Do something with it! (Reflect, Share, Create)


(Where I have finished writing this post from, truly personalised)

   That is my challenge. I have no problem consuming material, I read blogs, listen to multiple podcasts, watch YouTube videos, am becoming more active on Twitter and participate in Twitter chats. Yet just consuming through hearing, reading and watching does not necessarily make you better at what you do, or make what you have taken in something of value to what you do. Listening to the two guys podcast they were talking to Vicki Davis the cool cat teacher, and their challenge was to do something with what you hear or take in.

Personalising your PD

   The week starting December 7th I was given the privilege of moderating the #asiaED twitter chat by Kieron Eaglestone, this is a slow chat of one question per day. The focus I chose was on personalising your professional learning journey. The week after the chat there was no host for the chat so I came up with the challenge of reflecting on the chat and your learning journey. This challenge was as much, if not more, for me than for everyone else.

My Learning Journey

   Having no school as a relief teacher means that I need to be responsible for all of my professional development. Everything that I do is guided by my choices not anyone else’s.  Which can also be my downfall as I am often all over the place, not enough focus on any certain path or direction. Personalising my professional learning leaves it all up to me, choices, follow through, medium, topic.

   I teach multiple subjects and areas.  I am a qualified health and physical education teacher, I have taught math and science also. I also have capabilities in or have taught on a regular basis at some stage music, material design technology (wood or metal work) primary classroom generalist and also enjoy technology.

   Having spent some time thinking on this over Christmas and the New Year maybe this randomness needs to become my focus and made into a strength for me to use to my advantage, not a weakness depriving me of growth. I can read, share, consume and create material that is somewhat random in nature, but it feeds into my strengths. It also acts as my learning and growth, not as a distraction.


   Podcasting is something that just doesn’t leave me alone. I am a frequent consumer of podcasts currently having 60 in Pocket Casts that I listen to as I can. I would like to use podcasting in the classroom as a learning tool with students. Yet this still bugs me that I should use podcasting as a personal tool to reflect and share my learning. This is likely to be my challenge for the new year. I would call my show #EdTechWannabe. I believe this sums up where I am know, and then as my personalised learning path moves forward. Although the title of #WhataRelief borrows from my current role as a relief teacher.

   Will I find an audience for this podcast? The more I think about it the less it matters, I would be doing for my professional development and again as a reflective tool to critically think about my learning journey. I hope to find people to connect with through this podcasting but do it more for me to start with and to share my learning and learning journey with others. I have enjoyed the support and encouragement offered by podcasters in Jeff Bradbury, Chris Nesi and Stacey Lindes.


   Twitter chats are a great way to share ideas and challenge your thinking. Other ideas and people’s points of view can make you think deeper about what you hold in your belief structure. Care needs to be taken in curating and following ideas and people that can challenge your way of thinking, not use it as an echo chamber just to reinforce your point of view. This has been a problem many have identified as a downside to using Twitter. I am trying to use Twitter not just for curating content, but connecting and creating.


   I have made many connections with educators all over the world. Through twitter I have followed many leaders and been followed by some people also. I have made some connections with the creators of podcasts that I listen to. Twitter is my preferred method to connect with other educators, I can follow anyone I like and have made connections with people who have encouraged and supported me in growing and learning.

My Weakness

   That sums up my weakness, to do something with it. I often fail to finish a free course that I start. I got right out of the habit of writing frequently, this I need to do on at least a monthly basis although would like to do so much more regularly.


   Podcasting definitely interest me, but there is also voxer. I have set up a voxer account and would like to use this with purpose moving forward, engage in discussions and learning opportunities through this medium. I must blog more, why, because this writing is a result of engaging with critical thinking about a topic and your personal learning. This thinking then expressing through writing or any other way of creating content is what deepens and entrenches learning.

   Please join me on and through this journey, any comments thoughts and connections are welcome. Let’s learn together.



The Problem with Problem Based Learning is the Problem

This term I have started a new position at Ulverstone High school teaching grade 9/10 Mathematics, Science and Physical Education, having picked up a full time contract. I have started out wanting have a different approach to Teaching and Learning within my classes. Yet how is the best way to go about this. The science classes are currently finishing off group inquiry units with their personal interests guiding the points of inquiry. Both math classes are starting new units with a clean slate for me to put my spin on how I would like them to learn.

Previously I have taught mathematics from an Instructional design standpoint. I am up front of the class leading all learning instruction through guided examples then working through the chapter and questions within the prescribed text book. Following the work set out by someone else in the department usually the head of learning area. Whenever I have read an article about deep learning and teaching for a deep understanding in Mathematics this approach is the one that is not recommended. Problem based learning is the way to go, using this approach to drive student centred learning in the class and better, deeper, and often more engaged learning environment for students.

The problem for me with problem based learning is to find the right problems. I would like to use the textbook less, following the #ditchbook movement of not using a textbook. Does that mean not using the textbook at all or just not solely relying on the textbook. One lesson can use online based resources, another a few questions from a textbook, problems from other educators and classes. Math is not a subject that I was originally trained in so the depth of knowledge to what makes a good question or problem and how each unit should be structured don’t come naturally to me. So my problem is finding the right problem, one with enough challenge for all, creating the flow of learning and learning experiences.

Designing questions and then the learning sequence appear to be my biggest challenges going forward. What are the best questions to use, can i cover multiple desired learning outcomes through 2 or 3 well chosen questions? How many questions in a session and how should that lesson flow to achieve the best sequence of activities and learning for students. Another thought is unit length, this is a tough balance between the restraints of the school term and timetable, whilst attempting to provide enough time in all units for that deep learning.

Being a new approach to the way I lead my classes and construct learning experiences for students is a challenge but one I have wanted to attempt when given the opportunity again to have a full time teaching position. Student centered learning is an approach that I have read about in many varied contexts and is talked about through many tweets and blog posts relating to student engagement and higher learning outcomes. My challenge is to learn through this and apply my ongoing learning as I progress through the term to develop better practices and habits. I hope through use, practice and being better switched on to where I want the learning to go, I will choose better problems and construct good learning opportunities for my classes.

Teaching better. My pedagogical to-do list


Screen shot 2015-05-25 at 10.15.17 Plenty to work on! I’ve been a teacher for 27 years and two terms and this much I know….. What do you mean that’s been done?! 27 years though! Scary number. I’m on a path to being a life-long teacher, never having had any other kind of job. Obviously it’s a bit different being a Headteacher but I’ve always been a teacher too – next year I’m taking on a GCSE Maths class. I can’t wait. There are lots of reasons to love teaching but one that has sustained me is that constant challenge to teach better. My entire experience of teaching has been that my lessons never seem to go to plan; it’s never quite right. I’m always thinking that, if perhaps I’d done something else instead, it might have been a better lesson. I used to worry about that – but now I see it as normal and…

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Trying to stay relevant as a relief teacher

How this all started

This all started when Brett Salakas posted a tweet about using a lego car creation as a starter to creative writing. I connected with Brett to get his permission to use the idea and picture from his class, also to get his comments on how I was using it. Brett then blew my mind by inviting me to write a guest blog post he would host on the AussieED site. I have tried to follow and join in the regular chats on Sunday nights and have enjoyed the learning and connections fostered through this professional learning time.

Being a relief teacher

How do you stay relevant as a relief teacher? That is the question I have been pondering the most lately, and what has driven me to blog more and create/make more. Is everyday, week, term or year that you don’t have a permanent job more and more steps away from being relevant as an educator? I wrote a blog post on March 2, 2015 titled Finding your purpose, I am ordinary but can do extraordinary things, and Own what you do it is okay to be a relief teacher, on February 18th. This was my thinking and writing in trying to comes to term with being a relief teacher, and finding peace in what I was doing. Whilst have some peace with what I do, this doesn’t diminish my desire to become a full time teacher with my own class or classes. I am seeking full time teaching jobs and believe that the process I am going through will strengthen my employment opportunities.

Relief teaching is one of the hardest teaching jobs. You walk into a class often without having any meaningful relationships with the students that are there. You have no previous teaching or learning that you have done to build upon, you don’t know where the students are at or what they are capable of. Yet you have expectations of yourself to provide meaningful learning experiences for the students, and wanting to engage them in the learning tasks. Classroom teachers and school leaders also have those expectations of relief teachers. I believe that through the design and use of this website and the lessons within that I am preparing myself to provide engaging learning experiences for the range of students that I will teach. Wix site

WHY? (My purpose)

Why? Perhaps the best question to ask, or answer, why do we do what we do, or do it that way. Why is core to everything we do as educators, if we can’t answer the why for ourselves or our students then perhaps we shouldn’t be doing it. Previously students would be answered with because you have to do it or its is part of the curriculum, yet the ability as as teacher to really answer this questions, allows for a much deeper meaning to be connected with learning for students.

I am trying to use the various website services to learn them for myself and see how they work, and what I believe they can be applied to in the classroom. To share, I want to share and show what I do, be more transparent and accountable to the learning experiences that I design. To prepare, I want to be better prepared with a range of lesson ideas for various classes, grades, and students. this is also my attempt to provide good, engaging learning opportunities for students, properly planned and prepared. Through reflection and refinement I hope to improve the lessons and my teaching skills, providing even better lessons with little tweaks and ideas added.

Learn by doing

I connected with Vipula Sharma, @VipulaSharma1, through the #asiaED chat, a slow chat of 1 question per day on twitter. The first topic I think I joined in on was #rethinkinghomework. I read Vipula’s web site and really enjoyed the way tools and ideas were shared, and decided at some stage I would find a reason to create a different website and would use Wix to do so. I have previously used google sites to create a class website I used last year teaching a grade 5-6 class one day a week. I have also used google sites as my first attempt at creating a digital portfolio, although I am leaning towards just using my blog as a portfolio instead.

I am trying to use various website hosts to develop my skills in using them. I also have a weebly site that I will be developing as a place to create materials I would use in any various subjects given the opportunity to teach full time. So far the sites used are: Google sites for classroom and portfolio, WordPress as a blog and tutoring site, WIx here for relief teaching, and Weebly next for subject specific materials. I have used wordpress to host my blog for teaching reflections link, but still learning to make and use this better and use it on a more regular basis.

Sharing with the world

If what you are doing is not worth sharing with the world, then why is it worth sharing with your students? Not sure where I heard this from but it is something that resonated with me, and has given further cause and reason to publish my teaching and keep/share it on the internet. Having a website allows for my teaching resources to be publicly available. I can share these sites as part of my portfolio of work, and students or parents can easily access the material I am using or presenting.

Sharing hopefully will also provide me with chances to connect with other educators. Have them, challenge me and help to improve lessons that I use and teach with. When listening to the 2 guys show podcast episode where they interviewed Viki Davis, the Cool Cat Teacher, the idea that it is important to do something with what you read, see or hear resonated with me. I need to create lessons from the resources I find, develop and store them then share.

Lessons I use and create

ColAR (now Quiver) is an app that creates an augmented picture of a colouring page that students can do. After getting this idea from the 2 guys show i have used it a few times and always have students wow factored by the app.

Stories and pictures

Stories and pictures

This then leads into doing a creative writing story relating to the character in their picture, lesson plan link.

Mystery Skype is another great tool to use as created and shared by Craig Kemp. I have put together a lesson plan to use when you (I) have a class booked in advance and able to prepare to use this awesome collaboration and global connection tool.


The simple lesson created that was sparked by Brett’s tweet

List of links to my sites

WordPress blog:

Wix relief teaching site:

First attempt at a Google classroom site:

Original ePortfolio:


Take a photo for descriptive writing starter

This lesson came about after I had seen a few posts about using pictures as writing starters. These were using online pics or doing photography lessons then some writing. I thought I had seen this lesson but couldn’t find a link for it so I went ahead and created it. I had forgotten to bring some colouring pictures that I often used as a creative writing starter. Necessity sparked some creativity.

Students were asked to go outside with 10 minutes to walk around and find something interesting to take a picture of. This picture would then be the object of their descriptive writing task. The task required them to describe the photo they had taken in a letter that a blind person, who had previously been able to see, was able to form a mental picture of the picture from the description. Link to lesson.

These are 2 pictures I took whilst outside with the class.

At first many students struggled to be able to paint a picture using words to fully describe what they could see. It took a few revisions and guided feedback to form sentences that described shapes and colours of the picture. How it was positioned, shaped or interesting observations that could be made. Some really struggled to put words into sentences, there were some words but not enough to paint the full picture.

I believe this lesson provided the students with a varied learning experience. Most seemed to enjoy the challenge of writing and using iPads to take the pictures, and in some cases to write the words also. The task was suitable for all students in this grade 4 class, everyone was able to participate, and some wrote more words than others. They enjoyed being able to start the activity outside, some really taking the challenge to take and find a few interesting and varied objects to photograph. I will use this again with other classes in upper primary schools.


Simon Youd

the #reliefteacher

Learner to sharer, harnessing the power of Twitter

Twitter was a place that I originally struggled to come to grips with, what purpose would it serve in my professional learning journey? I occasionally hopped on twitter and viewed a few tweets and explored some links. This happened sporadically and with no real purpose. Twitter was something that I had read others saying it was good to use, but I didn’t have a place for it yet in my personal use and learning.

Now I use twitter almost daily, reading through the feed from those I follow. I favourite interesting ideas and retweet. I need to find a better way to handle the ideas and information that I find online. Often I will open in a browser tab and add to my favourites in there, But not for everything that I find. There are so many good ideas in there, but if you don’t do anything with them then they are as useless, or possibly even less than useless, as the ones that you don’t find. It is neer about what you fond, but what you do with it.

For awhile my focus was on reading every tweet that those I followed published, not a great idea. The catch up as you increase those you follow can become debilitating. Leo Laporte mentioned this in one of his podcasts, which made me try to focus more on content  that was in a shorter time span, or more topic related rather than just everything. I once tweeted that reading Twitter felt like trying to drink from a fire hose, when done the wrong way it certainly is. Now I read a few tweets from my timeline feed, this allows me to come across ideas and topics that interest me, yet may not otherwise see if I was only view particular chats, hash tags or topics.

I even manage to find some original content that I share. I personally use Android devices and look at tools that are platform or device agnostic. Google docs for instance I can use on any device at home, or at work, without having to have or carry anything in particular. Chrome is now my browser of choice to facilitate this ease of use anywhere.

Future focus, sharer to collaborator


What I need to become better at is following hash tags, delving deeper into topic areas that interest me or will benefit my professional learning journey. I have started to make better use of hootsuite to follow hash tags in columns, although still get overwhelmed at times in some chats.

Chats are another area I need to focus more on, participating in a few ones regularly and using them to connect with ideas and people better. I have enjoyed the ones that I have been in and learned from. There  are so many relevant ideas and links to help learning and develop connections through to other people and ideas.

Twitter needs to be used better in balance with everything else that I do, not as a sole focus. My learning needs to include other avenues and sources. I am trying to follow A.J. Juliani’s advice to write everyday, nowhere near his personal goal of 1000 words a day but to write something, creation, not just consumption. Work some more on reflective posts, develop lesson plans and future curriculum resources to access, currently a relief teaching lesson plan website that has all my resources I use and plan to use in one cohesive place to access and share.

Simon Youd

The #reliefteacher

First Mystery Skype Call


Last year I worked in a small rural primary school teaching grade 5/6 on a Monday.  Tasmania is very much an isolated place and unfortunately very backward in so many ways. Being in a rural school these students were even more isolated and unaware of so much that goes on in the country and world around them. On the last day that I taught this class for the year I decided to get out of my comfort zone and introduce a global connection to the classroom.

Mystery Skype provided the perfect opportunity for me and my class to dip our toes into global collaboration and connectedness. I thoroughly enjoyed the lesson and so did the students,  the previous week I had done a lesson to prepare us for the session. Students were assigned roles after we went through some links provided for other teachers for ideas and the types of roles that were needed. This preparation was needed and allowed the day to flow much better, everyone was excited and ready to participate in the session. Not everything flowed super smoothly, but for a first effort it was brilliant, it was student lead and run, I really enjoyed the part of letting them run with it.

Student led learning that was globally connected and involved students in active learning. YES!! What an experience for these students, hopefully I provided them with an opportunity that was valuable and engaging to them. The class worked better together as the session went along. The focus became the other class and how we were going with learning their location, not what was happening in our classroom or with fellow students. After the session a student discussion took place about how things could have been done better and what we learnt from the process as well.

I thoroughly enjoyed this also, my class stepped up to their roles, typical class problems disappeared into the background and a fun engaging participatory learning space emerged. I WISH I HADS USED THIS EARLIER AND MORE OFTEN. I was reluctant to use this tool for some reason, yet it was perfect for what I was seeking to do with the class. I can only imagine the learning that could have taken place if I had used this tool weekly over a whole term. I got in my own way and prevented something good from happening. Challenge yourself to do better, DARE to try something new or different. That is my motto moving forward, to not hold back, give things a go, not be afraid of failure or disappointment, I might just miss something good along the way.

Simon Youd

The #reliefteacher

Colar mix as a creative writing starter

Stories and pictures

Stories and pictures

ColAR mix is an app that I discovered through listening to the @2guysshow podcast. One way that they suggested using it was as a starter for creative writing, an engaging tool to use as a hook into story/creative writing. Students become much more engaged and willing to creatively write a story, and after bringing their ‘picture to life’ the writing becomes so creative and varied.

I have used this a few times now in different classrooms all to a great sense of wonder and wows from the students. Last week was no different teaching a grade 5/6 class for the first time, they all thought this was cool. There were some very creative stories about their characters in the pictures. The students used their imagination and in most cases really let it run wild,  making some interesting fantasy reading for me. I managed to have a student who normally struggled with change, do the colouring in, and after completing a second picture actually write a few words. Here the learning isn’t done through AR but the students were highly engaged with the learning after completing their pictures. Generally the spelling was really well done also, with story construction being of a high standard.

I want to find explore and use further examples of augmented reality to enhance student learning and engagement. I believe that this technology has the potential in education to drastically change both engagement and learning.  QR codes are an easy place to start but I want to do so much more with this.

The @2guysshow website, 2 guys and some ipads, has a great article on various augmented reality applications, where and how to use them. What grade levels and subjects that so far they have been used for.

Simon Youd
The #reliefteacher

Finding your purpose, I am ordinary but can do extraordinary things

I have been thinking about what my purpose is as an educator, reading a few posts and articles lately. My thinking and reading started with the following tweet by Sean Gardner @2morrowknight. Your #purpose doesn’t have to be something that makes you famous. It’s something that makes your life meaningful.

I also read the article Finding Your Purpose As A Teacher by Terry Heick as a challenge to ‘focus on your focus’ if you like. How do I define what I am and what I want to be as an educator. He walks through a few steps to be able to clearly and concisely define what your purpose is.

How do you define purpose as as a relief teacher. You know what you want to teach and what you enjoy doing the.most, yet if you only apply for jobs that fit your focus then you miss out on other possibilities. As a classroom primary teacher there are more job opportunities than as as a physical education specialist.

I enjoy the challenge.and opportunities as a primary school classroom teacher, having worked part of 2014 one day a week teaching a grade 5/6 class. High school subjects and teaching have often become isolated silos with little freedom to have work,projects, or learning truly cross curricular. Primary classrooms are, at least in my humble opinion, much easier places to design learning opportunities that cross multiple areas of the curriculum.

I was out walking and listening to an Every Classroom Matters podcast, the episode with David Menashe the priority list   by Vicki Davis the @coolcatteacher . Her podcasts are great at only 10 minutes in length. This was interesting timing as I was thinking about and starting to write this post. He talks about leaving a legacy in the students that you have the privilege of working with. Make an impact in their lives, do your utmost to make learning personal and engaging to every student.

What is my purpose, to foster a love of learning through the use of technology. That is where I feel my calling and impact will be. My ultimate career path would to be a technology integrator in a school whilst also teaching physical education or  computing. I believe engagement through technology offers so many possibilities for authentic, engaging education. This makes my life meaningful, I left retail after 13 years as this added no meaning to my life, education fulfills my desire to improve the lives of others.

I read the following by Dr John C Maxwell two years ago titled Ordinary to extraordinary:

If Ordinary People …

Gave a Little Extra Effort,
Spent a Little Extra Time,
Sought a Little Extra Help …
They Would Become Extraordinary!

I am ordinary, but that is okay, because I can do extraordinary things. Why do we hold ourselves back? If we just let go and committed to the change we could do so much. This is my purpose to be better and do better. What is yours? Please feel free to share or comment.

Own What You Do, It’s okay to be a relief teacher

Own what you do. I recently read a blog post by Vanessa Hiser @VanessaHiser titled: Teachers Without Work – A Self-help Guide This post spoke to me at a time when I felt low due to poor health and not having anything other than relief work for the year ahead. Picking up the odd contract here and there, but never over multiple school years.

One quote that definitely resonated with me is “Being a talented, qualified and enthusiastic teacher with no job is an emotional, professional and financial BIG DEAL”. It does matter to me and I do feel let down by not getting a job and being able to provide for my family the way that i would like to. This is a career choice that I have made and a profession that I wish to pursue for the rest of my working life. Teaching has provided me with a sense of purpose in what I do unlike working in a supermarket, which I did for 13 years. I enjoy and look forward to the challenge of teaching, working with and being inspired by students.
I have read many posts lately about negative mindset and avoiding the downfall of thinking the worse. This is particularly hard when you don’t know where the next days work is coming from. Why you don’t get selected for jobs and interviews. You doubt yourself and your abilities. The worst is when you look at yourself and your skillset then believe that the reason you don’t get jobs is because people just don’t like you. You then doubt everything about yourself and your career choice. It is a long way to come back from there and be positive.

I have come to peace with where I am at, to OWN WHAT YOU DO. I am a relief teacher and that is okay, I provide a valuable service, if there wasn’t a need for what i do then the position would not exist. This is not something that I want to do always, but as Dr. John C. Maxwell talks about in facing adversity, I can do anything temporarily. There are benefits to what I do, I see a wide variety of kids and hopefully get to have a positive impact in their lives. I learn constantly about new situations lessons and ideas from other teachers and classes. I have seen and experienced many school cultures and classroom spaces that feed into ideas that I will take forward with me.

I am a physical education specialist, but the experiences I have gained working in many varied classroom environments has provided me with skills and experience that I would not have otherwise gained. I am prepared more for  future where I can be either a subject specialist or a primary classroom generalist. I am very excited about the possibilities and freedoms that you have a classroom teacher in a primary school. Traditional high school settings in subject silos allow for less cross curricular work than can be easily achieved in a primary setting. Technology offers so many potential benefits to learning that I now get to explore and learn about.

I get to enjoy more family time than I would if I was a full time teacher. I can pursue more personalised learning opportunities on subjects that interest me in my free time.

There were three points that I took from her writing post about what to do now whilst waiting for more work: to blog/write, learn to code, and engage with twitter. I am reengaging with blogging again, I made a few posts last year but then lost the habit and discipline to continue. This makes me think more, read more, and to personally engage with learning. Learn to code has been on my radar for awhile but will be an activity that I pursue this year. I have been on Twitter for  few years, started lurking a bit last year but now I am starting to actively engage with people and content on Twitter. Twitter offers many learning opportunities that i am trying to pursue, following my interests and areas I believe I need to improve in.

Own what you do, be what you are. I am a relief teacher and that is okay. I will use this to to advance my personal learning and to improve my skill set. This is my first blog posts for the year 2015, but it will not be my last. I have enjoyed the  journey with the many educators I have connected with on twitter. Please continue to inspire and share.

Simon Youd
The #reliefteacher