: The real reason I wanted to come to Bangkok –

My Keynote and Workshops for Apple in Thailand & Singapore

I am just sitting in a very fancy hotel in Bangkok, Thailand (thanks Apple) after coming off a 9 hour flight. So, what am I doing here?

Apple Thailand and Apple Singapore are running 2 day workshops entitled: Transforming your iTunes U Course (rough program below)and I was asked if I would like to facilitate the workshops and give a keynote on my experiences as a teacher using both iTunes U and iBooks Author.

Should be a lot of fun and I have put together a range of resources for the event (which I will upload for you all soon). I will get to not only work with some great educators from Apple, but a range of teachers from across Asia.

I will be gone for the week so I thought I might update the blog with what I am getting up to for Apple, and also random stuff from the trip, as I have never been to either of these countries.