Wednesday, September 26, 2007

reflections during the holiday break

I really relate to NZ blogger Jane's post "Troubled" where she reflects on the feeling of overload and disruption that her online life is giving her. She asks: "I suppose my question is... In the long run is this connectivity helping me or harming me?" Read the whole post and the comments to get a real sense of what the issue is. With all the stresses of teaching I know I have received much benefit from social networking tools, ideas, connections and a real sense of purpose. But sometimes being involved in these networks gives its own stress. Not being able to keep up is one. There is a feeling of being in a moving train as I catch glimpses of people's lives flashing by on slideshare, webcasts, podcasts, blogs, (love the new URL), twitter, flickr, and so many others. I can't help feeling that I want more, I want to meet you guys face to face to say thank you for what you have given me, walk with you, talk to you all, but that's impossible if I still want to live my own life. It would take several lifetimes to be able to do that.

Anyway, enough of the rant. You may have noted that I have put Answertips on my blog. I have tried to put it on the class blogs where it would be very useful, no doubt, but James tells me it can't be put on edublogs or learnerblogs for security reasons. It seems like a great addition to a school blog where readers can double click any word and link to a dictionary definition of the word. It also links to "fast facts on millions of obscure words, personalities or slang."

Secondly, the Directory of Australian Edubloggers is going really well and has lots of new entries. I have gone back to having an open password - I had changed it due to vandalism - I hope that it has stopped by now. So it is time to do some more reflecting, some planning for next term, and go outside and - mow the lawn. If I think of it I will post a picture of that momentous event.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Blogging and identity

I’m learning a lot about blogging with students now that I have my Year 11s blogging. They are 16 to 17 years old and it is the first time I have blogged with students in VCE. Blogging in the classroom raises questions of identity with these students in an obvious way and they don’t mind talking about it. New blogger Zoe called her blog “MySpace is better” and Sophie comes out with
“how can we not sound corny on this thing”
And then there’s Katie whose tongue-in-cheek entry says it all really. I just hope the international audience gets what’s going on here. I know where she’s coming from. It’s about revisioning oneself as a different person. I had to do that when I started blogging and I was also conscious of what I was doing; for my tagline I put “constructing an identity in the blogosphere while reflecting on teaching, learning and technology”. Learning is always about identity – we have to give up a view of ourselves as someone who’s not this sort of person and embrace ourselves as someone different.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

MySpace used in assessment

One of my Year 9 students has completed her assignment early on a novel she chose to read for the Independent Novel assignment. There were four parts to the assignment: some sections on the plot, the characters and themes of the novel. The final part of the assignment was to create either three MySpace pages for three of the characters or three business cards. This student created the MySpace pages on the novel For Maritsa with Love by UK author Enid Richemont. From a review of the novel: "An unusual and powerful novel that explores the dark underside of Paris’ beautiful fa├žade; a moving and engrossing work about vulnerability and hope." I know others have chosen the MySpace option too, even though they have to do it at home as the site is blocked at my school. It was a bit of an experiment but I am very pleased with the results. The student chose a photo, a layout, friends, a song, an about me section, who I'd like to meet, comments from the friends, and interests. In order to do this well for the three characters, Rose, Maritsa and Paul, there has to be some engagement with the novel and some understanding character, plot and themes. I was pleased with this piece of work - I have yet to look at it with the rubrics to hans - and I think that when she has to write analytically about the novel in the exam (one of the choices students have) her understanding will be reflected in that form as well. No doubt I'll find out.

One way to really engage students

I just read this great post on teaching and learning by Science teacher Yvonne Sanders called iTeach - iLearn. She is reflecting on a series of lessons where the students are learning by being given the challenge to teach their Year 8 classmates as part of the unit. And by the sounds of it they were. And it makes sense. We know as teachers that if you want to learn something new the best way is to research it knowing you will be teaching it. This sharpens the mind considerably, and just think of the engagement for the students knowing they have an authentic audience in their peers. And so Yvonne's question became "why not?" She reflects on her conclusions about her students: "Not to underestimate them. Always engage them. Include them in planning." Makes sense to me. Please read the whole post. It is inspiring.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Redefining the dictionary

Another great presentation from the marvellous TED Talks site: Erin McKean on Redefining the dictionary (with humour).

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Annual Review Meetings and Engagement

From Wesley Fryer

Just a thought:

"How are we measuring engagement in our classrooms?
  • Who is asking the most questions in your classroom?
  • Who is doing the most thinking in your classroom?
Conversations, particularly spontaneous conversations which are initiated by students, can be a good sign of engagement and engaged learning in the classroom."

Participation, says Wes, is a beginning but not a clear correlation with engagement. At our school we have just participated in our annual review meetings which were set up differently this year. We were to figure out some way of having a third voice critique our classroom teaching or our role. Some chose to videotape a class, some chose to do anonymous student surveys, some chose to have a class observed by another colleague and then a conversation was arranged between an individual teacher and an appraiser who helped us reflect on our learning through the process. So many teachers wanted to work on engagement but how to measure this? Wes suggests the number of conversations happening is one measure and I think it’s a good one, as by that measure my classes do tend to be full of engagement. (grin) I will reflect more seriously on my third voice experience in a later post.

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