Dear Teacher who wasn’t on Twitter…

Partially inspired by Scott McLeod’s post  If You Were on Twitter.

Dear Teacher,

I know you don’t see the point of Twitter. I know you think people should have a balanced life and not be online too much. I know you think a great deal of time is required to find resources and create connections.

Last Sunday was a lovely, sunny day. Among other things, I went for a walk in the city, spent time with family, went out for breakfast with friends, cooked a pot of lentil soup, finished Seth Godin’s Poke the Box and read several chapters of A Man of Parts by David Lodge.

I also spent 30 minutes on Twitter participating in #elemchat, where primary school teachers around the world exchange ideas and share their challenges. Here’s some of what I got out of that half hour:

  • A variety of new web 2.0 story book creators to explore and share with my colleagues.
  • Inspiration and ideas from @dogtrax, like his environment project.
  • The idea of using Edmodo for reading discussions.
  • A promising collaboration with Tania Ash  in Morocco to start a world reading group for primary school students!
  • The start of a connection with @plnaugle who shares my interest in inquiry learning.
  • Discovery of another PYP educator @ctrlaltdeliver to add to my contact list.
  • Potential collaborators for our unit about cultural beliefs.
  • A comforting sense that educators worldwide encounter the same challenges that we do at our school.
  • New contacts in several countries for future global collaborations.
  • A reminder that there is no professional learning quite like half an hour on Twitter!
You should give it a try. I’ll help you get started if you like.
PS. There was a great #edchat session today on the role of blogging in 21st century learning, it’s value and the challenges, both for students and teachers. But that’s another story…


Just another tweet…

I don’t speak Spanish, unless you count the three lessons I had in Baños, Ecuador when I visited my daughter Mazz in December. So it amused me to tweet asking if anyone knew a Spanish song using the preterito imperfecto tense, which Mazz needed for an assignment for her Spanish teaching course. It was retweeted by Yoon, @doremigirl,  a music teacher with whom I collaborated last year on a project about celebrations, and soon there was a response from Abby@Sra_Crespo, with an example of a suitable song. One thing led to another and Abby has since communicated a few times with Mazz by email answering a few other queries. When she found out that Mazz volunteers and coordinates the volunteer program at Arte del Mundo Foundation, which promotes literacy and the arts, she offered to send some Spanish resources for the kids who come to the foundation’s interactive library.

It’s just another example of the power of twitter to foster genuine global connections between people who otherwise would never have met.

The foundation is always seeking volunteers, both short and long-term, so if you know anyone who might be interested, please pass on the link to the website.

I’ve blogged before about the library, La Biblioteca Interactiva de Baños, its very special atmosphere and the great work that happens there. Here’s their latest video. I love the excited faces of the kids as they read, play and create …


Talking to people… globally

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I’m always talking about the power of global connections. In my ideal school, kids would be connecting at any time of day with people anywhere in the world to further their inquiries. They’d be independently Skyping with kids in other place to share learning and exchange ideas. But for now, interactions initiated by teachers are at least a starting point.

On Friday I’ll have another opportunity to talk online about the experiences we’ve had so far at my school. It’s for InnovatEd Conference in Memphis, USA, and I love the idea of presenting via Skype about kids connecting globally in just this way. We haven’t been able to do much of this in the past couple of months, due to tech difficulties resulting from our move to a new building. However we’re almost back in business, so if there’s anyone out there who’d like to connect in May for a Year 4 unit on understanding other cultures or a Year 2 unit about how schools are organised in different countries, please let me know.(The age of the students doesn’t need to match.) Skype is great, and Voicethread works well if we need to connect asynchronously due to inconvenient time differences. If you have never done this sort of thing, here’s a good place to start!

Meanwhile here’s an example of where one of my own online connections has led…

It was wonderful to meet face to face and exchange ideas today with @megangraff , who I met on Twitter. She’s a teacher librarian at a PYP school in Singapore, visiting Melbourne to see friends.  Showing her around our school, discussing similarities and differences, having her input in one of our meetings about report cards, it felt as if we had known each other for ages. She’s moving to Tanzania later this year to volunteer as teacher librarian at the School of St Jude. She has promised to stay in touch so that we can try to find a way to connect our students to provide an opportunity for some great learning on both sides.

As one of my students reflected last year, ‘Talking to people is much better than learning about them’!


Leaders as learners…

The more I connect online with other educators through blogs and Twitter, the more I see how those who don’t are lagging behind in their learning. I was invited this week to share with my ‘leadership team’ (admin.)

We looked at what leaders get out of blogs…

We looked at what kids get out of blogs…

We had a quick overview of Twitter and educators worldwide shared what they get out of it.  The plan was to Skype with Patrick Larkin, a principal in Burlington, USA, but it didn’t happen because…

Feedback from my learners…

There is a world of people out there willing to share, learn together and support each other- You are not alone.

This provides the most wonderful, exciting opportunities to be a part of a learning community

I have spent time reading blogs – I came away feeling inspired, yet a little apprehensive  to write one.

Would love to explore twitter – it was a little bit too fast for me

We live in exciting times in terms of education.

I cant wait to begin exploring.



Speak the language…

It can be difficult to follow a Twitter conversation with @ToughLoveforX and co. at times.  It’s full of jargon I don’t understand, in a language invented to suit the purpose of a discussion limited to 140 characters at a time. I know that NFME is a theory of how learning works (Notice, Focus, Mull, Engage), but English is easier for me and I’ve told him so!

But… when I recently wrote on my blog about integrating ICT into the PYP , he was quick to point out that my jargon was just as incomprehensible to him as his was to me. (ICT=Information and Communications Technology. PYP = Primary Years Program of the IB). Touche. He added that such jargon would turn him off reading any further in a post. Constructive criticism well received. I’ll be more careful in future.

But I’m a second language teacher.. so it got me thinking… How quickly do learners tune out when there are words they don’t understand?

I asked my Year 5 students (11 year olds) what’s easy and what’s difficult in language learning.

There were some interesting responses…

  • The hardest thing is remembering words. The easiest is when you can connect new words with other words you already know. (Zac)
  • It’s easiest when you’re learning with others. It’s hard when you don’t have the words to say what you need to. (Matthew)
  • It’s easiest to learn through interactive games with others. Teaching yourself is challenging. (Tahnee)
  • The hardest thing is when everything you are hearing is new. What helps is having someone who knows both languages. (Gabe)
  • What makes it easier is confidence and experience, support from your teacher and other pupils. (Dean)
  • The most difficult thing is that you can’t just translate from your home language, you have to think in the other language. (Sasha)

As always, I am excited by what I can learn from my students! Maybe we should invite them to run some professional development sessions for teachers…

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


Blogs that made me think this week…

Reading blogs and writing my own blog have played a vital role in my learning in the past year. I wonder how teachers who aren’t regularly reading educational blogs are keeping abreast of change, extending their thinking and further developing their understandings. Each week I discover blogs that push my thinking in new directions, make me reflect on my own practice, introduce me to new ideas or new tools, direct me to other resources… or simply make me smile at the knowledge that I am part of a huge community of teachers and learners with similar experiences, issues, problems, highs and lows.
Some blogs that made me think this week…

Corey has started an initiative in which he calls for nominations on a particular theme of education blog each week, creates a poll and then features the ‘winning’ blog. His goal (see details here) is to highlight EdBlogs and encourage bloggers to support each other. I was honoured to be featured this week! It got me thinking (again!) about the power and generosity of the online educator community. It never ceases to amaze me how educators help, encourage, support and promote each other, through blogs and Twitter.

Blogging in the Primary Classroom by @oliverquinlan

I have only recently discovered this thoughtful blog and still need to catch up on Oliver’s past posts. His latest post deals with physical classroom space and  he sums it up by saying ‘the thinking on innovative use of space should start with pedagogy not practicality,’ and adds that it should be about the learning, not the teaching. It made me think about how many teachers arrange their rooms in a way that’s practical for them, or allows for better ‘teacher control’ (!) rather than to facilitate learning. (I think this will be a future post for me, thanks Oliver!)

Clive in Sri Lanka by @CliveSir

I’m loving this blog (although I wish he wouldn’t talk about me), not just for what Clive shares about his teaching in Sri Lanka, but for the connection to another colorful world and culture. I’m not even sure how I first discovered it, but I have since been interacting with Clive and am interested in the development of his classes for computer teachers. Clive worked as an engineer for more than twenty years, before setting off to volunteer in the developing world. My own children have volunteered in India and Ecuador respectively and it’s something I would like to do myself one day, so his story resonates for me. I am also fascinated by what brings people to teaching, in it’s various forms, and what they get out of it as well as what they put in.

I’d love to hear about some blogs that made you think this week…

Series of posts: Blogs that made me think this week.. #2

Blogs that made me think this week #1


Blogs that made me think this week…

I’m humbly amazed at the transition from being a blogger with 5 readers, to blogging for my colleagues, to having a worldwide readership.  I often wonder at how this happened! I was thrilled this week by a tweet from @davidwees, whose blog I admire, saying that he finds himself wanting to read every post on my blog! Even more so when that was retweeted by several others. Thank you! Especially when I know there so many educational blogs worth reading.

I’d like to share some other blogs that made me think this week…

Life happens by @MrMacnology

I like the honesty of Jeremy’s post and it resonates for me, as I’m a bit of an addict myself, I confess. It’s too easy to get sucked into Twitter and blogs and interacting with one’s PLN online… and completely lose track of time. Not having an iphone helps me ensure that I retain some balance!

How d’you get your kids to do that? by @mattguthrie

I love Matt’s approach. His belief in his students helps them take responsibility for their learning and achieve all sorts of things that simply would not be possible in the class of his colleague, who calls her class ‘retarded’  (no comment).  I blogged a while ago about this. If you haven’t seen the video ‘Believe in me‘, it’s worth a look.

Change and Strength by @rushtheiceberg

Davis reflects on different roles in education reform. He sees his strength as interacting with the students  in his classroom and this is the place he plans to innovate and contribute.  This post made me think about the power of change from within, change that can be effected one step at a time by individual innovative educators.

learning network

Another blogger warned me when I started blogging not to make promises in case I dont keep them, so I won’t say this will become a series… but it might 😉


Who dares to teach…

I managed to participate in ten minutes of #edchat before going to teach this morning. When I am able to participate, I always find the conversation stimulating and thought provoking. This time the topic was best practice in teacher professional development.

My best PD in the past year has undoubtedly been through my online PLN (professional learning network). This includes writing my own blog, reading and commenting on other blogs and the worldwide teachers’ lounge that is Twitter. At any time of day, I can go in and engage with other educators, learn from them, be exposed to new ideas and tools, seek help, follow interesting links or be inspired by quotes.  I have made global connections with people who think the way I do and poeople who think differently than I do and people who push my thinking further. This is ongoing professional development at its best.

As far as ‘offline’ PD is concerned, here’s my thinking:

The least effective PD is the sort involving whole school, compulsory, one off sessions, with no follow-up. For PD to be effective, I think it works best in smallish groups, when people attend voluntarily with a common focus and it’s ongoing.

A few years ago at my school, we started a small voluntary group meeting every few weeks for an hour before school. We  discussed readings about current trends and best practice,  thought together about what and how to implement the things we had read, tried things out in our classes and came back to share our experiences.   At the start, we had outside facilitators who recommended readings and guided the sessions.  The initial focus was on questioning… how to improve our own questioning and how to get students to ask better questions. Later we moved on to creating a culture of thinking. Then  effective feedback and assessment. After a while,we didn’t need outside facilitators any longer. Little by little, we integrated all the parts into our whole understanding of how learning works best. Gradually other teachers wanted to join in too.

About a year ago, we started a second group introducing web 2.0 tools. At first the 2 groups alternated but after a while we realised that looking at the technology separately isn’t meaningful. The two groups have now merged.  Sometimes we discuss the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ sometimes we play around with the tools. Teachers who participate in other PD share their learning in this forum too. The focus is always on the learning, our own and that of our students.

Teachers who regularly participate in this group constantly  reflect on their practice. We’re open to new thinking and ready to learn from each other. We share ideas and discuss what works and what doesn’t. We have built up trust and we support each other. Our head attends nearly every session. I know I am incredibly lucky to be part of this community of learners.