Celia's reflections

.. on many varied things …

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Why I blog

My presentation for Teachmeet Melbourne 28 April 2016


Why I blog – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

I started my blog as part of a professional learning network Online course.  It was how we shared with the other members and provided feedback and evidence to the course convenors.  I liked it from the beginning.  

The concept of my writing and thinking being in public was initially daunting but once I started getting feedback, I relaxed a little and have not looked back.

I waiver in my attention to my blog and accept that as a busy teacher I have my moments of opportunity and inspiration and times when other things are more important.

IT’S A PROCESS

Clicking the [PUBLISH] button is not the main point.  It is the process involved of thinking of a topic, determining how to share it, finding examples, finding connections.  The actual publishing is not even the final step as often my posts illicits reactions that make me re-think.

I admit to hovering over it for long periods of time filled with self doubt – is this worth sharing? have I made a fool of myself?  Do I really want others to read this?   I also have many posts in Draft form that may never see the light of day as after writing I re-thought the need to make them public.  The carthartic experience of writing was enough.

The thinking you have to do before you can write about a topic is the actual process I enjoy.  

TO REFLECT

As teachers, we all should aspire to be lifelong learners.  If we are happy with the status quo we really should not be.  However long you have been teaching, whether starting out or working for 40 years, we all need to continue to think about our practice.  

In my case, sometimes, I like to write about it.  This part is purely selfish – not for anyone but me.   It is possible that someone else might benefit from my ramblings but that is not an essential result.

TO SHARE

A wonderful little movie entitled “Obvious to you … amazing to others’ is in the back of my head when I write about the things I do at my school.

Every teacher will do something in their day to day practice that another teacher would benefit from hearing about.  

One of the key things to remember about sharing your professional practice or thoughts is that it is not ‘showing off’ – it is SHARING and I can attest, it becomes a two way street when you reciprocate. Also, there is nothing wrong with receiving affirmation from our peers.  I think as a profession we sometimes forget to value of the work in the rooms next door or in a nearby school.

TO CONNECT

By putting myself ‘out there’ I am opening myself to the contribution that a wider network can offer me.  It is a reciprocal thing, I read many blogs and feel connected to the thinking and experiences of teachers who are way beyond my local geography.  Many challenge me, inspire me as well as inform me.  When I can, I connect, I might comment, tweet or share on Google+ within my school community.

A blog post, written and shared brings new value.  I use Twitter and through that get an audience to my direct learning network and beyond by means of retweets etc. 

A recent post was linked to a few other sharing sites around the world and my simple story about getting students to write blog comments was viewed by more than 200 people in 24 hours.   I honestly thought I was simply annotating some ideas for myself – some resources for getting students to interact professionally online – but apparently it was of interest to others.

TO LEARN

The sheer process of Blogging exposes you to a variety of digital tools. Take Haiku Deck for example. Blogging is not all about text, it provides an opportunity to learn different ways of displaying your ideas.  Simple <HTML> to widgets, plugins etc all become part of the experience

TO KEEP A RECORD

My blog is my online professional journal.  I have a record back to 2010 of my journey in the world of eLearning, online spaces and much more.  It is like having a diary of my professional life.  I have a record and a positive digital footprint.

TO CREATE A LIBRARY

I also decided a while ago to use Pages within the blog as a place to store and easily access resources that I want to be able to find and share.

I have pages on Google Tools, Cybersafety resources, Digital Technologies and Inspiring videos.

IT’S PERSONAL

Above all, my blog is an outlet for me.  Public Speaking is not my preferred method of communication (as the presenter that is, I love witnessing great public speaking).   I prefer to chat in small groups over coffee and nearly always preferring to think something through before reacting.  So a blog post is my preferred style of communication in many ways.   I know it is not for everyone. 

I still struggle with believing it is worth publishing and I know I don’t have the academic skills or deep thinking nature of many bloggers – I am an ordinary teacher who likes to write and that is Why I blog.

 

 

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‘Tweeting’ our way to Reading and Writing

Young children cannot use social media on their own. That does not mean they cannot use it, guided by their teacher as a great way to share their learning and to develop their literacy skills along the way.

A wonderfully rich experience in junior classrooms is the experience of witnessing chickens hatch and grow.  Teachers garner so many opportunities – in viewing and observing, language vocabulary, maths, not to mention the sense of awe watching a living creature grow.  Nowadays, that learning does not have to stay inside the classroom and through technology, the experience can be broadened and extended. What would you prefer?  Your student completing a written journal of the growth of a chick that is never seen by anyone except the teacher, has no interactions or … the written journal (for the personal task) AND this shared experience with their class ? 

tweet 5tweet 4tweet 1
tweet 3tweet 2

The students are observing, questioning, reading and writing, just as they would without the technology, but with the added value of a real audience, others involved to share it with and extend their thinking.  Questions and affirmations from other stakeholders in their learning – an audience that provides a true purpose to construct replies and articulate their understandings as well as just the fun of sharing the excitement!

The journey is recorded in a digital format, available to be shared with families, the rest of the school and used in many other ways.  

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Interacting in online spaces – comments

From this ….

OMG …. that’s soooooooo coool! cu l8r

I loove yr blog 😉   ……

To this ….

I have had many discussions with students about the protocols on interacting in online spaces in an academic or professional manner.  Whether they be commenting on a blog or giving feedback in comments on a Google document or interacting in Edmodo or Google Classroom, students need to be modelled the ‘professional’ way to behave.   Commenting within an academic context is in fact providing feedback and as such quite a complicated skill for a young student.

Their previous experiences whilst quite valid in the online environments they exist are often quite informal – from games and online social chats.  We discuss that there is nothing wrong with text talk or friendly chat but when they are working in some environments, some behaviours are preferred and expected.

Academic digital etiquette is akin to formal letter writing and knowing how to construct feedback needs to be explicitly taught.  I have used guides including : Kind, Specific and Helpful.

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I stumbled upon this guide which is one of the best I have seen and quite adaptable to all ages.    It is from Out of Eden project An initiative of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

INTERACT MOVES   Out of Eden Dialogue Toolkit

   Notice: What stands out to you or catches your eye in this person’s post? In other words, what do you notice in particular? Be specific.

   Appreciate: Share what you like, appreciate or value in the post you’ve read. Be specific.

   Probe: Probe for more details. Ask questions that will help give you a better sense of another person’s perspective. (See Creative Questions & Sentence Starts below)

    Snip: Cut and paste a phrase or sentence from the original post into your comment. Ask a question about it or say what you find interesting or important about what is being said.

   Connect: Make a connection between something in the post and your own experiences, feelings, or interests.

   Extend: Describe how the post extended your thoughts in new directions or gave you a new perspective.

Creative Questions & Sentence Starters 

Brainstorm a set of questions about a student’s post. Use these question-starters to help you think of interesting questions:

  • “Tell me more about…”
  • “I wonder if…”
  • “Help me understand…”
  • “I was surprised by….”
  • “I connected to…”
  • “What I found interesting was…”
  • “I learned from your post that…”
  • “One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is…”

A few other images and ideas that I have used :

blogging comments

ksh

Do you have any other suggestions or ideas on how you teach students to interact in online spaces ?

References :

Silvia Tolisano : Learning about Blogs
Chris Harte : http://chrisharte.typepad.com/
Anne Kenneally via http://www.vln.school.nz/discussion/view/827695
Project Zero : http://learn.outofedenwalk.com/dialogue-toolkit/

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Just another day

I believe in the statement that

“Technology should be like oxygen, “ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible.” Chris Lehmann

 I think it was today, but it was also powerful, enabling and engaging.

9 am

Moderate 90 student blogs to approve comments received overnight due to being part of Student Blogging Challenge.

10am

Senior students gather to share their personal research on Health related issues – all using Google Slides to present their learning.  Later published on their blogs. Teachers create an impromptu reflection task using Padlet – share on class blogs for later review.  Push out the Padlet site to all student chromebooks using Hapara Highlights tool.

10:30am

Middle students welcome their older buddies to help them set up their Global2 blogs. 1:1 chromebooks enable this interaction.  Use Flag widget site to create widgets for all sites.  A few pets get adopted too !

12 noon

A group of students gather to attend an online webinar on ‘Communicating Online’.  Using GoToWebinar software student listen to presentation and individually respond to questions via Today’s meet.  

Use school Twitter account to share our experience.

 

1pm 

Lunchtime meeting to work with Student tech leaders to create plans for Code Club lunch time sessions next term. Share possible sites, tools via email to team.  Students create shared doc for collaboration and planning.

 

 

 

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Why you should consider being a mentor for the Student Blogging Challenge

sbc

I spoke very briefly about the Student Blogging Challenge at a Teachmeet Melbourne Event last night.

I have been working with teachers and students for many years around the area of blogging.  I learned over the years that blogging is often not successful if the blogger, be that a teacher or a student is not aware of ways to connect their blog to an audience.  The Student Blogging Challenge provides one way of doing that and has multiple other benefits as well.  In a nutshell, the challenge goes like this :

  • Students from around the world register to be involved (approx 2,500 last year)
  • Mentors register to guide, encourage and comment
  • the wonderful Sue matches students to mentors (see this post)
  • Ten weeks of suggested tasks are issued (beginning March 6).  These tasks provide stimulus for writing as well as embed cybersafe and digital citizenship skills.  At our school, we review the task and select what we think is appropriate and achievable for our students.
  • Posts are written by students
  • Mentors visit student blogs and provide suitable comments to encourage and extend the students experience.
  • Students are encouraged to connect with other students – create their own networks by commenting and leaving links to their blogs.  List of student blogs

This will be the fifth year I have guided students through the challenge at my school and mentored other students from around the world.  Not surprisingly, I have learned a lot along the way:

  • Not all students will complete all tasks and that is fine
  • Some students who receive comments will not respond
  • Commenting is a skill that needs to be explicitly taught (See Langwitches ideas)
  • Students (and teachers) are very motivated by watching flag counters grow
  • The structure of the challenge can be adapted to suit your classroom timetable.
  • The learning a student takes is well beyond the mechanics of blogging, beyond the technicalities. They are experiencing a network of learners beyond their school, a new way of interacting online in an academic space. 
  • A comment from a mentor – a person from beyond the child’s usual network is extremely powerful and motivating.

Mention must be made of Sue Wyatt (@tasteach) for all her work in managing this amazing opportunity and thanks given!

So, do you want to make a small difference in the life of student ?  A small investment in time, a simple piece of encouragement is all it takes.  Let Sue know by commenting on this post Mentors needed

 

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End of an era

The end of the 2015 school year marks the end of my role as an eLearn Coach for the CEM ICON project.  I was in this role for a short 3 years and as the year draws to an end, I am becoming more maudlin.

My role saw me involved in schools in a variety of ways; discussions with leadership groups, small group coaching sessions, whole staff professional learning sessions, mentoring and planning etc.  It also allowed me to support the wider network through connections with Learning and Teaching and eLearning networks.   I was able to develop and build relationships and in all cases I learnt as much as I was able to offer.  I considered it a privilege to be invited to share and learn alongside teachers who are doing amazing things in schools.   It was a time of great change in our schools and in the ways technology is being used (but I guess when is that not the case in the past 15 years?).  The ability to be agile, to adapt and keep on learning was essential for me but also for all the people I worked with, including my fellow coaches, from whom I learned so much and received a great deal of support and to whom I offer my sincere thanks.

I am glad to say that there were many times when I was able to share my passion for being connected via Social Media and I am happy that the impact of that is obvious when I browse my Twitter and Google+ feeds.   The experience has most definitely whet my appetite for developing my coaching skills as I have come to realise the depth of that potential and my lack of knowledge about that whole concept and skillset.

2016 will see me spending more time in my own school and hopefully connected to a few others in some way or another.  The potential, as well as the challenges of learning and teaching in modern classrooms continues to energise me.

As I read Edna Sackson’s latest post “To Teachers Everywhere”, I recognised people from my own school, my visiting schools and myself and would like to say “I see you too”   

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s tell a story – Let’s build a story : Social media in schools

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I have had some interesting conversations recently about school’s use of social media.  Opinions range from the very hesitant and quite wary to very positive and amazingly enthusiastic.  I have read articles about the downturn in interest in Twitter, the swaying audience of other tools. They are good conversations and ones I hope to extend by sharing here.

My conversations with teachers usually steer towards the particular tools;  Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc and then a discussion around the purpose behind the activity.   The intended consequences are varied but quite easy to define, but it seems that the unintended ones, or the fear of them, are what become the roadblocks to what I have experienced as a wonderful gateway to connections.

There are people much better trained in communication strategies than me but what is clear to me, is that whatever the tool we are using, we are talking about communication and in most cases relationship building.  The intended audience will in many ways determine the best tool – who are we trying to connect with and for what purpose? are we intending to broadcast news or promote interaction and feedback?

In today’s world of immediate access to information and news, some older methods of communicating with our communities are becoming defunct or redundant.  A weekly printed newsletter is not enough for most of of our parent communications and it will never connect our students to other stakeholders in their learning in the way online communications can.

I maintain and am convinced that if we expose students to the concept and reality of working in a space that is not limited by their physical surroundings, that we are doing them a great service.  Our access to information is 24/7 and global and so too should be our learning experiences.

In this short interview, Stephen Heppell is asked for advice to using Social media and my precis is as follows:

  1. Turn on your common sense
  2. Acknowledge that ‘acceptable’ behaviour is the same online as face to face
  3. Research and then trial your own pathway

Listening to Stephen, I heard “Let’s tell a story – Let’s build a story” and it struck me that it is the building part people need to focus on.    As a school, we have been using Twitter along side an extensive blogging program for quite some time and I believe we are building our story as a consequence.  Different things are happening as a consequence of being connected via social media. Some of the benefits include:

  • affirmation of teacher practice through feedback from local and global peers
  • drawing on a much wider field of resources
  • deepening of experiences by sharing them with other stakeholders
  • exposing our students other ways to find answers to questions
  • immediate sharing of school events
  • we all experience the value of a wider audience for our thinking and the interactions that occur as a consequence
  • modelling connected learning

I am very aware that the concept of an online Professional Learning network is entrenched in many people’s lives, but it still does not appear to be the norm and all I can say is that I think that those not involved are missing out.

Note:  School based Twitter account @slblackburnsth is managed by teachers only as our students are Under 13.  The students contribute ideas and text that is published by staff in a modelling process.  

Relevant further reading:  

Why are Schools spooked by Social Media 

Forget coding – we need to teach kids about digital citizenry  (although I don’t agree about forgetting coding)

Thanks again to Sylvia Duckworth for once again synthesising ideas into such a wonderful format and Amanda Ronin.

Postscript (Jan 2016) :

Since writing this, I found this post by Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano which encapsulates this topic much better than mine.

 

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Legacy … passing on our story

I have never been a greatly confident public speaker.  I can deliver conversational workshop training sessions with ease and actually enjoy this process.  As the recipient of the DLTV Teacher Award 2015, I was ‘privileged’ to be offered the opportunity to speak at this years conference.   I can say that I am glad I gave it a go, but will not be giving up by day job.  I was nervous and my delivery was not as good as I had hoped but thankfully, I think the message I wanted to convey was delivered.  I have had numerous conversations since about the subject matter that seemed to connect to many.  For that I am grateful.

The following is an edited text of one element of my DLTV Conference (Digicon15) keynote.  I was inspired to share it after reading Steve Brophy’s post on creating a digital footprint . 


 

As teachers, we all know how powerful stories are.
Stories can enrapture you, can inform you, and they play a vital role in passing on our culture and history.

Stories are all around us, in our personal and professional lives.  In our personal and professional lives are we ensuring our legacy is continued? 

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Are we leaving evidence of our thoughts?  In particular, I wonder about how we share stories and what artefacts we are leaving behind to remind others of our story.  Nowadays, we have an online story as well as a face to face one. We are creating and recording history in megabytes in the way we used to create with pen and paper.

So let’s start on a personal level. What is your story?  Where do you come from? Who has shaped you?
What evidence do you keep of your personal story? Do you have old photo albums? pictures on the wall?
Do you have a special place where you keep cards and letters from people in your past?

Most of us have photo albums or framed pictures on the wall. If we turn them over, we might be lucky enough to find that someone took the time to leave some notes, share some facts … who is there? where was it? Were they celebrating a special event ?

My sentimentality for such artefacts of my family story has been raised recently whilst packing up my family home. Forty seven years of story…the house I grew up in.    In cupboards, on the walls and in the computer there are elements of my story everywhere.

I count myself as extraordinarily lucky to be the recipient of a wonderful archive of the past in the form of photos, letters and even in written story form. My mum was in fact, a curator, she created a collection, a collection of memories that will last beyond her in this world, a collection that will explain to her children, her grandchildren and future generations who she was, where she lived, what she looked like and most importantly what she thought.

She produced a manuscript detailing her own story as well as passing on the baton of family stories shared with her. There are diaries from her travels with tickets and memorabilia pasted in to embellish the records.  In the cupboards, are letters, photographs, Super 8 movie reels and slides in carousels beautifully sorted and labelled. 

The letters and cards are tangible, I can sit and browse them whenever I chose. Already the Super 8 film and slides are old technology requiring transfer to other mediums to be available to be easily viewed.
What I realised, last month when I was closing the email account that Mum had been using for the last 10 years (pretty cool for an 87 year old) , was that, with that, was going the correspondence since letter writing was replaced by email.  What was once on paper was now just megadata and won’t be accessible unless I take the time to transfer it to some other format and who knows how long that will be relevant.

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On mum’s computer there were files created in word processing packages that current programs struggle to open.  What would have happened if the writers of the past had created their first manuscripts of what we now call classics on programs that were obsolete within less than 10 years?

What happens when our current formats are bypassed for new technologies? I know that our wonderful institutions, museums and libraries are busily digitising resources and storing away relics for future generations but what about our personal stories? Personally, I have scanned many of the slides into digital format, but I wonder will that be long lasting? How long will a jpeg be a digital format? What will be redundant next like the Super8 film is today? I hope I am not sounding too negative here but I would hate to find out too late that we did not prepare and lost important elements of our history. We are the first part of this digital history, no previous generation has left their footsteps in these spaces. Will they last ?

What are creating nowadays that will be our legacy and what tangible evidence will remain after we do? Will our current assets, our evidence of story, our writings on blog posts, our photographs etc be accessible in 10 years let alone 100 years? How will the historians of 2090 access the artifacts we leave behind today?

As I see it, we are leaving much of our legacy in places that are not tangible, not necessarily secure or reliable, and in many cases very disorganised. Think about where your latest photos are of the last family celebration? Will someone in 100 years be able to find it? If we are not writing on the backs of photos anymore, will they know anything about the event? It might be a problem for the app developers to consider but we can each take a bit of responsibility as well.

We are accumulating masses of data – photos in multitudes of online spaces and on our own computers and devices – spaces we ourselves struggle to manage.

Are we making wise choices about what we are keeping? Once upon a time, only the good ones made it into the album or into the frame. It is so easy to accumulate masses of images from one short event, to keep the blurry ones, to have 4 of nearly the same thing. Are we being discerning? or is the world of excess carrying over into this part of our lives as well?

With the plethora of choice in our digital world are we managing our story artefacts in a way that can be accessed or are pieces going to get lost with every closed email account, or redundant app,  closed cloud storage facility or even every forgotten password?

I am not sure we have the answers but I hope we are leaving something behind like my mum has done for me.  

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Connecting our learners

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Twitter+Storify = Learning & Sharing & Curating

Last Monday a group of our students attended an excursion in our city. They visited the Immigration Museum and explored many exhibitions and wandered the city noting historical changes.

The experience was well documented by the Tweeting teachers as well as the Museum Educators (@MvTeachers) .  Anyone watching from afar was well informed and connected to what was happening throughout the day.

The Tweets were then curated into a Storify – capturing a timeline of the events and enhanced by the ability to add relevant weblinks.

Back at school, the Storify became a journal of the days events, shared on the class blogs.  It was also used to enable a de-brief of the day before the students began unpacking the ideas they explored.  It can be edited to show the follow up and further aspects of the learning.

History

A tool that I once saw from one light only (capturing a series of Tweets), I now see with a broader lens.

 I wonder how else it might enhance our learning?

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