Writing Takes Time. Forget the Rush.

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Cause I’d rather pretend I’d still be there at the end.photo credit: Βethan via photopin cc

Oh my what a busy start to the year it has been. In the blitz that September and October have been we have fully launched our students blogs. Blogging is a learning process for all of us. From what standard of writing we expect on our blogs to the simple mechanics of how to post to your blog. My students have embraced blogging and are enjoying writing for an authentic audience. I had to chuckle one day when one of my students said “You know, blogging is better than writing in my notebook because now I know someone is actually reading it.” Wow, talk about getting it and being motivated by it.

On Friday I was talking to a good teacher friend of mine who asked “When are you going to write your next blog post?”. I was a bit stunned. I have 3 drafts I am working on but they aren’t quite there yet. Some of my posts take months to write simply because I need to think things through. Others, like this one, I can whip out in under an hour.

Her question also made me think about my students. Some have written over 10 posts since getting their blogs 2 weeks ago. Others have only written the 2 posts I asked them to write for me.  I suspect some of my students are writing their blog posts quickly and in one shot. Tomorrow I want to talk to them about how writing takes time and not to fear if they can’t write a long essay in under an hour. Writing is a skill and it is something that they are learning to do well and efficiently.

I as their teacher, also want to remember that writing takes time. We all need to remember that it is okay to take a bit longer on something to ensure that we deliver a good product. It’s time to forget the rush, slow down and take our time.

Thoughts from #Byte2013

On Friday I had the privilege of attending the Byte 2013 conference in Neepawa. I originally was not going to attend but the Tuesday before I attended the MANACE TIN and after I had met a few Tweeps from Twitter I realized that it would be a good idea to go and see what it was all about. I was a bit apprehensive at first  but because it was such last-minute decision I didn’t have anyone to go with. Luckily I knew that there would be a few people from my Twitter PLN in attendance in the conference so I wouldn’t really be ‘alone’. As I sat down  in the gym full of attendees I had a moment of “Oh dear what did I get myself into…” but luckily with a few Tweets by my first session I met @MissL and we were off to a running start!

Here are my big take aways from the conference:

The first session I attended was “Global Education – Flatten your Classroom” by Eva Brown, Kate Hallett and Jennifer Kasprick. This session was great and introduced me to a few tools and sites that I haven’t used before. The fist was MentorMob which is a site where teachers can create playlists from the internet.

The second resource I was introduced to was the Flat Classroom projects website. This site has a wonderful number of projects that can help you make your global connections in your classroom through a number of different projects. There are projects designed for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and is well worth a look.

My second session of the day was “They All Have Computers… Now What? Teaching in a BYOD School” by Roy Norris. I chose this session because we are currently reviewing our technology policy at the school I teach at. The debate is centering on what devices students can bring to school (and whether they should be able to) and what they should be used for. It is always interesting for me to see how averse people are to students bringing their devices to school but that is a post for another time.

Roy’s presentation focused on his schools journey into BYOD and what they learned through the process. One of the things Roy said that if you are considering going BYOD take a year of PD with your staff to learn about BYOD and how to implement it before jumping into the fire. The other big take away for me was when Roy was asked about equity of devices and what happens when you have students who bring different quality of devices with different programs on them into the classroom. His response was simply it is not about the device or the program on the device but rather it is all about what the students are doing on the device. Does it really matter if a student is reading a book on a computer in PDF file or on Kindle or in a physical book? What really matters is that everyone is on the same page reading the same material. The same goes for writing and collaborating. It doesn’t matter if they are writing in a Word document, a Google doc or in the body of an email what matters is that they are doing their assignment.

Another point that Roy made in response to a question about distraction caused by the devices made me think about the current BYOD debate at my school. Many of the objections about students bringing in iPods or computers centers around them being distracted in class. A member of the audience asked what he did about students who weren’t focused 100% of the time because they are accessing other sites on their devices. His response was that students will zone in and zone out but as long as they get the work done it isn’t an issue. I would liken the distraction to doodling in the classroom or daydreaming it is just happening in a different medium. During all the talks I was on my laptop checking out links and writing notes from the presentation and occasionally would Tweet or check out something unrelated. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t focused but rather was that ‘zoning in, zoning out phenomenon”.

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A history lesson for the mini Clones and the Mini-Stormtrooper

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

The third session I attended was “Connecting, Reflecting and Creating: Why We Blog” By Kirsten Landen  (Miss L) and Tyler Letkeman. Kirsten and Tyler ar both preservice teachers at Brandon University and regularly blog and Tweet. I regularly connect with Kirsten on Twitter to share ideas and thoughts. It has been nice to have someone out there who is also a new teacher blogging and Tweeting – Helps me not feel so alone! I particularly like their session as they walked through the different reasons why they blog. It was nice to see their motivations and how similarly they lined up with my own. Perhaps the biggest take away for any new blogger from their session would be to find a focus and to go for it!  Another thing that really struck me was Tyler’s focus on creation when blogging. This struck me as it is the highest level Blooms Digital Taxonomy and is something that I should be doing more on my blog.

The last and final session I attended was “Building your PLN/PLC” by Phil Taylor. As anyone knows I am a bit of a Twitter addict and a big advocate for it as the  best free PD out there for teachers. Phils session introduced me to two new sites that I haven’t used before. The first is News.me which aggregates all the Tweets from you twitter stream and sends you an email with the Top 5 Tweets of the day. This is especially useful for people who often feel overwhelmed by their Twitter stream and need a nice easy way to get the best content out of the constant flow of Tweets. The second site is Rebel Mouse which is a site that aggregates all of your social feeds into one beautiful page.

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Pinky & The Brain photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

My head has been spinning from all the things I learned at the conference and all the connections I made on Friday. The coolest moments were when I finally got to meet some people I follow on Twitter. Making those face to face connections really makes you realize that Twitter is a human network and that you really are sharing with colleagues around the province and world. I look forward to learning from my PLN and attending more conferences in the future!

Things to look out for:

EdCamp is coming to Winnipeg June 1st http://edcampwpg.org/. Come get involved or attend and learn with others!

Maple 4 Teachers is a networking tool for teachers coming out of the Manitoba Department of Education. It is currently in Beta but as it rolls out it should be another fantastic resource for educators around our province  to use.

Digital Footprints, Connectivity and The Trails Left Behind

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Commuter Belt photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

This morning as I have been getting back into the blogging groove I have started to think about the digital footprints my students are creating as they grow up. The artifacts that they are creating now will be there forever. As such it is important as ever to educate students about digital citizenship and the footprints they are leaving.

I have made it a conscious effort to have open and honest discussions with my students about digital footprints and connectivity since the start of the year. In fact one of the first conversations we had about our digital footprints in my classroom centered around Facebook and the importance of privacy settings. It takes a few deep breaths and a lot of courage to start the conversation bu in the end it is well worth it. I asked my students what they knew about privacy settings and what we should and shouldn’t share on the internet. It was a bit of an eye-opening experience for me and my students alike. I was very pleased that although they were only starting grade 4 many had clearly already had the same discussions with their parents and knew the protocols associated with sharing and digital etiquette. Some however clearly had not had these conversations and told me the next day that they had checked their settings and closed up their accounts.

It’s no secret I love using tech in my classroom to help deepen my students learning and I have had them create accounts to enable them to use various tools in our classroom. Because I teach grade 4 the accounts I have had my students sign up for are accounts that are connected to a central classroom account and are easily monitored by me. E.g. Kidblog and Edmodo. This gives a cushion for mistakes and learning to occur in a safe space and when needed important conversations can be held with students. My somewhat conservative approach to sharing in my classroom fits in with my comfort level as a new teacher and perhaps will change as I gain teaching experience.

In my classroom the rules around account creation and sharing are pretty simple:

  •  Usernames consist of first name plus a number.
  • Pseudonyms are okay as long as everyone in the class knows who it is.
  •  We don’t give out personal information. E.g. First and last names, location.
  •  We don’t post pictures of our faces despite having all our media releases signed. (This also goes for sharing pictures of students on my blog and Twitter account, I don’t post them)
  • We use appropriate language and tone when speaking to communicating on the internet.
  •  I have scaffolded the use of Twitter in my classroom so students are able to Tweet once we have reviewed what they are sending out. The account is locked and we only follow other classrooms.

Although I know it is just is a start, it is my belief that if I empower my students with knowledge and the tools to navigate and share on the internet safely they will be proud of the footprints they leave and hopefully be able to avoid some long-lasting mistakes.

 

Next up I am going to tackle proper attribution and creative commons with my students. Any ideas or suggestions are most welcome!

 

Related Resources:

BrainPop Internet Safety Video:

http://www.brainpopjr.com/artsandtechnology/technology/internetsafety/

Common Sense Media: Digital Citizen Poster

 http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/elementary_poster

The Art of Beautiful Storytelling: Storybird

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 Another Summer Day photo credit: @ifatma. via photopin cc

Since January Storybird’s have been all the rage in my classroom. I had not planned it to become an ongoing project in my classroom but once word got out about the beautiful Storybird graphics it has snowballed into a phenomenon in my classroom. I have also introduced it with two students in grade 6 that I tutor and they are also hooked! (You know you’re onto something good when students go home and write on their weekends!)

If you are not familiar with Storybird it’s a website where you can use beautiful artwork to create stories.

Reasons I love it:

– It’s easy to use. Kids just play around with it and get it!

– The artwork is amazing and provides endless writing inspiration.

– It’s a sneaky way to draw in my reluctant writers. They have all given it a try!

– The ease of use and beautiful final product ensures a feeling of success right from the start.

– I can create classes and monitor my students work.

– It’s easy to share and access.

– The stories remain private unless you choose to make them public.

It’s free!

The reasons they love it:

– The artwork provides writing inspiration so it doesn’t feel forced.

– It’s easy to use. They don’t have to be very tech savvy to use it.

– They get their own account. (Always a big deal in grade 4!)

– The artwork is already done so for my students who don’t feel confident in their drawing abilities feel instant success.

– It’s done on the computer – instant motivator.

Student Examples:

Friends By Reann Grade 4 Student

Family By Julia Grade 4 Student

The Little Ghost in the House Together By Arianna Grade 6 Student