Thursday, August 30, 2007

Live to learn, learn to blog

Just back from the “Live to learn, learn to blog” conference where I met with lots of blogging friends such as James, Graham, Warrick, Sue, Helen and others. I t gave me some sort of hint of what Edubloggercon may feel like. It was fantastic to talk about blogging with others who are interested for about two whole hours. In my two sessions I showed the Did you know 2.0 video by Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod – this made one participant feel tired. I used these two presentations Blogging as Reflective Practice and Blogging with students as a basis, but often meandered off following participants’ questions and comments. My aim in the workshops was to show how blogging can help students grow in their learning, be more engaged, make connections with others and have a place to publish their thoughts and creative endeavours. Some surprise and questioning happened at my openness with having students post directly to the internet without moderation and trusting students to moderate their own comments. I haven’t yet been too disappointed and I know that learning and blogging are both a process rather than a finished product. And for good measure here is Graham's slide show on Blogging for Professional Learning.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

the writers group initiates poetry

I just wanted to feature this poem by Miranda, one of my Year 9 English students and member of the Writers Group here at school. We meet fortnightly and each meeting we set ourselves a challenge to write something on a theme or topic. One meeting we said we would write about "time" and for next meeting we will write about "heoes anD/or villains". Last meeting it was something about the letter "S". Many of the students as well as the two teachers who attended wrote something, as did Miranda. Go on and give her some encouragement if you like it. I think it's fantastic.


Sometimes, you think everything can be explained by a colour.

Sensations provoke feelings,
– still feelings.
Synaesthetic-like connections are all very well
— see the way they come together? distorted and colourful and
so very not true.
Still, we pour out our hearts and our heads through our
sugar-coated words and slippery tongues.
Stunted longing; we will never discover the depths of our own loneliness,
spare me the politics.
stained with a need. for another friend,
Security, wrapped in your own
spaced-out head, can only protect you for so long.
Suffocating in the depths of the solace,
stars and stripes and
serendipity, synchronicity, sweetest
Seclusion can be nice, but it needs too many
sagacious words // when you can’t get them out.
staring in the mirror, seeing
Silly little girl, can’t you see yourself? [[reflected]] Pretentious and
sashaying;; stripping away the piece((s)) you don’t like; can’t
stand to see staring back.
Strut around and forget yourself, when you’re
singing for the crowd.
sleeping dreams of
staying safe.
Spiralling thoughts,
sinews of what you’d be with
seeking the thought of what you could taste
Softly cradled in your

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Web 2.0 Pedagogies

Today, I held a web 2.0 pedagogy workshop at my school. It was great. About 12 people showed and there are three new bloggers now, Debbie and Laura (maths teachers) and Yvonne (a science teacher). Others there took notes and will look into it further. Teachers of LOTE (Languages others than English) are planning to set up a collaboration between schools in Australia, Austria and Sweden who are all studying French. I'm looking forward to hearing more about that. I started the session by showing Darren Draper's Pay Attention video, and then showed Bernie's new blog and the conversation generated by his first post, contributed to by Dianne Cordell from the US, Clay Burell from Korea, Sue Tapp from Melbourne, and Paul Harrington from Wales, among others. His class's blog also got an airing and the freshness of this was remarkable. I showed some podcasts, and bloglines as well (and the Support Blogging wiki), before a few started making their own blogs on Edublogs. I think a key point for the good atmosphere was the refreshments at the end of the long day and I have hopes that these bloggers will be stayers and well worth a read.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I am pretty impressed with this blogging caper. Some people think I'm obsessed but luckily all of you my readers know, this is not obsession, unless one could say that breathing is an obsession. I just want to introduce a new edublogger, a colleague of mine who has started his own professional blog. His class have just started and he sees the enthusiasm and the reason for doing it and now he has started. I told him today that starting a new blog was a bit like looking after a new baby at the beginning. One tends it, and nurtures it, does the small daily jobs like checking for comments and replying, like linking to others and following links, and joining in the conversation whenever you can. After a while the blog can stand on its own but still needs regular attention. Really it is community and relationship building that is happening and the momentum and joy of it will carry you along once it's there. Anyway, I just wanted to note this start.

I am also looking forward to presenting a workshop to teachers in my school on Monday. And then I have been asked to present on blogging at a conference that is totally outside my experience, although they are still educators - teachers of Home Economics and Textiles - later in the year. It seems like progress.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Say "Hi" to some new student bloggers

We had a great lesson today in another year 9 class where I was team teaching with Bernie and getting the class set up with blogs. They are now a going concern and you can find them here. There was so much fun in the class as the students were figuring out all the cool things you can do. Some of the interesting new bloggers are the writers of Annabelle's News and The Original Hoganbogan. I also love Sarah's take on her life, and Olivia's sense of humour. It would be great if you could stop by and encourage some of these "awesome" young writers (I'm even beginning to sound like them). I just love their energy and enthusiasm and the way they took to this even though they had to try three times. I know some student bloggers will be starting to blog again in the next few weeks, so let's get the links happening. I really like the way that Lynne has started sending the "8 random facts meme" through her class of student bloggers. Maybe we could make some links that way. Image credit: Creative commons licence.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Team Teaching

Tomorrow I'll be meeting a new student teacher, who will be teaching with me for three weeks. I am looking forward to that as it is one way of opening my classroom a bit more. I am hoping that she will choose to teach either the Year 11 English, Year 11 Literature and / or Year 9 English. There are lots of good things happening there that she could have a go with. Also on Monday I'll have Michael come in for my Year 11 English class to observe my teaching and then we will debrief about both observed classes. And finally on Tuesday I will be team teaching with Bernie while he sets up his class with blogs. We will be going with Edublogs (rather than Learnerblogs as there are occasional problems with the latter.) This is the third time that Bernie's class will have tried to set up blogs so I hope it works. We are lucky enough to have an ActivBoard in the computer lab so that I can demonstrate before we try. I will feel quite vindicated if blogging works in another classroom but mine, as so far I am the only one game enough to do it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

danah boyd on MySpace and Facebook

I wanted to link to this interesting video of Fang’s “…mashup of some elements of danah boyd's talk in Brisbane - in which (he) need(s) to re-think (his) hatred of walled gardens (especially facebook lack of RSS). The reason - kids create walls to make interesting spaces in which to hang out.” If you couldn’t get to hear her live, a little taste will have to do. The full podcast of the talk in Brisbane is also available. Thanks to Judy O'Connell for the heads up.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Podcasts and Blogs

The year 7 podcast is being developed. It is still in the very early formative stage, but there are students who are writing scripts, starting to record and thinking about audience. I have not come across many podcasts by secondary students in my travels around the internet, but I would like to hear more examples. In the meantime one of the students has designed a logo and another student and her band are composing and recording some introductory music. In Year 11 Jess is excited about the writing and comment interaction possibility on her blog.
Today I spent some time writing a brief case study on blogging from my experience over the last two years for a new book on technology in primary and secondary schools. I find myself continually thinking about what will inspire students to give their school related activities more effort because I know they will be rewarded when they see the outcome. And then today finding some of the students inspired. At this time of the year students are engaged in subject selection for next year. Some Year Nine students I spoke to are thinking about their post school future and what changes they need to make now in order to get there. I find that inspiring. And Zoe is blogging again.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Eight Random Facts (who makes these things up?)

I have just been tagged by everd at the Learning Landscapes blog for the eight random facts meme

First, the Rules:
1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and
list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know
they’ve been tagged

My all-time favourite book is The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
I love porridge for breakfast

I spend too much time on the computer
I have been at my current school for six and a half years
I can’t remember the last movie I saw (that’s because my memory is bad, not because I haven’t seen a film for years)
When I was 12 I wanted to be a doctor
I have three hens in my back yard (we call them chooks in Australia)
I once spent a month in Central America

So how about it, you guys. You’ve been tagged!
Joseph Papaleo
Judy O’Connell
Chris Betcher
Bee Dieu
Tom Barrett
Kim Cofino
Claudia Ceraso

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Finding student bloggers to interact with

I was pleased to get an email/comment the other day from Clay Burell about student bloggers for my students to interact with. He mentioned that there is a place on the Support Blogging website (this I had already found) which is a collection of good individual student writers who have taken to blogging. Presently there are students from Korea, New Zealand and Australia and I’m sure that more will come. This is a place for student bloggers to form their own networks. They are listed by blog name (or student name), country and year level. It is a great idea, added by Clay to the site. In the notes to the addition he says, “Added individual student bloggers from my classrooms so other serious young blog-writers can "connect" to them. Entire class links are too hit-and-miss, since many/most students are unmotivated." And when I was checking my year 9 student blog page the other day I found a comment by Hamish from New Zealand who mentioned that he and some of his class members (Laura and Jayden) were among the blogs that I had listed for my students to look at and asked for comments from my students. I applaud this sort of initiative as it is how nurturing networks form, and I too encourage you to go over and look at some great student bloggers.Just noticed that Clay has a post on the student bloggers as well. Obviously great minds think alike. He mentions that it is hard to tell what age groups the students belong to (as it is just the year level that is mentioned which may differ from country to country) and so I guess it would be ok to add the age range for that year level. Fabulous to see the way this grows, slowly but surely.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Learning vs discovery

Because we are studying the novel Millie and the Night Heron in year 7 (which features this type of writing) I tried some stream of consciousness writing with the students. And what a successful activity it turned out to be. I got the idea from another teacher who had used an image of a kaleidoscope to start the students off. I guess it was a way for the students to become aware of their thoughts and, seeing that the main character in the novel uses techniques like this to adapt to changes in her life, it feels a bit like we could use ideas like this to teach resilience. Initially the students found it impossible to contemplate writing down their thoughts as they were having them. But they persisted with some encouragement. Soon the room was totally quiet as the students wrote. When I asked for volunteers to share they were so interested in each others' writing and so many wanted to share that it felt like a great ‘getting to know each other a bit better as a learning community’ activity. I may start the next lesson with them with a video What we can learn from the geese, that I found via Chris Betcher to continue with the building a classroom learning community.

Later, in Year 12, I presented the students with the difficult task of reading their text critically, focusing on the decisions made by the author, specifically the decision for Xinran the author of Sky Burial to include herself into the narrative in such an obvious way. A heated and interesting discussion ensued and later I asked them to reflect on the discussion. Some students found the discussion most useful, others found that the new insights caused them to more critical of the text, and enjoy it less. It became apparent that some students still think that the teacher might have a special insight into the author’s mind and want a definitive answer, instead of seeing the teacher producing a reading done out of thought and effort. The need for effort tends to be resisted by some of the students and I think these students find my constructivist teaching style to be less than helpful. Nevertheless, this class always makes me reflect on my teaching and I think this will be the class that I will concentrate on in my Annual Review Meeting and have it observed by a fellow teacher.

The best part of today was an incident at the end of my Year 11 Literature class. The assessment for the John Donne poetry section is a difficult task, where students are researching and will present their findings on an aspect of the poet’s context: the history, culture, politics, religion of his time and how their reading of one or more of the poems is affected by this research. One of the students complained how hard the task was. I said, “But you wouldn’t expect me to give you anything easy, would you (I suspect that the answer might have been yes)? I want to challenge you.” This student smiled and said “I have made a discovery.” She had been looking at the role of women in the Elizabethan era and had seen what she perceived to be a contradiction between the way women were seen as less than men, and the way Donne seemed to put women on a pedestal. It was a happy moment as it was genuinely something she had thought about even though there is a lot more for her to discover there.

It made me think about the word “discovery” that she used. I have sometimes asked the students to reflect on their “learning”, but I think I like the word “discoveries” much better.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Year 11 Blogs

Just a short update. I had another go at setting the Year 11 English class up on blogs today and fortunately it worked. I was really pleased, especially at the excitement shown by the students. They have just started blogging and they are so ready to interact with other students around the world, so if anyone wants to comment please do. Not all of the students have written much yet but some have. I just love the title of Charlotte's blog "That's the spirit, one part brave, three parts fool". This class has lots of spirit and individuality. Amy has also started well and I get the sense that she will enjoy blogging. I hope we can get lots of interaction with other students and lots of expression of opinions and especially conversations. I have enjoyed blogging so much that I want my students to have the same sense of satisfaction and engagement. There are varied opinions in the class about the value of this adventure, and at the beginning it can seem difficult, I know. The students in this class are more senior at 16 -17 years than any others I have blogged with and it was interesting to note the difference between this class and the younger students. I found that while the younger ones were interested in their presentations and their writing, this class were mostly concerned with adding friends to their blogroll and commenting to each other. I felt this may have something to do with their MySpace experience, which the year 7s at 11 - 12 years hadn't had so much of. So click on them and see the potential there. Encourage them and keep coming back as they get better and better. I am so happy with Edublogs, and although I have had a bit of a look at 21 classes, I think I'll stick with Edublogs for now.