Sunday, April 7, 2013

Online Collaborations and Conversations

New Zealand teachers can now easily join in chats with educators at a global or national level depending on their needs and enthusiasm for this kind of discussion. Blogging along with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and the VLN have all had a huge impact on learning and teaching everywhere. Quadblogging is one of a myriad of ways that teachers are able to connect and collaborate with other passionate teachers and learners. The outcome is an authentic audience for their classroom blog along with potentially very powerful and meaningful discussions.

David Mitchell, a teacher from the United Kingdom, founded QuadBlogging back in 2011. Within 8 weeks Claire’s class was one of 40 to get involved and she has participated in 4 out of 5 rounds. Since the official launch in September 2011, QuadBlogging has grown exponentially and is now being used across the globe in 40 countries. It turns out that after the UK and USA, New Zealand is the third most signed up nation!

The concept of Quad Blogging is very simple. Four teachers agree to have their students comment on each other's blogs by signing up to a google form along with other teachers from around the world. The form is embedded on David’s site ( ) . Each week, one of the four classrooms gets a turn as the spotlight class. The other three classes visit and leave comments. Over the course of a month, every student's work gets read and commented upon. Along the way, students learn about respectful online communication. They may decide to revise their thinking if a commenter shares a perspective they haven't considered. They also get to read writing, blog posts and descriptions of children’s learning from around the world.

Blogging has had a huge impact on writing in Claire’s classroom. Children are motivated to write because of their global audience and the authenticity that the blog provides. There has been a huge shift in motivation to write and actual achievement in writing.

However, it has not always been easy to engage families to comment regularly on the blog. They sincerely enjoy the “window” to their child’s learning that it provides but are not active contributors. Without an active audience and regular feedback, children in Claire’s class began to lose interest and the momentum in which they produced text.

Signing up to the Quad Blogging project gave the class blog a different focus. When the children in Claire’s classroom began to see hits on their cluster map from England, Canada, the USA and other places the reality of an audience hit home. No longer were they just writing for their teacher or sharing with their families. Suddenly they were getting feedback from peers of similar age from around the world about things such as spelling, ideas and how clear their text was. Children and teachers were asking for clarification. They wanted to know more about New Zealand, Dunedin and their school. The comments and conversations provided by the students showed Claire the widespread impact that this has had on their writing. By providing a real purpose for the students, the volume of their writing increased dramatically. Students had a real desire to complete tasks and to publish to the best of their ability. Texts included written, video and audio formats.

It turned out that this kind of feedback had an even greater impact on the children than their families being able to comment on learning experiences. They wanted to develop the content on the blog further so that it included video and audio files that allowed a real snapshot of learning in the Neinsteins’ classroom.

David continues to lead collaboration and via Twitter he shared his “Pass the Blog” concept. The truth is, this type of collaboration would be easy to set up within a school but in an essence: one blog passed to classrooms on a rostered basis. Claire and Room 9 found that this project lead to new collaborations including valuable comments and feedback. Another project, was a 24-hour phenomenon on Leap Day, 2012. The site received 12,000 posts, 5,000 comments, and 400,000 hits during its one-day-only publishing lifecycle.

Online communities and collaboration continue to be of huge value to Claire and the Room 9 Einsteins. They value the conversations and the global community that is rapidly evolving. Claire finds herself bumping into teachers on Twitter that she has met via Quad Blogging and other online projects. The ubiquity of online discussions is significant for Claire and she appreciates the discussions it presents her along with the professional dialogue.  

If teachers are looking for ways to develop an audience for their blogs, Claire strongly recommends that they sign up for a round of Quad Blogging. Benefits of such collaboration include motivating students to write more, produce writing of higher quality, gain new perspectives, and possibly even develop “global empathy”.  To maximize the experience teachers should communicate with each of the Quad teachers to best meet the needs of the children and to learn from each other. Skype or real time communication may not always be possible but to truly maximize this experience, teachers need to talk, share their class needs and direction and collaborate. It can be very powerful. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

I am Standing on the Shoulders of Giants!

I am officially standing on the shoulders of giants. (I love that metaphor as it aptly applies to my PLN - thanks Mark Osbourne!). 

This year I have the extreme privilege to be inducted into the CORE Education E-Fellowship. We had our first meeting today. 5 new Fellow, Michael and Josephine and small group access to inspiring educators. 

To finally be together as a collaborative learning group has been wonderful. Each of us has arrived with our own passions and interests that have magically woven us together and subsequently provided us with rich conversations. 

I feel like I have been working with this group for far more than just these two days. I can only imagine the dialogue we will be having by October. 

My two biggest “Take-Aways” as I think about my inquiry are:

  1. It begins with the children... What are their needs?
  2. Teaching IS Inquiry

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Five Things My Teacher Needs to Know About Me

If I was a student... Anne has passed on Allanah's challenge to reflect and add my thoughts to this meme, on what my teacher should know about me!

I am thinking this is quite a timely post as we head into the new school year. I always get excited about the new beginnings but I think, thanks to my PLN, I am more focussed than ever before on setting up a learning environment that is all about the learners rather than me...

So, if I was a student... (actually, if you are helping me with my current learning in any shape or form this year, please help me...)
  1. I need someone to expect more from me... Please see me as what I can be not what I am right now...
  2. Challenge me and inspire me. I need role models who can help me create a vision about all the possibilities.
  3. I need to feel valued. My discoveries are a small piece in our community's learning but they are significant to me and your discoveries can build on mine...  Imagine the power if we could take time to share our discoveries and ask "So What?"
  4. Sometimes I like to work all by myself but other times I LOVE to talk about my ideas.
  5. When I do talk about my ideas, I love it when someone challenges me with one very simple word...

In keeping with the meme I invite  @room162 @pam_thompson @krivett1 @kathryntrask @mrwoodnz - I would love to hear what you all think as you are my #2! :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Treasure Find

 Not a deep, reflective post by any means = sorry.... More a sign that I am ready to head into 2012 and get going :)

It's so hard to explain the magic when you find that perfect artifact...  In my pursuit to set up functional learning spaces and to refine those that worked so well last year, I discovered these desks at the local Salvation Army store.
This is one of our finds photographed in Anne's Classroom.

$15.00 a piece - I could not believe my luck...I was so thrilled with them I had to share them with Anne(@annekenn) and called her into town to "see what I had found"!

I am still exploring the potential of Daily 5 in my literacy programme but believe regardless that these "Stand and Write/ Squat on a barstool" tables are going to be a magic part of our classroom.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The "Aha" Moment... Eureka!

Starting this year has really been playing on my mind... I have had 20 new beginnings with classes. Some of them have been in a job share role, some have been on my own. All have been with children from year 4-8. It always amazes me how nervous I become at the start of every year.

I have never been able to pick up last year's planner and go with it and I think that's what keeps me in "the game" and truly loving what I do. Last year my personal inquiry was based around learning spaces and the "pit of learning". The Key Competencies and learning styles research I had undertaken helped me to develop with the children a dialogue about how we learn and "Managing Ourselves" while learning. I managed to present the pit of learning to the class by using the same key competency talk with the children and the metaphor of learning to ride a bike. The outcome of this inquiry was massive!

We developed learning spaces, no fixed seating, adjusted timetables and totally refined how we use our classroom time. The children were an active part in this journey and by term 4, the physical classroom changes were impacting on programme delivery in a positive way.

This year has had me more on edge than usual, though.I do not want to take a step backwards. I do not want to ask my caretaker for my 20 desks back. I do not want to start the year with fixed seating or a "front of the room"...

So my dilemma is how to begin a year with the culture I want to continue....

21 of the 30 children in my class will come from a culture of desks and personal spaces. 9 have worked with me before albeit only a term in one case. So, my aha moment happened tonight when I found the video below featuring Ewan McIntosh's and Tom Barrett's work with some Australian educators...
Design Thinking Brisbane from Danielle Carter on Vimeo.
So, Room 9 will not access the classroom before school on Day 1. Instead, we will meet in the atrium and explore our learning styles and ideas about how we learn... I am not sure yet what the questions will be but I will use these four aspects of thinking to help us begin our school year... *Immersion *Synthesis *Ideation *Prototyping Watch this space! :)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

It's All About Expectations...

Check out the video below... I am so going to do this at some stage on Day 1 with my class... Might video it... probably won't... The message is very clear though - Expectations... So what do I expect from the students I am working with? What will they expect from me? This video is a bit of fun but has got me thinking...

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pondering and Planning

I was quite taken by the final words in a recent post by Bridget McCrea about "6 Ingredients for the 21st Century Classroom". Most of Bridget's post refers to the physical environment. I am fairly confident that my class and I developed and built this well last year. The design and set up of the classroom most definitely complimented the programme and my personal philosophies. But my "aha" moment has come from these words... "As you design the room make sure you're delivering a suitable classroom teaching environment," said Vidic. "Then start laying the technology on top of that foundation." Hardly rocket science for any teacher but I suddenly see that the first concept for my class, this year is going to be about ownership. They are going to need to have some "buy in" to the classroom. (flickr image from Carlos Porto)