Tuesday, January 01, 2008

First post of 2008

It has just turned 12 midnight on the East coast of the US where a lot of my blogging and twitter friends are, and on twitter there is a sudden outpouring of goodwill for the year ahead. It was the same at midnight last night in my time zone. People from the US and Canada were wishing us in Australia all the best for 2008. And this for me is the biggest difference that the last twelve months have brought. The coming together of people on opposite sides of the globe, a sense of being with others from a distance. There is always the tug of others into their space, their otherness coming into my space and we see it at these times, and in our discussions of the weather. Last night, Cheryl, knowing I was sweltering in my summer, sent me some virtual snowflakes from her mountain, and this act of kindness, this ability of Cheryl’s to feel with me encapsulated something. While I may not have felt any cooler physically, I did feel a warmth in my heart that made me more comfortable. (Stop rolling your eyes, you guys). In twitter and in blogging we have the opportunity to practice empathy, understanding, collaboration and that’s a great thing.

The new year of course is the time to set goals in the light of the reflection of what went well and what didn’t in the previous year. One of my goals is to go to NECC in San Antonio, Texas and I am making plans to do just that. After two years of watching from the sidelines as I read, first blogs and then twitters about the conversations and learning that was happening I decided that I just needed to be there. I have expressed interest in the tour to NECC from Australia that Chris Betcher wrote about (and maybe I’ll get to meet him on this tour as well.)

I have spent a fair bit of time trying out blogging in my classes and encouraging other teachers to blog as well in 2007. I gave numerous after school PD sessions, whenever I was asked, introducing Web 2.0 to teachers in other subject areas as well. A few teachers started their own blogs and some students did as well, but overall I would not say it has been a resounding success. I was hoping that teachers would get to know and wish to learn the technology as a way of doing what they needed and wanted to do (plan, learn discuss, collaborate, research, reflect) but so many times I felt that my public espousal of web 2.0 tools put me in the “weird” category. And then close to the end of the year it was seen by some (important) people that I was spending time on this kind of learning rather than representing and managing the English Domain as the Domain Leader. I have to say that being an English Coordinator and enabling teachers to facilitate great English lessons and learning experiences has been all I’ve ever wanted to do. I love exploring Literature, writing is a passion of mine and I love to see students being able to express themselves and represent their opinions as they come to participate in our society. When I was drawn to blogging and other web 2.0 tools it was as an English teacher. I saw it as an opportunity for students to read and write and discuss, to be steeped in the values of the reading and writing tradition (i.e. become aware of the importance of full stops and apostrophes), and so I saw it as part of doing my job. I am not really sure of what it means for 2008. But I try to suss it out. I have been timetabled into a computer lab for two of my classes so I will be offering blogging as a choice for the students in those classes at least.

Working through the difficulties in introducing blogging to teachers in my school has made me think about what the barriers are, as so many edubloggers do. And I think I have worked it out, maybe. The national radio station ABC used to offer its programs as podcasts in its advertising. But in the latest advertising of this service the word “podcast” was not used at all. It was referred to as audio on demand. And it made me think. The word “blog” and “wiki” are not important and the terminology itself seems to be a barrier. Even the term “web 2.0” is unnecessary and could be a barrier. As I thought after I heard an IT conversations podcast, people other than early adopters or techno-geeks aren’t really interested in the technology. They don’t want to know how RSS works or even what it is, and so the for product being discussed on the podcast, while it uses RSS, the term was not used. The technology is hidden. Maybe that will happen for blogs and wikis which may be just “websites”. After all, good learning starts with where the learners are, I think.

And then tomorrow I am going to be on the Women of Web 2.0 show. I am so excited. I listen to this podcast all the time and in the holidays it is great to be involved. But to be an invited guest! I am so honoured. I love what these women are doing and their mission statement sums it all up really:
Our mission is to provide a professional voice in educational Web 2.0 discussions. Conversations coming from the WOW2 network will move across gender, race, and country lines and display the beautiful diversity of the internet kaleidoscope. We are advocates for professional ethics, emerging technologies, collaborative projects, quality best practices research, and teaching students critical thinking skills. We are non-partisan and pro-student.

Advocates. Says it all really.


  1. Hi Jo, Happy New Year! I just subscribed to the WOW2 podcast and I'm looking forward to listening to you :-)Totally envious about your NECC plans - not an option for me for a little while I'm afraid, but I think it would be aweseome. Will just have to live it vicariously through you and Chris. All the best for a fabulous connected, collaborative Web 2.0 year!

  2. Jo, it's one thing to be invited onto WOW2.0 once but get a return invite is pretty good and speaks volumes for your influence as an edublogger. As for your English department focus, I hope that the powers that be are smart enough to realise that you are exploring the English of the future, the one that will be more relevant to your students' future. I can't say that I'll be listening live during WOW2.0 (kids want to go to the beach) but I'll be downloading the "audio on demand" and listening ASAP. Good luck - not that you need it.

  3. Happy New Year 2008. Jo I am so excited for you to be our guest to begin the new year. Your blog is totally where I am thinking and reflecting this early morning. I will be in the middle of a huge snowstorm/blizzard as we talk on WOW2 tonight, how exciting too!Cheryl

  4. Happy New Year Jo!
    I am so looking forward to reading your blog this year and seeing you in Melbourne and San Antonio!
    Good luck on WOW today

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  6. Jo,

    Happy New Year!

    It's snowing here right now, in my little corner of upstate New York, so if you need more of the white stuff I'd be happy to oblige.

    2007 was an eye-opening year for me, also. I set up my Google Reader, began blogging, started to Twitter, and saw my world explode into a vast universe of possibilities. I'm still playing catch up (need to get a handle on Skype) but that just means that the fun will continue indefinitely.

    I love your perspective on the power of names (very primitive, when you think about it). Maybe if we come up with less techie-type names for 21st century tools we can reassure the 20th century mindsets that things like wikis (online meeting & work rooms), blogs (living journals) and RSS feeds (online articles & newsletter updates) are not threatening - or out of their reach - after all.

    If only they could see the fun in this type of interactive learning!

    Looking forward to hooking up with you and few hundred of my other new, dear friends in San Antonio.


  7. Just browsing the internet. You have a very, very interesting blog.

  8. Happy New Year Jo,
    All the best for 2008. Your comments on the terminology of the Web 2.0 world and the potential for these terms to create barriers between practitioners and teachers are echoed in an article published in the NY Times just a couple of days ago... "Innovative Minds Do Not Think Alike". http://tinyurl.com/3cvof8
    Well worth a read.

  9. Jo, I am so looking forward to your time with us tonight!

    I had a similar experience at my school last year as you are having now. IN fact, when the dept. head of English was asked to say my goodbye speech, he said "When Sharon first joined us, we thought she must have been from Mars because she used all those weird words like blog, moodle and wiki"!

    As I will be presenting some sessions in the coming months, I have decided to start using the term online social learning spaces (or something like that) to avoid the "t" word and the other funny words that make me sound like a Martian!

    I have also decided that we need to return to the research literature that validates the use of computer-supported collaborative learning (shared learning spaces!). The research has shown how the use of these environments promotes reflection, self-regulation, metacognition, cooperation, appropriate uses of language.... the list goes on. We need to stand by the research literature as we defend our classroom practices with web 2.0 tools!

  10. Hi Jo,

    I'm Head of Information Services (a teacher-librarian - I loved your comment about Libraries and Librarians) at Toorak College in Mt.Eliza - a local in this amazing flat world! I also am teaching a Yr 7 English class and would love to establish some links with students at your school. We've used a wiki for a yr 7 inquiry week project and I'm really interested in teaching our students and staff about the power of Web 2.0. If you're interested in establishing some connections let me know.