Monthly Archives: January 2007

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This overview of my blogging habits comes courtesy of Miguel Guhlin and Wes Fryer, via Brian Grenier who's using the tag-a-blogger system to find out more about the actual writing process.

It's an interesting meme and one that I'd unwittingly covered before in a post last year, A Request For My Learning Network. I was planning a presentation on Blogging For Professional Learning and wanted to broaden my suggestions for how an educator could fit blogging into their life. The responses I received back were fantastic and so you could say that I've already reverse-tagged Stephen Downes, Roger Stack, Leigh Blackall, Mike Seyfang, Jo McLeay, Dean Shareski, Doug Noon, Mark Ahlness and Dave. But I didn't really detail my own processes at that time, so here goes.

I think that my blogging is fairly haphazard and opportunistic. I tend to start a lot of my posts on my Pocket PC, then sync to the laptop and finish it off in the WordPress writing editor. I add in any relevant links, upload any of my own graphics or use FlickrCC for an appropriate image. Then if I'm happy, I hit Post - but I'll always go to my actual blog to check for typos or formatting errors. I grab bits of time whenever the opportunity presents. My oldest son's fortnightly swimming lessons are a thirty minute window of opportunity. I'm writing this sentence now in a few minutes before helping to organise the evening meal. Oops, gotta go...

Back again ... now where was I? So, unless I have a long enough slab of time to type up a post at the computer, then I make starts on my Pocket PC. I might have one or two started posts on Pocket Word (yes, I know, proprietary software) - not usually any more than that because I can't develop the ideas in each one properly. I keep some ideas in my head on the premise that if they aren't memorable enough to stick, then they weren't worth blogging about anyway. My ideas come from all over the place - and just like me, they are not well organised or consistent. Sometimes it's something I read that triggers a thought or an experience from work that is worth reflecting on. I'll only pass on new resources or applications or sites if I've discovered them in my meanderings or if I think that not many others have highlighted them.

So, how do I decide on my blogging topics? Well, any topic has to fit into one of my identified categories and be focussed on technology or learning and the territory where  the two cross over. Occasionally, I'll drift off topic but that's what the Personal Reflections category is for! I work hard to write in my own voice and I try hard not to mimic other writers' styles. I try to represent an Australian perspective and I also operate under the principle that I am no expert, I don't pretend to be an expert but I am a learner and anyone who wants to participate in this learning is welcome to add their thoughts. Some blog posts build on ideas from earlier posts, and sometimes a comment on someone else's blog will create a new post here. So, this blog is more organic than designed and just like my learning, which is not linear in frequency or quality, the inspiration comes in fits and bursts.

I don't think it's fair to pass this meme along any further - I did well enough the first time.


Since school kicked into gear I've been finding it hard to find reading time, let alone blogging time. As I lay the foundations for a successful year, I've been pre-occupied with clear daily planning, curriculum linking to units of work and finding out about the students in my care. I've started some of the testing of spelling ages and collected a sample of writing from each student as a beginning point to see their raw written English language ability (spelling, grammar, punctuation) and how divergent or creative they can be when given a starting point. To "hook" the kids in, I used a YouTube video called "Kiwi" (via a Stephen Downes link to the TALO Group) - a three minute animation that is a really good watch. I'm going to read them tonight and see what insight they give me. Anyway, I'm straying off topic.

So, as the posts pile up in Bloglines (curse you, Dean Shareski, and your idea that more blogs in the aggregator is the way to go;-)) I've had to be more selective about what I have to read in the lessened opportunities of the past week and a half. And it's not necessarily the blogs in my Must Read folder that are the priority. It's the new (to me) voices that are capturing my attention - blogs that can be at odds with each other. And reflected back on the regulars I've been reading over 2006, there are some interesting contrasts.

I still read anything Leigh Blackall posts (sometimes within minutes of lobbing in my aggregator) and he recently had a play with words in his post No more new speak, back to old speak. As Leigh demonstrates, sometimes we can use different terms to describe the same thing in this brave (not so) new online world. But I'm thinking as I have read recently, sometimes we get the opposite effect in blogging. A post, one set of words arranged by the author can be viewed very differently by different readers. Not sure what I mean? I'll try and demonstrate by doing some polar interpretations.

I'm writing to get things off my chest. I'm frustrated by these bloggers who rant.

I just someone to agree with me for a change. I want someone to debate me on this.

Thank goodness someone thinks the way I do. Nice echo chamber you've got there.

This blogger really pushes the boundaries of my thinking. This blogger has no idea of the real world.

I like to write reflectively. Boy, this blogger's self obsessed.

Can't others see the big picture? Why isn't anyone concerned with the details?

Wow, what an interesting post, Graham. I think they've got the point now.


Attribution: Image: 'opposite electrical charges' by e.edward


On Monday, thirty eager and possibly anxious students will file into the classroom, look for their assigned seat and sit down. Their faces will look up at me in anticipation and I will start another year of their education. In the primary school setting, it will be my face, voice and body language that will dominate their week. My teaching buddy next door will take them for their twice weekly dose of German, and on Wednesdays, another to-be-determined teacher will release me for my day in my ICT Coordinator role. So it's my decisions and choices that will determine what unfolds in 2007 for these ten and eleven year olds. I have my SACSA curriculum to guide me, there are quite a number of MYLU team planning of inquiry based learning units in the pipeline and I have my twenty years of teaching experience up my sleeve.

In a conversation with CEGSA president, Trudy Sweeney, last year I expressed to her my frustrations regarding the atrophy of my classroom teaching skills. The demands of being a part time classroom practitioner became secondary to grappling with my then new role on the first rung of primary school leadership. Thankfully, Trudy said that I could have been describing her professional life in her first year of ICT leadership. I ended up relying on tried-but-true programs and ideas from my past repertoire, knowing that at a new school they would appear fresh and competent. But I wasn't moving forward, just treading water. Sure, I was introducing new ideas in the computing room and last year I worked across four classes using wikis and digital stories. So that part of my work life was developing and having some influence on my colleagues and their classroom practices. In mid 2005, I began my foray into blogging and the world of networked learning opened up for me. 2006 became a year of unprecedented personal professional growth, with the vast majority of that documented right here.

My online learning has led me to a number of classroom teachers connecting their students to the online world, using their curricular content as the vehicle. I've read about Mark Ahlness' assertion that blogging is the most motivational tool he's ever used with elementary school students. I've read Doug Noon's online student writing portal at Tell The Raven. I've seen Darren Kuropatwa and, more recently, Chris Harbeck use Web 2.0 tools to cement mathematical concepts in place. Locally, Al Upton and his Mini-Legends have led the way and he quite rightly chides me for not connecting my own classroom to the shared learning.

So, I know want things to be different but how? Firstly, an up front approach that acknowledges that I am not the font of all knowledge, but I can be the powerful role model that seeks answers from a variety of sources and explicitly explain how I determine the validity and then the use of that information. And then connect them to be able to use the online world as part of their learning.

This morning our staff had a short presentation from Deb Daniel who works in our district here in Restorative Practice and Behaviour Management. Her talk was titled, "Getting the year off to a great start! Top Ten Tips." The tips were covered in brief detail as she spoke but came through to be was a big reminder that teaching in the primary school setting is built on the solid base of positive relationships. Her position was that a clear focus on classroom behaviour management is crucial to getting the year to a good start. Sounds obvious, I know, but sometimes teachers are so busy trying to hit the ground running that the important business of setting the groundwork so that a diverse group of students can feel secure in that classroom and be clear about the expectations and opportunities of the year ahead is forgotten. And I really liked Deb's final question to the staff, "What would we see in your classroom in four week's time?"

Maybe that's a great question to pose to the thirty anticipating faces in front of me on Monday.


I haven't blogged anything of substance for a while now and while I'm not quite slipping into the banality that plagued D'Arcy Norman last year, my recent posts have lacked that "I've got something important to say" spark. I'm not sure that blogging for the sake of blogging is a good thing in my case. Wading into current popular topics and rehashing recurring ideas is not useful unless I'm adding something unique to the conversation. But I have been reading (a lot) and leaving a lot of comments all over the place. I've also been adding some new voices to my Bloglines account by following other commenters back to their blog - a good form of stalking! I really like what I've been finding too - blogs that have the dual qualities of being relevant and original. Both are qualities I strive for in my writing but they are really hard to manage on a consistent basis. Quite often I read about an idea and then that theme seems to propagate itself in a multitude of blogs. For instance, More Prensky's concept of digital immigrants and natives is currently doing the rounds. My problem? The majority of what's being written at the moment I've read versions of before with very few bloggers currently breaking new ground on this well worn topic. Someone writing with a new, unique insight will grab my attention but if not, I'll move on through the aggregator.

There are a small handful of bloggers whose perspective is so unique that almost every post has new food for thought in it. It's the reason I chase Alex Hayes in his varying online hiding holes all over the web. Artichoke, Doug Noon, Bruce Schauble and more recently Miss Profe and Sarah Puglisi manage to engage my mind almost every time that they post. Bill Kerr always advises that to broaden one's perspective, one needs to look well beyond the circle of education. But by subscribing to his insightful mind, he filters totally unique stuff through to me. Who else would take on the role of devil's advocate to George Siemen's connectivism? (Although, devil's advocate is a poor choice of phrase for an atheist!) Don't get me wrong - there are many, many fine edubloggers out there but they are just like me in their posting, struggling to be relevant and original.

So what I am saying here as it's getting late this Sunday evening? Well, blogging topics are a real mixture of stuff just posted for myself (training session notes, ideas for classes, cool tools I've found) but my most important stuff, the stuff I actually write with an audience in mind, is when I have an idea or concept burning in my brain and writing it out seems to bring it to life. Grabbing someone else's idea and trying to make it my own doesn't seem to work. I'll pick up an idea sometimes after the scent has gone cold for others but if it makes sense in my world, then it's worth exploring, flawed thinking and all. Sometimes, my writing is ahead of the popular consensus. But that's what I'm striving for - the elusive balance between relevance and originality.

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Just checked my e-mail and got this from the CrispyNews folks re: my new account I was planning to use with my class.

We've decided to shift our business to enterprise customers and the CrispyIdeas product. To focus our energies, we need to close down many of our ad-supported communities. We are planning on deactivating your site on January 24th. Our records show the following site to be deactivated:

If you would like to continue to maintain a similar site, you may be interested in looking at an open source alternative, Pligg ( We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your support.


The CrispyNews Team

Chris Craft highlighted pligg in a comment to my prior post on this topic and his example looked great. However I was hoping to use something freely hosted that other teachers could pick up and run with - a bit like the difference between having an edublogs account or installing WordPress on your own hosted site. If I lack confidence or am too stingy to go down that route, what chances are there for the less technically confident? Oh well, back to the drawing board.


I've found another reason to use the CoComment tool - I was just posting a comment to Rachel's Bard Wired blog, did the Word Verification bit and then hit Post and got the Google "Sorry - there was an error" page. Normally, that means go back to the post, regather my composure and thoughts and try and recreate the comment again. No need with CoComment, because it sent a copy of my comment to itself before letting the Blogger interface try and process my comment. I simply went to my CoComment account and cut'n'pasted it back into the post again.

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My comments woes have let me to the very scientific conclusion that it may well be my theme that is the issue. Two out of the last five commenters had to e-mail me their comments and I've lost track and count of how many others throughout the latter part of '06. So, a new theme, with my custom header tweaked and a bit of theme matching colour splashed on (literally) and I hope that comments can be posted easily from now on. I really wanted James to install K2 on edublogs but I think this new one is K2ish enough for me. So, next time I write something interesting (don't waste it on this post), go on - throw a comment my way. I hope my blog treats you nicely.


Arti says:

Richness and authenticity are much-sought attributes of “the road of excess” for the 21st Century Learner.  They trump “educationally relevant” as a measure of what we should look for in a learning experience for a 21st Century learner that might lead to “the palace of wisdom”.

Tony says:

Richness? I have my doubts. What is rich?

Relevant and authentic I do like but unless you discuss what the two words mean, they just become buzzwords with which to beat your enemies and to become complacent with your friends.

Relevant is relevant to the lives of your students, Myspace, skateboards, WoW. The students are the final judge of relevance.

Authentic is work with a real purpose, it's a bit disappointing when your pottery is bound for the clay bin at the end of the lesson.

I just love it when someone can say something in a well crafted phrase that would take me a paragraph to evoke. Tony could be talking about any of the educational double talk that occurs in official circles or, dare I say it, on this blog or in the edublogosphere.

Image: 'drowning teapot' by labspics


I've been playing around with a few new and not-so-new tools online as my brain tries to ready itself for a new year of teaching. My role is changing slightly this year in terms of my release time and I will be in the classroom for 4 out of the 5 days in the school week. So there's excellent opportunities to connect my students using some of the tools I've been investigating and utilising during 2006. These are mainly 11 year old students so whatever I introduce needs to be age appropriate and aligned to the needs of their curriculum.

Does anyone remember Edblogger News? Well, the buzz around that idea seems to have cooled a bit but the tool that was used by Will Richardson to set it up has a bit of classroom potential in my mind. My idea is to set my own class CrispyNews site up with my class blogs at learnerblogs (once parental permission is in place) as well. From here, I can post web pages of interest or relevance to the learning program. There are quite a few ways this site could be used. I can push items tied to a theme or topic onto the list, get the students to choose and read and promote their favourite items up the list. This becomes a way of getting the students reading critically online and because we are looking at the same list, this becomes a great way of creating discussion based on differing perspectives on the same items. I'm thinking that I could get some reflective blogging from the students based on this list as well that gets them starting on the skills of linking when writing as they connect back to the articles that stimulate their thinking. Not too far down the track, I'd love to get the kids posting their finds from the web onto CrispyNews as well and having that become a barometer for the students' interests that can be tied into their curriculum. That brings in so much in terms of effective searching, reading online content effectively and responding to other students' ideas and opinions.

I've got a few other ideas percolating as well but 2007 is the chance for me to swing my focus away from what Web 2.0 can do for teachers (although I won't be neglecting that) and "putting my money where my mouth is" in terms of using new technologies within my classroom. I'll keep you posted on whether these theoretical ideas actually work in  practice after the school year starts at the end of January.