School’s out Friday

This animation from Guy Collins made me smile. Do you ever have to hold your tongue as you watch people search the net? I know that I’ve spent time with students explaining how to use quotation marks around phrases and other tips and tricks related to search, and I see them ignore everything I’ve said and do it their way regardless! Doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying. It’s my job to persevere and repeat myself over and over. : ) I just have to keep a smile on my face and not get exasperated like the comic figure above.

I’ve just followed a link in the back of my blog to Jo McLeay‘s ‘The Open Classroom‘. Her post today called, ‘What makes an effective blog post, or how to write so readers want to read‘, describes my blog as”an oldie but a goodie”. It fills me with much joy to have my blog described this way. This week marked the three year anniversary of this blog. I started writing on January the 12th 2008. It actually slipped my notice until today, and Jo’s post prompted me to mention it here. So much has happened in that three year span, and the core of it all has been the sharing that takes place in this small corner of the Web. Writing is important to me; I think I’ve got better at it, and even when I write a post that I think is good, but gets no obvious feedback (take this week’s Our Ephemeral Web as a case in point!), there is satisfaction in knowing I’ve stuck my neck out and said what I thought needed saying. It may sound corny, but writing like this makes you feel stronger somehow, a little more armed to face the world and the critics out there. It does for me anyway.

But, there are bigger and more important things than this blog. Australia, and Queensland in particular, have seen some extreme weather conditions this week and there are people hurting in my country. My heart goes out to them. It goes out for the people in Brazil as well, who are also struggling with heartache due to floods and landslides. Our world certainly presents some of us with challenges that seem unfairly distributed. What has been encouraging today, in Australia at least, is the kindness of strangers. People who reach out to others in need, for no reward other than the satisfaction of helping others who are struggling. We have seen some examples of the best in people and it makes my heart glad.

Thanks Jo for making my day. Thanks readers for reading. : ) Enjoy what comes your way this weekend.

Creature of habit

I am, by my nature, a creature of habit.

You may notice a long overdue change to this blog. The header, that’s been in place for the last almost three years, has changed. It was no longer relevant given the changing nature of Web 2.0 tools and search engines, so I decided it had to go. Some of you will be thinking, ‘Heck girl, that needed to be gone long ago!’, and you’d be right. But me, being the creature of habit that I am, resisted the change.

Personally, I find the fact that I’m content to let things stay the same for so long interesting. It’s at odds with the mantra I espouse here on this blog and within my school. I wonder what that says about me?

Anyway, change (small!) is here. The image was obtained from flickr, and is called Global Network. It was taken by Anthony Reeves, known on flickr as WebWizzard, on June 18th 2009.It is available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0) license. It’s thanks to people like Anthony, who use Creative Commons licenses like these, that  people like me can use them in their blog headers. A big thank you Anthony. : )

So, how long will it stay? Who knows? Maybe I’ll become more experimental and make changes more frequently. A bit of ‘practice what you preach’!

Blogging with students

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called ‘Blogs for Classroom use‘. At the time, I’d recently started blogging and I was in the super enthusiastic stage. Evangelic really, convinced that everyone should be doing what I was doing because it was so exciting and I was learning so much.

At the time of that post, I was presenting a session to my staff, focusing on the connections that could be made for students on a global basis. Here’s a little of what I wrote at the time;

Now, you may ask, how does this relate to blogs for classroom use? Well,  the connections I am making through this blog have made me realise that we do now have the ability to offer our students the experience of connecting with others in different parts of the world. I see the kick my own students are getting out of seeing my cluster map grow and wonder why can’t we offer them the same experience. It’s possible now to have our students act as true global citizens and have a voice in this world. If I can do it in the space of six weeks why can’t they. Many of our students already have an online presence in the form of a myspace or facebook page and  are aware of how to use technology as a social tool. We now need to harness this same technology for educational purposes.

My thinking has never changed about the need to harness this technology for learning purposes. What did change along the way was my experiences with students. In the early days, I set up a class blog with my Year 7’s, with pages for each student, but they really weren’t interested. They liked the home page blog, but they didn’t want to work on their own pages. Over the last two years, I’ve suggested to students who seem to me to be prime candidates as bloggers, the idea that they should be blogging, but they haven’t been interested. Over time, I’ve come to think this is because the lives of teenagers is just jam packed. They have school commitments, family commitments, sport commitments, too many commitments! Expecting them to devote time to a blog, despite the fact that it could potentially be their springboard to something else, is to some extent asking too much of them. I also think that blogging is a bit of an art form of itself; it requires dedication, commitment, drive. Not everyone is a blogger.

So where am I at with my thinking now? Interestingly, contemplating the idea that next year, I just might be suggesting to my students that blogging is something they should seriously think of doing. So why the change?

I’ve been listening to my Year 9 students this year as they grapple with essay writing. I’ve been very impressed with their development of skills over the course of the year, but I think they need more time perfecting their writing skills. If they were writing a blog, and not a blog about random stuff, but a blog focused on something they are interested in and can articulate well, then I’m figuring this is going to prove beneficial for them when it comes to the expectations of the English curriculum. Often, they just need more time to write, to figure out how you structure something that sounds interesting to others, how you write a carefully structured paragraph that’s not too long so that people get bored, how you say it in a word count that isn’t going to tax a reader’s concentration span.

A couple of my current students have been asking me about my blog, and talking of setting up their own so that they can spend time focused on writing. So my current thinking is this. Next school year, I’m going to suggest to my students that writing a blog about a subject matter of interest to them is going to be beneficial for their writing expertise. I’m going to make it optional, not compulsary, and I’m going to help them understand how you write effectively to attract audience. It may well be that I have to run classes outside of regular class to impart these understandings, but that’s fine by me.  It may well be that no-one wants to be involved! We’ll see how it goes.

Over the last term I’ve been running a blogging class for one 60 minute session a week with some Yr 8 students. It’s another factor in my changing mindset. The class only had three students, and two of them have really shown me what can be achieved when young students set their minds to something that means something to them. If you have some time, and feel like sharing some comment love to two aspiring young bloggers, take a look at Liv to Dance and Sing a Song.  Both of these students have demonstrated very quickly an understanding of how blogs work and how you write to gain an audience. They adopted so quickly and I could see their skills growing from week to week. Both of them are writing about what they are passionate about. This is so important. All too often in our school systems we have students who explore their passions outside of school, because school doesn’t cover what interests them in the  curriculum we offer. I’m pleased we were able to offer these students the opportunity to invest time writing about their passion, even if only for a short time. The class has finished, but both tell me they are committed and will keep writing. I will definitely continue to follow their progress.

If you have students who want to improve their writing skills and make meaningful connections along the way, encourage them to blog. I suppose what we need in schools are teachers who understand how blogs work, so that they can impart this understanding to the students. Once again, it’s a human capital question. Do our schools today have the human capital to assist our students with new methods of communication?

Theory into practice – making it meaningful in the school library.

A tag cloud with terms related to Web 2.
Image via Wikipedia

This year, we’re trying to make Web 2.0 more meaningful in our School Library. Last year we moved most of our pathfinders over to wiki format to encourage collaboration and input into the development of  resources to support subject areas and projects. The take up was pretty good and most people know what a wiki is now, but you run the risk of getting ‘wikiied out’. Sometimes you could hear the collective groan of ‘not another wiki’ and that is something you want to avoid at all costs.

We’re not giving up on Wikis, but we are trying something new. We used to put out a monthly newsletter with interesting websites, news and book reviews, but it went to staff only. It was very good, but not frequent enough and got lost in the barrage of emails that hits the computers at my school. We wanted to do something that delivers information, but more frequently and something that encourages the two way exchange of ideas that Web.2.0 typifies. So we’ve started a Library blog that’s open, not one that’s operating within our Sharepoint Scholaris platform.

Last year when I attended Learning 2.008, I had the pleasure of meeting Ann Krembs.  She talked of her Dear Librarian blog that she runs at the American School of Bombay in Mumbai, India. I’ve been inspired by Ann’s efforts and have set up 2rak info 4 u to serve our school’s information needs, and perhaps the information needs of others.  

tc_lib_blog

We launched it just over a week ago and although it hasn’t set the world on fire, it has had quite a few hits. We need to find ways to have it become part of the culture of the school and something that staff and students use as a ‘go to’ place for information.  We are trying to set up an RSS feed to it within our Scholaris platform so that posts will be visible, updated and in the face of  our staff and students. This have proven to be problematic but we’re working on it.  

All of the library staff have been set up as authors and all of them have been uploading posts. This is learning curve stuff for most of them but they are rising to the challenge and are pretty chuffed when they see their efforts. It’s proving to be excellent professional development; they are ‘doing’, not just reading about what can be done. The clustr map has certainly generated some interest; it really does have an impact when you realise that people from far and wide are viewing your work.

Hopefully we’ll see it become part of the fabric of our school. Take a visit and see what you think. I’d appreciate your feedback if you feel so inclined to offer your thoughts.   

       

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