Part 2: Is The Pen Mightier Than The Swipe?

There is a hum of a counter argument brewing which positions the pen at the pointy end of learning encounters! And it’s not just from the old edu-romantics!…its coming from academic researchers.

Virginia Berninger, professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, says it’s important to help children acquire the skill of writing by hand almost as they would a second language.

“I think it is wise to continue teaching handwriting,” Berninger says. “We need to continue to help kids be ‘bilingual’ by hand.”

Berninger and her colleagues conducted a study that looked at the ability of students to complete various writing tasks — both on a computer and by hand.

The study, published in 2009, found that when writing with a pen and paper, participants wrote longer essays and more complete sentences and had a faster word production rate.

Richard Gentry, Ph.D., an expert on childhood literacy, reading, and spelling, and author of Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write says that,

“Handwriting is crucial because recent brain scan studies have shown that early handwriting skill helps kids learn to read. Keyboarding doesn’t have this effect. With a language such as English with its difficult spelling system, early handwriting practice and writing down messages and thoughts helps kids break the code.”

So, is it the art of nice legible linked script that is important here or is it something deeper that we need to explore? Could digital pens potentially provide a bridge between the analogue thinking and digital world?

Stay tuned for part 3.

Is the Pen mightier than the Swipe? Mark Sparvell

Is the writing on the wall for the teaching of handwriting or is there something behind the silky, inky lines that may make ‘mark-making’ fundamental and not just ornamental?

In our daily lives almost all of our business and personal communication seems to have been outsourced to devices. We type or tap emails, tweets, status updates, generate speech-to-text, tell Siri what we need, Skype chat or even, shock horror, use a phone.! Our students similarly engage with their world through touch, gesture and voice. No pens on paper required at all!

I remember as a beginning career teacher carefully ruling faint pencil lines on my first chalkboard at Fraser Park Primary to make sure my chalk linked script lesson was up to scratch. Within a year I was handwriting on a clear sheet of plastic projected by the overhead projector and a few years after that, using projection units with Powerpoint.

The practice of students carefully copying letters and sentences from a chalkboard or whiteboard appears to be a thing of the past. Teaching perfect ‘slopes’ and proper links in cursive writing is no longer a priority. It would seem with the advent of new technologies like tablets and smartphones, handwriting has become something of a lost art.

Is this a naturally evolution of communication modes in this increasing digitized world or, could we be at risk of throwing the baby androids out with the bathwater? Touch and gesture, keyboard and mouse seem to dominate computer input interfaces currently. Stubby stylus’s occasionally replace worn fingers on tablets and mobile screens but, what about the pen? Is it time to dip the nib in the e-ink?



Microsoft Innovative Educator – Expert

About the Job

Become a Microsoft Innovative Educator – Expert 

We’re looking for top educators, ready to spread the word about the great things they are doing in the classroom. The Microsoft Innovative Educator – Expert Program is an exclusive program created to recognise pioneer educators who are using technology to transform education.Microsoft is seeking top innovative educators who are using Microsoft technologies to engage students and their peers in innovative ways to positively impact learning. Microsoft is particularly interested in educators who are actively mentoring others, active in social media and have a passion for  and a desire to share their experiences.

As an MIE Expert, you will be asked to advocate and share your experiences with peers and policy makers on effective use of technology in education. The Australian MIE Expert community will also provide access to fellow innovative educators to share valuable experiences, lessons and best practices and work together as a community to promote ideas to innovate in teaching and learning.

This is a non-paid, ambassador program, however you will receive some fantastic benefits as an MIE Expert.  Benefits include your own Windows 8 tablet and, other rewards such as a chance to attend the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Microsoft HQ, Seattle, in March 2015.

Applicants will be evaluated based on their learning activity, application form and interview if called.—Expert-137409186.aspx


I was really impressed with the content and easy access to these great school resources from the Department of Ed, Victoria, Australia.

Well worth a browse and there seems to be no password or access restrictions.

Let me know what you think.


Learning together is just better!


8 Tips To Create an Effective Synchronous eLearning Strategy

Accessed: 15 Jul 2014 01:55 PM PDT from

How to create a Synchronous eLearning Strategy

Synchronous learning offers many of the benefits of traditional instruction, such as immediate feedback and direct group collaboration, minus all of the drawbacks such as the cost of on-site instructors. However, to get the most out of the synchronous learning experiences, you’ll have to develop an effective synchronous learning strategy that will allow you to capitalize on the many tools, techniques, and technologies that are available today. Check the following 8 Tips To Create an Effective Synchronous eLearning Strategy.

  1. Consider your primary objective when creating the synchronous event/lesson/course plan. Having a clear idea of what you hope to achieve through the synchronous learning event/lesson/course is key, especially when you are creating the synchronous learning plan and syllabus. What skill sets are you trying to develop? What information must be provided during the synchronous event/lesson/course? Is there a particular behavior or approach that you are striving to instill within your learners? Keeping this primary objective in mind while you are developing your strategy can help you to design live events and modules that hit their mark every time. When you have clearly defined goals, you know which key pieces of data to include, which learning methods will work best, and how you can deliver the content to achieve the best results.
  2. Integrate group collaboration activities. One of the most significant advantages of synchronous learning environments is that you gain the ability to utilize group collaboration exercises. These group collaboration activities enable learners to benefit from the experience of their peers, even if they are across the world from one another, and to become an active participant in their own learning process. Create scenarios that the group must work through together, encourage them to discuss the solution to a problem via live chat or online forums, or ask them to post their opinions about a particular lesson on social media sites.
  3. Develop a guide that learners can utilize to stay on track. It’s important to offer a guide or an in depth outline that learners can use to stay on track while they are taking the synchronous lesson/course or participating in a live event. To do so, you may want to develop a companion guide that learners can either download or view directly online, so that they know exactly what the synchronous event/lesson/course will entail. This also enables them to stay motivated about learning, because they will have an idea of what skills or knowledge they will be taking away from the experience. Be sure to include the expectations and the goals to be achieved in this guide. For example, you may want to mention any upcoming deadlines or how learners can get in touch with you if they have any questions or concerns.
  4. Include a visual presentation that accompanies the synchronous learning experience. Create a visual presentation, such as a slide show or a website, that accompanies any live chats or lectures that you’re developing. Doing so, will enable more visual learners to follow along and get more from the synchronous event/lesson/course, and will also allow all of your learners to benefit from a more interactive and immersive experience. Be sure to integrate relevant graphics and images that can enhance learner engagement, as well as text recaps that summarize key information included in the synchronous learning event/lesson/course.
  5. Provide links to valuable resources and reference sites. Include plenty of links to important reference sites or valuable resources that can be of benefit to the learners. Are there articles that may help them to tie the content to real world examples? Are there sites that learners may want to check out if they want to learn more about the topic itself? Include the links in their companion guide or post them in live chats so that they can access them quickly and conveniently, rather than wasting time on searching the web by themselves.
  6. Create tutorials or online scenarios to enhance interactivity. If there are real life examples of problems that you can tie into your synchronous event/lesson/course strategy, then you may want to consider integrating online scenarios or walkthroughs that the learners can utilize during the session. If there is a concept or process that may be more difficult to be understood, then create a tutorial that learners can view during the event/lesson/course. For example, if you are teaching how to utilize point of sale (POS) system, then you can develop a tutorial of how to use the system that you demonstrate virtually. Then, learners will have the opportunity to ask any questions and clear up any confusion that they may have right away.
  7. Encourage learners to offer feedback. The most valuable tool you have, in terms of synchronous learning strategy improvement, is feedback from your learners. So, why not encourage them to voice their opinions and offer their input through a learner survey or questionnaire at the end of the synchronous learning experience. Ask them about their overall experience and if they feel that they benefited from it. Let them know that their feedback is invaluable, and that their opinion can help you to fine tune your synchronous learning strategy moving forward.
  8. Make a presentation available online after the synchronous event/lesson/course takes place. Chances are that some learners will be unable to attend the synchronous event/lesson/course. As such, you may want to record the presentation and make it available online after the fact. This is also ideal for learners who were able to attend, but may want to use the knowledge gained as a reference in the future. You can even make it available as a Podcast or digital download that your learners can access on any device.

If you’d like to learn more about how to develop a successful synchronous learning strategy, the 46 eLearning Tips for Synchronous Learning article features 25 eLearning Tips for Online Course Facilitation, 16 eLearning Tips for Planning a Virtual Classroom Event, and 5 eLearning Tips to Avoid Sucky Virtual Classrooms.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Musing From edTech Conference

EduTECH on Palnet!

Key resources and videos from EduTECH 2014 have been shared in the Palnet EduTECH Community group on Palnet, a group with 235 members attending or following the conference – Australia’s biggest ICT in education conference.

Check out this page to view infographics of presentations by Sir Ken Robinson, Sugatra Mitra, and Ewan McIntosh, and find out about the top 20 practical apps for classroom teachers: 

Another page has a twitter summary by Palnet member Rolfe Kolbe, images and videos including ‘Questions are more important than answers’, ‘An exercise in creativity’, and ‘Crtitique and feedback on Austin’s butterfly’.

These urls have been shared from Palnet by ‘secret url’ so that you don’t have to login to view the resources.