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 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."


- "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 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....


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: - 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 (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:

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: - 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:

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.

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

You can listen to the interview by following this link:

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 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