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Primary schools, the health and physical education learning area and ACHPER

With the innate enjoyment that children have for movement and play-based learning, it is essential that HPE be supported through every primary school environment to ensure that every student has the skills, knowledge and understandings to be engaged, confident and capable learners, writes Alison Turner, ACHPER National Executive Director. Read more

What is social media and how can it be useful for teachers?

Social media for educators is a world of new ideas and resources. Teacher and social media guru Meridith Ebbs has compiled a handy guide for those trying to navigate their way in the social media world.

Social media is everywhere. You can follow the news anchor on Twitter, you ‘friend’ morning shows Sunrise or Today on Facebook and the feeds are displayed in a ticket tape along the bottom of the screen. Advertising screams follow us. Marketing and business has discovered the power of social media yet many teachers have not. Social media for educators is a world of new ideas and resources – it makes people accessible and it is possible to ‘tweet’ a person you admire and get a response.

What is the fascination with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and so on? Social media definitely has its critics but it also has its place. It is a way to connect with people you don’t see any more and with like-minded strangers. The key factor for social media being useful is balance – balancing time online, time away from family and privacy. It is important not to over share. Followers are not so interested in 50 snaps of your little treasures and personal friends are not interested in the events of your day-to-day work life. One way to overcome this problem is to divide your social media into two domains. An example may be to use Facebook for your private social media account and Twitter for your public but professional account.

Social media is a valuable tool for teachers as it offers a way to connect with like-minded professionals and share resources and ideas. It also offers an opportunity for debate and sharing ideas that challenge and improve your professional practice.

If you choose to be online, you need to check your ‘feed’ and tweet or post regularly. You need to monitor your profile as an abandoned online profile is more of a security risk to you if it is not used. People are more likely to follow and interact with an active account.

Many teachers have started Twitter accounts for their classroom. The teacher is the account owner, preferably with their school email. It is then possible to for students as young as Kindergarten to compose the tweet that is to be posted. This may include pictures of artwork or activities in the classroom. To overcome privacy issues, parents should be required to give permission to allow the use of student images. If you are still concerned, take photos of a student’s shoulder or of hands while working, this will reduce the number of faces posted online. Never post an image with a full name as this compromises student privacy.

This article is about the professional development of teachers through social media and its personal use. This article does not investigate or discuss the benefits of using social media in the classroom, and the benefits of digital citizenship for students.

What the twitter is that?

Twitter is a social media website. Twitter has a reputation for being used by celebrities ‘tweeting’ events and photos. Twitter is a tool that can be used by teachers to interact with other professionals, locate resources and answer questions, and it is also used for microblogging. A tweet consists of 140 characters and spaces and therefore is a quick way to share information. Due to the length of characters people often use abbreviations and shorten URLs by using tools that are discussed later in the article.

Professional Learning Networks (PLN)

A professional learning network is sometimes referred to as a PLN. PLNs can be people you work with or know personally, offline contacts or they may be people you haven’t met and only contact virtually through a mail list or social media. A PLN may consist of current or past colleagues, acquaintances from other schools in a similar role to you, or people you have connected with online.

The benefit of a PLN is it gives an extended international network of people who are willing to help and assist you. PLNs provide resources, links and ideas that can be used immediately or stored for another time.

When attending conferences and inter-school events PLNs go offline. Meeting an online contact at a conference is an opportunity to further develop relationships that go beyond the classroom.

How to get ‘followers’

To get followers you need to be active on Twitter and tweet regularly. Twitter teachers are very generous and will often recommend users to follow and will often follow back.

To get the most out of twitter you need to:

• Update your profile;
• Change your profile picture from an egg (to show you didn’t just hatch);
• Interact with other users;
• Retweet things you like with acknowledgement;
• Blog and share a link;
• Tweet regularly;
• Share photos and memes;
• Share tips and tricks to get organised or complete a task; and,
• Share a link to a useful site.

If you think other users will be interested in your tweet you can add a photo and tag them. People who are tagged are likely to retweet or quote your tweet. This will in turn share your tweet with their followers.

I don’t have time

The main reason often cited for not joining social media is, “I don’t have time”. Everyone has the same amount of time and it comes down to priorities. To fit Twitter into a busy schedule you could check your Twitter feed while:

• Waiting… for transport, in a queue or for a late friend;
• 10 mins at lunch break; or,
• Get up 10 mins earlier.

The benefit of Twitter is that you don’t have to read every item in your twitter feed. You can skim through your feed for tweets that catch your eye by simply:

• Checking the feed of your favourite tweeter;
• Checking your favourite ‘hashtag’ or ‘channel’ – e.g.: #aussieED; or by,
• Creating a list of favourite people.


When tweeting, to increase the number of people who see your tweets you can add hashtags. Hashtags are sometimes referred to as channels and they are used at large events, by organisations and by groups with the same interests, online. Hashtags are also used on Twitter for ‘tweet meets’ or chats. These are events that are held at regular times on Twitter and usually go for an hour. A moderator will post a series of questions at regular intervals during the hour-long chat. The questions stimulate discussion on the topic, which leads to pictures, links, resources, stories and more questions. Some popular chats on education are listed below. There are many more lists for specialty areas in English, History, PD/H and languages. To find more chats you can ask fellow tweeters or do a Google search.

Popular education chats can be found on all key learning areas (KLAs) and areas of education:

Sunday 7:30 AEST #includEDau
Sunday 8:30pm AEST #aussieED AussieED

Friday 9:00am AEST #whatisschool Craig Kemp and Laura Hill @MrKempnz and @candylandcaper

Tuesday 2nd Tuesday each month at 8pm AEDT #ozcschat Phillip Cooke @sailpip

Saturday 9-10:30 AEST #satchatoc Andrea Stringer @stringer_andrea

A slow chat is one that goes over several hours, days or a week:

@EduTweetOz #edutweetoz Corinne Campbell, Cameron Malcher @corisel, @Capitan_Typo

People you must follow – just to get you started:

Meridith Ebbs (Australia) Teacher, eLearning, Speaker Education, pedagogy, innovative teaching practice @iMerinet

Kim Sutton Teacher, co-moderator #aussieED Education @TeachMissSutton

Nick Brierley (Australia) Teacher, co-moderator #aussieED Education, innovative practice @mythisizer

Zeina Chalich (Australia) Teacher, co-moderator #aussieED Education, innovative practice @zeinachalich

Eric Sheninger (USA) Past Principal, Speaker Leadership, management styles @E_Sheninger

Jackie Child (Australia) Librarian Makerspace, library, digital literacy @jackie_child

Ian Jukes (Canada) Education Evangelist @ijukes

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (Australia) Resources for implementing curriculum @aitsl

Teachers Education Review Podcast (Australia) Australian podcast discussing issues in education. Issues in education from the perspective of classroom teachers. @TERpodcast

EduTweetOZ (Australia) New host each week Varies depending on the hosts interests @Edutweetoz

Super-Awesome Sylvia (USA) Started her own YouTube channel at 8yo Maker Movement @MakerSylvia

Sylvia Martinez (USA) Speaker, education evangelist Maker Movement, Education @smartinez

Tips and tricks

URL shorteners

Twitter has a limit of 140 characters and spaces. This makes posting long URLs difficult. To overcome the character limit URL shorteners are used such as to link to websites.

To create the shortened link above:

• Go to;
• Paste the web address (URL) for the original site, to be shortened into the box at the top of the page;
• A screen will appear on the right side of the page and click on Copy; and,
• Paste the link into your tweet.

It is possible to customise the end of the link. It is also possible to download shorteners like as apps to iPads and mobile phones. This allows you to shorten URLs while using a mobile device.

Fitting it in

To fit long messages into 140 characters use the following acronyms:

• f2f – face to face
• brb – be right back
• Ts – teachers
• Ss – students
• Use + for and


Meridith Ebbs is a teacher St Columba Anglican School, Port Macquarie, New South Wales. She has a blended role, teaching classes from years 2-10 and working as an eLearning integrator to support the eLearning programs and teacher professional development within the school.

Meridith is a key staff member of the Professional Excellence and Innovation Centre, Port Macquarie. She develops and facilitates conferences and workshops. Meridith acts as a consultant in digital citizenship, the use of technology to enhance 21st century pedagogies and social media. Meridith is a moderator of a MOOC for Adelaide University and speaks at conferences on coding, technology and pedagogy.

Meridith is interested in computational thinking, coding and the maker movement. She is working on increasing the participation of girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) at all levels.

Meridith blogs regularly and can be followed on Twitter and Google Plus. She also curates resources on computational thinking and coding.
• Google Plus



Boosting Indigenous school attendance creatively

A unique pilot program implemented in remote Aboriginal communities has overcome many challenges surrounding school attendance that have been a part of the Indigenous education landscape since its inception in Australia.

The Learning on Country program, launched in 2013, involves community leaders and Indigenous rangers that teach students about customary knowledge, culture and literacy and numeracy. It has so far has been rolled out across five Arnhem Land sites – Maningrida, Yirrkala, Laynhapuy Homelands (Yirrkala), Groote Island and Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island).

A review of the program, led by Dr William Fogarty from The Australian National University’s National Centre for Indigenous Studies (NCIS), found the Learning on Country pilot program had improved school attendance and engagement from both students and communities.

He said the first two years of the trial has seen remarkable enthusiasm from all sectors including governments, teachers, educators, students and the community.

“We kind of lost our way around some of the school attendance issues in Indigenous communities and increasingly the policy approach has been much more stick than carrot, particularly in remote Australia where we saw things like SEAM trials which linked attendance to welfare payments – and we’ve seen the Northern Territory introduce some reasonably draconian approaches to getting students to school by punishing parents.

“Where the Learning on Country program differs is that it actually begins by going, ‘Well, what are the types of learning that are local place value and with that as a starting point how do we think about the rest of the learning?’ and then the attendance becomes an outcome of good pedagogy rather than draconian policy.”

The program, which aims to make school more relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in remote areas, uses a local Indigenous knowledge base to engage students with their own culture, identity and place, and then uses that as a platform for wider education.

“The Learning on Country program grows out of a fairly long tradition of Indigenous land and sea management programs that have been really successful right across the top end, from the Kimberley through to the Cape,” Fogarty said. “In places where engaging Indigenous students is difficult or where it hasn’t had a good track record, good teachers look around for what’s working locally and they partner up with it. So schools and Indigenous ranger groups have been working together in places for the last 15 years or so in a very ad hoc way.

“The Learning on Country project is a grass roots community-based approach to generating an education program where four communities got together and decided they wanted to put something far more structured, sustainable and permanent around this notion of Learning on Country, and so they got together, formed a steering committee, engaged with government to get some funding, and that was the genesis of the four pilot trials that I’ve been working with recently.”

Fogarty says the program is a model of learning that’s engaging part of the whole community in teaching and also changes the dynamic between teachers and students because it positions the conversation more about what learning is being selected, who’s doing the selecting and how to balance that knowledge.

“Learning on Country begins with the idea that local Indigenous custodians and landowners have a wealth of knowledge about place, and of course the community value that knowledge greatly, so we begin with them as the teacher,” Fogarty said. “It changes the power relationship between teacher and student as well, because the students actually know quite a bit and the teachers often, particularly if they’re non-Indigenous teachers, don’t know very much at all about that place.

“Then the Indigenous rangers themselves become the next element in the pedagogy cycle; they become the next teachers, if you like. And then you’ve got scientists that come in and do some western science with the students, and he teachers bring it all together in the classrooms.”

While the program’s educational outcomes are paramount, Fogarty says it’s not only the curriculum outcomes but also about community wellbeing, individual student’s growth and setting up pathways for their future.

“The curriculum outcomes are at the core, but there’s a whole host of other more socio-cultural outcomes that are just as important that come out of the program,” he said. “The communities understand the need for curriculum outcomes, but they also want to make sure that some of their own knowledge and approaches are valued in the education that their school students are getting.”

Fogarty says he hopes the program’s model can be rolled out to other communities across Australia.