Learning curve

In keeping with Pernille and Refranz’s concept of sharing the good and the bad, I thought I would share some of the learning I have experienced whilst encouraging students to participate in the Student Blogging Challenge over the past few years (over 90 in 2014).  I have written previous posts sharing the highlights.

  • Blog With Authenticity Without Getting FiredBlogging will not appeal to all students – I have cajoled and encouraged a number of quite capable students who just do not ‘get -it’ at this stage in their lives.  By ‘get-it’ I mean they don’t share my enthusiasm for writing for an audience.   No amount of reinforcement will make them enthuse about blogging.  They may prefer to write in a paper journal or not at all.
  • Following on from the first point, tech savvy does not equal keen blogger.  My most tech savvy students are often the hardest to get on-board with their own blogs.  I presume they have their own outlets for online expression.
  • The idea of an authentic audience does not inspire all students to proof-read and edit.  The [SHIFT] key is still elusive and seems to require way too much effort.
  • Students make mistakes – posting a poorly thought out and quite inappropriate post about a violent computer game was the catalyst for some great discussion but proved that some students are a long way off identifying what is appropriate to share in different places.
  • We all need more practice at reading digital text for instructions – often students struggle to skim read for important text and when working with on-line instructions fail to get all the required information.
  • Changing habits in respect of the ethical use of images and music is quite difficult.   Although they can spout the correct line, they soon revert to easy options when not being reminded.

None of these points convince me that blogging is not an enormously worthwhile activity with students, but they paint a realistic picture of the realities confronting us when we do so.

Photo Credit: Search Engine People Blog via Compfight

Update : Student blogging challenge – 2 weeks in

I am thrilled with the progress and events of the past few weeks.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I have two groups, some with a little experience and some with no prior experience.

Highlights have included :

  • students taking the reins and being proactive – problem solving, finding their own purpose, developing an on-line identity and highlighting their unique skills, traits and interests
  • mentors (teachers from other places who volunteer to support other students) providing a supportive presence and excellent role modelling for commenting
  • beautiful interactions between students within classes, locally and globally by way of comments
  • opportunities for ICT and cybersafety skills to be discussed and practised within a meaningful environment.  We have had a few instances which provided genuine teaching moments about cybersafe behaviours.
  • the speed at which most students pick up the technicalities of embedding html code and the skills they demonstrated in sharing their skills
  • tangible excitement about the writing process due to the connectivity created through this networking opportunity

Sometimes these activities provide moments that affect the teachers more then our young students who are yet to see the full significance or have the global understandings required.  This week, one our our students, Gemma,  received a comment on her post which had explained that they were studying Democracy.  As it happens, the mentor assigned to Gemma was a student from Russia.  Lisabeth explained in heartfelt terms the situation for her :


We took the opportunity to discuss this with the students, to explain as best we could the contrast Lisabeth was providing.  As children do, they took it in at their own level but it was certainly powerful to the adults in the room !

I look forward to seeing where the rest of the challenge takes us.


Another round begins : Student Blogging Challenge

This year I am supporting almost 100 students (from 2 schools) who are participating in the Student Blogging Challenge organised by Sue Wyatt @tasteach.  This is the fourth challenge that I have been involved in but definitely the largest for me.  The challenge involves a series of 10 weekly tasks, posted on the blog which encourage interactivity as well as allowing students to respond in many different ways.   The students are supported by their teachers as well as a volunteer mentor who visits their blog at least twice to encourage their efforts. We are in the preparation stages and although all have been in classes with class blogs, I have students who represent the full gamut of experience with personal blogging:

  • those who have never blogged before
  • those who have had Kidblogs but are now learning a new platform (Global2)
  • those who have participated in the Challenge before and are having another go

Setting up new blogs for most students using the MyClass feature was straightforward but time consuming and then registering them all with the challenge followed.  I believe that participation in this challenge has the following benefits:

  • active participation in a worldwide event and connecting with other learners
  • providing an instant audience for their writing
  • practise in adopting cybersafe behaviours
  • developing technical blogging skills including dealing with HTML code, adding widgets, pages/posts etc
  • exposure to on-line learning opportunities

There is a beautiful element of excitement building amongst the students and comments are already flying between keen bloggers.   As is normal in any group of students, there appears to be a few for whom this experience will ignite a fire and those who will just go through the motions.   I am proud to see that a student who participated in the challenge in 2012 is still blogging after leaving our school and beginning high school so I believe we have evidence that it is worthwhile.

I wonder what this year will see.  Here are the Class Blog Sites with links to all the student blogs.

Screenshot 2014-03-05 19.25.38Screenshot 2014-03-05 19.28.31

“Why our schools are NOT failing your children” – another teacher tells

Reading the newspaper should expose us to divergent thoughts and make us think.  Indeed, this mornings breakfast reading did just that and like Mel Cashen  I felt I needed to respond to Johanna O’Farrell’s article that was printed with the title “Why our schools are failing your children:a teacher tells” but online as “Splashing cash won’t fix Australia’s broken education system”

photo (7)

Amongst other issues with our education system Johanna states:

But I believe ICT is in fact little more than a gimmick – and I know that the novelty of it as a tool for engagement is fast wearing off. In many cases, the study of ICT heightens the potential for distraction, is extremely inefficient, wastes time and quite simply is unnecessary – students do not need the ”world at their fingertips” all the time.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/splashing-cash-wont-fix-australias-broken-education-system-20131220-2zqpl.html#ixzz2o5CHmp1T

This made me reflect on our graduation ceremony for our Year 6 class last week.  A mixed group of students, some academic, some mathematical, some artists, some writers, many sporting stars.   They left our school with an understanding of learning : learning that can be found from each other, from their teachers, and from many other sources.  They have been exposed to the skills that will help them learn, help them present their learning . They also left with strong literacy and mathematical skills.

Encouraged and not distracted as Ms O’Farrell believes by the “open-plan learning, iPads and interactive whiteboards” and multitude of other technology tools, these students explored their place in the global community.  Technology allowed them to connect, collaborate and learn with others, gathering perspectives and information difficult if not impossible without them.  They were taught to question what they read as information, or knowledge, is no longer sourced from one text book or reliable scholar.  Technology was ubiquitous – not a gimmick, but brought out when the purpose suited it.

Having the ‘world at their fingertips ‘ is the way these students live 24/7 and not allowing or expecting teachers to harness the value and seek teachable moments would be making education irrelevant.    Like Ms O’Farrell’s parents I did not have these tools when at I was at school, but education reflected the society that I lived in.  

Do we really want our students to be educated in a system that reflects a society of 10 – 20 – 30 – 40 years ago ? 



Are comments the ‘cherry on top’ or essential?

Just over 2 years ago I wrote a post about blog commenting.


Recently I have had a number of conversations with teachers about blogging, some long term bloggers, others newcomers.  The subject of comments always comes up.  When I wrote my previous post, Bev Novak, said the “comments are the cherry on top” of her blogging experience. Other readers admitted to lurking and seldom commenting.  In general though, there was an understanding that comments are important in the blogging process – the feedback and interaction with readers an integral element.

Our school has worked hard over the past few years to encourage class blogs.  Our starting point has always been to connect to our parent community – open our classroom walls so to speak.  Our teachers have also worked at global connections through Quadblogs and by connecting with community experts etc.  We publicise our blog posts through emails to our parents and by Twitter to our broader networks.

In the recent discussions we have remarked at how hard it is to actually elicit comments from our readers.  Once again we acknowledge that we do have an audience, our visitor statistics prove this but the two way conversations are few and in fact disappointing.  We have heard anecdotally that many readers still lack confidence in commenting. Worries stem from not knowing what to say, to seeming over-eager, to favouring one class/student blog over another.

I believe it is still in the mindset of many that they do not have anything to offer or fear exposing themselves as a learner too!  I still strongly believe that the process of creating a class or personal blog is extremely worthwhile and I actively encourage many teachers to begin this pathway.  One of the ‘benefits’ I cite when talking to teachers about blogs is the fact that you create an audience for your work and comments are the mechanism for feedback from that audience.   I understand a class teachers disenchantment with the process if they are receiving little or no feedback.

There obviously remains much work to be done to build the communication culture with our students, their parents and the wider community.    On reflection, this is not really surprising as although blogging seems old news to many of us, it is still early days for many.  We need to be creative in ways to elicit feedback, continue asking questions, use polls etc but not give up.  We also need to continue to teach commenting skills, embed this communication into our practice.   Once again much inspiration in this area can be found from Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, in particular her recent posts on Making Blogging Visible.  This is a snippet from a wonderful infographic (click picture to see the full graphic).

Screenshot 2013-11-24 14.36.37

Professional dialogue




We have been experimenting with the use of Yammer with the specific intention of encouraging professional sharing and dialogue.   Some staff have now made it part of their Professional reading routine to share material they find, or comment on material others find.   Our school Yammer community is ‘closed’ available only to those invited who share a common email domain.   This makes for a safe space where staff who may not have used online spaces before can practise in a confined and secure space.  It operates in a similar way to Facebook – posts, comments etc.

Yammer is an Enterprise Social Network that brings together people, conversations, content, and business data in a single location. With Yammer, you can easily stay connected to coworkers and information, collaborate with team members and make an impact at work. And because Yammer can be easily accessed through a web browser or mobile device, you can connect and collaborate with coworkers anytime, anywhere.

We introduced the idea more than a year ago and it is slowly gaining momentum.  Over the past year we have seen

  • staff sharing blogs and websites they believe others will enjoy
  • staff reviewing Professional learning opportunities they have attended
  • many staff advertising class blog posts (some using the built in feature that allows a Tweet to automatically add to the Yammer feed (#yam)
  • professional conversations about different educational issues.
  • staff sharing their Personal Inquiry topics and findings.

As with any tech tool, some staff have taken to it more than others but I value the impact it has made with those who have become involved.  We have a venue to share which is available anywhere, anytime and particularly useful for those part-time staff members who often miss out on Professional learning opportunities.

Conference thoughts

I have used Storify to summarise my experience over the past few days. I feel I have come away with lots of new skills and ideas for school and classroom implementation, but many more questions than answers. I have added some of the valuable links I collected to my Google resources page


You can see the Storify in the vertical format here 

In his closing keynote Chris Betcher asked us to consider the following questions.  A new blog post on that one coming up ???


Checklist for consideration

digital-citizenshipAs I read through the items on this wonderful Infographic from Mia, I kept thinking that the title might be broadened.   I love the ideas, the thoughts expressed but I believe it applies to all our lives.  I have often heard and agreed that ‘Digital Citizenship’ is unnecessary as in fact is really just part of Citizenship in general.

In fact, this list could also just as easily apply to our use of technology tools in schools. Many schools have embarked on 1:1 programs with anywhere, anytime access to technology.  I wonder if it would help teachers and students to apply this list as a filter when determining the value of these programs.   It could also help us plan for opportunities to maximise the value of the equipment – see it as a checklist perhaps? 

Are we using technology at appropriate times? Are students able to make these choices?

Are we sifting through the tools, the resources and making good choices? Applying digital literacy skills?

Are we disseminating information or knowledge we create?

Are we taking the opportunity to create a forum for our own voice as well as those others?

Are we gaining perspectives by using technology to listen to other points of view?

Are we using technology to truly participate in a learning community in a two way manner or just consuming what is found there?

Do we limit the use to times when technology actually performs a task that is better?   Considering the SAMR  model, do we use tech for substitution purposes and not take advantage of the transformational potential?

I think it is a powerful list, definitely useful for citizenship but can be applied elsewhere as well.   

What do you think ?


Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of informationdata or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. *

Another idea I have gained from a Teachmeet was having students create Infographics  to present their learning.  (Thanks Karis @karisd84). I see Infographics as an extension or adaptation of a few older styles of presentation modes such as posters and Powerpoints., however there is a big point of difference, the thinking required in order to develop an Infographic is quite complex. To break information down in to small packets and to represent it in a succinct and visual manner, requires a large degree of understanding and comprehension as well as creative flair.  This is not a simple task for most students.

Elements of the Information process are explored when processing the information required to make an Infographic.   This screenshot  taken from WA First Steps, list the process.     This week, we will suggest that our students consider creating Infographics as a presentation tool.  It will be interesting to see who choses to give it a go and how they  go.

Screen Shot 2013-08-18 at 6.14.29 PM

In my research about Infographics, I found the following resources which I will use to introduce the idea to students:

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infographic Quoting Doug Newsom and Jim Haynes (2004). Public Relations Writing: Form and Style. p.236