Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

Sliding Into Apathy

April got away from me. It was the first month since starting this blog that I failed to post anything at all.

Maybe I am suffering some form of social media fatigue. I’m still reading and scouring the web as much as ever but I’m picking and pecking through my Google Reader feeds rather than reading feverishly, and my Twitter presence has dwindled down to virtually nothing. Ironically, I’m still picking up new followers but I’m not sure what I’m offering them. I reckon Dean Groom hit the nail on the head the other day when he wrote:

The dark-side is that social media (for educators) didn’t turn out to be the kind of ‘succeed’ culture expected, but a feed culture, where people either churn out the same old gruel or stare into their smart phone expecting for the unexpected to be fed to them.

I don’t need someone pointing me to someone else’s stuff and telling me that this is a must-read or an essential. If I have good enough search skills, I can mine the web for my own nuggets of inspiration and my peculiar flights of fancy.

But I do wish that I could recharge my enthusiasm for writing here. After all, this is my space – and thankfully, Edublogs has evolved into a comfortable low cost option for people like myself who don’t want to do their own domain / own hosting scenario. More budget ranging than free ranging, however.

Tumblr interests me but what captures my attention isn’t niche enough or focussed to make it worthwhile. Most Tumblrs I see are basic digital scrapbooking – which means the unique ones stand out even more. But it seems that the neglect of RSS, the great open concept of pushing information around, is really having an impact. Google Reader winds up soon and I still have to work out  a decent replacement, but one of the best features it used to have was the ability to create an RSS feed of my favourite posts, which I redirected into a widget on the sidebar of this blog. That disappeared, and so did the ability for anyone to see over my virtual shoulder, noting what I thought was worthy of extending out into the network. Corporate siloes are dominating the digital landscape and people seem to be perfectly willing to accept the limitations and standardisations of those places.

Nostalgia hardly seems appropriate for the great Web 2.0 premise of anyone and everyone being an author, a critic or social agitator. But somewhere I’m trying to work out where the joy of playing in this arena has gone for me.

Fire up the XBox – maybe I can still squeeze in a game tonight.

Twitter Is The Low Hanging Fruit Of Networked Learning

I’ve just finished reading a blog post by Dean Shareski on being a more regular blogger. Knowing Dean a little bit, I actually thought it may have been about fibre and looking after your bowel. But a section of the post resonated with a gnawing disconnect that I’ve been experiencing with Twitter as forum for connection.

For others I fear twitter got in the way and now instead of meal sized portions of learning, all we’re getting is table scraps and candy.

For me, Twitter is a low hanging fruit for online thinking and learning. I cringe inwardly a little when someone pronounces Twitter as the best PD they’ve ever had. I wonder how it is that they have had such a barren run throughout their career for this to be true. Maybe because I’m not in with any particular social group but I mainly see people pointing to links of stuff that someone else created, sharing in jokes (which are out jokes to me), fawning over big name edublogger types, shout outs and #hashtag mania. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, not that there’s anything wrong with all of that, but it is a far cry from sitting down over a blog post and putting your own words, thoughts and ideas out there using as many characters as you want to get the job done. I can respect any one who is prepared to do that because it does seem that some of the more vocal Twitter fans on my twitterstream are reluctant to be bloggers. Deep down, writing in depth is a commitment and a challenge that they shy away from and espousing Twitter as the premier networked learning outlet (often referred to as their PLN) looks like a diversion away from that scenario.

Here in Adelaide at a number of departmental workshops and conferences, organisers announce that the event will “be on Twitter” and educators who don’t normally engage with social media (apart from Facebook but that’s not for learning, now is it?) sign up for the day and have a go at “tweeting”. These accounts are then abandoned as they all return back to their day jobs and bursting email inboxes. And I can’t think of any pearls of wisdom from any of these events that have benefitted my learning or triggered further thinking.

But blogging is different for me. I can recall various blog posts that have turned on the virtual light bulb for me with ideas that couldn’t possibly be contained within 140 characters. From Christian Long’s Future of Learning Manifesto to Leigh Blackall’s Teaching Is Dead to Artichoke’s Calls for Gendered Group Think about Web2.0 and Claudia Ceraso’s Some thoughts on identity -particularly mine – just to name a near-handful. These posts opened up my mind to new persectives, made me reconsider what I was doing in terms of learning for myself and the staff and students with whom I work, and inspired me to strive to write for insightful and challenging purposes. I can’t do any of that in a Tweet.

About all I can manage to do in a Tweet is get people offside. My attempts at conferences to be provocative have been interpreted by others as sounding snarky and negative.

So, some people can feast reasonably well from the ground level branches of networked learning or wait for those who take the time and effort to climb that metaphorical tree of learning to drop them down a tasty morsel or two – or they can plant their own tree, watch it grow and then climb up high to where the most nutritious fruit is and trade them with others who’ve planted their virtual learning tree nearby.

OK, I’ll stop now. The metaphor is starting to get a bit stretched and thin now.

Like my efforts on Twitter.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/3059349393/4160529617/

Today’s Quote That Makes Perfect Sense

Whenever I set aside time to check through my blog feeds, I will invariably find a sentence or paragraph that really resonates and has me thinking, “I wish I had written that.” But I suppose the good thing about finding these succinctly written pearls of wisdom is that my colleagues are more likely to take the message on board if the quote comes from someone other than me!

So, here’s today’s quote that I’m earmarking for future reference. Source – Kate Nowak:

But when people talk to me about the technology I have to constantly Reframe the Issue and explain how I’m not all pro any technology for its own sake. You don’t go, “Oh here’s this cool technology let me shoehorn it into my classroom.” Instead you go, “I think I have thought of the best way to teach this, and it would be impossible in an analog world, but I know enough about the technologies to realize this idea.” You don’t go to a twenty-minute inservice about xyz.com and go “I’m going to make an xyz.com lesson.” You use xyz.com for your own purposes, or you suspect its utility and put it in your back pocket, until your awesome instruction idea needs xyz.com in order to exist. Your lesson is the fuel and xyz.com is the oxygen.

I suppose the only rider on this one is that this idea only works effectively on the premise that the average teacher will read and browse enough online in order to develop a deep enough back pocket to call upon.

Distributed Feedback

I last wrote a blog post nine days ago. I know I’m not setting aside time to write here like I used to – only 31 posts here in 2011, compared to 41 at the same time in 2010, compared to 55 in 2009, compared to 59 in 2008 and so on and so on … you get the picture. Anyway, what I’m experiencing is also what A list blogger, Joi Ito, has recently blogged about . Interestingly, the only feedback I got from that last post came via Twitter. Leaving a comment here doesn’t broadcast as widely as a Twitter shout out – even though there is something nice about getting the feedback on my own site.

And then I read another A-lister, Hugh MacLeod’s blog post the other day, and his words rang out true for me.

Earlier today I told everybody on Twitter and Facebook, that I’m leaving Twitter and Facebook.

Why?

Because Facebook and Twitter are too easy. Keeping up a decent blog that people actually want to take the time to read, that’s much harder. And it’s the hard stuff that pays off in the end.

Besides, even if they’re very good at hiding the fact, over on Twitter and Facebook, it’s not your content, it’s their content.

The content on your blog, however, belongs to you, and you alone. People come to your online home, to hear what you have to say, not to hear what everybody else has to say. This sense of personal sovereignty is important.

I like it. Not that I’m ditching any of my social media hangouts because no one could ever accuse me of being on Twitter or Facebook too much – but I’ve been here too seldom of late. And I know that actions speak louder than words in terms of arresting the posting slide here – but as everyone knows, on a blog, words are actions!

Whose Learning Should I Be Documenting, Anyway?

I started a blog post intending to reflect on the first week of the 2011 school year. I scrubbed that draft last night after staring at the first paragraph for about twenty minutes. It was forced reporting and there were no anecdotes that required documentation in digital format. Perhaps it’s too early … or maybe, this blog is more about my own learning and my ephemeral interests rather than my own impact on the students under my charge.

Daily, the blogs I subscribe bring me new avenues to explore and to connect to. I can browse art and design ideas, shake my head at the insanity that is US education reform or think through potential ideas to bring into my own classroom. I’m lucky enough to work at a school where the professional learning is of a high quality and sometimes, it is draining enough to do that justice without trying to pull in all of the exciting leads I get from the network. We’ve been implementing Assessment for Learning, are about to delve into mathematics curricular renewal using George Booker’s Teaching Primary Mathematics, have our department’s Teaching for Effective Learning document at the ready and continue to become better at implementing Inquiry Learning in our classrooms.

So when Dan Meyer points to an outstanding Maths resource, I am interested. But I have to weigh up the benefit to my own practice and the time it will take away from me coming to grips with my own school’s choice of maths direction which will be tightly aligned to the incoming Australian Curriculum. And I still owe Dina Strasser a properly worded response in the comments section of this blog post, but I need to delve more deeply and know what I’m supposedly using on a daily basis more deeply before trying to describe the contrasts between her own approach and an approach that we are trying to make an embedded part of my school’s operation.

So, if I find something interesting in what I have to come to grips with in my own professional existence, I’ll try and blog about it. I’d like to make more of an effort to participate in more online events like K12 Online or even ds106 and I need to be OK with the fact that it may be purely self indulgent on my part and that focussing on that is a viable thing to be documenting. The line between narcissism and sharing can be a very thin one.

http://www.savagechickens.com/2009/06/the-narcissist-test.html

http://www.savagechickens.com/2009/06/the-narcissist-test.html

I Voted

Personally, both the K12 Online Conference and the Edublog Awards are held at shocking times of the year. I couldn’t possibly be any busier when both events are happening. October sees us gearing up for the sprint to the end of the year – planning, writing reports and then November hits like a ton of bricks with the finishing up of reports, Year 7 graduation prep, end of school year events and would you know it, I didn’t get to even nominate anyone at all.

But tonight I went to see who had made the final lists and see if I would throw a vote their way. It also shows how much I’m out of the loop when there are so many nominees that I’ve never come across before – so unfortunately, voting sometimes is a case of who I actually recognise! Anyway, here’s the categories I voted in and who I reckon should get to display the funky winner’s badge in their sidebar. (Like anyone really cares what I think and will be influenced by my choices!)

Best Individual Edublog 2010 – a few good choices here, but I must admit that I have really enjoyed reading Michael Doyle’s Science Teacher blog.

Best individual tweeter 2010 – for me, has to be @deangroom. I am a haphazard and infrequent user of twitter but Dean’s mix of personal observations, humorous banter combined with quality pointers to links of interest make him the best out there. Plus he’ll often @grahamwegner me, which helps make me feel included and semi-useful.

I don’t really like group blogs so I gave them a miss and didn’t recognise a n y o n e on the new blog list. I skipped through the class and student blog noms because they made me feel guilty that I haven’t fostered my own class blog and student blogs as much as I should have this year and blew off the best resource sharing blog while I was at it.

Most Influential Blog Post 2010 – I picked Lee Kolbert’s “I’m Not Who You Think I Am.” Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on philosophically, this post really opened up the floodgates on debating about what a quality teacher does or is allowed to do. Much more than some of the deliberately provocative options on this list, Lee at least put her heart out for the world to see and was truly open about what she does. Very cool.

Best Teacher Blog 2010 – At the risk of being narcissistic, I voted for myself! Thanks to Dean Groom and Tomaz Lasic who nominated me (and anyone else who may have quietly done so) and this way at least I’ll have one vote. Plus this gives me an excuse to display the badge below. Hey, I’m actually proud that every year since 2006 (with the exception of last year) I’ve been nominated for something. I’ve never gone close to ever winning but ….

Best Librarian blog is still Doug Johnson and then I skimmed down to the lifetime achievement award. A few worthy nominees here, but this year my vote goes out to the Blogfather himself, Will Richardson.

So, that’s it. Back to admiring my nomination badge ….

nominated_teacherblog


Reputation

I was on yard duty on Tuesday and a Year 3 student came up to me.

“I saw you on the internet last night.”

I smiled. “That’s not hard. I have plenty of stuff on the internet. How did you find me?”

“I typed in the school’s name and your name came up in Google.”

Writing in this blog means I think about the potential readers scattered around the globe who might find my posts interesting or useful. But I forget about the people closer to home who might also be also reading – parents, students, even my teacher colleagues. My reputation as an educator goes beyond my words and actions within the school environment.

Reputation is a funny thing. At my previous school, I had developed a reputation as one of the better teachers in the school. I taught the older kids – the Year Sixes and Sevens who other teachers openly shied away from teaching. I had parents who requested that their child be placed in my class, that I keep their child for an additional year and the vibe I got back in general from the parent community was one of respect. Students were happy when they found that I was to be their teacher, and saw that the opportunities that Lindsay, my team teaching partner, and I offered meant they would be in a challenging and interesting classroom. I had eased into that position over the previous eight years after moving back to Adelaide from country South Australia.

But I didn’t start at the upper primary level. I arrived as a young country teacher and was given a Year 4/5 class in a squashed up space in the middle of an open space unit. I had no reputation to speak of at my new school. But it didn’t seem to matter that much back in 1995. After all, I wasn’t teaching the big kids. So, after a few years, the reputation built up and I slotted into the Year 6/7 arena comfortably with content parents and engaged students. Reputation was what smoothed the path in 2001 towards Lindsay’s and my most innovative and ambitious two years teaching together. We moved into the old library at the school which was a strange building and not built for two traditional classes at all.  We had the Year 6/7 classes and we had this weird space that had a large teaching area, a former librarian’s office and a low ceilinged area for the bags. Upstairs was a L shaped area which could squeeze in a class for instruction – just. We had to design how our classes would interact, what the various nooks and spaces could be used for and challenge the students with the notion of how a primary school classroom could operate. But our reputation meant that no parents queried our approach or the suitability of the space for learning.

But when I won my current job and moved into a Year 6/7 class with a new offsider, I forgot that my reputation didn’t automatically travel with me. The parents were suspicious of ideas and programs that a year earlier had been been given a supportive tick of approval by a different community. I had forgotten that over a long period of time in a school, students develop a strong notion of who you are, what you will and won’t tolerate, what your expectations are like and that forges together into a reputation that goes some way to dictating how they respond to you when they come under your care. And I also forgot that adolescents are a tough audience to crack. They like reputation because they have some sense of how they will be treated, the sort of learning that will be valued. But you have no worthwhile reputation when you are new to the school and most importantly, new to them. Younger kids are less judgmental and more easily enthused.

But the silver lining in my first year as a coordinator was that I did have another aspect to my role in the school. I was “the computer guy”, the teacher who would come into their classroom and help their teacher get logged on, or show them some new ways to use their computers or interactive whiteboards. Now, it is just as important that my reputation with my colleagues is solid, that they trust that my ideas for using technology in their classrooms, with their students. As I encourage them to make their way online, my reputation is built on the posts I write, how respectfully I describe my interactions with them to the wider connections of the online educator network, how tactfully I re-tell anecdotes from the classroom and as well, the connections I recommend that they make. The choices I make matter.

That means your reputation is important, too. Because as my little friend on the play equipment pointed out, it’s easy to find me on the internet. Some of you guys are even easier to find – and your reputation spreads wider, too.

Low Grade Graphical Eye Candy With Narcissistic Tendencies

Or put more simply, two Excel graphs that show where people who are reading this blog are from and where bloggers I’ve got in my Google Reader are from, in rough terms.
Generated from my Clustr Map stats as of November 2010.

Generated from my Clustr Map stats as of November 2010.

Spread of locations of bloggers whom I'm currently subscribed to in my Google Reader.

Spread of locations of bloggers whom I'm currently subscribed to in my Google Reader.

Both should be taken with a substantial grain of salt. The first only measures visitors to my actual blog page – there isn’t any way I know of knowing who my subscribers via RSS. The second is everyone in my Reader as it stands right now. It hasn’t been cleaned out in ages and there are quite a few people that haven’t posted in a long, long while.

What does this tell me? Well, I show my monolingual tendencies by sticking to English only blogs. It’s not that I don’t want to broaden my scope but am unsure of where to look to get away from over populating my Reader with a few dominant countries. Still, I wonder what other people’s graphs might look like. Is this a reasonable way to gain a global picture of education and learning? Would my Twitter graph look different?

When Someone Else Says It Better

I am now into my sixth year of writing here on this blog. I don’t write here as often as I would like but it still gets me writing much more often than I did pre-2005. I think the last time I wrote as much was back in teacher’s college. My lecturer, Mem Fox, got us all to keep a journal. Not one that she would read but one she wanted us to use with regularity, to get into the habit of writing, to start to hear my own voice coming through the writing. I really got into it back then. When I was stuck for things to write about, I wrote out the lyrics of songs that I felt were speaking to me at the time. When I got married and moved back to Adelaide, I found that journal again when we moved into our house. I read some of it but the rawness and the angst was too much for me and I threw it into the rubbish bin. A bit of a shame but it goes to show that the compulsion to write is a hard one to shake.

The other day, one of my colleagues admitted to me that he hates writing. My first reaction was to think that it was odd that he ended up being a teacher, considering that reports need to be written, students need to be taught how to write and you can’t land a job without a written application. I suppose that I’m lucky in that regard – I enjoy writing. It’s not a hardship – it is fun.

I often read about the “edublogosphere” – the name used to describe this swarming mass of educators who’ve discovered the power of writing and sharing online. It does feel like that there are much less than six degrees of separation between many of us but it’s a bit like looking up at the night sky and thinking that I can see all the stars that exist. My Google Reader only captures a selective sample of collective wisdom and finding a new blogger with the same love of writing is a real spark. New is a relative word here – someone new to me may have been blogging as long as I have, with their own ecosystem of networked commenters and subscribers well before I lucked into their writing.

John Spencer is a writer I can relate to. He’s more a writer than a blogger and I’m part way through his book, Teaching Unmasked. I found him via Michael Doyle, who I found via Clay Burell, who … well,  I can’t even remember how I connected with Clay any more. John is an honest, open breath of fresh air and he touches on ideas that resonate with the part of me that is a still a classroom teacher. And the writing …. well, it makes me nod my head in agreement ¹, it makes me cringe when the story holds up a mirror to my own practice ² and then a nugget of new insight will burrow back into the recesses of my brain and make a cameo appearance in my consciousness at a totally unforseen but entirely appropriate moment ³.

¹ It’s not that students are tired of learning at the end of the year.  It’s that they’re tired of school.

² I ripped into students who made mistakes or who were acting “lazy” when in fact they were scared or confused or bored.  But the good news is that there’s a solution.  Apologize.  Humbly admit that you’ve been a hardass and watch how people respond.

³ On an intellectual level, I wonder if I hold on too tightly to ideas.

So if you haven’t added a new voice to your Reader, and you’re longing to hear from someone who doesn’t just focus on the highlights, who isn’t obsessed with redesigning education from the ground up except for in his own classroom and can say things better than I can, head over to John’s blog. Don’t say I sent you because apart from a couple of comments, he won’t have a clue who I am.

An Open Letter To onlinelinkloversdotcom

Dear Tim, Angelita, Megan, Matt, Sherine and Alexa,

During the last month you guys have all dropped me flattering emails, telling me how much you love Open Educator and how this is one of the greatest edtech blogs going around. It’s nice when readers reach out to make contact and I’ve done the same myself when I wanted to say something that wasn’t really right for the comments section of a blog.

Your sincerity is touching:

I had come across your site before and when I had this offer come about, I knew I wanted to get in touch with you.

I recently discovered your blog, and I must say that yours has caught my attention.

However, it doesn’t take you guys long to cut to the real reason for your unexpected correspondence:

… hoping is that you can perhaps post a blog about (insert generic reference to Online Education) or if we could be featured in some way, any way.

… if you would be interested in a guest post opportunity on your blog. I just ask for a link back to my blog in the by-line.

Coincidentally, we recently published an article entitled (insert generic reference to Online Education) that I believe would draw considerable interest from your readers. If you are interested in sharing with them, then feel free to do so. Here’s the link for your convenience.

I currently have a press release related to education and teacher reform that could possibly develop into a piece for your website.

Maybe you guys are all genuine and think that it would be a real boost to this humble blog for your content or service to be featured. However, even though I don’t offer a lot here to the wider education community, what I do offer here is genuine and is of my own creation. I can never know for sure but I think my readers subscribe because they value this blog as a place to get my unique viewpoint, to read my raw and sometimes naive reflections and hopefully turn up a nugget of insight that informs or provokes further thought and reflection. I am indebted to my commenters who, with the exception of Mr. Nike-shoes and Ms. Realty-investments, are all educators who respond selflessly to add to the conversation.

So, to perfectly clear, in case you have a unique article, service or link that you think would be indispensable for my readers and think that we actual edubloggers can’t ascertain when we are all being bombarded with the same stuff in our in-box, ….

… don’t bother.

P.S. Perhaps you guys would be better off developing more of those fancy infographics that everyone seems to be in love with of late. They stand a better chance than trying to get me to plug your wares.