Archive for category online tools
This is my ninth year of blogging and I have just reached my 200th subscriber.
When I began blogging in June 2008 I managed to post nine posts in the first month. That’s heaps! I went back to browse them and was surprised – that I had written so much, but also that they were so short. These days I feel like everything I have to say needs so much explaining, so much backstory. It’s an occupational hazard. Writing lectures and research papers is wordy work, and that has truly seeped into all the other genres in my life.
Last weekend I was in Melbourne for VidCon, the first ever in Australia. It was amazing! More on that another time. And I met an excellent crowd of YouTube creators who are into education, and we had long and interesting talks. Getting to know each other, it was only when someone mentioned they have been blogging for a long time that I caught myself having not mentioned my blog. And I paused for thought. Then realised I hadn’t really, truly grasped the similarities between blogging (in which I am an old hand) and vlogging (in which I am a noob), until that moment.
(You mean I can transfer all this knowledge there? That is so darn handy right now.)
So, to articulate it for myself and others, here are the three big reasons why I still blog:
- I use the blog as a professional journal to reflect on my practice.
- I like to make a lot of my ideas and resources visible to others, because I trust the network and believe we are better when we share.
- The blog is like a pensieve. Or a portable hard drive for my mind.
ICYMI – in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Albus Dumbledore describes the penseive like this:
“I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.”
Came across this video today that I made with colleague Jill Willis, back in 2015. I’d still give all of this advice…though I might add a caution about not engaging in Twitter arguments, as there are too many of those going around these days.
If you are a teacher who is about to try some tweeting, here are some tips:
It was very satisfying this week to get a notification from WordPress reminding me of my blogiversary.
Six years of blogging!
The time sure has flown. And although I still have much to learn about online writing, I can say with confidence that nothing beats the professional development and reflection that public writing has afforded me.
As if one milestone wasn’t enough, this was also the week that I clicked over the 10,000 tweet mark (!)
Sadly I missed the exact moment and didn’t get a screenshot, but here’s how it’s looking today:
2008 – what was happening?
A quick look at my profile stats shows that I joined Twitter in May 2008, and created my blog not long after in June 2008.
Around this time I was:
- 27 years old
- living in Southwest Sydney
- halfway into my second year of full time teaching
- part time enrolled in my PhD
- newly married
- on the ‘Web & Technology’ and ‘Curriculum and Assessment’ Committees of the NSW ETA
Whew! When that’s all written down in a list we can see it was big year! And that’s just the ‘big stuff’.
The ETA bit is important, because it’s through ETA work that I met one of my most influential and constant mentors, Darcy Moore – it was his persistent encouragement that persuaded me to start tweeting and blogging. His advice at the time, which has always stuck with me, was that I shouldn’t be afraid to put my views in the public domain, as long as they are views I am prepared to defend and stand by. In fact, the test of whether you are prepared to say something in public can be an excellent method for testing your convictions.
I’ve used the metaphor before, but real True Blood fans can stand to hear it twice: Darcy you’re the best ‘maker’ ever!
My other big digi-hat tips go to Bianca Hewes for being such an incredible force of energy and inspiration, and to Mary-Helen Ward who got me writing my first ever blog posts back at university on the internal network. You gals have left footprints all over my professional (and personal) life and I’m so grateful for it.
Milestones IRL – Work
The end of this semester also marks a non-virtual, real life work milestone: four years in one job.
Four. Years. In. One. Job.
It’s not for lack of stamina that I haven’t stayed anywhere else for longer than three years. I worked part time for awhile when I started my PhD. Then I taught for three years in one place before moving interstate and reseting the meter. So it’s not like I’m some kind of education sector Runaway Bride! Although I am also no Baby Boomer, and I confess the idea of staying in one job for a lifetime is simply unfathomable to me. I won’t bother linking to any of the plethora of ridiculous articles about how Gen Y make bad employees – as a Gen X/Gen Y ‘cusper’ I never see myself in those stories (I’m too young to relate to Winona Ryder in Reality Bites, and too old to pull off skinny jeans). But suffice to say that after four years in one job, I’m feeling a sense of stability that I’ve never known before. It’s nice. I’m finally standing still for long enough to start sharpening the saw.
Well, it turns out that this is my 299th blog post, so post number 300 is just around the corner 🙂
Other than that, I’m going to keep on keeping on with my online writing and continue to integrate digital communication/curation into my teaching practice. I’m working on a few scholarly journal articles for publication early next year, so my post-PhD academic writing funk looks like it may have finally run it’s course.
I’m trying to take a more active role in promoting our local English Teacher chat on Twitter (#ozengchat).
I’m slowly collecting my poetry teaching materials on the web for other teachers to access with ease.
Aside from that, time will tell.
But for now let me just say: thanks for reading, and happy blogging everyone!
Happy 2014 to all! It seems I inadvertently took a blog break over summer holidays – a break from most things digital, in fact. I’m back in the swing of things now though, with a head full of ideas and energy stores replenished. Who knew I was so tired after 2013? Well OK, I did. Now you do too 😉
So, this is my fourth year at my job as a lecturer. How time flies eh? Reflecting on my time so far I can confidently say that I’ve continued the spirit of innovation I had as a high school teacher into my university teaching. I’ve pushed forward with using social networks to support student learning, with developing project-based learning pedagogies, and with developing blended learning experiences including wiki work and blog-based assessment.
But this week when I was offered a chance to trial a new technology with my class, I turned it down.
There are any number of reasons that teachers say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to trying something new. Watching this keynote by Sarah Howard from 2012 today gave me a chance to reflect on my own tendency to be a risk taker in my practice – I usually see the benefits of innovation as outweighing the costs:
…and boy last semester there were some costs. Some cyberbullying from a student really put a damper on my teaching with Twitter, and right at the end of last year I experienced a big delay in giving students assignment feedback after a swathe of electronic assignment files got deleted. Further technology fails ensued as I struggled to negotiate student assignment return via Blackboard, our university LMS. It was a nightmare, and a confidence shaker. In a university teaching context where a whole semester of awesome learning can be overshadowed by a single student complaint to the wrong person, I ended 2013 wondering if all my efforts were ‘worth it’.
Fortunately I value innovation and creativity to such an extent that taking risks in pursuit of better practice is still worth it to me. In her keynote Howard explains that people are less likely to take a risk to pursue something they see no value in, which makes sense really.
I guess the shift for me will not be from being a risk-taker to being ‘risk-averse’ – I haven’t had the stuffing beat out of me quite hard enough yet to be averse to risk! For me the shift will be from high-stakes to more low-stakes risk; rather than pushing the boundaries with a wildly new practice I’ll be consolidating and refining my current pedagogies and taking stock of where I want to go with my teaching in 2015. Which will be nice timing, given the massive course changes we are implementing next year (PS. in six months if I disappear completely, somebody please come find me, I may be perishing under a mountain of new unit outlines…).
Do you see yourself as a risk-taker in your teaching? How risky are you planning to be in 2014?
1. Blog Blockage:
I really shouldn’t write any more posts until I write up the totally timely thing I did the other day.
Cure – write a very short post on the totally timely thing. Then get on with life. Or, just write something else in between, you’ll live.
2. Posts Piling Up:
I have so many ideas for different posts, I can’t decide which one to start with!
Cure – start a whole heap of the posts and save them as drafts. Pick one to complete at a time.
3. Lonely Blogs Club:
No-one comments on my blog, I should just give up.
Cure – invite your friends directly to add a comment. Adding tags and categories will help Google to find you. Or just be content to write reflectively. Wait, back up…did you decide if you even really want an audience to be a happy blogger?
4. Beginning, Middle…:
I don’t know how to end a blog post.
Cure – finish a line of thought and hit ‘publish’. A short post is a good post anyway.
I have been using Pinterest a fair bit this year to collect links and images of interest to me an my students. It’s a nifty platform for curating – it’s highly visual and has an app for both apple and android that I find myself using often when surfing my mobile devices in front of the telly.
When introducing Pinterest to newcomers, I am often asked the question: “how does this website full of pictures of cupcakes have anything to do with learning?”. It’s a good question! Pinterest at first glance presents as a space filled with links to homewares, fashion, craft and cooking. I know some people claim that Pinterest is therefore “for girls”, but plenty of people refute this.
One way that I have seen Pinterest used very powerfully in education is for the creation of ‘inspiration boards’.
Tania Sheko has provided an excellent account of examples from her school in a recent blog post. I’ve included her screenshot here to give you an idea of what is covered:
Working as a librarian in her school Tania was able to really boost the teaching/learning resources available in a visual arts unit by creating a range of boards with images to INSPIRE students in their project making.
What a great idea!
If I was teaching English right now, I could definitely apply this strategy. I would probably start by making inspirations boards for:
- different genres (a gothic board! a crime fiction board!)
- characters for story writing
- locations for story writing
So there you have it – INSPIRATION BOARDS. An excellent way to utilise the (wonderfully visual and digital) Pinterest in your teaching.
Thanks to Tania for sharing her ideas!
Most teachers have had some experience with cyberbullying. Whether your students are very young primary schoolers or adolescents, circumstances can arise when students post nasty comments about each other on social media, share embarrassing photos, or email hurtful letters.
But what do you do when a student engages in bullying tactics online toward you, the teacher?
It’s the fear of this happening that stops many teachers from engaging with students on public platforms. I’ve heard several teachers ask questions about this, including in every ‘teaching with technologies’ workshop I’ve ever held: what if a student acts out online? what if a student posts inappropriate comments that get linked to the school name, or mine?
Unfortunately, this has been the story of the past week for me.
The scenario: A student felt that I had not uploaded assessment criteria in a timely fashion. I differ on this opinion, but that is really besides the point! The student (or a group of them?) had created a fake twitter account, unlinked to their real name or photo, to post tweets about our class. They sent tweets addressed to the class twitter handle and using the unit hashtag to make, at first, a series of queries about unit materials in an aggressive tone. Yesterday these tweets became more critical, referring to university policy, slandering the education faculty, and linking the official university twitter handle into the tweets as well.
My response: It’s always hurtful, on a human level, when something like this happens. But as a teacher it’s probably easier than in many professions to let these kinds of criticisms roll right over you – “water off a duck’s back” style. Teachers face the wrath of student disappointment in many manifestations! After a while in the teaching game you learn what to take on board and what to turn a blind eye to. We try not to take things too personally. This is why, at first, I simply replied to the tweets in question with helpful advice and invitations to contact me via email or in person, out of the public domain. Once the tweets this week started to include references to the uni though, I knew I had to be firm – I used a couple of reply tweets to make it clear that cyberbulling was not tolerated in our institution and outline what constituted bullying behaviour.
Resolution: As well as public tweets I sent a series of three direct messages to the student/bogus account asking them to stop making public statements that critique my professionalism and letting them know that I wouldn’t be further engaging with public criticism. I asked someone higher up the food chain than me whether it would be OK to ‘report and block for spam’ the offending tweets and they advised YES. When I went to block the user this afternoon, I was relieved to see that the student had thought better of their actions and deleted the entire offending account.
The reason I want to share this story is to emphasise the strategies I used for dealing with this over the past week:
- INFORM: Be polite online and try to diffuse critical questions with helpful information.
- INVITE: Ask students that publicise critical views to contact you directly to discuss issues that are bothering them.
- CAPTURE: Always take a screen capture of material that you suspect is, or may turn into, bullying. I did. This ensures you have a record of events even when/if the student deletes the material. This becomes vital down the track if the bullying is repeated elsewhere.
- REPORT: Even though you will naturally want to avoid embarrassment and ‘bad press’ for your name/class/initiative, it’s important that your boss (e.g. Head Teacher of English in a school) knows what is happening and has a chance to help.
I’m going to try turning this into a very light and positive ‘teachable moment’ in our class lecture tomorrow – not by attacking the student but by highlighting good digital citizenship practices. Wish me luck!
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about cyberbullying, excellent material can be found on the ReachOut website here: http://au.reachout.com/Cyberbullying
The new Safe Schools Hub also has a useful Framework for building safety into the school culture: http://safeschoolshub.edu.au/safe-schools-toolkit/the-nine-elements
One last thing…
I won’t be closing down my twitter account or ceasing the use of twitter in my class learning environment or anything drastic like that! Although this is exactly the kind of thing that scares teachers away from online teaching spaces, I still think the value of positive exchanges via social media are ‘worth it’ for my class.
Although…I will be renewing my commitment to talking about digital citizenship with students in the first week of the semester. On reflection, this could probably all have been avoided if I did some explicit twitter teaching and set clear boundaries in weeks 1 or 2. D’oh!
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- early college high school in california on Evolution of storytelling
- Lebana on Why I still blog
- The Twitter Project | Learning English Teaching on ‘I’m a teacher and I just joined Twitter…now what?’
- Jami Tipton on Inquiry and learning: Kath Murdoch TED Talk
- Inquiry and learning: Kath Murdoch TED Talk | Australian Education Blogs on Inquiry and learning: Kath Murdoch TED Talk
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