Cracking the Code at BNPS!

Inspired by this year’s Education Week theme, “Cracking Code”, our Education Week at BNPS began with a bang on Monday with a Coding inspired whole school assembly. We were lucky enough to have Luke Hill, a software designer at a Medical Research Laboratory in Melbourne (and the husband of our lovely music teacher), speak to our students about:

  • What is Coding?
  • Who are Coders?
  • Where do you find coding?

… and he showed us some pretty cool examples of coding and robotics from his uni days. This clip shows a robotic arm designed to play air hockey using sensors and the option to play using an Xbox controller.

The presentation was pitched perfectly for our primary aged students, as the littlies were fascinated to learn that Olaf (from Frozen) is created by coding and the seniors were inspired to think about a career in software development.


Then we launched into an Interactive Coding session with our teachers as Scratch Sprite guinea pigs. We had prepared a Scratch animation, with teacher sprites that could enact a number of different super cool and slightly embarrassing dance moves, including a “Shake it Off” number, a Rainbow spin and a SpongeBob Squarepants jig. Our “Real” teachers on stage had to choose an action from behind a mystery door and then try to replicate the dance moves that were happening on screen. It was an entertaining way to introduce coding to a group of primary aged children.

 IMG_3581    IMG_3573




We have followed up our Coding Extravaganza with 2 coding lunchtimes, where children got to explore Scratch in more detail. The Foundation, Year 1s and 2s were up one end of the building exploring Scratch Junior on the iPads and the Years 3-6 at the other end were working on Scratch projects with their Acer and Lenovo netbooks. We were lucky enough to have Luke Hill in again, during their lunchtime and the students could show off their creativity and coding skills with a real software developer.

Our year 5 students are currently engaged in coding with an authentic purpose, as they create Maths animation games and animations to teach younger children mathematical concepts (Stay tunes to my blog for future posts about this exciting project). This was stimulated by the Great Victorian Coding Challenge. Entries for this have closed, but the information on this link is still useful and relevant for stimulating learning about coding. Scratch is a program preloaded with the Edustar image to all student and teacher computers. There are a wealth of support material for Scratch, including HowTo Cards and tutorials at Scratch Help. There are loads of Scratch examples that you can look inside, to discover how the coding was done. There are also plenty of Scratch How to Videos on Youtube.

Foundation Kids Explore Scratch Jnr!

Foundation Kids Explore Scratch Jnr!

Coding Wizz Kid!

Coding Wizz Kid!

Testing whether highlighters can work with a Makey Makey!

Testing whether highlighters can work with a Makey Makey!

Lines of Code!

Lines of Code!
















Driving Digital Learning for 400- Whole School thinking!

As an E-Learning Curriculum Leader at our Primary School, I need to think beyond the 29 X lovely year 4s that sit in front of me every day and have to think about driving change and progress in digital learning at a whole school level. This is a bit of a juggling act, which involves detailed curriculum plans, professional conversations, steering the E-Learning Team, whole school PD and driving key projects in strategic areas of the school. Recently we developed and communicated this Map of our Curriculum to help get teachers’ heads around the place of basic ICT skills teaching, putting cyber safety understandings into practice, embedded curriculum uses, as well as some major strategic projects that are driving deeper learning with digital tools. Here I have included the BNPS Digital Skills Scope and Sequence 2015- Years 3-6- Draft which covers the core digital skills that students need to develop across the years 3-6 at our school. Here also is our Cybersafety Curriculum 2015, which supports teachers with Cybersafety platforms and lessons all the way from Foundation to Year 6.

Stay tuned to hear more about some of the exciting Major Projects happening at our school, with our year 3 stop motion animators and year 5 Coders.

Digital Curriculum at BNPS

Digital Curriculum at BNPS– click to enlarge!

Think Before you Create for 10 Year Olds…. Sway Presentation

So I was watching my adventurous 10 year old have her first tackle of Sway… a very cool online platform that allows kids and grown ups to create adaptable visual presentations that automatically morph to suit the device or viewer. Being supremely aware that kids need to play to learn, I watched her explore for a while, fluffing around with colours, image size, sequence and palates. Lots of technical learning was happening but after an hour she realised that after all of her exploring, the presentation on Ancient Greece was looking a little dog’s breakfasty.

So I took my little tech wiz right back to the basic principles of text design- Planning. We pulled out the classic post it notes and started to create a structure- intro, main topics, and conclusion. Basic text structure stuff- Pretty simple, but it helped her get a sequence. What was interesting is that we had to tease out the difference between the IDEAS she wanted to communicate and the HOW of communicating her ideas.

Eg.   THE IDEA- Where was Ancient Greece in time and place- THE HOW- Timeline and Map.

ORANGE = Key Points in Structure, YELLOW = How I will Communicate on Sway, WHITE = Cue Cards for my speech

Planning for Sway

Sway Planning


The end result was pretty cool. I particularly like the blend of hand sketched maps (she’s 10 and likes to draw), digitally constructed artefacts (online timeline) and a bit of Scratch programming in the mix (see the Greek Gods bit). I also thought this was a particularly effective use of the Image compare features of Sway, showing Democracy and Theatre at work in the Ancient and Modern Worlds. VERDICT: A pretty cool bit of thinking and designing and only 10!

Microsoft helps students dig deep into Writing


This learning activity was a part of an investigation to explore how information communication technologies can be used to deepen students’ understanding of their writing process and develop the essential personal, learning and collaborative skills to become more effective writers. In particular, I explored how Microsoft Word editing features, PowerPoint multimodal capabilities and OneNote Notebook development tools can be used, not just as end of writing publishing options, but as highly focused teaching tools that support students to understand their writing process on a much deeper level.

We implemented a unit of Poetry inquiry where our year 4 students used the multimodal capabilities of PowerPoint to share their thoughts and personal responses to poetry. Students captured inspirational poetry, recorded poetry readings using video, and photographed illustrated responses to poetry, which they then shared with peers.

Then students used the extensive Review elements of Word, to examine and compare responses to the inspirational poem “The Magic Box”, by Kit Wright. Here students inserted Comments into a shared document to make annotations about specific author choices, such as similes, alliteration and contrasting ideas. We discussed the specific tools that effective writers use to create impact with their poetry.


During their personal writing process, students worked within the Author Cycle using features such as Track Changes, to record and make observations about their editing choices, and “Comments”, to conference and provide feedback to peers. Students worked independently within the Author Cycle, crafting their piece using the planning, drafting, conferencing, editing and publishing stages. I provided support by modelling effective feedback and inserted Metalanguage into my feedback (eg. Verbs, similes contrast…) to support the students in their ability to reflect upon writing choices.


The class collected examples of feedback and made choices as a group regarding what constitutes effective feedback. We created a 6-starred criterion for evaluating effective feedback. In particular, these year 4 students noted how specific, constructive and challenging feedback can often be more instructive and supportive than general positive feedback.

effective feedback

The students captured the stages of their writing journey and investigation into a OneNote Notebook, incorporating examples of inspirational poetry, capturing drafting, editing and published pieces to demonstrate their author cycle and reflecting upon their growth as a writer through annotated examples. In particular, they explored how “annotation” and “links to examples” can highlight learning stages and demonstrate their growth and capabilities as a writer.

OneNote Writer’s Portfolio

Onenote Writer’s Portfolio from Lisa Cuthbert-Novak on Vimeo.

The next stage in this journey will be to take this Learning Community online, supporting students to make community and global connections.

iXplain- Science, Moviemaking and Oral Language Skills Merge

Our year 4 students have begun the process of becoming scientists, exploring scientific concepts through experiments and conducting research about how things happen in the real world. We have closely explored Explanation texts and examined the features of explanations, writing to a rubric that included cause and effect language, topic sentences, topic specific language and logical sequencing of ideas. The students viewed  some moving diagrams and discussed how quick diagrams, supported by text can help with an explanation. The audience would be the class and the purpose, to clearly communicate a scientific concept that you have become an expert about.

The students planned, rehearsed and recorded ixplain clips to communicate their concept.  They are super cute and informative. Take a peek!



ixplain clip


OneNote Notebooks- Writer’s Portfolio

 Screencast Movie of OneNote Writer’s Portfolio

I’ve heard a great deal about OneNote and how powerful it is, but never really known where to start with mastering OneNote as a learning tool. So this Semester, I worked with some year 4 writers to develop a OneNote Notebook that would chronicle their journeys as writers.  The students inserted:

  • Examples of inspiring mentor texts
  • Reflections (including survey answers) about themselves as writers
  • Student work samples in poetry that show the drafting, conferencing and editing process
  • Peer feedback
  • Videos of personal poetry readings
  • Illustrations showing personal responses to poetry

Some particularly powerful aspects of the OneNote Writer’s Portfolio were the annotations and links. Students highlighted and commented on aspects of their work, to demonstrate areas where they had learnt a new skill or grappled with an idea. They then used links within the document to connect examples of learning across time. The OneNote Notebook was a particularly powerful tool for learning, as it allowed the students to tell a story about themselves and their personal learning journey. Students learnt to articulate and reflect upon their learning and to show examples of growth. Next year, we will be using OneNote Writing Portfolios to demonstrate learning in writing across the year.

Onenote Writer's Portfolio2Onenote Writer's Portfolio





Students Learning to Give Effective Feedback in Microsoft Word


My class of budding year 4 writers have dabbled in providing feedback since February. We used post it notes and built comments and feedback in as an essential stage of the Author Cycle.  In term 3, I decided to amp up the feedback process through the use of the Comments feature in Word. (Actually I discovered the Comments feature by happy accident, when 2 of my boys were using it to chat about Minecraft when they should have been conferencing.)

We began a process where students were required to seek feedback from 3 different editors (peers) when they reached the conferencing stage of their writing. I worked double time giving my teacher feedback to students, modelling where appropriate the meta language of similes, alliteration, rich language etc, to try to infiltrate this type of language into the students’ vocabulary.  Before long, we began to notice some great examples of effective feedback being provided by the students.

We located a broad diversity of student feedback examples and jumbled them up for the students. The students sorted the feedback into effective feedback and ineffective feedback and gave justifications.

We created a class 6 Star Criteria Checklist for student feedback, which has supported students through their author feedback process..

effective feedback

What makes effective feedback? (According to year 4s)

  • Makes sense
  • Uses specific language
  • Uses writer’s language
  • Shows you mistakes
  • Gives suggestions
  • Can include positive comments



Supporting the Author Cycle with Microsoft Word Features


I wanted my students to fully appreciate the importance of stages of the Author Cycle for their writing process and Microsoft Word was the perfect tool to hone their understandings.

In a unit of work on poetry, my students used Microsoft Word to follow through the Author Cycle. They:

  • Generated & Planned Poetry Ideas
  • Drafted- using “Track Changes” to show decision making and editing choices.
  • Conferenced and Edited- Using “Comments” to give and receive effective feedback from others.
  • Publishing- Making presentation decisions, including formatting .

Students improved in their writing, as well as their ability to reflect upon their writing process. They developed the Metalanguage to talk effectively about writing choices through the author journey.


My favourite way to use digital tools in my classroom


My favourite way to use digital tools in a classroom is the simplest. I love those incidental moments when students reach as naturally for the device as they would for a pen (and the teacher doesn’t impede). In this learning moment, students were reading the inspirational poem “Magic Box” by Kit Wright. It was using all sorts of poetic references to concepts unfamiliar to my 10 year old budding writers.

“The Bluest waters of Lake Lucerne”, “high-rolling breakers of the wild Atlantic”, “the swish of a silk sari…”

"I shall surf in my box, on the great high-rolling breakers of the wild Atlantic".

“I shall surf in my box, on the great high-rolling breakers of the wild Atlantic”.

My students couldn’t find these terms in their Junior Macquarie dictionaries, so they were quickly googling saris, breakers and Lake Lucerne and jumping up to project their discoveries over the data projector.

Opportunities such as these vastly impact our students’ depth of understanding when tackling difficult texts and the chance to use digital tools unfettered helps them to become empowered self-actualizing learners.

Using Comments in Word to Examine Poetry


Comments in Word to Examine Poetry with Great Effect.

There is an amazingly powerful poem by Kit Wright, called the “The Magic Box” (Thanks Amesha for the referral), which is incredibly inspiring to children and seems to operate on levels at which adults and children can appreciate.

We read the poem as a class and wove a little magic into the Magic Box mythology, with our own mysterious box that was sitting tantalisingly at the front of the room. Children used the Comments features of Word to highlight and note their thoughts and wonderings about the poem. They combined versions to compare their thoughts/observations with other students. This could be done to an even greater effect with Office 365 and a live Word Doc.


Why Digital?

Using a collaborative document allows students to see and respond to the ideas of other students in the class. They garner new ideas and are challenged by other perspectives. They also come to see that everyone responds differently to poetry and is impacted by different language and ideas. It’s a personal response.