Saturday, August 29, 2009

STEPS

These are a couple of websites that I found relating to the STEPS Project, a study commissioned by the Executive Agency of the European Commission Directorate General Education and Culture (EACEA) and undertaken by the European Schoolnet and empirica GmbH between January 2008 and June 2009, with the support of national correspondents, researchers, policy-makers, teachers and pupils in 30 countries.

Preliminary findings are available on the site in the form of presentations from some of the countries involved. The study aimed to identify the impact of ICT on learning and learners, on teachers and teaching and on primary school development plans and strategies. It sought to identify the main drivers and enablers for effective and efficient use of ICT, and to propose recommendations on the integration of ICT in education for policy makers and stakeholders.



http://steps-project.wikispaces.com/

http://www.steps-workshop.eu/index.htm

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom
















I came across the following article in the NY Times. It got me thinking about the implications of studies like this in terms of teaching pedagogy in the classroom. I don't believe that online learning is going to replace the classroom, but I do think that it challenges to expand our conceptualisations of 'the classroom' and the ways in which we 'teach'.

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/study-finds-that-online-education-beats-the-classroom/?ref=education

As the article states:

“The technology will be used to create learning communities among students in new ways,” Mr. Regier said. “People are correct when they say online education will take things out the classroom. But they are wrong, I think, when they assume it will make learning an independent, personal activity. Learning has to occur in a community.”

Thursday, July 2, 2009

So is this journey over......?

I'm not really sure what I am going to do with this blog now that the inquiry project is over....

I think that I will continue adding to it to continue developing it as a resource for other teachers to use when setting up their blogs....

I guess this is also the start of a new journey......my journey of using this technology (and other new technologies like 'wikis' in my classroom)....this is a new journey and one that I will continue to reflect on in this blog.....

T.S. Eliot was right......the end really is the beginning....

Presentation Feedback

I found it quite difficult to present given the technical difficulties that I faced in the room. I had thought that all of this was sorted as I had met with the technical specialists last week.

It was exciting to share with people the possibilities of blogging and see the ways in which they responded to what I was sharing.

Feedback comments:


- "I have been following the journey on your blog. It has taken a lot of the "fear" away from me."
- "Inspired to have a go!"
- "Great suggestions for application of blogging."
- "What an innovative way to record your journey and learn a new skill at the same time!"
- "You raised my awareness of the benefits of blogging and how it can be used as a communication tool with other schools, parents etc."
- "This is awesome and you have really inspired me to set up a classroom blog with my own students."
- "I find this sort of thing hard, but you have made it very accessible. Such an interesting topic! Perfect for us in this computer literate world. I like how it empowers students."
- "You have taken away the 'scary' side of blogs."



Questions:

- "How do you belong to a blog?" - responded to this question at the end of the presentation
- "I wonder how much time you'd need to keep it updated as a teacher?" - this is addressed in my blog
- "Can a blog disappear eg. if I did online portfolios - could they disappear into cyber world?" - this is an interesting question which I will follow-up on
- "Would this be able to be implemented in a new entrant year 1 class?" - yes it is being done in schools (just takes more teacher involvement and scaffolding)


It has been a really rewarding journey for me. There were moments when I wondered whether I was taking on more than I thought possible in the 5 weeks. There were also moments when I thought I knew where I was going, or tried to resist making changes to the focus of my project. However, I have have learned a lot about the inquiry process from this project and now feel more comfortable working in less-rigid ways - sometimes you just need to go with it and trust that you will end up in a meaningful place. Roadblocks can't be avoided, it's all about how you chose to get over then, and learn from the ......(there's a word here......7 of us can't work out our what it is.....so I will leave it blank)

Inquiry Presentations

The Inquiry presentations have come to an end. I have found the past few days a really valuable part of the inquiry process. It has been great to be able to share our learning with each other and I have found it interesting how many common themes and connections could be made between what seemed like very different topics.

I took notes during the presentations on things that I wanted to explore further or refer back to later in terms of my teaching and learning.





Presentation Day - Roadblocks

I am about to present my project to our inquiry class. Things haven't gone smoothly - there was meant to be a technical expert to help with my set up (they never turned up); the computers couldn't be turned on (which undermined the hope of my presentation) - so things have got off to a pretty bad start....


BUT

I have managed to improvise enough that I am hoping I can achieve most of what I hoped in my presentation......time will tell (and hopefully the technology will come to the party!!!)

Digital Natives

Digital natives in the classroom

From: http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/articles/digitalnatives/index.htm - Encyclopaedia of Educational Technology

"OUR STUDENTS HAVE CHANGED RADICALLY," is the observation of Marc Prensky in his article Digital natives, digital immigrants. (Prensky, October 2001.) Today's students and young workers are part of a cohort he calls "Digital Natives." Raised on MTV, video games, e-mail, the Web and instant messaging, Digital Natives have developed cognitive thinking patterns that differ from previous generations. As a result, the challenge facing educational designers is to recognize these cognitive differences and to develop learning offerings that are appropriate to their cognitive learning patterns.

"Blogs, Wikis, and Modding, Oh My!"

Are you a Digital Native? Take the test! Click on the screen to begin.

Digital Natives, Generation-D (digital), Nintendo Kids, the MTV generation, whatever term you chose to describe them, today's youth has grown up with an uprecedented access to and appetite for technology and new media. Since 1970, when Pong (the revolutionary video arcade game) was introduced, children have voraciously consumed a steady diet of digital games, music videos, and the world wide web. More recently, they have enthusiastically embraced technologies that are on the leading edge of the technology wave including live chats, instant messaging, smart mobs, blogs, wikis, modding, and more. While these terms might be common parlance in the vernacular of Digital Natives, they are cryptic and foreign to the "Digital Immigrants" who struggle to understand and master these new technologies. For more information on these, and other technology terms used in this article, take the Are you a Digital Native? quiz above.

Digital Natives perceive technology as their friend and rely on it to study, work, play, relax and communicate. Natives dominate the seats in our classrooms and are an increasing presence in the entry-level workplace.

How Digital Natives Think Differently



http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/articles/digitalnatives/index.htm (Follow this link to explore the differences between digital natives and digital immigrants)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Three Stages of Blogging


I created this diagram to explain the three stages of blogging to students. I found it valuable as it is easy to think that blogging is just about the posting/writing on your blog. However, as this diagram demonstrates, that is only 1/3 of the process. The commenting and sharing that takes place on blogs is of vital importance (otherwise the very beauty of a blog site is lost).

Inquiry and ICT

I have been reflecting on the various ways in which ICT can be used to enhance the inquiry process.

Of course the most obvious learning for me had been the way that blogs can be used to record the inquiry process. This morning I visited my school for my next placement. I had a discussion with my associate about inquiry and the fears of the 'messiness' of it. She described the struggle she faced in producing a 'journal' that was 'messy', because her natural inclination was to make it linear and neat.

What I have found with using a blog is that it can overcome a lot of these fears and challenges. A blog is a document that can be edited and modified at any stage in the process. I can shift around the layout, I can re-label things, I can add or delete text/photos/multimedia. This allows me the best of both worlds. I can be 'messy' when initially placing things, I can reduce messiness during the process because nothing is fixed, and I can tidy things up at the end (although the blog can still be viewed chronologically to show the non-linear characteristics of my journey).

I came across a NZ website on Inquiry and ICT today:

http://www.inquiringmind.co.nz/inquiry_&_ict.htm



This website gives a very good overview of the different types of ICT that can be integrated into your inquiry projects and the benefits of each. I also liked the way that it integrated anecdotal evidence from classroom teachers to re-enforce each point.

Also, check out the 'Solutions' page. This gives a number of solutions to problems faced by teachers when using ICT in their inquiry projects and provides a number of valuable links to websites etc. that could help you as a teacher (or as a class).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rm 31 Blog - week 2.....

It has been encouraging to see the ways in which students in Rm 31 are developing their blogging skills.

Today a class photo was added to the blog site.



Students are also starting to use the blog in a number of constructive ways, from checking homework tasks, sharing books/movies that they have enjoyed, as well as responding to posts.

Over the weekend their teacher added a number of poetry sites that were recommended to students. The post also encouraged students to share poems that they enjoy. Here is one example (and the comment posted by the teacher in response):



It has been interesting to speak with mum (the teacher) about her day-to-day learning in relation to the blog. This evening I showed her a number of editing tools on the blog. We also discussed different ways in which she can use it this week e.g. sharing the Pasifika artwork that they are creating. Using the blog requires a new mindset in terms of the ways in which you record student work as a teacher. It could be something as simple as carrying a digital camera (video or still) with you and recording examples of student work that can be uploaded and captioned (by the teacher or students). This is a valuable way of recording the teaching and learning that takes place in the classroom, and the comment function allows students to respond-to and reflect on their learning

The Web as Human Development - a post from Will Richardson's Blog

I have been thinking quite a lot about the impacts of 'putting ourselves out there' by blogging or other online forms of communication/social networking. I have also noticed great variation in terms of willingness to share thoughts and ideas in this medium. Why am I so much more comfortable about having a blog and a facebook site than my mum? Is it because I accept these new forms of communication as part of life? Is it because I understand the ways in which I can protect my safety (whereas my mum doesn't have this technical expertise so only sees the media 'panic' perspective).......

With all these questions buzzing through my head I came across this post on Will Richardson's blog - he reflects on many of these same questions/issues and provides some interesting responses......


Had a great conversation with my friend and former colleague Rob Mancabelli the other day about the challenges that individual teachers face in understanding and, more importantly, practicing learning in these online spaces. Rob started a blog for a bit a few years ago, one that I thought was exceptional, but he dropped it in short order. He’s mulling over a return, thankfully, because he’s continuing the work we started at my old stomping grounds by rolling out a student 1-1 pilot this fall, one that will hopefully move teachers and students to more self-directed, inquiry-based curricula and classrooms. Personally, I keep begging him to share that process in a blog; I think I may be breaking him down. ;0)

Anyway, we were talking about the pilot group of teachers that had been selected for the work, and at one point the talk turned to the reasons why this is such a hard shift for many. It’s not the technology, we both agreed, as much as it is the shifts in transparency and privacy, and the emphasis on writing and creating that go along with putting yourself out there online. “It’s not about blogs,” he said “so much as it’s about human development.” I totally agree, but since our conversation I’ve been thinking about what the implications of that are, exactly. The Web and the social connections and learning it affords is moving us, I think, to a different type of consciousness, a different way of being in the world. While the way we interact with people in our personal spaces will always be crucial to our personal development and well being, we are in many ways being asked to recreate ourselves in virtual spaces, sometimes multiple spaces. And we’re being asked to do that work in public with others. I happened upon this old Doc Searles quote this morning, and it made even more sense than it did two years ago when I first read it:

“We are all authors of each other. What we call authority is the right we give others to author us, to make us who we are… That right is one we no longer give only to our newspapers, our magazines, our TV and radio stations. We give it to anybody who helps us learn and understand What’s Going On in the world.”

The comfort zone required to live in that “author-ity” space is pretty difficult for many of us, educators and non-educators alike, to find. And while our kids may seem to exist more comfortably in these online, social spaces, I still question whether they completely comprehend the potentials of their work there.

Digital Natives

“Today’s students, of almost any age, are far ahead of their teachers in computer literacy.” (National Educational Technology Plan, 2005) (Richardson, 2006: p. 6)

Technology has become an indispensable tool in the education of today’s students. William Winn, Director of the Learning Center of the University of Washington, believes that years of computer use creates children that
“think differently from us. They develop hypertext minds. They leap around. It’s as though their cognitive structures were parallel, not sequential” (Prensky, 2001a).
In other words, today’s students may not be well-suited to the more linear progression of learning that most educational systems employ. This is something that we as teachers need to address in terms of our teaching pedagogy.

Internet Safety and Responsible Behaviour Guidelines

It is very important to take into account digital safety when setting up a blog site in your classroom.



These questions might be useful to use with your students:
- What will my friends or family think about me after they read (or see) this post?
- Could someone find me (in real life) based on this information?
- Who is going to look at this, and how are they going to interpret my words?
- Is this inappropriate, immature or bullying?
- Could I hurt someone else’s feelings with this post?
- Would I say this to the person’s face?
- What could be the consequences of this post?
- Do I have a good reason/purpose to do this?
- Is this something I want everyone to see?


Safety is more than just not publishing student pictures without permission or permitting students from viewing obscene material. Safety is now about responsibility, appropriateness, and common sense as well.

One of the hardest balances to find is how to balance the safety of the child with the benefits that come with students taking ownership for their work.
Questions to work through when setting up your blog:
- Who is the audience?
- How clearly will we identify the student? (usually take a middle ground of just using first names)
- Ways to vet people who are allowed in the process. (e.g. who can leave comments on a blog? What do we do about unwanted/anonymous comments etc.?)

There are numerous websites that address the issue of digital/internet safety. You might find some of the following sites helpful:

http://www.netsafe.org.nz/ - This NZ website has a portal for the education sector. In it are resources for schools, parents and pupils (including interactive games that students can play).



Most schools will also have a digital safety policy - make sure you are familiar with this and that you involve parents in the process to ensure that their concerns are heard and addressed. As an example, here is the link to Fendalton School's digital safety policy:

http://www.fendalton.school.nz/digitalsafety.php



I also came across a very interesting article: 'Internet Safety: Issues For New Zealand Primary Schools' by John Hope (Auckland University). This article gives a very good overview of the current context of ICT usage in NZ Primary Schools and issues that need to be addressed.


www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~john/NetSafe/Hope.pdf

What is a blog (and how is it different to other forms of writing?)



(We)blogs are easily created, easily updatable websites that allow an author (or authors) to publish instantly to the Internet from any Internet connection. They can also be interactive, allowing teachers and students to begin conversations or add to the information published there. Weblogs are the most widely adopted tool of the Read/Write/Web so far.

Weblogs are not built on static chunks of content. Instead, they are comprised of reflections and conversations that in many cases are updated every day. Bloggers engage readers with ideas and questions and links. They ask readers to think and to respond. They demand interaction.

But make no mistake. They are still websites. You can include graphics, photos, video, and audio files. Blogs can have almost every feature a more traditional website can have.

Important to distinguish between blogging and journaling. Fernette and Brock Eide’s research (Eide Neurolearning Blog, 2005) shows that blogging in its truest form has a great deal of potential positive impacts on students:
- To promotote critical and analytical thinking
- To be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive and associational thinking
- To promote analogical thinking
- To be a powerful medium for increasing access and exposure to quality information
- combine the best of solitary reflection and social interaction

Pedagogy of Weblogs – What can they do to improve student learning?

Richardson's book outlined ways in which student learning is improved through there use. These were the 6 key points he made:

1) a truly constructivist tool for learning – the relevance of student work no longer ends at the classroom door
2) blogs truly expand the walls of the classroom – more accessible and diverse forms of collaboration
3) blogs archive the learning that teachers and students do – this facilitates all sorts of reflection
4) a blog is a democratic tool that supports different learning styles – this can lead to a greater sense of participation and ownership
5) the use of blogs can enhance the development of expertise in a particular subject – students who blog in educational settings usually focus their reading and writing on one topic which helps bring about topic-specific expertise
6) blogs can teach students the new literacies they will need to function in an ever expanding information society. According to Olofson (1999), the extent of our collective knowledge doubles every 18 months – we need to give students skills to analyse and manage this information – teaching the skills of blogging can help in this process.

Research on the effects of weblogs on school students is still in its infancy. But anecdotal results give a picture that will soon come into focus. In general, according to Richardson, ‘students at all levels show more interest in their work, and their ability to locate and reflect upon their work is greatly enhanced, as are the opportunities for collaborative learning’.

Classroom Uses of Weblogs

Here is a very comprehensive list of ways in which you could use a blog in your classroom. These ideas were taken from: Richardson, W., (2006). Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.


You might like to create a reflective, journal-type blog to…

- reflect on your teaching experiences
- keep a log of teacher-training experiences
- write a description of a specific teaching unit
- describe what worked for you in the classroom or what didn’t work
- provide some teaching tips for other teachers
- write about something you learned from another teacher
- explain teaching insights you gain from what happens in your classes
- share ideas for teaching activities or language games to use in the classroom
- provide some how-to’s on using specific technology in the class, describing how you used this technology in your own class
- explore important teaching and learning issues


You might like to start a class blog to…

- post class-related information such as calendars, events, home-work assignments, and other pertinent class information
- post assignments based on literature readings and have students respond to their own weblogs, creating a kind of portfolio of their work
- communicate with parents if you are teaching elementary school students
- post prompts for writing
- provide examples of classwork, vocabulary activities, or grammar games
- provide online readings for you students to read and react to
- gather and organise internet resources for a specific course, providing links to appropriate sites and annotating the links as to what is relevant about them
- post photos and comment on class activities
- invite student comments or postings on issues in order to give them a writing voice
- publish examples of good student writing done in class
- showcase student art, poetry, and creative stories
- create a dynamic teaching site, posting not only class-related information, but also activities, discussion topics, links to additional information about topics they are studying in class, and readings to inspire learning
- create a literature circle (where groups of students read and discuss the same book)
- create an online book club
- make use of the commenting feature to have students publish messages on topics being used to develop language skills
- post tasks to carry out project-based learning tasks with student
- build a class newsletter, using student-written articles and photos they take
- link you class with another class somewhere else in the world

You can encourage your students (either on your Weblog using the comments feature or on their own Weblogs) to blog…

- their reactions to thought-provoking questions
- their reactions to photos you post
- journal entries
- results of surveys they carry out as part of a class unit
- their ideas and opinions about topics discussed in class

You can have your students create their own Weblog to…

- learn how to blog
- complete class writing assignments
- create an onoing portfolio of samples of their writing
- express their opinions on topics you are studying in class
- write comments, opinions or questions on daily news items or issues of interest
- discuss activities they did in class and tell what they think about them (You, the teacher, can learn a lot this way!)
- write about class topics, using newly learned vocabulary and idioms
- showcase their best writing pieces

You can also ask your class to create a shared Weblog to…

- complete project work in small groups, assigning each group to a different task
- showcase products of project-based learning
- complete a WebQuest (an online, structured research activity)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Interview with Paul Sibson - audio files

I am still trying to find a way of breaking the interview down into separate files that I can upload. So, in the meantime, here is the whole interview. I have found a way to store it online using boxnet.com

You can listen to the interview by following this link:

http://www.box.net/shared/1y1h3iskj6

Below is a list of questions/topics that were discussed in the interview:

Question 1: Can you briefly outline the relationship between teaching/learning and interactive technologies (like blogging) in your school?

Question 2: Are there advantages in changing teaching pedagogy to meet these new demands and possibilities by using this technology?

Question 3: And that must be great for parents too, to have that instant feedback. Have you had a good response from parents?

Question 4: What about the response from staff members? Because it must be hard thing for some of them to get up to speed with the new technologies.

Question 5: What does the concept of digital literacy mean to you?

Question 6: Security and digital safety is an important component of a programme like this. How have you gone about it in your school?

Question 7: Are you finding too that a lot of these (skills that are being gained through using these technologies) seem to be drawing into the key competencies?

Question 8: Have you had much ministry support in terms of implementation within the school?

Question 9: I saw that you have your own blog site as principal. Where did the decision come from to use that?

Question 10: In terms of communication. Have you had any exciting connections made through the use of blogs?

Question 11: What would your advice be to a beginner teacher who wanted to start up a blog but had no prior experience with one?

12: We use blogs in all sorts of different ways….

13: Comments and connections through the blog

How is inquiry different?

I have always loved this poem. It is by US poet, Billy Collins. Although it is about exploring poetry I think that it could just as easily be used as a way of understanding the beauty of the inquiry approach to research, the ways in which we engage on a more meaningful and deeper level when we allow ourselves time to approach topics from different directions rather than trying to squeeze everything out of it with a single, harsh approach:

Introduction to Poetry



I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

The final countdown......

We're down to the final few days of this inquiry project......in many ways although we're almost done, I actually feel like I'm really just starting......

In the past week I have set up a 'real' blog site in a classroom and have been spending time helping the class and the teacher with day-to-day management and trouble-shooting. This has been an incredibly valuable part of the project as it has allowed me to put put the learning I gained from my 'experts' into practice, and allowed me to start developing my own practical expertise.

Before Thursday I need to:

- create my presentation (I would really like to do something innovative - my 'expert' and I were talking about how great it would be for her to 'skype-in' to my presentation so she could be involved)
- find a way to host my MP3 interview files on the internet so that I can embed them into my blog
- edit the video from Villa and find a way to use this in my presentation
- reflect on the inquiry process and the ways in which I can use it in classroom (including thinking about linkages to the Key Competencies)

There is lots to do!!!

In addition to this, I have started thinking about what I want to do with this blog once my project is over? - how can I take it to the next level? - how can I keep contributing to it in a way that would be beneficial to the students in our class? I'm not exactly sure of the answers to these questions yet, but I'm sure that presenting on Thursday will help me find answers.

Maintaining a blog site....

Since setting up the website I have been helping the classroom teacher (my mum) maintain the blog site. I was interested in seeing just how much time was involved in this task.

After the first day it was clear that there were some things that needed to be addressed to ensure that the blog was meeting the purpose it was set up for. E.g. some students appeared to be using it more like a facebook wall, posting one-line comments that had very little substance to them.

As a result of these observations a list was created of things to discuss with the students at school the next day:



I also showed mum ways in which she can use the blog to communicate with her students. She then decided make a couple of posts over the weekend:



This first post was about Goodnight Mr Tom that they will be watching in class next week. Links were provided to vidoes relating to the book including an interview with the author and a powerpoint about the children who were sent out of British cities during WW2 (which helps the students understand the context in which the book takes place). Posting these on a blog site is a really good way of extending the teaching around the book/film and allowing student to do some independent research in their own time. I think this function of a blog could be very valuable in all curriculum areas.


A number of students in the class enjoyed 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe'. This post is a link to the Harper Collins Narnia website and includes interactive games, quizzes etc.

Setting up a classroom blog site - putting theory into practice



Last week I set up a classroom blog for a Year 7 & 8 class at Villa Maria. This was an incredibly valuable process in terms of gaining a better understanding of the practicalities involved in the process. It is one thing to create a person blog that you update and manage in your own time. A blog that you have complete control and responsibility over. It is a very different thing to create a classroom blog. A blog that will be used by students, and potentially viewed by parents.

So how did I go about this process and what did I learn along the way that would be valuable lessons to share?

- It was important to ensure that the creation of a blog was a collective process between me and the students. If students are involved in the creation stage, then they ultimately take a greater degree of ownership for it and are more likely to maintain it in a responsible manner. I guess the pride they feel in having created it means that they have a vested interest in ensuring that it continues to be used (and not abused) by people.

- When setting up the blog I worked with a small group of students who were selected by the teacher. I had two year 7s and two year 8s. I don’t think I would set up the blog with any more than 4 students as it would get too complicated in terms of each person sharing their opinions on layout/design etc. The other good thing about blogger is that you can always go back and change the design/layout at a later stage if you want to.



- Once the students had set up the blog I needed to send out an e-mail to each student inviting them to join the blog. This was more problematic than I had envisaged as some e-mails got ‘lost’ in cyberspace and it took a while to add in each student’s e-mail address. It also got me thinking how you would do this in a classroom where students didn’t have their own e-mail accounts. I spoke with a friend who uses blogs in her classroom and she explained that there is a way that you can ‘add’ people to your g-mail account giving them a separate log-in but keeping a single e-mail address. This is something I will have to explore further to see how teachers navigate this obstacle.

- After morning tea the whole class came to the computer room so that I could teach a lesson on blogging. I decided that before I got them on their blog I wanted to cover some important aspects of blogging with them (see attached powerpoint). These included:
• What do we know about blogs?
• How do we want to use our blog?
• Internet Safety and Responsible Behaviour Guidelines
• Writing a blog post
• Commenting on a blog post

- Approaching the setting up of a blog in this way allowed a number of discussions to take place about what kind of blog they wanted, the kinds of things they wanted on it, and issues of security and accessibility. It was decided that this blog will initially be visible only to the students and teacher in the class. They decided that they will use the blog for a few weeks and assess how things are going. Is it being used? Is it being used appropriately? Is it easy to update (or are we spending a lot of class time doing it)? It is adding value to our learning (inside and outside of the class). At the end of this time they will then ask themselves some new questions:
• Would we like to allow our families/friends access to this blog?
• Would we like to add our blog to the school intranet so that other classes can view it?
• Is a blog site something that the other intermediate classes could benefit from too? Would we like to help them set up blog sites for their classes?


- Part of the intro to blogging involved students exploring other blog sites (especially ones created by school students).



- It was important to establish ground rules in terms of the blog. The most important ground rule related to ‘appropriateness’ of posts. To emphasise this point I modelled examples of different things that could be included on the blog and we discussed whether we thought these things were appropriate. Ultimately we made the distinction between the things we would share on a social networking site like Facebook and those that we wanted on this blog which was set up to share the work of students in the class (and achievements and interests outside of class - that are linked to learning)

- Language: We made the decision that this is a formal blog site and therefore students need to use correct spelling and grammar when posting.

- Labels: Over the next week students are going to develop a list of labels to use in their blog postings. This will help with the categorizing of posts on the site and for searching.

The Inquiry Process - Reflecting

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why use blogs in your classroom - powerpoint



Here is a useful link to a powerpoint which makes a case for using powerpoints in your classroom (it outlines what the advantages are) and then takes you through the process of setting one up (using a different host server). I didn't like this one as much as the blogger one - but it still might be useful for some people.

www.web20guru.wikispaces.com/file/view/Blogs+In+The+Classroom.ppt

Easy instructions on how to set up a blogger blogsite



Follow these very simple instructions and you will create a blog for yourself:-)

http://bloginstructions.blogspot.com/

Why Blog? A visual diagram.....



http://blogmeister.pbworks.com/Class+Blog+for+Beginners

How to keep them coming back.....

I found this list of helpful ideas on 'The Stenhouse Blog' on how to keep your blog successfully running......

http://blog.stenhouse.com/archives/tag/classroom-blog

This question presents the real challenge – How do I encourage parents and students to continue contributing to the blog? Here are some strategies that have worked for me:

1. Blog regularly. You’ll lose readers if you only post once every two weeks. Try to set aside a day a week to work on your blog. Parents will visit regularly if you post regularly.

2. Send email updates. Like many teachers, I created an email distribution list at the beginning of the school year. Whenever I want parents to read a particular post, I’ll send out an email with the blog’s link. It’s an easy way for parents to check the blog.

3. Give students a sneak peek. Each week, I show my students what’s new on the blog. Like all kids, they love seeing pictures of themselves! And like all kids, they want their friends and family to see the pictures, too. My students love to go home and ask their parents to view and respond to the blog.

4. Create posts that ask for a response. Present a challenging math problem and ask students and parents to share their thinking. Showcase a student’s writing and ask for feedback. Ask students and parents to post questions about your current unit of study in science or social studies.

5. Make it worthwhile. Parents love to know what’s going on in the classroom – your blog gives them an opportunity to take a “peek” inside. Post lots of pictures and videos of the incredible learning that is taking place. Use your blog to make your classroom “come alive” for your parents.

6. Respond. Make sure you take the time to respond to comments. Blogging is a conversation, so make sure you’re a part of the dialogue.

When parents and students begin reading and contributing to your blog, a conversation begins. Learning is no longer contained within the walls of your classroom; it is now part of the larger world.

How to leave a comment on a post....

This is a helpful short video clip which shows you how to leave a comment on a blog post:



http://stoneacademyroom241.blogspot.com/2008/11/how-to-leave-comment.html

Creating a blog lesson plan

Tomorrow I am spending the day at Villa setting up a classroom blog with Year 7 & 8 students. That means that my task today is to create a lesson to introduce blogs and work through the process of setting one up, teaching students how to post/comment on it, thinking about digital safety/rules for use of the blog etc.

I am finding this a really good experience because it is one thing to know how to create a blog of your own, and a very different thing to teach these skills to other people. I am hoping that it is going to be a very valuable experience in terms of preparing me for when I am in my own classroom, and I am excited about the collaborative approach that I am taking to setting this one up.

I am also hoping that my lesson tomorrow can be used as a basis for my seminar presentation next week.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mentor Group Meeting - Week 4

Important Points from Today:

Keep in mind that the course is not just about the presentation – the process is also important – and what are you going to do after the journey is over

‘Carpark’ an idea: – an idea that is outside of the actual project that you are interested in exploring – you can ‘carpark’ it and come back to this idea later)

Thinking Tools: Are we using thinking tools to help bring it all together? Something to think about)

Thoughts about my presentation: Go through the process of setting one up as part of my presentation – show people how easy it is to demystify it.

After the meeting I also has an interesting discussion with Jane about inquiry. She gave me two things to think about in terms of my reflections this week to ensure that my inquiry is linked to real outcomes for my classroom teaching.

- Think about implications for our classroom
- Try to link with key competencies

Monday, June 22, 2009

Timetable for the rest of inquiry.....

I have worked out a plan of attack for the final week and a half of Inquiry. Some of this is likely to change after my mentor group meeting and meeting with Niki tomorrow. These meetings will give me a better idea of how I am going to present my research and whether or not I decide to create a website will have a bearing on what my final week plans look like.

Wonderings.....

I haven't really dedicated special posts to collections of wonderings, in fact I think it's fair to say that most of my posts have involved wonderings. Wondering is simply part of the reflective research journey. But I thought that I would list a few of my current wonderings below - if only to allow me to come back at a later stage and see how them developed/were resolved:

- How am I going to present this research? How do I balance the process learnings with the research outcomes? How do I make it interactive?
- How am I going to approach the setting up of the classroom blog at Villa?
- How am I going to upload my interview data? (and is there an easier way to do this?)
- Am I going to create a website - or is there a way I can modify my blog and share that instead? (time constraints are getting pretty tight at the moment - and the setting up of a website could be beyond what is possible in the next week)
- What am I going to do at the end of this inquiry project? How will I continue the learning?

- What does all of this mean in terms of the Inquiry process? What have I learned about inquiry through this research project and how can I take this into my teaching?

Creating a classroom blog site at Villa Maria College

I have been in contact today with the person in charge of IT at the school. I got a very positive e-mail response from her:


Plans are underway for creating a blog site with a Yr 7/8 class at Villa.

Over the next couple of days I am going to go through the process of setting up a blog site again to make sure I am 100% familiar with it before working with the class. It will also allow me to explore the security and set-up features to ensure that I set one up in the safest way possible (while also allowing for the access that a classroom site demands).

I am excited about having a practical outcome from the project. It is interesting to look back on the initial brainstorming that I did for this project - creating a classroo blog site in collaboration with an actual class was something I never imagined I would do. I guess partly because the idea simply didn't cross my mind, partly because I was unaware of the potential uses of a blog within a classroom, and largely because I didn't think I would have the skills to be capable of doing this. It has been a really interesting process from being a beginner with very little knowledge - to an 'expert' to some degree who can help transfer the skills and knowledge onto others:-)

Plans for week 4 - A BUSY week!!!

It's crazy to think that it's already week 4:-O But also great when I think back on all the learning that has taken place. This morning I have felt a bit like Bob the Builder coming across multiple technical roadblocks with uploading some of my research data onto my blog. I have managed to find my way through the problems and come up with creative solutions to them:-)

So what is the plan for this week?

- Continue uploading data from my afternoon at Fendalton School
- Meet with Niki and have a chat about setting up a website - part of me is now wondering whether this is needed. There is a lot of valuable information in my blog and I am wondering whether I need to duplicate by making a website. I am potentially interested in something like a wiki if it can be an easy way of organising the information (in a kind of copy and past from blog way).
- On Thursday I am spending the morning with a Year 7 & 8 class at Villa Maria helping them set up a classroom blog site. I am really excited about the opportunity to put my learnings into a practical outcome like this. I am meeting up with the IT technician beforehand so that we can have a chat about digital security, setting up the site on the network etc.
- Thinking about my presentation. I am still thinking about how best to do this. I think I will try and take some more footage on Thursday of the setting up of the blog site and try and integrate some of these videos into my presentation next week. I would like to make the presentation as interactive as possible. In an ideal world I would love to get the group to create their own blog post - but this would be complicated in terms of getting everyone usernames etc. This is something to keep thinking about this week.

An Interview with Paul Sibson - Principal of Fendalton School

Fendalton School has a very innovative approach to the use of ICT in their school. I was interested in finding out their principal's thoughts on the role of interactive digital technologies like blogs within their school.

Question 1:

Frustration - how to upload audio files

I am editing my interview with the principal of Fendalton school. I am splitting the files so that they are divided up according to the interview questions.
Ideally I had hoped that I would then be able to upload these to my blog so that under each interview question would be a link to the response as an audio file,

BUT I don't seem to be able to upload audio-files - only videos or photos - I am still trying to find a way around this.

Rm 17 'experts' share their experiences....


I also spent some time talking to a few 'experts' from Rm 17.

There were some technical difficulties with the video recording which meant that we only got a couple of minutes at the end to re-cap - I have edited it and it can be viewed below:



What else did I learn?

- They shared a lot of the same frustrations that we had talked about as a whole class. One major one affecting their ability to blog is the internet speed. This was demonstrated by the fact that we spent 30mins outside chatting and in that time we were only able to download two internet pages. The students described the way this often made them less enthusiastic to post blogs because of the frustrations that they encounter during the process. It definitely left me thinking about the ways in which successful implementation of a process like blogging can at times be beyond your control when you encounter these kinds of problems (and something that doesn't look like it will be solved any time soon in NZ).

- The students said that the best thing about blogging was the ability for people to provide feedback on their blogs e.g. I really liked this part of your story. It was really interesting to see that they like the constructive feedback that was given, and the ways in which is was functioning as a form of formative assessment for students in their writing. Students also liked to provide feedback to other students so it appeared to be very much a two way process of writing and providing constructive feedback.

- The students described the way their parents provided comments on their posts and like to see what they were doing in class.

- The students explained the digital safety rules that they have in place (these are displayed in the classroom alongside the fire and earthquake safety rules). They described the way they only use their first names when posting because "someone might see us and find out who we are and want to kidnap us". They were very much aware of the serious risks that could be associated with their posting, but also appeared comfortable because of the rules that are in place.

- The students I spoke with preferred to use a blog over writing in their books, but they like to make sure they have it 'right' before they post things. They described the frustration of reading things with spelling mistakes.

- An exciting connection had been made between their classroom blog and a blog of a class in the North Island. The students said it was exciting to be able to post on their wall and to know that another class in NZ was interested in what they were doing in Rm 17.

- Students said that it was usually a 'first in, first served' approach to who could blog. Blogging is also listed as one of the 'can do' activities that students can work on once they have finished set work. It was also a popular activity on a Monday morning when students wanted to share what they had done in their weekends.



- We also talked about what makes an interesting blog post - how do you decide what to read and comment on. Students described things like 'headings' and the 'topic' being deciding factors in what they choose to read and comment on. Extra additions like photos or video clips also made posts more appealing.

Rm 17's Blog - Acrostic Poem

The students of Rm 17 showed me the acrostic poem maker that they have been using on the read/write/think website.

Using this we created an acrostic poem on a BLOG:

Here it is:



It was valuable to see the ways in which other online tools and applications like this one can be used and integrated with student blogging.

Visiting the experts.....Rm 17 Students

I visited Rm 17 at Fendalton Open Air School to find out about their classroom blog......

What did I discover?

Here is a summary of my discussion with Rm 17 Students

Best Things About Blogging:
- sharing things with other people - more people will look at it - a wider audience
- feedback from people helps with our writing
- comments about posts that people find interesting
- can see what is happening in other classes in the school
- family and friends overseas can see what we are doing at school
- we can put photos and videos on our blog (not just writing)
- We can write interesting stories/Acrostic Poems (current focus using Read/Write/Think)
- We can access it from anywhere in the world
- Mum and Dad can find out about what we are doing at school (and post comments)
- We can record ourselves talking and put this on the blog (e.g. introductory videos from each student at the start of the year; poetry; what we did in the weekend; visitors to the class)



Frustrations:
- the internet speed (slow)
- problems with spelling
- takes longer to type than to write
- forgetting passwords to log-in
- finding things to write about



The class has a list of rules for digital safety and using the blog. Students have written instructions for using the blog site which are pinned to the wall by the computers.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Students teaching teachers computer skills



http://tvnz.co.nz/technology-news/students-teaching-teachers-computer-skills-2791492


This news item was featured on TV 1 news on Saturday night. It was really encouraging to see a school acknowledge that sometimes students are 'experts' with skills to share. The ways in which students were sharing their IT skills with teachers and parents was really exciting, as was the ways in which these new skills were then being incorporated into the classroom teaching in the school. It also seemed like an affordable way of doing PD for teachers in the school!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From student to teacher - a new idea!

My mum is a teacher and this evening she was telling me about a holiday homework task she is setting her kids. They have to design a dinner menu and then make it for their family. They take pictures of their dinners and write a report to accompany the menu.

My immediate response was, 'see if you had a blog site the kids could upload their projects onto it and then they would have a virtual recipe book that they could share!'.

It was a passing comment but one that got us thinking. Mum's response was, 'that's a great idea, why don't you come in and help the class set up a blog site.' A week or two ago I would have shied away from the idea, but I think this would be a really meaningful way of putting my project into action.

Although I have only had 20mins or so to think about this idea my initial plan looks something like this:

- spend some time with the whole class explaining what a blog site is and how we can use them
- show them how to log in and make a post
- work with a small group of 'experts' - 2-3 students who I can work with setting up the blog site. They can be the ones who are responsible for maintaining the site (in conjunction with mum as the teacher) - and they will also be able to help other students who have problems/questions. I think I will also stay on in some capacity so that I can provide assistance were it is needed.

This links into ideas I was having earlier in the evening about seeing if I can set up a blog site with the class on my next placement (if they don't already have one). I think it would be a great way of transferring the skills/knowledge that I have learned on to others.

It's been an exciting day and incredible to see the way the inquiry project works. Yesterday I was feeling rather despondent and unsure of where I was going with the project. Today I am 'buzzing' with excitement about potential possibilities and meaningful outcomes.

Why I Blog with Kids

I have had a number of people asking about my project over the past few weeks. My mother over the dinner table, colleagues at my part-time job, students on my course, my grandad visiting town for the day. A response that I have been confronted with after announcing my topic has been, 'what's the point?', 'where is the learning in this'. This question has been thrown at me before I have had a chance to fully explain what blogging is, and to justify my project and the exciting possibilities technologies like this offer us as teachers. But, all the same, it's a common gut reaction....and this has me thinking about why people react in this way, and what we can do to counter these reactions.

Tackling the 'why' is beyond the scope of any single project. This issue is linked to broader fears within society about technology, changing forms of literacy, a fear of losing the 'fundamentals' of education to the 'whim' of passing technologies. I could go on but I won't.

However, what I do think is valuable (well crucial really as classroom teachers using this technology) is to know the reasons why we have chosen to use blogs, and to have tangile learning outcomes and skills that we can describe to parents.

I came across the following blog which I thought was useful in terms of addressing this issue: 'Why I Blog with Kids'



http://remoteaccess.typepad.com/remote_access/2006/03/why_i_blog_with.html


This blog provides a very simple but powerful outline of the benefits of using blogs in the classroom. I found this blog particularly meaningful because it wasn't written by an academic or education specialist, but by a classroom teacher. This is one classroom teacher's response to 'why do you get the students to blog?'. I hope that you too find it useful in your teaching.

Running and Creativity




I went for a really good 5km run this morning before starting on my Inquiry for the day. I know this might not seem that related to my project, but it got me thinking......

Running always helps me clear my head, whether to give me time to think through things, or simply allowing me to switch off for 30mins or so.

I did a really good time for my run today and found myself 'buzzing' by the time I got home. My energy levels were high (despite the fact that I had spent the previous 30mins doing something pretty physically demanding).

Where did all this get me.....

Well it got me thinking about the benefits of cardio exercise like running in terms of creativity. Part of this inquiry process is learning how you work best, what motivates you, what distracts you, when do you when work best, when are you best to not even try and give in to distractions, what energises you.

So I did some research on the benefits of running in terms of creativity and came across some interesting websites:

http://walking-running-training.suite101.com/article.cfm/enhancing_creativity_with_running

According to this site there seems to be much debate about whether running actually enhances creativity. But irrespective of definitive conclusions there appears to be evidence to support the claim. According to 'The Runner’s World Guide to Running' running ‘helps you to reach creative breakthroughs’ (p.25). Psychological research has found that bodily movement can enhance creative thinking. This supports the belief held by many men and women that going for a run can help them problem solve and overcome mental blocks.

I found another interesting article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine: 'Exercise enhances creativity independently of mood'
http://bjsm.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/31/3/240
This research article concluded that mood and creativity were improved by physical exercise independently of each other. I guess confirming that when you hit a road block during the research process, a run could be the most beneficial way of moving forward (no pun intended!).

Bud's Blog Experiment


I came across this interesting blogsite this afternoon:

Bud's Blog Experiment: http://budtheteacher.blogspot.com/


It was referred to in the 'Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms' that I am reading as part of this project.

Basically the blog is about the journey that he took with his students to implement blogs in their classroom. Reading this was very useful, both in terms of my own reflexive blogging journey at the moment, but also in being able to see the way in which creating a classroom blog can be a joint journey with your students. This was exciting as it shifts away from the common preconception that you have to be an expert in blogs to set one up in your class. Reading through the blog gave me an increased sense of the powerful learning that can take place in the classroom through this journey.

I have taken out some of the quotes that I found particularly thought provoking/powerful:

"An online journal is somewhere someone posts their thoughts when they hope that someone will see them. A blog is where someone posts their thoughts when they hope that someone will think about them."
(Comment made by one of the students in the class)

"What I have noticed in my own blog is that I blog less when I don't have/take the time to read other blogs. That is what has been going on for the last few weeks. So it isn't the habit of writing in my blog that is concerning me but the habit of reading. I need to make more time for that. When I do, the blogging comes naturally."
(Comment made by one of the students in the class)

And this quote which I think in challenging in terms of our teaching philosophies and questions of the purpose and value in education:

"And I know not every student was born to be a blogger. But, I would argue that every student, every person was born to be a contributor, whether that's via blog or wiki or podcast or whatever. We need to create a culture of contribution in our schools where our students' work is non only celebrated but put to use in meaningful ways. Don't just e-value-ate what they do but provide ways for what they do to have long lasting value."

Interview with Paul Sibson - Principal of Fendalton Open Air School

I have been preparing this morning for my interview tomorrow with the principal of Fendalton School. I thought it would post my interview questions here - especially as it will be interesting to re-assess my questions after the interview has taken place to see which ones I used/didn't use; which ones led to the most interesting discussions etc:

1) Can you briefly outline the relationship between teaching/learning and interactive technologies (like blogging) in your school?

2) What do you see as the advantages of integrating these technologies into teaching pedagogy?

3) Digital literacy is a phrase that is commonly used in education today. Can you tell me what this phrase means to you?

4) I know new technologies like blogging sometimes get negative responses from people as a ‘lesser’ form of literacy, or fears that they are replacing the ‘fundamentals’ of education. Have you come across these fears in parents? And if so, how do you respond?

5) What has the response of parents been to the use of these technologies in the classroom?

6) Technologies like blogging extend learning beyond the classroom. Can you think of any particularly exciting connections that have resulted from using these technologies in your school?

7) Internet safety is a serious issue to consider when using these technologies. Could you very briefly explain the school’s policy/practices that address these issues?

8) I spent some time on the FOS website and saw that you also have your own blog site as principal. Could you tell me a bit about this site: why you decided to set it up, what the advantages have been of having a blog, who uses it etc.?

9) When a student leaves Fendalton School at the end of Year 6, what do you hope you have equipped them with as a result of their interaction with digital technologies?

10) What would be your advice to a beginner teacher who wanted to use a blog in the classroom but had no prior experience in using/creating them?



I am not sure how I am going to record this interview - I will probably either record it on my laptop using garageband, or use my digital voice recorder. Using garage band will allow me to edit it on my mac which would be a real advantage.

Meeting – 16th June – Mentor Meeting

These are the notes from our mentor group meeting yesterday:

In many ways the inquiry model is a recursive model. We need to keep going back and checking things. It all feels immersive in many ways but this is also the ‘how will I find out’. At the moment we are benefiting across the process sharing in the mentor groups.

Importance of the sense of wonderment – I don’t feel like I am getting this feeling in my project at the moment - but hopefully my time at Fendalton School will help with this.

Create it and Share it stages: This is where we should be now.
Create it = creating the website – this is now I want to share my research with the class by creating a website which provides teachers with a ‘how to’ on creating blog sites. It will be organised under a series of categories including a step-by-step guide to creating a blog; what are the advantages of blogs; experts; what are the new forms of literacy that blogs promote etc. This is also an effective way of sharing with people who are not ‘experts’ and allowing them the time to go through in their own time and at their own pace. My actual presentation will just be to set this up and show them how to navigate the website etc.

Presentation formats – see student-net page to see what kinds of things we could use. If powerpoint included – can only use versions up to 2003 and save in this format from the beginning. 20-25mins.

Check out the hub set-up in terms of using for my presentation etc. And also sort out with AV services whether they have a video camera that I can use. (I went and visited and there was no one there - so I am going to use the inbuilt camera in my laptop and a digital voice recorder)

Check out the tasks that we need to for this week – see student-net.

Think about what we want to take out of this and share. Your presentation format may be a method that you want to practice.

Another model of inquiry

I came across this model of inquiry on Fendalton Open Air School's website and wanted to share it as I found this outline more useful than the blast off to learning one that we have been using in class. I liked the way in which the model was arranged in a way that was that demonstrated the fact that it was non-linear.

Monday, June 15, 2009

what are students thinking.......

I found this on a blogsite (thethinkingstick.com). It was a quote that was taken from David Warlick). It helped me in relation to my developing ideas on the way students interact with technology, and my arguments for why technology needs to be de-demonised.



"If you have children, who spend a good deal of their time IMing, playing video games, blogging, googling, or other negotiations with technology, put yourselves in their shoes and ask yourself this question. Is it the computer, the game controller, the mobile phone, or PDA that I'm thinking about? or is it the information, the conversation, the negotiation that I'm thinking about. I say it's the conversations, the information. Information is what its all about."



I think that if we approach interactions with technology from this angle, with a focus on the processes that students go though, then not only will it let us see the usage of these technologies in new and more positive ways, but it will also assist us as teachers in our understandings of the skills and scaffolds that we need to be providing our students when we use these technologies in the classroom.

"Connective Writing" - A New Writing Genre

I have decided to try a new form of blogging this week.

One of the books I have been reading, 'Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms' (Richardson, 2006) (see ref list on blog page), has outlined a new writing genre called "connective writing" which blogsites facilitate.

According to the Richardson (2006), this new genre "forces those who do it to read carefully and critically, demands clarity and cogency in its constructions, that is done for a wide audience, and that links to the sources of the ideas expressed." (p. 29)

Connective writing is for the most part, expository writing, but the process starts with reading. Afterall, weblogs originated as sites where people shared links to sites they had viewed and read. In undertaking this form of writing, bloggers read critically because they look for important ideas to write about. As Samuel Johnson famously said, "I hate to read a writer who has written more than he had read."

Some elements of this will be difficult, by virtue of the fact that this blog site is also functioning as my reflective journal for this course, and therefore there are some requirements that need to be fulfilled that may not be connective writing, but whereever possible I will attempt to write in this genre, and provide reflections during the week on how I am finding the process and a learning tool. I am excited about the ways in which it allows to me make and share connections I am making in my research, and provides ways of linking my 'deviations' back to my journey.

What will collaborative technologies mean when our students enter the world of tertiary education?



Although my project is looking at the use of blogs in primary classrooms I keep coming back to the question of what this means for students when they enter tertiary education with its strong reliance on transmission style learning (a constant source of debate between me and my profs).....and then I came across this article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/don-tapscott/the-impending-demise-of-t_b_213702.html

The full article can be found on The Edge site (scroll down a bit on the homepage and you will find it)
http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/tapscott09/tapscott09_index.html

In the Classroom, Web Logs Are the New Bulletin Boards



Another article in the New York Times got me thinking about the various ways in which blogs can and are being used in the classrooom:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/19/technology/circuits/19blog.html?scp=6&sq=blogs%20and%20classrooms&st=cse&pagewanted=all

I found this article especially relevant given that it was about a 2nd grade class.

I have drawn out a few of the most interesting ideas expressed in this article....

"School Web sites are labor-intensive and are left up to administrators and teachers," said Mr. Grunwald, whose consulting firm in Washington focuses on the technology link between home and school. "With blogging intended to be a vehicle for students, the labor is built in. The work that is required to refresh and maintain an interesting blog is being provided by students."

Mr Gunwald predicts that blogs will eventually become a more successful teaching tool than Web sites.

One way teachers say they use blogs is to continue spirited discussions that were cut short or to prolong question-and-answer periods with guest speakers.

"With blogs, class doesn't have to end when the bell rings," said Will Richardson, supervisor of instructional technology and communications at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, N.J., who maintained blogs for two journalism classes he taught last year.


It is exciting to think that blogs allow for the expansion of the learning space beyond the classroom door.

Blogs, Podcasts and Virtual Classrooms




I found this an interesting article in terms of the kinds of things that classroom teachers are doing in the US in terms of using blogs. It was interesting to see the arising conflict between collaborative learning and testing......

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/03/technology/techspecial3/03ethan.html?scp=1&sq=blogs%20and%20classrooms&st=cse

"If interactivity becomes the fundamental basis of the educational process, how do we judge merit?" asked Robbie McClintock, a learning technologies expert at Teachers College of Columbia University.

The push by some teachers for greater interactivity in the classroom also goes against the current emphasis on testing. Testing requires a known body of material, but interactive learning often involves students' seeking out topics on their own.



Fortunately we don't have the same pressure in NZ primary schools in terms of testing and therefore have greater freedom to use these kinds of collaborative technologies. However, I think it is important to think through the possible concerns you may get from parents about the use of these technologies. It is important to involve parents in the process, and to have a strong set of beliefs and justifications for why you are using these technologies and new forms of literacy in your classroom.

Monday Morning - Week 3

It's scary to think that I have already had 2 weeks on this project. In many ways I feel like I haven't got that far with things. I seem to keep hitting road blocks, or deviations which take up valuable time needed to get me to my final outcome. I took a break over the weekend which I think was helpful for giving me perspective on this project and what is achievable in the time I have.
So.....I am approaching this week with a new attitude. I have learned a few things on reflection so far:
a) it's very easy to take the project vision beyond what it achievable in 5 weeks
b) it is harder to re-focus and make decisions about what 'can' be achieved, especially when you feel like you are having to let go of some of the research 'excitements' in the process
c) roadblocks are all part of inquiry - and some of the best reflecting takes place at these moments when you have to make decisions about 'where to from here?'
d) Inquiry is definitely not a linear process and this can be both frustrating and liberating in terms of the research process
e) Making a list of things to do each day helps me stay focussed and feel like I am getting somewhere (reflecting at the end of the day can help with this too)
f) Some days are frustrating, some days you feel like you have got nowhere, or gone backwards. This is all part of the journey, and tomorrow is always a new day. Learn from it, but don't dwell on it too much.

So this week.....what are my plans?

I would like to continue with my literature reviews/research of blog use in classrooms to gather information to use in my website which I will be building next week. I am unsure at this stage what the different sections will be - but I am trying to keep it open at the moment and just see how much is possible.

I am spending Thursday afternoon at Fendalton school speaking with the Principal and spending time in a classroom talking with students about their class blog site. This is the highlight of this week as it will allow me to see in practice the things I have been reading and thinking about.

I am hoping by the end of the week that I will have had a meeting with one of the profs at tcol about setting up a website. I have spoken with a few different people about different servers that I could use, and just need to see which will best suit my minimal skills and time constraints.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Frustrating Day - Have I Bitten Off More Than I Can Chew?

Today has been a frustrating day. I spent a large part of the morning trying to get back into the website I created yesterday. But for some reason I can't get into it - the username and passwords don't work. It got me thinking that I need to be really careful with the site that I do create because I can't afford for this to happen once my site is actually taking shape.
I'm worried that I may be taking on too much by assuming that I can create a website in the next two weeks with absolutely no prior knowledge of how to go about it.
I have heard back from Niki and am going to catch up with her once she is back in the country to get some assistance with a website. So....my new plan of attack is not to worry about the website for the next week and just concentrate on collecting information to put on my site and maintaining my blog. Then at the end of next week I can see Niki and make a decision about where to go from there. She has suggested that a WIKI might be the best option for sharing my research - so I will look into this.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Inquiry learning.....is it just a 'fad'?

I have been thinking over the past few weeks about Inquiry-based approaches to learning. In trying to get a hold of what it is, I have also been frequently faced with questions.

- Is it really anything new?
- Isn't this just a new 'fad' and 'buzz-word' that will be replaced by something else in a few years?
- Haven't I done inquiry before (we just didn't call it that)?
- Isn't most of inquiry just 'good teaching'?

I have also been talking to other people in the education world about it (lecturers, teachers, students, parents) and trying to get a sense of how they feel about it.

It seems to me that it's not really a 'new' approach to learning. In fact people like Dewy advocated for this type of approach to learning. So I think there is a danger in seeing it as something 'new' and potentially dismissing the multiple ways in which many classroom teachers are already using it in their classroom. Having said that, it does seem to provide an alternative to the highly structured and linear models of teaching that have remained dominant in many spheres within education.

Is it exciting? Absolutely. In my opinion, successful and inspiring teachers should be ones who do many of the things that Inquiry involves in their daily practices e.g. meaningful questioning, exploring, creating meaningful contexts for learning, allowing students to make linkages to the world around them and creating meaningful outcomes to their research. I have always believed that learning is a process not a means to an ends, and therefore an inquiry approach is very exciting. It is liberating as an almost-teacher to think that I can approach teaching in a non-linear way that is both student-centred and student-directed (while also maintaining guidance and support/scaffolding as a teacher).

I think that part of the problem with the taking up of this approach seems to be the 'label'. As soon as we label something in a new way, people make the assumption that it is something new. The cynic in me also starts to wonder whether it's just a short-term policy buzz-word, soon to be replaced by something bigger and better. I don't want inquiry to be 'sold' to me (and the monetary off-spins of Inquiry can't be denied). I want to embrace the concept as part of my teaching philosophy that will remain with me in the classroom right through my career. I don't really mind what it is called, and what particular model is used (in fact I think that ultimately we create new models to meet the changing needs of our students) - so long as I allow my students opportunities to learn in this way.