What’s it all about?

If I paste the URL of my blog into Wordle, I get the cloud below. Predictably the key words are learning, thinking, inquiry, creativity and community – I write about what matters to me.

What Ed Said

I’m curious what the key words might be in some of my favourite (and less favourite) blogs and spend a bit of time investigating some well-known ones. The results are interesting and I confess to being a little surprised that learning doesn’t feature more in educators’ blogs.

Here’s a sample… (Guess which one is a class blog!)

Blog1 Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 6.12.35 PM

Class Blog Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 6.14.28 PMBlog2

Edublog Awards 2011… or not.

Just a little over two years ago, I wrote my first blog post. I never expected to have readers at all, let alone readers all over the world, many of whom would, over time, become my friends. A year later, I was thrilled to be nominated for the Edublog Awards and proudly displayed the nomination badges in the sidebar of my blog. I didn’t care about winning, it was enough to have an acknowledgement that people out there valued what I had to say. I nominated some of my favourite blogs, knowing that as soon I hit the publish button, I would think of others I could have or should have included.

Another year later, a self-confessed addict to both reading and writing blogs, I wouldn’t know which to choose if I had to nominate favourites. Instead, I have some thoughts to share…

  • Sometimes I have so many unread posts in my reader I just mark them as ‘read’ and start all over again.
  • Sometimes I have so many tabs open with posts which I am still enjoying that my browser crashes.
  • Sometimes I clean out my reader and reduce my subscriptions, in the hope I will be able to keep up with fewer blogs.
  • At other times I keep adding new blogs till my reader is unmanageable and I would need a week off work to catch up.
  • There are some blogs I like because they echo my sentiments and every post resonates for me.
  • There are others that I like because they challenge me; they make me question and think, rethink and justify my thinking.
  • I have learned an amazing amount and grown as an educator (even after 30 years!) from reading other educators’ blogs.
  • I believe that teachers who aren’t reading education blogs and furthering their learning by engaging in social media are being left behind.
  • I often read posts that inspire me to comment, but I can’t quite find the words to add something new to the conversation.
  • I constantly email blog posts I discover to colleagues at my school because they are inspiring or challenging or interesting or all three.
  • It sometimes bothers me that my most read posts are those in my ’10 ways series’ while other posts I regard as more valuable are read less.
  • Most of the time my blog is a space to write my reflections and process my learning, as much for myself as anyone else.
  • I always, always appreciate comments on my posts, even when I don’t respond individually.

I do have two favourite blogs I’d like to mention, for different reasons, even though I have personal investment in both.

One is Inquire Within, a blog about inquiry learning in all its forms, which now has contributors from 14 different countries, across six continents. It’s great that many of the contributors are PYP teachers as I am, but even better that many are not as they provide different perspectives. I like the fact that anyone can contribute and that every post is a surprise because of the variety of voices. I love the commonality and the diversity.

The other one is a class blog. Every class at my school now has a blog, and each one is at a different stage. My favourite is the 6D blog and only partly because I have taught that class and have an attachment to both the children and their class teacher! The blog is an extension of the classroom learning, a home for visible thinking and an opportunity for promoting authentic inquiry. I love that it’s messy and creative, as learning should be.

Here’s what the two blogs have in common: inquiry, learning, authenticity, multiple voices, diversity, big ideas … and they each represent a community of learners.

A collaborative blog for inquirers…

A variation of this post appeared a few days ago at Inquire Within and several inquirers have already responded.

The Inquire Within blog began almost a year ago, as a result of an interaction between me, a PYP teacher in Melbourne Australia and Tyler, a high school Science teacher in Washington, USA. Despite our different backgrounds, we share a passion for teaching and learning and a belief in the power of inquiry. We wanted the blog to be read by educators who share our beliefs and others who we could help to convert.

At first there was interest and growth, but then it began to slow down, as the contributors were busy with other blogs, with teaching and learning, with their families and with their lives.

The time has come to revive Inquire Within.

I work at a PYP school, where collaborative teams are constantly planning and refining units of inquiry.  We spend hours thinking and talking about ways to deepen inquiry. The more we hand over ownership of the learning to the learners, the more we need to be inquirers ourselves. We think and question and wonder, experiment and explore possibilities and we are constantly learning how to do it better.

Why not learn from and with other educators on the same journey?

There are hundreds of teachers, learners and inquirers who would like to read about and share examples of great inquiry in the classroom. Are you one of them?

There are hundreds of brilliant examples of student centred learning, cultures of thinking and authentic inquiry appearing on teacher and class blogs every day. Is yours one of them?

There are hundreds of teachers doing exciting things with their learning communities every day, who do not blog. Do you know one of them?

There are hundreds of students, excited about owning their learning, reflecting on their own inquiries and discoveries every day. Is one of them in your class?

I would like to see Inquire Within grow into a truly collaborative blog with contributions from inquiry teachers and learners world-wide.  A blog for sharing our beliefs about inquiry, for exploring how to to promote genuine inquiry and, above all, a blog that showcases examples of inquiry learning around the world.

Let me know if you’d like to collaborate!

  • Browse the old posts at Inquire Within and see what you think.
  • You don’t have to be an expert!
  • You can cross post existing posts and link to your own blog.
  • You can be an occasional contributor, even if you are not usually a blogger.
  • You can contribute as frequently or infrequently as you like.
  • You can join the conversation by commenting too.


10 ways to motivate students to blog…

Collaborative post with Mitch Squires, a primary school teacher in Sydney. Cross-posted at his blog. I wrote some, he wrote some, we both wrote some. We had fun… kids could do this too!

From Ed: I love to blog. I’m an addict.

I like to blog about things that matter to me, things I’m thinking about and things I learn. I respond to things I’ve read. I share things that I discover. I reflect.

I’d find it difficult to blog if someone told me what I had to write about. I’d hate to have deadlines by which my posts were due. If I was expected to blog about things that didn’t interest me, I’d never produce another post. I don’t think I’d like someone correcting my writing. I wouldn’t like writing on the same topic everyone else was writing about today!

Why should younger, possibly smaller people feel any differently?

From Mitch: I was only ever an occasional blogger until this year, writing in fits and starts, however starting a class blog opened up a whole new world . Students loved having their work on show to a global audience, able to provide genuine feedback. Parents loved the ‘window into our classroom’. I loved the excitement I saw in the students, the motivation it sparked in them. After the initial buzz wore off, however, I had to find ways to keep the students interested…

10 ways to motivate students to blog…

1. Hook them in.

Post a powerful provocation to get them thinking. Get them to respond as a comment. Use photos, artwork, video clips. Suggest a thinking routine to scaffold responses. eg ‘Connect, Extend, Challenge‘ or ‘See, Think,Wonder’. Ask powerful, engaging questions about big ideas and accept all kinds of responses. Sam Sherratt’s class blog is a great example.

2. Freedom of choice.

Allow choice. Encourage students to write about what matters to them. Don’t expect everyone to write about the same thing at the same time in a uniform way. Encourage creativity rather than compliance. (I love this point. I struggled initally with the idea of set tasks vs student choice. While it sometimes bothers me that some of my students won’t post great classwork because it doesn’t fit with their own view of their blog, if I look at the bigger picture, it makes their blogs more authentic and relevant to them. (Mitch)

3. Don’t over correct.

Ed: Actually the jury’s out on this one. Some say blog posts should be final draft pieces, with spelling and grammar correct. I tend to disagree. I’d allow students to express their opinions, grow their thinking, be creative… but I may be wrong! Mitch: My general rule on this one is if the work is an assigned class task, I expect students to have thoroughly checked the accuracy of their spelling and grammar. If it is a personal interest piece written in their own time (most of what makes up their blogs) then I am happy as long as it all makes reasonable sense.

4. Help provide an authentic audience.

Share student blogs with other teachers at your school. Invite parents and grandparents to comment. A comment from a grandmother interstate, a cousin overseas or a teacher from a school on another continent is a powerful motivator for students. Tell your online PLN about them. Add a Clustrmaps widget showing global visitors.

5. Model good writing.

Blogging is writing. Share your own blog with your students. Write posts that model the sort of writing you’d like them to produce. John Spencer writes beautifully. So do his students at Social Voice!

6. Encourage different modes of expression.

Blogging isn’t only writing. Encourage creativity. Students might create videos, images or cartoons and post them. Great examples here from David Mitchell’s class blog.

7. Make global connections.

Students love to hear what their peers think. Help them connect with both an in-school and an online PLN. Collaborate with classes in other countries. Read about Australian Kath McGeady’s collaboration with a class in the US. Their Uganda project is inspiring! And have you seen the Alice Project, where ‘Three 10th-grade Honors English classes tumble down the rabbit hole to discover Alice’s journey first-hand’?

8.  Encourage students to support each other.

Who doesn’t get a kick out of working together to solve a problem? Students love to show each other how to use that photo of their artwork to make a Jigsaw Planet, or record their speech as a podcast for their blog. If they have the skills, let them share them! (I love this one. ‘Kids showing kids’ is much more effective than teacher as boss of learning! -Ed)

9. Let them own it.

The theme. The widgets. The blog name. The posts. Kids love to take full control and place their own stamp on their patch of online space. Mitch Squires’ Year 3 student, Emily blogs here.

10. The power of embedding.

Help students master embedding web 2.0 and multimedia tools. They’ll be empowered to experiment and include an almost endless range on their blogs. See Steve Davis’s middle school English class understandings of text, expressed through different media.


Bridging the Primary/Middle School gap

The following letter is a cross post, recently published as a guest post at rush the iceberg, a blog by Stephen Davis, a thoughtful middle school teacher in Orange County, California.  We became acquainted through Twitter and are enthusiastic readers of each others’ blogs.  Our connection highlights the opportunities created by social media for educators worldwide to interact and learn from each other, irrespective of what we teach, where we teach, who we teach, or how long we’ve been teaching! Teachers are learners first and foremost. We are lucky to live in an age which allows us to be part of a world-wide learning community.

Middle School

Letter from a primary school student…

Dear Middle School teacher,

Here are some things I would like you to know about me, and some questions I would like to ask you, before I leave primary school and join your class.

I am a person. I have likes and needs and wants and problems and interests. Please teach ME, don’t teach your subject.

I love learning. I am curious and I wonder about all kinds of things. I love to explore and question and experiment. I hope you won’t squash my natural desire to learn, by grading everything. My learning isn’t reducible to a letter or a number. It would be much more helpful if you gave me constructive, directed feedback to guide my future learning.

There are lots of different ways that people learn. My teacher calls them learning styles. Not everyone in my class learns best by listening to a teacher talk. Learning isn’t a passive activity. I hope you don’t think of students as sponges, who soak up what you deliver. I hope you will give me opportunities to learn by listening, by talking, by doing, by seeing and by moving around. Will you incorporate music and art and technology into our learning, irrespective of what subject you teach?

Do you think creativity is important? I’m used to presenting my learning in a million creative ways, both offline and online. I hope you are not a teacher who thinks that learning can only be expressed through a written essay. Did you know that composing a song, making a movie, creating a cartoon, recording a podcast and doing a play are all great, creative ways of demonstrating understanding

I am not used to having a different teacher for each subject. Please remember to consult with each other, before assigning homework, so that you don’t overload me. I am not even used to learning different subjects. Most of my learning has been trans-disciplinary, because that’s how learning works best. I make connections between the different areas of my learning and construct meaning in that way. Please talk to the other subject teachers, so that you can help me make meaningful connections across disciplines.

Please don’t blame me or my primary school teachers for the things I can’t do and don’t know. Maybe your expectations are different, or maybe your style is different… but you’re a teacher, so help me to learn.

I am a person, just like you are. I get hungry and thirsty and sometimes need to eat or drink, even if the bell hasn’t gone for the end of the period. I sometimes need to go to the bathroom, when it’s not recess. And yes, I sometimes just get tired of sitting still and need a break before I can concentrate again. I am a person, even though I am smaller than you. Please don’t talk down to me. Talk to me just as you would to any other human being.

Do you know the difference between work and learning?  My sister is in middle school and she often has lots of work to do. Some of it is just work. Please don’t assign work for the sake of it, unless it’s clear to both you and me how this work will further my learning.

Do you value collaboration? Will you allow us to sit in groups, rather than facing you, so that we can talk and make sense of our learning, while we continue to develop our social skills? Will you encourage us to work collaboratively, by cooperating, communicating and showing mutual respect? Speaking of mutual respect, I hope you don’t mind if I suggest that you need to respect your students, if you want them to respect you. Some teachers think they earn respect automatically when they get their degree!

I’m looking forward to the next stage of my learning. I hope you are looking forward to teaching me.

Your future student.

(See the next post for the middle school teacher’s response, by Stephen Davis.)


Whose learning is it anyway?

When my students, rather than using their initiative, ask me what to do or how I want them to do something, I often respond by asking ‘Who owns your learning’?

These posts  got me thinking this week, on related topics…

Against the Wind by @Nunavut_Teacher

DB talks about his efforts to abandon the ‘total control’ mindset that many teachers have. One of the ways he began the transition to a more student centred class, was to ask himself  ‘Is it important?’ before responding to students’  simple day-to-day requests. Letting go is just as difficult  for those of us used to being in control for years, as it is for less experienced teachers  still trying to ‘gain control’ in their classrooms. Starting off as DB does, with asking ourselves ‘ Is it important?’ seems to be a step in the right direction. I blogged recently about ways to get your students to take responsibility for their own learning.

The Hive by @mrs_honeysett

In this candid, reflective post, Michelle talks about the the fact that her practice doesn’t always reflect her beliefs about teaching and learning.  She admits to sometimes doing things because that’s the way she was taught.  How many of us do things in the classroom without thinking about the reasons, because we have always done them that way?! I’ve blogged about this before in relation to Simon Sinek’s TED talk ‘Start with Why’.

The Wejr Board by @MrWejr

In his post about a student designed curriculum,  Chris describes how students’ needs and suggestions were taken into consideration in developing a girls PE program.  The post shows students as key players in their own learning. (Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?)  It further highlights the need to move away from the idea of teacher (or admin) in control of all learning situations. And it demonstrates the power of not just considering the ‘why’ before doing things, but including the students in the decision making process…

Whose learning is it anyway?!

Series of posts: Blogs that made me think this week.. #3

Blogs that made me think this week #1

Blogs that made me think this week #2


10 ways to grow as an educator…

Participating in the Reform Symposium online conference this weekend has highlighted for me how just much I have learnt in the past year. This list is based entirely on personal experience. All of these work!

1. Establish an in-school PLN

Create a ‘personal learning network’.  Connect with other teachers/learners at your school and share ideas, bounce off each other, listen to each other, criticise each other, learn together.

2. Interact with someone who thinks differently than you do

Work closely with someone who doesn’t always think like you. Listen to their perspective. Share yours. Provoke each other. Argue. Defend your opinion. Compromise. Don’t compromise. Learn from each other.

3. Listen to TED talks

Keep up to date with TED talks. There are some incredible, inspirational thinkers and presenters on TED. Watch the ones that are not about education to broaden your learning and thinking. Consider how you might be able to apply the ideas in education.

4. Make global connections

Learn about  other people, other schools, other cultures. Connect with them online. Be a learner first. Then make global connections for your students too.

5. Join Twitter

Find someone to help you get started (I will, if you like).  Follow topics,  not just people. Participate. Ask for help and offer help. Be patient, it takes time to build an online network.

6. Create your own opportunities

Be a risk taker. Start a focus group. Participate in online conferences. Explore new ideas. Experiment with new tools. Initiate something new in your school. Do something that’s not in your job description.

7. Subscribe to blogs

Set up an RSS feed for educational blogs you find interesting. Or start by subscribing via email. Ask for recommendations.  Comment on blogs you read and get involved in conversations.

8. Write your own blog

Seriously, anyone can do it. It’s great for reflection and helps synthesize and clarify your thoughts. It’s not about the readers as much as the process.

9. Work in an IB school

Teaching through the PYP makes you think. It challenges the way you do things. You shift from facts and topics to conceptual ideas. You plan collaboratively across disciplines. You become an inquirer.

10. Be part of a learning community.

Or three. Learn from and with your students. Learn from and with your colleagues. Learn from and with other educators online.

These are only the first 10 that came to mind. As always, you’re invited to continue from #11!

Series of posts on ’10 Ways …’ #5


What my typewriter can do…

PLN My 89 year old mother declared that she used to have a typewriter too, but she didn’t sit and look at it for hours on end!

A colleague remarked this week that she doesn’t like sitting at the computer more than necessary, the way I do.

A co-teacher said we shouldn’t be encouraging kids to sit at the computer, they should be out playing.

See the common theme? Sitting at the computer is a passive activity.  None of them is even beginning to envisage what’s going on here…

In the past few days, these are just a few of the things that I did, while ‘sitting at the computer’ …

  • Kept in close touch with my son and daughter-in-law who are currently volunteering in India.
  • Published a blog post in which I shared a wonderful global collaboration between 5 year olds, the result of a chance meeting while ‘sitting at the computer’ with a like minded educator in the US
  • Interacted with children in India on Skype through the SOLES and SOMES project, which I found out about ‘sitting at my computer’.
  • Actively participated in the blogging conversation with people in Australia, USA, the UK, Brazil, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland, Singapore and more.
  • Established a connection with a PYP teacher in Thailand, whose Year 6 students have offered to share their PYP exhibition experience with students at my school in order to assist with their exhibition unit.
  • Interacted on Twitter with educators from all over the world, learned from them, followed links to new learning, gave and received help and encouragement.
  • Engaged in conversation with  my friend in India, whom I met ‘sitting at the computer’ and have since met twice in person.
  • Maintained my connection via Skype with a co-teacher who’s studying in Israel for a year and collaborated on a project for students at my school.
  • Learned more from my online PLN than I have ever learned in any professional development session or course that I have ever attended!

That’s just a taste… I’m sure there’s a great deal more I could add. But I don’t want to sit here at my computer for too long! Going for a walk around the park 🙂


It’s worth keeping an eye on these blogs…

I didn’t realise that I’d been mentioned on zarcoenglish blog, till I did some catch up reading yesterday!  Thanks for the honour!  It’s part of an initiative called ‘Vale a pena ficar de olho nesse blog’, which means ‘It’s worth keeping an eye on this blog’.  The recommended blogger copies the picture, with a link to the blog from which they received the award and recommends ten of their own favourite blogs.

Let me start by saying that I subscribe to over 200 education blogs. Let me add that they were accumulated gradually for different reasons and I certainly don’t have time to read them all regularly, but they are there in my reader and I come back to them from time to time.  What I have realised is that as my needs have changed, and as my thinking has advanced, so has my ‘taste’ in blogs.

There was a time when I wanted to read all the edtech blogs I could find. These blogs helped me get going into the world of web 2.0 and opened up the possibilities of what was available and what could be done. I still refer to them, but have reached a point, where I understand that I don’t need 1000 different new tools.  I can use the ones I am familiar with and gradually explore new ones when I have the time.  Thank you to those bloggers who have helped me get to where I am by sharing tools and promoting web 2.0 and supporting me when I need it.

I like reading blogs about the need for educational reform. They help me clarify my thoughts about how education needs to change, further develop my own beliefs about teaching and learning, and be aware of how and why my thinking is changing. But sometimes I feel  the same things are being said over and over in different ways to a receptive audience who already agrees.  Thank you to those bloggers who make me constantly question my practice, think about educatonal reform and strive for change in my own school.

Currently some of my favourite blogs are teacher reflections… about their practice, about their classes, about learning. I enjoy reading posts by other classroom teachers, describing great learning that takes place in their schools.  Great learning excites me, whether it’s mine or my students or someone else’s. I particularly like blog posts that make me think about meaningful learning.  As a PYP teacher, I love reading blogs by other IB educators especially those that combine inquiry and technology.


So.. These are some blogs I like at the moment. I can’t say the list is comprehensive, as there are so many great educational blogs out there!  I have deliberately chosen not to include  some of the most well known blogs which already have huge followings  (I read them too!).  Some of these do fit into that category, but not all.  What I can say is, these are blogs that have all made me think in different ways…  And I can say … ‘Vale a pena ficar de olho nesse blog’ about each one of them!

Sam’s Workshops by Sam Sherratt

Tech Tranformation by Maggie

In the pICTure by Ian Guest

Concrete Classroom by Michael Kaechele

Adventures in Teaching and Learning by Derek Keenan

The Spicy Learning Blog by Royan Lee

Blogging about the Web 2.0 Classroom by Steven Anderson

Classroom Chronicles by Henrietta Miller

Nina’s Arena by Nina Davis

Always Learning by Kim Cofino

and I’ll add one more, a member of my in-school PLN, a brand new blogger whose voice will be worth hearing, I am sure FiLearning by Fiona Birkin.

(No doubt, a minute after I click ‘publish, ‘ I’ll think of some I should have included…)