Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Middle Years Book Club

The OzProjects Middle Years Book Club (MYBC) is up and running - just waiting for some more team/group profiles to be added, along with some book reviews. Kerrie Smith really does want to read about what everybody else is reading. Go on over and have a look.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Your Day in a Sentence

Just added my thoughts here on Voicethread. This was previously hosted by The Reflective Teacher. What a wonderful way to have teachers collaborate on a project. Hosted by Anne Mirtschin (alias Murch on Twitter) it has voices and text comments from different countries and in different accents. What a fantastic idea, with a lot of new teachers that I had not met before. The day in a sentence project seems to be mostly hosted by Kevin, the writer of an excellent blog, Kevin's Meandering Mind where he write a lot about his slice of life story challenge project. A great new discovery for me.

A Place for Learning

A little while ago I went to the VATE English Coordinators Conference and have been wanting to write up my reflections on it ever since. And now here they are. The keynote lecture, by Chris Walsh, was on "Multiliteracies and Design in the secondary (or high school) English classroom". Looking at the kind of student who is sitting in front of us, and reminding us of the environment these young people are in when not at school (channeling Marc Prensky), Walsh focused on the variety of digital media available and wondered if "print based assessment" actually "disables" students. He pleaded with us to let the students represent what they know in new ways. No argument from me there. He demonstrated examples of student work from his classes in New York where his original experiments in making webpages (before Web 2.0) had been redesigned by students to incorporate elements of great design (channeling Dean Shareski's K12 online conference presentation). Some of the resources he mentioned can be found here and here.

The best session I went to was by Lisa McNeice. Titled "Leading Change" Lisa, poet and teacher, started her session with a story, which was a fine idea on a hot Friday afternoon. She talked about how the teachers in her department had worked on their vision, and asked us to write ours. This is what I wrote: "To build a team who work together, prepare and share experiences that we offer to our students and ourselves as a group of learners. We enact a curriculum with our students and model life long learning for them and ourselves through reflection, discussion and collaboration."

She talked about the things we might have to abandon in our pursuit of excellence (one suggestion was lengthy text assignments, especially ones consisting mainly of busy work) and the ways that she had sought to bring together the English teachers in her school as a team by means of a weekly morning tea. We discussed the need for itemising what it means to be professional rather than leaving it up to possible misunderstanding. She wrapped up by finishing the story - the theme of which was The Journey and emphasised that it takes time to change a work culture.

What I got out of the day was how hard it is to be the kind of English Coordinator I want to be, how much time, patience and tact (in short supply in my world) and how much more I could be doing. I got lots of ideas to consider in creating a "high performance work culture". A few ideas I want to implement in my Domain are:
1. Asking "What's the best English class you've ever taught?" and sharing this, using it as a goal.
2. Develop a bank of sample answers for tasks at each year level for discussion and modelling purposes
3. To focus on each teacher's strengths and goals for themselves as we go about working with students to maximise their potential.
It was a useful day and I'm glad I went.

New (Web 2.0) ways with Shakespeare

A colleague and collaborator from the US, Chris Shamburg recently told me of an exciting new adventure he is involved with: the Folger Shakespeare Library has published a video of Chris explaining an audio workshop with Shakespeare. A group of high school students studying Macbeth create original audio drama, using as Chris says, "the material of others in original and creative way," taking into account the ethics of using such material. The video goes for about 5 minutes and on the site there is also a PDF tutorial and other examples, as well as links to sound effects. The students are seen talking about this way of studying Shakespeare and we can see their engagement with the material. I can imagine this working well for other Shakespeare plays and able to adapted for poetry also. This will suit teachers who have a "willingness to give up more control to the students", as students in their lives outside school are both consuming and creating media.

Chris is also the author of a new book to be published by ISTE called English Language Arts Units for Grades 9 to 12, to which I contributed a chapter. The book contains
"examples of these units include fanfiction and creative writing, teaching Shakespeare with film and images, using blogs and social bookmarking to facilitate independent reading projects, podcasting for a variety of purposes, and creating and sharing digital video safely and meaningfully."
I can't wait to meet Chris at NECC and to see myself in print.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Looking forward to NECC 2008

I can't get over how lucky I am. Off to Europe in a few weeks and then going to the National Education Computing Conference in San Antonio in June. This morning dipping into twitter over breakfast I caught a tweet about the Constructivist Consortium, went to the website and thought that it was just my sort of thing so I registered.

From the website: "The Constructivist Celebration is an opportunity for you to let your creativity run free with the world's best open-ended software tools in a great setting; with enthusiastic colleagues who share your commitment to children, computing, creativity and constructivism. You might think of this stimulating event as a spa day for your mind and soul!" The keynote will be by Gary Stager and among the faculty will be Sylvia Martinez from GenYes. Hoping to see some of you there as well. If not there will be some tweeting and blogging happening, I am sure.

Monday, March 10, 2008

International Edubloggers Directory

I have just spent a happy hour (or more) browsing this wonderful resource: The International Edubloggers Directory. I saw many of my friends there: Stephanie Sandifer, Darren Draper, Stephen Downes, Julie Lindsay and our famous student blogger Arthus, among many others. But it was the people I had not heard of that really caught my attention. There is material for reading there for weeks. Not many students though. The gender split (for those interested) is 40% female, 60% male. Why am I not surprised? The range of countries represented was also interesting,
USA - 44%
UK - 23%
Canada - 8%
Australia - 3%
Ireland- 3%
New Zealand - 2%
Thailand - 2%
Belgium - 2%
Japan - 2%
Mexico - 2%
Netherlands - 2%
Bulgaria - 1%
Cayman Islands - 1%
China - 1%
Hong Kong - 1%
Indonesia - 1%
Malaysia - 1%
Morocco - 1%
Qatar - 1%
Romania - 1%
Singapore - 1%
Spain - 1%
Uruguay - 1%

I was interested in some edubloggers from the Netherlands as I will be travelling there in a few weeks and want to get my language, now rusty, up to speed. I am hoping to visit some schools in Holland while I am there so if anyone has any contacts with Dutch educators I would be very happy to hear from you. The Directory which was launched in January 2008 already has 140 members and was set up by Patricia Donaghy from Ireland. If you are an edublogger add yourself here. The more the merrier.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Encountering Conflict Network Ning

Visit Encountering Conflict Network

In my capacity as Professional Development committee member of VATE I have just started an Encountering Conflict Network Ning which brings together teachers in Victoria who are teaching Year 12 English. The new study design being implemented this year has an Area of Study called Creating and Presenting. This area of study is divided into four Contexts out of which students write to various audiences and purposes out of a study of two set texts in the Context. Read more here. At my school the students are studying The Secret River by Kate Grenville and The Crucible by Arthur Miller. The idea of a social networking site to bring together teachers in a teaching and learning community was too good to pass up. Looking forward to seeing how it works. Of course, I want to use all the modes available to me so some of the teachers will be meeting face to face as well this week, but I hope the Ning will take off as well. And who knows, with any luck it could become a useful resource for students as well. I love the idea that we are all learners and we are all teachers as well. And maybe we all will gain some ideas about how to usefully "encounter conflict" and how to not let it destroy us.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Inspired to blog

It's late and I've been feeling that I have neglected this blog lately. This week the students at my school have been on camps, retreats and work experience - the whole school goes out at once and gets it over with in one hit, so I haven't been in the classroom. But now I'm listening to a podcast I've just heard about through a new blogger I've just started following on Twitter, Jenny Luca. The podcast is the SOS podcast with Jeff Utecht and David Carpenter. SOS stands for "Shifting our schools," and here they highlight events and people in Educational Technology. They speak about inspiring teachers they know and about the ideas these teachers are exploring in their classrooms. It's great and they have reinspired me to write tonight. And then I got an email from Evie, a Year 8 student who had been on the Melbourne City Camp letting me know that she had blogged about her experience. Have a read: My Friends, My Life, My Shoes