VR is a Game Changer for Education

VR is a Game Changer for Education

So I was at the University of Sunshine Coast a month ago and got to experience the HTC Vive and Google’s Tilt Brush first hand.

The experience blew me away! In my line of work I get to see a lot of emerging tech in the education world and this was one of those moments in life when you are really excited but scared at the same time.

With the VR headset and the controllers you are immersed in a completely different space and the Google Tilt Brush software felt so natural it was like I was learning to paint all over again.

If you have not see their promo watch the video below:

I’ve managed to get our school St Andrew’s Anglican College to invest in one of these, and have been working closely with the Head of Art to start our first set of virtual art displays.

This is just the beginning though. I’ve been looking through some of the other educational applications which are available/coming on the market and come up with the list below which I think could all add heaps of value to different areas of learning around the school.



Aside from these application though when you step back and start imagining what is possible once you introduce a very real feeling Virtual Reality experience into the classroom the possibilities are endless!

My prediction is that once our mobile devices have enough grunt to deal with the demands of a VR experience this is going to be a game changer. There are already predictions that VR will replace the TV set and imagine what a mobile version of this kit would do.

As a dad of a 4 and 2 year old I have to say there is a little part of me that is scared. Sitting on a train in Sydney recently, I noticed everyone looking at their phones with their headphones on – no conversation – we all know the scene. What is our society going to look like once people can pop on their headset and literally be in another world?

For now though, it’s an exciting new space for us to play in and I for one am looking forward to seeing our first VR Art installation next term.

Libraries and Maker Spaces

I’ve been currently looking into the notion of Libraries of the Future and the intersection of Libraries as “resource centers” and “creation spaces”. In doing so I came across these two insightful resources.

Have a look and tell me what you think!

The Next Generation of School Libraries (Victorian Library Association)

An interesting TED talk on the subject:

Leaving behind the “Scroll of Death” –A Moodle Evolution

Our school is going through a major reform of not only teaching styles and pedagogy but learning space, both physical and virtual.

My main roll in this transformation is guiding and reforming our online class spaces which run on a Moodle infrastructure. In the last two years we have evolved our use of Moodle from long list of links and resources (eventuating in something most teachers affectionately referred to as “the scroll of death”) into far more engaging and interactive authentic tasks online.

“The Scroll of Death”


Creating these long lists of resources meant that teachers no longer needed to hand out as many notes, but it really didn’t engage students online and quite often lead to confusion because there was so much written content to navigate through. Often a single logical task would be separated into a webpage which give information, a file which needed to be downloaded and then possible (if lucky) an activity which the students could complete. This meant that for every one task online students would have several links online to click through.

What We Changed

Having looked at this dilemma we decided firstly to start using the Moodle resource “Compose a Webpage” far more extensively. Teachers were trained how to rather embed their information/instructions and (importantly) links, images & documents INTO the webpage. This meant that a single webpage click could replace several links on the front of the course page. See the below video on the basics of this.

Once we had more engaging and rich web pages on our courses, we started to copy these pages INTO the description part of the Moodle activities. This meant that in one link we could, for example, get students to view a video, visit a couple of websites and then download a worksheet which they completed and finally could upload. All this within ONE link!


Watch the basic below video on how to copy a webpage resource INTO an activity in Moodle.

Where We Are Heading

What we found was that once we had these web pages and web activities in our Moodle courses it was easy to start using images on the front page to link to these resources. Instead of having a boring list of links we stated to play around with the simple concept of using images to link to these resources and putting the resources either at the bottom of the course or in a “hidden section”. What this has started producing are site pages which look nothing link Moodle course pages but more like normal engaging sites for students to explore. The bonus is that these new courses were as dynamic and easy to update as old courses because it is all based on Moodle activities and web pages. Teachers are able to modify tasks themselves and now we can use enhancers to “bling up” the front look.

Below are two examples of this; one is a Christian Studies site created by a college who works at our school.. the other is a term based course with a variety of Blooms Taxonomy style activities.



This is creating far more interactive and tantalising online environments for our students to work in. To see and hear more about what we are doing visit http://scil.com.au/

10 Pro’s and Con’s of iPads in the Classroom: A Trial


This trial of using iPads was conducted at my school (Northern Beaches Christian School) over the last 2 terms and these are roughly the 10 things we noticed.

The Positives

  1. Firstly students obviously are very keen to try them out and they seem to be creating engagement, just by their nature as a novel device in the classroom. Students found it really easy to browse with and loved using it as a device to read information online from. “Far easier than a normal computer..”

  2. We have successfully been able to use iPads to enable some of our disabled students to leave their bags at home. Currently we still need to store the textbooks at school because the publishers haven’t caught up with technology yet. What would be nice is if we could buy textbooks by the chapter in the same way that you can buy a song from an album in iTunes.

  3. DocToGo Using DocumentsToGo we have been able to create Google file repositories for students to create, save and access work on the “Cloud”. This seems like one of the few apps which currently can both pull content down from Google Docs but also push it back! This application really becomes your “My Documents” and if your school is thinking of going “Cloud” can I suggest that most apps have links to Google Docs and very few (none I can find) have links to SkyDrive. (SkyDrive is Microsoft’s live@edu online storage solution)

  4. The battery just LASTS! It’s been really good to see that students who are using this device can work and play on the iPad all day long at school without worrying about having to re-charge. This means that the device is truly a portable device for students.

  5. There is an endless list of REALLY useful applications which we have looked at that can really change the way you teach. Here is a copy of the applications which teachers at our school requested! Download Now! Victoria Government has also conducted a trial of iPads and has another list of Apps which they suggest which you can find at http://vicipadtrial.org/.

The Negatives


  1. The iPad doesn’t support flash! At first you say “So what?”, but then as you start to browse you find out how much flash content is out there! One big example for us was Mathletics which is one of Australia’s leading educational online tools. On this note we have heard that Mathletics is intending on bringing our an “App for That” in the near future. I have to say though that is is very disappointing that Apple and Adobe couldn’t find a middle ground on this one but I guess you will have to make the choice, iPad or Flash simple as that. We, in our online school have many flash screen casts which we are not in the process of converting to quick time as an option for iPad users.

  2. Currently the iPad cannot do any HTML editing. This means you can’t properly edit Google Docs, Moodle responses can only be done with HTML editing turned off and a large number of other site which have built in editors will not work. I have heard that Apple are trying to amend this issue though. Wait and see I guess.

  3. There is no USB port or output device for displaying your screen onto a larger monitor. Getting data onto and played off the device is very difficult and is pretty much restricted to “cloud” based storage connections and the iTunes store. This makes displaying things to students a little harder than we would have liked.

  4. Our Mahara ePortfolio system which uses AJAX to allow drag and drop webpage functionality will not work on the iPad. There are only 3 gestures on the iPad, click, scroll and zoom, no drag and drop.

  5. There is not currently any Apple Management software for “class sets” of iPads. The purchasing arrangement of iPads currently makes it really hard to install the same set of Apps onto multiple devices. You have to manually plug each device into THE SAME COMPUTER to sync them all the THE SAME ITUNES ACCOUNT. There is also currently limited functionality when trying to “lock down” iPads for students, in the same way you can a desktop over a network. There are some 3rd party solutions out there.

Lastly..but importantly!

Saying all of this I think these devices are GREAT! I think that the positives of the device make it worth some of the issues that we currently are facing with the device. Already we are seeing a number of the problems with iPads being resolved, printing, displaying video onto TVs using iTV, not to mention the countless number of applications which are being created daily to solve any number of issues you might have with functionality. Give it one year and I am sure that most of the stumbling block with this device will be resolved.

Lastly, I really do feel that it’s not the device that needs to change to much, but rather how we teach! If we continue to try using our old ways of doing things with this new technology we will come across problems again and again. Some of the shifts in they way we do things that I believe need to change are:

  1. We need to go “cloud”! Gone are the days of storing your data on the network at school. We should be working with documents completely online. (Possibly backing up to a local drive). This also means that students can submit links to their work instead of having to do full uploads of content to LMS servers such as Moodle.

  2. Students need to have their OWN PERSONAL device which is brought to school. Gone are the days of schools providing countless desktops which continually get out dated and need to be strictly controlled. We need to stop buying the texbooks and rather redirect this money into purchasing personal devices and software (apps) which students can use at school. You might say “how do we control their content?”, well I believe that proxy servers and firewalls can do a lot, but let’s face it students are already accessing all the online content that they want to at school on their mobile phones. Is it not time we rather try and manage the students rather than their devices.

I’m really excited to be a part of what seems to be a change in the way we teach, and how devices like the iPad can facilitate that change!

Just a few of my thoughts and ideas…

Grant Harbor

Reflections of an ICT Integrator – Our School’s Priorities


At our school (NBCS) we have a list of 5 major priorities:

Every child important 
Every teacher outstanding
Every lesson critical
Every encounter valued
Every opportunity taken

I have been reflecting on how Moodle/eLearning, and my role as an ICT integrator meets these priorities. With three Moodle installation for Primary, Secondary and Online, more than 1000 students (K-12) and over 120 staff I get to see a fair amount, these are my thoughts.

For every child to be important implies a sense of tailored and individualised learning. For some time now Moodle has created environments, avenues and resources for students to express themselves, select tasks, and pace themselves through their learning.

This with the inclusion of ePortfolios (using Mahara), is now enabling each student to go one step further, and reflect on these processes and express their achievements and struggles in a new and unrestricted way. We are already seeing students open up and convey thoughts that previously were not heard, and we are only at the birth of our ePortfolio journey.



As an ICT integrator, working alongside teachers is a crucial part of my role. As I stated in one of my previous posts, “Moodle itself has no pedagogy, it’s the teachers & developers of the content who drive the pedagogy”. Professional development sessions, one-on-one mentoring, show-and-tell sessions, and a host of other channels have been an essential part of empowering teachers at our school to translate their physical classroom into digital ones.

Probably the most effective way that I have seen this play out, is working alongside teachers in the development of their visions for their online courses. Whether it be quizzes in Maths classes or choices for English speech topics, from HSIE homework assignments to online sport selections, I hope that as an integrator at this school I’ve help every teacher to be outstanding and every lesson to be critical. I believe that it’s impossible to effect change without actually spending the time with the people who you are hoping inspire.

I also believe that my own experiences and successes with managing online classes, have kept me grounded in understanding teacher’s & students daily needs. This helps me to translate conversions and encounters with peers and students, into effective and useful modifications to the environments and processes which we use to learn & teach.

Lastly, and I think most importantly, as an ICT integrator and a teacher, I need to be constantly flexible and open to new ideas and opportunities. eLearning and the use of Learning Management Systems such Moodle have only become possible through the vision of people who not only saw opportunity, but also grabbed it with both hands. I feel that I am in a unique position where I not only get to teach, and work in the environment of today, but I also have an input into the visions of the future.

I hope these few ramblings might have inspired the teachers and the ICT integrators out there who are doing an amazing job of transforming what we think education might look like tomorrow.


Embarking on ePortfolios using Mahara in a K-12 School..



Well I’ve embarked on a journey of rolling out the use of Mahara as an ePortfolio system for our school which is K-12 (NBCS) and have had some interesting reflections.

Everyone Seems Keen

Normally new technology or ideas in the education sector is met with much resistance and squirming. With ePortfolios though, it seems that the educational ground is fertile and ready/waiting for this implementation. I have had teachers and managers alike approaching me to ask how and when they can start using the system.

Know What You Want

The first and most important step in implementing ePortfolios at your school is to make sure you know WHY. This seems obvious, but it is a crucial set in the process of figuring out HOW you will implement the system as a whole. At our school (NBCS) we have the following primary goals:

  1. Student learning reflection and “Award Garden”
  2. Better Student-Parent-Teacher communication and work display
  3. Staff Professional Development

With these goals figured out it makes decisions down the road a lot easier.



Separate Installations for School Sites

Having fiddled with the use of “Institutions” in Mahara to split and re-theme the Primary and Secondary ePorfolios, I found that it was actually easier to create two whole separate installations. Some of the reasons for this have been:

  1. In the current version of Mahara 1.2 you cannot stop members from one institutions becoming friends and interacting with other institutions.
  2. You cannot configure plugins for a specific institution, which means if you want to switch off something for Primary you have to do it for the whole site.
  3. Single sign-on becomes messy when you have two separate Moodle sites trying to log into the one Mahara site. (Double user accounts start popping up all over the place.)

There is a little more management required for two sites but so far these have been minimal.

Lastly – Run a Pilot Test Program

Pick three enthusiastic teachers across the school in a range of areas and allow them to start a pilot program for a semester. allow this process to be fairly loose in nature. This not only engages the students and teachers, but also gives you time to iron out all the bugs and hiccups you might encounter before releasing the system across the whole school. Remember, you want the majority of teacher’s first experience with ePortfolios to be positive and not full of issues.

Our ePortfolio experience so far has been great and I hope that some of these tips will help you with yours!

Follow my tweets at: grant_harbor

Grant Harbor

Moodle Moot Australia – Reflections

Having gone to the Australian Moodle Moot two weeks ago, I found there two be two main interesting concepts that I brought back to my school (NBCS).

Moodle Is Exploding!

Moodle is fast growing to be a real contender for other commercial LMS platforms such as Blackboard. Looking at some of the graphs one the moodle.org website it is clear that this growth is just the start.


Moodle Doesn’t Have a Pedagogy

One of the most interesting comments that I heard was from Julian Ridden, a prominent Moodler:  “Moodle doesn’t have pedagogy”. He went on to explain that the LMS itself does not have any inherit pedagogy but it is the user/developer of the courses who create the pedagogy. Another comment he made was ..“PDF, PDF, PDF, PDF, QUIZ, QUIZ, QUIZ wouldn’t cut it in the classroom, so why do some people think it’s okay online?”

This got me thinking, how do we change the way we teach online? How do we move from resource repositories, to active, engaging and authentic tasks?

As an ICT integrator and teacher at our school how do effect this change?? Food for thought..

Grant Harbor

Using Windows Live Writer to Update my WordPress Blog!!



This is pretty cool! I have just downloaded Windows Live Writer onto my computer and am creating this blog post from the comfort of a offline application with all the normal “Word Style” features that you have with a stand alone application.

Gone are the days of having to log into the admin page of my WordPress Blog and wait for the java upload apps to run..

It seems fast and very easy to use.. give it a go and hopefully you’ll be able to blog all that more often!

This could be a really good system to use for a class to update their blog’s based on a project etc..


Using Moodle to train teachers in Rwanda

Hope Rwanda

I’ve been working on a project with Hope Rwanda recently to create a Moodle installation which is aimed at setting up mentorships between Rwandan teachers and Australian teachers.

Basically Rwandan teachers are very disconnected from any professional help and support. It has been suggested that having an online forum, chat room or resource centre where Rwandan teachers can get advice, support and help would do much to improve this problem.

That’s where www.hopeeducationtraining.org comes into play. This moodle installation will be used by both the Rwandan teachers and Australian teachers to connect and share their experiences and problems.

You can visit the site and have a look around, if you are a teacher and would like to be a part of this mentorship program please message me back and I’ll get in contact with you as soon as I can.

It’s really exciting to use technology to reach the world!