Laura Brown

Professional Learning Portfolio

Author: lbrown (page 1 of 2)

How Do I Feel About Middle School?

This photo represents how I’m currently feeling about middle school because I have lots of new friends that I enjoy hanging out with, just like this litter of puppies enjoys playing together.



Make It: Final Presentation

My finished product came up so much better than I had expected and I’m very interested in looking to sell these to raise money for a charity such as Plastic Oceans whose mission is to raise awareness on the issue of plastic pollution.  Single-use plastic is a human addition that is destroying our planet and I want to do everything I can to be a part of making this much-needed change.

To highlight the fact that these combs have been made from 100% recycled plastic, I decided to use my newly develop skills in using the laser cutter, to prepare a tag for each comb. I tied the tag to each comb


From the two successful plastic cakes, I made over 15 individual combs. I chose colours that were quite different from each other with the hope of gathering interest from a wider audience. The green/blue combs, I think, turned out the best as the sheet was flat and allowed to cool overnight. The red coloured sheet wasn’t as flat so I did have some difficulty cutting this and as a result, the combs from this sheet have a slight bend in them.

I have developed a range of skills this week including:

  • Using Illustrator to create vector drawings
  • Creating plastic sheets from recycled plastics
  • Shredding plastics for the purpose of making the plastic sheets
  • Using the laser cutter and determining the best speed and power for the materials that I was working with (both plastic and wood)
  • Use of the heat gun, electric sander and the scroll saw

Please buy a comb from the PTA store to support Plastic Oceans and increase awareness of an important global issue!

Make It: Create & Improve

The first plastic cake that I made was flat on the top but was not properly melted when I removed it from the baking dish. This was frustrating because it was not something that I could go back and correct. I did cut a comb from this plastic sheet to get an idea of how the illustrator design would cut. So it wasn’t all a waste!

I created a second plastic sheet/cake and this time, I left it in the oven for almost an hour. This meant that I had to cover the top after about 45 minutes to prevent the sheet from burning. Once I removed the sheet from the oven, I used clamps to ensure the sheet would harden completely flat. This would make cutting so much easier as I would be able to ensure the cut was the whole way through the plastic sheet. Being patient and waiting for the sheet to cool completely was really important! With a second plastic sheet I made, I didn’t wait for it to cool completely and as a result, the thickness was not consistent and I had trouble cutting with the laser cutter.

I also found that using baking/greaseproof paper to stop the sheet from sticking to the baking dish left an annoying sheen on the plastic. I was able to use a heat gun to carefully heat the surface to melt it again, only slightly! When I first tried this, I heated it too much and found that the teeth on the comb started to warp. Whoops! With the next comb, I made sure to keep the heat away from the teeth and only heat the surface very slightly. This gave the plastic sheet a gloss once again.

To further improve the sheen of the fished product, I sprayed them with an acrylic gloss to protect the comb and also improve the appearance.  The gloss finish did take a while to dry and I had to leave them overnight but it was worth the wait! The gloss changed the overall appearance quite significantly and the material to touch was smoother and felt more like the comb that originally inspired my idea.

Make It: Develop and Plan

Having spent some time researching the Precious Plastics website, I know that I am best choosing one type of plastic to work with. I’ve chosen to create a plastic “cake” made from type 5 plastic which has been chipped using the shredder machine.

I used the Noun Project to find an icon that I can use to prepare an Illustrator file for the purpose of laser cutting the plastic sheet/cake. I’m not all that familiar with Illustrator so I’ll need to develop my skills in this area. I’m also very new to using the laser cutter and I’m not sure I fully understand the difference between the speed and power when cutting various materials. I’ve found some tutorials online to help me develop these skills and I will also work with Mr Stenning to support me in using the laser cutter.

When selecting the icon from the Noun Project I had a number of different options such as these below. I had to think about which would be best to cut – for example, if the teeth on the comb were too narrow, would there be a chance that they could snap easily? I ended up going with the first icon since it appeared that it would offer a stronger product overall and additionally, it was very similar to my original inspiration for the comb.

This is my sketch that includes my thinking about the dimensions (in mm) for the comb. I’m happy with my design and I think I’m ready to start creating plastic sheets from the shredded plastic.

Make It: Define and Inquire

Plastic waste in a huge problem around the world. At ISB we are collecting plastic to use in our Precious Plastics recycling plant in the Fab Lab. I wanted to take this opportunity to create something from waste plastic which could potentially be sold in the PTA store to raise money for a charity and also raise awareness of plastic consumption around the world.

Recently it was my birthday and I was given this beautiful comb. The finish of the comb reminded me of the plastic “cakes” or sheets that I have seen in the Fab Lab, created from recycled plastic chips. This was the inspiration for my project.



Options for Posting Strip designer

Option 1:

Upload individual pages (saved to camera roll on iPad and AirDropped to MacBook) one after the next. Be sure you use large as the image size.


Option 2:

Or create a gallery like this with 2 columns, large size images.

Time for Reflection

Not that every day is not a time for reflection, however, I need to ensure that I spend some time thoughtfully considering my goals I set out to achieve at the very start of the year – and in line with those goals, it is my responsibility to blog my reflective process. So here it is!

My first goal was to work towards modelling reflective practice through blogging professional learning (process and showcase) with the aim of encouraging an active blogging culture at ISB. I have stayed true to my word and I have used a variety of opportunities throughout the year to blog both process and showcase pieces. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we currently have an “open and supportive bogging culture at ISB” although this was never going to happen overnight. As a part of my role on the Strategic Growth Initiative Committee, I established a blog to report back on our progress and engage an online dialogue beyond our meeting times. This has been relatively successful and I’m glad that we have a showcase piece to demonstrate the work that the group has completed so far. Since this committee will continue well into next year, this will remain a focus for me, and I will continue to engage the use of the blog to communicate feedback on the trial set to run in 2018. The more exposure (Middle and High School staff especially) have to blogging, the more aware they will be as to the advantages this style of communication and the more likely they are to look to embed such techniques into their own learning and the learning of their students. This is my tactic, to lead by example.

In addition, a part of the professional growth trial for 2018-2019, staff will be invited to share their professional learning goals via their own blog! This is a huge step forward and has the potential to significantly change the way ISB engages with reflective practice. The professional learning blogs will house individual teacher goals and ongoing reflection – similar to what I am attempting to do in this space. It is hoped that over time, teachers will feel comfortable  sharing their learning and reflection while inviting feedback and showcasing achievements. 

So have I achieved this goal, I’d say it’s still a work in progress and I plan to continue these efforts throughout 2018-19 and beyond.

My second goal for the year was to model the use of DX through the establishment of a sustainable Digital Citizenship program for both Middle and High School. Given the nature of Digital Citizenship, this will never be one that I can say is finished. However, I’m pleased with the progress of the program at this stage, and using DX had meant that the resources are accessible for students and teachers at any time. I plan to continue to build units and add to these classes, so that there will eventually be a bank of resources for teachers to draw upon when needed. In the High School, there has been a change to the program for 2018-19 and Eileen will be responsible for developing the mentoring program. I’m looking forward to working with Eileen to establish a series of digital citizenship lessons that are built into the mentoring program, rather than as a stand alone entity, which was the case this year. I believe this will encourage a more meaningful experience for these students. In the Middle School, the mentoring coordinators have been great to work with and they have been considerate of building in the digital citizenship lessons as a part of the program. They’ve also reached out to me, when support has been necessary, and we’ve adapted lessons or built them for a specific purpose. Regardless of how proactive we are in our planning, there is always a time and a place for reactive measures when it comes to adolescents and their use of technology.

The second part of this goal is to model the use of DX in an attempt to encourage a culture of collaborative online communities and the sharing of learning. As mentioned, DX has provided the opportunity to pull together units for this purpose and have them accessible at any stage throughout the year. There were some administrative issues with this set up – essentially, these grade level classes had to be created manually, which was a nightmare to manage. When a new student was enrolled, they had to be added manually by myself. In addition, there always seemed to be teachers that didn’t have access. I later discovered the mentor lists did not include the co-mentors so a good number of teachers were not added to the course. I need a solution to this for next year as it was time consuming to manage and I don’t believe there was ever a time when it was truly accurate. I’d also like to roll over grade levels each year, why take the time to set them all up again? I plan to keep the content and continue adding to it, so I need to look into this.

The attempt to create online discussions with students (particularly in the high school) using the platform was not particularly successful – although I’m not sure they were necessary encouraged to do so, so it’s tricky to know where to go with this one. It’s clear that, similar to blogging, there is not really a culture of engaging dialogue in online spaces at ISB. This is certainly something that I plan to continue to model and showcase (while strategically encouraging it’s use during team planning and conversations with individual teachers!) in the hope of changing the culture and engaging more blended learning experiences for our students. I will need a lot of help with this one, mostly from the Elementary School to be honest. There needs to be better alignment between schools and Julie and I have the ability to work towards this in the Middle and High School, however, ensuring alignment with ES is more challenging. I think, in addition to our big picture goal setting for the Ed Tech team for 2018-19, we need to determine a more specific focus, perhaps aligned with a skill, that we attempt to engage with, where possible, in our classrooms, workshops, team planning, professional growth etc. For example, engaging online discussions, or reflective practice… what skill could we quietly model as a team next year and know that this is something that teachers and students across the school are being exposed to?

So I was hoping that by the end of the year, the beginnings of a structured, relevant and engaging Digital Citizenship program, for Grades 6-12, is articulated, communicated and facilitated through the use of DX. I’d say this is the case and there is plenty for me to improve upon next year!

VideoScribe – The Whiteboard Animation Tool!

VideoScribe is a super great app for creating whiteboard animations. The application allows you to create fun, energetic and animated presentations without the fuss of having to draw on your own. The final product makes it look like you are drawing the illustrations and text – it’s impressive! Every time I’ve created and presented a VideoScribe video, I’m asked “Is that your hand?” – the answer, no! In addition to the simple and effective means to creating an engaging, scribed presentation, the app allows you the option to zoom out, at the completion of the video, and provide the audience with an overview of the story having just been told. This is an added bonus as presentations can essentially double as both video and print based media. This adds an additional challenge for students – What will my presentation look like in print? Will it tell my story without the need for audio or the structured flow of a video?

Here is a short video, created using VideoScribe, that outlines the many benefits of using video as a powerful tool for communication, in particular, the effectiveness of whiteboard style multimedia.

Recently, I have been working with a High School EAL class on a digital storytelling unit. One of the three tasks within this unit, was to develop a persuasive piece, using VideoScribe, on a current political issue, from an English speaking country. The planning process was significant in that, not only did students need to storyboard their persuasive argument, they also needed to consider how they would use the app to effectively convey their message. This included:

  • the selection of appropriate images and key words
  • the right balance of images vs. text
  • a clear and concise script for the voice over
  • selection of an audio track that would assist in conveying the message
  • the visual layout of the information (text and images) at the completion of the video (zoomed out view)

Wumian from Grade 9, choose to research and present his persuasive piece on the current debate in Australia: Should the date of Australia Day be changed?  This is his presentation:

This is another example of VideoScribe being used in the classroom. This time, a Grade 8 student explains the Syrian Revolution. Emily (Grade 8) says “The bloody Syrian Revolution is still going on and people to this day are dying. We think that not a lot people know about this subject, which is why we made this video.”

VideoScribe is now available on the iPads in the Middle and High School and will soon be available on the ES iPads. If you’re keen to offer this app as an alternative option for video creation, or perhaps use this app to create your own flipped learning content, let me know you need any assistance. The VideoScribe website offers a series of tutorials to help get you started. These include adding text and images, change draw and pause times, adding audio and soundtrack files, and publishing and sharing your scribe. I encourage you to give it a go!

R & D Grant Proposal

So all this talk about creative teaching and learning combined with a super successful TTT recently (see previous post), I have decided to apply for a Research and Development Grant for the 2018-2019 school year.

iPad technology can be utilised to immerse students in learning that engages them in exploration, creativity, collaboration and more. When our teachers are aware of, and familiar with, the power of such a tool, they are more likely to priorities such learning activities in their curriculum. Currently our teachers do not have their own iPads, even those teachers in Elementary school, are required to use a classroom iPad and so are restricted to experimenting with free apps since the iPad is locked to the School iTunes account. Without an iPad, it is virtually impossible to expect our teachers to become familiar with the tool and the opportunities that it presents for their classroom. However, simply handing them an iPad is not necessarily the answer here, since without providing meaningful training, there is a risk on the iPad becoming the tool used solely for Words with Friends or Sudoku. (Nothing wrong with these apps by the way!)

I propose an in-depth, meaningful iPad training program for interested teachers across the school, that runs over the duration of Semester 1. Teachers would be presented with a new iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and iTunes Voucher, and would be expected to commit fully to the program. The program would run again with a second group of teachers in Semester 2. The aim of the program is to provide teachers with the hardware required and  support them to develop a better understanding of the opportunities for learning with iPad while empowering them to integrate such technology in their classrooms.

To document our journey and share our experiences with the ISB community and the world beyond, I would like to create an iBook, ISB One Best Thing,  in which each participating teachers would be required to reflect on one iPad tool that was significant to them and how their student’s learning changed as a result. The iBook would publish student samples and share lesson ideas. Let’s show the world what ISB can do!

iPad Tools for Creative Teaching & Learning

Yesterday (Jan 17th, 2018) I lead a TTT (Teachers Teaching Teachers) for staff, from PreK-12, on iPad Tools for Creative Teaching and Learning. The purpose of the TTT was to introduce teachers to three apps that are now available on our (brand new!) iPad Pro 2 class set in the library. The apps will soon be available for Elementary classes which is why teachers from across the school were invited to attend (and are encouraged to continue reading if you happen to be an Elementary teacher!).

The apps covered in yesterday’s TTT were Explain Everything, Stick Around and Apple Clips.

Explain Everything is an awesome tool for creating instructional and explanatory videos using visuals, annotations and narration. I’ve used this app in the past for blended or flipped learning, providing feedback to students and most often, for students to showcase their understanding and share with their peers. I’m currently working with Monique Cover and her EAL class for a digital storytelling unit. Then first project, in a series of three, has students developing an instructional, informative style tutorial using, you guessed it, Explain Everything. Students are required to develop a tutorial on a topic covered in either Science or Social Studies from last semester. Students will seek feedback from their teachers and make improvements before the final export. The idea is, students will “present” their completed tutorial to their teacher for use in future years. I’m also hoping that they will see what these students have been able to create and ask the question: “How do I do this with all of my students?”

Here is an example of an Explain Everything video created by on of my Grade 7 Science students from Caulfield Grammar School: Scout Squire.

The second app we looked at was Stick Around. Stick Around allows users to create puzzles using drawing tools and/or photos and add stickers with text, images, sound, arrows and/or drawing. Teachers could create puzzles for students (great for formative and timely feedback) or alternatively, students can create puzzles to communicate their understanding and share with their peers. Ideally, if students were creating the puzzle, you’d have a range of topics, so that on completion, all students can benefit from the creations. I’ve managed to set up a folder on the server which will store all Stick Arounds created. This allows them to be downloaded, once published and shared by the creator, by anyone with the Stick Around app. The only downside that I’ve picked up on, is that the puzzles can only be viewed (and played) through the Stick Around app. The files can be shared without a problem, but opening the puzzle is limited. The following video is an example of what a puzzle looks like to play.

The creation of the puzzle itself is surprisingly easy. I was pleased that two Kindergarten teachers that attended my TTT, Sally and Elizabeth, both expressed possible applications for their classrooms. They were also confident that their students, with minimal assistance, would be able to manage the intricacies of the app. This app is not only a great tool for labelling diagrams like in the planet example above, it’s also great for having students complete Venn diagrams, quadrants, tables etc. There are a number of templates that are built into the app which make creation of puzzles even more straightforward forward and accessible. The general steps involved in the creation are:

  • Design a background or select a template to use
  • Create the stickers – these can consists of images, video, weblink and even audio which is great for the littlies.
  • Set the answer scheme.
  • Publish and share the puzzle!

There are some fantastic resources out there to support this product. This is a thorough user guide and see this URL for a range of really great tutorial videos. I love this app!

The third app we looked at was the new Apple Clips . This is a quick and easy way to create and share fun videos with text, effects, images, stickers and more. There are so many ways that a tool like this could be used in the classroom: explaining a topic, givingformative feedback, examination and explanation of photos or diagrams, explaining the steps in a process, public service announcement or commercial, to name a few. Check out this awesome site that showcases 5 ways to use this app in the classroom and is well worth a look. Essentially, a video comprises of clips and each clip can be edited differently. For example, on clip might include a voice to text option. Another, might use a photo or video from the photo library. To work Clips you must press and hold the red record button. You can also hold the record button and swipe left to lock the record.  A lock symbol will appear.  This is useful for complicated or longer shots. From there you can add:

  •  Live titles – to create these, a voice to text option is available of which I’m impressed with it’s accuracy.
  • Add filters like comic book or ink, stickers and emoji
  • Add overlays – this could be useful for labelling or drawing attention to a particular element
  • Export your video and save to your photo stream

Here is an example of a short movie I made using Apple Clips.

As you can see, Explain Everything, Stick Around and Apple Clips are some pretty awesome ways to create and share authentic learning.  Although you may not feel completely comfortable in using an iPad in your classroom,  Ed Tech is here to provide you the necessary support to take up learning opportunities, like these, for your students. Please send me an email if you’d like to chat further, or even better, if you’re keen to start using one of these apps.

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