Blogging: do I tell?

A blogging friend asked on his blog, recently, if his readers similarly employed by an educational institution tell their places of work that they have a blog. The poll results on his site are quite split for all choices between openness and secrecy.

I voted that I do tell my place of work that I blog, and that several of my work colleagues do check it out and let me know when I’ve written something useful – one even posts comments (or sends private email responses) on my personal blog, which is always unexpected but rather cool. I promote my blogging to them because I want them to have a go at blogging for themselves, and to see them try it out with their (eager) students – it helps that I am one of the coordinators of several Departmentally-run, professional, educational online projects, and am used to supporting teacher learning. I’m leading by example, I guess.

I don’t usually directly name the place of work here, but anyone with Google can join the dots easily. I do like to keep my posts positive and constructive on my professional learning blog, so if I’m ever critical about anything, I always emphasise the steps I’m taking to resolve the problem.

It’s hard to predict how many of our students will be using Web 2.0 tools in their privates lives over the next few years, and I think it’s important that teachers are savvy and prepared about “the next wave”, whatever it turns out to be.

Shelving decisions

Every year since 1999, the NSW DET team gathers the reviews of the annual Children’s Book Council of Australia shortlisted books onto a web page. It’s a topic I find quite nostalgic, since when I worked at Scan, as editor, it was part of my job to prepare the annotations and reviews for uploading, and to do all the cross referencing.

2008 isn’t up yet, but most of the nominated books have already been reviewed in past Scans. Resources are reviewed by experienced NSW teachers, teacher librarians and DET (Department of Education and Training) curriculum specialists to a clear set of criteria, and stage levels, perspectives and curriculum links are always recommended. The May issue of Scan (vol 27 no 2) arrived in schools just this week, and the latest annual annotated list of CBCA shortlisted books (directing readers to various past issues containing the reviews) is on pp 44-45.

I very rarely get the “Books for Older Readers”, such as this year’s Love like water by Meme McDonald, for the K-6 school library since the CBCA usually specifies “for mature readers” for this section when the shortlists are announced. Love like water was reviewed in Scan (vol 26 no 3) and it was recommended only for Stage 6 (Years 11 and 12).

Scan suggests Matt Ottley’s Requiem for a beast for Stage 5 and 6 (Years 9-12). I must admit I’m quite intrigued to see it; I love Matt’s past work, and this book features a music CD to accompany the strong images!

I have picked up the information book, Girl stuff (not getting a print review in Scan until vol 27 no 3), but I’ve housed it in our Reference section and will promote it to the Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6) students by way of their class teachers. Likewise, I placed the haunting picture book Dust in my Reference section, since I wasn’t sure that parents would appreciate young students taking it home.

From the Crichton Award new illustrators’ category, I made sure that Ock Von Fiend went into Fiction, not Easy Fiction. I recall several people questioning its inclusion in Australian Standing Orders last year and, again, it’s a beautiful picture book which needs to be placed with appropriate audiences.

Simultaneously split loyalties

Sometimes you just can’t be in several places at the same time! (Even when uploading posts; it should have still been 21st May when I posted this!)
For our very successful Simultaneous Reading of the picture book Arthur, the teachers had voted to do the readings in three sections and three locations, but I wasn’t able to stretch myself sufficiently to get to all three places. As agreed, Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 students and teachers (and lots of parents) gathered in the assembly hall with a big book version of Arthur, an official Arthur finger puppet, and a large, fluffy dog hand puppet, which had a striking resemblance to the title star. Stage 2 came to the library and had orgainsed selected students to reading passage. Stage 3 went to the old upstairs hall, and used an online version of the book, enlarged onto a big screen via the data projector. (That was the group I couldn’t get to, but the students seemed to enjoy their experience.)

Speaking of split loyalties, I had realised a few days ago that we had so much on today (the above-mentioned reading; our first Stage 3 sessions of a new book rap; the Greatest Morning Tea charity fundraiser; a mufti day for a belated Loud Shirt Day; and a canned drink collection to prepare for our upcoming, annual Pedlars’ Fair), I didn’t have the heart to abandon it all for the local district teacher-librarians’ professional development day. Drat. (I wonder if the T-Ls, too, ended up reading Arthur at 11 am?)

Every day is different; I wouldn’t have it any other way. And somehow I must find time with each class, over the next week, to squeeze in a great little wiki activity, to further follow-up Arthur. Although our school doesn’t have an interactive whiteboard (yet), I do find myself reconfiguring lessons so they’ll work well with the IWB (next time) when it does arrive.

Gold fever!

Gold nuggetIn Week 1 of this term, my Stage 3 students did a pre-test about bushrangers (they are studying “Gold” as an HSIE unit in class), writing down everything they thought we knew, or would like to find out, about bushrangers. We all realised they didn’t know very much. Yet.

Last week, the four classes had a brief look at a 2008 CBCA shortlisted information book, Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie letter (Black Dog, 2007) edited by Carole Wilkinson. Coincidentally, it was a book from our recent Book Fair! It will hopefully help us all to get to know the real Ned Kelly. The students were surprised that Ned Kelly felt he had rightful reasons to be a bushranger, and to be very angry with the police of the day.

This week, the students have been marking up an article with “PMIs” (“plus”, “minus” and “interesting”) to help them explore what they know about bushrangers and life on the historic goldfields of Australia. The chapter was “Law on the Goldfields” (pp 24-25) from Gold in Australia (Macmillan, 1996) by Bruce McClish.

Next week they will start entering data as blog entries at a new blog site, Gold quest started up yesterday by my teacher-librarian colleague, Jenny Scheffers, so we can share our information with the students at her school, through guided enquiry and WebQuests. It is sure to be a steep learning curve for both educators and students, but we are looking forward to it.  To be continued…

Return of the miniLegends

SupportI’ve recently altered my blogroll to reflect the changes to Al Upton’s blog that mark the beginning of the end to a virtual controversy.

Teacher Al Upton and his class, the Year 3 miniLegends 08, of Glenelg, South Australia, now have separate blog sites.

Al has documented all the changes, checks and balances that will enable his online collaborative projects to continue! The long list of supportive comments from his readers and fellow educators, plus student bloggers the world over, has been preserved for posterity and makes for very stimulating, positive reading.

I love that Al has emphasised being proactive rather than reactive throughout the whole frustrating experience. Congratulations on a positive outcome!

AGQTP NSW newsletter

Tomorrow afternoon, I’m off to demonstrate the new blog (and wiki) I set up for local schools in our interactive whiteboard professional support group. With perfect timing, a Departmental newsletter popped up today with three great articles about NSW schools incorporating IWBs into school programs.

Issue #1 (April) 2008 of the AGQTP NSW newsletter has its focus on Interactive whiteboards:

* “Working mathematically with interactive whiteboards” at Illawarra Grammar School, Figtree (p 2)

* “Not just all play” with Belmore South Public School and innovative ways to teach writing, especially narratives (p 3)

* “A catalyst for reflection and change” with St Canice’s Catholic Primary School in Katoomba (p 4).

The newsletter is a Quality Teacher Programme (QTP) project funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace relations. The issue mentioned above is also available online.

“Arthur” online

Era Publications have set up “Arthur online”.

You need to register at by filling in the form at the bottom of the web page. You will be able to login and preview the book from 14th May in preparation for the ALIA National Simultaneous Storytime event on 21st May. Great for large groups.

“Who’s that crossing over MY bridge?”

Impromptu roleplays can be so much fun. This week, I have read/performed the big book version of The three billy goats gruff to nine Stage 1 and Early Stage 1 classes, as part of their term’s work on fairy and folk tales.

The last class, a Kindergarten, have just left. Towards the end of our collaboratively planned lesson, the class teacher had to run an errand and, having already looked at the CBCA shortlisted books display, I decided to return to our fairy tale roleplay ideas – and suddenly we had twenty-two “trolls” hiding under tables/bridges, awaiting the arrival of some “troll food”.

While waiting to chant the now-familiar phrase, “Who’s that crossing over my bridge?”, the trolls chattered amongst themselves…

“Gee, trolls must get tired of waiting.”

“That’s why they’re so mean.”

“Hey, someone drew under this table!”

“Trolls are very naughty, you know.”

“Where is she? I’m worried.”

“Maybe a troll ate her while she was outside?”

About this time, two “trolls” elected to come out from under their bridge and be contented grass-eating goats. Scapegoats, perhaps?

And then: “Who’s that crossing over MY bridge?”

The look on the trolls’ teacher’s face was precious! Too bad she’d actually missed all the hilarious commentary that her absence had instigated.

Greedy for blogs!

In the last year at work/, we’ve formed at least three new professional learning groups that extend beyond our one school and take in other local schools with similar goals and projects. Inevitably, these networks mean even more after-school committee meetings, but the value of the results these groups can produce, means it’s usually well work the time invested.

On Friday, I found myself volunteering to create another blog for the teachers, teacher-librarians and consultants involved in two of the groups – this one a little more in-house in theme, purpose and audience/participants, so I won’t be promoting the URL far and wide at this point, although if it takes off it may well find a niche beyond its original brief. It’s only very early days yet.

Essentially, it’s a blog about our school (and other schools in our learning support group)’s quest to select, purchase and efficiently utilise interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in our school programs. I had suggested to the network that involving ourselves in some group projects would be a great way to support each other, proactively on several learning journeys with the IWBs. Me and my big mouth. (A new wiki activity just wasn’t enough!)

As my third blog (fourth if I count helping out with the Wilfrid rap blog last term), I was astounded how quickly I could go to Edublogs, throw together a few pieces of already-created information and have a slick-looking set of posts, attachments, links and models of previous examples in about an hour, with a few hours of after-work tinkering to get the presentation looking user-friendly.

It’s empowering!