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Noelene Callaghan

My Blog

My Blog

What it is like to be an Educator on a Global Stage

Posted on 6 May, 2015 at 3:05

1,000 Microsoft Innovative Expert Educators Globally

300 selected to attend Microsoft's Education Exchange

87 countries represented at Microsoft's HQ

I am still coming to grips with being 1 of the 1,000 MIE's selected to attend the 2015 Education Exchange held by Microsoft in Seattle, WA, USA. Being a part of this truly prestigious group of educators gave me the responsibility to share the amazing works of all Australian educators as well as learn and explore the pedagogies taught at those schools globally.

'Bravery, Courage and Leadership'. This was the theme of the conference. The purpose of the theme is to not only remind us of our educational journey thus far, it is to remind us that we must continue to be on this journey and to extend ourselves in the same way that we would extend our students.


Yes, this conference was as grand as Microsoft's very own reputation. We were constantly engaged with an amazing introductory performance by the Drum Café as well as by listening to keynote speakers such as Anthony Sacito (Microsoft VP of Worldwide Education), Mr Ziauddin Yousafzai (Peace Prize Winner; Malala's father), and even gave us the opportunity to have an open chat with Mr Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft). These presentations were inspirational and heartfelt, and they certainly set the official tone of the Exchange.

A global Teachmeet was the first formal opportunity that we had to communicate and share our teaching experiences. Learning activities and more were presented and discussed. After speaking to many educators regarding their learning activities that were based on multimedia, OneNote, programming and more, it was clearly apparent that all of the teachers who were here, were deserving of this opportunity to attend the Exchange. The passion that every single teacher demonstrated when presenting their work was in itself inspiring. Learning activities that I was fortunate to learn about include:

Brazil - The fundamentals of using Minecraft and how it can be applied to any subject
Thailand - Collaboration through Sway and Powerpoint to create infographics in Food Technology
Egypt - Using Office Mix to explore how teachers can help mentally handicapped children become better learners with technology and other tools
USA - How to use Powerpoint to complete tasks in Genius Hour
Kazakhstan - Creating learning activities to develop critical thinking skills in developing the nations energy matters

I, myself presented on how to create Personalised Learning Activities by creating matrices that encompassed Blooms Taxonomy and Gardner's Multiple Intelligences. This electronic tool enables teachers to create Project Based Learning activities for their students to complete in a self paced learning environment. The learning matrix presents numerous types of tasks (which students select based on points/value and are required to complete 100 points of work) that students can complete to achieve overall learning outcomes. This is an ideal way to support students of all learning abilities and gives the teacher the flexibility to purely facilitate and assist students one-on-one within the classroom. My presentation can be accessed via:

Throughout the Exchange, workshops by teachers were delivered on how they use Office and other technology tools in their classrooms. Every session delivered pragmatic solutions and resources that could be used in EVERY classroom regardless of language or culture. I was fortunate to learn about Skype Classroom and was quite impressed by the simplicity and usability of this tool. More so, the function of participating in a Mystery Skype was certainly of interest as it provides students from around the globe to meet and greet each other and learn about one another in a safe virtual world. This is certainly something I would like to try at least once in my classroom.

I was very fortunate to be invited to participate on a Panel (for 2 sessions) that would discuss how we use Minecraft in the classroom and how teachers could proceed with implementing it in their own schools. The Panel include myself and 3 other educators from Canada, Ireland and Brazil. I was very quick to discover that all of the concerns and questions that I possessed when setting up Minecraft in my own school was the same of all of these teachers from all parts of the world. Understanding that each school operates differently, I was able to provide them with my experiences and reassured them that embedding Minecraft and gamification into teaching and learning is possible to implement and effective in enhancing 21 Century Learning Dimensions. What I found most interesting, is that I was amongst the first to use Minecraft in curriculum based discovered that although many My experiences on using Minecraft in the classroom can be found at


The Kent Tech Expo is one of the leading expos in USA around education. This Expo showcases the work created by students (by students). I have never attended such an experience before. There were well over 100 schools represented showcasing how they use different tools and softwares in their classrooms to develop their own learning and to enhance the learning of others. The one thing that struck me was the enthusiasm of those students presenting. These students were not the average students that I have in my classroom. They were a complete range of students, from those who were well spoken and extremely intelligent, to those shy and passive personalities who clearly know their work and but speak within the classroom. These students amazed me as they explained what they did in their softly spoken and innocent voices and made me realise that the theme of our conference had trickled down into these Technology Expo space.


What is clearly apparent, is that Australia is one of the most innovative and advanced in the educational sector and we should be proud to share our work with our partners working in parts of the world. Yes, we have limitations that prevent us from doing our absolute best, but we all work in schools that have the students best interests at heart. We strive to continuously be innovative and model exemplary learning habits that our students begin to mirror. We are open to taking risks and will try anything at least once. Furthermore, this Exchange has given me a new voice to encourage more and more teachers to take risks as well as nominate them to showcase their work to the world.

To see the different perspectives from teachers on the Educator Exchange, please go to twitter and follow the hashtag #MSFTEduE2

How to create Personalised Learning Activities

Posted on 6 April, 2015 at 7:20

Personalised learning starts with the learner and asks the question, “What does this student need to understand, and how best can that happen?” Such an approach is becoming more and more significant in the classroom as 21st Century Learning skills are being embedded into curriculums and into classroom learning. This student-centered approach builds around the notion of recognising the vast differences in students. It is an authentic need to know.


So how do I create a personalised learning activity?


Step 1 - Determine the Learning Outcome

This step is no different to organising any other lesson. First thing required is to determine your learning outcome and learning intention.


Step 2 - Ascertain the final product

Next, the teacher needs to determine what the student is to submit. For example, if the task requires a literacy outcome, part of the teaching and learning activity will require a reading or writing component.


Step 3 - Which teaching model is most appropriate for my students?

There are a number of teaching models that you can use in your classroom. What is more beneficial, is that these all support various pedagogical approaches. The most common personalised learning activities are

• 5 W’s

• Blooms Taxonomy

• Blooms and Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Grid

• Learning Across Capabilities

5W's questions students on Why, What, When, Where and How? This is a great task when students are to curate information or a project based on parameters that they may select themselves.

Blooms Taxonomy personalised learning activities allows students to complete tasks at particular learning stages. This provides Gifted and Talented students the ability to extend themselves whilst supporting students whom are receiving additional assistance in the classroom. Activities range from lower order thinking to higher order thinking.

Blooms and Gardners Multiple Intelligences Grid is a matrix that combines Blooms Taxonomy with Gardners Multiple Intelligences. Students can select activities based on their preference of learning and their ability levels to demonstrate critical thinking and deep understanding.

Learning Across Capabilities personalised learning activities break down the ACARA National Curriculum capabilities to provide students with more structured and outcome based learning tasks. This new style of teaching and learning is being integrated into schools across Australia.


Step 4 - Work out which digital resources can be used to create the work

We all have a list of technologies that we enjoy using and a list of tools that we would like to try. This is a perfect opportunity for teachers to introduce new learning tools. To find out about new tools that teachers are using, using social media sites such as twitter and LinkedIn are a great way to determine which tools are more successful at engaging students.


Step 5 - Create the learning Activity

The templates and completed examples for each of these personalised learning opportunities can be found online (Check with Chelsea if this is ok). Create the task with all of your students abilities in mind. Don't forget to include to include tasks that students can complete regardless of learning ability or personal knowledge. If students have an individualised learning plan, it should be referred to throughout this process.


Personalised Learning @ ICTENSW 2015

Posted on 15 March, 2015 at 4:35

Please find here a link to the presentation on Personalised Learning that I delivered this weekend at the 2015 ICTENSW Annual Conference -

All relating tweets can be found on twitter with the Hashtag #ICTENSW (

Planning for future minecraft learning

Posted on 15 March, 2015 at 4:35

I have spent the last 2 days attending the ICTENSW 2015 Annual Conference and in addition to learning new and innovative concepts that I will certainly use within my own classroom and (if possible) school, I also learned a great deal about Minecraft. Moreover, I met some incredible people who already use Minecraft to support existing curriculum.


These individuals have provided me with great insight as to how to plan and implement new teaching pedagogies using Minecraft and how to create a new server within my school (whilst still participating in Mineclass) to engage more students at RHHS. I have learned how to encourage students to use Python and Scratch to use code to create and computate data in the space of Minecraft.


Whats next?

1. First step though is to keep our Mineclass team going and to blog our activities as much as possible.


2. Plan and program the purpose and learning activities of having Minecraft within the school as a teaching and learning resource


3. Set up an internal server and test it


4. Work out the rest of the plan

Why you need a Professional Learning Network

Posted on 5 November, 2014 at 1:25

I have blogged about this in the past and it appears that having a PLN is again a top priority. If you don't have one, here is a great overview of how to start one

By Dr Carol Skyring.

If I were to ask you to draw a diagram illustrating where and from whom you learn, it would probably be quite complex. It might include conferences, workshops, books, social media and blogs. It would most certainly include a range of people: colleagues, peers, practitioners and experts. It would also look quite different from anyone else’s diagram because this is your personal learning network or ‘PLN’.

What is a PLN?

PLN is an acronym for Personal Learning Network. A personal learning network is “a group of people who can guide your learning, point you to learning opportunities, answer your questions, and give you the benefit of their own knowledge and experience” (Tobin, 1998). While the acronym PLN is relatively new, the idea is not. Teachers have always had learning networks – people they learn from and share with. What has changed is that technology now allows us to connect to others in different ways and to extend our networks beyond our local area.

Why have a PLN?

There are various reasons such as budget, time and staffing issues that make attending professional development sessions difficult. Creating your own PLN has become an alternate way to cater for your professional development needs. The advantage of a PLN is that it is tailored to your needs and is available when you need it. I have recently completed research into why teachers value PLNs. Some of the advantages are listed below:

  • Stay current: Your PLN will give you access to the most current information and thinking from both practitioners and researchers.
  • Continuously learn: Your PLN constantly provides you with great resources and ideas.
  • Find answers/help/resources/advice when you need it: Your PLN is available 24/7 – there is always someone in your network online.
  • Access timely information: Ask a question and have it answered immediately by someone in your PLN.
  • Make diverse and global connections: Being able to connect with educators around the world allows you to access learning beyond your immediate surrounds. These connections are particularly important if you are geographically remote as they allow you to be part of a larger community.
  • Access valuable resources, advice and support: People in your PLN will constantly share resources and are always available to provide advice and support.
  • Access key learnings from conferences, workshops or seminars without having to attend: Most events now have a Twitter hashtag or live bloggers who are constantly sharing information from key presenters.
  • Engage in conversations and discussions: Many conversations and discussions will be sparked in your PLN.
  • Access experts: You no longer have to wait for an expert to write a book or an article, they are constantly sharing their thoughts with their PLN. They are also available to answer your specific questions.

PLNs allow you to:

  • stay current
  • continuously learn
  • find answers/help/resources/advice when you need it
  • access timely information
  • make diverse and global connections
  • access valuable resources, advice and support
  • access key learnings from conferences, workshops or seminars without having to attend
  • engage in conversations and discussions
  • access experts

PLN tools

Social media enables us to connect with more people in more places than ever before. Savvy educators have realised that social media is not just unremitting triviality where people share what they are eating and with whom they are eating it! Social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook enable you to build a PLN that contains peers and experts from around the world.

Getting started
Firstly, decide which tools will be most useful in your PLN. Ask other educators which social media platforms they find useful. Run a search on some experts you admire to discover which platform they use – their social media accounts usually appear towards the top of a Google search.

Once you have decided which tools to use, the process is basically the same:

  • Join and fill out your profile – nobody will connect with a nobody!
  • Use key words in your profile that describe your professional interests – educators are more likely to connect with you if they can see that you are an educator.
  • Add a good photo of yourself – people are more likely to connect with you than they are with a photo of your cat!
  • Make a few posts – your first post could be that you are new and then share a couple of resources.
  • Lurk for a while – this is okay until you understand the way things work.
  • Follow a few people in your field and see who they follow – they probably follow people that would be of interest to you, so this is a quick way to find people to add to your network.
  • Join some groups – add comments and/or ask questions of the group. (With Twitter this would involve joining hashtag discussions, e.g. #edchat or #edtech)

Slowly build up your network over time. The aim is to have valuable people in your PLN – it is not about numbers. Think quality not quantity. Building a PLN requires that you not only seek to learn from others, but also that you help others in the network to learn. Be generous:

  • Share resources – e.g. websites, articles, and blog posts that provide good information.
  • Comment on other people’s posts – this helps to engage with others.
  • Ask questions – people love to answer questions.
  • On-share resources and ideas from others – this acknowledges the value of others in your PLN.

Some dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t just ‘consume’ – contribute.
  • Do acknowledge others.
  • Do share freely.
  • Don’t share links you have not checked yourself.
  • Don’t spam people.
  • Do learn the language.

Managing information from your PLN

One problem you may encounter is that you receive a vast amount of information from your PLN. It is essential to have tools and methods for managing this information. Below are a few suggestions that are all free to use but have paid options if you want more features.

Social bookmarking sites such as Diigo and Delicious are useful for storing and organising the numerous website links you will receive from your PLN. Use tags to categorise the links as you save them – this makes it easier to search and find particular links at a later stage. If there is a specific topic you know you will need resources for in the near future, start a ‘list’ for this topic. When you are ready to construct a lesson on the topic, it is easy to go to the list and find links you have been saving over a period of time.

If you are an avid blog reader, Netvibes is a great way to collect all of the blogs you read onto one page. You collect and categorise blogs into your Netvibes account. Each day, at a designated time, Netvibes will check for new posts on the blogs you are following. You can read the posts within Netvibes or you can click through to the blog post itself. This not only saves time, but ensures that all posts are available at a later date in the one convenient location.

Two useful digital curation sites are Scoop-it and Pinterest. These allow you to make ‘topic’ lists and save websites to particular lists. Pinterest is best for visual topics as it picks up on a picture on the website and uses that to represent the site.

If you have several social media accounts, Hootsuite will allow you to manage them from the one page. You can send a post to several accounts, or you can schedule posts for a time in the future. Hootsuite also manages all of your incoming information from platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook. This saves a lot of time having to visit the individual sites.

Create and build

Educators who have a PLN have told me that they have learnt more from their PLN in a few months than they did in four years in their degree course! A PLN can be a valuable resource, but it needs tending. Once you create your PLN, build it by adding valuable people. Check in with it regularly – but do not feel that you have to read everything that everyone in your network shares – this will certainly drive you crazy. Create, build and learn.


Tobin, D. R. (1998). Building your personal learning network. Retrieved from


Dr Carol Skyring has researched the use of Twitter as a professional learning tool and the value of PLNs to educators. You can read more about Carol and access a variety of free resources at You can also follow Carol on Twitter @carolskyring.

When was the last time you reviewed your own Wellbeing?

Posted on 30 October, 2014 at 23:35

I attended a conference yesterday that I must admit, I was a little apprehensive about attending. It was a wellbeing conference that addressed the balance between ones professional career and personal life. Like many others, I know that my balance is muchy skewed and like others, I honestly thought that there was nothing I could do about that as that was life. But I am wrong. We are all wrong.

As it turns out, we can change the balances of our lives and with a little time to stop and review, it is actually a very simple process. I learned that at this conference that there are many stresses that one experiences. Some are intrinsic whilst others are extrinsic. And identifying each of them may not so simple. One may affect the other and deciphering which stress leads to greater impact can be rather difficult. Educators face many types of extrinsic stresses that stem from the workplace itself, from parents, students and much more. There is recent research that suggests that teachers are experiencing similar levels of anxiety from external testing situations as do their students. For example, teachers are feeling just as anxious their students who are sitting a HSC exam.

So, how do we measure our wellbeing? This can be done by self calculating points in the 5 elements of wellbeing which is also known as PERMA. They are:

  1. Positive Emotions
  2. Engagement
  3. Relationships
  4. Meaning
  5. Achievement

It is found that most individuals only see success in 3 of these elements. Further, Australia is ranked 23rd in the work as being a Country that offers wellbeing to their citizens. Why arent we much higher? We live in a society which defines us by the main role that we participate in our daily lives. Thus, it is quite important for individuals to be invovled in a number of activities that are separate from one another as this permits individuals to departmentalise themselves from negative situations and this actually acts as an outlet for individuals to overcome these issues. More interestingly, purchase experiences such as those by Red Balloon etc, are one of the most positive ways one can participate in (as well as donating and giving to charities).

I was extremely interested to learn about women in leadership. What makes a female leader so successful? Much of it has to do with whether they are a natural leader or a trained leader. Those natural leaders are those that will always seek opportunities to succeed regardless of the obstacles they face. They possess the confidence to challenge, the skillset to improve efficiencies, as well as lead and engage staff effectively. These are the leaders that we see advancing in MNC. So how do you measure up? Which areas in your life are you thriving in?

These main areas that contribute to your success as a leader are:

  1. Purpose/Career
  2. Financial
  3. Community
  4. Social
  5. Physical

Collectively, by succeeding in each of these areas, individuals are able to contribute to the 10 top skills of good leaders as described by Forbes. This list supported with the actions of leaders and the way in which they interact with others. Thus, I challenge you to self-reflect and determine your wellbeing and identify which areas in your life can be tweeked to make it even more successful for yourself and for others.


Effective strategies in leading professional learning at your school

Posted on 20 October, 2014 at 4:40

Keeping staff up-to-date with professional learning can be rather difficult, particularly in the area of technology were the skillset and knowledge of staff can vary immensely. There are a number of ways of sharing such information with staff that will not overwhelm them or take up too much of their free time.


Professional Learning Teams

Schools are beginning to embrace the concept of grouping staff based on their skillset to personalise professional learning. This enables expert teachers to share their knowledge of certain key areas such as curriculum, behaviour management and other upcoming developments that will impact teaching and learning with staff. These teams meet periodically, such as part of faculty time or a dedicated lunch time) with a clear agenda and overall goal. The goal could be to improve school programs or policies collaboratively. It is also a fantastic opportunity for staff to work on a whole school initiative and then champion the initiative within their own faculty or year group.


Before School Meetings

Quick meetings before school are extremely effective. Staff typically meet in the school’s common room and attend a 15 minute presentation on a specific topic. For example, if showing all staff “How to use Popplet to increase literacy”, a quick overview with step by step instructions followed by a Q&A is sufficient to encourage staff to implement the technological tool into their lesson plans with minimal fuss. It is recommended that these sessions are held regularly on the same school day and time. For maximum results, ask staff to complete a survey requesting which professional learning topics appeal most to them and create an agenda based on the findings.


Instructional email communications

Attending professional learning sessions may not be possible for all staff due to their professional and personal commitments, so using email to distribute information on professional learning matters using graphic organisers may be ideal. Particularly in terms of using technology, offering staff with handouts that acts as a ‘cheat sheet’ will encourage staff to put into practice what they have learned. This is effective as it is learned in their own time and can be implemented into any lesson as it can be stored in their day books and referred to at any time.


Regardless of the strategy/ies that the school implements, it is imperative that a holistic approach is used and that all staff are willing to participate in the professional learning program. It is also wise to map professional learning activities to BOSTES Accreditation Standards as this will encourage staff to work towards attaining their own professional goals whilst working together to achieve overall school goals.


Learning about the latest Educational Research conducted by Teachers

Posted on 23 September, 2013 at 21:10

On July 22, 2013, five teachers presented current research studies that they were individually conducting within schools at the Annual Poster Presentation Lecture Evening (A.P.P.L.E.) held by The Teachers’ Guild of New South Wales. These research studies were conducted as either a part of a postgraduate research degree under the instruction of a Supervisor at an Australian University or as part of a self-interest project.


The Annual Poster Presentation Lecture Evening (A.P.P.L.E.) is in its fourth year and was held at Trinity Grammar at Summer Hill with the purpose of providing teachers an opportunity to present their research work to a learned audience within a school setting as well as giving the presenters the opportunity to liaise with other presenters, students, academics, staff, visitors and past students.


These awards were created to encourage excellence in research work and for presenters to compete for the $1000 "Guild Research Award" and $500 "Smart Teachers Research Award" which will be presented at the Teachers’ Guild of NSW Annual Dinner and Awards Evening on Saturday 7 September 2013.


This year, Nicolette Hilton from Uralla Central School won first place taking the Guild Research Award of $1,000 for her research which investigated “The Ideal and the Reality; Teaching Indigenous Perspectives and Catering to Gifted and Talented Students through the Science Curriculum”. This was a qualitative research study that explored the perspectives of a small group of Australian secondary school science teachers regarding resources and professional development opportunities to help them address two important cross-curriculum perspectives (CCPs); teaching gifted and talented students and addressing Indigenous perspectives. This study drew on in-depth interviews with practising science teachers to provide rich descriptions of current classroom practice, resources and professional development and to compare these to the resources that teachers are accessing and classroom practices and professional development they would prefer to be experiencing.


A very close second and highly commended went to Dr Kate Bertram from the University of Wollongong and Illawarra Christian School who receives the $500 Smart Teacher Award. Kate’s study into “The Cultural Architecture of Schools – A study investigating the relationship between school design, the learning environment and learning communities in new schools”. The judges were impressed with her ability to convey the systemic issues associated with school architecture and design and willingness to make recommendations related to policy and practice.


A commendation and the $500 Co-op book vouchers were awarded to Angela D’Angelo from the Catholic Education Office, Sydney for her ideas related to the take-up of mathematics by girls in the HSC in her study title “In search of a success equation for girls in mathematics….toward equity.


A commendation goes to Janson Hews from the University of Technology and the Powerhouse Museum for his research proposal “Enhancing learning through 3D Printing and digital fabrication”.


Google Apps Sydney Summit

Posted on 19 January, 2013 at 5:30

I have spent the last 2 days at the Google App Sydney Summit and have listened to many experts discuss the latest technological innovations that are available to educators and their students. I must admit, initially I was very resistant and really didn't see the point to leaving all of the apps that I already use to using a Google version instead. Then, I attended a session that was presented by a TEACHER and finally my needs were met. A teacher was was able to show us how to technology provided by Google in Department and Catholic departments that is compliant with our networks and privacy settings. The sessions became seriously increasingly and inspiringly better with more and more innovative ways shown to us regarding how to develop innovative pedagogues in our classroom.


Here are a bank of a few resources that I am keen to implement in the classroom;


  • Google hangouts
  • Google docs
  • Cloud
  • Blabberize
  • Schoology
  • Learnboost
  • Bibme
  • Photopeach
  • Education Skype
  • Google Alert
  • Auomatic google email with filters


I believe that 2013, with Googles help and compliance from the NSW DEC (in that nothing will be blocked for teachers or students), will be a great teaching and learning year!

For more info on the Google Apps Summit, check out all the tweets via #gafesummit





PLANE Conference 2012

Posted on 19 October, 2012 at 20:50

I often attend ICT based conferences where I learn about the fact that I need to integrate new technologies and often hear stories about how so many other teachers are already successfully integrating all of this in their school. However they do not pursue and inform us of HOW they do this.


Much more happy to say that this is NOT the case this weekend. Over the last 2 days, leading educators have shared their skills in using virtual worlds, using apps, ipads and much much more. So much, that it is simply impossible to note all of the technological tools that have been exposed to me over the last 48 hours.


I encourage all teachers and pre-service teachers to become a member of PLANE. This resource really is invaluable and will really help educators, Australia-wide to lift the benchmark and start a new era of teaching. Please go to to register.