Why I’m so excited about QuadBlogging

January 22, 2012 at 11:40 am | Posted in Blogging, Collaboration, Global Collaboration, Literacy | 3 Comments

QuadBlogging is a 4-week experience with 3 other classes around the world. During each of the four weeks, one class blog is designated for viewing and feedback. I used this video to introduce QuadBloging to my students,

First, the audience for the students’ work that is provided is motivating. We occasionally open our blog and read\view and comment on each other’s work. My students have always put a little more effort into something they are creating if they know it will appear on our blog, but it still remains an exchange within our classroom population. We are now writing and creating for other students in Singapore, Japan and Switzerland. Communicating effectively in writing to friends far away is of greater importance when you can’t clarify your thinking face to face. I believe this motivation will linger after our QuadBlogging exchange.

Second, reading the work of others with a purpose of offering constructive feedback later demands that the students read more thoroughly and thoughtfully. We were lucky to be the first class viewed because, from the beginning, students experienced how it felt to receive a great comment. In preparation, we viewed Linda Yollis’s video made by her students showing how to write a quality comment. We made a list on chart paper of things to keep in mind when writing comments and we now review this poster before beginning to write comments. During the second week my students were re-reading their comments to check for the basics of punctuation, spelling and clarity and I no longer have to ask, “Did you proofread?”

Third, making connections and participating with other students adds greater depth to the collaboration. My students read and enjoyed the feedback they received but they also responded to questions posed in the comments to them. I look forward to seeing this unfold through the four weeks and I wonder if friendships between students with common interests will evolve with the continued communication. I knew we were on to something when one student asked during the second week, “Can we check our comments to the kids in Japan to see if they had questions back to us?” Here are a few sample comments to and from my students:

“I have a dog to! HE is named George! He bites a lot! He likes to nibble on my ear!”

“I also like riding horses. I actually fell off a horse and it was scary.”

“When I saw your dot I thought how bright and colorful it is. Your dot makes me feel Cheerful! What colors would you use if you were to make another dot?”

“I liked your story because I have been to Italy but have not been to the Colosseum. It made me laugh when you said that the horses smell. I love to eat spaghetti too but I don’t like cheese.”

“I think your story is great I like the way you describe things in your story. I also like the noises leafs make on the trees. How big was the snake?”

Fourth, You do need to have a class blog to begin, but QuadBlogging is uncomplicated, lasts just 4 weeks and is highly effective. There is little planning and class time needed in relation to the quality and depth of learning for the students.

Fifth, collaboration with the participating teachers is invaluable. This collaboration began with my contact to the Technology Director from one school and I joined as the fourth teacher. In viewing the other class blogs and during our planning to develop this project, I am inspired and gaining new ideas. I have plans to participate in a second QuadBlogging experience beginning in late February with classes in Switzerland, Bangkok and Florida. This collaboration will also be an Action Research led by Silvia Tolisano, focused on increasing student learning and quality of reading/writing in our blogs and collaboration.

I am looking forward to continuing with QuadBlogging for many other reasons, some I have yet to discover. It is a broad and relevant learning opportunity for myself and my students that offers us a view of and voice in the world.


Fully Initiated and Back in Business

December 18, 2010 at 10:35 am | Posted in Blogging, Collaboration, Conference, Global Collaboration, Learning is Messy, Planning, Professional Development, Scratch, Tech Integration, Voicethread | 2 Comments

I’ve only blogged once in the last 6 months due to location and occupation changes. I spent 6 weeks on vacation doing virtually nothing online and then began my new position and life in Prague as a grade 3 teacher at the International School of Prague. I’m still pretty much still in the honeymoon Cultural Shock phase due to my fantastic students, wonderful apartment and new friends and, I am in Prague.

But I am tired. After 3 years as a tech integration specialist, it feels great to be a classroom teacher again with my tribe of willing learners. However, classroom teaching can be exhausting even if you’ve been in the same school for years and I haven’t had the time or mental capacity to write or read blogs, completely missed the K12 Online Conference and the Global Education Conference as well as many Classroom2.0 sessions (thankfully all 3 are archived). I haven’t been tweeting or following tweets. I haven’t seen much of Prague either since the weather became too cold for long walks. But that’s about to change as I’ve been through the first trimester, report cards, parent conferences, portfolio collection and assembly, I think I have a grasp of the curriculum and have 3 weeks of vacation stretching before me.

In addition to the regular curriculum, my students have posted two written pieces and a word cloud on their individual pages on our class website and they regularly extend learning and skill practice (in school and at home) using various webgames and subscription sites. They individually recorded in Garageband, an oral reading of an originally written piece for a Voicethread related to an author visit. Most exciting is our participation in “A Week in the Life”, a pilot elementary-level Flat Classroom Project.

A Week in the Life team adding information to the project wiki

So, after catching my breath I am looking forward to reading, writing and listening to online conference presentations! In the five months of school remaining I am looking forward to integrating into my classroom:

They will all seamlessly integrate with and enrich our units of inquiry on Sound and our Host County/City as well as maths, reading and writing. I’m also looking forward to again reading (even after vacation) professional texts and favorite blogs. Why do I care about sharing with and learning from others? Dean Shareski sums it up for me in his K12Online Keynote. It’s so nice to have reached a point where I again feel a sense of familiarity combined with excitement about the possibilities ahead!

Feeling the love for my PLN

April 24, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Posted in Blogging, Collaboration | 8 Comments

I woke up this morning feeling full of love for my digital circle of friends, the ones I actually communicate with and the ones I lurk around who don’t even know I exist. This is due in part to an interesting reaction I had to an occurrence this week. Last week I blogged about a great 2-days at work where we had the time and opportunity to communicate with colleagues as part of a PD experience. I shared this post with my administrator, who I consider one of my closest “kindred spirit” colleagues, and she copied and emailed it to other admins and curriculum team members at our school- just to share one view of our successful PD event. My gut reaction was slight panic causing me to reread my post. Did I write anything considered too radical? Might I offend anyone? (I do filter what I write even though I think no one I work with reads it.) Well, none of those who were emailed my comments in the post commented back to me- this can mean that it wasn’t read, it was offensive or not meaningful either way. What was interesting regarding the lack of conversation about me sharing my thoughts was the revelation that what I wrote in that post was reinforced- that we don’t have time or are in the habit of having meaningful professional conversations in schools.

I started following bloggers and podcasters many years ago and connected with some people via email who are now friends. I also learned a great deal that I could apply in my own classroom. I’ve been a taker on the internet since the mid-90s but I’ve only been blogging a little over 2 years. I’m still trying to figure out why I want to do it, finding my blog voice, sometimes neglecting it for months at a time. The main reason I started was a blog comment challenge (started by Kim Cofino, Sue Waters, Silvia Tolisano and Michele Martin)- I thought it was time I jump into the conversation. I started writing and reading and commenting. However, when I feel that disappointment from lack of response to my writing I realize it’s due in part to the amount of conversation I give when I read what others write and don’t comment. This is also why I keep writing and posting, I realize that just because I don’t get comments it doesn’t mean no one is reading (well, that is probably frequently true.) But disregarding all that, I mainly write to put my thoughts and ideas out there in an effort to connect and contribute because I gain so much from what others share.

So, as part of the 80% long tail of bloggers who write mainly for themselves, I will continue because I realize that we get what we give and sometimes we have to give a  lot before we strike a broader level of communication. Lastly, getting back to the beginning of this post, is it possible to find a means for opening and maintaining efforts at conversation in my actual professional environment? I will persevere in that regard, but if not, I always have my virtual colleagues and friends to collaborate with. I am also motivated to challenge myself to comment more again- to make that time and effort to communicate in that way as well.

I’m interested to know, if you are reading this, Why do you blog? or if you don’t why don’t you?

Inspiration from Clay Shirky and ISP students

April 10, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Posted in 21st Century, Blogging, Conference, Global Collaboration, Presentations, Professional Development, Project-based Learning, Shift | Leave a comment

Stay in the question(s): Reflections from the Apple Leadership Conference2010 (Part 2/6)

I re-read Clay Shirky’s book, Here Comes Everybody, when I saw he would be appearing at the conference. During his presentation he shared that when trying to create change and growth, try many small things and if they fail, they are small failures. Then go with  the ones that succeed, build on those and don’t sweat small failures. Don’t try to enact a big plan that may fail big. He cited Ewan McIntosh’s efforts in East Lothian, Scotland as shown on the community site, edubuzz.org. To me, Ewan McIntosh has always been right up there with Marco Torres.

Clay also met with the students who presented on Friday evening and discussed with them their learning and thoughts on school, the classroom and learning. He then sat on stage with them our last day and held a panel discussion that we could listen to and participate in. Clay was able to elicit valuable, sometimes funny, responses from the students (grades 5-12).

Student thoughts:

  • Doing small projects on one big topic stick in your mind better
  • Teachers can show us rather than tell us everything, Let us do things to learn.
  • Prefer when work is connected to real life, teachers facilitate, freedom to choose tool to express ourselves and show our learning
  • We like ISPrague because of the tools available to us, not just tech but the teachers as tools also.  One student said, “I feel taken seriously here.”
  • In a group project we usually have to use more than one app, everyone has their specialty and we help each other.
  • Math- it would be better if there were many ways to learn, some absorb it and others need to learn differently. Split us up by how we learn and choose to learn. Connect the learning to real life more.
  • Allow situations where students can learn from one another, share what they know and what they learned from the subject, rather than the teacher always teaching- sometimes it’s easier to learn from another student.
  • Sometimes your teacher tells you to try one way, and you don’t want to try it because it sounds too easy or obvious, then you try it and it works and you get annoyed because they were right.

Ahhh, summer work and summer vacation on the horizon

June 19, 2009 at 6:46 am | Posted in Blogging, Links, Professional Development, Scratch, SmartBoard | 1 Comment
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summerOk, so I haven’t posted in a long time. I have written notes and drafts for posts but have been so bogged down in the day-to-day whatever that I’ve felt zapped at the end of the day. As the sun rises, birds singing on the morning of the last day of classes on campus for students and staff, I’m looking forward to 2 weeks of summer work, 4 weeks of vacation, and then summer work in August. Not so much looking forward to the commute to school, but am looking forward to the time to reflect, plan and prep for next year to make it an even more successful and enjoyable year than this year.

I’m looking forward to:

At the risk of appearing a work-aholic, I do have plans for many hours with family, friends and the ocean. But one of my passions is my vocation and I look forward to slower-paced reflection and learning over the summer.

Time to breathe!

Who inspires you?

March 22, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Posted in Blogging, Conference, games, Games-based learning, Links, Podcasts, Presentations, Professional Development, Resources, Web2.0 | 4 Comments
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Blog WordleAfter Ewan McIntosh‘s keynote at the London ECIS IT conference I attended recently, I decided to attend all his workshops. His views on the use of technology make so much sense to me- we have these technological advancements in our world and why not harness their power to create better schools and communities? In my notes from one of his workshops I wrote a quote, “It’s not about technology, it’s about changing someone’s life a bit.” That really summed it up for me. It’s all about joining the conversation, contributing, engaging our students in meaningful learning experiences.

Here are a few inspiring examples from Ewan:

Most of what I’ve learned and applied regarding tech use in education are from these sources of inspiration:

Bit by Bit and Seedlings blog and podcasts:
After my first taste of digital audio recording and editing for publication, I found Bob Sprankle’s class blog and podcasts. I’ve been following Bob, Alice and Cheryl ever since.

Chris Chater– Elementary music teacher extraordinaire and very nice guy. We connected years ago and collaborate and have become friends over the years.

Kim Cofino, Siliva Tolisano and Julie Lindsay– Tech Educators who inspire me. I think they are super-human as they seem to have more hours in the day than the rest of us based on their capacity to share and organize collaborations.

Who inspires you?

Patience and Perseverance

September 25, 2008 at 6:03 pm | Posted in Blogging, Collaboration, Global Collaboration, Planning, Professional Development, Shift, Tech Integration, Voicethread | Leave a comment
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I’m writing to reflect on my school year beginning and hopefully send an encouraging message. I think I sometimes wear my frustration on my sleeve, so after a good day at school and some reflection on the last year, I’m celebrating my colleagues who are starting to take risks by upgrading their teaching methods by doing old and new things in new ways.

I spent some time last night creating a wiki page to manage the collaborations we have started this year in grades K, 1/ESL, 4, 5, and my after-school group (plus a promise from the first grade to start one later this fall.) I’m excited to have so many that I have to take time to create a management tool! This week I’ve worked with the 4th grade team and a 5th grade teacher to create blogs for their collaborations. Today I helped the Kinder class create self-portraits in Kid Pix for their Voice Thread.  One of our MS classes is participating in the Digiteen project.

The LS Art teacher and her assistant teacher are creating a VoiceThread for 5th graders to share their research reports on Spanish artists (1 group/Artist per VT.) Their planned partners have dropped out but when chatting with wonderful Alecia Berman-Dry in Maryland, she said her Spanish teacher would love to get involved! Next week I start my after-school group of Grade 3-5 students where we’ll write/photo/podcast in collaboration with a few groups.

I never would have reached this point without the online network of educators to collaborate with and all the blogs and podcasts I read and listen to in my Personal Learning Network that teach and inspire me. I’m looking forward to this year and continued growth and collaboration on and off campus!

Outside and Inside

May 12, 2008 at 5:38 am | Posted in Blogging, Collaboration, Links, Professional Development, Project-based Learning, Resources | 2 Comments
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I’ve been spending some time reading the Comment Challenge members blogs. The first one that snagged me was a post from The Journey by Carla on Project-Based learning. In it is a fantastic video about the Student Inspiration Center at San Fernando High School that started in a custodian’s closet. Students are collaborating, communicating and learning- some videos reaching around the world to inspire others on world issues.

Another blog that inspired me (and has in the past) is Kevin’s Meandering Mind in his post about sharing our thoughts in a variety of ways related to his Day in a Sentence “project.” I love listening, viewing video and Voice Thread-type sharing in addition to reading text- it’s differently engaging and adds elements that text alone can’t as easily. A mosaic of forms of expression!

Lastly, a blogger who is not part of the comment challenge, but I’ve read her on Twitter and elsewhere and decided to check out her blog. Maria Knee is a Kindergarten teacher in New Hampshire and her blog is as engaging as her classroom is. First of all, as an ex-pat from New England, it was wonderful to read and listen to the kids sharing about snowy days, maple syruping and eating mud and worms. Her blog is a wonderful visit to her classroom. It is also a potpourri of communication tech tools I plan to start trying out (link to inspiration from Kevin’s blog) in my own blog and with students.

May 3

May 3, 2008 at 5:00 pm | Posted in Blogging, Learning is Messy | Leave a comment
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Here are the questions for day one of the Comment Challenge with my responses:

How often do you comment on other blogs during a typical week? I started with podcasts and podcasting (the listen-talk web?) in my classroom and professional development. It’s either a slight case of ADHD or being an auditory learner, but I really love downloading and listening for enjoyment and personal and professional growth. I am a beginning blogger- I used them more as a classroom teacher with my class the last few years than to collaborate professionally. I also find it easier to make time for receiving (reading) than giving (posting comments.) Sooo, my answer is rarely- in the past.

Do you track your blog comments? How? What do you do with your tracking? No, see above.

Do you tend to comment at the same blogs or do you try to comment on at least one new blog per week? NA, see above.

Today’s challenge is to read and comment on a new blog, which I plan to do as soon as I publish this post.

Exploring- Day 2

May 2, 2008 at 9:42 pm | Posted in Blogging, Learning is Messy | 2 Comments

First, it was great getting comments on my blog as this is my first professional blog. I have one to keep friends and family current on my life abroad- but they aren’t bloggers and only comment by email.

I connected with Christy and then checked out her blog. I learned more about the position of an instructional designer and my eyes glazed over when reading about her use of Synergy- that’s down the road for me. Then I read a bit about mini-PC laptops and the future of laptops from Learning2.1. It’s so tempting to go spinning off in different directions when reading online and I need to remind myself to read, absorb what I can and save it for later.

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