Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

As part of the Staff Development Day today, kicking off Term 3, I presented a session on Web 2.0 and what that means for education.  The session started by exploring what Web 2.0 is and, in conjunction, what Education 2.0 might be as a theory. After some philosophical discussions about 21st century learners and what that means for us as teachers, we launched into some practical aspects talking about blogs, wikis, edmodo, nings, google docs and delicious. We finished with the idea that a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is no longer just important – it is now becoming imperative.

A PLN is a network of people that you can learn from, share with and together do all those great ‘c’ words: create, collaborate, communicate, contribute. It can be a bit daunting to know where to start to create a PLN for yourself, so I thought I would do a quick post on getting started with a PLN for you.

1. Twitter – much as some people shudder at the very idea of Twitter, it has provided me with valuable resources, web links and information that has led to more personal professional development in six months than I had ever imagined possible. If you want to get started with twitter, go to and then sign up and create an account. Once you have an account do a search for me: melissagiddins and follow me! Darcy Moore has a great page on his blog recommending Australian educators to follow on Twitter: and the comments to that post also have further suggestions.

2. Read blogs, and post comments in response. There are a large number of Australian and international educators out there with blogs that can radically increase the amount of information at your fingertips. Two to start you off: Darcy Moore: and Kelli McGraw:

3. Join, or start, a ning. A ning is a social networking site that allows you to form a community. The site offers you the ability to have discussion forums, blogs, upload photos, videos, create profiles and invite others to join the community. Go to to get started.  I have created a ning for English teachers across NSW to discuss the utilisation of laptops in classrooms: and you are more than welcome to join the discussion – email me (use the DET address, just search for Melissa Giddins) to request an invitation – it is an ‘invitation only’ site, so you will need an invitation to join us.

4. Join a listserv. A listserv, put simply, is an automatic mailing list server, that broadcasts a message out to all email addresses on the list at once. I am currently part of the Hunter Region listserv, though I am not in the Hunter Region, and am enjoying the professional dialogue amongst the teachers. If you would like to join us, go to: The list is run by Roger Pryor, the School Education Director for the Hunter Region.

5. Email – ask and share! Communication via email and sms allows people to read and respond at their leisure. Searching the DET emails to get in contact with others is also acceptable. Skype, MSN, Facebook, Video conferencing… the list is large and its easy to begin.

The important  message here is not what medium you use, but that you begin the process of creating your own network of people that will inspire you, motivate you and provide you with valuable resources and learning.


July 27, 2009 Posted by | blogging, delicious, Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning, PLN, Social Networking | , , , | 5 Comments

DERNSW – Resources now available!

After an intense term of work, the resources we have been creating as part of the DER NSW project are now online at the Curriculum Support website and available for all to use. There are great resources there for all KLAs and I encourage everyone to go and check them out:

Even if you only use them as a starting point, or a stimulus for other ideas, you will find the resources useful. These resources specifically address teaching and learning with laptops in the classroom and I am sure that the Curriculum Support folks will continue to build the resources located there as time goes on.

On a personal note: Prue Greene, Stephen Plummer and Michael Murray did a fantastic job editing and polishing our draft efforts into the gorgeous lesson ideas that you see on the website. I wanted to thank them and acknowledge them publicly: job extremely well done!

July 27, 2009 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning | , , | Leave a comment

DERNSW – Progress Update on the Project

We are almost at the end of the project now that has had us designing learning activities and resources for our various KLAs.  Needless to say, I have been designing activities for English. A previous post detailed the first seven lesson activities that I created: and now this post will detail the latest activities I have created (and they will possibly be the last for this project).

1. Reflective Journals:  Students use Word to reflect on their learning, in a series of reflective journal entries. The journal entries are made in relation to stimulus provided by the teacher, such as a question for the day, a thinking tool such as a PMI, or a standard response about what the student has learned that day. In order to keep the journal entries thoughtful, critical, detailed and thorough, students should be encouraged to share their journal entries with the class on a regular basis. This can be done through a blog or using a program like OneNote. Alternatives to written reflective journals include recorded audio files and video diaries.

2. Reading Perspectives: Students respond to a set text from varying reading perspectives, including their own, and explore the impact of context, dominant and resistant readings, and varying the perspective through which they view the text. Students use OneNote to hold all the information pertaining to their exploration of the text from various perspectives.

3. Video Glossary: Students use their webcam to record definitions of words including examples and elaborations. Students can use words from a glossary of English terms to be learned, such as poetry techniques, HSC glossary, etc. Videos can then be uploaded to a website such as Wordia for students to use for study purposes or placed into a OneNote notebook for further individual reference.

4. Visual Literacy: Students choose an image, either online or from the clipart gallery, that appeals to them for whatever reason. Students then analyse the image and explore why it was appealing to them personally, recording their analysis in writing or audio commentary, using OneNote.

5. Visual Adaptation: Students choose an image either from the internet, a clip art gallery or a range of images chosen by the teacher. Students analyse the image, using the terminology of visual literacy, and explore their own personal response to the image. Students then manipulate the image using Adobe Photoshop and then re-analyse the image and discuss what effect their manipulation had on their response to the image. Students can collate all their images and analyses in OneNote.

6. Visual Stimulus: Students choose an image, either online or from the clipart gallery, that appeals to them for whatever reason. Alternatively, the teacher provides a single image, or range of images, for the class. The image is then used as stimulus for a piece of creative writing which is completed using Word or OneNote, or presented using PowerPoint or in movie form using Adobe Premier.

Now it will be immediately apparent that I am not reinventing the wheel, merely translating what a lot of us already do into a more digital environment.  I have tried to make all the activities in this lot be “offline” activities as it will be quite some time before all our classrooms have their wireless access points, from my understanding of the technical difficulties involved in schools not having spare fibre optic pairs (or some such thing).

All learning activities with full details including syllabus outcomes, sequential lesson steps, resources and extension ideas will be published on the Curriculum Support website in Term 3.

July 3, 2009 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning | , | 1 Comment

DER – Sharing the load

After having a few conversations with various people, including Kelli McGraw, the need for one central place for English teachers to share ideas became fairly apparent. I also feel that the need is immediate. Therefore, I have taken the step of setting up a Ning for English teachers to share their ideas, successes and resources for teaching with laptops in an English classroom.  Access to the Ning requires an invitation: please send an email to my DET email address (search my name (Melissa Giddins) on DET email and you will find it) and let me know what school you are from (just for statistical purposes) and I will send you out an invite within 24 hours.

I think it is really important that we do not ‘reinvent the wheel’ in every school, but that we share ideas and benefit from the knowledge that is already out there, and the new knowledge that we will be creating in our classrooms everyday. You may never have joined a social network before, you may not even have a clue what I am talking about – I encourage you to be brave, send me an email and join the network. We will learn, share and laugh together as we embark on this new adventure.

What is a Ning? is a social networking site where you sign up and create a social network.  Here is a video from YouTube, the first 1.5 minutes explains what Ning is all about, then the rest is a quick tutorial. Watch the first minute if you are short on time, to understand the concept.

July 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment