Rock your Van Gogh with your play-dough.

I realise it has been another age since I posted anything on this blog. So here is an excuse to post something for the heck of it.
I am up in Sydney doing some talks at EduTech for the NGV with our buddies Code Club.

Come by and have a look at our Van Dough coding workshop (yes, come up with a witty name first and figure out the content later) and hear me talk about art, code and hard of hearing Dutch Post-Impressionist painters.


IMG_0816 – Another little video project of mine.

So, another little job I have is fatherhood, the pay and hours aren’t the best, but is has a cool gadget, Raffy. I won’t go too much into this one, just watch the vids –  clearly trying to cash in on ‘he is cute but who knows what will happen in a few years’ market – that, and this is how we spend our days anyway, I am just now bringing a camera along.
Check out some of Raffy’s videos below, and subscribe to: for more.

Been a while…what have I been up to?

Yep, been a while since I had a chance to post, quietly working on this little project:

My Presentation at the HTAV 2016 Conference – Resources


📺 UPDATE: Videos posted at end of post 📺

A bit of a one stop shop here for the resources I am using and creating for my workshop today. The links and resources below will be used in the creation of online resources you will be making. I will also update this post with recordings of my sessions.

Part 1: Seesaw

Seesaw is a free and super easy to use app to create and empower your students to have online journals. Comments, recording work, and communication with parents are all a tap away. Perfect for Primary students and classes that may only have a few devices. One of the best features? In one tap it will also automatically create an online blog for you to share.

QR Code for our HTAV Seesaw class:


Part 2: Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom

Here we will look at Google Apps for Education, though I am sure a lot of you are quite familiar with its online creation and collaboration tools, we will focus on using Google Classroom to bring it all together and become your classroom PA!

Part 3: iTunes U

iPad school? – This is your platform. We will see how easy it is to create an online course for your class and students. Curate resources, encourage discussion and more.

Part 4: Blog

The best way to promote…you. Your resources, your teaching…your brand!

Part 5: Resources:

Well, as I work for the National Gallery of Victoria, of course I need my resources to be Art History based. And I like sheep…

Danish-born artist August Friedrich Albrecht Schenck settled in Paris as a young man, to study at the famous École des Beaux-Arts. He spent most of his career in Paris, specialising in painting landscapes and animal subjects, which were often seen as a metaphor for human relationships and society. These included several snowy, winter landscapes depicting sheep struggling for survival.
In Anguish, a brave ewe stands defiantly over the limp body of her lamb. Blood from the lamb’s mouth trickles on to the snow.  The pair is encircled by a mass of menacing black crows. The situation appears hopeless, despite the bravery of the ewe.
Anguish was one of the NGV’s earliest acquisitions. In 1906, the painting was voted among the five most popular in the Melbourne collection. Today it is displayed among other 19th century narrative paintings in the NGV where it continues to inspire visitors. Evidence of its enduring appeal can be found on social media sites including Flickr. August Schenck even has a fan club on Facebook.

Classroom discussion:

  • The composition of Anguish has been carefully considered to create atmosphere, mood and meaning. Discuss, considering how the artist has used elements such as colour and tone, and design principles such as focal point and repetition.
  • How might Anguish be interpreted as a metaphor for human relationships and society? Consider what types of human characters and behaviour the sheep and the crows might symbolise.
  • Why do you think Anguish has strong popular appeal?

L. Benson in T. Gott, L. Benson & contributors, 20th Century Painting and Sculpture in the International Collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003.

Google Classroom Activity:

Instructions for students:
1. Spend four minutes looking at Schenck’s Anguish.
2. Write down what stands out to you.
3. Discuss your observations with a partner.
4. Report to the class the items observed that were not in common with your partner.
5. Explain why they have a special significance – in what ways do they convey a mood or message?

iTunes U Activity:

Instructions for students:
1. Spend four minutes looking at Schenck’s Anguish.
2. If the animals in this image could talk (hey, Disney can do it), what do you think they might be saying? Think about the animals, how they are portrayed in the scene (good guy / bad guy) their motivations and more.
3. Discuss your observations with a partner.
4. Open the App ChatterPix, create several videos that will give a voice to the animals.
5. Save all these videos, and then open iMovie and edit them together into one movie. Add some dramatic music and titles to give emphasises to your short film.
Image: – We will also talk about that whole, Copyright thing here…



iTunes U / iBooks Author:


Google Classroom:


La Trobe University #connected16 Resources

downloadFor the next two days, I will be running some sessions with La Trobe University education students.

This will be the landing page for resources for those peeps as most of what they do is over Twitter (and I shall not be contained by 140 characters dam it!)

First up, your 📖  App list.

Below are a list of apps we will be using over the two days, all are free and you have iOS and Android flavors to choose from.

Great if you could get them all, but at the very least please get SeeSaw.

App links: 



Using the Apple App Store and the Google Play store in the classroom (or, digging through the mountain to find gold Vs. digging through trash to find nothing)

I am working on a digital program for students that will incorporate a lot of apps. Being the inclusive guy that I am (and not wanting to have schools miss out) my goal was to use equivalent apps from both app ecosystems, The Apple App Store (iOS / macOS) and the Google Play Store (Android / Chrome).

Most likely, and a good chance it will work

And this is where I came into my first realisation, not all app stores are created equal. I thought it would be as easy as writing a great lesson and then finding some great apps to use. Apple App Store, check… then of course there would be the equivalent on the Google Play Store?…nope. Even big name apps don’t show their face much there.

What apps I did find were an inconsistent mess, other than Google’s stock apps there seemed to be no design language or common UI amongst them.

Not likely…

The issue I have now is gimp my lessons to suit apps that I can find on the Play store, make my lessons more about fundamental techniques (and the use of apps are optional) or focus on iOS only (which will limit my audience)

No real good outcome here.

Say what you want of Apple’s stricter user guidelines, testing and quality control (or the fact that they have a bigger user base…or at least a more profitable one) but it sure does make life easier for my lessons.

Note: Just try it yourself, all I wanted for one lesson was a simple Comic book creation app, iOS many to choose from, including the great Halftone. Google Play…well, you find something amongst this.

Failed by the classroom, saved by the technology

We’ve all been there, having slaved away the night before on an amazing, interactive, multimedia rich, 3D enabled, socially connected, cutting edge lesson (now in lifelike colour) for our students, when we get to class and bam, no internet, or the projector has died, or the wifi is down, or..dam more software updates…again…Yes, we have all been let down by technology in some way or another.

But how about when the classroom lets you down?

img_0082Today I was all ready to take a class of year 9 students though early Australian settlement (as all year 9 students look at the topic as part of; the nature and extent of the movement of peoples in the period (slaves, convicts and settlers), or ACOKFH015 if you want to sound all cool and Australian curriculum-ie) though the artworks on display at the National Gallery of Victoria’s Australian collection.
We have such amazing pieces that document this period in Australian history, from the first studies of Australian wildlife by Frederick Polydore Nodder* (seriously, have you seen a platypus? those things are nuts) to the classic, The Pioneer by Frederick McCubbin (humble brag, painted just down the road from my house on Mount Macedon)

These works are a wonder to see….but we couldn’t.

*(By the way, you can freely download the original 1799 book with these original drawings right here, it is all kinds of historical awesome.)

Yes, apparently when you have priceless artworks on the wall, moving them isn’t as simple as just taking it off the wall, adding a few nails (and just eyeing if it is straight like I do) and putting up something else. It takes days of work, handling, inspections, painting the wall and so on. So, the 19th century gallery, the one that has, you know, all the works I wanted to focus on, was closed, and will be for the rest of the week.

But yes, technology to the rescue. Like I have always done in the past, I created multitouch iBooks for my lessons, more of a way for me to get my head around things then anything else. As such I had one I prepared earlier, full of high resolution images of the artworks, videos, interactive elements, notes, and more (sorry, no 3D this time around).

imageFor the first half of the session we jumped into a lecture hall and used this resource to talk about the artworks and early settlement. I was able to pinch, zoom, and do all those things you can’t do with the actual artworks (no touching!).

We were able to do a bit of a focused deep dive on all ‘the history stuff’ and then spend the rest of the time in the other galleries just taking in what we saw and making connections with other artworks.

And I have to say (though I am sure this would be frowned upon in the art world) the effectiveness of having a classic art piece, in super high resolution on a massive projector screen, without people’s heads in the way (yes, I thinking of you ‘height challenged people’ constantly stuck in the back row) has its advantages.

So is there a lesson here? Well, they always say you should have a practical backup for the classroom should the technology fail, I guess it is just as important (and as easy with always in sync, cloud based tools) now to have a technological backup should the classroom fail.


Rhyming Couplets and English and bringing the Beastie Boys into the Arts

One of the great things about my new gig is working with a range of learning areas and artworks. From art history, philosophy, and design with senior students, to emotions and stories with kindergarten kids (my current favourite)

I also get to explore the world of English in relation to art. Elements like descriptive words, nouns, adjectives, metaphors and voice.

But of course, as you have no doubt discovered in my lessons, it is generally all about me. Hence the Beastie Boys (now you will just have to trust me here)

I wanted students to think about different writing techniques and how they could relate them back to art. I’m a big fan of rhyming, and hey, who isn’t? Words just sound better when they rhyme, (Which I am sure we can discuss when you have more time)*

So I came home and said I will do an activity like how the Beastie Boys would rap, two lines that relate and the last words of each line rhyme. Now my good lady wife whom is a master of the English language told me that this technique is called a Rhyming Couplet (I was planning on calling it ‘Time to get Beastie’)

Basically you have two sentences that relate, and can have as many words as you like, with a last word that rhyme. The one rule being they should have the same number of syllables.

(My wife went on to explain that Shakespeare would use a more complex form of this called iambic pentameter – but I believe I may have seen something shiny by then and got distracted)

Anyways, fast forward to my session, nearing the end after we had done a lot of fun activities and the students were finding their groove (and feeling a lot more free and confident) I gave them the plan.

After explaining the whole Rhyming Couplet thing and then watching this awesome clip:

(and not only teaching students the wonders of the 90s, but also that rap didn’t have to have colourful metaphors in them – yes, more English) a gave them their next goal. Come up with a rap that would be about one artwork they had seen, or possibly the whole day so far.

They frikn’ loved it (I’m sure it had a lot to do with my fine rapping also), so much so they wanted to have rap battles!

Some of the great student’s (Year 7) lines:

“Saw Whistler’s mother she looked so cramped”

“Must be why she’s on a postage stamp”

After seeing the painting of Whistler’s mother and:

“Check out that lady, so sad and so green”

“What happened at Guernica was obscene”

After seeing Picaso’s Weeping Woman.

So what is my summary on all of this? Want some great lessons, think back to your past, your childhood. Yes, 90s Rap my not be back in fashion….but I like to think I may have just given it a fighting chance (well, 28 Year 7 students think so at least)

My Anzac & World War 1 – Year 9 Australian Curriculum Course & Resources on iTunes

With Anzac day coming, thought it best to plug some of my previous work. Should save you History teachers some time….

mr. dan

NapkinJust a reminder to everyone gearing up for Term 2 (tomorrow!)

The course and resources I created for Apple are freely available and promoted on iTunes. The course has a wealth of original learning activities, resources such as original videos, Multi-Touch Books, Critical Thinking questions, other cool interactive elements and more created by your truly. Designed with the Australian Curriculum in mind, if you’re a Year 9 teacher, all the work is done!, One whole World War 1 unit ready, with a depth study and final assessment task (with multiple learning choices for students to cater for the diversity one finds in the classroom)

You can subscribe to the course as a teacher and take what works for you, or send it to all your students, all materials a freely downloadable.

Finally, if you want to run this course in your class and enable cool things like course discussions, student tracking and more, feel free to…

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It’s like your water bottle…in the sky.

Just a quick Raffy & Running story.

I try and get out for a run whenever I can, Raff comes along for the ride. Every trip down and up Mount Macedon is a learning adventure for him. Calling out the ‘neigh-neighs’, the ‘moo-moos’ and the ‘big-flowers’ (that would be his word for trees) he gets far more out of it than I do.

Yesterday was an interesting one, I know he is learning new things every day*, but this was one of those times that it really was clear.

It was raining a little on our way down the ‘mount, Raff stuck his hand out of the pram as some drops landed on him, “water?” he said. Yes, water, but when I replied he shook his water bottle, confused, this is water right?.


I could see the look on his face, trying to figure it out. We pulled over, and I tried to explain it as best I could, “It is like your water bottle in the sky”, he then looked at his water bottle, then the sky, and exclaimed “water” while pointing his bottle to the heavens.

Not quite, but he was getting there.



I tried to think back to the last time I received such a revelation of something new (that would be the time I learnt that the little arrow on the petrol gauge in your car points to what side the tank is on), I can only image how much fun it must be getting a new revelation like this every 10 minutes.


*(I also learnt more about the proper use of the term every day)