Blogging Professional Development Pre-requisite: Must be willing to travel the world and back again in your jammies

November 24, 2008

In my last two posts I’ve written about how I very quickly established a personal learning network online (my community of communities) and how I’ve begun to track my favorite bloggers through my RSS aggregator. You can tell by one look at my blogroll on the right that I’m following some very authoritative voices in Web 2.0 and education as well as some fellow Teacher-librarian bloggers that I’ve connected with through various social networking sites.

I listened to almost the entire k-12online08 conference on my iPod on the bus coming to and from school each day over the last 3 weeks with interest and excitement. This truly is an exciting time to be an educator. I get hyped up by the possibilities and strategies employed by teacher librarian power-bloggers like Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk Blog and Joyce Valenza’s Never Ending Search Blog. At Doug Johnson’s suggestion in “Blogging and The School Library Media Specialist” I added myself in fascination to the the growing number of librarians worldwide on the Librarian Bloggers Worldwide site . I get hyped up by reading blogs like Will Richardson’s New MacArthur Study: Must Read for Educators .

Yet I also truly relate to the Comment to that blogpost by Shirley Smith:

Then there are the days when I can’t seem to convince anyone to pay attention–regardless of the latest research.
I would be interested in someone writing–or pointing to– a “vignette” that would describe what a typical day would look like in this new world/education order. Provide a glimpse that could help bridge the gap from fantasy to reality so the regular classroom teacher could see herself “there”.

Back here in my little corner of the world, and south-east corner of my school, how do I connect with those teachers across and down the hall and help re-define best practices for today’s high school learners? As Dennis Richard states in the k12online08 podcast- There’s Something Going on Here You Need to Know About . . . how does one ” break out of The Echo chamber to introduce their work and web 2.0 technology to a much wider diverse circle of educators “?

Another question that I’ve been pondering over the past couple of months is why I’ve never met visionary and experienced web 2.0 practitioner Darren Kuropatwa. He teaches in my school division and even in the same district! I used to teach two blocks away when I was working in one of his high school’s feeder elementary schools. I’ve visited his school on many occasions for Teacher librarian meetings or to get my flu shot. I’m following him on Twitter and have visited many of his blogs while at home in my jammies and with my dog at my feet, but have never seen his name outside the “web 2.0 echo chamber” (except for an article in the Manitoba Teacher Society newsletter last year).

I know from Darren’s “A Difference” blog that he has provided professional development opportunities for teachers in our shared district, division and province. I have a rare and unique opportunity to request a classroom visit and perhaps even capture that “vignette” that would describe what a typical day would look like in this new world/education order” that Shirley Smith commented on. That would be of true interest to my colleagues.

Yet that doesn’t entirely address the situation stated by Will Richardson in his New MacArthur Study:Must Read for Educators post that educators “have to be more willing to support this type of learning rather than prevent it, but as always, we have to understand it for ourselves as well.”

I find myself in a unique situation in my school division, especially as a Teacher-librarian. I was asked to chair the Senior Years Educational Technology Mentors Group this year. This group meets 5 times a year and has one or two representatives from each high school in the division, and my role along with 3 other steering committee members is to help set the agenda. At the suggestion of the mentor’s last session we’re going to be doing a Knowledge Management Session with ICT Mentors next month. That is, we’re going to use a wiki to create a list of who has experience and expertise in different ICT courses offered through the division. I’m going to ask participants to read and reflect upon Will Richardson’s blog post and the related comments to “The Less You Share The Less Power You Have.” The more exposure others have to how powerful the sharing nature of the read/write web can be – the better!

Will Richardson makes some very good suggestions for getting started with blogging with colleagues close to home in his book: Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. He suggests blogging for knowledge management and articulation for staff to communicate internally, archive minutes, collect links and relevant information, store documents and presentations for easy access later on. At the division level educators can share best practices, lesson plans and “learning objects” (pg. 25) . We have the beginnings of such a blog for the senior years educational technology mentors in my school division but as of today only two members have contributed, sigh. Hopefully that will change soon.

How else can I promote the read/reflect/write web in my little corner of the world? Now that I’ve gained a little knowledge and experience in blogging I’m going to watch for opportunities to share. For instance, students took pictures on our recent field trip to the Petroforms in the beautiful Whiteshell provincial park (my new header was taken in that park) and I posted some that don’t identify the participants on Flickr.com. My next contribution will be to create a RSS feed to our school blog. I think it’s a great way to increase student and teacher traffic to the blog and to see how other’s around the world will respond to the photos.

Some of the best professional development comes from in-school sharing and collaboration. That’s where I see myself teaching in the read/reflect/write web – to break out of the “echo chamber” that is web 2.0 and to bridge the chasm between what some may see as fantasy to reality.

Visit here for more on this next week!

Listen to this post courtesy of Talkr.com

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Introductory Blog

August 30, 2008

Blunder of all blunders! I am a highly experiemental user of technology and I just learned that each time I edit one of my posts, that it comes through as a new post on Bloglines. I apologize to any of you who may have already added this to your RSS feeds – this will be the last time I’ll edit live. Next time I’ll save my posts until they’re complete, then publish them to the blog.

As I embark on my journey to Explore Web 2.0 Tools for teaching and learning. I decided to use WordPress.com for 2 reasons:

1. I already have started an experimental, personal blog at http://mikisew.blogspot.com/ and I wanted to try a different blog hosting site.

2. My division computer consultant has created a weblog hosting site for division school blogs through WordPress.org and I learned how to manage and act as administrator for my school’s (Winnipeg Adult Education Centre) weblog last spring. It’s free and it’s easy to set up so that I approve or moderate student comments before they are published.

I’m also on Facebook, but until now I’ve kept a minimal presence there. I’ve changed my thinking about Internet Safety and Privacy after listening to Doug Johnson’s: Classrooms and Libraries for the Net Generation and PBS’ FRONTLINE: Growing Up Online. I have been keeping in touch with a few of the students from my very first grade 5 class in Grand Rapids, MB through Facebook. They’re all grown up now with families of their own.

I have 2 RSS feed services right now and I like them both for different reasons: I like the ‘Microsoft Feeds” that is built into my IE browser because it is a little easier to add new feeds, and I like Bloglines because it allows you to search/find a wide variety of blogs easily. I won’t list all the feeds I subscribe to because I subscribe to too many right now and haven’t been keeping up. I came across a good tidbit of advice while working through Joanne’s trailfire about making sure to delete a feed each time another is added. I will tell you that the last two feeds I added were Joanne’s trailfire on Web 2.0 Information and this blog. I’m looking forward to adding the rest of Joanne’s trailfires and my colleagues’ blogs.

While reading through Joanne’s “Getting Started and Setting The Stage” I acted on her suggestion to  “visit the official education website in your province . . . to familiarize yourself with new developments and initiatives” regarding the role of technology in re-structuring education. To my surprise I discovered  a new  “Learning with ICT Blog: Across the Curriculum” has been added to our Manitoba Education @ http://www.literacywithict.ca/?page_id=2 and that The Winnipeg School Division Blogs (including mine) are listed under “Exemplary Classroom Blogs”.  It was interesting to lookother Manitoban school weblogs and I quickly got a sense that the way I approached our school-wide blogsite is different than how a classroom teacher sets up a blog. I was a little puzzled that the highly acclaimed Pre-Cal 40S blog by Winnipeg teacher Darren Kuropatwa (http://pc40s.blogspot.com/) as described in Chapter 2 of Will Richardson’s book was not included on their list. I got a lot of ideas looking at educational blogs for adding links, widgets and extras, but have decided not to get ahead of myself here and to build this site slowly and thoughtfully.

One amusing thing I just discovered is that when I toggle the spellchecker on in WordPress it marks both ‘blog’ and ‘weblog’ as misspellings.

I’ve included my school’s weblog in the blogroll on the left sidebar. I’d like to comment on why I think the first category Post (Letters to the Editor) was much more successful than the “Residential School Apology” Post.

The English teacher and I introduced the ‘Letters to the Editor’ project to the class as a chance to comment on an issue important to them. We explained it would be published in the June school newsletter. Posting the letters on the blog and giving students the chance to respond to each other’s letter was an afterthought on my part (and a little risky too because I didn’t tell the class I was going to do this until after it was done). I needn’t have worried because the students seemed pleased that their letters were published in this extra format. Just to be sure the students knew what an acceptable response to the letters looked like, I took the time and responded to each letter myself. Then we had the students come into the library to use the computers and post responses to each others blogs as well. The students at Adult Ed. typically have not had a lot of success in school before, and it took them a long time to read, reflect and post responses. Most only had time to respond to one other letter, but some responded to two or three in the time allotted. I thought some may re-visit the blog site and respond to some on their own time, but that didn’t happen.

The ‘Residential School Apology’ Post was written by the Grade 12 Native Studies teacher. She had planned to have them respond during their last class in June, but when some students arrived with food to share, the class turned into a farewell party and I’m not even sure if the students were told about the blog. Subsequently and not surprisingly no one has responded to that post. I just left it there in case the teacher wants to do something with it this semester. I suggested to her that she leave a sample response, but she didn’t want to influence their responses with her biases, so I’m a little concerned that we may get some inappropriate responses if/when students do respond. I think they need at least a little guidance when blogging in an educational setting.

It gives me comfort to know that as moderator of the school weblog, I either accept, edit, delete or mark as spam all comments, so am prepared to edit if/when it is necessary. I’m not entirely sure how much spelling and grammar it is appropriate for me to change. From my experience with the ‘Letters to the Editor’ I know students appreciated it when I edited for spelling and grammar as long as I didn’t change the meaning or intent of their writing. Whenever possible I spoke with the student first before making changes, and whenever it wasn’t possible I spoke to them afterward. It is tricky though and I think it involves developing a certain level of comfort and trust with the students, so I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to edit the writing of students I haven’t worked with? On the other hand, I know there are teachers who will be upset to see student work published that is full of errors.

I just read “Using blogs in school” by Terry Freedman – an article in  “Coming of Age: An Introduction to the New Worldwide Web” available online. He writes that in his experience “the most hardline thought police come in the guise of teachers of English”. I truly appreciate his slant on this. He asserts that language is to facilitate communication, and in online communication spelling and grammer mistakes oddly enough enhance communication!