Friday, December 29, 2006

Five things about me

I have just been tagged by Cool Cat Teacher. Here are five things about me:
1.My computer programmer son just changed my operating system to Linux - Ubuntu (something he's been wanting me to do for ages) and so now I'm using the Epiphany browser. It's not too bad, but I feel like a geek. Haven't worked out how to listen to podcasts yet though. (It says I need a plugin; never mind, I'll work it out).

2.I have five children and three of them are going overseas in the next six months (working holiday, study and volunteer work). It's all a bit scary. Emily is going to Ireland and the UK for a working holiday. She has just finished her postgraduate course in Information Management but will probably work in whatever field she can find work. Felicity will be working in a hospital in Bolivia for six weeks. She has nearly graduated as a nurse. Lachlan is hoping to study overseas. He just finished Year 12 and did very well.
3.Like Graham I went to boarding school for part of my secondary education.
4.Got so tired after school ended for the year on the 15th December that I couldn't blog, couldn't even think for a while (still recovering).
5.I will be going to China in April for a conference. So that's four of us applying for passports all around the same time. My conference is part of the professional development required of teachers who are teaching in the International Baccalaureate Program. We are just starting in 2007 with year 7 and I will be teaching English. It will be fantastic to go to China to visit the Guangdong Country Garden School, and to meet others who are teaching this worthwhile program.

I would like to tag Nancy McKeand, Judy O'Connell (when she gets back from holidays) Paul Allison, Bob Sprankle, the Reflective teacher and Doug Johnson

Saturday, December 09, 2006

International Collaboration: The Flat Classroom Project

The most amazing collborative project is happening over at the Flat Classroom project. Read about it here and here. It is a collaboration between Vicki Davis' students in Georgia and Julie Lindsay's students in Bangladesh so that they could interact and discuss and develop links with other students from 'the other side of the flat world'. For three weeks students from International School Dhaka, Bangladesh Grade 11 ITGS class and students from Westwood Schools Grade 10 computer class will discuss life from their side of the world based on the selected 'flatteners' as per Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat. The students' wiki is here and if you are following the changes as I have been you can see a vital and engaged set of students who, as Vicki says, are wanting to come to school on a Saturday to keep learning and collaborating. As usual it isn't only the students who are learning and the resource the students are making will be fantastic for others to learn from as well.

Edublogger awards

It's that time of the year again and the nominations for the Edublog awards are up and what a great bunch they are. I am amazed at what happens in a year. Many of these nominees are new since last year and some of them are so good. They have bcome my favourite reads but there are also some new ones that I hadn't heard about. Well worth an explore. Voting ends at midnight GMT on Saturday 16th December, only one week away. These awards are great in that they recognise and promote, as Anne says, the good work going on in so many places. So congratulations to all the nominees and keep up the fine work.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Unit of work for Year Eleven English

Just a quick entry today to upload my files for those people who were present at the workshop I did today on the Year Eleven unit of work on Gattaca and exploring the theme of Science and technology and its impact on society. This unit was originally designed by Janet McCurry and then I trialled it at my school earlier this year. For those who wanted a copy of the presentation here is a link.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A teacher's voice

Just wanted to mention something that nb wrote about her experience the other night. Nat was invited to speak at the VIT at a forum on 'Critical Literacy: Pedagogy or Ideology?' about some of the articles that have generated a range of views on a topic which has recently generated several articles and letters in The Age and The Australian. Her response was based on her experience in the classroom and is so inspiring. What I loved was her response to the critiques of English teaching that have been published during the year:
You may have been as surprised as I was myself when I realised that my pedagogy placed me firmly within the ‘loony fringe’- a term used by the editors of The Australian for those who do not share their view that anything other than the ‘universal’ Western canon should be taught in English classrooms. You may also be able to appreciate the somewhat disconcerting experience of learning that the ideas I was engaging students with were “serious ideology” (as opposed to frivolous ideology, I can only assume). You might have experienced the dismay that I did when I read that by encouraging my students to engage thoughtfully and critically with texts, I was apparently denying them the opportunity to experience the “simple joys of reading".
She has included her students' voices on their learning and her presentation slides as well in a fantastic post. Go on over and have a read.

Workshop on blogging

The workshop at Ivanhoe was a informative experience and very rewarding for me. I got to hear James Farmer talk about the theory of blogs in education and and the development of a communities of inquiry which could be structured by the teacher to lead to more or less control on the part of the teacher. I know this idea of teacher control is important to some teachers just starting out with blogs. It seems to be the fear factor of students misbehaving on their blogs as they sometimes do in the playground, causing "mayhem" when left to their own devices. When teaching students about blogging, it is important that the teacher is the leader and guide and that the expectations of students' behaviour in the classroom are the same expectations of coutesy and respect that one would engender in the classroom face to face. It wasn't so long ago that I was a bit afraid (I called it caution) of the power of blogs. I wasn't sure what I was afraid of, just that it was unknown. So the fact that James was able to tell the teachers who may be looking to start blogs that there was a level of control that remained the teacher's would have allayed some of the fears. Jane, my fellow researcher (she is doing a Ph.D) spoke next about her use of blogs in a classroom to establish a community of learners through their ESL class blog. Jane herself doesn't have a public Internet profile as she prefers to concentrate her efforts on her class and their interactions with each other. Her journey and the journeys of her students showed the way that blogs could give a powerful voice to those learning English. Her adult writers had some very humourous interactions and some were very pointed, especially about relations between men and women. The story I told in my presentation was about the learning that I and my students have done over two years and the fun that it has been, especially as my students have been getting to know the students in Clarence Fisher's class. I finished up with this insight about learnings that still have to happen:
But there is still a lot to learn. I need to insist that students link to what they’re writing about to prevent people like Derek from having to take risks
like this one

From Keshia's Quill (love the blogname)
  • One. SPAM IS EVIL!!! (Sorry…too much sugar for breakfast.)
  • Two. I learned a lot about the environment thanks to my fellow blogger Derek. (He wrote some real detailed stuff)
  • Three. I found out just how easy it is to communiate with someone from another country or maybe on the other side of the world. Are you guys in Canada enjoying your…umm…is it Autumn up there?

And Derek's comment

Hey!! Thanks for mentioning me in your blog (Well, I hope you are talking about me, otherwise this would be humiliating ). SPAM IS EVIL!! I remember when I got a whole lot of spam. Luckily, I have my comments sent to moderation. Also, “Bad Behaviour” blocks some spam. I agree that you can learn lots from blogging...

Blogging isn't the answer to the world's most serious problem (whoever thought it would be?!)... but it is a tool for learning…. and I cannot now imagine learning or teaching without using blogs.
I love the questions that Clarence is asking of his students right now and am looking forward to reading their answers. The workshop was well written up by the organiser Joseph Papaleo here.