Education Matters - News impacting schools, teachers and students

Corwin opens Melbourne office


Corwin Australia hosts launch event at new CBD location on 6 October 2015.

Corwin has announced its next phase of growth in the Australian education landscape with a launch event at its new Melbourne location on 6 October.

Educators and Corwin partners were invited to the Queen Street facility for the official opening hosted by Corwin Australia’s Managing Director Brad Rosairo. Included was a welcoming ceremony from Wurundjeri elder, Bill Nicholson.

“Welcome, greetings and good day to all of you here,” said ‘Uncle Bill’, in his native Woiwurrung. “When you go somewhere for the first time you should feel welcome, and we Wurundjeri have a whole ceremony for that.”

Pointing towards the Yarra River nine stories below, Bill explained to event guests that the new office sits beside the Wurundjeri people’s connection to earth.

“So how do we do a welcome to country?” asked Bill. “We have a gathering like this one, and if you respect the land we will welcome you. By inviting me here tonight I feel like Corwin are respecting my people.”

Following a toast by Brad Rosairo and a didgeridoo performance, Corwin President, Mike Soules, who travelled from the United States for the opening, thanked Bill and the rest of the attendees.

“Five years ago I was asked what I wanted to contribute to education and I said, perpetuity,” said Mike. “Now I believe that with the team that we have in Australia, which has been together for such a short time and yet has achieved so much, we are on the way.”

Mike told the crowd he was excited to be raising the voice that Corwin had been shouting in North America.

“I know that it is sometimes daunting but we are in the most exciting work in the world,” said Mike. “But the answers are in the classroom and the answers are in this room.”

Mike said Corwin honours the partners it has already connected with in Australia and is looking forward to spreading the Visible Learning message. Mike said the new office reinforces Corwin’s commitment to its role of exclusive provider of the Visible Learningplus programs in Australia.

“We are confident with the work we are doing and we are confident we are working with the best people,” said Mike. “We are changing lives and this is another huge milestone – it is very exciting.”

Melbourne University Professor John Hattie’s Visible Learning research is now the world’s largest evidence base on what actually works best in schools to improve learning. Visible Learningplus is used by school systems around the world to examine their impact on student achievement and create innovation in the learning environment. Corwin is the exclusive provider of Visible Learningplus professional learning in Australia.

Cognition Consultant for Culture Counts, Laurayne Tafa, finished off the official proceedings by presenting Brad and Corwin with a koha (gift).

Laurayne explains that the progamme Culture Counts plus Relationships-based Learning is the work of Emeritus Professor Russell Bishop of sound theoretical basis, its well-conceptualized model of teacher professional development, and its positive impact on Māori (Indigenous) student outcomes.

“I am a New Zealander but we do a lot of work in Northern Territory with schools that have embraced the Culture Counts programme,” said Laurayne. “Our program rejects deficit theorizing around indigenous and minoritised learners in favour of a more agentic, strength based teaching model.”

Laurayne said the gift, or koha, was a poster depicting a hongi, a traditional Māori greeting. The hongi picture features people connecting (breathing life ) by pressing their noses together.
“Tonight’s opening symbolises our (Cognitions’) partnership with Corwin, and our partnership, like the work that we do, is done in the spirit of care and honesty,” said Laurayne. “It will be nice to walk in here next time and see the koha hanging proudly on the wall.”

Corwin finished the opening proceedings with a rooftop barbeque looking out over Melbourne city.

For further details contact Corwin (03) 8612 2000 or visit


Year 12 exams are not the only door to a great future


More than 220,000 students go through their year 12 exams each year, in what can be the most stressful time of their schooling years. Many feel like there is only one path to their future; when in reality there are many different options, opportunities and career paths.

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Promoting academic excellence through digital learning


Pedagogical understanding of the reasons for student-centred tasks that allow students multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding in contemporary ways is at the heart of digital learning, writes Philip Callil.

Schools in societies around the world are grappling with change bought about by the new opportunities afforded by digital technologies. While schools around Australia have been quick to embrace mobile devices for learning, it’s fair to say that not all teachers are convinced of the efficacy and benefits of digital learning. We know that for professional learning to make a difference to daily practice in the classroom, teachers need to have more than just skill development. Pedagogical understanding of the reasons for student-centred tasks that allow students multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding in contemporary ways is at the heart of digital learning.

Yarra Valley Grammar is a co-educational independent school of 1200 students from K-12 on the outskirts of Melbourne overlooking the Yarra Valley. Our journey in transforming our curriculum is one of evolution rather than revolution. Our academic focus is preparing our students for the VCE years and the school is committed to this with a number of strategies designed to enhance student outcomes at the senior level. From an ICT perspective, Years 10-12 have a BYOD program while students in the Middle School and Years 5-6 participate in a one-to-one iPad program. Students are permitted to bring mobile phones to school but are restricted by minimum specifications from using phones as their sole device. Our internet pipe is a 500mb link and wireless coverage is strong throughout the school. After a devastating fire on the first day of school three years ago, in which a third of the school was lost, a new Mathematics and Science building was opened by the Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove and the Anglican Primate of Australia, Archbishop Most Reverend Dr Philip Freier, in February. The new building is a state of the art learning space that is technology rich with multiple digital panels in many rooms and hearing augmentation in all rooms.

Clearly we have the technology – but how does technology translate into improved student learning? Yarra Valley Grammar has had an iPad program in place for three years now. Like all schools that have iPads, our challenge is to extend what we do with iPads from consumption, word processing and research to the creation of original student work. As media theorist Marshall McLuhan put it, “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror; we walk backwards into the future.” Creating with iPads may be one way to implement change in the direction of student learning to make it more active and less passive but if seen in isolation, it is not enough and unlikely to make a change if not accompanied by a deep understanding of the need to change. Such a vision for academic excellence through digital learning is one that will allow curriculum teams to meet the challenges of today and the next few years without walking backwards into the future.

The diagram outlines six components that contribute to a vision for digital learning. All are equally valid and no less legitimate than the others and cannot be seen in isolation. This provides a framework of a three to five year plan for evolving the curriculum to prepare students for a future where the only guarantee is one of rapid change caused by technology.

At Yarra Valley Grammar, our Vision Statement for the use of digital learning heads our three year ICT Strategic Plan. This plan sits underneath our five year 2015-2020 Teaching and Learning Plan which is available on the school website. While the Teacher and Learning Plan provides certainty in our direction, our IT Strategic Plan can only forecast plans for the next three years to allow for changes in educational technology.

Our focus this year is to promote collaboration and problem solving at both the teacher level and through the curriculum. Our challenge is to work collaboratively on matters related to learning in order to promote creativity and engagement. A Future Foundation survey of 3500 employees in companies in the UK, France and Germany, Japan and the USA found an 81% correlation between collaboration and innovation. Teachers have not necessarily always valued sharing and schools have traditionally fostered cultures of containment sometimes at the expense of collaboration in order to preserve hierarchy. We know that good schools with strong resilient cultures collaborate to stay on top, have skilled practitioners who are generous with others, share knowledge and skills freely, think big and embrace calculated risk to welcome positive curriculum change to ultimately benefit their students.

Collaboration in the classroom means student-centred work that allows students to study in different sized groups to solve real life problems. Learning space design can either facilitate this or actively discourage this. Think of your own school – are the classrooms teacher-focused spaces in rows or student-centred rooms in clusters or pods? Are there breakout spaces that are used regularly? Can the desks be easily reconfigured? Is there one panel or multiple digital panels for group work? By shifting the culture of student passivity to a culture of student empowerment and action, students have more ownership in their learning. It also moves the use of digital devices from consumption to creation. As Kohn (1999) wrote in the The Schools Our Children Deserve, “When interest appears, achievement usually follows.” A 2013 Australian study reported in the British Educational Research Journal found that children’s interest and engagement in school influences their prospects of educational and occupational success 20 years later, over and above their academic attainment and socioeconomic background. The more children felt connected to their school community and felt engaged, rather than bored, the greater their likelihood of achieving a higher educational qualification and going on to a professional or managerial career.

In the Year 9 English course I teach in, our focus this term is to promote choice and creativity in the current unit of work by varying the options available for students to demonstrate their understanding. The unit of work is a text study on Lord of the Flies. Assessment tasks are weighted 60-40 with formative assessment making up the former while a timed class based written response is the latter mark. Formative assessment incorporates 15 marks for note taking (using Google Docs for teacher access) and three assessment tasks worth 15 marks each. Students have 12 possible questions to answer with one question to be chosen from setting, characters and themes. Ten apps have been identified as promoting multi-modal literacies in shaping students responses through the use of video, images, audio and text. These apps are categorised from easy (e.g. Book Creator) to medium (e.g. Binumi video editing) to advanced (e.g. Touchcast Studio).

Varying assessment options allows students to participate in decision making to personalise their learning. While a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach standardises learning, personalising learning for students allows students to take more ownership and responsibility for their learning. We believe that by shifting the culture of student passivity to a culture of student empowerment and action, students will have more ownership in their learning. It also moves the use of the iPad from consumption to creation. Using digital learning to allow choice is a key way to tap into the engagement of how students like to learn. Our premise in this unit of work is that digital learning assessment that is well structured is likely to lead to greater understanding and higher achievement. This is also a considered response to the SAMR [Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition] model in that students’ tasks are moving out of substitution and augmentation to modification and, in one or two of the more advanced apps, tipping into the redefinition classification where digital learning allows for the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable (e.g. augmented reality using Aurasma). Our goal for this unit of work is to provide a template for other year levels and subjects to follow. While it still follows a traditional approach to subject-based learning, the more opportunities students have across primary classes and the middle school to use digital learning to promote creativity and engagement, the less technical obstacles will be experienced as familiarity leads to proficiency. The role as teachers becomes even more central in that students need guidance in the framing of their responses to ensure that originality and depth is encouraged rather than superficiality and shallowness that can often characterise the use of technology.

The above unit is one strategy we are focusing on to encourage creativity and engagement through the use of digital learning. A number of key teachers identified for their ability to innovate and push the boundaries though their use of digital learning have been asked to join a group to examine how apps for creating can be promoted across the curriculum. The same list of apps is also being trialled in our Gifted and Talented program for Years 7 and 8 students. Our professional learning day this term will continue the focus on familiarising teachers with the apps discussed above. Through these strategies, our goal is to heighten awareness of the need to keep pushing towards a student centred curriculum where students have multi modal choices to make about the way they engage in their learning.

In this article collaboration, creativity and engagement have been discussed with illustrations of how Yarra Valley Grammar is meeting the opportunities afforded in a technology rich school. The next two articles in this series will focus on learning management and teaching methods and assessment and accountability to move towards an achievable vision of academic excellence through digital learning.

Philip Callil is the director of IT and eLearning at Yarra Valley Grammar School.


Get flying

Spring has sprung and what better way to get your students moving again after winter than indoor skydiving!

Indoor skydiving is an activity adored by the masses and now iFLY Indoor Skydiving located in Penrith (NSW) and the Gold Coast (opening soon) has a fantastic School Education Programme perfect for school excursions. Not only will students participate in a programme that explores subjects like physics, mathematics and fitness but they will also experience the thrill of learning how to fly. It can be difficult to inspire students coming out of winter hibernation but iFLY can provide the edge you need to get them excited. The unique programme is tailored to the learning capabilities of both primary and secondary students and no flying experience is needed! iFLY’s education programme includes safety training, a curriculum aligned education presentation by iFLY’s very own educator with all course materials supplied, video of your group flying and two flights each! Move both your students’ body and mind in an environment that isn’t like any other this Spring at iFLY. Visit for more information.


Creating the ‘High Possibility School’

Research on exemplary teachers’ knowledge of technology enhanced learning led to the development of the High Possibility Classrooms (HPC) framework. Arguments for the creation of High Possibility Schools builds capacity in school leaders and teachers to create empowering learning places for all students right now and into the future.

Dr Jane Hunter, an early career researcher in the Centre for Educational Research at the University of Western Sydney was intrigued by the challenge of how teachers effectively embed technologies into learning. To fill a noted gap in the research literatures, in what is known about knowledge of technology integration in practice from teachers’ perspectives, Dr Hunter began her research of four exemplary teachers’ knowledge of technology integration in the classrooms of six to 16 year olds in NSW public schools. The research outcomes led to the development of the HPC framework.

The HPC framework stems from a need for robust theory drawn from research to underpin technology integration in learning in education contexts – Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge or TPACK (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). What emerged from the data collection and analysis was that exemplary teachers conceived their knowledge of technology around five conceptions: theory, creativity, public learning, life preparation and contextual accommodations. Within each of these five conceptions are multiple themes of teaching practices and student learning processes that align with what young people require for their education futures. Hard planning, project-based learning and opportunities for production, listening to student voice and getting into flow, inform these conceptions. Teachers who actively use these pedagogical markers are defining a new game of school in K-12 settings. In essence schools can create HPC for all students and many of the HPC conceptions are present in teachers’ practices right now. However, teachers’ actions when embedding technology must go further.

Dr Jane Hunter will keynote at the Future Leaders conference from 3-4 March 2016 at the Australian Technology Park, Sydney as part of the National FutureSchools Expo. Her session will distinguish some powerful examples based on evidence in NSW schools, and reveal that it is possible to re-imagine K-12 classrooms within current education constraints and uncertainties.


Principals should be ‘bold, creative and courageous’



South Australian-based school principal and recent leadership category winner of the SA Excellence in Public Education Awards, Olivia O’Neill, says despite the challenges of being a principal in the 21st Century principals should focus on the creativity of the job and enjoy it.

With 11 years as principal of one of South Australia’s best performing schools, Brighton Secondary School, and more than 40 years of experience in secondary schools in Queensland and South Australia, O’Neill told Education Matters the award win is more a testament to the leaders she works with.

“It’s very nice to be personally recognised because you work hard, you put in the hours and you keep working on a continuous improvement plan but really I think it’s more testament to the leaders that I work with,” she said.  “It’s about the good people that you recruit to do the job, so I did accept award on behalf of the ‘principal team’, as we call them. We don’t call them Admin in our school because no one ever says Admin warmly do they?”

As a winner of the leadership category O’Neill has been given the opportunity to undertake a short course at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has chosen the course entitled ‘Leadership: an Evolving Vision’.

“The course is about building succession and building as leadership because my key issue is you can work very hard with a team and then someone new comes in and it gets unravelled because it’s not deep in the culture,” O’Neill explained. “So I think it’s really important for a school like Brighton that when new leadership comes in it values what’s really deep in the culture.

“Yes, definitely be on a continuous improvement plan, however don’t throw out what was working well at the school before. You find when people come in they just chuck out what the previous administration did just for the sake of it and while it’s important to acknowledge that yes, things might change, but you have to know what’s deep in the culture – and so I’d like to learn more about that.”

O’Neill says staying up-to-date with technology and its role in education is one of the big challenges for today’s principals.

“It’s about understanding how students think and learn now, and those skills of 21st Century Learning are more the soft skills rather than the hard skills,” O’Neill said. “You know, those skills of communication and problem solving and independent learning.  So the challenge is ensuring that you actually are developing independent learners who can learn anywhere anytime and who are motivated to learn. I think that is a big challenge given the fact that now students have so much independence in their own lifestyle through the technology – how to engage them with learning is the challenge.”

To help develop independent learning skills in its students, Brighton Secondary School has introduced ‘flipped learning’ where students watch instructional videos at home and do the typical homework in class. The term ‘flipped’ is used to refer to the reversal of the traditional homework therefore direct instruction is not conducted in large groups, but rather individually through teacher-created videos.

At Brighton all students have an Apple MacBook Pro and O’Neill says the students can independently watch their teacher’s instruction video at home, and with the pre-learning at the lower level done the teacher can do the higher order thinking work during class time with the students.

“It’s about skilling the teachers in professional development,” O’Neill said. “Professional learning is very important and I think one of the things that’s helped us is flipping the classroom so we’ve done a lot of work in that area, developed a teacher film studio, recruited a digital coach who’s very skilled in it and doing continuous work in teacher learning communities of three people to support each other, to learn how to film those lessons that are the lower order skills of remembering and understanding to allow more time in class with the teacher to do the higher order skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

“Flipped learning has been a major move in the right direction to encouraging students to be independent and find out themselves, do the work.  There are issues around that with what happens when they don’t do the work or what happens when they don’t do their homework ordinarily and so we work through that as well.”

O’Neill believes the creativity that principals can have in leading educational change, the capacity to be creative and see the outcomes and rewards in students being successful and becoming independent learners makes the job of a principal trump others.

“It’s a wonderful job to be creative and strategic, it’s a wonderful job where you can actually effect change and you can make a difference,” she said. “It’s a difference for teachers and their profession, it’s a difference for students and their future, it’s a difference for the world.

“All jobs are tough these days but I think this job gives us the opportunity for a lot of our own joy in seeing an idea come through to fruition because you can actually see it enacted across a whole range of students and their lives. So I would say to other principals ‘be bold, be courageous, be creative and enjoy the job.’”