Tag Archives: blogging

Why blogging is a selfish activity

This image compliments of Dean Shareski

One of the things that made me pause for thought during the PLP Kickoff yesterday, was when Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach told us to participate in the NING environment just for ourselves for the time being.

I was talking to someone recently and we were discussing how blogging and participating in Web 2.0 applications is such a joy for educators because it’s feeding us. Teaching can be exhausting. Teachers are giving non-stop but not always replenishing their own supplies. The best part about learning through connected networks, Twitter, NINGs,etc. is that you get so much out of what others put out there. It’s the interconnectivity (long word for connection, I think) that is so good for you. And so much choice, you don’t know where to start. If you don’t refuel, you eventually stop.

We need to be selfish, that is, to feed ourselves as well as our students. To take time to read, think, discuss and wait before giving out. That’s not as selfish as it sounds. Fact is, when we’re bursting with ideas from meaningful interaction with others, people around us can’t fail to see this. Modelling Web 2.0 functioning is like sending sparks out.

Can intelligent literature survive in the digital age?

The Independent featured an article with this poignant question – can intelligent literature survive in the digital age? As the article says, ‘Is the paper-and-ink book heading the way of the papyrus scroll?’ This is indeed a question worth devoting more than a couple of minutes to.

The crucial question is – whether all our online reading – the fragmented, stylistically-challenged emails and microblogging – has taken its toll on our attention span? Nicholas Carr of ‘Is Google making us stupid?’ fame has added to the debate by claiming that the internet is responsible for his downward spiral in longterm concentration: ‘Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.’

Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, claims he used to be a voracious reader, but has now stopped reading books altogether. Is the internet to blame? Other people quoted in this article admit that they are now unable to concentrate on more than a couple of paragraphs at a time, and that they skim read, rather than read and think deeply.

A recently published study of online research habits , conducted by scholars from University College London’ claims the following:

‘It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.’ Still, the article does maintain that we are reading more now than when television was the preferred (only?) medium. Personally, I find it difficult not to skip around when links abound and I’m torn between too many tantalising directions.

Carr supports this behaviour with the following observation:
‘When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net’s image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for instance, may announce its arrival as we’re glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper’s site. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.’

But is this fear of change typical of the fear each generation experiences?
‘In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.’ That may be so, but in today’s ‘information age’, it would be foolish to try to carry all the knowledge we read inside our heads, especially when access is so easy.

If the internet and Google are wired for quick knowledge-access, then surely, we realise that we don’t just read for knowledge. We read fiction, for example, as we regard art, to enter into a transformed, deeper(?) reality; to savour language and perceptions; to gain insight into the human condition; to gain moral, social and philosophical truths; to experience many things besides.
Are we losing/have we lost something in our move to 21st century literacies? Is it a matter of a lost language or genetic traces that will never be repaired? Even avid readers will necessarily read less traditional, hard-copy literature, if only because they are also keeping up with blogs, wikis and RSS feeds? Are we becoming ‘pancake people’, as the playwright, Richard Foreman, suggests?

Now, according to The Independent, many serious writers complain that challenging fiction doesn’t appeal – “difficult” novels don’t sell. To sell now, ‘books evidently need to be big on plot and incident, short on interior monologue.’ What are the consequences for teachers and librarians, trying to encourage young people to read? Are we trying to keep grandma alive? And besides, if we admit it, our own reading patterns are changing to some extent. And yet, websites that give exposure to books can only increase readership. Just think about all the literature you might be tempted to read after reading somebody’s passionate review or after searching Google Book Search.

If only you had the time or could get off the internet!

ePals – connecting globally

I was talking to one of our Indonesian teachers, and he asked about the possibility of connecting his class to one in Indonesia. At a recent SLAV PD, Camilla Elliott suggested ePals. It’s a secure place for teachers to connect their students to classrooms around the world, taking advantage of a cultural exchange far beyond the limits of the textbook. You can connect with classrooms either through the forum on the project index page or the search box on ePals’ home page. Through ‘classroom match’ I typed in ‘Indonesia’ and the age range of the students. There were many results such as this one:

I’m an English teacher at one of the middle school in Padang West Sumatra Indonesia. Our first language is Indonesia and Minangkabau but we learn English as our foreign language. My students are very interested in English and want to…

ePals is supported by project ideas and forums, eg. The way we are:

What makes me who I am? In this project, students will engage in a collaborative learning experience. Through email exchanges, students learn about the daily lives, cultures, climates and geography of children who live in other regions of the world.

The project structure includes essential questions, objectives and culminating activity. The 4-part project elements include pre-activity prior knowledge and context-building questions, an exchange of 4 emails with ePals, a presentation of information about ePals’ countries, and a reflection/assessment activity. Each of these steps is well supported for teachers with detailed suggestions, estimated time taken and links to resources. In the culminating activity, students create digital presentations about themselves and their ePals which reflect their newly found cultural knowledge.

There’s a project index
including topics such as The way we were; global warming; habitats; maps; natural disasters; water. Links to information are supported by National Geographic. The home page also includes featured teacher, video and forum, and top 10 ePals activities. There’s a running list of new classrooms that have joined, showing their flag for easy identification.

It’s a great way to use blogging for authentic communication and global connection, be involved in collaborative projects, use technology and build literacies. And it’s safe and protected by blocking spam, pornography and offensive language, and managed by teachers and administrators.

Web 2.5

Darren Kuropatwa remarked on the development of Web 2.0 learners over a period of 12 months.
‘Last year I left the conference hearing everyone saying things like:
I have to learn flickr
I have to learn wikis
I have to learn blogs
I have to learn [insert social media tool du jour]
This year the buzz was much more about pedagogy. The talk in the halls sounded like:

» I can use [this] to teach [that]
» I can see how much easier it would be for my students to understand if I used …
» My students are going to LOVE learning this way!’

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it takes time to get to the educational purpose of new Web 2.0 tools. First you play, and then you think about how you could use the tool to enhance teaching and learning. Or you find out how someone else is using it. Secondly, the first stage, that is,
playing with the new toys, is a necessary step. What’s the implication? You don’t play – you don’t get it. You don’t get the bug, you don’t get to the point. Another supposition: the people who went to the conference in the first place were probably the ones who were already open to new things. They turned up ready to hear about something new. The ones who didn’t go may be more difficult to convince. They might hear others raving about the pedagogical this and that of the new tools, but they have to actually play to get hooked in the first place, and only then perhaps start having lightbulb moments about educational potential.

Having joined Edna Groups a while ago, an unreasonably large number of them, I’ve recently participated (minimally) in Kerrie Smith’s ‘blogging corner’. I’m so grateful to Kerrie and others for taking the time to organise this group, allowing bloggers and bloggers-to-be to interact with each other and find out what they’re doing, and how they’re using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. And it’s good to share. I get a thrill out of seeing people get excited about new things, the same as I did.

Blogging corner, like other groups, give structure within a social context. Kerrie has posted starting points for discussion, eg. ‘what do you use to blog’, ‘where is your blog’, ‘recommended blogs’ blogging tools, forums, questions and answers, ‘blogs in the classroom’, ‘monitoring blogs’, etc.
Very useful for busy people is the weekly challenge which is not overwhelming, but gives you an opportunity to do something small, and connects you with new people all sharing, commenting, thanking and encouraging. Talk about community. I’m so grateful to Kerrie and others for making this possible (sounds like I’m collecting a Logie).

We’re all moving along, like the shrimp on the treadmill (hope that analogy offends nobody) of my very first post earlier this year, when I started the SLAV steps program. And as long as I’m moving ahead, I’m happy.

Web 2.5? Innovation within the paradigm.
I’ve brought the shrimp back for your enjoyment

Bravo Hawkesdale

isn't he cute

I realise that many people would have discovered ages ago what Hawkesdale College has been doing with blogging, but since I’ve only just looked through properly, I have to do my little rave because otherwise I’ll burst. It’s so fantastic!

The Hawkesdale K-12 blog : Techno7 (Our first year 7-12)
is about students and teachers blogging through the 7-12 school journey.
What’s on the blog?
• There’s a page for each subject, plus extras, eg. study skills, etc.
• Each student has a blog for each subject
• Each teacher has a blog following their Web 2.0 journey, posting stuff for students, or just ideas, findings, etc. Continue reading Bravo Hawkesdale

10 habits of bloggers that win

Blogger Warning

Originally uploaded by LuChOeDu

I thought I’d share with you some tips for a good blog which are posted on the Cool Cat Teacher blog: Ten habits of bloggers that win

Which of these do you think are most important?

By the way, I’d love to hear from all of you out there – do you find blogging addictive/frustrating/waste of time/superficial/informative/social/all of the above? I’m looking forward to hearing from you…

Brave new world

The title of Huxley’s Brave new world derives from Shakespeare’s The tempest.

I’m starting off esoteric to create an initial aura of mystique, but I suspect I’ll tire of this and drop the charade.

I’m using the ‘brave new world’ theme loosely – since I am not implying that our cohort is a hedonistic society, deriving pleasure from promiscuous sex and drug use (Huxley), nor that we are exploring the theme of art and illusion (Shakespeare) – but in the sense of blogging and Web 2.0 applications being new, and in the sense of me (us?) being brave by embarking on the journey.