Travel Takes Over – Like A Backpacker

At the top of Cerro Santa Lucía, Santiago 2013.

Hi everyone,

Before I left Australia for my trip around South America, I was intent on keeping OpenEdToolbox up to date.

Unfortunately it is turning out to be too hard a task to keep my mind in both places at once. I am sure that I will return to this blog and the wonderful community of teachers in future, but for the time being I am investing my time in my travel page which can be found at

If you have any education related questions that you have regarding the content on OpenEdToolbox, please don't hesitate to drop me an email via The conversations I have had with people via this site have been awesome, and it would be great to keep those connections strong. Thanks to all those people who have contributed thus far.

Until next time,




2013 – The Year Ahead

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope you are all still enjoying a hard earned and relaxing break.

As you may have been able to tell by the frequency of my posts, I have been enjoying a break away from work too. The good news is that I’m not quite ready to slip back in to work mode just yet. In fact, I’m writing this post from one of Ballarat’s (in my opinion) best coffee houses – The Unicorn. If you’re ever here for a visit, it’s a must try!

Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday morning during the holidays!

Having said all of this, I know for a fact that teachers are beginning to think about the year ahead and the endless adventures, laughs and challenges that will be your new grades. Graduate teachers are nervous about the ‘great unknown’ that will be their first year of teaching (no amount of university will ever prepare you!) and experienced teachers are excited to get back into the classroom and share their knowledge with their students and colleagues alike.

Me? Well, here’s the thing. On the 4th February I’m flying to Santiago, Chile, to begin a year long (maybe more) adventure around the South American continent. In the last few months I have left my position at Canadian Lead Primary School as a Grade 3/4 classroom teacher, sold my beloved road bike and numerous other possessions on eBay, bought a hefty amount of overseas currency and done hours of planning, reading and research for my eagerly anticipated trip.

So what’s in store this year for OpenEdToolbox?

I guess one of the best things about traveling in the 21st Century is the ease with which we can communicate. I’m looking forward to staying in touch with my brilliant PLN on Twitter, my friends on Facebook – and what they’re eating via Instagram! I’m hoping that among the great travel experiences that I encounter it will be as if I never lose touch with current education debate, passionate teachers and their wonderful ideas. All of this will enable me to return to my profession enriched, culturally and academically, and more committed than ever.

With all of the extra time on my hands (fingers crossed!) I plan to continue my work with OpenEdToolbox. This is largely due to the amazing responses I have had via email and Twitter to some of my posts, and the opportunities I have had to collaborate with others. I have been discussing some exciting opportunities to work with Education Services Australia  and their amazing maths300 resource, and I am also planning some collaboration with Fractus Learning. In addition to this, I plan on writing a live travel photoblog to document and communicate my experiences overseas, the details of which will follow shortly.

Thank you to all of my followers and readers for their encouragement and support, and I look forward to learning with you in 2013.

Nos vemos!


What are your grand plans for 2013? What are you most excited about sharing with your students this year? Please share your comments below.

What I’m Reading – October.

I managed to keep the balance between school and personal reading over the holidays. Here are a few that I am enjoying at the moment.

Making Thinking Visible, How to Promote Engagement, Understanding and Independence for All Learners (Ritchhart, Church & Morrison, Jossey-Bass 2011)

After seeing a huge amount of discussion about this book between educators on Twitter, and having discussed it with a few members of my PLN, I was keen to see what all the fuss was about. I have already found the content to be relevant to current practice, and the arguments to be concise and well explained. I love the analysis of the revised taxonomy early in the book. It is a must read for any teacher who wishes to expand their understanding of how our students apply their thinking and knowledge in everyday context.

What’s the Point of School? Rediscovering the Heart of Education (Guy Claxton, Oneworld Oxford 2008)

This was also recommended to me by a member of my PLN. Claxton is touted as one of the UK’s leading academics and thinkers on creativity, thinking and the brain. I’m not finding that this is necessarily a text that I can pick up/put down (as I like to do), and that is making it quite heavy going. This has lead to me being slightly out of touch with Claxton’s argument. Having said that, there are some interesting points raised that have made me reflect elsewhere in my studies and discussions with my PLN. Hopefully I get a chance to follow this up in more detail in a future post.

Inca-Kola, A Traveller’s Tale of Peru (Matthew Parris, Phoenix 1990)

I have been reading as many accounts of South American travel as I can in the lead up to my big trip next year, and this 90’s gem from journalist Matthew Parris was no exception. It is an extremely well-written, gripping, often humorous tale of his experiences in and around Peru in the late 80s. If you are planning on any travel yourself, a great idea is to read as much as you can before you go. It is exciting and incredibly informative, I have added so many travel plans since reading this book!

The Snowman (Jo Nesbo, Vintage Books 2010)

I’ve been a little bit sneaky here, because I’ve actually been too busy to start this one. However, I have read The Leopard (another of Nesbo’s thrillers) and I am convinced this book will be worth the wait. As the cover indicates, if you’re a fan of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy you will enjoy this series too. The dark, twisted plots aren’t for those with a weak stomach though!

Twitter has been a great tool for me so far in terms of receiving recommendations from other educators. However, it is difficult to keep a record of great texts to read that everyone can access. For this reason, please use the comment space to share what you are reading, and any other recommendations so that we can all comment and enjoy!



Building A Global Classroom, Ten Reasons All Teachers Should Tweet.

I’m writing this post because I want teachers to be able to show their colleagues just what they’re missing out on by not having access to the global classroom I have recently become a part of on Twitter. This is what I refer to as my Personal Learning Network, or ‘PLN’. In my mind, educators have expanded their networks for some time, within their own schools or at conferences. Twitter is now giving us instant access to educators globally, which has massive implications on many elements of our professional learning and practice.

If you don’t have a Twitter account linking you to educators globally, here are ten very good reasons to go and get one:

Inspiration – My PLN inspires me to think critically, be reflective and actively improve my teaching and learning through communication and shared ideas. This is something that every teacher should be doing. Most of us are already; having a global PLN to support you makes it even easier.

Resources – Since starting to develop my PLN in late August, I have bookmarked a library of rich resources shared by other educators. These include Web 2.0 tools, lesson plans, other social media sites (such as Pinterest, Edmodo and many more shared in this previous post) but mostly just fantastic ideas that spark new ideas for learning that will suit my classroom. Using a tool like Delicious I can link my favourited tweets and bookmark interesting resources for easy future reading.

Learning – As mentioned elsewhere in this post, my Twitter feed constantly updates with teachers from all over the world sharing wonderful new ideas. This has encouraged me to actively seek opportunities for new learning. One example of this was my PLN’s positive response to Making Thinking Visible (Ritchhart, Church & Morrison) which I have since bought, and am now thoroughly enjoying!

Collaboration – In practice, teachers are encouraged to collaborate, share ideas, work together, debate, disagree and produce outcomes. This, of course, is the fundamental idea of the Twitter platform. It has been enriched further thorough use of hashtags such as #PLN, #Edchat, #Edtech and #OzPrimSchChat.

Politics – Social media has proved time and time again that it has a voice. Teachers too, can come together in this space and express an opinion. Although our AEU has some way to go with their social media campaign strategies (don’t get me started!), teachers have recently expressed their views in Australia using the hashtags in relation to federal funding with some success.

Easy – You can start setting up your PLN in three steps, here is an example of an easy way to start:

  1. Go to the Twitter home page and sign up here.
  2. Find my profile by searching for @TeddyMercer (or the colleague who encouraged you to read this!).
  3. Follow everyone I am/they are following and everyone who follows me/them.

Now all you need to do is introduce yourself, ask for shout outs, explain you’re new to Twitter and teachers around the world will do their best to show you the ropes. There are some more detailed guides at the bottom of this post and links to other resources elsewhere on my page.

Ideas – There are two sides to this: sharing ideas with others and those people giving you feedback as to how it went when they trialed it in their classroom is hugely rewarding. On the flip side, giving others feedback about how you used their ideas, and watching an idea from your PLN blossom in your classroom, is great too. There is an abundance of amazing ideas out there, it is just a case of selecting the ones that suit you.

Fun – Chatting with other teachers is great! I have had the opportunity to share knowledge with Pre-service teachers like Ashley Azzopardi (@AshleyAzzopardi), tech-wizards such as Hayden Jones (@elearnjones) and Daniel Edwards (@syded06) and professors and experienced teachers like Shaileigh Page (@DrShaileighPage), Mary Jones (@MJ0401Mary) and Ross Mannell (@RossMannell). Finding such a vast number of people who share a passion for teaching and learning has been one of the most successful aspects of developing my PLN.

Support – Teachers can also find support for their personal and professional wellbeing on Twitter. #TeacherWellbeingChat is held at 2030 central standard time every Sunday and run by the talented Louiza Hebhardt (@equilibriumctc). It is easy to join in the discussion using the hashtag, and gives teachers a chance to share their feelings with other professionals on a range of topics chosen each week.

Accessibility – Other teachers in my PLN don’t mind if I take a couple of days off! I can leave my Twitter account for a few days (we all have other things to do!) but everything will still be there when I log on a few days later. I also have access to my Twitter feed via my iPhone, iPad and laptop so it’s never that far away.

Please share this post with your colleagues if you’re still trying to convince them to join Twitter. After all, the more educators we can attract to our global PLN, the better it will be! I would really love to hear your feedback, comments and suggestions in the space below.



Other resources to encourage teachers to join Twitter’s global classroom can be found here:

What is a PLN and why do I need one?

DEECD release: ‘The Ten Stages of Twitter’ – Great reading!

Daniel Edwards (@syded06) has a great blog here.

Nathan Jones shares some excellent tools here.

Ashley Azzopardi’s blog is here.



Welcome to OpenEdToolbox, a place where I hope to group and share a number of resources that I develop and use in my own classroom. Watch this space for tried and tested classroom learning activities designed for primary (elementary) education.

Feel free to contact me via the blog or my Twitter account linked at the top of the page.