2014 in review

Hawaii reflections

If you write a blog, you have a great record of your thinking: the things that have inspired you, the ideas you have puzzled over, the events you have attended, even the challenges you have faced. I just browsed through my posts from 2014 and although not as numerous as previous years, they tell a story. I seem to have been a bit of professional learning junkie – attended many Teachmeets as well as a couple of formal conferences.

One of my most visited blog posts was You have a class Blog – Now What?   I have had the pleasure of working with many teachers helping them with the setting up class blogs and it started to get frustrating that their impact was not as great as I think they might be.  I now think that a teacher needs to understand and actively seek the benefits of being a Connected Educator, before or at the very least whilst setting up a blog.   So many teachers have said to me that they don’t see the point, no-one reads it and the effort does not translate into any added value for them or their students.   The exceptions are those who are creating a network alongside their blogging activities.   Whether they be actively engaging  their parent community or reaching beyond the school to other classes, they are making a difference and are feeling encouraged to continue.

The concept of collaboration is understood by teachers but when it involves actively pursuing on-line networks, many are yet to take the plunge or even understand the pathway.  This is an area I would like to focus my work on in the future.  My connections have enriched my career in so many ways that I cannot imagine life without them.  I revel in the opportunity to watch a Twitter feed/ Google+ Community, chat at a conference or Teachmeet etc and pick up news or ideas or to ask a question or contribute an answer.    Of course, it remains paramount that any of this revolves around relationships.   George Couros wrote recently:

If you are a school that does not focus on building relationships, you are on a faster road to irrelevance than one that doesn’t use technology.  

 In a world where information is easy to access and I can always find better content online than I can in school, the refocus on relationships is more crucial now than ever. Embrace technology; it will provide people opportunities that we could have dreamed of when we were kids.  But just remember that people will always be the most important part of the education system.

In conducting a bit of a mental audit on the ways I have seen technology used in my school, I am comfortable that our focus has been on the relationships.  At the end of any shared Google document, Tweet, Blog post or Skype call, was a person or a group of people we were actively engaging with.  We had clear purpose in our communication – whether it be collaborating on a task, informing parents, seeking information from experts, providing an audience for our young writers.   Technology was the enabler for the building and strengthening of the relationships.

George is right “people will always be the most important part” and I would like to thank a small band of my ‘people’ who nominated me for an award this year – I humbly accept it as I said to the teachers I work with I take pride if I have been in any way influential in all the wonderful things they are doing with our students.   I draw energy from my association with members of my PLN both at school and beyond and look forward to sharing many more stories in 2015.  Now it is time to go to the beach for a bit of rejuvenation!

You have a Class Blog – Now what?



I spend a fair bit of time as an eLearning Coach talking to teachers and helping them set up class blogs.  This is a common and wonderful first step towards opening classrooms to the outside world, sharing practice, collaborating, modelling cybersafe behaviours, digital writing skills and much more.  The value of class blogs is the topic for another post and is well summarised by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano in the graphic above (if you want any further information on blogging Silvia’s blog should be your first stop!) .

I have found that there is a point at which teachers struggle to move on – they learn the mechanics of blogging, most often making their blogs a wonderful showcase of classroom activities.  They get a small audience, mainly from parents and their local school community.  Then the enthusiasm wains as the feedback circle ceases or remains small.  They see blogging as an extra activity to their daily routine not one embedded into their practice which has clear purpose and direction.

These are the ideas I then present :

Use blog as a reflective tool.  Simple classroom activities where you take the last 5-10 minutes of the day to reflect on an activity and note the learning that has taken place – scribe the students words.  Openly create the post with the students (modelling writing and reflective language) creating a chronicle of their learning and hopefully their wonderings too – these conversations happen anyway – blogs allow you to record it and share it .    A great example here using an embedded shared Google Slide (thanks to Michelle Scott)

Using blog posts for shared reading and writing in place of a big book etc., simple transferral of everyday tasks into the digital space.


Many teachers do not know how to create a network, how to connect their class with others.  Publicising posts via email to families and ensuring all class blogs have links to each others blogs are important starting points.  Remember it is a blog not a poster on your wall – use the benefit of Blogrolls and links  to connect.



Finding other class blogs and starting relationships with them by commenting and leaving links back – a bit like  introducing yourself to someone you don’t know at a party !   Once a connection is made and it may even be with the class next door or down the street, you can agree to support each other by regular visits and comments, ensuring an audience for your writing.  Slide5

There are websites such as Quadblogging , which will partner you up with other class bloggers around the world. Each class takes a weekly turn to be the recipient of support.  Amazing connections have been started through this method.


I think I will have to say that I believe Twitter is the best way to connect your blog to a wide audience.  Amongst the Twitter world there is a supportive community ready to respond when teachers ask for feedback.   Using hashtags such as #comments4kids ensures an audience.  Admittedly, not every tweet translates into a comment or connection but I have seen amazing results from teachers who use Twitter to encourage an audience.  More information on comments for kids here .  Some teachers use their own accounts or create a specific class Twitter account to share their class news and posts.  Slide7Activities such as the Student Blogging challenge which can be participated in by individual students or by classes is another method.  The Challenge appoints voluntary mentors to students as well as actively teaches and encourages students to apply quality commenting skills when responding to other students posts.

Slide8I think that summarises some of the tactics that can work to move classroom blogging to the global level and extend the reach of the message.  Do you have any other ideas???


Learning curve

In keeping with Pernille and Rafranz’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