Looking back and then …. looking forward

Happy Sun Wearing Shades Cartoon ClipartThe Australian school year is drawing to a close.  Time for our summer break, time for reflection and then after a while, time for planning.

This year the reflective part is easier as I can use the chronicle of this blog (started in April).  I started blogging as a record of attendance for an on-line PD – and that PD still stands out as the highlight for the entire year as it was the catalyst for my PD for 2010 and altered many of my teaching practices.


  • Beginning a personal reflective blog – I like the writing process, it makes me think.  I still enjoy watching the visitors tick over and the map dots increase, it makes me feel connected and definitely shapes the way I write.  
  • Creating a Personal Learning Network – there are people who I have never met, that I now feel, I know.  I enjoy the interactions and learn every day.
  • Developed an amazing library of blogs to regularly visit – this is a moving feast as I filter for the writing styles I like, the subject matter etc.
  • Increased confidence and understanding of the power of Twitter – I have written about this before, but the use of hashtags and the prudent selection of ‘friends’ is an evolving thing
  • Attendance at on-line conferences – Reform Symposium etc
  • Being  joined on the on-line journey by local  colleagues who put into practice so many of the things we learned – it is nice to have face to face chats that affirm so much.
  • Watching 4 class blogs evolve at my school through the efforts and contagious enthusiasm of my fellow teachers – we have learned so much and answered many questions but new questions keep coming up.  These blogs  enabled worldwide connections between our classrooms and other teachers and students .  The value is tangible and the foundations have been laid for amazing things in 2011.

Prep KJuniorsPrep SMiddle Matters

  • Beginning Student Blogging – started with having our kids reading and learning to comment on other student blogs
  • Discovering the amazing variety of supporting tools that enhance blogs – PictureTrail, Kizoa, SlideShare, Voicethread etc
  • Maintaining my Delicious account  and Network – currently around 2000 bookmarks which  I regularly refer to (must keep up tagging properly or there is no point)
  • Having my now 18 year old daughter take up blogging


  • Keeping up with the enormous amount of reading on my RSS feeds
  • Balancing the new learning with the old practices and the system requirements – there are still things we have to do – but can we do them differently and better or should we leave some things alone?
  • Maintaining the enthusiasm – continuing to find authentic purpose within the curriculum for the use of these tools
  • Encouraging further involvement in on-line activities amongst other school members – parents etc.
  • Filtering out the material that is most relevant and deciding what actions to take.

As I have previously said, the common element has been sharing – I am constantly amazed at the enthusiasm and energy amongst the online professional world – it appears that some people never sleep! 

I would like to thank the many people who have contributed to my learning this year – I read your blogs (and comment as often as I can), I follow you on Twitter, I attend your Elluminate sessions, I talk to you across the staffroom table and I soak up as much as I can.

Note : after writing this I realised that it mirrors in many ways a wonderful list I read 10 Alternatives to standard professional development.   There are many other suggestions on that list – maybe that can create the 2011 To-Do list ?

Commenting on blogs – more questions than answers

Source Flickr cc
Source Flickr cc

Okay, so we have encouraged our students and teachers to join the blogging community.  They are being creative and enthusiastic (see my previous posts and the blogroll for wonderful examples).  We have learned the amazing value of Twitter as a publicist for new blog posts.  The power of the #comment4kids hashtag is phenomenal.   The feed from that tag is constant with pleas for comments on student blogs.    The Blogging Challenge currently underway has accelerated these demands.   All good, as the people who follow these tags are happy to help – we realise the value of comments and providing feedback.  So ….

It does make me wonder : Why do so many people read blogs and NOT comment? I see blogging as a two-way process and whilst admitting to not commenting on every blog I visit, I certainly try to respond whenever the subject is relevant and I have something to offer, and often comment on student blogs (it only takes a few seconds).   When reading student blogs, I try to encourage them but question them about their writing matter.      I have a gut feeling  (totally statistically unsupported and gleaned purely  from my anecdotal experiences)  that many readers do not comment.   Are they lacking in confidence that their opinion or reaction is not valid?  Do they think writers do not need reinforcement or challenging?  I hope not, as, in that case, we are missing out on the conversation – the true bonus of this medium.   Perhaps commenting is not as important as I think it is.

I saw a recent tweet asking for blogging buddies and I think this is a brilliant idea.   The buddy process should ensure that all posts are read and responded to – as I have said before – we all need feedback!  However, the audience needs to be beyond a few buddies – we need the broader challenge, otherwise we may as well be swapping our spiral notebooks with the neighbouring classroom.

It also makes me wonder: Is there an etiquette or protocol for reacting to comments? Recently, members of my household heeded the call to comment on student blogs – questions were being asked that we had the knowledge and experience to answer.   Almost 10 days later and some comments are still not appearing (awaiting moderation) and others remain unanswered.  I ask the question : Is there a protocol for responding to comments?
My old-fashioned etiquette has me thinking that some reaction is preferred and actually required.   Is this anachronistic?   I was trained in old school – sending  written replies to written invitations, written notes of thanks after an event etc – I realise as communication mediums have changed, so too will these traditions, but are any worthy of persisting with?

Is it reasonable to expect that someone who blogs, will visit their blog regularly?  Perhaps this is the natural process of attrition – an unattended blog will fade way as the interest from both blogger and readers dwindle.  That two-way process is required to keep it alive.    This also raises the issue of subscribing to comment feeds – do most bloggers and readers care if they get a reaction?

It also makes me wonder:    How will this enthusiasm be captured and prolonged? I know that blogging is relatively new (according to the Wikipedia they began in 1999 whilst not becoming commonplace till 2004) – so it is still evolving – a relative newcomer, a work in progress.  The Twitter stream is constantly introducing new teacher and student blogs, so I anecdotally suggest that the growth is currently strong.    Will the list of student blogs requesting comments grow to an untenable extent?  In reality, this should not happen if all bloggers assume the responsibility to comment on other blogs as well.

Dean Shareski in his recent K-12 Online 2010 conference presentation – ‘Sharing : the moral imperative’,  suggests that we have an obligation to share our practice – I think this should apply to all bloggers – student and teachers and to posting as well as commenting.

Do you agree?  Are comments important to you ?   (my daughter has already pointed out the irony of me getting no response)

PS Here are a few resources to use when teaching students to comment on blogs (Thank you to the authors)

  1. Mrs. Yollis’s classroom
  2. Integrating technology in the Primary Classroom – Kathleen McGeady

Developments – Class blogs evolve

I was just spending a moment adding links to the new class blogs that my fellow teachers have recently created and once again it got me thinking – nothing in life is static.

My household has had an eventful week, my eldest daughter turned 18, graduated high school and got her drivers licence (in Aus you have to be 18 for this milestone).   She drove off into the sunshine on her own yesterday with amazing confidence – the fruits of the past 2 years of driver training were evident.   Life has evolved.

So too, in my professional life, I am seeing great developments.  I am loving how I am being challenged and extended.   Many staff have been dabbling in the world of blogging and I am overwhelmed with how this new medium seems to be such a natural progression.   I am learning so much every day as teachers make discoveries and share them.   Our understandings are evolving as we give it a go and  adapt according to our experiences.  The technology is not really the issue, it is the communication that it provides that is the important factor.

The wonderful teaching that has always been happening is now being enhanced by the ability to share beyond the classroom walls.  Teachers and students are making connections and being affirmed and encouraged by this contact.   A visit to any of the school blogs in my Blogroll will attest to this amazing development.     Teachers are collaborating and both they and their students are the beneficiaries.

Image Source http://www.flickr.com/photos/langwitches/Langwitches - T
Image Source http://www.flickr.com/photos/langwitches/Langwitches - T

This week we had a great staff meeting where we discussed the possibilities and issues of blogging.    I started the session by discussing the diagram – the Networked teacher.   I like this diagram as it highlights the tools we have always used for collaborating with each other, as well as indicating the enormous range of potential that the WWW has provided.  Teachers have always been good at supporting each other and I love how blogging has been a natural extension of that.

In a recent PD session that I ran at another school, I was challenged “How are we supposed to fit all this in?”  A familiar question and often one that comes from someone who has not yet really connected with technology.   I replied that using these tools (in this case blogging) was not an extra – it was just doing what we had always done (writing) but in a different way.    A class blog could be seen as an extension of the class room display – only with a much greater audience and amazing potential.

Teachers are doing amazing things and I believe the power of blogging will encourage and inspire more and more.   I love how incorporating these technologies into the classrooms is exhibiting to the students that the teachers are true examples of lifelong learners.

Week 9 – My journey with blogging

“Web 2.0 has moved the Internet from our traditional one-way information flow to a two-way “conversation” in which the Three R’s have been supplanted by the Three C’s: Contributing, Collaborating, Creating — through mediums like blogs, wikis, and twittering.”

http://audio.edtechlive.com/Educational-Networking-The-Important-Role-Web-2-0-Will-Play-in-Education.pdf Steven Hargadon

My personal experience is very raw. I started blogging only 9 weeks ago and I have written about this learning journey in previous posts. I loved experimenting with how to develop an audience etc. I soon decided I would initiate blogging with the students at my school (8- 12 year olds). I struggled at first to find a ‘purpose’ and then realised that the writing IS the purpose. It did not matter what content the children were writing about, it mattered that they we were writing and now with a potentially varied audience. I introduced blogging to them by discussing diary writing and how diary writing was an intensively personal experience, diaries even used to come with keys. Blogs on the other hand are normally public – we write with the intention that others will or may read them. We discussed that they are a two way experience, the writer and the reader both benefit.

The first attempts were varied, I suggested they reflect on the year so far and their efforts and thinking varied dramatically (as you would expect). I asked them to comment on each other’s first attempts and was pleased with the language they used – they stayed positive and encouraging. I will persist as the year progresses, but I am hoping that maybe one or two (at least) will be inspired by the nature of blogging and extend themselves just a little.

I chose to use KidBlogs due to the ability to monitor posts and comments. It was simple to setup and the children (and I) learned to navigate around very quickly. I am already thinking that I might change due to the limited customisation available.

Steven Hargadon argues that computers had not really altered education to any great degree until the advent of Web 2.0. The advent of the internet “ has so significantly changed our relationship to information and our own personal learning opportunities outside of formal education, that we’re beginning to see a set of software tools emerge that are profoundly altering both learning processes and outcomes.”

I certainly feel that we have yet to alter our teaching to include use of the technology available, but understand that whilst we do not have complete access to the hardware, it is difficult for teachers to fully embrace the potential. A class teacher with occasional access to a lab and class access to 4 pc with a group of 25 students, can only plan so much – access is so important. Perhaps when the ideal world exists and we have 1:1 in all schools, we can expect more – but for now, we are doing the best with what we have.

Poster street


The blogging has continued to interest my 17 year old – three posts so far Motzie’s Blog.