Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

#edSMAC: Stage One

What a week! Back to the routines of the school term, but something is a little different, and a little more exciting. Over the holidays, Claire Amos of Hobsonville Point Secondary School put out a call via Twitter and her blog to challenge fellow educators to "hack" their classrooms. I accept...

I have "buddied up" with Philippa Nicoll (yes, a relative) at Samuel Marsden Collegiate. Our first step in "hacking" our classroom is actually to hack our staffroom first. We want to help support some fellow teachers in our schools to create a PLN which will help them hack their own classes, and to share and challenge their own practices.

Philippa and I are both avid supporters of using Twitter to help establish and maintain a PLN, so are using this as our vehicle to get things started. We are building a group of interested peers and encouraging them to connect with each other via the hashtag, #edSMAC, on Twitter. From these initial bilateral connections, we hope to support and facilitate the growth of their PLN via Twitter and ultimately via other online communities.

I am really lucky to also have the support of a couple of other Twitter "junkies", Sam McNeill and Ginny Thorner, to help mentor the group at St. Andrew's College. This should help make the mentoring and guidance phase a lot more manageable for me and make these wonderful volunteers feel well-supported.

Stage One: Connect with the #edSMAC Community

As each staff member comes on board with being part of "my team", I am getting them set up on Twitter and installing TweetDeck, along with #edchatNZ, #hackyrclass and #edSMAC as search columns so they can manage their news feeds, which we expect to get busy sooner than later!

After they are set up, they are encouraged to "introduce" themselves to the community using #edSMAC in their introduction. Today, I have also tried to foster some connections by tweeting the twitter handles to some people in my PLN who I think might be useful connections for these "newbies".

I have also recorded what these colleagues already do to collaborate and a few goals they have which we think might be more easily achieved by building a PLN.

Looking Ahead

Once the initial group have started to connect with the #edSMAC community, I am hoping they will start finding more connections out there. There are also online communities, such as Virtual Professional Development, which they may wish to become part of.

Then the hacking can truly begin...

Once our #edSMAC community has made some connections, it is time for them to try hacking their classes and to share their research, experiences and resources. It is time for them to ask for advice and seek guidance. Maybe we can get them blogging, even!

Looking even further ahead, I am hoping that this initial group can become mentors for other staff wanting to build their PLNs and to shake up their respective teaching practices. At our school, we run  Professional Learning Groups as our primary source of Professional Development; I really hope that this initial group could lead their own small PLG to help them connect and collaborate with others to hack their classes.

From 2015, it would be great if we had small groups, led by the 2014 group, finding (and trying) ways to hack their classes and sharing their experiences. We are starting small in Term Two, 2014, but you have to start somewhere...


  1. Really inspirational! I may have to follow suit and step up my twitter recruitment drive at school :)

  2. Great work Matt - love that you have taken the idea further than the classroom