Big Picture preCAL venue for 2010

The video below shows the classroom I will be using next year for our Big Picture preCAL class. I have sent this video to the Director of Big Picture Australia to get some tips on how I can best personalise the space to maximise the learning opportunities and to best foster student engagement. Do you have any ideas?


Prince William sleeps on street with homeless

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=beggar&iid=5112730″ src=”7/5/b/0/homeless_searching_for_bf7a.jpg?adImageId=8554755&imageId=5112730″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /] Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while would have read about my experience with the homeless while in the USA. It had a real impact on me as it is a way of life I have been sheltered from while living in regional Victoria. Even though I am sure it exists here in Shepparton but not too obvious.

I was impressed by the article about Prince William and his time roughing it with the homeless in London. Had me thinking again about what we can do to make a difference. Maybe I can organise a project with my class about ways to help these people.

Herald Sun article Prince William sleeps rough on London street to raise awareness for homeless charity

Understanding Passion – educators

This article by Derek Sivers has helped me to understand more about the area of passion in educating students.

Some people ask, “What if I haven’t found my true passion?” It’s dangerous to think in terms of “passion” and “purpose” because they sound like such huge overwhelming ideas. If you think love needs to look like “Romeo and Juliet”, you’ll overlook a great relationship that grows slowly.
If you think you haven’t found your passion yet, you’re probably expecting it to be overwhelming. Instead, just notice what excites you and what scares you on a small moment-to-moment level.
If you find yourself glued to Photoshop, playing around for hours, dive in deeper. Maybe that’s your new calling. If you keep thinking about putting on a conference or being a Hollywood screenwriter, and you find the idea terrifies but intrigues you, it’s probably a worthy endeavor for you.

You grow (and thrive!) by doing what excites you and what scares you everyday, not by trying to find your passion.

(Derek Sivers is an entrepreneur and programmer.  Read and try

Looking for students

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It’s all official.

I am heading up a Big Picture preCAL class next year for 16 students who are not at secondary school or who intend to leave school.

The program will be based on Big Picture principals of personalisation, adult world immersion, community partnerships, intellectual mission, context for reflection and teacher ownership.

Students will be enrolled in a Certificate of Education for Adults (Cert 1 & 2). We will be delivering units in literacy and numeracy, ICT, work related skills and personal skills.

I will be working with Robena (to a certain degree) who also has similar views as mine about student engagement.

We will be using a portable classroom at William Orr Campus and unfortunately have to share it with another class who will use it on Wednesdays. Hopefully this won’t interfere with the students work and their possessions.

I am told I have to accept the forst 16 students who enrol. What would be my ideal?

A mix of males and females, academic abilities, different cultures, ages 15-18 or so and some motivated students who will act as role models to encourage those students who are suffering from bad experiences with school in the past.

Here’s hoping this is the way it will pan out.

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A while ago I was researching on the internet for online learning programs for disengaged youth and stumbled upon in the UK. I was very impressed with the work they were doing and their results.

In a nutshell they provide a computer to a young person who is not able to go to school for some reason (health, emotional difficulties etc). The computer is linked to a mentor who works online with the ‘researcher’ (name given to young person) to re-engage them back into learning.

There are moves afoot for a similar program to made available in Australia through the work of

I am hoping that I may be able to be involved in some way as I think that the program is compatible with the work we are doing at GOTAFE with disengaged youth.

Familiarity breeds….Content!

Well, we are back home. I have been away in the USA for a month. It was all really great and I am so appreciative of GOTAFE giving me the opportunity to experience Big Picture schools and then to have a couple of weeks holiday with my family (at our expense of course).

But, it is sooo good to be home. I missed all the things that are familiar which we possibly take for granted – our friends, church, Sammo our dog, our food, bed, the way the furniture is arranged, my office and computer etc etc.

I am a little nervous about getting back to work and having to wade through all the information I have gathered about Big Picture and now apply it to our PreCal course next year. This will be a challenge as there are specific requirements that have to be met regarding the units students will be enrolling into…and then finding a way that this can be achieved using the Big Picture approach.

I also need to get a report together that will highlight what I have learnt which will be shared with staff in the Learning Skills Unit.

Last day in USA – Walk the Golden Gate Bridge

Our last night in the States included a walk on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was quite a sight because when we started it was daylight and when we finished it was night.

The brisk walk took about 35 minutes and it was so cold…needed to keep moving. That was fine for me as I am afraid of heights from buildings. Which is strange because I have no problem with flying at all, even in a hot air balloon. I looked over the edge a few times which was really scary.

From there we caught a bus to the Haight area to get some dinner, which is not far from our house. The Haight is famous for its hippie architecture and its drug culture. The other side of where we were staying is the Castro which is famous for its Gay and Lesbian culture. The rainbow look is everywhere and the even have a very large rainbow flag downtown to really get the message across.

From there we struggled to get a taxi home and had to walk a bit. Finally got a taxi to the house to pick up our bags but he could not take us to the station because he had limited boot space. Tried to ring for a taxi but they did not want to answer the phone. So, we walked up and down large hills to get to the station to take us to the airport. We then had to work out the ticket machines and had a young man offer to help. I naively accepted his help even though Jon said he could do it. He was very friendly and THEN hit us for some money…should have realised. We gladly obliged and gave him nearly all our change as it was our last day.

The train to the airport was fine and our path through customs and security went well. So I flew out on my QANTAS plane and Judy and the boys flew United a bit later.