flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Different blogging platforms enable different possibilities. Here is an account of some examples that I have created over time and the intent behind them.

A blog is not a blog. This was the point that I tried to make my last post. Although it can be good to keep everything in one space, this often misses something. Each platform enables different features and possibilities. Therefore, it can be useful to create spaces for different purposes.

One way of looking at this is from the point-of-view of the canonical URL. This is a concept that Doug Belshaw lives by.

Unless it contains sensitive information, publish your work to a public URL that can be referenced by others. This allows ideas to build upon one another in a ‘slow hunch’ fashion. Likewise, with documents and other digital artefacts, publish and then share rather than deal with version control issues by sending the document itself.

A part of working openly, the idea is that everything you do has a unique URL and dependent on the task dictates the platform. For Belshaw, this means having a site for his general thoughts, business, thesis, digital literacies, philosophical musings and sharing resources. This includes the use of wikis, WordPress, SvbtleGithub website and Known.
To make more sense of the different possibilities associated with blogs, here is a breakdown of my own spaces:

  • Read Write Respond – This is my main site. Here I publish my lengthier thoughts (like this one). It has also replaced my About.Me page. I initially made the move to WordPress.Org as a part of my migration to Reclaim Domain. However, now I would not have it any other way.
  • Read Write Wikity – Built on Mike Caulfield’s Wikity platform, this space is about developing knowledge over time. It is an extension on social bookmarking.
  • Read Write Collect – A space to document my varied experiences and publications.
  • #WhatIf – Interested in the possibilities and potential of Known, I started a short blog to record ‘What Ifs’. This is partly influenced by Amy Burvall’s #rawthoughts and Ian O’Byrne’s own short blog IMHO.
  • Read Write Tumbl – By it’s nature, Tumblr is about sharing media. Beyond syndicating my blog posts, which I do out of habit more than anything else, I share my Flickr images via IFTTT, as well as my Giphy creations.
  • Reading Writing Responding -This is where my blogging journey began. I chose Blogger out of interest as to how many things I could do with my Google account. It did the job. I still have this blog as I could not bring all my comments across as they were stuck in Google+. I sometimes tinker with it too. For example, I recently turned Adsense on recently just to see what would happen.
  • 365 Beginnings – Initially created to experiment with WP.Com. I toyed with the idea of a 365 project, where I would take an image and headline from that day and try and imagine the story behind it. I loved it and still love the idea, but it was just too much to maintain.
  • eBox – This Global2/Edublogs blog was developed as a space to share tips and tricks associated with eSmart and digital pedagogies. My predecessor had created a section in the school newsletter with the same name to disseminate information, but I wanted something that was more asynchronous and that provided the opportunity for different voices. Many of these posts have also found their way into my main blog.
  • Class Blogs – Over the years I have created a range of class blogs using Edublogs. Some acted as hubs for student blogs, others as a space to share and promote the work completed in class. They are always a good space to model learning too.
  • Humanities Blog – A colleague and I set up a space to share resources. Apart from a few random posts and a review of Making Thinking Visible – it has not really taken.
  • BIM Blog – During the last few years, my school has set out on a journey to explore and implement a new instructional model. One of the issues that arose early was the challenge to get everyone on the same page. A part of the problem was finding a shared space to collect resources and reflections. I setup a blog and there were a few teachers who took it up. However, with changes in staff and some left feeling a little confused, the network share drive won the day.
  • Humanities Times – As a part of an investigation for Humanities into the refugee crisis, we used a Global2 blog for students to share different stories from the media. The intent was for students to develop both a deeper awareness of the problem, as well as an appreciation of the enormity of it all.
  • Inquire Within – I have also posted at Edna Sackson’s wonderful collaborative WordPress blog Inquire Within. I must admit, I haven’t shared their recently as I am never quite sure which of my posts fit.
  • Other Spaces – I have postings at a few other sites, including BAM Network where I often share practical activities and applications, as well as a few guest posts at Peter DeWitt’s blog Finding Common Ground.

So that is me, my collection of blogs, each with their own context. What about you? What are the different spaces that you use? What was involved in making the choices? As always, comments welcome.


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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

In a previous post, I reflected on the voices in the village. Reflecting on the different comments shared with me via my blog across the year. This got me thinking about the ideas and influences that have influenced my thinking this year. I have subsequently spent some time mining through my memories, as well as my Diigo collection, for the posts from the village that have left a mark. Some on my thinking, others in regards to my practise …

Coaching and Leadership

Why Agency Matters – Jon Andrews (@obi_jon_) argues that to get the most out of staff we need to support their agency, rather than continually dictate instructional models and learning outcomes.

The most conducive and productive professional environments for this have been those with high expectations intertwined with support. These environments resist compliance in favour of engagement which leads to responsible autonomy. The best leaders have been those who grow these organisations with two key things, trust and reciprocal relationships in unique contexts.

The Know-How Continuum – Chris Munro (@cmunroOZ) unpacks the challenge of staying in the coachee’s context as long as possible, rather than jumping to ideas and supposed solutions.

The aim is to keep responsibility and ownership with the coachee. Introducing a suggestion with something like “What I’ve seen work in the past is….“, to some degree, puts the idea out there in neutral territory without the coach claiming ownership of it. This is very different from “Well, what I think you should do is…“. For (teacher) coaches (or perhaps just humans in general!) this can be a difficult thing to do.

Dear John – Brad Gustafson (@gustafsonbrad) writes an open response to a parent who raised concerns that digital literacies, such as social media, were being focused at the expense of foundational skills, designed to create a space for debate, rather than an answer to a question.

When our answers become more important than the questions others ask we will have done a disservice to the very nature of learning.

How Do We Rebuild Trust in Our Schools – Corinne Campbell (@corisel) touches on the importance of being trustworthy, as well as what this might mean for schools and education.
Our goal as individual teachers, as schools and systems, needs to be that we are perceived as worthy of trust.
Evaluate Expert Advice on Schools and Advice – Richard Olsen (@richardolsen) questions the debate surrounding the ‘expert advice’ of Ken Wiltshire and Kevin Donnelly, suggesting that the real issue is our perspective on learning.

Illeries model is useful in that it enables us to identify some of core differences between what different people believe about learning (and teaching.) While, I wouldn’t recommend using this model to adequately explain the differences between the various educational theories and theorists as some try to do, it does help us to start identifying where we agree and disagree with others, which in turn enables us to construct and articulate a well formed argument.

Educators as Lead Learners – Jackie Gerstein (@jackiegerstein) provides a guide as to how educators can lead the learning in the classroom.

The goal of this post is to encourage educators not only to adopt the mindset of the educator as a lead learner but also to model, demonstrate, and teach his/her learners the process of learning how to learn new “things”.

What Happens When There Is No Curriculum? – Royan Lee (@Royanlee) flips the complaint about the constrains of the curriculum by wondering what we would do if we didn’t have one.

I am neither a staunch defender of all things curriculum, nor a flag-waver for the dissolution of it. The grey in between, of course, is always far more delightful andcolourful if you allow it to be.

Permission to Innovate – Adrian Camm (@adriancamm) outlines his vision for a co-created curriculum coupled with a permission for staff to take risks.

… because schools are built on trust and relationships, people need to know that innovation isn’t about devaluating anyone’s work. Innovation isn’t necessarily a deficit statement. Innovation can simply refer to the introduction of something new – an idea, product, teaching approach or in creating more effective processes to create a new dimension of performance. Certainly, innovation is contextual, and what represents innovative thought and practice for one person might not necessarily be innovative for another. Being innovative however requires us to step outside of the normal and suspend our biases. Suspending our biases allows us to develop a capacity to disassociate from the way things have always been done. By developing this capacity we give ourselves permission to innovate.

Learning in Perpetual Beta – Borrowing from the tech industry, Tom Barrett (@tombarrett) suggests that learning should be a state of perpetual beta, where we engage in a continual cycle of feedback.

Learning in perpetual beta is all about continuous improvement with an emphasis on engineering as many opportunities for feedback as we can.

How to Use Polarity Management to Support Innovation – Tim Kastelle suggests we need to find balance between execution and innovation. It is a reminder that change involves balancing between many polarities.
The key to managing a polarity is to recognize when you are drifting into the negative region of one of the poles and take corrective action as soon as possible.

Trying to Solve for the Problem of Education in 2015 – Elaborating on the idea of motivation and caring, Dave Cormier (@davecormier) meditates on the various challenges associated with education in 2015 in an attempt to clarify the idea of rhizomatic learning.

I have had a not insignificant number of people I’ve talked to in the last 6 or 7 years say things like “this is exactly the way i think about education…” and they do it this way or can’t or are afraid to or are doing it better. I want to be able to do a better job of explaining how rhizomatic education is possible. How would it roll out to a university? A school district? Does it need to be wholesale? Can it work in pieces? Are models like Genius Hour examples of this…? I have alot of questions.

Following a Shared Vision Does NOT Mean We Share Compass Headings – Grant Lichtman (@GrantLichtman) challenges the professional development model where one size fits all, instead arguing that schools need to develop a collective North Star with each teacher plotting their own journey to get there.

Adults must own their learning just like students, and it will most effectively start with this: “There is our school’s collective North Star. Identify where you are with respect to its location and chart your path.”  How cool would it be if you had an actual map of all of these trajectories for your school!

Learning to Lead and Leading as Inquiry – Claire Amos (@claireamosNZ) shares her use of the inquiry model to support her own growth and development as a leader.

As many of you will know I have a thing for teaching as inquiry, in particular I have a thing for teaching as inquiry as a means of developing future-focused adaptive expertise.

Leading School Improvement – Corrie Barclay (@corrieb) reflects on the challenges with implementing  change and some of the lessons learnt along the way.

The SWITCH Program involved four communities of learners within our P-8 campuses. Their amazing teachers were then charged with creating flipped videos to support and enhance their learning. We were wanting to extend the learning of the students just beyond the daily grind of 9:00 – 3:30.

Leading Change is Hard – Bec Spink (@BecSpink) on the difficulties and frustrations associated with leading change and the need to celebrate the wins, however insignificant they may seem.
I felt compelled to write this post to celebrate the successes- however small they seem from the inside…they are pretty huge on the outside and will continue to motivate, engage and challenge me to keep on keeping on!
The Need for Vision in Schools – Greg Miller (@gregmiller68) outlines why having a vision for learning is so important. What is significant is that it does not necessarily have to be complex, more importantly it needs to be clearly communicated.
I know this may sound simplistic and may even appear to ignore the complexities of schools and the diversity of leadership requirements of school principals; however, without Vision, you have a rudderless ship.
The Ideapreneur – David Culberhouse (@dculberhouse) suggests that one of the challenges we face today is not only coming up with innovative and creative ideas, but successfully being able to sell these within wider organizations.
Turning creativity into innovation, turning innovation into acceptance, turning acceptance into adoption, and turning adoption into change, will be the work of the modern day ideapreneur.
Leading Groups: Dealing with Too Cool for School & Other Personalities – Laura Hilliger (@epilepticrabbit) reflects on her time leading groups and provides a range of tips for dealing with all types.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re teaching a piece of software or a concept or facilitating a workshop to hack on project or product or even if you’re organizing donors night for your local non-profit – when you are leading a group of people to work together, you will have to deal with difficult personality types.
Five Takeaways About Student Wellbeing – Dan Haesler (@danhaesler) provides a summary of the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation’s literature review into Student Wellbeing. Although based on work in New South Wales, there are points made which go across the board.

Engagement and wellbeing are at the crux of what we do in schools and if we get this right, outcomes will – largely – look after themselves (for staff as well as students).

Why Teacher and School Leader Wellbeing is Critical – Jason Borton (@borto74) reflects  on the importance of staff wellbeing in school and shares some of the strategies that he has used to maintain morale.
We can’t continue to just add stuff to our daily workload, so if we’re going to take on something new then what are we going to stop doing to make room for it?
The Speed of Things – Greg Whitby (@GregWhitby) wonders about how we might carry our schools into the digital age and what future orientated form of assessment can help us with this.
I wonder whether we need to be looking at schooling in the same way countries assess readiness for the digital economy?  Do we need a Digital Education Index based on key drivers?
Letting Parents in On the Secret of School – Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDeWitt) suggests that we need to stop protecting parents and let them in on the supposed secrets. A challenging piece in regards to the stories we chose to tell in school.

We assume there are topics that parents don’t need to know about when we engage in new initiatives or changes, when the reality is that they are the very topics that parents need to know about. They can be our biggest advocates with their very own children, and letting them in on the secret of school will help them understand that some of what we do may have changed from when they were students.


Edtech

Everything is Broken – in a harrowing post, Quinn Norton (@QuinnNorton) shares her insight into the level of trust we invest in the web and why this will always be fraught with risk.
There’s your choice: constantly risk clicking on dangerous malware, or live under an overpass, leaving notes on the lawn of your former house telling your children you love them and miss them.
Peering Deep into the Future of Educational Credentialing – Doug Belshaw (@dajbelshaw) explores the possibilities of combining open badges with blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin, to make credentialing more secure.

While we wouldn’t want to entirely remove the “human” element around credentialing, a hybrid OBI and blockchain approach could add value to our current system. Machines and software are extremely good at fact-checking, whereas humans are good at meaning. We need both.

My Name is danah and I’m a Stats Addict – danah boyd (@zephoria) reflects on the obsession that many of us have with all things statistics when online and how it often means so little.

Stats have this terrible way of turning you — or, at least, me — into a zombie. I know that they don’t say anything. I know that huge chunks of my Twitter followers are bots, that I could’ve bought my way to a higher Amazon ranking, that my Medium stats say nothing about the quality of my work, and that I should not treat any number out there as a mechanism for self-evaluation of my worth as a human being. And yet, when there are numbers beckoning, I am no better than a moth who sees a fire.

Appropriation vs. attribution. What’s ok in our digital world? – Deb (@debsnet) reflects on the challenges associated with sharing content in the digital age.

Ownership in the digital world is a slippery issue. In academia, the parameters are straightforward; if you are repeating or even building upon the ideas or words of someone else, you cite them. Period. Yet this same practice does not consistently apply in the blogosphere, Twitterverse, or classroom.

Please Stop Stealing Images – Chris Wejr (@ChrisWejr) continues his reflection on technology by addressing cthe question of sharing and copyright. An important read in regards to anyone who shares anything online.
I strongly believe that very few of us intentionally use images as if they are our own; however, as educators, we all need to do our best to model the appropriate use of images to our students.  If you want to share an image and are unsure of the reference, ask. Creative Commons is all about sharing; If you use or share images, use Creative Commons images on Flickr and provide the correct attribution.
Passion or Promotion – through a series of chalking provocations, Andrea Stringer (@stringer_andrea) explores the question as to whether Twitter is a space for sharing passions or merely promoting self-interest.

I so appreciate the humility and generosity of many educators who share their passion, successes, failures, blogs, lessons and reflections. I assume they do this because they want what is best for their students. Or should I say our students, as they share to make us more effective educators as Brad Currie so clearly stated on #satchat.

Anyone Want to Have a Real Conversation? – Dean Shareski (@shareski) shares why he feels alone on Twitter and more at home in closed off spaces, such as Voxer and Slack.

The challenge is to find a place to take that social capital and use it to challenge and provoke deeper, more interesting ideas. While I have more followers than ever on twitter, I feel more alone there than I ever have.

Why Schools Shouldn’t Ban Smartphones – Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) provides a thorough account as to why banning smartphones and technology is not the future and merely avoids the inevitable.

Technology is like water to a fish. It surrounds us, and we rarely notice it, but we use it all the time. Instead of keeping children away from the water, we should teach them to swim. Any alternative would be unthinkable.

A Bicycle for the Mind – Chris Betcher (@betchaboy) wonders about the place of iPads, and technology in general, in the classroom. An important post in regards to addressing why, rather than what that too often dictates conversation.

It’s about giving students agency and independence to take control of their own learning. And with that simple goal usually comes a whole lot of change. Sometimes quite painful change, but change that has to happen. Adding technology to a classroom without reimagining how that classroom works, and rethinking what your students can do because of that technology, is a waste of time and money.

Plus ça change: Why Mobile Learning is the New Impressionism – Amy Burvall (@amyburvall) provides a different take on the changes that have been brought about through mobile learning by comparing it with Impressionism.

The Impressionist Art Movement can teach us quite a lot about mobile and connected learning and hopefully put us at ease so we can reframe our thinking and offer the most enriched experience possible.

Keeping Alive the Ghost of Computer Rooms Past – Alan Thwaites (@athwaites) suggests that the real intent of BYOD is to stop worrying about what device students have, but rather what learning they are doing.
Students already have these devices along with the skills to work out how to use them. What they lack is the opportunity to explore, themselves, how they can best support their learning using their devices. We can give them that opportunity if we choose to do so.
Why Technology Alone Won’t Fix Schools – Kentaro Toyama (@kentarotoyama) addresses the myth that technology can fix schools. As he points out, it only amplifies pre-existing inequalities.
Technology’s primary effect is to amplify human forces, so in education, technologies amplify whatever pedagogical capacity is already there.
Blogging as an Essential Literacy in Contemporary Learning – Anthony Speranza (@anthsperanza) provides a great introduction to blogging in the classroom, providing examples of different purposes and contexts.
In a traditional sense, education in the past has been separated from learning communities across location, language and culture. With technology at our fingertips and at the disposal of our students, these obstacles are no longer present as barriers; blogging is a great way of expanding the immediate classroom community.
50 Ideas for Student Blogging and Writing Online – A fantastic collaborative blog kept by the team at Edublogs, in this post Ronnie Burt (@ronnieburt) provides an extensive list of ideas to support blogging. A priceless resource for staff and students alike.

As you think about writing assignments for your students, try to vary it up. Even better, give your students some choice in the type of posts they write. The end goal is an authentic and engaging learning opportunity for all.

Using Seesaw to Engage Kids and Parents Alike – Lee Hewes (@waginski) provides a story that is less step-by-step instruction, more possibility and potential. An interesting read regards the possibilities of technology in the Early Years.

Kids get very excited about sharing their work with their parents. With SeeSaw you can tell them what you are looking for and ask them to go off and demonstrate in order for them to take a photo or video to share with their parents. They typically scurry off excitedly to complete their work, returning to have a discussion about what they have done. This opens up an opportunity for you to either confirm that they are on the right track, or explain to them what needs to be fixed up for them to be able to share their correct understanding with their parents via the app.

Publishing Your Content Online and Syndicating It ElsewhereWilliam O’Byrne (@wiobyrne) outlines steps for not only claiming your online presence, but then syndicating it elsewhere on the web.

In the Indie Web Community, this is either known as the POSSE model or PESOS model. The POSSE model is preferred and indicates that you are publishing on your own site, and syndicating it elsewhere. An example of this is I publish it here on my self-hosted WordPress site, and then syndicate (or re-publish) it out to Medium and elsewhere.

Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015: Indie Ed-Tech – In her review of the edtech trends of 2015, Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) talks the indie web as a means of rethinking and reclaiming the open web.

To resist the compulsion for data, to resist the big business of ed-tech, we need more “indie,” more agitation, more care, and much more not-yetness. And this resistance is happening…
Blended Learning is Not the Next Edtech Revolution. – Phil McRae (@philmcrae) provides a thorough critique of blended learning, which in the end appealing for a more nuanced approach, rather than one dictated by corporations.
Blended learning is not a new term nor a revolutionary concept for classrooms in this second decade of the 21st century. However, the way it is being (re)interpreted could be hopeful or harmful depending on how it is implemented. It is an increasingly ambiguous and vague notion that is growing in popularity as many groups try to claim the space and establish the models, despite a lack of evidence and research. We should therefore be skeptical around the mythos of blended learning before endorsing or lauding it as the next great reform.
Digital Watering Holes – The team at Learn Enabling (@LearnEnabling) provided a discussion of student meeting places online suggesting that maybe we need to go to them as teachers, rather than be surprised when they don’t cone to is.
Learning is social…has been that way since the dawn of time.  Students gather informally and share informally and YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, etc…these are the watering holes where students gather.  Are these watering holes that teachers can use for teaching and learning?
NOT Voice – A significant figure in the Digital Leaders movement (@ozdlt), Nick Jackson (@largerama) explains why endlessly focusing on voice, rather than action, misses the point. A useful commentary for thinking about the place of students in and out of the classroom.
the language does matter because in some ways, student voice could be argued to have been tainted by weak, low-level empowerment of students and because we are now facing power shifts on a completely different level due to technology. Whether you agree or not, I will keep banging the action NOT voice drum.
(Digital) Identity in a World that No Longer Forgets – Alec Couros (@courosa) and Katia Hildebrandt (@kbhildebrandt) suggest that in a world where there is digital record for everything somewhere then we need to learn to consider intent, context, and circumstance when considering different artefacts that may be dredged up.
Perhaps, instead, we might accept that the Internet has changed our world in fundamental ways and recognize that our societal mindset around digital missteps must be adjusted in light of this new reality: perhaps, in a world where forgetting is no longer possible, we might instead work towards greater empathy and forgiveness, emphasizing the need for informed judgment rather than snap decisions.
Digital Portfolios and Self-Determined Learning – Robert Schuetz (@robert_schuetz) provides an introduction to different methods for creating digital portfolios, as well as some steps for going about them.
As we move rapidly from analog to digital forms of learning, it is becoming essential for us to create a cloud-based archive for our learning processes, and our favored pieces of work.

Learning and Teaching

Mistakes, Failures and Disasters with PBL – Cameron Paterson (@paterso) talks about the ‘failures’ he has had with Project-Based Learning and the changes that he has made along the way.

I tend to throw out what hasn’t worked and start again, so I no longer have the tasks that didn’t work so well. Learning (and teaching) is an iterative process. My key message is that I need to start doing a better job of documenting my own learning.
Friday Afternoon Poetry Fun – Bianca Hewes (@BiancaH80) reimagines the age old immersion into poetry by creating a series of short sharp stations which allow a mixture of play and creativity.

My first lesson ever with my new year 10 class was at the worst time possible – last period on Friday of the first week back at school. Our topic? Poetry (OK, the topic is consumerism, but the text form is poetry). I knew that I couldn’t stand up and talk at the kids, or even get them to do a writing task. Why? I’m the new teacher, they’re in year 10, you work it out. So, I went for a hands on hook lesson.

Festival of Gaming – Mel Cashen (@melcashen) provides a summary of her classes investigation into gaming. A fantastic example of inquiry in action from beginning to end incorporating technology in an authentic manner.

From setting the culture, modelling the inquiry and for one group, me even being a team member sharing ideas and contributing. Would they have pulled it off without me? No.  Would they have had as many people visit their website had it not been for me?  Would the group with the arcade game thought of the idea without me.  Probably not. But what I did do is show them how next time they can do it on their own.  I modelled to them how amazing curiosity, inquiry, determination and failure can be.

Words: the More We Learn, the More We Can Learn – Anne Del Conte (@annadelconte) provides a great example of change from the bottom up through her action research project into vocabulary. You can follow the project here and here.

I hope to improve the students’ literacy skills by systematically and explicitly teaching vocabulary using various strategies borrowed from Robert J. Marzano, Paul Dufficy and Joanne Rossbridge (PETAA Paper 196). My goal is to measure the effectiveness of these teaching practices by analysing student performance before, during and after this project. Hopefully with each round of lessons I can refine my teaching practices and improve student achievement in the learning of vocabulary and in particular, tier 2 vocabulary –  those words that are used to embellish and emphasise and can be used in a range of contexts with multiple meanings.

Google’s 20% Time and Genius Hour – Alex Quigley (@huntingenglish) provides a critique of Genius Hour as the solution for improving student engagement and outcomes.
We should not waste the precious time of our students by not guiding them within the best that is what is thought and known within our subject. Great learning requires interdependence – the independence conferred by Google 20% should be confined to the realm of our most experienced students.
Outcome Versus Process: Different Incarnations of Personalisation – In a useful guide for teachers, Yong Zhou (@yongzhouED) breaks down the different ways learning can be personalised.

Generally speaking, personalization can be put into two categories: process personalization and outcome personalization. Process personalization enables students to enjoy choice in the learning process, whereas outcome personalization allows students to define the end results of their learning. Process personalization is by far the most prominent version in education today because the current education paradigm has a predetermined outcome for all students. That is, no matter how one gets there, we want everyone to get to the same place: mastery of the knowledge and skills prescribed in the authoritative curriculum or standards.

Does Your Practice Align With Your Belief – Edna Sackson (@whatedsaid) shares her school’s act of of recording, observing and reflecting to support the alignment of belief and practice.
Viewing ourselves through the eyes of others and becoming aware of different perspectives has been both validating and enlightening. In the process of planning for and evaluating the visits and observing our school’s practice through a different lens, we have asked ourselves the same sorts of questions. Does our practice align with our beliefs about learning?

Storytelling and Reflection

+/- memorable (my ***x talk) – Encapsulating what Alan Levine (@cogdog) does so well – storytelling – this TEDx presentation touches on what is memorable in education and wonders what fills in the rest of the time.

Nearly all of my teachers I talked about have no idea these things were memorable… to me. That’s why I only have photos of two of them, who I got a chance to tell them much later. So if you are trying to be memorable, you are going about this wrong.

The Un-education of a Technologist: From EDUPUNK to ds106 – Jim Groom (@jimgroom) reminisces about his journey of un-education. An interesting read, if not simply for the superb storytelling, then for the rethinking of learning and (higher) education.

ds106 opened up questions about infrastructure, architecture, student agency, pedagogy, and much more all at once. It wasn’t just about technology, it was about how the technology affords new ways for us to collaborate, share, and learn with and from one another.

Mariposa – Jon Harper (@jonharper70bd) tells the fictional story of a girl and the challenges and choices that she makes through life up to the point of graduating. An empathetic piece that reminds us that students always have a backstory that we are never completely privy too.

This journey. This transformation, started one cold, dark morning nine years ago …

The Beauty of Dreams – Steve Brophy (@stevebrophy3) shares a personal story about what drives him each and every day to achieve his dreams.
The power of Kev’s journey was that he had believed in this dream since he was four and had worked his tail off since then to achieve his goal.  He faced rejection on numerous occasions but never let it deter him from believing in the beauty of his dream.

The Role of Personality in Education – Martin Weller calls out the elephant of personality in the room in regards to Massively Open Online Courses. An interesting read if not for the debate the follows in the comments.

As you’ll know, I’m a BIG FAN of Jim Groom, but it’s hard to say that DS106 isn’t a product of Jim’s online personality. Indeed it is all about that, which is exactly why it’s fun. Similarly, I think Dave Cormier’s Rhizo courses are truly innovative and beginning to explore what a networked take on education might look like. But I think Dave’s (loveable, cuddly) personality is a big factor in its success.

Actors Seriously? – Eric Jensen questions the age old metaphor of teacher as an actor. An interesting post regards reimagining the role of the teacher in the classroom.
Seeing yourself as an actor is putting yourself at the centre of the classroom. You’re saying “Watch me, kiddies. It’s all about me.”
Can We Talk About Change Without Hurting Feelings – Will Richardson (@willrich45) argues that we limit change by worrying about too much about feelings, rather than confronting what needs to be done.

As someone who finds the experience of traditional schooling to be increasingly out of step with the real world, and as someone who has come to believe that schools actually are “broken” in many ways, how do I write and speak about those viewpoints without being heard or read as hurtful or demeaning to educators in schools? Is that possible?

A Learning Revolution or a Learning Renaissance – In something of a thought experiment, Matt Esterman (@mesterman) compares the difference between a revolution and a renaissance in regards to educational change.
Calls for a learning revolution have been sounded for at least 10 years, in some cases a generation, in others such as John Dewey well over a century. This is a significant lack of progress in any sense of a revolutionary timeline. I call this a neverlution rather than a revolution.
An Alphabet of Inspiration – Inspired by Austin Kleon’s idea of a creative genealogy, Steve Mouldey (@geomouldey) wrote a list of people who inspire him. A great reminder that it takes a village.
One of the great points I got out of Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon was that of your creative genealogy. Who are the people that inspire you, whose ideas have added to your creativity; whose ideas can be seen remixed in the work that you do?
Caring About Sharing – Ian Guest (@IaninSheffield) wonders why some people are more willing than others to share ideas and resources.

Perhaps these teachers have found ways to overcome the organisational, cultural, legal and technological barriers (Charlesworth et al, 2007)? Or perhaps they recognise the value of participating in a community of sharing which delivers benefits.

Working Out a Schools Competitive Position Even When It’s Not Competing – Ewan McIntosh (@ewanmcintosh) suggests that every school has two value propositions which make it stand out and provides a long list of examples.
A value proposition, even if you are a state school, is a vital value to hone down, not just so that kids aren’t ripped out of your school but so that everyone, including the leaders, can be held to account when kinks in the system appear. If you state that excellence in education is your value proposition, then you’d better get that nailed, all the time, every time, or perceptions will change and take a long time to bring back.
The Good School – Dale Pearce (@dalepearce3) asks the question as to what makes a good school and wonders if this is really demonstrated through the statistics presented on the My Schools website or school ATAR results.
Parents make schooling choices based on a wide range of factors, including results, and we do them a disservice with much of our current representation of those results. We need a better understanding of what a ‘good school’ looks like.
Who is Your Schools Anthropologist – Jason Markey (@JasonMMarkey) asks who is documenting, in a non-judge mental way, what is happening on a day to day basis at your school?
What are the observations we should look for in our schools and what are the questions we should ask students and teachers about their experiences to think with an anthropological mindset?
Work Life Balance is a Myth – Paul Browning (@PaulDBrowning) reflects on life as a headmaster and some of the strategies he uses to find life balance.
Work-life balance for me is knowing the limits and making sure I listen to my body. It is about taking time each week to rest and switch off. I know I have to be disciplined to do this.

It would be nice to tie all these narratives together, but that is not always the way it is. So what about you, what are the posts that have made an impression on you this year? As always, feel free to share.


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Image created with Google Drawings
Image created with Google Drawings

One of the best things about a blog is the ability to add different types of content. I have written about creating images and visualisation. However, the next step in powering up is incorporating different content, such as video, audio and gifs.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Videos

There are so many different options when it comes to making video for a blog. Whether it be a telling a story with images using PhotoStory, creating an animated presentation with Powtoon, celebrating voice with Adobe Voice or simply using a camera to make a live recording.

When it comes to adding video content to a WordPress blog, the easiest way is to simply add it via the media library. The issue with this though is that whatever blogging platform you are using, there is always a limit to how much you can store. In addition, there are also limits associated with the size of single files. For example, the limit with Global2 is 50mb. The solution then is to store the videos somewhere else and embed them within the blog.

The most common platforms used in education are YouTube and Vimeo. The problem is that even with potential to have videos unlisted, there are still some that have issues with housing video within such public spaces due to privacy issues

One alternative is to store content within Google Drive and embed it. To do this you upload the video file in question then click to pop it out. Once it is open in a separate space, you click on the options tab where you will find the embed code. Other than having more control over the content, a benefit of using Google Drive is that you are able to apply restrictions as to who can and can’t view the content through the ‘share’ settings if that is a concern.

(Another option that I have not explored is FUSE. This may well be another solution. However, I have yet to properly explore this at this stage.)

Audio

Often we associate adding audio to a blog with creating an episodic podcast. However, the process does not always have to be that complicated. You can easily create a one off recording and add this to a post. This can be useful when it comes to musical creations or one off interviews. See for example Doug Belshaw’s interview with Bryan Mathers or Dean Shareski’s response to Bud Hunt.

In regards to producing audio, Alan Levine recommends a range of applications including:

  • Levelator to even out the volume.
  • Audacity to cut-up and remove unwanted parts.

It is also suggested that you use a proper microphone rather than the in-built microphone within a computer or tablet if recording, as this will improve the quality of the audio.

In relation to adding to a blog, you can embed using sites like Soundcloud and Audio Boo. However, the easiest option is often just adding an MP3 file to the media library and inserting this. You can use a plugin to add further feeds and functionality, but this is not always needed.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

GIFS

A GIF is a is a type of loop-able image that lasts for only a few seconds. It stands for graphic interchange format. Originally designed for icons, these silent images can be used for a wide range of purposes. For some they are used to tell stories, while for others to present a quick tutorial. You only have to look at platforms like Vine and Instagram to see the power and potential of GIFs (although technically speaking, neither of these platforms produce GIFs).

Some programs that you can use to create a GIF including:

  • GIFS a website which allows you to turn just about any YouTube clip into a 15 second GIF
  • Format Factory a program which provides the means to change the format of any video file into a GIF
  • Photoshop a program which allows you to both create and edit
  • Ezgif a website which allows you to easily create and edit GIFs online

There are more, it just depends on what device you are using and what you are trying to create. I have written more about GIFs here.


Overall, there are so many other different options for embedding content that helps to power up, for more details see the long list at Edublogs.


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creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/113562593@N07/13957080467
 

The Obligation to Write

In my last post I discussed moving from physical connections to those online. The third marker in my journey to becoming a more connected educator was to begin writing my blog ‘Read Write Respond‘.
 
A little bit like connecting with Twitter, I started writing a blog as a way of understanding by doing. I had explored some of the facets of blogging in relation to the Ultranet, writing reflections and sharing reviews through my own profile, but had never really been completely immersed in the medium.
 
My intention for the blog was to focus on responding. As I have discussed elsewhere, I feel that responding is often the forgotten element to reading and comprehension. During my Honours year at University, I read a lot about the interpretive nature of reading. One critic that stood out to me was J. Hillis Miller. A member of the Yale School of Deconstruction, the focus of his work was on the subjective act of reading.
 
One piece of writing that has always stayed with me was Miller’s column as MLA president for the college newsletter, found in his book, Theory Then and Now. He started by suggesting that the “real reading, when it occurs, is characterised primarily by joy, the joy of reading”. Associated with this, he discussed the joy associated with modelling the joyous reading in the classroom. However, it is what he said about writing that has stuck with me ever since.
 
Miller argued that we have an obligation to write. He suggested that reading and teaching are completed by writing, that it is a core element to our transaction with language. As he stated:
As we read we compose, without thinking about it, a kind of running commentary or marginal jotting that adds more words to the words on the page. There is always already writing as the accompaniment to reading.
To me, Miller’s writing refers to an action where we make meaning out of the text, where we gain a subjective mastery over what it is we are reading. This may not always be a physical act and often doesn’t even reach the page. The challenge as I see it is to follow through with these commentaries. That is why blogging is so powerful.
 

Why Blog?

I have had a go at addressing the question of why blog before, providing such reasons as critical engagement, lifelong learning and scratching an itch. Looking back upon things now though, I really just thought my blog would be a place to reflect and review texts, to follow up on some of the notes scribbled in the margin you could say. I had little intention of openly reflecting upon my practises in the classroom or discussing education in general. However, as I read different pieces, diverging from my usual diet of history and fiction, it quickly became so much more.
 
What I found is that once I started writing, my blog soon took on a life of its own. I soon discovered myself investigating various pedagogical practises, musing on different ideas and untangling various threads of thought. As I have discussed elsewhere in reference to Twitter, I feel that the bigger question isn’t what to blog about, rather it is why blog at all. Here I am reminded of the adage attributed to Marshall McLuhan that ‘We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.’ Once you decide to blog I think that your mindset changes, instead becoming a question of what not to blog about.
 
One of the interesting things that I have found about blogging is who is the audience. So often we discuss writing from the perspective of purpose and audience, yet so often blogging is approached from the perspective of the idea, responding to what needs to be written, rather than who might be reading it. Sometimes I think that this ignorance of the audience in my writing to the detriment of the reader. However, being the writer I guess I shale never know.
 
If there was to be any overarching purpose, I would like to think that the it is to simply continue the conversation. Keeping ideas to ourselves, we never really get the opportunity to refine our thoughts. By putting them out there, it not only allows for a deeper engagement into the ideas of others, but it also allows others to then elaborate themselves and provide their own perspective.
 
A prime example of this is engagement is my post ‘What Digital Revolution?‘ In it I pondered upon the supposed failure of the digital revolution. If you look through the comments there are a wide view of perspectives given, such as: +Simon Crook on Digital Education Revolution funding; +Alan Thwaites on the ever changing field of technology; +Bill Ferriter on doing old things with new tools; +Corey Aylen on the hidden place of technology in the classroom; and +Nick Jackson on the role of technology to empower students. These discussions, in the comments rather than the margins, are what is at the heart of blogging. It provides a platform for people to not only share, but also to engage in further conversation.

 

So what are you doing to continue the conversation?

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cc licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/113562593@N07/13558173444
In Episode 70 of RU Connected, +Lois Smethurst and +Jenny Ashby discussed the place of blogging in school. Both outlined how they had been setting up blogs in the classroom as a great way to collaborate, but also as a way to connect with the wider community, whether this be parents or other schools and students. What I found most interesting though was when the conversation turned from the student to the teacher. Jenny explained about how she had introduced Quadblogging to her staff. I had always heard of Quadblogging been used as a structured way to make links with other classes and other schools, however I had never heard of quadblogging been used as a means for teachers to connect and collaborate.
This all reminded me about an idea that I posed in a post last year, titled ‘Sharing the Load of Blogging.’ My thought was that in creating a collective school blog, it would ease the stress of time put on staff to maintain their own personal blogs. I envisaged this as a space where those involved within the community could celebrate all that was happening in school. Instead of leaving it up to staff member in the office to chase up people for items for the school newsletter each fortnight, maybe it would be more empowering if teachers actually published something when they had something to publish.
In response to my post, +Jason Markey shared with me a great post from +George Couros titled ‘The #Learn365 Project‘. In this post, Couros discussed how he had created a site to share all the great work that was happening in Parkland School Division. Modified from the #edu180atl initiative, Couros suggested that the basic premise was that, “every day during the school year, one person within our organization posts a blog on something they learned that day.” For many, Couros explained, the collaborative site was a great catalyst for exploring the potential of blogging and led to some teachers creating their personal blogs.
What I didn’t realise when I wrote my original post was that, in addition to Couros’ own, there were actually quite a few schools already running their own blogs, such as Leyton Learn 365 and tslg1440. However, what this got me wondering was whether there was place to share not only within the school community, but also beyond, a site set up for a wider district or even a state. Maybe such a thing does already exist and so again I am simply being naïve, but a part of me thinks that sharing within the school is only half the battle, we also need a means for sharing beyond the school, with those who may also be going through the same experiences, who may benefit from a different perspective.
In some respect, I am assuming that this is what +George Couros was on about with the #learn365 hashtag, where school communities are able to share in a global manner, however I wondered whether there was a place for a #VicPLN site. A place where teachers could cross post ideas and information that mattered to those in Victoria, Australia. If not a site, then maybe there was a place for something like a Flipboard which contained a great collection of celebrations all in one place. At the very least, wouldn’t it be great to have a collection of blogs created teachers all over Victoria celebrating successes, reflecting on failures and just sharing awesome ideas?
If you know of any such blogs, whether it be school based or even region wide, I would love to know. Also, if you are a Victorian teacher interested in adding to list of blogs, please add your blog to the form below:

Here is a link to the results.


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There seems to have been a few blogs bouncing around in my feeds of late. These include Deb Hicks‘ ‘Why Blog’, Tom Whitby’s ‘Why Blogs and Who Needs Them Anyway’ and Peter DeWitt’s ‘The Benefits of Blogging’. It kind of occurred to me that I hadn’t really ever stated, nor really thought about, why I have chosen to blog. I have therefore decided to have a go at providing some of my reasons:

  • Scratching an itch. Often while reading, there are things that stick out, that prop the ears, the spike the imagination, that remain like an itch. A blog is a way of  responding to these things, somehow alleviating the irritation.
  • Being connected. I love being connected, following various threads of thought, commenting, tweeting and reaching out to others, but sometimes a responding needs to be something more substantial. A blog is one avenue that allows this.
  • Critical engagement. I read on the wall in a coordinators office the other day the statement that ‘behaviour unchallenged was behaviour accepted’. I kind of feel that the same can be said about ideas. Online environments allow for encounters of all kinds, a part of this meeting of ideas is a need to critique. Not so that we may be ‘right’, rather that we may be wrong, in order to become better. As Seth Godin puts it in talking about ‘failing often’: “Fail often. Fail in a way that doesn’t kill you. This is the only way to learn what works and what doesn’t.”
  • Life long learning. What I love most about writing a blog is that it allows a space to follow through on different points of learning, a kind of thought experiment, a place to grow ideas, in order that I may develop further. At its heart, a blog allows for the cultivation of seeds of inquiry, exploring and discovering what they may produce.
  • Lead by example. J. Hillis Miller once posed the question: “How can we teach reading if we are not readers ourselves?” I think the same argument can be applied to tools for working in the 21st century. I do not think that ‘teachers’ have to be in control, but they do need to be the ‘lead learner’ as Joe Mazza would put it. To me, that means getting involved from the inside – testing, trialling, questioning, understanding – not just commenting from the outside, and especially not just when you are forced to.
Embedded image permalink
 

Here are some of the reasons why I choose to blog. Although I am sure there are more, it is at least a start. So what are the different reasons you blog?


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