Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

Blogs – Who to Follow?

I have recently been expanding exponentially the number of blogs that I subscribe to and it is all through an interesting “pay it forward” type movement running through some blogs. They are essentially creating a blog post that lists all the blogs they recommend that you follow! This is a great source of new and interesting bloggers to check out, so as a result, I have listed a few of the posts from these bloggers where they recommend other blogs, just to get you started.

Firstly, most of the original blogs that I followed are on my blog roll here on this blog, so feel free to click away on those as a starting point.

Here are links to the blog recommendation posts that I have found thus far:

  1. http://edutechintegration.blogspot.com/2010/05/must-see-monday-pay-it-forward-and-pass.html
  2. http://thenerdyteacher.blogspot.com/2010/05/passing-on-lovetechno.html
  3. http://sharpsav.com/blog/blog-awards.html
  4. http://interactivecontentcorner.com/2010/05/07/follow-friday-these-blogs%E2%80%A6pass-it-on/
  5. http://2sparkley.edublogs.org/2010/05/08/thank-you-follow-friday-award/
  6. http://prettyfreaky.blogspot.com/2010/05/blog-awards-recognizing-fellow-bloggers.html
  7. http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2010/05/what-i-read-first-or-rss.html
  8. http://educationstormfront.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/pass-it-on/
  9. http://ilearntechnology.com/?p=2403
  10. http://carlanderson.blogspot.com/2010/05/pass-it-on.html

These blogs each give another five to ten blogs that they recommend you follow, and while there is a little bit of overlap, overall this will be an excellent start on your journey reading educational and inspirational blog posts from some innovative teachers out there.

Also, clicking back through the links of recommended blogs you may find many more lists and blogs, so follow the trail! And if anyone else spots a blog with this series of links I would love for you to post their link in the comments here.

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May 15, 2010 Posted by | blogging, PLN, Social Networking | , , | Leave a comment

RSS Feeds

As a beginner to the integration of technology, I was introduced to the idea of blogging, but it was only when I started really using Twitter that I was exposed to a great variety of educators who were blogging out there in the world. For a long time, I just waited until I received individual blog posts on twitter and then I went to that link and read the post. I found a few blogs that I wanted to read on a regular basis so I bookmarked their sites and checked them every now and then to see if they had written anything new.  A few times, I tried to work out this whole “RSS thing” but didn’t have the time to look into it and work out how to use it.

Silly me.

Let me tell you how to make life simple when it comes to blog posts. Firstly, an RSS feed is simply a notification to you when someone on a blog you follow publishes a new post (I am sure there is a much more technical explanation than that but it will do for the moment!).

Step 1: You need a reader – some place where all those rss feeds can go so you get the notification of a new post. Now Outlook will do it, but I wanted something web-based. I tried Google Reader and have never looked back.

Step 2: I googled “Google reader”, signed up for an account and then all I had to do was copy and paste in the URLs for the blogs I wanted to follow. Easy.

Step 3: Now I just visit Google reader on a daily basis and read the latest posts on my favourite blogs.

Being in love with my iPhone, I also got the Google Reader app and now happily sit reading the latest posts anywhere I happen to be 🙂 Like yesterday at the Car wash cafe!

Don’t do what I did and “worry about that bit later” – start with it, with the very first blog you read, and life will be much simpler.  A small warning though, when you first do this it will add all the current posts that you have not read, which can be a large number, depending on the amount of blogs you subscribe to, and this may feel a bit overwhelming at first. My advice is to take your time to work through them as eventually you will only receive a manageable number per day and if you make a few minutes each day to check the reader and read the latest posts you will discover that it is very easy to keep up.

The other question that I get asked by many teachers just starting their technological journey is about who to follow. One thing that I discovered early on, is that you only need a few blogs to get you started, as inevitably, the blog owners will refer to other blogs that they follow and then the number of blogs you read and follow will expand rapidly.  Who do I recommend to follow? That’s a whole other blog post! For now though, start with the links on my blogroll.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | blogging | , , | 1 Comment

New Technologies, New Stories

I am currently involved in a project entitled ‘New Technologies, New Stories’ which essentially has gathered a group of teachers together from K-12, to each write a unit of work engaging students with technology in order to write narratives.  For me, the project can be summed up in one key question: How can we use technology to improve students’ ability to write narratives? With the imminent arrival of laptops into Year 9 classrooms, it became particularly relevant and lead to a further involvement in the Laptops 4 Learning project.  As such, I am now required to think very specifically about targetting these ideas at Year 9 students.

After letting it all roll around in my brain for a while it has fnally consolidated into a series of ideas, so I thought I would share my current thoughts – comments welcome please!

I came up with seven ideas in my first brain storm and here they are in a highly skeletal form:

1. Multiauthored narrative using a wiki. This was the idea that received initial approval for the New Technologies, New Stories project. The idea is that the class works in groups. Each group creates a wiki.  The wiki is for shaping the world of the narrative, as well as the narrative itself. Prior to beginning to write narratives, the group divides itself into sections and they each set about working and researching different areas of the world of the narrative. It would begin with a big discussion to nail down a few facts (time period, etc) and then students can research for their chosen area: history of the setting, geography, local statistics, local characters – kind of like putting together a tourist brochure for the town their narrative will be set in.  They can make it all up, or choose an existing town.  This will obviously work on their descriptive language skills as well as teaching the art of researching background and giving characters some depth. Once they have a wiki loaded with information about the setting for their narrative, they begin to write a narrative – either collaboratively on the wiki or individually.

2. Reading a class novel then students choosing a character and blogging as that character. Students create a blog as a character of their choice and create an About Me page, then write in response to teacher-provided stimulus questions with the voice of the character they have chosen.

3. ‘Story in instalments’: students blog 3 paragraphs or so in each post. After each post, students are to read other students’ posts and make comments: predictive comments about what they think might come next, feedback regarding the writing, or even write something that could be added to that students’ story – such as the event again from a different character’s perspective, etc. Ideally, the teacher should model this by starting the whole process with the first story instalments, and students would start by commenting on the teacher’s blog story and then go on and begin their own. Students would need at least one lesson per week to post and comment, more likely two, one for posting, one for commenting.

4. Genre study in a wiki. Class wiki is created and students, either individually or in pairs, research different genres and create a class resource (the wiki) that has information about the characteristics of a large number of genres. Genre switch exercises could then be done, either on the wiki or on a teacher blog, where a piece of writing in one genre is rewritten in different genres. 

5. Podcasting radio interview with ‘author’ or characters from a class novel.  Students use a tool such as Audacity (free to download from the web) to create a radio show, complete with music, etc, where they interview the author or various characters from a class novel that has been studied.

6. Vodcast a news item re an event in the narrative. Students record a tv-style news report, with anchors etc, reporting on an event that happened in the novel.  If the new laptops do not come with webcams, students could record on their mobile phones and upload to laptops (shock, horror, did I just suggest actually using the mobile phones they are not supposed to have at school??!!)

7. Creating a trailer for a movie version using MovieMaker. This could be done for either a class novel that has been studied, or for a narrative that the students have written themselves.

Obviously, that is only the skeletal version of each idea.

Step Two in the brainstorming process was the idea of using more than one of those ideas in the same unit of work. For example, what if we did the Genre Study wiki FIRST and then students had all this knowledge and a great resource at their fingertips to enable them to write within a specific genre? Then, the story in instalments would allow students to practice their writing, get immediate feedback from teacher and peers, while laying great groundwork for the big collaborative story writing wiki. Ideas 2, 5, 6 and 7 could all be used in one novel study unit of work rather than a narrative writing unit of work, though I think that Idea 2, blogging as a character, could also be Step 3 in the process towards the collaborative story writing wiki. So putting it all together:

  1. Students could start with the Genre Study Wiki, learning the art of using a wiki and focussed research, and increase their knowledge and understanding of various genres. (Almost like jigsaw cooperative learning with technology!)
  2. Students then (or at the same time) begin understanding blogging through the Story in Instalments Blogging activity.
  3. Students then create a character and begin to blog as that character, answering stimulus questions provided by the teacher.
  4. Students work in groups to create a wiki that is the imaginary world of their narrative, and then work to write a narrative that incorporates the setting they have created, their understanding of genre and the characters they have made (and have been blogging with).

Now I am off to investigate these ideas in more depth – work out what will and won’t be included in the final proposal, and the overall value or worth of these activities in relation to meeting syllabus outcomes, etc. There will no doubt be further posts about this project, as it starts to take shape.

P.S. If you saw an idea on here that you like, take it and run with it, but be sure to let me know how it went! I would be most interested.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | New Technologies New Stories | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Teachers and Technology

The big question seems to be: how do we get teachers using technology in the classroom? My answer: get them using technology fullstop. I think that teachers who are not users of technology at home or in their workplace, not only lack the confidence to begin in front of a teenage audience (most of whom are more proficient with technology than the teacher) but also lack the ability to imagine ways to use it. Using different pieces of technology on a regular basis allows your mind to soar beyond the mechanics of it and into that creative and innovative place where fun, deep learning happens.

I am incensed that the government is giving laptops to students before teachers – how are the teachers supposed to build proficiency and get creative with how to use laptops in the classroom if they can’t get access to a laptop or computer of their own?

My brilliant brainwave for how to encourage the use of blogs and wikis in the classroom is deceptively simple: I have created a wiki for the programs for my faculty.  This will allow us to work collaboratively, will allow the teachers to get used to using a wiki as part of their working world, and give them space to imagine how to use it in the classroom while receiving resources and instruction. This blog is also part of the plan, as I hope to encourage my faculty to commence writing their own blogs, or at the very least, commenting on mine.

So now I have one week left of holidays to put my plan into action – I need to flesh out the wiki and have it ready for fun-filled wiki adventuring on our Staff Development Day.

More thoughts on teachers and technology – encourage them to join twitter, communicate by email, start a blog of their own and go searching through the videos on teacher tube (http://www.teachertube.com). None of these things are solely about using technology in the classroom – but all of them lead there.

P.S. If you’re wondering what the heck a wiki is, then go to http://www.teachertube.com and type wiki into the search bar. There you will find some fantastic videos that will explain quite simply what a wiki is all about, as well as some examples of wikis at use in the classroom. As a first look, I recommend two videos: one called ‘What is a PBWiki?’ and “Wikis in Plain English’. (I would embed them in this post if I could make the darn thing work! lol)

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 3 Comments

Recommended blogs

It can be confusing when you first enter the world of blogging to find other blogs to look at and read regularly. I would like to make a few recommendations of blogs that I find informative and enjoyable to read.

Darcy Moore’s Blog: http://darcymoore.wordpress.com/

Kelli McGraw’s Blog: http://kellimcgraw.wordpress.com

David Warlick’s Blog: http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/

Ewan McIntosh’s Blog: http://edu.blogs.com/

Tony Ryan’s Blog: http://tonyryan.edublogs.org/

There are many more and no doubt you will find some of your own (and I would love to be referred to those blogs) but this can be a beginning for those wondering where to start.

Happy reading!

April 19, 2009 Posted by | blogging | , | 2 Comments