Posts Tagged ETA

Teaching English using textual concepts

I know I just finished saying that my blog would mostly be used for PBL reflection in the near future.

But there is a new resource available for English teachers and English curriculum boffins that I must share immediately.

The English Teachers Association NSW, in partnership with the NSW Department of Education, have created a resource for programming in K-10 English.

It is organised in ‘stages’ (rather than in year levels), but once you get your head around stage 5 = year 9 & 10, stage 4 = year 7 & 8, and backward in pairs from there, you will get the picture.

English Textual Concepts - 'The Textual Concepts and Processes resource'

English Textual Concepts – ‘The Textual Concepts and Processes resource’

The creators of this resource analysed the NSW English syllabus (which in theory maps on to the Australian Curriculum) to identify core concepts and processes implied by the curriculum documents.

The 15 ‘textual concepts‘ are:

  1. argument
  2. authority
  3. character
  4. code and convention
  5. context
  6. genre
  7. connotation, imagery and symbol
  8. intertextuality
  9. literary value
  10. narrative
  11. perspective
  12. point of view
  13. representation
  14. style
  15. theme

And the six ‘learning processes‘ are:

  1. understanding
  2. engaging personally
  3. connecting
  4. engaging critically
  5. experimenting
  6. reflecting
First six concepts, with learning processes represented across.

First six concepts, with learning processes represented across.

There are questions that jump to mind for me when looking at this resource, including:

  • how are the ‘learning processes’ intended to interact/overlap with the ‘general capabilities‘ in the Australian Curriculum?
  • where do ‘language mode’ and ‘medium of production’ fit into these concepts? Is it in ‘code and convention’, or…?

Overall I am excited by this contribution to English curriculum understandings. The conversations it will make possible between primary and secondary English are especially promising!

I highly recommend a look.

How might this approach to English subject content (knowledge and skills) interface with the curriculum (Australian Curriculum or otherwise) being used in your area? It’s been designed for NSW obviously, but could it have application beyond there?

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New Milestones – Twitter, Blog, Work

wordpress screenshot


It was very satisfying this week to get a notification from WordPress reminding me of my blogiversary.

Six years of blogging!

The time sure has flown. And although I still have much to learn about online writing, I can say with confidence that nothing beats the professional development and reflection that public writing has afforded me.



As if one milestone wasn’t enough, this was also the week that I clicked over the 10,000 tweet mark (!)

Sadly I missed the exact moment and didn’t get a screenshot, but here’s how it’s looking today:

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2008 – what was happening?

A quick look at my profile stats shows that I joined Twitter in May 2008, and created my blog not long after in June 2008.

Around this time I was:

  • 27 years old
  • living in Southwest Sydney
  • halfway into my second year of full time teaching
  • part time enrolled in my PhD
  • newly married
  • on the ‘Web & Technology’ and ‘Curriculum and Assessment’ Committees of the NSW ETA

Whew! When that’s all written down in a list we can see it was big year! And that’s just the ‘big stuff’.

The ETA bit is important, because it’s through ETA work that I met one of my most influential and constant mentors, Darcy Moore – it was his persistent encouragement that persuaded me to start tweeting and blogging. His advice at the time, which has always stuck with me, was that I shouldn’t be afraid to put my views in the public domain, as long as they are views I am prepared to defend and stand by. In fact, the test of whether you are prepared to say something in public can be an excellent method for testing your convictions.

I’ve used the metaphor before, but real True Blood fans can stand to hear it twice: Darcy you’re the best ‘maker’ ever!

My other big digi-hat tips go to Bianca Hewes for being such an incredible force of energy and inspiration, and to Mary-Helen Ward who got me writing my first ever blog posts back at university on the internal network. You gals have left footprints all over my professional (and personal) life and I’m so grateful for it.

Milestones IRL – Work

The end of this semester also marks a non-virtual, real life work milestone: four years in one job.

Four. Years. In. One. Job.

It’s not for lack of stamina that I haven’t stayed anywhere else for longer than three years. I worked part time for awhile when I started my PhD. Then I taught for three years in one place before moving interstate and reseting the meter. So it’s not like I’m some kind of education sector Runaway Bride! Although I am also no Baby Boomer, and I confess the idea of staying in one job for a lifetime is simply unfathomable to me. I won’t bother linking to any of the plethora of ridiculous articles about how Gen Y make bad employees – as a Gen X/Gen Y ‘cusper’ I never see myself in those stories (I’m too young to relate to Winona Ryder in Reality Bites, and too old to pull off skinny jeans). But suffice to say that after four years in one job, I’m feeling a sense of stability that I’ve never known before. It’s nice. I’m finally standing still for long enough to start sharpening the saw.

What Next?

Well, it turns out that this is my 299th blog post, so post number 300 is just around the corner 🙂

Other than that, I’m going to keep on keeping on with my online writing and continue to integrate digital communication/curation into my teaching practice. I’m working on a few scholarly journal articles for publication early next year, so my post-PhD academic writing funk looks like it may have finally run it’s course.

I’m trying to take a more active role in promoting our local English Teacher chat on Twitter (#ozengchat).

I’m slowly collecting my poetry teaching materials on the web for other teachers to access with ease.

Aside from that, time will tell.

But for now let me just say: thanks for reading, and happy blogging everyone!

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Why English teachers join professional associations

In 2010 the English Teachers Association (NSW, Australia) celebrated 50 years of operation and service to members.

A DVD was released to members, with reflections from past and present ETA leaders. It is an excellent record of the history of the association and provides invaluable insights for new teachers!

I was surfing YouTube when I found that the ETA had uploaded the first section from the DVD onto the web. Here it is, roughly 8 minutes, on a range of teachers’ first involvement with the ETA:

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ETA mailout showdown and dates of state conferences

Living in Brisbane but being from Sydney, I am a member of both the NSW English Teachers Association and the English Teachers’ Association of Queensland.

The holiday break and a fresh term starting has brought mailouts from both associations my way.

This is a show-and-tell of what was in the respective packs.


Both mailouts contained information about Literacy and Numeracy Week, which this year has as it’s theme ‘The Fundamentals are Fun!’ (hmmm, invoking fundamentalism to talk about literacy…looking forward to critiquing that), as well as a catalogue of publications available from the AATE Bookshop.

The impetus for each mailouot is sending members the newest issue of the association journal.  While I like the style of the NSW journal mETAphor better (the ETAQ journal is full of Arial font and the cover design could be developed, imho), I have to say I am really satisfied with the content and tone of Words’Worth, and look forward to contributing some material myself in future.  Unlike in NSW, ETAQ doesn’t have resources to pay contributors for their articles (yet), but nevertheless the collegial spirit in the association currently ensures a flow of material to sustain the publication.

Both associations also included their annual state conference program notices.  Seems like August is the flavour of the month…of the month… (?)

Here is a comparison of the two conferences (I’ll be at ETAQ, but wish I could get down for the NSW one too, bummer!):

ETAQ State Conference: English and Generation Next

  • Saturday 20th August 2011
  • 8.15am – 5.00pm
  • Lourdes Hill College, Hawthorne
  • Cost to members: $143 (presenters $44; students and pensioners $66)
  • Keynote speaker – Professor Peter Holbrook ‘Literature, Literacy, the Imagination, Freedom’

ETA (NSW) Annual Conference: Makinig Connections That Count

  • Friday 5th & Saturday 6th August 2011
  • 9am-4pm / 9.30am-3pm
  • Australia Technology Park, Eveleigh
  • Cost to members: $290 one-day / $430 two-day (presenters register free)
  • Ken Watson Address – Dr Felicity Plunkett ‘Blood and Bone: An Anatomy of Wreading’


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Hit Refresh!

Last weekend I attended the English Teachers’ Association Annual Conference in NSW, which was held at the University of NSW on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th of November.  The conference theme was ‘Hit Refresh!’, so it was apt that this was the first conference we have run that had an officially constructed online aspect, using both Ning and Twitter to engage presenters and participants in discussion and networking before, after, and behind the scenes of the conference.

This (longish) post is a report I wrote on the success of these online tools at the conference.

Many educators by now have heard of ‘blogs’, ‘wikis’, and learning management systems such as Moodle, and hopefully we are fast approaching a time where the these strange names and terms are accepted as useful (rather than childish) jargon.  In the meantime, jokes about the ‘Ning-nang-nong’ and Twitter users being ‘twits’ will abound.  But while these tools might sound goofy, they are anything but. is an online tool that is fast gaining popularity with educators.  It combines many other features for writing and connecting online – such as being able to have a personal profile page, make ‘friends’ with other members of the Ning, write blog entries, add to discussion forums, and join sub-groups – and for that reason the term Ning was coined to describe the NetworkING that occurs on the site.  For our conference we created a Ning a few months ahead of the conference (, set up all of our conference workshops, presentation, keynotes and plenaries as ‘events’, invited presenters (first, then later, people who had registered for the conference)…and waited.

The response was slow but sure.  Before the conference had even started we had 70 people who had joined as members of the Ning.  ETA committee members and presenters who were keen to explore the Ning started adding discussions and material right away.  New presenters felt welcomed and included in the lead up to conference, and could ask questions and establish contacts with others before arriving on the big day.  On the Thursday before the conference, the number of members had grown to 130.  Many more joined up during and following the conference, and the count currently stands at 230 members.  Some presenters used the Ning directly in their workshops, getting participants to add their own questions, ideas and resources.  Many people were glad to have an easy way of contacting and keeping in contact with other members, and as many people did upload information about themselves, including a photo to their profile, there was a definite sense of familiarity and closeness at the ‘real life’ conference between Ning users.

As well as establishing a conference Ning, the micro-blogging service was used to ‘tweet’ short, 140 character updates from the conference, in particular from the Saturday morning panel on National Curriculum.  This allowed attendees to create a ‘backchannel’ at the conference, communicating with others from around the globe, as well as other members at the conference, about events as they happened.  Before the conference I blogged a description of a backchannel, which was used at the conference to explain the concept.

As this was our first attempt at using a backchannel, we decided not to display the tweets live on a big screen behind the speakers – though this is something that is occurring frequently now at many conferences that use a backchannel.  For our own, and the speakers’ peace of mind, Darcy Moore and I fielded questions and comments that came in via Twitter at the same time as chairing the panel and the real-life questions from bodies inside the auditorium, and integrated these into the plenary.  The response was very positive, and people (speakers included) only seemed disappointed that we didn’t display the tweets on the big screen!

So, next year we are bound to do this again, with the screen on live display.  Using technology this way can be risky of course, as there is far less control being exercised when members can publish their unfettered thoughts for all to see.  But the benefits of this far outweigh the risk, and the message from members was ‘bring it on!

Increasingly, educators are connecting online in very powerful ways.  This includes English teachers.  As online tools become easier to use to connect, communicate and collaborate with colleagues they are being seen as more of a joy (and a time saver) than a chore.  I heartily encourage other professional associations to consider adopting online elements for future conferences and events, and would be happy to share ideas and advice with anyone who is going in that direction.

Anyone else care to share their experiences or tips?

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ETA Conference: The Backchannel

Friday morning will see Darcy and I braving the stage prior to the opening of the annual English Teachers’ Association conference ‘Hit Refresh‘.


Because for this ETA conference, for the first time, the conference is going web 2.0 – we’re stepping up the interaction, participation, and networking by providing some seriously cool online spaces for teachers to wet their toes in, and hopefully also dive right in to!  So, we’ll be getting up (in our awesome Twitter t-shirts 😉 ) to show the folks at the conference how to get involved in communicating with others, and how to use the backchannel.

What is a ‘backchannel’?

You know when you’re sitting, watching a keynote or presentation, and if you know the person in the next seat you might make the odd remark in their ear?  Well, a backchannel is like doing this on a mass scale – it’s like having a silent ‘channel’ on in the background for anyone who wants to make comments or ask questions that the rest of the audience can see, and if they want, silently respond to.

It’s like passing notes for grown-ups.  Ones that you know the teacher can read too if they so choose (so you can be critical, but must also be polite!)

From wikipedia:

The term “backchannel” generally refers to online conversation about the topic or the speaker

…it is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside live spoken remarks.

What are we using?

The most effective way of paticipating in a live backchannel during the conference is to join Twitter, and post short 140-character messages called ‘tweets’.  Anyone who ‘follows’ you can see your comment or question – and some people might also respond.

Do I have to have a lot of followers for this to work?

(or ‘yikes! but I’m not that famous yet!’)

If you are new to Twitter, never fear.  If you tag your tweet with the ‘hashtagETAConf09, then the comment that you tweet will also be seen by anyone who has searched for that tag – not just the people who follow you.  This means that even if you have NO FOLLOWERS, you can add to the backchannel discussion, and people can tweet responses to you.  Here is an example:

Wow! I thought Kelli and Darcy did a great job explaining the backchannel! #ETAConf09

To which another user might reply:

Does anyone know where I can find the video they showed at the start? #ETAConf09

You see the potential here?  And it’s easy!

What’s this I hear about a conference ‘Ning’?

‘Ning’ is the cute name that the people over at made up to describe their online site that is used for NetworkING.  It’s a very easy site to use, and a great way to introduce yourself to online learning if you haven’t already.

ETA members (all of you – whether you are physically at the conference or not) can join the ETA conference Ning and add comments and questions there too.  Darcy and I will be monitoring the Ning as well, and it is another place that a kind of backchannel will likely spring up.  It’s probably less likely that this will happen during the sessions though.  I imagine a lot of people will be logging into our Ning on Friday and Saturday night, and for awhile after the conference, to send comments to friends, colleagues and presenters, and to share ideas and resources.

For the most effective participation in a LIVE backchannel, I seriously recommend you use Twitter.

Any questions?

If you have any questions, you can post them here as a comment, or ask them on Twitter.  You can find and follow me at, or Darcy at

See you in the Twitterverse!

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Online Pedagogy

In today’s conference workshop I will be exploring four important issues relating to learning and teaching strategies for using online tools:

  1. How the purpose of your site relates to its form
  2. The intended teacher-student dynamic online
  3. Students and internet safety
  4. Getting students involved and monitoring contributions

Please respond with comments to this post if you have any questions, information or anecdotes from your own teaching context.

(DET Interim Guidelines for using blogs and wikis)

(from the ETA Annual Conference @ UNSW )

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Thanks to Darcy for tweeting this link to the Connectivism Wiki.

There are some great ideas here – I especially like the entry on Externalising Ourselves.  I am going to use a quote from this in my ETA Conference presentation on Saturday about Online Learning and Pedagogy:

The ability to connect concepts and ideas and to understand and be understood by others requires that we render our thoughts in some type of format that permits communication. The development of symbols, language, and writing permits externalization of thought and thereby the capacity to create and network concepts and ideas.

The same wiki page also has a link to a very interesting document about Connectivism as a Learning Theory.  I had to laugh at the title, as it sums up so many arguments discussions I have had with people about using online tools, for teaching or otherwise: ‘Connectivism: Learning Theory, or Pastime of the Self-Amused’!

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Miranda Devine is a Hack

Miranda Devine writes in the SMH today that English teachers have lost the plot, and criticises the English Teachers’ Association for hating books, plays and poems, and language in general really.

Hmmm.  I wonder, what is more likely…

  • That English teachers hate books, OR that they think students need to know how to understand and create spoken and visual language as well?
  • That English teachers hate books, OR that they LOVE books, as well as films, poems, webpages, plays and TV shows?
  • That English teachers hate Australian books, OR that they LOVE Australian books…AND films, poems, webpages, plays and TV shows!?
  • That English teachers don’t want students to read books anymore, OR that they LOVE it when students read books, but don’t want politicians and journalists dictating when and where books are used in their teaching program?

Devine quotes author Sophie Masson, who believes that English teachers have a “subconscious hate and envy of writers” – this is of course why we all hate books, and are hell-bent on destroying LIT-RIT-YOOR for students today.

Masson is also quoted (as speaking on behalf of all English teachers), because some teachers have told her at writing workshops that the HSC is too hard.  Devine describes with horror that “there is a huge burden on [teachers] to comply with curriculum rules and what has to be accomplished in a year.”  Well, yes.  I agree – but this has less to do with having to teach ‘theory’, and more to do with what we are forced to cram into the HSC year because politicians insist on setting the bar so high to protect the reputation of NSW’s ‘world class curriculum’!  If parents want an easier HSC, they need to tell the politicians…they will get my support, but Devine is likely to slam them in the SMH for want to ‘dumb down’ they syllabus…

Speaking of dumbing down, Devine also quotes her mate Big Kev Donnolly, who along with Devine perhaps has a subconscious hate and envy of good English teachers who sees any attempt to teach spoken or visual language as “social activism”.  At what point will the Sydney Morning Herald stop giving air to journos that are so out of touch??

If the English curriculum only covered written language – books, poems and plays – it would be a very disengaging subject indeed, not to mention totally irrelevant in our contemporary world.  Miranda Devine is of the opinion that ‘words are words’ whether in a book or on a screen.  How utterly ignorant. If Miranda Devine is serious about encouraging a love of language (as I truly believe she is, in her own misguided way) she would be better off getting behind English teachers who want to teach MORE language forms, not LESS.

The ETA’s response to the Board of Studies’ proposal to ‘Strengthen Australian Literature’ actually argues the following:

  • ETA members do not believe that there is any need to impose further restrictions on professional choice and judgement than those that are already in English syllabuses.
  • ETA members believe that any definition of ‘Australian’ needs to see Australia in a global context , and to take account of Indigenous and multicultural perspectives.
  • ETA members feel strongly that a definition of literature with a restriction to the print medium is imprudent, reductive, short-sighted and, most importantly, undermines the integrity of current English syllabuses.
  • ETA members believe that the amendments to the K-6 English syllabus do not provide the richness of direction required for non-specialist English teachers particularly in the areas of what could constitute literature and the kinds of creative responses it may inspire. They also think that teacher professionalism needs to be acknowledged by specifying their involvement in the development of recommended text lists.
  • Members are particularly concerned at the narrowing of the definition of literature in the syllabus [to mean only print texts – books, poems and plays] and believe that strengthening the inclusions in the syllabus restricts the capacity of teachers to effectively support weaker students.

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