Monday, 14 December 2015

BreakoutEDUau Launch at Google Sydney

You are stuck in a room with a number of like minded people. You are told that you have been set a challenge - open this box - there are 5 locks on it. Your instructions are:

"There are clues around this room that link to the locks that are on this box. You have 45 minutes and whatever resources you have on you to solve the puzzles to open the box. GO!"

Welcome to BreakoutEDUau.

This week I had the fantastic opportunity to experience the BreakoutEDUau launch at Google Headquarters in Sydney. 

I was part of the second launch group with trail blazing Australian Educators showing us the way; Kim Sutton, Chris Betcha and Nick Brierley. I have to say that there is no better way to launch an idea with educators than to get us to participate. Playing this game allowed me to see what this could look like in my classroom or even as a staff training exercise to get us thinking the way we want our students thinking.

This game was focused around the history of communication. The clues included invisible ink, images, codes, hieroglyphs, riddles, knotted strings, QR codes, websites and email addresses. There was so much opportunity to think laterally, work collaboratively and look at a couple of problems in a number of ways. It required persistence, group work, mathematics, history, use of technology and drawing on past knowledge.

This concept was launched in the USA earlier in the year by James Sanders- founder of @BreakoutEdu. On his website James states that:

Photo by @kehall16
"Breakout EDU creates ultra-engaging learning games for people of all ages. Games (Breakouts) teach teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, and troubleshooting by presenting participants with challenges that ignite their natural drive to problem-solve."

From what I experienced this week BreakoutEDUau stays true to the experience that the founder had in mind. This educational concept was born from James Sanders playing the games in "Breakout Rooms" and from there he prototyped and developed the breakout box. If you are like me and like to meet the developer, James Sanders, and hear him explain the game and process of development then watch this interview.

The great part of this game is that you can use it as you buy it or you can make it totally your own. The BreakoutEDU community is growing and organically sharing ideas and clues, as well as whole games. This community will continue to grow as more educators get on board. 

Remember that it should always be about the thinking and learning!
This is perfect!

If you are looking for something new to truly incorporate the 21st Century Skills and those soft skills that our students will need in the real world then take a look at - 


Thursday, 22 October 2015

Another Fantastic Example of Genius Hour!

Just wanted to share another amazing example of how Genius Hour has impacted my classroom.

Here is Christos presenting his genius and research about democracy. He is 10 years old and has a respect for government because of his research than many adults.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Genius Hour's - Educational Value

It has been a few months since my last post but so much has been happening. Genius Hour has continued to be a force in my classroom each week and there have been some significant development in my students over that time.

I want to share with you two of standout moments recently.

One of my student's put the forward "Dyslexia from a kids perspective." as his task. He did lots of reading and questioning. He also spoke to an expert. The following video was how he decided he wanted to share his learning from the experience. This is a must watch! He was keen to connect it to Dyslexia Empowerment Week. He has taught me so much over the past term.

Another student wanted to look into "How to develop a good soccer player." He did much of his research at home and the product of the research was a website. The web design become a large part of the learning process and he decided to launch it and continue its development. The components that make up a good soccer player are there but how to develop this is still coming. It has been a great journey so far.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

#Ghana Project

My class has been on an exciting journey recently. Literature is taking us outside our own world and all the way to Africa, more specifically, Ghana.

My class has been reading the Short Listed CBCA Australian Book of the Year 2015 Figgy In the World by Tamsin Janu. There is so much reality about the culture of Ghana that my class wanted to learn more. With the power social media, Facebook and Twitter, we have been able to connect with the author and with Mr Pete Freeman.

From @MrPeteFreeman
Pete Freeman is young and passionate grad student from Illinois, USA who has spent his summer holidays working in Ghana to research and promote education for women and children in developing countries.

My Year 4 class from Sydney, Australia used Google Hangouts on Air to connect with Pete from his home in the US, having just flown home from his time in Ghana, this week. They were so excited to be talking with someone who had been on the ground and in the culture that we are reading all about and is so vastly different from their own.

Pete shared many stories and the students had so many questions to ask. This was an amazing and authentic global connection lesson that my class will not forget. The conversation went for over an hour and could have continued. If you are interested in watching some of the chat, it is online and available in a cut down form, only 17min. However, if you follow the link through the image you will see my students reflections from their learning. These are unedited and a true reflection of some of the things they took away.

Thanks again to Pete Freeman who was so willing to talk with a class of student from Australia. You have enriched their world with your generosity. My class is keen to talk again with Pete about his increasing work throughout developing countries. 

I believe that opening up our student's eyes to how truly connected we are is so important to their future. It can expand their understanding of how blessed they are. This knowledge is power and what they do with that power is up to them. I for one am excited to see what can and will come of it. 

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Students Remain Ultra Keen about Genius Hour

Genius Hour Week 3 and 4

You know that your students are engaged in a task when they even do it well when you are not there.

Last week I was not able to be in class with them during Genius Hour, however, true to its concept the students quickly accepted the challenge to share their genius with the world.  The teacher on my class did not have to concern themselves with management strategies. She said that it was Genius Hour time and they all scurried off to work. 

This week they were much the same. Keen to get going, excitedly heading to the classroom after Wednesday lunch ready to find their space and get working. These work spaces are all different for each student. Some choose the regular desks. While others lay on the floor sit outside with their chromebooks and other texts, some are finding the cosiest spot possible and building a fort to work in...they are choosing or trying to find the learning space that best suits their task.

I had one student come and ask if he could listen to music while he was reading about democracy. My response was, "Sure, if that allows you to focus." He quickly disappeared eager to try it. Interestingly, he came back 10 min later and said,"Mr Hosking, I think I need silence to understand what I am reading, can I go outside instead?"

He is learning how he learns best. I could not have been prouder. Obviously, not all are cruising along as well as others. Some have asked for more structure, others have asked if I can just set the task. These are all things that we are working through.

I now have a couple of students who are finalising their presentations ready to show their chosen audience in the next few weeks. I have another student who is at the stage of filming his video for his presentation. All are working and learning.

My students confidence and eagerness is inspiring. Genius Hour is definitely worth a look at and a try. What could you loose other than some control? But is that so bad?

Education, it is changing and I am so excited to be part of it. Why not jump on the ride?

Saturday, 18 July 2015

It's all about the Student Engagement!

It is all about the student engagement! This is what my week has been about. As we all know there are so many things that happen in the week of the educator, but this week was like I entered into a theme park on Monday and left on Friday.

This theme park had so many attractions that could be focused on but I am keen to share about the killer roller coaster of student engagement.

I was prepared and excited to be coming back from mid-year break. I was ready to introduce the new topics for the term, however, I was most excited about introducing Genius Hour to my Year 4 class.
My stage also had planned an immersion activity for our PBL unit: Was life the same for everyone? (colonisation). My stage then had an innovation planning day on the Friday with a science focus to allow us, as Jr School teachers, spend time with our HS head of science, promoting investigations from a true scientific direction.

I felt that my week was going to be excellent. I could not have been more correct.

Student rapport and engagement have always been central to my teaching. Always on the look out, as many of you are, for something to grab the students and make them see themselves as you see them. Genius Hour has grabbed me this year. While this concept, from research appears to be gaining legs in the US, here in Australia there are only some small pockets of educators talking about it.

When I introduced GH to the class this week I was blown away by their excitement and enthusiasm. Feel free to track how GH is going in my class through the "Idea Share" section on my blog. I am going to post there about all the trials and tribulations that occur along the way. There was one reaction that literally made me leap in the classroom as I heard it.

Framing the moment - I have finally explained to my class what GH is. There had been one small poster on our board and the students had been asking for two days what it was about. I followed the lead of those before me (Chris Kesler) and prepared as suggested with multimedia presentations, I even used the 'Kid President" video, which was a hit. The students have learned the 3 Rules that GH will run with and they are going somewhere in the classroom to brainstorm ideas. One student (JW) jumps up, a few moments later than everyone else, who have run off to get their ideas down before they fall out of their heads. JW runs to me and says excitedly, in a strong and proud voice:

"Mr Hosking, I am going to tell the world about dyslexia from a kids perspective!"

If that is not engagement, I don't know what is. I cannot wait to see what comes from that first thought, but JW has the Genius Hour bug as the next day his mum came up and said that he was "bouncing off the walls excited to learn" when he got home.

As I said, student engagement was a roller coaster this week.

The whole of Stage 2 were buzzing, it was sport day but their teachers were dressed up in 'weird' clothing from the start of the day. We were in character, the everyday British people of the 1770s. What the students learnt was that we were actually people from the first fleet to Australia. Today was our trial and the four classes were directed by guards, also dressed up, into the 'courtroom' ready for the judgement. The trial started and we were sentenced.

Student engagement was high. So high, that it all felt too real for some of the students. After some debriefing all was fine. However, while it was fun and I would do it again in a heart beat, the spotlight was thrown onto the idea of failure. I could see this as a failure, or as a set back to what was trying to be achieved. I choose not to. I see this as win! Next time I will take into account and be better prepared for this as a possibility in student reaction. However, it was great and the students are asking questions and looking for answers as to why people were treated this way and why the need for transportation.

Image from @HostBrian
A good roller coaster ends with you wanting to have that thrill back. Teach Like a Pirate was that end. Thanks to the enthusiasm, and experience of Dave Burgess, I am highly motivated to keep the thrill of this week a reality in my classes permanently. At the beginning of the week I had only heard of the book Teach Like a Pirate but had not read it and not really looked into the idea. I was invited to tag along with a colleague to a PD evening with the Pirate himself, Dave Burgess.

I have to say that I am 'hooked'. Dave Burgess was motivating and entertaining. His enthusiasm for the students in his class is unmatched. Working with some of the hardest students in his district he has planted the love of learning in their lives.

Some of the key take homes for me include:

  • Teaching is not supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be WORTH it!
  • It is not enough to be good, you have to inspiring.
  • If you had to sell tickets to your classes, would anyone be there?
  • Use hooks to engage the students and then deliver content at their peak engagement.
These are questions that I look forward to asking myself more regularly. What are some of the questions that you ask yourself to gauge if you are on the right track? 

Walking away from the most entertaining and motivating PD sessions for some time, with a new book to read and a head full of possibilities, I could not help but smile. I am looking forward to the next ride on this roller coaster.

 These images are available on Dave Burgess's site.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Learning Design Professional Development

Over the past week I have had the opportunity to participate in professional development (PD) using the Backward Design model, suggested by Wiggins and McTighe, focusing on our Learner Profile. It was a great privilege to have Simon Breakspear lead the staff through this process. His expertise in considering educational reform and learning innovation was refreshing.

Simon made it clear that as educators we are; constantly working towards specific learning goals, considering all aspects of learning, planning exciting and engaging learning experiences. He reinforced the concept that innovation comes as true shifts in ideas change. We were encouraged to make small changes, but big leaps in thinking. Simon also made it clear that when we want to innovate we must make it about the quality of learning and not about the new technology.

The shifts made this year in my thinking; about education and where I, or the ‘teacher’, fits into the educational landscape was again brought to the floor as Simon set the task for the following sessions, stating that educators should consider themselves as ‘learning designers’.

So as ‘Learning Designers’ we set to work on our driving question; How do we design, implement and evaluate an educational experience that shapes the school’s Learner Profile (LP) in our students?” using the Wiggins and McTighe three stage model:

It was amazing to have time carved out of our busy schedules to sit and consider key outcomes the staff have identified for our students to have when they leave school.

In mixed discipline groups, primary and high school, we came up with ‘non-jargon’ definitions of the two outcomes we were focusing on this year. From here we decided what was acceptable evidence to prove that these outcomes were being achieved. This allowed us to created a rubric that showed a clear continuum of learning.

Seeing the definitions, reasons for their importance and the rubrics created by each of the 19 groups, through a shared Google Doc in real time, was exciting. This created a crowd sourced resource, spanning Kindergarten to Year 12, that can begin to allow us to track the progress of a student over time. It allows for authentic and purposeful assessment, providing a basis for growth, as the student can see what they are achieving and the next step to take in order to improve.

Most importantly, doing this allowed the staff, as a whole, to reflect on what the LP means and how it relates to their field of expertise.

At this point we began to apply the process in our own teams with a learning experience that we could teach this coming term. Being given the green light to go and trial our PD learning was great but challenging.

I would encourage other educators to give yourself or your team to go into the “Pit of Learning”. It will be hard, there will be debates and challenges to face but that is because you are passionate.

As we all look forward to a new term of learning, I also encourage you to consider one area that you can have a go of applying or reapplying the ‘Backwards by Design’ concept.

Have fun!

My key take away - when we want to innovate we must make it about the quality of learning and not about the new technology.

Follow Simon Breakspear - @SimonBreakspear

Monday, 6 July 2015

Real World 21st Century Job - Current Students Must be Prepared

The opportunity to see inside Linkedin, one of the most innovative and global aware companies, doesn’t come around every day. There is so much that sets this company apart from the traditional, it is hard to know where to begin. Let me start with the offices.

Linkedin has just opened their new Sydney office. It is located in Martin Place with the War Memorial just out the front and the entrance is surround with beautiful sandstone architecture; very traditional. However, traditional stops at this architecture and the amazing work ethic of those who work under the banner of the company. To find Linkedin you follow one of the trendy or eclectically dressed, early 30’s individuals to the lift, get out of the lift to see the 6ft logo made of the ever popular Havaiana thongs and walk past that into the open planned, warehouse style office space. Here you are transported to the hub that has made this company globally recognised for connecting like minded people in business of the 21st Century.

There are collaborative teams at personalised but communal work spaces. You could easily miss the ‘quiet’ spaces, which have doors and all the modern communication technology for when you have conference call or a meeting with a client. Each of these rooms is named after typically Australian iconic symbols such as ‘boardies or shark biscuit’.

As I walked in I felt like I was intruding as over to one side was a team having a collaborative discussion, at one of the many breakout or open spaces, talking strategy about the current problem or event. I leant down to my 5 year old son and asked him to make sure he was not too loud to interrupt the meeting. I am met with a smile from him and told ‘Dad, they are just talking.’
‘Yes, they are working.’ I replied.
He looks again and then smiles ‘Cool’.

I cannot help but think that this is what my son is growing up to understand work to be. The collaborative 21st Century Educational values are real here. This is really exciting.

The shift from tradition continued as there leaning against one of the columns that frame the picturesque views of Sydney, are some scooters and laying around on many desks are Nerf guns, prepped and ready for whenever they may be required.

Looking around some more you find the company-supplied and maintained kitchen, complete with an ever Aussie industrial sized and fitted BBQ and bar. There is a smaller kitchen up on the second floor. On the lower level you cannot miss the video games on two wall mounted monsters of a TV or the table tennis tables or the Daytona Racing arcade games that are off from the dining area. There is also a gym that runs classes at specific times throughout the day and then there are all the required facilities for showering as well as dedicated rooms for new mothers. It was mind blowing.

The second floor continues the idea of industrial with a loft feel. It is a mezzanine floor with many spaces that can allow for the two-story loft idea. Here there are the learning spaces, the big meeting spaces as well as informal meeting areas indicated by the sunken floor or the waist height table with a coffee machine on it.

Each of the learning hubs is a flexible space and has movable desks and chairs. The rooms are set up with cameras and highly sensitive microphones that connect the rest of the world to the room. This layout, technology and the globally conscious attitude of the company is exciting.

There is a sign post that has the cities where other Linkedin offices are located. Each city has the distances to them from this point which was also a nice touch to remind the Sydney team that they must think globally to compete locally.

Everyone clearly has their own set tasks but the freedom to complete these tasks appears limitless. This workplace feels like a home office. Close to all the comforts but adaptable and productive for work. People appeared focused but relaxed.

A job here is highly sought after and rightfully so even just for the amazing work environment. However, my interest was in the shift in understanding, on the companies part, to initiate this type of environment and culture within their work place.  Freedom to work how you see fit, places to relax, areas to focus, time to exercise and seemingly endless opportunity in this case equals productivity and creativity.

This is what I am preparing my current students for. I love my job!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Reflection #2 - Chromebook Introduction


There have been some great new initiatives that I have been a part of too. One of those is the Stage 2 chromebook program. We received the devices to be implemented into the classroom during Term 1 Week 5 of this year. Since that time the stage has utilised them in a multitude of ways.
Image from 
The devices are one to one and each student has their own personal device for class use only. At this point they are not able to be loaned out for home use. The students have taken to the new technology like a duck to water. They have no fear of failure, as a whole, and we as staff have instilled that they cannot break them by using them. Each student has a Google login and account that is maintained and monitored by the team of technical geniuses on the ground. Without the ICT support staff none of the technological programs in our school could run.

They are used daily and some days the students may have them on their desk all day. Year 4 has moved much of our ‘written’ work; narrative writing, collaborative written tasks for HSIE and Science, over to the cloud devices.

While I have my own ideas about the concept of ‘digital natives’ over the past 15 weeks I have seen a spectrum of what researchers may be talking about. As I said earlier, the student has jumped at the chance to use the technology in the classroom. There are those who desire to be led step by step through the technical use of the device, however, on the most part when we have set a task and permitted or encouraged the use of the chromebook as a collaborative or presentation tool most students have blown us away with their adaptability and creativity within their work.

I am continually excited by the power that technology has to open the door for many students to explore their love of learning. The joy they have for discovering something new to them and then the availability of information and experts through the internet. Children are naturally curious and want to understand how their world works. Their world is very different to the one that I grew up in, and I am not that old.

Of course I am not advocating for all children to spend their time on the internet instead of with their parents. As a parent, I love the chances that I get to spend with my five year old and 16 month old, seeing the world through their eyes and giving them experiences that I had. Walking on the rocks at the beach and looking at the life that is in the pools. Exploring and observing the power of the ocean, explaining what impact it has on our earth to my son. Or playing baseball and cricket in the backyard, or playing at the park.

In each of these times I have the chance to come along side my son and he asks question after question, he creates stories about how things have become they way they are. We visit other planets on the ‘rope rocket’. He just loves learning. My daughter has just learnt to walk and is now learning to talk.

I consider myself very privileged to be an important part of their journey. I highly recommend getting alongside your kids and seeing this world through their eyes, it is refreshing.

However, technology has its place in students investigations. When safe on the Internet, students can become the facilitators of their own learning. They investigate what they find fascinating and naturally learn in their optimum learning style, they are choosing it, and they find the resources that scaffold their learning.

This is where I could give a rundown of all the apps and online programs that we have used to make this successful. However, these will change, our students found what was relevant to them. We as educators guided them through the basics, gave them the Google suite as the basis and them let them go. To make them relevant for your class they need to be personalised for your students.

As a stage we have ensured that the device is not the focus of the lessons, rather they are just another resource at the students disposal. It has not taken over from the sound pedagogy that we strive for. Rather the students think little of the ‘novelty’ of the technology as it is simply part of their learning landscape.