Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

New job, new location, new life

I have decided to keep working and posting on this blog, despite the almost 12 month abandonment of it during 2011. A new position as a Literacy Consultant sees me in a non-school based position which, while it no longer gives me a class of students to experiment with, does give me access to many schools and their challenges and adventures, a rich vein of information and ideas to be mined and shared.

Things have changed a lot since I started this blog in 2009. Some tools are still great, some have fallen by the wayside. Here’s a summary, that kind of includes my New Year’s Educational Technology Resolutions!

1. The delicious account that I started to keep track of all the new websites for educational use just became a pain and I stopped using it, so I tried creating a wiki as a place to store the information. This also was not as effective as I would have liked, as my ideas about my staff contributing to it came to nothing as no-one ever did but me. I am going to take a stab at Diigo, as Darcy Moore used it to replace his delicious account and I will spend some time this term trying to relocate everything from delicious and the wiki to diigo. Will let you know how that goes!

2. Yammer. I loved it and used it all the time – alas, no more. The Department, in its infinite wisdom, created something else for us to use instead and I have not logged onto it once yet. Therefore sometime this term I will make time to check out the Department’s version and see if it works for me.

3. Ning. I created a Ning, loved the concept of it and then they wanted to charge me money to host it. Bye to my Ning page.

4. Twitter. Loved it, love it, and have been hopeless at using it for 12 months. Will attempt to dive back in the twitter stream in 2012 also.

5. Google reader is an essential part of my life, particularly now that I have apps on both my iPhone and iPad to enable me to read posts anywhere, anytime.

6. EDMODO!! I love this site more and more each passing year.  I highly recommend it. There is a great professional development group on there as well now called Oz Edmodo that share fantastic resources and provide great feedback.

7. Just bought an iPad. It is revolutionising my world, and I’m wondering why I held off for so long. I’m going to explore new apps and applications for education. Can’t wait!

8. Facebook – now a part of my daily life, but rarely used for work, I have kept that one for my personal life 🙂

And the biggest resolution for the year: blog more often. It is a great way to reflect, clarify thoughts and ask myself hard questions.

Lots more to say, but I shall save it for a series of regular blog posts. Coming right up!

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January 23, 2012 Posted by | blogging, edmodo, twitter | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Wonderful Wiki of Websites for Web 2.0

I have put together a wiki of all the websites that have come my way in the last 12 months, entitled Teaching Resources for Web 2.0: http://mgiddins.wetpaint.com.

I will be continuing to add to this every time I encounter a new useful website for teaching and learning, and the professional development of teachers. The wiki has an English focus as I am a Head Teacher of English, but there are many other useful links on there and other KLAs will find some of the English links useful.

Please feel free to go have a look and make recommendations for additions!

http://mgiddins.wetpaint.com

March 31, 2010 Posted by | Wikis | , , , | Leave a comment

Working with Wikis

Deciding it was time to put my money where my mouth is, I have created a wiki for my faculty to use collaboratively as a resource, working document and sneaky way of learning new technology.

It is by no means complete, and very much a work in progress, but it is a beginning, and will give us something to work with on the Staff Development Day next Tuesday.  I will be sure to post about how it goes!

For those who are interested in having a look at using a wiki for faculty working purposes (programming, assessment, etc), the address is: http://engadineenglish.pbwiki.com.

Not sure what a wiki is? Here are two videos that will help:

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Wikis | | Leave a 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