Blogging as part of the learning

Any reader of this blog will know that I love blogging and often use it personally to ask questions and explore issues.  I have been lucky enough to introduce personal blogging to a group of 10 – 12 year olds and used the Student Blogging Challenge to launch this process. They very quickly applied new skills: adding widgets, commenting, navigating the dashboards and adding posts.  Most did only what was required while a few seemed to ‘click’ with the notion that their blogs could be an added tool in their learning.  The ‘showcase’ element of blogging is easy: create a product, publish it, get feedback (always positive).

Listening to and reading the work of Ideas Lab, I was keen to explore another facet of blogging.

Rethinking Transparency

Communicate the whole learning process not just student achievements.
Schools also need to reimagine what students publish. Rather than simply showcasing student achievements and reflections upon the process as a whole, students should be encouraged to share the entire learning process.
Schools should teach and encourage students to share their project ideas, their reflections, their progress and their achievements. School should also consider whether every student should have a blog, a journal where they have the freedom to plan, share and reflect.  – Understanding-Virtual-Pedagogies

An opportunity arose recently when a student published his ‘unfinished’ narrative.  He put a note on the class Edmodo page,  explaining that it was not finished.  Having developed a wonderful PLN (including one author), I immediately thought, here was an opportunity for our young author to connect, to get feedback during the process.  I contacted an author (thanks Kelly) and within minutes, the student had a beautifully written commentary on his draft story.  Lovely feedback and constructive suggestions for improvement from a credible, experienced writer.
It remains to be seen, as this was only yesterday, how this translates directly to the piece of work in progress.  But I cannot see, how this intervention cannot have a positive effect on the young writer.  He knows he has an audience, he knows there are people with skills that can assist his growth and that they are not all in his classroom or school.

At a recent day with other educators including Alec Couros, we discussed how teachers can be the nodes for our students learning, how we can create a network around ourselves and consequently around our students.  This was a perfect opportunity to prove this concepts value.

How can we help our students to develop their own Personal Learning Networks?

That’s about it … social learning

students teaching learning with students
teachers  teaching learning with students
students  teaching learning with teachers
teachers  teaching learning with teachers

In “So many opportunities”, I  wrote about the plethora of  opportunities to be inspired to think about education.  Stephen Heppell says  “It’s a very exciting time for learning. It’s the death of education, but the dawn of learning.”   Alan November’s message at #ictev12 was and I para-phrase,  “peer tutoring is in the upper echelon of what will make a difference. ”   The obvious value of the social side of learning is coming through in so many of these conversations.  Will Richardson, says  “it is about what you do with others “ – not about learning alone.

The value of engaging a network of other learners, whether face to face or by on-line interactions is becoming a greater force – not simply as an end product but as part of the learning routine. I spent yesterday with a group of highly networked educators at the State Library of Victoria,  It was exciting to hear the questions and issues in the minds of those in the room. Hamish Curry conducted a wonderful dialogue and Alec Couros brought some of his vast experience to the room as well.

As I see it, the shift is in the use of the internet, from merely publishing final products to involving others in the process of creating the product.   The web was a place to publish, now it is a place to collaborate and create.  No new ideas here really as Web 2 products have been available for many years.  The idea is that good ideas are the consequence of the melding of many other ideas into something new and our sharing can make that happen.   Being open to risk sharing your thinking, despite your doubts that there are many who may think differently or know more is something many adults shy from, this I believe is a great challenge for adults but perhaps not for our younger students.  The concept is described as  ‘learning collectively’  in the Ideas Lab “The Collective Knowledge Constructive Model”.    This collaboration, importantly face to face is enhanced by the use of the tools at our finger tips – nothing beats the personal relationships.

Whilst I love the sound of all this, questions keep arising in my head

  • How do we shift the thinking of people who have a complacent comfort in continuing their isolated existence?  or for that matter should we?
  • How can collaborative learning ‘fit’ the current exam focused assessments our students are required to complete?
  • How equipped are many teachers to become ‘nodes’ in a network to support their students learning?
  • How do we learn and then teach others to filter the enormous wealth and diversity of thinking and knowledge?
  • Is social media a leveller – allowing conversations between people of all ‘levels’ of knowledge, skills and ability?
Luckily I will be able to continue these discussions and ask more questions next Friday, back at the State Library but this time it will be Will Richardson as our    ‘carrot’ offering his perspective.  If this taster is any example, it should prove to be another thought provoking experience.


iste-presentation from Will Richardson on Vimeo.


Last week I attended a two day ‘conference’ at Ravenswood school in Sydney.  The dynamic Summer Charlesworth (@edusum) had arranged for Alec and George Couros to be part of the school Travelling Inspiring Educators Program.   There were many ‘take-aways’ from this feast of ideas and challenges.  I have struggled to synthesise it since, so will use elements of the Tweet stream to help me.  This was made all the easier by taking advantage of Tweetdoc – a wonderful tool that records Twitter Streams – and in this case, the participants had very generously shared their tweets at great regularity and with great insights.

Therefore, these are snippets from the days, which recorded quotes, ideas and thoughts and are in no particular order.  I am a believer in short blog posts, so I will only choose a few and perhaps a few more in another post.

This struck a chord with me as I have occasionally reviewed my own blog posts and marvelled at the documented journey it portrays.  Reviewing our own thinking and seeing growth, or even just being reminded of what was important at a different stage is a great process.  The use of blogging as a digital portfolio was discussed and encouraged.  Wouldn’t you love your students (or children) to have a progressive record of their thinking and learning?

Our need to look at the potential benefits of connecting via social media rather than focus on the slight possibility of the not so nice.   Alec and George produced a beautiful array of examples of how these connections can enhance our existence.

I love Twitter and Blogging but the benefit of meeting people face to face cannot be underestimated.  Much of George and Alec’s message revolved around the importance of relationships and it reinforced my belief that participating in gatherings such as Ravoties and Teachmeets is powerful and important.

We know the internet is full of tools to help us connect: each comes with idiosyncracies that mean we need to be aware of their features and choose the right one for the job at hand.  Collaborative tools mean we can harness the value of connecting and produce amazing learning opportunities that are no way hindered by physical restrictions.

The concept of the teacher and leaders in schools demonstrating that they are the ‘lead learners’ was widely discussed.   “Live your messages” being a mantra to live and work by.

I loved this discussion.  I have often thought about who we classify as successful students and note that in general, our system rewards those who ‘play the game’ – they fit inside the boxes that our system requires and their success is applauded.  The more divergent thinkers – or the one’s not so willing or capable of complying – are deemed less successful.  Our attention to the individuals in our schools is obviously vital. 

I have seen the benefit of using our networks to connect our students and value the strength of a strong network.  A lovely exchange between a US educator and myself over Twitter evolved into a great learning experience for our students (See this post) and this is one of a multitude of examples. Accepting that our students can and often do learn better from people other than their teachers is vital and exposing them to strategies that expand their horizons is exciting.

It was a wonderful experience that I will continue to mull over and I echo Tom Whitby’s thoughts

I am a connected educator. It has had a profound effect on what I do, and how I do it. It has taken me to places that I could not get to without being connected. It has taken me to discussions with the leading authors and educators of today. My connectedness has made me a better educator.

Or at least I hope it is getting me there!


Week 1 – 3 Summary

I feel that I need to sort out the past few weeks activities in my head.  The advantage of doing this project with other people from the same school is that we are asking each other questions – some questions do not yet have answers but that is ok.

Summary below

Blogging – intended as a personal reflection journal space – some interaction but only by comments from readers.  Comments on other people’s blogs connect you to them.  I learnt a lot about these from Jenny Luca’s presentation.   She talks about being careful to have a purpose as well as the benefits of the reading AND writing process.   initially I found edublogs tricky but I am getting hang of it now – even worked out how to put in widgets etc.

Ning – collaborative work space for PLN attendees – share ideas, chat, link people with similar interests

Twitter – micro-blogging – great  for capturing links to other places/blogs/sites etc.  Needs lots of filtering to get a good batch of people to follow

Week 3 – Professional learning

Attended the Dept Innovation Showcase on Monday as a big bit of Professional learning for this week !

I usually come out of these days with mixed emotions –

  • a sense of awe at the wonderful things people are doing and their enthusiasm and skills
  • a feeling of inadequacy as I feel that I am not far enough along the path they are
  • inspired and rejuvenated with fresh ideas to try

and today was no different !!

Things to explore after today – Edmodo (like Twitter but safe for kids)  heaps of iPod Apps, use of video and blogs for student ePortfolios.  That’s enough (not all by any means) but an achievable goal.

I have seen a number TED Talks – Are schools killing creativity ? Sir Ken Robinson is a well known one.  One that is not directly related to education but absolutely blows me away is Theo Jansen creates new creatures.  I did use it with a group of children when were looking at an Inquiry unit on Inventions.. It is just a great example of thinking outside the square !  I think we are lucky there are people in the world to do this stuff as it is certainly not going to be me and my feeble brain.