"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."

~Neale Donald Walsch~

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The art of blogging

This term, as in past terms I am one of those horrible teachers who forces their students to use technology. I
make my students create a Google account just so we can all play in Google's Technology Playground. I really think I must do that Google course and get qualified because a lot my time is spent showing others around. I usually don't have too much opposition and if a student really doesn't want to create an account then they just complete their weekly blog in a Word doc.  Anyway one of the assessment tasks this term is to blog each week. The students are given a rubric of questions for the term that they have to address each week. Some really dislike it. Others find it beneficial to help them process what they have learnt. It's no different to writing in a journal like the good old days. So is there a right and a wrong way to blog?

What is really interesting about Gen Y is that they are very confident using certain aspects of technology. They appear to bawk at something that might be a bit different but they take no time at all to pick it up and run with it. I guess for the purpose of the assessment task they are just reflecting their learning online but what I find interesting is the internal thought process about their learning that I don't always hear in the classroom.
Image by bigstockphotos.com
Often they are not bothering with punctuation and there can be large slabs of text. It seems that the usual grammar rules get thrown out the window when they type. I am not really so concerned with these things as part of the exercise because it is the information I want but I do find it interesting and insightful in their thoughts and musings that grammar doesn't seem to rate as an important part of the writing process. The internal dialogue is rich with information for me and helps me pick up on those things I hoped they had learnt and areas where they are struggling and also indicates to me if there were things in the lesson that I haven't explained clearly enough.  Students often struggle with what to write. It seems that the art of thinking and writing ; considering, analysing and synthesising new learning are lost on a generation who are used to regurgitating and memorising information for tests. However all is not lost and I find that as each week that passes there is more writing and thought provoking ideas that come through the more their blogs.

There are those who clearly have the gift of writing. I'm afraid I'm not one of the lucky ones. I wish I could eloquently piece my ideas together and weave my thoughts with beautiful images and analogies however I do my best. I don't necessarily think there is an art to blogging but more over a sense of being able to communicate with others in a different space and time in which I would normally communicate with someone face to face or over the phone.  I have found blogging has been key to my own professional development and have found it has forced me to think about what I do in my classroom and also how I engage with others in the education community.

There can be no art if there is no blogging. So blog away. Delve into your thoughts and reflections and share what's on your mind with others. It's a great way to connect with yourself and others who might share in your struggles and frustrations and it will also help you process what is working in your class or what's not.

I haven't had much time to share some of my favourite websites but I have been diving into Google a little more off late as I'm teaching a Google Apps class at the moment. I guess my two favourite Googly things at the moment are Google Keep and YouTube Creator Studio. Instead of my students doing an oral presentation they are creating a 3-5 min YouTube clip on their topic. Can't wait to see what they come up with. Have a play around in the Creator studio. I love how easy it is to access creative commons videos and audio.

Until next week,

Saturday, 2 August 2014

What do you do with a good idea?

Well it has been a few weeks since my last post and I didn't realise until today that I have sadly been neglecting my blog. The last few weeks have been a real blast and I am loving teaching Humanities and History again. My brain is all a buzz with all the wonderful lessons I've had lately and the same buzz I felt when learning about the past is still as exciting as ever.It has really fired me in the belly. By and large I am an ideas person. I generate new ideas every day. I'm constantly thinking and like to look at things outside the box and search for new and innovative ways to do things. So what happens to all these ideas you come up with?

Well this has been a great source of frustration for me over the years and I have learnt (sometimes the hard way through brutal honesty by others) that not all my ideas will come to fruition. I would say very few of my ideas in fact actually come to fruition. However in saying this it is not a bad thing. Often us frontal lobe extroverts are thought and action people. The two are linked. I like to come up with an idea and then like to make it happen however in reality I often neglect to think all the steps through and who it might affect. This in term makes a lot of work for myself or others. So if you are an ideas person how can you not get discouraged when things don't happen and if you live with or have students who are ideas people how can you help them see reality and make reasonable adjustments so as not to burst their bubble all the time?

Be encouraging

Visit this site for more ideas. 
From we are quite young age our parents tell is 'no'. Often it is to keep us safe or to instruct us in what is
social acceptable in a situation. No can be said in a variety of ways. "I don't think now is the right time for that." or "We'll look into that a bit later". I know these phrases because I use them on my children however I do find it much harder when these phrases are directed at me and my ideas at work. However I have a most excellent boss who totally understands my over zealous ideas and he always starts his no answer with an encouragement. "I think that's a great idea however we might have to revisit it in a few months." or "It's a great idea but I don't think we can manage it at the moment." It's good to feel that what you have to contribute is valuable but in reality it just isn't going to happen.

Be realistic

Ideas people often have a lot of energy. There are some people in work places that this really annoys. Particularly people who want to go away and think about things for a bit and get back to you. Yet again ideas people need a good dose of reality and patience from time to time to come around and see things in perceptive like others do. I have learnt over the years that not rushing into things is actually quite a good thing. However sometimes the thinkers also need to come to the party sooner rather than later. (The great thing about a blog is you get the last word.) :)

Take a chance

Image by Bigstockphotos.com
I right this paragraph on behalf of all my other fellow idea personality friends. Sometime we come up with good ideas. Give us a chance occasionally to give us the freedom to fly and you might be surprised. I have a very good friend of mine in business and we share the same personality type. Thankfully he has a job where he is paid to trouble shoot and come up with creative and innovative ideas however not all of his ideas come to fruition either. There is nothing wrong with ideas but there is a great need for perspective and time to allow others to support and come with you as part of change rather that you flying solo and forcing others to change. 

 Mark Twain writes, "Write what you know." I have found that writing my ideas down does help to 'get them out of my head' but also allows others to go and ponder these ideas and this creates an opportunity for richer discussion and sharing. Often the challenge for teachers is time management. Sometimes ideas people can take up much time and create more work however as students grow and become more independent learners there should be opportunities for students to experiment with their ideas and take manageable and realistic risks in their learning and ideas. 

"Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others." Plato

More pondering next week. Thanks for all your comments via social media about this blog. I do find it encouraging and find these exchanges richly rewarding.

Until next week,