NGSS with Paul Anderson

Last weekend I was fortunate to attend a 2-day NGSS workshop with Paul Anderson at International School Manila. The weekend was packed with rich sessions that covered the fundamentals of the NGSS and Three-Dimensional Instruction (Science & Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas and Crosscutting Concepts).

The Three Dimensions of Science Learning:

The workshop kicked off with Paul’s famous Wonder Tube activity in which he modelled how to apply scientific phenomena and questioning techniques to engage students in constructing an inquiry. The first stage of the activity is a rapid brainstorm of as many different student questions about the Wonder Tube as possible – without the teacher providing any answers – that seeks to involve all students and flesh out the most useful or important questions from which to drive further inquiry.  Students’ questions can be recorded in the form of a “wonder wall” for later reference. Once students have narrowed their list of questions to a shortlist (group or individual), they should begin to visualise their growing understanding of the phenomenon in the form of labeled sketches (models). By making their thinking visible, students can unpack their knowledge and capture it to guide the teachers next steps. All of this resonates with me as an educator and designer because it’s a very close fit with the design process.

We then repeated this sequence, working in table groups to explore the phenomenon of the drinking bird – this time working in the shoes of the student by designing our own experiments. My group was keen to look at the relationship between the bird’s dipping and ambient temperature, so we gathered data on the different patterns of the bird dipping in different temperatures around the school and presented our findings as a large poster.

It was at this time that Paul revealed to us that our initial brainstorm of questions was largely focused on the structure and function of the dipping bird. He had kept a tally of the group’s questions relative to the various crosscutting concepts as an illustration of how the CCCs can be used to explicitly guide student questioning – essentially how to think and question like a scientist. This practical application of the CCCs was definitely a breakthrough moment for me!

Later on the first day we formed Grade level groups and identified NGSS standards from which to build a unit of inquiry. I worked with the ISM Grade 3 team to create a draft of an anchor chart to guide students through a unit on biological systems.

The focus of day two of the workshop was unit design. Paul directed us to his excellent (as yet unfinished) website The Wonder of Science, the goal of which is to clearly illustrate Three Dimensional Instruction and the NGSS standards. Additionally, the site captures examples from the many teacher workshops Paul leads all over the world. It’s worth noting that Paul openly acknowledges aspects of NGSS and his understanding/direction that has changed and improved over time – a refreshingly transparent approach.

Working with the ISM Grade 2 team, we applied the 3D Planning Protocol to the development of the Matter & Materials unit. The protocol is a framework that allows teams oversight of the ways in which practices, crosscutting concepts and ideas can effectively address the standards. The protocol works a bit like this:

  1. Teams brainstorm as many different phenomena as possible that could link to the standards, then review them based on criteria: does the phenomenon address the standard; could it be done effectively, and; does it have “wow” factor? This should leave several phenomena from which to build learning engagements.
  2. The team then creates numerous performance expectations that apply a broad range of different practices, crosscutting concepts and ideas that address the standards, linking to the different phenomena. Performance expectations could occur in part of a lesson or an entire lesson. From here, teachers can plan out the specific stimuli, prompts etc required for students to complete each performance expectation.
  3. Now, the teams use storyboarding to map out the pacing of the different performance expectations throughout the unit.
  4. The unit is hopefully now ready to be piloted – with an expectation of further refinement and improvement over time.

I was pleased with how our Matter & Materials unit came together, we decided to begin with the phenomenon of slime, working over the course of a few weeks towards a STEAM “desert island” boatbuilding challenge where students analysed various materials for their suitability in overcoming the design problem.

After an immensely productive workshop I now feel better equipped to work with teams in the ES to develop and co-teach various Science and Social Studies units using the Three Dimensional Instruction framework. There is still a huge amount for me to learn but I definitely feel like I’m on the right path. Thanks to Paul for his expertise and resources and the Office of Learning for getting me there!


A word from Paul:

ES Design Lab

We are getting some strong interest in the new ES Design Lab and it’s been great to be able to work with some different Grade 4 classes over the last couple of weeks. Julie has prepared a fun “toy rescue” design challenge where students need to design and develop a device that will pick up a small toy from the ground. After having 4MW and 4RB working in the lab we have uncovered a few improvements so the activity is undergoing its own design process : )

I’ve had a go at making some “aesthetic changes” to the ISB Design Process graphic to introduce a bit more contrast and make it a little more bold. The colours are the same but more intense. This will allow us to create further resources that link each colour and stage to the sorts of learner activities and characteristics that we want to be promoting. We have also been working on some other simple branding that can help build an identity and profile for ISB Design.

In the space we have had wonderful excitement and output from students, they have embraced our design philosophy and are keen to engage with everything we provide them with. Working across a sequence of 3 or so lessons allows us to value add to the “making” activities with lessons on peer feedback and reflection. I am also looking at how to incorporate lessons on design sketching & annotation. Every lesson I am learning a little more about how to grow the program and embed design thinking and process meaningfully into the ES curriculum.

Continued thanks to Geoff, Shane, Clint and of course Julie, all of whom offer a wealth of ideas on how to use the Design Lab that we share to the faculty at every opportunity.



Over the last couple of weeks in the Office of Learning we have been working on our individual and shared goals. My two main individual goals for 2017 are:

  1. To develop and maintain an open, transparent and responsive professional learning blog in order to foster a culture of visible & transparent professional learning and goal-setting through blogging.
  2. To develop a suite of resources to enhance the faculty’s use of various Ed Tech such as Seesaw, WordPress and Office 365 so as to improve systems and enhance teacher technological and pedagogical capacity.

Over the next week or so I’ll refine these goals then set about creating some measurable steps towards achieving them.

2016 E21LE Symposium: “What’s Working?


On Friday I was able to attend the 2016 Evaluating 21st Century Learning Environments symposium, “What’s Working?”. The full day forum allowed various educators, architects and academics the opportunity to present and discuss their study of innovative learning spaces.


The day sought to answer the question: ‘What is working in learning environment design and occupation, and how does this success inform future best practices?’

Around 15 current and recently completed research higher degree students presented a range of evaluation tools and shared their findings of how the new generation of learning environments can enhance teaching and learning.


There was a strong contingent of architects including representatives from Hayball (designers of the Learning Project) with some excellent discussions around the role and benefits of prototyping of new generation learning environments as is the case at CGS. This is pertinent as in Term 3, E21LE will be working with Hayball and CGS to evaluate the Learning Project space.

I also got to have a good look at the new School of Design at the University of Melbourne, it’s an impressive building especially the fabrication lab (FabLab).


Dr. Ruben Puentedura

On Tuesday 24th May, Laura Brown and I attended an Apple ADE event hosting Dr. Ruben Puentedura. Dr. Puentedura designed the seminal SAMR model, a system for effective integration of technology to enhance learning. SAMR defines the levels of technology integration as Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition. The SAMR model was only a part of this presentation and the focus was more so on the TPACK model (Technical, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) and how the two are aligned.


Expert teachers are those who can bring together knowledge of subject matter, what is good for learning, and technology (ICT). The combination is described as Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK). It is more than simply adding ICT to traditional approaches. It depends upon deep knowledge of how ICT can be used to access and process subject matter (TCK) and understanding how ICT can support and enhance learning (TPK) in combination with PCK. Dr. Puentedura’s presentation provided examples of a learning task at each rung on the SAMR ladder and discussed the relationship between this and the TPACK model. The following slides demonstrate these relationships.


Following the presentation, we had the opportunity to work in small groups to develop of own SAMR ladder for Dr. Puentedura to critique. The various SAMR ladders can be viewed here. See the Circulatory System for our ladder. Dr. Puentedura provided a table listing the practices associated with the fundamental domains of human activity; social, mobility, visualisation, story telling, and gaming. We were encouraged to consider these practices in the development of our SAMR ladder. The ideal is to incorporate between 2 and 4 of these practices into any one learning task.

EdTech Quintet

One of the most interesting elements of the presentation was an analysis of multiple credible studies looking the use of technology by students and the associated impact on learning when referenced against the SAMR model. It was fascinating to see the magnitude of the effect, in favour of learning, when tasks assigned to students involved modification and redefinition. Even when tasks are at the augmentation level, there is no negative impact on student learning. Only when the task is at the substitution level is there an opportunity for that task to have an overall negative effect on student learning. Essentially, this is suggesting that when we are concerned about the use of technology and the associated distractions, we need to ask ourselves – where does this task sit on the SAMR ladder? It is a known fact that when students are engaged, they learn better and develop a deeper and more meaningful understanding. If we consider the SAMR model, I would imagine we would also see a direct correlation between engagement and the associated position on the SAMR ladder the particular task holds. Substitution, less engaged, more distracted. Modification and redefinition, more engaged, less distracted.

“Tables for teaching and learning: a systematic review and meta-analysis” Commonwealth of Learning (2015)

At the conclusion of the presentation we had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Puentedura about our recent roll out of Staff Professional Learning Blogs and the use of the Student Digital Learning Portfolios at Caulfield Grammar School. This was pertinent as several times during the workshop Ruben had mentioned the effectiveness of blogs as learning portfolios to move tasks to reach modification and redefinition on the SAMR ladder. It also supports the associated practices of learning through Social, Mobility and Storytelling. So if you’re not currently using DigiMe in your classes, give it a go!

Ines Ting: Premier’s VCE Award

On April 26 I was thrilled to witness a number of CGS students receive Premier’s VCE Awards, including one of my 2015 Year 12 students, Ines Ting, for Visual Communication Design.

IMG_4886 IMG_2791

I was fortunate to teach Ines in Years 9 and 12 Visual Communication Design and it was apparent from a very early stage that her strong work ethic, creative talent and family support would lead to great success in school and beyond. Following an exceptional effort in 2015, Ines received a perfect score of 50 for Unit 3/4 Visual Communication Design as well as a place on the CGS scholars’ list. For Ines to receive the Premier’s Award was a wonderful acknowledgement of her effort, skill and talent in design. Ines is now studying science at the University of Melbourne and recently began commercialising her VCD SAT project “Xenix Design”, a fashion label.

Generating ideas for a clothing brand, Ines Ting, 2015
Generating ideas for a clothing brand, Ines Ting, 2015
Generating ideas for clothing graphics, Ines Ting, 2015
Generating ideas for clothing graphics, Ines Ting, 2015








Final fashion designs, Ines Ting, 2015
Final fashion designs, Ines Ting, 2015
Observational drawings by Ines Ting, who received a study score 50 for Unit 3/4 VCD in 2015
Observational drawings by Ines Ting, 2015


Sulfate etching & printmaking workshop

In the Visual Arts learning area we have a strong commitment to strengthening our art making practice through a rich ongoing internal PD program. During Terms 1 and 2 we were involved in a series of workshops to learn about creating and working with etching plates for printmaking.


In the first session, our presenter, printmaker Antonietta Covino-Beehre took us through the technique of using saline sulfate to etch onto zinc, aluminium or steel plates. The plates are then inked up and put through the press to create the printed image.

We began by looking at the different types of metal plates available to etch onto. There are a range of different plates available and it is important to understand how each metal (aluminium, steel or copper) needs to be prepared and how it will react to the etching and printing process.



Once the plate has been selected and prepared, it is time to etch onto it. When etching, it is important to first understand how the etch will transfer as a print. For example, the printed image will be the reverse of what is etched – this is especially important if there is any text on the print as it should be etched in reverse.



I selected an image of Kyoto Palace to etch onto my plate from a recent trip to Japan:


Once the etch is complete, the plate can be placed in a bath of saline sulfate which corrodes the etched surface to expand the worked lines. The advantage of this is that with the increased surface area, more ink will be held in the plate and bolder lines will be transferred onto the final print.

Following a couple of baths in the sulphate and a good clean and dry, the plate is then covered in ink and put through the press.




I was really pleased with the result. Keep an eye out for some Visual Art teachers’ prints in the upcoming staff art exhibition later in Term 2.


Collegial Coaching Lesson 2

Today was Leigh’s second observation of my Unit 1/2 VCD class. I am still seeking feedback regarding student engagement and productivity as per previous post. Today was a good indication of students’ progress in this area as I spent most of the lesson working with students one-to-one. This meant that students were expected to continue with their work without close monitoring by me.

Prior to the lesson I wrote some notes on the board and reminded students what their support options were and where resources could be accessed. During the lesson I was pleased with the group’s efforts, although there were some concerns over the progress of two students who had become quietly engrossed in one another over the last couple of lessons. Unfortunately it wasn’t until the bulk of the lesson was over that I realised they had achieved very little with their time and the result following a conversation with them was that they were moved! Leigh and I spoke after the lesson and it was really useful for me to be able to debrief the context of the situation and discuss options for the future.

While I am happy with the class’s progress since my first observation with Leigh, I am conscious that we need to improve in terms of output as we move into the next phase of the assessment (digital development) which will be more technically demanding.

Thanks to Leigh for her excellent feedback so far!



Collegial Coaching Observation 1

Today Leigh observed my Unit 1/2 VCD class. The students are in the early stages of an extended design process to generate and develop concepts for a reusable water bottle. Today’s lesson is about using 3D drawing methods to communicate a variety of different concepts.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 2.40.48 PM

For this lesson, I asked Leigh to offer me feedback on the following:

  1. Productive use of class time. To what degree are all students engaged throughout the lesson? In the early stages of any design process I encourage students to direct their energy towards generating as many divergent ideas as possible, using a range of different techniques. The emphasis should be on quantity of ideas above quality – we can test ideas for quality later in the process, but without a broad range of ideas students are rarely able to develop successful concepts later in the process. I encourage and expect students to maximise class time and develop the ability to focus in on a design task and rapidly generate ideas. I don’t insist on silence during this sort of task because I feel this can be stifling to the creative process – but the ability to maintain productive output whilst engaging in private conversations is a finely honed skill!
  2. Feedback opportunities. A typical VCD lesson involves me first speaking with the class to establish goals and expectations for the lesson, possibly followed by a technical demonstration, then a period of time where students work on a creative task while I circulate the room acting as a sort of art director – “this is working well…” “I like how you have done this…” “have you thought about this…” “you need to keep practicing this…” etc. As we are still early in the year, students are still self-conscious of their ability and it takes a bit more effort on my part to get them to openly share their sketches and ideas. One of my jobs over the next few weeks is to encourage them to embrace the design process in a transparent way by openly sharing ideas with peers for effective feedback.
  3. Ownership of learning/self direction. I share a lot of resources with my students, including iBooks, Schoology materials and many other documents. I spend time every lesson reinforcing with students which materials they should be accessing and  where to find them. This is expected at the beginning of the year, but as we progress through Unit 1 I hope to see my students accessing these resources on their own accord. If not, then why not?

Following this lesson, Leigh suggested she observes the same lesson in 2 weeks’ time – an excellent idea – and hopefully we can track the progress of the points listed above.

Many thanks Leigh for your time today!


PLC Collegial Coach and observations

In 2016 I have the pleasure of working as Collegial Coach with Leigh Abercromby. While my SMART goals do not directly align with my classroom practice, I am keen to employ our observations to gain feedback on a number of aspects of my teaching:

  • student engagement
  • feedback opportunities
  • ownership of learning/self direction
  • collaboration

I’m looking forward to working with you again, Leigh!