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

Will Richardson recently reflected on his journey in regards to blogging. He spoke about the changes that have occurred over time and how these have impacted his writing. In another post, he discussed how his authorial voice has morphed from being a ‘tools guy’ to a focus on system change. What is interesting are the actual changes to his writing. Whereas in the halcyon days of blogging he would publish 50 odd posts a month, there came a time when things changed and he wrote less.  A part of this was the change in audience and environment. More recently, he has returned to daily writing as a habit to clarify his own thinking. The lesson that stands out through all of this is that there is no single way to blog.

It can be easy to view a blog as being a set of hierarchical processes. A product organised around a series of clearly defined steps, whether it be creating a space, writing a post, organising around categories and inserting content. This is how blogging is often often spoken about, something simply to be learnt, rather than why and for what purpose.

Another similar such approach is a focus on search engine optimization (SEO). This often leads to worrying about a desired structure of the content, as opposed to the content itself.

A more useful way of appreciating a blog is as a continual act of change and development. This is not a focus on improvements towards some impossible ideal, but rather something that is continually morphing and evolving. Adapting to both the content and intent. On the one hand, the platforms and practises change. Something that Martin Weller has touched upon. However, this development is also personal and more nuanced.

When I think about this blog, there have been many iterations over time. Initially, I started out with the intent to record some of my thoughts and reflections. As I became more connected online, I started engaging in different communities through my blog, such as #Rhizo14 or #CCourses. In addition to this, I began exploring ways to involve different voices, whether it be highlighting comments in a post or curating perspectives, as well as experimenting with modes of expression, including narrativesreviews and an openness to process. On the flipside, my use of different platforms has changed overtime as I have made more sense of the various niches. After beginning with Blogger, I have since moved my main website to WordPress via Reclaim, as well as explored various other platforms.

I was recently asked by someone online how they could get their blog up and running again, beyond simply posting more often. My initial ideas were to tell a story about what you are learning right now, make something new, be the connection that gives other’s a voice or return to why. However, what matters most is where you are at right now. For example, look at the personal blog of Bec Spink. In the past she has included posts exploring classroom habits, uses of Evernote and work associated with her Masters study. Bec Spink does not necessarily post that often on personal blog anymore, but she regularly posts on the Code the Future site. Although she could dual post, sometimes development involves new spaces and new projects. As our focuses change, so to does what we write and post.

In the end, I agree with Bill Ferriter that blogging is about “reflection and making contributions and learning through thinking.” However, what this actually means in action is dependant on context. Although lists of ideas can be useful in providing inspiration, it is always best to start with your own situation and go from there.


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Some Aus

The Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) recently sent out an email celebrating the end of term. In it they shared some ideas for some professional learning over the holidays, ranging from the most popular AITSL reports to suggestions for education videos. One of the things that stood out though was the list of ‘best blogs’ provided.

  1. Learning Deeply by Education Week
  2. Mindshift
  3. Edutopia blogs
  4. Teacher Toolkit
  5. Mr Kemp

Now I don’t wish to questions the quality of any of the blogs, but for an ‘Australian’ institute it was strange that of the five blogs included, none of them were actually Australian? This subsequently got me thinking about which blogs are missing from the list, which ‘local’ bloggers I would recommend dipping into over the holiday period:

  • What Ed Said – Along with Kath Murdoch’s Just Wondering, I love delving into Edna Sackson’s own inquiry into inquiry. Always open, always sharing, I feel I come away from each post with a different perspective of my own practises.
  • My Mind’s Museum – A little bit practical, a little bit personal, the one thing that is guaranteed in reading Matt Esterman’s blog is that I always leave thinking a little bit more deeply about things. Along with Cameron Paterson’s It’s About Learning, Esterman’s blog provides a great mixture of practical examples and personal musings, covering everything from educational spaces to digital identity to what constitutes history.
  • About Teaching – I think that the title sums it up best, Corinne Campbell’s blog reflects on everything relating to teaching from managing stress to engaging learners through project based learning. What I like is that she not only offers a honest and personal insight into things, but she also tackles topics that others often overlook.
  • Dan Haesler – This is another one of those blogs that is hard to categorise. It is a little bit about wellbeing, a little bit about engagement, a little bit about leadership, but a lot bit about improving education across the board. Haesler provides commentary on all things, from class sizes to interviewing prospective staff to gifted and talented programs.
  • On an e-Journey with Generation Y – Every time I start making excuses about why I can’t do something, I remind myself of Anne Mirtchen. She seems to manage so much with her students that goes far beyond the traditional classroom.
  • ReconfigurED – Along with Ross Halliday’s Making Learning Fizz, Anthony Speranza touches on all things learning to drive innovation in education. Whether it be introducing Genius Hour or implementing Chromebooks, Speranza’s continual push to disrupt the traditional learning space is always both interesting and inspiring.
  • Miss Spink on Tech – From using Twitter to connect beyond the classroom to publishing student work through iTunes, Spink is always writing something about how technology can make learning more meaningful. In addition to this, if there is anything to know about Evernote, she has spoken about it.
  • Transformative Learning – The strength of Steve Brophy’s blog is that it is usually purposeful and practical. Like Corrie Barclay’s Learn + Lead + Inspire, Brophy provides endless reflections on the way in which technology can and is already improving learning.
  • Bianca Hewes – I initially came upon Hewes’ blog looking for more information and ideas associated with Project Based Learning, but what I found was so much more. Whether it be the highs or lows, Hewes is always honest about all things life’s learning journey.
  • Betchablog – It would be easy to label Chris Betcher’s blog as ‘just another tech’ blog, but to do so really misses the strength of it. Betcher not only writes about all things technological, like Hewes, he does it in such an open manner that it forces you to confront many challenges that we more often than not choose to ignore.

It seems wrong to have only included ten as there are so many other great blogs out there. There are some who I love to read – such as Richard Olsen, Jason BortonRichard Lambert and Mel Cashen – who just do not write often enough for my own liking. While there are some that I feel bad about missing, such as those by Eric Jensen and Dale Pearce. All in all, there are just so many great blogs out there jam packed with great ideas and resources. This is exemplified by Corrine Campbell’s fantastic list of Australian blogs that she has started curating: http://list.ly/list/WsG-australian-education-blogs-worth-reading.

At the end of the day though, it is not the ‘ideas’ the necessarily keep me coming back, although they are important, but the connections that I feel that I have engaging in an online environment. So what are the connections that you have formed, those blogs that you go back to continuously? I would love to you.


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creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/14382546023
I had the privilege the other day to hear +Will Richardson speak as the keynote for the first day of the TL21C Program. His mantra for his presentation was to leave teacherse feeling confused and uncomfortable, yet inspired. He basically spoke about the divide that is growing between learning at home and in schools. Often if we want to teach something in school today, we structure it in a way that fits our needs and structures. That is our timetables, our assessment structures, there is little room to simply fly ahead. Whereas outside of this environment, if someone wants to learn something they just immerse themselves in it, find out what they need and go ahead and learn it. Modern learning is not about being aware of everything, but about being aware of the options. The message that Richardson came back to again and again was that we need to make what we currently do different, not better. Things need to change.
 
I had heard this message before, whether it be via Sir Ken Robinson’s many TED Talk videos or the work of Seth Godin, especially his video on education reform from 2013 WISE Summit. While I agree that the system is flawed, I am always concerned about the appeal to revolution. For ideals are not always ideal and they are often far from practical.
 
I recently wrote a post titled ‘What Digital Revolution?‘ in which I explored some of the criticisms and promises often associated with the introduction of technology into schools. In response to this, +Bill Ferriter wrote a great comment and subsequent post in which he asked the question: do you really need to do new things in new ways? Basically, Ferriter’s argument is that technology should not automatically more to transform teaching. This, he suggests, implies that everything that we do and have done is flawed. However, according to Ferriter, this argument is somewhat flawed. Instead, technology makes interacting with the higher order thinking skills that so often define successful people easier for everyone and it is these skills that are in a higher demand in the 21st century.
 
+Corrie Barclay also recently continued with this theme in his post ‘Time Changes Everything … Or Does It?‘ In it Barclay explores the changes in education over the last fifteen years and comes out with the feeling that there has been very little change. Although education itself has become busier, leaving little time for those inadvertent and incidental activities such as kicking the football or chewing the fat, little has really changed in regards to the art of teaching and instruction.
 
Although I agree in some respect that little has changed in regards to quality teaching and instruction, I would argue that where change has occurred over the last few years is in the act of learning. Whereas in the past you were often restricted to those resources available to you, with access to the internet you are now able to find out anything (to a degree) in seconds. As Richardson stated in his presentation, learning is no longer about the scarcity of knowledge, but instead about dealing with the abundance of information. This is a point that +Bec Spink‘s made in her essay ‘Teachers – Modern Knowledge Workers for the 21st Century‘. Borrowing from the work of Michael Wesch, she stated that in the 21st century we need to “develop strategies for engaging with, working with and constructing new knowledge”.
 
The reality then is that we do need to do things different as Richardson suggests. However, the difference is redefining the teacher as a facilitator and learner in the classroom. It is what constitutes learning that is the greatest challenge and it is here that we need to start.
 
How have your practises as a learner changed with technology? How does learning with and through others influence you? Please share, would love to know.

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