Thursday, December 20, 2007

Winners in the festival of life

Just found out I am a winner! No, not the Edublog awards, but the Stephen Downes awards. Thanks Stephen. And thanks for highlighting other great work that's going on that I didn't know about. More to read - luckily it's holidays.

And holidays are a good time to do some reflecting. I have spent a lot of time thinking about my job in the last few weeks. I had been called into the principal's office unexpectedly, never a good feeling, to be told that there had been a complaint made against me by a staff member. Not enough time administering the department and too much time on innovation. I just have to get that balance right.:) I was given a job of work to do - to make a timeline of all the management things I had to attend to at various times of the year so that I could plan for them well in advance. I have learnt a lot about management in the last few weeks, about filing and organising and I hope to see the benefit next year in a reduction of stress.

There are a lot of triggers for reflection around about now. The Year 12 results have come out and our figures this year are an improvement on last year, so there is much to be pleased with there, but it is not only about numbers and figures but about what the students will take away with them from their experiences at school. At the end of the year we also had an English Domain meeting, where we looked at the challenges we had set for ourselves at the end of 2006 and evaluate what we had achieved. There were lots of areas where we improved in the goal of making English a desirable subject and how we have been able to incorporate experience, achievement and engagement. The introduction of a Reading Area (with comfy chairs) in the library where students come for a whole period or half a period (35 minutes) once in a 10 day cycle. Here they can read whatever they wish; the emphasis is on reading for pleasure and there is no assessment. Each session one or more of the students can speak about the book they are reading or have just finished and recommend it or otherwise. One of the teachers used it as a time to hear his year 7s read aloud. I think that next year I will be asking the students to fill in a record of what they have read with a little notation of whether they liked it or not.

The writers group was seen as a plus and the debating and use of Literature Circles to study a text in a group and with their own choice of book. We also made some goals for the future. Some of the things we want to introduce are mainly in the area of providing a genuine audience for what students produce (blogging was seen as too difficult at the moment as too many teachers are unsure about it):

Online magazine, so genuine audience for year 12 student writing
Publish student writing on noticeboards and possibly with an insert in newsletter to parents
Staff-student debate
Research the audience: interview people at Elderly Citizens Unit and write up fictional piece to read or publish for the senior citizens (year 9)
Research the audience: Interview students at primary school produce a text that they would like
Have an exhibition of student work along with the Art show/English festival
Have a soiree to launch Ellipses anthology
Provide texts for schools we have a contact with in East Timor and Zimbabwe
In year 11 and 12 have students research their audience before they write in the Creating and Presenting assessment
Contribute to a regular MYP letter (each core group in year 7 and 8)



But the best way I had of celebrating the end of the year this week was having lunch with my twitter friend and blogging buddy Sue Tapp at her school. I met other English teachers there and the debating coordinator (Our schools debate each other in our local Hills Debating Competition). I had a tour of the school and saw Sue's classroom that she featured in her Voice Thread. I saw the place where the Night of the Notables was held and heard about the English Festivals she had organised over the years. Sue's interest in poetry was definitely inspirational and hearing her talk about the interdisciplinary units they were developing was great. I really wish I'd recorded the talk we had as she mentioned so many things she was involved in that I didn't know about that I'm going to have to keep meeting her to ask her more. I nominate Sue for Teacher of the Year. Thanks Sue.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Students 2.0



There I was, not posting very much and not on twitter very much either, and all of a sudden there is a new website to follow: Students 2.0. Here is the blurb:

"Administered, designed, edited, and written by a global mix of students of varying ages, interests, voices, and points of view, Students 2.0 will feature content written by both staff writers and guest contributors. From Hawaii and Washington, from St. Louis and Chicago, from Vermont, New York, Scotland, Korea, and other points on the globe, these writings will be united in one central aspect: quality student writing, full-voiced and engaging, about education."


Should be very interesting. I especially like the video, which gives an overview of some of the students who will be posting, many of whom I've met through their blogs in the last twelve months. If you haven't already go on over and have a look. I really hope some of the committed student bloggers from my school may want to be involved in 2008. Thanks to Dianne Cordell who gave me the heads up

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Just checking in

I have three blog posts in draft form. I want to finish them. There is so much I want to do. I will wait patiently until all the marking and the report writing is finished and I can think again. Until then I want to leave you with this podcast interview with one of my regular reads, blogger Gardner Campbell.
Gardner Campbell teaches English literature, film studies, writing, and -- woven through it all these disciplines -- a new one that he calls digital imagination. In this conversation with Jon Udell, he talks about how our emerging uses of the internet enable educators and students to create fresh approaches to higher education.
It is a good listen. Enjoy!



Sunday, November 25, 2007

Goals for us as learners

This is a photo I made for the IBO Learner Profile which is I think one of the best things to come out of the International Baccalaureate Organisation. The Learner Profile "is the IB mission statement translated into a set of learning outcomes for the 21st century".

Risktakers

IB learners strive to be:

Inquirers They develop their natural curiosity. They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning. They actively enjoy earning and this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.
Knowledgeable They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance. In so doing, they acquire in-depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and balanced range of disciplines.
Thinkers They exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethicaldecisions.
Communicators They understand and express ideas and information confidently and creativelyin more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication. They work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others.
Principled They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice andrespect for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take responsibility for their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.
Open-minded They understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and communities. They are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view, and are willing to grow from the experience.
Caring They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings ofothers. They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the lives of others and to the environment.
Risk-takers They approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought, and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.
Balanced They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.
Reflective They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development.

What a fantastic set of goals. It is my goal to make a poster about each of these. The photo is one that I took on my trip to China earlier this year. I love the Flickr toys that made it easy to do.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Critical and digital literacies

The other day at the web 2.0 workshop at my school a question was posed: is blogging and communicating online better than face to face communication? A trick question I thought. The answer is clear; face to face is always better than distance communication if it is possible. The benefit of setting up the community of inquiry with blogging habits that your classroom can become is the affordances this gives when this is working well – the possibilities of global collaboration leading to greater understanding among peoples.

But I was surprised. The people in the workshop answered the question that blogging gave opportunities to students within the classroom as well. The quiet student who blossoms forth in writing, the international students who, while they don’t like to speak in large class groups, are looking for ways to show their knowledge, the opportunity for students to fill out their answers with considered thought. And this wasn’t said but I know that the opportunities at school to learn how to be a digital citizen while in a safe and monitored environment with guidance at hand are a really important part of classroom blogging.

The workshop was really varied. I look forward to being able to introduce you to a French language blog soon as well.

Having a blogging classroom set up and having enough teachers using web 2.0 tools enables “just in time” learning to happen. We are solving problems together, with other teachers and with our students. I am at the moment trying to get Voicethreads recorded (which isn’t working for me currently) but I will not stop trying. I know that when it does work I will know a lot more than when I started. Being open to all these opportunities means I can make the most of my opportunities. Having students ready with web 2.0 capacities means that we try a new tool when it is invented.

One of my finds this weekend was from the Allan Luke webcasts. I listened to an episode from May 31st this year on the new literacies which I really enjoyed. Allan Luke is at Queensland University, Australia, and has a global perspective. I liked his focus on social justice in curriculum design and his imperative not to infantilise the students in our schools by expecting less of them than they are used to doing in the their daily lives in critical literacies. Have a listen, see what you learn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I love Twitter

I love Twitter. Through this manifestation of my Learning Network I find out about new blogs, what people are learning about, reflecting and doing. I hear about ideas that are being formed, presentations that are coming together and live interactive events round the globe I can be involved in. The network never sleeps (although parts of it are taking their rest all the time). People ask for help, for feedback and for comments for their students as they are finding their writers' voice. Last night (my time) I heard from Vicki Davis that some of her students were blogging. I went and had a look and was most impressed. Today I showed one of them to some in my Year 7 class (most of the class was working on their Voicethreads, but a small group were blogging). And now Miranda has made a post in response to the students at Movieworms. I love the network.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

A new idea for my workshop

Why have I been wanting others to try blogging? I know that I was introduced to a new world that I found exciting and informative, but after telling others about it, there is some but not much interest in it from other teachers at my school. There are lots of reasons given, mostly lack of time (i.e. they admit it might be good to do but are too stressed to take up some thing new). Others say “…but why would anyone care what I wrote and why would I waste my time reading about minutiae of other peoples’ lives?’ This seems similar to experiences Darren has had as well. I recently became aware that if one first came across random bloggers in the early days of blogging (not educational bloggers who share their discoveries and reflections about learning) then one might have a really negative idea about blogging. And if this same person came across students blogs (and we’ve all read them) that start off “I’m in English and I’m so boooored, can’t wait till lunch”, it’s not surprising that their initial negative impression is confirmed.

But on Wednesday I have a really interesting opportunity to speak to teachers of the MYP program at school about the potential of web 2.0 technologies to give further opportunities for learning, especially global collaboration and intercultural awareness, which is a big part of the IBO. Similarly the IBO curriculum is based on the latest in educational research and web 2.0 seems so suited to providing the necessary learning environment for 21st century students. Some of the teachers on this team are those who have been less than impressed by blogging.

Then I was listening to the Ed Tech Posse podcast and Dean Shareski said something that really made me think. The way I understood what he said (roughly) was that instead of people who see the value of blogging hitting others over the head with it, to put things around the other way and ask teachers who want our help to set up blogs why they thought it was a good idea. That would certainly save me a whole lot of time (I have been offering to go into teachers classrooms when I have a planning period to help set up class blogs and so often the resulting blogs are just left to die). Another teacher of my acquaintance says that if a teacher isn’t blogging of their own accord it really doesn’t help the students if he or she tries to introduce it in the classroom. This means that students who may enjoy blogging are not introduced to it by a teacher who is either against blogging or not familiar with it. But these teachers have their own unique gifts for their students and will take their students with them in other ways.

This is basically the mindset that I will go into the workshop with. I plan to say only a little (having possibly said too much in the past). Some teachers who have started blogging will share their journeys, Yvonne, a science teacher, Bernie, an English teacher, Katrina, leader of the Environment Group, Jennifer, teacher librarian and Vicki, PE teacher and new user of del.icio.us and wikis. I guess though, the ultimate point I want to make is that blogging is easy and fun but you have to be committed to it, and it may not be for everyone. (Even though I would like it to be.)



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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Awe inspiring people really

Having had a day off for Melbourne Cup day I have been enjoying catching up with reading blogs and twittering. I would like to continue the theme of featuring some interesting bloggers found on the Directory of Australian Edubloggers - all people who are developing and sharing resources, teachers who want schools to be better places, possibly more exciting, but in any case more effective. As I write these posts I have the voices of the naysayers in my head, people who think that blogging is just a fad, that it's an optional add-on that certain people may choose to engage with, but that it's outside the real purpose of education. This is something I don't believe. Students are going to be creating a digital identity as one of their social identities and it is up to teachers and parents, in their wisdom, to help guide these young people.

Anyway, end of rant. Here are some more fantastic educators that you may want to follow and learn from.

Fiona Banjer, who writes Mrs B's Professional Dialogue with Herself, is "passionate about the value of providing www and Web2.0 applications into learning experiences." She has a website where she keeps resources as well as tips for using Interactive Whiteboards.

Jess McCulloch maintains Technolote which is "about integrating more ICT into the language classroom (namely Web 2.0 spplications), but also about language teaching and learning in general." Her articles are thoughtful, well written and informative.

John Larkin is a "teacher of History at St Joseph's Catholic High School, Albion Park, NSW", who has "been working with technology in education for 15 years." He writes TeachTech which is full of interest and resources.

And then there is Sue Tapp, a friend through blogging who blogs at And another thing. She is "a teacher of English in a government High School in Victoria. I am attempting to integrate Web 2.0 in my classroom and to develop a better understanding of the pedagogy and the technology." Sue recently tried out Voicethread to great effect here.

At Wax Lyrical, a beautiful name for a blog, we find Kate Quinn, who "research(es) blogs and online learning. By day (she is) an e-learning administrator in Perth."

And Russel Mongomery who blogs at Braindump, teaches middle school maths in Perth, Western Australia. In his own words: "I am a disruptive innovator and at the moment I am a digital pioneer (warrior/champion/fool) at my school." As a pioneer and friend on twitter he is a most inspiring person and because of him and others like him the world is a better place. I dedicate this blog entry to him.

Some interesting Aussie edubloggers

I subscribe to the changes on the Directory of Australian Edubloggers and so get alerted to those who have signed up. It made me think that I haven't shared the gems I have been discovering, so I would like to highlight some. In no particular order they are:

Karen Mann at Web2 Wanderings who is "an accountant who decided to fulfill a lifelong dream to become a teacher." She is from New South Wales and is completing a Masters in Education and is also a member of Classroom 2.0.

Then there is Westley Field at Skoolaborate. He is from Sydney in New South Wales and his site is a "Virtual Island, Blog and Wiki that allows innovative, creative, cutting edge schools to collaborate with like minded schools world wide" in Teen Second Life. He also writes at iThought.

Roland Gesthuizen, who maintains Plakboek, is a "Learning Technology Coordinator and IT Teacher who works to support a range of ICT initiatives and leads a team of highly motivated and talented computer support staff." Lots of info and reflection here.

Linda Shardlow is a maths teacher at a secondary school in Melbourne who writes at First Person, Second Hand, Third Dimension, where she reflects on lots of PD she attends. She is "interested in discussing and reflecting on curriculum approaches to the teaching of mathematics, my own practice and that of others in order to provide learning experiences that engender authentic thinking and deep understanding of concepts in my students."

Kylie Willison has an interesting perspective as: she "teach(es) basic IT and office skills adult education classes using Ubuntu Linux... work(s) for Teen Challenge as well as running (her) own training business and home schooling (her) teenage daughter. She writes at Blog blog blog and is from South Australia.

I will definitely highlight others in the next few posts but these are some I would like to introduce to some of my blogging network who are not already familiar with them

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Libraries are fantastic

Recently I sent our teacher-librarian some really interesting links which I’d like to highlight here. The Teacher Librarian Ning looks very interesting. It is “For those of us who connect, teach, share, and lead in new information landscapes. Come play in this exciting learning sandbox!” Created by Joyce Valenza it features a frappr map and a discussion titled ‘Best Book you’ve Read all year’ with 57 replies. I think I’ll be going there when it is summer holidays for me. I think that there are enough resources about education generally to make it worth looking at for any educator.

In the same email I also pointed to a voicethread called The Face Off: Databases VS Google by Technolibrary (Carolyn Foote) because I had been talking the my teacher librarian about specialized information sources that student were overlooking due to their overdependence on Google regardless of the purpose of their search. It is a clear and logical explanation and one more reason to experiment with voicethread.

And lastly I pointed to The Not so Distant Future blog by also Carolyn Foote, a librarian at a large public suburban high school, Westlake High School, in Austin, Texas. I’ve met Carolyn on a number of occasions on Ustream events and have come to respect her wisdom. Her latest blog entry ‘Learning in a Community’ is an example of that wisdom:
So, here are some ways to build a learning network if you want one:
  1. Read a few blogs. Pick four blogs. Read them, and make a comment fairly often. Part of the idea here is conversation with others.
  2. Create your own site that people can visit. A blog, a wiki, a website–so when you post on their blog, they can see who you are, and what your work or interests are.
  3. Join a network, like Classroom 2.0 Ning, or Global Education Ning or Teacher Librarian Ning or Librarian 2.0 Ning. It’s a great way to find out projects other people are starting and join them. Those are also great places to post a question or to ask someone to join a project you want to do.
  4. Join a network that has to do with your outside interests–visit a knitting blog or a football blog or a travel blog and post comments there.
  5. Join a site like Twitter. The thing about twitter is–you can’t just join it and sit there if you want to get the power of it. Join Twitter, search for 4 twittees that are educators, librarians, biology teachers–whatever your area of interest is.
Fabulous.
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A story in Voicethread

Recently, I thought I'd have a go at trying out Voicethread, inspired by Rachel Fryer, I thought how hard could it be. But I'm afraid I don't have that charming naturalness that a three year old can muster. But I know that reflecting on learning means that the product in process is also valued. Anyway here it is. I decded to make for first Voicethread about my trip to China in April this year to a workshop for the Middle Years Program of the IBO. I am going to show it to my Year 7 class to let them see that preparation of a script can be useful. I was also inspired by Chris Betcher and his first try.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Subspace, Code Lyoko and Animal Farm

Today I was very happy to be at another meeting of the writers group here at school. We are getting about 15 students who kee coming back and 3 or 4 teachers each time and we have great discussions, stimulating and amusing. When a year 12 student member came, she was interrupting swot vac (or pre exam study break) to come for the meeting. We all clapped as she came in. We heard about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30." Several students are participating.

We heard about Voiceworks, a "national, quarterly magazine that features exciting new writing by Australian young writers. It is a unique opportunity for young writers and artists (under 25) to publish their poetry, short stories, articles and comics, illustrations, drawings and photos." We heard the beginning o a story that a student started in her Maths class, and will have to wait till we find how it ends. We heard about Monique's story that she previews on her blog, a piece of fanfiction based on the French animated TV series Code Lyoko. I read a small passage from a novel I am reading at the moment that I love, Andrew McGahan's The White Earth, such evocative writing. We heard about a student writing a review of a novel she liked and sending it to the author and having the author put it up on her website. A student talked about her experience of reading Animal Farm and another student talked about an idea she had for a story about subspace and how that idea had come from what she was learning in science about the universe. We made a theme for next time on anything related to science fiction or speculative fiction. I can't wait.

Blogging then and now

Today I took a replacement class, as my Year 12s have gone. It was a group of Year 11s in a computer room. Among them were some students I had taught in Year 9 two years previously and were some of the first students I ever blogged with. We talked about their old blogs, abandoned since year 9, and I showed them to the students. They laughed at their younger selves, amused that back then they had gone to "parties" rather than "clubs". They seemed intrigued by these word snapshots of the now distant past. It was clear to them how much they had developed and changed. I then showed them some of the blogs of the current year 9 students and now I was unexpectedly faced with (and pleasantly surprised) by the differences between the two groups. One possible reason is that my experience as a teacher who blogs has had some impact on the quality of what students write. I have also noticed that, with practice (the current year 9 students have blogged longer and more often than the 2005 class), and the practice could also be having an impact.


It made me feel that potential we have to have each Year 7 student start a blog at the beginning of high school and maintain it for their time at school would be a genuinely useful process. The students could each year be linked to a Year Level class blog and I would envisage the teacher of any subject at that Year Level being able to put up posts to the Year level blog and ask the students to put up some response. It wouldn't always have to be writing. It could be a file uploaded, a game, a voicethread, or podcast, a cartoon or anything, as I know that not everyone likes writing so much. But creating something - that's another matter. Students generally love that and it would be a great challenge. But I guess a lot of students still generate and show their knowledge in writing so that would work as well. It is a dream I have and who knows maybe it will be able to happen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Inspiring Posts, Podcasts and Voicethreads

Just wanted to link to some inspiring posts from my aggregator. From Ryan Bretag who makes a deeply felt plea for students to read as well as write. I just had a conversation with a student today where I realised she was under a misapprehension that there was nothing in it for her. She was completing posts as if I required them, rather than seeing them as prompts or springboards for an exploration of her own interests. The reading part of it is not taken seriously by these students who are “playing school”, figuring, I suppose, that only a visible product that she can tick off as having been done counts. The resistance shows up in some of the posts that students do. I guess it really is a learning experience for both me and the students. Anyway here is what Ryan says:

Students need to read blogs! I cannot overstate this fact enough. If you really want blogging to be transformative and you want it to sustain itself as a powerful piece of the classroom environment, it starts with reading blogs and learning about the philosophy of this genre: critical reading, connecting and synthesizing ideas, communicating publicly, creating, contributing, community linking and building, and moving cyclically. Without this step, students are more likely to see it merely as an online equivalent to a journal (an expensive notebook) or even worse, word processing.”
How true.


And, on another matter but equally relevant for me is a post from Stephen Downes:

If people want more right-wing teachers, there’s a really simple way to do it: pay them more. That way, you’ll get teachers who are motivated by the money passing on capitalist values rather than people who are motivated by social service talking about cooperating and sharing, about rights and diversity.
I recommend that you read both posts in full.

Then today, while listening to a Seedlings podcast by Bob Sprankle, Cheryl Oaks, and Alice Barr (go team) I heard that Voicethread is giving free pro accounts to educators. This means that you can record audio comments, make text comments, Doodling, (not sure about this yet) sharing, full screen presentations, Flickr and Facebook importing, embedding, zooming, identities, simple and secure privacy control, moderation and an unlimited number of VoiceThreads, storage and Image, doc and video file size limit. Sounds good to me.
I thought about using it for my Year 7 class by having them record the findings they made from researching the First World War in the course of studying the novel by Jennie Walters, Standing in the Shadows. I am starting to try it out myself before getting the students to try it. I did show the class the beautiful Voicethread narrated by three year old Rachel Fryer about her new haircut. They loved it. Go and have a look yourself.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Easier communication through blogger

Just noticed that blogger has a new feature: the ability to subscribe to comments on a blog post via email. As those at blogger say “The comment subscription feature allows readers of a blog to receive an email each time a comment is made to a particular post. You can subscribe to a post's comments by clicking the "Email" link next to "Subscribe to comments" on the post page…This makes it a lot easier to stay in the conversational loop after you’ve commented on a post somewhere.”

Blogged with Flock

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Global connections

With regard to blogging in the classrom, I feel as if there has been a tipping point recently. Of the eight Year 9 classes at my school five of them have started blogging. check them out Mr Peeler's class, Mr Cahill's class, Miss Avraam's class and Ms Nankoo's class (and mine). Their teachers have set up class blogs and each student has their set up an individual blog; the teacher has then linked them to the class blog. Finally all the Year 9 blogs are linked on each of the class blogs.


As always some students really love it and love the writing and comments they receive. Some students clearly have the feeling they are writing into a vacuum; their image of cyberspace appears as distant and unpeopled as a outer space it seems. Soon, I hope, they will perceive cyberspace as full of friends, like minded people who can connect with ideas and offer encouragement to the students as writers, thinkers and creators.


I would like to highlight these young writers who I think would love some encouragement: Monique, Tamsyn, Kathy, Kate and Stephanie. If you can spare a few minutes pop over and have a read. Leave a comment if you like.


As well as this, a global project has been started bystarted by Peter Beuhler from Germany. He has gathered together teachers and students from Poland, Spain, Greece, the Czech Republic, Denmark, South Korea, Brasil, USA, Australia and Germany. Not all of the blogs are up yet and some of the teachers are new bloggers themselves, but it is a beginning. All the students are blogging in English at this stage. I will put in the rest of the links later


I have to thank Denis, a colleague in my school for making the connection with Peter for me. I have been giving after school workshops on blogging on a number of occasions and Denis came tio one of these and immediately thought our Year 9s could connect with these similar aged students around the globe.


I normally offer these workshops on a Monday afternoon in a computer lab with an IWB which works really well. We share some refreshments at tables while I show some of the potential of Web 2.0 on the IWB, before moving off to the computers for some hands on exploring of the potential. In the last session I introduced some of the participants to twitter: say hello to missfong and sandcastle.

And now as the fabulous K12 online conference finishes up we find it never really finishes: find it ongoing here at the K12Online Ning.
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

commenting community

So much happening, so little time to blog. Feeling guilty about not blogging at times. Not that I should blog, but that it’s a missed opportunity to articulate some learning and strengthen it, to give back to the community of edubloggers, to discipline myself to reflect. But even so. I heard someone once talk about his blog as his outboard brain (was it Doug Johnson?) If that analogy is extended, what would twitter be? The connection between my huge outboard brain (all the edubloggers I follow and learn from) and twitter being always open means that I have more connection to my “brain”. I have to think about that some more.

In the meantime more blogging (and learning) has been happening around me. I have been called into other teachers’ classes to help them set up blogs and sometimes they just take off. It is so inspiring to see students who love writing and communicating. I would like to have other bloggers comment on these new students especially Tegan, who has given her blog such a cute name Tegan’s Learning to Blog: show some love. I do so much appreciate teachers who ask their students to look at other students and hopefully make some connections through comments, and thereby build some global understanding. So thank you all.

Update: thanks to Graham, I found that the "outboard brain" idea comes from D'Arcy Norman. Thanks Graham.

Monday, October 08, 2007

K12 Online Conference 07

Just 5 minutes after Dave Warlick's presentation for the K12 Online Conference went up on line together with associated chat there were people from several countries and in many time zones chatting about the presentation, called unsurprisingly "Inventing the New Boundaries". Lots of boundaries are being crossed as friends who meet whenever and wherever they can meet up again here. The K12 conference schedule can be accessed here. Just now I'm multitasking, listening, chatting and blogging. So join us whenever you can for the best, most inspiring, professional development you can imagine.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

A lot of social networking

There has been so much happening in the edublogosphere lately. At one stage I was beginning to think I was nocturnal as there were so many social educational activities happening using the new Google Presentations and Ustream TV . And now through Twitter (and a discussion through Will Richardson's inaugural broadcast) I have found a new podcast from Technolote. She says "I teach Chinese at a small country school here in South West Victoria. I am interested in integrating more technology into language classrooms." And I did really enjoy listening to her discussion of global collaboration. Her fresh and interesting voice is inspiring to listen to and I am already a fan.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

reflections during the holiday break

I really relate to NZ blogger Jane's post "Troubled" where she reflects on the feeling of overload and disruption that her online life is giving her. She asks: "I suppose my question is... In the long run is this connectivity helping me or harming me?" Read the whole post and the comments to get a real sense of what the issue is. With all the stresses of teaching I know I have received much benefit from social networking tools, ideas, connections and a real sense of purpose. But sometimes being involved in these networks gives its own stress. Not being able to keep up is one. There is a feeling of being in a moving train as I catch glimpses of people's lives flashing by on slideshare, webcasts, podcasts, blogs, delicious.com (love the new URL), twitter, flickr, and so many others. I can't help feeling that I want more, I want to meet you guys face to face to say thank you for what you have given me, walk with you, talk to you all, but that's impossible if I still want to live my own life. It would take several lifetimes to be able to do that.

Anyway, enough of the rant. You may have noted that I have put Answertips on my blog. I have tried to put it on the class blogs where it would be very useful, no doubt, but James tells me it can't be put on edublogs or learnerblogs for security reasons. It seems like a great addition to a school blog where readers can double click any word and link to a dictionary definition of the word. It also links to "fast facts on millions of obscure words, personalities or slang."

Secondly, the Directory of Australian Edubloggers is going really well and has lots of new entries. I have gone back to having an open password - I had changed it due to vandalism - I hope that it has stopped by now. So it is time to do some more reflecting, some planning for next term, and go outside and - mow the lawn. If I think of it I will post a picture of that momentous event.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Blogging and identity

I’m learning a lot about blogging with students now that I have my Year 11s blogging. They are 16 to 17 years old and it is the first time I have blogged with students in VCE. Blogging in the classroom raises questions of identity with these students in an obvious way and they don’t mind talking about it. New blogger Zoe called her blog “MySpace is better” and Sophie comes out with
“how can we not sound corny on this thing”
And then there’s Katie whose tongue-in-cheek entry says it all really. I just hope the international audience gets what’s going on here. I know where she’s coming from. It’s about revisioning oneself as a different person. I had to do that when I started blogging and I was also conscious of what I was doing; for my tagline I put “constructing an identity in the blogosphere while reflecting on teaching, learning and technology”. Learning is always about identity – we have to give up a view of ourselves as someone who’s not this sort of person and embrace ourselves as someone different.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

MySpace used in assessment

One of my Year 9 students has completed her assignment early on a novel she chose to read for the Independent Novel assignment. There were four parts to the assignment: some sections on the plot, the characters and themes of the novel. The final part of the assignment was to create either three MySpace pages for three of the characters or three business cards. This student created the MySpace pages on the novel For Maritsa with Love by UK author Enid Richemont. From a review of the novel: "An unusual and powerful novel that explores the dark underside of Paris’ beautiful fa├žade; a moving and engrossing work about vulnerability and hope." I know others have chosen the MySpace option too, even though they have to do it at home as the site is blocked at my school. It was a bit of an experiment but I am very pleased with the results. The student chose a photo, a layout, friends, a song, an about me section, who I'd like to meet, comments from the friends, and interests. In order to do this well for the three characters, Rose, Maritsa and Paul, there has to be some engagement with the novel and some understanding character, plot and themes. I was pleased with this piece of work - I have yet to look at it with the rubrics to hans - and I think that when she has to write analytically about the novel in the exam (one of the choices students have) her understanding will be reflected in that form as well. No doubt I'll find out.

One way to really engage students

I just read this great post on teaching and learning by Science teacher Yvonne Sanders called iTeach - iLearn. She is reflecting on a series of lessons where the students are learning by being given the challenge to teach their Year 8 classmates as part of the unit. And by the sounds of it they were. And it makes sense. We know as teachers that if you want to learn something new the best way is to research it knowing you will be teaching it. This sharpens the mind considerably, and just think of the engagement for the students knowing they have an authentic audience in their peers. And so Yvonne's question became "why not?" She reflects on her conclusions about her students: "Not to underestimate them. Always engage them. Include them in planning." Makes sense to me. Please read the whole post. It is inspiring.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Redefining the dictionary

Another great presentation from the marvellous TED Talks site: Erin McKean on Redefining the dictionary (with humour).
Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Annual Review Meetings and Engagement

From Wesley Fryer

Just a thought:


"How are we measuring engagement in our classrooms?
  • Who is asking the most questions in your classroom?
  • Who is doing the most thinking in your classroom?
Conversations, particularly spontaneous conversations which are initiated by students, can be a good sign of engagement and engaged learning in the classroom."

Participation, says Wes, is a beginning but not a clear correlation with engagement. At our school we have just participated in our annual review meetings which were set up differently this year. We were to figure out some way of having a third voice critique our classroom teaching or our role. Some chose to videotape a class, some chose to do anonymous student surveys, some chose to have a class observed by another colleague and then a conversation was arranged between an individual teacher and an appraiser who helped us reflect on our learning through the process. So many teachers wanted to work on engagement but how to measure this? Wes suggests the number of conversations happening is one measure and I think it’s a good one, as by that measure my classes do tend to be full of engagement. (grin) I will reflect more seriously on my third voice experience in a later post.


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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Live to learn, learn to blog

Just back from the “Live to learn, learn to blog” conference where I met with lots of blogging friends such as James, Graham, Warrick, Sue, Helen and others. I t gave me some sort of hint of what Edubloggercon may feel like. It was fantastic to talk about blogging with others who are interested for about two whole hours. In my two sessions I showed the Did you know 2.0 video by Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod – this made one participant feel tired. I used these two presentations Blogging as Reflective Practice and Blogging with students as a basis, but often meandered off following participants’ questions and comments. My aim in the workshops was to show how blogging can help students grow in their learning, be more engaged, make connections with others and have a place to publish their thoughts and creative endeavours. Some surprise and questioning happened at my openness with having students post directly to the internet without moderation and trusting students to moderate their own comments. I haven’t yet been too disappointed and I know that learning and blogging are both a process rather than a finished product. And for good measure here is Graham's slide show on Blogging for Professional Learning.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

the writers group initiates poetry

I just wanted to feature this poem by Miranda, one of my Year 9 English students and member of the Writers Group here at school. We meet fortnightly and each meeting we set ourselves a challenge to write something on a theme or topic. One meeting we said we would write about "time" and for next meeting we will write about "heoes anD/or villains". Last meeting it was something about the letter "S". Many of the students as well as the two teachers who attended wrote something, as did Miranda. Go on and give her some encouragement if you like it. I think it's fantastic.

Shh...

Sometimes, you think everything can be explained by a colour.

Sensations provoke feelings,
subjective,
saccharine,
synthetic.
– still feelings.
Synaesthetic-like connections are all very well
— see the way they come together? distorted and colourful and
so very not true.
Still, we pour out our hearts and our heads through our
sugar-coated words and slippery tongues.
Stunted longing; we will never discover the depths of our own loneliness,
((i))solation,
solitude.
spare me the politics.
Streaked,
stained with a need. for another friend,
special.
Security, wrapped in your own
spaced-out head, can only protect you for so long.
Suffocating in the depths of the solace,
stars and stripes and
silver.
serendipity, synchronicity, sweetest
simplicity.
Seclusion can be nice, but it needs too many
sagacious words // when you can’t get them out.
staring in the mirror, seeing
supercilious,
superfluous,
superficial.
Silly little girl, can’t you see yourself? [[reflected]] Pretentious and
sashaying;; stripping away the piece((s)) you don’t like; can’t
stand to see staring back.
Strut around and forget yourself, when you’re
singing for the crowd.
sleeping dreams of
staying safe.
Spiralling thoughts,
sinews of what you’d be with
someone.
seeking the thought of what you could taste
//see//
Softly cradled in your
sarcophagus.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Web 2.0 Pedagogies

Today, I held a web 2.0 pedagogy workshop at my school. It was great. About 12 people showed and there are three new bloggers now, Debbie and Laura (maths teachers) and Yvonne (a science teacher). Others there took notes and will look into it further. Teachers of LOTE (Languages others than English) are planning to set up a collaboration between schools in Australia, Austria and Sweden who are all studying French. I'm looking forward to hearing more about that. I started the session by showing Darren Draper's Pay Attention video, and then showed Bernie's new blog and the conversation generated by his first post, contributed to by Dianne Cordell from the US, Clay Burell from Korea, Sue Tapp from Melbourne, and Paul Harrington from Wales, among others. His class's blog also got an airing and the freshness of this was remarkable. I showed some podcasts, del.icio.us and bloglines as well (and the Support Blogging wiki), before a few started making their own blogs on Edublogs. I think a key point for the good atmosphere was the refreshments at the end of the long day and I have hopes that these bloggers will be stayers and well worth a read.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Blogging/breathing

I am pretty impressed with this blogging caper. Some people think I'm obsessed but luckily all of you my readers know, this is not obsession, unless one could say that breathing is an obsession. I just want to introduce a new edublogger, a colleague of mine who has started his own professional blog. His class have just started and he sees the enthusiasm and the reason for doing it and now he has started. I told him today that starting a new blog was a bit like looking after a new baby at the beginning. One tends it, and nurtures it, does the small daily jobs like checking for comments and replying, like linking to others and following links, and joining in the conversation whenever you can. After a while the blog can stand on its own but still needs regular attention. Really it is community and relationship building that is happening and the momentum and joy of it will carry you along once it's there. Anyway, I just wanted to note this start.

I am also looking forward to presenting a workshop to teachers in my school on Monday. And then I have been asked to present on blogging at a conference that is totally outside my experience, although they are still educators - teachers of Home Economics and Textiles - later in the year. It seems like progress.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Say "Hi" to some new student bloggers


We had a great lesson today in another year 9 class where I was team teaching with Bernie and getting the class set up with blogs. They are now a going concern and you can find them here. There was so much fun in the class as the students were figuring out all the cool things you can do. Some of the interesting new bloggers are the writers of Annabelle's News and The Original Hoganbogan. I also love Sarah's take on her life, and Olivia's sense of humour. It would be great if you could stop by and encourage some of these "awesome" young writers (I'm even beginning to sound like them). I just love their energy and enthusiasm and the way they took to this even though they had to try three times. I know some student bloggers will be starting to blog again in the next few weeks, so let's get the links happening. I really like the way that Lynne has started sending the "8 random facts meme" through her class of student bloggers. Maybe we could make some links that way. Image credit: Creative commons licence.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Team Teaching

Tomorrow I'll be meeting a new student teacher, who will be teaching with me for three weeks. I am looking forward to that as it is one way of opening my classroom a bit more. I am hoping that she will choose to teach either the Year 11 English, Year 11 Literature and / or Year 9 English. There are lots of good things happening there that she could have a go with. Also on Monday I'll have Michael come in for my Year 11 English class to observe my teaching and then we will debrief about both observed classes. And finally on Tuesday I will be team teaching with Bernie while he sets up his class with blogs. We will be going with Edublogs (rather than Learnerblogs as there are occasional problems with the latter.) This is the third time that Bernie's class will have tried to set up blogs so I hope it works. We are lucky enough to have an ActivBoard in the computer lab so that I can demonstrate before we try. I will feel quite vindicated if blogging works in another classroom but mine, as so far I am the only one game enough to do it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

danah boyd on MySpace and Facebook

I wanted to link to this interesting video of Fang’s “…mashup of some elements of danah boyd's talk in Brisbane - in which (he) need(s) to re-think (his) hatred of walled gardens (especially facebook lack of RSS). The reason - kids create walls to make interesting spaces in which to hang out.” If you couldn’t get to hear her live, a little taste will have to do. The full podcast of the talk in Brisbane is also available. Thanks to Judy O'Connell for the heads up.



Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Podcasts and Blogs

The year 7 podcast is being developed. It is still in the very early formative stage, but there are students who are writing scripts, starting to record and thinking about audience. I have not come across many podcasts by secondary students in my travels around the internet, but I would like to hear more examples. In the meantime one of the students has designed a logo and another student and her band are composing and recording some introductory music. In Year 11 Jess is excited about the writing and comment interaction possibility on her blog.
Today I spent some time writing a brief case study on blogging from my experience over the last two years for a new book on technology in primary and secondary schools. I find myself continually thinking about what will inspire students to give their school related activities more effort because I know they will be rewarded when they see the outcome. And then today finding some of the students inspired. At this time of the year students are engaged in subject selection for next year. Some Year Nine students I spoke to are thinking about their post school future and what changes they need to make now in order to get there. I find that inspiring. And Zoe is blogging again.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Eight Random Facts (who makes these things up?)

I have just been tagged by everd at the Learning Landscapes blog for the eight random facts meme

First, the Rules:
1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and
list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know
they’ve been tagged

My all-time favourite book is The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
I love porridge for breakfast

I spend too much time on the computer
I have been at my current school for six and a half years
I can’t remember the last movie I saw (that’s because my memory is bad, not because I haven’t seen a film for years)
When I was 12 I wanted to be a doctor
I have three hens in my back yard (we call them chooks in Australia)
I once spent a month in Central America


So how about it, you guys. You’ve been tagged!
Joseph Papaleo
Judy O’Connell
Vonnie
Chris Betcher
Bee Dieu
Tom Barrett
Kim Cofino
Claudia Ceraso

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Finding student bloggers to interact with

I was pleased to get an email/comment the other day from Clay Burell about student bloggers for my students to interact with. He mentioned that there is a place on the Support Blogging website (this I had already found) which is a collection of good individual student writers who have taken to blogging. Presently there are students from Korea, New Zealand and Australia and I’m sure that more will come. This is a place for student bloggers to form their own networks. They are listed by blog name (or student name), country and year level. It is a great idea, added by Clay to the site. In the notes to the addition he says, “Added individual student bloggers from my classrooms so other serious young blog-writers can "connect" to them. Entire class links are too hit-and-miss, since many/most students are unmotivated." And when I was checking my year 9 student blog page the other day I found a comment by Hamish from New Zealand who mentioned that he and some of his class members (Laura and Jayden) were among the blogs that I had listed for my students to look at and asked for comments from my students. I applaud this sort of initiative as it is how nurturing networks form, and I too encourage you to go over and look at some great student bloggers.Just noticed that Clay has a post on the student bloggers as well. Obviously great minds think alike. He mentions that it is hard to tell what age groups the students belong to (as it is just the year level that is mentioned which may differ from country to country) and so I guess it would be ok to add the age range for that year level. Fabulous to see the way this grows, slowly but surely.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Learning vs discovery

Because we are studying the novel Millie and the Night Heron in year 7 (which features this type of writing) I tried some stream of consciousness writing with the students. And what a successful activity it turned out to be. I got the idea from another teacher who had used an image of a kaleidoscope to start the students off. I guess it was a way for the students to become aware of their thoughts and, seeing that the main character in the novel uses techniques like this to adapt to changes in her life, it feels a bit like we could use ideas like this to teach resilience. Initially the students found it impossible to contemplate writing down their thoughts as they were having them. But they persisted with some encouragement. Soon the room was totally quiet as the students wrote. When I asked for volunteers to share they were so interested in each others' writing and so many wanted to share that it felt like a great ‘getting to know each other a bit better as a learning community’ activity. I may start the next lesson with them with a video What we can learn from the geese, that I found via Chris Betcher to continue with the building a classroom learning community.

Later, in Year 12, I presented the students with the difficult task of reading their text critically, focusing on the decisions made by the author, specifically the decision for Xinran the author of Sky Burial to include herself into the narrative in such an obvious way. A heated and interesting discussion ensued and later I asked them to reflect on the discussion. Some students found the discussion most useful, others found that the new insights caused them to more critical of the text, and enjoy it less. It became apparent that some students still think that the teacher might have a special insight into the author’s mind and want a definitive answer, instead of seeing the teacher producing a reading done out of thought and effort. The need for effort tends to be resisted by some of the students and I think these students find my constructivist teaching style to be less than helpful. Nevertheless, this class always makes me reflect on my teaching and I think this will be the class that I will concentrate on in my Annual Review Meeting and have it observed by a fellow teacher.

The best part of today was an incident at the end of my Year 11 Literature class. The assessment for the John Donne poetry section is a difficult task, where students are researching and will present their findings on an aspect of the poet’s context: the history, culture, politics, religion of his time and how their reading of one or more of the poems is affected by this research. One of the students complained how hard the task was. I said, “But you wouldn’t expect me to give you anything easy, would you (I suspect that the answer might have been yes)? I want to challenge you.” This student smiled and said “I have made a discovery.” She had been looking at the role of women in the Elizabethan era and had seen what she perceived to be a contradiction between the way women were seen as less than men, and the way Donne seemed to put women on a pedestal. It was a happy moment as it was genuinely something she had thought about even though there is a lot more for her to discover there.

It made me think about the word “discovery” that she used. I have sometimes asked the students to reflect on their “learning”, but I think I like the word “discoveries” much better.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Year 11 Blogs

Just a short update. I had another go at setting the Year 11 English class up on blogs today and fortunately it worked. I was really pleased, especially at the excitement shown by the students. They have just started blogging and they are so ready to interact with other students around the world, so if anyone wants to comment please do. Not all of the students have written much yet but some have. I just love the title of Charlotte's blog "That's the spirit, one part brave, three parts fool". This class has lots of spirit and individuality. Amy has also started well and I get the sense that she will enjoy blogging. I hope we can get lots of interaction with other students and lots of expression of opinions and especially conversations. I have enjoyed blogging so much that I want my students to have the same sense of satisfaction and engagement. There are varied opinions in the class about the value of this adventure, and at the beginning it can seem difficult, I know. The students in this class are more senior at 16 -17 years than any others I have blogged with and it was interesting to note the difference between this class and the younger students. I found that while the younger ones were interested in their presentations and their writing, this class were mostly concerned with adding friends to their blogroll and commenting to each other. I felt this may have something to do with their MySpace experience, which the year 7s at 11 - 12 years hadn't had so much of. So click on them and see the potential there. Encourage them and keep coming back as they get better and better. I am so happy with Edublogs, and although I have had a bit of a look at 21 classes, I think I'll stick with Edublogs for now.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Two years on the job


Happy birthday to me! It's my two year blogaversary today. In that two years I have learned, I have gained.... it's hard to know where to start. I am a very different person because of blogging. I have met some wonderful, intersting and passionate people that I never would have met otherwise, some even face to face. I have taken risks and beamed with excitement. I have been deeply impressed by what my students have produced in their learnings with blogging. I have thought about questions that I didn't even know were questions. I have become involved with Twitter, a sphere all of its own. I have practiced writing and thinking a whole lot more than I would have done if I hadn't blogged. I have renewed my passion for learning and teaching and the future of education. I have lost a lot of sleep, but enjoyed it immensely. I have talked to people at all hours of the day and night. I particularly remember talking to Lani on Skype about one of my students' blog entries. Talk about cooperative teaching. I have felt the walls recede a bit from my classroom. I have loved it and I thank you all for making this journey so great. And the birthday cake is for all of you. (picture credit: http://karenswhimsy.com/birthday-greetings.shtm)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Opening classrooms

Tomorrow I'll be observing a fellow teacher's class as part of the annual review meetings teaching staff at our school are required to have. Each teacher is to find a way of having a way of observing themselves through another's eyes, whether a teacher observer, a videoed class observed or evaluation by student or parent surveys. I will be joining Michael in his Year 9 Religious Education class. He has asked me to observe and comment on his technique in oral instruction, details of explanations, voice clarity, and ability to engage students in questions and answers. I will have to write up a report that Michael can then use in his annual interview with the principal. Later Michael will join me in one of my classes. All I can say is I'm glad he didn't come into any of my classes today. I tried to set up blogs with my Year 11 class and it was not good. The system was so slow that most students could not get their blogs set up and there was a class of 27 disappointed students. Luckily, I did have plan B. Hopefully my attempts to engage students with technology tomorrow will not be so disappointing. Some of my Year 12 class recorded some diary entries written in the voice of the main character of the novel they are studying. I hope I'll be able to make them into a podcast tonight.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Why blog with students? It's to do with student voices

Just catching up with a few things on the ol' aggregator as it is the weekend and found two things I just absolutely loved. One is Rachel Boyd's video on why blog with students: Its just great. Thanks Rachel for making and sharing it.

The other is a podcast of an episode of Teachers Teaching Teachers where some of the teachers interview first s student in Lee Babar's class Grade 8 class, and then a Year 12 student from Jason Hando's class in Australia. It was fantastic to hear two such thoughtful student voices share with us what we need to know, and so great that it was able to be published and available for all of us.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Global Collaboration

I have recently started to put into action what I thought of about Global Collaboration through blogs and wikis. But it’s harder than I thought when you’re trying to start in July (as northern hemisphere schools are not in!) I put out a call on Twitter and Lisa Durff (webcaster extraordinaire) offered to collaborate in late August, an offer which I will take up. I found Clay Burrell’s wiki Thousand and One Flat World Tales project, a writing workshop between students of Korea International School (KIS) in Seoul, South Korea, Punahou High School in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Arapahoe High School in Littleton, Colorado. It looks awesome. I read Kim Cofino’s tips for creating a Global Classroom - also very helpful. I am also totally enjoying Ning, particularly Classroom 2.0 and Global Education. Anyway, what I am looking for are classes who are blogging now, in Australia or internationally, or who will blog in the future.

My three classes who blog are Year 7 (about 12 years old), Year 9 (about 14-15 years old) and Year 11 (about 16-17 years old – second last year of high school.) I don’t mind waiting till you’re back at school if you are in the northern hemisphere, or even making plans for 2008 if we can’t do it this year. I am an English teacher and we blog in English. I would love to collaborate on writing or literature type projects. Please contact me or leave a comment.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Readers and Writers

Sixteen students from year 7 to year 12 came to the first meeting of the writers’ group today. We met at lunchtime and introduced ourselves. Hearing the students talk about themselves as writers was very interesting: the kind of things they wrote, including play-scripts, novels, short stories, fanfiction, songs, articles, reviews and poetry. One girl is writing the second draft of a novel and she is in Year 8. I had asked them to bring something of their writing to read out and that was very successful, with genuine appreciation of each others’ writing. Some students had not heard of fanfiction before so they explained it to each other. One girl explained it thus: “when I read the last novel in the Deltora’s Quest series I started to cry, ‘cos I didn’t want it to end. That’s when I found fanfiction.” We will be meeting fortnightly and one of the girls asked for a theme to write something about before then. They chose the theme of “Time.” Can’t wait to see what they will make of it. Then I came back to my desk to find a voicemail message about one of the students in the group: she is runner up in a Young Journalist of the year competition and will get a trophy. How good is that!? Many of these students have been writing since primary school, and have won competitions. Some have had poems published. Some said they had loved reading as a child but others had come late to writing and had started reading after their interest in writing developed. But for all of them it is a part of their identity. It was an enjoyable way for me to spend a lunchtime.

Speaking of reading, I had a great moment in Year 9 today when a student who had told me at the start of the independent novel assignment that she would not be able to do it as there was never any books she liked and she had never read a “chapter book”, was reading Being Bindy avidly. She said, “I found one, I finally found a book I like.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Professional Development and John Donne's Poetry

Some interesting developments at my school. We have had annual review meetings with the principal as long as I have been there, when we’ve talked about our professional development goals in what she has called “fireside chats”. But that is to be no more. At yesterdays staff meeting we were given the procedures for our new style of ARMs. This year it is to include a “third voice”. It means that we will choose a third voice option: perhaps ask a colleague to come into our class and observe our teaching and share the observations, or plan and teach a topic together and reflect on the outcome, or video a class and reflect, or get feedback from students or parents on our teaching. I was a little apprehensive, but mostly excited, about this data gathering stage. Then we take this data and discuss with the principal or someone in the leadership team. I have already agreed to observe a colleague’s class, and I guess he could do some observation of one of my classes. But I also like the idea of videoing a class. I have learnt a lot from watching Yvonne Hutchinson’s experience of a “class anatomy” which is “a documentation and analysis of one instructional period - juxtaposes video clips with commentary and samples of classroom documents.” To do this kind of reflecting on my practice is something I am very much in favour of – after all, this blog is called the Open Classroom for just this kind of reason. I know we will learn a lot from the experience. I’ll keep you all updated on the process.

And then today in my year 11 Literature class the students worked on a discussion forum for the first time that I had set up about a poem of John Donne’s called "The Anniversary". Of the 21 students 12 participated in the discussion. This is probably not what I will be satisfied with. I would like them all to have something to say in this kind of forum. The students who did participate were those with more confidence in talking about the subject matter, so as we build our knowledge of John Donne the conversations will become more productive too, I think. I was glad about their honesty and it was a good way to gauge their thinking. The vocally quiet students were able to get their thoughts expressed and responded to in a way that might not have been possible in a verbal discussion. I just loved lines like these:

“at least this one made more sense then the flea. still pretty confusing though. does anyone else understand it properly?”
“its about love and that it can last for eternity and that these two people have pledged themselves to each other for a long time for ever even and that even in death their love will go on”
“i like it. I think even though they are talking about him loving her forever it has an undertone to it that is incredibly sad. sometimes his poems are hard to understand though.”
“I find that when I read Donne's poetry I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about but after reading it through and analysing it in class its much easier to understand. I really liked this poem and appreciate it much more, i love how deep his language is.”
“the poem had sweet parts about being together for eternity but the whole coffin idea gave me the creeps if i was his lover i would be out of there talking about death a bit scary.”
It will be good to talk to the students about their experience of this kind of forum and to find out why the non participants didn't get involved.