About Me and How I Got Here
This is Steve (Stephen) Collis from Sydney, Australia. I'm a French/English teacher, and 'Head of Innovation' at Northern Beaches Christian School and its innovation arm, the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning. With much support from my school, I created, promote and administer the free e-twinning website Beyond Borders. Currently I am involved in all kinds of other projects, which you can read about at my blog. I love talking with colleagues, am always happy to run workshops or give presentations.
You can catch my personal blog at: http://stevecollis.blogspot.com
Pre-NBCS: I completed my BA in French/English + Dip Ed, worked as a programmer for Tricon Restaurants for a few months, manned the phones at a call centre, moved to Paris and taught business people English (awful) then students English (fun), then returned to Australia and did casual teaching for 6 months.
Northern Beaches Christian school: I started at NBCS as an English teacher with a bit of French in Year 8, but French got popular, and by 2007 became my entire load.
In 2005, with government funding, I launched Beyond Borders as a small collaborative project between French students at 8 Australian schools. Staff at my school were supportive rather than defensive, and set up a website for me running Moodle. Off I went!
In 2006 I opened up Beyond Borders to any subject, started an email newsletter, and recruited as far and as wide as I could. My school funded a trip to New Zealand for their language teaching conference, and I attended other local conferences, and before I knew it had 700 teachers and students using the site, from multiple countries in multiple projects. I won the Microsoft award.
I agreed in 2006 to start teaching French as an online subject in 2007. So I spent 2006 getting ready for that, setting up 40 units of work at our website http://hsconline.nsw.edu.au . You can see me advertising the course here. My school made me Learning Area Manager for Languages. With a staff of only two this is not an overwhelming responsibility but it's nice to be able to get things done without having to ask permission!
In 2007 Beyond Borders grew to 2,000 users. No mean feat, this, since every user is registered manually through me, every project created by me! I won more funding for it, created a generic structure for all online projects (previously they were too open ended), and started working on a DVD Tutorial, since my greatest challenge was getting teachers to give it a go without being strong with ICT. I won the National Quality Schools award. I was going to conferences left, right and centre (Cambodia, Singapore, Queensland, Victoria and heaps in Sydney). In this year I also went through a steep learning curve with teaching two senior classes French online. As for my face to face classes, my school put me in a computer room for every lesson, so I could experiment with all kinds of stuff.
In 2008 my school has given me a general role of promoting innovation. This is resulting in projects like www.nbcsgreenfingers.com, mobile blogging, and all the other projects you can read about at this site. The role is great, because I don't have to ask permission to do stuff, I just go ahead and make it happen. Beyond Borders keeps growing and the conferences keep coming. My online teaching has doubled and my face to face teaching has shrunk.
In May or June I stumbled on the OZ/NZ Educators group via Jess McCullogh. This was launched recently by Sue Tapp. We have videoconference meetings to swap ideas each week, and keep online records of useful sites and teaching projects. Everyone is also on 'twitter', which I am now thoroughly addicted to. It's lovely being able to interact with like-minded people. I've got myself a HTC TyTN2 PDA phone now which let's me access email and the Internet wherever I am, so I think I am now officially one of those hyperconnected types.
I've found it exhilarating the number of ideas flooding in to me from this group, and watching my ideas being used by others.
Not sure what the future holds but it has been an exciting ride so far. I feel very appreciative of my school and Principal for being so very supportive over the last three years. We often hear about school bureaucracies and set cultures blocking teachers' efforts at something new. It's the opposite where I am.