Monday, November 27, 2006

"What is this blogging stuff and where can it take us?"

I have just had a very enjoyable time of thinking and reflecting about my experience of classroom blogging. I have been given the honour of being asked to contribute to a chat on "what is this blogging stuff and where can it take us?" at Ivanhoe Grammar by Joseph Papaleo on blogging and have been finalising my presentation. I haven't done many presentations, and selecting the bits I want to highlight made me want to smile with the antics of the students who are being themselves in this new medium. It does add a lot of joy and even exhilaration to teaching when you open up your classroom to the outside. The honesty of the students is probably not all that surprising: after all I guess they feel at home communicating on the internet (not getting into the polarisation caused by the "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" terminology). I feel so proud when looking back at what my four classes of students over two years have been doing. I am looking forward to the conversation and meeting other teachers interested in blogging face to face. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A milestone

Tonight at St Patrick's Cathedral, my fourth child and second of three sons graduated from high school. He finished at the same school I graduated from thirty-three years ago (my other children had gone to different schools) so this was a pretty meaningful occasion. The cathedral building with its magnificent pipe organ and the students filing in in their academic gowns made me feel like I was in one of the scenes from Goodbye Mr Chips. It was way more formal than what happened when I left school. Then there were the photos and the meal at a city hotel. During the ceremony the students were told about the importance of passion not just knowledge and hope that they had the courage to be daring. This is in the same city that the G20 meeting is going on, and at the same time that the Make Poverty History concert was happening at the Sydney Myer Music Bowl. I had heard Tim Costello, one of the organisers, on the radio when I was driving in and heard him talk about the hope for the future with the huge amount of interest shown by young people to tackle the problem of global poverty. Back at the graduation, the Principal, in his address, used the poignant metaphor of the students being writers of the book of their future. At the dinner I heard about the aspirations of the young men at our table. They are not going to be standing still, regardless of the results they will be getting in mid December. I was glad that I was able to be there and experience once again what the whole education thing means as a parent at one of these milestones, not just as a teacher.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Groups, networks, or is it a club?

There's been a lot going on just lately (when hasn't there been?) At school we are writing curriculum for 2007, working out teaching loads, getting involved in staffing (the first time for me, and I'm on a steep learning curve), writing and supervising and marking exams for Year 11 (not to mention seeing the students who have done practice exams and want feedback, yay). Every day I want to write something about what's been going on but I hesitate. Ther's so much to respond to. I have loved listening to and viewing the K12 online conference. I haven't experienced them all yet, not by a long shot, but the ones I have have been way cool. I loved Mark Wagner's Two Way Teaching 'cos I found he referenced one of my students' writings and that was a great surprise. I really think that the conference has had a profound effect on the sense of community that edubloggers can join. And that reminds me so much of what I have been reading by Frank Smith especially The Book of Learning and Forgetting which I just love. In this text he posits that students (or anyone really) can learn effortlessly and painlessly when they have found a club that they want to belong to. He talks about the "literacy club" which is how most of us started reading, having stories read to us and wanting to be able to do it to be like those who could and because we enjoyed the stories. And getting better by doing, being helped by those who already can. The edublogging community is like that I think, like a club (is it ok to say that?) a group of people of varying levels of expertise who willingly show the ones who want to learn what they want to know. And then when we know we show others. It makes sense to me. Every night when I listen to the podcasts I've subscribed to I learn so much and get so inspired. I love Edtech Talk, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, Geek!ed, Connect Learning and many others. It is a club that I feel I have some part in, a welcoming club where I learn and I teach and feel a sense of belonging. The blogs, the webcasts, the del.icio.us networks are further ways of belonging to this club and there are doubtless many more ways as well that I haven't yet got my head around. But I'm looking forward to finding out.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Interesting writer on thinking, learning and reading

Through a chance link in my in-box I have discovered a new (new to me) author who writes about readingand learning: Frank Smith, whose latest book Unspeakable Acts, Unnatural Practices 'helps teachers understand the nature of thinking, learning, and reading'.

Gary Stager writes about him: "Instead of talking about what teachers should teach and what students should learn, Smith argues that we should talk about experiences that they should be mutually engaged in, involving reading, writing, imagining, creating, calculating, constructing, producing and performing."

This chimes in with my beliefs, based on experience, that if we set up experiences where learning is more likely to happen rather than having students do what we want them to do because we want it (or it is in the syllabus), learning will happen. It is the setting up of the experiences that is so critical, that requires our creativity, energy and passion. It is important that we use all the ways we can to engage our students, and provide for them opportunities to construct their own learning, as well as modelling learning because the teacher also is one of the learners. This is very timely for me as we are writing up the curriculum for next year now so there is opportunity to refresh our thinking with writers such as Smith. I can't wait to read it.