What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Photo courtesy of phillipsandwich on Flickr.

I don’t usually make New Year resolutions but I’m considering it. Resolutions pertaining to my role as an educator.

I’ve been spending a enormous amount of my personal time online – either reading, commenting, writing, on Flickr, Twitter, nings, my own 3 blogs, wikis (both maintaining my own and following others), a ridiculous number of groups, and trying to keep up with some of the obscenely long list of subscriptions in my Google Reader. This exercise has been the result of me jumping in, having a go, experimenting to feel for potential.

Next year is hopefully going to be different. I’d like to have more control so that I don’t feel as if I’m drowning, be more discerning and selective so that I’m not as tired or overwhelmed, and always ask ‘why am I doing this?’ and ‘is this adding value to the educational experience’.

Is this a realistic promise? I’m not sure at this point. Although I’ve really pulled back during these holidays, and I feel the benefits of this in terms of creating some headspace, I’ve also recently added Edublog winners’ urls to my rss feed. I’ve talked about not restarting a 365 photo challenge in 2010 but then joined the group EdTech 365/2010.

It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to require discipline and determination.

In terms of integrating technology into teaching and learning, I’m not going to try to change the way people think or behave. Did I really think I could change the way things operate in my school? If I did, then I was deluded. Do I think I can make a difference? You bet I do, otherwise there would be no point in me being there, or anyone else for that matter. But the difference will be in a very small way with one or two people. My resolution will be to stop spreading myself thin while my head is swivelling 360 degrees in case I miss something, and settle on less but with more depth and lots of evaluation.

I’ll make it clearer that I’m not advocating technology for its own sake, that it’s not necessarily always the best platform and, as Maria and I discovered when we taught year 7 English within a ning, it requires many more hours of teaching support and good plain discussion, and even some old-fashioned, hands-on activities, in order to make it meaningful and balanced. Our ning was never about technology, it was about connection and interaction.

On an emotional level – and I’m not sure how I’m going to do this, but it’s worth a try – I hope to take things less personally (that’ll be a first), care less about the details of things, take up fewer battles, respect difference of opinion, and understand that not everyone wants to put as much in, and that’s okay.

For anyone who reads this blog, I wish you a rich and balanced year, with new inspiration and connections with people. Since I started operating within Web 2.0 platforms for my personal and professional learning, by far the most enriching benefits have been the personal connections with people from whom I’ve learned much and with whom I”ve shared even more.

Photos courtesy of VIRGOSAMARA. Book title translates as ‘With my own eyes”.

threesixtyfivephotos – daily photo challenge

This year I decided to take up the challenge of posting at least one photo a day as part of a Flickr group challenge. I ended up creating the blog, threesixtyfivephotos, so that the daily photos and small amount of written description would have somewhere to live. Now that I’ve almost finished, I realise that this exercise has proved to be surprisingly more than I expected.

Here are some of the themes:

My stuff, what I love and why Day 29 Toys     Day 232 Stuff

My garden and its seasonal transformation, how it responds to extremes in temperature in the summer (fellow bloggers in North America have documented how their natural surroundings have responded to extremes in temperature in the winter – interesting for me since we don’t have snow) Day 31 Heat damage in the garden  Day 242 First blossom   Day 225 Winter garden  Day 269  Rain rain  Day 256 The whole blooming lot

Good friends Day 13 Getting together with friends

Odd things around the place Day 20 The burning giraffe

Favourite Routines Day 17 Victoria Market

Traditions   Day 6 Christmas eve  Day 358  Christmas eve   Day 109  Orthodox Easter

Family Dramas     Day 5 Sasha doesn’t get his year 12 results  Day234  19th birthday saga  Day 302 Fencing

My City of Melbourne   Day 178 Federation Square  Day 164 Royal Arcade  Day 339  City sights

Food preparation   Day 212 Guest Photographer makes tarts  Day 348  Christmas baking

School events   Day 210  School Gala

Overseas visitors   Day 206  PLP and bloggers’ dinner at Southbank

Milestones and triumphs     Day 197  16th birthday  Day 187  He has wheels  Day 238  Namesday  Day 264 Day of Triumph  Day 246  Still smiling about yesterday  Day 338  Last day of school

Holidays   Day 185  Heaven  Day 318 Back to Barwon Heads

Special occasions    Day 312  Anna and Pat’s wedding   Babies Day 172 Baby’s first communion  Engagement Day 297

Self-fulfilling prophesies   Day 265 Once upon a time and Day 266 Lalo Symphony Espagnole


Special things    Day 288 Russian carving

The photoblog has been a surprisingly rich journey without even trying to be. It’s like a time capsule of sorts. And best of all, it’s connected me in a personal way with people I would otherwise not communicate with.

This could work as an individual student or collaborative class project. Definitely. Just one photo and minimal written description a day.

Why don’t you try it?

What if you do it differently…

Photo courtesy of neloqua on Flickr.

Personally, I have much to be grateful for this year. One of the best things to happen is my younger son being accepted into Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School to specialise in music during his final 3 years of school. It gives me enormous pleasure to know that he will be following his passion for playing and composing music, and doing this in the company of equally passionate students and teachers.

The first newsletter arrived in the mail today, and I so loved reading the end-of-year reports by the principal, the heads of the music and dance departments. Even second-hand, I’m going to enjoy my involvement in this school as a parent. For example, in the principal’s commitment to the students is very inspiring:

If I have been a good role model, offered you good advice and created a good environment for you, that is a pleasing year’s work and one I am proud of. To my students, please have a well earned break, enjoy some family and social time. Read the letter I have written to each of you carefully when it arrives in your mailbox, think about it, but beyond some new year’s reflection, forget VCASS for a little. Well done everyone, I am, as always, proud of you!

I think you can guess where this kind of approach will lead. How will the students react when they feel appreciated, understood, supported and spoken to as individuals? I’m guessing they will want to do their best.

As I said in my last post, I’m reflecting and rethinking now that our long break has arrived. This can appear to be a lazy time, as we understandably try to relax and spend time with family and friends, but this is also potentially the most fertile time, when output diminishes and input increases. By input I mean reflecting and evaluating what we’re doing and what we want to do next year. You need space for that. And patience.

I hope to return to school with a renewed vigour and commitment to the students, and with a refined focus which has come from the distance from the everyday school routine which we all need more than we realise.

I’d like to finish this post with a quote from the same VCASS newsletter. This has been written by Steven McTaggart, Head of Contemporary Dance. Although it speaks to dancers, I think it has metaphorical significance for all of us.

It’s all about the movement not just the shapes you make.

Could you be more flexible, fluid, smooth, sustained, controlled, dynamic, exultant, extended, continuous or explosive?

How can we improve our actions?

What can we do from here?

Where does our body want to fall or move to next?

Could you do it slower, faster, backwards, upside down or in reverse?

What if you do it differently…

What if…

What if…

Time to stop blogging – for good

Henri Lachambre, aéronaute-constructeur breveté, ca. 1883 courtesy of trialsanderrors on Flickr.

The start of the long Summer holidays is something I have to grow into. Change of routine throws me out of wack, and I’m torn between the need to give in to the end-of-year exhaustion, frantically tackle household jobs which have been pressing down in a compulsive manner, or follow my online focus to see where it takes me.

Well, I’ve made a start on the last two of these options, although it takes a little while to move through dissipated interests and settle like dust on something satisfying.

Still, though I’ve squandered some time online, there’s been a significant pause in posting here, and I’ve been thinking my way through this, or trying to. Is it because I’m on holidays or is it simply that I have nothing to say?

That’s an interesting thought, and anybody who knows me well would laugh. I really do feel that, at the moment, I have nothing to say, and it could be a good thing. We all need a break, and if you look at my Diigo bookmarks from today, you’ll see (retrospectively) that my interests have refocussed from educational to predominantly gastronomical interests. Well,, not entirely. Actually, I’ve been saving odds and sods, for example, I’ve saved a chocolate praline tart, but I’ve also saved a bookcover archive blog, old Broadway theatre handbills, a fantastic blog which boasts a mean collection of animal illustrations, and then, even stranger things, like the frog museum. Amongst these bits and pieces, there are some educational gems, like Larry Ferlazzo’s “The Best of ‘The Best’ lists“, and a brilliant science blog called Science Blog, recommended by the fabulous Sean Nash (and I always take note of what he recommends, believe me).

One of my online discoveries this year, a jewel amongst art resources, Art 21,  is a PBS documentary series about contemporary visual artists in the United States, and for us not in the States, it’s still a rich resource for Art teaching. I recommend it, and if you join on Facebook, you get regular updates. It’s a rich resource of images and film for teachers and students of Art.

It’s through Art21 blog that I read ‘Nothing is new, but personal interpretation can often be so.
Alexander Girard, 1956′ and stumbled across the blog Nothing is new. Fascinating.

Apart from that, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on Flickr, indulging my passion for design and illustrations, and adding more and more contacts, people such as trialsanderrors whose sets include Early flight, with photographs of late 19th Century Paris from the Tissandier Collection, Finsbry’s set of Florence Upton’s vegetable people illustrations.

This diversion, the reason for my blogging absence, is the result of a release from the routine of school and school-related activities. It’s the direction I’ve taken with my newly found freedom. It’s pure pleasure; it feeds me.

I’ve also been struggling in the last days of my 365 day photo challenge blog, called (strangely enough) threesixtyfivephotos. Yes, the blog has been rewarding as a journal which records what would otherwise be lost to time, and in terms of connecting with others who read my blog and write theirs. But there comes a time when you just can’t find an interesting photo day after day. Time for a change. Will I continue? Maybe, in a different form. Maybe not.

I think holidays are a good opportunity to stop, have a break from the relentless reading and writing online, even miss good conferences, and not even have time to vote in all sections of the Edublogs Awards before the winners are announced. A time to think and evaluate what I’ve been doing, decide what worked and what didn’t, and why. Consider what I will do differently, goals, new challenges.

I haven’t stopped. I’m just processing…