Fynbos – turns out it’s quite interesting!



Towards the end of 2016 I attended the Mountain Club of Cape Town’s Leaders training weekend at Du Toitskloof Hut for their Outreach Program. The weekend was a lot of fun and I learnt a great deal. But one session in particular stood out for me – the one on Fynbos with Wendy Hitchcock . I decided to record what stood out for me in the  session in the hopes that I could  reuse some of the techniques myself in future. Below is a description of the session as best I could remember it.



Session with Wendy Hitchcock on Fynbos

When we arrived for the session Wendy started by introducing herself and then asking us to sit quietly for a few moments and take note of the sounds and smells around us in Nature. She also had a collection of plants she had picked from the nearby bushes,  together with large sheets of paper with labels like Big Leaves , Small Leaves , Waxy Leaves etc.

Our first task as a group was to sort through the collection of plants and put them onto the piece of paper that corresponded to their main characteristic. Wendy suggested techniques to determine these characteristics like blindfolding a group member while asking them to touch and describe a plant or smelling a plant and describe its smell and so on … It was a really sensory experience and I cant remember being quite as observant about plants before. We continued on like this for a while sorting the various plants into categories.



Some of the plants wouldn’t fit neatly into any particular category and so were placed into an unsure category. After the initial sorting was done, Wendy initiated a conversation about the sorting and then continued on to the topic of how to classify things. Names such as Restios, Geophytes , Proteas , Ericas and lots of terms I was only vaguely familiar with were introduced. For someone who hikes a lot,  I have been pretty uninterested in plants and this informative session really changed my basic outlook. I really got a sense of the adaption of plants to their environments and how interesting they are. Wendy then allowed us to write up any questions we had about plants onto sheets of paper and addressed them in conversation with the group.

Our last activity was to go on a walk and observe the different plants we had discussed. Wendy had brought along field lenses that allowed us to look at plants on a much smaller scale. Most of them were just inexpensive jewelry lenses but showed remarkable detail once you help them up close to a plant. I liked them so much I bought one on the spot from her.


Summing Up

I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy the session as much as I did and it really highlighted the effect that an Educator can have on a group when they are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about their subject matter. I really liked how the whole session was done outside under the trees and how natural learning in that environment felt. I feel challenge to get my classes outside more to create some similar experiences.


How to create a Personalised Learning Portfolio


Create your own digital learning portfolio showing evidence of your individual learning path.


A Personal Learning Portfolio is a virtual, personal space that serves as a dynamic planning tool, archive, profile, and showcase of an individual’s lifelong learning experiences, goals and achievements. It is created by the learner, controlled by the learner, and is on a platform of his or her choice. Though the tool is geared to be an open tool that records the digital footprint of the individual, the learner controls who has access to any section of the portfolio at any given time.

Definition Credit

Explanation Video

Possible Content:

ArtsWorks , Writing Pieces , Video Clips , Audio Recordings, Projects, Books read and reviews of them, Online Courses or Programs , Blog component, Social Campaigns, Growth Filled Experiences, Leadership Roles, Projects Initiated , Volunteer Work , Places you’ve travelled or want to travel , Interviews with Interesting People , Vlogs ….


Tools you could use:


When signing up to create an account with one of these tools, rather select the option to “Sign up with Google” than creating an account from scratch. This means you don’t have to remember different passwords.



Maths workshop with a Master Teacher




Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Maths workshop presented by Mark Philips and the Mind Action Series Textbook publishers. I signed up on a whim because of the topic, which was Euclidean Geometry. In my experience it’s one of the most poorly understand topics by learners.  I hoped to learn some new approaches that would make the time I spend on this section more productive and ultimately improve the learning outcomes.


Key Ideas:

  • Focus on the Process
  • In Geometry, do exercises first & then theorems. (Build’s awareness before complexity)
  • Allow learners to do well in early tests to build confidence
  • Build confidence through slow ascent in difficulty
  • Don’t be so preoccupied with Time
  • Spend 80% of the Time on Basics and 20% on the Harder Questions for most classes
  • Encourage learners to move around and do physical stuff – Eg Circle Dance
  • Use narratives and stories in your teaching – especially those involving relationships
  • Make Learners Feel about the Topic, see above
  • Humour & Novelty are important – keep learners on their toes
  • Integration between Mathematical Topics important
  • Get Learners to make their own questions – higher cognitive levels of thinking
  • Understanding Mathematical vocabulary is important – specific practice on this is warranted


What stood out for me

So the biggest surprise for me was how for the most part, our attention was held throughout the 3hr workshop. It’s no easy feet to keep a room of 40 + teachers on a Saturday morning engaged, talking about content that they cover every year. The presenter was really skilled at keeping people on their toes and you never quite knew what was coming next. The amount of movement in the session also stood out for me as well as the clarity and size of the visual aids. The presenter also showed a depth of understanding on the topic and vast experience teaching it, which meant his comments were specific and helpful.



I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learn’t in the session. It is not always the case when going to Maths Development workshops. I took detailed notes and they are reflected in the key ideas section above.  I also managed to grab a clip of the Circle Dance (below),  which was a fantastically creative way to remember the circle geometry theorems. I am struck by how useful it is to have a development session with a teacher who is a real master of their craft. More of these types of workshops would be brilliant for the development of best practice among Maths teachers.


The Circle Dance



Additional Resources from Workshop:


The Second Term after a long long break …



With the crazy end to term one we didn’t get a chance to talk too much about how learners could use the holidays for their projects. Also, when we came back to school , the first week was a shortened week and the second week I was away with the GR9’s on a camping excursion. This meant about 4 – 5 weeks had passed, since our last class meeting on 20% Time. I realised it would be important to have a session reconnecting to the project and affirming the reasons for why we were undertaking such an adventure.

Getting back on Track – Session 8 



In order to guide the session, I made the slideshow embedded above. The main idea was to emphasise that the project was a journey and  just undertaking the process was a worthwhile exercise . It was also understandable if you were feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of freedom and choice available. I pointed the learners back to their own curiosity as a compass. I outlined strategies and ways of thinking that I thought would be helpful. We then looked at short video clips of successful 20% Time Projects and proceeded to discuss and critique what we had seen. By the end of the session it felt like we had accomplished our objective of reconnecting to 20 % Time.


Reflection – Session 9 (12 May)



The focus of this session was to reflect on the progress we had made so  far and to emphasise the importance of the weekly blog task. The learners were given a variety of tasks they could do that would be reflective in nature, the image of the whiteboard gives some examples. Quite a few learners carried on working on their projects with one group managing to build an impromtu video stand out of a cardboard box and scissors,  then proceeded to film the first bit of a stop animation.


Mentor Focus & Timelines – Session 10 (19th May)

I started this session with a focus on the part of the project that deals with finding a mentor. We discussed some important considerations to keep in mind when trying to establish these types of relationships. The importance of being respectful and using the appropriate tone and formality.  The concept of approaching people from different generations and how one’s approach might change was also briefly discussed. I asked the learners to post a more detailed timeline of their project in this weeks blog post. I felt it was important to shift our focus to how we would take advantage of the last two weeks of term, after exams. This time period and the 3rd Term is when the actual “doing” in the project would get done. If we failed to plan for that time efficiently now, it would signifigantly limit what was possible.

The main part of the lesson was devoted to watching the video below, where a young student described the value of mentor relationships and the  process of how one goes about trying to create one. This video really is amazing for me because of the sense of ownership (agency) the student has for his learning. My mind wonders what a classroom would look like if I could empower my students to believe in themselves in the same way. The irony is, I can already see their potential is not particularly different. It’s just a matter of them seeing it too!


Defining Do’s & Dont’s in your classroom



At the beginning of this year I tried out a new way of discussing and defining my classroom Rules with my learners. It was by no means perfect, but it felt like a breath of fresh air compared to the top down heavy authoritative processes I had used before. The purpose of this post is just to define the basics of what I did and to open the concept up to other teachers so it can be further refined through collaborative discussion. Below is a brief description of how the process works. Continue Reading

Google Certified Trainer Curriculum

My Take:

I recently complete the Google Certified Trainer course and thought the material was so good I wanted to make sure I had easy access to it in future. So I decided to create this mind map. There is an enormous amount in information in here, so I would suggest just concentrating on one piece at a time.



Attending & Presenting – My 1st GAFE Conf. (2013)


After working with Staff at WGHS for 18 Months introducing ICT into the classroom, an opportunity arose for me to attend a Google Apps for Education Conference (ZAGAFE2013). About 6 weeks before the conference they put out a call for local presenters and feeling brave I decided to volunteer. I was really into Google Forms at the time and wanted to show other teachers how easy it was to make a formative assessment tool at no cost,  that greatly resembled the clicker systems being sold at the time. I enjoyed the process of presenting, but a far bigger highlight was being able to meet fellow presenters especially those  on the EdTechTeam. The depth of conversation and pedagogical rigour was something I had not experienced before, but i really liked!! It felt like this was a group worth staying connected to. It also felt like the journey they were on in terms of reforming Education was something I wanted to be a part of. Two presenters who I was fortunate enough to spend time chatting to at the presenters dinner were Rushton Hurley and Chris Betcher. I was struck by how open they were about sharing their knowledge. It was a real breath of fresh air in terms of the openness of conversation. I definitely walked away from those conversations with a sense of possibility for my career as an Educator.


My original Presentation – which hasn’t aged well (:

My original planning folder

Experiments with Flipping the Classroom – Livescribe Echo Pen


After attending a ProGro Workshop on flipping the classroom, I became interested in trying to create  my own audio visual content for learning. The tool that got my attention was something called the Livescribe Echo Pen. It recorded what you wrote on a piece of paper into an animation, as well as recording the audio at the same time. It also kept everything in sync, so that you could jump around the recording to any place you wanted to go.  I was lucky enough to be able to get hold of one second hand from the Amazon Marketplace for +- R900. It took a while to get used to teaching to only a page, but I definitely learnt a a lot going through the process. Here is one of my first attempts – trying to explain the quadrilateral family of shapes.

Link to Folder with all Lightscribe Experiments

Although I could accomplish my task of creating audio visual content for my learners. A lot of them seemed to struggle to get the correct version of  Adobe Reader on their devices to properly see the animated drawings.  There was also no way to upload the content to YouTube which was  limiting. In the end whilst some learners enjoyed my videos, they weren’t easy enough to consume to warrant the effort. Also they were probably still a bit long.  So after several experiments I decided this wasn’t the tool for me and continued my search for the right workflow elsewhere.