Virtual Teacher Newsletter No. 123 19th March 2006 MOE LARRY & CURLY




1. Welcome

2. Mind Candy


4. New Printables -  EASTER

5. Technical Stuff – ULTRA-MOBILE PC




8. Great Sites

9.  Readers' Requests/Comments

10 Next Issue

11. Code of 'Netizens'

12. Tips

There are now 8729 subscribers to VT


on homework. Thinking Teachers and Parents want it changed,
there are so many worthwhile life experiences outside school,
these need to acknowledge and valued. This week’s forum should,
also spark heated response. Computer Testing and Computer
Maintenance. I loved the Stop Frame animation site – Clayanimation
don’t miss it. There are lots of Easter sites to browse. Don’t
miss ‘Kinky Boot”s, best movie I’ve seen since Mrs Henderson.
Have a great fortnight.



I had a huge response to the homework topic – funnily enough
no one made a joke about it.


I believe homework is quite over-rated. Nancy


Henry Barnes, on Waldorf Education writes, "When children
relate what they learn to their own experience, they are interested
and alive, and what they learn becomes their own.”


As a parent I object to the school cutting into family time out
of school hours.  Sue Rine.


There are many things that kids do
that teach them life skills far better than homework eg sport
teams teaches them fitness and organisation and teamwork,
dance and drama teaches them creativity and commitment,
simple activities at home cooking, gardening, playing games with
brother sand sisters are all valuable and educational past times. 
St Thomas.

Jacinta Blencowe


I hate having to mark it - when you have 30 students capable of
generating pages each, add it up - where do our afternoons,
evenings & weekends go???? 



The homework schedule – The Joke?
Here is an explanation of the school homework policy for the
average student. Students should not spend more than ninety
minutes per night. This time should be budgeted in the following
manner if the student desires to achieve moderate to good
grades in his/her classes.
15 minutes looking for assignment.
11 minutes calling a friend for the assignment.
23 minutes explaining why the teacher is mean and just does not like children.
8 minutes in the bathroom.
10 minutes getting a snack.
7 minutes checking the TV Guide.
6 minutes telling parents that the teacher never explained the assignment.
10 minutes sitting at the kitchen table waiting for Mom or Dad to do the assignment.
Information and History of the World Wide Web including it's
inception at Cern
Cern's and physics rpreviously covered in
Easter Colouring Pages
Ultra-Mobile PC
The Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) category offers consumers small, ultra-mobile devices with full PC capabilities, uncompromised Internet access, anytime connectivity, and the ability to recognize and adapt to its environment virtually anytime and anywhere.
Hi Cathy,
I hope all is well.  I just wanted to make sure you're kept up to
date on the latest from the ETS.
Today Educational Testing Service (ETS) announced that it
has acquired assets of Assessment Training Institute
a Portland, Oregon-based organization that helps K-12 educators
improve student achievement by integrating student-involved classroom assessment with day-to-day instruction.  See below for the release. 

With this acquisition ATI will integrate into ETS's Elementary and
Secondary Education business unit under the name, "The ETS
National Assessment Training Institute."  ETS will retain ATI's staff
and bring on board Dr. Richard Stiggins, CEO of ATI and one of the
foremost experts in developing classroom and learning based
assessments.  ETS and ATI will work to redefine what formative
assessment means by developing programs that will assist educators
with integrating assessment into daily instruction to maximize learning.

I've pasted the release below and here's the link:

Let me know if you have any questions.  Thanks for your time!


Jessica Ek

Connors Communications



Stop Frame animation is a great film project for students.

It will take at least ten times as long as you think and students
will be at least 10 times as interested in it as you think. When you
consider that PAL image projection runs at 24 frames per second
and there are 60 seconds in a minute, that’s 24 x 60 frames to be shot,
short animations are best, initially say 30 seconds only. Of course
animation can be run at 15 or even 5 frames a second and still
look OK. The clayanimator site has a huge amount of info
including short animations, development of characters,
frame rates, storyboarding etc. this is a great site to start with.

Also check out how projected images work at:

Click on Videos

Click on 'How an Intermittent works'

(Other Videos at this site may also be of interest)

Stop Motion Pro is one of the better software programs around,
check it out at:

Stop Motion Pro Gallery

And of course watch a Wallace and Grommit movie.



NSW Teachers plan to boycott the Year 10 computer test (Sunday Telegraph March 12, Sunday Herald March 12, pp19). The comment most interesting was that “generally there were not enough FUNCTIONING computers” in schools for students to site the test.

So there are 2 issues here:

1. Sitting Computer Tests - to test computer skills!&$#%*?

2. Computer Maintenance, is this driving you nuts too?

Next Newsletter I will publish your answers. Just to wet your appetite
here’s an interesting article from debriefs. – Thanks Valerie




This generated a huge response.  Mostly teachers don’t want it and most parents who wrote in don’t want it either.

Pressures ensuring the preservation of this rather obscene, anachronistic, piece of school culture seem to be:

1. Education Department Policies Like this one.

2. Parents Want it. Often used by educational professionals to support homework.

3. Other schools do it, so we’d better do it too.

4. ‘Strengthens home school links”.


And those against homework believed:-

1. Students need time for other activities outside school.

2. Students need quality family time.

3. Students need personal time.

4. Students need play time.

5. Conflict over homework doesn’t help the students,
teachers or parents or school - home links.

6. Teacher’s hate marking homework, there are much better things
to do with teacher time than this.

7. No homework schools have demonstrated improved student
performance and attitude.

8. Students hate doing it, teacher’s hate marking it and parents
hate policing it.


So think about it, give a “no homework trial” a go, make a decision

based on what you really think about homework. Challenge the
current status quo, debate it in a staff meeting. Come up with the
best possible outcome for your students.


“One bold idea can transform a class a school or even an education”
Maybe this is where we start. Does it Matter? It sure does.

Write to someone about your decision
John Howard
Minister for Education, Science and Training
Julie Bishop,
Morris Iemma
Minister for Education and Training NSW
Carmel Tebbutt
Shadow Minister for Eucation
Brad Hazzard
Hi, Cathy,

Henry Barnes, on Waldorf Education writes, "When children relate what they learn to their own experience, they are interested and alive, and what they learn becomes their own."
The issue of homework is something I've that has interested me greatly. Below, please find a few of my thoughts.


I believe homework is quite over-rated. If a curriculum is appropriately addressed, most or all work for it can be completed in the classroom. Forcing students, especially very young ones, to sit inside, trapped at a desk to work for hours on rote tasks is not the way to produce vivid imaginations and great problem solvers. Children learn best while they play. Unfortunately, most do not have time for unstructured hours of fun, exploration and sharing adventures. Imagination is a free form thinking process. It is not actualized while working in a rigid, structured environment. If most aspects of the learning process are imposed on children, how can they experiment and generate their own ideas and learn to take risks?

For some unexplained reason, many of today's parents feel their children should spend their after school time plugged in to hours of homework and/or a myriad of extra-curricular activities. They are forced into competition, whether or not they are competitive by nature. From my perspective, this concept can easily backfire. The children can easily fall victim to lower self-esteem and/or failure because of the constant pressure(s) forced upon them.

Quality teaching and parenting takes a lot of time and effort. Unfortunately, it is sometimes easier to glut children with homework, overload them with sports and lessons, and plug them into sedentary forms of technology. By not having unstructured time to explore their world at their own pace and in their own way, our children lose one of the most important time of their lives .... childhood.



Hi Cathy
Homework has been on my mind lately too. I think a no homework
trial is a great idea. My suggestion would be to ramp up the thinking
in the classroom. eg. "Now that is an interesting questions Billy! You
might like to find out more about that and share what you found out
next lesson!" Motivated, interested kids are usually the ones who do
the homework, even when it is boring. They like to learn and get a
great deal of satisfaction from doing something that involves
creative thinking. I have this instinctive response that says make the classroom an engaging interesting learning environment and the
'homework' will follow. Couple this with drawing on kids out of school
talents and experiences, take the 'work' out of the word and imagine
the possibilities for independent, creative engaged students.

Cheers, Lyn

PS Great stuff in this newsletter!


As a homeschooler who has just sent two children to school
(year 9 and 10 in NZ) this has been my first interaction with the
school system and homework. It stuns me that they can spend
so much time at school and still need to do more at home. What
 is being really achieved during the hours at school? I still have
two at home and we never do book work after lunch. The daughter
who has gone into Yr10 did used to do some post-lunch bookwork
but certainly not until 3.15. Both children have gone through some
testing and have gone into extension classes and still can't believe
how basic the work is. It frustrates them that they have so little time
now to read books or the newspaper or practise music or just think
their own thoughts.

As a parent I object to the school cutting into family time out of school
hours. As a tax payer I ask, "Couldn't we be spending the education
dollar better?"

Sue Rine.


I don't agree with homework just for busy work.  Kids are far too
busy and there are too few hours in the day.  I think kids should
be required to read daily.  I can see follow through work for
research reports, using internet to find resources, going to library
for resources - something that is going to really teach them
something.  These skills will help them when they get to high
school and college.  I think the majority of learning should be
done during school hours unless a child just isn't getting
something - maybe some extra practice can be done at home
- but not for a grade - just for the benefit of the child to learn the
skill needed.  Sharon Sherrod, Parent


Working at the Australian International School in Hong Kong,
we find that if we do not set enough homework, parents give
their children extra “sheets’ to do. The sheets can be purchased
commercially and usually have little or no relevance to what we

do at school. They include no problem solving or even thinking
tasks. However, Hong Kong parents become very stressed
about their children’s homework as they sit with them, usually
doing it for them. (or they hire a tutor) The students find it very
difficult then to do any task without having someone guide
them through it.

Lorraine Kennedy


Hi Cathy

We are a no homework school and have been for a couple
of years now.  Our reasoning was that children have so many
things scheduled into their afterschool lives now that they
need time just to be kids.  There are many things that kids do
that teach them life skills far better than homework eg sport
teams teaches them fitness and organisation and teamwork,
dance and drama teaches them creativity and commitment,
simple activities at home cooking, gardening, playing games with
brother sand sisters are all valuable and educational past times. 
Also setting, correcting and chasing homework takes teachers
and students away from other learning time. 


We do expect that all our students will read at home,
and learn their spelling and times tables.  If a child needs
extra help in an area they can have work to complete at home,
if a child does not finish class work it can be sent home, but
there is no formal weekly homework.  Children are often
asked to go home and discuss, or research or create.


We did have some opposition from parents when we first
announced our new home activities policy, but it was explained
to parents why we have chosen this path and what they can
do at home and now it is an entrenched part of the school life
at St Thomas.

Jacinta Blencowe


Hi Cathy,

re: Homework (great topic to put in forum, I can just imagine the

stampede of responses!).  I think homework for the sake of it is
useless & just keeping the kids busy in a society where they
mostly grow up without streets to ride their bikes on, backyards
big enough to play in with the neighbouring kids, fields & creeks
to explore in etc etc etc....  I often hear about kids getting
homework to do & they haven't covered the work already in class
- this is THE most annoying thing for parents, kids & other

teachers to hear about.  I use homework as time for them to
read & work on any activities they haven't finished in class,
or for interesting, motivating projects (with some class time given). 

I only give this because the DET NSW requires we give a certain
amount.  As a teacher of OC children, I believe some homework
is beneficial, however as I said, I use it to support class work only. 
I hate having to mark it - when you have 30 students capable of
generating pages each, add it up - where do our afternoons,
evenings & weekends go????  You can only self & peer mark a

certain amount!

thanks for the ongoing newsletter!



Hi Cathy,

Thanks for your on going dedication to this great site you produce.

As a teacher and parent, I believe homework should be replaced by
"talking time" where the parent/carer spends individual time with
the child to share the happenings of the day to foster good
communication and relationships. The task of doing homework
can take up this time in busy households and also lead to conflict. 
I believe that students are more able to access learning when
their basic needs are being met. So at home and in school they
need to eat and drink, feel safe, know that they belong and
experience fun and freedom. Removing  structured homework 
would allow teachers and parents/carers more time to concentrate
on meeting the child's basic needs.




In a public system homework is not compulsory. If one timetables
a period for review with the kids and only a few of them have done
the work the whole thing becomes a fairly pointless exercise.
Voluntary challenges for the kids to pursue their own interests

can achieve far more.




Easter Links on Edna;jsessionid=CC4942805D3A42921D30C0AAE98A65C9

Goto the How Stuff works site and search for Easter', this site

offers lots of info suitable for upper primary and High School students

Make a marshmallow Bunny at

You can sing the song too.

Sitting Hen

Easter Word Puzzles

Pokemon Easter Egg Holders - do you believe it???

The children will love it!!!!

More Stories and Poems for Easter - including some

Christian Easter Downloads


Commonwealth Games Melbourne;jsessionid=CC4942805D3A42921D30C0AAE98A65C9


Kinky Boots

I loved this film – check it out and see it, based on a true story.
Also read the script which is well-written, at script-o-rama.


Edna is a great resource – this page is ‘Theme pages for NSW”


Black Dog: St. Patrick's Day History

 "The most famous legend about St. Patrick is that he miraculously drove snakes and all venomous beasts from Ireland by banging a drum. . . . However, this legend is probably a metaphor for his driving the pagans from Ireland, as snakes were often associated with pagan worship." Learn about the patron saint of Ireland, the legend of the serpents, shamrocks and leprechauns. When you're done, be sure to visit the games page. You'll find the St. Pat's Fun and Games link at the bottom of the page.

Enchanted Learning: St. Patrick's Day

For St. Patrick's Day craft ideas and printable worksheets, Enchanted Learning is da bomb! Some of the best clicks are only for paying members,
(so pay and join), but among the free pages are instructions on making a kissable Blarney Stone, a template for cutting out a tiny leprechaun hat, an Ireland map and quiz, and my personal favourite Green Things. Green Things is an entire page devoted to all things green, from alligator to zucchini, including a green leprechaun marionette you can make from cardboard and paper connectors.

History Channel: History of St. Patrick's Day

If you have a broadband connection, start your History Channel visit with the video clip, then peruse the menu on the left-hand side. I had always wondered why St. Patrick's Day was celebrated with corned beef and cabbage. Under "History of the Holiday" I learned that around the turn of the century, Irish immigrants in New York learned about corned beef from their Jewish neighbours, and paired it with their traditional cabbage as a low cost alternative to Irish bacon. Don't miss clicks include two quizzes and Literary Ireland.



Hi Cathy,

For reader wanting info on autism sites, one of best starting

points (& therefore they may already know this one) is

they notify of courses & you can get on their mailing list for latest info &

courses etc.



I was at the website:
and noted that not all the listed links on this page are valid.
I see this page as an extremely good educational tool in the
development of Maths Learning. I was wondering if this page
was to be updated in the near future???


Adam Barton


I’ll have a shot at updating them over the next few days.


Hi Cathy,

I just thought I would let you know some more about my website
(you mentioned it in newsletter No 121).

I have a special "Teacher's Page" that has some highlights here:
Hopefully you will enjoy playing with Symmetry Artist and
Tessellation Artist, plus all the other fun (but serious!) things
I have on the website.


Rod Pierce

These tips are invaluable (though harder than they sound in practice especially the explicit language with no sarcasm, irony etc for me).
This article (and other resources on this site) might be useful

Where can I get an electronic marking tool to correct English
work? Is it possible to make one? I would also like to make
an online book review program with drop boxes etc so students
could easily do book reviews that could be placed on the school
intranet for other students to read. How do I do this? Are there
any examples anywhere?


Great ideas. Take a look at the Microsoft templates –
their gradebook is at
I simply wrote one in Access, Excel will do.  My suggestion is keep it simple to start with.  Does anyone have any suggestions here??

Documents typed into Word can be saved as html, this is interesting
but not necessary.  If you make a folder on your school intranet

called say bookreviews, students can save their work to this folder
typing in http://schoolserver/bookreviews  will bring up the contents of
of the folder, then students can select the review they wish to read,
click on it to open.


Dear Cathy

In your March 5th newsletter Naomi was looking for information
to help her husband teach an autistic student.  The following website
has links to educational materials that may be useful.

Janice E



Thank you for the Thinking Hat site. Very useful! I have copied the

printables and will give copies to each of my teachers in the Middle

School as I am trying very hard to push those higher order thinking


Keep up the great work!

Nicky Hozack

Deputy Principal Middle School

Calamvale Community College


Thankyou for all of those wonderful links :-)  It is greatly appreciated :-)




10.  NEXT ISSUE – Send in your responses to CATHY’S FORUM,
I bet you have something to say about this one – I’m sure it effects
schools nationally as well as internationally.  Next issue -

‘Who Are We??”. ciao Cathy


11. Code of the 'Netizens'

This Newsletter is not free, despite the misleading advertising

above. The Fee is now due. Each week you must help one

colleague on the Internet who has less knowledge than you.

Help that person even if you have to visit their classroom or

do a little research and get back to them. Trust me, this will

help a lot of people get their computer classrooms running better.

OK I'm trusting you!!!


12. TIPS

1. Double click on highlighted URLS to open in browser.

2. Send in your Questions, Questions will be published with

Answers, send in your Answers, if you have expertise to share.

3. Nominate a brilliant site for review and inclusion in this


4. Nominate a fantastic school site for review and inclusion in

this newsletter.

5. Make contact with other schools using fantastic programs.

6. Prepare and innovative article for this newsletter.

7. Tell 2 colleagues about this newsletter.


The opinions expressed here are purely those of the editor,

Cathy Brown. All other small print clauses apply. Such as:

Use at your  own risk. Nothing in life is guaranteed. If it doesn't

work for you send me an email.

Editor: cathy brown


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