Category Archives: Blogging

Term 2 Goals

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Term 1 was massive for me. Being at a new school and a completely new year level has had me completely floored.

I feel like I have spent the entire term in a whirlwind of not really knowing or understanding what’s going in, which has been completely different to my previous experience of understanding most things and leading a lot of it.Things have not been bad, just unfamiliar. I think I have been so used to working in certain ways and expecting particular things to happen around me that being in a new environment has had me upside down. For the most part I have just spent time feeling guilty that I have not been making a great contribution to my team this term while I’ve been finding my feet.

Now that I’m starting to get my head around my new school and how it works, I am refreshed and ready to do more.

I have three goals for the Term to keep me focused on improving my practise and extending my skills.

  • Stay connected. Twitter is blocked on my school network and I am so used to checking in and stalking my eduheroes during the day for inspiration that without this frequent connection I have been dry as the desert. #vicpln I’m coming for you.
  • Blog more.  When I get into the habit of blogging often, I start to push myself to try new things so I can share it. This can only be a good thing so expect to see more here in the coming weeks.
  • Reconnect with my passion: tech. Out of all the things I do in my job, I find that learning about, teaching with, and using technology to improve learning to be the easiest and most interesting to me. I intend to find myself a niche in the school where I can run with this and try some new things.

Big things happening here – wish me luck!

Class Blogs for Reflection

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Seeing those numbers drop?

Lots of us start off a class blog with great intentions! We start strong, with heaps of posts and lots of time allocated to reading and writing comments, but it somehow trails off, snowed under by all the other new and exciting things that inevitably appear throughout the year.  Sound familiar to anyone?

I’ve had the same problem this year. The blog became a bit unloved for a while, and if it is not an integral part of the classroom, and does not serve a useful purpose, why have it at all?

In a push to improve learning by making my class blog more meaningful and integrated into what we do, I’ve been trying out using blogging as a very quick reflection tool. Usually for the reflection on a lesson I will pose some questions (usually related to our learning intention and success criteria) for students to answer, in order for both them and myself to be able to gauge their learning in the session. I am trying out using the class blog to supplement the reflection time. I have been finishing tasks just a couple of minutes earlier than usual, and then asking the same questions I normally would, but noting down responses as a blog post. Students will add knowledge, information and skills they think are important to what we have just worked on until we have a blog post with fully formed ideas and a cohesive explanation of our learning.

The benefits of this:

  1. Students need to be able to articulate what they have learnt to a level that can be published for others to read.
  2. The blog becomes a holder of information that students can go back to and use as a reference.
  3. Families have an opportunity to see frequent updates about learning, which opens up both online and face-to-face dialogue about learning and invites parents and others into the learning experience.
  4. It provides me with a very clear indication of class understanding of a concept or skill.

Here are some examples from my class blog that the grade has written recently:

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Growing Good Digital Citizens

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For anyone trying (like me) to get their head around the DigiTech curriculum, hopefully this can help get you. I plan on sharing some of the things I do in my school that address this proposed curriculum at a grade 2 level.

 

My school’s Digital Learning Team has identified the area of “Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility” as one of the areas for improvement after a staff survey on the ISTE standards showed that this was the areas where staff felt unconfident and had less knowledge than others.

As a result, all students have downloaded an eBook (Common Sense Media’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum and workbook) that provides a lesson-by-lesson curriculum for teachers to implement with their students. I’m finding it to have some good resources but mostly it is a little dry.

I feel a little more confident about this area than just following a text book, so I wanted to share a lesson I did with my Grade 2s about being a responsible digital citizen.

 

We had a discussion about the term “Good digital citizen” and what it meant. Two of my students are Digital Leaders in the school and were able to lead this discussion quite capably. Students put forward their ideas on what this might look like.

We watched this video to hear some other ideas on what good digital citizens are like. The song “Pause and think online” is catchy and the kids got a lot out of it!

The song basically associates actions and body parts with responsible use of technology. For example “listen to your gut” for things that don’t seem right, and “balance with your arms” to balance your time between using technology and giving your mind and body a break from it.

 

After this my students used the Thinglink app to create an interactive image that would explain their interpretation of how to pause and think online. They took pictures of themselves and inserted “nubbins” (this word is too creepy for me!) which were either text or video to explain how they would use a certain body part as a good digital citizen. Here are a couple of examples and here is the class blog on this lesson, if you want to see more.

 


The Thinglinks went on our class blog for others to read and learn about how they can be a good digital citizen. 

Integrating the Class Blog into Literacy

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Something I have been working on this term is making stronger and more efficient links between reading and writing, and authentically including the class blog into those sessions so we don’t need a whole session allocated to blogging each week. Here is an example of what I have done this week.

 

My students are learning about writing setting descriptions to use in narrative and descriptive writing.

 

In reading, we worked on identifying literal information about a setting. I modelled reading a setting description from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (first six paragraphs of this). Students visualised as I read and then noticed the way the Chocolate Room was described using some of the five senses.


IMG_2993In another session, we read a book called Anzac Biscuits (it describes a little girl and her mum making biscuits at home while her father is away in the war and the perspective swaps between the characters very vividly). Students noticed the various ways the setting and action was described, again through the five senses, and noted them on a sense-o-gram.


  • In writing I used the blog as the launch point for all the learning we would do for this lesson. Students read the learning intention from the blog and we used the picture prompt on the post about the five senses to refer back to what we already had noticed in the mentor texts.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 11.52.02 amWe then travelled through The Secret Door from a link on the blog post. The Secret Door is THE COOLEST EVER tool! It takes you through the door to a real place that could be anywhere in the world! It gives a 360 degree view and allows you to walk around as you would in Google Maps Street View. The students were each taken somewhere different, including a theme park, underwater in the Great Barrier Reef, the South Pole, inside a telescope, and the middle of a baseball field during a game.

    From here students brainstormed some words they could use to describe the setting they ended up in, using the five senses as a prompt.

    In reading the next day, students looked for setting descriptions whilst reading independently, and in particular for phrases rather than just single words. They either marked them with sticky notes or took photos using their iPads.

 

In the next writing session, students went back through the secret door to a new location,  took a screenshot of the view and wrote a descriptive paragraph about setting, using the five senses as a starting point, and reflecting on the types of descriptions we had been discovering in books and mentor texts.

 

Students added their setting image and a description on a Padlet (an online shared pinboard) which was embedded into the blog post we were using. Here’s our setting Padlet. This way student can go back and access the ideas collected on the Padlet anytime they want to use an idea.

The class blog post is here.

I am really happy with this series of lessons; I linked literacy lessons so that what was covered in reading spilled over into writing through the mentor texts we read and analysed. The writing flowed easily from students as they had seen authentic author examples of what they were trying to do, and the blog fitted in perfectly. Students can now access the Secret Door tool on the blog, as well as their own and their classmates’ setting descriptions to use in the future when writing narratives.

Reflections on Digicon

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Wow! #Digicon15! My head exploded.

What a brilliant event with SO much going on in so many areas!

I need to reflect but my head is a jungle so I’m just going to get down anything and everything I am thinking here and see where it takes me.

These are my main takeaways and the things taking up space in my head!

 

My own presentation: Student Centred Learning in a Tech Rich Environment (with @ErinMacNamara)11249157_10152930196816479_2286937671627326159_n

  • I am super proud of myself for diving in headfirst to a terrifying experience that turned out okay and was actually kind of fun. Thanks for the push @BecSpink.
  • I have something valuable to contribute in my own tiny area of expertise. I presented on something I know about and felt comfortable to teach others about it. At first their blank stares were off-putting but after a while people started taking notes and even asked questions that I could answer with ease and eventually I felt like… “Oh… I DO know what I’m talking about”.
  • Here are the slides if you want to peruse.
  • I liked presenting and want to start having a go at doing it more often. Maybe some more Teachmeets. Heck, maybe I’ll run for president.

 

Keynote – Hamish Curry

  • “Curriculum is a guidebook, not a rulebook”. It’s so easy to get caught up inrecite-nb7q7v what the curriculum says that the meaningful learning can get lost. For me, I think this hinges on more of an inquiry approach across all areas of teaching which makes it student driven and most likely will tick off a lot of boxes along the way. This sounds very nice but it’s hard work and something I really want to improve on.
  • “Real things, real places, real people. If you can’t get those things in, you probably shouldn’t be teaching it.” Wow. This is such a great way of explaining that it’s important to make things come alive for students and to make it relevant. Should be second nature for teachers but I find once you’ve done something a few times it’s easy for it to get dry if you’re not careful (speaking from my 4th year of grade 2s in a row… sigh).

 

Keynote – Celia Coffa 

 

Explore the World with Google – Sam Vardanega

Awesome resources and ideas of what to do with them! There is so much potential in these few tools.

 

Don’t be a Textbook & Keynote – Corrie Barclay

  • Lots of reading into frameworks and models for learning to do!  Just some of them… new pedagogies for deep learning, 6C’s, The Solo Taxonomy, TPACK, ACOT2 Framework, ATC21S Framework, CCR, Competencies for 21st Century Learning.
    I always feel a bit behind when people talk about frameworks and models for learning. I am so busy at work all the time that I don’t feel like I have time to look into the ‘big picture stuff’ like this. This means I often feel like I am just ‘doing’ rather than ‘doing with intention’. I want to better understand some of the frameworks behind educational design new thinking to allow me to think more broadly and make some impacting changes to my teaching, and I think some of these that Corrie suggested are a good start. He was really interesting to listen to and challenged me to think bigger.
  • “What would irresistible learning look like?” Corrie said this was cliche but I’ve never heard it before and I like it!

 

Disruptive Thinking in Education – Anthony Speranza

Well this one still has me floored. It was simultaneously the most interesting and frustrating session I went to. There was so much to get out of it, but it all felt too big to properly process. Anthony himself said that he was still getting his head around the concept of Disruptive Thinking and what it means… glad it wasn’t just me!

  • Changing trends in what is needed in education… from content to dispositions. Teaching and modelling skills and thinking habits rather than content and knowledge is something I think I am getting much better at with experience. It is something I am working to get across in my team and sometimes this is difficult. This session reinforced that I am on the right track with encouraging this with my colleagues.recite-1q3uokg
  • “Looking at the rate of change in the world and the rate of change in schools, they’re not even close to correlating.” Most classrooms I see/have seen look exactly the same as they would have 200 years ago, except that now we arrange our tables in groups, not lines (sometimes not even this). The teacher is the dispenser of information, the students are the receivers. We have the knowledge to correct this, but not the… what? What are we missing that is stopping this from changing? Time… motivation… disinterest… fear… pressure… close-mindedness… set-in-our-ways-ness??
  • Time as currency. Could I do this maths in 20 minutes instead of one hour? Is this writing going to need more time allocated to allow it to develop? Should we work on this over a week or a month instead of moving on to the next topic?
  • What does disruption look like in my teaching? Bearing in mind that I’m still not totally sure about this concept, I think I’m doing just a little bit of disruption:
    • 1:1 iPads as a necessary and well-leveraged tool for learning
    • Blogs as a way to connect students with the world, still a long way to go here! (I’m thinking Twitter, Skype, Quadblogging)
    • “Do sharks have saliva?” “I don’t know, guys. Let’s Google it.” Teaching students how to access information that is at their fingertips, teaching them to evaluate its validity, teaching them the skills needed to decode and comprehend and assess what they find out.
    • Starting to trickle some coding into my teaching
    • Learning as the journey, not the destination… problem solving, valuing mistakes as a learning opportunity, developing resilience and nurturing curiosity.

 

Permission to Innovate (Spark Talk) – Adrian Camm

  • “The value of a curriculum is as a framework used to design meaningful learning experiences for students”. Time to get your heads out of the box, teachers. We’ve been told from day one that the AusVELS is designed as a guideline, so we need to stop treating it as a textbook. This might be scary for some, but we need to design learning experiences that reach students on a level that makes them suddenly take the wheel and take control and direction over their own learning. I’m pretty sure that’s where the valuable learning is at.
  • “This card entitles me to try something new. If it doesn’t work as well I as I wanted I will be free on criticism for my efforts. I’ll continue to pursue new ways to help my students be successful.” I would love to see my school be transformed by something as trusting, challenging and terrifying as this! In a school ripe with freshie teachers, we soak up a lot of learning sponge-style, and we’re provided with some great PD and introduced to some excellent methods as we need it, but sometimes I feel as though because we are somewhat fed what we need to know, we lose the onus to push ourselves and take control of our own learning, and begin to see improvement as something that is expected of us, that just takes up extra time at staff meetings or causes jelly legs before P&D time. I would love to see teachers with a passion, who discover something new that captures their imagination and try it out off their own bat, with time allocated to doing it throughly and in a considered way. And WITHOUT a bunch of grumpy faces in the staff room being judgemental about someone who just wants to improve their craft and transform learning for their students.

 

First up on my to do list:

  • Get blogging more with my grade! Make it valuable! Begin with Quadblogging.
  • Start a Twitter account with this year’s class, to connect with experts and other grades, to share and look outside our four walls.
  • Think of time as currency – be more flexible and smart with my planning, according to need.
  • Read about ‘student choice about how to learn’ (any article suggestions for me?)
  • Look more closely at the digital technologies curriculum and map it against the curriculum with my team. Implement lessons and blog about them as a reflection.
  • Get reading! Models, frameworks, inquiry, disruptive thinking… anything! Just take some initiative and learn something new and try it out!
  • Do my own blogging… to reflect and to share. My own workshop taught me that I have something to offer to the teaching community which made me feel all warm and fuzzy. 

To Tweet or Not to Tweet: Using Twitter to build my PLN

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I’m not sure I’m a Twitter convert yet.

Oh sure, I’ve heard it from a zillion reputable education sources that Twitter is the best thing that you can do to transform your teaching and learning, but I’m not there yet.

I started a Twitter account at a Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century PD. I had heard “Twitter is the best thing you’ll ever do for your teaching” one too many times and created an account on the spot, ready to see what all the fuss was about.

My first thought was “This is ugly”. Twitterheads will probably get all #mad and tell me #youarewrong, but if you really take a step back from the familiar interface, your Twitter feed looks ugly. It’s full of links, hashtags, too much punctuation, and too few correctly spelled words, all in the name of getting as much as possible out of 140 characters.

Once I got over this initial revulsion, I looked into what I could do to build my Personalised Learning Network. In a stroke of brilliance that was sure to expand my PLN from zero to hero, I tweeted my first tweet:

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As you can see, I got a grand total of zero replies, and an anticlimactic one favourite. This was disappointing but I didn’t give up.

Since then, I have been slogging away, learning about Twitter by pestering my most Twittersome colleague and just googling everything I want to know. Slowly but surely, I am beginning to see the benefits of Twitter for myself.  I am currently and primarily using Twitter these three ways:

  1. To ask questions of other teaching professionals (and hope I have used good enough hashtags to get their attention).

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    Exhibit A: Asking for help from the pros!

  2. To publicly get in contact with techie businesses to ask for help. Making this public allows other people to get in on the conversation; it’s not relying on one person or perspective for the answer, and it allows others to share in the solution.

    Help me, please.

    Help me, please.

  3. To share my blog posts and cool stuff I’ve done in the classroom so people can use my ideas. Twitter needs both give and take.

    #Here's a cool thing I did that I want to show off.

    #Here’s a cool thing I did that I want to show off.

For me, Twitter is exciting because its full of thousands of brilliant people with brilliant ideas, and I can share in them without having to leave my chair. Every time I read my Twitter feed, it is humming with the ideas of educators who are pushing boundaries, taking risks, being leaders in their field, loving what they do and transforming learning for their students. They are educators who are not afraid to share ideas in case someone else gets the credit. They are educators who do not have all the answers but are still happy to have a go at your questions. They are educators who believe in change, and are not going to allow things to stay how they are. They are inspiring.

They are also educators who love inspirational quotes on semi-related out of focus backgrounds. I am not a fan of this. It’s almost a dealbreaker.

If quotes like this make you reach for a bucket, Twitter may not be for you.

If images like this make you reach for a bucket, Twitter may not be for you.

Using Twitter to build my PLN is definitely making changes to my teaching, but could be heaps more beneficial. I need to stick with it and focus on using it more… my guess is that I’ll get out what I put in. My Twitter goals are:

  • Blog at least once a fortnight, in order to have more meaty stuff to share on Twitter
  • Learn which hashtags I need to use more frequently
  • Be part of a Twitter meet-up.

 

Things I can teach you about Twitter that I wish someone had taught me at the start:

  • A favourite could mean a few things, mainly: someone wants to show you that they ‘liked’ your tweet, or the tweet has been ‘saved’  or bookmarked for someone to come back to and read later.
  • In a sea of words, almost words, links and tags, a picture will make your tweet stand out from the crowd, in my opinion.
  • Hashtags are important as a way to get to your intended audience. Find out which hashtags are related to your tweet. Here are some: www.teachthought.com/twitter-hashtags-for-teacher/ 
  • Rubbish: there’s a lot of it. You will get used to scrolling past the junk and grabbing onto the delicious stuff.
  • Get your feet wet. Just get into it and share some stuff or reply to someone. There is so much going on in there, no one has time to #judge, so just have a go and see where it takes you.
  • If you’re thinking about getting into it, The Edublogger Blog has written a post on how to get started.

Classroom Blogging and the Slump

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Our grade 2 blogging wall – complete with QR codes for class blogs, info on how to write a great comment, and rules of the competition.

This is the second year I have been blogging with my class. I started it because I wanted the grade to have a way to share what we had been doing with parents (and the wider community, if possible) and  a way for students to reflect on their learning and achievements.

Have a look at this year’s class blog  & last year’s class blog.

Last year’s class needed no motivation to blog! They would walk out the door and be blogging 10 minutes later when they arrived home. We had comments written by students and parents, or assisted by parents (meaning the parents were still reading the blog). It worked like a dream! The next step would have been taking the blog to a wider audience and connecting with other classrooms, schools, experts, anyone!

This year a few kids are excited, but there is nowhere near the amount of momentum and interest that I experienced last year. The teacher in the class next to me has begun a class blog and is experiencing the same thing. There’s been discussion about if what we’re doing is worthwhile. We needed something to get it moving so we decided to try and reinvigorate students with a little competition!

We are pitting one grade against the other in a battle of the blogs! Students will get points for:

  • A comment = 1 point
  • A correctly written comment = 5 points
  • A comment on another blog besides their own grade’s = 2 points
  • A comment written by a family member or friend outside of the school = 10 points

As you see we have set it up so that students are encouraged to

  • treat it as they would any other writing piece (use correct format, writing for a purpose etc.)
  • contribute to others’ learning communities
  • engage their personal community in their learning and use them to learn more

We will also be selecting superstar bloggers who will be the students with the most points accumulated each week. These superstars will be allowed to write their own guest blog post on the class blog about anything they like.

We also discussed options for students who don’t have internet at home so that they can participate (FREE MACCAS WIFI! was a somewhat popular option for reasons unknown).

After introducing the idea today the kids seem to be pretty excited… time will tell if our little plan works.

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Yes – I know there are 3 Gs. It’s laminated.