Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

Out of the flow

In a small departure from my usual type of post, I am going to add a personal reflection on a recent difficult period in my life. I began 2009 fired up and with much gusto. New school, new city, new opportunities. I grabbed everything with both hands, had many ideas and did all that came my way. By the end of the year I was stressed beyond belief. Burnt out? Quite possibly. I stopped engaging with the world outside of my job as I hunkered down in an effort to survive. I stopped tweeting, stopped blogging, stopped emailing and even stopped calling my friends. I didn’t really know how to describe what was going on for me and every minute on the phone was another minute that I got further behind in my work so it was just easier to isolate myself. In the January 2010 school holidays I made a concerted effort to recover, spending three weeks resting and building up my resilience again, a week reconnecting with all my friends and a week preparing for the new school year. I was excited, energised and enthusiastic about teaching and learning in 2010.

The first week of school was awesome. I felt like my old self again and was really looking forward to the term. That weekend I fell down, put my arms out to break my fall, and broke my elbow. My left arm went into a cast from the knuckles of my fingers to just under my armpit and my right hand and wrist were bandaged up to immobilise them completely. The right hand and wrist were immobilsed for three weeks and it took five or so weeks after that for all the pain to leave that hand, the left arm was in the cast for the rest of the term (10 weeks). The cast came off in the holidays and here and now, five weeks after the cast came off, I can finally type with two hands again. I have physio twice a week, can almost straighten my elbow and can now turn my hand over palm up with only a little pain.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I would like to talk about the impact of it. I did not realise how much I relied on being a two-handed individual to do my life. Never mind all the practical aspects, which were tediously difficult, there were others just as frustrating. Only being able to type with one hand was crippling in every sense of the word. I could only really use a mouse with any degree of proficiency and had to even ask someone to open the lid of my laptop for me as I was not able to open it one-handed. My iPhone came into its own during this time. I typed with one hand but found it so time-consuming that I once again stopped really communicating via text with anyone. Lots of phone calls now but very little interaction with technology. Twitter became frustrating as I would see great things that I wanted to talk about and add to Delicious or email to my staff or blog about and yet it caused me too much physical pain to do so.  As a result, I once again took myself out of the flow.

Now that I am back on deck with two hands that almost work the way they used to, I am discovering that not only does the pace of technology move with unrelenting speed but so too does the Twitter stream.  I am out of touch, on the edge of the flow instead of within it, and I find that my PLN are now talking to other people who don’t even know who I am, nor that I used to be in the flow.

I am uncharacteristically hesitant to jump in, self-conscious about tweeting and feeling that perhaps I no longer have anything relevant to blog about. From this, however, I have GOOD NEWS.

It has reminded me of how it feels to be a newbie ( a noob!), how all those teachers that I am encouraging to join Twitter and to blog, etc must feel as they venture forth into the unknown. It has reminded me of why I started my blog in the first place. It was so that all those teachers new to technology integration had a place to go to find out the basic, starting information.

My experience has led me to a greater sense of purpose in my blogging, a greater understanding of those who deal with physical handicap, hardship and inconveniences on a daily basis, and a better balance in my work and home life. I have learned to take the time to nurture my health, both mental and physical. I have learned that it is ok to say “no”, to sometimes miss out on things and to be out of the flow occasionally.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Social Networking, twitter | , , | 1 Comment

Edmodo

Frustrated by my inability to access social networking sites at school, I tried twittering with my students and the results of that can be read in my earlier post: Twitter in the Classroom: https://mgiddins.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/twitter-in-the-classroom/. Darcy then suggested that I try Edmodo so during the holidays I went to : http://www.edmodo.com and set up an account. I managed to communicate with a few students through twitter in the holidays and they went and signed up for me so we could start trialling and testing it. 

A few things that I have discovered so far about Edmodo:

1. It is REALLY easy to use and you can learn the basics in about 5 minutes.

2. It feels like a cross between Twitter and Facebook, in a protected environment, allowed through the DET portal (and the few students that have signed up are enjoying using it so far).

3. It is not like a blog or a wiki – it is a COMMUNICATION tool – primarily facilitating easy communication with a group of students.

After a few days of interacting on edmodo with the few students that have signed up so far, I could already see great potential for its use with students. On this basis, I introduced it to about 18 other members of staff today.  They had great fun signing up and playing with it – and also managed to work out how to use it very quickly – which is very good news about how easy it really is to use and learn. Many great ideas were starting to come out about ways to use edmodo but rather than tell you about them myself, I will allow those who were there to make comments to this post, and tell you themselves what their ideas are, and their successes and failures.

As for me, on Thursday morning the rest of my classes will be receiving their edmodo passwords and signing up. We will use it and I promise to report back and let you know how it goes – the reality of how it goes: good, bad or ugly.

If you are interested in edmodo, here is some basic information for you:

  • go to http://www.edmodo.com
  • you will see a sentence that says: ‘Sign up now. I am a teacher, or a student.’ Click on ‘teacher’.
  • a sign-up screen will appear – so sign up! NB: the email address that you put in is where you will receive your notifications about updates on the edmodo site that your students have made.
  • Once you have logged in with your new information, you can go to Settings and customise your profile.
  • On the main screen underneath your avatar (or photo if you choose to upload one), there is a section called ‘groups’ if you click on ‘Create’ this is where you create a class group.  So for example, I created a group called 11ExtEng for my Year 11 Extension English class. As soon as you create a group, the password for that group is posted onto your edmodo page by the edmodo support team. All you then have to do is give students the name of the group and the password.  Students go to http://www.edmodo.com and click on ‘student’ which allows them to sign up specifically to your class group, using the group name and password you have given them.
  • You can create many groups on your edmodo account (don’t know the limits of how many yet).
  • You have the option of adding notes, events, assignments, links and files in your communication with students.

This is the very basic information that will get you started with edmodo. On the edmodo website, if you click on the link ‘Docs’ that will give you access to blogs with instructional information.

I would love to hear about your own experiments and experiences with edmodo!

April 28, 2009 Posted by | edmodo, Social Networking | , | 6 Comments

Engaging with Social Networking

I read an interesting blog post today: Why You Have to Engage In Social Media, Even If You Don’t Want To: http://blog.asmartbear.com/blog/why-you-have-to-engage-in-social-media-even-if-you-dont-want.html.

This article is from a corporate/business world perspective however, it is still quite relevant to teachers, particularly to assist in understanding the role of social media/networking in the world.

As part of a presentation at school today I mentioned social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and there was quite a bit of negative reaction to Twitter, whereas Facebook was seen to be a more ‘acceptable’ form of social networking.  In my experience (so far) Twitter has proven to be far more valuable as a professional resource. Facebook has allowed me to connect with people from my past and present, but it is very much about me and my life and harder to see it’s usefulness as a professional tool.  Twitter, on the otherhand, daily delivers new professional information to me quickly and easily. In fact, the link at the beginning of this post came from a tweet I received when I got home from work today. I receive information pertaining to my professional development, the latest news about education and little tidbits of information like the fact that Darcy is spending tomorrow looking at the DET beta blogging platform – prior to that tweet, I didn’t know that the DET was finally starting to think about providing us with a blogging platform – and I am very excited about that opportunity! I feel very ‘cutting edge’, thanks to Twitter. However, I would like to add that it is the people that you choose to follow that makes the experience either valuable or trivial.  I choose to get a dose of both in the tweets I receive, and I am enjoying the interaction with people I may not otherwise have access to or speak with in the ‘real’ world.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Social Networking | , , , | 2 Comments