Conversations to improve practice…

Guest post by Jocelyn, a Year 6 teacher who invites conversation and listens to her students. She is wondering where she has gone wrong with class blogging…

I am a teacher who thrives on the adrenaline I get from learning so that I can pass this on to my students. I understand the power of collaborative learning and it excites me. I work hard at creating a collaborative learning culture in my room and in the last few years have been passionate about using technology to help me create this culture.

I see our class blog as a collection of our learning and sharing. I also see it as a tool to enable students to gain the understanding of building a digital footprint. It is for this reason that today I got the shock of my life when I initiated a conversation about our blog with my students. We are very active on our blog and it has been puzzling me why it is that the students have not taken more ownership of commenting on each other’s posts. Today I decided to ask them why this is the case and the responses disturbed me to my core. I felt that everything I thought that I was building up in my classroom was not valued by some of the class members at all.

They said things to me like:

I would prefer to write on paper!
When I asked the child how her learning could be shared she just looked at me. I suggested that maybe she could pass her paper to others in the class for commenting and she looked at me in horror.

Comments should only be written by the teacher.
I asked if he thought I knew everything. ‘No’, was the reply. I asked if he felt that his classmates had nothing to offer him…

Why can’t people present their learning in front of the class and everyone can comment orally?
‘Wouldn’t it be boring to listen to and comment on one presentation at a time?’ No reply.

Uploading to the blog makes me feel pressured in terms of time.
This is my fault. I need to allow more time for this.

It took so long to get one of my presentations onto Slide Boom so I could embed it, I had to get help from the ICT teacher.’
I asked if he had learned learn anything from the process. ‘Yes, you are right, I did. Point taken.’

‘If not for the blog I would not have been able to make connections in the world.
Thank God for her….

Why don’t we just save all our learning to our own accounts only?
‘Is that the same as saving it on the blog? Who would your audience be?’ ‘No, it’s not really the same…’.

I ended by asking them to write or come and have a conversation with me if they had anything more to add… I have not heard from them.

While trying to recover from this frank discussion I began asking myself where have I gone wrong…

I realise that before these kids came to my class, most of their collaborative experiences on a blog had been limited. I took it for granted that my philosophy would rub off onto them. I might not have been explicit enough at the start of the year. Maybe I needed to build up more ‘culture of learning’ skills.

I was away on leave for a term and while I was away they did not go onto the blog at all.

Last year I had more of a global audience, thanks to the help of a colleague. I have just started on Twitter so I need to get my blog out there myself.

I need help…..

Learning beyond walls #2…

As I said before…

Learning for teachers isn’t limited by the walls any more. We can share ideas, discuss our practice, learn with and from other educators outside our own institutions. Skype allows us to collaborate with anyone, anywhere, (almost) any time.

On a cold, wintry morning, twenty educators rose early for an a voluntary professional learning session before school hours.

Kathleen and Kelly are a couple of vivacious and energetic, young teachers at a school a couple of hours away from ours. They were in their classroom early, supported by their principal Ruth, to share their experience and advice with us via Skype. At my school, teachers gathered in the library to further their own learning about class blogging to promote literacy.

Many of our teachers started class blogs this year for the first time. A few were blogging with their classes last year. None are bloggers themselves.

Kathleen and Kelly talked us though their class blog and explained how it is an integral part of teaching and learning literacy. They answered questions about how to encourage students to blog and parents to comment. We saw a delightful video of students talking about the benefits of blogging. We were shown evidence of students’ progress in writing, through the development of their comments on the blog. Teachers left the session inspired to move their own class blogs forward, armed with new ideas and examples.

As always, here’s what I learned:

  • Teachers enjoy learning from other real, live teachers, sitting in their own classrooms.
  • Hearing voices from outside can be powerful, even if they say the same things voices inside have already said.
  • There are incredible, generous educators out there, willing to share with anyone who is open to learning from them.
  • Passion and love of learning are contagious.
  • Offering every kind of support, when people are ready, is an effective way to instigate change.
  • Teaching is changing. Ways of learning are changing. The possibilities are endless.
  • A head of school who makes breakfast so his teachers can learn is an example to all.
  • If you have an idea, run with it. Don’t wait for a better time, particular conditions or permission to try. What’s the worst that can happen?

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