Archive for February, 2009

New Resources Wiki

After tweeting with colleagues about which wiki site would be best to recommend to teachers (the jury is still out) I decided to have a look at wetpaint.com, a wiki site I hadn’t used at all before.  The result: a brand spankin’ new wiki of my very own :)

screenshot-wiki

http://kmcgraw.wetpaint.com/

I made Ms. McGraw’s English Wiki so that I would have a place to share my English teaching resources, without using ‘pages’ on my blog.  The old pages have been un-published, and a new blog page for Teaching Resources now directs readers over to the wiki.

If you have time to take a look, let me know what you think.  So far I have transferred my blog resources on using digistories and video games to the wiki, and have added a page for the HSC AOS: Belonging as well.

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Facebook continues to grow

An article on the Inside Facebook blog reports that Facebook has grown to 175,000,000 active users with a growth rate of about 600,000 users a day in the past few weeks.

If Facebook were a country, it would now be the 6th most populous in the world.

Frankly I am not surprised.  The pace at which people live their lives has dramatically increased, in the past decade especially.  With many people living in a dual income household, or working second jobs, it’s hard to find time to ‘catch up’ with friends and family.  For teachers the amount of time spent at home preparing lessons, marking work and maintaining their professional development can be a severe drain on your ‘home time’.  Old ways of keeping in touch – hour long phone conversations, weekend visits, a night at the pub (eek – you mean I lose time tomorrow too!?) – are becoming rarer, and as a result there is so much pressure to make the most of time when you do see people IRL that the fun can be sucked right out of the experience.

When talking on the phone recently to a friend in the States (we normally use video call but the net was acting up) we found it very awkward at first trying to have a conversation without the benefit of the usual visual cues.  There wasn’t even an avatar!  And although we got used to it soon enough, it was easy to see why many people don’t relish using such cumbersome modes of communication anymore.  Does this make us inherently selfish? Overly insular?  I don’t know my own answer to that…yet.

What I must concede is that, for now, unless we want to miss out on ‘quality time’ with loved ones altogether, we will have to embrace (not reject!) these new modes of maintaining social connections.  As we move towards re-defining our notion of what it means to have a ‘personal connection’, online communitcation will take on a more personal tone.  And if this makes people feel more connected, isn’t this a good thing?

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Why do we read?

A very insightful comment from one of my Year 10 students this week.  Writing about what she likes about English (their first piece of blog homework) she writes:

I like reading because its like tv in your head! I think writing stories is very cool too because you can write about ANYTHING in the world, you can use your imagination and write wonderful stories.

English helps to get what’s inside of you, out.

From the mouths of babes, huh :)  In response to this, I’d like to share a quote that I recently found, by Mexican poet Octavio Paz:

Literature is the expression of a feeling of deprivation, a recourse against a sense of something missing. But the contrary is also true: language is what makes us human. It is a recourse against the meaningless noise and silence of nature and history.

Any other thoughts/quotation out there people could share on the question of why we read?

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Edublogs blocked by DET

Well, the NSW DET has finally gotten up to blocking the last place we had left to blog, edublogs.  Along with everything else.

Any site that can be classified as a blog or wiki is blocked to students from years 6-10 at best – most are blocked for senior students too.  The constant fear that we all now must live with of our students having any interaction *whatsoever* with the outside world lives on.  Forget using edublogs, pbwiki, twitter, edmodo, wordpress…the list goes on.

Add to this the continued blocking of two of the most used/useful sites on the whole internet – Google apps and YouTube – and what is there left on the internet to use??

The DET released a new version of guidelines for creating blog sites in December 2008.  Though it is hard to understand the point of this, when the sites are blocked anyway.  Am I missing something here?  And, while I understand the importance of ensuring student privacy, consider the following requirements included in the guidelines:

  • All users must be registered and password protected to prevent anonymous contributions.
  • All contributions are moderated by the Teacher Administrator before publication.

I can see where they are coming from.  Honestly.  But guidelines like this make it either untenable or just plain uncomfortable to use a blog with a class.  Students who have problems signing up, logging on, or remembering a password will be disengaged with the blog and class management becomes a joke in blogging lessons where kids can’t get onto their blog.  And moderating comments before they are published is just too much.  This is like asking kids to run their classroom answers past you before they say them out loud!

Using online learning spaces provide students with opportunities to learn about cyberbullying and ‘netiquette’ – shielding students from online environments will not adequately prepare them for the world of work into which they will enter post-school.  School rules, student welfare, and sound pedagogical practices are not abandoned in these online spaces – if anything, the transparency of these sites (your Principal, or your student’s parents, could decide to take a look at any time!) is more likely to promote professional practice.

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Returning and some thoughts on the canon

Hello all; apologies for my patchy appearances in the bloggosphere and twittersphere lately.  After a short trip to San Francisco over the holidays (which I would like to return to with some thoughts on at a later date) I am home, back at school, and about to get stuck into the hardest two months ever, probably, in my life – finishing my PhD thesis.

I was working on this today, adding to my ‘Background’ chapter with some more thoughts on the influence of the canon in English curriculum.  In doing so I came across an article by Anne Waldron Neumann, “Should You Read Shakespeare?” (in Meanjin v.56, no.1, 1997: 17-25).  It was an enjoyable read, covering all of the arguments for and against bothering to read Shakespeare.  In particular I enjoyed the opening lines:

‘Should I read Shakespeare?’ So you probably ask yourself each morning as you stare at the mirror, toothbrush in hand.  Or, if you do not, many older and possibly wiser heads are asking for you: ‘Should you read Shakespeare?’

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