Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

Free Technology for Teachers

I am often asked how I encounter new sites and great learning tools on the web. The first answer was always “on Twitter!” where my PLN feeds me daily new ideas and links. However lately that answer has expanded to include the blogs that I am reading.  One of the blogs that I read is called “Free Technology for Teachers” and is exactly that. Every day a new website or tool is showcased but more than that, a section is added called “Applications for Education” where recommendations are made for possible uses of the technology within education.

On this blog, I am constantly amazed by the incredible flow of new ideas and tools. I highly recommend that you subscribe to this blog, either through the RSS feed or via email, and receive a constant stream of new ideas yourself!


June 6, 2010 Posted by | Digital Education Revolution (DER), Laptops 4 Learning, PLN, Web 2.0 tools | , , , | Leave a comment

PLN in Action

I spend a lot of time talking to teachers at the beginning of their journey into the integration of technology and I promote the idea of a PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network) to each and every one of them. As part of this I recommend getting on Twitter and following educators there. On Twitter, there is a constant flow of information and you can partake in more professional development in an hour on Twitter than you could at a full day workshop, both from the accumulation of resources and practical suggestions, and from the philosophical discussions.  Beyond that though is the ability to ask a question and receive suggestions, ideas and alternative resources. To illustrate this for all the newbies out there, let me show you an example of what happened yesterday.

I posted on Twitter that I was going to be using Google Docs with my students for the first time on Monday and that the principal would be watching, did anyone have any suggestions? hints? tips? Firstly, it got Retweeted by @sandynay to reach a wider audience than just the people who follow me:

 sandynay RT @melissagiddins: Going to use Google Docs for the first time with kids on Monday, with principal watching! Any hints? tips?

Then the responses started rolling in:

After receiving these, I put out a message saying that Google Docs was blocked, so maybe I would try wallwisher and did anyone have any tips or suggestions about that? The responses continued to roll in:

I then sent a tweet back explaining that the students would be brainstorming ideas and that normally I would just have the students write all their answers on the whiteboard but then they have to copy it into their books so I was looking for a digital solution to cut down time. The responses continued:

As you can see, this is now a flood of information, suggestions and alternative resources. I then said that I had forgotten how to do a filter check to see if students had access to a website. Two instant responses:

Then I checked out Nota that Pip had suggested, and asked whether I should create a private version rather than a public version.

I felt like I had received plenty of info and suggestions and said thanks to all those who had participated in the conversation. The responses, however, just kept rolling in, long after I had gone offline, and were waiting for me when I returned:

Not bad for a Saturday morning. I had access to numerable suggestions and resources, philosophical advice, past experiences and all of it answered when I needed an answer – on Saturday when I was doing the preparation, not on Monday when maybe I could make phone calls. For the record, here are the statistics:

  • 49 responses in total
  • 5 links to other websites with lists of alternative tools
  • When Google Docs was clearly unavailable the following suggestions were made: wallwisher, Nota, Lino-It, Sticky Notes, Wikis, IWBs, Moodle wikis,, Freemind and Moodle 2 wikis.

Really, people, that is incredible. Why be on Twitter? Why have a PLN? If this doesn’t demonstrate a practical application for both, then I don’t know what will convince you!

May 16, 2010 Posted by | PLN | , | 1 Comment

Blogs – Who to Follow?

I have recently been expanding exponentially the number of blogs that I subscribe to and it is all through an interesting “pay it forward” type movement running through some blogs. They are essentially creating a blog post that lists all the blogs they recommend that you follow! This is a great source of new and interesting bloggers to check out, so as a result, I have listed a few of the posts from these bloggers where they recommend other blogs, just to get you started.

Firstly, most of the original blogs that I followed are on my blog roll here on this blog, so feel free to click away on those as a starting point.

Here are links to the blog recommendation posts that I have found thus far:


These blogs each give another five to ten blogs that they recommend you follow, and while there is a little bit of overlap, overall this will be an excellent start on your journey reading educational and inspirational blog posts from some innovative teachers out there.

Also, clicking back through the links of recommended blogs you may find many more lists and blogs, so follow the trail! And if anyone else spots a blog with this series of links I would love for you to post their link in the comments here.

May 15, 2010 Posted by | blogging, PLN, Social Networking | , , | Leave a comment

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