A story about collaboration

How a group of five teachers came to present at ICTEV Conference on #TMMelb

Anyone who has read this blog before will know that I am passionate about the Teachmeet movement.  My involvement has opened many doors to me and one of the most significant things has been the people I have met.

Earlier this year, at a de-brief session after a Teachmeet, one member (OK it was Mel) suggested that we could present about TM’s at the upcoming ICTEV conference. Everyone thought it was a great idea and as is customary in any group – one person was appointed, duly delegated, or dobbed in to the task of submitting the application (OK it was Mel again).  Well it must have been done well as it was accepted and the proposal became a reality – we were set to present, but that was in May, that was ages away.   A ‘planning session’ was allocated but the beautiful Japanese cuisine got in the way of the ‘planned’ planning, barring a few careful notes on a napkin. (Thanks Mel)   The only real decision that night was that it should be a joint presentation.  Teachmeets are after all, a shared, social  event, so the presentation would reflect this.

So, it came down to a few weeks before the event and opportunities for a group planning session were getting slim. A face to face meeting was getting difficult to manage.  Emails were flying to and fro.  After all, these are busy educators and women, there are lessons to plan, reports to write, essays to complete etc.   So what do any innovative, well rounded and resourced networked educators do ?  They ‘hang-out’.   Monday night, a fortnight before the conference, from lounge rooms, kitchen tables and bedrooms across suburban Melbourne a ‘virtual’ gathering occurred. Google Hangout proved a perfect arena for this chat and planning session.  After the bestowing of fake moustaches, crowns and tiaras (a fun feature of hangouts – now I am wishing I had some screenshots to share!) we were down to the important business, working on many screens switching between a shared Google Presentation.   A fine oiled machine soon had a set of ideas, designed and ordered.  A plan was constructed!   Elements were allocated to each member  and that was that.  We all attended to our allocated tasks and trusted that in the good old show business fashion, it would be alright on the night ! (or afternoon as was the case).

ICTEV tweets
I am pleased to report that it went very well.  We stayed within our allocated 7 minute speed sharing limit, which is a practiced skill for any TeachMeet attendee.  We shared our message and passion.

It was a delight to be part of this small piece of collaboration.  Thanks to all involved. I wonder what we can do next ?

Come along to a TeachMeet event and become part of a wonderful group of people who want to share, question and challenge.

Our presentation – not the same without Brette’s questioning techniques!

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.

Collaborative learning – a small example

A great collaborative activity we trialled was a project based on NSW Education Department ‘Through My window’ activity. In this activity that was conducted over 6-8 weeks with Year 3/4 student, the children exchanged written descriptions of the scene outside their school windows with children from another school. On receiving the descriptions they drew the scene, with only the written word as a clue to the scene they were drawing. They then exchanged the drawings and photos (Scanned and emailed) and assessed how well their descriptions had painted the scene and vice versa. Each school group drawing one scene and writing one written description. We used SuperClubsPlus to connect to a school in rural northern Victoria and another in metropolitan Melbourne. This fitted well into our Inquiry Unit on Discovering Victoria.

Sounds complicated but it was really only
1. One Piece of descriptive writing
2. One sketch of the descrition they receive
3. One photo of their scene
4. Uploading to SuperClubsPlus and Emails to and fro

This activity could easily have been achieved by use of snail mail and printed photos. However it was greatly enhanced and immediate due to digital photography and email and web based forums.

The descriptive writing was a challenge for the children, however they persevered as they knew that what they wrote would be used by other children to draw the scene. The activity provided a great opportunity and need for explicit teaching of vocabulary of direction, as well as adjectives.

When sketching, the children took great care to read with careful detail to make sure they included all the described elements. This attention to detail was enhanced due to the collaborative nature of the project – they knew there was a positive reaction from a well written description, so they worked hard.

The activity culminated in a short forum session with the children interacting on-line (via SuperClubsPlus) . A simple concept that gave the children a ‘real’ purpose to practise their descriptive language and connect with others beyond their school.