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.

 

 

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.

Screen-Shot-2013-07-21-at-10.04.40

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/

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

 

#YourEduStory Challenge

How do you infect students with a passion for learning?

I have had a few personal challenges recently that have highlighted a mantra I try to live by:

You can’t change anyone else’s behaviour, only your own

With that in mind, my response to this week’s prompt is to assess my own behaviour as a teacher and coach.

If I want my students and fellow teachers to have a passion for learning, do I have one myself?

Do I reflect that passion in my actions as well as my words?

I think that teachers who infect others with a passion for learning usually:

  • love learning themselves and are not afraid to show it
  • take risks – try out new ideas and see failure as a step in the learning process
  • actively and outwardly acknowledge the steps they take to learn
  • ask questions and listen to the answers provided which provide key guides for future actions
  • share their learning – not only at the end of a process but throughout to show progression, hurdles, achievements
  • find opportunities to connect to their learners on a personal basis.  This connects closely to creating relationships, the topic of a previous challenge.  Understanding their students is vital.

This post is a response to the #YourEduStory Blogging Challenge  by @msventurino.  I am working on the theory that if I do the current challenge you may not notice the missing ones from the weeks before 😉 

 

Networks : Connecting our learners

YourEduStoryThe #YourEduStory challenge for this week is What is connected learning and WIIFM?”  (WIIFM = What’s in it for me?) and I realised that I had an unpublished post from 2013 (among many others) that could partially address this topic.

 

In 2013, I wrote:

As our world of information overload expands, the use of our networks is getting more and more valuable.  Happily accepting that we cannot answer all questions, but that we can help our learners (whether students or teachers)  connect with someone who can, is an important mindset of a modern teacher and learner. I gain solace when I am able to connect people, use my online or face to face Professional Learning network (PLN) and say “I don’t know anything about that, but I just might know someone who does !”

I am grateful for the people in my network and I believe the power of these connections is hugely amplified when we each act as ‘nodes’ or connectors to each others networks.  On Twitter I regularly see people requesting information from their PLN as they are trusted sources and people willing to help.

My experience indicates that many of our students have yet to see or be exposed to the value or purpose in networking beyond their school environment.  We often read that they are already using the power of networks in their social lives, in online games etc but schools are not mirroring this activity.

School must embrace this and model the value of connecting. Class and student blogs, class Twitter accounts, Edmodo, shared Google documents etc, are some of the wonderful vehicles for this connection.   Recently one of our students published her work from a Positive Education program on her blog, another school picked it up and used her content for class discussion.  The excitement from the young blogger was palpable – she was contributing to other students learning and they were adding value to hers.

Relevant and timely exposure to the value of connecting as learners will provide our students with essential skills.  

That was 2 years ago and it still stands.  In a few hours at work last week, I spent time getting the nuts and bolts sorted so that our students have access to their own blogs, their Google Apps for Ed accounts, Edmodo accounts.  It was tedious administration but vital to exposing them to this type of learning.

The ‘What’s in it for me?” question is partly a no-brainer as Heather so well describes but also a bit awkward.  The essence of being connected implies a mutual benefit – sometimes the balance goes one way more than another, but we are more in to the “What’s in it for us?”

Reading Nancy’s response to this prompt, I connected in numerous ways to her story and in particular to “These connections did not happen accidentally.”   Like any relationship, they have to be worked on, cultivated and allow to mature and change.